To all my readers, get ready for an exhilerating ride into the adventures of Annie Foster and Jesse Storm. Here you go, the big cover reveal for Island Keeper, the 4th stand alone book in the Florida Keys Series. Available soon.
Would you like a little taste?
“I know who you are.” The words rang loud and clear over the sound of the waves crashing against the sandy beach. A tropical wind whipped long black hair across her shoulders.
“What do you mean?” she muttered. She couldn’t let fear take a hold, not now, in case she may have to run for her life.
His steady gaze held her own. Vibrant blue eyes, framed with the darkest black lashes gazed in to her soul. He never once blinked and she couldn’t look away. She silently dared him to say it, to say the name she’d been running from for the last year and a half.
“You’re the island keeper.”
“I, yes, I am,” she whispered. Relief coarsed through her veins as pent up air left her lungs. Safe, for now. She knew him. He worked for her step brother. He wouldn’t know her, not anymore, would he? She dyed her hair black and lost ten pounds since he saw her last. As an after thought, she thrust out the tray holding the golden goblet filled with wine. “Courtesy of Serenity Island,” she said softly, too nervous to speak louder in case he would hear how her voice trembled.
She stood on the dock, her hair flowing across her shoulders, the pure white material of the gown billowing gently around her knees. The rules of her profession. Rule number one: wear white, always white and never speak too much. Let the visitors believe they are landing on an island filled with mystery and serenity.
He reached for the tray, or perhaps her as fingers brushed against a fragile hand. She stepped back, almost knocking over the goblet. Warmth flowed through them, the feel of his hands on hers even more disturbing. As if he were coming in for the kill.
She was so aware of his presence. Something in the way he stood on the dock, moving towards her as if she needed him. What she needed to do was run as far away as possible. Rule number two: Do not involve yourself with any guests.
“Thank you,” he said, the voice, low, husky, filled with an open invitation. She sighed, knowing she had to get him settled and remove herself to the safety of the houseboat.
“If you follow me, I’ll show you to your rental.” She turned, taking long steps away from the pier, expecting him to follow. When she didn’t hear his steps on the board walk behind her, she hesitated, slowing down and then stilled.
The whisper of her name from his lips was spoken so softly and yet it vibrated through the air. “Annie.”
The cool air crawled over her skin as adrenaline rushed to her head. She squeezed her eyes tight, allowing a brief moment to feel fear before she shut it off and slowly turned to face him. This moment couldn’t be stopped. She knew someday it had to come full circle. “I’m sorry, who?”
Both feet were planted firmly on the board walk. He stood a bit taller than her 5 foot 7 frame and as the wind picked up, whipping his long, dark hair around, he looked savage against the back drop of the moon as it lit up the sky. She shivered. Something in the way he began to move towards her, as if he were aware of her desperation to escape, made her stand her ground. She wouldn’t cave in. He didn’t really know for sure.
They would never find her here.
The dark form came towards her. She refused to budge even though she wanted to flee as fast as she could. He stood less than an inch away. Her body wanted to deceive her, it began to tremble. Bare toes clenched the wooden planks. She looked in to those alert vibrant blue eyes and it became clear. He knew.
“Not much of a life living here all alone, is it?”
A bare foot took a step back. “It’s fine here.”
“It looks lonely to me. Surrounded by water, rocks, ocean. A person could disappear in the midst of all this, never to be found again.”
Another step back. But with each step she took, he came closer. “I’m not alone.”
“No? According to my sources, this island is all but deserted, except for the island keeper.” He stood so close his breath fluttered across her skin. He could kill her and no one would know. It’s a shame he had to be the one to come looking for her. Her eyes drifted to his mouth. It was the one thing she noticed when her brother hired him a long time ago.
His soft spoken words made her feel as if he was making love to her. How could one man cause so much desire with just the movement of his mouth? What a time for hormones to rise up. She almost smiled at the thought. “You’re assuming I’m alone, but I’m not.”
His head tilted at a slight angle, his large frame blocking out the moon’s rays. “I came to rescue you.”
“I didn’t know I needed saving,” she whispered. The warning signs went off in her head, yet instead of stepping back, those traitorous feet stopped moving. His mouth, next to hers, brazed her skin like a feather. Like a bad drug, she knew he was no good and would kill her in the end, but she couldn’t stop, not when the high felt so intense.
