Jillian had been ready to scream for the police when the man grabbed her baby. She’d read about airport kidnappings in foreign countries and how, if the parents didn’t pay up immediately, they’d sell the child. She didn’t have much money and no idea how to get the massive amounts she was sure a kidnapper would require. She couldn’t let him take her baby. No, she wouldn’t
let him take Addi.
The dark evil thoughts that raced through her fatigued mind delayed understanding the fact that he’d called her baby girl by name, her nickname. Then he’d said he was Jack Girard.
Jack? No. This couldn’t be Jimmy’s brother Jack. He was a Navy SEAL. Every picture she’d seen of him, and there were several, he’d been in one uniform or another. Or he’d been in nothing but low-slung swim trunks and behind the wheel of a boat as a teenager. He’d been clean-cut with short hair, was close shaven and extremely good looking.
The man who held her daughter was a different man altogether.
Jack Girard wasn’t this long-haired, shaggy, sun-bleached-blond Adonis with bulging tanned muscles under a blue polo shirt with a sailboat logo emblazoned over an impressive chest.
The man before her looked deadly on every level. His light blue eyes were hard as arctic ice with
hints of green. Then she watched his whole face transform as he smiled at Addi and poked a finger into her baby’s belly. The green had overtaken the blue, and he looked like a loving father playing with his child. Her child.
Jillian couldn’t breathe.
“You ready to meet your hellion cousins, little princess?” His voice was playful, yet its low tones reverberated through Jillian, shaking parts of her soul that had been dormant for more than two
years. Since her husband’s murder. Addi squirmed at his touch and giggled.
“Uh…I’ll take her,” Jillian managed to push out through her tightened throat as she grabbed for her child. When he turned his broad smile toward her, her world focused on his white teeth, all of them
perfectly straight except for one eyetooth, which turned slightly.
It was Jimmy’s smile. Except Jimmy was dead.
Her knees went weak. Her vision blurred. No matter how hard she tried, her lungs refused to work. Indistinct sounds echoed in the tall room and overwhelmed every one of her senses. The world went white.
Jack’s voice shot through the encroaching fog in her brain, and a strong arm
snapped around her back. “Breathe, Jillian. You’re safe.”
“Jack, it’s nice to finally meet you. Ji…Jimmy spoke of you often.” She hated when she stuttered over his name, but she’d said it so seldom in the past two years. The initial pain she’d felt every day, the loneliness every night, had quickly been replaced with exhaustion and work. Now and again, it would catch her off guard. Like now.
Her free hand extended, Jack took his time before slipping his hand into hers for the brief introductory shake. His fingers were warm as they glided into hers, but when his palm flattened against hers, she felt the contact all the way to her toes. Her gaze flew to his, and she watched the spark brighten his eyes.
Oh, dang. He felt it too.
She quickly pulled her hand free, but the brush of his fingertips across her palm curled her toes in the low-heeled sandals.
She brushed it off. Her nerves were ragged, and her guard was down because she was over tired. After spending most of the night packing and cleaning her apartment, she’d gotten up early and taught her last class of the semester. It was more difficult than she’d ever have thought to say goodbye to the twenty-two gifted students in her Anthropology 4810 class who challenged her
constantly. The dean still hadn’t had time to discuss her lack of a contract for spring, which had her extremely worried. The taxi had been late picking them up for the airport, and then their connecting flight had been delayed. It had been one very stressful day. Now she was forced to face Jimmy’s family, people she’d met for the first time at his funeral.
Nerves. That’s all it was.
Her husband. His brother.
Nothing left but ashes and memories. He closed his eyes to hold in the water that threatened to leak. He couldn’t cry. He had been a fucking Navy SEAL. Every part of his body had been tested from his muscles to his fortitude to his brain. Every part except his heart.
Somehow, Jillian had touched that part of him. Sure, she was a beautiful woman with curves in all the right places and he wanted her, but it was more than lust. No. She had reached inside him and with gentle fingers brushed his heart. She’d done it in mere hours.
How had she managed that? How had he let her?
Had he been reaching for a connection to Jimmy? She’d been his wife, and Addi was
part of him. Maybe that was it. But Jimmy was gone, and this afternoon he would help his sister-in-law lay his brother’s remains to rest. He needed that closure.
That was it. She was a tie to his brother, and he’d been seeking a connection to Jimmy. Missing him. That’s all. This afternoon’s trip to the reef would sever their tie, and he wouldn’t need Jillian and her child to fill that void.
He had to keep his distance from her in the meantime.
Cenote pictures used for inspiration
Widowed for over two years, Jillian Girard, is consumed with raising her daughter alone and finishing her doctorate in Mayan anthropology when she is summoned to Cancun to spend Christmas with her murdered husband’s family.
Jillian doesn’t want, or have time, for a man in her life, but she needs Jack Girard to fulfill her husband’s last request.
When Jack Girard missed his brother’s funeral, he quit the SEALs and created a catamaran company catering to Caribbean cruise ship guests.
Complacent in his life, he finds more than adventure in completing his grandfather’s quest for Mayan Goddess idols.
True Fact: off the North end of the island is an underwater Virgin Mary
True Fact: For over a hundred years women traveled to Isla Mujeres to pay homage to the four Mayan Goddesses for women in their pyramidal temple
True Fact: The women sacrificed clay statues to the golden idols and brought them jewels, gold and silver
True Fact: In the 1500's the Conquistadores used the light from the temple fires as a beacon to the Isle of Women and stole the gold