Home > Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(4)

Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(4)
Author: Julie Ann Walker

   And in the eternal words of OMC, he thought, ‘how bizarre.’

   With the exception of the wives and girlfriends of his teammates and partners—who didn’t really count because they were the wives and girlfriends of his teammates and partners—he’d only ever been friends with one other woman.

   The woman.

   His woman.

   Thankfully, he didn’t have time to ponder the hows and whys of just what that meant before the computer room filled with people.

   LT’s wife, Olivia, wore the frilly apron LT had gotten her for her birthday. And considering she was a former CIA agent, as comfortable carrying a loaded weapon as she was wearing a wire to a meeting with international drug dealers, it was an odd thing, indeed, to watch her flitting around looking like Betty Crocker.

   Bran’s wife, the minuscule Maddy, looped an arm around Bran’s trim waist and smiled up at him when he bent to drop a loud, smacking kiss on her temple. There was so much love in Bran’s eyes when he looked down at his wife that Doc’s own heart melted. Just a little.

   Chrissy and Wolf found a spot beside Uncle John at the emerald table. Chrissy’s diving skills were as good as any Navy SEAL’s, so she’d been helping them haul up the treasure. Her ponytail was still wet from being down at the dive site, and Doc watched as Wolf absently twisted the damp, blond rope around his long, tan fingers.

   Mia Ennis, the brilliant marine archeologist they’d brought on to oversee the excavation, went to sit on Romeo’s lap. The couple was still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship, and Doc had to refrain from groaning when they made googly eyes at each other.

   And last but not least there was Alexandra Merriweather, the historian they’d hired to study the old documents relating to the Spanish fleet. She broke a strawberry Pop-Tart in two and handed half to Mason.

   Peas in a pod, Doc thought as he watched Alex shove her tortoiseshell glasses higher on the bridge of her nose so she could grin up at her fiancé as they both laid into the pastries. Or maybe it was more apt to say Mason and Alex were two sides of the same coin. Because as chatty as Alex was, that’s how closed-mouthed Mason was. And yet they belonged together, complemented each other.

   Glancing around the room then, Doc came to a startling realization.

   I’m the last man standing. The only member of my former SEAL Team who isn’t head over heels in L.O.V.E.

   Of course, that was because he’d been there, done that.

   Got the T-shirt and lost it, he thought miserably. Lost everything, in fact.

   As happened anytime his past reared its ugly head, he felt the terrible void that lived in the center of his chest yawn wide. Felt himself falling into it, traveling back in time to a dirt road. To a pair of wide blue eyes. To the girl he’d loved since the eighth grade.

   Lifting his right arm, he ran a reverent finger over the delicate flower tattooed on the inside of his wrist. He’d gotten the ink when he was eighteen years old, the day after he proposed. The day after that blue-eyed girl said yes.

   But just like his memories of her, the tattoo was beginning to fade. The flower growing fuzzy around the edges. No longer so bright and pure.

   And that hurts worst of all.

   That she was paling in his mind. That sometimes he went hours, even a whole day, without thinking of her. Without missing her.

   Especially recently.

   “Sorry! I got stuck in the bathroom. That door lock is like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.” The last and newest member of their merry band of misfits burst into the computer room, the sides of her windbreaker flapping like a drunken bird.

   Her name was Dana Levine and she worked for the FMC—the Federal Maritime Commission. Cami had brought Dana on to bear witness to the salvage since, according to Cami, “We need a Fed who will swear under oath that you guys didn’t touch so much as a single coin of that treasure while the top of the reef was exposed.”

   Glad for the distraction from the melancholy turn of his thoughts, Doc watched Dana slip past LT and plop into a chair next to the table that held the conglomerates. She’d been on deck all day and her wild, windblown hair and slightly sunburned nose attested to the diligence with which she’d taken on the role of witness.

   Doc would guess her to be somewhere in her mid-fifties. Her bouncy blond curls were interspersed with threads of gray, and there were laugh lines at the corners of her cornflower-blue eyes.

   “Okay. Now that everyone’s here, it’s time to talk turkey.” LT’s voice rang with military authority. “We thought we were gonna be able to finish this evenin’, but that’s not gonna happen.”

   Doc had pulled the early morning shift at the dive site, so he knew how much work was involved in bringing up the treasure. Knew all about spending hours waving a handheld metal detector over the seabed, waiting for the blinking light to indicate whether he’d found ferrous or nonferrous metals. Knew how tedious the sectioning off and gridding of the area could be, because even though the treasure had been removed from the Santa Cristina, it still had to be excavated in an archeological manner. Knew how slow and painstaking the process was of carefully attaching the treasure to lift bags—the vinyl-coated nylon satchels—that did the hard work of floating the riches to the surface.

   He wasn’t surprised his partners hadn’t managed to haul up the last of the booty before they’d been forced to call it quits. No doubt the setting sun had combined with the wave action to make visibility impossible. But he was surprised to hear LT add, “And to make matters worse, looks like Julia’s gonna hit us after all.”

   The hairs on Doc’s arms lifted in warning. “I thought the meteorologists said she was only going to skim us with her outer edges.”

   “Apparently she changed her mind and changed directions.” LT made a face. “New projections say she’ll smack us head-on before turnin’ to make landfall somewhere around New Orleans.”

   “Fuck,” Mason muttered. The man was a born and raised Bostonian. When he did deign to speak, it was a safe bet the F-bomb would be involved.

   “She’s currently a Category 2, but they’re estimatin’ she’ll be a 3 by the time she reaches us,” LT continued, and Doc gave his earlobe an anxious tug.

   As a bona fide landlubber, he’d never gotten comfortable with the tropical storms that crashed through the Straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily, in the time he’d lived on Wayfarer Island, the biggest hurricane he’d had to weather had topped out at a Category 1.

   Even then, he shuddered to remember how the rain hadn’t fallen from the sky so much as it’d been flung through the air like watery missiles that’d pummeled his exposed skin. How his hair had whipped around so violently that it’d stung wherever it’d hit his face.

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