Deadly Getaway by Karen Mueller Bryson Genre: Mystery, Romantic Suspense
USA TODAY Bestselling Author KAREN MUELLER BRYSON
Her dream vacation becomes a nightmare when her roommate goes missing.
Brooklyn Winters just received the offer of a lifetime. If she accompanies her roommate, Addie, on a Spring Break trip to a tropical island paradise, all her expenses will be paid for by her roommate’s parents.
There’s only one problem: Brooklyn promised her dad she would spend Spring Break working with him at the Seven Brothers Security Services office. That’s what she has done for every vacation for as long as she can remember.
When her overprotective father reluctantly agrees to the island getaway, Brooklyn assures him that she and Addie will be perfectly safe and that he has nothing to worry about.
If only she was right.
On their first day on the island, Addie goes missing. The last thing Brooklyn wants to do is admit to her father that she was wrong and ask for his help. So, she searches for Addie on her own.
As Brooklyn follows the leads to find Addie, she realizes she is being trailed by Theo, a nerdy tourist staying in the room next door. Theo seems to have a crush on Brooklyn, so she uses it to her advantage and talks him into helping her find Addie.
But when Brooklyn starts to develop feelings for Theo, she discovers it was no accident that he was staying in the room next door.
She uncovers a web of lies. Nothing is what is seems and Brooklyn isn’t sure who she can trust.
Will she be able to find her best friend before it’s too late?
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“Who is Addie Vance?”
I roll my eyes at my dad because I know how much he hates it. “My roommate. Duh. We’ve only been living together for seven months.”
He rubs his temples for several seconds. I must have hit a nerve. The temple rub always proceeds the deep breath, which is his way of tempering an explosion. My father would be the first to admit that he has anger control issues, but he really does try to keep them in check.
“I thought your roommate was a weirdo, your word not mine, and that she reminded you of a crazy old cat lady in the body of an eighteen-year-old.”
“That was like two month ago, Dad. She’s my best friend.”
He raises a dark eyebrow. “Was she your best friend before she offered to pay for your Spring Break trip?”
“Do you really think I’m that shallow?” I glare at him.
He hesitates a few seconds too long.
“Seriously?” I huff.
He kisses my forehead. “I don’t think you’re shallow. I just think you’re a typical eighteen-year-old. I know you find it hard to believe, but I was eighteen once too.”
It is difficult for me to imagine my dad as a young man. He’s so stubborn and set in his ways. He’s the type of guy you’d image came out of the womb as a 40-year-old.
“You know how important Spring Break is. I really want to go.” I try not to whine. My dad hates it when I whine.
“I thought we agreed that you’d work at the office over Spring Break. Tilly already put together a list of tasks for you.”
Tilly has been the office manager for Seven Brothers Security Services for as long as I can remember. And my dad has been in love with her just as long.
Of course, he’d never admit it.
Guys like my father, men who risk their lives every day to protect the lives of others, aren’t supposed to have personal relationships. That’s what my dad proclaims anyway. And it seems to be the philosophy held by his brothers as well. Not one of the seven brothers, who make up the Seven Brothers Security Team, has had much luck at sustaining a long-term relationship.
“I promise I’ll make it up to Tilly this summer.”
“I don’t like the idea of two teenage girls going to Florida on your own.”
“Sanibel Island is safe, Dad. I did some research. The crime rate there is lower than it is here in Annadale. You don’t have any issues with me walking around this town on my own.”
“Arizona is a long way from Florida. If you’re in trouble I can’t just hop into my car and be there right away. I would take several days for me to get to you.”
“I’ve been living on my own on campus all year. You’re fine with that.”
He shakes his head. “Not fine with it. I tolerate it. You’re still my little girl. I just want you to be safe.”
“I’m an adult now. I can take care of myself. You and your brothers have taught me well. I’ve been doing self-defense training since I learned to walk.”
My dad eyes me skeptically. “I’m still not clear about the financial arrangements for this trip of a lifetime. Why exactly are Addie’s parents willing to pay for all of your expenses?”
“Addie isn’t the most popular girl on campus. She doesn’t have anyone else to go with. I’m her only friend.”
My dad reaches into his pocket and removes his wallet. He counts out a hundred dollars and hands me the cash. “I’m sure you’ll need a little pocket money for the trip.”
I place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Dad. This means a lot to me.”
He pulls me in for a hug. “Stay safe, kiddo.”
“My parents will be here any minute. Do you have everything you need?” Addie is a hairsbreadth away from a total meltdown. Not that much of her life isn’t spent in crisis mode. Today her craziness is in overdrive.
“I’m packed and ready to go,” I assure her.
“Sunscreen,” she exclaims. “I don’t have any sunscreen.”
“We can buy some there. You can’t take stuff like that on the plane anyway.”
She nods. “I’m sorry if I’m freaking out a little.”
