Excerpt – Safe Harbour

Chapter One.

Thunder rattled the giant extractor fan and the roof drummed with the downpour. For an instant the fluorescent lights in the poky fish and chip shop dimmed. Darcy held her breath before the power surged again. In Duo, Darcy’s former restaurant in Sydney, the designer trench coats her patrons wore would have been the only sign it was raining. Here in Banksia Cove, everything was a little closer to nature, a little simpler. Tonight’s storm put the tears she’d shed six months ago into perspective: closing Duo’s glass doors for the last time wasn’t the end of the world. The wheel turned, life went on. It seemed fitting that this little shop where she could remember first eating hot chips as a child was now paying her bills while she embarked on her ambitious project – Whale Song. Here she would succeed, or not, on her own merits, her own skills. Could she achieve her dream in a place that held so many memories, so much heartache? Could something as devastating as her mother’s illness have a silver lining after all?

The flames under the grill shivered in the swirl of damp air that shot through a vent.

‘It’s getting worse out there,’ Darcy said. ‘We’re lucky we’ve had as many orders as we have tonight.’

‘Lucky?’ Rosie snorted. ‘If them punters had stayed home, I’d already be tucked up with my book instead of doling out fish and chips. Nothin’ lucky about it, love. We’re going to be as wet as them seals down on the rocks.’

Darcy smiled. ‘I’ll give you a lift, if you wait for me to lock up.’

‘Ta, love. I knew you would.’ Rosie shot Darcy a smile before plunging her hands back into the soapy water. ‘That’s why I like working for you, even though I should’ve retired five years ago.’

‘You’ll never retire. There aren’t enough books in the world to keep you busy.’

‘I did retire once, just after Jim died. No need to work, you know. Don’t need the money. I run on the smell of an oily rag.’

Darcy tuned out as Rosie carried on chatting. She could almost recite the older woman’s conversation from memory. Rosie claimed to be seventy, but Darcy had been hearing that for a few years now.

With her glasses on a permanent slide to the end of her nose, henna-red hair and a rounded small frame, Rosie could be anywhere from fifty to eighty. No one was going to be daft enough to ask. She was Aboriginal, an elder of the Goreng Goreng tribe, custodian of the old ways, keeper of their oral history. And she took that role seriously. Any time the young ones ended up in Bundaberg court, Rosie went to help out. She’d almost been arrested herself on one occasion for using her handbag to ‘knock some sense into them silly buggers’.

‘I hear they got a weather warnin’ out for another couple of days.’

Darcy nodded. ‘Yeah. Probably have a quiet night tomorrow.’

‘Heard any more from them idiots up at the council?’

‘The latest list arrived today.’ Darcy tried not to sound annoyed. The renovations on her new restaurant had gone swimmingly up until this point. ‘Apparently the driveway needs to be a metre wider and I have two disabled carparks too many, although I have no idea why that’s an issue. The handrail along the front entrance is two centimetres too low and the gas inspection didn’t go ahead because the gasfitter was called to an issue at one of the LNG plants up at Gladstone.’

‘Damn fools! Turnin’ that old whaling shed into a restaurant is the best thing that ever happened round here. Bit of elbow grease got rid of the last of the tallow, and she’s built strong enough to outlast another sixty years of gales. You’ll be right, Darce. It’ll work out.’

‘I just hope it’s ready in time for the opening. I’ve got staff lined up to start work in two weeks so we can road test everything before we open. Remember when they muttered about heritage listing?’

Darcy brushed short strands of russet hair back from her face. ‘You pointed out it had more graffiti on it than the rest of the Cove put together, and there was that butt-ugly extension the last developer tacked on that we had to rip down.’

‘Yeah, that developer did half the job, took the government grant and then abandoned the place, claimed they were bankrupt. Council were runnin’ scared you’d do the same thing. Buggered if I know why, though, since you’re one of us – all grown up and successful now, but still one of us. Banksia Cove born and bred, almost. Them first four years don’t matter.’

‘Yeah, but I’ve been away a while . . . ’

The door crashed open.

Darcy spun around, surprised to the see the local police officer framed in the doorway like a gunslinger in a western. Water cascaded off the hood of his waterproof jacket and down over his broad shoulders.

‘Noah?’

