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Authors: Sandra Brown

Tags: #Women editors, #Islands, #revenge, #Fiction, #Romantic suspense novels, #Editors, #Psychological, #Georgia, #Authors and Publishers, #Suspense, #Novelists

Envy

BOOK: Envy
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ENVY

by

SANDRA BROWN

A Novel by the Nodd1

##########_New #_York _Times

Bestselling Author

One of the few authors ever to have three simultaneous _New _York _Times

bestsellers, Sandra Brown is a world-class suspense writer who "carefully crafts tales that keep readers on the edge of their seats"

(_USA _Today). In her latest novel, she entwines two plots into an explosive tale of a long-ago crime and the victim's plan for revenge ...

Maris Matherly-Reed is a renowned New York book editor, the daughter of a publisher and the wife of bestselling author Noah Reed.

It isn't often that an unsolicited submission so captivates her that she feels she must immediately meet its author. But Maris has just received a tantalizing partial manuscript submitted by a writer identified only as P.M.E., with the return address of an obscure island off the

#Georgia coast. P.M.E4's #########v

blockbuster potential--and perhaps something else--compels Maris to search for him.

On an eerie, ruined cotton plantation, she finds Parker Evans, a man determined to conceal his identity as well as his past. Working with him chapter by chapter, Maris is riveted by his tale of two friends who charter a boat with a young woman for a night of revelry ... an excursion from which only one person returns.

As the story unfolds, Maris becomes

convinced it is more than just fiction. Disturbed about her growing attraction to Parker and gripped by a chilling suspicion about his novel's characters, she searches for the undisclosed truth about a crime committed decades ago. Then someone close to her dies, while even closer looms the presence of evil--a man who will use her, or anyone, to get what he wants ...

Exploring the way love and hatred shape lives, ENVY uses both Maris's quest and Parker's novel to create a breathtaking story of suspense. Not until the shattering, surprise finale will readers guess the solution to its puzzle of deceit and murder, retribution and redemption.

SANDRA BROWN is the author of more than sixty books, of which over forty were _New _York _Times bestsellers, including the Nodd1 _New _York _Times bestseller _The _Alibi, _The _Switch, _Standoff,

_Unspeakable, _Fat _Tuesday,

_Exclusive, _The _Witness, _Charade,

_Where _There's _Smoke, and _French _Silk.

Her novels have been published in more than thirty languages. She and her husband divide their time between homes in Texas and South Carolina.

VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT

www.twbookmark.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

#########ALSO BY SANDRA BROWN ####vii _The _Switch

_Standoff

_The _Alibi

_Unspeakable

_Fat _Tuesday

_Exclusive

_The _Witness

_Charade

_Where _There's _Smoke

_French _Silk

_Breath _of _Scandal

_Mirror _Image

_Best _Kept _Secrets

__Slow Heat in _Heaven

#################ENVY ##############1

"Envy" Prologue

Key West, Florida, 1988

Saltines and sardines. Staples of his diet.

Add a chunk of rat cheese and a Kosher dill spear and you had yourself the four basic food groups. There simply wasn't any finer fare.

That was the unshakable opinion of Hatch Walker, who had a sun-baked, wind-scoured visage that only a mother gargoyle could love. As he munched his supper, eyes that had blinked against the sting of countless squalls squinted narrowly on the horizon.

He was on the lookout for the lightning flashes that would signal an approaching storm. There was still no sign of it here onshore, but it was out there somewhere, gathering energy, sucking moisture up from the sea that it would send back to earth in the form of wind-driven rain.

But later. Above the harbor, a quarter moon hung in a clear sky. Stars defied the neon glare on the ground. But Hatch wasn't fooled.

He could feel impending meteorological change in his bones before the barometer dropped.

He could smell a storm even before clouds appeared or a sail caught the first strong gust of wind. His weather forecasts were rarely wrong.

There'd be rain before dawn.

His nicotine-stained teeth crunched into his pickle, and he savored the garlicky brine, which he chased with a bite of cheese. It just didn't get any better. He couldn't figure out folks who were willing to pay a week's wages on a meal that wouldn't fill a thimble, when they could eat just as good--and to his mind a hell of a lot better--on a buck and a half. Tops.

