Piper Dunn isn't who you would call a normal teenager. For one thing, she doesn't want anyone to know she was born with a blowhole. Even stranger, she has two love interests. Joel, a fellow dolphin-human hybrid, and Tyler, a human.
It's hard to choose when a mad scientist is hot on Piper's trail. Worse, she's trapped in the Bermuda Triangle. And . . . wait for it . . . Angel, her test-tube daughter, is apparently a real-deal reincarnation. It all adds up to an impossible situation, with happy endings all but lost at sea. Unless, of course, a voodoo high priestess casts a spell or two . . .
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)|
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Love, Lattes, and Angel
By Sandra Cox
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Sandra Cox
All rights reserved.
The scents of alcohol and soap permeate the room and make my stomach roll. Bile rises in my throat as I force open matted eyes. Drip. Drip. Drip. The liquid in the IV plops into my arm. In response, the hair on the back of my neck rises. Am I back in the experimental labs, waiting to be tested like a lab rat?
A figure moves in the shadows.
Dolphins have no sense of smell, but her scent reaches me. Salt water and vanilla. Piper. In her arms is my daughter. Nausea fades. My heart rises and my chest warms. The pleasure is fleeting. Have they captured us?
No, her expression is too calm. My muscles loosen.
Forgetting about the IV, I try to push myself up with my arms. The needle pulls my skin. My bandaged wrist and forearm won't hold my weight.
Worst of all, the watch with the hidden GPS buster I always wear is gone. Terror for my family skitters up my spine. My skin grows clammy. The momentary calm is over. Wherever we are, we're in trouble. "Where's my watch?" My voice is harsher than I'd like, but there's no time for subtleties.
Tiny arms reach for me. "Daddy."
I pluck my daughter up in my one good arm. As light as a butterfly kiss, little hands touch my face. The smell of baby powder replaces the pervasive scent of alcohol and antibacterial soap and blends with Piper's unique fragrance. I place my lips on Angel's downy hair and she coos.
My gaze never leaves Piper's, the girl who should be my wife. "We've got to get out of here. It may already be too late." Not wishing to scare Angel, I try to keep the urgency out of my voice and control the jump of nerves in my arm.
Piper steps closer. "It's okay. The tracker chip is gone."
"What are you talking about? I was told it couldn't be removed." The walls around me are the dull green of a hospital. Confusion skitters through my brain. "Where am I?"
Piper's hair swings in a shiny sheath over her face as she leans forward. "Remember the shark attack?"
My queasy stomach flip-flops at the memory of razor-sharp teeth, flat black eyes, and near death. "How could I forget?"
"And how sick you were?"
My neck prickles. "I don't like the direction this conversation is going."
Piper takes my hand. "We had to take you to the hospital. Your shark bite got badly infected."
A nasty chill crawls up my spine. "Not a good idea. My blood type isn't exactly A, B, or O."
"We had no choice."
What she said a moment ago sinks in. I look down at my bandaged wrist and forearm. "The surgeon took out the tracker chip?"
"Yes." Piper's smile is wide, her eyes bright.
Angel claps her hands together, a look of delight on her face. My child is like no other. Nearly eight weeks old, she can say simple words, her mind far advanced to that of a normal infant's. Her motor skills have yet to catch up.
I try to move my wrist. My upper arm moves, but my forearm dangles like a broken limb hanging from a tree. The muscles in my shoulders tighten in uneasy knots. I look a question at Piper.
"The tracker was embedded, Joel. Between the shark and the surgery, there was damage to the muscle, but the chances of recovery are good."
"Are 'good'?" The words echo hollowly in my brain.
"Yes. Good." She smiles encouragingly.
"But not guaranteed."
"Nothing is guaranteed. Do you realize how lucky you are? Amy's still dealing with her tracker." Waves of impatience bounce off her and ricochet around the room.
"You're right, of course. Where's the tracker?" And that's the heart of the matter; what's really breaking me out in cold sweats.
"I flushed it down the toilet."
Great. I raise my hands like a scale. "Human body. Toilet. It'll still be tracking. We need to go, now. Stranger would have started picking up signals the minute they removed the jammer." I hand Angel back to her mom and force myself up. I put a hand on the IV stand to steady myself.
Piper giggles. I glance over my shoulder at her and raise my eyebrows. Angel points at my back. I notice a light breeze in my nether regions. With what dignity I can muster, I gather the thin material together with my fist and turn around so I'm facing them. "Where're my clothes?"
"In the locker."
"Would you get them for me?"
"Why don't you?" Piper makes no move to help me.
"I never realized you had such a sadistic streak. You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Oh yeah." Piper nods, her grin widening. "I've never seen dolph booty before. Mighty fine."
I fight back the heat flooding my face. "Really, Piper, in front of your daughter?"
She doesn't look the least repentant.
"Clothes." Angel pats her cheek.
"Of course, I'm just teasing your daddy." She crosses to the locker and digs out underwear, shorts, a T-Shirt, flops, and my wallet, and tosses them on the bed. "What do you propose to do about that IV?"
In response, I rip the tape off my arm. It stings like a mother, but I manage not to yelp. Under Piper's and Angel's interested stares, I fumble beneath the gown with my underwear and shorts, then toss the offending piece of material on the bed.
