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Angela Hunt's most provocative novel ever! When a group of college friends reunites for a trip to the Marshall Islands, they find themselves stranded on an uncharted island unlike any they’ve seen in the vicinity. They list their priorities—find water, food, and a way off the island—but the place itself opens their eyes to realities beyond their comprehension. Six friends accept one invitation and take an unexpected journey that changes their lives forever.
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Angela Hunt has written more than 130 books for adults and children. Read more about her work at www.angelahuntbooks.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Hamptons, New York
The secret of sex appeal, sixteen-year-old Sarah believes, is an even tan, and the key to an even tan is remembering to turn over at eightminute intervals between one and two p.m. Most of her friends opt for spray-on fake-n-bakes, but Sarah has always preferred the real thing.
As the second hand of her watch sweeps over the twelve, she flips from her stomach to her back, then inhales the delicious fragrance of sea salt.
"You're going to regret lying there," a voice calls from beneath a nearby umbrella. "You'll be burned tonight and freckled next week. When you're thirty you'll have wrinkles, and when you're forty you'll have skin cancer."
Sarah rolls her eyes. "Transmission received! You sound like Miss Pratt."
The woman beneath the umbrella lowers her book and peers over the top of her reading glasses. "Who's Miss Pratt?"
"My Health teacher."
"Oh." The book rises again, eclipsing the pale face beneath a wide straw hat. "Well, Miss Pratt is correct."
Sarah sighs loudly, then flips back onto her stomach. Truth is, she's bored with the pursuit of the perfect tan. She has nothing to listen to because she left her iPod in the city, and umbrella woman won't let her bring the CD player down to the beach . . .
She pushes herself up and jogs toward the water, splashing away a pelican that climbs from the shallows and flaps his way toward a distant dock.
"Be careful!" the straw hat calls.
Sarah ignores the warning. The woman is hyper-paranoid; a certified over-worrier. Enough to drive a girl crazy.
Especially one who's had more than her fair share of things to worry about.
Sarah wades forward until the water touches her bare belly, then she turns to brace against the breakers. After gasping at the first cold splash on her sun-warmed back, she swims beyond the waves, then backstrokes in an area where the swells rise and fall in a gentle rhythm.
She loves the ocean. She'd never admit this to a living soul, but if mermaids could exist, she'd exchange every shoe in her closet for a tail and flippers.
Floating lazily, she positions ankle to ankle and knee to knee, then kicks, sputtering as the awkward movement plunges her beneath the water.
She surfaces, laughing and spitting. It's not easy to kick both legs simultaneously, but she could probably get the hang of it if she had time to practice.
She swims a little farther and treads water, then lifts her arms and lowers a tentative toe. She can touch the sandy bottom only until a swell pushes in, then she's picked up and set back down as gently as you please. The ocean is quiet today; due to the heat, more people are shopping than swimming.
To the east, the white fleck of a sailboat streams against a vibrant blue sky while to the west, a sleepy line of gulls squabble over a ripple on the sea--probably a fish, maybe an entire school of fish.
A glimmer on the water grabs Sarah's attention. Beyond the slanting line of the glassy waves, a shiny object rises and falls.
Sarah stretches out and swims. The object is a plastic container, a two-liter bottle that once held Coke or Sprite. No--Sprite comes in green bottles, and this one is transparent. The cap is missing, though, and in its place is a wad of some unidentifiable material.
Sarah closes the gap with one stroke, then grasps her prize. The container is nothing special; the wad is dried grass and something black--tar maybe, or gum? A few pages of densely printed paper curl inside the mostly waterproof ride. One edge is ripped, so these must be pages torn out of a book.
She turns the bottle. She's not much of a reader, having been forced to read too many classics over the summer while her friends were touring Europe, but a handwritten message in the margin catches her eye. The brown ink is blurred, but one word is legible:
"Hey!" Sarah waves to catch the straw hat's attention. "Hey, look!"
The woman is too engrossed in her book. Either that or she can't hear above the steady crash of the surf.
Sarah's mouth twists. Good thing I'm not drowning.
But she is a good swimmer, and umbrella woman knows it. Sarah tucks the bottle under her arm and sidestrokes toward the shore, then catches a wave and rides it until she reaches shallow water. She tugs her wet bathing suit back into place as she approaches the umbrella, then drops to her knees in the powder soft sand.
