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Wes Darling Books 4 & 5

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Set in and around the Florida Keys, The Wes Darling Collection is the perfect go to for fans of fast paced mysteries and thrillers. With a splash of humor, these audiobooks will keep you begging for more.

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READ A SAMPLE OF STRANDED NAKED BLUES.

I've lived on my boat for so long that it only took me half a minute after being thrown onto the floor to realize where I was. It was the how and when of my waking up on Rough Draft that I was having trouble with.

The fading buzz of a powerboat suggested that some inconsiderate bastard speeding through the anchorage had thrown a wake, shaking me from a sound sleep and rolling me off the settee.

I fought to keep my eyes focused, scanned the cabin, and groaned. It looked like a Tasmanian Devil had spent the night making love to just about everything I owned. I'd landed on a small mountain of clothing that shouldn't have been lying in the middle of the boat. Something dug into my back and when I thrust my hand under the pile it came out with a can of baked beans. I tossed it onto the port settee and studied the mess surrounding me.

It wasn't a pretty sight. All of my clothes had been dragged from the cupboard where I kept them and tossed onto the cabin sole. Dishes, cookware, and cans and packages of food were scattered everywhere. Fortunately, plastic dishes and stainless steel cookware are pretty much indestructible.

It didn't take a genius to realize that the passing motorboat hadn't raised enough of a wake to cause this damage. Someone had methodically searched my boat while I was passed out on the settee.

A wave of nausea rippled through my gut as I picked myself up off the floor and my head began to spin. I felt sick and drained and had absolutely no idea what had happened to me or my boat.

As I began to massage my temples, vague snowy images of a blond girl in the world's tiniest bikini flickered through my mind. Flashes of a wicked smile, sensual lips, and pale eyes that made me feel naked and vulnerable overwhelmed me. Finally, sluggish memories began to filter through my subconscious as her image took shape.

I remembered our meeting the previous afternoon at the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Beach Party held at Fiddle Cay in the Bahamas. The problem was, I had much clearer memories of the days leading up to the party than I had of the party and the hours since then. The one consistent thought I had was, "Damn you Gil and Lynn."

I'd been cruising the Bahamas for almost three months and was getting ready to head back to the States for the hurricane season when Gil and Lynn suggested I might enjoy the party. They were traveling on a fifty-two-foot Grand Banks Trawler that must have set them back somewhere between six-hundred and seven-hundred thousand bucks. I'd run into them so many times in the previous three weeks that I was beginning to feel as if they were following me while I island hopped across the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.

Of course the same could be true of a dozen other boats that were traveling between the same islands I was visiting. The main difference between Gil and Lynn and the other cruisers I kept running into was that the two of them were much more obnoxious than the others.

Over the past few weeks it seemed as if I ran into them in every bar I visited, and they never zeroed in on my messages when I hinted that I preferred to drink alone. The night they found me at Pineapples was no exception.

Pineapples is an outdoor bar and grill overlooking the anchorage at Green Turtle Cay. It's nothing more than a little shack with a beat up dock, half-a-dozen picnic tables, and a salt water pool for the customers, but it glows with local ambiance. That night a three piece band was playing a little too loudly while the guitarist offered up off key renditions of one Jimmy Buffett song after another.

I was sitting alone at one of their picnic tables, facing the anchorage, and enjoying the end of another day in paradise. I had just finished chowing down a cracked conch burger and was starting on my second Sands beer when they showed up. I tried to ignore them but they set their beers on the table anyway and sat down across from me.

I nodded my head toward the open bay. "You're blocking my view."

Lynn turned to watch the glowing pink and purple highlights in the clouds as the sun gently slid down behind Great Abaco Island.

Gil let out a harsh laugh. "That's what I like about you, Wes. You're a great kidder."

I grabbed my beer and didn't bother to set him straight. I knew from experience that it wouldn't do any good. It was either put up with them or leave, and I wasn't about to let them chase me away.

When Lynn turned back to face me she leaned forward and whispered, "You must be here for Stranded Naked."

Lynn's a good twenty years younger than her husband, closer to my age than his, but too much drinking and smoking had hardened her looks and the years were beginning to play havoc with her figure.

I raised an eyebrow and looked at her. "Stranded Naked?"

