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A Cruise to Remember

A Cruise to Remember

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A Cruise to Remember

Length:
320 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 15, 2004
ISBN:
9780991874828
Format:
Book

Description

A heroine with amnesia, a friend with Alzheimer's, an Interpol hero under cover, an international jewel theft ring and attempted murder on a Caribbean cruise. Add some romance, beautiful islands and a few interesting passengers and you have the makings of a romantic suspense.
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 15, 2004
ISBN:
9780991874828
Format:
Book

About the author


Book Preview

A Cruise to Remember - Beverley Bateman

Sixteen

PROLOGUE

Maybe I’m in over my head. What made me think I could pull something like this off?

Her hand trembled slightly when she placed the glass of wine on a side table. She opened the French doors to the balcony. Hesitated and then picked up the glass again and carried it outside with her. Her hands shook. She chewed her lower lip.

The crisp, Miami spring breeze caressed her face. She closed her eyes, enjoying its cool touch.

Drugs and parties have been my lifestyle for the last few years. What makes me think I can walk away and leave it all behind me? I almost took a drink back there; I’ve still got the damn glass in my hand. Am I fooling myself? Maybe I can’t drag myself back to a normal life. God, after what I allowed myself to sink to, it would be a miracle if I did escape this life.

She remembered far too vividly that morning when she hit rock bottom. She’d lain there, staring at the water-stained, filthy, ceiling. Feelings of nausea and revulsion churned inside her. Her eyes had trouble focusing on the filthy, puke-colored wallpaper. Large strips of the paper had peeled back and hung strips, exposing large, garish, pink roses peeking through the ripped areas.

Fighting the nausea she tried to focus, attempting to dredge up some memory of where she was--or how the hell she even got here, wherever that was.

Nausea rolled over her in waves. Who’d brought her to this place?

Disgust wrapped around her as she struggled to remember what happened the previous night.

The revulsion that shot through her body made her shiver and grab her stomach.

Tears welled up as she tried to figure out how she’d fallen into this state.

Why did they have to die and leave her alone?

The drugs and alcohol helped relieve the pain for a while. But morning always came, and the loneliness crashed over her.

Trying to shake the memory of the day she hit rock bottom, she opened her eyes. Glasses clinked and voices chattered in the background. She stared out across the perfectly manicured lawn, abstractedly smoothing the hip-hugging, soft, red velvet dress. She wanted to forget that part of her past, but the memories seemed determined to take over tonight.

When I think of that morning, how cold fear covered me like a shroud, it revolts me. I lay there wondering who the hell I was with and what he’d do to me when he came back. A party; it was always a party. I‘d left to find someplace to buy more drugs. That’s all I remember.

Oh God, I needed a bathroom. I remember flipping on the light and slapping my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. Those bloodshot eyes that stared back from the cracked, discolored mirror, sunk in dark circles; the sallow face surrounded by limp, matted blonde hair. I looked like hell. I look at least forty years old.

She struggled to breathe; her heart pounded, her hands were cold and sweaty. She remembered the disgust she felt at what she had become. Bag ladies on the street looked better than she did that day. She’d groped her way around the room until she found most of her clothes. Yanking them on, she’d grabbed her shoes and purse, and ran.

In some ways, she was still running, but she was trying to stop. She wanted to make a new life for herself. She had to see if she could really do it. Could she bury her memory and move on to something that would merit her parents’ approval?

Damn it, I can do this. I’m my father’s daughter.

She jerked her shoulders back, lifted her chin and clenched her teeth tightly together. Her hand unconsciously brushed an imaginary piece of lint off the designer dress.

If she set her mind to it, she could do anything.

A sigh escaped. She started to chew her lower lip. Swiping her fist at the stray tear that slipped down her cheek, she turned toward the house and opened the door.

God, I want a drink.

Inside the house she was aware of moving bodies and the blending of colors. It was ironic. In her effort to escape this lifestyle, she was right back in the middle of it; parties and alcohol. This time though, she was here because it was her job.

Gino had given her a chance to escape: a chance to gain her self-respect back. She wasn’t going to disappoint him. She wasn’t going to disappoint her parents anymore. Maybe, most importantly, she wasn’t going to disappoint herself.

All she had to do was watch and see if anybody went near the library or acted suspicious. It was basic Criminology 101. She could handle it. From what she could see of her old crowd, nobody was interested in the library or the contents of its safe anyhow. They just wanted to smoke, drink, and party.

She stared down into the Austrian crystal champagne glass in her hand. She salivated at the mere thought of taking a drink. Swirling the glass gently she watched the golden liquid climb to the gold rim then rivulet down the sides.

I don’t need it. I’m not an alcoholic.

Maybe not, but I sure as hell want it.

She tossed the contents into a nearby plastic palm tree container and deposited the glass on a table she passed.

She was working.

