Tate Beaumont has a passion for treasure-hunting. Over the years, she and her father have uncovered many fabulous riches, but one treasure has always eluded them: Angelique’s Curse—a jeweled amulet heavy with history, dark with legend, and tainted with blood. In order to find this precious artifact, the Beaumonts reluctantly form a partnership with salvagers Buck and Matthew Lassiter.
As the Beaumonts and Lassiters pool their resources to locate Angelique’s Curse, the Caribbean waters darken with shadowy deceptions and hidden threats. Their partnership is placed in jeopardy when Matthew refuses to share information—including the truth behind his father’s mysterious death. For now, Tate and Matthew continue their uneasy alliance—until danger and desire begin to rise to the surface…
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Silver Spring, Maryland
Read an Excerpt
Treasure. Gold doubloons and pieces of eight. With luck, they could be plucked from the seabed as easily as peaches from a tree. Or so, Tate thought as she dived, her father said.
She knew it took a great deal more than luck, as ten years of searching had already proven. It took money and time and exhausting effort. It took skill and months of research and equipment.
But as she swam toward her father through the crystal blue Caribbean, she was more than willing to play the game.
It wasn't a hardship to spend the summer of her twentieth year diving off the coast of St. Kitts, skimming through gloriously warm water among brilliantly hued fish and sculptures of rainbow coral. Each dive was its own anticipation. What might lie beneath that white sand, hidden among the fans and sea grass, buried under the cleverly twisted formations of coral?
It wasn't the treasure, she knew. It was the hunt.
And occasionally, you did get lucky.
She remembered very well the first time she had lifted a silver spoon from its bed of silt. The shock and the thrill of holding that blackened cup in her fingers, wondering who had used it to scoop up broth. A captain perhaps of some rich galleon. Or the captain's lady.
And the time her mother had been cheerfully hacking away at a hunk of conglomerate, the chunk of material formed by centuries of chemical reactions under the sea. The sound of her squeal, then the bray of delighted laughter when Marla Beaumont had unearthed a gold ring.
The occasional luck allowed the Beaumonts to spend several months a year hunting for more. For more luck, and more treasure.
As they swam side by side, Raymond Beaumont tapped his daughter's arm, pointed. Together they watched a sea turtle paddle lazily.
The laugh in her father's eyes said everything. He had worked hard all of his life, and was now reaping the rewards. For Tate, a moment like this was as good as gold.
They swam together, bonded by a love of the sea, the silence, the colors. A school of sergeant majors streaked by, their black and gold stripes gleaming. For no more than the joy of it, Tate did a slow roll and watched the sunlight strike the surface overhead. The freedom of it had a laugh gurgling out in a spray of bubbles that startled a curious grouper.
She dived deeper, following her father's strong kicks. The sand could hold secrets. Any mound could be a plank of worm-eaten wood from a Spanish galleon. That dark patch could blanket a pirate's cache of silver. She reminded herself to pay attention, not to the sea fans or hunks of coral, but to the signs of sunken treasure.
They were here in the balmy waters of the West Indies, searching for every treasure hunter's dream. A virgin wreck reputed to hold a king's treasure. This, their first dive, was to acquaint themselves with the territory they had so meticulously researched through books, maps and charts. They would test the currents, gauge the tides. And maybe-just maybe-get lucky.
Aiming toward a hillock of sand, she began to fan briskly. Her father had taught her this simple method of excavating sand when Tate had delighted him by her boundless interest in his new hobby of scuba diving.
Over the years, he'd taught her many other things. A respect for the sea and what lived there. And what lay there, hidden. Her fondest hope was to one day discover something, for him.
She glanced toward him now, watched the way he examined a low ridge of coral. However much he dreamed of treasure made by man, Raymond Beaumont loved the treasures made by the sea.
Finding nothing in the hillock, Tate moved off in pursuit of a pretty striped shell. Out of the corner of her eyes, she caught the blur of a dark shape coming toward her, swift and silent. Tate's first and frozen thought was shark, and her heart stumbled. She turned, as she had been taught, one hand reaching for her diver's knife, and prepared to defend herself and her father.
The shape became a diver. Sleek and fast as a shark, perhaps, but a man. Her breath whooshed out in a stream of bubbles before she remembered to regulate it. The diver signaled to her, then to the man swimming in his wake.
Tate found herself face mask to face mask with a recklessly grinning face, eyes as blue as the sea around them. Dark hair streamed in the current. She could see he was laughing at her, undoubtedly having guessed her reaction to the unexpected company. He held his hands up, a gesture of peace, until she sheathed her knife. Then he winked and sent a fluid salute toward Ray.
