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The Devil She Knew

By:Talia Hunter

The Devil She Knew
Talia Hunter

(A Lantana Island Romance Book 2)

1


Nate Mason listened to the figure being offered. It was a lot of money. A shit-load, in fact. Shame he wasn't tempted.

"Did you hear me, Nate? They want to give us fifty-five million  dollars!" His business partner's voice rose to such an excited pitch,  Nate winced and pulled the phone away from his ear. Neither of them had  expected such a high offer for their self-drive software. It was the  kind of profit nobody in their right mind would turn down.

Nate supposed that made him officially crazy.

"Screw it." Nate made his final decision as he said the words. "I don't want to sell."

Tristan made a strangled sound on the other end of the line. "Excuse me?  You're not seriously suggesting we say no to that much money?"

Nate glanced behind him. The sun was setting over the white sand beach  and the crowd of wedding guests were silhouetted against its rays. He'd  only arrived on Lantana Island a couple of hours ago. After showering  and changing, he'd barely made it to the beach in time for the ceremony,  and had ducked away right after it to make some calls. But the formal  dinner would be starting any minute.

"I need to get back to the wedding," he said. "We can talk about it tomorrow."

"I'm holding a contract and all it needs is your signature. Come on, Nate. We can't possibly turn it down."

"Why not?"

"Please tell me you're joking." The faint sound of shoes clomping on  wooden floors came through the line, as though Tristan had started  pacing. "We've been pouring money into it for three years and I'm all  but broke. It's time to sell."

Although Tristan couldn't see him, Nate found himself shaking his head.  "It's too early to sell. Once we hand over our software, they'll mess it  up. Remember what happened when we sold Journeyman?"

"I remember all the money we made," said Tristan. "Besides, we can't  afford to take this any further. Creating a car prototype is going to  cost a fortune."

"There might be a way to fund it ourselves." Nate glanced over the  water, to the yacht moored in Lantana Island's sheltered bay. "What if  we put our system into boats?"

"Boats?" Tristan sounded like he was being strangled. "What are you talking about?"

"We could adapt our software to fit into an existing autopilot system,"  he repeated slowly, working it through in his head as he spoke. "It  wouldn't be hard, and a lot cheaper than developing a car prototype. If  we diversify now, it gives us more options. We could sell it as a  different system entirely-"

"You're not talking about making a whole new product? That would take far too long and cost far too much."

Nate narrowed his eyes, squinting against the sun to make out the  details of the yacht. It was a decent size, and probably had a radar,  auto-pilot, and navigation system. Its name was Lady of Lantana, so it  had to belong to the resort's owner and could be available for rent.

"I'll bet I could get a yacht steering itself in just three days," he said.

"Three days? No way."

"And if I can? Will you tear up that contract?"

"You're serious?" Tristan sucked in a loud breath. "But Nate, it's  fifty-five million dollars." At least his partner didn't sound quite so  convinced now.

Nate glanced over his shoulder again. The wedding guests were moving towards the dining tables on the sand. "I have to go."

"But-"

"I'll call you in the morning, Tristan. First thing, I promise." Nate  hung up, stuck his phone in his pocket and loosened the tie he hardly  ever wore. It was too hot for ties and he had sand in his shoes. If it  had been his wedding, he'd have made it less formal. He caught himself,  and shook his head, bemused. Where had that thought come from? He wasn't  interested in risking a relationship, so he hardly needed to plan what  kind of wedding he'd have.

Nate spotted Dalton, the resort owner, walking across the sand toward  the resort's restaurant, and moved to intercept him. After outlining his  plan and assuring the man he'd had plenty of boating experience and  wouldn't damage the yacht's systems, he arranged to rent the Lady of  Lantana for a small fee. Three days was a tight time-frame so he'd need  to start first thing in the morning.

The deal done, Nate knew he should go and congratulate Laura and Luke,  the happy couple. Instead, he stood on the edge of the crowd of guests,  searching for the one woman he didn't want to see.         

     



 

He almost hadn't come to the wedding at all. But so far there'd been no sign of Suzie's short brown hair.

Good.

