Part V, in a continuing story from A to Z [link to the beginning]
Zoey grabbed the tentacle around her waist with both hands and held on. The squid was only holding her with one now and the last thing she wanted was for it to suddenly pull her out of the water and fling her into the rocks. Well, okay, that wasn’t the last thing she wanted. She also didn’t want it to drown her, which was starting to seem likely.
Zoey was good at holding her breath underwater — she had to be in her adopted family — but the squid was pushing her limit. Her lungs were burning. Just as she was about to inhale, the squid flexed its tentacle and shoved her back into the air. The speed was dizzying.
Zoey heard a chime and then Ferraro’s voice.
She had strapped the phone to her forearm earlier, not wanting to risk it falling out of her pocket. Not a great time for Ferraro to be checking on her, given his edict to stay out of trouble.
“Hello, Anton,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath. “Sorry, can’t chat. Kind of busy here.”
“Samantha informs me you’re having a little problem with the jet ski. She seems quite concerned.”
“The problem is slightly bigger than I thought.”
“I am somehow not surprised.”
She bent her arm and turned it so he could see the squid, which had raised itself partially out of the water again and seemed to be watching her.
Ferraro swore. “How is it you manage– never mind. I’m activating the weapons on your phone.”
“Weapons? There are weapons?” She gasped and held on tighter as the squid shook her wildly from side to side.
“Touch the screen and give the command sword. But remove it from your arm first or you’ll lose a hand. I’m on my way.”
Luckily, she had both arms free and could unstrap the phone. Now she just needed not to drop it. Holding it well away from her, not sure what to expect, she did as Ferraro instructed. Instantly, a bright white stream of light extended from the end of her phone.
“Oh my god, it’s a lightsaber!” She was so startled she almost did drop it.
She took a deep breath, hoping she wouldn’t hit the water too hard from this height, and slashed at the tentacle holding her, severing it. She fell for mere seconds before the other tentacle grabbed her, this time wrapping around in a way that pinned both arms to her sides. She singed her right leg slightly before she managed to redirect the laser.
This looks a lot easier in the movies, she thought, and then watched in complete awe as the tentacle she’d severed grew back.
The tentacle around her squeezed, barbs digging into her skin, and then plunged her back toward the water. She drew as deep a breath as she could, given her lungs were being compressed, and tightened her grip on the phone.
The water didn’t extinguish the laser. Nice. Because if the squid held her under there much longer, she was going to have to cut off the other tentacle, even if it was a temporary measure. She didn’t have time to worry about that, as she was being pulled out into the air again, this time headed straight for the squid’s sharp beak.
The creature paused then. One of its huge dark glassy eyes swiveled like a periscope as it seemed to be scanning the area around the cove. Zoey craned her neck and saw Ferraro and his entire household standing at the edge of the cliff, watching.
Well, this is humiliating, she thought. If her team got wind of this– no, she couldn’t bear even thinking about it.
The tide had risen to almost the top of the cliff, covering the beach and the steps. Ferraro had removed his shirt and was kicking off his shoes. He couldn’t seriously be thinking of jumping in, she thought. But that’s exactly what he did.
Zoey felt movement and focused her attention back on the beast holding her. It had pulled her closer to its mouth and the writhing arms that surrounded the maw were poking at her. Twisting her wrist, she swiped the laser at the ones closest to her. She watched them fall into the sea . . . and then grow right back.
The tentacle squeezed harder, pulling her closer, the sharp hooked beak opening wider.
She heard a fierce roar, felt heat on her face even as a dark shadow blocked the sun. She knew that roar.
The squid did fling her then, straight at the white rocks ringing the cove. She landed in the water just short of hitting them, but had the breath knocked out of her and dropped the phone. She swam over and took hold of a jagged outcropping, just in time to see Bubbie engage the squid in combat.
