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Authors: Katie Reus

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Danger in Paradise

BOOK: Danger in Paradise
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Danger in Paradise (Romantic Suspense)
Reus, Katie (2011) Tags: Romance
Romancettt Twenty three years ago, security expert Luke Romanov’s childhood playmate disappeared without a trace, leaving behind grieving parents and an identical twin sister. He’s never stopped blaming himself. When he finds himself working side by side with a woman identical to his friend, he’ll stop at nothing to discover her true identity, even if it means betraying her.

 

What few memories photographer Hope Jennings has of her past aren’t pretty. The monsters from her nightmares make it impossible to completely erase her violent history, but she’s living her life one day at a time. When a wealthy family hires her for a month down in the Caribbean, she expects to work hard, get the job done, and go home. While there, she finds unexpected passion in the arms of the sexy and dangerous Luke. Unfortunately for her heart, he presents a danger to the safe life she’s built for herself. When someone targets her to die, she doesn’t know who to trust.

 

Please note that Danger in Paradise was originally published under the title Finding Hope, but has been revised and lengthened. Word count: 60,000

Danger in Paradise

 

By Katie Reus

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by Katie Reus

 

Cover Art by LFD Designs

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.

 

Chapter 1

 

Hope Jennings nearly fell out of bed at the shrill ringing that sliced through her dreamless sleep. She blinked as she tried to focus on the digital clock on her nightstand.
Four in the morning.

Struggling to see, she picked up her phone. “Hello?” she rasped out. Eyes closed, she fell back against the pillow.

“Your time is coming bitch,” a voice said softly. Too softly to tell if it was a man or woman.

Oh Lord, another prank caller.
She should have turned off her ringer. “Don’t you have anything better to do than bother people this late?” She rolled over, ready to hang up, when the voice stopped her.

“You’re going to pay for what you did to my face.” Still soft, there was a deadly edge to that voice now.

As if she’d received a shot of adrenaline straight to her chest, her heart stuttered and she bolted straight up. She pushed the comforter off.

“That got your attention, didn’t it?”

 
“What do you want?” The question came out hoarse and scratchy.

“I want you dead.”

“That’s mighty tough talk over the phone.” She couldn’t believe she managed to find her voice when all she wanted to do was hang up and pretend this call wasn’t happening.

The caller hung up to her relief and disappointment. The call had been too long yet too short. Especially since she wanted—needed—answers.

Blood rushed wildly in her ears. It was the only thing she could hear in the quiet room. Feeling suffocated, she walked outside onto her small balcony, and inhaled the salty ocean air. Being near the ocean soothed her in a way nothing else did. Maybe because the ocean had saved her life in more ways than one. Her heartbeat slowed as she breathed in and out, taking deep, steadying breaths.

There was a slim chance the call was a prank, but the realistic part of her knew that was bullshit. And she couldn’t lie to herself even if she wanted to.

She wrapped her arms around her chest and tried to block out the memories. Twelve years had passed and she could still feel his clumsy hands on her body. Could still smell the scotch on his breath. Dark spots briefly flashed in front of her vision and her throat clenched impossibly tight so she practiced her breathing techniques again until the weight lifted off her chest.

She turned back inside and went to the kitchen. As she prepared a pot of chamomile tea, an involuntary shiver raced down her spine. Past nightmares clawed at her memory.

She itched to call Mac and tell him about the call, but she would handle this on her own. As far back as she could remember she’d learned never to show fear. Fear was weakness. And the predators of the world preyed on the weak.

Never let them hear you scream and never let them see you cry. That was her motto.

 

Chapter 2

 

Two weeks later
 

Hope pulled her dark hair into a low twist as she walked along the rickety planks toward
Second Chance Marina
. April in Florida wasn’t scorching, but summer was on its way and Key West heated up quicker than the rest of the state. She tripped on one of the boards still not fixed since the last hurricane and reeled in a curse.

Ever since her strange late night call a couple weeks ago, she’d been jumping at her own shadow. She absolutely hated that. Thankfully the more time that passed, the easier it was to distance herself from the call. Almost pretend it hadn’t happened.

“Hey baby girl, the usual?” A familiar male voice called to her before she’d even made it to the thatch-roofed tiki bar that hung off the side of the main restaurant. Mac Jennings, the man who’d raised her since she was fifteen popped his head up from behind the main bar of the one-story structure. His sandy blond hair was just beginning to show signs of gray.

“Of course.” She took a seat on one of the many empty high top stools and resisted the urge to lay her head down. Instead, she started making a pyramid out of the bar straws and matchbooks.

“Your burger should be ready in ten minutes.”

“Don’t forget extra pickles.” She grinned and took a sip of the bottled water he placed in front of her.

“Long dive this morning?”

“Yeah, got some great pictures though.” Her work as an underwater photographer was grueling, but she was already making a name for herself. Her portfolio had a long way to go, but her hard work was paying off and she wasn’t even thirty.

“So what are you doing back so early?”

“I’m meeting some guy about doing contract work. My agent set it up. Some rich people down in Cuba want me to photograph their ancestral home or something. It’s not underwater work, but this guy’s wife apparently loves my prints.”

“I’m so proud of you.” He grinned and she fought the heat creeping up her neck and face. Mac had been an amazing surrogate father, teaching her how to survive, but he didn’t give out compliments often. When he did, she was never sure how to react.

