Cassandra Pierce - Diamonds in the Sand [The Aquans 2] (Siren Publishing LoveXtreme Special Edition)

BOOK: Cassandra Pierce - Diamonds in the Sand [The Aquans 2] (Siren Publishing LoveXtreme Special Edition)
7.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Aquans 2

Diamonds in the Sand

Oceanographer Maura Ryan travels to the tropics to meet with her mentor, who claims to have made an amazing new discovery. By the time she gets there, he has vanished…and in his place are five mysterious men who have a strange connection to the sea.


As they help her search for the missing scientist, Daq, Janko, Ivar, Ejan and Tagin introduce Maura to the uninhibited life they enjoy on the island. Before long, they ask her to join them in their balmy paradise, and she is tempted to accept.


However, Maura can’t help wondering about her new friends’ role in Dr. Miller’s disappearance. She has also begun to suspect that they aren’t exactly like other men. Can she respond to their desire for her, wondering if they might not be what they seem? Should she give into what she feels for them, knowing that they might not be human?


Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal
27,398 words


The Aquans 2

Cassandra Pierce


Siren Publishing, Inc.

Your non-refundable purchase of this e-book allows you to only ONE LEGAL copy for your own personal reading on your own personal computer or device.
You do not have resell or distribution rights without the prior written permission of both the publisher and the copyright owner of this book.
This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee, or as a prize in any contest. Such action is illegal and in violation of the U.S. Copyright Law. Distribution of this e-book, in whole or in part, online, offline, in print or in any way or any other method currently known or yet to be invented, is forbidden. If you do not want this book anymore, you must delete it from your computer.

WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

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IMPRINT: LoveXtreme


Copyright © 2011 by Cassandra Pierce

E-book ISBN: 1-61034-839-7

First E-book Publication: September 2011

Cover design by
Les Byerley

All art and logo copyright © 2011 by Siren Publishing, Inc.

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.


Siren Publishing, Inc.

Letter to Readers


Dear Readers,


If you have purchased this copy of
Diamonds in the Sand
by Cassandra Pierce from or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.



Regarding E-book Piracy


This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book.


The author and the publisher work very hard to bring our paying readers high-quality reading entertainment.


This is Cassandra Pierce’s livelihood. It’s fair and simple. Please respect Ms. Pierce’s right to earn a living from her work.


Amanda Hilton, Publisher


As always, thanks to my fellow Siren author, Rachel Clark, for some fantastic beta reading. Since you have already apparently worn out the first two Aquans I sent you, I will be netting some more for you soon!


The Aquans 2


Copyright © 2011

Chapter 1

The blazing Caribbean heat pressed against Maura’s face like a pillow the moment she stepped off the small plane. Walking down the ramp felt like walking into the heart of a volcano. By the time she had crossed the tarmac and entered the airport to have her passport and return ticket checked, sweat soaked her light cotton skirt and button-down shirt.

To her relief, she emerged from the immigration line and spotted a man holding up a hand-printed sign that read “Dr. Maura Ryan” in large red letters. Maura waved and pushed through the throng of islanders welcoming tourists and visiting relatives.

“I’m Maura Ryan,” she said when she reached the man’s side.

He didn’t smile, simply gave her a businesslike nod and lowered the sign. She’d assumed Septimus would send a driver rather than picking her up himself, since her former mentor was no longer young, and she’d suspected his urgent letter to her had been inspired by the onset of illness. Still, she hadn’t expected a chauffeur like this. Broad shouldered, with strong, aquiline features and tousled black locks that trailed over his shoulders, he looked vaguely Mediterranean. The heat didn’t seem to bother him at all, perhaps because he was barely dressed in sandals, cargo shorts, and a tank top that showed off his tan body and muscles to perfection.

“I am Daq,” he said without a trace of an accent. Was he a displaced American like Septimus? “Professor Miller has charged me with delivering you to his home. Let me take your bags.”

“Thanks.” Maura hitched her carry-on duffel higher on her aching shoulder and indicated two much larger suitcases resting at her feet. Without a murmur of protest, Daq hoisted one bag in each hand and strode toward the exit. Maura had to hurry to catch up, but Daq didn’t glance back at her. She couldn’t suppress a twinge of guilt at letting him carry her bulging cases by himself. Dragging both of them around all day had taught her how uncomfortably heavy they were.

“The surcharge was ridiculous, and I probably packed way too much,” she prattled to the back of his head. “Still, I needed some of my reference books and notes, and considering I’ll be here a while, I thought I should bring extra clothes, too. I wasn’t sure I could find anything in the shops here.”

“Bequia offers many fine boutiques,” he said in a clipped tone, still without looking around. “Most tourists find them perfectly sufficient.”

“No doubt that’s true.” She was glad he missed her blush. “I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. It’s just that I might not have much time to explore. I’m here for work more than pleasure.”