Of course, they were paying for more than the groceries. They were financing the parking valets, and the starched white tablecloths, and the waiters with rings in their ears and cobs up their butts, who acted like you were putting them out if you asked them to fetch you an extra helping of bread. They were paying for the fancy French name slapped on a filet of fish that used to be called the catch-of-the-day. He'd seen pretentious outfits like that in ports all over the world. A few had even cropped up here in Key West, and those he scorned most of all.

This being a weeknight, the streets were

#relatively quiet. Tourist season was ###3

on the wane. __Thank the good Lord for small _favors, Hatch thought as he swigged at his can of Pepsi and belched around a harrumph of scorn for tourists in general and those who flocked to Key West in particular.

They descended by the thousands each year, slathered in sunscreen that smelled like monkey barf, toting camera equipment, and dragging along whining kids who'd rather be up in Orlando being dazzled by Disney's man-made marvels than watching one of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet.

Hatch had nothing but contempt for these fools who worked themselves into early coronaries for fifty weeks a year so that for the remaining two they could work doubly hard at having a good time. Even more bewildering to him was that they were willing to pay out their soft, pale asses for the privilege.

Unfortunately, his livelihood depended on them. And for Hatch that represented a moral dilemma. He despised the tourists' invasion, but he couldn't have made a living without it.

Walker's Marine Charters and Rentals got a share of the money the vacationers spent during their noisy occupation of his town. He equipped them with scuba and snorkeling gear, leased them boats, and took them on deep-sea fishing expeditions so they could return to shore and have their grinning, sunburned mugs photographed with a noble fish, who was probably more affronted by the asinine picture-taking than by being caught.

Business wasn't exactly thriving tonight, but the trade-out was that it was quiet. Peaceful, you might say. And that wasn't a bad thing. Not by a long shot. Not compared to life aboard merchant ships, where quarters were noisy and cramped and privacy was nonexistent. He'd had a bellyful of that, thank you. Give Hatch Walker solitude and quiet anytime.

The water in the marina was as still as a lake.

Shore lights were mirrored on the surface with hardly a waver. Occasionally a mast would creak aboard a sailboat or he'd hear a

telephone ringing on one of the yachts. Sometimes a note or two of music or several beats of percussion would waft from one of the waterfront nightclubs. Traffic created an incessant swish. Otherwise it was quiet, and, even though it meant a lean week financially speaking, Hatch preferred it this way.

###Tonight he might have closed up shop and #####5

gone home early, except for that one boat he had out. He'd leased the twenty-five-footer to some kids, if you could rightly call twenty-somethings kids. Compared to him they were.

Two men, one woman, which in Hatch's estimation was a volatile combination under any circumstances.

The kids were tan and lean, attractive and self-assured to the point of cockiness. Hatch figured that between the three of them they probably hadn't done an honest day's work in their lives.

They were locals, or at least permanent transplants. He'd seen them around.

They were already half lit when they boarded the craft just before sunset, and they'd carried a couple of ice chests on board with them. Heavy as anchors, by the way they were lugging them. Odds were good that those chests contained bottles of booze. They had no fishing gear. They were going off-shore strictly for a few hours of drinking and debauchery or his name wasn't Hatch Walker. He had debated whether or not to lease a craft to them, but his near-empty till served to persuade him that they were not flat-out drunk.

He'd sternly ordered them not to drink while operating his boat. They flashed him smiles as insincere as a diamond dealer's and assured him that such wasn't their intention. One bowed at the waist and could barely contain his laughter over what he must have considered a lecture from a grizzled old fart. The other saluted him crisply and said, "Aye, aye, sir!"

As Hatch helped the young woman into the boat, he hoped to hell she knew what she was in for. But he figured she did. He'd seen her around, too. Lots of times. With lots of men. An eye patch would have covered more skin than her bikini bottom, and Hatch would have no right to call himself a man if he hadn't noticed that she might just as well not have bothered wearing the top.

And she didn't for long.

