Home > The Unforgiven (Krewe of Hunters #33)

The Unforgiven (Krewe of Hunters #33)
Author: Heather Graham

 

PROLOGUE


   There was nothing like being in the water, and nothing at all like diving. The sea, all around her. The calm, rhythmic sound of her breathing through her regulator, the sun streaking through the water, catching on the brilliant colors of a yellow tang, a blue angelfish or the orange of a clown fish.

   Larger creatures swam by as well: snappers, grunts and even a giant grouper that must have been hundreds of pounds.

   Katie Delaney was in ecstasy.

   She had gotten her junior PADI diving certification at the age of ten. At five, she’d wanted to be a mermaid. Her parents had laughed and assured her that as soon as she was old enough, she could get her diving certificate and become the next best thing. Now that she had turned fifteen, she’d upgraded to the certification that had no junior attached to it, and she was proud and delighted.

   She loved the water, the sun, the sand and the sea.

   It ran in the family. Both of her parents had been in the navy; her dad had been a SEAL.

   Today, they were diving out of Key Largo. There were so many places she wanted to go. But their home was Key West, and while she wanted a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and other renowned dive sites, her dad had assured her many times the reefs off the Florida Keys offered fine diving.

   They were lucky—she needed to realize that. They lived right by the only living continental barrier reef in the United States. And while she might go down time after time, she would never see all the wonders there—right in her own patch of the ocean—that might be seen.

   Naturally, she had her favorite things to do in all the islands of the Florida Keys. And that morning, she and her parents had done one of them: Captain Slate’s Creature Feature. They had fed nurse sharks and rays and other incredible sea beings, and the fish would come and play with the divers. A giant nurse shark had been swimming right above her head!

   Today was a birthday and congratulations present from her parents. They had done the Creature Feature with Captain Slate’s crew, done a second dive with them and then gone back in to shore just to go back out again to maybe dive on their own.

   And now, they had been joined by her folks’ best friends and a younger couple the two had recently met when they’d been out at a local restaurant or somewhere. Her mom and dad were happy to bring out-of-towners out on their boat with them for the day.

   Katie didn’t care—today was her birthday for her folks day.

   Her actual birthday had been last week, and she’d spent it with her friends, including her boyfriend, Brad. Her parents had been great about it.

   But being fifteen didn’t change her love for her family or the water. In fact, it brought her closer to her dream. She’d go to college. She’d learn how to run a business. Because eventually, she’d have her own company, be a certified dive master. And then maybe she’d get serious about boys. And if Brad was still around, and still hot, well...

   Yep. She knew she was envied by other girls her age because Brad was hot. She grinned around her regulator mouthpiece. He just wasn’t as good a diver as she was yet.

   One day she would change that!

   You never, ever dive without a dive buddy. The best divers in the world might perish when a problem could be easily solved or alleviated if a partner was just at hand.

   Her father had hammered that lesson into her.

   She suspected that during her father’s time in the navy, he had been in the water a few times on dangerous missions when a partner had not been with him.

   But she wasn’t alone today; she was following the rules.

   She’d thought maybe the young woman they’d just met, Jennie, who was with a guy named Neil, might have wanted to get in the water again. But Jennie seemed to be a bit of a prima donna: she wanted to be on the boat but not in the water. She said she could dive, she was certified, she just didn’t feel like being all salty with wet hair.

   That was all right. Katie wasn’t alone. She might have wandered a bit from the anchor line, but her mom’s friend, Anita, was in the water near her somewhere. Mrs. Calabria was always cool: she might have wanted to stay onboard with the other adults, but if so, she hadn’t let Katie see that. She had just enthusiastically excused herself to her new friends, Dr. Neil Browne, doctor of what Katie didn’t know, and his girlfriend Jennie someone, from somewhere up north. Katie didn’t know much about Dr. Browne or Jennie, but they were a younger duo, full of energy, eager for new experiences—except for getting wet, so it seemed. They seemed nice enough, though she had to wonder if her parents and George and Anita might be trying a little too hard to keep up with them. Like her folks, George and Anita were older now.

   She’d known Anita and George all her life. They, along with her mom and dad, had been career military, and then her dad had done a stint as a cop while her mom had worked in a library when they’d first been married. Her dad had been over fifty when Katie had been born, and because her mom had been forty-one, Katie was considered something of a miracle child. They’d moved from New Orleans—her dad’s family’s home—to the Florida Keys before Katie was born because of their love for the water, boats and diving. Katie had grown up with that love and shared it with a passion.

   She hadn’t wanted to push it. Her parents, she thought, were too tired for a third dive today, no matter that the charts said they could do more time at this easy depth. But Anita—bless her—knew Katie was in seventh heaven because of her birthday and adult certification and so had risen to the occasion and come in with her. And they had been together until...

   Katie had noticed a curious barracuda lurking by a reef and had followed his glittering silver body at a distance. Barracuda were okay, as were most creatures, if you left them alone. And while they weren’t diving in John Pennekamp State Park—where the waters were protected, there was no fishing, and fewer underwater plants and animals offered any danger as their natural food supply was healthy—they were close enough to the park so the fish had a ready food supply and most probably would not be after people.

   And she had just been watching, keeping her distance. Of course, there were sharks in the water; she knew not to thrash around, and she never wore jewelry while diving or did anything to attract any kind of predator.

   Still...

   She realized now she didn’t see Anita anywhere. And she’d been so wrapped up in her own thoughts she didn’t even remember when she had seen her last. They’d only planned a thirty-minute dive, but...

   She winced. Thirty minutes were up. Anita was going to be very angry with her for swimming off. Just as her parents were going to be angry.

   She had to face the music.

   She had promised to stay near the boat. Her father had wanted to head back as soon as this last dive was over; it was a bit of a ride to get home, even once they cut through a channel to take the Gulf side of the island chain rather than circle around on the Atlantic. Their scuba gear had to be washed down, the boat secured and so on.

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