“No, whatever you wish, Miss Wallace,” he replied mockingly.
“Tomorrow morning, then, we decide the bet,” she said.
“I’ve got an idea,” he murmured, looking amused. “But you won’t like it.”
She was suddenly certain she knew the nature of his wager. It should have infuriated her. Instead, it just made the challenge greater.
“Really?” she murmured, suddenly aware of her own muscles tightening with the same tension, the same sense of challenge and ruthless determination, as his. Worse, his air of sexual innuendo only increased her fighting spirit.
“You really don’t want to know. It’s a pretty wacko thought.”
“I think I do know, Mr. Thompson. The question is…what do I get when you lose? Sorry, a night in the sack with you isn’t my idea of a prize.”
He laughed softly. “You made quite an assumption there, didn’t you?”
She fought the wave of crimson that threatened to splash her cheeks and tried to bluff her way out of it. “What kind of prize would be wacko to you?” she asked sweetly.
He smiled, for once a simple, deep and, she had to admit, very nice smile. “Wacko doesn’t necessarily mean…The Seeker,” he said suddenly.
“The Seeker. You’d get The Seeker.”
She frowned. “The boat is yours?”
“From bow to stern, yes.”
“But…she’s your livelihood.”
“I won’t lose.”
Genevieve sat back, totally confused. “You’d wager your dive boat? Against…?”
He smiled again, and this time it was far too sexy and seductive. “Well, it was your suggestion.”
“My mind wasn’t moving in that direction until you said something.”
“It sure as hell was.”
“I never would have voiced it if you hadn’t.”
She wasn’t sure what she felt at that moment
“You are joking, right?” she asked softly.
He leaned forward; she found herself doing the same. The bet was between them; no one else would be in on it. “I’m not joking. If I lose, I’ll pay up. Will you?”
“You’d risk your boat for a woman you think is crazy?” she asked. “You have to be crazier than you think I am.”
He laughed. “Not really. I won’t lose.”
“We’ll see, won’t we?” she murmured.
“So it’s a bet?”
She noticed that Jack had made an appearance and was dragging another table over. She realized that in a few minutes the tiki bar would be crowded, as the crews from both boats all began to put in an appearance. In fact, she could see Lizzie and Zach approaching. Bethany, Alex, Victor and Marshall would no doubt be over in another few minutes.
“People are coming,” she murmured.
He gripped her wrist where it lay on the table. “Is it a bet?”
“Yes,” she hissed quickly.
“One of us will have to lose,” he said, stating the obvious.
“It won’t be me,” she assured him. “But don’t worry. I’ll take excellent care of my boat.”
A touch of dry amusement entered his eyes, and he leaned close.
“Don’t you worry. I’ll take excellent care of you.”
The others were there before she had a chance to reply, and she rose to greet Elizabeth and Zach.
Maybe she was just being paranoid, but it seemed as if Elizabeth and Zach were looking at her oddly. Then again, it might not be paranoia. She hadn’t been in great shape when she had surfaced yesterday. But Elizabeth had sympathy in her eyes as well as the same speculative look that Thor Thompson usually wore. “You doing all right? Everything okay today?” Elizabeth asked, taking the chair her husband offered her and drawing it up beside Genevieve’s.
“Fine. I’m really sorry I caused such a commotion yesterday.”
“Hey,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve had a few weird experiences in the water, too.”
“Lizzie ran into a head once,” Zach said.
“We were diving a small plane crash in the Everglades. It was pretty grisly.”
Genevieve nodded, staring across the table at Thor, who was smiling at Bethany. Asshole.
“I’ve done some recovery in the Everglades, and it is brutal,” Genevieve said.
“The muck…you can’t see anything until it’s in your face—then, suddenly, you’ve found a body part,” Elizabeth agreed. “But…well, you must have seen something. Maybe we’ll find whatever it was in the next few days.”
“I hope so,” Genevieve said. She looked at Thor again, clenching her teeth. “I haven’t worked rescue and recovery all that often, but we’ve gone up to the Glades a few times. I don’t know what this was.” She waved a hand in the air. “It had to be someone’s idea of a joke. A mannequin or something.” She didn’t believe it for an instant, but she was sick to death of the topic.