“I am aware of the scientific purpose for your visit. Still, I hope you’ll find a few hours to enjoy yourself.”

“I’ll try my best.”

They exited the airport and stepped out into a parking lot. The heat grew fierce again, and Maura feared that every crevice of her body dripped with sweat. Daq led the way past a row of tourist buses and taxis, still carrying the suitcases as if they weighed nothing. Conversation wasn’t his forte, she mused, but she couldn’t fault his physical strength. Apparently, the tropical sun had the same nurturing effect on the island’s men as it did on the vegetation. She had no complaints about the skimpy attire they favored, either. The air sure wasn’t the only hot thing around here.

They approached a battered black Jeep parked under a palm tree, and Maura spotted another man waiting in the car. He lounged behind the wheel with his back to them, tapping his fingers on the dashboard to calypso music blaring from the speakers.

“That’s Janko,” Daq said as they drew closer. “He works for Septimus, too.”

When he spotted them, Janko jumped out of the driver’s seat and reached out to help with the bags. Daq shook his head, and for the first time, Maura noticed an unusual tattoo just under his jawline on both sides—three small slashes, subtly outlined against his skin but too regular to be scars.

“I’ve got the cases,” he grumbled. “You open the hatch so I can put them in.”

Janko did as his friend asked, but his eyes never left Maura. She stared back, drinking in his casual good looks. He was a little more dressed than Daq, though his tight red T-shirt and even tighter white jeans showed off his muscular body in plenty of detail. His hair also hung long enough to cover his ears and the tops of his shoulders, but it shone reddish brown in the bright afternoon light.

“This Dr. Ryan,” Daq informed him as he slid her luggage into the Jeep. Janko grinned and grasped her hand. His skin, like his easy smile, seemed warm and somehow comforting. She was startled to notice the same odd lines running under his jaw. Clearly there was some significance to the marks—some sort of bonding ritual between them, maybe? Or just a peculiar island fashion?

“Please, call me Maura,” she said as Janko guided her into the passenger seat. After slamming the hatch, Daq climbed into the backseat. He remained taciturn as they pulled out of the lot. The tiny island airport soon vanished behind a lush veil of palm trees. Maura had no idea how far they were from Septimus Miller’s property, so she settled back to enjoy the view of clear blue sky and water, exotic vegetation, and the occasional house painted in cheerful pastel colors. Though she’d just spent the better part of a day flying from her home in Connecticut to the Grenadines, she found this final leg delightful and even relaxing.

Finally, Janko turned between two boulders and slid into a narrow driveway she hadn’t seen as they came up the dirt road. Ahead of them lay a lovely two-story house, cushioned in swaying palms and surrounded with white sand and neatly trimmed bushes. A verandah jutted from almost every window. A striped towel hung from one, flapping in the salty breeze. When Maura stepped out of the Jeep, she inhaled the fragrant sea air with pleasure. She couldn’t wait to check out Septimus’s private beach, not to mention the cove he’d described in his letters, where he performed the bulk of his marine research. This was going to be a sabbatical in heaven.

While Daq and Janko got her bags, the house door opened, and three more guys came walking toward them. Maura quickly forgot about the beach. Two were shirtless, wearing denim cutoffs with fade marks in the right places, while the third wore a loose blue T-shirt over a baggy pair of swim trunks. All had the same shoulder-length hair as the first two, leading her to wonder if Septimus shared his house with some sort of boy band or ran a male modeling agency on the side.

All five guys gathered around her with blatant interest. “Welcome to Starfish Cove,” said one of the newcomers, a tall blond with the most beautiful sea-green eyes Maura had ever seen. Oddly, they each sported the same tattoo-like lines under their jawlines. Their long hair covered them, but only from certain angles.

“Let me introduce everyone,” Daq said. He pointed to each of the guys in turn. “This is Tagin, Ejan, and Ivar. And as all of you have hopefully figured out, this is Dr. Ryan, Septimus’s guest. I trust I don’t have to tell you to be on your best behavior around her.”

“So Daq thinks we don’t know how to behave ourselves.” One of the shirtless men, who she thought had been introduced as Ejan, laughed. “That’s rich, coming from him.” The others joined in his good humor.

“You’ll see what he’s talking about in time,” the blond told Maura with a wink. “Let’s just say you won’t find many books on etiquette on Daq’s shelf.”

“Exactly what do all of you do here?” Maura asked, scanning the entire group of five with bewilderment. If they weren’t rock singers, were they grad students or protégés of some sort? Could Septimus possibly need that many research assistants? Or was there something about her old mentor she didn’t know? “Septimus never mentioned any of you in his letters.”

“We help him take care of the place,” the dark-haired man in the T-shirt—Ivar?—replied with a grin. “Sort of like caretakers, you might say.”

