The Devil She Knew

By: 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.

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