Her Other Secret
Book 1 in the Whitaker Island Series
Is it the perfect escape?
Whitaker Island is more than a getaway. For Tessa Jenkins, the remote strip of land in Washington state is a sanctuary. Fleeing from a shattering scandal, she has a new name, a chance at a new beginning, and a breathtaking new view: Hansen Rye. It’s hard not to crush on Whitaker’s hottest handyman. At six-foot-three and all kinds of fine, he’s also intensely private—and the attraction between them soon simmers dangerously out of control.
…or a private trap for two lovers?
After a devastating family tragedy, Hansen finds the pebbled shores of the faraway island to be an ideal refuge. Letting down his guard for the sexy, impulsive Tessa is an unexpected pleasure. But there’s another newcomer to Whitaker. He’s no stranger to Hansen. And when he’s murdered, the crime casts a threatening shadow. As suspicion falls on Hansen, all his secrets are about to collide with Tessa’s. Now the pasts they were determined to outrun are catching up to them. So is a killer who’s putting their love—and their lives—on the line.
Her Other Secret
Book 1 in the Whitaker Island Seriesjump to ordering options →
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Whitaker Island Series
People didn’t wash up on Whitaker Island’s pebbled shores by accident. No one just stumbled around and found the small strip of land tucked into the northwest corner of Washington state. It was a destination. A person had to want to land there. By ferry or private plane, it took effort.
Trees shadowed over half the twenty square miles, and the scent of lavender from the nearby fields drifted over the land. The island once housed a prison and continued to be the perfect place to disappear. A sanctuary for people on the wrong side of the law who needed a restart, for battered wives mysteriously gone missing, or for anyone searching for a new life.
Tessa Jenkins ended up there because she had nowhere else to go. The island offered hope and quiet. A new start . . . and, unexpectedly, him. Nothing prepared her for Hansen Rye. A six-foot-three hottie with black hair and thick dark glasses that only highlighted his hotness. Part Asian—Korean, she thought but hadn’t asked—and all kinds of fine.
He’d proved many times that he could build or fix almost anything, and as the island’s most sought-after handyman, he was often called on for the oddest of chores. Today, she was the one who did the calling.
His sneakers crunched against the tiny gray pebbles lining the island’s oddly named Throwaway Beach. “Why are we here again?”
That voice. Deep and husky and somewhat annoyed. Hansen wasn’t much of a people person and seemed to wear that as a badge of honor. He gave off the impression he only tolerated other humans, preferring to live in semi-isolation and only pop out when he needed to earn some money to pay for food.
He had a few friends, but he listened more than talked. He tended to watch people, assessing, almost waiting for them to make a wrong move. Not that he was mean. But his mood often hovered around grumpy.
Almost every woman on the island—age four through ninety-four—seemed to harbor a secret crush on him. There was no end to the list of “chores” women and men, everyone actually, created that required his expert handling. If he noticed the attempts to charm and seduce him, he hid it well. Even with her, unfortunately. Not that she went on the attack or stripped down or anything, though she had been tempted more than once. But she did flirt.
A woman could flirt . . . and it would be nice if the guy noticed.
He snapped his fingers in front of her face. “Hey, Tessa.”
Okay, that was a little much. “Don’t do that.”
He actually looked confused by her comment. She was just about to tell him what she thought about his thoroughly unnecessary dude gesture when she glanced up into those dark brown eyes and her brain blinked off. Just for a second, but there it went. “Huh?”
He exhaled. “You said you wanted to show me something.”
The actual chore. Right.
“The boat.” She ignored the sharp smell of fish and salt highlighted with each incoming wave and nodded in the direction of the yacht that hadn’t moved for more than twenty-four hours.
Hansen just shot her a blank stare.
She tried again. “In the water.” When he doubled down on the staring she pointed at the vessel bobbing not that far off the shoreline. “Right there.”