It was the most incredible fight she’d ever witnessed. The dragon swooping and slashing with its claws, roaring and breathing fire. The squid slashing back with barbed tentacles, latching on and trying to pull the dragon from the sky.
Just when Zoey thought Bubbie wasn’t going to win the fight, might not even survive it, the dragon lifted an enormous piece of white crystal and pressed it to the squid’s glassy back eye. The crystal grew darker and darker until it was completely black. Until the squid’s eyes were no longer solid black, but a pale colour with a dark pupil in the center.
The dragon backed off a ways, straining to stay aloft, as if the crystal were extremely heavy. The squid stopped fighting and swiveled its eyes once around the cove. It looked oddly startled. Then it submerged and squeezed itself between the rocks, brushing past where Zoey was holding on, and propelled itself out to sea in a burst of speed.
Zoey noticed Bubbie was flying in another direction, low over the water, her wings almost brushing the surface. She carried the black crystal in one claw.
Zoey turned to see Ferraro had indeed swum out to rescue her. His face was tight with anger, his eyes flashing with some emotion. He must have found a ledge to stand on, because he reached out and grabbed her arms, lifting her partially out of the water, inspecting her.
“You appear to be bleeding. Again.”
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but I dropped the phone.”
“You think I care about a damned phone?” He crushed her to his bare chest, swearing, strong arms wrapped around her back.
“It was one hell of a phone, Anton. Great flashlight feature. I’d love to read the Owner’s Manual.”
“I have more phones,” he said, pulling back slightly to look her in the eye. “There is only one of you.”
And just like that, the attraction pulling them together was back. The desire to kiss him, to have him kiss her, was almost irresistible. Zoey closed her eyes, her lips forming the word no.
“Open your eyes.” Ferraro gave her a firm shake. “You will look at me this time when you say that word, Zoey.”
She opened her eyes and met his fierce gaze. She shook her head, but she couldn’t say it.
“I can’t,” she said, and saw the flash of something in his eyes. “But I can’t say yes either. I– I need time.”
He met her gaze steadily, the tension thick between them. Then he nodded, once.
She heard the sound of someone clearing their throat and looked over to see Benton had arrived in a motorized raft. Soundless like the jet ski, of course.
They quickly made their way back across the cove, but it was enough time for Zoey to think about what she’d seen. How the blackness in the squid’s eyes matched the fathomless dark eyes of the wolf that attacked her. How they both matched the void of the menacing shadow she’d seen in the corner of her room that night. The dark shadow that had been on board the junk that wrecked.
Her thoughts were interrupted when they arrived back at the cliff, where everyone greeted them with cheers and relief. Even Ermie was there, dashing rather frantically back and forth along the cliff edge, getting splashed by an occasional wave. He seemed to be watching Bubbie, now a mere speck on the horizon.
“Is he . . . turning purple around the edges?” Zoey asked.
Ferraro glanced at the ermine. “Only happens when he gets wet. You should see him when it rains.”
Sam diverted Zoey’s attention then, giving her a big hug. The girl was beside herself with excitement now that she knew Zoey was safe.
“Did you see how that thing stood there after you got away, waving its tentacles around in the air?” Sam said. “And then it just disappeared back out to sea. You defeated it, Zoey!”
Zoey glanced at Ferraro, who shook his head slightly in answer. She knew he had seen the dragon, but apparently Sam had not. Interesting.
Ferraro insisted on carrying her across the yard to the mansion. They were both barefoot and sopping wet. He was shirtless and she might as well be, her shirt torn and bloody from the squid’s barbs. Her hair was a matted mess, her leg was singed and aching, and bruises were starting to show all over.
Benton had managed to get back to the mansion ahead of them and as he opened the massive front door, he made an announcement.
“You have visitors, sir.”
Oh hell. With all the excitement, Zoey had forgotten they were arriving today.
Ferraro didn’t even pause. Just strode into the front hall, Zoey still in his arms, to the astonished and disapproving stares of his twin cousins. And his mother.
V is for Visitors