The auburn tresses that framed her rosy cheeks were hanging in dripping ringlets. Why her hair curled at any sign of water was beyond her. By the time it would take it to fully dry out, it would be right back to its normal, straight self.
Reaching up with pruned up hands, she wrung out the soaked tendrils, letting the water trail down her little, blue bikini as the sound of footsteps muffled through her water-filled ears.
“Hey Mox, how was the dive?” came a friendly, female voice.
“Gorgeous. You should have seen how busy and colorful it was down there today, Nita,” Moxie replied, spinning around to face her friend and showering her with bits of water in the process.
Anita had been her closest friend since moving to St. Thomas. Granted, when they first met, they had a bit of a bitch-off in the bar, but what two girls don’t ruffle feathers every now and then.
“Well not all of us can be as crazy as you. I finished going over those findings,” Anita responded, her hazel eyes skimming over her friend’s diving gear.
She had dove once before, when Moxie had begged and begged for her to come down. Yea, sure, it had been awfully pretty, but the second she saw the first shark, she was back on the dock taking off her tank before her air-bubbled scream even broke the water’s surface.
“Anything?” Moxie asked anxiously.
“Having to triangulate the position of the sun, while taking into account the seasonal currents, and the present mating rituals of the beluga whale…”
“Get on with it already!”
Laughing as she flipped her soft blond hair over her shoulder, Anita knew how much this meant to Moxie. What was a friendship without a little play?
“If the readings are right, and I have no reason to doubt them, then it looks like it has moved. It’s further South-East. Looks to be approximately 67 miles East of the Islands,” she told her adventurous friend.
Moxie’s green eyes lit up in excitement at the news. She was finally getting closer to her dream. All the years at the Oceanography institute, the months and months stuck on boat with pervy sailor after pervy sailor…it was all going to pay off. She could feel it.
“That’s fantastic! It’s just like what I predicted! Hell yes! Nita you know what this means, don’t you?!”
“I’m sure it means I’ll have a ton of paperwork to look over shortly, and a pretty-much mermaid friend for the next little while,” Anita laughed. “I have to get going, though. I’ve got part-time down at the bar tonight but just wanted to tell you myself before you saw it back at the office.”
“Alright, hun. I’d say I’d come down for a drink, but I’m probably going to take a moonlight dive tonight. It’s so beautiful down there right now, I can only imagine what tonight’s going to be like. Moon’s supposed to be a bright one,” Moxie smiled at her friend, hopping up off her spot on the dock and wrapping Nita in a huge, wet hug before she could jump away.
When Moxie pulled away, Anita had two large, wet breast marks on the front of her tiny t-shirt.
“Now I have to go change, thanks for that,” Anita squealed.
“Ah C’mon! You work at a bar; you and I both know that if you walk in like that, your tip jar will fill up even faster,” Moxie replied, giggling.
Anita gave her a wink and a smile, before spinning around and skipping her way back down the dock.
The moonlight through the water looked like the depths of a prism, refractions of light bouncing off every nook and cranny of the underwater world. The coral reefs and overall ecosystem of the Caribbean was unlike any other in the world. She had never been more comfortable than when she was underwater.
Checking her watch, Moxie had only been under the waves for about a minute, so she knew she had at least a few more she could get away with. Freediving wasn’t something she did tremendously often, but she loved it just as much as strapping in to her gear, if not more so.
The connection she experienced with the watery world around her was the most unbelievable sensation she could ever imagine. Somewhere deep down, she knew she was meant to be here, meant to be in the middle of this crazy search towards a long-lost dream.
As she started making her way back up, just a short ways from the shore, a large shadow began to creep over the coral. Glancing up, she noticed the boat tearing across the waves, heading for straight on top of her.
Moxie double checked the time to see that it was 11:34 p.m.. No one was set to be on the water for another 3 hours according to the docks.
Trying to stay calm as panic started to grip her, she quickly looked around for the safest, fastest way to shore. Having learned from experience with a former close friend, she knew that if she was caught in the water beneath that boat, she’d be caught up in the churn of the waves and could wash out to the stronger current and drown.
Her heart hammered against her chest, which was starting to feel tighter and tighter the longer she was under the water. She knew she couldn’t hold her breath for much longer; she should have already broken the surface for a breath.
