Cover, Excerpt & Trailer
Gulf Shore Book Three
Tara Langley is an animal rights activist protesting against Gulf Shore Aquarium keeping dolphins in captivity. Paul “Flipper” O’Riley is the aquarium’s head dolphin trainer. Fire and gasoline, right? So why are they both itching to light the match?
Tara Langley thought she’d found the love of her life, but he betrayed her with another woman. So she buried herself in her mission: convincing Gulf Shore Aquarium that dolphins and whales belong in the wild, not in artificial pools.
If Tara had her way, Paul “Flipper” O’Riley would lose the job he loves.
Flipper is the head dolphin trainer, and the aquarium’s dolphins are his babies. While he’s open to having a real family one day, Tara is the last person he would choose to be his wife and the mother of his children.
These two should be sworn enemies, after all. He certainly swears at the sight of her. And his surfer-dude looks and lover-boy reputation aren’t exactly what Ms. Prim and Tidy had in mind when she pictured her ideal man.
But in the age-old way of opposites attracting, Tara and Flipper find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. There’s no possible way a relationship between them could work, right?
As the two try to find common ground amid the quicksand, Flipper and his coworkers become the targets of an increasingly more menacing campaign to force the aquarium to release the dolphins under its care. Will Gulf Shore Police Detective Joanna Tompkins catch the culprit before it’s too late?
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content/Theme(s): Suspense, Workplace
Release Date: June 22, 2015
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Excerpt & More
Paul “Flipper” O’Riley backed away from the note as if he expected it to somehow lunge at his throat. The outrage, disgust, and, yes, he’d admit it, fear he felt at reading the vile threats composed on the single page of common white printer paper had his stomach roiling ominously.
The letters of each word had been cut from what looked like a glossy magazine and glued on like a ransom note from a classic crime drama. If the message hadn’t been so loathsome, Flipper might’ve laughed at how cartoonish it looked.
But the warning had been nailed to the front door of the cottage he rented across the street from the beach, and that in itself represented an alarming development. It meant, of course, that the animal rights crusaders who’d been hounding Flipper’s employer now knew where he lived.
With a hand he fought to keep from shaking, he drew his cell phone out of the case attached to his belt, scrolled through his contacts, and pressed a familiar number. It rang several times before the person on the other end answered with an impatient huff.
“Jo?” Flipper asked. “Is that you?”
“No, it’s the queen of England. What do you want?”
Joanna Tompkins’ characteristic grumpiness and brusque manner usually amused him, but Flipper wasn’t in the mood for her tough-chick act right now.
“I’ve got something here at my place that you need to see. Can you come over?”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Fish Brain? Even if you show me yours, I’m not going to show you mine. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” She gave a chuckle that he didn’t appreciate, given the circumstances.
“Hilarious, but I’m serious. Another of those nasty notes came, and this one’s even more personal than the others.”
Jo’s tone immediately changed into her no-nonsense cop voice. “It mentioned you specifically by name?”
“No, but it’s nailed to my front door.”
“At your cottage?” She sounded even more concerned now.
“Don’t touch it. I’ll be right over with a tech to dust for fingerprints.”
“I know the drill. I’m hanging up now and calling Kenshin.”
“See if he can meet me at your place. That’ll save me a trip to the aquarium.”
“And if you’re still on your doorstep, haul your happy ass inside right now and lock the door until I get there.”
“Did you call me for help or not?”
“All right, all right. You’re the boss.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
Wary now, Flipper looked around before doing as she ordered. Then he called his boss, Kenshin Hamasaki, supervisor of marine mammals at Gulf Shore Aquarium, and filled him in. Kenshin promised to drop what he was doing and be right over.
Flipper looked around his cozy living room—with its bland, impersonal furnishings straight from the rental property decorators’ manual and then moved to his front windows to fully close the mini blinds. He wasn’t too proud to acknowledge Jo’s admonition had freaked him out, and he was too antsy to sit. Not that he’d feel safe settling onto either the loveseat or his favorite recliner, both near windows. He yanked his hand through his hair, annoyed with himself for letting the situation unsettle him and pissed off at whoever was disrupting his life this way.
Who would’ve thought being a dolphin trainer carried such potential for danger?
Flipper paced around his living room, mulling that ridiculous circumstance until he heard a car pull up outside his cottage. He peeked through the blinds and, seeing that it was his boss, threw open the door so Kenshin didn’t touch it to knock.
