Myron lay sprawled next to a knee-knockingly gorgeous brunette clad only in a Class-B-felony bikini, a tropical drink sans umbrella in one hand, the aqua clear Caribbean water lapping at his feet, the sand a dazzling white powder, the sky a pure blue that could only be God's blank canvas, the sun as soothing and rich as a Swedish masseur with a snifter of cognac, and he was intensely miserable.
The two of them had been on this island paradise for, he guessed, three weeks. Myron had not bothered counting the days. Neither, he imagined, had Terese. The island seemed as remote as Gilligan's--no phone, some lights, no motorcar, plenty of luxury, not much like Robinson Crusoe, and well, not as primitive as can be either. Myron shook his head. You can take the boy out of the television, but you can't take the television out of the boy.
At the horizon's midway point, slicing toward them and ripping a seam of white in the aqua-blue fabric, came the yacht. Myron saw it, and his stomach clenched.
He did not know where they were exactly, though the island did indeed have a name: St. Bacchanals. Yes, for real. It was a small patch of planet, owned by one of those mega-cruise lines that used one side of the island for passengers to swim and barbecue and enjoy a day on their "own personal island paradise." Personal. Just them and the other twenty-five hundred turistas
squeezed onto a short stretch of beach. Yep, personal, bacchanallike.
This side of the island, however, was quite different. There was only this one home, owned by the cruise line's CEO, a hybrid between a thatched hut and a plantation manor. The only person within a mile was a servant. Total island population: maybe thirty, all of whom worked as caretakers hired by the cruise line.
The yacht shut off its engine and drifted closer.
Terese Collins lowered her Bolle sunglasses and frowned. In three weeks no vessel except the mammoth cruise liners--they had subtle names like the Sensation
or the Ecstasy
or the G Spot
--had ambled past their stretch of sand.
"Did you tell anybody where we were?" she asked.
"Maybe it's John."
John was the aforementioned CEO of said cruise line, a friend of Terese's.
"I don't think so," Myron said.
Myron had first met Terese Collins, well, a little more than three weeks ago. Terese was "on leave" from her high-profile job as prime-time anchorwoman for CNN. They both had been bullied into going to some charity function by well-meaning friends and had been immediately drawn to each other as though their mutual misery and pain were magnetic. It started as little more than a dare: Drop everything and flee. Just disappear with someone you found attractive and barely knew. Neither backed down, and twelve hours later they were in St. Maarten. Twenty-four hours after that they were here.
For Myron, a man who had slept with a total of four women in his entire life, who had never really experienced one-night stands even in the days when they were fashionable or ostensibly disease-free, who had never had sex purely for the physical sensation and without the anchors of love or commitment, the decision to flee felt surprisingly right.
He had told no one where he was going or for how long--mostly because he didn't have a clue himself. He'd called Mom and Dad and told them not to worry, a move tantamount to telling them to grow gills and breathe underwater. He'd sent Esperanza a fax and gave her power of attorney over MB SportsReps, the sports agency they now partnered. He had not even called Win.
Terese was watching him. "You know who it is."
Myron said nothing. His heartbeat sped up.
The yacht came closer. A cabin door in the front opened, and as Myron feared, Win stepped out on deck. Panic squeezed the air out of him. Win was not one for casual drop-bys. If he was here, it meant something was very wrong.
Myron stood. He was still too far to yell, so he settled for a wave. Win gave a small nod.
"Wait a second," Terese said. "Isn't that the guy whose family owns Lock-Horne Securities?"
"I interviewed him once. When the market plunged. He has some long, pompous name."
"Windsor Horne Lockwood the third," Myron said.
"Right. Weird guy."
She should only know.
"Good-looking as all hell," Terese continued, "in that old-money, country-club, born-with-a-silver-golf-club-in-his-hands kinda way."
As though on cue, Win put a hand through the blond locks and smiled.
"You two have something in common," Myron said.
"You both think he's good-looking as all hell."
Terese studied Myron's face. "You're going back." There was a hint of apprehension in her voice.
Myron nodded. "Win wouldn't have come otherwise."
She took his hand. It was the first tender moment between them in the three weeks since the charity ball. That might sound strange--lovers alone on an island, the sex constant, who had never shared a gentle kiss or a light stroke or soft words--but their relationship had been about forgetting and surviving: two desperate souls standing in the rubble with no interest in trying to rebuild a damn thing.
