Lionel Pettigrew and Arista Lockhart amazingly hit it off after a somewhat rocky beginning. Unbeknownst to her, Lionel often does archeological dives, although he's an English professor. She's also a certified diver and instructor, so when he's called by a friend to work his site, Lionel accepts for them both. The woman paying the bills doesn't seem very impressed with Lionel or, more especially, with Arista. After she goes below on the yacht, his partner, Oliver, joins Arista and Lionel for a chat.
“Who's the frost princess?” Lionel asked.
“That, my boy, is our employer.”
“Hm, looks like a bitch,” he said quietly.
“I'd keep comments like that to yourself,” Oliver warned. “She has an uncanny way of finding things out. Now, more importantly, who is this lovely lady with whom you've adorned yourself?”
“Oliver Leander, may I present Arista Lockhart, my research assistant.”
“Enchanted,” he bowed over her hand, kissing it. “Surely more than that? A woman this beautiful defies such dreary confinement.”
Lionel's smile was guarded. Oliver had a reputation as a rake and roue which was well earned. To put it in layman's terms, he was a womanizing bastard who thought of women as disposable. He got what he wanted and moved on to the next.
“She is what I want her to be, not you,” he said calmly, smiling.
The carefree grin didn't reach his eyes, a fact that wasn't lost on Oliver. Reevaluating the woman's importance to his friend, he backed off. Lionel had made his point. This was his woman and no man's interference would be tolerated or appreciated.
“Forgive an old man his little games,” he begged insincerely.
“Oliver doesn't always understand the concept of too much,” Lionel said, taking a sip of champagne that the steward had brought. “So, old man,” he deliberately put emphasis on old. “What's the job?”
“Jacinda wanted to tell you personally.”
“Really?” Lionel's tone dripped sarcasm. “She isn't here. Why not tell me yourself?”
“Because she'll eat me alive if I do. She'll be back. No doubt she's gone to sacrifice the hearts of the unborn,” he muttered.
“This is a lovely yacht, Oliver. Is it yours?” Arista asked, by way of changing the subject.
“Yes. Thank you. Jacinda's is anchored by the site. She deigned to ride mine to pick you up.”
“Why bother to come?” Arista asked him, curious about the woman.
“Because it was an opportunity to pitch a fit and sulk?” Lionel added before Oliver could answer.
The older man shrugged, nodding. “In a nutshell. If she can make something more difficult, she does. You could have come on the launch, but she insisted upon taking my yacht, although she has done nothing but complain since she's been aboard.”
“And we want to work for this – woman, why?” Arista asked.
“She's paying outrageously well.”
“Money can't compensate for some things, Oliver,” Lionel pointed out.
“No, but she could ruin the reputations of the whole lot of us with a phone call or two.”
“What's to keep her from doing that anyway?” Arista pursued.
“Being tossed overboard?” Was Lionel's lighthearted suggestion.
“That thought has occurred,” Oliver whispered. “Believe me!”
“New Smyrna has more shark attacks per capita than anywhere else in the United States,” Arista offered graciously.
Oliver's laugh boomed out and he spewed his champagne. Fortunately, the others weren't close enough to be sprayed.
“Oh, I apologize. My dear child, I do like you. Lionel, where have you been keeping this magnificent woman?”
“We just met, Oliver. Believe me, I've been wishing ever since that I'd met her sooner.”
“Where are you from, my sweet?” He led Arista to a sitting area on the aft deck.
“The Shark Bite Capitol of the World,” she replied with a toss of her head.
“Floridian? New Smyrna? My word, who would have thought.”
“Oliver,” she spoke softly and sweetly. “How nice do I have to be?”
“As nice as possible. Why?”
“She's coming back.” She smiled beatifically, teeth gritted.