His tanned skin was leached of colour, the sparkle missing from his grey eyes. His mouth which normally smiled so readily was set in a straight line, concern in the creases around his eyes. She’d seen that look on his face before and it made her swallow with a rush of fear.

She wiped her hands and unhooked the hinged counter. ‘What’s wrong, Noah?’

‘Picked up a mayday call. The coastguard needs to launch the rescue boat. Most of the guys have been at Ross’s twenty-first, Steve’s lad. They’re several sheets to the wind. I know it’s a big ask, but can you come?’

‘Of course, of course.’ Darcy was already stripping the apron from her waist, her heart racing as apprehension slithered across her stomach. ‘Rosie? Are you right to go now?’

‘I’ll lock up. You go.’

‘No, no. We’ll both finish up.’ Darcy turned off the gas taps as she talked, methodically tidying the compact kitchen. ‘I can still drop you off on the way. I have to get my gear.’

‘They’re ready to go now, Darce. Waiting for us.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah. You were our last chance.’

‘Right. Come on, Rosie.’

‘Okay, okay. I’m coming, but you can leave me at the corner. I’ll be right to walk from there.’

‘We’ll argue as we go.’

Noah’s radio crackled and he talked into the transmitter strapped to his shoulder. ‘We’re on our way. I’ve got Darcy. See you in ten.’

The lights from the shop turned the rain silver for an instant before Darcy flicked them off.

‘Run, eh,’ Rosie said, hitching up her skirt and tucking it into her knickers. ‘Ready when you are.’

The fine needles of rain stung their faces as they hurried to Darcy’s beaten-up ute, water spraying to their knees with each step. Rosie’s uneven gait slowed them down. The lights from Noah’s patrol car flashed as Darcy wrenched her door open. Rosie tumbled in the other side, before dropping her sodden shoes off her feet.

‘Rum night for a rescue.’ She was puffing.

‘Yeah,’ Darcy replied, as the car cranked over several times before surging to life.

Noah’s headlights barely made a dint in the blackness as he swung past them. Darcy followed with a lurch, her wet foot slipping on the clutch pedal. They drove in silence for several minutes.

‘You drop me off at my turning, eh. I’ll walk the rest. Every second counts. You know that.’

Darcy knew that Rosie was right. Every second the waves pounded a vessel could cost a man, a woman, a child their life. Every extra second it took to launch the rescue boat increased the risk. Every second was precious.

‘Okay, but take my umbrella.’ She pushed it across the seat towards Rosie.

Rosie cackled. ‘I’ll be like Mary Poppins with that thing.’

Darcy had to smile. ‘Well, hang on tight and have a soft landing.’ She stopped the car under the greasy yellow pool of a street light. ‘See you tomorrow.’

‘Ta, love.’ The door slammed and Darcy saw the bright-red umbrella bloom like a giant flower in the inky night and twirl away as Rosie hurried up the street.

Ahead she could see that Noah had slowed. She accelerated to catch up as they left the lights of the town behind them. Several kilometres on, they turned down her tiny road. The wire fences around the paddocks on the left glinted in the headlights. Of the four houses on the right, two were empty, and in the third one Muriel would be peering from behind her lace curtains.

Darcy’s house was in darkness bar for the kitchen light she always left on for late finishes. Gypsy bounded to meet her, water heavy in her thick black-and-white fur. The collie thrust her long elegant nose against Darcy’s wet pants. She was happiest outdoors, even in the rain.

‘Hey, girl. No walk tonight,’ Darcy apologised, as she ruffled the dog’s floppy ears. ‘Major, it’s okay,’ she called, in response to her older dog’s startled bark. ‘Just your mum.’ Full of arthritis, Major moved stiffly from his bed as Darcy hung her bag on the antique hat stand in the front hallway. The British Bulldog rested against her knee with his eyes closed. She rubbed his greying muzzle. Fourteen years he’d been with her and she knew the day was coming when he’d slip away.

She headed for her bedroom, discarding her shirt and shoes as she went.

‘You ready?’ Noah called from the front door.

‘Almost. Can you grab my wetsuit from the back verandah?’ She pushed her bedroom door closed with her foot and heard his heavy tread on the floorboards as he walked down the short corridor. Her cottage was small. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room, all running off the central hallway. Noah knew his way around.

‘Got it.’

‘Thanks.’ She changed into her swimmers, dragged on a long-sleeved T-shirt and lycra leggings, then ran one hand through her short cap of hair. Her fluoro-yellow waterproofs were hanging on the back of the bedroom door and she bundled them under her arm

‘Ready?’

