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Treasured Kisses (EBOOK)

Treasured Kisses (EBOOK)

Prequel to the Treasure Hunters Series

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She’s a feisty Italian chef. He’s a rogue treasure hunter. Can their love overcome Archer’s secret past?

When Rosalina left Italy to pursue her culinary dreams, she didn’t expect to meet a man like Archer Mahoney. The wealthy Aussie hunk is the man of her dreams, and his treasure hunting skills promise a lifetime of adventure. But she fears he’s hiding something that will threaten their relationship before it even starts.

Fate brought them together. Secrets may tear them apart. But one thing is certain--love is as unpredictable as treasure hunting.

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Main Tropes

  • Broken Alpha Hero
  • Treasure Hunt danger
  • Race against time

Synopsis

She’s a feisty Italian chef. He’s a rogue treasure hunter. Can their love overcome Archer’s secret past?
When Rosalina left Italy to pursue her culinary dreams, she didn’t expect to meet a man like Archer Mahoney. The wealthy Aussie hunk is the man of her dreams, and his treasure hunting skills promise a lifetime of adventure. But she fears he’s hiding something that will threaten their relationship before it even starts.
Archer’s talent for finding lost treasure is almost as good as his talent for finding trouble, but when his deadly past threatens to destroy his future, he'll do anything to keep the Italian beauty from his buried secrets.
Fate brought them together. Secrets may tear them apart. But one thing is certain--love is as unpredictable as treasure hunting.