The captain of the boat seemed to be acting erratically, beginning to circle the craft quickly over her general area. The shadow threw her underwater haven into darkness as she struggled to see a good route, forcing herself to not fight against the slight pull she started to feel.
In a matter of mere milliseconds, she felt the churning water pushing in on her from all directions, carrying her farther away from shore. The shadow from the vessel moved out to sea at full power, leaving her bathed in moonlight but caught in the grips of the treacherous current.
Fear took hold of Moxie’s mind, the darkness encroaching on her vision. Her chest felt near to exploding as her hands clawed at her scratchy throat. It was too late; she was all out of breath…all out of fight. Her lips parted in a final plea as her lungs searched for the air they so desperately craved, but wouldn’t find. Instead, she felt the water that she loved so much quickly fill her mouth, and race into her lungs.
Why did it all have to end like this? Some drunk takes an unauthorized boat ride, so all her schooling, and all her dreams had to end in the depths of the Caribbean? Now, no one would ever know what she had been chasing…what was just waiting to be discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic.
The last thing she saw was a figure walking across the water in her direction. In a mixture of confusion, and a newfound sense of peace, Moxie relaxed, letting the water finally take her.
The sense of peace that Moxie felt envelop her was enough to make her forget about her scratchy throat, the water that filled her lungs, and even the blackness that was invading her vision. The last sight she took in was the serenity of the moonlight striking through the water around her, illuminating the colorful ocean world with its soft glow…and the mysterious dark man-like figure she saw walking across the water above her.
God? Had he come to call her home during her final moments? Relaxation sated her limbs rather than the fear that had previously ripped through her.
The auburn haired beauty was unconscious before a pair of powerfully built hands, calloused and dirty from a day on the docks, broke through the surface of the water to lock tightly around her upper arms like vice grips. Moxie didn’t feel her mysterious savior pull her from the water and rush her back to the dock. She most certainly didn’t feel his first desperate attempts at CPR, trying to will her with all of his might to draw a breath.
His hands interlocked to compress her chest over and over again. Crashing his lips to her, he filled her chest with his warm breath.
“Damnit Moxie! C’Mon! I need you to fight!” he yelled at her between compressions. Her complexion was pale, her lips a light blue, but he continued his panicked attempts to save her. Silently, he uttered a panicked prayer as he kept up his steady compressions.
It was as if she heard her name called from somewhere within a dark fog. Her chest felt strange…heavy. All of a sudden her eyes flew open as salt water was forced from her lungs to spout out of her mouth across the old wooden planks.
Her mystery savior exhaled heavily, relieved to see her alive. For a moment, he had been truly frightened that she may not make it. Furious, his thoughts turned to the damn idiot who had been behind the wheel of the boat; fool knew exactly what he had been doing.
Moxie turned her big, emerald eyes to him in wonder, recollecting what had happened under the waves. She remembered the peaceful dive, quickly turned around by an unscheduled boat on the water. Clearly, she could remember the feeling of the rush of water that filled her mouth and throat as her body at naturally searched for one last breath. Gazing up into the aqua blue eyes of her dark haired savior, she remembered the figure she saw through the haze…the one that had been walking across the water to her.
“Thank you,” she uttered breathlessly. Moxie searched his features that had set in stone. Was that anger that flashed across his face?
“You’re welcome,” he replied, a little shakily. Firmness quickly took its place as he continued, “you should be more careful.”
“Excuse me?” she snapped. Feeling the strength slowly come back to her, she attempted to push herself up on her elbows. His arms were still locked on either side of her waist, his face still dangerously close to hers. “Be more careful? Are you serious? I checked, and TRIPLE checked those schedules and there was NO boat planned to hit the water for a few hours!”
Moxie’s voice cracked a bit as she snapped at him, the scratchy feeling now a downright burn. “What the hell were you doing near the docks this late anyway?!”
His beautiful aqua eyes turned a steely grey as his brow set in a hard line above her. “I work down here. Besides, I just saved your life!” he quipped back in a deep, rasp that sent chills running deliciously down the length of her spine.
“And I said thank you,” Moxie retaliated. His breath mingled with hers in the few inches that separated the two of them. “What’s your name?” she whispered.