“A little?” I laugh.
“Okay, I’m freaking out a lot. This will be my first major trip without my parents.”
I place my hands on her shoulders and look into her bright green eyes. “Everything will be fine.”
She takes in a deep breath then exhales. “Thank you. For everything.”
“I’m the one who should be thanking you. I’ve never been outside of Arizona before. And here I am going on a dream vacation to Sanibel Island.”
She grabs an oversized sunhat from the edge of her bed and plops it on her head. “Hat or no hat? What do you think?”
Addie is tall and thin. The floppy hat makes her look like the Scarecrow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It does cover her thick mop of curly auburn hair though. “It’s your call.”
“Are you bringing a hat?”
I shake my head. “They make me look younger than I already do. I realize I’m petite, but the last time I wore a baseball cap with my hair pulled back, someone mistook me for a twelve-year-old boy.”
“Okay, no hats.” She sends her sunhat sailing Frisbee-style across the room.
A loud pounding on the door startles both of us. Addie answers it.
I’ve only met her parents once before, the day they moved Addie into our dorm room. They struck me as two peas in a nerdy pod, who reproduced an even more awkward pea sprout.
Mrs. Vance removes two plastic document holders from her oversized handbag and hands one to me and one two Addie. “Here are your plane tickets. There will be a car waiting at the airport to take you to the island.”
Addie does an embarrassing dance that makes her look like she’s having a seizure. “Spring Break here we come!”
I just hope she doesn’t break out those mortifying dance moves in public.
The Sandhill Resort is a beachfront paradise with acres of sparkling white sand along the Gulf of Mexico. Our suite has a private balcony with a view of the sea and sky that seems to be endless. For someone who grew up in the desert I never realized a place could feel so fresh and alive. The air is damp when I inhale, and I can taste a bit of salt on my lips when I lick them.
“Isn’t this fantastic?” Addie says as she joins me on the balcony.
“Amazing. Absolutely amazing.”
“It’s still early afternoon. We should change into our swimsuits and make our way to the beach.”
“Brilliant plan,” I agree.
We both purchased brand new bikinis for the trip, although Addie’s is a bit more revealing than mine. That’s because my overprotective dad’s voice is always playing in the back of my head like a recording. If he had his way I’d be wearing a burqa on the beach instead of a bathing suit.
“Sunscreen,” Addie reminds me. “Don’t forget to use lots of sunscreen.”
As we’re exiting our suite, the door right next to ours opens. Addie and I stop to check out our neighbor.
The guy looks like he’s in his early 20s, but he’s not wearing board shorts like most guys his age wear to the beach. He’s wearing the type of swimsuit my 60-something grandfather wears. To make matters worse he’s got on dark socks and dress shoes rather than flipflops, and a dorky straw hat on his head.
I’m embarrassed for the guy and I don’t even know him.
He gives us a polite wave when he notices us. “Going to the beach?”
We’re wearing bathing suits and carrying beach towels. “Is it that obvious?”
He responds with an uncomfortable laugh. “Mind if I join you?”
Addie and I exchange a quick glance. I don’t want anyone to think he’s with us, especially any hot guys who happen to look in our direction. My days of being a high school geek are behind me. I promised myself things would be different in college.
“I don’t want to cramp your style.” This time when he laughs he snorts. That makes him laugh even harder.
“Let’s go.” I pull Addie’s elbow as I walk away.
The nerdy guy doesn’t take the hint. He follows beside us as we head down the hallway.
“Where are you ladies from?” he asks.
“Annadale, Arizona,” I reply. “It’s close to Phoenix.”
“The Beverly Hills of the Southwest,” he says. “Desert getaway for the rich and famous.”
“So, they say. Whoever they are.”
“I’m from Arizona. I’m a grad student at the university.”
“We’re freshman,” Addie tells him.
“Don’t encourage him,” I whisper to her.
“I can actually hear you,” the nerdy guy says.
I give him a polite smile. “Sorry.”
“First Spring Break trip?” he asks.
I nod. “It’s the first time I’ve even been outside of Arizona.”
“Me too,” Addie says.
“Be sure you check out the wildlife refuge. The nature preserve is over six thousand acres and home to over 200 species of birds. It’s fascinating if you’re interested in Ornithology.”
Right now, the only thing I’m interested in is talking to a hot guy not some nerd who looks like he raided his grandfather’s closet.
As we exit the building, I take my flipflops off and slip them into my tote bag. I want to feel the sand between my toes as we walk along the shoreline.
“I’m Theo, by the way.” He extends a hand for me to shake.
“Brooklyn.” When I reluctantly take his hand, the strangest thing happens. I feel an exchange of energy between us. And there’s a flicker of interest in his smoky dark eyes.
I quickly remove my hand from his. This shop is closed to dorks and nerds of every variety. Been there. Done that. Own the t-shirt. My high school boyfriend was a geek who ended up cheating on me with nearly every female in our school’s Math Club.
