Passion and intrigue heat up the Florida Keys as Thorn and Alexandra Rafferty--returning from BLACKWATER SOUND--face down a brutal killer who has kidnapped the daughter of Thorn's best friend.
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May 12, 2003
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Excerpt from Off the Chart by James Hall
On that warm Sunday afternoon, when Thorn got back from the john, the drinks were just arriving. He and Alexandra Collins were at a table for six on the outside deck at the Lorelei in Islamorada. The sheer February light had turned the spacious bay to a brilliant blue mica. Over at the rail Lawton and Sugarman and his twin girls were peering down at the resident school of tarpon that threaded between the pilings.
"Hey, stranger," the waitress said as she set their beers down on the table and put the Cokes in front of the empty places.
Thorn stumbled for a half-second, fetching for her name.
"Oh, hey, Anne. How's it going?"
"Just another day in paradise," she said. "How about yourself?"
She bent forward and pressed her lips to his. Inhaling that familiar scent of her shampoo, lime and something herbal, Thorn had a quick cascade of memories, a blur of nights together, their bodies knotted, sheets kicked to the floor. The final story that broke their bond for good.
More than a year had passed since Thorn had last seen Anne Joy. In her early thirties, she still kept her auburn hair cropped short, and her dark eyes had the same electric shine. Thin-lipped, with soft cheekbones, a sleek and coppery complexion, and the coolly impassive smile of a runway model. But her body was far too lushly proportioned for that profession, and no matter what bulky and unflattering styles Anne wore, she couldn't conceal it.
She stepped back from the table and clutched her tray against her breasts.
Alexandra was looking up at Anne with a curious arch of eyebrow.
"I think we'll wait on the order," Thorn said. "Kids are feeding the fish."
"Sure, okay," she said. "Be back in a few."
She took a second look at Alexandra, then gave Thorn a quick, approving smile and turned and set off toward her other tables.
"I'm sorry," Thorn said. "I should've introduced you."
"So this is another one?" Alex said.
"Oh, come on, Thorn. Do you usually kiss your waitress? And this time don't tell me you two were just old high school friends. She's ten years too young."
Alex shook her head, her smile wearing thin.
"Hey, it's a small town," he said. "Limited supply of single women."
Alexandra tasted her Heineken. She watched Sugarman's girls fling bits of bread into the water. The Lorelei was packed, tourists lining up to be seated.
"Was it serious?"
"A month maybe. Not serious, no."
"A month by my definition is fairly noteworthy." Alex peered into his eyes, cocking her head slightly, as if searching for a flicker of deceit.
"We didn't click," he said. "Anne's a little intense, bottled-up."