She didn’t know much about boats, but she estimated this one to be more than fifty feet long. Sleek and white with slashes of black highlighting the sides. It rose up three stories from the deep blue water—the open upper deck, the main one with the windows and back area where swimmers could jump into the water, and then the obvious cabin below. She guessed it had a bedroom but there was no sign of life on the thing.
After following the direction of her finger, he exhaled again. Put a lot of oompf behind it this time. “Yeah, I know what a boat is.”
She ignored the sarcasm, though that was getting tough since it seemed to be his go-to tone this morning. “Why is it there?”
“Where else should a boat be?”
Sarcasm andsnottiness. That was a powerfully unattractive combo. He was lucky he looked like that, all fit and chiseled with a healthy glow that didn’t fit the usually cloudy skies blowing over Whitaker, and had those handyman skills, or no one would talk to him. “You’re annoying.”
He shot her one of his usual what’s-wrong-with-you scowls. “Me?”
“I think something happened to it. The boat, I mean. It could be disabled. The people might need help.”
“Is it possible you’re jumping to conclusions?”
Yes, of course.Not that she’d admit that out loud.
“No.” She recalled the mental list she put together last night when she vowed to call him if the boat still hadn’t moved this morning. The one she’d memorized in case a situation just like this happened. “It’s too close to shore. It hasn’t moved. I haven’t seen any sign of life. Not one person. And there were no lights on it last night.”
“Wait a second.” He held up a hand up, as if she didn’t know what waitmeant. “You’re saying you’ve been stalking the boat since last night?”
“Is that the point?”
He actually snorted. “Maybe it should be.”
The dismissive noise grated across her nerves. The guy really could use a How Not To Piss Off Your Neighbors course. “We have a harbor. There’s more than one marina on Whitaker. There’s the Yacht Club, which is right on the water. A boat could pull in there.”
“The boat is in the water right now.” He stopped as if he were trying to make some big point before starting again. “That’s basically how boats work. You get in them and then go out on the water.”
He grew less attractive by the second. “Are you trying to be difficult?”
His serious expression suggested he teetered on the verge of delivering the same lecture he might give an unreasonable four-year-old. “Look—”
“No.” She was not in the mood for him to launch into some sort of condescending male speech. Honestly, it would be far too disappointing. She’d had a thing—not serious and not really worth discussing—for Hansen since she met him, which happened approximately thirty-eight minutes after she moved to Whitaker. If it turned out he really was all-ass-all-the-time instead of just a little testy as she decided sometime during the last six weeks of knowing him, well, that was more than her very active fantasy life, which centered solely on him, could handle.
“Okay.” He nodded, all strains of frustrated male gone as if he’d found a well of calm somewhere in that pretty head and was dipping into it. “Let’s start over.”
Better.It was good to know that maybe she hadn’t wasted all of that fantasy time on him.
“Last night I was—” A blur to her right grabbed her attention. It started with a wave as the water lapped against the shoreline. Then the ripple grew into a full-grown man. He wore a business suit and walked right out of the water, head down with his dark hair hanging over his face. His movements were somewhat slowed by what had to be a hundred pounds of wet wool. He walked across the pebbled beach about thirty feet behind Hansen.
But the big news about the drenched dude’s dramatic movie entrance was how he walked away from them without saying a word, as if all of this was perfectly normal.
Hansen cleared his throat. “You know you stopped talking in the middle of a sentence, right?”
“The man . . .” Good lord, how did she even describe it? Instead, she reached for Hansen’s arm and tugged and shifted until she had him turning around, facing the man who was now walking toward the line of trees that grew right up to the edge of the rocky beach. “Do you see him?”
Hansen frowned. “Huh.”
She stepped in front of him. “That’s the sum total of your response?”
“It’s weird. I’ll give you that.”
“Why are you standing here? Go get him!”
The man disappeared into the wall of trees. Didn’t stop. Didn’t turn his head or look at them. Didn’t acknowledge them in any way.
Once he was gone, Hansen looked down at her again. “Why?”
“Why?”She shook him becausecome on. “He could be hurt.”
Hansen had the nerve to shrug. “He looks fine.”
“Or maybe he’s a criminal.”
