Title: Hurricane in Paradise
Author: Deborah Brown
Genre: Mystery Romance
Release Date: Available Now on Kindle Unlimited
Set against the steamy backdrop of Tarpon Cove's sun-kissed, tropical waters, sexy sleuths and best friends Madison and Fab are at it again dealing with the occasional dead body. Hidden just below the surface of the small town lies an underworld, one steeped in deceit, corruption, and deadly secrets. It's only a matter of time before Madison and Fab find themselves on a collision course with the police, who consider them likely suspects in a murder. Ride along on their adventures when the duo realizes that a family member is missing and pull themselves away from all jobs to track him down. Theories: walked away, freak accident, kidnapped? If so, then why no ransom demand? Hurricane in Paradise is book ten in the thrilling and humorous provocative Paradise series, which finds the two waist-deep in mystery and romance. It is a smart, adventurous read that delivers heart-thumping, non-stop action. Join Madison and Fab as they solve the most twisted of cases, through unconventional – and highly entertaining – measures… sometimes in flip-flops.
Chapter One A gust of wind blew the front door open, sending it ricocheting off the wall. Creole stumbled into the entry, his black hair whipping around his face. A crack of thunder boomed behind him, announcing the fury of the rapidly approaching storm. “Madison Westin,” he barked, sounding like an angry dog. “What in the hell are you still doing at home?”
Dropping a small bag at the bottom of the stairs, I watched as my boyfriend veered left, going into the kitchen, dripping wet from the sheets of rain slamming the house in all of Mother Nature’s ferocity. The wind’s howling sounded like someone screaming at times.
Luc Baptiste was his birth name, Creole the undercover moniker he used in his employment as a Miami detective, but only a handful of people actually knew that little fact. He stood over six feet, his muscles accentuated by his soaked t-shirt. At the moment, he had a two-day scruff of beard and his eyes were an irate blue; when they turned a deep cobalt, I knew he was more than mildly annoyed.
Another bolt of lightning flashed through the garden window. I counted under my breath and listened until thunder rocked in the distance, the eye of the storm getting closer. It was just beginning to make its presence known.
“You need an umbrella.” I watched as he shook the water off like a wet animal. “The news said the hurricane won’t make landfall until tonight.”
He scowled, looming over me, his brows pulled together. “You promised you’d be going with Fab and Didier to Miami.” He tugged on a tendril of red hair that had escaped my hair clip.
When I first moved to the Florida Keys, living by myself got old––fast. So, when Fabiana Merceau showed up one day with her suitcases, she caught me off guard, but I was happy to have her move in and had never been sorry that she became a permanent fixture. Not long after, Fab met her supermodel boyfriend, Didier, and decided, without a word to the man, to go to the hotel where he was staying, pack up his belongings, and unpack everything into the closet upstairs. Didier was a quick fit as a friend and family member. And nice to look at over morning coffee, or any other time. It made life easier that we had erratic schedules and were rarely all in the house at the same time.
“I didn’t make any promises.” I tried not to flinch at the weaselly tone in my voice. “No one asked my opinion, or I would’ve told all of you that I didn’t want to go anywhere.” I tossed him a towel from a stack that was going into the Hummer if I got scared enough to change my mind and leave. “The news always over-dramatizes the weather reports. It’s only forecast to make landfall as a category two. If it turns out to be a ‘rain event,’ they’ll still close the roads and take their time in reopening them, leaving us hanging out for several days since there’s no way to sneak back home with only one road in and out of the Keys.” I tried not to roll my eyes when, upon hearing the word “sneak,” his dark scowl returned.
“You’ve lived here long enough to know the back side of the storm can bring the most damage.”
I ignored his lecturing tone. I didn’t think now was the time to tell Creole that I wasn’t aware there was a difference. I’d ridden out a few hurricanes, often in the dark, the electricity not able to handle the onslaught, and when the sun came out again, the only damage left in their wake were piles of leaves and tree branches. I’d thankfully never experienced one of the more destructive ones.
Tarpon Cove sat at the top of the Florida Keys. The last damaging hurricane to roll through happened before my arrival. The old timers liked to say, “It’s been a damn long time since we had a direct hit.”
