Authors: Mimi Barbour
“Mom, what’s going on?” Kai had seen the commotion long enough to know his best friend was in trouble.
Sara called over from where she stood, patting the retching canine. “It’s crazy, but she’s acting the same way she did when she broke into my Purdy’s chocolate stash last year. Remember how sick she was?”
“Oh, no,” Amy groaned. “It’s my fault then. When you left me the big chocolate bar, I shared it with her. She lapped it up. I’m sorry, Sara, I didn’t know it would make her sick.” She hid her red face in her hands, but not before Kai saw the glistening of tears.
He spoke before Sara. “Don’t worry, Amy. Last time it happened
the vet said she’d puk…ahh throw up
the stuff and be fine, and she was. Mind you she was sicker’na dog for a couple hours.” His cheeky grin did the trick, and Amy visibly relaxed.
Sara called over her shoulder. “It’s my fault too, honey. I didn’t warn you not to give her any. She’s such a beggar, I should have known better.”
Prone, thoroughly exhausted, Pegi lay with her head in Sara’s lap. While she massaged and petted the weak animal, she talked nonsense in a tone filled with love.
To Sara’s amazement, Jack had miraculously cleaned away the evidence of the animal’s sickness without having spoken a word. Impressed that a man would help out in such a way, she sent him a loving glance without realizing how potent. Then wondered why he stopped in his tracks.
He moved closer and caressed her hair. He said, his voice low, “I’m so sorry about this Sara. I know Amy feels terrible about hurting Pegi. But I’m sure now that most of the toxins are out of her system, she’ll begin to recover.”
Jack watched as Pegi struggled to her feet, then stumbled and righted herself once again. “She wants to go out. I’ll let her, shall I? She’ll probably be more comfortable in the cool air.”
“Yes, please.” Sara tidied the mat and decided to return to her son who was chatting away to his new friend.
She stopped to eavesdrop—the right of every mother with a teenage child—and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.
Kai’s voice, more enthusiastic than at any time when he talked with her, sounded strangely deep and far too manly to belong to her fifteen-year-old.
“Amy, girl, you’ll like the school. The kids rule!”
Sara started and had to bite her lip. Her husband, Kai’s father, always referred to her in that endearing way, Sara girl, and to hear Kai use the same phrase made her heart melt.
Amy, much cheerier now, answered. “Are there lots of activities? I’ve always been involved in sports. I play soccer and ice hockey.”
“You do? Dope! I play hockey too. What position?”
“No way! Me, too. The net’s the place to be.”
“Yeah? I know what you mean.” Amy had lost all her reticence. Now relaxed in the chair, her finger twirling her long strands of curls, her face alive with interest, she looked much different from the unhappy girl Sara had met earlier.
Sara hated to interrupt, but she really wanted to know how Kai had fared with his hosts and the trip. She moved to lean over Amy whose green eyes sparkled up at her alive and full of glee.
“Kai, I hate to interrupt, but I want to know the telephone number to the hotel and the number to your room in case I have to get in touch with you.”
“Sure mom. I’ll e-mail you all that stuff right after I finish talking with Amy.” The no nonsense tone to his voice made her understand that her son was growing up and putting down an ultimatum.
Wisely, she backed off. “Awesome!” She grinned while he groaned. “Merry Christmas, my guy. I’ll talk with you tomorrow. Have fun there and be good.” She blew him a kiss.
“Backatcha Mom. You be good too, and Merry Christmas.” His innocent look didn’t fool her at all. There was a message meant for her from the cheeky devil.
Jack, waiting in the background, fluffed his daughter’s hair as he passed. “A few more minutes, Brat, then say goodbye. Right?”
Knowing the kitchen needed to be cleared, Sara turned to go back into the room only to stop dead in her tracks. “You’ve put away the dishes? Are you for real?”
His self-conscious grin warmed her insides. “Amy’s mom left us years ago. I do these chores at home. Amy helps sometimes but she's classic in getting out of having to work in the kitchen. Considering she’s only thirteen, you wouldn’t believe her excuses.”
“I bet Kai’s are more imaginative. An allergy to soap and we have a dishwasher.”
“The stoneware is too heavy. She can’t carry more than one plate at a time.”
“Why do we have to wash everything, every night when it’s just getting used again tomorrow? Couldn’t we just wipe things off with our napkins and leave them on the table.”
“Okay, that’s just plain lazy.”
“Ya think? He’ll spend an hour or more polishing his ATV’s hubcaps but…?” Her shrug spoke a thousand words.
Jack shrugged. “Gotta admit, in the big scheme, hubcaps are important...”
Her glare stopped him. “It’s a man thing.”
By this time, they each had a full glass of wine and were sitting together on the living room couch in front of the fire. She tapped her glass against his and shyly smiled. His searching look threw her until he smiled in return. He placed his arm around the back of the sofa and breathed deeply. “This is a wonderful room. You must love sitting here in the evening.”
“I do. Except most times, I’m alone.” As soon as the truthful words left her lips, she realized she’d spoken honestly and not with her usual reserve. Bloody hell!
Her face felt hot. Whatever possessed her to be so open with a virtual stranger? She’d never admitted these feelings to anyone before.
Embarrassment, and a huge amount of self-pride had kept the secret locked inside. She was a lonely soul and hated anyone to feel sorry for her. She snuck a peek at the man sitting next her.