“Uh-I should go. I’m glad to see your well, but you should still probably check in with a doctor before you dive again,” he ordered before propelling himself up off his knees and back onto his feet.
“Wait! Wha-” but before she could finish getting the words out, her rescuer had spun on his heels to quickly take off into the darkness.
Though he was gone, his face continued to loom in front of her as she stood up from the dock. Those eyes were intense, with what had resembled grey streaks of lightning painted on his irises. His dark hair had flopped haphazardly across his forehead, slick with sweat from the whole lifesaving ordeal.
Making sure her balance was on track, Moxie took one last look around before heading back towards home. Her mind was racing between her gorgeous savior, and a near-death experience. That’s when her mind snapped back to the boat that had been above her.
Why had it been out, and most importantly, why had the captain taken her around in circles before taking off into deeper water? There had been no scheduled trips, she was sure about that. Around here, with such a high population of divers, safety was a big priority.
She was also lucky that her rescuer had been near…though that definitely didn’t answer how he saved her. Did she just imagine seeing his form walk across the water? The more she dwelled on everything, the more it didn’t make sense.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! Why the hell didn’t you get ahold of me last night?!” Anita was seething, her hazel eyes damn near glowing in anger.
“I don’t know, Nita. It was all so crazy and happened so fast, I just felt like I needed to lie down,” Moxie replied, shuffling around the days boating schedules laying on the old, wooden desk in front of her.
“Thank God that man was there! To think, you could have died! I don’t even want to think about that!” Anita’s breath was racing and her eyes swelled in her head with the shock of whatever crazy images she was conjuring up in there.
“But he was there…and I didn’t die,” Moxie replied calmly, a smile tugging at the corner of her shapely lips. Anita always did have a way of letting her mind run away with her. Her eyes would get big, and her palms sweaty. All in all it was actually kind of cute.
“You’re right. Yeah, you’re here, you’re good…all’s good,” Anita repeated to herself, bringing her heart rate a tad closer to normal.
“That’s not quite the craziest part, though,” Moxie piped up after a silent moment.
“You almost drown because of an unauthorized boat launch, were rescued by some crazy hot guy who looked like he had WALKED ON WATER to fucking get to you-and you’re telling me there’s more?!”
“Well, I can’t be certain about this part because I was a little out of it. I hadn’t fully come around yet but I remember feeling the dock beneath my back right before I felt incredible pressure on my chest…Nita, I swore I heard him call my name….but I had never seen him before. His hands looked rough, too, like the way the dock workers do-but I’ve never seen him here. I don’t know what to think,” Moxie explained slowly, hoping her friend could avoid hyperventilating from this new information.
“He…knew your name?” she repeated, her mouth taking special care to form each word to completion. Confusion set into her eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either. I’ve never seen him. At least I don’t think I have. He was gorgeous-there’s no way I could forget a man like that.”
Anita giggled. “You?! You find a man so gorgeous you wouldn’t forget him?!” Cradling her stomach, she nearly doubled over laughing. Moxie just sat still in her chair, a bit shocked at this level of reaction.
“Is that so hard to believe?” Moxie asked, raising her eyebrows speculatively. Anita slowed her giggling but the big shit-eating grin still played across her face.
“Well, it’s just that you never really…you know,” Anita stumbled on her words.
“I’ve never really what, exactly?”
“Ok, well, I’ve never seen you go on a date. I’ve known you for two years now and girl, you need to get laid. It finally sounds like you’ve realized that, too.”
Moxie grabbed the nearest eraser on the desk and chucked it straight at Anita who just laughed and dodged away.
“Hey, you asked!” she piped.
“Well, regardless of what crazy, wanton fantasies you have cooking up in that brain of yours, I DO want to find this guy. Whoever he is, he has some explaining to do,” Moxie replied.
Anita was using the window to catch a peek at her reflection and fix her fly-away hair. “Where do you think he could be? It’s a pretty small place, and you said you don’t think you’ve ever seen him before.”
“I have a theory, albeit loosely formed. He was at the docks at night, he had rough hands…do you think he could be one of those dock owls? You know, the free divers that go off the docks looking for cash and watches and shit?” Moxie asked, feeling as though that reasoning couldn’t be right, even as she posed the question.