Darling, I missed you. Where did you disappear to?

A tall, dark-haired man in a navy blazer, with a family crest on the pocket, emerged from the mass of bodies and sailed up to her. He glanced admiringly at her dress, and then he slipped his arm across her bare back and slid it down until it encircled her waist.

I brought you a drink.

Sorry David, I needed a breath of fresh air. She curled her fingers around the stem of the crystal champagne glass he offered her. Thank you. It’s a great party, but I need to leave you again, for a minute. I have to make a phone call.

She slipped out of his proprietary hold. Her lips touched the edge of the glass and she fluttered her eyelashes. She peered up through the dark fringe, meeting his adoring look.

But I just found you. You know, I don’t think you’re really into this party. Is there something wrong? I can get you something if it would help? A touch of petulance tinged David’s voice. His lower lip slid slightly forward as he placed his hands on her shoulders, and gazed into her eyes.

She knew exactly what he was offering. He’d been one of her main drug links in the past.

No thanks, David, not tonight. I’m a little tired. I am enjoying the party. Mitzi always throws wonderful extravaganzas. It’s only one call. I won’t be more than a few minutes.

Can’t you call whoever later?

Now, David, don’t pout. I said I wouldn’t be long. She pasted a smile on her lips. Her mother would be proud of her.

I’ll be right back, and we can dance the rest of the night away, like old times. She pursed her lips together in a pout and walked her fingers slowly up the front of his tailored blue blazer. Her eyes locked in his until she reached the lapel and then she removed his hands from her shoulders.

You promise? His lower lip protruded slightly more.

She touched his cheek; the silver ring on her finger sparkled and caught the light from a chandelier.

Of course, I promise. Now, David, you have to let me go. And remember, the next dance is mine. See if you can get them to play something slow and romantic. I’ll be right back.

Her mother had taught her well. She hadn’t appreciated it until now.

Hurry back. It’s lonely without you. He grasped her hand from his cheek, kissing her fingertips. By the way, are you on for the trip tomorrow? We could leave from my place in the morning.

What trip? She withdrew her fingers.

You don’t know? Some of the gang is flying to Paris for a few days, to do some shopping and take in the Lido. You know--just for fun. Julie’s dad said we could use his private plane. Come with us.

Oh, David, I don’t think so. I... I’ve got things I need to do.

That can always wait, Paris can’t. Come on, you’ve never hesitated before.

True, but it’s short notice. I’ll think about it. The smile on her face was beginning to hurt. All she wanted to do right now was to escape from this damn party.

If you change your mind, we’re meeting out at the airport tomorrow around noon. If you don’t leave from my place, pack a bag and meet us there. Paris is always great fun. Remember?

I remember. We’ll see. She slinked across the marble dance floor toward the library. Her hips undulated in time with the beat of the music.

Her eyes scanned the room, noting the objects d’art in the cabinets on the small tables placed subtly around the room. They looked like things a thief might want to steal. And then there were the original paintings that hung on the walls. It wasn’t up to her to offer advice to a thief, but he was missing a lot of great stuff. Her job was to make sure he wasn’t hiding in the library, stealing the family jewels.

Fingers circled the brass doorknob. She glanced back over her shoulder, her eyes squinting into the dimly lit atmosphere, searching for anything out of the normal.

Dense clouds of smoke hung across the room, accompanied by a strong, pungent odor. The clouds thickened over the areas where the lavishly dressed young people lounged in small clusters alongside the dance floor. Wispy strands of the smoke sneaked out from the dense mass, stretching their fingers to the far corners of the room, leaving no one free from at least a breath or two of the cloying cloud. Underneath the fog the group chattered--smoking and laughing loudly--perhaps louder than necessary.

Were they really enjoying themselves and their lives?

She shrugged. It was their life--not hers any longer.

No sign of any criminal activity here. Gino must have his information wrong. She’d give him a quick call and let him know nothing was going down tonight. Then she’d get out of here.

A warm bath filled with her favorite bubble bath and maybe Mozart playing in the background sounded pretty inviting right about now.

What made me think I could be a private investigator? My father was a successful businessman. I’d hoped to follow in his footsteps and become a successful businesswoman. Right now I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. But thanks to Gino at least I have one more chance. I have no intention of blowing it.

The latest dance band blasted forth from the four expensive speakers located strategically around the room. Pictures rocked on the walls, shifting positions as the music vibrated back and forth. Small pieces of china appeared to move, snail like, as the music assaulted them.

Voices rose and fell, punctuated by the occasional burst of raucous laughter--another weekend gathering of the young and the wealthy in the Florida beach area.

She wasn’t the same person who had partied with these people a few months ago. Finally, she was working on becoming the person she wanted to be--once she figured out who that person was. This was the first big step.

She turned the doorknob. After she called Gino, she’d escape and head home.

