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Now Kate must race against time to guide the prisoners through the swamp and save her children from the tidal wave. She can't afford to be distracted by Shane Warren, the powerful convict who claims to be helping...
Now Kate must race against time to guide the prisoners through the swamp and save her children from the tidal wave. She can't afford to be distracted by Shane Warren, the powerful convict who claims to be helping her, even as he keeps her from escaping. But Kate does have one advantage: there's no deadlier force in nature than a mother fighting for her young...
"Are you listenin' to me?"
Kate tucked the cell phone more firmly under her chin.
"Yeah, Dad, I heard you. Tyler called you and told you one of my clients is shooting the local wildlife."
Tyler Jordan was the eighteen-year-old she'd hired to help with the Mathis contract. He was a local youth and good with the Everglades areas all along the Tamiami Trail, but he didn't much care for the fact that he worked for a woman. Tyler's father had worked for her father. As a result of their fathers' influence, they'd gotten stuck working together.
"That guy's out there shootin' up everythin' that moves," her dad said.
"I got that," Kate went on. "I told you I was on my way out there." She cursed silently. When she'd first seen Darrel Mathis she'd known the man and his buddies were going to be trouble.
"Stupid cell phones," Conrad Garrett fumed in his coarse gravelly voice. "Oughta be a law, I tell you. You were breakin' up."
Despite the fact that one of her high-paying clients was off in the bush chasing after wild boar through the Florida Everglades, Kate had to grin at her dad. He claimed to hate new technology, but hewas always the first to upgrade to a new cell phone or computer. And he was the one who had bought her kids the new PlayStation 3, then promptly sat down to beat them at every game they wanted to play. Steven and Hannah, her eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, didn't always seem comfortable with her, but they loved Grampa Conrad.
"If I didn't have a cell phone we wouldn't even be having this conversation," Kate pointed out.
"Yeah, well I'm tellin' you that if they were gonna put in new digital networks to replace the old analog ones they should have at least put in ones that worked."
Kate loved her dad. He'd held it together for her and her two sisters and brother after their mother had died of ovarian cancer. Kate had only been four years old. She barely remembered her mother.
But she remembered how her dad had taught her to swim and camp and track and hunt. She'd learned how to fish and run trotlines a couple years before she'd gone to school. She was the baby of the family and the only one who hadn't promptly moved away from Everglades City when the first chance presented itself. Her sisters and brother couldn't wait to be somewhere else and seldom visited. Janice and Carol were married and lived in Atlanta, Georgia, and Doug was in the navy. Kate and her dad only had each other these days.
During Kate's younger years, her dad had worked as a hunting and fishing guide through the Everglades, managing big-game expeditions as well as deepwater fishing. Kate had gone everywhere with him.
Her dad had gotten to where he couldn't stomach the tourist clientele coming in from northern Florida and out of state wanting to fish and hunt in the Everglades wilderness. These days, he worked as a marine consultant, specializing in shallow-water recovery and occasionally dabbling in treasure hunting. Her dad was always and forever finding some new trade or learning a new skill. He'd passed part of that restlessness on to all of his children, and he blamed himself because they'd all left.
"You gotta get out of the guide business, baby girl," her dad said.
Kate smiled and shook her head. She was twenty-eight years old, divorced for three years, and running her own business shepherding hunters, fishermen, tourists and the occasional university professor through the Everglades. She hadn't been anybody's "baby girl" in a long time.
"Not all of us can get certified to do marine salvage," Kate responded. She checked the road up ahead and saw a big white bus. The rear of the vehicle had Everglades Correctional Institution stencilled across it in blocky black letters. Department of Corrections was written below in smaller letters. She could barely distinguish the passengers but she imagined the hard-eyed men in shackles and orange jumpsuits inside the bus. Everglades Correctional Institution was over in Miami proper and she wondered what the bus was doing traveling the back roads.
"I could get you certified for divin' and recovery," her dad offered. "Be no problem at all."
"Dad, I don't want to be certified. You like diving. I don't. Being underwater makes me feel like I'm drowning."
"Marine salvage is doin' good business," her dad said.
"And now that we're in hurricane season again, I'm bettin' there's gonna be a lot more business. There's a storm movin' in. Should be here by tonight."
Kate looked up at the eastern skyline. Darkness already roiled on the skyline. By this afternoon the Miami coastline would start feeling the fury of Hurricane Genevieve.
"Why, if I had a little bit of paint and knew you were interested," her dad continued, "wouldn't be no trouble at all to add and Daughter after Garrett Marine Salvage."
