Out Too Far (Love Overboard Book Three)
Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up.
Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart.
When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!
Scroll down further to read chapter 1 of OUT TOO FAR.
Copyright © 2017 by Andrea K. Stein and Black Arrow Publishing
Excerpt: CHAPTER ONE
April 10, 2016
Arjuna Beach, Goa, India
Rania Elsaeid stood with her arms crossed and her brow furrowed. After all she'd been through in her life, crowds made her nervous, and every eye seemed to linger on her a little too long. She didn't like the undulating concert mob packing Arjuna Beach, and the damn sand kept getting in her sandals.
One good thing, the ocean blew a nice cool breeze over her face and the sweating bodies swaying to the music below the flashing lights.
In the VIP section in front of the stage, it wasn’t so crowded. Behind Rania, in the vast festival admission area, the brightly colored bodies were packed in tight.
This wasn’t her scene. She didn’t like pop music, from any continent. She was there only to guard Captain Lindsay Fisher and her celebrity chef boyfriend, Alton Maura. But Rania had made it clear she was more engineer than security guard. Too many times working for Global Security at high-profile events, she'd been photographed, and that would only lead to trouble.
Rania stood behind Alton and Lindsay so she could keep watch on them. Alton was easy to guard. He was so tall and blond. His muscled arm circled Lindsay’s shoulders, keeping her close. Her hair color was similar to Alton’s, cut short in a cute bob.
Rania wore a dress that gave her plenty of movement and hid the thigh holster where she kept her Sig Sauer P320 9mm Subcompact pistol. Goa, India, wasn’t exactly the safest place, even when it wasn’t packed with fifty thousand revelers.
Arjuna Beach had been transformed. A stage rose above the normally pristine stretch of sand where the Indian pop star Shreya Ghoshal shared the spotlight with Sia. Both sang, backed by dozens of musicians, as David Guetta mixed beats from his elevated DJ stand.
Sia’s trademark white wig covered her eyes, but the huge black bow haloing her head was even more distracting. Shreya Ghoshal sparkled, amazing in a ruby-red sari and chandelier earrings.
While Goa was known for its beach-party rave scene, the Moj Majestic International Music Festival had taken the venue to a new level: The usual ratty ravers were overwhelmed by India’s middle class, young people who came from every part of the country, from Tamil Nadu to the Punjab. All had come to see the top musicians from India and around the world. Katy Perry had been the opening act, followed by a who’s who of the India pop charts - Rahat Ali Fateh Khan, Arijit Singh, and Sunidhi Chauhan. It was a dream concert for the subcontinent.
Food stalls fanned out along both sides of the performance arena. The smell of deep-fried peppers served in newspaper cones mingled with incense burning at unseen altars offering pooja to the millions of Indian gods. The odor from the crowd offered its own spicy perfume, people in their best clothes and best scents. British teens with dreadlocks danced with Indian girls in maroon, mauve, and golden punjabis, their scarves whirling. Bindis sparkled from the girls' foreheads above radiant smiles. Danish women, blonde and barely dressed, swayed with Nigerians in agbadas, long shirts over baggy pants.
And then there were the Mumbai hipsters, young Indian men with five o’clock shadows, shirts unbuttoned and wearing sunglasses, even in the dark. Undoubtedly, most were there to posture and be seen. But others had their sunglasses pushed up into their thick, dark hair and were picking through the mob, looking for marks.
Hawkers meandered, selling light sticks, bottles of water, and drugs of every description. And of course, along the edges were the beggars, signs of India’s crushing poverty.
When Alton bought a bottle of water, Rania leaned in. “Check the seal. A lot of times, they take empty bottles and refill them with Goa tap water. You don’t want that.”
Alton wiggled the cap, which came off easily. “Thanks, Rania. Nice tip.”
She nodded, feeling a little better. Still, she did not want to be there. She wanted to be in a quiet place on the beach, sipping a mango lassi that wouldn’t leave her infected with some horrific parasite.
Shreya Ghoshal yelled into the microphone, something in Hindi, then waved goodbye as Sia, backed by David Guetta, launched into song. This one must’ve been popular, because the crowd thundered around her in shouts and whistles.
A guy in a soccer jersey with Germany’s colors pressed into Rania and threw her a very stoned smile. His eyes looked several shades gone. He bent close and yelled, “Sia and David Guetta, so good!” Good came out sounding a lot like gut.
