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"I stopped believing in your promises when we were nine years old and you promised my bike would be perfectly safe left outside the cinema. Besides, I have work to do." Barnabas Harrigan turned away from his friend's entreaties. With Colin, it was always play time. He didn't know the meanings of the words duty and responsibility-words Barnabas had cut his teeth on.
Barnabas had to wonder if that's how people really saw him-as a dried-up old man at age thirty-four. He didn't feel any older than he had when he first started working here at the resort in his teens. Where had the years gone? Now Dad was retired and the full responsibility fell on Barnabas's shoulders as the eldest of the four brothers. Barnabas was determined to live up to his father's faith in him by working hard.
Colin snorted. "What work? More catering to women like those two coming in the door? Though I wouldn't mind an introduction to the young one. Wowser."
Barnabas turned to see two women approaching the desk. The elder was about seventy with green eyes as clear as glass and white hair styled in waves that softened her sagging chin. She wore a gray suit with a pink blouse. Her gentle smile brought a welcoming grin to Barnabas's face. She reminded him of his grandmother back in Ohio.
His smile faltered as his gaze traveled past her to the other woman. She looked like a younger version of the elder. Her hair rippled down her back nearly to her waist in a black, silken sheen that threw up beams of light from its depths. Her three-inch heels clicked along the tile in a staccato rhythm that announced, "Look at me." Dressed in a red suit that fit her curves to perfection, she was the type of woman that made most men salivate.
Barnabas was not most men. His brows drew together in a scowl. Just the kind of woman he most despised. She would expect to be waited on hand and foot, and he was in no mood for such a hard customer this week. Not when a boatload of responsibility had just been dumped on his already aching shoulders. He had learned one thing early at Harrigan's Cove-a woman's beauty was in direct proportion to how much attention she expected.
He forced a smile to his lips. "Good afternoon. Welcome to Harrigan's Cove. How do you like our beautiful Maui?"
"Oh, it's just paradise," the older woman said. She picked up the pen to sign the guest register. "I am Phoebe Van Cleef, and this is my granddaughter, Liliana Van Cleef. Such a lovely resort you have here. What's your name, young man?"
Barnabas raised an eyebrow. People seldom cared who the staff members were so long as their needs were met. "Barnabas Harrigan," he said.
"Ah, the owner of this fine resort?" Phoebe inquired.
"One of them. My father just retired, but I have three younger brothers who share the business."
"Since my friend seems reluctant to introduce me, let me introduce myself." Colin broke in with an outstretched hand. "Colin Montreal, at your service. If I can be of any assistance in showing you around our paradise, just say the word." He shook Phoebe's hand, then took Liliana's right hand in both of his hands.
A slight hint of color came to Liliana's cheeks, and she pulled her hand back. "Thank you, but we shall be very busy this week."
"Pish-posh, Liliana, you might as well take the young man up on his offer. I don't want you stuck in the room with me when you could be out having fun," her grandmother admonished.
The color in Liliana's cheeks deepened, and she narrowed her eyes as she looked at Colin. "I prefer to stay with you, Grammy. Besides, I want to work on my tan." Her voice dripped with aloof disdain.
Colin shrugged and handed her a card. "If you change your mind, give me a call." He waved to Barnabas, then sauntered away.
Barnabas suppressed a smile as he led the way through the lobby and stepped out into the bright Hawaiian sunshine. A profusion of hibiscus and orchids bloomed along the paths to the hales. The surf pounded along the shore; and far out on the blue water, he could see sailboats scudding by on the white-capped waves.
This was paradise indeed. He sent up a silent prayer of thankfulness to God for allowing him to live on this island of lush beauty and warm, tropical breezes. He glanced at the women walking beside him. Phoebe's rapt expression showed she appreciated the beauty as much as he did, but Liliana walked with her eyes straight ahead without seeming to care about the magnificent beach view.
He indicated a golf cart parked outside. "Hop in and I'll take you to your hale."
"Hale?" Liliana's perfectly arched eyebrows rose. "I specifically said a suite. What is a hale?"
"You'll love it, I promise. It's three rooms, actually, like a little house that's all your own. You'll see." He kept his smile pinned in place, but it was a struggle as he helped the two women into the golf cart. He jumped into the driver's seat and released the brake. He couldn't get rid of the stuck-up young woman any too soon.
