The Islandby Heather Graham, Joyce Bean
On a weekend vacation with her brother and niece, Beth Anderson is unnerved when a stroll on the beach reveals what appears to be a skull, and instantly recalls the retired couple who disappeared off the island’s coast a few months earlier. As a stranger approaches, Beth panics and covers the evidence. But when she later returns to the beach, the skull is… See more details below
On a weekend vacation with her brother and niece, Beth Anderson is unnerved when a stroll on the beach reveals what appears to be a skull, and instantly recalls the retired couple who disappeared off the island’s coast a few months earlier. As a stranger approaches, Beth panics and covers the evidence. But when she later returns to the beach, the skull is gone.
With only her niece as a witness, there is no proof of foul play for Beth to bring to the authorities. To her brother, the missing skull is just a good story to tell at an island bonfire and campout that night. The tale is heard by an eager group of vacationers - including charismatic Keith Henson, the stranger from the beach. Everyone dismisses the events as the product of an overactive imagination, but when Beth hears someone outside her tent, she instinctively knows her fears are justified.
Determined to find solid evidence to bring to the police, Beth digs deeper into the mystery of the skull - and everywhere she goes, Keith Henson seems to appear. He claims to be keeping an eye on her safety, but Beth senses other motives. Then a body washes ashore, and Beth begins to think she needs more help than she bargained for. Because investigating is a dangerous game, and someone wants to stop Beth from playing.
- Brilliance Audio
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Read an Excerpt
IT WAS A SKULL.
That much Beth Anderson knew after two seconds of dusting off bits of dirt and grass and fallen palm debris.
"Well?" Amber demanded.
"What is it?" Kimberly asked, standing right behind Amber, anxiously trying to look over her shoulder.
Beth glanced up briefly at her fourteen-year-old niece and her niece's best friend. Until just seconds ago, the two had been talking a mile a minute, as they always did, agreeing that their friend Tammy was a bitch, being far too cruel to her best friend, Aubrey, who in turn came to Amber and Kimberly for friendship every time she was being dissed by Tammy. They weren't dissing anyone themselves, they had assured Beth, because they weren't saying anything they wouldn't say straight to Tammy's face.
Beth loved the girls, loved being with them, and was touched to be the next best thing to a mother for Amber, who had lost her own as an infant. She was accustomed to listening to endless discussions on the hottest music, the hottest new shows and the hottest new moviesand who did and didn't deserve to be in them, since the girls were both students at a magnet school for drama.
The main topic on their hot list had recently become boys. On that subject, they could truly talk endlessly.
But now their continual chatter had come to a dead stop.
Kimberly had been the one to stub her toe on the unknown object.
Amber had been the one to stoop down to look, then demand that her aunt come over.
"Well?" Kim prodded. "Dig it up, Beth."
"Um, I don't think I should," Beth said, biting her lower lip.
It wasn't just a skull. She couldn't see it clearly, there was so much dirt and debris, but despite the fact that it was half hidden by tangled grasses and the sandy ground, she could see more than bone.
There was still hair, Beth thought, her stomach churning.
And even tissue.
She didn't want the girls seeing what they had discov-ered any more closely.
Beth felt as if the blood in her veins had suddenly turned to ice. She didn't touch the skull; she carefully laid a palm frond over it, so she would recognize the spot when she returned to it. She wasn't about to dig anything up with the girls here.
She dusted her hands and stood quickly, determined that they had to get back to her brother; who was busy setting up their campsite. They were going to have to radio the police, since cell phones didn't seem to work out here.
A feeling of deep unease was beginning to ooze along her spine as vague recollections of a haunting news story flashed into her mind: Molly and Ted Monoco, expert sailors, had seemed to vanish into thin air.
The last place they'd actually been seen was Calliope Key, right where they were now.
"Let's go get Ben," she suggested, trying not to sound as upset as she felt.
"It's a skull, isn't it?" Amber demanded.
She was a beautiful girl, tall and slender, with huge hazel eyes and long dark hair. The way she looked in a bathing suita two-piece, but hardly a risqué bikiniwas enough to draw the attention of boys who were much too old for her, at least in Beth's opinion. Kimberly was the opposite of Amber, a petite blonde with bright blue eyes, pretty as a picture.
Sometimes the fact that she was in charge of two such attractive and impressionable girls seemed daunting. She knew she tended to be a worrywart, but the idea of any harm coming to the girls was,
Okay! She was the adult here. In charge. And it was time to do something about that.
But they were practically alone on an island with no phones, no cars, not a single luxury. A popular destina-tion for the local boat crowd, but distant and desolate.
It was two to three hours back to Miami with the engine running, though Fort Lauderdale was closer, and it was hardly an hour to a few of the Bahamian islands.
She inhaled and exhaled. Slowly.
The human mind was amazing. Moments ago she had been delighted by the very remoteness of the island, pleased that there weren't any refreshment stands, auto-mobiles or modern appliances of any kind.
But now, "Might be a skull," Beth admitted, and she forced a grin, lifting her hands. "And might not be," she lied. "Your dad isn't going to be happy about this, Amber, when he's been planning this vacation for so long, but"
She broke off. She hadn't heard the sound of footsteps or even the rustle of foliage, but as she spoke, a man appeared.