"Here, let me help you," Piper says gently.
"I can dress myself." Getting my clothes on is awkward but I manage to push my head through the T-shirt, grab my wallet, and shove it in my pocket. "Let's go."
As we push through the door, the nurse is standing on the other side, her hand raised. She steps back into the hall. I go on one side of her and Piper the other.
"Mr. Eisler, where are you going? Mr. Eisler, come back. The doctor hasn't released you." She hurries after us as we enter the elevator and squeezes in before the door can close. "Mr. Eisler, I must insist you go back to your room."
"I'm checking myself out." I stab at a glowing button, and the elevator glides to the first floor.
When the door opens, she follows me out. "Mr. Eisler, don't make me call security."
"Don't make me call my attorney."
"This is highly irregular." She continues to hurry down the hall after us.
I force back a rude remark and push through the outside door. The smell of rain is in the air. A warm breeze blows and the setting sun turns the sky crimson, outlining the palms whose fanlike leaves are rustling crisply in the wind.
We grab a taxi and head for the dock. When we clamber onto the boat, Piper hands me Angel and takes the wheel.
"We need to get as far from here as we can," I tell her.
"We are. I'm heading back to the house."
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
"I can't just take off and leave Gramps. When we get to the house, we'll vote on it. There're over seven hundred islands in the Bahamas and twenty-four hundred cays. We're on an uninhabited cay. We're well hidden."
"Maybe." The leather cushions sigh and encircle me as I push back against them.
"Gramps." Angel stares earnestly into my eyes.
"We're going to see him now, sweetie." I nuzzle her neck and she giggles. "By the way, what island were we just on?"
"Not the most populated but populated enough." I try to keep the glumness out of my face and voice but apparently don't succeed.
Piper throws me a quick look. "The doctor was a friend of Gramps. He operates" — she smiles at the pun — "out of West End."
I smile back. "So how does your gramps come to have a buddy in the Bahamas?"
"Gramps is a Vietnam veteran. So is the doctor. He doesn't talk about it much."
"Apparently, the cay where we live is jointly owned by Gramps and the doctor. Gramps is like a silent partner."
"Huh." I need to process that. "Does the doctor know about us?"
"He just knows Gramps likes to fly under the radar."
"And that's enough?"
"They're brothers-in-arms." She shrugs as though that explains everything. And it does.
Angel begins to squirm in my arms and hold her hands out to the water. "Swim."
"Let me get a little further out, baby, and I'll cut the motor," Piper tells her.
My daughter subsides, grumbling.
Panic surges through me. "For God's sakes, she's only eight weeks old; you can't possibly be thinking of letting her swim in the middle of the ocean. She'd be a tasty morsel for a shark." Involuntarily, I glance at my wrist. At present, the damn thing is as useless as my forearm. Whatever tendon the doc cut getting the chip out affected them both.
Piper throws back her head and laughs.
The sound entrances me. I glance at her ring finger, afraid she's gotten engaged while I was in the hospital, then hastily away, relieved it's bare.
"Our daughter is faster than any shark."
The remark warms me on so many levels; the intimacy of our shared blood in the form of our daughter, and the fact that Angel's skills are surpassing our own.
The boat cuts through the waves. The sparkle of first stars bounces off the water and the moon rises, so big I want to touch it. Piper cuts the motor and slips out of her shorts and tee to the bikini below. Her long legs, flat belly, and perky breasts have my eyes crossing. I turn my attention to my daughter. I swear she winks at me.
"How old are you really?" I whisper to her.
She giggles and coos, giving me a coy smile.
I shift in my seat. My two girls are going to be the death of me.
Piper holds out her hands.
I clutch Angel to me with my good hand. "It's too dark."
Piper fists her hands on her hips. "Really? We can all see to swim in the dark."
"When you say we, I'm assuming you're talking about dolphs."
"Piper, I know she can swim. I've been with her for two weeks remember?"
"The last week you were running a fever and delirious. You won't believe the difference that week has made. I'll go first and make sure there's nothing dangerous near the boat, but unless a shark is waiting with its mouth open, she's safe."
"Don't say that." Easy for Piper to joke about, she didn't nearly become shark fodder.
She pats me on the shoulder. Such a small gesture to have my heart ping-ponging in my chest. She drops her hand and glides into the water, where she does a quick turn around the boat and surfaces. Pushing her wet hair back from her face, she laughs. "Toss her in."
"I'm not doing any such thing."
As carefully as I can, I remove Angel's onesie, lean over the side of the boat, and Piper scoops her into her arms then lets her go. Angel takes off like a miniature torpedo. My breath whizzes out of my lungs.
"Told ya." Piper grins from ear to ear.
I pull off my shirt and join them in the water. It's not as bad as I was afraid it would be with my useless wrist and forearm. I quickly learn to compensate. Underwater, I watch my daughter. She darts around faster than a school of fish. When she surfaces, I do too. A small waterfall cascades on her back when she chuffs. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
A whopper of a frog is jumping around in my throat. I clear it and whisper, "I've never seen the like. And it's just been a week. What else can our daughter do?"