He danced into her and she moved away. He followed, weaving.
She tried to distance herself while staying close to Lindsay and Alton, but Herr Deutschland weaved closer. He wasn’t getting the hint.
Rania beckoned to him. He bent forward like a puppy for a bone. “You think I’m pretty, yes?”
He backed away, nodding, smiling even bigger. He muttered a long sentence in German.
Again, she waved him closer and fixed a machine-gun stare on his face.
“I may be pretty, but I'm not interested. Do you understand me?” Her words shot out like bullets.
His smile tripped off his face, and he looked confused.
She ended his confusion. “Go find someone else.”
He tried to dance casually away. Instead, he dropped all pretense and hurried off. She didn't feel a bit bad.
Sia sang a last chorus and then yelled out across the sweating crowd, “Thank you, Goa. We love you! I have to go, but Cloude is up next!”
David Guetta threw out his own goodbye, and the pair left the stage. The crowd murmured and continued to sway, awaiting the next act.
Lindsay cocked her head at Rania.
“I see you had an admirer," she shouted over the din of the crowd. "One of many, but most of the guys don’t have the courage to come close.”
“Sober, he wouldn’t have had the courage, either. It was drugs. Drugs drive men to me,” Rania joked.
“Not true!” Alton said loudly. “It’s just your impossibly high standards. Come on, cut my gender some slack. We aren’t all bad.”
“No, not all of you are bad,” Rania agreed. She thought of her father, so unlike most Egyptian men. She'd found other good men. However, her troubled past always seemed to choke the relationships dead.
“What did you say to the German?” Lindsay asked.
“I said I wasn’t interested,” Rania said. “He took me seriously.”
“As he should,” Lindsay said.
Rania frowned. Several cameras or phones flashed pictures of the concert; two teens stuck out their tongues to take selfies.
While the chances were slim, if her image hit the Internet, she'd be in serious trouble. It was time to make her exit, but how? She was supposed to be guarding Lindsay and Alton.
Lindsay might've seen Rania's discomfort, but it was Alton who said something.
"Rania, if you aren't feeling the vibe, you don't need to stick around. I'm big and Lindsay is mean. We can handle ourselves."
"Are you sure?" Rania asked. "I came to keep you safe, but I can’t save you from your bad taste in music.”
Alton made a face. "Oh, please, this is the concert of a lifetime."
Rania didn't respond. She was just happy she could jet.
Lindsay, though, had other ideas.
“Don’t go yet. Moj is on next. He’s coming out to talk to the crowd and introduce Cloude. You should see them since they'll be our passengers for the next month."
“Fine,” Rania agreed. “I’ll stay for Moj. I would like to skip Cloude's performance. I've heard her songs. I’m embarrassed for her.”
“Don’t say that around Moj,” Alton said. “He’s her producer and he can’t stop making hits. Everything he touches turns platinum.”
“Right,” Rania said. “He’s not the pop star, but he produces pop stars.”
“Like P. Diddy or Dr. Dre.” Alton grinned.
"Definitely not my kind of music," Rania said.
The crowd cheered and pointed when a tall African-American man in tight jeans and a purple silk shirt, unbuttoned and showcasing his sculpted abs, strutted onstage. Over that chest hung a simple gold necklace with two rings attached. Wedding rings. Diamonds winked from both his earlobes, and his head was completely shaved.
But it was his eyes, those long-lashed eyes, so gorgeous, so powerful, that drew Rania to him. She couldn’t look away. She tried and failed, unable to ignore a warmth starting low in her belly.
She couldn’t look at him long enough to satisfy some forgotten need.
That need had to stay repressed. She was not going to get involved in any kind of shipboard romance, and not with some nightmare celebrity producer who was dating a teenager.
It that were true, why couldn’t she pull herself away?
* * *
Morris Johnston, otherwise known as Moj, pulled a blank and couldn’t think of a single thing to say to the crowd. He stood at the microphone, caught in the spell of the woman in the VIP section standing near Lindsay and Alton.
This woman, who was she?
Green eyes glittered from a face framed by dark hair the color of a midnight after party, and skin so clear he wanted to eat caviar off her. What the hell?