Terese had spent most days taking long walks by herself; he'd spent them sitting on the beach and exercising and sometimes reading. They met up for food, sleep, and sex. Other than that, they left each other alone to--if not heal--at least stave off the blood flow. He could see that she too had been shattered, that some recent tragedy had struck her deep and hard and to the bone. But he never asked her what had happened. And she never asked him either.
An unspoken rule of their little folly.
The yacht stopped and dropped anchor. Win stepped down onto a motorized dinghy. Myron waited. He shifted his feet, bracing himself. When the dinghy was close enough to the shore, Win snapped off the motor.
"My parents?" Myron called out.
Win shook his head. "They're fine."
Slight hesitation. "She needs your help."
Win stepped gingerly into the water, almost as though he expected it to hold his weight. He was dressed in a white button-down oxford and Lilly Pulitzer shorts with colors loud enough to repel sharks. The Yacht Yuppie. His build was on the slight side, but his forearms looked like steel snakes coiling beneath the skin.
Terese stood as Win approached. Win admired the view without ogling. He was one of the few men Myron knew who could get away with that. Breeding. He took Terese's hand and smiled. They exchanged pleasantries. Fake smiles and pointless bandies followed. Myron stood frozen, not listening. Terese excused herself and headed to the house.
Win carefully watched her saunter away. Then he said, "Quality derrière."
"Would you be referring to me?" Myron asked.
Win kept his eyes keenly focused on the, er, target. "On television she's always sitting behind that anchor desk," he noted. "One would never guess that she had such a high-quality derrière." He shook his head. "It's a shame really."
"Right," Myron said. "Maybe she should stand a couple times during each broadcast. Twirl around a few times, bend over, something like that."
"There you go." Win risked a quick glance at Myron. "Take any action snapshots, perhaps a videotape?"
"No, that would be you," Myron said, "or maybe an extra-perverse rock star."
"Yeah, shame, I got that." Quality derrière? "So what's wrong with Esperanza?"
Terese finally disappeared through the front door. Win sighed softly and turned toward Myron. "The yacht will take half an hour to refuel. We'll leave then. Mind if I sit?"
"What happened, Win?"
He did not answer, choosing instead to sit on a chaise longue and ease back. He put his hands behind his head and crossed his ankles. "I'll say this for you. When you decide to wig out, you do it in style."
"I didn't wig out. I just needed a break."
"Uh-hmm." Win looked off, and a realization smacked Myron in the head: He had hurt Win's feelings. Strange but probably true. Win might be a blue-blooded, aristocratic sociopath, but hey, he was still human, sort of. The two men had been inseparable since college, yet Myron had run off without even calling. In many ways Win had no one else.
"I meant to call you," Myron said weakly.
Win kept still.
"But I knew if there was a problem, you'd be able to find me." That was true. Win could find a Hoffa needle in a Judge Crater haystack.
Win waved a hand. "Whatever."
"So what's wrong with Esperanza?"
Myron's first client, a right-handed relief pitcher in the twilight of his career. "What about him?"
"He's dead," Win said.
Myron felt his legs buckle a bit. He let himself land on the chaise.
"Shot three times in his own abode."
Myron lowered his head. "I thought he'd straightened himself out."
Win said nothing.
"So what does Esperanza have to do with this?"
Win looked at his watch. "Right about now," he said, "she is in all likelihood being arrested for his murder."
Win said nothing again. He hated to repeat himself.
"They think Esperanza killed him?"
"Good to see your vacation hasn't dulled your sharp powers of deduction." Win tilted his face toward the sun.
"What sort of evidence do they have?"
"The murder weapon, for one. Bloodstains. Fibers. Do you have any sunblock?"
"But how . . . ?" Myron studied his friend's face. As usual, it gave away nothing. "Did she do it?"
"I have no idea."
"Did you ask her?"
"Esperanza does not wish to speak with me."
"She does not wish to speak with you either."
"I don't understand," Myron said. "Esperanza wouldn't kill anyone."
"You're quite sure about that, are you?"
Myron swallowed. He had thought that his recent experience would help him understand Win better. Win had killed too. Often, in fact. Now that Myron had done likewise, he thought that there would be a fresh bond. But there wasn't. Just the opposite, in fact. Their shared experienced was opening a whole new chasm.
Win checked his watch. "Why don't you go get packed?"
"There's nothing I need to bring."
Win motioned to the house. Terese stood there, watching them silently. "Then say good-bye to La Derrière and let's be on our way."
Copyright © 1999 by Harlan Coben. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.