When her witness protection cover is blown, Amy Conroy flees across the country. With no money and only her dog for company, she steals rides in the trunks of unsuspecting strangers’ cars until a tragic accident lands her in a Key West hospital where she is mistaken for the dead driver. Undergoing reconstructive surgery, Amy becomes almost the mirror image of beautiful Shelly Ralston. Even Matt Jensen, the investigative journalist Shelly was obsessively in love with, believes Amy’s the deceased woman. As Amy lives a lie, she begins to fall for Matt herself and soon discovers how deep passions can run. But her idyllic days in Key West are numbered.
|Product dimensions:||6.04(w) x 5.04(h) x 1.13(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Meryl Sawyer is theNew York Times–bestselling author of more than twenty-five romantic suspense novels. Among her accolades are the Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for Contemporary Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Romantic Suspense, and the Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Award for Contemporary Romance. Sawyer grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and lives in Newport Beach, California, with her golden retriever.
Emily Beresford earned her BA in Liberal Studies from Green Mountain College in Vermont, with concentrations in Creative Writing, Music, and English. In 2013 she was nominated for an Audie Award and received an Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine. She lives in Michigan with her wonderful husband, and two amazing children.
Read an Excerpt
Half Moon Bay
A Key West Novel
By Meryl Sawyer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1999 M. Sawyer-Unickel
All rights reserved.
"We need you to identify the victim."
Victim? Even now, hours later, standing in the Key West airport, Matthew Jensen could still feel the sudden weakness in his limbs at the policeman's words. Oh, Christ, no — not Trevor.
Before he had managed a response, the disembodied voice on the phone had answered his silent prayer. Trevor Adams had not been in a near-fatal automobile crash. His best friend was safe.
It was a woman who was critically injured.
Matt had hung up, then he'd tried to reach Trevor. He'd left a message on his friend's machine before flying to Key West. Matt had told the police he was coming, but he hadn't expected the officer in charge of the case to meet him so late at night.
He slung his carry-on bag over his shoulder and followed the man to his squad car. Outside the deserted terminal, the balmy air brought with it the loamy scent of the tropics, night-blooming jasmine and fragrant magnolias. This was the Key West he always enjoyed, the land of endless summer.
Now that he had quit his job at Exposé magazine, he wanted to spend time with his buddy from college, Trevor. Matt hadn't planned to come to Key West so soon, but he felt responsible for the comatose woman. The only identification she had was his business card. Undoubtedly, he knew her.
Matt studied the young officer leading him into the parking lot. During his years as an investigative reporter, Matt had encountered dozens of cops. This kid was green, hardly out of the police academy. He supposed it didn't matter. Not much went on in Key West. The main problem was tourists who'd guzzled too much tequila at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.
"The wreck was a real mess," the officer told Matt as he drove the squad car out of the airport. "Two people were killed. Your friend is the only one who survived — if she lives."
"I'm not sure who this woman is. None of my friends told me they were coming down here."
"She was driving an older-model blue Buick. Does that help?"
"No. Most people I know fly to Key West."
"A truck carrying diesel fuel plowed into her car just as she drove off the Oversea Highway. For once, not wearing a seat belt paid off. Everyone was thrown clear. The gas truck exploded. The other two people aren't much more than charcoal chips."
Matt pictured the Oversea Highway. The long, narrow road was flanked by the ocean as it passed through a seemingly endless chain of the tiny islands known as keys. Most were uninhabited, while the others were havens for sport fishermen.
"The trucker wasn't supposed to have a passenger. He'd been cited twice for picking up women. Near as we can figure, he'd given a hitchhiker a ride."
Matt stared out the window, the disturbed feeling he'd had since receiving the call intensifying. He didn't want this injured woman to be someone he knew, a person he cared about. Every fiber of his body warned him that he couldn't take on anyone else's problems right now.
He had more problems of his own than he could handle.
They drove down Flagler Avenue and turned onto Kennedy Drive. Matt had visited Trevor many times, but he'd never been in this part of town. Lying low, surrounded by a shimmering Caribbean-blue sea, Key West was warm sunshine, the smell of frangipani, and the sound of rustling palms swaying in the gentle breeze.
But paradise always had its dark side, the ugly underbelly tourists rarely saw. This wasn't the Key West he knew where the quaint, narrow roads were lined with charming Victorian homes originally built by ship's carpenters trying to outdo one another. Along these streets, shanties splintered to their bones, paint a long-gone memory, crouched beside boxy structures dating back to the sixties.
The hospital was a concrete bunker with weeds sprouting through cracks in the asphalt. The officer led Matt inside and took him down a long corridor to the ICU. A sleepy-eyed nurse glanced at them, but didn't bother to get up.
"She's in here."
