"Frank!” Lily called to the crewman on duty, "can I get you a cup of coffee?" Stepping into the pilothouse, she stopped to flick the light switch. Nothing. "Why is it so dark––"
She glimpsed a shadowy figure in dripping wet scuba gear at the helm and froze. In that moment of hesitation, he leveled a submachine gun on her.
"What––" She let out a muffled squawk as a gloved hand clamped over her mouth from behind. The vice-like grip pinned her to a solid frame. Lily twisted and turned, but her captor didn't budge.
Somewhere in her fear-clouded brain, she realized there were two unknown men onboard. Both held her motionless––one in his grasp, the other with a gun.
Her heartbeat pounded in her ears.
Where was her crew?
What about Shannon, Rick, and the kids?
Lily watched in wide-eyed terror as the frogman in her line of vision hoisted his weapon over his shoulder and busied himself with the controls on the bridge.
"Mmmmm!" She strained against her captor's glove.
"Don't scream. We're not here to hurt you." The masculine resonance held a reassuring quality, making her want to believe him.
A shiver shot up the length of her spine, followed by the awareness that he held her close. Too close.
His whisper covered any discernible accent.
American? Russian? Cuban?
They were near enough to international waters that she'd reserve judgment.
Three years earlier, the year before his assassination, President Kennedy had ordered a blockade of Cuba until Khrushchev pulled his Soviet missiles. Though the blockade no longer existed, embargoes were still in place. Give or take a few knots in either direction and she'd be breaking the law in two countries, a moot point since she already had.
The unknown threat behind her lingered dark and dank. Danger stank of wet rubber and bilge water. His stench seeped through to foul her clothes and she shivered again.
"I'm going to remove my hand," he continued in that low murmur. "You won't scream.”
She shook her head. As he peeled back his gloved hand, she schooled herself to remain calm. Once he removed his hand, she screamed for all she was worth. "Frannnnnk!!!"
His hand clamped back over her mouth. He leaned in even closer to whisper in her ear. "You're playing a game you can't win." An underlying warning replaced the earlier reassuring quality.
With a flick of his wrists, he could snap her neck.
Clutching his neoprene-covered forearm, Lily threw her weight from side to side. She stomped his instep and kicked his shins again and again. He pulled her tighter until her flailing feet dangled above the deck, and she recognized the thing poking into her spine as something other than flesh and bone.
A tank of some sort.
Thoughts swirled around her rattled brain and she swallowed hard. A chest-mounted rebreather? Could be for extended periods of deep sea diving.
Or for swimming? Military?
Oh, hell no!
American? Russian? Cuban? Did it matter?
"Mmmmm! Mmmmm!" She vented against his covered palm.
"Go ahead, scream." He uncovered her mouth again. "It won't do you any good, Ms. Chapel. They can't hear you below decks."
“You know my name?" Lily went as still as the muted darkness surrounding them. The moment he relaxed his grip, and her feet touched down, she spun around to face him.
Her five-feet, three-inches, shrank in comparison to the six-foot-plus block of ice standing before her. Not a single distinguishing feature gave away his nationality. A diver's hood covered his head, with swim goggles perched on top like frog's eyes, while some sort of night vision goggles covered his own.
Grease-paint smeared what little she could see of his face. A microphone swung out in front of his mouth and connected to a headset, which disappeared beneath his hood.
The abandoned breathing apparatus and chest-mounted tank––black wetsuit, black paint––all served to conceal the man beneath.
"It seems we've landed on your pad, Lily. Pun intended." His voice lacked any hint of humor and a renewed sense of fear ripped through her.
"Who the hell are you? And what have you done with my crew?"
In the red glow of emergency exit lights, he pushed aside the NVGs. Pierced by the ice of his cold eyes. She stood riveted to the deck.
The chilling effect in those murky blue depths raised goose bumps on her flesh. Thinking of her family and crew, she prayed her knees wouldn't buckle, rendering her useless against this––this pirate.
Pirate! The word echoed through her head.
“Did he send you?” She managed past the tightness in her throat.
He didn't answer. Didn't try to restrain her.
He didn't have to.
Loaded down with weapons and gadgets the frogman posed an intimidating threat in his black rubber spy gear. Talk about dressed to kill. Overkill was more like it. She couldn't begin to imagine a use for most of his hardware.
How did he swim weighted down with all that gear?
A nervous laugh bubbled up. At any moment, he'd unzip his wetsuit to reveal a tuxedo, a dry tuxedo at that, and introduce himself as 007 or some equally impressive code name.
But this James Bond was no Sean Connery.
She'd seen Goldfinger twice––the first time because of all the hype over a new Bond flick, the second to sigh over the sexy Scot's accent. And dimples. She did love a man with dimples. She could hardly wait for the Christmas release of Thunderball.
If she made it to Christmas.
Lily swallowed her laughter. Judging by the look in the frogman's eyes she might not want to test his license to kill.
Rubbing damp palms against cutoff jeans, she mustered every ounce of courage she possessed. “You have no idea who you’re messing with.”
“I know exactly who I’m messing with, Captain." He dragged the syllables as if her title were an insult to his tongue. His voice remained low, his eyes chilly.
He reached out and closed his gloved hand over her throat.
"No!" Lily choked back a sob.
Emotionless ice-blue eyes would be the last thing she ever saw. Her last thought would be, her sister was right. She'd been hijacked out of a happily-ever-after.
© Rogenna Brewer
All rights reserved.