Finnegan Kane is a top-notch marine bounty hunter on the hunt for the Emerald Fire, a 120-foot Sunseeker yacht stolen by ruthless Caribbean pirates. It’s the kind of dirty work that keeps his antique ship restoration business afloat, but that doesn’t mean he has to put up with the fiery demands of an admittedly gorgeous historian. But when Chloe offers the one thing that practically guarantees success—the GPS coordinates of the Fire’s location—he has no choice but to forge into uncharted waters.
With danger at every turn, Chloe and Finnegan must battle against the odds to decipher a historical legacy and settle a score against a family gone mad.
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Jewel Intrigue Series
By Monica McCabe
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Monica McCabe
All rights reserved.
Finnegan Kane adjusted his sunglasses against a brilliant Caribbean sun and scanned the picturesque harbor. Yachts, cruisers, and skiffs dotted the vivid blue water of Castries Bay. A veritable postcard of idyllic island life to a tourist, a complicated crime scene to a marine recovery specialist like Finn.
Paradise masked a deadly secret.
"It's like I said, mon. Nothing to see."
St. Lucia's harbor clerk wore the standard island uniform of shorts, loose shirt, and sandals, but the carefree island attitude was missing. Finn didn't care. There wasn't room for sympathy in his budget, and with the kind of money at stake here, he'd make as many enemies as needed.
But the uncooperative clerk had a point. Piracy troubled the islands, and stolen yachts rarely left a trail. In a span of minutes, lines were cut, security systems disabled, and easy money sailed away.
Bad odds for recovery, but impossible never had stopped him before. Clues always hid in the details, and he needed a timetable. "When did the Emerald Fire first appear in the harbor?"
"Four days ago," the clerk answered. "Pretty boat. Sleek and tricked out. She berthed in Trou Garnier, that upper cove past Pointe Seraphine." He pointed across the harbor to a deep inlet.
A stiff breeze snapped a harbor flag above them and stirred the mustiness of wet wood from the city's industrial pier. Finn breathed deep the familiar calming scent and did the math. The Fire arrived in St. Lucia on Tuesday, was last seen late Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon Boston Marine Insurance received word she'd gone missing. He'd jumped a plane that night and arrived at the Harbor Master's office Friday morning. That meant thieves had roughly a day and a half head start.
Discouraging news. The Caribbean was chock full of small islands, hidden inlets, and desperately poor residents more than willing to turn a blind eye. The Fire could be anywhere by now.
Still, he had a trick or two yet to play. "You questioned all the captains in the harbor?"
The clerk's eyes shifted away, giving Finn his answer. His jaw hardened in anger. Not only were local authorities uncooperative, they displayed a total lack of concern for proper procedure. Any missing ship, especially a ten-million dollar luxury yacht like the Emerald Fire, required thorough investigation.
"Any clues?" he persisted. "Descriptions?"
"We talked to most of them," the guy hedged. "Nobody saw, mon."
Finn snorted. "You're lying."
He got a drop-dead glare for an answer.
"Know what I think?" Finn couldn't keep the disgust from his voice. "You ignore protocol and allow piracy to occur unchecked. You might as well hand thieves an open invitation. Boaters out there deserve to be warned."
This time the clerk didn't hide his exasperation. "Know what happens if I start talking stolen vessels?" He waved his hand with a snap of his fingers. "Tourist dollars go bye-bye."
Finn made a fist, fighting the urge to hit something. That was exactly the kind of attitude crime adored and a good portion of the problem in trying to stop it. But that wasn't his battle. Right now he needed information. "I'll have a look at your piracy reports now."
Based on a resentful go-to-hell expression, his watchdog wanted to argue. But he couldn't deny an insurance investigator access, not one who could make trouble in paradise.
"Nothing to see in those books, mon."
"Maybe not, but I want to look anyway."
Clearly annoyed, the guy pivoted on his heel and marched away from the pier.
Finn followed, unconcerned. Making people mad went with the territory. Call it an occupational hazard. Say the words 'insurance adjuster' and cooperation fizzled. Not that he cared. He kept it in perspective. It was a job, one he was good at and paid well.
They silently marched across the crowded cargo yard toward an unremarkable wood slat building painted a nondescript harbor gray. It squatted inside the curve of a city street, nearly invisible on the industrial edge of town.
Once past the front door, however, all that changed. It became a 1950 Panama Jack movie set, complete with bamboo palm ceiling fans, WWII military-issue metal desks, and shuttered windows open to catch island breezes. Finn half expected a khaki-clad bloke with a fedora and dangling a cigarette to ask the immortal question, "What's up, Joe?"
