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Authors: Courtney Sheets

DaughterofFire

BOOK: DaughterofFire
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Daughter of Fire

Courtney
Sheets

 

The moment Kalama arrives in Hawaii, the lure of the island
and the power of the volcano rush through her like the welcoming caress of a
long-denied lover. Pele has called her home to deal with the growing threat
against Hawaii and her residents. There’s no time to appreciate the lush
landscape—or the gorgeous backside of the infuriating Jack O’Conner, who wears
his disdain of ancient Hawaiian myth like a big, shiny beacon.

The last thing Jack wants is some USGS expert on Hawaiian
lore wrecking his research. But Kalama isn’t remotely what he expects. Jack’s
more than happy to let her wreck his research, his bedroom…and anything else
she wants. Their attraction is immediate and the sex is scorching. Even amidst
growing danger, they can’t help but appreciate each other in every gorgeous
setting the Big Island has to offer. But when something threatens the Goddess
of Fire, it threatens all of Hawaii, especially the budding relationship
between Jack and Kalama.

 

A
Romantica®
contemporary erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

Daughter of Fire
Courtney Sheets

 

Chapter One

 

“What are you up to, Pele?” Jack O’Conner’s voice floated on
the early morning haze shrouding Kilauea. Jack hugged the coffee mug closer to
his chest and stared out over the desolate lava field. The much-needed caffeine
worked its way into his bloodstream, jump-starting his sleep-deprived brain. He
had been up way too early this morning to be a fully functioning adult, yet
here he stood staring at glowing lava at the god awful hour of six. Thanks to
the industrial-strength cup of Kona coffee in his hand, he would be right as
rain in no time.

Taking a soothing swig, Jack savored the faintly nutty
flavor of the coffee before heading to the battered brown Jeep for the short
drive back to the observatory. He needed to check the six pendulums monitoring
seismic activity along the entire crater.

A weak layer of volcanic fog covered the ground. The faint
smell of sulfur tugged at his taste buds and filled his nostrils. Jack ran a
hand through his hair. Kilauea was erupting. That fact alone was nothing out of
the ordinary to Jack and the thousands of visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park. Kilauea was always erupting. But something odd was going on here and it
had Jack baffled.

He couldn’t find a scientific explanation for the amount of
magma flowing from the Pu’u O’o crater. His team had run test after test in the
months Jack had been stationed here, but nothing conclusive was ever reported.
The consistent eruption coupled with some serious thefts at the park left him
frustrated and angry.

Religious offerings made to the volcano goddess at the edge
of the Halema’uma’u Crater had either been destroyed or stolen in the past
weeks. The
kahunas
, the local holy men, were breathing down Jack’s neck
for an explanation. He simply didn’t have one to give and it was driving him
crazy.

He’d asked the local police force for help, but so far no
suspects had turned up, or any reason for the thefts beyond petty vandalism.
Jack sighed in frustration, feeling helpless, an emotion he was not at all
comfortable with. He was a volcanologist, not Sherlock Holmes.

His cell phone beeped, alerting him to a text message. Jack
placed the travel mug on the dash and reached into the back pocket of his faded
jeans and extracted the phone. The screen blinked, inquiring as to his
whereabouts. He shot off a quick response to let his team leader, Nani, know he
was on his way in and tossed the annoying thing on the passenger seat. He hated
cell phones. They disrupted the peace and quiet he so desperately sought at the
crater’s edge. Still he got the lab’s need to keep tabs on him. Disasters were
never far away when you spent your day working next to the most active volcano
in the world.

Sliding the key into the ignition, he started the engine and
headed in the direction of the observatory.

After a few bone-jarring minutes along the bumpy service
road later, Jack turned the Jeep into the parking lot perched on the western
rim of Kilauea. He smiled to himself, he was lucky to be working on the world’s
most active volcano. A boyhood dream realized for the kid from Arizona. Jack’s
phone screeched, making its existence known again. Disgusted, he grabbed for
the phone and checked the caller ID. His smile widened when he saw his best
friend, Sam Kanaka’ole’s, name on the small screen. Sam had been the first
person to introduce him to surfing and all things Hawaiian when Jack had moved
to Hilo from Tucson three years ago.

“Hi, bro. What’s up?” Jack looked at the clock on the dash.
“Isn’t it a little early for you?”

He wrinkled his brow in confusion. As an officer for the
Hawaii County Police Department, Sam worked the night shift during the week and
was stationed in Hilo, a short drive from HVO. Early mornings weren’t his usual
thing.


