Oceans of Fire (Drake Sisters Series #3)by Christine Feehan
The third daughter of seven in a magical bloodline, Abigail Drake was born with an affinity for water and a strong bond with dolphins. After she witnesses a murder, she flees right into the arms of Alexsandr Volstov. On the trail of stolen Russian antiquities, he's a relentless Interpol agent—and the man who once broke Abby's heart. But he isn't going to let… See more details below
The third daughter of seven in a magical bloodline, Abigail Drake was born with an affinity for water and a strong bond with dolphins. After she witnesses a murder, she flees right into the arms of Alexsandr Volstov. On the trail of stolen Russian antiquities, he's a relentless Interpol agent—and the man who once broke Abby's heart. But he isn't going to let the only woman he's ever loved slip away again.
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Oceans of Fire
By Christine Feehan
Jove BooksISBN: 0-515-13953-X
Chapter OneBright colors; orange, pink and red streaked across the sky, turning the ocean into a living flame as the sun set low over the sea. Twenty feet below the surface of the water, Abigail Drake stilled, mesmerized by the sudden, rare beauty of fire pouring into the sea like molten lava.
The dolphins swimming in lazy circles around her took on a completely different appearance as the bands of orange shimmered through the water casting shadows everywhere. She was suddenly, acutely aware of night falling and that just a few feet away murky darkness could so easily hide danger. She knew better than to dive alone. It was one of the stupidest things she'd ever done, but she hadn't been able to resist when the day had been so perfect and she'd spotted the wild dolphins and knew they'd come looking for her.
Sea Haven on the northern California coast was her hometown. Abigail was one of seven sisters born to the seventh daughter of the magical Drake family, each gifted with unique talents. The Drake sisters were well known in Sea Haven, protected, cherished even, and it was the one place they could relax and be themselves. Except Abigail. Only here, in the sea, was she truly at peace.
The northern California coast was also home to several species of dolphin and she knew most of them, not only by sight, but also by their signature whistles. A signature whistle was as good as a name and most researchers agreed that dolphins used each other's name when communicating. This particular group of dolphins had a signature whistle for Abigail and she'd heard them calling to her as she stood on the captain's walk of her family home. She'd been away for months researching in other oceans far away, yet when she returned, the dolphins welcomed her home just like always.
A few years earlier she'd worked with this particular group of dolphins while earning her PHD, cataloguing them, each contact, every sighting, paying special attention to communication. She was intrigued by their language and wanted to be able to understand them. She'd worked with two of the males on understanding some sign language. Over the years, each time she came home, she visited with them, maintaining a relationship. Although none of her sisters had been available to dive with her, the call of 'her' dolphins had been irresistible and she'd taken out her boat to join them.
Federal law required a special permit to swim with wild dolphins in the United States and Abigail had been fortunate enough to be granted permission for her research off the California coast a second time, but she was careful to keep a low profile, not wanting to draw attention to the presence of the dolphins. They could travel fifty miles easily and were difficult to track on a daily basis, but this group, as well as many others, often called to her using the same whistle. It was very unusual to have the dolphins identify her and give her a name and she was particularly pleased that they knew she was back after her long absence.
Abigail rolled over and swam belly to belly with Kiwi, a large adult male who had formed a tight bond with Boscoe, another male. The two males normally swam in synchronization, their movements an astonishing underwater ballet. Boscoe curved his body in the exact motion at precisely the same time as Kiwi and swam close to Abigail as the three of them made a lazy loop together while several other dolphins danced in a long curving circle as if they had choreographed every move ahead of time.
Dancing with dolphins was exhilarating. Abigail studied, photographed and recorded dolphins, but tonight she was simply enjoying them. Her equipment, always with her, was nearly forgotten as they performed the strange, intriguing ballet for the next forty minutes. At first the red of the sinking sun spotlighted them in a fiery gold, but as dusk fell and the night darkened, it was much too difficult to continue as much as she wanted to stay.
Reluctantly, Abigail pointed to the surface and shifted position to begin her ascent. The dolphins swam around her in loose circles, their bodies flexible, unimpeded by their heavy muscles and enormous strength. It was surprising how the dolphins could rocket through the water, diving as deep as they did and using so little oxygen. Abigail found them fascinating.
She surfaced, pushing her mask on top of her head and lying back to float as she stared up at the big round ball in the sky. Her soft laughter echoed across the water. Waves lapped at her body and splashed over her face. She allowed her legs to gently sink so she could tread water as she stared in awe at the white caps, turned into sparkling jewels by the brilliance of the full moon.
Beside her, a bottlenose dolphin surfaced, circling her in a graceful loop. The dolphin shook its head from side to side, emitting a series of squeaks and clicks. She struck out for her boat, a lazy crawl, whistling to the dolphins in a short, chirpy goodbye she always used.
