Date Published: April 2017
On the verge of her long-sought career breakthrough, singer Isbel Vargas has just completed the performance of a lifetime when a kidnapper demands a ransom for her father. Thanks to his car theft and antiquities operation, her father will be arrested if she involves the Acapulco police. Who can she turn to?
Isbel’s ex-boyfriend, Cane Mullins, is once again south of the border, purportedly tracking down his beloved Camaro, a vintage street rod stolen years before by her father. Cane gets more than he bargains for, though, when he again crosses paths with the exquisite singer. Chased at high speed through the Sierra Madres, the former lovers search for Isbel’s father and a priceless sword he has hidden away, the sole surviving Aztec maquahuitl, while sparks fly and passion reignites. But can Isbel trust Cane again…with her heart?
Acapulco, Mexico, 2008
“Isbel.” Clap. Clap. Clap.
“ISBEL!” Clap. Clap. Clap.
“ISBEL!” CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.
Isbel laughed and danced to center stage in rhythm with the clapping. Three spotlights warmed her skin as her white sequined dress glistened and twinkled in reply. Spinning slowly, she loosened the clips holding her long black hair and let it tumble onto her shoulders.
“I’m Isbel Vargas,” she murmured into the mike. The theater erupted. “I hope you loved your evening in Paradise. I know I did.”
An understatement. Finally. She was home.
Wolf whistles faded and shouts of encouragement fell silent as she began to sing again, a final serenade for the perfect audience.
Her voice soared.
At the end of the song, she succumbed to the joy claiming her soul. This was what she was meant to do. The music swelled into a crescendo as Isbel let tears stream down her face. Lighter flames and cell phone screens glowed in the surrounding galaxy of fans. Isbel blew kisses and waved and then stepped back to catch hands with Hudson and Octavio as they lined up to bow together.
Backstage, goose bumps prickled her arms as Isbel palmed the tears from her cheeks. Her mountain of a drummer, Octavio, laughed and lifted her off her feet to spin her around. She looked over his shoulder and stiffened as he lowered her. Her feet touched down.
He shouldn’t be here. He couldn’t be. She’d banished him forever. Yet there he stood, an unwelcome specter from her past.
Hurricane. It really was him.
He said quietly, “You were sensational, Isabella. Better than I remembered.” His voice hadn’t changed. Smooth as a frosty beer on a salt-flats day, but quiet and low, taking its own sweet time to roll out each syllable.
Apparently Cane’s taste in clothing hadn’t changed either. A vivid yellow and green Hawaiian shirt topped new khakis and work boots. He looked strong and tan and unfairly handsome. Flashing the same stunning white smile as he pushed his red baseball cap to the back of his head, he freed more of his wavy dark hair. His eyes gleamed with mischief as he suddenly grabbed the brim of the cap and swept it low in a courtly bow.
“Guess I should call you Isbel now, shouldn’t I? Like everyone else does. Well, whoever you are, you could stop the Super Bowl in that dress.”
Isbel remembered to breathe.
“Hurricane Mullins,” she said softly, holding tight to her desire to march over and slap him. “The only thing you can call me is good-bye.”
Was it Hurricane who’d tailed her through traffic earlier in the day? Whoever it was rode a bright red crotch rocket. Funny how it matched Cane’s bright red cap. Definitely his style. Or more appropriately, lack of style. On top of that, only the band and hotel staff could get backstage. By facing her here, Hurricane thumbed his nose at all of them, at their pathetic security measures and semblance of control.
The hint of a smile on his face, he looked at the floor in front of her toes. Clearly, there wasn’t a contrite bone in his body as his gaze then swept up to relish every curve of her body. Amber flames ignited deep in his eyes. “Glad to see you haven’t lost that spitfire,” he said.
“Glad to see you’re enjoying the view,” she retorted. “Now get out of here. Or I’ll call security.”
Hurricane shrugged. “Okay by me. They have a couple of problem areas, and I can set them straight.”
“Look, Isabella. Isbel. I don’t want to fight. I came back down for the same reason I did the first time, when I took the job with your father.”
“What, did you actually find your precious car?”
Flipping his cap around in his hands, he shrugged and said, “Not yet. But there’s a new lead on the Camaro. If I get it back and your father did have something to do with it going missing, he might take the fall. Figured I could at least warn you.”
Isbel narrowed her eyes. “How big of you. Or are you just trying to find out where he is?”
Octavio leaned close to rest one hand on Isbel’s shoulder. “You okay, Isbel? Want me to get rid of this guy?”