Instead, his belligerent clerk rounded the counter, grabbed a thick logbook, and plopped it on the long stretch of Formica between them.
"St. Lucia waters are safe, mon. No pirates live here."
Maybe not, but Finn bet they hung out nearby. Facts didn't lie. Thousands of ships disappeared each year, marine insurance rates soared, and Caribbean waters were certainly not immune. But he wasn't here to argue statistics. He let the comment pass, flipped open the log of missing vessels, and began to scan the most recent.
An argument began filtering in from another room. A feminine voice, smooth and cultured, clashed with a sharp male baritone. Frustration sounded on both sides. Finn ignored it and kept at the piracy reports. Until he heard two words that guaranteed his involvement.
He glanced up at the clerk. "What's going on?"
The guy shrugged indifferently. "Don't know."
Finn bit back a retort and made a show of studying the reports again, but in reality he strained to hear more. He only caught snatches of conversation.
"Unimportant ... missing boat ... log reports ... sent alerts." The man's voice, clearly exasperated.
She sounded softer, harder to hear, but definitely arguing the point. Half a minute later, they stood in the doorway of a connected office.
"Look miss, it really doesn't matter who called in the report. It's not our job to investigate missing persons. Talk to the police."
"The police sent me here to you!" Anger crackled in the air around her, and Finn blatantly stared.
"There's nothing more I can do." The man tossed his hands up in a move worthy of the theater. "Rest assured, if something surfaces, I'll be the first to call you."
Finn recognized deflection when he heard it. The lying barnacle had no intention of keeping his word.
She knew it, too, since her full lips compressed into a thin line. But she had little choice in the matter. The interview was over. Straightening to a full five-foot-five, if that, she jotted something down on a piece of paper and handed it to the guy. "My phone number, in case you change your mind and decide to be helpful. Thank you for your time."
While she stormed across the lobby, Finn watched her every step. The pearls and buttoned-up blouse screamed proper and conservative, but the fury in those magnificent light brown eyes of hers threatened to burn the house down. She sailed right past him, huffing something about astronomical incompetence.
As soon as she cleared the front door, Finn smacked the piracy log closed and pushed it back across the counter. "I'll be around a few more days," he said to the clerk. "Be seeing you again."
The guy looked less than thrilled at the news, but no matter. Right now Finn intended to brave the flames and follow the girl. She wanted information about Emerald Fire, which meant he wanted information from her.
Outside he slid his shades back on and scanned the cargo yard. Her high-octane stride had her more than halfway across the container field, aiming toward the ship's landing dock. He watched her hit the edge of the concrete pier and stop to stare out at the crystal blue waters of Castries Bay.
For a minute, he debated a direct approach, but quickly decided against it. He needed to act fast if he'd any hope of finding the Emerald Fire, but she needed a minute to cool down. So he made his way to the parking lot where he leaned against the bumper of his rental to wait.
He'd a direct line of sight on her restless pacing and, based on her short jerky steps, white-hot anger consumed her. Still, she was pretty easy on the eyes, and he enjoyed the view, despite the fact she was clearly the type he tried to avoid. He didn't go for culture and sophistication, wine over beer, proper and prim society girls. And this one had that look in spades. Even her steps were measured. Four steps left, stop and stare at the water, then four steps right, stop and stare. If he were a betting man, he'd pin her for one of those organized people. Everything in its place, all patterned, tucked, and perfectly pressed.
She'd never last a day in his world.
Nearby seagulls screeched, gathering on the tall pylons of a private pier as a fly-bridge fishing boat chugged up to the dock. A deckhand jumped off to rope her in place and tourists began off-loading with their catch of the day.
She noticed, too, and turned to leave, aiming his way with that supercharged stride. But her eyes were downcast, focus inward, as she rounded a tiny inlet and made for the parking lot.
In less than two minutes, she drew within earshot, and he made his move.
"You're looking for the Emerald Fire?"
Miss Smooth and Proper froze, then slowly turned to stare at him, all wary and distrustful. "What if I am?"
"If you are, that makes two of us."
Her eyes narrowed. He'd been wrong when he thought they were brown. That description didn't do them justice. They were the color of topaz, warm, sultry, and strangely compelling. And they glared at him in defiance and suspicion.
He needed an olive branch, a big one to reach beyond that thorny barrier.