Even though there's no one around to hear us except Angel, who is still torpedoing around the boat, Piper lowers her voice. "I think she's telepathic."CHAPTER 2
"What?" No doubt, I misunderstood.
"I think she's telepathic."
Nope. I didn't misunderstand. "Why do you think so?"
"Because whenever I'm thinking of Gramps, she says Gramps. And whenever I'm thinking of you ..." She hesitates slightly, and I wonder if I see a blush on her face or if it's shadow. "She says Daddy."
A quick flash of warmth and pride spreads through me. "Interesting. She must have a large amount of dolphin DNA in her. Dolphins can encode information with their echolocation and whistles. Some folks consider that telepathic."
"I'm one of those folks." Her hands swish the water back and forth around her.
"Though, the dolphin DNA doesn't account for the speed."
"No, they're fast, she's faster. What do you think Stranger added to her DNA?" It's a rhetorical question. One we've both asked a thousand times.
"As fast as she swims, maybe sailfish."
"You could be right." She looks uneasy.
"What?" Neurons fire under my skin, leaving me twitchy.
"A sailfish's life expectancy is only five to seven years and she's already developing by leaps and bounds."
"Let's not buy trouble." I change the subject though it's not an improvement. "On top of the dolphin DNA and whatever else he inserted into her, the telepathy is going to add to her value in the private and government sector."
She bites at her lower lip. "Do you think Stranger knows?"
"When was the first time you noticed it?"
"This week. But what if he knowingly bred it into her?"
"He's over the top, but I don't see how he could be aware of the telepathy, if you just recently noticed it, even if he did breed it into her. Is anyone else aware of it?"
"Let's keep it to ourselves. No one would intentionally say anything, but the less they know the better." My chest tightens. With all her capabilities, will my daughter ever have a chance at a normal life?
"Gramps will figure it out."
"If he does, I'm betting he doesn't mention it to anyone."
"I'm sure you're right." She looks around. "I guess we should be heading home."
As if on cue, Angel appears beside us. Piper gives me a what-did-I-tell-you look.
"Little wonder girl." I hold out my good arm and she jumps into it. A rush of love nearly drowns me. Who'd have thought being a parent would color one's entire universe? There's nothing like it.
Piper slides into the boat and holds out her arms. I hold Angel over my head as if she's a football, while she giggles, before I hand her to her mom then pull myself on board.
Angel and I spend the next two hours playing silly baby games. Piper steers the boat, occasionally reaching over to tickle our daughter. The agile little sea creature is back to a land baby with a limited range of motion.
In much too short a time for my liking, Piper throttles down the boat. "We're home."
The shoreline comes into view, outlined by tropical growth in varying shades of brilliant color. Piper shuts down the motor and we drift into the cove. Our time together is over. Once she steps onto the dock, she's Tyler's girl.
A tiny hand touches my cheek. I hug her and nuzzle her neck. If Piper's correct, I'm going to have to filter my thoughts whenever I'm around Angel.
I forget that she can talk. Once her leg and arm coordination catch up with her brain there will be no stopping her.
"Because I might be thinking of something silly, like pouring chocolate syrup over pizza."
The boat hits the dock and rocks against the planks. Piper jumps out and ties it before we head to the cottage, plants brushing against our legs as we hurry down the narrow dirt track that stands between us and our temporary home.
A light shines like a beacon through the window of the little hut, outlining Amy as she comes barreling down the pathway, her arms outstretched.
"Oof." I grab her in a one-armed hug.
"Are you all right?" She backs away and lifts my bandaged arm, her touch gentle. Her voice sharpens. "Where's your watch?"
I glance at Piper and raise my eyebrows.
"I didn't want to take a chance on calling anyone," Piper answers my unspoken question.
"The chip's gone, Amy."
"What? How? I didn't think it could be taken out without damage."
I don't immediately respond.
"Is there damage?"
"The chances are good he will fully recover," Piper tells Amy. "And if he doesn't ..."
"We'll deal with that when the time comes. No matter what happens, to me it's worth it to get the chip out."
"Do you think I could get mine removed?" She bounces from foot to foot, her eyes sparkling.
"I don't know if the shark bite loosened it or if it could have been removed anyway."
Her face falls and I add hastily, "We'll look into it, Ames. I don't see how it's going to make a difference to our security if the doctor removes one or two. And Mr. Dunn seems to trust him, so that's a plus."
As if on cue, Piper's grandfather calls from the little stoop of the cottage where he's haloed by porch light, "Why don't you all come inside? I haven't seen my great-granddaughter in a week. Not to mention you two."
Night sounds and the loamy scent of island vegetation engulf us as we troop to the cottage. The moment we're through the doorway, Angel holds out her arms. Mr. Dunn scoops her up and herds us into the living room where he has a tray of iced tea waiting. The love surrounding my daughter radiates through the room, making it a happy place. I can't help but hope it offsets the time she spent in that vacuous, blue liquid in the lab. A jolt runs through me when she looks over at me, smiles, and gives a tiny nod.
Excerpted from Love, Lattes, and Angel by Sandra Cox. Copyright © 2015 Sandra Cox. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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