DANGER ON THE HIGH SEAS
Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is used to modern-day pirates chasing after his boat and the buried treasure he salvages. But when he unknowingly leads a dangerous criminal to the waters off Stepping Stones Island, he puts a beautiful fisherwoman in grave danger. Rachelle Thibodaux has spent the past year hiding on her boat to avoid the town's censure for her father's crimes. But when she comes face-to-face with a gun-wielding pirate, she becomes a new kind of target. To save her own life, she'll have to work with Gage to find the treasure before the pirates do.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Oh, no you don't," Rachelle Thibodaux said with her camera held steady at her eye. From her boat and through her telephoto lens, a diver could be seen holding a Thibodeaux lobster trap in his hand, swiped right off the ocean floor. The poacher, dressed in a black, full-bodied wet suit, jumped up on the diver's platform of a luxurious mega yacht with his dinner in hand. Her dinner. "Get your own bug catchers," Rachelle grumbled. "Judging by your ride, you can afford it." She let her camera fall back to her chest where it found its perpetual home, hanging on the strap around her neck. "You're going down for stealing my pots." Well, not technically her pots, she begrudged, but her uncle's. She sped up her turtle-slow, thirty-two-foot lobster boat that also belonged to him. She had a poacher to catch before the thief made off with her livelihood.
Stolen lobsters only increased market prices, and in turn, that meant sales lost to the competition. Which also meant lost jobs. There was no way she could lose this job because of another's crimes. The idea of more undeserved penalties being slapped on her shoulders brought on an unusual wave of seasickness, even with the sea around her at a dead calm. She supposed a year of paying for the sins of her father was what brought the nausea on so quickly, but it was the idea of having to take a job on the island again that really unsettled her stomach.
Because it would also unsettle her life again.
Images of this past year's disapproving faces aimed at her had her pushing the throttle to its fullest speed, a race to catch a thief before he ruined everything. Her job at sea allowed her to live on the Island of Stepping Stones after her father's tsunami of an arrest knocked her facedown.
She didn't think she'd raised her head and looked an islander in the face since the sheriff carted her father awayand the islanders had turned their shocked and accusing eyes on her.
More waves of nausea doused her, but it was the wave of panic that had her reaching to the locked drawer on her right and pushing the four-digit code to release the latch. She had to make sure her job at sea remained intact whatever the cost.
Fidgety fingers opened the drawer where a black revolver with a rosewood handle lay alone, looking sinister and lethal. Her uncle Jerome kept it aboard for protection purposes. Traversing the ocean alone left one vulnerable. Hijacking, shark attacks andcase in pointthievery could occur at any moment. But even so, Rachelle winced at the idea of picking up the gun. She wouldn't shoot at anyone, she reasoned. If she used it, it would only be to shoot it in the air to stop the poacher in action. It would show the thief she meant business.
Her hand curled around the revolver's handle and stilled. Could she really shoot a gun at all? Should she? What if it awoke a part of her better left undisturbed? The part that proved it didn't matter how well she behaved or how isolated she made her life out here at sea. That deep down, the islanders were right. She was just like her father.
She relinquished the cold, wooden grip and, instead, snatched up her camera again. The only thing she would be shooting today was pictures.
Rachelle brought the boat to a standstill and raised the black SLR. The diver filled her viewing screen, and Rachelle brought the thief up close and into focus. "Turn around so I can see your thieving face," she said under her breath while she set the camera to shoot off multiple shots in a row for that split moment when the diver turned toward her.
Click. Click. Click.
The diver froze.
There was no way the mechanics of the camera could be heard from this distance, but the rumbling of her lobster boat's motor could be. With one leg still in the sea and the other on the dive platform, the diver lifted his face and turned.
"Smile for the camera, you"
Rachelle cranked her focusing ring to bring the diver's face into full frame, unsure if what she viewed through the lens was real. Could it really be? Was her poacher a woman?
Long, curled lashes swept over a pair of flashing, gray curved eyes. Definitely a woman. Not even the diver's mask could hide the feminine glare through the lens. For a brief second, Rachelle's finger stilled over the shutter release, then remembered this chick was a thief. It didn't matter if she was a female. Gender played no role in the ability to sin. A lesson Rachelle gave herself daily.
She took the shots at rapid speed before the thief threw the contraband into the boat and disappeared inside. Through the viewfinder, Rachelle zipped around the yacht looking for her or perhaps another person somewhere around the deck and sails. Did the thief work alone? Rachelle took a few shots of a black flag with some sort of words scrawled across it at the top of the mast. She also snapped a few of the boat's name painted on the stern. The Getaway. How appropriate.
A spike in temperature boiled Rachelle's blood. This poacher would not be "getting away" with her crimes any longer.
Rachelle dropped her camera back to her chest and accelerated her boat's speed again. The engine kicked in, rumbling as the bow plowed through and sliced the dark ripples of rolling waves.
