Book 3 in the Treasure Hunters Series
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In the Solomon Islands, Archer uncovers a vintage portrait that leads to a fortune in diamonds stolen during WWII. But when Rosalina is kidnapped by an evil priest hellbent on getting his hands on the priceless fortune, Archer must play be the madman’s rules.
Action. Adventure. Romance.
⭐ Quest for answers⭐Evil nemises ⭐Race against time ⭐Hidden secrets ⭐Broken hero ⭐Tragic childhood ⭐ Kick-ass heroine
Treasured Dreams is book 3 in the complete Treasure Hunters Series. ❤️Buy the full series in a book bundle to save $$$, and receive a bonus
- Broken Alpha Hero
- Treasure Hunt danger
- Race against time
Treasure brought them together. Enemies tested their love.But nowthe enemy is closer than they think.
Archer Mahoney’s talent for finding lost treasure is almost as good as his talent for finding trouble. When he uncovers a vintage portrait linked to a fortune of diamonds stolen during World War II, he’s suddenly thrust into a dangerous chase filled with bizarre clues, ruthless adversaries, and stakes that could cost him the woman he loves.When Rosalina is kidnapped by a madman out for revenge, the treasure hunt turns into something more sinister. More personal.With time running out, Archer will have to play the madman’s chilling game to save her in time. But if there’s one thing Archer has learned from a lifetime of hunting lost secrets, it’s that to win against the devil you can’t play by the rules…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Rosalina didn’t want to look at the bruises coloring her leg dark blue, but she couldn’t help it. Considering a sizeable chunk of a helicopter had landed on her, it was a miracle she hadn’t broken both her legs.
Or been crushed to death.
Since she’d started hunting for treasure with her fiancé, she’d sustained a lot of injuries.
This was by far the worst.
With each passing day, the swelling had subsided, but the dark cloud still stained her flesh from her toes to her knee.
She got lucky. But how much more luck do they have?
At night, though, her dreams were filled with scrambled concoctions of glistening treasure and crazy men trying to steal it from them.
Archer took the crutches from her, rested them against Evangeline’s chrome railing and helped her lift her other leg onto the plush sun lounge. The plaster cast that ran from below her knee to the edge of her toes was heavy, and she was sick of lugging it around. She’d painted her toenails that poked out of the cast in bright pink.
She’d thought it would cheer her up.
Three more weeks until the cast came off, and it couldn’t come soon enough.
“How’s that?” Archer kneeled at her side and lifted her chin with his finger, drawing her eyes to his. “Better?”
She nodded. “It’s good.” Her blood pounded against her swollen skin, throbbing out a painful pulse that was her constant companion. Now that her legs were elevated, though, the agony should subside.
Archer tilted his head at her. It was one of her fiancé’s signature moves and the angle he chose captured the sunlight in a way that had the golden halo of flecks circling his dark irises positively dancing. It was one of the first things that’d attracted her to him. His eyes had a personality of their own. He ran his thumb over her chin and when he touched her lips, she kissed his thumb.
Five weeks ago, while she’d lain on the dive deck below with half a mangled helicopter pinning her to the teak timber, she’d thought she’d lost him. He’d plummeted from the helicopter into the black water and vanished. With each ticking second, as black smoke had poured over her, and she’d waited for Archer to resurface, her heart had crumbled to a thousand pieces and drifted away with the smoke-filled air.
Since that gut-wrenching moment, when she’d thought her new fiancé had died, she’d been gripped with melancholy. Archer had been stretching his creativeness to cheer her up.
Bringing her back to Evangeline was another one of his attempts to help snap her out of it. She hadn’t been back here since that night. Yet it was one of her favorite places in the world, so maybe he was right.
“You stay right here,” he said. “I’ll grab a few things and be right back.”
She nodded. He leaned forward, kissed her lips, then walked away. He was spectacular to watch. Light and shade alternated off his broad shoulders as he strode across the sunlit deck, and his perfectly toned bottom glided up and down with every step. He soon disappeared down the steps.
To avoid looking at her legs again, Rosalina flicked her long skirt over them. It took several attempts to cover them completely, and it was only once that was done that she looked around.
Over her left shoulder, she had a perfect view across other magnificent yachts in Italy’s Marina Di San Vencenzo. Most marinas could barely accommodate Archer’s yacht, but here in Livorno’s prestigious new yacht club, Evangeline was like a toy compared to the magnificent vessels they were moored alongside.
The morning sun, hanging high in the sky, dripped dazzling stars onto all the shiny chrome surfaces on the surrounding vessels. The sparkle made Rosalina wish she’d remembered her sunglasses. Normally she’d never forget something like that, but ever since the helicopter crash, a dark fog had shrouded her mind. She let out a slow breath as she turned her attention to the damaged part of the sun deck.