Just like you added and Daughter to everything else you were doing when I was growing up. In addition to the guide business, Kate had also spent time overhauling boat engines, replacing decks and coaming, and piloting airboats. Her childhood hadn't lacked for something to do.
When she'd been growing up, though, she hadn't felt the need to stand on her own two feet. Now, with the divorce behind her and only visitation with her kids granted instead of custody, she wanted to be her own person. More than that, she needed to be independent.
"All I'm sayin'," her dad went on, "is that you should think about it. There's more money in salvage work than in the guide business."
"I'm doing all right for myself." Kate bristled slightly. Her ex had pointed out her inability to care for their children in the manner to which they'd become accustomed--expensive summer camps, nannies and international vacations--every time she'd scraped together enough money to hire a lawyer to make an attempt to adjust the visitation. But she'd returned to what she had known, to what she had loved. There was nothing like being out in the wilds of the Everglades away from civilization. She just hadn't been able to convince her kids of that.
"You got some almighty prideful ways," her dad said.
"I wonder where I got that," Kate replied.
"And did anyone ever tell you that stubbornness was unattractive in a young woman?"
"I prefer to think of it as determination."
Kate slowed as she caught up with the D.O.C. bus. Her dad meant well. She'd never had a person stand by her like her dad did. Through thick and thin.
"Maybe you could just do marine salvage part-time," her dad suggested.
"We've been over this," Kate said. "You travel too much. How could I maintain a home for Steven and Hannah if we lived and worked off a boat together?"
"We'd find a way, baby girl," her dad said in his rough, prideful way. "You and me, we've always found a way."
A lump formed at the back of Kate's throat. "I know, Dad." She paused, looking around at the thick forests and the sweeping plains of sawgrass that hid the cypress swamps. Man-groves grew in salt water and cypress grew in fresh water. Big Cypress Swamp was all fresh water until the sea invaded it during the occasional tropical storm.
"And that boy of yours," her dad said, "why he'd love a chance to play at being a pirate lookin' for lost treasure."
Maybe with you, Dad, Kate thought. Steven remained distant from her despite her best attempts to get closer to him. Every time he looked at her, Kate got the feeling that she just didn't measure up, that he faulted her for leaving.
Looking back on her marriage and divorce, Kate had to admit that he was right. She'd never belonged in Bryce Colbert's world. He was computers and international deals, long business trips spent in Europe and interviews in Forbes and Money.
She'd always been her father's daughter. At home in the small towns in southern Florida with the bush and mosquitoes. Tall and athletic, she didn't look like the tiny fashion dolls Bryce seemed to prefer. She was five feet ten inches tall, had curves that turned the heads of most men, and a thick mane of auburn hair she wore past her shoulders that had humbled the hairdressers in several New York salons. Freckles scattered over the bridge of her pug nose couldn't be hidden by cosmetics. Her eyes were such a dark green they sometimes looked black.
This morning, since she was going to be in the brush, she wore heavy khaki pants, a black T-shirt under a tan Banana Republic vest and hiking boots. Wraparound amber-tinted sunglasses protected her eyes and she wore her hair tied back. Back when she'd met her future ex-husband, she'd been dressed much the same. She was definitely not Bryce Colbert's kind of woman.
But Bryce had blown into her world like a hurricane and swept her off her feet. He'd been ten years older, with one marriage already in flames and a string of jilted lovers behind him. Kate hadn't known that then.
Nine years ago, Bryce had hired Conrad Garrett to lead him and a small party through the Everglades on a hunting expedition. Bryce had brought a woman with him, but she didn't take to the rough living conditions and the fact that he was paying more attention to Kate than to her. The woman left in a hurry.
At that time, Kate had felt a glow of pride that she was able to turn the head of a man like Bryce Colbert. He was so confident and so sure of what he wanted. Kate hadn't responded to Bryce's advances at first, which had only seemed to increase his desire for her. In the end, though, she'd been thoroughly captivated by Bryce's charm and he'd been driven to win her. That kind of infatuation, and she knew now that's what it had been, was nothing but trouble.
Shortly after the marriage, Kate had gotten pregnant with Steven. The marriage started falling apart almost immediately, but Kate busied herself with raising her child. There was nothing in the world that she loved like her son and daughter. For the first time she'd known what had prompted her father to set his life aside for her till she was grown.
During the six years of her marriage she'd lived in New York and tried to fit in. She'd worn the dresses Bryce had bought for her, gone to the salons he'd pointed her to, and taken classes to learn how to entertain in his home. Only later did she realize how hard she'd worked to become a trophy wife. She'd been competing in an arena that she didn't even care about, but Bryce had somehow brought out the desire in her to be the perfect Stepford wife. In the end, she knew she hadn't been much different than the fish, deer and wild boar trophies she sent home with her clients.
