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When Nick and his partner in love and business, Theresa, take a client caught in a grudge between competitive bass fisherman, they soon discover he has unknowingly entangled himself in a plot by healthcare magnate, Bruce Reynolds, to take over Texas and secede from the Union. Hoping to pass the case to the Texas Rangers, Nick is instead recruited to head the Governor’s special task force. He learns Governor Fran Adamson’s major campaign contributor and secret lover, Reynolds, has a plan to resurrect the Republic of Texas. Faced with Reynolds’ hit woman killing enemies of the Republic and a remotely controlled drone air force destroying strategic targets across the state, Nick and Theresa make a desperate attempt to prevent civil war, the destruction of the Governor’s political career, and Dillon’s murder, while keeping their love intact. In his scheme for glory, Bruce Reynolds didn’t plan on Nick Sibelius, who wants the wannabe secessionist to know, when he says don’t screw with Texas, he damned well means it.
Leaning back in the cockpit of a rental sailboat, admiring a very fine, bikini clad ass, death wasn’t on Nick’s mind. Theresa, his partner in business and, over the last few months, in life, made her way across their boat’s sparse deck. With line in one hand, she fed loops until only a few feet remained, then twirled it around the center of her coil to make a neat package. Nick kept them sailing generally on course, but he found the small gold bracelet on her left ankle, the tuck of white bikini panties between those round, muscular butt cheeks and her dark, straight hair tumbling down her back, to be quite distracting. When a wake from a bass boat, racing past at high speed, slammed into their sloop, he initially admired Theresa’s athletic form flipping gracefully overboard. Then she hit the warm water of Lake Travis with a ferocious smack.
Nick yelled over the roar of three hundred Evinrude horses. “WHAT THE HELL! SLOW DOWN!” The boat, lost in its own engine spray, sped away like some giant buzzing water insect.
Having focused on the offending boat, Nick had kept sailing on, which meant Theresa was somewhere behind him. He searched the water, making out her head fifty yards away.
“I’m coming around!”
Nick tacked, and the sails fell limp then gathered air, flapping loudly. Theresa, who learned to sail as a young girl, had talked him into going out today. Nick’s entire sailing career consisted of a single outing on a twelve foot Sunfish at camp in high school. Sailing a twenty-eight foot sloop with a mainsail and whatever they call that triangular sail in the front, left him with a steep learning curve. Not the optimum conditions for saving your girlfriend from drowning.
As he turned, he kept an eye on Theresa, and then watched in disbelief as another bass boat raced toward her. Frantically waving, he yelled at the boat. “Stop. Turn away. STOP. STOP!” It missed her by only a few feet, then passed Nick, its wake leaving him grasping for a firm hold.
“Theresa!” I can’t see her. Did he hit her? Oh, god. “Theresa!” He saw a flash of white. Her bikini. Screw this. Nick dropped the sails, and then dove in, swimming in the direction he last saw her. He stopped, treading water to scan the lake.
A splatter of water.
He raced toward it, each stroke an explosive splash. Pausing, he looked, seeing part of her head rise above the surface and her arm attempt a weak stroke. He closed the fifteen feet between them, slipping an arm around her chest, and then rested her back on his hip.
“You’re okay. I’ve got you.”
“Nick.” She gasped, coughing. “What…happened?”
“Let’s get back first.”
He got them to the boat’s stern, slipped a life preserver on her and with some effort, hauled her onboard. Blood dribbled down her forehead.
“Goddamn fishermen. Jesus.” Nick pressed a cloth to her head, already imagining the looks of terror and anguish those fishermen would experience from his vengeance.
Theresa smiled, placing a hand on Nick’s. “My own fault.”
“Your fault? You’ve got to be kidding me. Those assholes came through here at a hundred miles an hour.”
“Yeah, but I should have been wearing a life vest. Anyway, I think I hit my head on the boat as I went overboard.”
“Maybe you should be in a life vest, but those guys shouldn’t be racing through here like hell on a hydroplane either. When we get back to the marina, I’m going find those bastards.”
She smiled, then winced. “Thanks.”
He touched her cheek, leaning in to kiss her. “I believe rescue is part of my job description with you.” They never talked about Izzy Zydeco impaling her with spikes to a wall or Nick fighting a blood match against a huge adversary to free her, while Izzy made his escape, but the pain of those experiences left an imprint on both of them.
She pulled herself up, pausing as if to realign her senses, then stepped down into the hold.
“What are you doing?”
“Let me get it for you.”
She turned, only her head visible. Swollen and bruised skin surrounded the gash on her forehead, still seeping blood. “I’ve got it Nick. Just make sure we don’t get run over by a cigarette boat or something.”
A mixture of relief and anger swirled inside Nick’s gut. If she’d been killed… How could he let his guard down, after all she’d been through? And the jerks on those boats. Clearly they didn’t care about anyone but themselves. Well, he’d make sure they remembered this day.
“Hey, move over.”
Nick, lost in his thoughts, hadn’t noticed Theresa back on deck.
“You doing okay? Maybe you should let me get us back to the marina.”
She pressed a plastic bag wrapped in a towel to her head, taking the tiller from him. “I’m fine, Nick. How about if I steer and you follow my every command.”
Given he didn’t know what to do with the sails, her plan did make sense. However. “Or I could fire up the outboard and you could kick back with your ice pack.”
“We came out here to sail. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a couple of fishermen mess up my day. Now get ready to come about.”
They sailed up the lake, then tacked their way back to the marina. Theresa expertly maneuvered the boat into a slip. The marina office, a small wood building on a floating dock, held an assortment of fishing, boating, and skiing gear. Stuffed striped bass, blue gill and crappie hung on walls, each posed to celebrate the epic struggle of man versus fish. A grey haired man in his late sixties, wearing a green gimme cap emblazoned with a large mouth bass leaping out of blue water, sat behind a glass counter filled with reels.
“How can I help you young man?”
Nick laid the boat keys down on the counter. “Just turning in our boat. By the way, we had bass fishermen flying around us like they were at NASCAR. Knocked my girlfriend right out of the boat and then almost ran her down.”
He let out a sigh. “Yeah. Striped bass.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve got a big striped bass tournament goin’ on this weekend.” He laughed, shaking his head. “Some of these folks will kill their kin to get a lunker. So I’m not surprised. Those ol’ boys put some big engines on the back of them bass boats. Crazy fast, tryin’ to beat each other to the best spots.” He paused, concern etched on his face. “They didn’t damage my boat, did they?”
“Well, no, but like I said, my girlfriend took quite a fall.”
He relaxed, leaning back in his chair. “That’s good. Not good about your girlfriend, mind you. But good about the boat.”
“They were moving so fast I didn’t get a registration number, otherwise I’d call it in.”
The man took the keys chained to a bright yellow float, and turned to hang them on a board crowded with other boat keys.
“Well, the tournament’s being held at the Mansfield Dam Park. I’ll bet if you remember what the boat looked like, then you’ll find the guy there. He’s got to bring his catch in if he wants to win.”
“I tell you what. If I find ’em, that will be the last damned fish he’ll catch for years to come.”