“Could be. It would make sense as to why he was there at that time of night. What are you suggesting?” Anita asked, turning from the window to face her friend.
A smile stretched slowly over Moxie’s delicately tanned features. Her green eyes lit up with excitement as she looked up.
Anita’s response was about what Moxie had expected; lots of jumping up and down, squealing like a giddy school girl. Their “steak-outs” weren’t really steak-outs before, more just camping on the beach all night to get the best seats at the local surfing competitions. It included snacks, alcohol, and lots of crazy ideas/people watching.
Tonight would definitely be more of a real steak-out…but that was no excuse to skimp on the snacks.
Catching her breath, he cheeks pink with excitement, Anita turned to face Moxie once more.
“Steak-out,” she nodded, her confirming smile stretching ear to ear.
It was late, and the clouds overhead made the moonlight patchy on the water, leaving them in more darkness than most nights.
Since there was no on-duty night shift at the dock station, Moxie had pulled the curtains closed most of the way-leaving just small slits to look out of. The little building would work perfectly, giving them access to windows in all directions.
They weren’t waiting long, and were only on their second glass of wine when a dark formed quickly passed by the window closest to the boat launch.
“Did you see that?” asked Moxie, standing cautiously to peek outside. A little ways down the dock, a man’s figure was crouching near the water. It was too dark to make out any significant details.
Anita crept up next to her to take a look. “What do you think he’s doing?” she whispered.
As the two women watched out the slit through the curtains, their mystery man stood up just as the clouds parted. Moxie drew a sharp breath, recognizing his short dark hair, his blue eyes shimmering with the faintest rays of the moonlight.
“Holy shit,” came Anita’s shocked response as she caught her first look at him. “Moxie he’s perfect looking.” She was all but drooling over the God of a man.
“Shhh,” Moxie urged, pressing her finger to her lips. Mystery man had stripped off his shirt and let it fall to the dock. The soft light bouncing off the water refracted off his bronzed, and chiseled form. Moxie couldn’t keep her eyes from tracing every line, of every boldly defined muscle that she could see. Where did this guy come from?
“Funny time for a swim, don’t you think?” Anita whispered, trying her best not to giggle and drool.
What was he up to? He was still just standing at the edge of the dock.
The clouds were beginning to move back in again, the light getting dimmer and dimmer. Just when she thought they wouldn’t see anything, he made a move. Taking a quick look around him and coming to the assumption that he was alone, mystery man took a step…right off the side of the dock.
Moxie heard her friend’s breath catch in her throat.
Confidently, he took another step, followed by another, and then another. His feet skimmed the top of the waves with ease, with no sign of falling in. His features remained set, giving no indication of the slightest ounce of fear.
Suddenly, they lost a bit more light, the sky growing darker.
“No…no, no, no,” Moxie pleaded, squinting her eyes to better see him.
In the briefest of moments, he was gone. Thick clouds had rolled in, blocking out all traces of moonlight. Her mystery man was lost to the abyss where the horizon meets the sea.
“Did I really just fucking see that?!” Anita whispered, her eyes the size of lobster platters. Moxie was already heading towards the door.
“I’m going out there. I’m going after him. Our readings spike supporting movement, I almost drown in a crazy boating accident, I’m saved by a man whom I’ve never seen before but appears to know me-oh yea!-and that same man can apparently walk on water….do you really think all of this is just coincidence?” Moxie replied, running her hands quickly through her hair.
“You think that this man….and Atlantis….are connected? How would that be possible?” Anita asked, her brows furrowing towards the center of her forehead as she tried like crazy to string everything together.
“Yes. No. I don’t know. All I know is there is some seriously weird shit going on right now and I need to find out why.”
“Wait!” Anita called out as her friend reached for the door handle to their little dock office. Moxie spun to look her way, one brow arched incredulously high. “It could be dangerous…” Anita finished. Moxie just laughed.
“If he had wanted me dead, he would have let me drown,” and with that she was gone, her auburn hair whipping around the corner and out of view.