They rounded the corner, and the resort hales came into view. Like a cluster of grass huts, the roofs were thatched. The hales were the drawing point to the resort for most visitors. It was like stepping back to the way Hawaii used to be. The hales dotted the landscape, interspersed with more flowers and benches to sit on and enjoy the scenery. He stopped in front of a hale that overlooked the water.
Liliana gasped. "This? Is-is that grass on the roof?" She gave an outraged sniff, then turned to her grandmother. "Grammy, I'm sorry. I specifically requested their best suite for our trip away. The Ritz-Carlton is just down the road, and I own stock in it. I'm sure they will find room for us."
Barnabas would like nothing better than to be rid of the beautiful and haughty Liliana Van Cleef, but with the fall-off in tourism lately, he needed the booking. They'd booked for two months, and he wasn't about to let that slip away because of a spoiled, little rich girl. "Looks are deceiving," he said. "Let me show you inside. This is our finest hale, and it has every amenity you could ask for. Most guests enjoy the privacy of our hales. No door slamming in the middle of the night, no loud neighbors. See for yourself."
"Let's at least look at it," Phoebe said. "I think it's rather charming."
Barnabas smiled with relief, then mounted the wooden steps to the deck and unlocked the front door. He stepped inside. Phoebe followed him, and after a brief pause, Liliana stomped up the steps as well.
There was nothing to be ashamed of with these accommodations. He turned expectantly. How could they find fault with this hale? Plush carpeting covered the floors, teak furniture gleamed in the sunshine through the window, and soft green Hawaiian print bedding completed the decor.
"How lovely," Phoebe said.
"This is the joint sitting room. Through that door is one bedroom, and the door opposite it leads to the other bedroom. We've spared no expense to make your stay here a memorable one." He stepped toward a door leading to the first bedroom. "The bathrooms have gold fixtures, and they each have a spa-tub for your relaxation."
Liliana followed him, and he caught a whiff of her perfume, some kind of light, flowery scent that had to cost the earth. She was a lovely creature. Too bad her inside beauty didn't match the outside.
She sniffed. "Very well, I'm willing to give it a try if you are, Grammy. I just want you to be comfortable." But the look she sent Barnabas from her green eyes could have left him bleeding.
Barnabas let out the breath he'd been holding. Maybe he had salvaged this booking after all-if the pristine Liliana Van Cleef didn't find something else to complain about.
Two months might feel like an eternity.
* * *
Liliana kicked off her heels and sighed with relief as her toes sank into the sage green carpet. Walking across to the small refrigerator, she opened it and peered inside. "Want a fruit juice, Grammy?" She just wanted to forget the handsome resort owner and her reaction to him. Her first glimpse of him had been like an uppercut to the solar plexus.
"No, thank you, Darling. Get one for yourself and come here a moment. I fear I must take you to task a bit."
Liliana sighed. She knew what was coming. No matter what she did, she never managed to please anyone. She grabbed a bottle of water and sank onto the couch beside her grandmother.
"Liliana, dear girl, I know we haven't spent much time together, and I regret that. It was always my wish to be close to my grandchildren."
Her grandmother sounded near tears, and Liliana had to resist an impulse to take her hand. Though it went against Liliana's nature, she had learned to restrain such actions. Physical contact was discouraged in her family. "It wasn't your fault, Grammy. I know now that Mother forbade you to see us."
Her grandmother shook her head. "I should never have allowed the estrangement to go on. Apologies are hard for your mother. I should have offered an apology myself."
Liliana inched closer. "What happened, Grammy? I was only five the last time we came for a visit, and all I remember is shouting and doors banging. Then Mother took us to the car and shouted that we were never coming back."
Tears glimmered in her grandmother's eyes, then she looked away and cleared her throat. "I'm wise to you, young lady. You're trying to change the subject. Your behavior was appalling. You treated poor Barnabas like he was a lackey."
Heat flooded Liliana's face. "I couldn't help it. He reminded me so much of Jeff, I wanted to slap him."
