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About the author:
By the time Marta Tandori reached fifth grade, she was an avid reader and writer with a stack of short stories collecting dust in a box under her bed but it wasn’t until she began studying acting in her early twenties at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York that Marta realized acting wasn’t really her passion – writing fiction was. What followed was years of writing workshops as well as correspondence courses in writing for children through the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. She credits the award winning author, Troon Harrison, as the instructor who helped her find her literary voice. Marta’s first work of juvenile fiction, BEING SAM, NO MATTER WHAT was published in 2005, followed by EVERY WHICH WAY BUT KUKU! in 2006. With her more recent endeavors, Marta has shifted her writing focus to “women’s suspense”, a genre she fondly describes as having “strong female protagonists with closets full of nasty skeletons and the odd murder or two to complicate their already complicated lives”. To learn more about Marta, visit her website at http://martatandori.com
What inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always loved books with strong men and smart women clashing wills, hindered by their attraction to each other. Of course, setting the book amid a tropical locale and throwing in treasure salvage just seemed to give the book more appeal.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Mia set about rearranging the tarps that covered each of the tables. Picking up the tiara Nikki had worn on her head a few minutes earlier, she gently traced her fingers along the length of it, rubbing at the corroded gemstones. Despite all the years being at the bottom of the ocean, the gemstones managed to catch the overhead light, gleaming softly as she turned the tiara over to get a better look at it. So intent was Mia on what she was doing, that she didn’t hear the door of the warehouse being flung open.
“What the hell is going on in here?”
Mia was so startled she nearly dropped the tiara as her eyes fell on the tall, lean man who seemed to fill the entire doorframe. She immediately recognized him, although the last published photos she had seen of Dain Lyons twelve ago had failed to do him justice. Twelve years ago, he had been a good-looking guy; but now, in the flesh, he was even better looking.
“Lady, you’ve got exactly five seconds to tell me who you are and what you’re doing here, before I call the police,” Dain demanded, his keen gaze steady and intimidating.
Mia stiffened with nerves and something else she couldn’t quite identify. According to Nikki, Dain wasn’t supposed to get back until tomorrow night and yet here he was, in the flesh.
“The police?” she asked.
“Aren’t the police normally called in when there’s a robbery in progress?” his hard, masculine voice drawled.
His attitude infuriated Mia, who was not used to being treated with such disdain by the male sex. “A robbery?” A sharp frostiness tinged her voice. “You’ve got it all wrong.” Mia’s green eyes widened as she took in his strong bone structure and very thick brown hair, which was wavy and streaked with strands of gold from his years in the sun. Despite the shabbiness of his worn T-shirt and shorts, she could almost see the aura of male anger and hostility that surrounded him, and she felt equally antagonistic at the fact that he could jump to such a ridiculous conclusion.
“Have I?” His gaze was pointed as it came to rest on the big tote bag by her feet. “Somehow I don’t think so.”
“There’s nothing in there but my sketchbook and easel.”
“Nice try.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Now you’re down to four seconds.”
“Look, I’m telling you the truth.” Mia pushed a strand of damp, dark hair away from her face. She could feel her blood pressure rising, and along with it, her temper. “Besides, if I was a robber, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation with you.”
“Then what exactly would we be doing?” he asked silkily.
“Look, there’s been a misunderstanding here.” Mia became panicky. “As soon as your daughter gets back, she can explain the whole thing—”
As if on cue, Nikki came bounding out of her father’s office. “Poppy, you’re home early!” She fell into her father’s arms with the impact of a runaway train.
“And not a minute too soon,” he remarked wryly, before crushing his daughter fiercely to him. A moment later, he pulled her away from him, before adding gravely, “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”
Nikki ignored that, turning to Mia. “I see you guys have already met.”
“Not exactly,” Mia interposed, forcing her voice into its usual confident tone. “We were kind of busy discussing other things.”
Oblivious to the tension between the two adults, Nikki did the introductions. “Mia, this is my dad.” She turned to her father, charm and innocence oozing from her every pore. “Daddy, this is Mia, my friend from Mallory Square.”
His keen eyes met and held hers for an instant before he grinned, his perfect teeth gleaming white against his dark tan. “So I take it neither one of you are thieves.”
Mia stiffened, her composure cracking under the impact of his hundred-watt smile. Dain Lyons had a bewildering, raw sex appeal that set every treacherous nerve in her body into instant awareness.
