Barefoot Bound

Barefoot Bound
Barefoot Bay Undercover Prequel
Barefoot Bound is the prequel novella (100 pages, no cliffhanger) that kicks off Roxanne St. Claire’s spinoff series, Barefoot Bay Undercover.

Former spy and current bad boy Gabriel Rossi is headed to Barefoot Bay to start and run a new covert operation, but before he goes, he has some business to take care of up in Boston. Family business. With the Rossi and Angelino family, that means there will be laughter, love, food, and forgiveness…and the possibility someone is in danger.

On the eve of his departure, Gabe learns that his grandfather, Nino, might be in some serious trouble. Gabe will stop at nothing to help the man he considers his best friend, even if that means risking his own life to save Nino’s. But even Gabe might not be sly and smart enough to protect Nino from the one thing that could really hurt this sweet old man…a broken heart.

So, before you slip off your shoes and go all the way undercover, get to know Gabriel Rossi, the hero at the heart of Barefoot Bay Undercover.

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Casa Blanca? Seriously? Did someone have a Bogart fetish, or had Gabe just landed in Disney Does Morocco, complete with the geometric patterns in the sun-dried bricks and U-shaped archways? Gabe scanned the sprawling resort tucked into a hidden corner of an island so remote it was accessible only by boat and one bridge. There wasn’t a single high-rise, nightclub, shopping mall, or Starbucks in sight. The only people were the poor slobs who worked for the privileged bastards who flew in on corporate jets and helicopters to demand seclusion, anonymity, and privacy.

And the proximity to a certain island off the coast of Florida? Well, the place was fucking perfect.

At least, perfect for what Gabriel Rossi had in mind. And that was so not what his old friend from the French Foreign Legion had meant when he’d called and asked for a little security consulting advice in exchange for an all-expense-paid trip to paradise.

But Gabe would drag Luke McBain over to the right playground soon enough. First, he had to run the final test. Before he could take the next step and kick-start his plan that had been brewing for the past five years, he had to see just what kind of yahoos worked at this joint.

Time for a game of Test the Staff.

Standing in the expansive lobby, he scanned his possible targets. A smokin’ blonde with fake lashes and real tits at the front desk had already taken note of him. Twice. Two men, both dressed in custom threads, a Rolex visible on one tennis-tanned arm, talked outside of the spa, probably waiting for their wives. A teenage girl sat on a bench under the mosaic, texting and oblivious.

None of them was right for what Gabe had in mind.

To his right, a couple stood in front of an understated Guest Services desk, deep in conversation. The man was about his own height of six feet and had short dark hair, and while he obviously hadn’t done a hundred one-armed pushups at five a.m., like Gabe had, he was buff enough.

He’ll do.

Gabe took a few steps closer to the couple to pick up their exchange with a sharply dressed concierge. Staying far enough away not to draw attention, he pulled out his phone and pretended to read messages while listening to their conversation.

Tapping the screen, he opened the interceptor software he’d, uh, borrowed from the CIA, and tilted his phone toward the woman’s handbag.

“All right, then, Mr. Carriger,” the concierge said. “Your tee time is confirmed, and our driver will pick you up in five minutes at the front door.”

The man turned to his wife, a concerned look on a CEO-handsome face. “You sure you don’t mind if we forgo the boat trip today, Beth?”

“I’m spending the day in the spa, honey. I far prefer that to getting seasick and looking for dolphins.” She laughed and gestured to the concierge. “Married twenty years, you’d think Doug would know that by now.”

The concierge gave a warm nod as he picked up his phone, but Gabe filed the man’s name, Doug Carriger, and snapped a mental image of how he held himself. He watched the man’s facial expressions carefully and pegged an accent someone with a less-trained ear wouldn’t even hear. South of Philly, not quite Virginia. Baltimore.

The concierge leaned forward, listening with one ear to the phone. “I’m sorry we can’t get you into Eucalyptus until eleven, Mrs. Carriger. But this treatment is worth the wait, I assure you. We are the only spa in the entire state of Florida that offers it.”

“I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’ll go back to the villa and sit by the pool. The housekeeper won’t be there, will she?”

“Let me check,” the concierge said, glancing at his tablet. “Poppy’s doing Bay Laurel Villa in about twenty minutes.”

“Oh, Poppy,” Mrs. Carriger crooned. “What a lovely housekeeper. I was so touched by the rose petals on the pillow.”

The concierge smiled as if he’d heard the compliment before. “We do love to celebrate anniversaries here at Casa Blanca. And speaking of celebrations, let’s talk about tonight’s dinner reservations. May I reserve one of our outdoor private cabana tables at Junonia for you?”

While they discussed dinner, Gabe tapped his phone and did a quick Internet search of exclusive spa treatments available only at Casa Blanca while he walked toward a house phone not too far away. The answer popped up on the screen just as Gabe picked up a house phone.

“Eucalyptus Spa,” a cool voice crooned in Gabe’s ear. “How may I help you?”

“I’m afraid I have to cancel my wife’s Ayurvedic treatment. I think she made it for ten, maybe nine thirty? She can’t remember the time.” He glanced at his targets, still arranging their dinner reservations. “She’s not feeling well.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. Is this Mr. McPherson?”

“It is.”

Some keys clicked. “Yes, we had her in at nine forty-five so she had a few minutes to prepare. Would Mrs. McPherson like to reschedule?”

“Not right now, thank you.”

That business complete, Gabe took a few steps back toward the Guest Services desk, placing himself exactly ten feet away from Mrs. C’s handbag as he typed: We have had a cancellation in the spa for the Ayurvedic Massage at ten o’clock. Would you like this time slot?

He waited for a phone number to appear courtesy of the interceptor software—a 410 area code, confirming his guess about Baltimore—then hit send. Within a few seconds, Mrs. Carriger reached into her bag and pulled out her rhinestone-encrusted iPhone.

Nice to see he still had it after a few years out of the game.

As expected, her face brightened as she read the text. “Well, look at that. They have an opening for me. Don’t rearrange Poppy’s cleaning schedule, then.”

Without a second’s hesitation, Gabe left the lobby, glancing over his shoulder at the front-desk blonde who was still not so surreptitiously checking him out. Lose the lashes, toots, and we’ll talk.

Outside, he nodded to the doorman and walked slowly until he saw the limo turn the corner to pick up Mr. Carriger for his golf game.

As the glass doors to the lobby opened, he caught a glimpse of Mrs. C heading into the Eucalyptus Spa for her overpriced Indian alternative massage. She’d be there long enough for him to do what he had to do.

He rounded a lush grouping of palm trees, finding the wide stone path that led to the villas. He’d done enough research to know where Bay Laurel was, the closest and largest of the villas on the property. And enough research to know that this little resort could be the answer he’d been seeking, or at least get him closer to the person he’d been seeking.

So far, it certainly had potential.


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