Home > Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(2)

Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(2)
Author: Julie Ann Walker

   Dalton “Doc” Simmons frowned at Cami. The toothpick caught between his teeth pointed at the floor. “What the hell? I’m just standing here.”

   “And silently calling me dirty names. I can feel you doing it even if I can’t hear you.” Her lips pursed. Lips that were plush, full, and painted a rich, velvety red. “Which is so much worse. Because then when I call you out for silently calling me dirty names, it makes me sound crazy.” She narrowed her eyes. Eyes that were dark, heavily lashed, and tilted up at the corners.

   Hands down, Camilla D’ Angelo was the most beautiful woman Doc had ever met.

   Not that he put a whole heck of a lot of stock in beauty. The Hope Diamond was said to be one of the most dazzling gems ever cut, but everyone who’d ever owned it had died a mysterious death.

   Beauty had a way of hiding what was sinister.

   Okay. Back up. He wasn’t going so far as to say Cami’s loveliness came with a curse. But she was a lawyer, so…

   “But maybe that’s your goal. To make me sound crazy.” She tapped a ruby-red fingertip on her chin. “You’d love to see me wrapped in a straitjacket. Admit it.”

   “I’ll admit no such thing.” He noted how his blood bubbled with pleasure.

   Trading barbs with Cami was…stimulating. Maybe because she was the only woman whose mouth he’d ever been tempted to simultaneously kiss and tape shut.

   Although, having done that first thing, he wasn’t stupid enough to attempt it again. Not because it hadn’t been good, but because it’d been too good. A kiss that’d gone past his lips to sink into a space that, for years, he’d purposefully kept empty.

   It’d been an alarming kiss. A dangerous kiss.

   A kiss that will not be repeated.

   “I wouldn’t wish the indignity of a straitjacket on anyone,” he assured her. “I’m a firm believer in bodily autonomy. So if it’s looking like you’re heading toward some sort of unwilling confinement, please know I’ll put you out of your misery and smother you with a pillow first.”

   Her mouth flattened into a straight line. “What a gentleman.”

   “I like to think so.”

   He wouldn’t have thought it possible, but her mouth flattened further, until her red lips disappeared completely. “Apparently, when it comes to sarcasm, you’re tone deaf.”

   “Oh, no. I picked up what you were laying down. I’m simply being magnanimous and choosing to ignore it.” She opened her mouth to come back at him with something scathing, no doubt, but he cut her off by adding, “But since you brought it up, let’s address it.” He checked his watch. “By my count, that was two hours of stonewalling silence followed up with sarcasm. It’s like we’ve been married for ten years.”

   “You could only dream of being so lucky. And those two hours of stonewalling silence were a direct result of you accusing me of purposefully making your job harder than it has to be.” A fascinating wash of pink stained her high cheekbones. She enjoyed their linguistic tussles as much as he did. “You’ve called me a witch before, but surely you don’t think I’m capable of conjuring up a storm.” Her hands were fisted on her hips as she stood with her legs slightly apart to counter the movement of the decking beneath her feet.

   The Wayfarer II was a large vessel, with a J-frame crane attached to the aft section and a HIAB hydraulic loader on the bow that kept the ship equally weighted in the water. But the approaching hurricane had begun to rile the seas, making the Wayfarer bob like a cork.

   “I never called you a witch.” His tongue worked the fraying end of the toothpick in his mouth. A psych major would probably accuse him of having an oral fixation. But Doc would argue his affinity for the wooden sticks was simply habit. One he’d picked up from his old man because, as a boy, he’d done everything he could to become his father’s Mini-Me. “I said you were witchy. There’s a difference. And I know you’re not responsible for the storm. But you are responsible for having us wait until the reef was submerged before retrieving the treasure.”

   Her smooth brow lined with frustration. “The law is responsible for that. Not me.”

   Admiralty law, a salvor’s best friend, stated it was finders keepers when it came to recovered goods within state or federal waters. Unfortunately, Captain Bartolome Vargas had removed the treasure from the wreck of the Santa Cristina and hidden it beneath the reef that protected Wayfarer Island’s lagoon from the ravages of the open ocean.

   A reef was considered “waters” so long as it was submerged. But if a speck of it peeked above the waves? It was considered land.

   Admiralty law didn’t apply to land.

   “Instead of busting my balls over how tough the last day has been, you should be thanking me for finding the loophole that allows you to keep all of this to yourself as opposed to having to share it with Uncle Sam or the state of Florida,” she continued, throwing out an arm to indicate the treasure piled atop the tables in the ship’s computer room.

   One tabletop held a collection of conglomerates. They were what happened to silver coins when they came in contact with seawater. Corrosion and other maritime accretions fused the currency together into rocky-looking wads that perfumed the stale air inside the room with the briny smell of the sea. But Doc knew as soon as they were electronically cleaned, the pieces of eight—coins like the one that hung on a chain around his neck—would be revealed.

   Another table was mounded with doubloons. Unlike silver, gold wasn’t affected by its time in the ocean. The doubloons winked under the artificial light as if they’d been minted the day before.

   Then there was a small tabletop displaying swords and daggers, each ceremonial and encrusted with gems. A larger table held religious artifacts, all ornamental and heavily bejeweled. And still another was heaped with uncut emeralds that’d been mined from Colombia nearly four hundred years earlier.

   Truly, the immensity of the Santa Cristina’s treasure was a mindboggling sight to behold. And that wasn’t counting the gold bullion and silver ingots the Deep Six crew had already cataloged, packed away in straw-lined boxes, and stacked against the walls of the ship’s engine room.

   For the first few hours, when Doc and his former SEAL Team members and current Deep Six Salvage partners had hauled up the gems and coins and artifacts from where Captain Vargas had hidden them, he’d marveled at each new piece of wealth. But as the treasure trove had grown, he’d begun to feel an overwhelming sense of surreality.

   How could he, Dalton Simmons, a poor kid from Nowhere, Montana, be a one-sixth owner of a lost treasure estimated to be worth nearly half a billion dollars?

   And yet…here I am. A millionaire. A multimillionaire.

   Thanks to Cami and her legal wrangling.

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