"I'm with Boston Marine Insurance," he tried. "And we're interested in finding the missing yacht."
A finely arched brow lifted, but her expression didn't soften. "Let me see your credentials."
Finn opened his wallet to display his investigator ID and handed her a business card for good measure.
She studied both then glanced up at him. "Well, Mr. Finnegan Kane, you've arrived awfully fast," she said. "The Fire was only reported missing yesterday afternoon."
Her skin looked sun-kissed, like Mediterranean blood ran a generation or two back. And the woman definitely came from money. Perfect posture, velvety brown hair pinned into place, and well-rounded curves wrapped in designer digs.
"In my line of work, it pays to act fast. I hope you packed some cooler clothes," he said as he pointed to airline tickets poking out of her shoulder bag.
"Of course I did," she scoffed and tucked the papers deeper into her purse. "What do you want Mr. Kane?"
She was direct — he'd give her that. "How about your name for starters?"
She tapped his card against her fingers, debating, but it didn't last long. He gave her a point for that one.
"My name is Chloe Larson," she finally said. "Jonathan Banks is my uncle."
Well, damn. That's a twist he didn't need. Emotional ties spelled interference, especially if they were strong. This had potential problem written all over it, and he stared at her in silent indecision, debating the most profitable path to take.
"You do know who Jonathan Banks is, right?" she said sarcastically when he hadn't replied. "I mean, how good of an investigator are you if you don't know who owns the boat you're searching for?"
And that just proved his point. Trouble had already started.
"Why are you here?" His words came out curt, matching a mood that just soured.
"I'd think the answer is obvious," she snapped. "But if you're here to verify Lisa Banks' insurance claim, I'll warn you right now, she'll be filing for his life insurance next. Probably sometime in the next sixty seconds."
Finn lowered his head to gaze at her over his sunglasses. In his line of work, animosity always proved interesting. Dark emotions inspired crime.
"So your aunt's after money," he said. "Duly noted."
"That woman is not my aunt."
Nope. No love lost there. "Then you should be thrilled I'm here," he said.
She used her hand to block the sun from her eyes. "Meaning?"
"I'm here to recover the Emerald Fire, not verify a claim."
Her brows dipped even lower, if that was possible. "You're a bounty hunter?"
Why did she make that sound bad? He might be offended, but decided forgiveness better fit the circumstances. "I prefer Marine Recovery Specialist. And I'm damn good at what I do."
She continued to glower at him. Definite trouble all right, but if he played his cards right and she shared whatever information brought her here, her determination to find her uncle might pay off.
"So how's this work?" she asked with the first hint of speculation. "You find my uncle's boat, turn it in to authorities, and the insurance company writes you a check?"
Okay, that was a little personal. He wasn't getting anything more than industry standard, but she stared at him with a frosty expression that needed to melt. So he answered her. "Ten-percent the yacht's value."
He watched her calculate the amount, wrapping her head around the seven-digit figure he desperately needed to take home. The words "critical importance" barely covered this job. He'd too much at stake to even contemplate not finding the yacht.
"Rather an exorbitant paycheck, don't you think?" Chloe asked.
"Not from an insurance company's perspective. A million dollar bounty is cheaper than a ten-million dollar claim."
She still frowned, so he added, "I don't get paid if I don't deliver."
And they wasted time standing here talking. Every minute that passed, the odds of finding a stolen ship sank faster than a lead anchor. But at least she was nodding in understanding. He'd take that as progress. "Why don't we sit over there and talk about it?" He pointed to an empty picnic table perched at the edge of a break-wall.
She chewed her bottom lip for a second, then turned and made for the table without a word. Finn followed and took a seat opposite, his back to the water. The incoming tide splashed against the concrete bulwark behind him, and a brisk wind loosened a few strands of her hair, but she paid them no mind as she set her bag next to her on the bench seat.
"So," she began matter-of-factly, "you find the Fire, and the insurance company gets out of paying the claim."
There she went again. "Why do you make that sound like a bad thing?"
Her smile grew. It was a slow and wicked display that immediately set him on full alert. "I've no idea," she said too sweetly. "It's an excellent policy. We need to do all we can to find Uncle Jonathan and his boat."
Her sudden change in demeanor was interesting, but so was the effect of a Caribbean sun on her hair. She had deep auburn streaks, and it took no effort at all to imagine it loose and free, curling around her shoulders. It was a seductive picture, especially if he added something low-cut and provocative rather than the neatly tailored slacks and pearl-buttoned blouse she currently wore.
She was going to be trouble.
