When Tessa Diamond rescues a baby pufferfish and takes it to Mote Marine Laboratory for help, her good deed lands her in a shady world of murder, smuggling, Russian gangsters, and coded messages. While coping with sea turtles, sturgeon, stolen parrots, and even feral pigs, she encounters blossoming romances at every turn, including two of her own.
Torn between Cameron Mason, tiger-eyed and handsome, and Dugan Trevally, sexy and dangerous, she must first face the possibility that one of them could be a thief, and even a murderer.
Excerpt (G): We Meet Cameron
“Excuse me, do you work here?”
Tessa jumped. “What the—”
A man stood next to her. His trim body and broad shoulders encased in a finely-made dark suit hinted at strength. He wore a nametag, but the writing was too small for her to decipher without getting up close and personal with his chest. Once her eyes traveled up to his face, though, she wanted to. Very badly. Talk about hot.
He reminded her of a dream she’d had a few weeks earlier, in which a stranger held her in his arms and crooned a love song. Here in the flesh was her stranger. Dark blond hair feathered with gold, the mysterious tawny eyes of a stalking tiger, gently tanned skin drawn taut over the arched cheekbones, a nose…well, the nose could use some work. It tilted at an odd angle, presumably due to a collision with a blunt instrument sometime in the past. Tessa found it endearing.
“I repeat, do you work here?”
“I…uh…no. I don’t.” She indicated the nametag. “Do you?”
“Technically yes, only not in this building. I’m hoping you can tell me which door I use to get out. I mean, now that the aquarium’s closed.”
“It is? Oh damn.” She checked her watch. Ten minutes after five. “I guess we’d both better leave.”
Together they made a circuit of the doors, finding them all locked. Finally, the door to the gift shop gave to the combined pressure of four hands. Feeling like mischievous children, they crept past the ancient man counting money from the cash register. At the main entrance, her companion grinned at her. “Shall we make a break for it?”
Tessa smiled back and legged it out to the parking lot. She was rooting around in her bag for her keys when he caught up with her. “Hey, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Well, catch your breath first.” She waited, thinking he didn’t seem in very good shape despite his physique. Good. Otherwise he might have been too perfect. She didn’t want any complications in her life right now.
“Sorry,” he puffed. “I guess I haven’t entirely recovered from that bout with pneumonia.”
“So, are you going to tell me your name? After all, we’re partners in crime now.”
“Tessa Diamond. And you are?”
“Cameron Mason. At your service.”
“Nice meeting you.” Tessa turned to her car. He cupped her elbow with a big, warm hand.
“Say, Ms. Diamond, can I interest you in a drink?”
“I don’t think...”
“You see, I was supposed to meet with the Lab director at five and he called in sick. Since I live up in Bradenton I really don’t want to schlep all the way back during rush hour. It would be nice to while away some time.” His lips curled in a tentative smile and she knew she’d have to give in. “You’d be doing me a favor. How does Tommy Bahama sound?”
Tessa gazed deep into eyes in which greens and browns intermingled in a steamy rainforest of color. She woke up with a start when he touched her elbow again. “Miss Diamond?”
“Uh, sure. That would be fine.” Can you act any lamer, Tessa? But those eyes…
“My car or yours?”
“Er, why don’t I follow you?” She should at least make an attempt at keeping her distance. Anything to get away from that scent of his, a combination of dark rum and cinnamon. Very…tasty.
“Okay. I’m the tropical blue hybrid over there. The one sporting the I Love Caviar bumper sticker.”
“And I’m…” she stopped.
“The red Porsche. I know.”
Shut up, Tessa.