Matt followed the officer into the small, dimly lit room, where one other patient was also being treated. The antiseptic smell and the low drone of the machines that clicked and sputtered and gurgled reminded Matt of the hours he'd spent at his mother's side. The memory triggered a raw ache, a profoundly depressing sensation that knocked him backward in time, to when he was a young kid and vulnerable to the point of being helpless.
For an instant he imagined himself in a hospital bed. No friggin' way! Just the thought made him hesitate, breaking his stride.
Get the hell out of here.
The officer shot him a questioning glance. He strode forward, tamping down the uncharacteristic surge of anxiety. The woman needed him, Matt reminded himself.
They stopped beside a bed, and Matt gazed down at the lifeless form. Except for the swell of her breasts, it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman. Her face and head were wrapped in gauze, with nothing more than slits at the eyes and an opening at the nose for oxygen prongs. One leg was in a cast from the knee down. Her right hand and arm up to her shoulder were in a contraption hitched to the ceiling by a pulley.
A suffocating sensation made it difficult to breathe. "How am I supposed to identify her?"
"Uh ... well, we ... ah, thought ..."
The officer pulled a card from the small notebook he was carrying and handed it to Matt. He instantly recognized his business card. And the telltale lipstick print across his name.
Rochelle Ralston. A wild flash of anger ripped through him. Son of a bitch! He'd come all this way, worrying that a friend was near death, only to find it was Shelly.
Aw, hell. The business card should have tipped him. Shelly had stolen a stack of his cards. She'd left him dozens of them — complete with her hot-pink lip print. She'd written personal messages on each one.
At first he'd laughed at the notes. Then the messages became menacing. Why are you ignoring me? Why don't you return my calls? Why won't you admit you love me?
He realized how warped Shelly's mind was. She was totally obsessed with him and convinced he loved her as much as she thought she loved him. They'd had one lousy date and a few kisses. That's all. She didn't know him well enough to love him.
"Your card was inside her bra." The cop turned the color of an eggplant. "We thought ..."
Damn it all the way to hell. This was vintage Shelly, all right. A wacko who refused to take no for an answer. "I'll love you until you die," she had told him over and over and over.
Matt had been forced to get a restraining order against her when she'd threatened his sister, mistaking Emily for one of his girlfriends. If Shelly had actually carried out those threats — she was dangerous.
The young officer studied the toes of his shoes. "We thought there might be some identifying mark on her body you would recognize."
A pristine white sheet covered the woman, molding her full breasts and outlining her slender hips and legs. The cop expected him to lift the sheet and check for some damn mole or scar. There wouldn't be any point, because he'd never seen Shelly without clothes.
"Can't help you there. I had only one date with her." He didn't mention how crazily she'd behaved afterward.
The young officer read from his notebook. "The med sheet says blond hair, blue eyes, five feet three inches, one hundred and twelve pounds. Approximate age, thirty. Does that describe her?"
"Yeah, I guess. Shelly was taller though." He thought a moment, recalling numerous times when she would appear out of nowhere, chasing after him. "She always wore high heels. I guess that made her look taller."
"Oh, I almost forgot. She has a dog. It was thrown clear. There wasn't a mark on it. Two people dead, one critically injured, and a dog survives. Go figure."
"She never mentioned a dog."
He gazed down at the inanimate shape that had once been the vivacious yet deeply disturbed Rochelle Ralston. Shelly was so helpless now. Myriad tubes and wires attached to every part of her body confirmed how close to death she was.
He didn't give a rat's ass, he told himself, but it was impossible to see anyone like this and not feel ... something. The unwelcome tightening of his throat reminded him that this was another human being — struggling to hold on to life.
"It's Rochelle Ralston," he heard himself say. "Who else could it be?"
"Both vehicles rolled. No one was wearing a seat belt, so it was hard to tell who had been in which vehicle. Like I told you, the others were fried. We'll use dental records to ID them. The trucker shouldn't be much of a problem, but the John Doe may take time. We're still waiting for forensics in Miami to let us know if it's a man or a woman."
Matt couldn't keep his eyes off Shelly's body. It didn't seem possible that anyone so critically injured could survive. She hadn't regained consciousness and might never come out of the coma. Hard to believe. The woman he knew had been animated, full of life and energy.
A pang of something he didn't want to label sympathy pierced his emotional shield for a second. Get out of here this minute. Don't get involved.
He turned his back and walked out of the room.
The officer dropped Matt off at Sunset Pier near Mallory Dock. The dock was empty now, but at sunset tomorrow the place would be jammed with tourists as eager to see the fire-eaters and acrobats and jugglers as they would be to watch the sun slide into the ocean in a radiant blaze of color. It was well after midnight, and Duval Street was booming with the dawn-to-dusk revelry that made Key West famous.
