Hawaiian Masquerade (Destination Billionaire Romance)

BOOK: Hawaiian Masquerade (Destination Billionaire Romance)
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Hawaiian Masquerade
Billionaire Marriage Brokers
Rachelle J. Christensen

C
opyright
© 2016 by Rachelle J. Christensen

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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Hawaiian Masquerade
from Gelato Publishing. Read on to find out how you can receive a free book from Gelato Publishing.

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,
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Introduction

D
ear Reader
,

 

Hawaii is one of my favorite places to visit. The beach, the sunset, the amazing food, and the atmosphere make for a perfect combination to escape from reality. Add in a new book to read, and I’m truly in paradise.

 

It's not always possible to jet off to an exotic location filled with adventure and romance, but we can become immersed in a story that takes us to places we've never been. Every sentence transports us to another world. And the characters take residence in our heart while we travel with them on their journey. 

 

In
Hawaiian Masquerade
you’ll meet Lexi, a successful businesswoman who needs a change from the hectic pace of corporate life. And Derek, a handsome, local photographer who has an eye for beauty—but a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the wealthy. Embark with them on their journey to discover what—and who—they really want in life.

 

If you'd like to receive updates about new Destination Billionaire Romance books and pick up a free book, you can sign up for Gelato Books’ newsletter by clicking here.

 

Please enjoy your adventure with Lexi and Derek in
Hawaiian Masquerade

 

Best wishes,

Kaylee Baldwin,
author

Foreword

I
’m thrilled
to write this forward for Rachelle J. Christensen! I love her writing and the way she makes the characters feel real and makes you want to root for them!

I spoke with Rachelle about her writing process, because I always love to learn more about what makes other writers tick, and this is what she said, “Most of my novels are written in 25 minute sprints, one at a time. Creating is such a part of life for all of us, and I'm thankful that I'm able to share these stories that sometimes keep me up at night, infiltrate my dreams, and keep pushing me to the outer edges of creativity. 
Hawaiian Masquerade
was particularly fun to write because my family helped me brainstorm the plot. My husband and I visited Kauai a few years ago, and the island is so alive! When I was asked by Gelato to write a DBR, I knew it would be set in Kauai, because I can't wait to go back someday and visit again.”

It’s fun to see the fabric of life authors weave into each story. If you love the ocean, romance, and hot, hardworking men—you’re going to love
Hawaiian Masquerade
.

Taylor Hart, author of
The Bachelor Billionaire Romances

Dedication

For Steve, because you inspire all my love stories.

1

L
exi stared
at the tube of cadmium red oil paint hanging from the shelf, remembering how expensive that color had seemed in college. She grabbed it and ten additional tubes in a rainbow of colors—the first step on a new path in life. The squeaking wheel of the shopping cart gave voice to the trepidation crawling up her spine, telling her she was nuts for leaving behind a life that most people claimed they wanted. But Lexi knew something that most people didn’t: millions and millions of dollars did not create a wellspring of happiness. Cold hard cash was, in fact, cold and hard.

Kauai was not cold. The brilliant sunshine and perfumed air was freely available to everyone on the island. Roadways were drenched in color from vibrant greens to bright pinks and accented with the red dirt Kauai was known for. Lexi studied the brushes available and chose a long-handled round brush that would help her recreate the beautiful landscapes of the island. Now if she could find a few canvases, she would be ready to paint on the beach outside her home. She turned down another aisle and saw a display of white rectangles and squares. They were wrapped in plastic, but Lexi ran her finger along the edges; the rough feel of a blank canvas and the possibility it represented brought back pleasant memories.

A toddler’s shrill cry snapped her out of her musings. She steered her cart around a stack of twelve-by-eighteen-inch canvases and found the source. The little girl couldn’t have been more than two years old, tiny with fine black hair pulled back in pigtails. Her red hibiscus-print dress set off dark caramel skin, and even as her wail intensified, Lexi found herself admiring the pretty Polynesian girl.

That’s when she noticed that the toddler was alone. Lexi glanced around, but this area of the store was empty. She stepped forward carefully and crouched in front of the girl. “Sweetie, are you lost?”

As soon as the words left her mouth, the little girl held out her arms and reached for Lexi. She sniffled, melting Lexi’s heart as she carefully picked up the child. She looked down the aisle, hoping to see the little girl’s mother, but at the same time nervous that the mother would think her daughter was being kidnapped. Lexi patted the girl’s back, and she snuggled closer. Swallowing against the sudden lump in her throat, Lexi focused on the task at hand.

Turning slowly to scan the store again, she saw a man with dark hair, a chiseled jawline, and a worried crease in his forehead. He was tall with golden-brown skin and wore a green tank top that showed off his finely sculpted biceps. Something shifted in Lexi’s heart. It thumped hard twice, and blood rose to her cheeks. The man stared back at her, his face open, revealing an arc of emotions as he took in the sight of the little girl and Lexi—wonder, admiration, curiosity, and something else she couldn’t define.

She stepped forward, eyebrows raised in question. “Is she yours?”

His dark hair was spiked on top and close-shaven on the sides. He sported a bit of scruff that Lexi could only describe as sexy. One side of his mouth lifted, and he shook his head. “No, is she lost?”

“Yes, she was crying right over here, and I’ve stayed put for a minute hoping her mom would show up looking for her.”

He turned around in a slow circle, repeating the search Lexi had undertaken moments before, having a better view over the shelves because he was taller. Oh, so tall and sculpted. “I can help you find her parents. This store isn’t that big. Maybe they haven’t missed her yet.”

