The Secret Beneath the Veil(5)

By: Dani Collins


Cold, murky salt water closed over her.

Don’t panic, she told herself, splaying out her limbs and only getting tangled in her dress and veil.

Mom. This was what it must have been like for her on that night far from shore, suddenly finding herself under cold, swirling water, tangled in an evening dress.

Don’t panic.

Viveka’s eyes stung as she tried to shift the veil enough to see which way the bubbles were going. Her dress hadn’t stayed caught. It had come all the way in with her and floated all around her, obscuring her vision, growing heavier. The chill of the water penetrated to her skin. The weight of the dress dragged her down.

She kicked, but the layers of the gown were in the way. Her spiked heels caught in the fabric. This was futile. She was going to drown within swimming distance to shore. Grigor would stand above her and applaud.

The back of her hand scraped barnacles and her foot touched something. The seabed? Her hand burned where she’d scuffed it, but that told her there was a pillar somewhere here. She tried to scrabble her grip against it, desperately thinking she had never held her breath this long and couldn’t hold it any longer.

Don’t panic.

She clawed at her veil with her other hand, tried to pull it off her hair. She would never get all these buttons open and the dress off in time to kick herself to the surface—

Don’t panic.

The compulsion to gasp for air was growing unstoppable.

A hand grabbed her forearm and tugged her.

Yes, please. Oh, God, please!

Viveka blew out what little air she still had, fighting not to inhale, fighting to kick and help bring herself to the blur of light above her, fighting to reach it...

As she broke through, she gasped in a lungful of life-giving oxygen, panting with exertion, thrusting back her veil to stare at her rescuer.

Mikolas.

He looked murderous.

Her heart lurched.

With a yank, he dragged her toward a diving ramp off the back of a yacht and physically set her hand upon it. She slapped her other bleeding hand onto it, clinging for dear life. Oh, her hand stung. So did her lungs. Her stomach was knotted with shock over what had just happened. She clung to the platform with a death grip as she tried to catch her breath and think clear thoughts.

People were gathering along the slip, trying to see between the boats, calling to others in Greek and English. “There she is!” “He’s got her.” “They’re safe.”

Viveka’s dress felt like it was made of lead. It continued trying to pull her under, tugged by the wake that set all the boats around them rocking and sucking. She shakily managed to scrape the veil off her hair, ignoring the yank on her scalp as she raked it from her head. She let it float away, not daring to look for Grigor. She’d caught a glimpse of his stocky legs and that was enough. Her heart pounded in reaction.

“What the hell is going on?” Mikolas said in that darkly commanding voice. “Where is Trina? Who are you?”

“I’m her sis—” Viveka took a mouthful of water as a swell bashed the boat they clung to. “Pah. She didn’t want to marry you.”

“Then she shouldn’t have agreed to.” He hauled himself up to sit on the platform.

Oh, yes, it was just that easy.

He was too hard to face with that lethal expression. How did he manage to look so action-star handsome with his white shirt plastered to his muscled shoulders, his coat and tie gone, his hair flattened to his head? It was like staring into the sun.

Viveka looked out to where motorboats had circled to see where the woman in the wedding gown had fallen into the water.

Was that her boat? She wanted to wave, but kept a firm grip on the yacht as she used her free hand to pick at the buttons on her back. She eyed the distance to the red-and-gold boat. She couldn’t swim that far in this wretched dress, but if she managed to shed it...?

Mikolas stood and, without asking, bent down to grasp her by the upper arms, pulling her up and out of the water, grunting loud enough that it was insulting. He swore after landing her on her feet beside him. His chest heaved while he glared at her limp, stained gown.

Viveka swayed on her feet, trying to keep her balance as the yacht rocked beneath them. She was still wearing the ridiculously high heels, was still in shock, but for a few seconds she could only stare at Mikolas.

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