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Excerpt from Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Castle of Water

A Novel

by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge X
Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
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    Apr 2017, 288 pages

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Barry thought for a few minutes, studying the tree line and hoping for an idea. After considerable grumbling, head-scratching, and additional sand kicking, he came to one palm that hung especially low, jutting out over the beach at a shallow angle. Yes, it was just close enough to the ground to do the trick and was sheltered quite well by the surrounding trees. Newly inspired, Barry set to work, harvesting the larger fronds he could find and leaning them in thick layers against both sides of its trunk. Within an hour, he had something resembling a tent. When the rains came later that evening—and boy, did they come—he was even able to stay relatively dry. It was a definite improvement over the leaf pile of his first night, which offered some relief to Barry, although not much. He was still stuck alone on an island not much bigger than Madison Square Park. Still uncertain if anyone was searching for him. Still at the mercy of a negligent sea and a vastly indifferent sky. And then of course there was the pilot and the other two passengers. Christ. Barry hadn't even thought about them in that flaming mess of twisted steel and surging water. Had he seen them, he would have certainly tried to help, but he had not. Chances were, they hadn't survived the crash. No, the Filipino pilot with the Hawaiian shirt was probably at the bottom of the sea, the young French honeymooners were likely food for fishes—a thought that alarmed and saddened Barry, but comforted him in a strange way, too. It alarmed him because they had all seemed like nice people, in no way deserving of their fate. But it also served as a reminder of the fact that there were far worse places he could be at that moment. Like the ocean floor, for example. He stifled a shudder and listened to the rain, damp, weary, very afraid, but also very much alive, and in that fact alone he found vast reassurance. "Crap," he said out loud, once again on the edge of sleep. He'd forgotten yet again to take out his contacts.

4

Had Barry not plucked out his contacts, had he taken a midnight stroll instead around the island's sandy perimeter before hitting the hay—or palm fronds, as it were—he would have come to discover just how mistaken he was about the other passengers. Or at the very least, one of them, anyway. For on the shore directly opposite his, a Day-Glo orange raft was slowly deflating. And curled fetally inside its rubbery womb was Sophie Ducel, exactly one-half of the French honeymoon duo that Barry had assumed to be joined for eternity underwater. Her eventual destination proved identical to Barry's, but the manner of her arrival was markedly different.

Unlike Barry, she had stayed at the site of the crash as long as she could, hidden inside a floating portion of the cockpit, trying with determination to keep her dying husband afloat. The pilot was nowhere to be seen (Barry had been right on that count; his seat was dislodged by the force of the impact, dragging him down to the ocean's bottom), but a brightly colored emergency package of some sort could clearly be seen strapped to the floor where his seat had been. Keeping the bleeding form of her Étienne from sinking required Sophie's full strength and attention, however, giving her no opportunity to unbuckle the box. She sensed its importance, its absolute necessity to her survival, but to let Étienne go for even one moment would mean losing him. She whispered encouragement in his ear, begged him to hold on just a little longer, but her appeals were in vain. His groans became less frequent and then ceased altogether. "Non, non, mon chéri, ne me quitte pas," Sophie pleaded, to no avail. Étienne's blood had all left him; his heart had nothing left to pump. His eyes, once so luminous and full of life, had been in an instant irrevocably dimmed. A distraught Sophie opted to hold on to his lifeless body rather than procure the orange box, but after several minutes of hopeless bobbing, an oceanic whitetip shark—not a huge one, but at ten feet imposing nonetheless—rendered her selfless act moot. Attracted no doubt by the thrashing and the blood, the pale phantom form slipped in from below and stole her Étienne away. She felt the intimation of a tug—testing, flinching, almost infantile—followed by a massive jerk that tore him out of her arms. There was a splash and a crimson surge of bubbles and he was gone. The now hysterical Sophie was at this point truly alone, the water around her was undeniably aflame, the cockpit fragment in which she sheltered was sinking nightmarishly into the sea, and a dinner bell had officially been sounded, noticed by every shark for miles around.

Excerpted from Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge. Copyright © 2017 by Dane Huckelbridge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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