"My ex-fiancé. The one who threw me over for a Hollywood starlet with a nose job and a fake body." Liliana didn't try to hide her rage. That weasel Jeff had dared to tell her that he needed a woman who incited his friends to jealousy. Did that mean she, Liliana, was the girl next door? She'd made plenty of men turn and take a second look. That Colin What's-His-Name had been positively drooling. Just remembering Jeff's smug attitude when he broke their engagement made her want to throw things.
"Oh, Dear. Well, try to remember Barnabas is not this Jeff. He seems like a perfectly nice young man. I'm glad you found out this Jeff's true character before the wedding ceremony. The Hollywood starlet was not so lucky. But don't blame poor Barnabas for the sins of another."
Liliana sniffed. "We'll see, Grammy." She rose and went toward her bedroom. "I think I'll put on my bathing suit and lie in the sun for awhile."
"I'm going to take a nap. That flight from Phoenix was grueling." Her grandmother yawned.
"It's best to try to stay awake, Grammy. Otherwise, you'll have trouble getting on Hawaiian time."
"I'm an old woman, Liliana. I can sleep and awaken when I like. You run along and play. I'll be here when you get back."
Liliana smiled and closed her bedroom door behind her. She was ready for some relaxation. Though her heart was still sore from her father's death six months ago, her mother's obsessive grief had made her even more critical and judgmental than ever. Liliana was just plain worn out from the ordeal. The thought of sunshine and sand, swimming and sailing held an almost visceral appeal.
She slipped into a black one-piece bathing suit, then pulled on a white cover-up. Two o'clock. Her mother would be expecting a call to let her know they had arrived safely. Glancing around the room, she didn't see a phone. How odd. Maybe it was in the sitting room. But there was no phone there either. Then she noticed that not only was there no phone, there was no television.
That was simply not acceptable. How could any place that called itself an exclusive resort not provide a telephone and television? No Internet access? Her anger surged again. That Barnabas must be like Jeff in more than just appearance. It was clear he held the same disregard for other people that was Jeff's trademark. At these prices, she intended to make sure he rectified the omission.
She slipped on her sandals and exited the hale. Marching across the sand toward the lobby, her indignation rose until she felt she must glow with the heat of it. First he deliberately didn't tell her they had no suites. Then he stuck them in a grass hut with no phone or TV and away from the shops and the excitement. This was not her idea of a vacation.
Grains of sand bit into the tender sole of her foot, and she stopped to shake them out. She lost her balance and teetered for a moment before strong fingers took hold of her arm and steadied her. She looked up into eyes as blue as the ocean behind her.
"Mr. Harrigan," she began. "There is no phone in our-our hale. Such a ridiculous name! And not only is there no phone, there is no television. These things are not luxuries; they are normal amenities! For the prices you are asking for these grass huts, I would think we would be able to have contact with the outside world!"
The blue of his eyes hardened to molten steel, and his firm jaw tightened. He really was a most amazing-looking man. Actually much better looking than Jeff-if Liliana was interested, which she most decidedly was not. Handsome men only thought of themselves, and she was tired of being an accessory on a man's arm.
He gave a heavy sigh. "Miss Van Cleef, I'm sorry if the accommodations are not to your liking. The brochure I sent you explained that we want our guests to get away from the clatter of normal life and really relax. If you insist, I can bring you a portable phone, but please, try it for a few days and see how free you feel without the intrusion of the outside world."
"Mr. Harrigan, we are going to be here two months! Surely you don't expect us to sequester ourselves away on this island like we're in a monastery. I can understand your point if we were going to be here only two or three days, but I have stocks to keep an eye on and friends to keep in touch with. What you suggest isn't feasible."
"You might be surprised how unimportant those things can become when you get alone with your thoughts and connect with God."
Liliana's eyes widened. She didn't think she'd ever heard anyone mention God outside the elaborate church she attended at Christmas and Easter. Unless it was as a curse word. Something about the way Barnabas mentioned God, almost like He was a close friend, made her heart thump in her chest in a strange way.
But Liliana hated discomfort.
Excerpted from Aloha by Colleen Coble Carol Cox Denise Hunter Gail Sattler Copyright © 2002 by Colleen Coble
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted June 2, 2009
No text was provided for this review.