Secrets And The Sea by Camryn Cutler by Camryn Cutler - Read Online

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Summary

Kate Lamb needs a vacation. The years of working her way up to become one of the best graphic artists of her time have taken their toll, and she needs a rest. Little did she know a vacation hiking in the Alps would lead to more than just climbing rocks. Esteban Magalia avoids the slave markets whenever he can, but now he finds himself forced to find a slave girl for a commanding officer. He's taken by surprise when he finds Kate there, a blonde hellion who insists she's not from their world. Aboard his ship Viceroy, they discover their mutual attraction turns to love, but to save themselves from those who would destroy them, secrets must be revealed. Genre: Erotic Romance Fantasy Rating: Erotica - Controversial [contains graphic sexual content and adult language] Read all the thrilling CALTHRACA stand-alone books in the Erotic Romance Fantasy series from author Camryn Cutler! CALTHRACA: THE TIGER [Calthraca Series Book 1] CALTHRACA: ADAMARE [Calthraca Series Book 2] CALTHRACA: SURRENDER LOVE [Calthraca Series Book 3] CALTHRACA: THE FOX [Calthraca Series Book 4] CALTHRACA: SECRETS AND THE SEA [A Calthraca Novel]
Published: Torrid Books on
ISBN: 9781603133685
List price: $3.99
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Secrets And The Sea - Camryn Cutler

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often.

Chapter 1

Kate Lamb brushed a fallen blonde lock from her forehead and looked up at the clock. The stress from her last day of work before her vacation started to ebb away immediately, and she smiled—it was ten minutes to five, almost time to leave.

She closed the portfolio in front of her, an ad for a new ISP called Delcom. It featured a scantily-clad model, reclined on a red sports car and read Crazy, Sexy, Fast! An upstart internet provider, the company promised to do well since it had gone public, and she briefly wondered if she ought to buy some stock on the ground floor.

Maybe when I get back.

Hopefully her work on this campaign would solidify the new vice president’s position she’d been given this week.

Working insane hours and having no social life had rewarded her with the promotion, and she knew crazier hours and even less personal time would be the way to keep it.

Of course, the incredible vacation she was about to take was part of her bonus for all her hard work. Mr. Bline—Matt, she corrected, had been so impressed he’d given her what he’d called ‘a small incentive reward’, but to Kate it was a dream vacation. A walking trip through the Swiss Alps. An avid hiker, she’d dreamed of one day doing this trip, and now it was finally a reality.

Her plane would leave Newark at nine tonight, and she’d be in Bern by tomorrow morning.

It amazed her how well Matt knew her. Instead of a fancy luxury vacation, he’d arranged this walking trip from one hostel to another until she reached Montreaux, where she’d stay in one of the finest hotels on the continent.

Never in a million years would she have guessed that he knew about her hobby, but she supposed it went with the territory, knowing one’s employees.

After shutting down her computer and locking her files, she moved from her new, mostly empty office out to the common area.

Linda, the secretary for the entire office, sat with her headphones on, reading from a glamour magazine. She was young, maybe twenty, with a sweet face and a nice personality. She went to school part-time and worked here full-time, and Kate liked her despite the difference in their ages. Around them, she noticed the other artists and personnel getting ready to leave for their weekend, too.

When Linda saw Kate, she removed one of her earbuds and smiled. Getting ready to go?

Yes, I am... God, I can’t wait! Kate set her keys on the shelf in front of Linda who stashed them in her desk drawer. Remember, only Mr. Bline has access to my files, okay?

Linda nodded. What about your emails?

He’s got my password info, and I auto-forwarded everything to him, plus I’ll be able to check from the hostels when I arrive.

You’re so brave to do this trip alone. I mean, I don’t think I could go to a foreign country by myself. I’d be too scared. Linda shuddered and closed her eyes theatrically.

It’s really not a big deal; I’ve traveled by myself before, Kate replied.

Yeah, but I’d keep thinking of that movie, you know? The one where those people get killed while they’re on vacation in Europe?