As silent greetings were exchanged, Tate studied the newcomers. Their equipment was good, and included those necessary items of the treasure seeker. The goody bag, the knife, the wrist compass and diver's watch. The first man was young, lean in his black wet suit. His gesturing hands were wide-palmed, long-fingered, and carried the nicks and scars of a veteran hunter.
The second man was bald, thick in the middle, but as agile as a fish in his undersea movements. Tate could see he was reaching some sort of tacit agreement with her father. She wanted to protest. This was their spot. After all, they'd been there first.
But she could do no more than frown as her father curled his fingers into an "okay" sign. The four of them spread out to explore.
Tate went back to another mound to fan. Her father's research indicated that four ships of the Spanish fleet had gone down north of Nevis and St. Kitts during the hurricane of July 11, 1733. Two, the San Cristobal and the Vaca, had been discovered and salvaged years earlier, broken on the reefs near Dieppe Bay. This left, undiscovered and untouched, the Santa Marguerite and the Isabella.
Documents and manifests boasted that these ships carried much more than cargoes of sugar from the islands. There were jewels and porcelain and more than ten million pesos of gold and silver. In addition, if true to the custom of the day, there would be the hoards secreted by the passengers and seamen.
Both wrecks would be very rich indeed. More than that, discovery would be one of the major finds of the century.
Finding nothing, Tate moved on, bearing north. The competition from the other divers caused her to keep her eyes and her instincts sharp. A school of gem-bright fish speared around her in a perfect vee, a slice of color within color. Delighted, she swam through their bubbles.
Competition or not, she would always enjoy the small things. She explored tirelessly, fanning sand and studying fish with equal enthusiasm.
It looked like a rock at first glance. Still, training had her swimming toward it. She was no more than a yard away when something streaked by her. She saw with faint irritation that scarred, long-fingered hand reach down and close over the rock.
Jerk, she thought, and was about to turn away when she saw him work it free. Not a rock at all, but the crusted handle of a sword that he drew from the scabbard of the sea. Grinning around his mouthpiece, he hefted it.
He had the nerve to salute her with it, cutting a swath through the water. As he headed up, Tate went after him. They broke the surface in tandem.
She spit out her mouthpiece. "I saw it first."
"I don't think so." Still grinning, he levered up his face mask. "Anyway, you were slow, and I wasn't. Finders keepers."
"Rules of salvage," she said, struggling for calm. "You were in my space."
"The way I see it, you were in mine. Better luck next time."
"Tate, honey." From the deck of the Adventure, Marla Beaumont waved her hands and called out. "Lunch is ready. Invite your friend and come aboard."
"Don't mind if I do." In a few powerful strokes, he was at the stern of the Adventure. The sword hit the deck with a clatter, his flippers followed.
Cursing the poor beginning to what had promised to be a wonderful summer, Tate headed in. Ignoring his gallantly offered hand, she hauled herself in just as her father and the other diver broke the surface.
"Nice meeting you." He dragged a hand through his dripping hair and smiled charmingly at Marla. "Matthew Lassiter."
"Marla Beaumont. Welcome aboard." Tate's mother beamed at Matthew from under the wide brim of her flowered sun hat. She was a striking woman, with porcelain skin and a willowy frame beneath loose and flowing shirt and slacks. She tipped down her dark glasses in greeting.
"I see you've met my daughter, Tate, and my husband, Ray."
"In a manner of speaking." Matthew unhooked his weight belt, set it and his mask aside. "Nice rig here."
"Oh yes, thank you." Marla looked proudly around the deck. She wasn't a fan of housework, but there was nothing she liked better than keeping the Adventure spit and polished. "And that's your boat there." She gestured off the bow. "The Sea Devil."
Tate snorted at the name. It was certainly apt, she thought, for the man, and the boat. Unlike the Adventure, the Sea Devil didn't gleam. The old fishing boat badly needed painting. At a distance, it looked like little more than a tub floating on the brilliant platter of the sea.
"Nothing fancy," Matthew was saying, "but she runs." He walked over to offer a hand to the other divers.
"Good eye, boy." Buck Lassiter slapped Matthew on the back. "This boy was born with the knack," he said to Ray in a voice as rough as broken glass, then belatedly held out a hand. "Buck Lassiter, my nephew, Matthew."
Ignoring the introductions making their way around the deck, Tate stowed her equipment, then tugged out of her wet suit. While the others admired the sword, she ducked into the deckhouse and cut through to her cabin.
