After the stress of working in a busy Chicago ER, Sage Brady reinvented herself and enjoys her job as a doctor on a cruise ship. Until she takes over the position of Chief Medical Officer and learns the previous doctor was murdered. Then she discovers narcotics being smuggled through the ship’s dispensary. But it’s the hot detective assigned to the case that threatens her peace of mind most of all.
Detective Dace Langdon hates his undercover assignment as a cruise ship security guard, but it’s better than the vacation his boss suggested. Having the ship’s captain assign the sexy Chief Medical Officer as his partner is a complication Dace doesn’t need.
Trapped on the open ocean, they race to find the identities of the smuggler and murderer before Sage becomes the next target. Will their attraction to each other complicate their investigation or lead to something lasting?
Related collections and offers
Read an Excerpt
He was Sage Brady's kind of man. Dark and rugged, with an aura of danger and a curious magnetic pull that wasn't pretty-boy handsome but had every female in his orbit wanting to stay there.
The man sat across from the captain, who was at his teak desk, and watched Sage as she entered the spacious office. Well, spacious compared to her office anyway. It was a cruise ship, after all. His expression made her pause on the threshold. Dark brows pulled together over the palest blue eyes she'd ever seen and took him from intriguingly dangerous to intimidating. The guy emanated some serious back-off vibes, yet it didn't stop her from marveling at the color of his eyes. Or admiring his heart-stopping physique and over-long dark hair the color of warm maple syrup. Who was he and what was he doing here? This was supposed to be a private meeting with the captain to go over her new position.
She gave the man another quick look as she quietly closed the door behind her and crossed the room. A bad feeling landed in her stomach and her intuition was rarely wrong. It's what had made her a successful ER doctor. But she certainly didn't need to be thinking about her past right now. Or him. She was no longer that Sage Brady, stressed out and desperate to prove something to her father.
She was grateful when the captain interrupted her thoughts, and drew her attention away from the first man to threaten her peace of mind since she left her old life behind.
"Dr. Brady, please take a seat."
"Of course, sir. I'm not too early, am I?"
"No. Punctual as usual," Captain Southerby murmured. "One of the many reasons why I chose you to temporarily take over Dr. Roberts' position as Chief Medical Officer. It's been a while since we worked together, so I'm looking forward to working with you again on the Caribbean Sunrise."
As she made her way across the room, Sage looked at the stranger one more time. She hadn't noticed he wore a security guard's uniform. Maybe because the initial impression the man gave was one of authority. She sank into the chair, wishing it was across the room from him rather than mere inches away, and gave him another quick glance. Security guard, my ass. She put the brakes on that line of thought. Not her circus, not her monkeys.
Still, why was a security guard here?
She forced herself to focus on Captain Southerby who looked as immaculate as always. Neatly trimmed gray beard, hat at just the right angle on his bald head, uniform perfectly arranged. His appearance as in control as he was of the ship. As he ran a hand over his goatee she noted his brown eyes didn't carry their usual twinkle. Her stomach flipped. She'd rarely seen him without that little dance in his eyes.
"First of all, Dr. Brady, I want to thank you for stepping in. I know you're more than capable of handling the job."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm determined to prove your faith isn't misplaced."
It was an effort not to fidget. This may very well be her circus. Damn it. She was so over being part of a circus. That's why she was a doctor on a cruise ship now, not in an emergency room. She braced herself for whatever might come next. Like the fact she was now interim Chief Medical Officer because her friend and mentor, Dr. Eric Roberts was dead wasn't bad enough?
"Forgive my bad manners, Doctor, for not introducing you to Dace Langdon, our new hire. Dace, this is the woman I was telling you about, Sage Brady. She's been with the line for about three years now."
Captain Southerby ran a hand over his goatee again and gave his head a slight shake. Her heart rate picked up and she surreptitiously wiped her hands on her skirt. Before either of them could look at each other in acknowledgment of the introduction, the captain continued.
"Sage, forgive me for being blunt." His eyes flicked to Dace Langdon. "Mr. Langdon has informed me that Dr. Roberts' death wasn't from natural causes. He was murdered."
She felt the color drain from her face and blurted out the first thought that came to mind, regardless of tone or professional courtesy. "Forgive me, Captain, but why the hell is a security guard the one to inform you of this fact? I thought Eric died of a heart attack, which is a natural cause."
She looked at Dace Langdon and didn't bother to hide her suspicion. When her gaze collided with his icy blue one, she had the sensation of a fast downhill ride on a roller coaster.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Dr. Brady."
"Thank you, Mr. Langdon. I didn't mean to be rude, but this is as much of a shock as when I learned my friend was dead."
Expression momentarily sympathetic, he nodded. "Maybe you should take a deep breath and give the captain a moment to explain."
