fishingOld Man Jonas scowled up at Ameya as she jutted her hands against her hips. “You are in my light. Move.”

Ameya narrowed her eyes at him. “You will tell me why my son is here before I move a muscle. “

He sighed, shaking his head. “I already told you what I think about your foolish way with the boy.” He lowered his head to study the mangled net, scowling deeper. “Move.”

“Foolish way? How is protecting my son foolish?” Her body shivered as she glanced over him at the clear sky above the blue ocean before jerking her glare back to his downturned face. “What if something went terribly wrong? Will you answer me then?”

He huffed out a frustrated breath and shoved the net off his lap before throwing her a glare of his own. “You think I should hide him in my shack everyday because you are afraid he will drown?” He chuckled darkly, looking over at the boy who was busy fiddling with the net in his small hands. “Why live in an island if you’re afraid of the boy touching water. Your fear for him is unreasonable and foolish.”

Ameya clenched her fists beside her, her body trembling at the easy, calm way he said the words. She glanced worriedly at her son, letting Jonas’ stern words settle on her heart. “It’s not like I had a choice where we live…” she muttered, allowing her eyes to lift from Tomas’ head and suddenly, her cheeks warmed as she spotted three men standing a few feet from the canopy. Ameya swallowed hard.

Old Man Jonas frowned at her before lifting his head to peer over her shoulder at the three men standing there, watching them. He raised a bushy gray brow at the sight of the men with Gill before scowling. “I told you I don’t have time for your silly touring. You have disturbed me enough today. Take the boy and your people, and leave.”

Ameya didn’t say a word. Couldn’t. Her throat constricted tightly as she noticed the two American men now staring over at her. In the back of her mind, Ameya wondered how much of her conversation with Old Man Jonas they’d heard. Attempting to calm herself, she stepped away from Jonas and reached down to lift her son from the floor. He whimpered in protest when she tugged the tangled net from his fingers and perched her son on her waist. “This discussion is not over,” she said in a low voice over at Old Man Jonas before stepping out of the fisherman’s hut toward the gentlemen.

Jonathan couldn’t breathe. His heart was palpitating like a racehorse as Ameya and her son approached him. His son. He couldn’t look away. The boy’s sandy hair was curly and probably as soft as it looked. He drank in the boy’s freckled, sun-kissed face, his pouty mouth and pert nose. His eyes even. Jonathan swallowed hard as the boy shyly lifted his gaze from his mother’s shoulder and peered up at him. His cheeks warmed as the boy’s gaze shifted over his face.

Marcus shook his head inwardly in awe. Despite the boy’s coloring, this was Jonathan at age six. He’d seen the pictures and it was clear the sharp resemblance between the stunned man beside him and the shy, mute boy in Ameya’s arms. He smiled through his astonishment. “Beautiful boy.”

Ameya smiled distractedly, still smarting over Old Man Jonas’ scolding. “Thank you.” She shifted Tomas’s weight on her hip and her gaze shifted to Gill. “I was hoping to go with you but I have to get Tomas home. Please forgive me…” she grimaced slightly when Tomas wiggled in her arms. “Sit still,” she said softly to the boy and he dutifully sighed, leaning his head on his mother’s shoulder, although his gaze remained on Jonathan.

Gill nodded assuredly. “Not a problem…” He chuckled, peering over Ameya’s shoulder at Old Man Jonas who had finally stood up and was storming over to meet them.

Old Man Jonas barely gave Gill an acknowledging glance and turned to Ameya, still frowning. “If you don’t want to listen to me, don’t bring him here anymore.”

Marcus frowned, unable to decipher what Old Man Jonas said in their native tongue to Ameya but Jonathan heard every word and his brow furrowed with concern, reluctantly shifting his gaze to the older man standing by Ameya’s other shoulder.

Ameya merely rolled her eyes and sighed, still facing Gill. “Take care of my friends. I will try to be back when I get Tomas settled.”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Marcus said with a relieved smile when Ameya continued speaking to Gill in English for their courtesy. “Jon and I can take a cab back to the hotel.”

She hesitated a moment but when Tomas shifted again in her arms, she nodded slowly. “Okay… If that won’t be a bother.”

“Not at all,” Marcus continued, his smile widening as his gaze shifted to a drowsy Tomas before returning to Ameya’s face. “Go home and take care of your son. Jon and I are in good hands, I’m sure.”

Gill chuckled and nodded. “Of course.”

Old Man Jonas frowned at the conversation going on without Ameya acknowledging him and turned his head, narrowing his dark glare suspiciously at the two strangers in front of him. His gaze zeroed in on the quieter white man beside the loquacious dark man and Gill, his lips pursed at the intent way the man stared at Tomas in Ameya’s arms. But before he could open his mouth to say a word, Ameya stepped away from the gentlemen and started up the hill toward the road between the houses. His dark scowl returned as he watched her go, then with a low grunt, he turned his back on both and trudged to the fisherman’s canopy.

Gill shook his head, still chuckling. “That man…”

Marcus raised a brow after the grumpy fisherman stepped away. “Who is he?”

“Ameya’s foster father… ” Gill responded, shifting his brown eyes to the men before him. “He was the one who saved her from drowning almost nine years ago.” He shook his head, glancing again at the older man’s bent back as he took his seat amid his sea of fisherman net. “The old goat is probably regretting that decision every day since then,” he muttered, missing the glance shared between Jonathan and Marcus.

Getting Tomas to sit down for a bath an hour later was proving to be a futile effort as he kept wriggling in the bath tub. “Sit still, Tomas,” she said wearily, rubbing off another layer of sand from his hair. “Honestly… what was this man doing while you were rolling on the ground?” she muttered, dusting the sand off his bare shoulders.

He lifted his morose gray eyes to her and Ameya sighed gently. “You probably agree with him, don’t you… That I’m being foolish in wanting to keep you safe?” When Tomas just blinked at her, Ameya blinked back the stinging of tears and managed a smile. “It’s okay. Mama’s just a little…” she paused, frowning at the only word that described how she was feeling. Scared. Her heart skipped a beat as she allowed herself to admit it. The thought of an impending storm bringing danger to her son was impossible to shake off and she found herself shivering with trepidation. Ever since Old Man Jonas had mentioned a storm coming, she found that she couldn’t stay sleeping without checking on Tomas through the night.

He whined softly, nudging at her hand and pulling Ameya from her reverie. She managed another smile, pulling the sea sponge over his soft skin. “Don’t mind Mama, unh…” When his gray eyes lifted to her face again, Ameya’s smile waned as an image of her stumbling through a sea of swaying trees suddenly flashed before her eyes. She blinked and forced a breath, her hand stilling over his shoulder.

Tomas frowned at his mother and nudged her hand with his small one. Ameya jerked her gaze to his familiar gaze and her heart slammed against her chest. Shaking her head, she abruptly stood to her feet and pulled him out of the tub. Draping his soft but worn towel about his shoulders, Ameya guided her son out of the bathroom to his room. Her hands quickly worked to dress him, her heart pounding as the image returned of her running into a dark cave, cool salty water pelting her face. Her fingers trembled as she pulled the pajama shirt through Tomas’ yielding arms.

Hannah! She heard a voice ringing loud and clear in her ears as she stood and pulled Tomas onto her hip again, walking out of his bedroom into the living room. “Stay here…” she instructed after placing him on the couch and quickly stepped into the hallway in search for her phone.

A dial tone later and a soft, low voice answered. “Ameya…”

Her heart skipped a beat and she placed a trembling hand to her chest. “Neve, please come. I need to see you now.”

<<Part 25 || Part 27>>