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Authors: Virginia Kantra

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Sea Fever

BOOK: Sea Fever
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Sea Fever

By

Virginia

Kantra

BERKLEY SENSATION, New York

2

Berkley Sensation Titles by Virginia Kantra

SEA WITCH

SEA FEVER

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT

CLOSE UP

Anthologies

SHIFTER

(with Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, and Alyssa Day)

OVER THE MOON

(with Angela Knight, MaryJanice Davidson, and Sunny)

To Phyllis S. Kantra and Robert A. Kantra

Thanks, Mom and Dad

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Deepest thanks to my wonderful editor, Cindy Hwang, and the team

at Berkley who do such incredible work.

To my agent, Damaris Rowland, who made this book possible.

To Melissa McClone and Kristen Dill, for listening, reading,

critiquing, and supporting.

To Lieutenant A.J. Carter (ret.), Martin Urda, M.D., and all the

experts who patiently gave well-thought-out responses to the most

unlikely scenarios.

To my niece Marie for letting me “borrow” her tattoo.

To Jean and Will, Andrew, and Mark, who as deadline approached

probably thought that their mother had been kidnapped by demons— or

possibly possessed.

And to Michael. I’d be lost without you.

3

But his soul stood with his mother’s folk,

That were of the rain-wrapped isle,

Where Patrick and Brandan westerly

Looked out at last on a landless sea

And the sun’s last smile.

— G. K. CHESTERTON, “THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE

HORSE”

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all,

and the wildest, the most urgent.

— D. H. LAWRENCE

One

THE NIGHT THE ONLY ELIGIBLE MAN ON THE island got

married, Regina Barone got drunk.

Getting laid would have been even better.

Regina looked from Bobby Kincaid, whose eyes had taken on the

wet glaze of his beer bottle, to fifty-three-year-old Henry Tibbetts, who

smelled like herring, and thought, Fat chance. Anyway, on an island with

a year-round population of eleven hundred, a drunken hookup at a

wedding reception could have serious consequences.

Regina knew all about consequences. She had Nick, didn’t she?

The wedding tent’s tiebacks fluttered in the breeze. Through the

open sides, Regina could see the beach where the happy couple had

exchanged their vows— a strip of shale, a tumble of rocks, a crescent of

sand bordering the restless ocean.

Not your typical destination wedding. Maine, even Maine in August,

was hardly Saint Croix.

4

Regina hefted a tray of dirty glassware and then spotted her son,

standing beside her mother at the edge of the dance floor, jigging from

foot to foot.

She felt her mouth and shoulders relax. The glasses could wait.

Setting down her tray, she crossed the big white tent. “Hey, good-looking.”

Eight-year-old Nick turned, and she saw herself in miniature: dark,

Italian eyes; thin, expressive face; big mouth.

Regina held out both her hands. “Want to show me what you’ve

got?”

Nick’s initial wariness dissolved in a grin.

Antonia Barone took his hand. Her mother was in full Mayor

Mode— a hard red slash of lipstick and her two-piece navy dress. “We

were just about to leave,” Antonia said.

Their eyes clashed.

“Ma. One dance.”

“I thought you had work to do,” Antonia said.

Ever since Regina had offered to cater this wedding, her mother had

been bitching about her priorities. “It’s under control.”

“Do you still want me to watch him tonight?”

Regina suppressed a sigh. “Yeah. Thanks. But I’d like to have a

moment first.”

“Please, Nonna,” Nick added.

“It’s not my decision,” Antonia said, her voice suggesting it damn

well should be. “Do what you want. You always do.”

“Not recently,” Regina muttered as they moved away.

5

But for the next ten minutes, she enjoyed the sight of Nick hopping

and sliding, clapping and turning, laughing and carrying on like any other

eight-year-old.

The music shifted and slowed.

Couples took their turn on the floor.

And Regina, her sandal straps biting into her toes, delivered Nick

back to her mother.

“Midnight for us, kiddo. You go home in the pumpkin coach with

Grandma.”

He tipped his head up to look at her. “What about you?”

Regina brushed his dark hair back from his face, letting her hand rest

a moment on his smooth cheek. “I’ve got to work.”

He nodded. “Love you.”

She felt a burst of maternal love under her breastbone like heartburn.

“Love you.”

She watched them leave the white rental tent and climb the hill

toward the parking lot, her square mother and skinny son casting long

shadows on the park grass. The setting sun lingered on the crest, firing

the bushes to fuchsia and gold like the enchanted roses in a fairy tale.

It was one of those summer evenings, one of those days, that almost

made Regina believe in happy endings.

Not for her, though. Never for her.

She sighed and turned back to the tent. Her feet hurt.

Mechanic Bobby Kincaid was tending bar for the free beer and as a

favor to Cal. Bobby earned good money in his father’s garage. These

days every sixteen-year-old on the island with lobster money burning a

hole in his pocket had to have a car. Or a pickup.

6

Regina sidestepped as Bobby attempted to grab her ass. Too bad he

was such a jerk.

“Hi, Bobby.” She snagged a bottle of sparkling wine from the ice-filled cooler and wrestled the wire cage around the cork. “Let’s do a

quick refill of all the glasses, and then I want those cake plates off the

tables.”

“Hey, now,” rumbled a deep male voice behind her. “You’re off

duty.”

