Book 5 in the Treasure Hunters Series
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Archer thrives on danger, but with his first child on the way the stakes have changed. Yet Rosalina insists they locate her grandmother’s priceless painting that was stolen during WWII. Armed with a yellowing letter, they head to Brazil, where they are trapped in a double cross nobody saw coming.
Treasured Hopes is book 5 in the complete Treasure Hunters Series. ❤️Buy the full series in a book bundle to save $$$, and receive a bonus prequel for FREE
⭐ Quest for answers⭐Evil nemises ⭐Race against time ⭐Hidden secrets ⭐Broken hero ⭐Tragic childhood ⭐ Kick-ass heroine
- Broken Alpha Hero
- Treasure Hunt danger
- Race against time
Tracking secrets from a deadly past, leads to a lethal double cross nobody saw coming.
Treasure hunter, Archer Mahoney, thrives on danger, but with his first child on the way, everything has changed. His fiancé’s happiness hinges on finding her grandmother’s priceless painting that was stolen by the Nazi’s during WWII.
With his focus split between keeping Rosalina’s inquisitive nature at bay, and delving into a dark past that people will kill to keep buried, they head to Brazil’s seedy underground.
Armed with a yellowing letter dated during the war, Rosalina and Archer are thrust into a treasure hunt that scrapes the underbelly of human nature.
But Archer finds out the hard way that there’s always a price to pay. With danger lurking on every corner, they become trapped in a double-cross none of them saw coming.
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Rosalina scanned the deserted warehouse, peering into the dark corners. The silence was surreal. In urban Egypt, peace was a rare commodity—the rhythm grew out of the chaos and the never-ending drone of ordinary life.
Twenty-two people had direct access to this heavily guarded facility, but there was nobody else around other than Rosalina and her grandmother.
An element of anticipation dangled amidst the silence. It was hard to describe, but ever since they’d begun transporting the antiquities from the newly discovered ancient tomb to the warehouse, it was like the building had a pulse of its own—almost as if the forgotten prince of Egypt was coming back to life.
Casting the silly thought aside, Rosalina clutched her grandmother’s gloved hand and led her toward the display alongside one wall of the warehouse. At eighty-two years old, Nonna may appear frail, but there was strength in her grasp and purpose in her strides. And despite comments to the contrary from Rosalina’s concerned sisters, Nonna was healthier than many women half her age.
Rosalina shared her gaze between the glee on Nonna’s face and the warm glow emanating from the rows of glass cabinets. Ever since Nonna announced her desire to come to Egypt, Rosalina had been both thrilled and fearful that it would never eventuate. Nonna needed this. She needed to get away for a while . . . to have a break from the family business she’d been involved in since she was a teenager. But most of all, she needed time to heal.
It’d been a crazy suggestion on Nonna’s part, given that she’d only traveled out of Italy twice in her lifetime, nor had she indicated she wanted to before now. Nonna’s whole life revolved around Villa Pandolfini: her Tuscan home that’d been in the family for generations, her bed and breakfast that’d been at full capacity for as long as Rosalina could remember, and the place where she’d raised her six grandchildren after Rosalina’s mother passed away during childbirth.
Rosalina’s baby jabbed her bladder as if to remind her with a swift kick that he or she was there. Not that she needed prompting. Between the frequent visits to the toilet and her insatiable appetite, her baby was nearly always at the forefront of her mind. Her life had already changed so much since she’d become pregnant, and it was impossible to imagine how much more it would change once their little boy or girl entered their crazy world.
Rosalina squeezed her grandmother’s palm to hers. “Are you okay, Nonna?”
“Sì, sì.” She waved her bony fingers as if swatting a fly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You had a long flight. It’s okay to rest.”
“I did sleeping on the plane. I no need more rest.” Nonna scowled at Rosalina, clearly frustrated over her granddaughter’s fussing.
The second Rosalina had met Nonna at the airport, she’d insisted Rosalina bring her straight to the treasures. It was like she feared they’d vanish before she’d have a chance to view them. Rosalina had told her enough stories about armed men stealing their precious finds that maybe Nonna’s fear wasn’t so unfounded.
Nonna would never have been able to make the crossing to Egypt if Archer’s mother, Helen, and Rosalina’s family hadn’t all lived within a few streets of her and offered to pitch in while Nonna was away. It was a miracle really, given that they all lived hectic lives managing their abundant families. Maybe Rosalina’s siblings had finally seen the distress Rosalina heard in Nonna’s voice during every single phone call.
