Baring Mia

By: Kallista Dane

“It’s nice to hang out with a billionaire,” Slade remarked from the front seat. “Wait till you see the place. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a short time when money is no object.”

The limo sped along the twenty-six-mile-long stretch of road that separated the Keys from the hustle and bustle of South Florida. Mia stared out the window at the flat expanse of the Everglades stretching for miles in all directions. The Keys were another world, a little like being in a foreign country.

Harmon seemed to take it for granted she’d move there with him and, for the first time in her life, she was content to take one day at a time. No five-year plan. Not even a to-do list for tomorrow.

All she had were the clothes on her back, and those weren’t even hers. Everything she brought from her condo had been destroyed in the fire, so Carmen had dashed out to buy her an outfit to wear home from the hospital.

It wasn’t Mia’s usual conservative style, but it wasn’t one of her naughty sub costumes either. A soft turquoise like the slivers of ocean she glimpsed out the car windows, the sleeveless jersey knit dress skimmed her curves. It had a V-neck and a skirt that flared out from the waist to twirl around her calves. Carmen included a pair of white sandals and dark sunglasses big enough to make her feel like a movie star.

Despite her aches and pains, Mia felt like she was going on vacation. She reached for Harmon’s hand and he brought it to his lips.

“I’ll send Esther to pack up whatever you want from your condo and have it brought down here,” he said, as though he’d been reading her mind. “When you’re feeling up to it, we’ll go on a shopping spree – down to Key West or up to Bloomingdales at The Falls, wherever you want. Everything is more casual down here. I may even wear shorts to the office.”

She laughed. “And give up your formal attire of jeans and T-shirt? Maybe the doctors should have checked your brain with that scanner.”

They took a helicopter for the short hop from the Marathon airport to the island. It was a bright-green crescent, one of a string of small islands on the Gulf side not connected to the mainland by the Overseas Highway. Still, it was larger than Mia had imagined. It even had a tiny stretch of sandy beach on either end, a rarity on the limestone and coral outcroppings that made up the Florida Keys.

Mia was surprised to see all the construction going on in the center of the island next to the helipad.

“We started building a small lab here, just for me, right after I bought the place,” Harmon explained. “I’m spoiled. I like being able to walk to work. On the south end, we’re renovating half a dozen old conch houses. Carmen and Enrique will be taking one. He’s over the top about being able to walk out his front door, get on a boat, and go fishing every day. Each of the men will have their own place, too, and Esther is moving into the last one. By the time school is out for the semester, there’ll be a room added on to it for her daughter.”

Harmon took her hand and led her down a fern-lined path between the gumbo limbo trees to the northern tip of the island. The path ended in front of a shell-pink wooden house on stilts. It had a metal roof and freshly painted bright-blue shutters at every window. Behind the house, she caught a glimpse of waves breaking on the strip of sandy beach dotted with coconut palms. She was charmed before she even set foot inside.

“I thought we’d move in here for now,” Harmon said. “It’s tiny, but private.”

She threw her arms around him. “I love it. I absolutely love it.”

* * *

The morning Marcus was released from rehab he joined the team in the conference room at the new facility on Marathon. Slade brought everyone up to speed on his investigations.

“Two guys from that religious group are in custody, picked up after they were identified from security-cam footage. Fortunately it was automatically uploaded from the building’s cameras to the cloud, so it survived the blast. They haven’t admitted anything, and they got one of those media-loving loudmouthed attorneys to defend them. I heard he’s planning to claim they were led by the voice of God, hoping to drum up enough support from right-wing fundamentalists to get them off. But we have them dead to rights, caught on surveillance cameras around town buying the materials to build the four bombs they set off.”

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