“I have to kiss you,” he whispered.
“I know,” she whispered back.
Then he crushed his mouth on hers. Annie couldn’t breathe. She dreamt of a moment like this with him ever since the first first time she saw him. The fantasies she had of his mouth invading her own came to light, down to the very last detail. He pushed her lips open and delved in, his own desire evident in the way he kissed. His arms went around her. She had a euphoric feeling of safety in those arms and let herself go for a moment. It had been so long since someone touched her.
He either knew she was desperate for his touch or couldn’t help himself because his kiss became so deep Annie couldn’t think. Soft bites nipped her lower lip and she could feel his warm breath inside her mouth. With eyes closed and her head flung back, he trailed tiny kisses down her chin and neck. She needed, oh, my, she needed to stop.
This couldn’t go on much longer, she couldn’t lose her grip on reality but he seemed determined to shake her to the very deepest part of her soul. “Stop,” she whispered.
“I can’t. I’ve been dreaming of this forever,” he told her, his voice husky, breaking up as if he were desperate for one more taste.
“I’m not alone.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I’m afraid not,” Annie said, determined to get away before getting sucked in too deep. He said he was here to rescue her, but the only thing her brother wanted was her dead. If he sent this man who worked for him, she had no choice but to save herself. Because she was all alone, almost. She reached in to the hidden pockets along the side of her white dress. She pulled the hard, cold steel from a deep pocket. “Mr. Colt is here with me.”
She cocked the gun and opened her eyes, resting the tip against his side. His blue orbs widened in surprise. “Then, if you insist on pushing me, Mr. Glock has arrived to accompany him.” She pulled a second piece of steel from the other pocket, placing it on his opposite side. “Now, back away,” she ordered.
He stood frozen as if trying to determine if she would really shoot. She tilted her head. “I wouldn’t even think about trying to take these away,” she smiled. “I’ve had nothing to do but practice here for a year and a half.”
His arms dropped away as he stepped back and the emptiness felt odd. Hands slid in to the pockets of his jeans. He cocked his head and stared at her. “Annie. You can point those guns at me all you want but it won’t matter. I came to help you.”
“What, to help me die?” she accused. “You work for my brother. He’s wanted me dead ever since Father left everything to me. He told me he would find a way to get rid of me. He’s ruthless. I saw what he did to that man.” She backed away, her bare feet prepared to run for her life.
“How do you know I work for him?”
“I’m not an idiot, I was there when he hired you. Right before I found a way to escape before he did to me what he did to that poor innocent man. He knows I saw him, that’s another reason he wants me dead. I can identify everything. How did you find me?”
“It’s my job to find you.”
“Why did you kiss me like that? To soften me up so you could destroy me with your bare hands?”
He laughed, the deep rumble shaking his chest a bit. “That’s a bit dramatic, Annie.” His voice became serious. “I know what I’d do with my bare hands if I could touch you again.”
She shivered. This was too messed up. She wanted to fall in to his arms, the pull was so strong and yet she couldn’t, afraid it was all a ploy. She’d done good the last year and a half to stay hidden from her brother. Now the tables turned and she’d have to find another way. She figured it would come to this someday, but never expected it so soon, or via a man she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about since the moment she laid eyes on him. “You won’t get another chance,” she said. She toook a few more steps back. “Don’t follow me. If you do, Mr. Winchester is also here, he’d love to take a shot at you!”
With those words she turned and ran, the revolvers clutched in her hands. She flew through the mangroves, her steps pounding the ground she walked every single day, desperate to get to the door of the houseboat. At least there she could pull herself together, think straight, because around him she became a puddle of mess.
“Annie, please. Don’t make this hard. I’ll be up there waiting for you. I promise not to hurt you.”
She didn’t turn around, didn’t acknowledge whether she heard the words. Her chest heaved by the time she got to the boat and she threw open the screen door and dived into the comfort of the place she called home. Slamming the door shut, she pushed the locks in place knowing he could get in if he wanted to.
She needed a new plan. Jesse Storm was here and she didn’t know if he was here to save her or kill her.