Nikki giggled. “You’re too funny, Pops.”
In a voice that blended affection and long-suffering, he said to his daughter, “Now that I know who the two of you are, it still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.”
“It was supposed to be a surprise,” Nikki wailed, suddenly turning on her father. “And now you’ve gone and spoiled it by coming home early.”
Dark brown brows drew together, meeting above a nose Mia was sure had once been broken. “Come again?”
“Mia and I hid your birthday gift in the warehouse.” Nikki’s eyes brimmed with unshed tears. “I was going to give it to you tomorrow for your birthday but you might as well have it now.” She looked at Mia imploringly. “Will you help me get it, Mia?”
“Of course.” Mia hoped Dain hadn’t heard her swiftly indrawn breath at the blatant lie Nikki had told him. She followed the young girl into the office, all the while feeling Dain’s gaze burning through her back with the force of a laser. She waited until they were in the office before turning to the young girl. “That was some performance out there but you shouldn’t have lied to your father, Nikki.”
“Please, Mia.” Nikki glanced at the door nervously. “I didn’t want my dad getting mad at us. And besides, it’s kind of the truth.”
“I don’t like being caught in any lies, okay?” Despite her momentary annoyance, she gave the young girl a forgiving smile. “But I guess it’s all right, just this once.”
Carefully lifting the covered painting, they carried it to where Dain stood waiting in silence. Lowering it onto one of the tables, she stepped back a little. At such close quarters, Mia could actually feel the male heat coming off his body.
“What’s this?” Dain asked, his brows lifting in saturnine enquiry.
“Happy birthday, Daddy.” Nikki’s voice was barely audible as she watched her father throw back the cover from the painting.
The room was silent, save for the steady hum of the air conditioner. To her astonishment, Mia saw his eyes mist over as his hand gently traced the canvas. “It’s the Jinx,” he said quietly.
“Mia did the sketch from the picture I gave her,” Nikki explained proudly. “Do you like it?”
“Very much.” When he finally spoke, his voice was husky as he gave his daughter another hug. Turning his mega-watt gaze on her, Mia felt the breath knocked out of her as he gave her another one of those heart-stopping smiles. “You do wonderful work, Mia,” he told her appreciatively.
She gulped, feeling ridiculous at the way her insides were melting. She forced her lips into a smile. “Thank you.”
Turning back to his daughter, he looked at her indulgently. “I guess this means dinner tonight is going to have to be extra special.”
“I thought we were going out tomorrow night for your birthday.”
“I’m afraid it’s going to have to be tonight.” He looked at his daughter with regret. “Coco called me in Miami this morning to tell me that they think they’ve found the main bulkhead of the d’Orleans.”
“That’s not fair!” Nikki stared at her father, her arms crossed over her chest. “You always have to go whenever something comes up and then you end up breaking your promises.”
“I have to oversee the excavation.” His voice was patient. “I’ll only be gone a few days and I promise to make it up to you before you leave to visit Grandpa.”
“You always make promises you can’t keep!” Nikki wailed, doing nothing to hold her anger in check. “Why can’t I come with you?”
“We’ve been through this before, Nik.” The eyes that held Mia’s own were faintly apologetic but his voice was soothing as he turned his attention back to his daughter. “I’d be too busy to spend time with you, and you’d be bored.” He sensed her hesitation as he playfully yanked her ponytail. “So how about my birthday dinner, hmm? Nobody made a rule that said we can’t celebrate it a day early.”
“I guess so,” Nikki gave in reluctantly, “but only if Mia comes with us.”
“Oh, Nikki! I couldn’t.” Mia was thrown off-kilter, but she forced her voice to remain neutral. “This is a celebration between you and your father.”
“Nikki’s right,” Dain intervened smoothly. “We’d both like it if you could join us for dinner.”
Mia felt as though the wind had been knocked right out of her. It’s not like she was doing anything for dinner, but the last thing she wanted to do was spend a couple of hours in close proximity to Dain Lyons with no hope of escape. Remember your assignment, she reminded herself. What better way to get into Dain Lyons’ head than by having dinner with him? Glancing at the earnest features of the young girl who was so like her father, Mia made up her mind.
“I’d like that,” she accepted quietly.
“Then it’s all set,” he told them. “Dinner for three it is.”