"There's no we," he stated emphatically. "In fact, you should get on a plane and go back home."
"I'm not going anywhere until I find Uncle Jon or the Emerald Fire."
Finn recognized stubborn when he saw it. He came from a long line of Irish stock well versed in the art of digging in.
"You haven't told me why you're here," he said. "And don't expect me to believe concern for your uncle had you instantly hopping a plane. What's your stake in this?"
"You think I'm after something?" Chloe put both hands on the table in front of her and leaned slightly forward. "My uncle is missing, Mr. Kane. Do you really need more of a reason than that?"
Aye, he did. Things were never as they seemed on the surface. "Call me Finn. And I hate to break this to you, but the odds of your uncle being alive are pretty slim."
Her eyes widened a bit at that piece of brutal honesty. "That's harsh," she said quietly. "Your bedside manner could use a little softening."
A sting of remorse nailed him. Especially when another gust of wind blew past them and Chloe reached to tuck away the loose strands of hair. The move was gentle, almost vulnerable, and for some reason, highly alluring. And she was right, his words were callous. Statistics didn't lie, though, and he shouldn't either. False hopes never helped anyone.
"Let's face facts," he said. "Unless the Emerald Fire came well-armed and equipped to fight piracy, it usually doesn't end well."
"Pirates?" She laughed in disbelief. "Argh, and I left my cutlass at home. Perhaps I could borrow yours?"
"I'm serious, Chloe. Boats disappear out of these waters all the time, never to be heard of again." He eyed her small frame and prim outfit. "No offense, but you look like a school teacher. What possible defense could you bring against men using satellite phones and rocket-propelled grenades?"
"For the record, I'm a historian, not a school teacher."
By the saints. It was worse than he'd thought.
Excerpted from Emerald Fire by Monica McCabe. Copyright © 2016 Monica McCabe. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a fantastic thrill ride the story gave me! It is cleverly built plot wise, well written, and absolutely a pleasure to read, a story that will enthrall you, and capture your mind. The modern day pirates, the historical mystery of hundreds of years, the obvious connection between Chloe and Finn, that seems to have been a predestinated in the past, it all fascinated and delighted me. The suspense, mysteries, and action is fast pace, and riveting, dangerous, and deadly. But the plot has enough moments for Finn and Chloe to get to know each other, and their attraction to deepen. Just when the tale lulls you into a serene moment of relationship development, the plot has a twist, and off it goes again with full speed. I loved Finn and Chloe together and as characters. They are well developed, has many great qualities, yet aren't 'perfect'. They seem to understand each other from the start, and even more so as time goes by. The passion between them is scorching and ardent. The secondary characters all contribute to the story, are interesting, and endearing, especially the father figures. There was not a moment I didn't enjoy this tale, I wanted to inhale it, and then have some more. For history, action, suspense, and romance readers, this brings something to all, the fervent, intense action, mysteries of the past, and history being written again, mixed with passion, love, and adoration, deceit and betrayal,an adventure indeed! ~ Five Spoons
4 - The man from NorthStar will be your guide. Stars! Emerald Fire, is the first book I have read by this author, totally can be read as a standalone even though it is book two in the Jewel Intrigue Series. There was a distinctive whiff of the Indiana Jones’ about Chloe and Finn’s story, and if you like your romance with a large dose of action and intrigue, Monica McCabe delivered it in spades. You get to visit a few exotic locations in the search for what initially is a stolen Super-Yacht, battle with pirates, but then the adventure morphs into the unraveling of a mystery involving the disappearance of a large cache of Royal Prussian Emeralds. A two-hundred year tale of love and loyalty had finally come full circle. Chloe was sassy, Finn snarky and together they made a great team, whether it be in the heat of battle or the heat of the bedroom. Their goals are different in that there main reasons for being in the same place at the same time initially are for their own specific gains, but as the story develops their goals sort of re-align into the same thing. He shouldn’t have to give up his heritage just so she could save hers… This is one of those books that keeps you on your toes, as you literally don’t know what is going to happen from one page to the next, I liked that it gave this couple and emotional intensity due to the extreme situations they found themselves in, Chloe being quick to over-react to some things due to her fiery nature was balanced out by Finn’s calm take-stock approach. "Kiss me like you mean it." I will definitely be looking to read more from this author, the blurb for the first book in the series sounds just as exciting, and I hope to get to read it at some point in the future. "Together… Good, bad or in between." ARC generously provided via Netgalley, in exchange for the above honest review.