Authors: Sabrina Devonshire
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Sabrina Devonshire
Cover art by
All rights reserved. The reproduction of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, printed or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the author.
Published by Corazon del Oro Communications, LLC
Wealthy defense systems CEO Nicholas Gallero spots a mysterious woman in the Sea of Cortez while whale watching from the patio of his Cabo San Lucas mansion. When he realizes she’s in trouble, he rushes to save her. He’s instantly attracted to the voluptuous dark haired Selena Gomez. When Selena says she doesn’t remember how she ended up in Cabo, he invites her back to his house. Business as usual ends and his suspenseful romantic adventure begins.
I wish to thank my editor, Priyanka Mehta, for her diligent work on this manuscript. I also would like to thank my husband, Christopher Ferko, for his ongoing support of my writing career, despite the oddities this work presents for our relationship and family. A warm thanks goes out to Extasy Books author Ellen Cross for her constant encouragement and support during the best and worst of times—she’s become a dear friend even though we’ve never met and live on distant continents.
The sailor-take-warning weather put my senses on high alert—the sea air smelled like salt and fresh rain. The Sea of Cortez, usually glassy calm in the morning, was a mire of waves hooded in white. The sky glowed red with promise before the sun peeked above the horizon of choppy sea. Brilliant red clouds, bloated with rain, billowed in the pastel sky and fiery orange light danced across the sea. Even in January, temperatures tended toward balmy.
I downed a cup of potent Columbian coffee before calling my chief engineer. He and my office manager, Jocelyn, kept Gallero Avionics running whenever I escaped to my Cabo San Lucas villa. I had phone and Internet access and if urgent business came up, the flight to Tucson in my private jet barely exceeded an hour.
“Good morning, Michael.” After acknowledging my call, he asked what I wanted done. Fortunately, Michael shared my impatience with preamble. “I’m preoccupied with those tests. Are the engineers on site yet?”
The sun had risen high enough in the sky that spots appeared in front of my eyes whenever I blinked. I reached for my sunglasses and noticed movement in the water near the beach.
Probably a whale or a dolphin.
“Yes, they arrived a while ago and have passed through security. Tests are slated to start in thirty minutes. I’m on my way down there now to make sure there are no delays.”
I couldn’t help smiling. The man knew how to get it done. He was well worth the seven figures I paid him. I’d figured all along I could have finished my three-mile run instead of cutting it short, but I preferred to be the man in control of his ship instead of the one slamming into an iceberg.
It had been the summer after college graduation when I built the first weapon control system prototype in my mom’s garage with money from a summer job and a research grant. Despite working two jobs, she had brought me tumblers of ice water on nights I worked late. There wasn’t any respite from the Arizona heat during the summer, even at night.
She had said if I used my sharp mind; I wouldn’t have to work labor jobs and barely scrape by like her and my car-mechanic father. Every time I looked into her fading blue eyes, unable to miss the purple circles underneath them, I vowed to work harder so I could achieve enough financial success to save her from my father’s fate.
“Thanks for being on top of it, Michael. These new aircraft fire control systems will be more versatile and accurate than anything pilots use in combat today. I need you to make sure they test out without a single failure so we can proclaim with confidence they’ll launch a variety of missiles and strike targets with one hundred percent accuracy. If they pass those standards, please schedule a demo at our Nevada site so our test pilots can show off for the commanders. If there are any glitches—no matter how minor—let me know right away so I can fly up there and take a look.”
“I’ll make sure that happens and get back to you as soon as I know more.” Michael’s voice was crisp and businesslike.
“I appreciate it, Michael.” I concluded the call, glanced at my watch and frowned.
I’ll squeeze in a minute or two of whale watching before computing those profit margins.
The Gray and Humpback whales migrated from Alaska to Cabo San Lucas during the winter season. I’d never tired of watching them.
I slid my binoculars out of the sleek leather case and fastened them to my eyes. Sunlight played over the rough water, glittering like diamonds. Eventually, I saw what I sought—a splash of water and the flick of an enormous two-pointed fish tail. A moment later, a tremendous blocky nose of a humpback whale rose from the water and crashed into the water with a splash. The sheer power and size of the whales impressed me.
That’s one way to take executive control. Outsize everyone else.
Two spouts of water shot into the air, thinning into a mist in the wind. Sudden movement in the lowest quadrant of my binoculars caught my attention. The jerky, desperate motions contrasted sharply with the fluid flow of dolphins, whales, turtles and other aquatic creatures I was accustomed to seeing.
The receding tide had exposed blocks of previously submerged granite. I focused my binoculars on the movement, zooming in on hands that fought the waves with frantic splashes and a head that periodically dipped beneath the surface.
I jumped up from my chair and bolted across the patio and down the stone stairs. After opening the wrought iron gate, I ran across the half a football field stretch of beach that separated me from the water.
A puffy dark thunderhead blotted out the sun. By now, I could see the woman with unaided eyes. She batted at the water once to raise her head before it splashed back down again and then she lay prone in the water, her body bobbing in the waves. She was losing the fight.
