Title: Ambush in the Everglades
Author: Petie McCarty
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Second Edition Self-published on Amazon (First Edition published by Desert Breeze Publishing)
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.
Two more zigzags, and the airboat slipped free. Her forward momentum on the last shove propelled her three steps into the marshy edge of the channel. The dark opaque water surged up to her knees.
Gasping, Kayli almost panicked, unsure whether to stay put or scurry back to higher ground. Skye spun the airboat on a dime and came back for her before she could decide. The boat floated to her side, and the propeller whirled to a stop as he climbed down and moved toward the bow. He reached out both hands to pull her into the boat, and her heart banged hard against the inside wall of her chest.
Maybe I should climb aboard by myself . . .
She thought of the gator at their first stop and immediately held up both hands to grip his. Instead, he grabbed them and wrapped them around his neck, then gripped her waist to left her over the side of the boat. Thankfully, she had the presence of mind to tuck her legs up and into the boat. The two found themselves chest to chest when her feet landed on the hard boat bottom.
Skye didn’t immediately release her, and Kayli couldn’t breathe. She dared not look up and catch his misbegotten smirk. Her only choice was to look down as she attempted to pull free.
One quick glance down, and she screamed bloody murder.
All-out panic reigned before she could suck a second breath. She shot a horrified glance at Skye and dared a second back down at her legs, which only instigated a second blood-curdling scream. Dozens of squirming, rippling critters clung to the dampened skin on her bare legs and the entire surface of her sneakers.
“Stop screaming,” he yelled and grabbed both her shoulders.
“Get them off!” she wailed, her feet frozen to the bottom of the boat. “Get the bugs off!”
“They’re not bugs,” he hollered over her ear-piercing wails. “They’re leeches.”
“Aaaah!” Her next lung-bursting scream forced his hand over her mouth to protect his ears.
“They won’t hurt you,” he grumbled, holding her mouth tightly shut.
She felt her eyes widen, and her lungs hyperventilated with a mind of their own. One look at her eyes, and his angry frown vanished. He released his grip on her mouth and crushed her to his chest, wrapped his arms tight around her.
“Shhh . . . shhh,” he soothed. His arms held her immobile, and his lips pressed light kisses against her ear.
Warmth roiled up from her inner core to envelope her heart and calm her panic. Her arms circled his waist, and she clutched him as tight to her as she could. Skye meant safety. In his incredible arms, nothing could hurt her. Nothing could touch her.
“It’s okay,” he comforted.
His warm breath on her ear sent shivers down her spine all the way to her toes. She floated in this microcosm of well-being, a pleasurable euphoria, for all of four or five seconds until something on her shin squiggled. Then another something.
Jumping back, she stamped both feet, which only succeeded in dislodging some of the half-inch long leeches attempting to strike out for the hills. The teetering invertebrates lifted their miniscule suckers and reattached a tenth of an inch away, then peeled up their other suction end to follow.
Half the tiny critters tried to inch for cover at the same time, and panic reared its ugly head again, as her legs turned into a shifting mass of tiny, lunging leech bodies. Feeling paralysis make a comeback, she jerked her head up. Skye’s face was close, his grip on her shoulders tight.
“Don’t panic. Just sit,” he commanded.
Pushing her down on the bow, he jerked her right foot up onto his bent knees. Swiftly, he picked leeches off her calves and snapped them back into the water with a flick of his thumb and index finger.
“They’re not blood suckers,” he told her without looking up.
Frozen, she watched as he methodically plucked off the first dozen. She eased her own fingers down to a miscreant clinging to her right calf and tugged at the invertebrate, which popped loose. She shuddered hard enough her head wobbled.
“Eeeww!” She flicked it as far out over the water as she could.
Skye never stopped plucking leeches off her legs and shoes. Her panic decreased with each invertebrate he removed from her body, and her lungs had eased back to a normal breathing rate by the time he finished with her right leg and hefted up her left. Her panic somewhat abated, she reached down and picked the critters off herself until all had been flung back to their aquatic habitat.
He hoisted her left foot high to search for more leeches and pushed her into a precarious position. She opened her mouth to complain, and he laughed, a melodic low rumble.
Kayli jerked her foot from his grasp and sat bolt upright in a far more lady-like position. No way would she chastise this hero who had just saved her from the grossest plague anyone had ever suffered. This even beat the palmetto bug, though the two incidents would forever curdle together in her memory of this safari.
Hands on his hips, Skye grinned at her. “You all right now?”
A comfortable warmth spread up from her belly, and she nodded with a smile. “Thank you, Skye.”
He reached out a hand to help her up. Her fingertips tingled at his touch. She could feel the strength in his arm as he pulled her right to her feet, and the luscious tingling spread through her body.
Skye didn’t release her though. He tugged her all the way to his chest, and Kayli gasped. The two stood nose to nose. His shades were gone. His sexy green eyes darkened, and she knew she was in serious trouble.
For one brief moment, she imagined leaning in to press her lips to his. No, he had to make the first move. He was the one who’d put distance between them.
A second passed. Two.
Skye didn’t move, and the earth behind him became one big blur.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, trapping her gaze with his. “I didn’t know there were leeches. I wouldn’t have done that to you.”
She tried for words, but none would come. Only a nod. Seconds elapsed, and neither moved.
His eyes softened, and she melted. She should fight off the intense feelings he stirred up deep within her soul, but she couldn’t. This seemingly rough, impersonal man had a huge heart—she could feel it—and she wanted that incredible heart to yearn for her. She ached for him to lean in and kiss her.
Free to read on Kindle Unlimited!
I’m one of the authors participating in the Beach Blanket Book Giveaway and you can win an e-copy of The Angel and the SEAL by Petie McCarty.
Runs June 1 - 30 and is open internationally.
Winner will be drawn July 2, 2019.
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.