Intro to Chapter One

Chapter 1

“I’m so sick of my asshole boss.” Rosalina shook her head at her best friend and carved her knife through her breakfast omelet with more aggression than needed.
“Oh crap, babe. What did he do this time?” Tracy slanted her head with an expression that was equal parts fury at Rosalina’s boss and sorrow for Rosalina. She’d been Rosalina’s sounding board on the subject on more occasions than Rosalina could count.
“He sacked Helena.” Rosalina sighed. Helena was the fourth employee he’d fired in three months.
Tracy’s eyes bulged. “Your new assistant? What for?”
“He made up some lame excuse about a customer complaint. Helena was just getting up to speed, too.” Every time Rosalina had a staff member sufficiently trained to take some workload off her, Frank would find a reason to dismiss them. Her restaurant was constantly suffering from not enough staff, let alone qualified ones.
It wasn’t actually her restaurant, but she treated it like it was. When things didn’t go according to plan, she owned that problem. But more and more frequently, it was her boss, the owner of Majestic Marlin, who was the problem. He rarely came into the restaurant, but when he did, he rolled in like a debt collector, casting negative vibes and a cutthroat attitude, and left her to clean up the mess afterwards.
“Why does he keep sacking everyone?” Tracy pierced Rosalina with her gaze, and it felt like she was reading Rosalina’s mind.
Rosalina hoped not. She’d barely slept last night and in every waking moment, she’d wondered whether it was time to head home to Italy.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Helena was doing great.” Nibbling on a slice of bacon that wasn’t crispy enough for her taste, Rosalina’s gaze drifted to the boats moored in the marina. Unlike the turmoil churning through her, the setting was peaceful.
A slight breeze had the ropes clanging on tall masts, creating an eclectic tune, and a pair of seahawks drifted in lazy circles overhead.
It was nothing like the ancient village where she’d grown up in Tuscany. But the view never grew tiresome.
Tracy pointed with her fork. “Maybe he wants the restaurant to fail. He’s in the middle of a divorce. His wife probably wants the restaurant, and that’s why he’s sabotaging you from making it a success.”
“Huh. I never thought of that.” Rosalina had been trying to build up Majestic Marlin ever since she took on the role of head chef six months ago.
Tracy’s eyes lit up. “That makes sense. He actually wants the income to plummet, but he can’t make it look obvious.”
“Well, he’s doing a damn good job of it. Every second night, someone complains about how long their meal takes.”
Tracy aimed her long red fingernail at me. “Don’t you go blaming yourself. What’re you supposed to do when he doesn’t give you enough staff to help in the kitchen?”
“Not just the kitchen. I do all the ordering now, too.” And the staff roster. And the meal prep. And the menu. The list went on and on.
Last week, Rosalina had worked nearly sixty hours. But they only paid her for forty. Every time she was on the verge of quitting, Frank would give her a little bonus and pitch all the accolades under the sun at her. He was a master manipulator.
No wonder his wife was divorcing him.
A woman, yelling at the top of her voice, had Rosalina turning toward the luxury yachts moored in the marina to her right.
She was easy to spot as she marched along the main pontoon, swinging her arms and stomping her feet. Her yelling continued, and her red face and foul language painted her rage.
Behind her, a blond man wearing a white T-shirt and crisp white shorts chased after her.
“Breakfast and a show.” Tracy giggled.
Halting, the woman spun to the man with her hands on her hips. “I always knew you didn't like me.”
The man threw his hands out, clearly frustrated. “It's not about liking you, Linda. It's about liking your meals. Your cooking is lousy.”
"He's a bit of a hottie." Tracy wiggled her perfectly plucked eyebrows at Rosalina. She’d found the man of her dreams last year, and ever since then, she’d made it her personal mission to find someone for Rosalina.
But with her crazy shifts at work, Rosalina had zero time for dating, let alone a relationship. Meeting Tracy for breakfast every Saturday morning was the highlight of her week. And for the Mondays she had off . . . they were dedicated to catching up on sleep.
Rosalina turned back to the couple on the pontoon. He was a hottie. Ruggedly handsome with a chiseled jaw and blond wavy hair that was sufficiently ruffled. Masculine enough to not be a pretty boy. And muscular enough to confirm he looked after himself.
The woman on the pontoon removed her apron and hurled it at him. “Find someone else to cook your stupid lunch today. I quit!”
He snatched the apron from the air. "I should've sacked you ages ago. Your attitude stinks, Linda."
Linda released a demonic scream, charged at the man, and shoved him in the chest.
To his credit, he spun on his heel and marched away, shaking his head. His white knee-length shorts were a lovely contrast to his tanned legs. And his T-shirt was just the right fit to reveal the bulging muscles in his arms and chest.
Rosalina reached for her coffee. "Looks like somebody is having a bad day."
Tracy wriggled her eyebrows. "Looks like somebody needs a chef.”
Rosalina turned back to the man. She expected him to stop at one of the boats moored alongside the dozen or so pontoons, but he kept going towards the massive yachts at the end.
Curious, she shifted in her seat, watching to see which one he boarded.
He went to the very last pontoon and disappeared behind a massive yacht named Evangeline. A yacht that size was probably worth about three million dollars.
She and Tracy had been having breakfast every Saturday morning at the Cairns Marina Café for about six months. The café offered average meals, however, their coffee was amazing. The major attraction was the spectacular view over the marina, and it was the perfect location to spot any eye candy. There was always something to see. But this was the first time they’d ever witnessed a heated argument.