Kate rolled her eyes and briefly considered telling the girl that she was in more danger going to the parking garage, but decided not to. Yes, I know the movie. Don’t worry, Linda, I’ll be back in two weeks, and I’ll bring you some Swiss chocolates.

Thanks, Kate. Have a safe trip, okay?

I will. Kate moved away to the elevators and paused briefly outside Mr. Bline’s closed office door for a moment then decided to knock.

Come in! he called and Kate opened the door.

Mr. Bline, I mean...Matt. Kate smiled nervously. I just wanted to thank you again for this. Well, the vacation and the promotion and everything.

Matthew Bline was an attractive man in his late thirties. Tall, auburn-haired and tan, he radiated waves of power and attraction that Kate found hard to resist. She imagined most women had the same impression. Worst of all, she suspected he knew it. He was warm and charming and funny. Articulate, educated and most definitely married.

Really, too bad all in all.

He reclined back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head and grinned at Kate. Don’t thank me. You earned this.

Well, still, it’s very generous of you.

Let’s see how generous you think I am when I’m working you to death with three or four projects and a deadline.

Kate couldn’t help but smile at that; she knew he wasn’t kidding. So, it looks like I’ll be seeing you in Montreaux.

Kate paused for a moment. You will?

Yes, I’m going on vacation, too. One of my stops is Montreaux, so I’m sure we’ll run into each other, at least at the hotel.

Oh, but I forwarded my mail and everything to you, Kate said lamely.

That’s all right, it’ll be a working vacation. Unfortunately, I don’t take many that aren’t.

This was news to Kate.

Will you and your wife be doing some skiing?

No, my wife will be on her annual Caribbean cruise. Maybe we can have dinner while you’re there?

Ah, yes...maybe. Okay, am I crazy or was that a proposal?

You’d better get going or you’ll miss your flight, Matt said. He grinned and Kate wasn’t sure why it suddenly made her uncomfortable.

Yes... Thanks again, Mr....uh, Matt.

He raised a hand and Kate exited the office, cursing herself for having gone in there to begin with.

Kate stepped into the elevator and hit the lobby key. She hoped that he hadn’t taken their conversation as some kind of veiled hint. Riding the elevator down, she continued to turn the whole incident over in her mind. At last she emerged into the huge and opulent lobby of Matox and Bline Advertising, moved to the revolving door and hailed a cab.

Kate sat in the cab and exhaled, putting the conversation out of her mind. She was going to Switzerland!

Kate arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, the desk agent told her that the flight she had hurried to catch was now going to be delayed for two hours.

Kate sighed and dragged her backpack across the airport concourse to the small convenience store. She hadn’t bothered with any luggage aside from her pack, so there was no need to worry about baggage. One less thing to get screwed up.

She decided to kill some time by prowling through the magazine rack. The first one she picked up was heavy, glossy and expensive. She leafed through it, making unconscious faces at the ads.

Some she thought were pretty good, others she recognized from her firm, but most of them were just awful. After leafing through three or four more, she replaced the magazine she held and moved to the bookshelf. She picked out a light romance novel, less than two hundred pages, something simple to read on the flight and destined to be left on a bench in another airport.

On her way out she also added a bottle of migraine tablets and a can of energy drink to her purchases, then found a seat and waited.

When she finally arrived in Bern, there was a car waiting for her. She’d surprised her hosts by only staying an hour before heading off on the first trail. She dashed up the stairs to the common bathroom and quickly changed into her hiking gear: heavy boots; shorts; a tank top and a long-sleeved blouse which she wore tied around her waist. She’d joined the other hikers for a quick breakfast, then thanked the owners and headed out the door.

Kate hiked along a shaded path clearly outlined on her day-tripper’s map. She laughed a little at the title. It reminded her of the Beatles tune, and she hummed the song as she walked.

