BY: RAMONA FORREST
At a “fat” convention in Tahiti, an attack by pirates, during a storm at sea, leaves Jamie Moran stranded on a deserted island with Mick, a craven, yet devilishly handsome drug smuggler she’d pulled from the raging water. Fearful of being alone in a terrifying place, she tends his injuries, while he teaches her far more than mere survival. Joined by two others, they work to stay alive, while Jamie fights a hopeless sexual attraction to this secretive man of mystery. As they wait for a rescue that never comes, she becomes slender and healthy. Facing a devastating typhoon, death-dealing smugglers, and dangerous wild animals, Jamie and Mick are drawn into love with dire consequences. But he promises her that it will all work out and he will be with her in the end. Finally rescued by a US Navy cruiser, Jamie dreads the trial in Tahiti that will have Mick hauled away in chains to spend long years in a tropical prison. Has he made a promise he can’t keep?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Survivors by Ramona Forrest, Jamie Moran is attending a “fat” convention in Tahiti after divorcing her mentally abusive husband. Now single again, she wants to lose the weight she gained during the marriage when eating was her only comfort. At the convention, several attendees, including Jamie and her new friends Felicia and Jim, take a scenic schooner ride out on the ocean. A terrible storm comes up, but that’s not the worst of the problems for the little schooner. A band of pirates/drug dealers attack the ship, sinking it. Jamie and her friends manage to get into life rafts, and, while at sea, Jamie picks up a sailor from the schooner who she knows was in cahoots with the pirates. But he’s a human being and she can’t let him drown. So she pulls him into her raft, and they make it to an island, soon after to be joined by Felicia and Jim. Jamie operates on the sailor, Mick, with his Swiss Army Knife, and takes a bullet out of his shoulder, saving his life a second time. Stranded on the island, it’s clear to everyone that Mick is not what he appeared to be on the schooner, and Jamie is soon head over heels for him. But what kind of future can she have with a criminal, even if he is too well educated and well spoken to be the illiterate sailor/drug dealer he pretended to be on the ship?
As usual, Forrest’s story is heart-warming and romantic, with vivid scenes and wonderful characters. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be stranded on a tropical island, this story will give you an idea—both the good and the bad. A really good read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Survivors by Ramona Forrest is the story of a young woman, recently freed from an abusive marriage, who longs to be her old self and find real love. Jamie Moran has just divorced her abusive husband and received a generous settlement. Free at last, but obese due to the overeating she did while trying to cope with her marriage, she wants to have her figure and self-esteem restored. So she attends a fat convention in Tahiti, and on a whim, goes for a jaunt on the ocean in a schooner. And that’s when the trouble starts. As a severe storm arrives, some members of the crew won’t let the captain head for port because they are waiting for another ship to arrive. When a Chinese junk appears, they tie up the captain and put him the brig, then board the junk, which shoots a cannon at the schooner, sinking it. Jamie manages to get into a small six-man life raft that is barely big enough for her expanded size. She makes it off the ship, and into the middle of the storm. Then an arm appears over the side of her raft, and Jamie recognizes a member of the crew, one of the ones waiting for the junk. She knows he’s a criminal, but it isn’t in her nature to let him die, so she pulls him into the raft, and they eventually make it to a small deserted island. But Mick is an enigma, and nothing like what he pretended to be on the ship. They fall in love, but Jamie knows they have no future. Mick is a criminal, after all, isn’t he?
With a well-thought-out plot, some surprising twists and turns, and enchanting characters, Forrest has crafted a tale that will make you laugh and cry. Survivors is a fascinating, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable story.
Jamie Moran clung tightly to the lines looped around her small raft and turned her face away from the pelting rain. Water-blinded, she wiped her eyes and searched frantically across the turbulent waves for a glimpse of her friends. She’d only known Big Jim and Felicia for a day, but right now, alone on a stormy sea, they were the only friends she had in the world.
Before yesterday, she’d never even seen the Pacific Ocean. Quiet Colorado lakes and streams were her idea of water. Now she’d been shoved off a sinking boat during an unbelievably violent and noisy storm. She found herself alone in the midst of this huge body of water, away from the comforting presence of new friends, and fighting to stay afloat.
Pounded by gigantic waves, Jamie longed for a solid deck beneath her feet. Her heart pounded at each wave that swirled about her craft and broke over her, one upon another. Drenched to the skin by the wind-driven rain, she could no longer see their sinking schooner. By the time she’d gotten off, the boat had been far gone, sinking so low into the ocean, their part of the deck was already awash by the time Jim had her raft ready.
