Authors: Katie Mettner
Copyright 2016 Katie Mettner
All rights reserved for this book its content, including the cover art by Forward Authority Design. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior permission of the publisher. The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Names, characters, and plots are a product of the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Always keep your heart open because, as they say in Hawaii, ke'aloha (love is all around).
I lifted the lace wedding dress off the bed to secure it on the hanger, before attempting to stuff all the tulle into the dress bag.
“Are you sure, Kate?” Freddie asked for the third time since I took possession of her wedding gown.
“Freddie, this is your wedding night. You’re not going to babysit me!” I exclaimed, also for the third time.
I finally got the rest of the gown inside the bag and used my left elbow to hold it in while my right hand zipped it up. It must have been quite the sight. When I finished, I stood up and wiped my brow. Freddie was wringing her hands in front of her looking at me anxiously.
“I just feel bad because I invited you out here and didn’t think about you having to spend tonight alone. At least go with Remington to enjoy the island?”
I fought against rolling my eyes at the mention of her new husband’s business partner. “Can you spare me that, please? Rem is a nice guy and all, but he’s got the personality of earwax. Besides, I heard him tell Flynn he was dying to check out the electrical system of the hotel before he leaves. Who does that?”
She snickered into her hand. “Okay, that’s weird.”
“I’m going to get myself a nice drink and take a walk along the beach one more time before I fly back to the cold of Snowberry tomorrow. I don’t mind being alone. I’ve spent the last week with you and Flynn, which has been wonderful, but you deserve some alone time now that you’re officially married.” I got an envelope out of my purse and handed it to her. “In fact, here’s your wedding gift from me. I didn’t know what to get the woman with more money than the National Reserve, so I had to get creative.”
She snorted and stuck her tongue out at me. It was a tradition we started when we fought over a boy for the first time way back in seventh grade. When she pulled the keycard from the envelope, she gasped.
“Kate, you didn’t!”
I clapped my hands and grinned. “I did!”
“You upgraded our room to the honeymoon suite!”
I put my arm around her shoulders and walked her towards the door of my hotel room. “Yes, and that’s where you should be. Go get what you need from your room for the night and head up there. They’re waiting to give you the royal Hawaiian treatment.” I hugged her when we stopped at the door. “I love you, Sis. Thanks for including me in the best day of your life.”
She hugged me even tighter. “You’re the only reason I’m still alive to get married. If you hadn’t saved my life that night…look what I would have missed. I really do owe you everything, Kate.”
I stepped out of her arms and held the door open. “Not everything, just your firstborn child.” I winked and she giggled, stopping short when she really thought about it. I nudged her toward the door. “Enough sappy stuff. It’s time to enjoy being a newlywed. I’m going to pack, then have one last stroll on that beautiful beach.”
She kissed my cheek on the way out the door. “Text me when you get home?”
I nodded. “Of course, I’ll be flying back with Remington. By then, I’m certain I’ll be able to tell you how many outlets are on every wall in the entire resort.”
She shook with laughter and looked down the hall. “He’s unique, but really a great guy. You should give him a chance.”
I curled one side of my nose up and shook my head. “I’ve known Rem all my life, and while I agree he’s nice and would do anything for anyone, I’m happy with being his friend.”
She patted my face. “You always were the diplomatic one.” She straightened her silk robe and adjusted her long black hair. “Do I look okay?”
This time my face broke into a smile. “Oh yeah, you look marvelous, darling. Flynn is going to be a very happy man.”
I blew her a kiss and closed the door, effectively ending the era of Freddie and Kate.
“Salted nut roll, please,” I ordered, slipping my denim clad hind end over the barstool.
The bartender stopped what he was doing to lean over the bar. “We don’t have any candy bars.”
I rolled my eyes internally. Why don’t bartenders in Hawaii know about all the good drinks from the mainland?
“It’s a drink,” I informed him. “Rim the shot glass in salt, add a shot of Rumchata, and a half a shot of butterscotch schnapps. Voila, salted nut roll.”
His nose curled up a little. “Why would you want to drink that when you could have a beautiful piňa colada served in a pineapple?”
“I’ve been here for a week and I never want to look at another piňa colada ever again.”
He flipped the bar rag over his shoulder. “A salted nut roll it is.”
He went to work making the drink while I looked around the small tiki bar that sat near the water. My time in Hawaii was ending, but the newlyweds were staying for another week for their honeymoon. Flynn’s business partner, Remington, and I were flying back to the reality of our jobs and the cold of Snowberry.
I had enjoyed my time here at Orchid Reef Resort, but if I learned one thing it was this; Hawaii is a place for couples. Being here as a single woman was about as much fun as going to a couples retreat weekend, alone. It was a giant waste of time.
I picked up the shot the bartender sat in front of me. “Bottoms up,” I quipped then swallowed the drink in one gulp. I smacked my lips as soon as the glass was back on the bar. “Mmmm, that was good. Hit me again.” I slapped the bar twice and then rested my chin on my hand as I gazed out at the beautiful dark waters of the Pacific Ocean.