“You mean all of you live in the house?”

“No,” Daq replied. “I mean, one or more of us will stay here overnight if Septimus needs us. Otherwise, we keep our own accommodations…elsewhere.”

“I see,” she said, though in all honesty she didn’t. “Well, speaking of that, where is Septimus?”

Their smiles faded a bit, and the five of them went silent. She saw them exchange glances that gave her an uneasy feeling.

“Why don’t we take your stuff inside?” Daq suggested, grabbing the first suitcase. The other four all grabbed for the second one. Ivar ended up with it, and Ejan settled for relieving her of her shoulder bag. Janko and Tagin walked ahead to open the doors for them. Maura followed the small procession of underdressed men inside, hoping Septimus would be waiting on the sofa or at his desk to surprise her.

The front door of the house opened into a sunny room, with a large overhead fan battling the afternoon heat. Lush green plants filled the corners, complementing the simple but comfortable-looking bamboo furniture. Books on oceanography and related subjects covered every table and shelf. Interspersed were decorative objects salvaged from the sea, including coral, shells, driftwood, and seaglass.

No sign of Septimus, though.

“The beach is right through here,” Janko said, crossing the room to fling open a pair of French doors adorned with seahorse-patterned curtains.

Maura caught her breath. The view beyond was everything she had hoped for and more. A seemingly endless expanse of pure blue sky and crisp white sand framed the gently lapping water, with a circular area enclosed by rocks and palm trees off to the right. A small, thatched hut sat perched among the vines and tropical flowers. This, she assumed, was where Septimus pursued his studies.

“How do you like it so far?” Tagin asked with obvious pride.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” she said, transfixed. Though she’d been to the tropics before, she’d never seen anything quite as peaceful and utterly private as what lay before her now. “And this all belongs to Septimus?”

Daq nodded. “It’s been in his family for a hundred years. He inherited this house and as much of the beach as you can see from here.”

“It must be worth a fortune,” she said. No wonder Septimus had retired from the university the moment he was eligible and rushed off to live in his vacation home full time. She’d expected something cozy, but much more humble.

“No one can buy a house in the Grenadines anymore,” Ivar said with a shrug. “The whole place has become a private playground for rich people and tourist companies. If we hadn’t been born here, we could never have settled on this island.”

“Do you want to check out your room? We decided to put you upstairs facing the ocean. The view is better, and you get a cool breeze at night. Just make sure the screens are closed or you’ll have some nasty insects in bed with you in the morning.”

“I’ll remember that.” Maura shuddered. “But hold on a moment. Before I go upstairs and all of you duck out on me, I want you to answer one question—where is Septimus? And don’t even think about distracting me again.”

“See?” Ejan challenged Daq, who stood looking at her with a dark cloud forming on his face. “Told you she’d be smart. She was Septimus’s best student, after all.”

Was his compliment an attempt to catch her off guard? Maura refused to be sidetracked. “Come on—out with it.”

Everyone looked at Daq, and Maura prepared herself for bad news. Had Septimus met with some kind of accident in the water? Had old age or illness claimed him between the time he’d sent his invitation and the time she’d completed her journey? Maybe she’d missed some underlying sense of urgency in his letters. Silently she cursed herself for not making her travel arrangements sooner. Why hadn’t she taken off as soon as the university had closed its gates for the summer?

“Well?” she demanded when no one said anything. “What aren’t you telling me, Daq?”

Daq raked a hand through his long hair. Under ordinary circumstances, she would have found the gesture sexy as hell. Right now it only made her more nervous.

“It’s not that we’re keeping anything from you,” he said. “The truth is, we don’t know where he is. He took off three days ago, and no one’s heard from him since.”

“What?” It was all Maura could do not to freak out right in the middle of Septimus’s tidy living room. “How can that be? I e-mailed him my flight information—he e-mailed me back!”

“I sent you those e-mails,” Daq said quietly. “Perhaps it was poor judgment on my part, but none of us wished to alarm you. Besides, we had hoped he would be back by the time you arrived.”

“This is insane,” Maura said, gaping at each of them in turn. Why did they seem so calm? “Why aren’t at least some of you out looking for him?”

“Don’t get worked up,” Janko urged. “He’s probably just off on one of his expeditions. He walks up and down the beach collecting shells and stuff all the time. Sometimes he doesn’t come back for a whole day.”

“One day and three are very different! What if a wave took him out to sea? He might be dead!”

“No.” Daq shook his head. “The professor has done this sort of thing many times before, sometimes for even longer periods. Trust me, he isn’t lying somewhere injured or drowned. We checked…thoroughly.”

“You checked in the water? How is that possible? The current could have swept him miles offshore.”

BOOK: Cassandra Pierce - Diamonds in the Sand [The Aquans 2] (Siren Publishing LoveXtreme Special Edition)
7.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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