"Don't tell me you've never heard of it," she said. "It's only the biggest boating party in the islands. And no, there are no naked women, or men either for that matter, at least none of the times I've been there. The party's named after some boat or something."

"But there's plenty of free booze and free burgers, not to mention the hundreds of bikini clad babes," Gil said. "It's enough to make a guy's eyes bulge out."

He began to play with his pinkie ring, a hideous thing with a diamond that was bigger than the one on Lynn's engagement ring. I'd noticed on several other occasions that he tended to play with it when he talked.

Gil wore one of the bright colored Hawaiian shirts he favored. It was unbuttoned halfway down the front and showed off his graying hairy chest and a heavy gold chain around his neck. His neatly trimmed beard was flecked with gray, and he wore his thinning hair tied back in a ponytail. Every time I saw him I couldn't help but wonder if he was trying to relive his rebellious youth or shouting out his success in life.

I almost jumped, but instead slid over in my seat when Lynn placed her foot next to mine and rubbed my leg under the table. She grinned. "Looking's about all he can do anymore, if you know what I mean."

Ignoring her comment, Gil lifted his beer and signaled for the waitress to bring another round.

I stood. "I really need to get going."

"Nonsense," Gil said. "It's early."

"Besides," Lynn said in a pouty, little girl voice that grated on my nerves. "It would be rude to leave now. Gil just bought you a drink."

I sat and cursed my mother who had taught me that just because others might be rude or irritating, there was no reason for me to reciprocate.

They spent the next hour trying to convince me to let them pick me up for the party, but by then I'd had more than enough of Gil and Lynn, and with a gruff, "I've got to go," I slid out from behind the picnic table and walked away.

Two days later, despite my reservations, I found myself standing in line, water up to the seam of my shorts, alone, and wondering if there would be any burgers left after the two or three hundred party goers standing in front of me got to the beach where the grills were smoking away. I wished I'd gotten my free drinks first, but I wasn't about to give up my place in line, so I just kept creeping along with all of the others hoping I didn't die of thirst before I got my burgers.

Most of the men and women wandering about were in their forties, fifties and sixties, but a sprinkling of boaters my age gathered in little clumps drinking and laughing. I spotted Gil and Lynn up toward the front of the food line, but when Lynn looked over her shoulder I stepped behind the man in front of me. He was a pudgy bald man with a small shaggy dog clinging to his shoulders and he was complaining to his wife about the wait. Ignoring him, she reached into her bag and drew out a treat for the dog, who grew so excited at the sight of the snack that it teetered and looked as if it was going to fall off its perch.

The man bent forward as the dog scrambled to climb back onto his shoulders. "Jesus Christ, Connie," he sputtered. "You know better than to do that when he's up here."

Again, the woman didn't respond, but she smiled when he wasn't looking, patted the dog's head, and teased the mutt with another mini dog bone.

Ten minutes later and maybe five feet closer to those burgers, a good looking blond girl wearing a skimpy swimsuit that barely qualified as a bikini, and carrying a drink in each hand, walked up to me. She was tanned and fit and her blue eyes threatened to hypnotize me. When she held out one of the drink cups to me I thought I might be in love.

"I'll give you one of my drinks if you'll pretend I'm with you." She made a point of peering over my shoulder and added, "I'm afraid there won't be any burgers left if I have to go to the end of the line."

Glancing over my shoulder I was surprised to see that the line heading out into the bay had grown to the point where it was twice as long as the line leading to the beach. As I watched, another twenty or thirty people joined the queue. Apparently I'd arrived at just the right time.

"Sure," I said. Hell, how could I say no? I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for good looking women in need of help.

She held up the drinks. "What's your poison, margarita or rum punch?"

I pointed at the rum punch and asked, "You here alone?"

She shrugged. "I came with a couple I met in Marsh Harbour. They seem nice enough, but they're old. She's younger and cuts him down almost nonstop. He smokes the grossest cigars and is constantly making sexual innuendos. I regretted agreeing to come over here with them the minute I got on their boat. To be truthful, I think they were as glad as I was when I took off on my own. I'm not looking forward to the return trip."

I held out my hand. "Wes."

She grabbed it and gave it a hearty shake. "Jill."

