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Overboard: The Crow's Nest, #2
Overboard: The Crow's Nest, #2
Overboard: The Crow's Nest, #2
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Overboard: The Crow's Nest, #2

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While test driving a speedboat fifty miles out in the Atlantic, veteran Staff Sergeant Miguel Ortiz rescues a sultry woman clinging to an ocean buoy. Her ruined evening gown screams money, but the look in her eyes is one he knows all too well—a haunted gaze mixed with fear and pain. Getting her on board is the first step toward safety. But when they're attacked by jet ski riders carrying guns, Miguel realizes the danger isn't over—it's just beginning.

Cassidy Fletcher has finally found her sister's murderer, but thanks to a few missteps from the past, no one believes the truth. There's no way she can survive this on her own. The only chance she has is the man who rescued her at sea, who also happens to be the sexiest man she's ever laid eyes on.

Then, something primal and raw ignites within Miguel—a passion for Cassidy he never knew he could feel for anyone. And while the world may not believe her, he knows one thing for certain.

Cassidy Fletcher's life is in danger—and he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

LanguageEnglish
Release dateFeb 11, 2021
ISBN9781733715560
Overboard: The Crow's Nest, #2
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Author

Natasha Raulerson

Natasha grew up as a tomboy hanging with the guys, getting skinned knees, and swimming under the South Florida sun. Tattoos, Jack Daniels, and lounging at the pool are three of her favorite things. She is a wife, a mother, has two fur babies who love puppy piles, and the status of her sanity is pending.

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    Book preview

    Overboard - Natasha Raulerson

    Chapter One

    Veteran Staff Sergeant Miguel Cortez had been up before the sun, waging a righteous battle with insomnia. Several times he’d found himself on the verge of sleep, but just before he fell into blissful unconsciousness, a dark memory would dance at the corner of his mind and jolt him to just this side of awake. In a way, that was good. Though Miguel had been working for years to keep his demons at bay, sometimes they slipped through and tried to lure him into the darkness.

    Conceding to the fickle bitch that was insomnia—this time—he decided to take his mind off his past by finishing up repairs on a boat for a client at The Crow’s Nest. The marina was large, well kept, and housed more than the general public knew, including barracks for when the men needed a place to crash. Knowing that his demons were pressing, Miguel hadn’t been staying there, instead opting for the seclusion of his houseboat out in the Everglades. It was safer that way. Not just for himself, but for the people around him.

    After fixing the speedboat’s outboard motor, he backed it into the water and took it for a test drive. It flew through the water like a stream-line butterfly in the wind, knowing just how to take the waves and cut the water for maximum speed. Miguel punched the throttle. No sense in returning it half-cocked. If it didn’t do top notch speeds, then he hadn’t done his job. He opened her all the way up, leaving the shore and his demons behind him.

    He named her Cordelia. It suited her and naming the boats he worked on had become his own personal tradition. It didn’t matter what the owner had slapped on the side. In this case, Thunder in Paradise, no doubt after the old Hulk Hogan show from the 90s. The unoriginal name made him cringe. Miguel would never admit he watched the show, and liked it, but in this case, the name didn’t suit the boat.

    No, Cordelia definitely suited her better. Especially the way his touch made her move. He grinned as the sun came up, chasing away the shadows of the ocean, and casting sharp golden hues across the surface. The last demons of the night got pushed away with it, and he laughed as some sea spray washed over his skin.

    Nearly fifty miles out and he came to his buoy. His buoy because Miguel always turned back at this point. It was the last one before full on open waters. In his own cruiser, he wouldn’t mind, but not in a client’s boat. If anything happened that far out, Cap wouldn’t be happy. That didn’t mean Cap wouldn’t have his back. Right or wrong, the veterans who now worked at the Crow’s Nest Marina had a captain who kept the ship in shape. They were all from different branches of military—Miguel having served in the Marines. Veterans all the same, and most of them having found a home after combat at The Crow’s Nest.

