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Authors: Heather Graham

Eyes of Fire

BOOK: Eyes of Fire
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Praise for
New York Times
Bestselling Author
Heather Graham

“Graham shines in this frightening tale. Paranormal elements add zing to her trademark chilling suspense and steamy romance, keeping the pages flying.”

—Romantic Times
on
Haunted

“Graham's tight plotting, her keen sense of when to reveal and when to tease…will keep fans turning the pages.”

—Publishers Weekly
on
Picture Me Dead

“An incredible storyteller!”

—Los Angeles Daily News

“Demonstrating the skills that have made her one of today's best storytellers, Ms. Graham delivers one of this year's best books thus far.”

—Romantic Times
on
Hurricane Bay

“A suspenseful, sexy thriller…Graham builds jagged suspense that will keep readers guessing up to the final pages.”

—Publishers Weekly
on
Hurricane Bay

“A roller-coaster ride…fast-paced, thrilling…Heather Graham will keep you in suspense until the very end. Captivating.”

—Literary Times
on
Hurricane Bay

“The talented Ms. Graham once again thrills us. She delivers excitement [and] romance…that keep the pages flipping quickly from beginning to end.”

—Romantic Times
on
Night of the Blackbird

“With the name Heather Graham on the cover, you are guaranteed a good read!”

—Literary Times

Also by HEATHER GRAHAM

THE PRESENCE

DEAD ON THE DANCE FLOOR

HAUNTED

PICTURE ME DEAD

A SEASON OF MIRACLES

HURRICANE BAY

NIGHT OF THE BLACKBIRD

NEVER SLEEP WITH STRANGERS

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

EYES OF FIRE

SLOW BURN

NIGHT HEAT

Watch for the new blockbuster from
HEATHER GRAHAM

KILLING KELLY

HEATHER GRAHAM
EYES OF FIRE

To Don Stelzen, surely the world's nicest and best driving
instructor, with thanks for always being so great and patient.

To my son, Shayne, for being my first “biddy”
and learning with me.

To Sam Lawson, one of the world's greatest classmates,
for his tolerance of so many scheduling changes.

And to Underwater Unlimited, one of the world's most
wonderful dive shops; to Charlie Matthews,
Chuck Beltran and all the folks there—thanks!

Prologue

D
ead men tell no tales.

Or so he had heard.

Yet these dead men seemed somehow to cry out in silence, noiselessly shrieking out a story that had been kept secret for nearly four hundred years. Their skeletal remains lay about eerily, some held together by remnants of rusted armor, one with its head uncannily perched on a bookcase while the disjointed body sat on the desk beneath it. The sword that had probably brought about his death lay at his side. Perhaps it had once pierced through him, through flesh and sinew and organs; perhaps it had once been bathed in blood. Now the sword lay on the handsomely carved desk where the pieces of the dead man remained, side by side with the small bones of what had been a human hand, almost as if it was waiting to be used again. To be picked up and wielded in some form of ghostly revenge.

Dead men tell no tales….

But this one shouted silently of his own murder.

A tiny yellow fish, a tang, darted in and out of the cavernous eye sockets of the long-dead man. The diver moved closer, then pulled back, the sound of his own breathing loud in his ears as a moray eel suddenly shot its head out from one of the cubicles in the growth-encrusted shelving. Sea fans wafted over oak. Anemones rose against the rotted core of an inkwell.

Another skeleton startled him into a weightless jump. This skeleton lay by the side of the desk, shadowed in darkness. Though time and pressure had blown out the master's cabin window of the
Beldona,
the ship was down deep enough that the sun's rays offered little light inside. The diver flashed his light at the skeleton and nearly shot through the roof, ceasing to breathe.

Because the skeleton looked at him.

Looked at him…

Stared at him like a demon, a devil, dead hand drifting, fingers seeming to point…

Stared at him with blazing red eyes that seemed to blind him. He ceased to breathe, forgetting the first rule of scuba diving—breathe continuously. Experienced diver that he was, he forgot, but oh, God…

The skeleton was staring at him with eyes of fire. A dead man. A pile of bones. Nearly one hundred feet beneath the surface of the sea.