"Look at this." She holds the bottle horizontally between her hands. "I found it in the water, and guess what? Someone wrote my name on these pages."
The book falls. "What--, gross! That's trash, Sarah, throw it away."
"But it's got--"
"You don't know what it has. Some nasty drunk probably pitched it off a sailboat."
Sarah points to the message. "But that's my name, see? Can you read the rest of what it says?"
A pair of perfectly arched brows furrow for a moment. "Ugh! That looks like dried blood."
"Drop it, and don't touch it again. You don't know where that's been or who's handled it. They could have HIV or AIDS, or something even worse."
Sarah drops the bottle and wipes her hands on her bathing suit while the pale face warily regards the sun. "Look at how late it's getting. We'd better go. When we get back I think we ought to write a letter to let someone know this beach is becoming unfit for swimming. I know they can't stop riffraff from boating here, but there has to be a law against tossing trash into public waterways . . ."
Accompanied by an inexplicable sense of guilt, Sarah picks up her towel, shakes out the sand, and wraps it around her. Before following the bobbing straw hat to the house, she gives the odd bottle one last look.
One Year Earlier
Karyn Hall stopped stretching long enough to glance at her watch, then slipped out of formation. How did it get to be so late? Sarah would be spitting mad.
"Leaving so soon?" Jose Velasquez, one of the fitness center's personal trainers, caught her arm as she bent over the bench where she had stashed her bag and towel. "You didn't even get to the cooldown."
"I gotta run." Karyn tapped her watch. "My daughter's violin lesson ends at four thirty, and she doesn't like to wait on the street. She gets nervous if I'm not there on time."
"You are such a good mother."
"Well--" She rolled her eyes. "I try."
Jose leaned against the wall and raked his eyes over her body with a look that would have set off alarm bells if she didn't know he was gay. "You are lookin' tight. I can tell a difference since you've been coming here. How much weight have you lost?"
Karyn's cheeks heated as she wrapped a skirt around her waist. "Only four pounds. But I feel good, and I got into that designer dress the studio sent over. It was a size two."
Jose clicked his tongue. "I would have said you were a size zero. You know that Kelly Ripa? She was in here the other day, and you are no bigger than her."
Karyn knew he was overdoing the flattery; he probably sweet-talked every over-forty actress on the membership roll. Still . . . who didn't like to be affirmed?
"Thanks, Jose. You know how it is--after thirty-five, everything starts to go south."
His eyes widened. "Thirty-five? You?"
Karyn grabbed her coat and bag, then blew him a kiss. "See you later, Jose. I've gotta run."
She hurried toward the lobby before he could delay her, then joined the streaming mass of New Yorkers on the sidewalk outside. Professor Katsouris's brownstone was only three blocks away, but in this crowd . . .
She shoved her oversized sunglasses onto her nose, then wrapped her scarf around her neck. Not many people recognized her on the streets of Manhattan, but you could never tell when an out-of-state tourist would stop, shriek, and point. Because Lorinda Loving, Karyn's character on A Thousand Tomorrows, was one of the more flamboyant women in daytime drama, fans of the show almost always wanted an autograph and a picture.
Deep inside her leather bag, her cell phone began to play Mozart. Gritting her teeth, Karyn fumbled for it while trying not to stumble over the older woman in front of her. Walking and talking in thick pedestrian traffic could be risky, but not as risky as missing an important call.
She glanced at the caller ID before opening the phone. "I'm only a couple of blocks away, Sarah."
"Mom, I've been standing here five minutes."
"So read a book."
"I hate reading; you know that."
"Then do some homework."
"Play your violin; maybe someone will drop money at your feet."
"Very funny, Mom."
She disconnected the call, dropped the phone back into her bag, and made a face at the older woman's back. Why did people always seem to dawdle when she was in a hurry? She groaned when the do-not-cross light flashed at the next intersection. This street was one of the busiest in the Upper West Side.
She blew her bangs out of her eyes and checked her watch. She was late. Sarah would be steaming.
When the light finally changed, she pressed forward and cut to the right, edging around the older woman. The phone rang again; she answered without glancing at the caller ID.
"Sarah, I told you I'm on my way."
"Mom, I have homework. And I can't do it standing up."
Karyn hung up again, then turned down the side street that led to Professor Katsouris's house. ...
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Book Description Hunthaven Press. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk0692436197
Book Description Hunthaven Press, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0692436197
Book Description Hunthaven Press, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110692436197