Book 2 in the Treasure Hunters Series
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The deep underwater discovery of a 13th century shipwreck loaded with golden relics quickly turns deadly when Archer and Rosalina come under attack from a dangerous black-market antiquities dealer with lethal instincts and funds to burn.
⭐ Quest for answers⭐Evil nemises ⭐Race against time ⭐Hidden secrets ⭐Broken hero ⭐Tragic childhood ⭐ Kick-ass heroine
Treasured Lies is book 2 in the complete Treasure Hunters Series. ❤️Buy the full series in a book bundle to save $$$, and receive a bonus prequel for FREE.
"Once again Kendall Talbot takes you on the ride of your life ! The scenery description is so real you can see the ocean floor and smell the salt air. The mysteries begin to unfold and the bad guys abound. One in particular you are led to believe is invincible. And then you have the love of Archer and Rosa to bring spice to the story. A non stop read. You won't want to put it down." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Janet Ross
"Aussie author Kendall Talbot has an excellent mix of romance and spine chilling suspense throughout this book." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Brenda Telford
"As with the first book (in this series) this one is full of exotic places, Rosalina’s delicious foods, excitement of historic treasures, life at sea and underwater diving, and the rush of danger. The romance and passion has not cooled in fact, it grows deeper and heats up quite a bit between Archer and Rosa. I enjoyed the secondary romance going on, too. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Sophia Rose
- Broken Alpha Hero
- Treasure Hunt danger
- Race against time
A sunken treasure. Another dangerous enemy.
The discovery of a 13th century shipwreck loaded with golden relics should have been the highlight of Archer’s treasure hunting career. But his lucky find quickly turns deadly when Archer and his new fiancé, Rosalina, find themselves under attack from a dangerous black-market antiquities dealer with lethal instincts and funds to burn.
Rosalina has already killed one man over the priceless contents of The Flying Seahorse—and if it means protecting Archer, she’ll do it again.
But a new enemy isn’t the only threat rising from the shadows. Their nightmare is just beginning. And Archer wonders if some treasures were never meant to be found…
Treasured Lies is book two in the completed Treasure Hunters series. Download your next action-packed treasure hunt today and get comfy.
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Nox’s eyes stung. No, that was an understatement. It was more like glass shards were shredding his eyes to pieces. He wanted to open them. Had to open them to see where he was. But the agony was brutal.
He wanted to rub his eyes, but he couldn’t move his arms.
Nox clawed at his memory, trawling for details of what had happened.
Images, like those from a faulty 8mm film, flicked across his mind. It was a crazy concoction of blood and water, lots of water—oceans even. Then there were stars, clouds, and the sun, so hot and intense it burned him until he shriveled like a dying toad.
The other memory—the one that shot acid to his stomach—was the pain.
Brutal, excruciating pain that ran in relentless rivers down his legs.
Strangely, there was nothing now.
He couldn’t feel anything. Not his arms, his legs, or his feet. The acid in his stomach shot to his throat, and Nox fought the urge to throw up. He gasped for air, forcing back the bitter bile. His tongue was a solid, useless lump and Nox rolled it around his mouth, trying to create some moisture.
A tear rolled out of his right eye and over his nose.
I’m on my side.
Again, he tried to move, centering all his focus on his arms, but it was like a great concrete blanket was pinning him down. He couldn’t stand it anymore.
Wincing at the pain, he forced his eyes open and blinked. But there was nothing but blackness.
Tears pooled in his eyes as horrid thoughts petrified him.
What if they aren’t tears?
What if it’s blood?
What if I’m blind?
Nox forged through the agony and blinked more, desperate for clarity. And then he saw it—a faint glow, low down in the distance.
He trained his eyes on it, and gradually, the glow became a solid horizontal line.
The gap beneath a door.
Other objects emerged from the blackness in front of him. A chair. A table. Not a normal table, though. This one was rough, with jagged edges and mismatched wood. Driftwood maybe, and the way it looked, it must have been put together by kids. He saw the ladder next and traced its line upwards to a landing or a loft of some sort.
Am I in a barn?
