The sun shone overhead, the temperature neared ninety, and the humidity was hair-curlingly high on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, making it hard to believe a hurricane was coming soon. Ella Shaw glanced up at the blue sky, knowing it wouldn’t remain pristine for long.
The calm before the storm.
She pulled her hair into a high ponytail and headed out of her hotel, determined to hit the local gift shop she’d caught sight of on her way to the photo shoot yesterday. She’d seen long, draping, blue-beaded necklaces from the storefront window, but she hadn’t had time to stop. Her boss was a stickler for getting the right shot in the exact light, and they’d worked well past dark. By the time they’d wrapped for the day, the store had been closed.
As an assistant for Angie Crighton, a fashion designer based in Miami, Ella was responsible for the little details involved in a photo shoot. And though Angie, the photographer, and models had left the island this morning, Ella had stayed to make sure the shooting site was clean, the hotel pleased enough to allow them back another time. And if she were honest with herself, she liked the downtime after the craziness of a photo shoot, the rushing around of the crew, the bossiness of some of the models and, of course, of Angie herself.
Ella appreciated the fact that she had time to souvenir shop for her best friend, Avery Dare. How ironic was it that the two girls from very different worlds had met at all? But they had. And it was Avery who’d introduced Ella to the finer things in life, leading her to seek out a job with an haute-couture designer. Whereas Avery came from a wealthy family, Ella had been raised firmly middle class, but the two girls had bonded instantly. They’d even shared an apartment until recently, when her best friend had moved in with her rock star boyfriend, Grey Kingston.
Yep, two different worlds, even now, Ella thought wryly. But their friendship was solid. Which reminded her, she needed to let Avery know she might not make it back to the States tomorrow as planned.
When Ella had heard about the storm changing course, she’d tried to book an earlier flight out, without success. She shivered at the possibility of being stranded here alone during a hurricane and knew Avery would like the news even less. Her best friend suffered from severe anxiety, and Ella didn’t like to make her worry.
She’d just buy Avery an extra gift to make up for it, she thought, walking into the shop. She immediately headed to the turquoise-blue beads she’d seen through the window. The shopkeeper claimed they were Larimar beads. Even if they were fake, the beads, popular in the Caribbean, were said to have healing powers. Ella purchased two dozen, a mix of bracelets and necklaces, so she could share with the children at the cancer treatment center where she and Avery volunteered.
Avery had been nine, Ella ten years old when they’d met at a Miami hospital, both donating bone marrow, both there at the behest of a parent. Neither of them really understanding what was happening. All Ella had known was that she was doing a favor for her father, helping the stepmother Ella didn’t like all that much to begin with. Even at a young age, Ella had been a good judge of character, a better one than her father, obviously, because shortly after Janice had gotten well, she’d left Ella’s dad. And both her father and Ella’s life had gone downhill from there. Ella shook off the thoughts of her past before she could go deeper and darker, and focused on the pretty jewelry.
She spent some time choosing a thick turquoise bracelet for Avery and a similar one for herself before paying for everything and waiting for the shopkeeper to wrap things up.
Bag in hand, she started back to the hotel, cutting through side streets and looking into the windows of the stores, soaking up the culture along the cobblestone streets before heading back to Miami tomorrow. At least, she still hoped she’d be home. Knowing she couldn’t change the outcome, she pushed her worrisome thoughts aside. She’d deal with the situation as it came.
Sweat dampened her neck from the humidity of the island, and she contemplated taking a cab back to the hotel. She reached into her straw bag and pulled out her cell phone to make the call, when, without warning, she felt a hard jerk on her purse.
“What the—?” She spun around, but whomever wanted her purse was quicker.
She barely caught a glimpse of a tall guy with dark hair as he yanked harder, nearly pulling her shoulder out of its socket before slamming her against the nearby building with his other hand.
Her head hit the concrete wall, and spots immediately appeared behind her eyes from the impact. As she struggled not to pass out, the man grabbed her purse, along with her cell phone that had fallen to the ground.
She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Her legs collapsed beneath her, and she fell to the ground, her head smacking the sidewalk before everything went black.
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About the Author
After a successful fifteen year career with various New York publishing houses, and over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels published, N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips is now an Indie author who writes to her own expectations and that of her readers. She continues the tradition of hot men and strong women and plans to publish many more sizzling stories. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. You can find out more about Carly at www.carlyphillips.com.