‘Coming.’ She almost bowled Noah over as she strode out of her room. He was crouched down patting Major.

‘He’s getting old,’ Noah said.

‘Aren’t we all?’ she retorted as she followed him, grateful the rain had let up for the moment.

‘You haven’t changed a bit.’

‘Neither have you. Who knew you’d age so well? Rosie reckons you’re Hugh Jackman’s long-lost younger brother

As they got into the patrol car, she glanced across at him in the dim glow. Noah had outgrown his youthful good looks. He’d matured into an imposing man with a square jaw, prominent cheekbones and piercing grey eyes. The slight kink to his nose from his stint with the Special Emergency Response Team added an edge of danger.

‘This yacht, Phoenix,’ he said. ‘It’s a monohull that’s got something wrapped around the prop. No steering, no motor, ripped sails. Old Rog reckons it’s a sea state eight out there at least. We think there’s only one guy on board, but the comms are pretty bad so we can’t be sure.’

‘Holy hell,’ Darcy muttered. ‘So there’s Roger, you, me and who else?’

‘Just Lana in the comms room.’

‘Three of us on the boat?’

‘Stevo’s helping launch us, but he’s too pissed to take out on the water.’

‘Right.’ Darcy chewed the inside of her cheek. Three was the bare minimum for operating the Kevlacat. This was going to be a difficult night.

‘High tide in an hour. Still the bar’s not going to be pretty to cross. The co-ords from the vessel’s emergency beacon show him drifting off One Tree Point.’

‘He’s close to the rocks. Let’s hope we get to him first.’

Noah nodded as he pulled into the car park in front of the volunteer coastguard hut. Lights blazed from the open hut. MV Sea Witch bobbed at the jetty, jaunty yellow against the sullen sea. Darcy grabbed her wetsuit and added it to the bundle clutched under her arm. Adrenalin made her knees feel like noodles. She followed Noah towards the shed, but he peeled off in the direction of the jetty.

‘Darcy?’ A barrel-chested man waved at her from inside the shed.

‘Steve.’

‘Darce. Sorry about this, but it’s the lad’s twenty-first.’

‘No need to apologise, Steve. You can’t stay off the beers for a just-in-case. That’s why Noah’s on call.’

‘Yeah, but still. Shit of a night. Will you be all right? It’s been a while.’ With his shaggy hair and saggy jowls he reminded her of Major. Steve used to be such a tower of strength.

‘I’ll be fine. The way you trained me, I’ll remember it for life. You just have that kettle hot for when we get back. I’ll need a giant-sized hot chocolate.’

‘Will do, love.’ He jerked a shoulder in the direction of the vessel. ‘She’s fuelled and good to go.’

Darcy started down the ramp towards the boat. Noah was already beside it talking to Roger.

Steve followed, but he didn’t wish her good luck. Sailors were a superstitious lot and it was a Friday.

As they cast off from the dock, the biting wind ahead of the next heavy shower tugged at their waterproofs, cutting through the thick layers. Darcy hunched in her coat as she coiled ropes on the exposed back deck. Noah stowed the fenders in a locker, then she heard the winches chatter as he checked them. She glanced up at the spotlights that flanked the cabin. They’d be crucial tonight.

Within minutes they were pushing into the swells that rolled down the seaway. Designed to provide access to the safe harbour at Banksia Cove, the inlet was held prisoner by the wind direction. Tonight the wind was onshore, funnelling between the two rock walls.

They cleared the entrance and ploughed into a cresting wave. Inside the cramped cabin she could see Roger hanging onto the wheel as he increased the revs on the engine. The full force of the gale slammed into them.

Darcy stumbled and grabbed at the railing as her boots gripped on the wooden decking.

Noah put out a steadying hand, strong and reassuring. ‘Let’s hope we can find them in this,’ he said.

‘Them? I thought you said there was one man? Does the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have more info?’

‘Not certain. The guy must be injured. Lana couldn’t get much sense out of him. Just that he was drifting. AMSA’s only managed to give us a description of the vessel. No other information. She’s Australian registered so who knows.’ He shook his head, his grey eyes pensive. ‘Sorry to do this to you, Darce.’

Roger altered course, leaving the back deck unprotected, and the wind howled through, whipping away Noah’s words.