There seemed to be more than the usual commotion coming from the Hog's Breath Saloon. Like the Hard Rock Café up the street, this open-air bar offered T-shirts whose sales rivaled its drinks. Above the din filling the sultry air, he heard the muted wail of a saxophone playing the blues.
A trio of guys stumbled down the street toward Margaritaville, singing an off-key rendition of "Margaritaville" that would have made Jimmy Buffett cringe.
"'Wastin' away in Margaritaville' does not cover it," Matt mumbled under his breath. "Were you ever that young?"
"No." He answered his own question. When he'd been their age, he'd worked two jobs just to stay in Yale. He'd never had the time or the money to indulge himself by vacationing in Key West. By the time he did have the money, his career had consumed all his time.
It had been his life.
Had been. Past tense. His whole life had taken a drastic turn. His career was a thing of the past.
He walked down the ramp to the dock where the Sunset Key launches were moored, hoping Trevor had received his message and had left a boat for him. The way his luck was going, Trevor hadn't checked his answering machine.
He smiled to himself when he spotted Trevor's launch with its distinctive navy and white striped bimini to protect riders from the sun. Matt knew where Trevor kept the key hidden and found it. He was ready to cast off the mooring line, when the last note from the soulful saxophone drifted over the water.
The blues always affected him in a melancholy way, arousing strong sensations of loneliness and depression. Tonight even more so. Man, oh, man. Seeing Shelly had disturbed him more than he'd first realized.
He started the engine and motored away from the dock. Sunset Key was due west of Mallory Dock, about a five-minute ride by boat. The exclusive island didn't allow cars, but it had brick paths for bicycles and golf carts. Accustomed to the go-go pace of Manhattan, Matt had always found Sunset Key a little too secluded.
Now his mind-set had changed. He was ready to kick back and take it easy for a while. Trevor's home on Sunset Key was the perfect place to do it. Trevor had purchased three lots at the southern tip of the key and had built a magnificent conch-style mansion with several guest suites.
A trust from a wealthy aunt and insightful investments in the stock market had made Trevor Adams a very wealthy and somewhat eccentric man. He loved an entourage. At any given moment, he had three or four people temporarily living with him.
The visitors were usually a bit "challenged." Key West attracted artists and musicians as well as misfits. Trevor must have felt like a misfit for most of his life, and he identified with them.
"This is it," Matt muttered to himself as he pulled up to Trevor's dock. "Half Moon Bay."
A new sign had been hung since his last visit. The locals called this end of the key Half Moon Bay because of the crescent of white sand shaded by towering palms that was now Trevor's private beach.
Trevor never locked his home, and Matt was sure his friend had left him a note on the entry table, the message center of the house. The note would tell him which suite to use, but something drew him toward the water.
He dropped his bag on the grass and pulled off his loafers. Barefoot, wearing shorts and a polo shirt, he headed across the sand to the sea. Like a never-ending phalanx of soldiers, the waves marched up to the shore, one after another.
Matt stood in the warm, ankle-deep water and gazed out at the indigo sea. Ribbons of moonlight glistened on the water. Half Moon Bay, with its flowering trees and stately palms and nesting ospreys, usually gave him a lift. Not tonight.
"Forget Shelly," he told himself. Yet in his mind's eye he kept seeing her helplessly trapped in a hospital bed, unable to move or speak.
"Don't be such a bastard," he cursed himself out loud. "No human being deserves to be in a coma — near death. All alone."CHAPTER 2
"Unfuckingbelievable! What a view."
Dexxter Foxx stood at the plate glass window of his Seattle office and looked out at the city's lights. The neon sign just visible from where he stood blared: FOXX ENTERPRISES. His company, symbolized by the awesome view and the sign, filled him with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
The view from the top.
Dexxter was only too well aware that he had not started at the apex of the financial food chain. He had been born Dexter Foxe in a backwater burg in eastern Washington. By the time he'd entered community college, he was sick of saying, "Dexter Foxe. That's fox with an E."
He'd been doodling in the math class he was flunking when he'd added a second x to Fox. Right then and there he'd decided to become a double X. Dexter with two Xs and Fox with two Xs.
"Distinctive," he'd said to himself. "Classy."
About that time he also realized he was never going to make money honestly. He was destined to earn his money the old-fashioned way. Crime paid.
Welcome to the real world, he'd decided, the world of Dexxter Foxx.
So far it had worked. With the technology explosion, there were too many computer-related companies around to be sure just what everyone was doing. People believed he was a successful software manufacturer.
Everyone except Amy Conroy.