She shivered at the cold breeze and rubbed her shoulders to warm them, but didn’t bother to put on the shirt; she knew she’d warm up quickly with the exertion of the walk. The other hikers had assured her this was a beautiful path and they were right. She took out her digital camera and snapped a picture of a particularly striking vista. She could see a tiny village in a secluded valley, its church spire reaching heavenward, framed by the snowcapped peaks behind it. That shot would make a great print, and she knew exactly where she would hang it in her new office.

The little camera beeped at her, letting her know she’d nearly exceeded the available memory on the stick, and she made a mental note to upload the pictures to her Picture-Pail account when she got to the next hostel.

Her plan was to hike the thirty miles to that hostel, arriving early in the evening, having left just past dawn.

As she continued along the path, she heard what sounded to her like chanting or singing coming from somewhere nearby. She kept moving, fully expecting to see the people at every turn, but didn’t encounter them. She knew that sounds tended to carry in the mountains but it was unsettling to keep hearing people, yet not seeing them.

Kate continued along the rocky path, kicking gravel along in an unconscious cadence to the chanting. It was hypnotic and she was lulled, not really paying attention until the voices began to get louder and she stopped.

Looking around, she discovered she’d covered several miles without really even knowing it; without observing the views or the woods around her, something very unlike her. That disquieting realization made her more uncomfortable than the cold breeze and she shivered again at a chill that ran up her spine. Were they following her?

She turned her head in the direction of the voices, half expecting to see someone watching her, and recalled the conversation she’d had with Linda before she left.

Stop it right now. You’re creeping yourself out!

Kate’s fear slowly faded to irritation at her own paranoia. She hadn’t come all this way to have her vacation ruined by a bunch of singers, and she wasn’t about to allow a case of the creeps to do it either. She decided to investigate the voices and settle her nerves once and for all. Still a note of prudence rang through her, and she decided there was no reason to barge in on people who might not be doing anything at all sinister. She’d just find out what was going on, then leave them in peace.

She made her way down the rough embankment, into the trees that lined the path. Instinctively she knew the group was nearby, but they were far enough from the trail that they couldn’t be seen through the thick brush and trees.

She cautiously approached, and as she did the voices became clearer. She could now make out both male and female tones and realized there were quite a number of people ahead. They stood around a fire in a circle, hands linked, chanting their song. As though the scene weren’t ominous enough, all of them wore long, black, hooded robes and Kate stopped quickly.

She looked around, noticing the forest was quite a bit darker than the path, and that unwelcome sense of fear tugged at her again. This was a really stupid idea.

She stepped behind a large tree and leaned into the rough bark, holding herself up for a moment, gathering her thoughts. Maybe she ought to just get back on the path and get the heck out of here? What if they were doing something sinister? Was that something she really wanted to witness? Not to mention the fact that she probably placed herself in danger with her rash decision.

Okay, I’m just going to back out of here slowly and quietly before anyone sees me, and then move along.

The voices began to grow to a deafening volume, and she stepped backward, convinced that despite their singing, the merest twig snap would alert them to her presence.

Focused on the group before her, Kate had only moved a few cautious paces backward when a hand fell hard on her shoulder. She shrieked and whirled to face her assailant.

He was at least a foot taller than her, his face hidden in the shadows of the deep hood he wore. Kate screamed again, but before her terrified brain could force her legs to move, she was lifted and thrown over his shoulder.

Unfazed by her kicking and fighting, he carried her to the circle. The chanting stopped then, and faster than she could register what it meant, the man threw her into the center of the group. She fell backward, aware that she was going to land in their fire, but was unable to stop her descent. The only thought she had before she blacked out was that it wasn’t a fire at all; it was something else—something she’d never seen before.

* * * *

Kate awoke alone in the woods.

Disoriented and frightened, she slowly gained her feet and checked herself to make sure she wasn’t injured. She hated the shaky feeling in her legs, but didn’t seem able to make it stop. She didn’t have any injuries aside from a few cuts and scratches, and she let out a deep sigh of relief.

