BY James Patterson & Andrew Gross

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?

Chapter 3

"SO, I'M THINKING this was one of the top ten afternoons of my life." I folded my arms behind my head and tickled Tess playfully with my toes. Both of us were spread-eagle on the king-size bed in her hotel suite.

"So, you were a lifeguard on Midtown Beach," she was saying. "Before you became a kept man. What does a lifeguard do—in Palm Beach?"

I grinned, because Tess was so obviously tossing me a softball. "A good lifeguard is a true waterman," I said with a twinkle in my eye. "We watch the water. Is it glassy, choppy? Are there riffs? Smooth flashes warning of riptides? We warn the sleepy snowbird to roll over and fry the other side. Douse the occasional jellyfish encounter with a splash of vinegar. Stuff like that."

"But now you're a kept man?" She grinned.

"Maybe I could be," I said.

She turned. There was glimmer in her eye that was totally earnest. "You know what I said about your luck changing, Ned. Well, maybe I'm starting to feel the same way, too."

I couldn't believe that someone like Tess McAuliffe was actually saying this to me. Everything about her was first-class and refined. I mean, I wasn't exactly Average Joe; I knew if I was on the show, I'd be one of the hunks. But holding her, I couldn't help wondering what in her life had made her so sad. What she was hiding in her eyes that first day on the beach.

My eyes slowly drifted to the antique clock on the fold-out writing desk across from the bed. "Oh, Jesus, Tess!"

It was almost five. The whole afternoon had melted. "I know I'm going to regret these words . . . but I've got to go."

I saw that sad look from the other day come over her face. Then she sighed, "Me, too."

"Look, Tess," I said, putting a leg into my jeans, "I didn't know this was going to happen today, but there's something I have to do. I may not see you for a couple of days. But when I do, things are going to be different."

"Different? How different?"

"With me. For starters, I won't have to keep people out of trouble on the beach."

"I like you keeping people out of trouble on the beach." Tess smiled.

"What I mean is, I'll be free. To do anything you want." I started buttoning my shirt and searching around for my shoes. "We could go somewhere. The islands. That sound good?"

"Sure, it sounds good." Tess smiled, a little hesitantly.

I gave her a long kiss. One that said, Thank you for an amazing afternoon. Then it took everything I had to get out of there, but people were counting on me.

"Remember what I said. Don't move. Don't even blink. That's exactly how I want to remember you."

"What're you planning to do, Ned Kelly, rob a bank?"

I stood at the door. I took a long look at her. It was actually turning me on that she would even ask something like that. "I dunno," I said, grinning, "but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson

Read by Billy Campbell

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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