All she could do was nod for fear her voice would betray her. He didn't need to know his voice, with its hint of roughness and trace of a southern accent, had her insides turning to mush. It certainly didn't help when he raised a hand toward her in a gesture of comfort and her skin tingled in anticipation of his touch.
She grabbed desperately for her usual emotional distance, a necessary part of being a physician who didn't always have good news to deliver and forced herself to focus on Captain Southerby.
"For your ears only, Dr. Brady," he said. "You haven't been assigned to work on the same ship as Eric Roberts for quite a while and weren't part of his staff when this happened. Mr. Langdon is a police officer, joining our cruise on assignment. He'll be acting as a security guard, which will allow him the access he needs to find out what he can about Dr. Roberts' death without alerting anyone who may have been involved. It's also less of a disruption to our passengers' enjoyment of their cruise if they see him as one of the many security guards on board."
The captain looked at Dace Langdon, which only drew her attention to the man all over again. It would be easier to pretend he wasn't there because when he spoke she imagined his voice saying things that could never be said in front of her boss. Scary, really, since the actual words were so far removed from what she imagined.
"Suspicious circumstances called for an autopsy on Roberts," he said in a slow, dark way that made Eric and his autopsy the last thing she was thinking about. "The results came back yesterday."
Impatient, and wanting to be a million miles away, she fought the urge to squirm in her seat. "And the results are?"
"He was injected with a poison which made it appear he died of a heart attack."
Folding his hands, the captain leaned forward, his expression serious. Sage no longer felt the urge to wiggle. "So, Dr. Brady, Detective Langdon will need information from you about the medical staff. Since you've been the staff doctor for the Caribbean Seas Cruise Lines up until now, I'm sure you'll be able to provide helpful information."
Translation: spy on her coworkers. Now she was irritated. It would've been nice to know that was in the job description before she accepted the position. "What kind of information?"
"To start, he needs a list of everyone Dr. Roberts worked with during his last assignment on board this ship. Since you're not a suspect, I want you to help him with whatever he requires, so I can focus on running this ship."
As her blood heated, Sage resisted the urge to fan herself. Detective Langdon? She'd done more than her share of detective work with members of the Chicago police force, but it wasn't of the criminal variety. Investigating this particular officer held more appeal than all those other cops combined. Which only made her want to run screaming from the room in self-preservation.
Instead, she focused on the shiny buttons of the captain's uniform and concentrated on his words. "Keep me in the loop about what you discover, Detective, but leave me out of the day to day things. Sage, it goes without saying that as far as the rest of the crew is concerned, other than the Chief of Security, Mr. Langdon is simply one of our new security guards."
She couldn't help it, she looked at Caribbean Seas' newest security guard again. Then he looked at her, snaring her with the heated gaze of those unusual eyes.
And his words. Good God, his words. "I'm looking forward to ... working with you, Dr. Brady."
She fought the old Sage Brady battling to get out of the box she shoved her into when she'd packed up and moved to New Orleans. Helping the sexiest police detective she'd ever run across with a murder investigation was the kind of thing the old Sage thrived on.
New and improved Sage was seriously screwed.
* * *
Was he feverish? Had those words really come out of his mouth? In front of the captain? Why couldn't Dr. Brady be some old pill pusher, finishing out his career on a cruise ship? What was a gorgeous creature like Sage Brady doing working as a doctor for Caribbean Seas?
Maybe she wasn't good enough to work anywhere else. Maybe the captain put her in charge because he had no other option. For all Dace knew, it was her looks that got her the job in the first place. Chief Medical Officer was a big accomplishment for anyone at her age. A motive for murder, too. But the NOPD had thoroughly checked her out before bringing her on board with the investigation. No need to even go there.
Her dark hair had some sort of shaggy cut that barely reached her shoulders and had no right to look so stunning. It should make her look unkempt. The fact it didn't was irritating. Hell, it made her look like she'd just rolled out of bed after a long night of ...
Don't even think it, Langdon. But geez, her luscious curves had him thinking the same thing. Of course, the way she wore a boring ship doctor's uniform didn't help. No one should be allowed to look so good in something so mundane. It was easy enough for him to mentally strip her of it, though. Down to her underwear, which, of course, had to be lacy, and black ... He put a screeching halt on that train of thought. It didn't do him any good and it was seriously disrespectful.
"Do you need me for anything else, Captain? I have a lot to do before we leave New Orleans tomorrow."
"No. Go ahead and get back to work, Dr. Brady. Thanks for all your help."
"I'm happy to do whatever I can for Eric, you know that, Captain. Detective, if you need me, I'll be in the infirmary."
All Dace could do was nod. Mainly because the soothing tone in her voice made him forget all his troubles and left him wanting to listen to it for hours. He also couldn't take his eyes off her fine ass as she walked across the room and let herself out. Damn it.