A lamp hung from the top rung. It was old. Ancient even. One of those types that required fuel and a flame. The smell registered somewhere back in his brain. Kerosene. But that wasn’t all he could smell. He also smelled rotting fish. Or was it death?
Or is it my foul body odor?
Having lived with Trimethylaminuria all his life, it was rare for him to detect the pungent stench that wafted from his skin in times of stress or excitement. What he was smelling now, though, was nothing like his Fish Odor Syndrome.
No. This was worse. Beyond worse. I have to get out of here.
The putrid stench flooded his nostrils, and Nox heaved. Pain rippled through his body. He bucked at the agony. A scream burst from his throat, but it was barely a strangled croak.
Nox heaved again.
He gasped. His world spun.
A creature darted across the floor, and Nox slipped into blackness.
Rosalina glanced up at the three people watching her from the saloon deck of Evangeline. Jimmy leaned on his muscular arms, but that was about as far as his relaxed state went. His bloodshot eyes confirmed his agony. If he wasn’t riddled with stitches and recovering from a serious bullet wound, she’d have had to fight him for the coveted place of diving for treasure with Archer.
She tugged her hair into a ponytail, curled it over her shoulder, and braced for the weight of her scuba tank. It didn’t matter how many times she’d done this—it always amazed her how heavy a cylinder of air could be.
“Ready?” Archer lifted the tank and her buoyancy vest to his knee with such ease that she wondered if it was empty. It wouldn’t be. Archer was meticulous in his pre-dive safety checks.
She fed her arms through the vest and braced for the weight. “Yes. I’m Ready.”
Archer lowered the tank, and she leaned forward to avoid toppling backwards. He came to her front and helped click her vest buckles into place.
Alessandro stood beside Jimmy. He, too, was recovering from injuries, but he didn’t mask his pain as well as Jimmy tried to. Alessandro had always been more of an indoor man. As a professor of ancient history and architecture, he’d spent his life in museums and lecture halls. Being in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the Greek Islands, had probably never been on Alessandro’s agenda and what they were about to do would put him so far out of his usual daily life, it was a wonder he could think straight.
Maybe Ginger, who was hanging off his arm, was feeding some bravado into Alessandro’s veins. There was a naïve excitement about her that reminded Rosalina of her twenty-year-old self, and it was hard not to like her bubbly, though sometimes ditsy, personality.
The only other person onboard Evangeline was Archer’s mother, Helen. But Helen rarely ventured from her bedroom. She barely did anything. She was a tormented soul, trapped in a horrific past that consumed her present.
“Hurry up, you two. I’m getting old just watching ya.” Jimmy grunted.
Ever since Rosalina had found a gold plate, the first solid proof of the location of the Calimala treasure, Jimmy had barely spoken of anything else. He was an impatient man and looked as uncomfortable as a bear in shackles.
Rosalina dragged her gaze away from him, fighting a rollercoaster of both excitement and guilt over diving without him.
“Here we go, baby.” Archer cupped her cheeks and kissed her. Just a brief kiss.
When he stepped back, Rosalina popped her regulator in her mouth and breathed in to ensure her air was flowing. Satisfied, she dropped the regulator to her side, and careful not to trip over her fins, she shuffled forward to the edge of the dive deck.
“Don’t go messin’ things around down there.” Jimmy’s gruff voice rained down from the upper deck.
Archer stood at her side, kitted up and ready to drop into the deep blue Mediterranean Sea with her. He grinned at Jimmy. “You know we won’t, big fella.”
Archer was all beaming smiles and twinkling eyes, like he was high on drugs. Hunting for treasure was his drug.
It was in Archer’s bones.
Today, they were hoping to finish a treasure hunt Archer’s father had started nearly twenty years ago.
“Come on. What’re you waiting for?” Jimmy huffed an enormous breath.
Rosalina would bet her shiny new engagement ring that he’d throw them overboard if he could. As she tugged her neoprene glove on, the brilliant diamond danced in the sun. It was a spectacular single stone in an elegant setting, and she still wasn’t used to wearing it.
She couldn’t wait to show Nonna. Her grandmother would be delighted by the classic style Archer had chosen for her.
She tugged the glove over her fingers, making certain it was safe.
