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As Sonora headed toward the shore,  a great weight hit her back, steamrolling over her and slamming her down to the shallow ocean floor.

She spun out of control, a swirl of arms and legs. When her flailing limbs scraped the coral, the turbulent water tinted red. Her heart hammered her ribcage. Her grasping hands reached out to find something, anything to stop the frenzied attack.

But there was nothing, only wild water, and beads of air gushing through her fingers.

Rough water ripped the snorkel from her mouth. Panicked, Sonora realized the remaining air in her lungs could no longer sustain her. Her body screamed for her to inhale.

Looking up, she saw the turmoil of water over her head. Although it seemed hopeless, she gave one last effort to rise to the surface.

With all the power of her arms, she pulled against the downward push of the water. Her legs kicked with every bit of their strength. Every muscle in her body tightened as she used their full power. It was of no use. She was powerless against the ruthless rogue wave.

Defeated and exhausted, tears left her eyes and mixed with the salty water that was killing her. 

I'm going to die here.

Out of the dark, swirling sea came an impossibly large hand. A man's hand, broad with a slight scar running down the back of the right one. It turned and opened, palm up. 

She knew who it had to be. The shadow. Yet, he was offering her help. It was her only chance at life, and she was going to take it.

She felt his size and strength in the big hand as it closed over her small one. Then her last breath faded, and darkness overtook her.

Sonora woke with a start to the same watery scene she had left, though on more shallow ground. It was odd waking in the water, and she shuddered a second time. She now wore a regulator as she lay on the sandy ocean floor. She took another deep breath as if to assure herself that she could.

Above her, the water was still agitated. Pieces of wood and other debris erratically floated along the surface of it, but here on the floor, it had calmed. She looked to her left and saw only ocean, and then to her right and saw him.

She jerked back and tried to swim away. It was when he tightened his grasp on her arm that she realized he was holding her in place.

This is him. It has to be him.

He pointed to her, made an OK sign. Then shook his head yes. 

Well, I almost drowned, thought I died and woke up with a strange man that has probably been stalking me for the past three days. But yes, I guess I am okay. 

She returned his nod.

Sonora reached up to her mask adjusting it slightly. A fleeting thought went through her mind. It was odd he was not wearing a mask of his own. 

Comprehension burst through her. The man wore no mask or regulator. She gave her head a quick little shake, sure that she was delirious from the lack of oxygen.

Sonora's eyes drifted from his face to his bare chest. It was still, so very still, and she debated with herself if he was breathing at all. Because how could he be breathing underwater and yet how could he not be? 

She touched her regulator again. Perhaps it was the scene that was wrong. Maybe she was not under water but instead laying on the sunny beach in some kind of unsettled mental state. But the regulator was solid to the touch. She could hear the rush of air as her breath quickened.

Sonora pushed herself up so that she faced him rather than laying down, and she took a minute to study him. He was a big man, very tall. By her estimation, he must be at least six and a half feet, if not more. And he was strong. 

His darkly tanned skin, which was mostly exposed, looked almost luminescent. A shimmering tattoo ran from slightly above the inside of his elbow, over his powerful bicep and turned to disappear over the back of his shoulder, emphasizing his muscular physique. The tattoo was not a picture but some kind of lettering Sonora had never seen before.

On his lower half, he wore some type of swimwear that skimmed his body. A thin, likely heavy, copper-colored belt circled his waist at the top of his swimming trunks almost like a belt. It must have added enough weight to hold him suspended above the ocean floor. 

She slowly brought her eyes back up. His dark hair would have been shoulder length but for the currents that lifted it. His grey eyes stared directly into hers. One corner of his mouth raised in a little smirk, as if he was used to the appreciation he'd seen in her gaze. 

And he probably is. He is the most amazing specimen of a man I have ever seen.

But Sonora had other things on her mind because during her entire inspection, still, his chest had not moved, not even once. Her eyes wide, she tensed.

The man's smirk turned to wariness as if he knew what she was thinking or maybe feeling. Tentatively, Sonora reached a hand out toward him. When he gave her a slight nod, she laid a trembling hand on his chest. He was solid. 

He still held her other arm. She slowly pulled it through his callused hand until she could grasp his wrist. He was real. 

Rather than soothe her, the knowledge alarmed her. Because how could what she was seeing, what she was touching, be real?

A/N: Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed the chapter, please press the little star below. :)

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