The beach novel of 2005 is here - a sizzling summer thriller from the author of the #1 bestseller The Beach House.
The danger isn't in the water.
Working as a lifeguard at a Florida resort, Ned Kelly meets a woman he is wild about, the woman of his dreams. It feels perfect in every way - except that she is used to caviar and Manolo Blahniks, and he is used to burgers and flip-flops. She is a guest at the luxurious hotel - he lives above a garage.
So when Ned's cousin offers to cut him in on a rich deal he's been commissioned to execute, Ned can't turn him down. The plan is simple, just a fast break-and-enter. The risk is high, and the reward is even greater - $5 million. But on the night of the heist, something goes devastatingly wrong. Who will save the lifeguard?
Ned walks away from his job, his town, and the woman he's fallen in love with. Runs away, actually, knowing that only velocity and secrecy can save his life. But who is pursuing him? The FBI? Whoever sabotaged the heist? Or is it all somehow tied into his new love - and his oldest enemies?
I HAD MET TESS four days before, on a beautiful white sand beach along Palm Beach's North Ocean Boulevard.
"Ned Kelly" is how I always introduced myself. Like the outlaw. Sounds good at a bar, with a rowdy bunch crowded around. Except no one but a couple of beer-drinking Aussies and a few Brits really knew whom I was talking about.
That Tuesday I was sitting on the beach wall after cleaning up the cabana and pool at the estate house where I worked. I was the part-time pool guy, part-time errand runner for Mr. Sol Roth—;Sollie, to his friends. He had one of those sprawling, Florida-style homes you can see from the beach north of the Breakers and maybe wonder, Whoa, who owns that?
I cleaned the pool, polished up his collection of vintage cars from Ragtops, picked up mysteries specially selected for him by his buddies Cheryl and Julie at the Classic Bookshop, even sometimes played a few games of gin with him around the pool at the end of the day. He rented me a room in the carriage house above the garage. Sollie and I met at Ta-boó, where I waited tables on weekend nights. At the time I was also a part-time lifeguard at Midtown Beach. Sollie, as he joked, made me an offer I couldn't refuse.
Once upon a time, I went to college. Tried "real life." Even taught school for a while back up North, until that fell apart. It would probably shock my pals here that I was once halfway to a master's. In social education at BU. "A master's in what?" they'd probably go. "Beach management?"
So I was sitting on the beach wall that beautiful day. I shot a wave to Miriam, who lived in the large Mediterranean next door, who was walking her Yorkies, Nicholas and Alexandra, on the beach. A couple of kids were surfing about a hundred yards offshore. I was thinking I'd do a run-swim-run. Jog about a mile up the beach, swim back, then run hard up and back. All the while watching the ocean.
Then like some dream—there she was.
In a great blue bikini, ankle-deep in surf. Her long reddish brown hair knotted up in a twist with a flutter of tendrils.
Right away, it was as if there was something sad about her, though. She was staring vacantly at the horizon. I thought she was dabbing her eyes.
I had this flash: the beach, the waves, the pretty, lovelorn girl—like she was going to do something crazy!
On my beach.
So I jogged down to her in the surf. "Hey . . ."
I shielded my eyes and squinted into that gorgeous face. "If you're thinking what I think you are, I wouldn't advise it."
"Thinking what?" She looked up at me, surprised.
"I don't know. I see a beautiful girl on a beach, dabbing her eyes, staring forlornly out to sea. Wasn't there some kind of movie like that?"
She smiled. That's when I could see for sure she'd been crying. "You mean, where the girl on a hot afternoon goes in for an afternoon swim?"
"Yeah," I said with a shrug, suddenly a little embarrassed, "that's the one."
She had a thin gold chain around her neck, and a perfect tan. An accent, maybe English. God, she was a knockout.
"Guess I was just being cautious. Didn't want any accidents on my beach."
"Your beach?" she said, glancing up at Sollie's. "Your house, too, I guess?" She smiled, clearly toying with me.
"Sure. You see the window above the garage? Here, you can see it." I shifted her. "Through the palms. If you lean this way . . ."
Like an answer to my prayers, I got her to laugh.
"Ned Kelly." I stuck out my hand.
"Ned Kelly? Like the outlaw?"
I did a double take. No one had ever said that to me. I just stood there with a dumb-ass, starstruck grin. Don't think I even let go of her hand.
"Sydney. New South Wales," she said, displaying her Aussie "Strine," her accent.
"Boston." I grinned back.
And that was how it started. We chatted a little more, about how she'd been living there for a couple of months and how she'd take long walks on the beach. She said she might come back this way the next day. And I said there was a chance I might be there, too. As I watched her walk away, I figured she was probably laughing at me behind those $400 Chanel sunglasses.
"By the way," she said, suddenly turning, "there was a movie. Humoresque. With Joan Crawford. You should check it out."
I rented Humoresque that night, and it ended with the beautiful heroine drowning herself by walking into the sea.
And on Wednesday Tess came back. Looking even hotter, in this black one-piece suit and a straw hat. She didn't seem sad. We took a swim and I told her I would teach her how to bodysurf and for a while she went along. Then as I let her go she hopped the right wave and crested in like a pro. She laughed at me from the shore. "I'm from Australia, silly. We have our Palm Beach, too. Just past Whale Beach, north of Sydney."
We made a "date" for lunch at the Brazilian Court in two days. That's where she was staying, one of the most fashionable places in town, a few blocks off Worth Avenue. Those two days were like an eternity for me. Every ring of my cell phone I figured was her canceling. But she didn't. We met in Café Boulud, where you have to make a reservation a month in advance unless you're Rod Stewart or someone. I was as nervous as a kid going out on his first date. She was already sitting at the table in a sexy off-the-shoulder dress. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. We never even made it to dessert.
Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson
Billy Campbell studied acting at the Players Workshop of Second City in Chicago, and first appeared on Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre's 1992 production of Hamlet. He starred in the ABC series Once and Again, and appeared in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Big screen credits include Enough, with Jennifer Lopez, Disney's Rocketeer, and Gods and Generals, where he portrayed General Pickett.
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