Excerpt: Island of Secrets

Book 3: An Allegra Fairweather Paranormal Mystery

Excerpt: Island of Secrets

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I should have remembered that when I accepted this case, but all I could think of was the free accommodation on a South Pacific island.

So there I was, snorkeling around a coral reef in warm tropical waters. A very pleasant change from the chilly Boston weather of my last case. Even the few days I’d spent in San Diego moving out of my apartment hadn’t completely thawed me out. But this tropical sunshine was doing the job.

In case you haven’t heard of Lu’arna Island, it’s small, beautiful and privately owned. It isn’t part of Tahiti, but you can day-trip to Papeete and be back before dark. When I arrived–by private helicopter no less–three things happened:

a) My client was unable to meet me because he was “saying good-bye” to his supermodel girlfriend;
b) The embarrassed housekeeper apologized and showed me to my guest cottage (magnificent, I’ll give you the details later);
c) I decided that, since my client was unavailable, I’d take a swim to the reef. I’d packed my snorkeling gear for just this opportunity.

The reef was amazing. Okay, it was a little farther from shore than I’d have liked, but I’m a strong swimmer. I could make it back without any trouble. When I got tired of looking at coral, I pushed up my face mask and enjoyed the view of cloudless sky and azure water. I was taking it all in, minding my own business, when a fin pierced the water beyond the reef. My first thought was, Oh great, a dolphin. Yeah, I know I should’ve thought, Uh-oh, shark. But I’d just spent several days with my friend Wanda and apparently I’d caught some of her boundless optimism. Not that it took me long to realize it was a shark.

Still, it was on the other side of the reef. With luck it wouldn’t find a way through until I was safely on shore. I about-faced and kicked out for the beach. Pain shot through my toe. Had something bitten me? Not the shark—it was too far away. Perhaps a sea snake? Blue-ringed octopus? Sea slug having a bad day?

Clouds of blood billowed beneath the surface. Rolling onto my back, I struggled to float while lifting my foot out of the water to see how bad it was. A gash ran the length of my big toe. Uh-oh, coral cut. Double uh-oh—it would need stitches. Triple uh-oh–the shark, attracted by the scent of blood, had found a way through the reef.

Suddenly I was an extra in Jaws. I swam for my life. Like I could outswim a shark. Yeah, right. Any minute now razor-sharp teeth would tear me apart in a gluttonous frenzy. I swam fast, but the faster I swam, the more my heart pumped…and the more blood blossomed in the water. The shark closed in for the kill.

As it rushed at me, jaws wide, I ripped off my snorkel and goggles, and shoved them into its mouth. “Eat this.” The shark’s jaws crunched down and it dived, taking the snack with it. I knew the plastic wouldn’t satisfy it for long, but it might buy me some time.

As I stroked toward the distant shore, bits of plastic floated to the surface around me. I glanced over my shoulder, but I couldn’t see a fin. That seemed like good news until I felt the water swirling beneath me. Any minute now the shark would launch upward, grab my leg and pull me under.

A shadow passed overheard. I heard wings beating in a steady rhythm. Was it a bird? Was it a plane?

Nope. It was my guardian angel. And not a moment too soon.