“I wonder if I walk out into the water and never resurface if anyone would notice I was missing,” I pondered aloud.
“I’d notice,” a man said and I turned my head to the right, slowly.
“Hey, Strong, long time no see.” The bartender winked at him.
The man perched on the stool next to me was dressed in khaki pants with a neat crease that went all the way down to his trendy boat shoes. He wore an understated silk Hawaiian shirt that brushed the bronze skin of his tanned arms when a breeze blew.
“You aren’t contemplating ending your life on this beautiful island, are you?”
I shook my head, my tongue suddenly tied.
He turned back to the bar and waved at the bartender to come over. “Hi, Donnelly. It’s good to be back in Honolulu. I’ll have my usual.”
“Me too,” I said, pointing at the empty shot glass.
He leaned back on his barstool and shoulder bumped me. “What’s your usual? It looks empty.”
“Salted nut roll. What’s yours?”
He raised one brow and looked me over, from my sienna eyes all the way down to my pink Kate Spade sandals.
“Between the Sheets.”
I looked back to Donnelly and held up my hand. “I changed my mind. Give me a Sex on the Beach, extra sexy.”
I eyed the man next to me again. “I didn’t have you pegged as a drinker of girly drinks.”
“I didn’t have you pegged as a player,” he responded in kind.
I felt my insides quiver a little at his words. I’m so not a player, but when in Hawaii…
“I was just thinking about how enticing the ocean looked. I could walk out into it and no one would even know I was gone.”
He tossed aside the paper umbrella from his drink and took a sip from the straw. “Oh, I think people would notice. Not just anyone can pull off that outfit.”
I looked down at the floral print tank top and faux cut-off denim shorts I’d donned after the ceremony. The top was understated, pink with white flowers, and roped straps held up my voluptuous twins.
“I was the maid of honor at my best friend’s wedding earlier. I was tired of the long dress getting wrapped around my legs.”
I smiled at the bartender as he slid my drink over to me. I copied Strong’s routine, sipping from the straw.
“And now you’re sitting here alone at the bar?” he deduced.
“Brilliant, Watson. This is still better than talking to the best man who is a bald electrician with about as much personality as copper wire.”
He smirked and I began to feel the effects of the alcohol I’d been consuming for what seemed like forty-eight hours straight. I blatantly checked him out. His hair was graying, just slightly, at the temples, giving him a distinguished look of a much older man. It looked thick and silky, and I wondered what it would feel like to tangle my hands in it while we lay between the sheets.
I felt one side of my lips tip up and laughed softly, finishing my drink while my eyes drank in his features. His face was defined, the hard lines of his jaw and cheekbones reminding me of the models in the magazines for Calvin Klein. He wore a ridiculously cute pair of tortoiseshell glasses that hid a commanding pair of smoky green eyes and the sexiest laugh lines at the edge of his lashes. I began to wonder what they would look like filled with lust for a woman.
“So, Strong, is it?” I asked, pushing my glass towards the bartender once again.
“That’s what my employees and friends call me, yes.”
“So is that your way of saying Donnelly is your friend or your employee?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t throw it.” I smiled and his perfectly plucked eyebrow went up another inch.
“Are you going to make me guess?”
“Tell me what I look like and I’ll tell you if you’re right.”
He let his brow come all the way back down as he trailed the length of my body very slowly. When his eyes met mine again, he cracked a smile. “I can’t decide if you’re a Tiffany or a Cinnamon.”
I laughed and clapped my hands once, shaking my finger at him. “You’re so far from the truth.” I stuck my hand out. “I’m Penny.”
He slipped his hand into mine and shook it firmly. “Nice to meet you, Penny. I didn’t see that name coming.”
I took a few seconds longer than necessary to me to drop his hand because the warmth and softness of it was something I was missing in my life. I took a sip from my new drink and scolded myself internally. Get a grip, Kate. You just introduced yourself with a name that no one has called you since you were fourteen. When I heard the name come from his lips, I felt like a teenager again, and that was not a feeling I liked. I pushed the glass a little bit farther away, no more alcohol for me.
I cleared my throat. “I believe I asked you a question that you have yet to answer.”
He pushed his empty glass back towards the bartender and held up his hand to refuse another. “Donnelly is a friend, but also an employee.”
It was my turn to raise a brow. “You own this place? It’s the biggest resort on the island.”
“Would it be better if it was the smallest resort on the island?” he asked and I cocked my head at him. He pointed at my face and chuckled. “I asked, because as soon as I said I owned the place you looked pained.”
I shook my head. “No, not pained, just surprised. I wasn’t expecting to spar with the owner of the establishment this fine evening. It must be the alcohol clouding my otherwise keen eye.”
Strong stood and waved at Donnelly and said, “Put mine and hers on my room charge.”
Donnelly waved and Strong tucked his phone in his pocket. “Would you like to take a walk on the beach and uncloud your eye?”
I slipped off the stool and was thankful for the hindsight of wearing sandals to the beach. “Sounds much more exciting than talking about how many sockets are in each room.”