Lightning skated across the sky in non-stop action, the wind shrieked, and the lights flickered.
“Let’s go.” He reached for my wrist and pulled me into his arms, lifting me slightly, just enough to draw me against his chest.
My fingers curled into his thick, dark hair, and I traced a line over his lips and ran my hand over his jaw, feeling the scratch of rough stubble. He tilted his head and kissed me, then gave a low growl and deepened the kiss.
“What about the cats?” I took a moment to appreciate the muscled chest resting under my fingertips. “Fab texted an address on Ocean Boulevard, which makes it a good bet that it’s a five-star hotel. Good luck sneaking Jazz and Snow in. I don’t know what kind of traveler Snow is, but Jazz will meow loudly enough to make his presence known. I’m not leaving them behind. I don’t understand people who do that.”
Snow, my long-haired white cat, had been pregnant when I first rescued her from life with fifty other unrelated felines. Thankfully, she’d only had two kittens—a boy and a girl. Neither looked remotely related. They had both been adopted by my friend and employee, Mac, who was eager to become a new cat mom. My only condition was that they be spayed or neutered; all three went to the vet on a discount plan.
Jazz, my hundred-year-old, long-haired black cat, had adjusted quickly to getting a trophy girlfriend in his old age. A few sniffs, a handful of hisses, and they were sleeping together.
“One of Didier’s designer friends offered up his beach-front digs.” Creole made a face, which usually made me laugh; instead, I returned a half-hearted smile.
Creole shook his head; he’d made up his mind that we were leaving, and he was not letting me talk him out of it. He crossed the kitchen and retrieved the cat carrier sitting on the floor by the island. He scooped up Snow and stuck her in first, followed by Jazz. Since they had both been rudely woken from sleep, it took him less than a minute, neither meowing, even when the door banged closed.
Our eyes flew to the garden window over the kitchen sink, where the pelting rain had picked up speed, sounding like gravel was being thrown at the glass. The winds ramped up to a yowl that steadily grew in intensity.
“We should stay.” I avoided eye contact, knowing he’d veto the idea, but I had to suggest it.
“We are not going to be one of those couples that makes the news because we had to be plucked off the roof. How would I explain being so stupid to my boss? Remember him? Chief Harder? And in the next breath, I’d have to justify the squandering of county funds on my rescue.”
“Take off your clothes.” I stared up into his deep-blue eyes and winked. “I’ll toss them in the dryer. Unless you want to drive to Miami in wet clothes?”
He peeled off his shirt, followed by his jeans. I openly stared while he undressed. “I know what you’re up to.” He shook his finger at me. “It’s not going to work. I’ve got a change of clothes upstairs.” He turned out of the kitchen and took the stairs two at a time.
The wind continued to grow, the storm beating the sides of the two-story Key West-style house that I had inherited from my Aunt Elizabeth. A sizzle of lightning strikes followed by an ear-splitting crash had me running to the French doors that led to the pool area. Flicking on the outside lights, I peeked out, and immediately noticed that the palm that had stood in the far corner since before my aunt bought the house now lay on its side, a row of flower pots crushed under its weight where it had landed perilously close to the pool.
“That could have been worse,” I muttered to myself. I didn’t like leaving the house to fend for itself any better than leaving the cats to do the same. I crossed my fingers, certain I had nothing to worry about; the house had withstood many pounding storms, never sustaining more than minor damage.
“Ready?” Creole called from the bottom stairstep, my suitcase in one hand.
“Am I following you?”
“Nice try.” He laughed. “You and the cats are riding in my truck; that way, I can keep an eye on you.”
Happy not to be driving in the pouring rain, I gave in and crossed the room, picking up the small tote lying on the floor next to the banister.
Redhead. Long legs. There's nothing like a strawberry-lemonade in summer. Favorite activity: Filling my pockets with seashells. An avid rule follower when eating Animal Cookies: Broken ones get eaten first, match up the rest, duplicates next, line them up favorite to not, least favorite go first. South Florida is my home, with my ungrateful rescue cats, and where Mother Nature takes out her bad attitude in the form of hurricanes.
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