    He slowed as he came up to the buoy, making the turnaround, and he had to do a double take to make sure he wasn’t seeing some sort of sea mirage. Either that or he’d finally lost his mind. Maybe he should book an appointment with his psychiatrist. However, as the boat idled across the smooth water, Miguel was certain that he wasn’t hallucinating.

    A sultry siren sat on the edge of the buoy, her long slender fingers gripping the top bars of the orange barrel, while her cheek rested against her arm. Her blond hair cascaded over her shoulders, laying against a deep green dress that clung to her curves—and had a red stain on the thigh. The bottom hem had been torn off and her bare feet dangled just above the water. As far as Miguel knew, there were no such things as mermaids. Maybe the bourbon he’d had last night had been tainted? Nah, that didn’t make sense—and he hadn’t run into any djinn that had granted a wish, so he wasn’t quite sure why he had been so lucky as to stumble upon the most ravenous beauty this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

    She flicked her gaze up to him, blue eyes wide and gaze frightened. Her lips parted as he pulled the boat up next to her.

    "I’ve seen a lot of things, Sirena. He stepped over to the side of the boat. It bobbed slightly in the water’s soft wake. But this is the first time I’ve met a mermaid that needed rescuing from the sea."

    He smiled, trying to reassure her, and while he had no idea what had brought her to this point, it hadn’t been anything good. Falling overboard was one hell of an experience, especially in the middle of the night. It made it harder for anyone to find her. From the dress, he imagined she had been on a cruise or possibly a yacht party. Friends or family had probably noticed her absence by now, but the vessel could have been plenty far away by the time that had happened. Either way, she was damn lucky to be alive, especially if it had been a large cruise ship. The force of the propellers could have easily pulled her under and kept her there.

    She shivered, despite the warmth of the sun rising in the sky and fear flickered in her green eyes.

    Shock, he figured. Maybe fatigue, depending on how long she’d been clinging to the buoy. Despite his nearness, she didn’t ask for help, didn’t try to cling to him. Odd, considering the current circumstances, and while in any other circumstances, Miguel wouldn’t mind having her cling to him, for this particular situation he just needed to get her safe.

    In his day-to-day life he had no shame when it came to flirting with women, and if he’d seen her at a bar or on the beach, he’d offer his best pickup line and charming smile. He liked playing the field. Preferred not to settle down or stick with one woman too long. It had less to do with commitment, and more to do with the issues he was constantly trying to work through.

    With the possibility of the darkness catching up to him.

    The mermaid clung tighter to the steel of the orange buoy, but her arms trembled with weakness. He needed to get her out of the water and back to land. Whatever trauma she’d experienced kept her from reaching out to him. Maybe she was hallucinating. Considering the circumstances, it was possible, but something made him reconsider.

    The wild fear in her eyes reminded Miguel of his time in Pakistan. Of being held against his will—he chucked the memories before they could form. Not the time. Right now, this woman needed his help. This was the here and now, and even if she had been through something similar, he needed to focus on this moment if he was going to be any help to her.

    "Easy, Sirena, he said. I’m gonna help you on board and get you out of here."

    When she didn’t say anything, Miguel stepped out of the boat, bracing one foot on the buoy. He reached out, resting his hands over hers. Being this close, feeling her cold, wet skin, and the fear wafting off of her, Miguel had a strong desire to wrap her in his arms, and protect her from whatever had brought her to this point. It surprised him. Not because of the desire to do so. Protecting others was one side of him, but the strength of that urge seemed more potent than he’d ever had in the past.

    It’s okay. You’re safe. He held her gaze, never wavering from it.

    She uncurled her fingers, but they didn’t fully straighten, as if they were stiff from clinging to the buoy for hours.

    That’s it, he coaxed her. I’ve got you.

    He helped her stand up, and she whimpered in pain, but she pushed forward, getting into the boat and sitting in the passenger seat. Reaching into his duffel, he grabbed a bottle of water, still cool, and cracked the top. "Here, Sirena. Drink this."