Champagne glass in one hand, she fumbled for the light switch with her other one. Light flooded the room. She glanced around. A sickly scent reached her nostrils.

Her glass crashed to the floor, shattering into millions of pieces.

She opened her mouth to scream.

Silence.

Damn, he growled as he slithered silently across the room, covering the distance between them in two smooth strides.

She froze, unable to make a sound.

Their eyes locked. She found herself staring into a pair of dark, hostile eyes.

Kicking the door shut, he covered her open, voiceless mouth with a gloved hand.

She stared, mesmerized. There was pain.

Then everything faded to black.

CHAPTER ONE

The steamy Puerto Rican air slapped Eric Peterson in the face as the sliding door automatically opened. He hesitated at the sudden temperature change, before he proceeded outside into the heat of the upper deck of the ship. Leaning on the rail, the sun beating down on the back of his neck, he scanned the diorama from the dock area to old town San Juan.

The old and the new intermingled amongst the ongoing construction, forming an interesting panorama. He wished he’d come in a day or two earlier to tour the area. He’d only received the information on the assignment a few days ago. He needed to get up to speed before the cruise ship sailed.

Eric turned his attention to the dock below, where boarding had commenced. A staggered line of passengers shuffled toward the main gangway.

His gaze snapped back to two women who stopped briefly for the ship’s photographer. The older woman was well dressed in a white, semi-tailored skirt and a pinkish blouse. She wore her silver hair in an elegant bun at the base of her neck. The jewelry around her neck and her wrist sparkled as it caught the sun’s rays, magnifying the light, shooting it back toward the sky. He had no doubt they were diamonds, probably high quality. If she was trying to draw attention to herself, she was certainly going to accomplish it.

Jewels were one of his areas of expertise and the main reason he’d managed to pull this assignment. That, and the short time he’d spent as a medic in the army.

His eyes lingered on the younger woman. She shone like a jewel in her own right--white-blonde, shoulder-length hair, gleamed in the sunlight. Her green colored sundress fit her body, revealing the promise of well-rounded breasts and a tiny waistline.

A strong desire to meet this attractive young woman gripped him.

He’d never felt anything like this before. He gave himself a mental shake.

It’s probably the motion of the ship. Yeah, that, or I’m just plain horny. It’s been awhile since I scored.

Eric’s continued to observe her as she proceeded up the gangway. The sundress she wore was some kind of soft material that draped and clung to that perfectly proportioned figure. He wondered if the color of the dress matched her eyes.

She glanced upward, smiling. He felt she was smiling just for him. Eric smiled back, resisting an urge to wave. This assignment was looking better and better. He watched her disappear through the entrance.

Work was his life. He was damn good at it and respected by his peers. To him, women were an enjoyable pastime. A smile flickered across his face. Yes, they were enjoyable, but that was all. He’d never let any woman interfere with his work. That’s why it had been awhile since he’d been with anyone.

Eric’s attitude toward women was based on what they could do for him. Usually it was sex, but occasionally they could help him with his job, like this time.

He glanced back toward the gangway, but the two women had disappeared. An elderly man with a cane had replaced them.

Disappointment slipped over him. This was a feeling that he knew well, although it wasn’t one he normally associated with women.

Because of his background and upbringing, he’d decided years ago that he wanted a career, with no strings or attachments, and no permanent involvements. He’d even taken a vow when he was in college, to remain single--though not celibate--his entire life. He had seen far too many bad marriages to even consider the possibility. It wasn’t in the cards for him.

Besides, there were too many beautiful girls to charm. It would take a lifetime to get around to most of them. And none of them wanted their man to be away on dangerous missions after they were married. They wanted a stay at home, family-orientated husband.

That left him out of the picture.

No, he was independent, happy to travel to different parts of the world, playing different roles, depending on his assignment. He had no one to worry about but himself. He had no intention of ever changing his lifestyle, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t meet and enjoy the company of a beautiful blonde.

Eric strode back to the sliding glass door. When it opened, it was the cool inside air that blasted him. He didn’t hesitate and stepped quickly inside. He chose the stairs instead of the elevator. He hurried down the steps, running his hand over the teak railings. He enjoyed the feel of the well-crafted wood. They were polished to a mirror-like shine with brass accents.

He took the steps two at a time and arrived at the main lobby area within minutes. Stopping before the last few stairs he paused where he had a good view of both the entrance and the lobby. It gave him a clear view of the passengers who boarded.

He relaxed against the wall and scanned the entire room. There was no sign of the blonde in the green sundress. She must have gone to her cabin. Slightly disappointed, he looked back to the entrance and skimmed over each person entered.

The passengers would appreciate the lobby with the huge teardrop crystal chandelier hanging over the comfortable pink sofas and glass coffee tables. Large bouquets of colorful arranged flowers in hues of pink and purple and blue sat on the corner tables. It had that welcome-to-my-home feeling.