Get a grip, man!
he warned himself.

Nitrogen narcosis,
he thought.
A diver's disease that could cause absurd giddiness, a state of well-being, a state of panic. A state in which a diver might well see hallucinations. Described by Jacques-Yves Cousteau as rapture of the deep. A danger any diver knew existed beyond depths of one hundred feet, sometimes before, certainly after, no matter how immune a man claimed he might be.

That was it—he was seeing things. He knew enough not to be doing what he was doing, especially at these depths! His rashness was taking its toll. He didn't dare stay much longer, but, oh, God! The lure had been too great.

He was seeing things.

No, he wasn't.

The dead men
were
there.

Even the dead man with the eyes of pure fire.

Sweet Jesus, but he hadn't been expecting such an eerie haunting from the past. So often, especially at these depths, time and pressure and the sea herself ate away the pathetic, mortal remnants of man, down to the bone itself.

She was a dangerous mistress, the sea. Days, weeks, years, centuries, played havoc beneath the waves. Salt, pressure, currents and sand all swept around the treasures, living and otherwise, captured by the wicked whimsy of the sea. Swept around dead men left behind.

And so often kept them from telling their tales.

His head was spinning, his thoughts careening into fantasy.

Breathe!
he commanded himself, sucking air through his regulator at last. He went back to the basics he had learned, had taught. Breathe continuously. Regain control, respond, react.

It's just a skeleton. This poor fellow has been dead forever and ever. He's no danger to me….

The thought didn't help. He imagined that any second the skeleton would raise its hand higher, that the bony fingers would point straight at him, that the bones would begin to rattle and talk….

It was a dead man, for God's sake!

Just a dead man. With gems where his eyes should have been. He was a well-preserved dead man with remarkable ruby eyes, and that was that.

Regain control, respond, react. Fool! Didn't he teach those very words almost daily?

He didn't know what trick of pressure or temperature had kept these skeletons in such uncannily good shape, but they were miraculously here, inside what must have been the captain's cabin of the galleon. And though the windows had burst and the denizens of the sea had moved inside, perhaps the fact that the cabin walls had withstood the sea so well had helped preserve the dead who had perished within.

How they'd come to be here, he didn't know. But they had nearly done him in, nearly drawn a silent scream from him, and he had very nearly succumbed to a watery death himself. In fact, he was certain that his hair would be white from shock when he reached the surface again.

None of that meant anything to him at the moment. Nor did the fact that he should never have been diving alone, despite being an expert diver with several thousand hours of diving time under his belt. It was because of that that he should have known better. It wouldn't have mattered if he had come down a mere thirty feet instead of the nearly one hundred he was down now, he shouldn't have been diving alone. He taught the buddy system strenuously in his classes.

But he'd never imagined a morning like this one. The culmination of a dream. He had at last come across something in his research that had set off a light in his mind, and that light had burned so brightly that he hadn't been able to wait. He hadn't even been able to wait to tell Sam, to give her a clue, even knowing how much it would mean to her. She had been with Jem and some first timers and bubble watchers out on the
Sloop Bee.
With beginners, it would be some time.

And this…oh, God! With the right information, the answer had been so simple, and once he had realized it, he hadn't been able to wait.

Sam. Sam should have known. Sam should have been with him. Sam, with her ever-trusting, encouraging smile. Sam who never found fault, who believed, who laughed and teased and made life easy. She should have been here with him now. He couldn't repay her for not being here, not even with every single bit of treasure he found.

He simply hadn't been able to wait to test his theory.

His dreams had sent him flying across the waves. Intrigue and fascination had brought him here, near the Steps.

The Seafire Isle Steps.