She expected the thief to take off, but the yacht remained anchored. The distance between them shortened. Rachelle wondered if the poacher had a conscience and was in the middle rethinking her devious deeds, but then a popping noise wrenched through the air and all thoughts flew from Rachelle's head as millions of tiny pieces of sharp shards from her pilothouse windows flew in at her.
Sent careening backward to the floor, she sat there dazed, her eyes scrunched, her arms raised to shield her face. After opening her eyes, she realized she'd let go of the wheel in her falland the boat still moved. She got to her knees in a rush to grab hold of the throttle and halt the boat from moving forward. Her hands shook on the handle and bled.
Bright crimson gripped her attention. Blood. Her hands dripped with blood. Her blood. What happened? Her mind was muddled with confusion. Then another window blew inward. More glass shards spewed over her like a blanket of sharp needles. Her mind awoke from its tangle in an instant. Only one thing could be powerful enough to obliterate tempered glass.
A gun. The thief was shooting at her with a gun. And these were not warning shots. They were meant to kill. or at least stop her from chasing anyone down. Rachelle's forehead stung where the shards penetrated her skin as if they were the bullets coming at her.
Rachelle eyed the radio above on the dashboard. Did she dare get up to make the call? But she couldn't sit here waiting for
The hull jolted with another hit.
Would it ever end? Rachelle whimpered at the realization that it would only end when the shooter found her mark.
Crouched low, Rachelle covered her head with her hands. A sprinkling of glass fell from her hair to her thighs. The sharp edges, glinting with her blood, transfixed her. This was really happening. She had to do something before it was too late. It had to end before she was killed.
She got to her knees. Her thick rubber coveralls protected her legs from the blanket of glass beneath her. After today, she would never again complain about how the oversize trousers looked like orange whale blubber on her.
If there was an after today, anyway.
Without lifting her head above the dash to give the shooter a target, she fumbled for the radio above. Pain punctured her palm where she touched more glass covering the top of the unit. Rachelle gripped her lower lip in her teeth. Her shaking fingertips found the receiver, and as she twisted around and leaned her back against the console, the receiver's spiral cord pulled tight across her face. Her position kept her hidden from flying bullets and gave a clear view out to the aft deck where today's catch filled large, blue buckets. She'd gladly give the bugs up to the poacher in exchange for her life. The woman could have them all.
With two hands she brought the radio microphone to her mouth. "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is Rachelle Thibodaux on the Rita Ann. I think I'm 54 degrees No, I'm not sure. Um I'm drifting two miles due east off Stepping Stones Island. Someone's shoot"
One black-gloved hand and black diver's hood appeared at the starboard side of her boat. The shooter was coming aboard!
Rachelle let go of the receiver to grab the gun drawer. The radio's spiraling cord yanked the mic back in fast action to some unknown place above, but all Rachelle could focus on was getting the gun. This time she had no choice but to brandish the weapon.
And use it.
Her fingers tripped over the key code. Access denied.
She didn't dare look away from the neoprene-covered head partly exposed on the other side of boat's wall.
But the diver had yet to move an inch. The woman still hung off the side.
Rachelle took the extra moment to try the code again. The latch clicked successfully this time. On an exhale of breath, she pulled the drawer wide and found the butt. Her hand slipped comfortably onto the grip. Something she would question later when this was all over. And there would be a later.
She brought the gun to her chest and realized her camera still hung there. Careful not to hurt her burning scalp more, she pulled the strap over her head and dropped the piece of equipment beside her. Her first time ever not securing it in a safe place.
On her knees, she pointed the gun at the top of the intruder's head peeking above the side wall. "I've got" she squeaked.
"Help me " A deep, male voice cut her off. "Please. Someone. Help. I'm injured."
A man's voice. Not a woman's.
This wasn't the woman diver. So the woman did have an accomplice. And now he was here to finish the job. "Go away!" Rachelle yelled.
"Please " The man's distressed voice caused Rachelle to lower the gun a few inches. Maybe he was hurt. Maybe he wasn't with the woman, after all.
Yeah, right. Because two divers just happened to be diving in the same exact location with only one boat in the water. They were two miles from shore. Both divers had to have come out on the Getaway.
"I've got a gun, and I will shoot you if you board," she warned loudly, glad to hear the only squeaking now was the seagulls above.
"I can't hold on. Help." The gloved hand slipped from the railing and disappeared. A small splash of water proved the ocean had taken him back in. All signs of the intruder vanished.
Rachelle squinted and leaned forward. She was wrong. Not all signs were gone, she could see.
She studied a bright red coloring smeared on the railing. The same color that dripped from her hands. It stood out in stark contrast against the pale yellow of the boat. If the man really was injured, then Rachelle knew exactly what he left behind.
I can't leave him out there if he's hurt, she reasoned under her breath. First, he would drown for sure, but second, if he was bleeding, the scent would invite a whole other killerthe blue sharks seen recently hunting these warm, summer waters.
Without dropping the gun, Rachelle crawled to the starboard sidewall and backed up against it, staying low. Slowly, she pushed up to peer over the railing out of the corner of her eyes. Gone.