A couple burst into the room. The man wore red plaid shorts, a yellow and orange floral shirt, brown socks, and black shoes. A straw hat was smashed onto his head, and a camera with a large lens swung around his neck. His large paw-like hand clutched an economy, used to be white, handkerchief, which he used to mop his florid face.

Hurry up, Myra. Don’t take all day. We don’t want to waste any time. Not at these prices. He yelled at the woman behind him.

A short, thin woman shuffled through the entrance, a dozen steps behind him.

She wore a large, lime-green tee shirt with the map of Alabama on the front. It hung over a pair of brown cotton shorts, one size too small. A red scarf was tied over her mousy brown hair. She carried a humungous green plastic purse hooked over her shoulder. Large black sunglasses perched partway down her nose.

They both carried huge shopping bags that kept banging first into each other, then into the crew who were there to welcome them. An air of not--so--quiet desperation hung over them.

So, where the hell do we go now?

Welcome aboard, sir. Do you have your boarding passes? One of the female crewmembers asked.

Yeah, yeah, you got them Myra?

Yes, George, I think so. The woman put down her shopping bag, slipping the large green plastic handbag from her shoulder and balanced the bag on her knee. She started to fumble through it, yanking out a comb, then a pocket book, then shoving them back again, pushing things around inside the bag with her hands.

I know I got them somewhere, George. Hold on, I think it’s here. She wiped her forehead with a fist then dove back into the bag again.

Damn it, Myra. I gave them to you so as you could hold them, not lose the damn things. You can’t ever find anything in that damn purse of yours.

Here they are. She pulled them triumphantly out of her bag.

It’s about time, damn it. I can’t depend on you for anything, gimme. He grabbed the boarding passes and shoved them at the crewmember.

Here, so, where the hell do we go now?

The woman crewmember read the passes. You’re cabin is to the right sir, on the main deck.

Okay, fine, hotshot, how do we get there? The man mopped his face.

The porter will show you. She waved, and a porter appeared in front of them.

Welcome aboard, sir. Follow me and I’ll escort you to your cabin. Can I carry anything for you, sir? The porter flashed a bright smile.

Y’r damn right, here take these bags. The man shoved the shopping bags at the porter.

The man, George, sighed loudly. I don’t know, Myra. I don’t know why people keep saying cruising is so great. Damn it, give me Nashville any day.

Once you’re settled in, sir, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the cruise. The porter headed toward the corridor, with the couple shuffling along behind him.

They took the damn passports, too. Damn it, Myra, I don’t know why a United States citizen should have to carry a passport on a cruise. You didn’t need one to go to Nashville. And then when you arrive at the damn ship they take it away from you. What the hell are they going to want from us next?

Eric smiled. He could relate to these people. Maybe not the outfits they wore, or the man’s negativism, but the unknown. This was Eric’s first time on a cruise ship also.

He shifted his position and continued to watch passengers entering in a slow, steady stream. Many were well-dressed, wealthy passengers.

The right corner of his upper lip curled upward into a sneer. In his experience, the wealthy were mostly leeches and bloodsuckers, who took from society and gave nothing in return. They were too wrapped up in their own importance, separated from any vestige of the real world.

His father had worked for such a man when they lived in Switzerland. Eric had gone to school with his son, Philippe. Because of that, he’d had to cope with on-going public humiliation because of Philippe and his superior attitude toward the middle class and the poor. Philippe had been a snob and a real prick, taking great delight in pointing out Eric’s class distinction to everyone.

Eric’s smile was tinged with bitterness. He preferred the couple from Alabama. They were down-to-earth, real people. They looked like they were from a small farm somewhere out in the country. They may have been dressed in their brilliant floral shirts right off the souvenir shop rack, accompanied by those clashing Bermuda shorts, but they were real.

He might smile at their typical tourist appearance--the big camera slung around the man’s neck--but Eric had more respect for them than he did for the nouveau riche. He respected people who worked hard for their money. They were usually family-oriented and contributed to their community. They were the ones that kept a country together.

He shifted his position again, unconsciously pulling his shoulders back and tightening his abdomen. A tall, leggy, redhead with large breasts sidled through the main doorway. He found himself admiring a pair of shapely legs that seemed to go forever until they finally joined with an equally shapely body, most of which was displayed for the public to appreciate. She wore a pair of brief, tight white shorts and a sleeveless black tee shirt with a low cut V-neck. Her designer sunglasses hung from the V of her t-shirt.

The woman paused. She surveyed the room with a lazy gaze. She stopped to look at Eric an smiled. She bent down, supposedly to tie the shoelace on one of her runners. She wasn’t wearing a bra. She didn’t need one, and he appreciated the large, firm breasts that were exposed to him--and anyone else who wanted to look. Little was left to his imagination.

Eric felt his body respond. He smiled in appreciation. She straightened up and

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