Cruising for Love (The Escape Series Book 2)

 

 

Cruising for Love

(The Escape Series, Book 2)

by Ann Omasta

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Escape into the enchanting Hawaiian islands by reading this heartwarming tale of friendship, love, and triumph after heartbreak.

 

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Get Aloha, Baby!

Chapter 1

 

"Hitting the cow in the road was
not
my fault!" I inform the others, making them burst into laughter yet again.

"Whose fault was it...the COW's???" This incredulous question comes from my best friend, Macy. She looks especially cute tonight because she has set her sights on her new co-worker, Kyle. When Kyle mentioned wanting to try the new Mexican restaurant in town, Macy had quickly thrown together this small group outing to ease her path into getting to know him better. I see them make eye contact, beaming at each other, and realize that my ridiculous hot mess of stories is serving as the ideal ice-breaker for them, which is likely exactly what Macy had intended when she brought up my less-than-stellar driving record.

"Well, yeah. I mean, what was it doing in the middle of the road?" It makes perfect sense to me, but they are still laughing at me. I chuckle, even though the hilarity is at my expense. I know it sounds crazy, but these odd situations just somehow seem to find me.

"Is the cow okay?" This concerned question comes as the first words of the evening from our suddenly quiet friend, Jasmine. Jas is one of the most outlandishly fun people I know, but it takes her a while to warm up to strangers. Having the new faces from Macy's law office join us for dinner has evidently caused her shyness to flare up.

"The cow is fine," I reassure her. "My car on the other hand..." I let the sentence dangle, allowing the group to draw their own conclusions about my car's fate after tangling with a bovine. "I still go visit the cow occasionally," I add, "but I don't think she likes me."

"You're probably not her favorite person," Kyle confirms, earning a flirty eyelash flutter from Macy.

When the waiter drops off our second pitcher of frozen margaritas, Macy stands to pour refills of the slushy, lime deliciousness into everyone's glasses. She manages to give Kyle a lengthy peek at her ample cleavage as she bends to pour his drink. I can't help but chuckle as I watch his eyes nearly pop out of his head. If her intention with that maneuver had been to get his attention, she definitely succeeded.

"Tell them about your wreck with the Dr. Pepper truck, Ruthie." She encourages me to move on to the next car disaster story as she sits down and digs into the fresh basket of chips and salsa that have unobtrusively appeared at the table.

"Okay, but that one really wasn't my fault," I start, making them all laugh in anticipation of another of my ridiculous-but-true vehicle stories.

"They never are." Macy shakes her head at me.

As I proceed to tell them about the Dr. Pepper truck fiasco, which ended with my convertible being filled with exploding cans of hissing Dr. Pepper, I know we are being much too loud in the crowded restaurant. We are having fun, though, and I don't want to try to hold down the volume on our merriment.

Just then, one of the only people who could ruin my great mood walks in. She is already seated by the time she sees me, or I'm certain she would have slunk out of the restaurant like the man-stealing traitor that she is. My sister's ex-best-friend, Lizzie, and I make eye contact for the first time since she shattered Roxy's wedding day by stealing the groom. I narrow my eyes into a cool glare until she looks away.

I note that she isn't with Gary, the prick who had the audacity to dump Roxy by text message on their wedding day. Rumor has it that the man-stealer and the cheating jerk have broken up.
Karma can be a bitch,
I think to myself. Even though Roxy is giddily happy with her Hawaiian hunk, Kai, whom she met on her would-be honeymoon, I'm not quite ready to forgive and forget what Lizzie and Gary did to her. I might never be.

Lizzie's mother joins her, and I force my attention back to our table. The topic of conversation has now moved from my accident-prone driving skills to the plethora of jobs that I somehow manage to get fired from.
Great, now they all know that I'm vehicle AND job-challenged,
I think to myself. "She's always coming in late or not showing up at all," Macy tells the table. "Once she dropped an entire tray loaded with food. It's
never
her fault, though."

"It's not," I affirm, making the group laugh again as Macy pats my arm in a slightly condescending (but somehow still loving) way. I don't get offended by her teasing. It is all true, after all. My life is a series of complete disasters.

"She lost one job because she couldn't stand to leave Hawaii to come back to work," Macy shares with the group.

"It was HAWAII." I smile at them, lifting my shoulders as if that explains it all.
I might as well own it,
I decide. "Besides, it was totally worth losing that cocktail waitressing job to stay in paradise a bit longer. I was able to attend Baggy's wedding while I was there. Baggy is my crazy grandmother," I clarify for Macy's co-workers. Deciding to go all in, I confide, "I missed my sister's wedding that same night, though, because I thought I saw Jason Momoa, and I went chasing after him."

Most of the others are shaking their heads in bewilderment, as if my life is the biggest train wreck they have ever encountered. "It wasn't him, but it
really
looked like him. I just
had
to follow him and find out."

It is quiet for a bit, so I add, "I guess I'm truly a jump in with both feet kind of gal...none of that dipping a toe in to test the water stuff for me." I smile at them, and most of them smile back.