It took only a few minutes to stow her camera and recorder before climbing in. Shivering, she again glanced at her watch. Her sisters would be very worried and she was in for a lecture she knew she deserved. The dolphins poked their heads out of the water, grinning at her, round black eyes shining with intelligence.
"I'm going to get in big trouble thanks to you two," she told the males.
They shook their heads at her in perfect synchronization and dove together, disappearing beneath the surface only to come up on the other side of her boat, whistling and squawking at her. Abigail shook her head just as firmly. "No! It's dark or it would be if the moon weren't so full. You two are really trying to get me one of Sarah's lectures. When she starts, the rest of us cringe."
While she had everything fresh in her mind, she sank down onto the cushioned seat and hastily scribbled notes on her observations. She recorded everything to look at later, but she always dictated while she was driving the boat after first jotting down details of sightings and any identifying marks of new dolphins in the area. It was important to her study to get DNA samples to test for pesticides and any other manmade toxins in the dolphins systems as well as for communicable diseases and of course, family ties.
Boscoe whistled, a distinct note that made her smile. Abigail leaned over the side of the boat. "Thanks for giving me a name, boys, but it isn't enough to make me risk a Sarah lecture. I'll see you tomorrow if you haven't taken off."
She'd let the time get away from her so that darkness had really fallen as she wrote out her notes. She was still a good distance from home and she heaved a sigh, knowing she wouldn't get away unscathed this time. Sarah, her oldest sister, was certain to be waiting, tapping her foot, hands on hips. The image made her smile.
The moon spilled brightly onto the water, forming mystical fantasy pools of liquid silver on the surface. Small white caps glistened across the sea as far as she could see, adding to the beauty. She turned her face up to feel the slight breeze as she started the engine and began to make her way back to the small harbor where she kept her boat. She'd gone several miles out to sea to join the dolphins and she was grateful for the moon as she picked up speed to reach the coastline. Boscoe and Kiwi raced along beside her, zooming through the water like rockets and leaping playfully.
"Showoffs," she called, laughing. Their acrobatics delighted her and they followed her right through the narrows beneath the bridge into the harbor.
Without warning, the two male dolphins raced directly in front of her boat, criss-crossing so close she throttled down, shocked by their behavior and terrified for them. They continued to repeat the maneuver, over and over until she had no choice but to halt her boat just inside the harbor, the wharf in sight.
"Kiwi! Boscoe! What are you doing? You're going to get hurt!" Abigail's heart leapt to her throat. The dolphins often rode the bow of the boat, leaping and performing in the current, but they never repeatedly crossed so close in front of the boat. The large males kept surfacing, side by side, standing on their tails and chattering at her. She had no recourse but to stop the engine completely and drift in the sea to keep them from injury. Here, the swells were larger, so that the boat was tossed a bit by the heavier waves at the mouth of the harbor.
The moment the engine was quiet, Kiwi and Boscoe returned to the side of the boat, spitting water at her from the side of their mouths and shaking theirs head vigorously as if to tell her something. Several other dolphins poked their heads out of the water, spy-hopping as they looked toward the wharf. She knew spy-hopping was a common practice dolphins and whales used to view the world outside of their water environment by simply sticking their heads high in the air above of the surface. They seemed to be looking for something outside the water.
Abigail sat still for a moment, baffled by their unusual behavior. She'd never seen either male dolphin act in such a way. They were highly agitated. Dolphins were enormously strong and fast and could be dangerous and bottlenose males sometimes formed coalitions with other males and herded a lone female until they captured her. Surely they weren't doing such a thing with her? Had they formed a coalition with the rest of the male groups to keep her from the harbor?
She glanced from them to shore. The moon spilled light across the dark waters and the wooden boards that ran out over the water. Buildings rose up, two restaurants with glass facing the sea, illuminated by the moonlight, but the businesses were closed and the harbor was devoid of the bustle of activity that took place during the day.
Her boat rose with the waves and slid deeper into the calmer waters of the harbor itself. Sounds drifted across the bay, voices, muted at first then rising as if in anger. Abigail immediately scooped up her binoculars and focused her attention on the wharf. A party fishing boat was tied up as usual beside the restaurant. Just beyond the wharf was a second pier in front of a metal business building. A fishing boat was moored there, which was highly unusual. The fishing boats used the other side of the harbor and she'd never seen one tied up close to the businesses.
A small speedboat, a Zodiac, engine humming softly, was moored beside the fishing boat. She could make out at least three men in the speedboat. One, wearing a plaid shirt had his arm extended and looking closely she suddenly feared he held a gun. A second man stood up. The action put him directly in the moonlight. It spilled across him revealing his salt and pepper hair, navy shirt and the gun in his hand. Both guns were pointed at a third man who was sitting.
