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Atlantis: The King's Return (The Atlanteans Book 1) by D.K. Combs (1)

Going on this cruise will be good for you! It might be a couple’s thing, and I’d go with you if I could, but I have so much work to catch up on.”

“I can’t go on a cruise by myself, Ray. I’d look pathetic.”

“No you won’t. Listen, Mari, I know some people on the cruise that you can hang out with. Don’t worry about having fun—you will, trust me. It’ll be a good break from all this stress.”

“This really isn’t a good idea…”

“Of course it is. I really would go with you, sweetie, if I wasn’t so busy.”

As Mari stared out at the bright blue waves that broke against the ship’s hull, she wanted to strangle Ray. Oh, she’d tried refusing, fighting back, playing seasick—she’d even tried to feign drowning in the hotel’s pool where they’d been staying. Yet nothing had worked. She’d begged and pleaded all the way to the giant cruise ship’s loading deck, but her words had fallen on deaf ears.

“Damn him,” she muttered, shielding her eyes against the bright sun. God, she’d never been in a place so bright and…well, blinding. As an Oregon resident, she was used to tall trees and long rains.

She heard a couple giggling behind her, and she stopped herself from turning around and telling them to get a room. It was only her first hour on the cruise—they’d left shore not even fifteen minutes ago—and on her way to the rail she’d found five couples making out. Two of the said couples she’d noted had their hands in places that they shouldn’t have been. And she’d heard…sounds; horrible, terrible sounds coming from one of the rooms on her way up.

What had Ray been thinking?

This was supposed to be an anniversary present—and he’d sent her here alone! Three years together, and the asshole had sent her on a couple’s cruise by herself.

Because of “work.” The very night before the cruise was set to leave, he got the call from his boss. His excuse for her going alone? He’d already bought the tickets. At least one of them had to go.

Her eyes narrowed into slits as she gazed at the crashing, splitting waves. Salty air enveloped her like a damp embrace, catching her off guard.

As the sensation traveled through her body, the waves slowly began to blur.

Her stomach heaved.

Oh god. She pushed herself away from the rail, feeling as if her throat was doing a workout while she struggled to keep the bile down.

Really bad idea.

She stumbled to the side, barely catching herself, and looked up in embarrassment at the couple watching her like she’d lost her head.

“Are you okay?” the bubbly blonde asked, hanging off her man’s arm as if she’d been sewn to it. The guy didn’t bother looking her way; he was too busy necking his girl.

This isn’t even a couple’s cruise, she thought. It’s more like a live-porno.

Her head reeled, and she rushed to her cabin, not giving them another glance. Thankfully, no one was cluttering the lower halls of the ship. Ray had gotten a room on the lower level of the ship, and she didn’t know whether to be grateful or furious at him.

She didn’t have much time to contemplate what she should feel before the slow rocking of the ship sent her running to the bathroom. She threw open the toilet seat.

She’d been offered a drink—which she had graciously accepted—when she first came aboard the ship. Now that drink came up with a rush. Whatever they’d given her, it’d had alcohol in it. Great—just great. The serving staff onboard had poisoned her on the couple’s cruise ship that she’d gone on by herself.

Maybe they’d noticed and had taken pity on her, deciding it would be better to put her out of her misery.

As her stomach rolled again, she thought, Sorry, guys. I’m going to need a couple more beers before I’m drunk enough to be happy on this godforsaken cruise.

Mari sat up weakly, pushing her hair back. Who’d have known she wasn’t a sea person?

The room pitched to the side and she toppled over again, this time barely making it to the toilet. God damn it, if she had to put up with two more weeks of this, she was going to kill herself. Maybe when they hit Mexico, the captain wouldn’t mind if she ditched the rest of the cruise and took a plane home

She pushed her hair behind her ear, nodding to herself and standing up on legs that shook like a baby lamb’s. Yeah, she was definitely hitching a ride across the border the second they docked on land.

Mari splashed water on her face and hobbled into her cabin, searching for a toothbrush through her mess of toiletries. She hadn’t forgotten a single detail. Nothing sucked more than being stuck at sea with no tampons, mascara, or lotion. At least, that’s what she assumed. This was her first time on a cruise, so she’d made sure to pack…everything.

She found it at the bottom of the bag on top of her laptop, along with her toothpaste. “Thank god,” she muttered, rushing to the bathroom.

Three minutes later, she was digging out her laptop and turning on her phone. She hadn’t told Ray, but she’d subscribed to the Wi-Fi hotspot her cell phone company offered. Even with the extra cost of roaming, she wasn’t going to go a whole month without Wi-Fi. Especially if she would be stuck on a rocking ship.

The butterflies in her stomach returned with a vengeance. Whelp, that meant it was time for her to climb into bed. There was no possible way she was going to enjoy her time on deck. What with the horny couples and the blinding sun—it was going to be impossible to find any enjoyment.

She logged onto the computer. Maybe she could email Ray so much that she’d annoy him to death and convince him to buy her a flight home or get on the cruise with her—even though she’d much prefer going home.

Still, the thought of making Ray go through the same torture was honestly one of the most appealing things she could imagine.

She waited patiently while Gmail loaded on her screen.

Then she frowned.

Twenty emails?

The hell?

This was her and Ray’s shared email. They both had one for work, but this was used for when their family wanted to connect or when they signed up for coupon offers. She’d checked her email just before leaving, and it was only an hour later. The coupon guys had already sent their stuff, so what was…?

She clicked on the most recent one she saw.

Ill b ovr later bby. I cant w8 to feel ur big co

Mari tore her eyes off the screen. Gagged. Froze. Stopped breathing.

Who the hell was messaging her? Or was this even meant for her? It couldn’t have been, which meant it was for Ray, who was obviously messaging back…but would Ray do something like that?

No. No, he wouldn’t. Ray wouldn’t do that to her.

Her heart hammering, Mari clicked on the previous email; it showed the reply—his reply. No …this couldn’t be. Someone had hacked their email. Ray wouldn’t do this to her, and he sure as hell wouldn’t be dumb enough to use their personal one while he was at it

Tears built up in her eyes as she read through all of them. All of the dirty, nasty, terrible emails. Why couldn’t they have just…just texted each other? It would have made more sense than for her to find out like this.

Near blind with emotion and tears, she read that the woman’s phone had died and this was the only email she’d remembered. And Ray… Ray hadn’t even cared. He’d said that “the bitch was out of town and it didn’t matter.”

Her stomach heaved, but not because of the sea rocking the ship back and forth.

There had to be something wrong. Something seriously wrong. He couldn’t be doing this to her. They’d been together for three years, dated since post-college, and now...this?

She picked up her cell, her hands shaking and tears falling down her cheeks. It was hard to see the buttons, but she eventually dialed him and listened to the tone. He had better answer her… Panic lodged a thick ball of tears in her throat.

Sending her on a couple’s cruise, alone, just so he could screw around with some other bitch? Someone named Bailey? Her chest tightened to the point of being unable to breathe. God, he’d actually done this to her … he’d actually done this to her.

“Please leave a message after the beep. Beep.”

A loud, echoing groan sounded through the corridors of the boat before she had a chance to open her mouth to speak.

Crunch.

Crunch? What kind of boat crunched?

Water seeped through under her doorway.

She dropped the phone.

Terror gave her the strength to run to the door. She yanked it open, causing a gush of water to flow past her legs and into her room, nearly a foot high.

Holy shit.

The ship was sinking.