***** LONG TEASER FOR UNSEEN MESSAGES *****
This is one of my favourite books that I’ve written. It’s long because it spans four years of hardship, love, togetherness and loss. If you fancy a romance that features a deserted island as the backdrop and survival as paramount, have a read 🙂
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I SWALLOWED MY fears for the billionth time and kept my fake smile in place.
We’re not going to make it.
Yes, yes we are.
I couldn’t cry because Conner and Pippa never stopped watching me.
But it didn’t stop my runaway wretchedness.
Galloway’s eyes were like missiles tracking my every move. My skin still tingled where he’d hugged me to hop through the forest.
For the past hour, we’d split one muesli bar between the four of us and washed it down with two mouthfuls of water from the bottle in Duncan’s backpack. We’d found it when we’d foraged for the other bags, littered like candy wrappers a few metres away from the crash site.
We hadn’t found my jacket or Amelia’s tote, but we had found the survival kit that the pilot kept strapped beneath his seat.
The food had been heaven-sent and I’d tried to forgo my mouthfuls of water, stating I’d had some from the storm, but Galloway wouldn’t accept it. The meagre food hadn’t given us much energy—if anything, it had aggravated our hunger and made it worse.
Better get used to it.
After our quick meal, Conner and I had returned to the helicopter and stripped the cabin. We’d hauled back the well-worn leather cushion from the bench seat, three life-jackets, and a piece of mangled fuselage that I envisioned doing something with but had no idea what.
The beach had turned into a wasteland of broken, mismatched items that I hoped would somehow keep us alive.
Sitting on my haunches, I surveyed the spread gear. “We have a few good tools to at least make a shelter.”
I don’t know.
Galloway scoffed while Conner nodded hopefully.
Pippa sat quietly with her thumb in her mouth watching everything I did. The intensity of the little girl’s gaze threatened to destroy me knowing she looked to me to keep her safe. At least, we’d found her stuffed kitty, Puffin. She hugged him as if he’d squirm away and vanish.
My heart stuttered at the thought of providing basic necessities for them. They were still young enough to believe that adults had all the answers and that was almost as naïve as believing in Santa Claus.
Adults didn’t know what they were doing—we were just good at faking it.
But there would be no leeway to pretend here. It was achieve or die. Attempt or perish.
My attention zeroed in on Galloway; sympathy still flowed from the struggle he’d gone through getting to the beach. He’d hated, positively hated that I’d seen him vomit while hobbling the last stretch. He’d shoved me away and fallen to retch in a bush.
Not that much came up.
The pain was too much for his system.
He couldn’t make eye contact as he finally let me touch him again and guide him the rest of the way. No wise cracks. No surly comments. Just utter silence.
I respected his feelings and didn’t say a word, just helped him rest on the sand. Even now, a few hours later, I hadn’t brought it up.
Galloway kept his eyes closed, his fists clenched from pain while his skin alternated between flushing with adrenaline and whitening with agony.
As a group, we weren’t doing so well. With my broken ribs, Conner’s mangled wrist, and Pippa’s bloody shoulder, we were in no state to hammer together a home or hunt for dinner.
It’s not as easy as the storybooks.
I had a secret obsession with all things survival. I used to love watching castaway movies and read every book in the genre. I adored the idea of being alone and finding utopia in the most unlikely of places.
But that was before it happened to me.
That was before my comfortable window seat in my apartment with a crisp glass of iced tea became a wild Fijian island with no signs of help.
The characters made it sound so easy. Fishing with earrings, hacking at coconuts with ice-skates. Luck seemed to shine on them.
Will we be so able?
My eyes drifted over the ragged survivors who’d become my family. We were all too hurt to manage. And if we were too hurt to build and hunt, we would eventually grow weaker and sicker until being rescued no longer mattered.
Launching upright, I held my ribs and marched toward the shoreline. Tears I could no longer stop trickled down my face as I begged the empty horizon for hope.
Please…how do we manage?
How do we drink and eat and create shelter when none of us are healthy enough to try?
Wading deeper into the water, I didn’t care the bottoms of my jeans grew wet. I’d wanted to change for hours. We all needed to change. We all needed a shower, a bed, and some subsistence.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
At least, no one you loved died.
No, that’d happened a year ago.
I’d had time to adjust.
I looked over my shoulder at Conner and Pippa. They sat together, locked tightly in mutual fear and sadness. However, they still talked, still smiled. And if they could chatter and share the occasional (if not entirely appropriate) joke, then I could definitely be there for them.
Scooping a handful of tepid seawater, I washed my face. The droplets smeared away some of the sticky sweat.
Feeling slightly less consumed with despair, I plodded back up the beach and resumed my position in front of the supplies.
Galloway groaned as he shifted higher, reclining against the fallen log I’d dragged (with help) from the forest edge into the shade of a leafy tree. The dense foliage acted like an umbrella and we’d found solace in the shadows while still able to enjoy the cooler air from the sea.
“Are you okay?”
My smile was brittle. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Galloway frowned. “I can think of a hundred reasons.”
“Yes, well. None of your reasons apply to me.”
I couldn’t deal with him. Especially after his honesty about how much he wanted me.
Who did that?
We were on a deserted island. I had enough to think about.
His eyes burned into me. “You sure?”
“Totally sure. All good.” I winked at Pippa.
She rewarded me with a smile.
“Okay, inventory time.” I pointed at each item—the only things saving us from extinction. “We have one Swiss Army knife, a clear polyethylene sheet, a small axe that I guess would’ve been used to chop out the cockpit window in case of an accident—kind of moot if a palm tree spears it instead.”
I shuddered as an image of Akin’s dead legs filled my mind. “A pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap, a small medical kit with antiseptic wipes and a flimsy needle and thread, a hand-held mirror, a wind-up torch, and a packet of dried jerky with a use-by-date of two years ago.”
Turned out Akin had a survival kit but hadn’t checked it in a very long time. I wished he’d had fishing hooks and painkillers and a lighter. Just those three things would’ve made our life a lot easier.
Galloway said, “So…what you’re saying is we’re fucked.”