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Florida’s bright noon sun glinted in her eyes. Jessica blinked. Behind closed eyelids, she glimpsed the treasured memory of his worried aquamarine gaze fixed into her own. Desperate to retain the remembrance of her elusive rescuer’s face eclipsed in a haze from five years earlier, Jessica’s eyes remained closed a fraction too long. For her lapse in concentration, she paid a painful price. Instead of maneuvering around a rock embedded in the shale-limestone material of the trail, the front tire of her mountain bike impacted the obstruction and stopped. Her momentum halted. Forward motion transferred through the aluminum frame of the bike to the back. Unable to continue further, inertia lifted the back tire off the ground, catapulting her off the small seat and tossing her over the handlebars. Jessica felt oddly light. Her eyes snapped open. Time transformed into slow motion. She flew over the shale-limestone trail, soaring a short distance to land on the hard, cutting, and sloping ground.
Air was forced from her lungs in an agonizing whoosh upon impact. Bright flashes burst before Jessica’s eyes from the sudden lack of oxygen and a gray haze shadowed the edges of her vision. Unconsciousness threatened. Despite the ache in her chest, she gasped for air.
Her limp body started rolling out of control down the sloping levy bank of dead grass. Sharp limestone pebbles, mixed with crushed seashells dug into her body as she plummeted, inflicting abrasions through her thin riding jersey, padded riding shorts and bare legs. Jessica’s vision blurred and became a nauseating, spinning kaleidoscope of brown-green grass, and blue sky.
A barrier of large rocks lined the water’s edge to prevent the alligators from coming on the levy. If she couldn’t stop, impact with the rocks was imminent. In desperation, she spread her legs, slowed her momentum and managed to stop. Thankful her helmet afforded her face and head protection, Jessica closed her eyes against the dizziness.
Despite pain from being flung over the handlebars and vertigo from her spin, a flicker of his unusual aquamarine eyes remained in the forefront of her mind. Laying still for a moment, stunned by the hard fall, a short loss of breath and the rough roll, she found quick movement yet among her abilities when the bites of fire ants nettled her ankle. Her left leg felt like it was on fire from being bitten by the ferocious insects, her foot had landed on their mound. Jessica sat up slapping at the beasties, killing several,
brushing off the rest. She had been lucky; it could have easily been a swarm. Just a couple of bites were severe enough. The chemical burning and itch from the venom of their sting could last for hours.
A few hikers and other bicyclists gathered around asking after her condition, inquiring if she required the paramedics. Several were attractive men interested in a fit, pretty young woman. Dazed, Jessica failed to realize the strong apprehension for her welfare radiating from the man who knelt next to her was more than gallantry. His attentiveness discouraged the others, and the crowd dispersed. He took her gloved hand in his bare one. A charged current rushed through her body from his.
“Ms, are you positive you are not in need of assistance?” His smooth, low, strangely accented voice stirred an odd flash of memory, quickly gone. He produced what appeared to be a water bottle and before she could object, poured some of the contents over her bitten ankle. The sting and itching from the bites—stopped. The bites forgotten, she tried to ignore the sweet sensation his touch elicited even through her fingerless riding gloves, and found it impossible. As if drawn, with her free hand she reached toward his heavy, dark sunglasses.
“Can you stand?” His question distracted her from removing his eye protection. “Yes, thank you,” Jessica told him. But it was with his assistance she gained her
feet. His sunglasses drooped down the bridge of his nose. Their gazes joined, and she glimpsed his remarkable eyes. She gasped as another fleeting glimpse of memory clicked and flew leaving her breathless. He pushed the shades back up.
“Are you sure you are well?” he queried again. Jessica nodded, mesmerized.
To confirm she was uninjured, Jessica walked unassisted back to her fallen bicycle. Standing it up on its wheels, she leaned the bike against a bench next to the trail. She turned, a smile on her lips expecting to see her rescuer. He had vanished. Jessica stretched to look for him, squelching the lonely feeling that washed over her. He had blended into the passing crowd. Dumbfounded, her legs now wobbly and not from her fall, she sat on the bench and took a break. The normal passage of people had resumed, and she tried to ignore the aches and bruises from her fall. Jessica found she was more bothered by the reason she crashed and the incentive for today’s ride. She was further disturbed by the appearance of the stranger who had helped her then disappeared.
