A/n: HI GUYS! Believe it or not, this is the final chapter. Prada and Prejudice, my debut novel, releases TOMMOROW, and has already started popping up in some of the chain stores. I can hardly believe this day has arrived! I hope if you live in the US or Canada you'll check it out. Your support means more than you can possibly know.

Thanks y'all!

~M

When I woke up, it was pretty obvious that something was going on. Because I was moving.

And it wasn't because the boat was rocking. Someone was carrying me.

"What the?"

I opened my eyes just in time to see Nate's devilish grin as he and Ron unceremoniously dumped me, sleeping bag and all, on the deck. Before I could even begin to sit up, the door behind me swung shut, and the lock clanged.

My jaw dropped and I just stared at the door, in a half-asleep stupor.

"You, too, huh?"

I turned at the sound of the voice and Cole was sitting on a pile of wound-up rope, covered with his sleeping bag, rubbing his eyes.

"What the hell was that?"

He shrugged. "A prank, obviously."

"But they're supposed to get the greenhorn."

He smiled at me. "Hey, you're just as much a greenhorn as I am. You've sorted half the crab on this boat."

I was going to disagree- I was supposed to be exempt from pranks- but then I just smiled. I guess I was like a greenhorn. I fit in with the crew, and I worked my butt off just like them.

And just thinking about it- being part of the crew- gave me the warm fuzzies. "I can't believe they pranked me," I said. But I wasn't mad. Actually, I was pretty amused.

"We need to get them back." Cole said.

"That's the best thing you've said all day," I said. I got up and hopped over, sleeping bag and all, to where Cole was sitting and plunked down on my own pile of rope across from him. It was semi-comfortable. We were covered by the roof overhand and a small wall, so the elements couldn't get to us. And for a 'warm' twenty or thirty degree night, the sleeping bag was enough to insulate me for the time being.

"Now, I think we should do something really cool. If necessary, I can get my dad in on it."

His face lit up. "Do you think he'd help?"

"Oh, definitely. I'm his daughter, remember? And he owes me like four years of favors."

"Sweet."

We sat out on deck for nearly an hour, scheming and talking and laughing. I knew Cole was tired, even more than I was, and yet he didn't say he needed to go to bed. He could have, too. He had plenty of time between yawns.

Eventually we went out on deck and around to my dad's wheel house. Ron was now on anchor watch while my dad slept, and he grinned as we traipsed through the cabin.

"Wondered when you two would wise up and try another door."

"Whatever." He totally thought we hadn't figured it out. But little did he know, he was about to get the prank of a lifetime.

The next morning, I was ready for the prank, but I knew it would work best if we waited until the crabbing was nearly complete. My dad had agreed to help us out. I think he just liked being in on it, and being included in something I was doing. Hopefully it was just an indication of what was to come with him.

"So, if I were to go to San Diego in a few months..." my voice trailed off. I wasn't sure what I'd planned to say.

"I wouldn't be there," Cole said.

I looked up at him. "Huh?"

He shrugged. "I think I'm going to get an apartment in Dutch Harbor. I kind of like it here. And it's about as far from home as I can get."

I grinned. I guess he was right. "Hmm. I guess you're right."

And then a thought occurred to me. "So, if I ride back up here next year, on my dad's boat.. you'll be waiting in Alaska?"

He nodded.

"And would you mind, you know, showing me your apartment and hanging out and stuff?"

He smiled. "Sure, we can have that movie marathon."

"Sweet."

Oh, I was so going to convince my dad to return to Dutch over midwinter break. It was always the first week of February. And since Opilio season was mid February... I could spend the week on the boat with my dad, and then a couple days with Cole, and I wouldn't even miss school.

Plus, my dad owed me one. So this would be the start of his repayment.

Another hour passed as Cole and I stood at the table, quietly sorting crab. When I realized we were close to the end of the string, I tapped his boot with my foot, so he'd look up at me, winked at him, and then started talking, a little louder than necessary. "Isn't it weird that the girl crabs are the ones with the lighthouse type shape? That's sort of a more, er, manly shape."

Cole faked a look of concern. It was actually pretty good, too. His eyes widened just enough that he wasn't overdoing it. "What are you talking about? The ones with the lighthouse are the males. The females have the half-circle."