Maybe Suzie and Laura had fallen out, so she hadn't come? Or maybe Suzie  hadn't been able to take time away from work? Nate did one more scan of  the crowd, then let his shoulders relax. Many of the wedding guests had  already found their seats at the dining tables on the sand, but Suzie  wasn't among them. Strange for the bride's sister not to be here, but  her absence would make his short stay on the island easier.

Nate headed towards the blackboard where the seating plan was displayed.  If Suzie were here somewhere, he'd be able to find her name on the  plan.

As he neared the board on its easel, he saw a woman also walking towards  it. She wore a gold dress and had bangles up each arm that jangled with  every step. She was a little in front of him, so he couldn't see her  face, but her long, curly hair tumbled almost to her waist. It was  obviously dyed, because a red that bright could only have come out of a  bottle. She hadn't bothered with shoes and was barefoot on the sand, her  painted toenails even brighter than her hair. A hippy-dippy type,  obviously. Nobody he'd be interested in.

But when she turned her head to the side, his heart somersaulted. She  had luminous skin that glowed in the sunset and there was something  about the shape of her eyes that made it seem like they had a smile  behind them, even when she reached the board and frowned as she studied  it.

Suzie.

Her hair was completely different, but one thing hadn't changed: she was  still more beautiful than she deserved to be. And her figure had become  even more curvaceous and desirable, if that were possible.

Nate swore under his breath. He'd been dreading seeing her, but had  convinced himself if he did, he'd feel nothing but disdain. This time  she wouldn't make his heart speed up or his palms perspire. This time,  the only thing she'd be able to make him feel would be righteous  annoyance.

He wiped his palms on his pants, then took a breath, trying to slow the beating in his chest.

Damn her.

After all these years, he'd counted on finally being free from the curse  of his attraction to her. How could she still have this effect on him?  He knew she was bad news, but somehow the message hadn't gotten through  to every part of him. She was his own personal Kyrptonite, and the last  thing he needed was to have her embedded in his mind for another ten  years, permeating his thoughts and dreams.

He clenched his jaw. Over his dead body. However she'd managed to sink  her claws into him, it was going to end tonight. All he had to do was  talk to her, and the memories of how much he'd hated her would come  flooding back. And this time he'd make sure every cell in his body was  paying attention.





2





Suzie should have known her sister's wedding guests would be a bunch of  hopeless nerds. Many were Laura's ex-colleagues from the university's  math department.

She tried to resist glaring at her sister, who'd just finished up with  her wedding photos and was gazing adoringly into her new husband's eyes.  Luke was definitely the hunkiest man here, and not only was he hot, but  he had a generous helping of bad-boy charm. Suzie loved her sister, and  was happy for her, but couldn't she also be a teeny bit jealous?

Some of Luke's friends were cute, but they were here with their wives or girlfriends. Where were all Luke's single buddies?

Sighing, she scanned the crowd, barely looking at the board where the  seating plan was pinned up. She'd been on this absurdly romantic Fijian  island for five days and as much as she'd enjoyed lazing around the  white sand beach and snorkeling the crystal water, it would have been  nice to indulge in a little holiday romance. But not when the only  choices were geeks who knew more about calculating the radius of a curve  than running their hands over one.

Well, too late now. She had to leave tomorrow to cater her first wedding  on her own. At least this break had been an opportunity to give herself  a pep talk and convince herself she wasn't going to mess it up.

When Suzie's gaze turned to the seating plan, horror slowly dawned.  Instead of just printing everyone's names, Laura had made up a puzzle  for each person, so you had to work out the equation to see where you  were sitting. Laura's version of fun was Suzie's worst nightmare. Would  she be the only guest too dumb to figure out where she was sitting?

Staring at the numbers, Suzie fought back a groan. Being the dunce of  the family had been bad enough when Suzie was growing up. The last thing  she needed was a reminder of her shortcomings before heading home to  tackle a big challenge. Just her luck, she'd need the formula explained  to her, then she'd end up sitting next to one of her sister's brainiac  buddies who'd treat her like she needed to be taught how to use a fork.         

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