Until last week, the haunting gaze of her and her family’s rescuer from five years ago remained manageably in her subconscious. Upon completion of her master’s thesis, the incomplete memory had inexplicably began popping back into her conscious, if undirected thoughts. The fateful day of her family’s rescue was etched in her mind, as was the gaze and essence of their inscrutable young savior. Oddly, the only reminiscent consequence of the traumatic diving accident, other than the vague and transitory memory, was a redundant, disturbing dream she thought exorcised. But it too had returned. With the dream’s revival came the recollection of his poignant touch and his ardent stare appearing at times when her thoughts were unfocused or distracted, such as when the glint of the sun caused her to blink. At such times, she felt in some manner connected to the enigma she couldn’t quite, consciously, remember.
She concluded the stress from her master’s thesis had affected her subconscious, compromising her mental disciplines and allowed the dream’s return. Hoping to release
the pressure with strenuous exercise and purge the demon, she had taken a long ride on the Okeechobee Levy Trail. It hadn’t helped. If anything, now, she had imagined his gaze in that of another man who had assisted her. To her shaken thoughts, it was his eyes she had seen today when the gentleman’s sunglasses had slid down. It wasn’t possible. But where had he gone? As the first man had disappeared, so had this man, it had to be a coincidence.
His compelling gaze continued to stare back at her when she closed her eyes. Was she forever to see his face lost in dreams? Like a lingering song, heard and unforgettable, yet not quite recalled, a vague memory. His caress had aroused her in those few moments as no other man’s had since. She disregarded the same poignant touch of the stranger today, convinced the fall had shaken her.
Standing alone, she drank from her water bottle, thankful for the slight breeze. She looked out over the drought-lowered level of Lake Okeechobee. Having ridden this trail many times she loved the scenery, but preferred the normal, greener and bluer view.
She stood and stretched, willing her muscles to relax. Removing her helmet, she allowed the breeze to evaporate some of her sweat, cooling her off. Jessica scanned over the brown saw grass, saddened by the lack of water. With a heavy sigh, she grabbed a nutrition bar from her bike bag for a snack.
Her scrutiny returned to the lake and came to rest on a large protuberance of mud jutting upward from the bottom muck where the water usually was deeper. The dead, brown cattails and dry saw grass were broken and bent exposing the lump. When rainfall was normal, the vegetation grew several feet taller and greener than now. Jessica’s attention fixated on a mass of mud and the imperfect, yet geometric shape it formed. Clearly the protrusion was rarely exposed, but with the water level lower it was revealed as a definite shape, drying in the sun.
Staring at the shape, she finished her snack and washed it down with more water. She continued to study what she might have found; a fascinating impossibility… a pyramid.
Ghost flashes of the re-occurring dream flickered through her mind seemingly triggered by the shape. Intrigued, she pondered the object and sat down again, on the bench her bike leaned against. Vague recollections prompted by an inscrutable knob of oddly shaped mud became more unsettling than her tumble. Why, she couldn’t fathom. But the unusual stare of her mysterious rescuer from years ago looked back at her, amused, from deep inside her mind.
She straightened her sock over the ant bites. Strange, normally fire ant bites itched and were irritated for days, these were—gone! No red, blister marks were present from the attack of the insects. The cooling affects of the stranger’s water bottle came back. Oh heck, it was just water.
Her ankle bracelet, a souvenir from the fateful dive several years before was on the same leg. She covered it with her sock to protect it. A treasured piece of jewelry, it had enigmatically ended the event triggered nightmares the first time. Jessica began wearing the ancient adornment again since the dreams’ returned. Found on the wreck of the Mitzpah the traumatic day of the diving accident, the ankle bracelet consisted of ancient, alternating white gold, and yellow gold dolphins leaping nose to tail. At the time, the jewelry had become a talisman against the dreams. Now she found its
presence comforting, but it didn’t diminish the dream’s frequency. Jessica’s other reminder of that day besides the ghost memory of his eyes, was despite the heat of summer in South Florida, chills from his touch returned and still did if she allowed the memory to go unchecked. Jessica rallied her strong will and exiled those haunting eyes from her consciousness. Instead, she focused her thoughts on the mysteriously shaped chunk of mud and with effort blocked-out her tumble and the disturbing stranger.
So begins Jessica’s journey into the adventure, discovery, and revelation of Atlantis that will change her from a budding young archaeologist into a fugitive, endanger her life, and the lives of her family and friends. Only the love between her and the Lord of Atlantis can save them. But the Lord of Atlantis’ loyalty to her is torn between his duty to that fabled civilization and his deep love for her. Can he…will he…save them both?
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