Archer saluted his old mate. “Calm down, big fella. You’ll pop your stitches.” Archer turned to Rosalina. “After you, madam.”
Rosalina blew Jimmy a kiss, tugged her mask into position on her face, pushed the regulator into her mouth, inflated her vest, took one step forward and then, with a giant stride, she dropped into the ocean.
The warm water hugged her in welcome as she bobbed to the surface and gave the okay signal to Archer. He then dropped in beside her and replicated the okay signal to Jimmy.
Despite the regulator concealing his mouth, Rosalina could tell Archer was smiling. The halo of golden flecks danced around his coffee-colored irises.
Archer flicked his thumb downwards. Time to descend.
She let the air out of her vest and lowered beneath the surface. With one hand on the anchor line, she followed Archer toward the sandy bottom. The water was a comfortable seventy-five degrees and visibility was excellent, allowing her to see at least a hundred feet into the deep blue around her.
Right from the moment she submersed, the stunning coral-covered ocean floor captivated Rosalina.
Contentment embraced her, taking her into a world that was as leisurely and tranquil as it was colorful. Pinks, blues, and purples were bountiful and the farther she descended, the more prolific the colors became.
Fish were in abundance. Blue fish no bigger than a Brazil nut darted about in a large, synchronized school. When one shot left, hundreds of the little fish did the same. Next second, they’d all dart to the right as if their moves were choreographed. It was an amazing natural spectacle. Large yellow fish decorated with black spots chased each other about the coral, darting in and out of the plant life as if playing a game of tag.
Before she reached the bottom, the pair of board shorts Archer had tied to the coral the last time he was there caught her attention. She remembered laughing at him as he’d tugged those bright shorts over his fins.
But that had been when the fun had ended.
Realizing she was biting down on her mouthpiece, she tried to shove The Incident from her mind. The Incident. That was what they’d labeled it.
What else do you call the moment you killed a man to save the people you love?
Archer caught her attention, pointed to the wafting board shorts, and gave her the okay signal. Obviously, her fiancé wasn’t sharing the same apprehension she was.
She followed him to the marker and as she neared, she noticed the change to the sandy bottom. The last time Archer was there, he and Jimmy had dug several valuable items from the sand, and the decent-sized divot they’d made was still there.
She’d thought the steady current would’ve removed any signs of their last visit.
Being this close to the shore of Greece’s Anafi Island had sheltered this location more than she’d expected. It also explained why the precious pieces they’d already discovered were in pristine condition, even after being submerged in seawater and buried within the fine sand for nearly seven hundred years.
Rosalina kneeled beside Archer on the sand and she imagined all manner of precious treasures begging to be found amongst the grains of sand at her feet. The desire to start digging was like the desire she’d feel if someone had put a six-tiered gateau cake, laced with cream, chocolate, and liquor in front of her, given her a fork, and then told her not to taste it.
That was her idea of torture.
But this dive was a planning one. A dive to mark out the area, dividing it into bite-size portions to ensure a systematic approach to their search. Archer was an expert at treasure recovery, having done it many times.
Rosalina, though, had never laid grid lines before.
Archer had briefed her on the process before the dive, and all she had to do was wait for his signals and follow his lead and be ready to dig when he was. Hopefully, they’d have a few minutes for that on this dive.
Archer pushed a spike into the soft sand and, with a hammer he tugged from the net bag at his hip, he drove the spike deeper. Satisfied it was secure, he tied one end of white cord around the spike. With a signal for Rosalina to follow, he pushed off and swam away from the marker.
After swimming two yards, he stopped and drove another spike into the ground and tied the cord around it too. Rosalina’s job was to monitor the surroundings and make sure they stuck to their strict time limits.
A circular shadow creeping across the sand made her look up. Above her, cruising along in the current, was an enormous sea turtle—the largest she’d ever seen. Its shell was as big as her torso. Despite its size, the beautiful creature moved with the grace of an eagle, gliding its fins through the water as if it had all the time in the world. Maybe it did.
Archer waved his hand in front of her face, dragging her attention from the turtle. He indicated he was moving onto the next point. The process was repeated over and over, and fifty minutes of their dive time lapsed quickly.