Even before the divorce, Bryce had resumed dating. He hadn't even tried to hide it. Or maybe his infidelity had gone on longer than Kate had known. Now, she didn't want to know. Whatever had drawn him to her in the beginning was gone. Bryce had gone back to the same kind of woman he'd always pursued.
Five years old and impressionable, Hannah always talked about the women her daddy dated. She didn't see the pain it caused Kate, and Kate wouldn't have let her daughter see it for anything. Hannah was fascinated by the clothing and jewelry the women wore, how her daddy was always dating "princesses."
Kate wasn't jealous. For the most part. During the marriage, and especially during the divorce when his attorneys had painted her as a gold digger in court and in the three years since, when he'd fought off every attempt she made to see more of her kids, she'd learned that marrying Bryce Colbert was the biggest mistake she'd ever made.
Of course, she'd made some good ones later too. Agreeing to guide and care for Darrel Mathis's group was one of those.
"Maybe we could talk about this later," Kate suggested.
"You're breaking up at this end."
"Sure, Kate, sure," her dad agreed. "Didn't mean to step on any toes."
"You didn't." Kate hated to make her dad feel like he'd said or done anything wrong. "I've just got my hands full today."
"When Tyler called me this morning--"
Kate fully intended to address the "Tyler issue" as soon as possible. Tyler had called her dad no doubt thinking that calming down a drunken hunter was more a man's work. Wisely, though, her dad had called her.
"--I thought about goin' out there myself," her dad said.
"Takin' care of it for you."
"That would have been a mistake, Dad." Kate heard the icy anger in her voice.
"I knew it," her dad told her. "That's why I called you. But I also knew you had to pick up the kids from the airport in Miami today."
Kate glanced at her watch. It was 6:14 a.m. She made herself take a deep breath. "I've got plenty of time to do that."
"Yeah. Figured you did."
Hearing the hesitation in her dad's voice, Kate relented a little. "I appreciate the thought."
"Sure. No problem. Did you ever find out why the Toad's sendin' the kids down?" Her dad never used Bryce's name, as if by not acknowledging it he could strip away her ex's dignity. Toad was short for "scum-suckin' toad."
"No." Outside of the four weeks she got to see Steven and Hannah in July every year, Kate rarely got to have her children. She spent Christmases--either before or after, according to Bryce's plans--in NewYork. Surrounded by the snow and the hustle and bustle of the city, she always felt like an alien.
Posted January 18, 2007
Author Meredith Fletcher knows how to escalate the stakes of this gripping thriller. Just when you think you know where the story will take you, it reverses course like hurricane force winds. It¿s not enough for the heroine Kate Garrett to deal with drunk poachers, ex-cons on a prison break stealing her car, or an impending hurricane, but her ex-husband¿s business dealings have brought trouble to her door, threatening her kids. Fletcher has crafted a strong and memorable heroine in Kate Garrett and the pace of this book will blow you away. Don¿t expect to set this book down once you¿ve started. It¿s one wild ride!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2006
This book exceeded my expectations. The action is almost immediate and sucks you right in. It is wonderfully unpredictable. Just when you think the main character is in the clear, something else happens that causes trouble for her in some way. I'm keeping this one for a future re-read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In Florida wildlife hunting and fishing guide Kate Garrett is preparing to get her kids Steven and Hannah waiting for her to take them to shelter before the perfect storm expected to hit the peninsular leaves them in trouble from the torrential rain and tidal aftermath. However, instead of reaching them and subsequently shelter or being able to contact their father, the survivalist is taken prisoner by escaped convicts, who are not only on the lam but seeking ten million dollars of hidden stolen loot. ------------------------ They force Kate to guide them through the wilderness to where the money is hid. She knows she must move fast and find a way to expedite herself in order to insure her children are safe on high ground. Her chances of survival rests with one of those holding her hostage, Shane Warren, who keeps her alive, but, will not abet her quest for freedom.----------------- Kate is a fantastic lead character whose fears for the safety of her children add tension to an already terse hostage situation at the same time her former spouse Bryce is caught up with a criminal so is out of bounds for any assistance. The story line is action-packed as the readers commiserate with the frustrated and frightened (for her kids) heroine who feels the clock ticking while not understanding Shane¿s actions or her attraction to him (perhaps the Stockholm Effect). Readers will wonder whether he is on her side or just an escaped convict playing his hand perfectly as the storm is coming. Meredith Fletcher writes a terrific suspense thriller with a secondary romantic subplot enhancing the tale.----------------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 14, 2010
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