Skylar Connelly wants to know what happened to her sister, Maia, who vanished without a trace in the Florida Keys. Unwilling to accept the authorities' dismissal of the case, she conceals her relationship to the missing girl and takes a position at Casa del Mar, a magnificent, seaside estate owned by Martin Escalle, a slick entrepreneur whose business interests, she suspects, include illegal activities.
Luke White, the captain of the yacht named Calypso and Escalle's right hand man, challenges and fascinates her with his combination of surfer good looks, bad boy charm, and stiletto sharp mind, but is he also a killer? Dare she trust him? Her heart and soul will accept no less.
Release Date: May 21, 2015
Genre: Suspense Romance
Skylar Connelly juggled a bottle of Diet Coke, her keys, her purse, a bag of chips, and a sack of grape Big League Chew Bubble gum. Why hadn’t she taken the bag the cashier in the run-down, overstocked, little gas station had offered her?
Trapping her purchases up against the car door, she freed her hand and managed to fit the key into the lock and turn it. In doing so, she dropped the Diet Coke bottle, and it hit the ground and rolled about.
She set her purse and merchandise on the hood of her ancient, navy blue Golf, and picked up her soda. As she straightened, her gaze caught on the photo of the smiling blond girl, which stood propped up by the gear stick.
Determinedly she swallowed the lump in her throat. She had to keep it together, for Maia’s sake.
It was definitely turning out to be one of those days. She shoved some sweaty, damp tendrils back from her face and jerked the car door open. As she sat down on the hot vinyl car seat, she heard a car pull up behind her, but ignored it and picked up the picture. It had been taken last summer, here, in the Florida Keys. Maia looked so carefree, freckled, and happy smiling at her from the deck of some yacht.
Skylar couldn’t ignore the revving of a powerful engine behind her. The person back there could just wait a minute. She needed a few seconds to pull herself together.
Her gaze was irresistibly drawn back to the shot of her sister. Maia was wearing a halter-top and shorts, and sitting next to a very solemn boy of about ten. He wasn’t smiling for the camera. He held up his hand as if to fend the sun away, while Maia squinted her green eyes right at the camera. Nothing had ever fazed her, not even the heat and sunshine of a tropical summer.
The car behind her honked its horn. Skylar glanced in her rear-view mirror. A gaudy, bright yellow Jeep with heavily tinted windows was right behind her. She guessed a tint that dark was illegal—she couldn’t see the driver at all.
The car door opened. A tall, blond man with a broad-shouldered, linebacker’s build was unfolding himself from the driver’s side.
As he walked toward her door, he looked disgustingly cool, comfortable, and in his element in his khaki slacks and white dress shirt.
“Damn.” She reached for the key and shoved it into the ignition. She had no desire to be the victim of a road rage incident.
“Come on, Bessy.” She turned the key. The engine cranked and caught, spewing diesel exhaust out, and into the face of the man who was now just behind her car. Popping the Golf into gear, she puttered away. Bessy backfired just as the old car turned back onto the main road.
Glancing in the mirror, she saw the man had removed his sunglasses and was wiping at his face.
Skylar felt a moment’s regret there was nothing worse than getting a mouth full of diesel exhaust. “Probably a jerk,” she muttered to herself as she pulled back onto US1.
Needing to get her mind off Maia, she turned the radio on. Flipping through the stations, she found she couldn’t find a song she liked. She needed a real pick me up. She needed...Elvis!
It was an inspired choice. Rifling through her cassette carrier and glancing between it and the road, she eventually located the tape she wanted and shoved it into the cassette player.
Soon, she was rocking along with Elvis. She kept the rhythm by tapping on the steering wheel, trying to block out the fact the air blowing on her face was hot and humid.
She peered out through the bug guts, already beginning to adorn the windshield she’d just squeegeed off at the gas station. There it was, the famous Seven Mile Bridge. It, and its predecessor, arched over the aqua-green water like white rainbows. As Skylar bopped along, she glimpsed fisherman scattered here and there along the old bridge. Both bridges were really impressive engineering feats, and they meant she was moving in on her destination, Coral Key.
Elvis was now crooning about fools rushing in, and she wasn’t even half of a mile up on the bridge when she happened to glance in her rearview mirror. A familiar yellow Jeep was rapidly bearing down on her.