As if the universe heard my bold declaration, a tall, well-dressed (if slightly slick looking) gentleman appears at our table. He hands me a business card, which I peer at warily. The card is made of thick black stock that feels surprisingly heavy in my hand. The gold block lettering says simply, "T.J. Stone, Producer."

I crane my neck up at him with a questioning look. Checking him out more closely, I find that he's wearing a tailored, dark suit. He is tan and has on more jewelry than any of the men from this area in the Midwestern section of the country would normally wear. I quickly decide he must be from California or New York City.

Speaking for the first time, he looks down at me and informs us, "I couldn't help overhearing your stories." I wonder if he expects an apology for our rowdiness.
He's not getting one,
I think to myself.
We were just having fun.
Instead of chastising us, he floors me by saying, "How would you like to be the world's next big reality television star?"

Chapter 2

 

"It will be fine, Mother." My attempts to appease the clearly disapproving woman are not working. I hold my cell phone away from my ear and roll my eyes toward the ceiling as she continues to detail the potential pitfalls with my plan.

She sounds like a broken record. Even after I set my cell on the counter––without bothering to put it on speakerphone––I can hear key buzzwords. "Likely a scam...fall in the ocean...take advantage of you...contract terms...too naive for this Hollywood nonsense...steal your innocence."

I rub my temples in an attempt to stave off the impending migraine I can feel beginning to take root. As tempting as it is to hang up on my ever-negative parent, I know that somewhere deep down she does have my best interests at heart. Her intentions likely come from a place of love, but conversations with her are often one-sided and nearly always emotionally draining.

Deciding I've had enough of her lecturing and choosing to take the easy way out, I pick up the phone and use one hand to muffle its microphone while I use my other fist to pound a fake knock on my counter. "I think someone's at my door," I announce to her.

The "hmph" she responds with lets me know that she isn't buying my ruse for a second. Determining that I'm in too far to back out now and opting to see it through, I add, "Talk soon. Bye." I utter the words quickly and hang up without waiting for her response, then I toss the phone on the counter, wanting to distance myself from her contrary juju.

Almost immediately, the phone begins jingling with an incoming call. "Give me a break, Mother," I say to my empty kitchen before picking the phone back up with the intention of sending her straight to voicemail. To my surprise, the display shows a smiling picture of my sister, Roxy.

"Aloha!" I answer excitedly. Roxy recently relocated to Hawaii, which makes it so she and I don't get to talk nearly as often as we used to, or as often as we would like.

Chuckling at my greeting, she responds, "Aloha, to you too."

"How are you?" I ask her, even though I can already tell by her relaxed and cheerful tone that she is happy. Kai, her sexy and sweet Hawaiian husband, seems to truly be her other half.

"I've never been better," she confirms before asking about me. "What's new in your world? Any strange car accidents this week?"

"Why would you ask me that?" I respond as if I am offended.

"You do have a knack for finding odd things to collide your car into," she reminds me gently before adding, "It's never your fault, though."

"I'm glad you realize that." We both chuckle at my tendency to deny blame, even though I am the only common denominator in all of the fiascos that seem to constantly shadow me.

Turning serious, she asks me, "You doing okay?" Having discovered her happily ever after ending, my sister now worries that I won't find mine.

"Actually, yes, I'm doing great. I have big news." She remains silent, waiting for me to spill it, so I take a deep breath before forging ahead. "I'm going on a reality television show that is set on a cruise ship and will be streamed on the internet." The words spill out of my mouth quickly. I brace myself for her reaction. Roxy has always been the practical sister, and I anticipate that her response will be similar to our mother's.

"What?" she asks me, clearly stunned. Without giving me a chance to respond, she surprises me by adding, "Wow! That's fantastic."

I'm thrilled and shocked by her extremely positive reaction. It is so much better than I would have ever imagined. Staying quiet, I wait for her to process what I have told her and begin lecturing me.

Rather than judging my spontaneity or questioning my sanity as I had fully expected, she continues to sound thrilled about my announcement as she asks me to tell her all about it.

Cringing slightly, I say, "I've already told you pretty much everything I know about it. I fly down to Florida on Friday to start shooting," I add, giving her the only other detail I gathered before signing on the proverbial dotted line.

"What an adventure! You're going to become America's Sweetheart," she proclaims, making me wonder if Kai has given her some kind of personality transplant. My fuddy-duddy, responsible sister would normally be in line right behind our mother to tell me what a ridiculous and harebrained idea it is for me to agree to be on a reality television show without first going through the contract line-by-line with an attorney.

"Getting lei'd must be agreeing with you," I tease her with the double entendre, and she laughs so hard she actually snorts! I've never heard her be so carefree and giddily happy. It's sweet music to my ears.

Once our chuckling subsides, I tell her sincerely, "I'm so glad you found happiness."

"That's all I want for you," she responds, making me feel misty-eyed.

"Enough of this sappy stuff," I announce before adding, "Hang loose."

"You too. But not too loose," she adds as an afterthought, letting me know that the straight-laced sister I've always known and loved is still in there somewhere. Beaming from ear to ear, I press the button to end our call before heading to the hall closet to drag out my well-used burgundy suitcase. It's time to start packing for my adventure.

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