The young woman wept as she staggered across the main deck of a super yacht anchored near Papaya Springs, playground for the rich and famous. She was naked except for a pair of high heels. The game was over—she was about to die. Pain radiated through her skull, and her forehead was covered with something warm that also saturated her eyes and blurred her vision. She swiped the sticky substance with a trembling hand. Blood coated her fingertips. Had someone hurt her? Did she have an accident? She remembered a fight…
Nausea sloshed through her stomach. She didn’t understand why her thoughts were so muddled. Had she taken something? Heart pounding an erratic beat; she scurried across the deck. Her lungs burned. Panic set in. Moonlight cast a sinister glow on the dark water surrounding the vessel. There was nowhere to hide.
She should yell for help. In the deepest depths of her cloudy memory, she knew no one would come to her rescue. They were after her. Then she saw him emerging from the shadows. She limped into his open arms. “I’m scared!” she cried. “What’s happening?”
Gentle hands caressed her back. Warm lips swept over her shoulder. His familiar scent instantly put her at ease. But there was something off. The woman sensed it with every nerve in her body.
“Shhh…there’s no need to cry,” he cooed. “Everything’s going to be okay.” The words were a contradiction to the sorrow wavering in his voice.
“Noooo...” She backed away until something was pressed against her shoulder blades. A railing. She was trapped. “Please…don’t do this.”
The woman’s cries came in agonizing howls. She wanted her mom and dad. She wanted to go home.
But his face was the last thing she would ever see.
* * *
Twenty-year-old Eric O’Neil sprinted across the sandy shore, his feet leaving deep indentations in the fine powder. Multimillion dollar yachts skimmed across the glittering Pacific Ocean less than a mile away, hulls sparkling like diamonds in the sweltering sun. Crisp sails snapped in the warm wind. Speakers blasted gangsta rap. Even on an early holiday afternoon, it was an opportunity for the wealthy to play in SoCal, exposing their sun kissed shoulders without a care in the world.
Only two types were known to be residents of the swanky community: those with money and those paid to serve them. It was common knowledge to locals that illegal drugs ran rampant, but everyone went out of their way to keep it a secret. It was rumored some establishments included luxurious secret rooms where the powerful could relax and get high. Eric hoped he’d come across one of those places, but he was merely stoked he’d scored primo weed from a high-end dispensary using his fake ID. They didn’t have anything like it back in Detroit. He was higher than the blue skies overhead.
He yelled over his shoulder to his girlfriend, “Try to keep up, babe!”
He was slated to be Papaya Springs College’s best baller this season, having broken his state’s high school records two seasons in a row for most points scored by one player. The moment he stepped on the basketball court he was a god, destined for a pro team after college. There had already been a handful of recruiters vying for his attention with under-the-table bribes of trips involving drugs and hordes of female companions.
It gave him an even greater sense of pride when Tehya Jensen—unquestionably the hottest and richest chick around—literally chased after him. Her parents owned a string of hotels all over the world, and they’d invited Eric to spend Thanksgiving at their $20 million condo. He never imagined he’d be privileged to that kind of lifestyle. His parents had teetered on the edge of poverty ever since the automotive plants began to shut down. He’d only been able to afford college because of the athletic scholarship.
“Seriously, my legs are too heavy for this!” Teyha whined from far away. “Slow down!”
Laughing manically, Eric rounded the corner, stumbling across a sand dune. He lost his footing, long limbs sprawled around him as he face-planted onto the beach. With a long grunt, he flipped around to his back and started to move his hands and legs at his sides.
“Look at me…I’m a sand angel,” he muttered before releasing a nasally chuckle.
Then the back of his arm connected with something firm, wet, and exceptionally clammy. Eric rolled to his side, blinking heavily at the sight before him. A naked woman with giant knockers was fast asleep where the tide recently receded in the sand. Dark, wet hair covered her face, and her arms and legs were spread out around her like she'd made angels in the sand too. In fact, one of her legs was crooked at an unusual angle. Wait, Eric thought to himself, she’s not naked. She’s wearing heels.
They weren’t just any pair of heels, either. They were luminescent gold with rhinestones—hell, maybe even diamonds. If the water hadn’t ruined them, they could be outrageously expensive. Since Eric didn’t have two spare pennies to rub together after covering expenses not included in his scholarship, creativity was key in finding someone as rich as Tehya an impressive Christmas present. He didn’t want to screw up the chance of getting invited back to her parents’ condo.
Eric peered over his shoulder, ensuring Tehya wasn’t close before he went to work in removing the woman’s shoes. The suction of her wet skin made removing them more difficult than anticipated. Either that or he was still tripping. Tongue trapped between his teeth, Eric pulled and pulled until the unconscious woman’s feet gave up the fight.
Just as he was contemplating copping a quick feel of the woman’s perfect tits (he was dying to find out if they were real), Tehya’s muffled scream pierced the warm air. He twisted around to find his girlfriend holding both hands over her mouth, eyes as wide as a cartoon character’s. She wore a skimpy little dress that made her father’s face as red as a cherry when they came down from her room after a heated make out session. Warmth spread through Eric’s groin when he recalled how many times he’d violated that sweet little body in the condo with her parents nearby.
“Ohmygod! Eric, what are you doing?”
All at once remembering he was holding the woman’s shoes—Tehya’s present—he clumsily moved them behind his back. “It’s fine, babe. She’s sleeping.”
A funny little noise slipped from Tehya’s throat. “She does not look like she’s sleeping. Look at her head!”
Eric stretched back to the woman. Now that he paid a little closer attention, it did seem like there was something terribly wrong. Was that her brain peering back at him? He crawled backwards on his hands and feet in the sand like the crab they’d tried to give a hit to earlier while getting high. Eric laughed at the memory as he climbed back up to his feet.
“This isn’t funny!” Tehya scolded, her voice becoming even more annoying with every syllable. “Were you stealing her shoes?”
“If she’s actually dead, she’s not gonna need them anymore,” he insisted, lifting them in the air for emphasis. “They’d look hotter on you anyway.”
“No way I’m wearing shoes you stole off a corpse!”
Eric rolled his eyes. Women were never satisfied. He tossed them back by his feet. “Happy now?”
“You can’t leave them here! We have to call the police, and they’ll think we were somehow involved if they find your fingerprints! Ohmygod we’re totally going to jail! Our lives are over! They’re going to kick you off the team, and—”
“Babe, stop!” Eric demanded, bracing a hand over her warm lips. “The weed is making you paranoid. We’re not going to jail, and they’re not kicking me off the team. We’ll take the shoes with us, then we’ll call the cops from somewhere far away from here.”
Eric scooped the incriminating evidence off the sand before taking his girlfriend’s hand and leading her away. He wasn’t going to prison because of some stupid shoes. Besides, if they were as valuable as he suspected, then maybe there was a way they could bring in some money.