Sample Sunday is back…..

A Sneak Peek…to another Rachel Scott and Florida Omni Search missing person case. This novel is about finding missing teenager Amber Knowles who disappeared while on a cruise to the Bahamas. (See below for delicious recipe for Shrimp Scampi. One of my favorite summer recipes)

 Asylum Harbor

My name is Amber Knowles and I am one of the thousands of people who go missing every day. Of course, the day I went missing started out beautiful with lots of sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. My parents had dropped me and my two best friends off at the Tampa dock. We were taking a cruise on the SeaStar Cruise line to the Bahamas. This was our high school graduation present and a chance to let loose before college.

    My parents weren’t too happy to see me go. They were worried – with good cause I suppose. You see, my dad is the Governor of Florida and he planned on announcing his intent to run for presidency in the next election. He was a little concerned about sending his only daughter on a trip without any security. I fought desperately for that freedom and he finally gave in.

    Now, I kinda wish he did send someone.

    The first day we set sail to Key West. My best friends, Nicole and Rowan, were just as excited as me to spend a couple of hours shopping and hitting the famous Duval Street. We even managed to score some margaritas at Sloppy Joes. However, that night back on the ship was when the fun came to an end for me.

    After a nice dinner, we decide to check out the nightclub Aqua. As we approach the door to Aqua, I see a cute guy in a white uniform with the SeaStar logo. He introduced himself as Josh McCain. He is a VIP host. I know it sounds clique, but Josh has the most beautiful green eyes I have ever seen. He walks us to a private room and tells us to let him know if we need anything.

    After an hour of dancing, I start feeling sick to my stomach. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol or if I am getting seasick. Probably a little of both.

    “I’m not feeling well,” I tell Rowan as I lay my head down on the edge of the sofa in the VIP room. The velvet feels cool against my skin.

    “I’ll go get you some water,” Rowan says. “Stay right here.”

    A few minutes later Josh walks in with a glass of water. “I ran into your friend at the bar. She said you weren’t feeling well. I offered to bring this to you,” he says sweetly, handing me the ice cold water.

    I take a sip and immediately I feel my stomach rolling around.

    “I don’t feel so good.”

    “Do you want to go lay down? I can walk you back to your cabin and get the ship’s doctor for you. It’s probably seasickness.”

    “That’s okay.” I tell him. I feel embarrassed for being sick.

    Rowan and Nicole walk back into the room to check on me.

    “Hey, you don’t look so good,” Nicole says.

    “You want us to go back to the cabin with you?” Rowan offers.

    “No, that’s okay,” I start to protest.

    “I offered to walk back with her. I can get some medicine from the commissary shop for her,” Josh tells my friends.

    After a few minutes of encouraging me to go back to the room, I finally give in and let Josh walk me back.

    On the walk back to my cabin, he tells me he is from California and has worked with the cruise ship for about eight months. I can’t help but wonder if he is flirting with me.

    I tell him I just graduated from high school and will be attending Florida State University this fall. “I plan on becoming a veterinarian and they have the best program in Florida,” I tell him. “Plus, it’s close to home, which my parents like.”

    What I don’t tell him is what it’s like being the daughter of a prominent governor and all the stress and problems it causes me.

    We get to my cabin, which I can tell he is impressed by.

    “Wow, the penthouse suite. You must be someone special,” he says. The penthouse suite costs like $8000 for the four-day cruise. If he only knew.

    I don’t reply and immediately lay down on the sofa. My stomach is still rolling around and now I am getting a headache.

    “Why don’t you rest and I will call the doctor for you. He is really nice.”

    “No, I don’t want to go through all the trouble. I just need something for my stomach.”

Josh insists on going to get some medicine at the ship’s commissary and I let him.

    “I had trouble with seasickness when I first started working. What really helps is fresh air and looking out over the ocean.”

    So I decide to wait out on the balcony while he gets the medicine.

    The night sky takes my breath away. The effect of the hundreds of stars combined with the thousands of twinkling lights from the cruise ship reminds me of Christmas time. 

I pull my long blonde hair into a ponytail and slide off my pink flip flops, taking a big breath of the salty air.

    A gust of wind out of nowhere picks up a flip flop and tosses it over the railing. I grab the railing and look over the top just in time to see the shoe get swallowed up in the foamy wake.

    I start to wonder what happened to Josh. He should have been back by now. It is then I hear the sliding glass door open behind me. I turned around and see Josh.

    “Hey there. I thought you forgot me,” I say.    He has a strange look on his face. “What’s wrong?”

    Then someone gives Josh a hard push onto the balcony.

    I stare at the strange man in shock. He has a gun pointed to Josh’s head. 

    “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” I  scream at this stranger.

    “Move it,” The man says, pushing Josh further out onto the balcony.

    “Leave her alone. She doesn’t know anything,” Josh finally says.

    “What is going on?” I ask again. “Josh, who is this?” This is like a bad scene playing out in a movie.

    “Come on, Amber. Join the party.” The man motions to me with the gun.

    It takes me a second to realize what the man said. How does he know my name?

    I press my back into the balcony railing. There is no way I am going anywhere with this lunatic. Apparently he has the wrong room or something!

    “Leave her out of this. She doesn’t know anything,” Josh pleads.

    “Not my problem. No witnesses.” The man raises the gun and points it toward me. 

    Now I really start to panic. It is silly now to think this, but I can’t help but wish my dad would have sent security with me. I turn around and can just faintly make what looks like the lights of a coastline. We must be near our next stop in the Bahamas. If I jump, I may have a chance to make it to shore. My hands are shaking as I climb the railing and throw my leg over the side. Contemplating, I look down at the ten story drop into the swirling water below. 

    “Look, we can work this out. I will tell you what you want to know if you just let her go inside,” Josh tells the man.

    “Don’t think so, Josh.” The man holds the gun steady at me.

    “Amber, what are you doing?” Josh asks me as I sit on the railing, leaning my body toward the water.

    I feel the icy finger of fear grip my heart as I look into the water again. A loud pop rings out through the night as I vanish into darkness.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp, shelled and
deveined without tails
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons brandy
1. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly. Dredge shrimp in flour mixture.
2. In a large skillet, saute dredged shrimp in olive oil for 5 minutes over high heat. Toss shrimp often to prevent burning. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a serving dish, leaving the oil in the pan.
3. In the same pan, saute the garlic, shallot, parsley and oregano over medium heat for 3 minutes; stirring constantly. Spoon the mixture over the shrimp. Return pan to the heat. Preheat your broiler for medium heat.
4. Pour the wine and brandy into the skillet and ignite with a match or lighter. When the flames die down, stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet; pour over shrimp.
5. Place the serving dish of shrimp in a preheated broiler for about 2 minutes.

Serve over hot pasta or rice. Yummy.


About Traci Hohenstein

Full time writer, beachbum, and mom to 3 terrific kids.
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