Nonna’s unfounded guilt over Rosalina’s brother’s death cut deep. But no number of words would unhinge that burden. Nonna blamed herself and vehemently proclaimed that misnomer. Rosalina just hoped this trip would offer her a glimmer of pleasure amidst all her misery.
“Oh dear.” Nonna clasped her knobby fingers over her mouth. “I must remember to thank Archer. Where is he?”
Archer had hired a private jet to escort Nonna from Rome directly to Abu Simbel. He wouldn’t let Nonna fly alone any other way. Nor would Rosalina.
“He’ll be here somewhere. If not, he won’t be far away.” Rosalina studied the giant roller door at the back of the warehouse and was gripped with a premonition that something truly extraordinary was about to happen.
Maybe a spectacular piece of the treasure was about to arrive.
Treasure was hardly a grand enough word for the sheer volume of items that’d been found in Prince Amenbemenhat’s ancient tomb so far. The collection already exceeded three thousand items, and the number increased daily.
Maybe Nonna sensed the excitement too as anticipation sizzled in her pale blue eyes. A constant smile hovered on her lips like she was preparing to unleash a truly spectacular grin but was waiting for the perfect moment.
Nothing could have prepared Nonna for the extent or grandeur of the collection so far. Rosalina had tried to describe some of the most spectacular pieces over the phone, but she couldn’t do them justice.
On top of that, news reports had been flooded with details from reporters who’d been swarming around the shores of Lake Nasser. They’d received a tip-off from an undisclosed source, who was obviously close enough to the archaeological dig to have detailed information of what they’d removed from the secret tomb beneath the lake. But thankfully, they hadn’t secured actual footage of the treasures.
Hopefully the person was never identified because Jimmy had threatened to kill him, and from the fury in his eyes at the time, Rosalina believed him.
Nonna’s breath hitched as she paused before the ancient chariot. “Dio Mio, Rosalina, è bellissimo.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“This is why you had to see it, Nonna. It was too hard to describe.”
Authorized photography of the collection had been at the discretion of Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Mr. Jabari Salama, an intensely private man with extremely high intelligence and abrupt social skills. However, so far, he had kept photos to the very minimum. That decision only served to make the reporters even more determined . . . and sneaky, which was why more than twenty armed guards surrounded the warehouse.
Nonna’s dazzling eyes confirmed her excitement. Having her there was a dream come true. Just like this discovery had been for Archer and Jimmy.
Prince Amenbemenhat of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt had been barely a blip on Egypt’s historical timeline until they’d stumbled upon his tomb. The detailed scrolls and hieroglyphics that’d been concealed for more than two thousand eight hundred years had rewritten the history books. Archaeologists and historians had been in frenzied discussions, and Mr. Salama had boasted that this latest discovery was the most important find since Tutankhamun.
Nonna’s jaw gaped as she pointed out the intricate carving on the chariot’s copper wheel hub. “So much detail.”
Rosalina wanted to pinch herself.
Letting Nonna take her time, they strolled from one ancient artifact to the next. The massive warehouse housing the treasures that had been cataloged and set up for display was destined to become one of Egypt’s tourism draw-cards from the moment the doors were thrown open. The exact date of that was as yet unknown. Extracting the items from the tomb was time-consuming. If Archer and Jimmy hadn’t found an additional tunnel, which was just ten feet from the lake’s surface, they’d probably still be trying to figure out how to get the larger pieces out.
Without modern technology and Archer’s generous donation, it would’ve been a complete nightmare. They’d worked day and night to expand the tunnel and within two months had built an airlock large enough for the chariot to be transported through. A barge had been brought in with a crane and a dozen carefully selected workers who never seemed to sleep.
It was organized chaos, yet it worked.
“Nonna! It’s about time you visited.” Archer strode across the expanse with his arms wide and scooped Nonna into a bear hug, twirling her around.
A gasp left Nonna’s throat, but being regal as always, she took Archer’s flamboyant greeting in her stride.
He placed her down, and she playfully slapped his shoulder while dabbing at her hair. “You’re such a naughty boy.” Cupping his ears, she lowered his head to kiss both his cheeks. “Why you keep my Rosalina from me?”
“Because of this.” Archer opened his arms. “What do you think?”
Nodding, she finally beamed that spectacular smile that’d been brewing on her lips. “It’s magnifica.” She kissed her fingers. “So much to see.”
Archer gave Rosalina a brief kiss, and she inhaled his cologne. Somehow it reminded her of the ocean, suiting him perfectly . . . wild, carefree, and uncontrollable.