Darcy raised her voice. ‘Not your fault, Noah. It needs to be done.’

‘Yeah, but . . . ’

She shook her head and led the way into the cabin, where they could talk without shouting. ‘I did volunteer again. And it had to happen some time.’

‘Perhaps.’ He looked down. ‘Even the weather conditions are

similar. A rain depression at the end of a cyclone. Howling north easterly. High tide, full moon. It’s a perfect storm.’

‘So when’s George Clooney arriving?’ Darcy joked, desperate to ignore the suffocating blanket of memories that threatened to smother her.

‘Guess I’ll have to do.’ Roger cut in with a laugh, his eyes never leaving the instruments at the helm. ‘Tell me you don’t think Noah’s better looking than me.’

Darcy had to admit that Noah would give George Clooney a run for his money, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. She gave Roger full marks for attempting to distract them. On a rescue like this the transit time felt endless, but there was nothing they could do until they were closer to the vessel.

Noah snorted. ‘I can see you playing the part, Captain Roger. Rescuing damsels in distress in between inhaling meat pies and drinking slabs of XXXX Gold.’

‘You’re just jealous, because you have to set a good example round here. Don’t think I can’t remember you puking up in the gutter when you were an underage little feral. You and your mate Grant were always at it. And I covered up for you.’

Darcy didn’t miss the worried glance Noah shot her. She summoned her brightest smile in defence of her friend. He still wore the guilt too hard. They both did.

‘I bet Mr and Mrs Moreton knew full well what their golden-haired boy was up to, Rog,’ Darcy said. ‘No secrets in a town this small.’ She smiled. Just long memories.

The deck tilted as a buffet of wind slewed the vessel. Roger had to haul hard on the wheel to straighten up before the next breaker reached them. ‘Anything on the radar?’ he asked.

‘Nope,’ Noah replied, fiddling with the range. Darcy stepped up beside him and checked the last-known coordinates of the yacht plotted ahead of them on the sat nav.

‘Still a couple of miles, maybe more with the drift.’

Roger grunted. ‘See if you can raise them. Lana had pretty much given up by the time we left.’

Darcy tried repeatedly, but there was nothing from the Phoenix on any of the channels.

Lana replied on channel sixteen. ‘Nothing heard for thirty minutes, Sea Witch, over.’

‘Roger, out.’ Darcy hung up the mic. ‘No power, perhaps?’

‘Let’s hope that’s all it is.’

‘Yeah.’ Darcy shook out her wetsuit. She’d need maximum protection from the water and the wind. ‘Might as well be ready.’

Noah’s expression was hard to read. ‘I wish I was the one going over the side, Darcy.’

She shrugged. ‘You’re dreaming, if you think I’m hauling you out of the water. Besides, there’s no saying any of us will need to go swimming. He might be fine to secure his own harness.’

Noah didn’t reply, but the tension was obvious in his ramrod straight back and the clench of his jaw. They both missed Grant, but now wasn’t the time to revisit that awful night when the sea claimed their friend. Tonight they had a life to save. Tonight they were two adults with the skills and training to get the job done. Sixteen years ago they were young and inexperienced. Sixteen years ago Darcy was on a stricken vessel being rescued and Noah had swum through a stormy sea to get to her. It was too vivid, too real, but she knew she had to ignore those memories for now.

Darcy changed the range on the sat nav. ‘I reckon we need to head down ten degrees,’ she said.

‘Really?’ Roger glanced at the screen. ‘That’ll put us fuckin’ close to the rocks on the point.’

‘From his last position, I can’t see him going anywhere else.’

‘She’s right,’ Noah said. ‘I’m also picking up something faint on the radar. It’s got to be the vessel.’

‘Bloody great,’ Roger growled as he altered course. ‘We take this steady as she goes. That wind’s pushing us onshore.’

Darcy swallowed and saw Noah’s fist clench. Fear reared its head for a brief instant before she punched it away. No! It would not cripple her again. ‘That looks like a better course.’ She was proud of how steady her voice sounded as she plotted their new direction. ‘Stay with that and I’ll get ready.’

Noah turned his back as she wriggled out of her waterproofs, then stripped down to her swimmers before tugging the wetsuit up over her hips. She fitted the inflatable lifejacket and secured the clips at her waist. The safety line from Sea Witch would attach to the harness and enable Noah to reel her in. They’d done it before. But this time she was determined the outcome would be different.