Rosalina indicated they had ten minutes left. Archer tugged his regulator from his mouth, blew her a kiss, then grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the first square they’d marked out in the grid.
He dropped to his knees at the edge of the divot he and Jimmy had made last time. They would spend the remaining ten minutes digging. It surprised Rosalina he’d lasted this long. After what he’d pulled from the sand last time he was there, it must’ve been killing him not to dig the instant they revisited the spot, just like it’d been killing her.
He wiggled his eyebrows, grinned at her, then sunk his fingers into the soft sand and dug back a handful. Rosalina began at her own spot and pushed her gloved hands into the sand, too. Just the thought of discovering a piece of treasure, gold, silver or a gem of any kind that’d been buried beneath the sand for seven centuries, set her heart racing.
The large plate she’d removed last time, heavy with solid gold and etched with intricate patterns, was priceless. It was now secured within the safe on Archer’s yacht along with the fourteen other items Jimmy and Archer had removed the last time they were there.
Rosalina felt something—a thread or maybe a cord. She brushed back the sand and waved the dispersed particles away in the current. The cord revealed itself quickly, and the gold glimmered in the filtered sunlight like the birth of a dawn over the ocean.
What she’d thought to be a cord was, in fact, a chain. A gold chain.
The links were significant, equal in size to her little finger, or possibly bigger? She hooked her fingers beneath the chain and teased it from the sand. Rosalina pulled and wriggled the chain with equal measure, but it refused to leap from its clutches.
Digging at a frantic pace, inch by inch, along the chain, she found herself holding her breath.
Oh shit! Not good Rosalina. Focus.
Inhaling a few calming breaths, she used the moment to wave Archer over.
Archer launched to her side and his eyes twinkled when he saw the gold links. She pulled on the roped gold while he brushed away the sand.
A link in the chain was revealed that differed from the others. It was thicker, wider, and smoother.
Archer stopped his frantic brushing and slowed to a more delicate touch.
The thicker link was attached to what looked like a dome. Is it a bell?
Suddenly, it released from the sand in a swirl of debris, and Rosalina fell backwards. She scrambled to right herself, desperate to see what it was.
Archer cupped the golden relic in his hands as if it were a sleeping kitten.
What she’d thought was a dome was actually the crown of a man’s head on a gold bust. The whole thing was too big to be a necklace, but she couldn’t work out what else it could be.
The bust filled Archer’s hands and was crafted with incredible detail. The hair was symbolized with dozens of gold rosettes, curled together with detailed precision, and the beard was hundreds of tiny pearls of gold.
By contrast, the face was smooth, created with obvious expert craftsmanship, and in the filtered sunlight, it came alive in Archer’s hands.
Rosalina frowned when Archer pointed at the horns on the statue’s head. They were a strange addition to the beautiful figurine. It was most likely a statue of some kind of mythical god.
Archer oozed boyish exuberance. His eyes twinkled. He wriggled his eyebrows. And his dimples were a sure sign he was smiling. He tugged his regulator from his mouth and she did the same.
They shared an underwater kiss, not lingering, or sensual, or erotic. But a fun kiss to celebrate their lucky find.
When he pulled back, he poked his tongue out at her before he put his regulator back in his mouth. She did the same, and when she looked at her dive watch, her heart skipped a beat.
Shit! We’ve exceeded our dive time limit by three minutes.
Rosalina shoved her dive watch before Archer’s mask, drawing his eyes to the time. He nodded and handed her the golden statue. She grasped the figurine, threaded it and the chain into the net bag at her hip and signaled ‘boat’. Together, they pushed off the ocean floor and glided toward the surface.
Fifteen feet from the fresh air, they clung to the anchor rope as they waited out their decompression for five minutes.
As she paused there, an abundance of fish scooted about and another giant turtle, as big as the last, cruised past them. It came so close she watched it blink, like the ancient creature winked at her.
Rosalina felt very welcome in the turtle’s home. It always amazed her how unafraid sea creatures were in her presence. Whenever she dived, she felt a genuine sense of contentment and belonging.
Although, unlike Archer, she’d never come face to face with a killer shark.
And after what happened to him, she hoped she never did either.