After months of working in a dreary department store, laid-off outdoor adventure director Rebecca Devereaux vows to change her life’s trajectory.
Kent Dunbar believes Vietnam’s Mountain River Cave may be the largest in the world. His sponsors demand that he leave immediately to survey the cave and study its origin, leaving him little time to organize staff. Desperate for assistants, he sends out a mass email to recruit qualified workers. Kent is pleasantly surprised to receive an application from Rebecca and hires her.
The instant Kent and Rebecca meet, they find attraction too hot to handle. Soon, every jungle tree and shelf of cave rock becomes a potential place to release their pent up passion for each other. But Kent’s not used to commitment, both are dealing with traumatic pasts, and murderous gemstone smugglers are on the loose near their camp. Will their tumultuous love affair survive?
Please note, this book is part of a series and therefore may have a cliffhanger ending that does not end until farther into the series.
Rebecca tossed her purse and car keys on the kitchen table, walked toward the refrigerator, and swung open the door. She reached for a chilled bottle of cheap Chardonnay, which clattered against a neighboring bottle of Pinot Grigio as she pulled it free. She loosened the cork and poured, soothed by the trickling sound the liquid made against the flute. She raised the glass to her lips and tipped the crisp-tasting liquid into her throat. She let out a long sigh, relieved her long day workday was over and that she was back in the sanctuary of her apartment.
She used to believe everything happened for a reason—until Steve’s death. Her guilt over the incident wrenched her insides enough. She’d sunk into a major depression when the man’s girlfriend and the resort managers had penned her a murderer. His family wouldn’t sue her if she left silently, they’d said. She’d walked away and hadn’t left her apartment for a week, other than to buy a gallon of the most fattening ice cream available.
After looking in vain for other outdoor adventure jobs and then giving up when she realized her reputation had been stained, she’d accepted a position as a department store clerk. Tagging clothes, hanging them and ringing up orders. People griped when someone cut them in line, when prices weren’t what the newspaper ad said, when they felt angry at the world—and who wasn’t, with the economy headed down the toilet.
I’m such a shit. Rebecca felt guilty for feeling sorry for herself when many people were unemployed, but still…she’d had the dream job and the life she’d wanted—until November. Rebecca gulped down the wine, relishing the numbness it brought to her senses.
Being inside the windowless department store day after day made Rebecca feel like a wild animal confined in a cage. She missed watching the sun cast shadows and brilliant shades of pink, orange, and red over the Santa Catalina Mountains at sunrise and sunset. She missed lying on her back and gazing up at the brilliant azure sky as I’m so lucky to live here thoughts floated through her brain. She missed the earthen, herbal scents of the Sonoran Desert. The earth that was so much a part of her identity had suddenly been ripped away—and she felt only aching loss, like a dear friend had died.
Rebecca pulled the sliding door open to invite in the warm, dry air. She poured herself more wine and tossed back a second glass before powering up her computer. She checked email and then planned to step into a chat room for cybersex. Nothing like a good orgasm to get your mind off of your miserable life.
As usual, most of her emails were junk. No, I do not need remedies for erectile dysfunction or a potion to enlarge my penis. Can’t these spammers at least target the right gender? There were offers for weight loss products. Like those ever work. And a cream to remove wrinkles without Botox. Obviously, they must think I’m fifty instead of twenty-eight.
As she hit delete repeatedly to clear out the junk, a message with Vietnam Cave Expedition in the subject line made her stop.
A geologist looking for adventurers to assist on a cave expedition to Vietnam? Yeah, right. This is one too-good-to-be-true offer I’ve never seen before. She clicked on the link anyway, too curious to ignore it.
Looking for nine paid assistants to accompany me on a scientific expedition to the Mountain River Caverns also known as Hang Son Doong in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province, Vietnam, near Laos. Stipend plus travel expenses will be paid. Trip to the site will involve rugged hikes through jungle and the Truong Son or Annamese Mountains with no access to public bathing or restroom facilities. Applicants should be in good health, excellent physical condition, have a minimum of two years of climbing and rappelling experience, and be comfortable camping and living in tents. Swimming ability preferred. The expedition will take place from May eighth through July fifteenth. Click to apply.
This has to be a hoax, Rebecca thought. Or some kind of human trafficking operation. She clicked on the link to Kent’s bio. A list of degrees and expeditions a mile long followed. The man’s world-famous. Maybe this is for real. She Googled Kent Dunbar and found dozens of references to articles and research projects.
Rebecca recalled science documentaries she’d watched on television, conducted in exotic locales few people visited. Her heart raced inside her chest. I meet all the criteria. The expedition to Southeast Asia sounded exciting, romantic—just what she needed to start over. She put her wine glass off to the side, clicked on the link and filled in the application. Almost done. As she checked what she’d written for errors, she noticed the request for a photograph. She scrolled through her image folders until she found a photo of herself wearing jeans so tight she had to lay on her back on the bed to zip them up. It’s amazing how well denim compresses cellulite. She closed her eyes, attached the picture and clicked Send.
She jumped up from her chair and skipped and twirled around the room. If only this geologist would say yes now. She wondered how long she’d have to wait before a reply came back. There are more than ten million unemployed people in this country—what if they all apply? It was already April twenty-eighth. The positions could be long gone. Why would this geologist choose me over so many who weren’t responsible for someone’s death? She clasped her hands together and prayed. Please.