There hadn’t been enough time for many souls aboard to locate a raft. She knew their sad fate. That lovely schooner had foundered and sank beneath the angry waves. With that loss, Jamie Moran’s once secure world no longer existed.
Battered by stormy seas, sickened and horrified by the evil, murderous acts she had just witnessed, a weakening sense of terror overwhelmed her. Alone in this madly heaving ocean, she imagined herself sinking deep into those strange, mysterious, and unbelievably dark depths. She mourned, knowing her friends had been swept away in the wild sea and were gone.
With no one to help, she faced her situation. Angry at her helplessness, a hitherto unknown inner fortitude rose within her traumatized mind. Jamie squared her shoulders and decided to do what she could. She’d witnessed the violent destruction of their graceful schooner and certain death of her captain and many innocents aboard by the fiendish actions of scoundrels.
Determination built within her and she fought for survival against the wild sea that threatened to consume her.
Steadiness and purpose of action lightened her spirits. Jamie searched frantically in a pocket and found a collapsible plastic bucket. Instinctively knowing its purpose, she began bailing madly, tossing buckets of seawater into the sea.
Huge waves sloshed against her, and her arms ached from constant bailing.
“I’m scared,” she cried into the flailing wind, “but I’ll not die out here, not after all the hell I’ve been through!” Voicing determination increased her needed strength to fight against the fearful odds she faced.
The driving rain felt cold against her body, yet the heaving waters of the gigantic waves felt warm. The strangeness of the ocean rollers and the spray off the top of them sopped her already sodden clothes as they washed over her tiny craft. She bailed madly, facing impossible odds to stay afloat. The work of it tended to calm her desperation and panic. It was something she could do.
Weary of the stinging lash of the driven rain, she faced away, letting the maelstrom beat against her back. Scooping water over the edge, she stopped, frozen in surprise. A hand came over the side, clutching desperately onto her raft for a hold.
Jamie saw a man’s strong hand, sinewy and bronzed, though washed pale in the raging green waters. Realizing that another human soul was lost in the tormented seas, and with no thoughts of caution, Jamie reached out for him.
As she pulled the man toward her, his face appeared above the rim of the wildly pitching raft. Horror struck, she recognized the tall, sinister sailor whose very appearance had turned her into icy panic earlier. Her breath nearly left her body. Fear, as well as anger, gripped her to the point where she forgot her own desperate situation. She knew this man to be the most evil of men.
But his face, blue and pale, bespoke his desperate situation. Her feelings softened toward him and her fear and anger diminished rapidly. He barely clung to the sides of the little fabric raft. He’d soon lose his feeble grip and sink down into the turbulent waters. She hesitated. I ought to let this evil soul go to his maker.
“Please–please, help me!,” he gasped, “I’ve been shot and nearly drowned. I’ve hung on for so long. I’m done in–please–oh God–I can’t hold on any longer!”
His weakened voice cried out to her better instincts. But this man, this murderous devil, had caused the loss of their ship, with that tragic loss of life. She ought to beat his hand away. She had ’ witnessed his crimes and knew him for what he was–a murdering, drug-selling devil.
Yet, Jamie couldn’t let that pale hand go. In spite of her fear and disgust of the man, she could not deny him her aid, little though it may be. Her heart racing madly, she tightened her grip on that cold, slippery hand. Bracing her feet against the side, she pulled the fearful soul into her waterlogged raft.
The man’s long body slithered over the edge and flopped into the bottom. He lay helpless in the water. A large amount of seawater washed into the wildly pitching raft along with him. Blood seeped into the water, verifying his claim he’d been shot escaping that chunky appearing Chinese junk that had approached them in the midst of a terrific storm.
Ignoring him for the moment, she bailed madly to keep them afloat. He lay inert, as sea water washed over his face. Believing him unconscious, Jamie stuck her foot beneath his head to keep his head out of the water and kept bailing.
She watched him as much as possible but, along with the effort of constant bailing, she realized the storm was nearly forgotten, as well as her fear of the man. She’d found the strength she needed.
With the lessening of the waves, Jamie noted the storm had abated. With enough sea water cleared from the tiny raft, she rested her aching arms and legs. Turning her attention to the man she found so fearful, she noted his eyes were closed. His hair was midnight black, and long dark lashes lay against tanned cheeks. He had a fine, strong chin with an indentation. His straight, rather narrow nose seemed to match his long length somehow. The wispy moustache, straggly with seawater, revealed wide, firm lips, pale and blue.
