Sample Chapter: Amazon Treasure
previously published as Treasure of the Amazon
Chapter 1 ~
Marisa should have found her circumstances terrifying, but now anger blinded her. The stolen money, the promised inheritance, her father’s constant doubts as to her ability to do something on her
own—none of these should have compelled her to come here.
Impatiently, she tapped her boot on the macadam of the Brazilian airport. Why was it so difficult to hire a private plane to take her into the jungle of Mato Grosso? Here she was in Brasilia, the Capitol city, and she might as well have been invisible.
She spoke to one pilot after another; polished, wearing suits and ties, they looked like businessmen from any American city. Most spoke varying degrees of English but could have spoken Portuguese for all that it mattered.
They looked her over with admiring stares, taking inexcusable liberties with their dark liquid eyes, and then promptly turned away when she asked them about Mato Grosso.
What was her stubbornness costing this time? Coming here, so far from her comfortable niche, wasn’t the first time she had burned her bridges.
Dabbing perspiration from her forehead, she remembered the cold, raw wind of winter pushing against her back as she left Virginia. Heat was better.
In the next hanger, Marisa spied a pair of broad shoulders connected to long, brown arms, leaning over scattered parts that could have once belonged to an airplane. She eyed the untidy pile of tools with distaste as she stepped over them, edging closer to the man.
“Excuse me. Do you speak English?” she asked.
The man turned slowly to face her. Marisa saw her own reflection in his rimless, aviator sunglasses. The tall, slender young woman with honey-blonde hair escaping from its usual prim twist at the nape of her neck wrinkled her nose at the image just as he removed the glasses. She was completely unprepared for the cool gray eyes fringed in dark lashes returning her stare. The slight sprinkle of silver mixed with his almost black hair gave him a certain dignity of appearance he probably didn’t deserve. His lips parted in a wide grin, sharp white contrasted against the honeynut tan of his face.
“Yep, I speak English.”
“Is this your employer’s plane?” She pointed to a shiny new craft near the rear of the hangar.
He looked puzzled for a moment, as if he didn’t understand her and then down at his grease-stained hands and clothing. A dark blue T-shirt molded to his chest and his tanned legs protruded from cutoff jeans.
“You might say that.”
It took him so long to answer that she wanted to walk away. She felt bedraggled, grimy, discouraged and plain tired. Her funds were too dangerously limited to stay in the city any length of time, waiting for someone to take her into the jungle.
“Is there any way I could speak to your boss?” She tried to match his easy nonchalance.
He scratched his chin reflectively, rasping the short, dark stubble, further grating against her taut nerves. His expression reflected some secret amusement he apparently did not plan to share with her.
“I don’t see as it’s any of your business.” She struggled for composure. The oaf enjoyed her discomfort, why let him get the best of the situation? Besides, he might be a pilot. He looked like a pilot.
“I need to get to Mato Grosso.”
He leaned against the workbench and folded his arms across his chest. “How many in your party?”
“You? Alone? Forget it!”
“But why not? I’m prepared to pay—within reason.”
The grin returned for a brief second, softening the hard planes of his jaw and then faded. “Why the Matos, of all places? You’re a tourist, aren’t you? Then go take a tour.”
To avoid waiting for the next expression to come into his eyes, she looked down at her heeled boots and kicked a small stone with savage intensity. “Yes—no—I mean I’m not a tourist. I didn’t come down here to sightsee, if that’s what you mean.” She wasn’t going to tell him about the treasure. The man was obviously an American adventurer, probably stranded here through lack of self discipline and common sense, and not to be trusted. It was as if she stood in the midst of an old Humphrey Bogart picture.
“If your ladyship cares to sit, I’ll get a couple of cold ones out of the fridge.” He motioned her toward a scruffy-looking couch.
She sat gingerly on the edge, expecting any moment that some loathsome creature would crawl onto her leg. She could abide snakes if they kept their distance, but she hated bugs of any kind.
“Now. Tell me all about it.” He cocked a dark eyebrow at her, stretching out his long legs as if he had all the time in the world.
Maybe he had time, but she didn’t. The pressure to get to the bottom of her family’s mystery money and find out what happened to Sara became like an avalanche perched just above her head.