Braddah
, we’ve got a serious problem.” While Sam’s
voice held an easygoing lilt, something dark ran just below the surface. The
tone alone told Jack his friend was troubled.

“What kind of problem?”

“Your security guys called me early this morning and I mean
early, dude. It was like around four when I was just about to get off shift.
The door’s been smashed and some stuff stolen from the museum. There’s glass
everywhere because whoever did it destroyed some display cases too. They are
pulling the video surveillance now. You better come down and take a look,” Sam
said.

“Shit. This is not happening. Not now.” Jack slammed a palm
against the steering wheel. First the offerings had been vandalized and now
artifacts. “I don’t need this today, man. That new assistant is set to arrive
this morning. I have to get him up to speed.”

“I understand, Jack. But I need you to get down here, okay?
You’ll have to help fill out the reports.” Sam clicked off, leaving Jack to
stare angrily out over the caldera. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. He
had enough to deal with already, namely an assistant he didn’t want and was
saddled with despite numerous protests. He’d fought like a wild thing over
myriad phone calls and emails to the head office, but to no avail. Jack
preferred to run HVO with his tried and true skeleton crew at the observatory.

Most of his team of four had been with him for two years now
and understood what made him tick. They stayed out of his way, let him do his
job. It was a perfect arrangement and what he needed to keep HVO running.

What he didn’t need was some supposed expert on Hawaiian
culture to come in and screw up that balance. As far as Jack was concerned, a
volcanologist didn’t need to understand the culture, just the big,
fire-belching monster he was sent to study.

Unfortunately the USGS, United States Geological Survey,
didn’t see it the same way. He was supposed to meet Dr. Young at the Volcano
House this morning at nine, a chore he wasn’t looking forward to in the least.
But right now he had to deal with missing artifacts and a disheveled museum not
ready for the public.

* * * * *

Yellow crime scene tape covered the far doorway of the museum.
Shattered glass littered the entry tile floor. Something big and mean had come
through the door, wrecking havoc on everything it touched like a tsunami. A
sweet-smelling tropical breeze danced in, twisting the crime scene tape like a
ribbon trapped in a bicycle spoke.

Hushed voices and scuffing shoes were the only noise in the
room. The faint music of tourist families drifted in from just beyond the
shattered door. He shook his head in disgust. No way could he let them open the
museum today.

“What was taken?” Sam stood pad in hand, poised to write
down every item Jack mentioned in an effort to catalogue the missing artifacts.

“Not much, a smaller lava rock exercise ball and a glyph
page on
ti
cloth on loan from Iolani Palace. The Bishop Foundation is going
to have my head if we don’t get them back.” Jack turned his gaze on his friend.
Sam wore a weary expression. Lines tugged at the man’s eyes and his normally
strong posture was bent with fatigue.

“Why would someone take such random items?” Sam asked. The
tall Hawaiian walked over to the smashed display case that had contained the
glyph page.

“I have no idea. Just like I have no clue why someone has
been destroying the offerings left on the ridge. You need to catch whoever is
doing this, Sam. It’s getting out of control.” Frustrated, Jack ran a hand
through his hair.

“What was on the cloth that would make it so valuable? Why
would someone want it?” Sam came to stand next to his friend. Several other
police officers and the daytime security guard milled around the room. A crime
scene photographer snapped pictures of the damage.

“It was a drawing of some kind of tiki carving. No one has
really been able to translate the full meaning. What I do know is at one time
it belonged to Kamehameha the Great. I have no idea why someone would run off
with it. It’s not exactly something you can hawk on eBay.”

“What about the lava ball?” Sam asked.

“It was used by the Ali’I for exercise, kind of like a
Polynesian medicine ball. The one taken has a few carvings on it that others
don’t. Most lava balls are perfectly smooth, with the normal pitting of lava
but no glyphs or carvings.” Jack’s cell phone beeped. “Damn it!” He snatched
the blasted thing from his belt and checked the message.

“What’s up, doc?” Sam grinned at him, his wicked sense of
humor in full swing despite the seriousness of the situation.

“It seems the illustrious Dr. Young has decided to grace us
with his presence.” The sarcasm in Jack’s voice made Sam’s smile grow wider.

“He’s that assistant they‘re making you hire, right?” Sam
said, laughter still teasing his words.