In very short order, the Jeep was crowding her bumper.
“Are you insane?” She watched the other car in her rearview mirror, feeling decidedly anxious with the Jeep right up behind her on the bridge. She gestured with her arm for the driver to pass.
The Jeep accelerated smoothly into the other lane. When the two cars were parallel, the driver lowered his passenger side window, so he could look right at her. He tilted his sunglasses down and waved as he slid on by. Once he was clear of Bessy, he cut in front of her. His vanity license plate read: “CPT STUD.”
Captain Stud honked and sped away.
The guy had definitely ruined the view from the Seven Mile Bridge for her.
To her dismay, crossing the bridge didn’t indicate she was close to her destination. An hour passed as she drove from island to island, past the Key’s bizarre mixture of huge mansions, rinky-dink motels, and surf shops. The islands were tropically exquisite, but with something of the touristy feel of the Jersey shore.
The heat seemed to be increasing with each passing moment. Skylar cursed her own stupidity in not dressing more appropriately for the weather. She should have worn shorts, but she had opted to look professional and sophisticated. Now, she guessed she just looked rumpled, flushed, and worn out. She was debating pulling over and calling to verify her route when she saw the sign, Welcome to Coral Key.
On this island, the honky-tonk abruptly ceased. On both sides of the road, she saw only lush greenery and attractive fences that blended well with the surroundings. She glimpsed jewel–like blue beyond the roofline of one magnificent mansion. Clearly, this was a high-rent district.
“Okay, 330 Pelican Cove Drive...here it is.” She took a sharp right, and proceeded along a massive stucco wall running parallel with the road. Another right had her facing an immense wrought iron gate. The number 330 was worked into the curlicues of iron.
“This is it, Bessy.” She patted her steering wheel and peered through the gate. Her heart was beginning to pound anxiously. “What now?”
“Please advance your vehicle to the white line and state your business.” A disembodied voice rang out.
“Wha-What? Hello? Where are you?”
“Please speak into the intercom.”
“Where is it?”
“Advance to the white line. The intercom will be to your immediate left.”
“Um...Oh, I see it now.”
“What is your name?”
“Skylar Connelly...I’m expected. I’m the new swimming instructor for Mr. Escalle’s nephew.”
“Your name is on the list. Proceed into the parking lot at the rear of the house. Park your vehicle in one of the staff carports. Have a good day.”
The wrought iron gates slowly and majestically began to open in. Once they were wide, she followed the driveway. A magnificent Spanish-style stucco mansion with red roof tiles and shutters and creamy white walls came into view.
Skylar paused, taking it all in. The wrought iron of the gate was incorporated into the house design on the various balconies and in fanciful detail work. The house was recessed back into a sheltering cove of pine, palm, and Poinciana trees. The landscaping had a romantic, lush feel to it, and revealed the hand of a master gardener in the layout of the flowerbeds, ornamental shrubs and trees, and energetically climbing vines.
There was a lower wall of the same style as the exterior wall that enclosed a courtyard at the front of the house. Through the twin arches, she could make out red paving, an abundance of terra cotta potted plants, and an elaborate water fountain.
Abruptly, she realized she was gawking. She took her foot off Bessy’s brake, and eased around the side of the mansion. She came upon a blacktopped parking lot that was shadowed and just dappled with the light that penetrated through the overhanging canopy of trees. There were several open parking slots.
The driveway continued out toward the water where an impressive yacht glistened whitely in the Florida sunshine. She glimpsed three men moving about at work on board the vessel.
To her immense dismay, an outrageously bright yellow jeep was backed up to the dock. It couldn’t be.
That would be just her kind of luck. After all, what were the odds?
There was no point in worrying about it. She drove headfirst into one of the parking slots, and tucked Maia’s picture under the passenger side seat. It would be too dangerous to bring it in with her. She climbed out, and had just popped the trunk on Bessy, when she caught sight of a disturbingly familiar tall blond man, now wearing flip flops, cut off jeans, and a salmon pink T-shirt, headed her way.
The T-shirt advertised “Mr. Zogs Sex Wax,” and bore the legend “the best for your stick.”