“Then why would I run after him?”
She didn’t bother to launch into the list of reasons, the most obvious being that his best friend happened to be what counted as law enforcement on the island. “He’s getting away.”
“Where is he going to go? We’re surrounded by water.”
“You’re actually serious right now?” When he didn’t say anything, she tried very hard to ignore the disappointment flowing through her at Hansen not being all heroicand ready to do battle.
Her fantasy man would have chased the stranger down.
Just as she started to move, Hansen caught her arm. “Whoa there.”
She didn’t even spare him a glance. “Someone has to go.”
“Seriously?” His fingers grazed her cheek as he turned her head to face him again. “No way.”
Instead of answering, she rolled her eyes at him.
That drew an exaggerated male sigh out of him. “Fine. Stay here.”
“I’m not agreeing to that.”
Before she could get her bearings or assess how she felt about him hovering so close and resting his hand on her forearm and that sexy soft touch, he was gone. The Hansen she knew usually took his time and moved slow. It’s part of what made him such a joy to watch. He could chug a water bottle like no one she’d ever seen, throat guzzling, firm chin up. It was quite the sight. But this version of Hansen, the athletic, racing-into-danger type? Also very good.
Small rocks kicked up behind him as he shot across the beach, dodging stray pieces of driftwood. He moved into the crowd of trees and out of sight before her mind restarted. That didn’t stop her from trying to follow. She just reached the edge of the treeline when he popped back out again, not even breathing heavy, and how sexy was that? But he was also alone, and that part she didn’t get.
“Well?” she asked.
“I lost him.”
“Actually, it is. The trees are densely packed. Very little light gets in and there’s lots of ground cover. Once he went off the path he could hide anywhere.”
“He was weighed down by a soaking wet business suit and probably doesn’t know the island, and he beat you?” She couldn’t fight off the wince.
That stunned voice wasn’t good. Apparently she’d hit on some sort of soft spot on his ego. “Wrong word?”
He gave a stiff nod. “Yeah.”
Since his voice sounded gruff now and he had that whole furrowed brow thing going on, she let his failure go. “Let’s find Ben.”
Good. Grief.“He’s the police guy on the island. Admittedly, he sucks at it, but still.”
Hansen coughed. It clearly sounded fake, as if he were trying to bite back a laugh. “You think he sucks at his job?”
This was a touchy subject for her and a dangerous one to wade into, what with the two men being friends and all. “Yes.”
For the first time all morning Hansen smiled and it lit up his face. “Did you tell him that?”
“Yesterday.” She tried to beat back the warmth that spread through her at his happiness. She needed to concentrate on his refusal to see the seriousness of this situation first. “But even I can admit he needs to know if there’s some sort of merman on the island.”
Hansen’s smile fell. “What did you just say?”
She could only assume he’d never read a book. “Male mermaid.”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “That’s not a thing.”
“All. Of. It.”
She had no idea why he was so touchy about this topic. It’s not as if she believed the wet guy really was a merman or that they really existed, but they were a thing in fiction. “Merman is a real word.”
“I will go with you to see Ben if you promise never to saymermanagain.” He sneered as he said the word.
“You’re more than a little weird, Hansen.”
“Right back at ya.”
End of Excerpt
Her Other Secret
This riveting story with a sexy, edgy vibe moves at breakneck speed and splendidly launches a hot new series.
— Library Journal
RITA Award-winning Dimon turns up the sensual heat level to full boil in the compulsively readable launch to her Whitaker Island series, while still delivering the razor-sharp wit for which she has become known and loved.
Dimon perfectly balances the romance with the suspense in this thrilling, action-filled whodunit.
— Publishers Weekly
Dimon demonstrates her romantic suspense chops, setting her new series on an island full of residents who are part secret keepers, part gossipmongers. Tessa and Hansen's shared attraction, respect, and trust drive their inevitable happy-ever-after, and we are entertained and intrigued by the journey. A fun, sexy, romantic mystery and a great series launch.
— Kirkus Reviews