Kiss of the dragon
A deathbed request sent Bethany Adams to Hong Kong in search of the legendary Golden Dragon, symbol of eternal love to those who viewed him with the clarity of their hearts. But first she met Tiger Malone, a dangerous man whose green eyes smoldered with passion. Tiger wanted the dragon as much as he wanted Bethany -- so they both set sail for mainland China.
There they embarked on a perilous journey, pursued by desperadoes who would stop at nothing to claim the dragon as their own. Bethany and Tiger were ready to risk their lives to find it first, but they soon discovered that the greatest treasure of all was only a tender touch away.
Published by Silhouette Books New York America's Publisher of Contemporary Romance
Copyright © 1987 by Barbara Faith
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Silhouette Books, 300 East 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017
First Silhouette Books printing June 1987
So this was Hong Kong, a bedazzlement of sights and sounds and aromas like no other place in the world. It wasn't anything like Tiffin, Ohio. The people that crowded the streets—a mixture of European, American, Chinese—were dressed in tailored suits, silk dresses, blue jeans, cheongsams and coolie outfits. Shops were blazoned with signs: Imperial Jade Company, Peter Choi Gems, Dim Sum Burger, Yue Po Chai Antiques, King Hueng Restaurant, Hong Kong Arts and Crafts. There was an aliveness here, an excitement that Bethany had never felt in any other city. For the first time she understood why her father had wanted her to come.
A lone rickshaw pulled away from the curb almost in front of them. The taxi driver yelled words Bethany didn't understand and swerved just in time to avoid a crash. The rickshaw driver, who couldn't have
weighed more than a hundred and twenty pounds, shook his fist then stood arms akimbo in front of the taxi. Horns bleated behind them as her driver swerved around the rickshaw and headed back into the traffic.
She leaned forward in the cab, not wanting to miss anything, wondering what Hong Kong had been like when her father had been there almost forty years before.
For years she'd tried to get him to talk about his China days. But Ross Adams had been strangely reluctant to discuss them. He'd told her about Claire Chennault, of course, and he'd been proud to have been a member of the Flying Tigers in the days when China was at war with Japan. The United States had been China's ally then and Chennault had organized his Tigers to help Chiang Kai-shek's air force. Ross had liked flying in and out of China and he'd told Bethany that Hong Kong was the most exciting city in the world.
"There's nothing that can compare to the lights in Hong Kong harbor at night," he'd said. "No other feeling like being in Repulse Bay and looking out toward the South China Sea."
Then why, Bethany had asked him, had he left to go back to the States and settle in Tiffin, Ohio?
"I sure didn't plan to," Ross had told her with a sheepish smile. "I came back just to visit my folks after the war. But I met your mother and I stayed on. I talked to her about Hong Kong after we were married, but she didn't want any part of it. Said she'd been born and raised in Ohio and she wasn't going to leave
it to go traipsing off to some godforsaken land where they ate chop suey three times a day."
Ross Adams had stayed in Tiffin and started a flying school. He liked his life well enough and everything had been fine up until a year ago. He'd started feeling the high cost of liability insurance, but had managed to keep his head above water until a larger, more modern flying school came to town. Business went downhill almost as rapidly as his health. Then Bethany's mother had surgery, followed by an incapacitating stroke. The combination just about finished him.
"I haven't done as well by you as I planned," he'd told Bethany a few weeks before he died. "I've got some money in the bank, but with your mother in the nursing home it won't last long." He reached for her hand. "But I've got something—something that's been hidden away for a long time, Bethy. It's worth a lot of money by now, maybe a couple of million dollars. After I'm gone I want you to go get it."
He'd told her then about Bill Malone. "Bill and I flew together," he said. "Flew in and out of China more times than I can count. Cracked up twice but we both managed to walk away from it. He met the prettiest Chinese girl I ever laid eyes on named Su Ching. Her father came from rich Manchurian people. After the war Bill and Su Ching got married and moved to Hong Kong."
Ross's eyes closed and he gripped hard on Bethany's hand. When he opened them he continued, "We did a lot of things I'm not especially proud of Bethy, black market stuff, same as everybody did in those days, booze, cigarettes, jade, silk." He sighed. "Made
a lot of money, enough to set up business here and put some by. But not enough for what you're going to need to take care of your mother. That's why I want you to go to Hong Kong and find Bill Malone."