He nodded as their eyes met. “I know what you mean. An empty room is still empty no matter how fancy the surroundings or decorations. It’s most likely why I spend most of my evenings working in my home office.”
picked up her hand, his so much bigger and stronger, hers so dainty next to his. His thumb rubbed her skin before he tightened his hold to draw her attention.
Understanding his aim to get her to look at him, she lifted her heavy eyelids and let him see her honest yearnings. It was like undressing in front of him, and she couldn’t believe he’d earned her trust in such a short time.
Never before had a man intrigued her this much. Her husband had won the love and affection of a young girl and had treated her like a pr
incess until the day he’d died.
But to this man, she was all woman. Her heart doubled its beat while her tongue stayed glued to the top of her mouth. He was the first who’d reached her essence. Brought her sensuality to life. Made her feel ready to move forward.
Trembling, afraid, she tried to snatch her hand back. But he wouldn’t let it go. “Oh no, Sara. It's too late to stop this now. We’ll pursue this attraction to wherever it leads, and I have a feeling, it’ll end up at forever.”
“How can you say that? We’ve only just met.”
“No we’ve only just found each other. We were destined to meet. I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”
couldn’t look away.
eyes mesmerized. The warnings in her heart quieted. The trembling inside slowed and eased, while her soul whimpered in relief.
The yearnings faded.
He was here.
"Please, sir. You and your wife take this taxi. She looks exhausted." Leilani stepped away from the open door, put her suitcase behind her and waved the older gentleman and his fragile looking wife forward.
As she stepped up to the cab, she’d noticed them in the never-ending line-up and knew they still had a long wait before it would be their turn. "Please." She beckoned them over. "I'll take your place in line."
"You're an angel, dear." The older woman patted her hand as she accepted Leilani’s help getting into the car. Leilani smiled and made sure the woman was safely tucked in before she closed the door.
"Bless you," said her grateful husband. He hooked his silver-topped cane over his arm and reached to shake her hand. Once they were all secure, the taxi drove away and Leilani stepped back into the place they'd held so that no one would feel put out by her gesture.
Another taxi pulled up across the traffic-filled lanes of the airport shuttle bus area and a small Hawaiian man stepped out. He looked like an attractive grandpa, his wavy hair snowy white around his face. He wore a traditional, short-sleeved blue shirt decorated with white orchids and around his neck were a multitude of gorgeous leis.
Painted island flowers decorated the outside of the cutest old car she'd ever seen, coral pink happened to be the preferred shade of her favorite color. He caught Leilani's gaze when he waved a large sign overhead with her name on it.
Heavens! Now what? She hesitated to go over and give up her new place in line, but he seemed like someone she could trust.
Once again, she stepped from the snaking line and made her way over to him. "That's my name, but I didn't order a taxi to meet me."
"The airlines had a contest, Leilani Taylor, and you’re the winner. The hostesses were supposed to tell you on the plane. They must have forgotten. You've won two nights at one of the most prestigious hotels on the beach in Waikiki, and better still, you have me to drive you there."
The irrepressible grin on the handsome face of the older Hawaiian forced an answering one from her. What a lovable character!
In her job as a hospital nurse, Leilani met a lot of strange characters. Inevitably, some quaint side of her psyche allowed her to like most of them unless, of course, they did something unlikable. This little man's aura drove a silver stake right into her soft spot and she had the biggest urge to give him a hug.
One day she had to stop taking people at face value. Everyone who knew her weakness had warned her, but what's a girl going to do when her heart overrules her head.
"What about my reservation at the Outrigger…"
"All taken care of, young lady. You're not to worry about a thing." When he saw her hesitate, he pulled a slip of paper from inside his open window and handed it to her.
The form looked official and her name added to the winner’s line calmed her lingering unease. Indeed, for the first time in her life, she'd won a contest. Considering the bad things that had happened to her today, it looked as if her luck changed.
Soon, adorned with the beautiful leis she'd admired from afar, she was ensconced in the back seat of the outlandish vehicle. The moment she'd entered the taxi, she'd relaxed. Swiveling in every direction, she studied the interior and pleasant shock had her mouth hanging open.
Hanging everywhere were the cutest souvenir-like trinkets. Plastic pineapples, palm trees, dolphins and so many other knick-knacks like a tourist might use to fancy up a fridge back home. He'd even strung twinkle lights and Christmas ornaments around the front dash. The sight made a laugh bubble up inside until she couldn't contain it.
Leilani leaned forward to make sure her driver could hear her over the soft Hawaiian music flowing from the radio speakers. "I must tell you how much I love your decorating style. I've jazzed up my Bessy and always thought I was the only person who liked this kind of thing."
"An old puddle-jumper I've had for years. The mechanics groan every time they see me coming, but she just keeps going, and I don't have the heart to abandon her to a junkyard."
"I see. You're attached to a possession made of rubber and steel?" Was that a smile she heard in his voice?
"Heavens no! I'm attached to the memories it holds. The first time behind the wheel on my own, so nervous my foot shook while the van jerked, racing at twenty-five miles an hour." A giggle broke loose at the memory. "Driving my mother to the hospital the day after I’d finally saved enough to buy the specialized wheelchair vehicle. No more having to rely on friends or scrambling for money to pay the hospital transfer costs. I swore Bessy seemed to know her way to the carport on the side of our house, because there were many days I drove home exhausted from the nursing academy. I…. listen to me ramble on." She removed her hands from the seat ahead and leaned back. "Like I said before, the car seems like an old friend."