To most people Hawaii’s crystal blue shores are an inviting opportunity to escape reality. But for Lana Rodriguez who grew up there, the picture-perfect vacation getaway disguises the bitter truths she escaped years ago, and not without some emotional scars. Now a successful blues singer, Lana’s returning to Waikiki with a different outlook on the past, and a bold defiance when it comes to men, romance, and sex. This time, it’s on her terms.
Local celebrity, businessman and island god, Jason Koa, may be every woman’s dream. For Lana, it’s not exactly love at first sight. Though their start is rocky, they can’t deny the passions they arouse in each other. Jason refuses to become Lana’s pawn. It’s time to show her who makes the rules on this island—and in the bedroom. But will Jason’s attempt at breaking Lana’s shell reveal secrets that neither are prepared to face, or will they allow themselves to get swept away by a tidal wave of desire?
Five minutes later, after he was satisfied that Melanie had the basics of paddling, kneeling, positioning herself in a standing position in the center of the board, and falling in the safest way, he suggested that she go and pick out a board from the beginner rack he kept on the beach.
He gave Melanie’s silent friend a bland look. “You’re up.”
“I don’t need instruction on the basics.”
“Is that right?” he asked mockingly.
He glanced down over her. He had to admit she had the body of an athlete. It wouldn’t surprise him if she knew exactly what she was doing. He’d immediately taken note of the casual manner in which she took off her sundress earlier in his shop. She was as used to bearing her body as the female swimmers he knew—as most native Hawaiians, for that matter.
He hated to admit it, but she had excellent reason to be comfortable stripping down in public. She had a jaw-dropping body—strong and supple, but soft and feminine, too. And even though she wasn’t tanned, her smooth skin held a golden hue that promised to soak up the sun thirstily. If she stayed on the island for two weeks, she’d probably be ready to contend in a Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest.
“I’ll be the one to decide whether or not you need instruction. Get up on the board, and show me the basics.”
Her muscles stiffened. For a second, he thought she’d refuse, which would be fine by him. He’d be more than happy to leave her on the beach.
She surprised him by stepping up on the board, however. He stopped her with a hand on her elbow when she started to go lie down on her belly.
“Take off the hat and glasses.”
She started. Despite her frigid nature, her skin felt warm and satiny beneath his appreciative fingers.
“Why? What difference does it make?”
“I like to be able to look into the eyes of my students. Got a problem with that?”
He felt her stare on him from behind the dark glasses.
“Look, Waikiki isn’t Waimea in March—or even Sandy for that matter,” he said, referring to a few Oahu advanced surfer beaches. “But it ain’t the wave pool at the water park, either, lady. Those waves can pound the hell out of you. If you don’t do what I say, it can be dangerous. Call me an ass, but I tend to like to know what I’m dealing with before I take responsibility for you out there. If I can’t look into your eyes, it makes it a little difficult for me to know what you’re made of. Play by my rules, or don’t play at all.”
He realized he’d tightened his grip on her firm biceps. Without speaking she removed the straw hat and tossed it on the grass. Brown hair with golden highlights spilled around her shoulders. The glasses landed on top of the hat. Exotically tilted hazel eyes studied him coldly through thick, long lashes.
He knew those eyes. He knew that face. So did half the population.
He dropped his hand.
Okay, so half the population wouldn’t recognize her. She wasn’t pop-star famous by any means, but she did have a loyal following, not to mention the fact that her work commanded the respect of blues and jazz aficionados across the globe.
“Show me what you got,” he said grimly. He watched her as she gracefully came up into a surfing stance.
“I told you,” she said coldly over her left shoulder.
Jason spread his hand on the back of her thigh. “You know the actions, but you need to loosen up. You’re too tight. Relax” He almost broke out in a huge smile when he slapped her thigh lightly. Her eyes widened in disbelief.
“Get your hand off me.”
“Give me a break, lady,” he muttered as he slid his hand down to her ankle, urging her to widen her stance an inch or two. “You saw me touching your friend as well. You need to relax more than just your body. Your attitude could use a Hawaiian adjustment as well.”
“Think I should just hang loose, dude?”
He paused with his hand on her firm calf and glanced up at her. Her face was livid with fury.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear that particular expression on the front cover of a magazine. I guess that’s for the best, considering the publisher wants people to buy their magazine, not be repulsed by it.”
She clamped her jaw shut. He watched in fascination as her face smoothed into a beautiful mask of impassivity. He stroked her satiny skin ever so lightly, preferring her fury for some reason. Must be turning into a masochist in his old age. When she tensed even further, he knew she’d noticed his subtle groping. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Melanie approaching with a short board under her arm.
“Lana.” Her name lingered on his tongue. “That wouldn’t be short for ‘Ailana now, would it?”
This was interesting, Jason thought when he saw her cheek muscle twitch. He rose slowly until he looked down at her, holding her gaze all the while.
“It means loving in Hawaiian. Of course without the okina, the word ailana refers to raw, fuck-me-till-I’m-blind sexual intercourse,” he said softly, referring to the punctuation mark before the name. He saw the fury return to her expression and smiled insolently. “Ah—I see you already knew that, ‘Ailana.”
“There isn’t a damn thing you can teach me that I don’t already know and wish I didn’t, Mr. Koa.”
He leaned closer, catching her fresh, floral fragrance combined with healthy, sweet sweat. Onaona, he thought, instinctively using his admittedly primitive knowledge of the Hawaiian language to describe her scent. She even smelled like the islands.
“I beg to differ.”
He saw her nostrils flare. His eyes fastened on her lush mouth.
“Is this board okay, Jason?” Melanie called out. He stepped back, glad for the interruption. He was only too happy to consider something else beside the fact that his cock had just stiffened to a lead pipe as he verbally sparred with a prima dona who clearly had some serious issues.
Not his problem.
So what if her personality was a far stretch from what he’d thought it would be given her low, sultry singing voice. Her voice, face, and body had thrilled many a male before him. He didn’t need to be a fan of the entertainment industry to know that most famous people were whacked. Why should it surprise him that Lana Rodriguez was no different?
Still, Jason acknowledged he was disappointed. Her voice and bluesy arrangements brought out the pensive, moody side of him—the side he rarely showed others, certainly not in his role as an athlete or as an extroverted businessman in the Hawaiian tourist industry. In truth, he’d always been a little haunted by her songs.
He suppressed a frown when he fully registered his thoughts and gave an easy grin instead.
“Yeah, that’s perfect, Melanie. Why don’t you go and pick a board, Lana, and we’ll catch a wave.”
“Bitchin’,” he heard Lana mutter scathingly under her breath before she walked away.