White tendrils of fog had begun to float from the sea toward shore, forming ghostly fingers, obscuring her vision even as her boat drifted closer to the wharf. She blew softly into the air, raised her arms slightly to bring the wind. It rushed past her, taking the streamers of gray mist with it, clearing the way across the expanse of water.
Someone spoke harshly in what sounded to her like Russian. The man sitting replied in English, but the ocean boomed against the pier as her boat drifted even closer and she couldn't hear the words. Abigail held her breath as the sitting man launched himself at the one in the plaid shirt. The man in the navy shirt picked up a lifejacket, held it over the muzzle of the gun and pressed it against the back of the victim's head as he struggled desperately for possession of the other gun.
"Shoot him now, Chernyshev! Shoot him now!" The voice carried clearly, thick with a Russian accent.
She heard the muffled explosion, a pop, pop, pop that Abigail knew would forever haunt her. The victim's body slowly crumbled and fell to the bottom of the boat. The fishing boat next to the pier moved slightly and both men turned their heads, one shouting an order.
Gasping, she realized the distinctively marked fishing boat was one she recognized. Gene Dockins and three of his sons ran a fishing business out of Noyo Harbor. The family lived in Sea Haven and was well liked. To her horror she saw Gene slowly rise from where he'd been crouching in the bottom of his boat. His hands were raised in surrender. He was a large bear of a man with wide, stooped shoulders and a shock of gray hair that fell to his ears in a shaggy bowl, wild and untamed like the sea going man he was.
Her breath caught in her throat and her heart began to pound. The man gestured with his gun for Gene to climb out of his boat. The fisherman went to the ladder, paused and dove into the sea just as the guns went off. Abigail knew by the way his body jerked as he fell, that Gene was hit, but she could see his arms move as he hit the water and went under. He was definitely still alive. The other two men cursed and began shooting into the darkened waters, guns spitting through lifejackets in an attempt to muffle the sound.
Abigail gave Boscoe's signature whistle, throwing her arm forward in a command, hoping the dolphin would obey. Though she only had a small ability for telepathy with her sisters, she had a much stronger connection to the dolphins and they often either understood, or anticipated what she wanted. Boscoe took off like a rocket, heading for the pier instantly and erupting with several squeaks and whistles that were clearly signals to the other dolphins in the pod.
As she reached for her radio to call for help, the two men in the speedboat spotted her. At once the man with the salt and pepper hair turned and brought up his arms in a two handed stance. Abigail's blood froze with sudden fear. Other than the sharp diver's knife attached to her belt and the long punch stick, a device of her own making she carried to ward off sharks in the event they attacked her during a dive, she had no weapons. No real way to protect herself. Bullets hissed into the water and thunked into the side of her boat. Snatching up the punch stick, she dove. Something hot sliced across her back and shoulder just as she hit the water. Salt stung adding to the burning pain, but then she went numb with the combination of adrenaline and the icy blast of the ocean.
She came up gasping, worried about more than just the pair of gun-wielding murderers. Ordinarily only sand and a few leopard sharks inhabited the harbor. The fishermen were meticulous about keeping any fish remains from the harbor waters, but several more dangerous species of sharks inhabited the waters along the coastline, preferring the shallow channels. The area was known to have great whites as there was a seal rookery close. With both she and Gene bleeding in the harbor's water she knew she had to get to safety as soon as possible. She faced away from the harbor, toward the cliffs of Sea Haven, lifting both arms up and out of the water, still clutching the punch stick in her hand as she called the wind and sent it across the ocean in a message to her sisters.
The speedboat was bearing down on her fast, both men firing at her. Bullets zipped through the water, one cut through the air so close to her ear she heard it as it whistled past and penetrated the water behind her. She dove again, kicking her legs up to get a faster push toward the deeper water, her heart pounding as the boat came up on her, the propeller cutting dangerously close.
She had to hurry, had to get to Gene. Boscoe, if he were holding Gene to the surface, would be vulnerable to attack from sharks, should any be drawn into the harbor. The dolphin couldn't hold the bleeding fisherman up for long if sharks became aggressive. Looking up through the motion of the water, she could see the two men peering over the edge of their now stationary boat, trying to get a shot at her. She moved carefully, knowing she had to come up for air and attack all at once. Kiwi brushed close to her in reassurance, and took off to the opposite side, drawing the attention of the two men by suddenly leaping out of the water almost in the face of the man with the plaid shirt on.
Kiwi signaled with a series of clicks as he leapt and Abigail lunged out of the water on the opposite side of the boat. Chernyshev's gun was tracking the dolphin as his partner fell back in alarm. Chernyshev fired off a round just as Abigail slammed the end of the punch stick against his calf and triggered it. He screamed as the blow was delivered with tremendous force, the sound muting as she disappeared back beneath the water.
Excerpted from Oceans of Fire by Christine Feehan Excerpted by permission.
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