The sound of my breathing was lost in the wind as I sprinted toward the water like it was the one-hundred-yard-dash in the Olympics. Adrenaline surged through my body and brain as my feet scattered sand in every direction.
I clenched my teeth and pumped my arms to increase my stride. I’d found more than one sea-bloated body washed up on the beach. Too many tourists miscalculated, imagining an ocean plunge wouldn’t be much different from the pool and found themselves unprepared for sudden depth changes and currents. My lungs burned hot as I splashed into the cool clear water.
When the water reached my hips, I dove in and stroked toward the woman, who was twenty feet from the shore. I swam up beside her and, floating over the crest of a wave, scooped her up in my arms.
Her hair hung in soggy torrents around her stone-white face, and her swollen lips were a lifeless bluish purple. Her limp body sagged in my arms and the undulating ocean waves. I reached across her bikini-clad breasts, linking my arms around her to secure her in a cross-chest carry. I fanned my legs out, doing a powerful sidestroke kick toward shore.
When we reached waist deep water, I lifted her into my arms and carried her away from the reach of waves before laying her gently down onto the sand. As I kneeled beside her, I tried not to stare at the dark red nipple that had escaped from one side of her yellow bikini top.
Clearing my throat, I placed two fingers against the carotid artery on the long slim line of her neck and listened. Sensing a pulse but no breathing, I leaned over and blew into her mouth as I clipped her nostrils shut with two fingers.
It was eighteen years ago when my father crumpled to the floor on a Friday night after a full day’s work at the car shop. He’d had no pulse, so I had pumped and breathed, pumped and breathed, pumped and breathed. It took four paramedics to pull me away from his stiffening body. I still remember how I sobbed out loud in front of those men. I’d just lost my father and even worse, my mother wasn’t home, and I couldn’t bear to tell her that I’d failed her—that I hadn’t been able to save him.
The woman’s body lurched in a spasm and her amber eyes flew open.
Brilliant shades of yellow flickered in her irises. She gaped at me, wide-eyed, looking startled and vulnerable. For some reason, I longed to soothe away her distress with a kiss. I steadied her by gripping her arms and turned my head away as she spit up a mouthful of water.
She mumbled a phrase in Spanish too quickly for me to decipher. I must have looked sufficiently baffled because the next words she spoke were in English. “Who are you?” Fear registered in her accented, high-pitched voice.
Her speech was so clearly articulated; I deemed it safe to speak English. “I’m Nicholas. I live nearby. You were going under, so I swam out to help you.”
“I don’t understand.” Healthy color flowed back into her face.
“I’m trying to help you.”
Still perched over her, I studied her face. Her beauty mesmerized me. Her smooth, sun-bronzed skin exaggerated her high cheekbones and full, rosy lips. I cleared my throat, trying not to think about how soft they had felt against my mouth and how much I wanted to capture them again under different circumstances.
She clawed at my biceps with her well-manicured fingernails and jerked her head up.
“Help me? By pushing me down on my back? Get away from me.”
I gripped her forearm to stop her from gouging more angry lines into my arm. I worried if she jumped up too fast, she might faint. “Its okay, miss. I won’t hurt you. You were drowning out there, so I brought you to sh—”
“Drowning? I don’t even remember swimming.” She wriggled under my grasp. “Please let me get up.”
“I will in a minute, but I think you should rest first. A minute ago you weren’t even breathing.”
Her dark brows drew together. “Not breathing? Nothing about this whole situation makes sense. Are you sure you’re not dangerous?” She stopped squirming and brushed her fingers over the damp skin above her breasts before combing them through her dripping wet, tangled locks.
It amused me that she considered me, the perpetual workaholic, a threat, yet her vulnerable and confused expression tugged on an unfamiliar region inside my chest. I was accustomed to women draping themselves all over me at parties—not out of any interest in me as a man—but because they were drawn to my money like vultures. This woman wasn’t about to like me unless I showed her I was worthy. For some reason, this challenge thrilled me. I wanted to gain her trust. “Yes, I’m sure. If you don’t believe me, I can let you speak with my chief engineer, Michael. He’ll tell you I only get entangled with work. I’m Nicholas by the way. But you can call me Nick.”
“Hmm.” She paused and didn’t blink once when she studied me. “I’m Selena.”
“Nice to meet you, Selena. Here—let me help you sit up.”
I placed my hand behind her back and helped her sit up. She jerked away from my hand like it was diseased and crossed her arms over her chest, slouching forward.
“Your chief engineer? What kind of work do you do?”
“I own an avionics company. Mostly, we make fire-control systems for the American military.”
An ebullient laugh escaped from her lips. “Right, of course you do. Now can you translate what you just said into English?”
I laughed at the absurdity of what I’d just said.
You’re speaking to a beautiful woman, not an executive, engineer or military leader.
“They’re components that work together to help a weapon system hit its target. The ones I design are installed on aircraft.”
“Oh, that sounds like top secret stuff.”