People who frequented the marina and surrounding cafés and shops ranged from the rich and famous, to captains and crew in crisp white uniforms, to suntanned backpackers trying to earn a living.
"You should go after him.” Tracy nodded at her like she had the answer to world hunger.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean go after him. Looks like he needs a chef and you're the best chef in this town. It’ll be fun.”
Glancing toward Evangeline again, Rosalina searched for the man, but he’d gone. She scrunched her nose at Tracy. “Do you think?”
“Hell yeah! I think! Hot guy. Fancy yacht. He needs a chef. What have you got to lose?”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. We do this all the time, but that . . .” She pointed toward the massive yacht at the end of the pier. “That’s something very new.”
It was tempting. They’d been staring at these million-dollar yachts for months. It would be great to see inside one, and maybe earn a few extra dollars. “But I have to work this afternoon.”
“That woman said it was just to cook lunch. He might only need you for a couple of hours.”
“But what if it’s a whole day?”
“Then call in sick.”
Rosalina cocked her head. “I can’t do that. I have a restaurant to run.”
“If you really were sick, your asshole boss would have to find someone to replace you. It’ll teach him a lesson for sacking Helena.”
“Hmmm.” She was right.
Tracy plonked her coffee mug down, demanding attention. “Just go see Mr. Hottie will ya? Depending on what he says, we can figure out the rest.”
Tracy had an answer for everything. She always did.
When Rosalina had landed in Australia on a tourist visa from Italy five years ago, Tracy had been one of the first people she’d met in the backpacker hostel in Sydney. They’d hit it off straight away, and together, they’d cruised up the eastern seaboard of Australia doing odd jobs and partying way too much.
They’d arrived in Cairns about a year ago, and when Tracy had met Peter, they hadn’t moved on.
Rosalina couldn’t remember the last time she’d done something crazy and fun and spontaneous.
Maybe it is time for an adventure.
Rosalina drank the last of her cappuccino. “Okay then.”
Tracy squealed. "Oh my God, babe. This is awesome.”
Rosalina cocked her head. “Don’t get too excited. And don’t lose our table. I’ll probably be back in ten minutes, and I’ll want another coffee.”
“I bet you’re not.” Tracy wiggled her perfect brows.
Rosalina stood and straightened out her dress. “Do I look okay?"
“Are you kidding? You’re the hottest chick around.”
She scooped her bag off the chair, swung it over her shoulder, and with nerves skipping through her stomach, Rosalina headed toward the biggest yacht in the marina.
As she strolled along the main pontoon, a wolf whistle drifted to her. Grinning, Rosalina glanced back toward Cairns Marina Café.
Tracy waved like a lunatic and whistled again. “Go get ’em, Rosa.”
She shooed her friend away with the flick of her hand. Shaking her head, she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face as she aimed for the sleek lines of Evangeline and tried to picture how this would go.
She had no intention of leaving her current job. Not after Frank had gone to all the trouble of filling her visa requirements so she could extend her stay in Australia. And she couldn’t afford to be unemployed.
Cairns was a North Queensland tourist destination for those who wanted a hot, tropical climate, and with the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep, it was a popular spot for scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world.
Boats moored in the marina ranged from charter vessels to luxury liveaboards, and there were both sailing and motor boats. Evangeline was so big it occupied two berths. The luxury super yacht was all sleek lines and highly polished chrome. Whoever owned it sure looked after it.
The ramp to board the yacht was in position, and the gate at the top was open. Pausing on the pontoon, she shielded her hand against the sun, and called up to the yacht. “Hello?”
She searched for signs of movement, but couldn’t see anything beyond the sun glinting off the windows. “Hello, is anyone there?”
Where are you, Mr. Hottie?
The yacht was so big it wasn’t surprising that he couldn’t hear her.
Shrugging, she gripped the railing and climbed up the ramp. “Hello, captain of Evangeline?”
Giggling to herself, she swept her gaze left and right, searching for the spunk in the white uniform.
At the top, she halted again and tried to peer into the windows. But the tint was so dark, she couldn’t see inside. “Hello, the ship?”
Still, nothing.
Where did he go?
She stepped through an open door and entered the lifestyle of someone rich and possibly famous.
Her breath hitched as her gaze skipped from one amazing view to the next. The enormous room had a lounge area that seated a dozen people. The white sofas looked to be made of expensive leather and were topped with fluffy, navy cushions with gold trim that were to die for. Beyond that was a fully stocked bar with subtle lighting that reflected in the smoky glass mirror lining the back wall.
“Who the hell are you?”
She spun to the booming voice. A shriek burst from her throat.
“Oh hi, I’m ummm, I’m Rosalina, and I, I called out to you. But you didn’t answer.”
He waggled his head. “So, you just stepped onboard.”
Her heart thundered. “I called out.”
He folded his arms across his chest, bulging his biceps. “Look, lady, I don’t have time for this bullshit.”
“Ahhh, yeah, I saw what happened with that lady. Linda.”
“And what? You want to give me a hard time about it?” Shaking his head, he glared at the ceiling like he was seeking strength from the subtle lighting.
“No, actually. I was going to offer you help with your cooking problem.”
His eyes traveled up her body, and she clenched her jaw at his invasive attention.
She’d seen all she wanted to see. Rosalina already had one asshole man in her life. She sure didn’t need another.
“Forget it.” She spun on her heel and stormed away. “Bastardo.”

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