When wildlife photographer Savannah Matthews takes an unexpected detour off of Belize’s scenic coast and becomes stranded on a lush, tropical island, she senses she’s about to encounter something wild and dangerous—something from a long ago, forgotten past. What she does find, will change her life forever. Scarred both physically and emotionally, Grant Duncan guards his privacy. Those who dare set foot on his private island come face-to-face with his fierce determination, and long-handled spear. But, when Savannah arrives, she challenges him like no other. Will Savannah break through Grant’s barriers, and convince him God still has a plan for his life?
Savannah Matthews hauled the heavy, wooden oar through the crystalline water as if her life depended on it—because it did. Had she known the unstable condition of the small rental boat’s motor, she never would’ve left the safety of Belize’s shoreline, and the Caribbean’s strong current wouldn’t be forcing her into open waters.
Her muscles screamed as she exerted pressure against the long oar. The scorching sun threatened to melt her skin. Sweat dripped from her forehead and ran in rivulets down her back. But, no amount of effort kept the small boat from heading out to sea.
She eyed the twenty-five horsepower motor, wishing she could fix the ornery thing, but, with little boating experience, she had no idea what to do with it. It could be out of gas for all she knew. The Sunnyside Marina was going to hear about this when she returned. If she returned.
“I never should’ve let that man talk me into this little boat.” She spoke into the balmy breeze as she paused to adjust her new wide-brimmed hat. The marina’s overly friendly owner had thrown in the touristy-looking accessory as an added bonus, claiming that without proper protection someone with such a fair complexion would turn to toast under the Caribbean’s summer rays. At the time, Savannah had guessed the short, rounded man was being thoughtful, now she was convinced he’d offered the hat out of guilt for sending her off in this clunker of a boat.
Savannah laid the oar across her lap and checked her cell phone’s signal for the third time since the motor sputtered and died. Nothing. No signs of a connection to civilization. So much for her investment in the newest of technology. She sighed. She should’ve saved the money and used it on a larger boat.
After depositing the phone into her bright pink beach bag, she thumbed through the tote’s contents. She withdrew a bottle and took a few gulps of tepid water, secured the cap and returned the bottle to her bag, pausing long enough to ensure her digital camera remained safe and sound inside. Nothing could happen to her camera—not if she wanted the paycheck to go along with this little adventure.
She set aside the tote and it brushed over her feet. Pain radiated across her toes; they’d baked in the sun and turned into crisp little French fries. She wiggled them inside her flip-flops before slathering gobs of waterproof sun block on them. Finished, Savannah had nothing left to use as a distraction.
She took in her surroundings. Belize appeared smaller; the sea wider. No other boats cruised nearby, and she struggled to maintain calm while fear as swift as the waves rocked her. Anxiety squeezed her heart. Images of a terrifying death by dehydration or man-eating sharks spurred her to pick up the oar and continue her vain attempts. She slashed the oar deep, stroke after stroke, but the boat drifted where it wanted to go, as if it had a mind of its own.
Lord, I don’t want to die out here. Help?
God had never left her before. Surely, he wouldn’t abandon her now. Savannah waited, holding her breath, looking, listening for a sign the Almighty had some kind of plan to get her out of this mess she’d gotten herself into. But, the sea didn’t part. No clap of thunder came from above. The gentle breeze continued to whisper across the open water as the current sucked her boat toward oblivion.
Helpless, she set down the oar and raised her hands. “OK, Lord. I don’t know what Your plans are for me, but I trust You.”
The breeze suddenly shifted, turning into a stronger wind, and the boat changed direction. Savannah’s hopes rose. After all, who else but God can command the weather into obedience? She looked around, anxious to see what He had in mind. Before long, a small island appeared in the distance. It wasn’t her original destination, but she didn’t care. She wanted her feet on solid ground again.
“Thank you, Father.”
The boat approached the island, and Savannah made out more details. The rolling landscape and thick, lush greenery appeared untouched by mankind, making the place look frozen in time. Waves lapped the creamy white shoreline, stretching high up the sand as if reaching for a safe harbor, only to recede again.
The boat glided over coral limestone and abundant tropical fish, and Savannah took a moment to appreciate nature’s splendor. Maybe, she decided, it wasn’t so bad to get lost in paradise after all.
As she neared the shore, Savannah hopped into the shallow water and the aqua-marine waves washed over her legs, cooling her overheated body. She dragged the craft onto the beach as the sounds of various creatures surrounded her. Although the island seemed friendly enough, she couldn’t help but feel as if she were about to encounter something wild and dangerous—something from a long ago, forgotten past.
“You’re on my island.”
Savannah’s heart slammed against her ribcage and she whirled around, looking for the owner of the gruff, deep voice. A tall man with too-long dark hair, a whiskered jaw, and imposing gait emerged from thick foliage. His bare, bronzed chest and arms contained thick muscles, honed with what could only be hours of hard physical labor. He held a long spear topped with an arrowhead in one large hand as he stalked straight toward her. He came within inches, piercing her with narrowed, sapphire eyes. “This is private property.”
Although his sheer size intimidated her, she held her ground. “My motor died. I had no choice but to pull ashore.”
“So, you’re telling me,”—he leaned closer, until his warm breath touched her skin—“you didn’t come to get a glimpse of the beast?”
Q1 Forgiving others is something we must all contend with. But sometimes we forget we also have to forgive ourselves. Is there something you've done in the past you have yet to forgive yourself for?
Q2 When life gets tough, we may be tempted to run and hide from our problems and to withdraw from other people. But with God's help we can face our troubles. What have you tried to run from? Did it work?
Q3 Pride is a serious issue we must fight to overcome. In Grant's case, he made a choice that had life altering effects. Can you think of something you've done out of pride that had a less than desirable outcome?