I plan on going down an entirely different road in college. Dating guys with more brawn than brains.
“I’m Addie.” She gives Theo a quick wave even though his attention is firmly planted on me.
Ugh. Am I a nerd magnet?
“We’re headed towards the cabanas,” I tell him. Theo seems to be headed in the opposite direction. Maybe he’ll finally get the hint. We don’t want to be anywhere near him.
“I’ll come with you.” He gives me an eager smile.
“You’re not invited.” The words pop out of my mouth before I can stop them. When his face falls, I immediately regret my harsh tone.
“Sorry,” he says quickly. “I guess I just thought…” His voice trails off and he doesn’t finish his sentence.
I grab Addie’s elbow and pull her with me as I head away from Theo.
“See you around,” she shouts back to him.
“Don’t encourage him,” I spit.
“Why not? He’s cute.”
“He’s a dork.”
“He’s a cute dork. And he’s totally into you.”
“He’s not exactly what I had in mind for a Spring Break fling.” I point to a shirtless hunk retrieving a volleyball that has be thrown way out of bounds. “He’s more of what I was envisioning.”
“Guys like that are a dime a dozen. You need someone with substance.”
“The only substance I want right now is six-pack abs.”
She furrows her brow. “I know you, Brooklyn. You’re not that shallow.”
“Can’t I be shallow for just one week of my life?”
She sneaks a peek behind us. “Theo is following us. Or at the very least he’s headed in the same direction as we are. He’s trying to be nonchalant about it, but failing miserably. I think he really likes you.”
I wave off her suggestion. “He doesn’t even know me.”
“Maybe you should let him get to know you better.”
“He’s wearing dark dress socks on the beach. That’s a huge red flag. And a straw hat. What twenty-year-old does that? He may as well have a blinking sign over his head that says: Entering the Nerd Zone.”
“I think you should give him a chance.”
There aren’t very many people on the beach, so we have our choice of spots. I stop in front of one of the beach umbrellas that the resort supplies to its guests. “This seems like the perfect spot. Great view of the water and of the volleyball game.”
We spread out our towels under the umbrella and lie down on the beach. The gulf water is calm. I close my eyes and listen to the soothing waves. It’s like a little piece of heaven on Earth.
“I could get used to this,” I say.
“Hmm,” Addie purrs. “Me too.”
Just as I’m about to doze off there’s a loud thump right next to me and I’m sprayed with sand.
When I open my eyes, I see one of the volleyball players hurrying over to retrieve his ball, which has landed right next to me.
I grab the ball before he does.
“Sorry about that.” The gorgeous hunk flashes me an irresistible smile.
My eyes wander to his six-pack, which is glistening in the sunlight. Now I know how women feel when they say men talk to their breasts. It’s hard for me to take my eyes from his chest.
“Can I have the ball back?”
When I finally look into his bright blue eyes my heart skips a few beats. The guy is just as handsome as he is well-built.
I rise from my towel and hand the ball to him.
His eyes scan the length of my body. “Do you play volleyball?”
I laugh. “You don’t want me anywhere near a ball.”
“I’m Matteo.” He extends a sandy hand for me to shake. When I hesitate to touch him, he wipes the sand off on his board shorts. “Sorry about that.”
When I finally shake his hand it feels sweaty. “I’m Brooklyn.”
“My mom was from New York.”
“How about you and your friend meet us for drinks later?”
“Pool bar?” I raise an eyebrow and try my best to look seductive.
“We’ll see you then.”
He turns and hurries back over to the game. I rejoin Addie under the umbrella.
“What are you doing?” She doesn’t sound as pleased as I thought she would be.
“We’re having drinks with the gorgeous volleyball players. I thought you’d be happy.”
She wrinkles her nose. “There’s only one problem with your plan. We’re not old enough to drink.”
I wave away her concern. “We can order soda, or cranberry juice. Where is your sense of adventure?”
“I’ve never had one.”
“Please…I know somewhere deep inside you there’s a rebel trying to get out. That’s what Spring Break is for. To let loose and live a little.”
She heaves a resigned sigh. “Fine. I’ll go. But only because you’re my best friend.”
“I’m your only friend.”
She shrugs. “You have a point.”
KAREN M. BRYSON is a USA TODAY bestselling author who writes romantic stories with humor and heart. She is a winner of the prestigious RONE Award for Excellence in the Indie and Small Publishing Industry as well as the RWA Lone Star Writing Contest.
Karen is also an award-winning/optioned screenwriter.
When she's not at her computer creating new stories, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.
Karen previously wrote contemporary romance under the pen names SAVANNAH YOUNG, SIERRA AVALON, REN MONTERREY and USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR DAKOTA MADISON.
Please note that Karen M. Bryson (TM) is a trademark and may not be used without the owner's permission.