When she didn’t respond he cleared his throat and glanced at his watch. “Food should be ready. But I think your ‘rich guy’ just arrived.” Mac nodded to the other side of the bar as a man took a seat at one of the high top tables facing the open water.

It was only ten o’clock in the morning so the bar was empty. Chances were in her favor that this was the man she was waiting for. Even seated, he looked to be about six feet tall. His dark blue polo shirt stretched across broad shoulders. From her side view, his angular jaw looked like it had been chiseled from stone. The man had a perfect face for the camera.

She smiled when he looked up, finally noticing her. “Hi, I’m—”

“Maria? What are you doing here? I thought you were in California.” His deep voice echoed loudly in the empty restaurant.

She turned around once to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else. When their gazes collided again, she lifted an eyebrow. “I’m Hope. Are you the man I’m supposed to meet? Lucas Romanov?”

When he simply stared, she decided he wasn’t there to meet her after all.
Pity
, she thought. She’d love to snap some shots of him.

“Sorry to bother you,” she murmured as she turned to head back to the bar.

“Wait.” He reached out and clasped her upper arm. His fingers tightened for a brief instant before he pulled back.

She turned back to face him, her entire body tense, ready to strike out at him if necessary. Not that it mattered. Mac was within screaming distance and even though he was in his late fifties, the former Navy SEAL could hold his own against anyone.

The stranger stepped back immediately and lifted his hands in an apologetic gesture, but still stared at her with his dark, strangely haunting eyes.

“Sorry, I…you just remind me of someone. I am the man you’re waiting for, but you can call me Luke. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Do you have any identification?” She crossed her arms over her chest, gauging his expression. She didn’t care for weirdos who thought it was okay to touch people they’d just met.    “As in a driver’s license?”

He whipped out his wallet and shoved it at her, obviously trying to appease her. After looking at it, she handed it back to him. “Are you hungry or thirsty?”

He expelled a long breath. “I could go for a beer.”

“Have a seat and I’ll grab you one. Corona okay?” When he nodded, she returned to the bar. Normally she wasn’t so bossy, but his reaction to meeting her had been weird. Not creepy, just a little strange. She had a very strong creep-meter and her alarm bells weren’t going off.

“That him?” Mac asked as he placed a plate in front of her.

She nodded. “I didn’t think he’d be early. And I’m going to have time to eat. Save it for me?”

When he shook his head and chuckled, she reached over the bar and grabbed two beers from the well. It was a little early, but what the heck, it was Saturday.

Seconds later she slid onto the seat across from Lucas Romanov and handed him his drink.

“You don’t happen to know anyone named Maria, do you?” he asked.

She shook her head, even though the name triggered something vaguely familiar. She’d met a couple Maria’s before, but she didn’t actually know any. “Nope.”

He expelled a long breath and laughed under his breath. “I swear you could pass for her twin sis…” He cocked his head to the side and his eyes darkened again.

Despite her best effort, she swallowed under his intense scrutiny. There was something about those charcoal eyes that made her think of sex and sin. A very bad thing considering the guy was married and her possible client. “You wanted to talk to me about a photography job for your wife?”

“My wife?”  He chuckled. “I’m not married. I’m here as a favor to some friends.”

“I don’t understand. My agent told me you wanted me to—”

“I’m sorry, I thought this would have been explained to you. My friends, the Santiagos want to hire you. I work for them. Sonja, the wife, is a huge fan of your work. She insisted I come down here and personally take you to Cuba. She’s very busy or she would have come herself.”

“Which is it? You work for them or you’re friends with them?” She took a sip of her beer and watched his eyes closely when he answered.

“Both. I’m head of their security, but our families have been friends since before I was born.”

“Why do they need security?”

“They’re very wealthy.” He shrugged and even though his tone was casual, when he answered, she was under the distinct impression he was holding something back.

“Are they involved in drugs?”

His eyes widened, but a genuine smile played on his lips. He chuckled and his shoulders loosened a little. “No, coffee.”

She gnawed on her bottom lip for a second. Her agent had okayed them and that was always good enough for her. “I was told this job is in Cuba?”

He nodded and a lock of his dark hair fell across his forehead. “That’s right.”

“When do they want me to start?”

He shifted in his seat and traced a finger down his beer bottle. “Honestly, they thought they’d have to wait to book you.”

Sure, she worked for the Discovery Channel, something that always seemed to impress people, but she was a contract worker. That equaled a sporadic income. “Unfortunately I’m strictly a contract worker until I build up a bigger portfolio. I’m available to start in a couple days if they’d like.” Actually she could start right then, but he hadn’t asked. Her sales had doubled in the last month so she knew she was gaining popularity, but this kind of work could really boost her career.

“I’ll call them today and set something up. How about we meet here tonight for dinner and discuss everything?”

She would have liked to discuss things right then, but he wasn’t giving her much of a choice. “Seven works for me.”

He drained the rest of his beer, then stood and left. As she watched him make his way out of the restaurant she chewed on her bottom lip. Her male friends, and the men she worked with, were unassuming and unthreatening in every way.

Lucas Romanov wasn’t necessarily threatening, but he was still a stranger she knew nothing about. Without even trying, he exuded a raw, masculine power that was almost tangible. Not to mention something about that charcoal gaze made her feel unnerved. As if she were under a microscope.

And she liked to be in control.

BOOK: Danger in Paradise
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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