Isbel hesitated. That would be the easy way out. At six foot four, Octavio stood a couple of inches taller than Cane and outweighed him by at least forty pounds. Cane looked tougher, though. Hardened. Like seasoned driftwood. She wondered if Octavio really could get rid of him if Cane fought back. But this was her battle, and she could handle Hurricane Mullins.
Isbel shook her head. “I’m fine, Tavio. Thanks. I’ll just be another minute.” He squeezed her shoulder gently but didn’t move. “Seriously. Go back over with the band. I’ll be right there.”
Octavio nodded slowly. He pointed at Cane. “I’m watching,” he said as he backed away.
Cane sighed and slipped his cap back onto his head. “I shouldn’t have even tried. You had nothing to do with it then, and you don’t now.”
“Nothing to do with it? You’re talking about my father!”
“Isabella, will you for God’s sake listen to me?!” He straightened to tower over her. “Just this once? Please? This time I want to talk about my family!”
Isbel clenched her jaw, trying to think of a jagged comeback. Drew a blank.
Hurricane hurried on. “I bought the Camaro with my brother. We decided to share the car but would hand it down to my kids or his—whoever had ’em first. We sweated blood rebuilding the damn thing. Had a blast, though. Always did, until those last few months.” Cane fell silent, gazed beyond Isbel at nothing. Then he said quietly, “Sky died in ’96, just after we finished restoring the car.” He cleared his throat, looked back at her. “I respected your decision, and I’ve stayed away, as you asked.”
“Cane. Your brother… You never…”
“Doesn’t matter. Not now.” He waved his hands between them, breaking their bond. “But even if it had been a clunker used for delivering pizzas, Mickey jacked it.”
“He said he didn’t steal it.”
“He pushed it through his chop shop.”
“You never proved that.”
“What if I would have?”
Isbel swallowed hard. At the sweet age of twenty it had been easy for her to blame Hurricane. Now, she knew better.
Her father wasn’t exactly honest, but the label “criminal” didn’t exactly fit him, either. But one thing she did know: she was absolutely furious that this all resurfaced today. Today, of all days, when she should be celebrating, Cane had to return.
“Seems like old times, doesn’t it?” Isbel said. “But you know, Hurricane, just like your nickname, every time you show up there’s a huge mess.”
“It’s not my nickname.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Well, stay out of my life. You don’t know anything about my father. Or me.”
“Isabella, I like your father. Always did.”
“Sure have a funny way of showing it.”
“I just want my car back.” Cramming his thumbs into his pants pockets, Cane inhaled raggedly. “And…it was…amazing to hear you sing again. There was a time when I thought I’d get to listen to you for the rest of my life.”
She turned her back on him, strode over to the refreshment table, and groped for a bottle of water. Twisting off the cap helped hide the tremor in her hands. She took a deep drink, nodded in reassurance at Octavio, who watched from the far end of the table, and then walked straight back to Cane. “Stay out of my life,” she said.
“I’d hoped that after all this time you would have cooled off and, when I finally explained why the Camaro is so important, that you could…well, that you would forgive me.”
She searched his eyes. Not a hint of insincerity. She understood better now. But forgiveness? It was too late. She couldn’t betray her badly-behaved father any more than Cane could betray the memory of his brother.
He nodded. Pulled a card from his pocket. “If you ever need me…”
About the Authors
Janet Fogg’s focus on writing began when she was CFO and Managing Principal of one of Colorado’s largest architectural firms. Fifteen writing awards later she resigned from the firm to follow the yellow brick road, and ten months after that signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for her historical romance, Soliloquy, a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit winner.
Janet once participated in a successful rattlesnake hunt, has climbed two dozen of Colorado’s Fourteeners, was alternate on a winning trapshooting team, and recently received her motorcycle endorsement.
With husband Richard, Janet co-wrote Fogg in the Cockpit, one of five books nominated in 2012 by the Air Force Historical Foundation for best World War II book reviewed in Air Power History.
In 2016, Janet Fogg and Dave Jackson celebrated the release of their first book in a new adventure series for the young—and young at heart! In Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper, you’ll ride with Annabelle Fortune, an 1880s cowgirl tougher than Calamity Jane! Book Two, Misfortune Annie and the Voodoo Curse, will be released in late 2017.
In their newest collaboration, A Serenade to Die For, you’ll be introduced to a sultry singer, her hunky ex-boyfriend, his stolen hot rod, and the sole-surviving Aztec sword. (It ain’t over till the phat lady sings!)
Not your typical author, Dave Jackson started writing in his constant pursuit to become a renaissance man. Then he fell in love with the art form. Comedy remains one of his many passions and he writes and performs skits as well as stand-up. Also a songwriter and guitarist, Dave has composed over 300 musical titles. Settled now in Colorado, Dave is passionate about living life to the fullest with those he loves, especially his young son.