The rescue boat was moving more smoothly now as their speed increased. It shouldered the waves on its bow, then shook them off like a fur seal, water running clear from its curves.

‘A mile at most,’ Noah muttered from behind her.

‘Hey, the locator’s picking up a second beacon. Weaker. Probably personal.’

‘Hell,’ Noah swore as Darcy peered at the screen. ‘So he’s left the yacht.’

‘Probably realised they were headed for the rocks.’

‘Yeah, but harder to find a man bobbing in the ocean.’

‘Or a woman.’

‘Or a kid,’ Roger chipped in. ‘Get the spotlights on full beam.’

As Darcy directed the portside light into the ebony night she knew this was when more hands on board would have made the job easier. The sharp beam of light shimmered on the spume whipped from the top of the waves. The wind tore at her hair, lifting the short waterlogged strands. On the other side of the back deck she could see Noah adjusting his spotlights. His words were torn away in the storm, but she didn’t need to hear them to know he was swearing like a trooper. The light wouldn’t turn on. She watched as Noah ducked down inside and she knew he’d be checking the cabling and connections. Steve would have made sure it was working before they’d left the dock.

She turned back to the scene in front of her, looking away from the beam so her eyes became accustomed to the dark again. One Tree Point jutted straight up into the night sky, its black bulk like a gaping hole in the grey scudding cloud. Spray shot high as though it sought to touch the heart of that darkness. The waves dashed themselves against the foot of the soaring cliff. The wide flat ledge where Darcy used to fish as a child would be neck-deep in water. The seals, which usually sunned themselves there like languid tourists, would have sought shelter before this blow hit. Darcy had no idea where they went but, like birds before a cyclone, the seals knew when it was time to pack away the deck chairs and hole up somewhere more protected. The bottom metre of the iron stairs and railings that ran down from the cliff would be fully submerged by now.

Something caught her eye as it moved, swaying across the darkness of the rocks.

‘There!’ she screamed. ‘Starboard ten degrees. I’ve got the mast.’

‘Shit,’ Noah said. His light flickered to life. ‘I’ve got it!’ The white radar dome and the tip of the mast were tossing violently, but the two beams stayed focused as they caught glimpses of the vessel between the swells.

‘Shit, that’s a bitch,’ Roger yelled from his helm station. ‘It’s almost on the rocks.’ He throttled back a touch and the surf roared louder. ‘You can’t get to it, Darcy. You’ll be injured, or worse, in the attempt.’

‘No, I won’t,’ she murmured, assessing the waves and the yacht’s motion. ‘But, you’re right, it’s going to be a bitch.’

‘What about the other beacon?’ Noah asked. Darcy heard the note of concern in his voice. He clearly didn’t want her going anywhere near the rocks.

‘It’s to our right now. I can’t see anything,’ Rog replied, leaning across to check the map.

‘Let’s track it first. Find it, then come back for the yacht if it’s still in one piece.’ As usual Noah was making sense.

‘Okay,’ Darcy agreed.

The boat lurched as Roger spun the wheel. A wave struck them side on. Darcy grabbed at the top rail, water surging over the deck. They were in the danger zone and she was glad that they had Rog’s steady hands at the helm. He’d been doing this for years, was one of the founding members of the Volunteer Marine Rescue Service; he knew the area like his own backyard.

As Sea Witch righted itself, Darcy swung the light back towards the point, looking for the mast again. She’d only just found it when she saw the movement of the Phoenix change. ‘I think she’s hit the rocks. The mast’s stopped moving.’

‘Fuck. I hope we find this EPIRB.’ Roger’s face was grim. There was no way they could get to the yacht now. Darcy glanced back at it, just in time to see it tip sideways and disappear beneath the towering back of a breaking wave.

‘She’s gone.’ As the wave rolled through they all heard the tortured grind of metal, fibreglass and rock colliding. The snap and crack as stay wires parted and the groan of the hull as it was impaled on the sharp teeth of the cliff echoed over the roar of the sea.

‘Fuck,’ Roger said. ‘Lights to the front. Let’s find this poor bastard.’

‘Yes,’ Darcy whispered. Find him so we can tell him he’s lucky to be alive, even though his yacht is gone, smashed into a million pieces of flotsam, pounded by an angry sea. Find him so I don’t have to stare into the eyes of a dead man again. Please, let us find him soon.