Her baby nudged her kidneys as if telling her to be nice.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Her fiancé had millions in the bank, yet he wore the same T-shirts over and over. His shoe of choice was either a pair of flip-flops he’d haggled for at a Bali market three years ago or runners that’d seen better days. His idea of extravagance was an expensive glass of whisky. Although he did enjoy the opulence of Evangeline.
She had no idea when they’d return to his multi-million-dollar yacht. Hopefully soon. Evangeline was under guard at one of Italy’s most secure marinas in Livorno. She missed her comfortable bed and the galley kitchen that had all the trimmings. And she wasn’t sure how much more she could stand of the ghastly decor in the mansion they’d rented near the Abu Simbel temples.
But if Alessandro continued to bring priceless items out of the ancient prince’s tomb, it could be many more months before they left. Maybe years. The thought was a little horrifying. Ever since she’d reunited with Archer, they’d traveled to dozens of wonderful destinations.
Exploring was in her blood now, and she loved the anticipation that came with setting off to a new country, or town, or dive site in the hope of finding treasure.
But the next treasure hunt they were planning to search for would be unlike all the others. This piece was one of Nonna’s family heirlooms that the Nazis had stolen during World War Two. The pressure to find it was immense as they were running out of time . . . both for Nonna and before the birth of their child slowed them down.
Her baby rolled in her stomach, and she pictured him curling into a ball. He or she was another reason why they needed to return to Evangeline. It was their home, and they had a nursery that needed decorating.
A glorious thought fluttered into her mind. Nonna could help decorate our baby’s nursery. She could picture them making craft items together, painting walls, and adorning the crib with all things adorable. The ideas flowed, and the more they came together, the more she was convinced that it had to happen.
Archer draped his arm over Nonna’s shoulder. “Come and check out the jewelry. Rosalina is constantly drooling over it.”
“No, I’m not.” Rosalina rolled her eyes.
Archer winked at her then led Nonna toward the rows and rows of glass cabinets at the front of the warehouse. Rosalina followed, caressing her hand over her baby bump.
How much was their life about to change? It was a stupid question because the answer was heaps. For any normal family, that was. But they were far from normal. They were treasure hunters, scouring the globe for the elusive gold and dodging bullets left, right, and center.
She wanted to make it work—for Archer’s sanity, for hers. And Jimmy, Alessandro, and Ginger. They were an incredible team, and the successes they’d had were nothing short of miracles.
It was their life, and in three months, their little baby was about to become part of it.
Nonna gently collected a pair of earrings from the display cabinet with her gloved fingers, and Rosalina grinned. It was the exact pair that’d caught her attention when she’d first seen the ancient jewelry expertly displayed. The large emerald stones dangling from golden stems sparkled spectacularly in the shimmering lights.
Archer had told her that if they were to sell those earrings on the black market, they would fetch a figure close to a quarter of a million US dollars. Not just because of the size and quality of the precious stones, but because of the history behind them.
Fortunately, none of this treasure would disappear onto the black market, thanks to Alessandro and Archer. Mr. Salama had also assured them that these items would never wind up in private collections. And they believed him. His professionalism had been impeccable, and he’d already ruffled a few feathers with his dogged determination to keep the site and findings under wraps. For now.
It would be a different case if Massimo had succeeded in getting his hands on them first. The fact that his body had never been found twisted her thoughts into all sorts of knots. He’d obviously escaped the tombs because his scuba gear was gone, but they hadn’t found his body. His mother’s pleas to find him so she could lay him to rest came with a hefty reward, but so far it had remained unclaimed.
Archer and Jimmy, and everyone else for that matter, believed a crocodile had eaten him.
Rosalina wanted that to be the case. She wanted it so desperately, it played on her mind frequently. Yet her certainty remained incomplete. Nox had returned from the dead. And until Massimo’s mutilated body washed up on the shore of Lake Nasser, she’d always retain that element of doubt.
The consequences of him not being dead cast so many shadows, her brain hurt. For one, it had her looking over her shoulder, half-expecting Massimo to have a weapon aimed at her. For another, Archer had framed him for murdering Hector, Massimo’s own bodyguard.
Archer had told her how Ginger had killed him by ramming a golden-horned statue into his body. It must’ve taken some force to do that. Or anger. And even though it had been self-defense, it was a crime for which Ginger could have gone to jail.
But it had been easy to blame Massimo when his fingerprints were all over both the gun left in the tomb and the bloody dog statue that he’d attacked Ginger with.