She wasn’t Caucasian; no, something about the shape of her nose and the slight dusk of her skin, but where was she from?
Probably India, since the women here were so gorgeous; but she didn’t look Indian. Maybe Middle Eastern?
Wherever she was from, she was beyond beautiful. His heart stopped, his brain seized, and he had nothing for the fifty thousand people waiting for his next words.
“We love you, Moj!” someone yelled.
It snapped him back to his performance.
“Love you, too,” he said in his easy style. He came across cool. Inside, though, the guilt was already starting. He shouldn’t be looking at a woman like that. Not yet.
Moj fell into the scripted words, each one carefully chosen by his publicist. “If you love me, you’ll love Cloude. You know her from the Family Laugh Channel's Wild Willamina. Now Cloude is all grown up and ready for the world.”
His protégé, a thin nineteen-year-old model turned actress turned wannabe pop star stepped out in a shining diamond dress that accentuated the swell of her breasts and the curve of her hips. She was thin but not so much you wouldn’t know how much of a woman she was. And the boobs were real.
Although Cloude's blonde hair glowed from the lights, her smile was what dazzled the audience. That smile, her best feature, had made her millions.
But she wanted more. She’d come to Moj to take the wannabe out of her wannabe pop star status. He took it as a challenge.
And they had an understanding beyond that, an understanding that kept Moj somewhat sane.
Cloude sashayed close and kissed his cheek.
Moj followed his publicist’s orders, took her in his arms, and gave her a big hug. He couldn’t kiss her, not in India, where the rules of decorum were strict, even at concerts. Even though he was thirty-nine, and she could’ve been his daughter, the illusion was what the world expected, and Moi had learned to give the world what it wanted.
“You ready, baby?” Moj asked.
She sighed spitefully and whispered low, just for him. “Following Sia and David Guetta? You have got to be kidding me. I should’ve been their warm-up act. This is bullshit, Moj.”
“Keep it clean, baby,” Moj said, then whirled her around. He leaned into the microphone and busted out in perfect Italian, “Noi riprodurre un brano, Maestro!”
All the Italians hooted. His publicist hated it when he spoke Italian. It crushed the “street” reputation she’d been trying to nurture. He thought her idea was ridiculous and slightly racist. He wasn’t some Tampa Bay street kid. Far from it.
The beats fell like fat raindrops, and Cloude snatched up the microphone, launching into her single, “Love Isn’t Love.”
Moj hurried off the stage. He’d done his bit.
His publicist, Bronwyn Hackshaw, grabbed him when he wasn’t even down the steps backstage. Security guards stood at a roped perimeter packed with fans, hawkers, and beggars. Luxurious tents for the superstars rose from the sand among strings of lights. Fans with backstage passes wandered around, starstruck.
Moj couldn't see the ocean, but he could smell it sweeping through the incense, crowd sweat, and fried foods. He loved those fried peppers, sizzling and seconds out of the grease. Getting them hot was the key. You didn’t eat cold food in India, unless you wanted to get sick.
He sniffed the air and caught the scent of something, a spice, garam masala. Indian food was amazing, and he loved all the vegetarian dishes. Although he was a carnivore, Fiona had shown him a whole new world of cuisine, mostly vegetables. Thinking of her made him ache. Dammit.
“Water,” Moj said, and one of the gophers slipped a green Pellegrino into his hand. Moj cracked open the bottle and drank the whole thing despite the carbonated sting.
Most of the time, sparkling water was all he drank. He’d grown up seeing what alcohol could do to people.
“Moj, you know this is a mistake,” Bronwyn said. She was a tall, severe woman who loved her phone like some people loved Jesus. Even while she was talking to Moj, he heard her phone explode with texts and messages and calls.
Moj drifted over to the fence line and started signing CDs and posters and pictures for the waiting people. He smiled at the fans, and they shivered being so near the music producer Rolling Stone said was more Motown than Motown, a hitmaker for the new millennium. Webzine SPIN claimed he could turn anyone into a pop star.
They were referring to Cloude. Poor Cloude.
Bronwyn wouldn’t relent. She followed along after him. “Moj, I know this part is important, but can we talk? Really talk?”
“Nothing to talk about,” Moj said, stepping back from the fence. “This is the last one of these things I’m going to be doing for a month. Period. I’m taking a month off.”