Amy had discovered his scam and knew Foxx Enterprises was nothing more than a front. She'd idolized Dexxter. He'd been convinced she loved him and would do anything for him. But the second Amy's mother had died, the snitch had stunned him by squealing to the Feds.
"Ungrateful bitch," Dexxter muttered to his reflection in the dark glass. "She did it because she was crazy about me, but I never paid any attention to her. Did she seriously expect me to take her out? Who would want to be seen with someone around who looked like her?"
Amy was attractive — pretty, actually — if you saw her in profile from the left side. But the gross birthmark on the right side of her face gave him the willies. It didn't detract from Amy's brains though. She had a mind like a microchip.
Too damn smart for her own good.
Behind him, the door to his office opened, and he saw Irene's reflection in the glass. She had finally decided to answer her pager in person. "Where have you been?"
He turned toward her. Irene's flushed face and her tousled jet-black hair told him where "around" was. The dilated pupils that made her dark eyes appear ebony confirmed his suspicions. She'd been in the sack with one of her young, buff studs.
"You left without giving me today's report on Amy."
Irene sidled up to him and stood a little too close. He eased back, knowing one encouraging move or word, and they would be more than business associates. He had known Irene since third grade. Though liposuction and diet pills had improved her figure a little, to Dexxter she was still the fat little girl who tagged along wherever he went.
Excerpted from Half Moon Bay by Meryl Sawyer. Copyright © 1999 M. Sawyer-Unickel. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Romantic suspense with a Key West flavor! Half Moon Bay by Meryl Sawyer is an intriguing romantic suspense tale set mostly in Key West. The premise of the book drew me in and the setting closed the deal as I’ve always wanted to visit the Keys. I wasn’t disappointed, though some of the story was obviously dated. (The printed book was first published in 1999.) This is the first time I’ve ever read a book by Meryl Sawyer or listened to a performance by Emily Beresford. I listened to this book in audio. Emily Beresford delivered a solid professional performance with a pleasing voice. Her male and female voices sounded genuine and she enunciated them well. She differentiated between the characters so I could always tell who was speaking from her voice. Suffice to say that I would not hesitate to pick up another audio that she has narrated based upon my enjoyment of her narration of Half Moon Bay. As the story begins, Amy Conroy is on the run from despicable Dexxter Fox, a very dangerous man. She had been under the witness protection program on the west coast, but loose lips in the agency had caused the death of the federal marshal who had been protecting her. She fled with her life taking Jiggs, her neighbor’s abused dog, with her. There was no way she could leave Jiggs to suffer any more at that man’s hands. With no money and no friends, she has travelled across the country with Jiggs in the trunks of cars – selecting her targets at gas stations along the way. Close to her final destination, Amy selects the trunk of a woman for what she hopes to be the last leg of her trip to Miami. Unfortunately, the woman, Shelly Ralston, will continue past Miami towards the Keys, and, along the way, she will die in a freak automobile accident. Amy and her dog will be thrown from the scene. Since Shelly’s body is burned beyond recognition, the police believe that Amy is Shelly. Mathew Jensen, a reporter that Shelly knew, arrives and confirms that she is Shelly. Amy goes along with it as she certainly can’t be herself in the condition she is in with Dexxter after her. Amy is smart and computer-savvy, but very shy. She was born with an unsightly birthmark that covered half of her face. She will never forget being told: “I thought Beauty and the Beast were two people, not one.” Because people are put off by her appearance, she has always been a loner. Now, of necessity, she’s assumed the identity of Shelly Ralston while she recovers. She finds herself attracted to Mathew. He’s the first man who’s ever been kind to her. The case, though, gets more twisted. Amy learns that Shelly was stalking Mathew Jensen. So… Mathew is reluctantly forced into being the hero to the woman who was stalking him. I liked Amy and Mathew. They both seemed genuine and I could relate to the concerns and desires of each. With all of the issues between them, it seemed an impossible task to bring these two together no matter the chemistry between them. But, Meryl is obviously a miracle-worker. This was an enjoyable listen with a satisfying ending via an epilogue. It had plenty of twists and there were scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. I would recommend Half Moon Bay to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense with a Key West flavor. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Please check it out there!
This book is a 'formula' romance that only an early teen/preteen could like, but it's disguised as an adult suspense novel. The plot is predictable and boring and the characters and dialog tedious. It was given to me and I'm sure glad I didn't actually pay money for it. At least now I know to never purchase one of Ms. Sawyer's books.
I enjoyed the quirky characters of Key West and the ingenious plot. Just enough sex and violence to keep it interesting without becoming just run of the mill. It kept me turning pages till the end.
The first couple of pages weaves you into the storys spell. It's a very good book that I could not put down until I read the very last page. The main charaters made the book super intersting and fun. I hope you enjoy it has much as I did.