“Hey, anybody want to head out for dinner?” Bethany asked as she and the others came walking over.
“I was thinking about eating here,” Alex said. “We were planning a pretty early morning, at least three dives. I’m going straight to soda water after this beer.”
“You?” Genevieve inquired skeptically.
“We should call it an early night,” Thor said. “We’re supposed to meet back out here on the patio tomorrow at seven-thirty.”
“Seven-thirty?” Genevieve said. “I thought it was eight-thirty? All we have to do is get up and walk out to the boats.”
“Our advisers are going to be here in the morning,” Marshall said. “Preston from the Coast Guard and Professor Sheridan, from the university.”
“Oh?” Genevieve said.
“Thor got the call when we were out today. Sorry, I missed telling you,” Marshall said.
Had her own boss decided she was too far gone to receive information like everyone else? she wondered. Didn’t he want her in contact with the higher-ups?
“Great,” she said. “I guess we should call it an early night.” She started to rise, but Marshall smiled, putting a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
“I say we let the crew of The Seeker buy us dinner tonight.”
“Sure,” Elizabeth said cheerfully. “The hamburgers here are cheap enough. We’ll let you guys buy us steaks after our first discovery.”
“I’ll go give Clint our order,” Thor said, rising. “Though what Marshall isn’t telling you is that all our meals go on an expense account. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers? Any vegetarians in the group?” He looked at Genevieve.
Of course, she thought. He already considered her a bit strange, so no doubt she must be a vegetarian in his red-blooded, rough-and-ready, American-male world. She suddenly wished she were a vegetarian, just so she could see the look on his face when she told him.
She decided not to answer him. Instead, she rose determinedly. “I think I’ll skip dinner. I’ll see you all at seven-thirty in the morning. Good night.”
Elizabeth looked at her in concern. “You really should have some dinner.”
“Yeah,” Bethany said, frowning.
Easier for you all to talk about me, if I just disappear, she thought, forcing a convivial smile.
“I’ve got snacks in the bungalow,” she said. “Thanks.”
She left then. Thor, ordering the food from Clint, didn’t even glance her way.
The bungalows were set no more than twenty feet apart, but they managed to feel private. They were nestled against a thin forest of sea grapes, pines and spindly oaks that shielded them from the rush of Duval Street and beyond. A stretch of beach lay in front of some, while the deeper water and the docks flanked others. The property wasn’t big; there were only three piers, one with local boats and two for guests. She could see Jack’s ramshackle fishing boat and Jay’s pleasure craft rocking gently at one pier, their work boats at another, awaiting the morning.
She entered her bungalow and looked around, admiring the casual plan. Each unit offered a refrigerator, microwave and wet bar, with a screen between the parlor/kitchenette/sitting area and the bedroom.
She turned on the television, feeling restless and eager for the sound of a human voice. Luckily, the television wouldn’t rib her the way her so-called friends had.
She had a package of breakfast bars by the sink and decided they would have to do for a meal. She would be seen if she tried to leave their small resort, and she didn’t want anyone to know she had just been seeking her own company—or company other than theirs, anyway.
Munching an oat-and-honey granola bar, she stared at the television, then started flicking the channel changer. Nothing drew her attention. The sound of laughter filtered to her from the bar area, and she found herself annoyed that they all seemed to be getting along so well. She’d been disturbed enough that her own friends were making fun of her. The Thor Thompson thing was more than she could stomach. The man was arrogant beyond belief.
She threw herself on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. She had to make the first discovery now.
The bet was ridiculous. Totally immature. She should just tell him in the morning that it was off. Except that she was the one who had started it.
Eventually the exertion of the day began to take its toll. She left the television on for company but changed into an oversize T, turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. At first she could still hear the sounds of conversation and laughter, just as annoying as before.
But she needed rest. Last night she had slept at last but not long enough. At least today, she hadn’t seen a thing in the water except fish and coral.
The world was well, she told herself.
A little voice crept in. Bull!
At last she drifted to sleep.
In her dreams, she was diving again. The sound of her breath through the regulator was soothing. The water was clear. Tangs and clown fish darted by. A very large grouper, a good six feet, hovered by the reef. The sun struck the water, the rays arrowing down. Anemones wafted with the current.