A fan caught his eye, a good-looking Indian guy, perfect hair, perfect shadowy beard. They nodded at each other.
The guy seemed more fan than hipster. He turned three shades of purple and stood there stupidly.
“Not a complete month,” Bronwyn said. “We have a photo shoot in a couple of weeks in the Seychelles. Have you been there?”
“I’ve been everywhere,” Moj said. “Fiona liked to travel.”
“No,” Bronwyn snapped. “You don’t say the f-word. You and I both know talking about her only makes it worse. I’ll give up on the photo shoot if you give up on this cruise thing. How many islands are you going to? Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion? Isn’t that a bit much? I mean, you’ve seen one strip of jungle dirt in the middle of the ocean, you’ve seen them all.”
“I’m taking time off, and I’m taking it on the Bonnie Blue,” Moj said. “Try and stop me, Bronwyn, and you’ll find yourself out of a job.”
Moj pushed forward. A couple of Sikh teens in turbans and wispy beards turned their phones to take selfies with him. He grinned and played the part.
The Indian guy had waited patiently for his turn. He held up a Seventh Generation CD, a boy band Moj had taken from the bottom of the charts to the top. There wasn’t a tween in the world who didn’t just love 7G.
Moj signed it in a flourish. “Aren’t you a little old for this?”
The guy’s face turned quizzical. His voice came out with the lilt of a South African accent. Not a local.
“Music doesn’t have an age, right? I love Seventh Generation. 7G forever. But only what you produce. Their first album was a waste.”
“Yeah, man, I was being a dick,” Moj said. “Sorry.” He gestured over at Bronwyn. “Give this guy one of the promos for 7G, Bronwyn. Please and thank you. I have to go say hi to Lindsay and Alton.”
And find that woman, Moj thought. I have to see her again.
Moj started to walk away along the side of the stage, to get to the VIP section, but again, Bronwyn was in his face.
“Yes, sir, you got it, no problem. But you can’t walk out there alone. You know this is not…you know…this isn’t…” she mouthed the word A-mer-ic-a. All four syllables.
Moj grabbed one of his own personal security guards, Jeffrey something, who was chatting with Val Kendrick, supermodel and ubiquitous celebrity. Val's long dark hair reminded him of the woman he'd seen in the crowd, and though Val had a face created to break hearts, the other woman had been prettier in a rougher, tougher sort of way.
Val applied her dazzling smile to him, and he couldn't help but smile back. He and Val went way back.
"Cloude sounds good, Moj," Val said. "You should double her vocal coach's salary."
Moj rolled his eyes. "Come on, Val, the kid has heart. Besides, you dissing her makes me think you're jealous."
Val matched his eye roll with her own. She was younger. It came off better.
"Please. Word on the street says Cloude likes girls. And we both know you aren't over Fiona yet."
"Maybe, maybe not," Moj said easily. "Regardless, Cloude and I are together. So stop with the flirting."
Val gave him a long look, kissed Jeffrey on the cheek, then strutted to her superstar tent. She turned to give him a smoldering look. "See you later, Moj. Bronwyn booked me for the Seychelles photo shoot, and you better bring your 'A' game."
"'A,' 'B,' and 'C,'" Moj pursed his lips and nodded. "You know me. I can play all the games."
Val ducked through the silken flaps and was gone.
Jeffrey cleared his throat. "About the kiss, sir, nothing is going on there."
That made Moj laugh.
"Don't worry. I know about Val and what she does with her kisses. Not that I've experienced it firsthand, but I know it don't mean a thing, not to her and not to me."
Jeffrey let out a sigh of relief.
Moj slapped his bodyguard on the back and then followed him through the secret passage under the stage and out a side door.
More fans crowded forward, as did Lindsay and Alton.
But the green-eyed girl? The gorgeous woman with the raven hair?
She was gone.
Moj laughed at his disappointment. And yet, that disappointment also brought on the guilt. That guilt, every time, no matter how far he traveled and no matter how happy he made the world with music.
He hoped his month sailing around the Indian Ocean on the Bonnie Blue would help him with all the memories, so sharp, that cut so deep, no matter how many of these publicity tours he did, no matter how many platinum records hung on the walls of his mansion in L.A., no matter how many music critics called him the new Berry Gordy.
It just didn’t matter, not after what had happened with Fiona.