She started down the street. But she could hear them talking as she left.
“It’s all right. I’ll walk her,” Thor said, and in a split second he had caught up with her.
She glanced at him, shaking her head. “I’m okay. Really.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not following you. I’ll just see you to your door. There is a killer out there.”
Genevieve shook her head. She knew she should be more concerned about the very real dangers out there. But she wasn’t. She just didn’t want to see any more ghosts. “The streets are full of people. You don’t need to do this.” She hesitated. “Sadly, and most likely, we’ll find out she was a prostitute, or running with a drug crowd. Or she was a trophy wife seeking excitement on the side. I doubt that, since we’re not in any of the same circles, we’re in any of the same danger.”
“Just walk. We’ll be there before we finish discussing the situation.”
He led her straight to her door. She unlocked it and looked up at him. He was standing very close. Large, powerful. She felt almost as if they were touching. She breathed the scent of him, a pleasant cologne, something of the sea, something of bronzed flesh. Her heart was pounding far too quickly. There seemed to be something magnetic, electric, in the space between them. She was sure he was going to touch her, and if he did…
“Lock your door once you’re inside,” he said sternly, stepping back. “Go on. Get in.”
She nodded and opened the door. “Thanks.”
That was it; he was gone, and she was surprised by the measure of loss and disappointment she felt. She didn’t want to question her feelings too closely. It had been so much more comfortable to hate the man. He didn’t become involved; he didn’t date where he worked. So Bethany had said. She had read it. Then again, he had bet his boat against a night with her. A whim? Or sheer ego? Surely that meant the man at least found her appealing….
There was a difference between sex and love. She didn’t want to become a number in a list. She gritted her teeth. She wasn’t going to torture herself over a man any more than she was going to torture herself over…
She checked her doors, but first she got out one of her dive knives, and then she searched the house, down to the closets. She felt a little like a fool, but at least she knew she was alone. She felt resentful; she’d never been afraid in her own house before. She had wished once upon a time that there were ghosts, so her parents could have appeared, could have come to her and whispered that they were okay, that they were together and watching over her.
No such ghosts had ever come to her, though.
After a while she felt more comfortable with being home, though most of the lights in the place were on. This was home. Everything was real and familiar. No ghosts, she was certain, would darken her door.
She went through her mail and paid bills, then studied some of the copies she had made of documents regarding the Marie Josephine. Her interest was drawn not so much to the ships involved, as to Gasparilla the pirate. He’d had a real streak for cruelty, it seemed.
Had he fallen in love, been rejected…and murdered the beautiful young woman who was the object of his affection? Thrown her into the water, her body weighted…
As the current killer had apparently done?
Even if he had, what could be the possible connection to what was happening now?
Coincidence, she told herself. Or sheer insanity.
She didn’t want to think about it, and she pushed the papers away. Then, after she’d walked away once, she returned and slammed them into the drawer of the desk. She fixed herself a cup of tea and headed into the living room. She intentionally kept the television off. She knew about the murder. She doubted she was going to hear any good news.
At last, she went to bed. She was surprised to find herself critically studying her choice of night attire. A large T-shirt. Cotton, worn, extremely comfortable. Dopey on the front, holding a cup of coffee. Hardly the apparel of a femme fatale.
The same thing she always wore, she reminded herself. And, anyway, she was sleeping alone.
But in bed, just as she had for the past several nights, she couldn’t bring herself to turn the lights out. And she wanted the noise of the television. She turned it on, careful to choose a station that didn’t carry the news.
She was desperate to sleep and simultaneously terrified to do so, but at last she drifted off.
The pirates came again. Tattered and filthy as they walked through the water. Ragged clothing fell from skeletal arms. Shimmering weapons were raised. Rotted teeth showed through decaying lips.
They encircled her. Staring at her, moving closer…
And then the woman came. With her drifting hair, long white gown. Her sad smile. Her whispered word.
Sheer panic set in, rousing some instinctive place where the human psyche fought to survive.
She awoke, gasping, sitting up.
The room was empty. The lights were still on.
The TV was showing an ancient sitcom.
Shaking violently, she forced herself to breathe. And then to rise.