“Yes. In addition to being a volcanologist of some renown,
apparently Dr. Young is also some sort of a forensic anthropologist. I have no
idea how he is going to be able to help me other then be underfoot,” Jack
snarled. He didn’t mean to snap at his friend, but Sam simply grinned.

“We’re done here for now if you need to go,
brah
. Me,
I’m heading over to the Volcano House to have some breakfast. Eggs and Spam are
calling me.” Jack watched as Sam nodded to the other officers in the room and
headed out into the sunshine.

“I’ll go with you. That’s where I’m meeting Dr. Young. Hope
he’s not some tweed-covered asshole.”

Chapter Two

 

“Damn,
brah
, check out the body on that one. She’s
one hot
wahine
,” Sam Kanaka’ole said over his breakfast of Loco Moco.
The dish was a strange conglomeration of white rice, a hamburger patty, and a
fried egg all covered in brown gravy. Just the sight of the calorie-laden,
heart-clogging meal made Jack’s stomach recoil. He had no idea how his friend
ate so much and stayed in fighting shape.

“I thought you wanted Spam and eggs?”

“This is better,” Sam wiggled his eyebrows comically and
shoved a forkful of the mess into his mouth. Jack took a swig of coffee, glad
that his friend had accompanied him to The Volcano House after checking out the
incident at the Jaggar Museum up the hill.

Jack wasn’t sure he was up to meeting the new assistant the
USGS had sent to help him out. Sam was his wingman in this endeavor. He didn’t
need some supposed expert on Hawaiian culture to come in and screw up that
balance. As far as Jack was concerned, a volcanologist didn’t need to
understand the culture, just the big fire-belching monster he was sent to
study.

Glancing at his watch, Jack heaved a sigh when he realized
it was fifteen past. Great.

Sam laughed and took another healthy bite of Loco Moco. At
Jack’s disgusted look, Sam gestured toward the windows lining the back of the
restaurant with his chin. Jack sighed again and turned in the direction Sam
pointed. In that instant his heart slammed into his rib cage. He felt as if he
had been kicked in the chest. Every bit of air rushed from his lungs when he
locked his gaze on the woman in question.

She stood at the huge bay window overlooking the caldera,
her faced turned away, her body outlined perfectly in the molten rays of early
dawn. Riots of black hair streaked with red spilled down her back and well past
her shapely butt. Her incredibly curvy frame was encased in body-hugging khaki
shorts and a flaming red tank top that showed off miles of bronzed skin. A
backpack was slung over one shoulder and sturdy hiking boots were on her feet.
She was thought-jumbling, soul-stealing and teasingly captivating. He willed
her to turn around, certain her face couldn’t be as beautiful as her body
promised. It had to be a trick of the morning light in the restaurant and his
lack of sleep wreaking havoc on his fevered brain. Worrying about the status of
Kilauea had him seeing mirages.

As if hearing his silent entreaty, the woman turned and
looked over to where he and Sam sat. Sexual need crashed into to him hard and
fast. Sensuously full lips colored a natural pink pulled into an annoyed smirk
when she met his gaze. Eyes so black they mirrored the obsidian formed by
cooling lava bored through him. As if reading his carnal thoughts, the woman
arched one slender eyebrow in amusement. Jack gave himself a mental shake. He
wasn’t like this. He was always in control. Never had a woman affected him so
fast or so powerfully. If the expression on her beautiful face was any
indication, she was not experiencing the same attraction. Frankly she looked
downright disgusted with him. Stepping away from the window, she began a slow,
liquid walk toward them.

“She’s headed over here,
brah
.” Sam’s voice was a
husky whisper. Jack imagined his friend suffered from the same affliction as
him, a terminal case of lust. The woman crossed the distance between them. Her
movements were fluid, pulling the gazes of every man and some of the women in
the room. Not that he blamed them. Hell, he couldn’t tear his eyes from her.

Finally coming to a stop in front of them, she licked her
lips once, annoyance dancing in those dark eyes.

“Dr. O’Connor?” Her husky voice slid down his body and
teased his senses. Blood rushed to his groin as desire raged through him. Jack
met the dark depths of her gaze and felt himself sink deep.

“I’m Dr. O’Connor, but I’m afraid you have me at a
disadvantage.” Jack rose to his feet, barely recovering his voice. Her exotic
beauty effectively robbed his breath and fried his brain. She came up to the
top of his shoulders, putting her at around five-foot-seven to his six feet. If
he claimed those lush lips, she would have to lift up onto her tiptoes to press
those delicious breasts against him.

