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From the moment they were born, the Logan boys were trouble.
They were dark-haired, dark-eyed and full of mischief. Usually ignored by their wealthy, emotionally distant parents, they ran their nannies ragged and they ran themselves ragged. There wasn't a lot they wouldn't dare each other to do.
As they grew to men, tall, tough and ripped, their risks escalated. Some of those risks turned out to be foolish, Ben conceded. Joining the army and going to Afghanistan had been foolish. Back in civvies, attempting to get on with their careers, the trauma was still with them.
Sailing round the world to distract Jake from his failed marriage had also turned out to be stupid. Especially now, as Cyclone Lila bore down on their frail life raft, as one harness hung free from the chopper overhead.
'Take Ben first,' Jake yelled to the paramedic who'd been lowered with the harness, but Ben wasn't buying it.
'I'm the eldest,' Ben snapped. He was only older by twenty minutes but the responsibility of that twenty minutes had weighed on him all his life. 'Go.'
Jake refused, but the woman swinging from the chopper was risking all to save them. The weather was crazyno one should be on the sea in such conditions. Arguing had to be done hard and fast.
He did what he had to do. The things he said to get Jake to go first were unforgivablebut he got the harness on.
'The chopper's full,' the paramedic yelled at Ben as she signalled for the chopper to pull them free. 'We'll come back for you as soon as we can.'
Or not. They all knew how unlikely another rescue was. The cyclone had veered erratically from its predicted path, catching the whole yachting fleet unprepared. The speed at which it was travelling was breathtaking, and there was no escape. Massive waves had smashed their boat, and they were still on the edge of the cyclone. The worst was yet to come.
At least Jake was safehe hoped. The wind was making the rope from the chopper swing wildly, hurling Jake and the paramedic through the cresting waves. Get up there, he pleaded silently. Move.
Then the next wave bore down, a monster of breaking foam. He saw it coming, slammed down the hatch of the life raft and held on for dear life as the sea tossed his flimsy craft like a beach ball in surf.
We'll come back for you as soon as we can.
When the cyclone was over?
The wave passed and he dared open the hatch a little. The chopper was higher, but Jake and his rescuer were still swinging.
'Stay safe, brother,' he whispered. 'Stay safe until I see you again.'
A cyclone was heading straight for him. Until I see you again What a bitter joke.
This was no mere storm. This was a cyclone, and in a cyclone there could surely be few worse places to be than on Hideaway Island.
Hideaway Island was tiny, a dot on the outer edge of the Bay of Islands off New Zealand's north coast. Two of Mary's friends, a surgeon and his lawyer wife, had bought it for a song years ago. They'd built a hut in the centre of the island and bought a serviceable boat to ferry themselves back and forth to the mainland. They'd decided it was paradise.
But Henry and Barbara now had impressive professional lives and three children. They hardly ever made it out here. It'd been on the market for a year, but with the global financial crisis no one was buying.
Right now, Henry and Barbara were in New York, but before they'd left, Henry had tossed Mary the keys to the hut and boat.
'You might use some solitude until this fuss dies down,' Henry told her with rough kindness. 'Could you check on the place while we're away? Stay if you like; we'd be grateful. It might be what you need.'
It was what she needed. Henry was one of the few who didn't blame her. Hideaway had seemed a reasonable place to run.
Until today. Heinz, her terrier-size, fifty-sevenor-more-variety dog, was looking at her as if he was worried, and his worry was justified. The wind was escalating by the minute. Outside the trees were bending and groaning with its force, and the roughly built hut felt distinctly unstable.
'We could end up in Texas,' Mary muttered, shaking her useless radio. Had a transmission tower fallen in the wind? Her phone was dead and there was no radio reception.
At six this morning the radio had said Cyclone Lila was five hundred miles off the coast, veering northeast instead of in its predicted northern trajectory. There was concern for a major international yacht race, but there'd been no hint that it might turn south and hit the Bay of Islands. Residents of New Zealand's north had merely been advised that the outside edges could cause heavy winds.
'Tie down outside furniture,' the broadcast had said. 'Don't park under trees.'