Bethany stared at him. "Go to Hong Kong? I can't leave you and mother."
"I'm not going to be around, honey, and your mother's being taken care of." He got up and belted the old flannel bathrobe around his frail body. He went to the rolltop desk in the alcove off the bedroom, opened a drawer on the right-hand side, felt around and pulled out a small wooden box. From it he took a gold key. Coming back to Bethany he placed it in her hand and closing her fingers around it said, "When I'm gone you get on the first plane out of here and head for Hong Kong. Find Bill. He'll have the other key. He'll take you to the dragon."
"The golden dragon, Bethy. It's been waiting all these years for someone to come and get it."
That day Hong Kong had seemed a million miles away. But here she was, trying to find a man by the name of Bill Malone.
The driver turned into Li Woo Street and slowed. "No houses," he said. "Only offices."
"Go further down." Bethany handed him the envelope her father had given her with Bill Malone's last address. "Number thirty-six."
"No thirty-six," he insisted. "All buildings."
"Please stop and ask."
The driver shrugged, then stopped. When he came back he gave the envelope back to Bethany and said,
"Houses torn down three years ago. No Bill Malone."
When Bethany got back to her hotel in Kowloon she looked in the phone book. There was one Malone listed. His name wasn't Bill and he didn't know anybody else by that name. She called the American Embassy and the man she talked to there said, "You might try the English-American Club. They'll have a list of members and perhaps your Mr. Malone is one of them."
"I've heard of a man named Malone," the woman Bethany spoke to at the English-American Club said. "But he's not one of our members." The way she said it made it sound as if she was glad he wasn't. "He owns a gambling club in Macao, The Golden Dragon." The woman sniffed audibly. "It's supposed to be the
place to go but you wouldn't catch me within a mile of it, or anywhere else in Macao for that matter."
Bethany thanked the woman and thoughtfully replaced the receiver. The Golden Dragon was a gambling club? Was that what her father had been talking about? But what did that have to do with a key? She sank down on her bed, knowing she had to go to Macao.
Quickly Bethany went downstairs to speak to the concierge. Macao was sixty kilometers from Hong Kong, he told her. Thirty-seven miles. Did madame wish to arrange for a tour?
Madame didn't. She wanted to go tonight and wondered if he would arrange for a taxi.
The concierge frowned. "I will arrange a taxi to take you to the pier, madame. From there you must take
either a hydrofoil or a jet foil, which Will take approximately forty minutes, or the ferry, which takes two and a half hours. But I would not advise you to go alone, especially at night." He hesitated. "Perhaps someone will meet you when you arrive?"
Now it was Bethany's turn to hesitate. She knew the concierge was only trying to be of assistance, but she had to find Bill Malone, and if going to Macao was the only way then she'd go to Macao. She thanked the concierge and told him that friends were meeting her.
At nine-thirty, wearing a turquoise silk pongee dress she'd bought yesterday in the hotel arcade, Bethany arrived at the pier and waited for the hydrofoil which was due to depart in fifteen minutes.
The Italian-built craft, appointed inside much like an airliner, set off across the water like a plane flying through turbulent air currents. A little under an hour later it arrived in Portuguese Macao. As the rest of the passengers disembarked, Bethany looked around and when the driver of a pedicab approached to ask, "Taxi, madame?" she nodded and said, "The Golden Dragon, please."
The streets of Macao were crowded, although it was past eleven, and for the first time since she'd left the hotel in Hong Kong, Bethany felt uncertain.
When the taxi pulled up in front of The Golden Dragon a doorman leaped forward to help her out. "Are you meeting someone here, madame?" he asked.
Bethany shook her head. "I've come to see Mr. Malone."
He held the door open and Bethany stepped into a strange world of red velvet and sparkling chandeliers.
She heard the excited murmur of voices, croupier calls, music, and the whir of roulette wheels. To her right there was a dimly lighted, crowded bar. Chinese cocktail waitresses in tight-fitting cheongsams flitted like colorful birds from table to table. In the foyer, on a marble pedestal, a five-foot golden dragon, its green eyes alight with an almost seductive gleam, stared at her.