No longer sinister in his helplessness, she felt no fear of him. Wondering what would cause a man with such good features to involve himself in a life of crime, she shook her head. Her hair, soaked and sticky with saltwater, stung her face as the sodden salty clumps hit against her cheeks.
Rummaging again in the side pockets, she found a tightly bound pack of canvas fabric and put it under his head. Her mind spun in a fearful whirl. The raft seemed more stable, and she’d stopped her worry of the ocean waters. Now she worried, having this evil soul in her raft. He’s not frightening now, thank God. But when he awakens, what then? It’d be best to shove him back over the side. If he ever comes to, he’ll throw me overboard and take this raft. After all, I could be, and certainly will be, a witness against him, and gladly, if we ever come to land.
Yet, surrounded by heaving seas, and no safe harbor in sight, she realized she was no longer alone. This man was another human being, and her thoughts ran rampant. He’s a sailor and might know how to find land. Jamie reached the only possible conclusion, I cannot rid myself of this devil, not after saving his life. He might take mine, but no, I cannot.
Occasional jolts of fear crept through her when she looked at the sailor. He’d shown himself to be a criminal of the worst kind, but that knowledge was tempered by the fact he might help her. This knowledge brought an uneasy comfort to her. She was no longer all alone in a place so totally foreign.
She felt, rather than saw, that the waves had lessened further. Daylight had faded, patches of stars stood out in the darkening sky. She breathed a small prayer of relief. The respite gave her time to think. “We should be in Papeete at our fat convention,” she murmured under her breath, “talking about the wonderful day we had, sailing on the beautiful Pacific. Instead, I’m lost out here in a water-logged raft with a criminal who’d surely see me dead if he were able.”
She’d bailed most of the water out since the waves had lessened, yet she felt a pounding at the flimsy raft from beneath. She considered fearfully. Are those sharks below–waiting, nudging this raft, looking for a meal?
Jamie’s throat was parched and her generous stomach rumbled with hunger. She foraged in the side pockets and found a container of water. Tasting of plastic and warm, it was potable and soothed her throat. The sailor moaned, stirring weakly in the growing darkness, his legs moved.
She bent closer to him. “Are you awake?”
He moaned softly. “You’ve helped me–you won’t be sorry–is there any water? I’m horribly thirsty, though I’ve swallowed half the Pacific.”
Jamie placed the plastic container to his lips and he drank several gulps. She took it away. “We have to save some. We don’t know what we’ll have for tomorrow.” He remained silent and she believed him unconscious again.
Unable to see what his wounds were, she noticed there wasn’t as much blood seeping from him. She saw that much in the growing darkness.
Cold, wet, and sticky from seawater, she found a bundle of canvas fabric in another pocket. Her numbed and trembling fingers fumbled with the straps and opened it. Unable to decide what it was, she gave up, putting part of it around herself and part over the wounded sailor. She heard a soft moan, but nothing more during the darkest part of the night.
“Oh God, I’m so miserable,” she cried aloud. Her blouse felt sticky, dirty, and soggy. It chafed against her skin. Her skirt, torn and twisted around her legs, was sopped with seawater. Everything was wet, and her entire body felt bruised. Her hands trembled. Her arms ached from bailing and she wanted to dissolve into tears, but couldn’t let go. Oh, Jamie girl, what’s going to happen to you now? She hugged her knees for warmth, and waited out the night.
It grew into daylight. Her stomach rumbled constantly with the gnawing sensation of increasing hunger. She sipped more of the water and touched the sailor on the shoulder. He moaned. A wave of relief passed through her. He had not died during the night.
“Do you want more water?”
“Yes,” came the whispered reply.
Jamie drew off the canvas and he looked up at her. She thought his very dark brown, almost black eyes looked feverish, or were they burning from the salt water like hers?
She gave him a few sips. “Where are you wounded?”
He grunted softly. “It’s on the back, up rather high, I think. I’ll try to turn if I can. I need to move, and I’d like to get off my back. It hurts like hell after lying here all night.”
Jamie heard moaning, tight-lipped sounds of pain accompanying the effort while he worked to realign himself in the small confines of their raft.
“Can I help you turn?”
“No thanks, I can manage.”
He slowly moved to his right side, facing away from her. His shirt was crumpled and blood stained. She knelt beside him and gently pulled it away from the wound, seeing a swollen area with a rounded bluish hole in the center. It was up high on his left shoulder.
