The deep turquoise water was warm and Angel, who was a strong swimmer, was a couple hundred yards from the beach when she stopped and began to tread water, watching the people on the beach before flipping onto her back to float lazily.
It was the angry metallic buzz sound of the Jet Ski that made her lift her head. If she hadn’t she wouldn’t have seen the kid who had obviously drifted out farther than he intended on an inflatable toy, and she watched in horror as he fell off into the path of the Jet Ski.
Two things became immediately obvious. One, he couldn’t swim very well and two, the driver of the Jet Ski couldn’t see him.
Her yelled warning alerted the people on the shore, several of whom entered the water shouting, but the Jet Ski rider remained oblivious and she was a hell of a lot closer than anyone else.
With a pounding front crawl that left her breathless, Angel managed to get to the child and make sure he stayed afloat. But it became harder to stay that way when the boy let go of the inflatable and transferred his hold to her neck, gripping tightly. Pulled under without a chance to fill her lungs, she surfaced a few moments later with the kid latched on like a limpet only to see the Jet Ski heading right for them.
At the last moment she pushed the kid’s face into her shoulder and closed her eyes, not perhaps the most practical response, but it worked to the extent that they were still alive when she opened them. Though this was, it turned out, less to do with her closed eyes and more to do with the Jet Ski rider seeing them at the last moment.
He swerved and didn’t quite miss them. But her shoulder only took a glancing blow, which she barely noticed, as at this point she was busy struggling to stay afloat. The kid was half strangling her with his grip, and the close encounter with the Jet Ski had seriously freaked him out so he had begun kicking out wildly with his legs.
The relief when a speedboat pulled up alongside and someone hauled him up out of her arms was intense.
‘Thank you so much.’ Her grateful waterlogged smile faded slightly when she saw the owner of the hand she had grabbed gratefully on to, his face a dark shadow against the sun shining directly into her eyes. But there was no mistaking his identity.
She landed in the boat in a staggeringly inelegant, breathless heap and crawled onto a bench seat.
‘You’re all right?’
‘Fine,’ she lied, finding herself nodding meekly in response to his stern, ‘Don’t move.’ As if she could have if she’d wanted to!
* * *
Alex didn’t trust himself to respond to this patent lie and maintained his silence on the way back to shore, choosing not to compete with the boy, who was now bawling in his ear very loudly.
‘I want my mum.’
‘She is welcome to you.’
Angel gasped. ‘Don’t be so mean. Can’t you see that the poor thing is upset?’
He was upset! Alex was pretty sure that watching her swim directly into the path of that Jet Ski had taken six months off his life. Angel, on the evidence so far, was not destined to make it to thirty!
‘I can hear that he’s upset,’ Alex retorted grimly, holding the kid with one hand and steering the boat with the other. He flashed her a look of irritation and snarled, ‘Will you sit still? Because if you fall out, so help me I’ll let you drown. In all my life I have never witnessed such a reckless, suicidal, stupid action!’ he raged. ‘Every time I see you, you are trying to kill yourself!’
Before she could defend herself against this unjust attack he cut the engine and the people who had waded out into the shallows were there, arms outstretched, to deliver the boy to his mother.
A young man wearing the logo of the hotel on his polo shirt and a label that identified him as a lifeguard on his cap climbed into the boat and, after speaking to Alex, took the wheel.
Alex himself peeled off his own shirt, dived neatly into the water from the far side of the boat and vanished under it before appearing on the shore side where the water reached his waist.
Hair slicked wetly back, looking like some impossibly perfect front cover of a men’s health magazine, he squinted up at Angel, water streaming down his brown face. ‘Do you want someone to take you to the marina or...?’ He held out a hand.
She treated his offer of assistance from the boat with a look of cold disdain, though as she lowered herself into the water the pain in her shoulder made her wish she had swallowed her pride.
He didn’t turn back once to see if she was managing so it became a matter of pride that she stay on her feet even though a delayed reaction to the drama was beginning to set in.