Jimmy and Alessandro had been working tirelessly to clear away as many of the crash remnants as they could, but the police forensics team had restricted their access. The image of the body covered by a white cloth flashed into her mind. Thankfully, Ignatius Montpellier was the only person who’d died in that fiery crash.
She felt no remorse for him.
The damage from the crash was extensive. Most of the helicopter pad, which was one level up, had been crushed into the deck she was now sitting on. The narrow steps that had led to the helipad were a tangle of metal and plastic. One of the helicopter’s blades must’ve struck the deck before ricocheting into the ocean, because a long-jagged gash in the teak decking looked as if a great monster had sliced through the polished wood with a broadsword.
Jimmy’s deep, hearty belly laugh had her smiling.
Their laughter grew louder as they stepped onto the sundeck. As usual, Jimmy wore no shirt, and the sun captured the graying chest hairs covering his leathery skin. With a smile on his face and a six-pack of beer clutched in his hand, he strode towards Rosalina with his signature prize-fighter swagger. He was light on his feet for such a solid man.
“Heya Rosa.” Jimmy’s chin was a rough abrasion on her skin as he leaned over to brush his lips to her cheek.
“Ciao, Jimmy, how are you?”
“Couldn’t be better. How about you? Getting used to those crutches yet?”
She huffed. “No. I don’t think I ever will.”
He placed an antipasti platter on the table at her side, and as she eyed off the lovely selection of cured meats, cheeses and olives, a champagne cork popped.
“What’s going on?” She suppressed a grin as she nodded at the champagne Archer had just opened. They usually didn’t have a drink until at least midday.
“Actually, quite a few things.” Archer topped up the five crystal champagne glasses that he’d brought up with him.
“Not all of us have been lazing around on our ass since Dickhead crashed his helicopter into us.” Jimmy’s grin was getting ridiculous now. They were both itching to tell her something.
She refrained from pointing out that she would rather do anything but sit around on her bottom all day. Archer held a glass towards her and she sat to reach for it. “Okay, I’m ready. What is it?”
Archer eyeballed Jimmy. “Should we wait till Alessandro and Ginger get here?”
Jimmy opened a bottle of Peroni. “That’d be the right thing to do.” He took a swig of beer and his lip quivered as he attempted to keep a straight face.
“Okay then.” She could play this game too. “Who made the antipasti platter? It looks good.”
“I did.” Archer bit into a slice of cured meat that she guessed to be Bresaola. As he tugged it from his teeth, he turned to Jimmy. “Maybe we could tell Rosa some of the news.”
Jimmy’s eyes switched from the salami he was about to devour to Archer, and he nodded with over-exaggerated emphasis.
Archer rubbed his hands together and then picked up a champagne glass for himself. “The police have finished combing over this area, so we’re right to go ahead with the renovations.” Archer strode from her and stopped near the center of the sun deck. “Jimmy has suggested we put a Jacuzzi right here.” He indicated to his right. “And he was thinking of a rooftop bar over this side.”
She glanced at Jimmy, who was grinning like a drunken teenager. “Sounds like you boys have thought this through.”
“Not me.” Archer palmed his chest, feigning horror at her suggestion. “I’m thinking something much more sophisticated would be appropriate.”
“Really?” She said sarcastically.
Archer always enjoyed a drink after a day of scuba diving.
Why hadn’t he put a bar on the top deck earlier?
Now that it was almost completely destroyed, they had an opportunity to do anything they wanted.
Maybe this was exactly the distraction she needed. “You know what we could do? We could set up one of those amazing outdoor kitchens. With a teppanyaki barbecue or something similar.”
Archer snapped his fingers. “Great idea. It could go here, right alongside the bar.”
“We could have a nice table setting here too, so we can eat outside for a change.” She could already picture it brimming with food.
“We’ll need a decent beer fridge.” Jimmy added, in all seriousness.
She laughed. “Of course we will.”
Rosalina couldn’t see her yet, but Ginger’s Australian accent was unmistakable. The younger woman stepped into view. Her tiny white shorts showed off her long, tanned legs as she strode towards Rosalina.
“Buongiorno. How is everyone?” Alessandro strode across the sundeck behind Ginger, carrying a manila folder.
Archer’s eyes shot to the folder and by the excitement glimmering in his eyes, Rosalina figured half of his excitement was because of whatever it contained. Ginger clutched her blonde braid in her hand and bent down to kiss Rosalina’s cheek.
Alessandro placed the folder on the sun lounge to Rosalina’s left and then he, too, kissed both her cheeks. For the first time since she’d met Alessandro, he seemed to be wearing a different aftershave. Ginger would’ve been the influence behind that.
“Come ti senti?” His eyes were the picture of concern.
“I’m okay, just sick of these crutches. And tired of sitting on my bottom, despite what Archer and Jimmy think.”