Touching this devil’s body made no immediate impact. She only knew she was not alone and took comfort from it.
He hadn’t complained of loss of breath, so she guessed it hadn’t touched his lungs. She’d read somewhere, there’d be bloody froth on the lips if the lungs sustained traumatic damage.
There were no signs of bleeding about his face. She wondered about his heart. But a man in his line of work had none. The wound bled a slight seeping of pinkish fluid down his long, smoothly muscled back.
Jamie rummaged in the pockets and found a basic first aid kit. She showed him the contents and he told her what to use. No doubt the wound was clean after the amount of salt water that had washed over it. That was probably a good thing, but she didn’t know for sure. She dressed his shoulder as he directed and heard his soft, “Thanks.”
Hunger drove her to search further in the side pockets. She found a few hard biscuits. They each ate one. She was thinking of her daypack with all the goodies she’d packed. Maybe some fish is enjoying my Snickers by now. She imagined the mushy chocolate of a Ding Dong in her mouth. At the thought, her mouth watered and her stomach rumbled again, aching with emptiness.
Later, the sailor struggled to sit upright. The effort hurt him, bringing beads of sweat to his forehead. He looked intently at her, perhaps better able to see her for the first time. Jamie felt his searching eyes on her and her heart rate increased. On the schooner, he’d kept his distance from passengers, but things were different now. She had saved his life and dressed his wound. They had a bond together, whatever the circumstances. She feared him. Why wouldn’t she?
He broke the silence, looking at her intently. “I want to thank you for saving my life. I was at the end of my rope when your raft came my way.”
Fear shot through her body at his appraisal of her, with eyes so dark, piercing, and shadowed by pain. Yet, she was surprised at the quality of his speech, no longer sounding like an ignorant sailor. The poor broken English they’d heard on the dock did not belong to him now. Puzzled, unable to think clearly, she kept those thoughts to herself as she stared back at him. “That’s okay, and whatever happens, I’m glad not to be alone. Maybe you know where we are, I don’t, and I don’t know what to do.”
He said nothing more, but scrutinized her at times. His intent gaze made her feel hunted. Maybe it was his elongated facial features, so reminiscent of a wolf. But despite the tremors she felt under his gaze, she was comforted that he was with her. She feared him, knowing what he was, but being alone in this unfamiliar, trackless, wilderness of water, held a far greater terror for her.
With little conversation, they continued drifting along over gentle swells. The storm had gone, the cloudless sky, blue to the far horizons, allowed the sun to beat down, mercilessly. The two lost souls suffered under a burning sun, scorching their eyes and salt-drenched skin.
Jamie became increasingly hot and thirsty. The reflection off the ocean inflamed her eyes, already burning from the salt water. Hungry, hair and clothes crusted with salt, she felt bruised and painful all over. Wondering what had happened to Jim, Felicia, or any of the others, tears came. They soothed her salt-ravaged eyes and that alone felt good.
Thirst became everything. Jamie knew not to drink ocean water, though it looked cool, inviting, and wonderfully wet. She drifted off to sleep thinking about lakes, rivers, and cool mountain spring water.
Raising a glass of cool water to her lips, she was jolted awake by a hand dashing the plastic bailing bucket of seawater from her lips. It fell, splashing into the raft.
“Don’t drink that. You’ll go mad if you drink salt water,” the sailor explained gently, as if to a child.
Abashed, Jamie sat quietly, looking down at her feet. Suffering,, they continued drifting in drowsy, miserable silence under the searing glare of the sun until she heard him exclaim.
“Look over there, miss.” He pointed across the shimmering waves to the far horizon. “I believe there’s land. We can try to row this thing toward it. I can’t do much, but I’ll try to help.”
She squinted in her effort to see it, holding a hand over her eyes to shade them against the glare off the slick, oily appearing ocean surface. Looking in the direction he indicated, she saw a low greenish shadow on the horizon and cried out, “Oh, thank you, God! We might make it. It looks quite green. Please, pray it has water when we get there.”
Searching for oars, she found oarlocks but only one oar. The other one must have been lost in the storm. Using the single oar, she paddled on one side and then the other, trying for a straight line toward the land. Her arms tired quickly, not being used to the exhausting physical exercise of rowing against the constantly undulating ocean waves. Sweating profusely, she worked desperately, moving the little raft toward the green haze on the horizon.
Painful blisters formed on her hands and broke open. Salt water burned the open raw flesh of her hands and blood seeped onto the salt-soaked oar handle. Only desperate thirst drove her on.
© by Ramona Forrest