    She nearly snatched it from his hand, swallowing the liquid in desperation. It tumbled past her sensual lips, over her chin and down her neck, swelling in her cleavage.

    Any other time.

    When she finished, the woman slumped in the seat. Thank you.

    She can speak. He offered her another smile and grabbed the radio on the dash, turning it to The Crow’s Nest station.

    They had a specific one for the marina, in case any of them were in trouble or needed to get help quick. He wanted a medic ready and waiting for them once they docked. The woman didn’t seem on the verge of death, but she should still get checked out, especially considering the red stain on her dress.

    No! Gasping, she dropped the bottle and leaned forward to slap the radio from his hand.

    Instinct set in, and Miguel grabbed her wrist before she reached her destination. Whoa, easy. I’m calling to make sure there’s help for you when we get back to shore.

    You can’t do that! Her face went ashen and her knees buckled. Please!

    Miguel’s grip on her wrist was the only thing that kept her from hitting the floorboards, now puddled with the water that spilled at her feet. Instead, he eased her back in the chair, before releasing her and setting the radio back on the hook.

    Something had her more than spooked, for sure. It raised several red flags. She was hiding from something or someone. At first, he thought the wound under the dress had been caused by the fall or maybe climbing onto the buoy. Now, he thought maybe his original assessment of accidentally falling overboard might be wrong.

    She could have been pushed.

    He held up his hands in acquiescence, trying not to upset her anymore, and sat down in the driver’s seat. Sighing, he rested his arms on his knees. "Listen, I don’t know what happened to you, but you need to see a doctor, Sirena."

    Mermaid, she said in an almost distant voice.

    He smiled. That’s right. It’s all I know to call you unless you want to give me your name.

    She just stared at him.

    All right, I’ll go first. I’m Miguel Cortez. Marine mechanic guru. I enjoy early morning boat rides, long walks on the beach, and a cold beer or two before bed. He leaned in just a bit. Also, I’m a huge Looney Tunes fan.

    A seagull landed on the buoy, squawking in the dawn as a small smirk lifted her lips.

    Seriously. Wile E. Coyote, are you kidding me? Always getting the short end of the stick, but man, I can’t stop laughing.

    Her shoulders slumped a little more, her body relaxing. Exactly what he wanted. Humor, he found, often helped deescalate a situation. Or deflect people. Yup, it sure did that too.

    "Now then, do I get to know your name or should I just keep calling you Sirena?"

    She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, a sharp pain sliced through his arm. The seagull gave a terrified shriek before taking to the air as several bullets clinked into the side of the boat. Miguel glanced toward the south.

    Two jet skis raced toward them, carrying one man and one woman—both holding guns.

    Chapter Two

    Instinct kicked in and Miguel grabbed the woman by the arm, pulling her down onto the floorboards. He covered her body with his until the first wave of gunfire stopped. She trembled beneath him, curling in on herself.

    Stay down and hang on. He shoved his hand into a small black duffel bag, coming out with a Ruger 9 mil.

    Her eyebrows pressed together as she looked at him with renewed fear.

    An old feeling of dread washed over him. There were monsters in this world, and yes, Miguel knew he could be one of them, but he hated that she gave him that look. He had a mother and a sister, and he grew up with a healthy respect for not hurting women—even in his darkest moments a woman had never been in danger—it was one of the reasons he kept them at a distance.

    His protective drive was in full throttle, but for now, he didn’t have time to reassure her.

    Grabbing the radio, he mashed the button. Ida, are your ears on?

    He kept low as he moved to the wheel and lifted his head just enough to see over the edge. The jet skis were too close for his liking, but there was no way they could keep up with Cordelia. So long as the bullets didn’t hit anything vital.

    Gripping the throttle, he pushed up. The engines thrummed with power. So far, so good. The boat whipped through the water as Ida’s voice came on the horn. He stood up to steer, making sure he headed in the direction of shore as opposed to the open ocean. Two more shots fired, and he ducked.