Bethany took a step closer just as a voice said, "May I help you?"
The man, dressed in a dark-blue tuxedo, stood poised at the entrance to the main salon. "Are you looking for someone, madame?"
.yes." Bethany cleared her throat. "I'm looking for Mr. Malone. I was told that I could find him here."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't. Is Mr. Malone here?"
"I will see, madame. May I have your name?"
"Bethany Adams. Please tell him I'm Ross Adams's daughter."
"Yes, madame. Will you wait in the bar while I see if Mr. Malone is available?"
"No, thank you. I'll just wait here if that's all right."
When he disappeared through a door across from the bar Bethany stepped closer to the dragon. He was as handsome as he was frightening. His green eyes glinted in the half light with a knowing, almost human look. She stared at him for a moment, feeling a strange fascination, then reluctantly turned away and moved closer to the entrance of the salon. The room was almost as large as the first floor of a department
store. The chandeliers shone down on well-dressed men and women crowded around gaming tables. She caught snatches of conversation in English and Spanish and French, and other languages she didn't recognize. A cluster of small tables and chairs stood at the far end of the room, where couples were dancing to a five-piece band.
The door across from the bar opened. The maitre d' beckoned and said, "Come with me, please."
Bethany gripped her white handbag as she stepped through the door into another foyer and followed the man up a broad circular staircase, then down a long corridor. He stopped at an ornately carved door at the end of the hall and knocked. He opened the door for Bethany to enter and closed the door behind her.
"You are Mr. Ross Adams's daughter?"
A man who had been seated behind a large rosewood desk at the other end of the room stood up and came toward her. He was tall and slender. His face had the classic cheekbones of a high-born Chinese and his green, almond-shaped eyes were slightly tilted. His black brocade dinner jacket and trousers were impeccably tailored and he was the most attractive man Bethany had ever seen, the epitome of everything she had ever imagined about the mysterious East.
She took the proffered hand and said, "Yes, I'm Bethany Adams. I'm sorry to bother you this way, but I'm looking for Mr. Malone."
"I'm Mr. Malone."
Bethany frowned and shook her head. "I'm looking for
Malone. He'd be about my father's age."
"Bill was my father. He died almost three years ago." He took her arm and led her to a black velvet
sofa. "My name is Tiger, Miss Adams—and if you even chuckle I won't give you a drop of the champagne I opened when I heard you were here." He smiled as he took a bottle from an ice bucket, filled two golden goblets, and handed one to her. "Is this your first visit to Hong Kong?" he asked.
"Yes." Bethany looked at him over the rim of her goblet. He spoke with an English accent, but his appearance hinted at another, older culture. "I'm staying in Kowloon. I took a hydrofoil to come here tonight."
"You came alone?"
Bethany's hands tightened around the goblet. "Yes."
He looked slightly puzzled. "Is your father in Hong Kong with you?"
"No, Mr. Malone, he died a month ago."
"I'm sorry. I've heard a lot about him. My father loved to talk about their days together. It's too bad the two of them never got together after the war."
Bethany nodded as she sipped the champagne, wondering what she should do next. Should she give Bill Malone's son her father's letter and the key or just thank him for the drink and leave? Her hands closed around her purse. She didn't know what was in the letter, only that a lot of money was involved and that she had to go cautiously.
The telephone rang. While Tiger answered it Bethany took a moment to look around her. The office was large and plushly decorated, its paneled walls lined with books and jade figurines. When he replaced the phone he added more champagne to Bethany's goblet. "You didn't come to Hong Kong expressly to see my father, did you?"
"No," Bethany said, a shade too quickly. She stood up. "I don't want to bother you, Mr. Malone. I know you're busy."
"Not that busy. Please, finish your champagne and I'll show you around the club."
Tiger observed Bethany as she sipped her drink and found her an unusually lovely woman. Small boned, with delicate features, her eyes were wide and gray, her hair the color of sun-ripened wheat, and she had the best-looking pair of legs he'd ever seen. He didn't think she could be more than twenty-three or -four. There was an air of freshness about her that pleased him. He wondered what had brought her to Hong Kong alone.