THE SCENT OF SALT CUTSthrough the air and, beneath me, the small white boat rises and falls with the ocean swell. The island is at my back, but though I could probably swim the distance between its shores and the boat, it might as well be another world away.
“Oh, you’re not going back to the resort.”
The male voice that has chased me through my nightmares for months is swiftly joined by a body as my stepfather—Detective Don Bowen—climbs out of the cabin.
“No!” I gasp.
I’m shaking hard, though that could be from either fear or the chill that’s setting in. My clothes are damp from a combination of sweat and the misting rain. My boots and the lower part of my legs are soaking from wading through the shallows.
It’s almost dark now, but I can clearly make out my stepfather’s face by the lights of the boat.
I guess it’s because of the time I spent with Wilder and Rafferty—both of whom are well into their thirties—that my stepfather suddenly doesn’t seem so old to me anymore. The gulf of the years between us melts away, and, suddenly, I understand what my mother saw in him. His eyes are neither brown nor green, but a combination of both—brown at the center with emerald flecks at the edges. His hair is almost black, oiled like a raven’s wing, with just a few sprays of white at the temples. His full lips are curled in a snarl. The lines around the corners of his eyes add to his maturity—a man aging like fine wine.
Had she been so blinded by his looks that she’d missed what a creepy son of a bitch he is? I imagine how his colleagues must treat him down at the station—hero worshiping him, the men wanting to be him, the women wanting to fuck him. It suddenly occurs to me that it’s highly unlikely he was even faithful to my mother during their relationship. I’m not just thinking that because of how he looks. Men like him take what they want without caring how it might hurt someone else. There’s a word for it—narcissistic.
I take a step back, only to collide with the solid body of Edwardo, the man I’d thought worked for the resort, but I’m now assuming works for someone else entirely. He might not understand what’s happening here or who he’s working with, though, so there’s a possibility he could be an ally.
I spin around to face him. “Please,” I beg. “Take me back to shore.”
Edwardo shakes his head. “No can do, miss.”
“He’s going to kidnap me. He might even kill me. Please, I need your help.”
Don’s voice sounds from over my shoulder. “Edwardo has been informed of your part in all this. You won’t be getting away this time.”
I turn back to him. “What are you talking about?”
“You’ll face the charges brought against you. No more running.”
My jaw drops. “Charges? What charges?”
“Don’t play the innocent with me. You’re wasting your breath. You’ve been charged with multiple counts of possession of cocaine with intent to supply. Skipping your court hearing and going on the run wasn’t a sensible thing to do. You should have known we’d track you down in the end.”
It occurs to me that Edwardo might also be a cop, and that he’s been lied to about what they’re doing here.
“I’m not a drug pusher. I’ve never even tried drugs!”
I might have had a couple of tokes on a joint at a party, but it doesn’t feel as though that counts right now.
I go back to begging for help from Edwardo. “Don is my stepfather. That’s why he’s here. He’s the one who should be arrested! He killed my mother.”
Don tuts and shakes his head. “See what those drugs have done to her? They’ve messed with her head. She has no idea what she’s saying.”
Tears fill my eyes. “I’m not on drugs. I know exactly what I’m saying.”
Don reaches behind him and produces a set of handcuffs. If he gets those things on me, it’s game over.
Desperately, I look back to shore. Though the boat hasn’t moved in the short time that I’ve been on it, land suddenly feels a frighteningly long way away. It’s almost dark, too. I pray that I’m going to spot Wilder or Rafferty, or Asher, or hell, even Brody, somewhere on the beach or through the trees above, but the place remains empty.
They’ll have noticed I’m missing by now and will be searching for me. I’m sure of it. Maybe they’ll see or hear the boat and realize what’s happened and will come after me. Thank God they at least know about Don. I’d be completely screwed if they hadn’t found out about him. At least now, there’s the chance of them finding me again.
If that’s what they want.