Roxanne St. Claire brings to life the beauty and danger of the Caribbean in her stunning debut novel, blending intrigue with white-hot passion for a suspenseful, sultry read.
Ava Santori is cooking up a storm in the family restaurant in Boston's North End when a call from the Coast Guard brings shattering news: her beloved brother was lost in a shipwreck. Determined to find out why the ship was steered into a hurricane, Ava packs her bags for the lush isle of St. Barts -- where she puts the blame squarely on the broad shoulders of the ship's owner.
Dane Erikson built the luxurious Utopia Adventures cruise line from the ground up and he's not about to let it sink. Enlisting Ava to help discover the truth about the doomed Paradisio, he finds himself unbearably tempted by this fiery, impetuous woman. And as their investigation causes danger to close in, he and Ava find their hearts leading them to the same place...straight into each other's arms.
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February 18, 2003
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Excerpt from Tropical Getaway by Roxanne St. Claire
Dane Erikson stood on the weather-beaten docks of St. Barts harbor, where mourners had gathered in clusters. With them, he listened to the tributes to twenty-one men delivered from a makeshift podium. Every few minutes, his gaze returned to the ebony-haired beauty in the back, drinking in her uncanny resemblance to Marco. There could only be one reason for Ava Santori to attend the memorial service for the victims of Paradisio.
So, not one reason. One million reasons.
Why else, after years of estrangement, would she join the mothers, wives, and island children who gathered at the edge of a bloodred sunset to mourn the men who perished in the wreck of his ship
In a simple black dress, she stood out among the colorful islanders who honored the dead by donning the brilliant hues of the Caribbean.
He had no doubt of her identity, although she had apparently spoken to no one. Smaller and paler than her brother, she had the same unruly curls and enormous eyes the color of ripe black olives. The amazing likeness unnerved Dane and remorse rolled through him.
The mourners closed their eyes in prayer or moaned in grief. A small child called out for his mother, who scooped him up with one hand and slung him into a natural curve on her hip. More than a few glanced his way.
These island people understood the capriciousness of the sea that fed and nurtured them. But how many, like Ava Santori, would want retribution and vengeance and mountains of money How many needed a villain to blame for the deaths of the young men who tried to sail the ship to safety The orange swirl on a map that became known as Hurricane Carlos was too intangible to take the blame for their loss. Someone must pay. Someone must be held accountable. That someone was him.
Beyond the docks, two of Utopia Adventures' majestic sailing ships rested in the harbor of St. Barth ' lemy, a row of matching masts against an indigo sky, listing leeward in the tropical breeze. But no familiar sense of pride filled Dane at the sight. He'd been numb for the last three weeks since his favorite ship -- his first ship -- had thrashed and sunk under the deadly rogue waves that few sailors live to describe.
He'd arrived from the search site last night, ill prepared to make a poignant address. Exhausted, frustrated, and as stunned as everyone else, he'd planned to keep a typically low profile among his employees. But Cassie had begged him to speak about Marco, and he couldn't stand for her heart to break any further.
So he agreed to give the eulogy for the Paradisio's second mate. He certainly never expected a Santori in the audience. But, then, there was never such a compelling reason for any of them to show up. Money: the great reconciler.
He kept his eyes on the ships as he strode across the wide planks of the dock, purposely avoiding eye contact with the unexpected guest from Boston. He placed a set of index cards etched with furious notes on the top of the temporary pulpit created for the event and inhaled the scent of frangipani mixed with salt water.