The evidence against Massimo would be enough to incarcerate him for a very long time. Especially as Mr. Salama took antiquities theft very seriously.
“Excuse me for a bit, ladies,” Archer announced. “Important treasure hunting business coming up.” He swept Rosalina into an embrace and dipped her to kiss her throat.
Rosalina squealed and slapped his arm. “Let me up, you beast.”
He twirled her upright and leaned into her ear. “I’ll show you my beast later.”
Rosalina gasped and flicked her gaze to Nonna, who thankfully was out of earshot. She thumped him harder. “Lucky Nonna didn’t hear you.”
Archer wiggled his brows, flashed a cheeky grin, then sprinted away. She admired his sexy butt all the way across the room until he disappeared. When she turned to Nonna, her grandmother’s coy grin, suggested that maybe she had heard after all.
A flush of heat blazed Rosalina’s neck as she strolled toward Nonna. She slotted in beside her and leaned forward to examine a chunky gold necklace on a clear plastic display mount.
The ancient Egyptians were magnificent craftsmen; that point was undisputed. But she’d overheard Alessandro and Mr. Salama discussing whether these pieces would eclipse Tutankhamun’s collection in both value and public interest. It was a debate that had the Cairo Museum worried about losing tourists who brought much-needed income to the battling region.
“So, Nonna, are you glad you came?”
“Sì. Certamente. It is so bellissima.” Nodding, Nonna shuffled a few feet sideways and gathered a tiny figurine into her palm. Her moans of approval perfectly matched the glistening in her eyes.
Nonna replaced the Ramses statue and collected a cat one.
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I no want to go home.” Nonna giggled. It was so sweet and unassuming that Rosalina’s heart swelled. Nonna had gone through devastating heartache when Rosalina’s half-brother, Filippo, was murdered by Nox.
She was still going through it.
But her grief had been exasperated by Filippo’s betrayal. Nonna had done everything for Filippo, and yet he’d still claimed Nonna didn’t love him like she did the rest of his half-siblings.
Rosalina curled her hand beneath her belly. Her child was never going to know such turmoil. Their baby would be the most loved little human on the planet. Smiling, she pictured Archer and Nonna and even Jimmy all jostling to hold him. Or her.
“Take it steady.” Alessandro’s voice echoed about the large expanse. “Questi sono fragili.”
Rosalina turned to the commotion.
Four men were manhandling a crate that was secured to poles across their shoulders. Based on their pained expressions and slow progression, it was very heavy.
The scene was straight from an Indiana Jones movie and she half-expected the crate to contain the Ark of the Covenant.
Whatever it was, based on Alessandro’s exaggerated hand movements, it was just as priceless. Archer and Jimmy followed the troop. The room brightened with their smiles. Archer’s hand went to the gold pendant on his chest that had nearly broken their relationship forever.
She was transported to the moment he’d proposed to her. It had been a surprise that he’d meticulously planned. He’d somehow managed to pull her entire family together without her knowing and organized a party in Villa Pandolfini’s ballroom. Archer had a talent for making miracles happen. Finding the ancient prince’s tomb had been one of them.
Escaping the underwater tunnels alive was another.
Her fiancé had a knack for finding trouble. And getting out of it.
So far, anyway.
The pallbearers dropped the crate, and Alessandro cried out. “Attento per favore.” He drove his hands through his hair. “Careful! Please! Yes? You understand? Questo pezzo non ha Prezzo.”
Alessandro’s switch to his native tongue showed how stressed he was. The Egyptians carrying the crate would probably have no idea what he’d said. But Alessandro’s tone was enough.
Their darting eyes widened as they chatted with each other, speaking in Arabic. The man in the red turban at the back spoke louder than the others, and working together, they picked up the crate again and shuffled forward.
“Yes, this way. Over here.” Alessandro guided them toward a platform in the center of the room that was flooded in light and had been built for the specific purpose of unveiling crate contents.
Rosalina clutched Nonna’s hand. “Let’s go see what they’ve found.”
“Oh, sì, sì.” Nonna’s pace was so snappy, Rosalina had trouble keeping up.
“Put it here. Sì. Yes, very careful.” Alessandro made an exaggerated sigh as the Egyptians lowered the crate and stepped back. With a feasting gaze, Alessandro approached the rustic wood, and closing his eyes, he placed his hands on the crate as if drawing strength from whatever was inside.
“Wait for me!” Ginger’s squeal echoed about the warehouse as she skipped into the room like a twelve-year-old gymnast.