Where had that thought come from? He needed sleep. That had
to be the only excuse for his suddenly overactive libido. Too much time spent
staring at reams of data about volcanic eruptions and not enough time spent
concentrating on eruptions of a sexual kind was starting to take its toll on
his psyche.

“I believe you’ve been expecting me,” she said, a smile that
didn’t quite reach her eyes grew on her beautiful face. Minutes ticked by as
Jack drank in the sight of her. His mouth went dry and refused to form coherent
speech. Sam grunted in amusement at his friend’s uncharacteristic lack for
words.

“Dr. O’Connor, are you all right?” Sam’s foot shot out from
under the table and covertly kicked him in the heel.

“What? Oh, yes I’m fine?” Jack stared, dumbfounded at the
luscious creature before him. “Wait, did you say I was expecting you?”

“I’m Dr. Young. Dr. Kalama Young. The USGS sent me.”

“She’s no tweed-covered asshole,
brah
,” Sam said
under his breath. Jack shot his friend a scathing glance, regretting his
earlier comment. Instantly Kalama’s demeanor changed as she focused her
attention on Sam. Laughter rang out in the restaurant, full-bodied and rich,
bubbling up from inside her to skate along Jack’s nerve endings. Her smile,
which before had only appeared to be a mask of politeness morphed into a wide
grin. Jealousy stabbed at him. Why hadn’t she looked at him with those
beautiful eyes sparkling the way they did for Sam? He shifted his stance in an
attempt to hide the growing evidence of how appealing he found her.

“I hate tweed.” Kalama returned her attention to Jack and
offered a hand. A wry smile tugged at her mouth. On lust-induced autopilot, he
shook the proffered hand. Electricity sizzled from the brief touch.

“Are you usually this talkative?” Kalama asked, a sarcastic
lilt flavoring her words.

“Actually yes,
sistah
, he is.” Sam laughed and turned
his attention back to his breakfast, obviously enjoying the show.

“Sorry. I was just shocked. You look different than I
expected.”

“How am I supposed to look?” Kalama asked.

“Like a geologist.”

“I’m wearing the prerequisite khaki shorts and heavy hiking
boots handed out to geology majors upon graduation.” It dawned on him that she
was teasing him. Jack stared at her dumbfounded. People didn’t tease him.

“Honestly, Dr. Young, I was expecting a man and you are
definitely not a man,” Jack said, finally pulling himself out of his sexual
haze.

““I’m not? Wow, I was worried for a second,” she said as she
raised a single amused eyebrow at them.

“No she isn’t,” Sam said. Kalama turned the full force of
her gaze back to the police officer. She smiled teasingly at him. Tamping down
the jealousy attacking him, Jack remembered his manners and introduced Kalama
to his best friend.

As the pair chatted, Jack allowed himself a closer
inspection of the sexy woman who had captivated him. He let his gaze roam her
curves unchecked. Kalama’s hair, while ebony as cooling lava, was shot with
strands of silver and red. The style gave her an edginess not usually
associated with people in their chosen field. Ripe breasts strained against the
cotton of her tank top. A solitary teardrop pendant of obsidian rested in the
valley between her breasts. He had the strongest urge to lick the place where
the stone sat. His palms itched to cup those luscious mounds, which would most
certainly fill his hands to overflowing. Her hips flared out in an utterly
feminine way and she had the most perfect ass he had ever seen. Too bad it
appeared she had the warmth of a rattlesnake when it came to him. Sam seemed to
be exempt from her cool stare. Perhaps it had something to do with Jack being a
haole
. Dr. Young obviously had some strong Hawaiian blood running
through her veins.

“In this day and age you haven’t figured out that women can
be geologists too? Are you stuck in the fifties?” she asked, turning her
attention back to Jack.

“No it’s not that, Dr. Young. What I meant is no one at the
USGS mentioned your first name. The documentation I received only referenced
the letter K. I foolishly assumed it stood for Kevin or something. I
apologize.” Great, now he was babbling like an idiot.

“It’s really okay, Dr. O’Connor. But in the future, don’t
jump to assumptions. People have a tendency to be what you least expect.
Especially in Hawaii,” Kalama said with all sincerity.

“Well, I guess I should show you around so you can get
familiar with the observatory.”

“I’m glad it was just a misunderstanding. I was afraid I’d
be forced to punish you for antiquated thinking.” The teasing tone was back in
her voice.

