'I never miss a book by Vicki Hendricks. No one on the current scene is writing supercharged, erotic, real noir novels like these. Think Jack London, James M.Cain, and Colette. Sky Blues is another Hendricks triumph.' George P.Pelecanos; 'No one writes better about white trash gone bad than Hendricks' Guardian -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
Dark murder arises out of a torrid love affair in the dangerous world of sky-diving. Exotic animal vet Destiny Donne is introduced to the sport by Tom Jenks and quickly becomes enmeshed in his world of danger, adrenaline and sex. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Vicki Hendricks lives in Hollywood, Florida, where she teaches English and creative writing at the college level. She's also an experienced skydiver, with over 450 dives to her credit. Her previous novels include Miami Purity, Iguana Love, and Voluntary Madness.
Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
A DOG HOWLS HIS ASS OFF FROM the back kennel, and a raging burn of thirty-foot flame crackles in the cane field across the road. Black smoke rises in a column through the breezeless, humid sky. Yet there's still no relief from the relentless October sun that cuts a path across my office desk, where I sprawl, eyes stinging and stomach grinding with loneliness. I'm stuck here in the sticks of Central Florida with enough sun, smoke, and emptiness for anybody's interpretation of hell. I can expect a long season of this, frequent burns all around me, part of the sugarcane harvesting process. I check the clock and turn the other cheek down on the blotter, my dark, heavy hair a curtain against the brightness. Ten more minutes to rest before I head for Lion Country to start the day's fecal testing. My throat is raw from breathing in acrid fumes and exhaling despair.
It's a bastard of a dream come true--my new life in Pahokee, Florida, fucking sugar country on the lake. It's what I always thought I wanted, a private practice, to be the rural woman vet and make my way fearlessly, treating the animals--too much of All Creatures Great and Small as a child and a lack of good judgment as an adult. Living in the sticks--literally sticks of blackened cane--is god-awful, with no one even to listen to me complain. Suicide sounds delicious.
I hear the crunch of tires on the front drive. Damn it--I haven't locked up. I'm not in the mood to pull another goat fecal--payment next month--as per usual. I keep my head down andhope I've imagined it. Fat chance. The door to the waiting room creaks open and there's some clanging and banging, paint being chipped off my door frame. I straighten up, run my fingers across my lips to check for drool from when I dozed, and head out there.
I get a jolt as I step into the waiting room. This guy's a six-foot blond in a long-sleeved cotton shirt and nice soft-fitting jeans. He's got a chiseled face, a jaw so smooth, I want to stroke it. No way he's from Pahokee--I'd have seen him. He's got a lion cub in a metal cage that can barely hold it. Incredible. Heat rushes to my face. He rubs the animal behind the ears through the bars, soothing the victim of his selfishness. A shame. So drop-dead gorgeous and a goddamned animal abuser.
He looks up and his blue eyes almost knock me down.
"Sorry, ma'am, I don't have an appointment. Took a chance."
"Just in time," I say, hoping he'll confuse my flippant tone for enthusiasm. I open the door to the examination room and point the way, settle myself down. "You're lucky. I was just getting ready to leave."
He walks in, sets the cage on the table, and turns back to me. "I'm always lucky."
I twitch at this, and a smile blooms brilliantly across his face, white teeth welcoming. Obviously, he expects me to swoon. I'll manage not to. It is difficult, between his looks and that poor cub. Quick in, quick out. That's how to handle it. The tomcat slyness, cockiness--unneutered male on the prowl--it's too much, too sure, too dangerous for my vulnerable state.
He clangs open the cage door and slides the twenty-five-pound lion cub onto the examination table like it was a mound of dough.
I jerk my head up. "Careful," I say.
Asshole--I want to let fly, but his eyes stop me. Goddamn, their blue is blinding--high beams--an eye color I've only seen in deaf white cats.
I swipe across my forehead to cut the glare, get a grip on the cub's neck fur. Blue Eyes puts an arm across its chest. He's got instinctive know-how and the knowledge of how far that will get him--nothing's out of his reach. These are traits I've always admired and cultivated. My glance falls on ostrich-skin boots below the table, spread wide in front of my scuffed white tennies. Hmm. I put my finger into the side of the cub's mouth and check its gums.
"New in Pahokee, huh?" he says. "How you like it?"
I smile. "Fine," I tell him. I wonder if he keeps a knife in those fucking boots. Christ. Jack Daniel's belt buckle, too. I move my stare away from that area. He looks me in the eye and I catch the sapphire sparkle again. Shit. Sugarland cowboy with blond hair falling down his forehead and a lion cub he thinks he can handle. Hard not to take an interest.
"This little guy has near chewed up all my leather furniture. Next thing, he'll gnaw through my container and use my lines for dental floss."
I give him a look out of the corner of my eye. "Huh?"
"My rig. I'm a skydive instructor over in Clewiston--the drop zone on Twenty-seven."
I cross my arms and step back. Too much. The attraction of pure physical confidence oozes toward me. Here's somebody who jumps out of a perfectly good airplane every day--and no doubt enjoys it. I straighten myself. "You're a little out of your neighborhood, aren't you? There must be a vet in Clewiston."
"Not for a lion cub. You come recommended."
"Yeah, a keeper at Lion Country--I didn't get his name." He winks. "Said you could take care of all my problems."
I frown, pondering the innuendo that's causing heat to build in my chest. I'm also wondering which keeper. "If you're about to ask for removal of his front teeth--and claws--so you can keephim indoors, you can forget it. If you have any sense, you'll let me take this animal over to Lion Country and put him on the preserve--introduce him before his health has deteriorated."
Those blues focus in on me. "Can't do." He shakes his head. "Miss Doc--I brought him here for his health. He's been having diarrhea for a couple days."
"Okay." I take a breath. "Did you bring a stool?"
"No. I didn't think of it--sorry. Believe me, ma'am, the first thing I realized was how he needed space. I'd love to free him out there in the park. The problem is, he doesn't belong to me."
"Oh?" I don't believe him for a second, but he could sell me gator oil with those eyes. I shift my weight and cock a hip under my lab coat. "Whom does he belong to?"
"Stranger. A guy I met at Les's--a place down the road--about three weeks ago. He paid me two thousand bucks to take care of this fellow. He said he'd be back in a couple months. I wondered at the time if I should've done it." He turns those dazzlers on me again.
I blink and recover.
"Tell you the truth," he says, "I thought I'd get a side of beef and feed this cat cheap--make some extra bucks easy--I didn't realize the damage."
"Uh-huh," I say. I hold the cub's head with both hands and look at his pupils. I take the penlight out of my breast pocket and check his ears. "Has he had his vaccinations?"
The sky cowboy is watching me closely. "No. That's another reason I'm here."
I delve through the fur on the back of the cub's neck, feeling the richness of it, as I check for dehydration by the looseness of skin. I rub behind his ears. "You know, lions eat the whole animal, skin and bones included. Unless you've been giving him that, he's not getting the proper nutrition."
"Yeah? Where do I get it?" The frown on his face looks real.
"We use a special blend at the park--Nebraska Meat. I don't know if they sell retail. I can recommend some supplements that'll help for a while."
"I'd appreciate it. I don't want to endanger his health--no. ma'am." He puts his hand on my shoulder. I look up.
The shade of his eyes has deepened. He seems sincere. "I'd like to show you how grateful I am for your help. You ever think about doing a tandem jump?"
"A tandem skydive. That's what I do for a living--take you strapped to my chest. People generally get a real kick out of it."
The cub starts to...