It wasn't anything unusual, she supposed as she found an oversized T-shirt. Her parents were always making friends with strangers, inviting them on board, fixing them meals. Her father had simply never developed the wary and suspicious manner of a veteran treasure hunter. Instead her parents shimmered with Southern hospitality.
Normally she found the trait endearing. She only wished they would be a little choosy.
She heard her father offer cheerful congratulations to Matthew on his find, and gritted her teeth.
Damn it, she'd seen it first.
Sulking, Matthew decided as he offered the sword to Ray for examination. A peculiarly female trait. And there was no doubt the little redhead was female. Her copper-toned hair might be cut short as a boy's, but she'd certainly filled out that excuse for a bikini just fine.
Pretty enough, too, he mused. Her face might have been all angles, with cheekbones sharp enough to slice a man's exploring finger, but she had big, delicious green eyes. Eyes, he recalled, that had shot prickly little darts at him in the water, and out.
That only made annoying her more interesting.
Since they were going to be diving in the same pool for a while, he might as well enjoy himself.
He was sitting cross-legged on the forward sundeck when Tate came back out. She gave him a quick glance, having nearly talked herself out of the sulks. His skin was bronzed, and against his chest winked a silver piece of eight hanging from a chain. She wanted to ask him about it, to hear where he'd found it, and how.
But he was smirking at her. Manners, pride and curiosity collided with a wall that kept her unnaturally silent as conversation flowed around her.
Matthew bit into one of Marla's generous ham sandwiches.
"Terrific, Mrs. Beaumont. A lot better than the swill Buck and I are used to."
"You have some more of this potato salad." Flattered, she heaped a mound on his paper plate. "And it's Marla, dear. Tate, you come on and get yourself some lunch."
"Tate." Matthew squinted against the sun as he studied her. "Unusual name."
"Marla's maiden name." Ray slipped an arm over his wife's shoulders. He sat in wet bathing trunks, enjoying the warmth and company. His silvered hair danced in the light breeze. "Tate here's been diving since she was pint-sized. Couldn't ask for a better partner. Marla loves the sea, loves to sail, but she barely swims a stroke."
With a chuckle, Marla refilled tall glasses of iced tea. "I like looking at the water. Being in it's something different altogether." She sat back placidly with her drink. "Once it gets past my knees, I just panic. I always wonder if I drowned in a former life. So for this one, I'm happy tending the boat."
"And a fine one she is." Buck had already assessed the Adventure. A tidy thirty-eight footer, teak decking, fancy brightwork. He'd guess she carried two staterooms, a full galley. Without his prescription face mask, he could still make out the massive windows of the pilothouse. He'd liked to have taken his fingers for a walk through the engine and control station.
A look around later was in order, after he had his glasses. Even without them, he calculated that the diamond on Marla's finger was a good five carats, and the gold circle on her right hand was antique.
He smelled money.
"So, Ray..." Casually, he tipped back his glass. "Matthew and me, we've been diving around here for the past few weeks. Haven't seen you."
"First dive today. We sailed down from North Carolina, started out the day Tate finished her spring semester."
College girl. Matthew took a hard swallow of cold tea. Jesus. He deliberately turned his gaze away from her legs and concentrated on his lunch. All bets were definitely off, he decided. He was nearly twenty-five and didn't mess with snotty college kids.
"We're going to spend the summer here," Ray went on. "Possibly longer. Last winter, we dived off the coast of Mexico a few weeks. Couple of good wrecks there, but mostly played out. We managed to bring up a thing or two though. Some nice pottery, some clay pipes."
"And those lovely perfume bottles," Marla put in.
"Been at it awhile, then," Buck prompted.
"Ten years." Ray's eyes shone. "Fifteen since the first time I went down." He leaned forward, hunter to hunter. "Friend of mine talked me into scuba lessons. After I'd certified, I went with him to Diamond Shoals. Only took one dive to hook me."
"Now he spends every free minute diving, planning a dive or talking about the last dive." Marla let out her lusty laugh. Her eyes, the same rich green as her daughter's, danced. "So I learned how to handle a boat."
What People are Saying About This
“Having made waves with romantic suspense on the coast and at sea, Roberts now takes a satisfying plunge into the deep…Roberts will keep fans’ appetites alive to the end.”—Publishers Weekly
“An engaging cast of characters with the enticing mystery of coral reefs and sunken treasure.”—Denver Post
“A thrilling treasure hunt with a trademark edge. One of her most suspenseful tales to date.”—Booklist
“Roberts’s legion of fans will swarm to this.”—Kirkus Reviews