Within seconds, other gray fins popped out of the water as if conjured by some evil and magical spell.
Maybe they belong to dolphins. Angelina held onto that wishful thought for a few seconds even as the truth registered in her brain. These were not playful dolphins like the ones which had delighted her this morning. Had it only been this morning? It seemed like a thousand years since that happy time on the boat. The sharks began to circle them almost casually, as if they had all the time in the world. Angelina tried to remember everything she knew about shark attacks, but her mind went blank and refused to function. The one thing which stuck in her mind was the scene from a scary shark movie when a man's leg slowly sank to the bottom of the sea after it had been bitten off by a Great White shark. The more she thought about it, the faster she shifted into panic mode. Soon, she was splashing around without rhyme or reason and feverishly treading water without making any headway toward the Diana.
"Angelina!" Devlin's voice cut through her panic. "Try to stay upright in the water without moving your hands or feet. Try not to look like something a shark would enjoy eating."
With an obvious effort Angelina did as she was told without question. She wondered if she was going into shock as she struggled to focus her mind on the task at hand. She refused to look at the sharks as she fought to keep her head above the water, while barely moving her arms or legs. Her concentration slipped when something rough and sandpapery brushed against the back of her leg. Fighting the urge to scream, she fixed her attention on Devlin's face, the only part of his body visible to her. Imitating his lack of movement, she forced herself to become as still as a piece of driftwood.
Angelina lost track of time as the sun beat down on her face and the salt water stung her eyes. She licked her dry, cracked lips as she kept her attention focused on Devlin's eyes. Her body felt rigid and cold, as if she were swimming in the icy waters of Antarctica instead of the warm Caribbean.
"Angelina, listen to me," said Devlin. "When I say go, swim for the boat as fast as you can. They're thinning out now. Do you understand? This is our best chance."
She nodded with only the barest movement of her head. She couldn't turn her head toward the sharks because she feared the spiraling panic would overtake her and then she'd be lost.
Two gray fins were still visible in her peripheral vision, and she prayed there weren't more hungry mouths under the water, invisible to her but zeroing in on her delicious flesh....
"Go now! Swim!" Devlin commanded.
For a moment she just stared at him, paralyzed by her fear. Then she began to swim as if her life depended on the speed of her strokes. She realized it might very well depend on that, which caused her to swim even faster. The Diana was like a mirage in the distance nearly impossible to reach, a tiny speck on the horizon. Angelina drew on reserves of strength she didn't know she possessed and increased her speed as the Diana grew larger in her sights. She didn't dare look over her shoulder to see if Devlin was still behind her. Her lungs burned with the prolonged effort of swimming at such an unforgiving pace, yet she forced herself to keep going until she had forced every molecule of energy from her tired limbs.
The boat. At last.
Angelina grabbed for the ladder and then struggled to pull herself up and into the boat. It was almost impossible because her upper body strength was spent. Her arms felt like they were made of jelly and she lost her grip on the ladder and slipped back into the sea. Something grabbed the back of her leg and she screamed with her last bit of energy.
"Get a move on," said Devlin. "We're still not out of the shark soup."
Devlin pushed her rear end up the ladder and she scrambled the last few feet and fell across the deck. Her heart hammered against her chest wall in a chorus of painful thuds and her lungs felt near to bursting. Her parched throat seemed swollen shut.
Devlin flopped down beside her. His chest rose and fell as he sucked in great gulps of air.
"Are you all right?" he finally managed to say.
"No, I'm not all right!" Speaking was an effort of will because her throat was raw from the seawater she had swallowed. "Who's responsible this time? Gunther or Hamed? Hamed or Gunther?"
Angelina started to giggle and the hysterical quality of her laughter frightened her more than the encounter with the sharks. "This just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?" She buried her face in her hands, thankful she still had the use of her arms and legs and her body wasn't rotting in the stomach of a hungry shark. Nausea threatened to overwhelm her, and she crawled over to the railing and vomited over the side.
Then she burst into tears. "I wish I'd never come back to the Bahamas!" she said between sobs
"I know, sweetheart." Devlin laid a hand on her back and then began to rub the ache from her sore muscles.
She shook her head from side to side. "Chloe n-n-needs me," she stammered. "But this island ... it's almost like it's cursed for me. Bad things keep happening here."
Devlin put his arms around her and began to rock her back and forth as if she were a child. "I'm sorry. I wish I could make everything better for you."
Despite the circumstances, warmth surged through her body. Her pulse throbbed and it had nothing to do with hungry sharks on her tail. In the shelter of Devlin's strong arms, she forgot about Brent and Gunther and every bad thing that had happened to her. She could only think of Devlin.