‘Darcy, you hooked on yet?’

‘No,’ she replied, tightening the swivel bracket on the light so its beam kissed the path of Noah’s light.

She needed to be ready to go over the side the instant they spotted the yachtsman in the water. It took her three attempts to get the hook and its locking device secured. She knew how to do it with her eyes blindfolded. It wasn’t lack of practice making her fumble.

Trailing the rescue line she stepped back up to the light. At least the rain had eased again. Roger was humming tunelessly behind her at the helm. Noah’s face was grim in the soft glow cast by the rear of his spottie. The wind blew his hair back from his face. Authority suited him, Darcy thought, looking at his high forehead, wide-set eyes and determined jaw. He was a natural leader who’d excelled with the Queensland SERT before choosing to be a one-man band, a local copper rather than the Commissioner of Police she’d always thought he’d become. They’d been friends a long time. There were few secrets between them.

‘Rog, slow down, slow down! I think I’ve seen something further to our right.’

Darcy craned her neck to see where Noah was pointing.

‘The current’s got him. At least it’s taken him away from the cliff. Stronger out here,’ Roger said as he manoeuvered the vessel across the swell, delicately playing the throttles. Darcy knew it was a fine line between being dead in the water at the mercy of currents and waves, and running over the very thing they were trying to rescue.

‘You’re right,’ Noah said. ‘I just saw a flicker of light. Twenty metres max.’

‘Call me in.’ Roger’s eyesight might be failing him, but Darcy knew how instinctively he controlled the boat. Teamwork was vital.

‘Five degrees right. Hold that course.’

‘Noah, you see him?’ Darcy asked.

‘Got him,’ he called. ‘Looks motionless.’

‘Can we hook him?’

‘No chance.’

Roger poked his head around the side of the bimini. ‘I don’t want to get that close in these seas. We haven’t had a big set in a while. You’ll have to go in, Darce. Sorry, love.’

She nodded as the adrenalin spiked again and she took a deep breath to steady herself against the rush of it. Fear caused panic, led to bad choices. Fear had no place in a rescue, unless she could harness it to make her stronger.

‘Let’s go, then.’ She swung her light around so it illuminated the inky sea to her left. Roger would take them seaward of the yachtsman and then it would be her turn to do the work.

She blinked as Noah’s light swung around to portside. Seconds later he was beside her, his hand on her shoulder. ‘You ready for this, mate?’

She mustered a smile. He needed the reassurance as much as she did. His eyes had turned smoky black in his face, the planes of his face seemed more angular and his expression was sombre. That day sixteen years ago felt like yesterday.

‘Of course – you’ve got my back. We might as well put those muscles to work, buddy.’ She tapped his shoulder and turned to search for the faint light bobbing in the water. Noah was right. There was no movement. Another body retrieval.

‘Right, lass,’ Roger called. ‘Good to go.’

She hesitated an instant on the gunwale as Sea Witch rolled with the swell. At the lowest point she dived, feeling the rope feed out behind her. She ignored the surge of apprehension. Noah had her back. The top of her head felt like it was in a clamp and she shuddered as the water seeped into her wetsuit. The bulk of the rescue boat flattened the surface of the water enough to enable her to gulp in a couple of quick breaths before she struck out for the drifting body, her exposed skin tingling with cold. The orange jacket and weak strobe light disappeared as a swell rolled through. Darcy kept swimming, her head coming up every third breath as she maintained the line to her target.

The next wave lifted her and she saw the man directly ahead, a pale face with dark hair. With a couple of hard kicks she was on him, grabbing at his legs and hauling him towards her. There was no response. ‘Shit,’ she muttered, reaching her arms around him. He was no lightweight. She struggled to get the harness and float around him with his bulky life jacket.

She was pinpointed in the spotlights and raised her arm straight up. The rope went tight and Noah began the arduous task of reeling them in. She lay back, the man’s body secure against hers – chest to back, thighs to buttocks, like lovers, his longer legs trailing behind.

The echoes, the memories, tried to crowd her, claim her. ‘No,’ she said through clenched teeth. ‘No.’ She kicked out, focusing on breathing, keeping their bodies aligned and as close together as she could.

‘Darcy!’ There was fear in Noah’s voice. ‘Breaking wave!’

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