"No they don't," I said. "You have it opposite. Right, Nate? You said the male crab have the half-circle."

I looked at him innocently, like I had no clue that my words would send him into a near panic.

He stared at me, and it was like I could see his heart beating out of his chest as the sinking feeling settled in. I knew what would happen if I had truly believed what I was saying- Fines. Big, fat, fines.

"No, I didn't say that. Remember? I said you want the lighthouse shape." He stared at me, unblinking, his eyes boring into me like he could change what I was saying just by staring.

"No, I'm pretty sure you said I wanted the half-circle."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

He swallowed, and I watched his adam's apple bob nervously. "Then are you saying... have you been putting the females in the hold and the males overboard?"

I shrugged, as if I wasn't sure. "I guess. If the males look like this," I picked up the nearest male crab, "and the females look like this," I said, picking up a second crab with the other hand. "I had been doing the opposite. So that means there's a whole bunch of girl crab in there. Are you sure you guys aren't the ones who have it wrong?"

"Yes!" he said, getting irritated.

I shrugged again and tossed a male crab (a real male!) into the hold. Nate's face was turning red, and by now Vic and Ron had figured out what was going on.

"Oh. Oops."

Cole cleared his throat. "So you're telling me that every crab you put in there was a female?" He said it really loudly, to be sure the rest of the crew really got the brevity of the situation.

Vic turned around, and his head was slightly cocked to the side, his lips pursed together.

I shrugged. "Yeah, that's bad, huh?" I bit my lip and faked like I was really worried. My forehead scrunched up, and I avoided looking at any of the guy's faces. "Should I go ask my dad how much that fine would be?"

And then, perfectly on cue, my dad walked out of his wheel house. Cole had signaled him, like he was supposed to, by standing on one foot next to me.

I couldn't believe it worked. My dad must have been really staring at us all morning, waiting for the cue.

"What fine?" he said, as if he'd overheard us. Too bad he probably hadn't- but at least he knew what his lines were.

"Um, well..." I acted nervous again.

"Crista? What did you do?"

Good thing I wasn't actually in trouble, or he'd be really intimidating, standing up above like he was.

"Well all those crab that I put in the hold... apparently they were female. So I'm wondering how much the fine is. I can pay it myself, if I have to. I have some money in savings."

My dad laughed. For a second I thought he was going to blow our cover, but then I realized it was for effect. Wow, he was good! "Pay it yourself? It'll cost thousands. THOUSANDS. It'll wipe out a huge chunk of our profits. That many females? God it might wipe out half the profits."

I didn't know if that was true, or if it was just for the prank, but the guys on deck turned all sorts of shades of pale. Except Vic. He was just turning red, like he was about to blow his top.

I looked over at Cole, and he was pursing his lips, hard, and they were quivering with silent laughter. And it was all I could take. I burst out laughing, and then so did Cole, and we were doubled over with it.

The crew just looked bewildered.

"Relax guys, it was a joke. I didn't put any females in there."

Vic's jaw dropped, Ron stared in shocked silence, but Nate just grinned and stared at us, like he was impressed. "Wow. Just... wow. That was good."

I thought Vic might still punch someone, but instead he slapped the side of the table and then cracked a big smile. "You're not getting away with this."

I just grinned back at him.

"I already have."

My final day of crabbing went by quickly; by the time we got to the final half dozen pots, we used a broom to stuff them into the hold. The crabbing had improved immensely; my dad had adjusted his game plan, and once again we were on the crab.

Once the final pots had been hauled in, it was time to stack them all and tie them down for the journey back to port. Vic relieved my father at the wheel to allow him a few more hours for shut eye, and with my dad sleeping and Vic off the deck, it kind of felt like sitting in a classroom without the teacher. Ron ran the boom as Nate and Cole maneuvered the pots.

We were goofing off a bit, and maybe we shouldn't have. With the weather still holding out and the actual fishing complete, I felt free as a bird and was filled with the immense desire to just talk and enjoy the afternoon.

I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to climb the stacks and help tie them down. I'm sure if my dad had been at the wheel and seen me, he would have told me to get the hell back onto solid ground.

But like a fool I climbed up the stack, and even though the sea was fairly calm, the slightest roll of the waves made it difficult to keep my grip and footing.

