It came as no surprise that Skip Chapel's oldest daughter and her young family were on board.
He'd spent the better part of the helicopter ride going over every aspect of this mission with his team. No military operation was without risk. But they had decent intel and a man on the inside. Knowledge and preparation went a long way toward reducing that risk.
He knew which members of the crew had been with the operation under her father and which were new enough to raise suspicion. Chapel had lost four of his best young divers in recent years to commercial enterprises with deep pockets. Other crewmen had simply drifted away over the years along with Skip Chapel’s promise of riches, leaving a skeleton crew that appeared as washed up as the ship.
The man's obsession with treasure hunting had left his salvage business cash-strapped and his youngest daughter desperate.
Truth be told. the captain looked nothing like the leathery old sea hag he'd conjured in his mind on the hump over. When she looked at him wide-eyed and pale beneath that sun kissed tan, it was all he could do not to pull her close and reassure her everything would be all right.
“A salvage ship is no place for women and children,” he snapped.
"In case you haven't noticed, Lieutenant, I happen to be a woman. I was raised at sea and I’m more than qualified to captain the Lily Pad. This ship is my home and exactly where I belong."
At her invitation, his gaze lingered along those feminine curves and the oversized, loose-knit sweater she wore to hide them. Lily Chapel came in a package so hot he'd experienced nuclear melt-down all the way to his diving boots from the moment he'd first laid eyes on her.
"The fact that you're a woman hasn't escaped me. But let's get one thing straight. I'm the man in charge and you need to quit trying to be one."
"Thank goodness my father was not so pig-headed and stubborn as you!"
Prince was a man of few words and had wasted enough of them arguing with her.
"Go with Bud." He nodded toward the young seaman.
“Not until you answer some questions.”
"This is not subject to negotiation, Ms. Chapel. Do you walk? Or do I carry you?"
She crossed those arms and tilted that chin again.
And she'd called him stubborn?
Removing the semi-automatic strapped to his back, he tossed the weapon to Skully. Like a well-oiled machine, the petty officer caught it mid-flight.
"I never make idle threats." He picked her up at the knees and threw her over his shoulder like a sailor's empty duffel bag. All the air rushed from her lungs in an audible whoosh. Securing her legs with one arm, he caught his returning weapon with his free hand. "Who's your daddy now, Princess?"
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