Lexi’s brow furrowed in protest as she struggled to rein in her emotions. It had been at least three minutes since she’d heard the toddler’s cries, and five minutes was like an eternity in a child’s world—surely it would feel just as long for a frantic parent searching for her child. She gently patted the girl’s back. “It’s okay, sweetie, I know what it feels like to be lost,” she murmured. Then she realized that the man was standing close enough to hear her. She straightened, cleared her throat, and spoke louder. “We’ll help you.”

The man pointed to the other side of the store. “I’ll go this way, you go that way?”

“That’s a good idea.” Lexi smiled, and her stomach flipped when the man returned her smile. The little girl moved her head, quiet and warm in Lexi’s arms.

The man walked quickly across the store, and Lexi went in the other direction. There was only one other shopper, an old man with a handful of charcoal and sketch pads. Lexi smiled at him, and he winked at her and the little girl. “Beautiful kaikamahine.”

Lexi nodded, appreciating the melodic Hawaiian language. The man saw them as mother and daughter, which was a stretch considering Lexi’s fair skin, blond hair, and green eyes. She held the child close. They were two lost souls trying to find something to keep them safe. Lexi was certain she’d find the little girl’s mother, but what could Lexi find that would fill the need in her heart?

“Here she is,” someone said from behind Lexi. She turned around and saw that the dark-haired man was leading a Polynesian woman with long dark hair toward her. “Safe and sound.”

“Keilani! Oh, baby,” the woman said. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

The little girl immediately sat up and reached her arms out. She cried for a few seconds, clinging to her mother, clutching her light cotton shirt.

“Mahalo. Oh, thank you so much for finding my baby,” the woman gushed.

“She’s a sweetheart,” Lexi said. “She wanted me to hold her, and that seemed to help while we looked for you.”

“One minute she was there, and then she was gone. You know how kids are.” The woman patted her daughter’s back. “Keilani, say thank you to the beautiful lady who found you,” the woman said, looking down at her daughter with a smile.

The toddler looked at Lexi and held her hand out, moving it back and forth. Then she giggled and blew Lexi a kiss.

Lexi pretended to catch the kiss in the air and patted her cheek. “Thank you, Keilani. Have fun shopping.”

She waved at the little girl, then let her hand drop to her side. That’s when she noticed the man who had helped her standing quietly next to the end cap of paintbrushes on aisle seven. “You really get the credit for finding her,” Lexi said. “Thanks for hunting down the lost mother.”

He grinned. “Glad to help out a tourist when I can.”

“But I’m not a tourist,” Lexi replied. “I just moved here.”

One eyebrow lifted, and Lexi noticed a shift in his brown eyes, as if he were seeing her for the first time. He held out his hand. “That’s great news. Aloha, and welcome to Kauai. I’m Derek Mitchell.”

They shook hands, and a sensation like warm, salty spray went up her arm. When they broke contact, she immediately craved his touch again. What was happening to her? The first hot guy to shake her hand had her thinking of moonlight walks on the beach and kisses in the sand. She decided that she was smitten with the
idea
of this Hawaiian guy. She needed a can of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and a long bath, not a man. Still, she smiled broadly and returned the introduction. “I’m Lexi Burke, no longer from Chicago.”

Derek wrinkled his nose. “Man, that place is cold. Good choice coming here in March. The weather will only get better from now until October.”

“I’m counting on it,” Lexi replied.

“Are you an artist?” Derek asked, motioning to the growing stack of supplies in Lexi’s cart, which she’d left in the middle of the aisle.

“I wish.” Lexi laughed as she grabbed the handle. “Maybe in a different lifetime—or maybe now. I love art, and I need to refocus some of my energy. Drawing and painting used to be a passion of mine, before the nine-to-five killed it.”

Derek nodded. “I get that. The good thing about this place is it unwinds all that tension, and creativity leaks out from everywhere.” He tipped his head to the side. “Since you’re new, I’ll let you in on a secret. Drive over to Hanapepe tomorrow—Friday night is the local art night—and you’ll see what I mean.”

“Hmm, I may just do that.” Lexi gave Derek her canned response to every invite from the male species. And then she realized that he was being friendly. Maybe she could go . . . but then she might run into him, and he was too good-looking with that bronzed skin and his relaxed stance that seemed to say,
I don’t have any idea what my looks do to your pulse rate.
Yep. Derek was on her list of things not to encounter in Kauai. Her fingertips drummed along the plastic-wrapped handle of her shopping cart, trying to keep up with her racing heart. It was time to make a quick exit. “Thanks again for your help. Maybe I’ll see you around the island sometime.”

“Good luck with the painting.” Derek lifted one hand and let it fall. He had a stack of frames tucked under his other arm.

After checking out and packing the supplies into her Jeep, Lexie wished she hadn’t been so skittish around Derek and missed the opportunity to reciprocate his interest in her new hobby. He’d spoken about creativity, and judging by the frames and his knowledge of the Hanapepe street fair, he was probably an artist himself. There she was, thinking about him again. Derek was just another piece of man candy Lexi didn’t want to taste, even if he’d been kind and genuine at the store. She shouldn’t be mean to him just because she carried a chip on her shoulder the size of the Sears Tower. She could give him the benefit of the doubt. Derek was quite possibly delicious on the inside, too.

Then again, so was the authentic Hawaiian shaved ice Lexi was going to pick up at Hee Fat General Store. Yes, ice covered in sugar sitting on top of a mountain of thick ice cream would definitely do the trick to keep Lexi’s mind from wandering into dangerous territory.

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