It was a hot day with very little breeze, and in no time I'd tossed down the rum punch. We stood in line for forty-five minutes, maybe an hour, talking and laughing while we waited for our burgers. At one point Jill suggested that I hold our places and she'd go get us refills. From there on until I woke up, things got a little fuzzy.

I couldn't remember whether I ever got my burgers, how many drinks I had, or how the hell I got back to my boat. Looking outside, I realized that I was back in the Green Turtle anchorage while a quick glance at the time and date on my watch confirmed that I had lost about twelve hours.

The pounding in my head settled down to a dull throb, and I gave up trying to remember what had happened. I assumed that Jill had something to do with my problems and wondered if I'd had a good enough time to make the headache worthwhile.

Pushing myself to my feet I grabbed onto a shelf to steady myself before shuffling my way through the mess on the floor to the other settee.

She'd dumped my toolbox onto the cushion and I knew I was going to have a hell of a time getting the grease spots out of the fabric, but that wasn't my major concern. Grabbing a screwdriver, I moved over to the control panel where my circuit boxes, 12 and 110 volt outlets, and my radios were mounted.

Using the flat head of the screwdriver, I removed the cover from the dummy 110 outlet and then pried out the box that held the two outlets. Finally I reached into the box and drew out the plastic container I kept hidden behind the panel. I'd gotten the idea of building in a hiding place on board for my valuables from reading an old Travis McGee book I'd picked up in a book swap at a marina in Florida.

I felt a surge of relief as I slid out the three hundred dollar bills I kept as an emergency fund, and I smiled when I shook out the small tan envelope from the bottom of the box. Opening the envelope, I tilted it toward my left hand and counted the fifteen nicely cut diamonds as they tumbled out.

A friend in the know had assured me that if I shopped them around I could expect to get between $5,000 and $8,000 for the smaller diamonds and $15,000 plus for the three largest diamonds. With a sigh of relief I sat down and counted them one more time.

I'd recovered the diamonds while helping my mother on a case in Key West. My mother ran DDA Security, a detective agency founded by my great-great-great grandfather. My mother was still trying to drag me back into the family business, and I was using the diamonds to avoid her demands and fund my boating lifestyle. I was selling them one or two at a time, and I figured that if I was frugal I could live another five or six years off of the smaller diamonds. I was saving the bigger stones for a real emergency. As I put everything back and screwed the cover in place I thought again about what had happened.

I figured that Jill must have slipped something into my drinks. Rohypnol? The symptoms fit: I felt drowsy, lightheaded, and confused. The fact that I couldn't remember the better part of a day seemed to cinch my diagnosis, at least in my mind. The big question was, why? No one but me knew about the diamonds. As far as most people were concerned I was a broke boat bum living on a forty-year-old boat. No one could accuse me of living an extravagant lifestyle.

I tried to remember if I'd let anything slip about the diamonds. Not to anyone I could think of. And I doubted I'd mentioned them to Jill. So what was she after, and why me? Was it the luck of the draw? Did I have sucker written on my t-shirt? If I'd turned down the drink would Jill have gone on to the next guy standing alone in line?

Where had she gone to after she tore apart my boat? Did she have a partner? It was a conundrum that would remain unanswered unless I found Jill, and I wondered if even then she would tell me what was going on.

After wasting too much time asking myself questions I couldn't answer, I stepped across the boat and grabbed a banana for breakfast, put on a pot of coffee, and began cleaning up the mess that my little indiscretion had caused.

I was thankful Jill hadn't torn or cut anything up. The last time my boat was searched the jackass used a knife on the cushions which proved to be an expensive and time consuming experience.

Two hours later the boat was pretty much back in order. I was tempted to let things go since Jill had not damaged anything but my ego, but there was the roofie she'd fed me. Part of me wanted to head into New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay and notify the local police. The other part of me argued that such a move would do little good and the bureaucratic tomfoolery might tie me up for days when I was looking forward to heading back to the States. I decided to check and see exactly what was missing before I made a decision on the police.

My wallet was in the pocket of my shorts and I was surprised to find the forty dollars I'd stuck in there the previous day was still there. Again, I couldn't understand what Jill was after. Even though nothing seemed to have been stolen I was still tempted to report her. As I tried to figure out what the hell was going on I brushed my teeth and ran a comb through my hair. I felt a sudden urge for fresh air so I headed out into the cockpit. "Damn," I swore, as I stepped outside.



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