Enemies-to-lovers romance Love Not at First Sight excerpt
I kick my legs, fighting to pull the woman to the surface. I have a hold of her beneath her arms. She’s a dead weight and I pray that she’s okay, that she didn’t get hurt in the fall. The icy water urges me to kick harder. There’s no light. I can’t tell up from down. I’m going on pure instinct, and a prayer, please God, let me be swimming toward air.
I kick harder. My heart pounds in my ears and my lungs ache. Maybe I chose the wrong direction. Up was down, or down was up and I’m swimming to the bottom of the water. I start to panic. Then, just when I’m about to turn around, reverse direction, we break the surface. I gasp, drag in a harsh breath then cough and sputter. I draw the woman’s head higher. Float on my back and hold her against my chest. She coughs and sputters.
Then, “Are you okay?” she asks. Her voice is ragged and soft.
Before I can answer, her head falls again to my chest and her body goes limp.
My blood goes cold.
“I’m okay. Are you alright?”
She doesn’t answer, she lies heavy and still against me. I kick my legs to keep us at the surface and feel for her pulse. I let out a sigh of relief, it’s strong and steady. At least there’s that. She shivers and I’m reminded of how cold the water is. Like an ice bath. We’re going to get hypothermia if I don’t get us out of it soon.
But I can’t see. There’s no light. I dropped my phone when I went to grab her. I saw her flashlight fly from her grasp. Then I remember my watch. It’s a waterproof divers watch, a twenty-thousand-dollar piece that my sister bought me last year for my birthday. She laughed because she said she’d spent my money to get it. I’ve worn it ever since. Thank the Lord. I press a button on the side and the display glows. It gives a dim light that barely illuminates the space around my hand. I hold up my arm and twist the watch in the air. The light catches on the white stone and reflects around the cavern. The water that was black in the pitch dark is turquoise and clear where the light hits. There. About twenty feet away I can just make out what looks like water hitting rock. I can’t be sure. The light is too dim. But I swim that way because right now it’s our best chance.
I’m breathing hard and shivering harder by the time I reach the rock wall.
“We made it,” I tell the woman. I lift her onto the rock first, roll her onto the surface and then I climb out after her. Water sluices onto the rock and runs around us. It’s cold. It’s too damn cold. I feel for the woman’s pulse. It’s still strong, but her skin is like ice and she’s shaking.
“You’ll be okay,” I say. I keep talking, because it’s so dark and quiet in here that any voice, even my own, is better than the silence. “I’ve never been so scared as when I saw you fall,” I tell her. I keep my voice low and soothing. I don’t know how we’re going to get out of here. Or even if there is a way out. My phone is gone, hers is likely in her pack which is still up on the stalagmite at the top of the crevice. To be sure I pat her pockets. Carefully. I don’t want her waking up thinking I’m some creep taking advantage. Nothing. They’re empty. Not that a phone could get reception down in the depths of a cave.
“We’ll get out of here,” I tell her. I put my hand on her arm. Dang, she’s cold. “I’ll get you out of here. I promise.”
I hear a scratching noise and then a rhythmic crunch, crunch, scratch. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. There’s something else here with us.
I hit the display of my watch and look around. Nothing. I can’t see anything. I hold it over the woman. I can barely make out the shape of her face.
She shivers again and I make a decision. I have to get her warm and I have to get her to help. I think the most urgent thing right now is getting warm.
Body heat. But first we need out of these soaking wet clothes.
I kick off my shoes and socks and then pull off my T-shirt. I wring the water out of them and set them out on the rock. Then, I strip down to my boxers and wring out my shorts. I’m too cold to feel awkward. I jump up and down and rub my hands over my clammy skin. Then I kneel down next to the woman.
I untie and pull off her hiking boots and socks. Then I work the soaking wet long-sleeved shirt over her head. I wring it out and put it next to her socks and boots. I feel around in the dark for the buttons to her pants. The skin of her stomach is cold and taut.
I find the button.
Suddenly, her hand lashes out and grabs my throat. She squeezes and I freeze.
“Take off my pants and I’ll kill you and leave your body in the dark.”