Regina’s heart beat faster. She turned. Strong, tanned hands, steady

green eyes, and a limp he’d picked up in Iraq. Police Chief Caleb Hunter.

The groom.

Plucking the bottle of Prosecco from her grasp, Caleb filled a rented

champagne flute and offered it to her. “You’re a guest. We want you to

enjoy yourself tonight.”

“I am enjoying myself. Any chance to serve something besides red

sauce and lobster rolls . . .”

“The menu’s great,” Cal said. “Everything’s great. Those crab

patties—”

“Mini blue crab cakes with chipotle aioli and roasted red pepper

sauce,” Regina said.

“— are really something. You did good.” His eyes were warm.

Regina flushed all over at the compliment. She had done well. With

less than a month to plan and prepare, with only a clueless bride and the

groom’s awkward sister for support, Regina had pulled off the wedding

she’d never had. The rented tent was warm with lantern light, bright with

delphinium, daisies, and sunflowers. Crisp white linens covered the

picnic tables, and she’d dressed up the folding chairs from the community

center with flowing bows.

The food—her food, mussels steamed in garlic and white wine,

bruschetta topped with basil and tomatoes, smoked wild salmon with

dilled crème fraîche— was a huge success.

7

“Thanks,” she said. “I was thinking I might talk Ma into adding

some of these appetizers to our regular menu. The mussels, maybe, or—”

“Great,” Cal repeated, but he wasn’t listening any longer. His gaze

slid beyond her to his bride, Maggie, dancing with his father.

Margred’s dark hair had slipped free of its pins to wave on her neck.

She’d kicked off her shoes so that the hem of her flowing white dress

dragged. She was looking up at Caleb’s father, laughing as he executed a

clumsy turn on the floor.

The naked intensity in Cal’s eyes as he watched his wife closed

Regina’s throat.

In her entire life, no man had ever looked at her like that, as if she

were the sun and the moon and his entire world wrapped up in one. If

anyone ever did, she would jump him.

If Cal ever had—

But he hadn’t. Wouldn’t. Ever.

“Go dance,” Regina said. “It’s your wedding.”

“Right,” Caleb said, already moving.

He turned back a moment to smile at her and order, “No more work

tonight. We hired the youth group to give you a break.”

“You know you have to watch those church kids like a hawk,”

Regina called after him.

But that was just an excuse.

The truth was she would rather schlep glasses and scrape plates than

have the same conversations she’d had before with the same people she’d

known all her life. How’s the weather? How’s your mother? When are

you getting married?

Oh, God.

8

She watched Cal circling the dance floor with his new bride—slowly, because of his limp— and emptiness caught her under the ribs,

sharp as a cramp.

Grabbing her glass and the open bottle of Prosecco, she walked away

from it all, the music, the lights, and the dancing. Away from Bobby

behind the bar and Caleb with his arms around Margred.

Regina’s heels punched holes in the ragged strip of grass. Drawn by

the rush and retreat of water on the rocks, she wobbled across the shale. A

burst of foam ran toward her feet. She plopped onto an outcrop of granite

to remove her sandals. Her bare toes flexed in the cool, coarse sand.

Ah. That was better.

Really.

She poured herself another glass of wine.

The level in the bottle fell as the moon rose, flat and bright. The sky

deepened until it resembled the inside of a shell, purple and gray. Regina

rolled her head to look at the stars, feeling the earth whirl around her.

“Careful.” The deep male voice sounded amused.

She jerked upright. The contents of her glass sloshed. “Cal?”

“No. Disappointed?”

She’d spilled on her dress. Damn it.

Regina’s gaze swung to the tent and then swept the shore, searching

out the owner of that voice.

There, standing barefoot at the edge of the surf as if he’d just come

out of the sea instead of simply wandering away from the wedding

reception.

Her heart pounded. Her head buzzed from the wine.

Not Caleb. She squinted. He was too tall, too lean, too young, too . .

.

9

His tie was loosened, his slacks rolled up. The gray light chased

across his face, illuminating the long, narrow nose; the sculpted mouth;

the eyes, dark and secret as sin.

Regina felt a pulse, a flutter, of pure feminine attraction and

scowled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He laughed softly, coming closer. “They look good together— Caleb

and Margred.”

She recognized him then. From the ceremony. “You’re his brother.

Dylan. The one who—”

Went away.

She’d heard stories. She was drunk, but she recalled the basics. How,

twenty-five years ago, his mother had left the island, left her husband and

Caleb and her infant daughter, Lucy, taking with her the other son. This

one.

“I thought you were older,” Regina said.

He went very still in the moonlight. “You remember?”

Regina snorted. “Hardly. Since I was, like, four at the time.” She

plucked the wet silk from her breasts. She’d have to make a trip to the

mainland now. There was no dry cleaners on the island.

“Here.” A flash, like a white flag in the dark, as he pulled out his

handkerchief. A real gentleman.

And then his hand was on her chest, his fingers spanning the tiny

gold cross that lay beneath her collarbone, the heel of his palm pressing

the handkerchief right between her breasts. Warm. Intimate. Shocking.

Regina sucked in her breath. Not a gentleman at all. Asshole.

She knocked his wrist away. “I’ve got it.”

Beneath the wet material, her nipples beaded. Could he see, in the

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