Moxie didn’t have the first clue as to what she was going to do, nor where this sudden spout of blatant courage was coming from, but that didn’t stop her from marching straight across the docks with her shoulders back and her head held high. There was no way she could just turn her back on all of this, especially when she was so close. If there was some kind of connection, it could either be exponentially beneficial…or one of the worst speedbumps to pop up right in front of her on this journey.
She reached the edge of the docks, the salty spray of the bay tingling her cheeks with each lap of water on wood. Straining her eyes, she stared out over the surface of the water in search of her mystery man. Every crest of a wave, every ripple she saw, she would double take-just in case.
“Moxie?” came a frightened whisper from a few yards behind her.
“Over here, Nita,” Moxie answered, never removing her gaze from the water. The splashes against her cheeks felt larger now.
“Moxie, there was a broadcast. There’s a storm rolling in. It’s not supposed to be too bad, but you know how that can go. We should get going. We can come back another night,” her blonde haired friend urged.
Moxie could feel the rain now, just a good drizzle but she had no doubt that it would pick up within seconds. The waves that beat up against the docks were already picking up in their intensity, carried by a new breeze making its way through the bay. Was that man still out on the water?
Just as she was about to heed her friends warning and turn back, a flash of lightning illuminated the entire area, bathing them in near daylight…and revealing their water-walker who was quite a ways out, barely visible among the choppy waves.
“Hey!” Moxie called out with all of her might, bellowing across the water in a desperate attempt to get his attentions. In the periods between flashes of lightning, they were left in complete darkness, but what the flashes did reveal became quickly alarming.
“Moxie?” Anita whispered, starting to tremble.
“I see him,” she replied, taking a single step back on the dock. At first she wasn’t sure…but it was clear now as a new strike charged across the night sky, that their mystery man was getting closer. “He heard me.”
Fear coursed through her veins but she remained rooted to the spot, watching intently as he came closer and closer to the docks, walking across the surface of the water with ease as the waves just crashed around him.
Feeling a tug on her sleeve, Moxie turned quickly to look at Anita, who looked as if she had seen a ghost pass right in front of her. “Moxie c’mon. Let’s go back to the office where it’s safer. We don’t know who this guy is or what he’s capable of,” she begged.
“I’m sorry, Nita…but I have to know. You go back, go now. If you hear me scream, you’ll be right next to a phone and can call the cops,” Moxie replied. She needed her friend to understand this…she needed to meet him…to know. Anita just looked at her with fear in her eyes, silently wishing for Moxie to change her mind. “Go!” Moxie yelled.
With on last pained glance, Anita took off towards the direction of the office, quickly disappearing into the night.
It wasn’t so much a question, or a confirmation, as it was a statement…an acquaintance…and it came from behind her.
Spinning around to face the bay, she saw him, not 5 yards from her. His dark hair seemed untouched by the storm rolling in around them, and his piercing blue eyes were trained right on her. Slowly, yet with all the comfort and control in the world, he stepped up from the water onto the dock, his eyes never once leaving hers.
“Do I-do I know you?” Moxie asked cautiously, slowly taking another slight step back. She couldn’t make out her feelings towards the man in front of her. He was gorgeous, and clearly gifted…but there was something…something dark about him.
“We’ve never officially met…no. I suppose we should start there. My name is Jaxon,” he said, holding out his hand. As he took a step forward, now within arm’s reach of her, she couldn’t feel the rain any longer. It was as if she was contently standing within a dry little bubble in the middle of the storm.
Though she knew that there was much, much more to him than met the eye, she slowly reached out to place her hand firmly in his. His smile was genuine, putting a warm twinkle in his cool blue eyes.
“Come,” he said, pointing towards the direction of the little dock office, where Moxie could now make out a faint light…and figure…in the window. “We have much to discuss.”
Before she moved anywhere, she looked up at him, hope bubbling up in her chest.
“Much to discuss about what?” she asked, her mouth carefully forming each word as it slipped from her lips.
“Well, about getting me home of course,” he replied nonchalantly, flashing her a dazzling grin before striding off, leaving her standing in the rain once more.
She stared at his retreating form in both shock and awe. Even as it played out right in front of her, she couldn’t believe what was happening. Had she finally found it? The way in?
Quickly shaking her hair out, she dashed as quickly as she could against the wet wood towards the office-towards answers.