It was a perfect night for a swim—warm and still, the moon shining brightly. Marcus stood for a moment at the foot of the cliff, just breathing in the air rich with salt and seaweed. Then he grinned to himself and hurtled down the beach, pulling off his shirt and flinging it aside. He resisted the urge to kick his flip-flops high into the air—all those pebbles would be hell on bare feet if he never managed to find his shoes again—and was forced to halt for a moment to undo his jeans and let them fall to the sand. Just for the hell of it, he pushed off his trunks as well.
The sand was soft and moist between his toes, like demerara sugar, and Marcus slowed to appreciate the feel of it. He walked along the tide line for a few minutes, leaving a barely visible trail of footprints like Robinson Crusoe. It was a bad idea, really, to go swimming when the tide was on its way out, but Marcus had been cooped up all day and felt like he’d suffocate if he had to wait another six hours for his swim. It’d be getting light by then, in any case. That would ruin everything. Right now was Marcus’s time.
Moonlight shone down, leaching the colour from everything it touched. Marcus smiled in approval and walked slowly into the water. A painful chill assaulted his feet, his ankles, then his knees. He felt alive for the first time that day. What it would be like to be swept out by the waves? He tried to imagine how it must feel to struggle, to tread water, then at last to grow weary and be sucked under by the unforgiving sea. How would it feel to drown? Would it be a hellish nightmare of fighting to breathe, of feeling the water entering his lungs? Or would it be a gentle death as the water enfolded him like a blanket? He should probably look that up. He might be able to use it for something.
Marcus was jolted out of his train of thought by a sound horribly like a foot sliding on pebbles. He spun round instinctively but couldn’t make out a thing against the dark looming shadows of the cliffs. About to call out, to challenge the intruder—if only to find out if there really was one—Marcus abruptly recalled his nudity and, horrified, flung himself into the sea.
The frigid water hit his chest like an iceberg of Titanic proportions making a direct assault on his lungs. By the time Marcus had recovered his breath and rubbed the salt from his eyes, it was far too late to detect any signs of movement from the beach.
Will cast his gaze around, admiring the way the moonlight glinted off the water. Funny how the sea always seemed so much more peaceful when it was dark—Will was willing to bet that was when most maritime disasters happened too, with people lulled into a false sense of security by the gentle tumble of the waves.
When he’d been a kid on holiday on the island, his mum had sometimes taken him to the beach in the evening. With most of the other tourists gone, it’d been a great time for a swim. The water was still relatively warm from the heat of the day, and the setting sun cast a soft glow over them. He’d never swum when it was completely dark, though. Will wondered what it’d be like. Probably a bit disorientating, although not so bad when the moon was full, like tonight. Dangerous, though. What if the moon went behind a cloud and you couldn’t tell which way the shore was anymore?
Will stopped dead as he spotted something unexpected. There was someone in the water—was there? Or was he just seeing things? Whoever it was, he was ghostly pale. And naked. Will looked down at his own arms. The moonlight was playing its usual tricks with colours, but his arms looked real in a way that the figure in the water’s…didn’t. Even his hair was bright white—and as Will’s gaze dropped unstoppably to the figure’s crotch, he could see no darker patch there. The man—boy?—was slender, almost elfin. He was walking out into the water, arms spread wide as if to welcome the sea’s embrace.
He was beautiful. Impossibly perfect, from his too-pale hair to his lean, sculpted legs, now knee-deep in the water. Could he possibly be real? Or—Will’s heart gave a jump—could one of Baz’s stories possibly be true? Could there really be such things as ghosts?
Will took an involuntary pace forward—and stifled a curse as his foot slipped and he sat down heavily on the shingle. Scrambling to his feet as quietly as he could, Will realised his caution was too late. The figure had disappeared. For a moment, Will thought of going down to the water’s edge to try to find it—but then a cloud drifted over the moon, and left him in absolute blackness. Shivering, Will turned back the way he’d come.
Oh very nice! The rest is in here:
A stranger could light up his world...or drive him deeper into darkness.
Will thinks a camping trip with his friend-with-benefits Baz will be a fun break from his usual job as a personal trainer. But the trip turns into a rollercoaster ride as he meets author Marcus - and Marcus' mysterious guardian Leif.
Journalist Baz is supposed to be researching a book on ghosts, yet he seems curiously interested in secrets lying in the reclusive Marcus' past. But these are secrets that someone's determined they should let lie - and if they're not careful, Will and Baz could end up adding to the Island's ghostly population...