Excerpt from Chapter 1
If Erica Peck were a gambler, she would've bet good money that nothing could ever get her in the waters of the North Atlantic again.
The snub-nosed .38 special now trained on her would have lost her that bet.
"Come on, Joey. I can't go in the water." Can't, not won't. Huge difference.
"You can and you will, Erica. I need those diamonds. We've been through this. Alive or dead, it's your choice." Joey Camparo waved the gun like an effeminate decorator describing his "vision." His new designer clothing screamed of too many subscriptions to men's magazines and a high-priced personal tailornone of which he'd had when they were dating.
She would have thought he'd pick a bigger gun, though.
"Go get it." The gun stopped circling, aimed dead-on at her heart. The late afternoon sun glinted off the metal like a beacon.
How could he do this to her? He couldn't be mad over their breakuphe was the one who'd cheated. She hadn't even kept the ring, so he couldn't want revenge. He knew what he was asking. Which meant there was a lot more going on than she knew. The sweat on his upper lip confirmed it. Joey never sweated.
"In." The gun circled again. Tighter.
She didn't have a choice. You can do this, Erica. She pushed the mind-numbing fear aside, lowered herself to the swim deck, pulled her scuba mask in place, and slithered into the cold waters of the thirty-ninth latitude.
Adjusting the regulator in her mouth, Erica took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and lowered her head.
Taking a bullet might be easier.
As the ocean closed over her, blocking out any sound but her breathing, Erica fought the panic and opened her eyes, pulling herself down the dive line. It was only seventy-five feet to the artificial reef. Tons of divers visited this site. She, herself, had been here years ago with her brothers.
Now she was here all alone.
Except for the slimy monster on the deck above.
What had Joey gotten himself into? And why drag her into it?
Her life's air bubbling in front of her, frothing the water as it enfolded her in its claustrophobic embrace, Erica took another deep breath. It didn't help. She repositioned the mask, fiddled with the regulator, and tried to enjoy the scenery, but images from Jaws kept thrusting their way to the front of her brain.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. She'd try any mantra to get through this.
The line slid through her hands as she lowered herself into the depths. Okay, maybe seventy-five feet wasn't "the depths" to regular divers, but she'd never been alone this deep. Hell, she never went in ocean water higher than her knees anymore. The wet suit insulated her from the drop in temperature, but nothing could disguise the fact that the sunlight dimmed with each foot she descended. Black sea bass zipped past, the thin orange striping on their snouts flickering in the flash of her dive light. A lion's mane jellyfish drifted off the far edge of the reef. Great. The world's largest jellyfishrarely seen at this latitudepicked today to take a vacation. Perfect.
Just beyond flipper-reach was what was left of the SS Minnow, an old lobster boat sunk by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department for an artificial reef. It shouldn't be hard to find Joey's diamonds then get herself the hell out of here. She could do this. She had to do this.
As her fins fluttered near the wreck, scamp and porgies swam above the barnacles and mussels claiming it. Sea stars and white star coral covered the hull. A lobster disappeared inside a hole when she got too close.
This should be beautiful. It should give her a sense of awe. Instead, it almost paralyzed her. Ever since The Incident, it was never safe to go back in the water, no matter the incentive, but Joey's gun made it the safer option.
She examined every possible crevice, although she drew the line at poking into any place she couldn't see. Pinching crustaceans liked little hidey-holes and her fingers did not. The mollusk colony snapped shut as she passed, colorful anemones hid their vulnerable parts, and crabs scuttled out of her way. But after twenty-five minutes, her search yielded no diamonds.
Air tank at the return point, Erica turned toward the dive line. Joey was going to be pissed. Well, he shouldn't have put the diamonds in Grampa's urn. It wasn't as if he didn't know her grandfather's last wishes; he'd been there when the will was read. Of course, he'd also known her fear of the ocean. Probably figured it was a safe bet that Grampa's ashes would never make it to the dive site.
This wasn't the first time Joey had underestimated her. That had been when he'd thought he could schmooze his cheating ass out of a broken engagement with gifts and roses and phone calls.
Her brothers had known what he was. They'd tried to tell her, but she'd defended Joey every time. She'd wanted to find someone whose life's work wasn't tied to the sea, so when Mr. National Account Manager had rented a slip at their marina and swept her off her feet, she hadn't put up a fuss.
And now he'd betrayed her yet again.
As she reached fifteen feet, dozens of reddish-brown cunners swam by, sparkling blue and olive green where they crossed the stream of sunlight cutting into the water. She paused to rid her body of nitrogen buildup. She didn't need to add the bends to today's list of fun adventures.
More sea bass and blackfish followed, schooling around her, an occasional bump here and there. She flinchedyeah, yeah, they weren't man-eaters, but man-eaters ate them, right?
God, she was pathetic. Twenty-eight years in this neck of the ocean, and she still couldn't put the terror of open water behind her. No wonder her brothers patted her affectionately on the head any time she argued she could run the marina as well as they could. Not that she'd wanted to, but that she could.