The Steps, of course, were a mystery in themselves. They began a mere thirty feet below the surface in the water northwest of Seafire Isle; they deepened with the ocean floor for another twenty-five feet, then simply disappeared. Just like stone steps in other areas of the sea that were supposed by some to lead the way to Atlantis. Others thought them a doorway in the wicked mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. He was quite certain that there were logical answers for every mystery beneath the sea. Just as there was a logical answer to the mystery of the Spanish galleon
Beldona,
the prized ship of King Philip, which had sailed the golden corridor between the New World and the old so many years ago. Historians had thought for years that she had gone down in one of the vicious storms that raged across the seas, a hurricane of deadly proportions.

There was an answer to everything. An explanation.

Just as there had been an explanation for the fact that a skeleton had stared at him with burning eyes….

He could still see them blazing. Eyes of fire.

Nitrogen narcosis,
he warned himself. He was seeing things. But the eyes did truly seem to burn. He bent low, studying them more closely….

There was something different about the skeleton. He should have been able to place his finger on it. He should know the truth about the ship.

His
ship, as he thought of her.

The
Beldona.
He had found her! Sonar had missed her, radar had missed her. Shifting currents and restless sands had hidden her beneath a coral shelf.

Suddenly something about the skeleton caught his eye. He leaned closer, laughter bubbling in his chest.

Whoa,
he thought.
Stay calm!
He warned himself.

But once again, far beneath the surface, he couldn't wait.

The magnitude of his discovery suddenly hit him. No, he couldn't wait. This was pure vindication.

He couldn't wait to tell
her.
Couldn't wait to share these secrets, deeper than any he had ever imagined. He'd discovered the past, and so much more. Many people had mocked him for being a dreamer. Very few had believed. And now…the laugh would be on them.

She
would know that he'd been right to fight for the discovery. Maybe the time had come when he could divulge a few of his own secrets. Maybe this would make the time right.

He closed his eyes.

Or did he?

Because he was seeing things again.

The sea was playing tricks on him.

It was as if
she
was suddenly with him.

She couldn't be. But he could see her.

He could see her, hair waving like a banner, eyes as brilliant as those orbs of fire that had so shocked him. In his mind he could hear her throaty laughter, feel what they shared.

He blinked.

She remained.

She was there with him, her eyes glittering behind her scuba mask.

No…

He blinked again, this time closing his eyes tightly. He had known better—
much
better—than to dive alone, especially this deep. But it didn't matter now. He knew the truth. He had solved the mystery, and there was so much more to it than they had ever begun to imagine….

He had to regain control.

He opened his eyes again.

He was alone.

Bubbles surrounded him. His own, he assured himself. He was all alone.

Alone with a bunch of dead men.

Nitrogen narcosis…

He needed to go up.
Now.

Because he needed help, of course. Needed Sammy and Jem, and probably others, too. But for now his ecstasy was like something ready to explode inside him. He wanted to share his sheer joy.

They would have to guard the secret until they were safe. There was so much more than just the treasure involved. If the wrong people knew what he had discovered…

He was going to need help. The truth was going to have to come out, and once that was done, they would be able to bring up the treasure.

By God, the treasure!

He turned, listening again to the sound of his own breathing, a continual hiss and heave against his ears in the confinement of the cabin. He tried to assess the magnitude of what he had found.

He was startled from his thoughts when something suddenly fell against him. He shifted his light around.

Another dead man. But this one…

Once again a scream rose in his throat.

It was swallowed by the depths…. And then he felt…something.

He turned. Saw.

Terror greeted him in the form of razor-honed steel. He wanted to scream and scream and scream….

Blood flowed, joined with the water. Miles beyond the ship, sharks sensed the blood and began to swim toward the
Beldona
with predatory interest.

Bubbles rose from his regulator. And then they ceased.

His unseeing eyes stared out at the shadowy phantoms inside the cabin of the long-dead ghost ship.

He had solved so many mysteries, had so much to say, but…

Dead men tell no tales….

BOOK: Eyes of Fire
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