That was a normal storm warningnothing to worry about. Mary had thought briefly of taking the boat and heading for the mainland, but the wind was rising and the usually placid sea around the islands was rough. It'd be safer to sit it out.
Or it had seemed safer, until about an hour ago.
Another gust slammed into the hut. A sheet of iron ripped from the roof and sleet swept inside.
The foundations creaked and the pictures on the wall swayed.
'I think we might head for the cave,' she told Heinz uneasily. 'You want a walk?'
The little terrier-cum-beagle-cum-a-lot-of-other-things cocked his head and looked even more worried. Right now a walk didn't appeal even to Heinz.
But the cave was appealing. Mary and Heinz had explored it a couple of days ago. It was wide and deep, set in the cliffs above the only beach where swimming was possible. Best of all, it faced west. It'd protect them from the worst of the gale.
Now that the roof was open, there didn't seem to be a choice. She had to go, and go now before it got worse. But what to take? The cave was only two or three hundred yards away. There was a flattish track and she had a trolley, the one Barbara and Henry used to lug supplies from boat to hut.
The boat. There was a sickening thought. The tiny natural harbour on the east of the island should protect the boat in all but the worst conditionsbut these were the worst conditions.
She had no communications. No boat. She was on her own.
So what else was new? She'd been on her own now for as long as she could remember. Like it or not, she'd learned to depend entirely on herself, and she could do it now.
Concentrate on practicalities.
She grabbed plastic garbage bags and started stuffing things inside. Provisions, dog food, firestarters, kindling, bedding. Her manuscript. That was a joke, but she was taking it anyway.
Water containers. What else? What would Barbara and Henry want her to save?
Barbara's patchwork quilt? The lovely cushions embroidered by Barbara's grandmother? They went into plastic bags, too.
Another sheet of roofing iron went flying. The cottage was now totally open to the weather.
She had to stop. This was starting to be seriously scary and she had to pull the trolley.
'Why couldn't you be a sled dog?' she demanded of Heinz as she hauled open the door and faced the weather. 'You could help me pull.'
In answer, Heinz stared up at the wildly swaying trees, jumped onto the trolley and wriggled down among the plastic bags.
He was terrified. So was Mary, but she made herself pause. She made herself think. What else might be important?
'First-aid kit,' she muttered, and headed back into the already soaking cottage to find her medical bag. As a district nurse she still had it with her, and she'd brought it to the island just in case.
In case of splinters. In case of colds in the head. Not in case of cyclones.
She could hear branches splintering from the trees. There was no time for more.
And then the rest of the roof peeled off, with a shriek of tin against tin.
'Go,' she muttered, and started pulling. Heavy didn't begin to describe it. Sleet was stinging her eyes, her face, every part of her.
What to discard? Everything but essentials? Nothing Barbara and Henry cherished?
'Don't be a wuss,' she told herself. 'They entrusted you with their island. The least you can do is save their stuff. The path's reasonably flat. Come on, muscles, pull.'
She tugged and the trolley moved.
'I can do this,' she said through gritted teeth, and put her head down into the wind and pulled.
The life raft was in freefall. Ben was falling over and over. It felt like one of those crazy fairground rides, only he'd forgotten to buckle his seat belt. Who had designed this thing? It'd be safe enough on a calm sea but who got shipwrecked on a calm sea?
He could find nothing to anchor himself to. He was flailing, bashing against the sides of the raft with every bounce.
He felt ill but he didn't have time to be ill.
At least Jake was safe. It was a mantra, and he said it over and over. He had to believe the chopper had pulled his twin to safety. Thinking anything else was the way of madness.
The raft crashed again, but this time it was different. It was smashing against something solid.
They'd been miles from land when the yacht had started taking on water. Ben knew what this must be and his nausea increased. The raft would be bashing against what remained of the yacht's hull. Caught in the same currents, with no way to get himself clear, he'd be hurled against timber at every turn.
The second crash ripped the side of the life raft. Another wave hurled over him, and the life raft practically turned itself inside out.
Tossing its human cargo out with it.
He grabbed one of the ropes around the outside of the raft. The bulk of the craft should stay upright. If he could just hold
Another wave hit, a massive breaker of surging foam. No man could hold against such force.