The higher I got, the more it felt like the boat was determined to pitch me off. And as I reached the top, I began to question the wisdom of my choice. But I'd made it to the edge, next to Cole, and figured I could at least get a few pots lashed together before retreating with my tail between my legs.

I was sort of squatting, hunched over, wrapping a line between two pots, when my right leg started to slide on the edge of one of the slick pots. I tried to shift my weight onto my left leg, and then onto my hands as I shoved my fingers into the wire mesh of the pots for grip, but my legs got away from me.

Before I could react my lower body was swinging over the edge of the stack, and my fingers felt like they were about to be ripped off from supporting the weight of my body.

I was holding my breath and trying to scream at the same time. I tried to kick my legs back over the top of the stack, but all that did was make me lose grip with my left hand, and I was dangling from my right, the muscles in my arm screaming form the strain.

Suddenly there was some sort of alarm going off and Cole was laying on his stomach trying to pull me up by my arms. I swung my free hand towards him, so he could grab my left arm as well. I knew I didn't weigh much but with his angle, he was using almost entirely his forearms and had little leverage.

I felt my grip slip, and felt his rubber gloves slide up my arm just an inch. Water sprayed at me from below as we hit a wave, and his fingers slid another inch, my rain coat stretching under the tension.

"Please, please don't drop me," I begged him, my fingers throbbing in pain from the wire digging in. They felt like the sockets of each knuckle were slowly being ripped apart as I dangled from my fingertips. In my peripheral vision I could see the ocean ebb and flow, sometimes seeming just a few feet away and at others nearly forty feet below.

"Swing your legs up," he said, his voice sounding more like a grunt with the strain of holding me.

"I can't! I'll fall!" My voice sounded like a squeak.

"You have to."

I tried to look down below me, at the frigid waters of the sea, at what could easily mean certain death. How cold would that water be? Would I know I was going to die the moment I felt it? Would my mind slow down as hypothermia took over, or would the fear still ravage me as I watched the boat leave me behind, as I knew the water would soon cover my head?

What if I never got the chance to get to know my dad? What if I didn't make it back to Seattle, and Helen blamed herself?

"Look at me. Don't look down. Just look at me."

I gulped and turned away from the ocean currents. His brown eyes were burning with an intensity I hadn't yet seen. He looked almost as frantic as I felt.

I kept eye contact with him for a long, silent moment. It was almost as if the world had stopped turning, as if the boat had stopped rocking. I wondered if we'd never kiss again. If I'd never get to watch those movies with him.

If he'd lose his grip and I'd fall into the ocean and he'd watch the whole thing, hanging over the edge like he was now.

As I stared at him, feeling his gloves slide ever so slightly on the rubber sleeve of my jacket, I saw movement beside him.

Nate. He was crouching low next to Cole, and then suddenly he was grabbing my left arm. Cole moved both his hands together at my right elbow and then they were both pulling me, back over the top of the stack, back to safety.

I felt onto my stomach on the top of a pot. I army crawled forward, until I was a couple rows away from the edge, and then lay down, my cheek pressed to the wet wire mesh of a pot, my lungs heaving for air as my panicked heart beat a thousand times faster than normal.

Safe. I was safe. The ocean was now completely covered by boat again. My whole body was resting on a solid surface and not swingly wildly over the seas.

The alarm in the background shut off, but I heard the door swing open and bounce against the cabin. I knew it was my dad, so I closed my eyes and listened to him scream at how crazy I was, at how the crew should have kept me off the stack, at how reckless they'd all been.

And it actually made me smile. Because this time, I knew he was genuine. This time, his worry wasn't hypocritical or just plain annoying.

This time I knew he was worried because he loved me. And I just sat there with my eyes shut and the cold wire against my cheek, and listened to his voice, because hearing it meant that I was alive.

After laying still for a bit to catch my breath, I crawled out to the middle of the stack and descended the pile of pots, until my shaky legs were back on deck.

My dad was waiting for me, his eyes wild with fear, yelling obscenities at how stupid I'd been.

And instead of responding I simply hugged him. His words cut off mid-sentence, and though it took him a moment to actually move, he then wrapped his arms around me.

We both just stood there like that, two fools in the midst of the deadliest place on earth.

We'd found each other again, and this time, we'd never let go.