She squeezed her eyes and swiped away the hanging black strands of her hair that had fallen from her ponytail. A huge wad of guilt socked her chest, and she slumped back to the floor. "I let him drown. I killed him. I'm capable of murder after all. I'm no better than my father."
She looked at the gun and dropped it from her hand as though it burned her. Her breathing picked back up, and tears filled her eyes. She squeezed them hard again and let out a wail of fear and tension.
And gut-wrenching disappointment.
"Help!" The voice was back. Distant and at the stern of the boat now.
Rachelle stilled her breathing and listened for the man. He wasn't dead. She could still save him. She scrambled aft, keeping her head low to avoid being target practice for the poacher on the Getaway. It hit her that the shooting had stopped. Had the woman left?
Rachelle raised her head a little to search an empty sea in all directions. The setting sun glinted off the glassy water and rippled in peace, oblivious to the nightmare happening around her.
Relief washed over her. The woman was gone.
"Hang on!" Rachelle yelled out. "I'm coming."
She tried to stand, but her legs gave out. She crawled on her knees the rest of the way to the stern. Pulling up on the railing, she saw the man floating on his back, his mask in place but any diving equipment gone. He must have dropped his tank so it wouldn't weigh him down.
"Sir! Reach your hand to me." She leaned over the side, praying he would hear her. God, please let me help him. It's not for me. It's for him.
He rolled to his side in the water, not following her orders.
"Give me your hand!" she yelled again.
He jerked, and his eyes flashed wide behind the mask. His arms flailed a bit before he made contact with her palm and latched on. His powerful grip nearly dragged her overboard, but she'd hauled enough pots up from the seabed to know how to brace herself for the weight on the other end. At least he wasn't dead weight, yet. One big heave and she had the man halfway up the wall. Another pull and he flopped down on the deck, her biggest catch ever.
She whipped his mask off his face. "Where are you injured?" She asked the question while her frantic fingers searched for tears in his wetsuit. She expected to see the neoprene in shreds judging by the extent of the man's incapacitation. All she found was a rip in his forearm. "Is your arm the only place you're injured?"
"Bent," he whispered, his eyes closed and face strained.
"You're bent?" She heard her voice rise and tried unsuccessfully to lower it. The man had decompression sickness? He'd resurfaced too fast, causing a sudden drop in pressure that led to nitrogen bubbles forming in the blood and tissues of his body. It caused severe pain and disorientation. "Why would you do that to yourself?" she screeched. "First time diving? I've never dived in my life, but even I know you're not supposed to rush to the surface!"
His head lolled back and forth. "No choice. She cut the hose to my tank. Then cut me."
"She? The poacher?"
"Not poacher." His head fell to his side, his pale lips thinned and tightened. Dazed, cloudy blue eyes found hers, then sealed up tight again. With scrunched eyes, laugh lines around his eyes popped out, not from mirth, though, but from pain. With gritted teeth, he forced out, "She's not a poacher. She's a pirate. And she just stole my boat."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another one of Katy Lee’s books that take place on and around Stepping Stones Island. I love that little island, and am always happy to see the people we already know as well as the new ones we meet. This book is about pirates and rumors of pirates – about sunken treasure and missing pirate booty. Ship wreck diver, Gage, who is on the run hiding from criminals, brings danger to Stepping Stones and to Rachelle, who just wants to hide out from the town’s people and their accusing faces. They both end up in danger, and you’ll end up needing that box of tissues near the end of this story. This book is one of those you don’t want to put down. You feel compelled to read it straight through to the very end. Thank you again, Katy Lee. Please tell us you have more Stepping Stones Island mysteries up you sleeve. ***A special thank you to the author for providing a review copy.***
Sunken Treasure by Katy Lee is part of the series we started with Miriam. For those of us following the series, it's exciting to hear Miriam mentioned and have her play a small part in the novel. Owen, her husband and chief of police, plays a major role. He was not a fan of Gage and I was surprised that he came across so strong in their first few interactions. Although part of a series, each book can read alone. In Sunken Treasure, Rachelle is working at sea to avoid the townspeople after her father’s crimes have been exposed. This makes for an interesting connection to the first book that I did not anticipate. The action starts from the very first scene and keeps your attention throughout. Gage Fontaine is a treasure hunter and has been running from his past for 15 years both literally and figuratively. Will it all come to an end here on Stepping Stones Island? I typically read a book purely for pleasure. However I found myself analyzing Rachelle and how she must feel dealing with the after effects of her father’s crime. I was contemplating her actions and thought process and how it must have been impacted. The scenes with her mom were heartbreaking. The plot of real pirates and treasure hunters was interesting and very well done. You don't see that in many contemporary novels mostly just historicals. Katy was also able to throw in some plot twists and surprises that I didn’t see coming. I just love it when an author can surprise me! You can see my full review at More Than a Review dot com where I rate the level of sex, violence, language and drug/alcohol use in books.
Sunken Treasure was a great book, full of twists and turns. The story was enjoyable, powerful, and overall well-written. I recommend it - you won't be disappointed.