He had emerged from an overgrown trail through one of the thick hummocks of pines and palms that grew so profusely on the island.
It was that elemental landscape that brought real boat people here, the lack of all the things that came with the real world.
So why did his arrival feel so threatening?
Trying to be rational with herself, she decided that he looked just right for the type of person who should be here. He had sandy hair and was deeply tanned. No, not just tanned but bronzed, with the kind of dyed-in-deep coloring that true boat people frequently seemed to acquire. He was in good shape, but not heavily muscled. He was in well-worn denim cutoffs, and his feet were clad in deck shoes, have spent plenty of time barefoot.
Like a guy who belonged on a boat, cruising the out islands. One who knew what he was doing. One who would camp where there were no amenities.
He also wore shades.
Anyone would, she told herself. She had on sun-glasses, as did the girls. So why did his seem suspicious, dark and secretive.
She needed to be reasonable, she told herself. She was only feeling this sudden wariness because she had just found a skull, and instinctive panic was setting in. It was odd how the psyche worked. Any other time, if she had run into someone else on the island, she would have been friendly.
But she had just found a skull, and he reminded her of the unknown fate of Ted and Molly Monoco, who had been here, and then,
Sailed into the sunset?
An old friend had reported them missing when they hadn't radioed in, as they usually did.
And she had just found a skull at their last known location.
So she froze, just staring at the man.
Amber, at fourteen, hadn't yet begun to think of personal danger in the current situation. Her father was a boat person, so she was accustomed to other boat people, and she was friendly when she met them. She wasn't stupid or naive, and she had been taught street smartsshe went to school in downtown Miami, for one thing. She could be careful when she knew she should.
Apparently that didn't seem to be now.
Amber smiled at the stranger and said, "Hi." "Hi," he returned. "Hi," Kim said.
Amber nudged Beth. "Umhi." "Keith Henson," the man said, and though she couldn't see his eyes, his shades were directed toward her. His face had good solid lines. Strong chin, high-set cheekbones. The voice was rich and deep.
He should have been doing voice-overs for commer-cials or modeling.
Hey, she mocked herself. Maybe that was what he did do.
"I'm Amber Anderson," her niece volunteered. "This is Kim Smith, and that's my aunt Beth." She was obviously intrigued and went on to say, "We're camping here."
"Maybe," Beth said quickly.
Amber frowned. "Oh, come on! Just because"
"How do you do, Mr. Henson," Beth said, cutting off her niece's words. She stepped forward quickly, away from their find. "Nice to meet you. Down here on vacation? Where are you from?"
Oh, good, that was casual. A complete third degree in ten seconds or less.
"Recent transplant, actually a bit of a roamer," he told her, smiling, offering her his hand. It was a fine hand. Long fingered, as bronzed as the rest of him, nails clipped and clean. Palm callused. He used his hands for work. He was a real sailor, definitely, or did some other kind of manual labor.
She had the most bizarre thought that when she accepted his handshake, he would wrench her forward, and then his fingers would wind around her neck. The fear became so palpable that she almost screamed aloud to the girls to run.
He took her hand briefly in a firm but not too powerful grip, then released it. "Amber, Kim," he said, and shook their hands as he spoke.
"So are you folks are from the area?" he asked, and looked at the girls, smiling.Apparently he'd already written Beth off as a total flake.
She slipped between the two girls, feeling her bulldog attitude coming on and setting an arm around each girl's shoulders.
"Yep!" Amber said.
"Well, kind of," Kim said.
"I mean, we're not from the island we're standing on, but nearby," Amber said.
Henson's smile deepened.
Beth tried to breathe normally and told herself that she was watching far too many forensics shows on television. There was no reason to believe she had to protect the girls from this man.
But no reason to trust him on sight, either. "Are you planning on camping on the island?" Beth asked. He waved a hand toward the sea. "I'm not sure yet. I'm with some friends, we're doing some diving, some fishing. We haven't decided whether we're in a camping mood or not."
"Where are your friends?" Beth asked. A little sharply? she wondered. So much for being casual, able to easily escape a bad situation, if it should prove to be one.
"At the moment I'm on my own."
"I didn't see your dinghy," Beth said. "In fact, I didn't even notice another boat in the area."
"It's there," he said, "the Sea Serpent." He cocked his head wryly. "My friend, Lee, who owns her, likes to think of himself as the brave, adventurous type. Did you sail out here on your own?"
It might have been an innocent question, but not to Beth. Not at this moment.
Meet the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than one hundred novels, many of which have been featured by the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. An avid scuba diver, ballroom dancer and mother of five, she still enjoys her south Florida home, but loves to travel as well, from locations such as Cairo, Egypt, to her own backyard, the Florida Keys. Reading, however, is the pastime she still loves best, and she is a member of many writing groups. She’s currently the vice president of the Horror Writers’ Association, and she’s also an active member of International Thriller Writers. She is very proud to be a Killerette in the Killer Thriller Band, along with many fellow novelists she greatly admires.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >