Read an Excerpt
The dreams had begun on her first visit to the island strange nighttime fantasies she could never clearly recall, which left her confused and strangely aroused. Sandra Newman was not a person who indulged in superstition or whimsy, but those island dreams haunted her, leaving her with the sense that understanding them would reveal the secret to unfulfilled longings she hadn't realized she possessed.
The memory of those dreams was with her now, as her yacht sailed within sight of the palm-covered atoll. Passionata's Island was named after the female pirate who had headquartered there in the early days of the eighteenth century, a pirate queen known for her successful attacks on merchant ships that ventured too near her sanctuary, and acclaimed for her skill as a seductress.
"Jonas, I want a good shot of the island as we approach," she directed her cameraman, who obligingly aimed his handheld video camera over the ship's bow. "I'm thinking this is our opening," she continued. "Maybe with some mysterious music and a voice-over talking about the reputed curse on the island." Oh, yes, this place even had a curse. Talk about a made-for-television story. Passionata was a tragic-romantic figure who had left behind treasure worth millionsperhaps even billionsof dollars. She smiled, imagining the network head, Gary Simon's eyes popping when he saw the numbers for audience share when Sandra Newman Presents Passionata's Treasure, aired next fall. He'd be tripping all over himself to offer her a new, more-lucrative contract.
As the yacht rounded the reef at one end of the island and headed toward the deeper harbor on the west side, two other vessels already anchored there caught Sandra's attention. The larger one, the Caspian, was unfamiliar to her. The ship bristled with cranes, lifts and a flotilla of smaller dinghies and motorboats.
The smaller ship was anchored nearer the islanda graceful sailing yacht with a white hull and gleaming teak deck. The sight of it made Sandra's pulse race a little faster.
Right on cue, a burly blonde dressed in nothing but faded blue swim trunks emerged from the cabin to watch her approach. She couldn't decide if she was glad to see that Professor Adam Carroway had arrived safely, or annoyed that she was going to spend the next few months in close proximity to the aggravating academic. The memory of the intense yet brief affair they'd enjoyed months ago added to her ambivalence about him.
Adam was a single-minded professor who focused on his quest for the Eve, Passionata's flagship that had sunk in 1714. While he was working, he neglected everything else, even forgetting to eat, and wearing the same worn clothes for days at a time. He was also a supremely masculine, energetic lover, very different from the smooth, sophisticated men she preferred. So why did she find Adam Carroway so distracting? For whatever reason, the scruffy professor stirred something in her. She'd enjoyed the few daysand nights they'd spent together when he'd visited her in Los Angeles last year. They'd parted as friends, with no talk of the future.
But now the future was here, and she wasn't sure how she felt about seeing him again. Yes, it might be fun to pick up where they left off and enjoy a summer fling. Yet Adam had a way of getting to her that no other man had. She'd never admit that to him, but maybe it would be better in the long run to keep things strictly business between them. Allowing herself to be vulnerable had never brought her anything but trouble.
Twenty minutes later, when Sandra's yacht was safely anchored, Adam was climbing aboard. Still wearing only swim trunks and dark sunglasses, his blond hair tangled by the wind, and several days' growth of beard fringing his chin, he could have been one of Passionata's contemporaries. The kind of man who was sure to thrill her television audience, Sandra reminded herself, ignoring the shiver of arousal that rushed through her at his approach.
"Hello, Sandra," he said, nodding by way of greeting. Despite the dark glasses, she could almost feel his gaze on her.
"And how are you, Professor?" She gave him her most charming smile. "The trip from Jamaica went smoothly. Thank you so much for asking."
He crossed his arms over his barrel chest, biceps bulging in a way she found unnervingly distracting. "Are you all set to begin filming?" he asked. "We're starting work first thing in the morning."
"I'm ready." She'd been waiting months for this chance to prove to the network that she was still a star.
"Remember, we have an agreement," Adam continued. "You and your crew will stay out of our way while we're working on the wreck. The last thing I need is to worry about one of you getting hurt."
She struck a seductive pose against the railing. "Why, Adam, I didn't know you cared."
His mouth twitched. She wished she could see his eyes, could read the expression there. Was he remembering those hot nights in L.A.? "I care about this salvage operation going as smoothly as possible," he said. "I don't want anythingor anyonegetting in my way."
Was this his way of telling her there'd be no resumption of their physical relationship? As if the decision was entirely up to him? She straightened and kept her voice even, her emotions in check. "I've paid a lot of money for the privilege of recording your every movement over the next few months," she said. "I'm every bit as invested in this operation running smoothly as you are."
She'd had to fight hard for the funding to make this trip, and she couldn't afford to return to the States empty-handed. Her last production had tanked in the ratings, through no fault of her own. The powers-that-be at the network had decided to air her show opposite the most hotly contested Super Bowl in two decades, then had the nerve to blame her for the failure to draw a big audience. They'd told her expensive documentaries were out of style now and had made clear that Passionata's Treasure was her last chance to prove herself.
That was nothing new, she reminded herself. She'd spent her careerher entire life, reallyproving herself to those who underestimated her.
"Good." He turned and started toward the rail. "I'll see you later. I have work to do now."
"Adam, don't go." Maybe they wouldn't be lovers again, but she'd be damned if she would let him continue to keep her at a cold distance. "We're going to be spending months together," she said. "I want us to be friends. The last thing I want is to interfere with your operation. I know you have a job to dodon't resent me for doing mine."
Did she imagine the softening of his expression, a relaxing of the stiff line of his shoulders? "All right," he said gruffly.
She took a seat on a chaise and motioned for him to sit across from her on a similar lounge chair. "Let's have a drink and talk for a minute. Tell me what work you've done so far on the wreck of the Eve." She signaled to a waiting steward, who nodded and disappeared belowdecks.
"We only arrived at the island yesterday, and we're still waiting on a key piece of equipment." He sat on the side of the chaise, carefully, as if he feared it might collapse beneath him. "Tomorrow we'll start mapping the wreck site with GPS. It's important to pinpoint the location of the items and their relationship to one another before we begin bringing anything to the surface."
As he spoke, she saw him relax, the tight lines around his mouth disappearing, his whole posture less rigid. He was in familiar territory nowthe professor lecturing an ignorant student. She was content to play along if it got him to open up to her. "How soon before the actual salvage work begins?" she asked.
"From a few days to a week. It depends on how many items we have to map."
The steward reappeared with their drinksa beer for the professor and sparkling water in a champagne glass for her. It was too early in the day for her to begin drinking, but she had a reputation as a diva to maintain. Was there any field where image was more important than television? She smiled at him over the rim of her glass. "You won't even know I'm here."
His face flushed. "Sorry I came on so strong earlier. I'd just found out the water dredge I ordered has been delayed. Every extra day costs my backer money, so I'm feeling under the gun."
"How many people do you have working for you?"
"I have three interns from the university, and I've hired two brothers, Sam and Roger Murphy, to run most of the heavy equipment." He sipped the beer, then continued. "They've worked other wrecks like this, so they know what they're doing."
"And you think the Eve could be even more valuable?" She leaned forward, eager to hear more about the riches he expected to find. This was what her viewers wanted, and the kind of footage she was after.
His frown returned and she could almost feel the chill radiating from him. "I'm more interested in the historical value of the artifacts," he said. "The Eve is an important piece of maritime history. The items we recover can give us a clearer picture of life aboard a privateer vessel in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."
"You mean, a pirate ship. And don't tell me the thought of all that gold and silver and jewels doesn't make your heart jump a little. I know the university doesn't pay you enough to be totally unconcerned about wealth."
He looked away. "I never said I wasn't interested in money, only that it's not my primary interest." He drained the beer and set the mug on the deck beside the chair. "I'd better be going."
"Just when our conversation was getting so interesting?"
But he didn't answer, and she made no attempt to delay him further. She sat back in the chaise and sipped her drink, and pondered why her question about money had upset him so. Was it because as an academic he thought he ought to be above common greed? Did he make a habit of denying his vicesjealousy, greed lust?
She sighed. It was going to be a long summer if he insisted on being so standoffish. As long as they were on this island together, no reason they shouldn't enjoy themselves. Of course, there were other men here who'd be willing to amuse her, she was sure, but she wanted Adam.
Adam left Sandra feeling more annoyed than he'd been when he arrived. Why did that damn woman always rub him the wrong way? She hadn't been in the harbor an hour, and already it was happeninghe ought to be focused on the salvage operation, and all he could think of was her.
He never should have let himself get involved with her last fall, but she'd caught him at a weak moment. He'd told himself this summer would be different. He'd be too focused on his work here on the island to let her tempt him. But five minutes in her company and she'd proved him wrong.
He hated complications in his life and in his work, and she was a big one, a diva who was clearly accustomed to men hopping when she said "jump." He didn't have the time or energy to waste on her, no matter how much his libido begged to differ.
Instead of returning to his own yacht, he steered his Zodiac to the Caspian. The 120-foot research vessel would serve as the main workboat for the expedition, as well as home to the interns and the Murphy brothers.
"Adam, I'm glad you're back." One of the interns, a twentysomething named Brent, who wore his black hair in a long ponytail, greeted him as soon as he stepped on deck. "I've been waiting for you."
"What do you need?" Adam forced himself to assume a more pleasant expression. He liked Brent and the other interns, Tessa and Charlie. They shared his passion for history and were willing to work all summer for low wages and the chance to make a little history of their own.
"I've got some bad news. The magnetometer is broken."
"What? It can't be." The magnetometer measured changes in the earth's magnetic field that indicated the presence of iron and other minerals that could point to artifacts beneath the layers of silt and sand on the ocean floor.
Brent looked grim. "Afraid so. When we unpacked it this morning, we discovered the glass was shattered. We'll have to send it back to Jamaica to be repaired. The captain of the Caspian already radioed for someone to come pick it up."
"We can't wait for it to be repaired. Send a message for the courier to bring a new one with him."
"Sure. That's a great idea." Brent hesitated. "How should I tell them we'll pay for it?"
"Charge it to Merrick." Damian Merrick, a science nut who also happened to be the heir to the Merrick semiconductor fortune, had agreed to finance the salvage of the Eve. In exchange, Adam had reluctantly agreed to send regular reports of the expedition's progress. He'd drawn the line at having Merrick as part of the operation. It was bad enough having Sandra hanging around. He didn't need two amateurs to babysit.
Adam and Brent made their way to the stern, where Tessa and the Murphy brothers were sorting diving equipment and other gear. Roger Murphy looked up at their approach. He was a short, stocky figure with faded red hair that looked as if it had been styled with a machete. "Hi, Professor," he said. "Checked the weather report?"
"No. Why?" Adam braced himself for more bad news.
"Looks good for the next few days, but there's a low-pressure system building off the coast of Africa that could bring trouble later in the week."
"Or it could be nothing," Adam said.
"I make it a point to keep an eye on the weather," Roger said. "I got caught in a hurricane off the coast of Haiti five years back and it's not an experience I care to repeat. I was nearly killed and the expedition lost almost everything."
"We'll be fine," Adam said. "When I was here last summer, it scarcely rained."
"Yeah, well, that was last summer."
Adam made no answer. It wasn't as if he wasn't concerned; his research had revealed that major hurricanes had hit the island in 1850, 1910 and 1941. Even a relatively minor storm would delay their operation by days, possibly weeks. But there was nothing he could do to control the weather, so he saw no profit in fretting over it.
"Any word on the water dredge?" he asked, changing the subject to a more pressing concern. "Is it here yet?"
"It arrived in Kingston today," Roger said. "It should be here day after tomorrow."
"We'll have to start the survey without it," Adam said. He addressed the interns. "Are you all ready to dive tomorrow?"
"I can't wait." Tessa, the only woman on the expedition, grinned up at him. "Just the thought of seeing the wreck up close makes me so excited."
Charlie muttered something under his breath. Adam thought it was something along the lines of I'd like to get you excited.
"What did you say, Charlie?" Tessa glared at him.
Charlie coughed and reached for a weight belt from the pile on the deck. "Just that I'm excited, too. About the wreck."
Adam rubbed his hand across his face in an attempt to wipe away a smile. He supposed he'd better have a talk with Charlie about sexual harassment, though the combination of raging hormones, scanty bathing suits and a summer in paradise almost guaranteed that various members of the crew would be hooking up. He only hoped the scarcity of women didn't lead to fighting among the men.
Tessa and Sandra were the only available women so far, unless Sandra had someone on board he didn't know about.
"How's our resident celebrity?" Sam Murphy spoke around the stub of an unlit cigar that was a fixture at the corner of his mouth.
"Celebrity?" Tessa raised a questioning look to Adam.
"That television babe, Sandra Newman," Sam said. "That's her yacht that just arrived. She's here to make movie stars of all of us." Sam laughed at his own joke, a harsh barking sound.
Tessa's eyes widened. "For real? Sandra Newman? Here?"
Adam nodded. "She's making a documentary about Passionata and her treasure. But she's promised not to interfere with our work."
"We'll get to meet her, won't we?" Tessa asked. "I saw her special on Art Collections of the Rich and Famous. She was awesome."
"What's she like?" Charlie grinned at Adam. "Is she as hot in person as she is on TV?"
Adam had the urge to wipe the leer off the kid's face. "Stay out of her way," he said. "She's got a job to do, and so do you."
Charlie executed a crisp salute. "Aye, aye, Captain. Didn't mean to poach on your territory."
"She's not my territory!" Heat flushed his face. Sandra had made it clear last fall that she viewed him as nothing more than a pleasant diversion, a sentiment he'd shared. He didn't have time for that sort of distraction while he was working, though he was having more difficulty putting her out of his mind than he'd anticipated. He didn't need Charlieor anyone elsereminding him of what he was missing.
"She's not part of our crew," he continued. "The less we have to do with her the better."