“Come on, Gemma!”
She heard the shout from her brother over the driving rain and crack of lightning. Gemma lifted her arm to shield her eyes from the onslaught of water while struggling to keep hold of the leash for their dog.
“Kyle!” she hollered when the animal bolted, tearing the leash from her fingers.
But the booming thunder drowned out her words.
She glanced in the direction that her dog had run. She hated storms. Her parents and Kyle knew that. Why hadn’t they helped her? Anger seethed within her. They hadn’t helped because they wanted to leave Daisy behind.
Well, Daisy was hers, and if she had to leave her friends and her home, she wasn’t leaving her dog.
She ignored both her parents, who were now shouting her name as she raced after Daisy. If she had to carry the forty-pound dog to the boat, then that’s what she’d do. Just as soon as she found Daisy.
Another flash of lightning bathed the land in light, giving her just a glimpse of the dog as she headed toward the house. Gemma ran as fast as her seven-year-old legs would carry her. She reached the house and Daisy.
“Hey, girl,” she said to the terrified dog. “It’s going to be all right.”
It took her four tries before she was able to lift the dog. She shook badly, but at least she wasn’t trying to get free. Gemma knew her parents were going to be furious with her. She didn’t know why they were sneaking away in the middle of the night in a storm, but the fear in her father’s voice and her mother’s face let her know that the questions would have to wait.
In less than two hours, they had packed up all they could and put it on the boat her father owned. She’d asked where they were headed, but her parents hadn’t answered and her brother had shot her an irritated look.
Once she got on the boat with Daisy, she hoped someone would tell her something. She hated not knowing what was going on. Kyle didn’t care. He always said that their parents would tell them when they needed to know.
Gemma stumbled and fell to her knees. She pitched forward so that she had to release Daisy in order to catch herself, but she managed to keep a tight hold of the leash and pull the dog back to her. Daisy seemed to like being held, so she didn’t put up a fight.
“I’m coming!” Gemma shouted, hoping her family could hear her.
She couldn’t see the dock through the driving rain and dark. Which was odd. There was supposed to be a light on the dock. She knew the way to the water, so she hadn’t gone the wrong way. But...why wasn’t the light on?
Gemma walked faster on the incline, slipping on the wet grass. She no longer cared that the water hit her face so hard it felt like little pebbles. All she wanted was to be with her family.
“Mum! Da!” she called as she reached the wooden quay.
The waves crashed violently against the side of the isle, slapping against the rock and concrete.
Her eyes searched the area for some sign of the boat. Perhaps if she walked further out onto the dock she might see them, but some voice inside her cautioned her against going forward.
Or shouting for her family again.
Gemma stood shivering from fear and dread in the storm, her heart pounding as she realized that the boat and her family were gone. She squeezed Daisy so tight that she whimpered.
Instantly, she loosened her fingers, but she still didn’t move. It wasn’t just terror and shock that held her motionless. Something was out in the dark. Even though Gemma couldn’t see what it was, she knew it was there.
So did Daisy. Her gaze was on it, a low rumble of a growl falling from her mouth.
Gemma didn’t know how long she stood there before the alarm that had held her captive vanished. Still, she didn’t move out onto the dock. The waves were becoming higher and higher as the storm intensified.
She took a step back. Then another. Gemma turned on her heel and hurried to the house. There was a window in the back that never locked. She’d use it to get inside. On her way there a flash of lightning allowed her to glimpse the outline of a person ahead of her.
A scream rose up, but Gemma held it in and veered to the right as she started running. Her attention was on the figure she’d seen, and she ended up moving too close to the edge of the isle and the mountain of boulders near. She realized her mistake the moment a wave swallowed her.
Gemma lost her hold on Daisy but managed to keep her footing. But she wasn’t so lucky with the second wave. She was yanked out into the churning water. As she struggled to keep her head above water, she saw the figure suddenly standing on the boulders watching her.
She gulped in a mouthful of air before being pulled under again. With her eyes on the surface, she swam as hard as she could against the current trying to take her out into the sea. Her arms and legs grew tired and her lungs burned for air, but her fight paid off as she got free. Just as she was about to break the surface, lightning showed her that the person still stood on the edge, waiting to see if she would rise up.
Gemma stopped swimming and squeezed her eyes shut, a silent scream of terror running through her. She wanted her mum and dad. Even Kyle. Someone so she wouldn’t be alone.
Her eyes snapped open. No longer could she wait. She had to get some air or drown. She pushed hard and broke the water. A quick look showed that she was now alone.
The waves pushed her closer and closer to the rocks. She barely had the energy to keep her head above water, much less fight the waves. She did manage to kick off one rock, but still scraped against several more. Gemma hissed at the saltwater that seeped into the fresh cut.
She wasn’t going to survive a near drowning only to be smashed against the boulders. Gemma gritted her teeth and waited for the next wave. She used it to turn herself and push off a rock to get clear of the largest of them. Then she was able to grab the smaller ones and hang on before the wave took her back out with it.
Chilled to her bones, she clawed her way out of the water. A moment later, something licked at her face. She looked up to find Daisy. Tears stung her eyes as she rubbed her head.
“Hey, girl,” she murmured.
Her arms shook when she pushed herself to her feet. Thankfully, Daisy was all too eager to go with her. It was a blessing, because Gemma didn’t think she could lift her if she tried.
She made her way to the house and found the window. After she got it open, she silently and slowly climbed over the sill. It took her forever because her body wouldn’t obey her properly. Once inside, she called softly for Daisy, who leapt through to land softly beside her.
Gemma shut the window against the storm and huddled in a corner behind some furniture with her dog. She wanted out of the wet clothes, but the trepidation that had held her at the water was back. Whatever had been there was now in the house. It wasn’t as if she had anywhere else to go. The isle was small with only a few deserted buildings besides the house. It was a great place to play, but not somewhere she wanted to be by herself now.
Daisy trembled, wedging her way between her and the door. Gemma didn’t know if the dog was cold or scared—or both. But Daisy was all she had, and she wasn’t going to lose her.
She wrapped the end of Daisy’s leash around her hand several times. The leash wouldn’t yank out of her grasp a second time.
The storm raged for hours in the endless night. Gemma didn’t close her eyes once, even when the thing in the house left. And when dawn came, she still didn’t move. She remained just as she was with her behind numb, her legs stiff, and her body freezing.
Even Daisy didn’t move. The dog closed her eyes, but every sound caused her ears to twitch, which was how Gemma knew the dog wasn’t really asleep.
When midday came, Gemma finally rose, wincing at her stiff body. She cautiously walked through the house. Nothing had been disturbed.
She went upstairs to her room and peeled off her semi-dry clothes before finding new ones. Part of her wanted to remain there because she felt safe. But she was hungry and thirsty. And she really wanted to find her family.
Gemma took a deep breath and walked down the stairs, making sure to step around the parts of the stairs that squeaked. She went outside and stood on the back porch where she would be able to see the dock.
It was there, but there was no sign of her da’s boat, or her family. Maybe they’d sailed off, waiting for the weather to calm so they could return for her.
She went back into the house and stood at the table where the dinner from the night before sat half-eaten. They’d been in the middle of it when her father had gotten a call. One look from him to her mum, and the next thing Gemma knew they were packing up.
Her stomach growled loudly. She sat and finished the food, scraping the plate clean before moving on to her brother’s. Beside her, Daisy licked her lips, waiting. Gemma lowered her mother’s plate to the floor to let the dog eat.
She didn’t venture from the house the rest of that day. Or the three following.
By the fourth day, she went to the dock and stood on the edge, looking out at the water. That’s when she knew her family had left her.