Before they were even out of the marina, one of the men snatched off her top and waved it above his head like a victory banner. Her attempts to get it back turned into a game of slap-and-tickle.

Watching this as the boat had chugged out of the marina, Hatch had shaken his head and counted himself lucky that he'd never had a daughter with a virtue to protect.

7

Finally one last sardine remained in the tin.

Hatch pinched it out of the oil, laid it diagonally across a saltine, added the last bite of pickle and sliver of cheese, doused it real good with Tabasco, stacked another cracker on top, and put the whole thing in his mouth, then dusted the crumbs off his beard.

Chewing with contentment, he happened to glance toward the entrance of the harbor. What he saw caused the sandwich to stick in his throat. The corner of a cracker scratched his esophagus as he forced it down, muttering, "Hell does he think he's doin'?"

No sooner had Hatch spoken his thought aloud than a long blast from the approaching boat's horn nearly knocked him off his stool.

He would have come off it anyway. Because by the time the intact sardine sandwich hit his stomach, Hatch was out the door of the weather-beaten shack that housed his charter service and angrily lumbering down the quay, waving his arms and shouting at the boat's pilot--probably a tourist from one of those square, landlocked states who'd never seen a body of water bigger than a watering trough--that he was coming into the marina way too fast, that he was violating the "no wake" rule, and that his recklessness would cost him a whopping fine if not a couple nights in jail.

Then Hatch recognized the boat as his.

His! The damn fool was abusing his boat, the finest and biggest in his fleet!

Hatch fired a volley of expletives,

wicked holdovers from his years as a merchant marine. When he got his hands on those kids, they'd regret the day their daddies spawned them.

He might be old and ugly and bent, he might have gray whiskers and a slight limp from an unfortunate run-in with a knife-wielding Cuban, but he could hold his own with a couple of pretty beach boys--"And make no mistake about that, you arrogant little fuckers!"

Even after the boat cleared the buoys it didn't slow down. It kept coming. It missed a forty-two-foot sailboat by inches and set it to rocking. A dinghy slammed into the side of a multimillion-dollar yacht, and the folks sipping nightcaps on the yacht's polished deck rushed to the rail and shouted down at the careless mariner.

###Hatch shook his fist at the young man at ##9

the wheel. The drunken fool was steering straight for the pier, kamikazelike, when he suddenly cut the engine and spun the wheel sharply to port. The outboard sent up a rooster tail of spume.

Hatch had barely a second to leap out of the way before the boat crashed into the quay. The young man clambered down the steps of the cockpit and across the slippery deck, leaped onto the aggregate pier, tripped over a cleat, then crawled a few feet forward on all fours.

Hatch bore down on him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and flipped him over as he would a fish he was about to gut. In fact, if he'd had his filleting knife in hand, he might have slit the guy from gonads to gullet before he could stop himself.

Luckily he was armed only with a litany of curses, threats, and accusations.

But they sputtered and died before they were spoken.

Up till then Hatch's focus had been on his boat, on the recklessness and speed with which it had been steered into the marina. He hadn't paid much attention to the young man piloting her.

Now he saw that the boy's face was bloody.

His left eye was swollen practically shut. His T-shirt was in shreds, clinging to his lean torso like a wet rag.

"Help me. God, oh, God." He threw Hatch's hand off his shoulder and scrambled to his feet. "They're out there," he said, frantically motioning toward the open sea. "They're in the ocean. I couldn't find them. They ... they ..."

Hatch had witnessed a man get shark-bit once. He had managed to pull him from the water before the shark could get more than his left leg. He was alive but in bad shape, in shock, scared shitless, blubbering and making no sense as he bled buckets into the sand.

Hatch recognized the same level of wild panic in this young man's eyes. This was no prank, no showing off, no drunken escapade, as he'd originally thought. The kid--the one who'd smartly saluted him earlier--was in distress to the point of hysteria.

"Calm down, sonny." Hatch took him by the shoulders and shook him slightly. "What happened out yonder? Where are your friends at?"

The young man covered his face with hands that, Hatch noticed, were also bloody and bruised.

BOOK: Envy
4.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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