All of them gathered around her and she felt both the weight of their concern and the prickle of anticipation. Their concern probably wasn’t about her injuries. They would heal. It was because she hadn’t been herself lately. Nearly losing the man she loved had consumed every waking thought and some of her dreams, as did nearly being killed herself.
It’d been five weeks, and she was still struggling to snap out of the gloom that gripped her.
Whatever was in the folder had both Archer and Jimmy falling over each other with excitement, and knowing them, it probably had something to do with ancient relics. She prepared herself, because she wasn’t sure she could handle anything to do with treasure hunting yet.
“Did they tell you what I found?” Alessandro indicated to Archer and Jimmy.
“No. They wanted to wait till you were here.”
Alessandro nodded. “Grazie, signori.” The sun bounced off his slick black hair as he bent over to open the folder and reached in. Archer sat on the edge of Rosalina’s sun lounge and carefully lifted her legs onto his. His eyes, however, remained on the paperwork Alessandro lifted out.
“Ginger and I made five copies.” As a university professor, Alessandro was accustomed to making presentations to sizeable crowds, but as he bounced from one foot to the other, Rosalina couldn’t decide if he was excited or nervous.
The pages were held together with gold clips, and Alessandro handed one set to each of them, starting with Rosalina.
“I’ve done some digging on the Awa Maru. Because it’s been some time since we’ve discussed it, I summarized what we already knew about her.”
Rosalina scanned down the list as Alessandro read out their findings so far.
“As we all know, the Awa Maru was a passenger ship that was requisitioned by the Japanese during the war, and in 1945 the Red Cross deployed her to carry supplies to American and allied prisoners of war held in Japanese custody. After delivering those supplies to Singapore, she was boarded with stranded marines, military personnel, and civilians.”
“And treasure.” Jimmy’s voice was that of an excited child.
“Yes. Treasure.” The word treasure was highlighted and underlined on the page. “Billions of dollars, apparently.”
“Apparently.” Rosalina emphasized and shrugged her shoulder when Archer glanced her way.
Alessandro cleared his throat. “She is also rumored to have carried the priceless Peking Man skulls.”
Rosalina couldn’t fathom what someone would do with the 500,000-year-old skulls. Yes, they were priceless, but how someone could ever expect to sell them without revealing their identity was a mystery she couldn’t piece together either.
“Near midnight on the last day of March 1945,” Alessandro continued, “the Awa Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine.”
“And there was only one survivor,” Ginger said.
“Yes,” Alessandro agreed. “The captain’s steward, who is reported to have been the sole survivor of three torpedoed ships.”
“That’s one lucky bastard.” Jimmy shook his head.
“Or unlucky,” Archer said, “depending on which way you look at it.”
Jimmy screwed up his face. “True.”
“In 1980, China located the wreck of the Awa Maru, but no treasure was found.” Alessandro folded a slice of Culatello cured meat around a semi-ripened tomato, popped the appetizer in his mouth and watched Ginger scroll her finger down the page as she read. He waited until she was near the bottom before he spoke again. “You all knew this up to this point.”
Ginger looked at him and grinned a silly, childish grin. Sometimes Rosalina forgot Ginger was only twenty-one years old.
Alessandro rubbed his hands together. “I’ve spent significativo time with my associates in the war museum, and I’m quite certo I have something.”
“Spit it out, numb-nuts.” Jimmy was an impatient man.
Ginger slapped Jimmy’s arm as Alessandro reached back into the folder and removed an A4-sized black-and-white photo.
The photo was of ten Japanese men. They were in uniform and positioned in two rows with the men at the front seated and the five men at the back standing behind them. None of them smiled. The man centered at the front held what looked like a Japanese samurai sword. A banner to the left of the picture had Japanese writing on it.
“Are you going to tell us what it means, or should we guess?” Jimmy scowled at Alessandro.
Jimmy and Alessandro were both as bad as each other and had made it practically a hobby to needle each other at every opportunity. Before he’d taken the offer to come treasure hunting with her and Archer, Alessandro was a professor of ancient history and architecture at Accadamia di Belle Arti in Florence and had spent a significant portion of his day lecturing to disinterested students in a packed auditorium.
Out here, he only had one naughty student to contend with. . . Jimmy. As usual, though, Alessandro appeared to take it in his stride.
“This photo was taken in the Solomon Islands on a small island called Munda,” Alessandro said.
Rosalina examined the background of the photo. Dense jungle was behind the men, and possibly a wooden hut with a thatched roof hiding in the vegetation.
“These men were World War Two Pacific soldiers. See this signore?” Alessandro pointed at the man seated at the far left. “That’s Kimoda Yukimura.”
Archer snapped his fingers. “The only guy to survive the sinking of the Awa Maru.”
“Correcto. See this signore?” Alessandro pointed at the man standing directly behind Kimoda Yukimura. “That’s Hiro Yukimura. Kimoda’s identical twin brother. I believe these two went to a lot of trouble to hide something.”