    I hear you, handsome. Don’t tell me you’re ditching a date again.

    He smirked. "Not this time, mami."

    We’ve had this conversation.

    On many occasions. Ida always said she wasn’t his mother. And she wasn’t—but in a way, she was a mother to the Crow’s Nest in that she watched out for them and when trouble came after her men, she was the first one to defend them. Along with Cap. Miguel adored Ida and loved making her smile. Their back-and-forth banter often did that. Any other time, he’d go into it, but with bullets flying and a damsel in distress, he didn’t have the time.

    And I’d like to have it again, but right now I’ve got two bogies on my tail with guns. He twisted around, firing at the man.

    If he had a decent piece of ground, his rifle, and a scope, neither would stand a chance. As it was, he still had damn good aim, but at high speeds, it was a lot harder than the movies made it out to be. He still managed to at least clip the man who flew off the jet ski.

    One down, he said.

    The familiar feel of adrenaline made him smile. Nothing like being in a gunfight to make him feel alive. Plus, he was driving a boat at high speeds while saving a woman at sea. Yeah, this was definitely the distraction he needed from his demons.

    But they’ll be back.

    Coordinates, trajectory, and ETA, Ida said.

    He relayed all the information back to her, giving her precise details. If Miguel knew anything, he knew his corner of the ocean.

    Hunter and Cap are heading toward you.

    Good to know the cavalry is on the way. Also, make sure to have medics standing by.

    You hit? Worry coated Ida’s voice.

    "Just a graze, but I picked up a beautiful Sirena, he said. She’s bleeding and our newfound friends aren’t—"

    He jerked the boat to the left as the jet ski came up on the port side.

    Whoops, gotta go! He released the radio’s mouthpiece as the woman dropped speed to avoid getting clipped.

    Miguel blew her a kiss, and she narrowed her gaze before raising a gun. He ducked as she pulled the trigger, and the bullet shattered the front glass over the dash.

    Damn it, woman!

    The client was going to be pissed. It would be on the Nest to cover this. Not that they didn’t have hazard insurance, but Miguel wasn’t quite sure where gunfights fell under that umbrella. At least not ones the client wasn’t part of.

    Standing up, he shot back at her, but she down shifted and came up on the starboard side. She blew him a kiss, the same as he’d done moments ago. Wisps of her dark brown hair flew in the sharp wind. Smarter than her male counterpart.

    Somewhat.

    Seeing how close she was, Miguel turned the wheel sharply to the left. At this speed, he risked tipping the boat. The front bow went up high and he held control of the wheel. It thudded as it came in contact with the jet ski and the woman flew into the water.

    Any other time he would stop, pull her out of the water, and find out what she wanted, but he had another woman shivering on floorboards and he could see the outline of a speedboat heading toward them.

    He continued forward, slowing as he approached the other boat. Hunter was behind the wheel. Cap moved over to the side, facing Miguel and his passenger, his bald head gleaming in the sun.

    Status report, he said.

    Bogies down in the water, Miguel said. One about a mile back, the other maybe five miles.

    Cap nodded and looked at the woman on the floorboards. Target?

    He nodded. Most likely. I found her clinging to a buoy fifty miles out. She’s been pretty quiet so far. I’ll see what she says once we’re back at the Nest.

    We’ll double back. See if we can find either of the bogies.

    ‘Find’ because they might have gotten back on their jet skis and hauled ass—or because they might be floating off course. The sea was a fickle bitch like that. Sure, it was harder to lose a boat or something in open waters, but once people went in, it was pretty easy for them to get pulled under.

    Sirena had pushed herself up against the side of the boat, hugging one knee. It pulled the fabric tight against her, fitting to her curves. She seemed small, sitting there, and it looked to be too painful to pull the other leg. Her blue eyes were wide, brows pushed together, staring at

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