The other man stared at the note, which stood out against the forest green paint job Flipper’s landlady had approved with great reluctance, as if she’d been doing him a supreme favor. She’d wanted to paint the door and the trim a bright peach, but he’d talked her out of it, thank the good Lord above. His cottage was the only one of her properties that didn’t sport pastel candy colors, and for that he felt thankful.
The potential for unmerciful razzing alone would’ve made his life a veritable living hell. Which brought his mind back to the unpleasant topic at hand.
“This is the worst one yet,” Kenshin remarked after reading the message. “They’re getting bolder. This could mean they’re escalating.”
“You sound like Jo. Maybe you should quit watching so many cop shows.”
“Don’t give me that crap. I know you’re worried. It’s written all over your face.”
Flipper tried, too late, to pass off a blank expression, but then gave up with a shake of his head when he saw his boss wasn’t buying it.
“Hell, yes, I’m concerned,” the trainer confirmed. “What if they try to do something to our dolphins, whales, or manatees to ‘end their suffering,’ as that nut-job note warns?”
“There’s no way they could hijack them from the property to release them without our knowing about it.”
“That isn’t what I’m talking about. ‘End their suffering’ just as easily could mean putting them out of their misery.”
Moisture pooled in Flipper’s eyes at the thought and, with an irritated swipe of his hand, he dispensed with the tears. Now wasn’t the time for maudlin emotions.
Kenshin blanched. “I hadn’t thought of it that way. But we’ve already stepped up security at the aquarium, especially around Dolphin Inlet and the rehab wing. It wouldn’t hurt to post somebody at Manatee Haven, too. If it makes you feel better, I’ll talk to Wesley about other steps we can take to protect our animals. Right now, though, I’m more afraid for you.”
“Don’t be. I’m thinking of getting a gun, taking a firearms training class, and applying for a concealed weapon license.”
“Might not be a bad idea, but you should talk to Jo before you do anything.”
“I will. She’s offered several times to take me to the firing range and I’ve never taken her up on it. I’m sure the offer still stands, especially given what just happened.”
* * * *
Trailed by a white crime scene van, Detective Jo Tompkins of the Gulf Shore, Florida police department pulled up in an unmarked car and parked along the curb about twenty minutes after Kenshin. Jo spent time perusing the lawn and the concrete driveway and sidewalk before striding up to examine the porch. She shook her head in obvious disgust as she looked at the sheet of paper and then went inside, leaving the technician to photograph the scene, dust for fingerprints, and enclose the note in a clear plastic bag.
“Find anything?” Kenshin asked when Jo pulled out her pen and notebook.
“If you’re asking about tire tracks, footprints, or something the suspects may have dropped, the answer is no,” she replied.
“I don’t expect we’ll find fingerprints, either. There weren’t any on the previous letters sent to the aquarium. Whoever’s doing this isn’t careless. Let me take your statement, Flipper, and then I’ll knock on your neighbors’ doors and hope somebody saw something. What time did you go to work, and when did you arrive home?”
As Flipper filled her in and answered her other questions, Kenshin grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and began pacing.
“Will you stop it? You’re making me nervous,” Flipper snapped.
“Shuffling back and forth like that.”
“Don’t be so touchy. I’m just making a mental list of everything I need to tell Wesley to update him on the situation.”
Flipper knew the aquarium’s director, Wesley Coffey, Jr., wouldn’t be happy with this latest development. He had a tendency to sweep particularly troublesome issues under the throw rugs of his mind, as if he could will them away by ignoring them.
When the first letters had arrived by mail a few months before, neither Kenshin nor Wesley had acted concerned. Protests from animal rights activists, especially since the release of the documentary Blackfish, went with the territory, and Gulf Shore Aquarium had received its share over the years. Some of the latest missives were signed by an Orlando-based group known as SWADS, short for Stop Whale and Dolphin Suffering. The tone of those messages was far less strident than the anonymous letters, but they all called for GSA to release its six resident dolphins and two manatees back into the wild.
Then, aquarium staffers helped rescue a pod of short-finned pilot whales stranded in Gordon Pass off Naples, about four hours south of Gulf Shore, and ended up bringing three of them back to the aquarium for treatment. The whales—a mother, her male calf, and an older female—still were receiving round-the-clock attention in GSA’s rehab wing.
Since the trio’s arrival, the unsigned notes had become increasingly more ominous, promising dire consequences if the whales weren’t set free, too, along with a baby dolphin named Trident found beside his dying mother on a beach near Cedar Key.
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