And as she did, she saw the water.
Gallons of it, surrounding her bed.
T hor didn’t go straight to bed. On the walk back to the resort, he discovered that Jay Gonzalez had stayed with the group, which was making a final stop at the tiki bar before splitting up for the night. And Jay interested him.
He was able to get a seat next to Jay at the bar and ask, “So, what do you think?”
Jay, sipping a beer, stared at him, well aware what he was talking about. “What do I think?” he murmured. “I think there’s a maniac out there. Of course, there’s always a maniac out there, but this one is close to home.”
“Do you think the killer is local?”
“No, I don’t. But then, I don’t want the killer to be local. There’s no reason to expect the perp to be from here, of course. These waters are a playground for a lot of South Florida.” He hesitated, lifting his beer. “But was she killed around here? Yes. For the body to have surfaced where it did…she was killed somewhere off the islands, close to Key West. But she was definitely dumped off a boat, and that boat could have come from almost anywhere.”
“She was weighted down. Surely that gives you some clues.”
“Pieces of rope, but I have a feeling we’re going to discover it’s the kind that can be found at any hardware store or any boating-supply place in the country. We have no idea what kind of weight was used to keep her down.” Jay stared at Thor with serious eyes. “I’ll send police divers down again at the coordinates where Genevieve first saw the body. If we can find the weight that was used, it will be another piece in the puzzle. Of course, finding out who she is should help a lot, too.”
Thor kept Genevieve’s conviction that this body was not the woman she had seen in the water to himself. “We’ll be keeping an eye out, as well,” he assured Jay grimly. He hesitated. “Any chance I can see the body again, speak with the medical examiner?”
Jay seemed surprised, and he studied Thor for several seconds. Then he grimaced. “I imagine I can arrange it. Since you’re in charge of the hunt for the Marie Josephine, what you discover underwater could be as important to our current crime as to your own search. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” He handed Thor his card, and Thor returned the gesture.
At that point Bethany crawled off her bar stool and said good-night. Alex and Victor had followed suit, along with Lizzie and Zach. Marshall, too, yawned and left, and only Jack, Jay and Thor were left. Jack groused over the fact his beloved home had been besmirched by a vicious murder, and then, shaking his head, departed. The bar was empty—even Clint had gone to bed—when Jay and Thor said their goodbyes.
Thor was back in his cottage barely long enough to shower when there was a knock on his door.
It was two in the morning. Not so late for island barhoppers, but still…
A towel wrapped around his waist, he went to see who it was.
He was stunned to hear Genevieve’s voice.
He opened the door. She shot in, apparently not noticing the fact that he wasn’t exactly dressed.
But then, she looked a little strange herself. Her hair was wild, as if she had been asleep, the rich auburn length sexy with just-out-of-bed appeal. She was wearing a long, cotton nightshirt similar to one he’d seen her in before. She had on sandals with heels, and she was carrying a casual evening bag.
“Uh…yes?” he asked.
She sailed past and right on to the futon in the living area, taking a seat and staring at him.
“I…couldn’t sleep. I was hoping you were up.”
“Did something frighten you?” he asked.
“No,” she lied with a flat smile.
“I see. You left your house, where you were safely locked in, and walked back through the city—where the victim of a nasty murder was recently found—because you felt chatty in the middle of the night?”
She stared straight at him. “Yes.”
“Okay.” He stared straight back at her. “Well,” he said after a moment, “I guess I’m flattered.”
She looked a little startled, as if suddenly realizing how strange it was that she had come to him, of all people.
She was frightened, he could tell, no matter what she said.
“Did something happen?” he asked.
She shook her head slowly, as if considering. “No.”
“I see.” He sat down on the futon, a foot away from her, folding his hands idly. “You just couldn’t stand being away from me?”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re actually fine,” she murmured, “when you’re not being insufferable.”
“You’re actually okay, too,” he said.
Her eyes shot to his. “When I’m not being insane, right?”
He smiled at that. “You’re a lot more than okay, but I’m sure you know that. You not only look like you walked out of some teenage boy’s wet dream, you have a smile that lights up a room, you’re bright, curious and—” he smiled “—an excellent diver.”