And then there was nothing. Only the open, smashing sea. The GPS was in the life raft. Chances of being found now? Zip.
It was no use swimming. There was no use doing anything but hope his lifejacket wouldn't be torn from him. He could only hope he could still keep on breathing. Hope. Hope.
There was nothing but hope. He was fighting to breathe. He was fighting to live.
There was no help. There was nothing but the endless sea.
She had to round the headland to get to the cave. It meant putting her head down and pulling almost directly into the wind. She had no idea how she was doing it, but the trolley was moving.
Tourists came to this place in summer, beaching their kayaks and exploring. The cliff path had therefore been trodden almost flat. It was possible, and she had terror driving her on. 'This is mad,' she muttered, but her words were lost in the gale.
She was at the point where the path veered away from the headland and turned towards the safety of the cave. Five more steps. Four.
She reached the turn and glanced down towards the beach, beyond the headland where the storm was at its worst. And stopped.
Was that a figure in the water, just beyond the shallows? A body? A crimson lifejacket?
She was surely imagining things, but, dear God, if she wasn't
Triage. Her medical training kicked in. Get the provisions safe, she told herself. She was no use to herself or anyone else without dry gear.
She had to haul the trolley upwards for the last few yards but she hardly noticed. In seconds she'd shoved the trolley deep inside the cave. At least the cave was in the lee of the storm, and so was the beach below.
It was wild enough even on the safe side of the island.
'Stay,' she told Heinz, and Heinz stuck his head out from the plastic bags and promptly buried himself again. Stay? He was in total agreement. It was dry and safe in the cave but outside the scream of wind and ocean was terrifying.
She had to face it. She wasn't sure what she'd seen was someone, but she had to find out.
The path down to the beach was steep but manageable. Running along the beach on the lee side of the island was almost easy as well. Thankfully the tide was out so she was running on wet sand.
She could do this.
And then she rounded the headland and the force of the storm hit head on.
She could hardly see. Wind and sand were blasting her face, blinding her.
Was it all her imagination? Was she risking herself for a bit of floating debris? The tide was coming infast.
She'd come this far. There were rocks at the water's edge. She was pushing her way along the rocks, frantically searching, trying to see out into the waves.
He was falling and falling and falling. He had no idea how long he'd been in the water, how far he'd drifted, how desperate his position was. All he knew was that every few seconds he had to find the will to breathe. It was as easy and as impossible as that.
His body was no longer his own. The sea was doing what it willed. Waves were crashing over and around him. The chance to breathe often stretched to twenty, even thirty seconds.
He could think of nothing but breathing.
But then something sharp was crashing against his leg. And then his shoulder. Something hard, immoveable.
The water washed out and for a blessed moment he felt himself free of the water.
Another wave and it must have been twenty seconds before he could breathe. Whatever he was lying on seemed to be holding him down.
Another wash of water and he was free, hurled away from the sharpness, tossed high. Onto sand?
He was barely conscious but he got it. His face was buried in sand.
Until the next wave.
Somehow he lifted his head. Sand. Rocks. Cliff.
The water came again but he was ready for it. He dug down, clung like a limpet.
The wave swept out again and somehow miraculously he stayed.
He couldn't resist the water's force again, though. He had to crawl out of the reach of the waves' power. Somehow somehow The world was an aching, hurting blur. The sand was the only thing he could cling to.
He clung and clung.
And through it all was the mantra. Make Jake safe. Dear God, make Jake be okay.
Another wave. Somehow he managed to claw himself higher, but at what cost? The pain in his leg in his head.
He could close his eyes, he thought. Just for a moment.
If Jake was safe he could close his eyes and forget.
And then she found it. Him.
Dear God, this was no detritus washed up in the storm. This was a dark-haired, strongly built man, wearing yachting gear and a lifejacket.
He was face down in the sand. He'd lost a shoe. His pants were ripped. Lifeless?
As she reached him she could see a thin line of blood seeping down his face. Fresh blood. He'd been alive when he'd been washed up.
His hands were sprawled out on the sand. She knelt and touched one and flinched with the cold. His skin was white and clammyhow long had he been in the water?
She touched his neck.
A pulse! Alive!