For the first time in his adult life he forgot to open the door for a woman. Maybe it was a good thing since his fingers itched to grab that ass so staying in his seat kept temptation out of reach. He swiped a hand down his face and returned his attention to the captain.
Losing his focus is what landed him here, away from all the action, investigating a murder. Away from New Orleans where the murder took place. Captain Rocque gave him this assignment because Dace point-blank refused to take a vacation. Surely at some point things would start turning around for him. They better because this marked an all-time low in his career. Working with Dr. Brady would make things all the more challenging.
"Beautiful and smart, that one, Detective. Don't let her looks deceive you. She'll be an asset to your investigation."
"I hope you're right, Captain. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated. I'll do my best not to interfere with the passengers' enjoyment of their cruise."
The captain nodded. "Eric Roberts was a friend as well as a colleague. If he was murdered by one of my crew, I'm as eager as you to catch the culprit."
"Rest easy, sir. We're covering every angle. Since he was killed in his home, the bulk of the investigation is focused on New Orleans. However, the murderer has enough medical knowledge to know about poisons which mimic a heart attack. It's necessary to investigate his medical team, though in this day and age all you need is access to the internet to research the method and means — as well as obtain the tools necessary to accomplish it. Odds are the medical crew wasn't involved but it's unwise to rule out anything right now."
"I hope you're right. However, I'm happy the New Orleans Police Department is doing everything they can to find the person who did this."
"We're on the same page then. Whatever it takes to get a murderer behind bars."
* * *
After closing the door to the captain's office, Sage leaned against the adjacent wall. She needed the support for her shaking legs — actually pretty much everything was shaking.
The captain had assigned her to assist a man who was the epitome of everything she admired in the male species. She had a weakness for members of the police force. And the fact that this was her first encounter with a detective in a very long time ... She'd never felt so drawn to a man in her life and in a way that went beyond the physical.
Detectives were smart. And observant. The skills she needed to do her job well were the very same things she admired in others. Which complicated everything. She stiffened her spine.
You can do this. New and improved Sage was strong.
Eric was murdered. She could barely wrap her mind around the concept. The killer could very well be one of the medical crew. Wasn't that the purpose for having Detective Langdon on board? They were getting ready to embark on a five-day cruise through the Caribbean, which meant, whenever they weren't in port, they could be trapped on board with a cold-blooded killer.
Sage took a deep, calming breath in an attempt to keep her thoughts from heading down a crazy tangent because of the shocking information she'd received. Maybe Eric's death wasn't connected in any way to his life on board the ship. She certainly couldn't imagine anyone she worked with being capable of something so deliberate, so cold blooded. Medical professionals were in the business of helping people, not hurting them.
With a slight shake of her head and a slow count to ten, she felt her composure return. Pushing herself away from the wall, she headed toward the deck rather than her office. Some fresh air while she came to grips with everything was a better idea. She liked taking in the view of New Orleans from atop a cruise ship, which often seemed more like a floating hotel.
As she walked out into the sunshine and warm, muggy air of the south, her spirits lifted. Moving here from Chicago, away from the cold, away from the chaos her life had become, was a good decision. Hard as it had been to do at the time.
She stood at the railing, her back to the crew as they performed the routines of getting a ship ready to embark. Checking life boats, cleaning the deck in preparation for the passengers set to arrive tomorrow, making sure all the equipment was in working order. The sounds of their chatter and the splash of the water hardly registered as she tried to wrap her head around this latest development.
Her stomach did a little somersault; the skin on the back of her neck tingled in warning. Unfortunately not soon enough for her to realize the cause and react.
"I have a feeling Dr. Roberts was more than merely a colleague."
Dace Langdon's voice heightened the reaction his presence evoked. That hint of a southern drawl meant he most likely wasn't originally from the South, though it was more of an accent than she'd gained herself by living here. Probably because she didn't really spend much time in New Orleans, despite the fact she, and her friend and colleague Celeste, had shared an apartment there for a couple of years.
He braced his arms on the railing next to her while she forced herself to fix her gaze on the hustle and bustle of the crew restocking the ship with enough food and supplies for five days at sea. From this vantage point they reminded her of busy ants walking in a line, carrying their treasure into the ant pile, but the smell of the sea with its hint of fishiness permeating the air didn't quite fit in with that scenario.
In her peripheral vision she noticed him turn around to lean his hips against the railing, then cross his arms over his chest. A move which brought him close enough for his scent to swirl around her. Clean, woodsy, and altogether masculine, and much more pleasurable than the stale sea air of the port. She breathed it in deeply before she realized what she was doing. God, he smelled good enough to make her forget every single resolve she made when she moved down here. She didn't dare give in to the temptation to look at him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cruising With Danger"
Copyright © 2018 Robyn Van Matre.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.