A wicked gleam danced in her eyes. This woman threw him for
a loop. She was disarming with her sexy body, winning smile and teasing words.
One minute she was cold as ice and hotter than flame the next. Sam’s muffled
laughter danced around them.

“Um, no punishment needed.”

“So…want to show me your big tube, Dr. Jack?” Kalama asked.
Sam snorted into the coffee he was drinking as Jack’s jaw dropped.

 

Kalama was thoroughly enjoying herself. After letting Jack
stew in the implication of her saucy question for a few minutes, she decided to
let him off the hook by clarifying she meant the Thurston Lava Tube.

She was annoyed with her reaction to the good-looking
doctor. From her source here at the Jaggar, Kalama knew he wore his disdain for
the power of ancient Hawaiian myth like a big, shiny beacon. Kalama was proud
of her heritage and it ate at her stomach to know she found some
haole
,
with no respect for her culture, attractive. Plus she wasn’t here to flirt. She
had been summoned to find out what was going on at Kilauea.

Jack walked a few paces in front of her, leading them toward
a battered USGS Jeep not far from the Volcano House. She blatantly ogled his
firm butt as she followed him. The man was well put together. She’d been
instantly attracted to the handsome scientist the minute she’d spotted him
across the dining room. Kalama was certain it had something to do with his
muscular chest that threatened to bust the seams on his HVO polo shirt. Or
maybe it was his piercing eyes that were as clear blue as the ocean in deeper
water. Maybe it was the deep voice that sounded as if someone had wrapped his
vocals in velvet. She shook her head. Anyway she sliced it, Doctor Jack
O’Connor was hot. And she knew hot. Too bad he stayed wrapped up in facts and
ignored the mystical side of life. This
haole
spelled trouble for her
with a capital T and she was determined to have none of that.

When Jack had sheepishly admitted his mistake about her
gender, Kalama had been mildly annoyed and wanted to tease him mercilessly.
Jack struck her as a man who rarely made mistakes. Or who was taken by
surprise, for that matter. With her, the gorgeous volcanologist was in for the
shock of his life. Not that Kalama would ever let him catch a glimpse of her
little secret.

“So, do you want to see the lab first or the large lava
tube?” Jack asked.

“Let’s do the lab first. You can show me the park later,”
Kalama said, climbing into the passenger side of the Jeep.

“Sure thing.”

Jack slid into the driver’s side and shoved the key into the
ignition. Kalama leaned over and switched on the radio. Native FM instantly
filled the calm, tropical air with island music. Kalama let out a pleased sigh
and leaned back into the seat, letting the feel of Hawaii seep into her bones.

“I missed this.”

“Missed what?” Jack asked, stealing a glance in her
direction.

“Island music, the smell that is uniquely Hawaii, home. I
missed all of it,” Kalama said.

“Did you grow up in Hawaii?”

“I was born and raised not too far from here. But I’ve been
gone for several years now. I was doing research in Vanuatu,” Kalama said
carefully. She was used to omitting certain aspects of her life. It was the
curse she was forced to bear.

“Oh well, then I guess I don’t really need to show you
around later,” Jack said. Kalama turned her attention to him. His chiseled jaw
was set in a determined fashion.

“You can show me around, Dr. O’Connor. I’m sure things have
changed. Pele does like to redo the landscape every so often,” Kalama said, her
voice low with a sarcastic lilt.

“Yes, the erupting does shake things up. Um…do you think
maybe you should call me Jack? Dr. O’Connor sounds so formal. We’re pretty
easygoing here.”

“Okay…Jack.” Kalama turned her gaze to the scenery passing
by. She had been gone far too long. The call had come, frantic and desperate.
She’d picked up on fear halfway around the world. She hadn’t been sure she
could come back, but knew she had no choice. The volcano needed her. Hawaii
needed her. Pele was calling. A sense of peace settled itself around her like a
warm blanket. The energy of the volcano ran through everything. Just below the
surface Kalama felt the vibrations.

“Does your family still live on the island?” Jack asked.

“My mother lives near here. Not very far at all,” Kalama
said, never turning back to look at him.

“What about your dad?”

“I never met him. He ran off when my mom was still pregnant
with me,” Kalama finally turned her face back to Jack. She waited for the
inevitable pity that usually accompanied that statement, but it never came.
Kalama furrowed her brow and turned away from him again.

“Sorry,” was all he said as he turned the Jeep into the lab
parking lot and killed the engine.

“No big deal. That was centuries ago,” Kalama said, jumping
from the Jeep onto the gravel walkway.

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