Kate glanced furtively into the dark woods, convinced that every sound she heard meant they were returning, but there was no one around. She scanned the clearing where all the people had been only minutes before, and it appeared that no one had even been there at all. She decided that she’d feel a lot safer if she got back on the trail.

Her backpack was on the ground near where she’d been thrown, and she hooked it over her shoulder, then hastily moved back toward where she thought the path was.

As she walked, she turned over what had happened. The people had been chanting and singing, then stopped when the man had thrown her into their fire circle...but it wasn’t a fire. She hadn’t gotten a terribly good look before she hit the ground, but it appeared to have been some sort of blue glowing disk, something strange and almost alien.

She glanced around nervously once more, still unable to shake the fear that gripped her.

Kate had been walking for nearly half an hour when she realized the ground beneath her feet was rumbling. Above her a flock of small birds took flight, frightened by a growing noise, something huge moving rapidly toward her. She hastily stepped back off the path just in time to avoid being trampled by dozens of men thundering by on horses.

They were all dressed in a strange sort of uniform and carrying swords and banners. She watched them pass, entirely confused. Had she wandered into a group of reenactors? Maybe a movie set?

When the last of them had passed, she moved cautiously back to the side of the road. This vacation was quickly becoming a nightmare, and she couldn’t wait to find the next hostel.

Checking her compass, and accounting for where she’d last looked at it, she made a rough guess as to where she needed to go and began to follow the road as it headed west.

Since the horsemen, she hadn’t seen another soul and she was struck by the quiet peace here. Earlier, before she’d come across the hooded singers, she’d passed other hikers and tours, but now, there was no one.

According to her estimation, where there should have been towns, there was nothing but trees and rocks. She knew she couldn’t possibly have gone that far off the trail and she checked her pocket GPS. It beeped stupidly at her and she rapped it against her palm a few times before stuffing it back into her pack in frustration. Instead she pulled out her map, found a stump to sit on, and studied. Her pedometer told her she’d walked twenty-two miles, and she should have arrived in Montreaux by now.

Kate looked at the great expanse of fields, mountains and forest before her.

This is definitely not Montreaux, she muttered.

She looked around one last time and decided her best bet would be to continue west. Worst case scenario, I end up in France, and then I’m going to have the biggest most fattening dessert I can get my hands on. Kate stood and stretched, then began to walk again.

She stopped about two hours later and ate one of her dehydrated packs. It wasn’t crème brulé but it would do.

Katherine was an experienced hiker, and having traveled most of the major parks and trails in the United States, she’d been eager to accomplish this trip through Europe, but now she worried this may have been a very bad idea. The gnawing fear of being attacked again had abated, but she was still puzzled over what it had all meant, and why had they thrown her into their circle?

As darkness began to fall Kate realized she’d have to spend the night out here. She stepped down from the road and into the woods looking for a suitable spot to bed down.

Once she decided where to sleep, she made a quick fire and laid out her bedroll, then located a small stream nearby and replenished her water supply, carefully adding tablets to make it potable.

Finally she sat, and when she did, that shaky feeling returned. She’d managed to stave off the fear by keeping busy, but as it got darker, she worried more and more about who or what might be lurking in the darkness beyond her fire.

Pull it together, Katherine, she said. You haven’t gotten where you are by falling apart over every little problem.

She forced herself to calmness, and lay down upon her sleeping bag, convinced she wouldn’t get any rest.

When morning came, Kate awoke to sunshine filtering through the leafy canopy above her. Birds chirped in the trees and the air was warmer than it had been yesterday.

She couldn’t believe how soundly she’d slept. Must be the mountain air. She then began to break camp.

Kate walked.

There was a huge amount of wildlife here, and after she’d been startled by yet another deer crashing through the bushes, she guessed she must have wandered onto a game preserve or wildlife sanctuary, although none were visible on her map. She was heartened and kept watch for whatever passed for a game warden there.

She took a break near noon and wrote in her travel diary, then ate another of her dehydrated packs and checked her supplies, figuring she would be safe for another two days—three if she were frugal.

She had planned the solo