Ambush in the Everglades
by Petie McCarty
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: May 19, 2019
Plenty of action-adventure in this romantic-suspense tale. Photographer Kayli Heddon is given the biggest assignment of her career—a photo essay on the Everglades Restoration—and a special airboat safari is arranged, so Kayli can get her pictures. What she doesn't count on is being stranded alone in the Everglades with her handsome and unpredictable airboat guide. Kayli is forced to learn some tough lessons. Trust means everything in the dangerous River of Grass, and a skilled partner makes all the difference in your survival.
Skye Landers takes the airboat safari gig as a favor to his cousin who is called out of town. Skye doesn't expect the governor's photographer to catch his eye, but Kayli Heddon is unlike any woman he has ever met. He knows he should keep his distance, but common sense flies out the window whenever she gets near.
Unfortunately, Kayli thinks honesty is the most important thing in a relationship—any relationship—and Skye Landers is a fraud. When secrets surface from his past, Kayli and Skye are soon on the run from more than just alligators.
Pulling back a palm frond, Landers nodded toward the clearing beyond. Kayli eased closer to peer over his shoulder. His unique scent of male, sunscreen, and cologne tantalized her senses and left her light-headed.
She blinked and caught a blur of white. A wood stork hovered near the trunk of a small live oak and rocked slightly in place. Landers turned his head, which put his face inches from hers. She concentrated on the bird but could feel Landers wanting her to notice something.
“Oh, my gosh,” she whispered. The bird stirred at the sound. “He’s got a hook stuck in his beak.”
She could feel Landers nod. His scent seduced at this close range, and she wanted to scream at the sudden desire to wrap it around her like a cloak. One day out in the sun, and she had completely lost her mind. She shook her head hard.
“What?” he whispered.
“Nothing. Can you help him, Landers?”
A smile twitched at one corner of his mouth. “How do you know it’s a him?”
“No self-respecting female wood stork would eat something with a fish hook in it,” she whispered back. “She’d check her food first.”
His jaw dropped, and she wanted to scream in exultation until she saw the grin start and his eyes darken. Apprehension sapped her mirth. Her mouth went bone-dry. Twelve inches separated his kiss-me-you-know-you-want-to lips from hers. Not far in the grand scheme of things.
Landers shifted. Ten inches separated them.
She hazarded a brief glance at his eyes. Pupils gone dark, no color.
“When are you going to call me Skye?” His voice had gone husky too.
The blur of white snagged their attention. The stork hopped, and they could see monofilament line attached to the hook and twisted around the bird’s legs, leaving him nothing but an awkward hop for locomotion.
Kayli stifled a gasp.
“He hasn’t been like that long,” Landers said, watching her.
This man could read her mind, and that alone should scare the devil out of her.
“How do you know?” she managed to ask and kept her eyes focused hard on the bird. She felt him turn.
“Because he’d have starved by now. Wading birds that can’t walk and stir up the bottom sediments for food soon starve.”
His face was close enough she could feel the change in temperature against her cheek. She imagined the press of her lips against his sultry mouth only inches from hers, and her insides turned all squishy. Dang, she yearned for another mind-numbing kiss from him.
You don’t really have a boyfriend, her heart reasoned.
You convinced this gorgeous man you did, in fact, have a boyfriend, her better judgment prodded.
What would he think if I kissed him right now?
Landers waited for her to turn and face him, but at this close range she didn’t dare. If she did, she would press her lips to his—hard. And she couldn’t. Had to be his move. He was the one to put distance between them after their first kiss.
Even the bird had shifted to stare in her direction, and his tiny dark eyes begged for help.
“Please help him.” She kept her eyes on the distressed bird.
“Skye,” he whispered in her ear. “Please help him, Skye.”
Lord help her, that felt like a kiss. She thought to jerk away from the warm breath against her ear for her own peace of mind and at the same time, wanted to press her ear against his lips. She couldn’t focus enough to draw air into her lungs. Her whole being focused on the warmth against her ear.
“Please help him, Skye.” Her voice sounded barely audible even to her own ears, which were probably a vibrant scarlet he couldn’t miss.
“Look at me.”
Why is he torturing me?
The stork shifted position and stared her right in the eye. She would do this for the bird’s sake. Right?
Slowly she turned her head. His incredible green eyes caught hers and held on. Her stomach lurched up against her lungs in anticipation.
Skye didn’t move. He only held her gaze captive.
A tiny shiver attempted to maneuver up her spine. No stare had ever felt more like a caress. Her insides had again turned to jelly, as though his muscled arms had actually held her close.
“Wait here until I check him out.” His warm breath brushed her cheek.
Kayli leaned toward him in his retreat, suffering an aching letdown. As she gulped for air, she watched Skye ease closer to the bird, step by silent step. The bird warily monitored his proximity and the soft shushing sound he made to keep it calm. Calling him Skye felt oddly normal. No, perfectly normal at this moment.
He shuffled to within a couple feet of the bird, which made no effort to hop away and somehow seemed to know the stranger had come to help.
“When I grab his beak and his belly, you run over and untangle the line from his legs as quickly and as gently as you can. Then we’ll try to get the hook.”
“Whatever you say . . . Skye.”
He slanted his eyes her direction and grinned without moving his head. Her stomach flip-flopped.
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Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World—"The Most Magical Place on Earth"—where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her "day" job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.
Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband and an opinionated Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in No Angels for Christmas.
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