Alessandro’s eyes shot open and fell on Rosalina, then Nonna at her side. “Nonna! You’re here!” He jumped down from the platform and strode to her. “Your timing is perfect.” They kissed each other’s cheeks. “Wait till you see what we brought up this time.”
He turned to Rosalina and kissed her cheeks too. “It’s incredible, Rosa.”
Alessandro’s fidgeting hit fever pitch, and his eyes blazed with excitement. “Questo è spettacolare. Aspetta di vedere.”
She’d seen that look on him many times since they’d started treasure hunting, but this was next level. “Well, don’t keep us waiting.” Rosalina giggled and shooed him away.
“Right!” Alessandro dashed onto center stage, taking prime position at the head of the crate. Ginger joined his side. Her cheeks were flushed, and her smile could stop traffic. She probably already had. If the giddy looks on the young Egyptian helpers were any way to judge, then it was probably gridlock from the lake to the warehouse.
Jimmy clapped his hands together, and despite him being halfway across the warehouse, the sound echoed so loudly, Rosalina just about jumped out of her skin.
“Jesus, Jimmy, you gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry.” His grin suggested he wasn’t. “I’ve been dying to lay my eyes on this piece properly since I first saw it in the tomb.”
Archer slinked in beside Rosalina and tugged her to his waist. “How’s my baby maker doing?”
“Perfect.” Their lips met for the briefest of kisses. “How are you?”
“Perfect.” The golden halo around his green irises danced in the stark lights.
“Archer. Jimmy.” Alessandro held out a pair of crowbars. “Would you gentlemen like the honors?”
“Hell yes.” Jimmy shot toward Alessandro like a soldier summoned to attention, and Archer was right behind him.
“All right, you lot, stand back,” Jimmy commanded from the stage.
Rosalina sidled in next to Nonna. “Can you see, Nonna?”
“Sì. Sì. What is in there?” Nonna’s eyes sparkled.
“No idea.” Whatever it was, it had Alessandro fidgeting like an agitated meerkat.
The crate wasn’t as big as the ones that’d been made for the chariot and the sarcophagus. Yet that didn’t lessen the intrigue.
Nonna rubbed her hands together. “Very exciting.”
A warmth caressed Rosalina like a glorious hug. This was a moment she’d remember forever, and not just because Nonna was there. Because everyone was. Jimmy, Alessandro, and even Ginger were her extended family. Her baby gave her a nudge, and smiling, she curved her hand over the bump that swelled more each day.
“Ready?” Jimmy hollered to Archer.
“Let’s do it.” Jimmy rammed the crowbar into the base of the crate, and Archer copied. Together they pushed on the immense tools to pry the bottom from the top. The nails in the crate emitted loud creaking noises as the timber was pulled up the metal spikes. Once the gap was high enough to put their fingers into it, Archer called over a couple of the Egyptian workers, and between the four of them, they lifted the crate upward.
Both hers and Nonna’s breaths caught as a glorious golden throne was gradually revealed.
They stepped forward, drawn to the treasure like butterflies to a bloom.
The throne was as tall as a barstool and wide enough that even Jimmy would have room to move if seated upon it. A golden glow emanated from the piece, warm and enchanting as if pleading for human touch. Utterly mesmerized, Rosalina inched closer. . . drawn to the exquisite piece like a magnet.
Two cat heads crafted from what looked like pure gold sat atop the back corner posts, and the gems in their eyes came alive in the piercing lights above. The arms of the chair depicted ducks, created with intricately detailed heads that formed handholds for those lucky enough to sit on the throne. The ducks’ eyes were rubies that radiated spears of tiny red laser beams as if casting a spell.
Alessandro pointed at the rear of the chair; his lips were parted, yet words failed to tumble from his throat. The chair back was gold, inlaid with colorful blue paint and jewels, depicting a man seated on the throne and an additional figure positioned on either side of him—one with a jackal head, and the other was a woman with a circular disc on her head.
Rosalina’s gaze drifted to Archer, expecting to see his expression oozing with boyish glee. It was the exact opposite.
A cloud had washed over his eyes, and it was so dark that her stomach lurched.
He cast a fleeting glance her way as if checking she was still there, then returned his attention to the throne. But Archer was no longer looking at it. He was seeing something that was so deep inside him, it plunged him into a harrowing place.
She wanted to run over to him, to ask what was wrong. But she wouldn’t. Not here with everyone else around them brimming with excitement. Archer would never open up like that.
Whatever hole his thoughts had tumbled into, he was struggling to claw himself out.
Archer had a history of guarding his secrets.
She hoped this was not one he’d keep.