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Lindsey stepped out on the tiny balcony and let the clean fresh air bathe her skin. Like magic the tension melted from her body, and she strained over the railing, trying to get a glimpse of the ocean. They'd booked two adjoining mountain-view rooms, which meant they could see a small wedge of green mountain and lots of other hotels that crowded Waikiki. The price was right, though, and as nice as the ocean-view rooms would have been, Lindsey had insisted on sticking to their budget. How much time would they be spending there, anyway?
She gave up any hope of seeing the water, and gazed down at the profusion of pink, yellow and white plume-rias that covered the trees around the hotel grounds. Inhaling deeply, she swore the flowers' perfume wafted all the way up to the seventh floor. Or maybe her senses had misfired, and what she remembered was the night on the beach when Rick had tucked one behind her right ear.
"Hey, Linds," Shelby called from the other room through the open connecting door. "Where did you go?"
Sighing, Lindsey left the balcony, closing the sliding glass door behind her. "What's up?"
Shelby, wrapped in a white hotel towel, ducked into the room, her long hair damp from her shower. "I thought maybe you went down to the bar with Mia."
"Nope. I was checking out the view."
"View?" Shelby's brows went up. "We have a view?" She grinned, her gaze taking in Mia's suitcase, which was sitting on the luggage rack, and then Lindsey's bag, which was stowed in the open closet. "How are we divvying up the bathrooms?"
"We're going to be adults and not hog either of them." Shoving aside a pile of Shelby's shorts, Lindsey found her brown leather purse. "I'm going to the gift shop to look for a pair of sunglasses."
"I saw one of those ABC stores on the corner. I bet they're cheaper there."
Lindsey eyed her friend. She wasn't the kind who normally thought about anything as pedestrian as price. "I'm so proud."
"Damn straight. I'll have you know I didn't go a penny over my clothes budget."
Lindsey sighed. It wouldn't have occurred to Shelby to make do with what she had, just as Lindsey and Mia had done. Okay, so Lindsey had splurged on a new sundress, but only because she could wear it to work once they opened Anything Goes. She wouldn't need her suits anymore. At least not for the next two years. That's how long she'd given herself to make a go of the business before she'd consider returning to her old company.
"You need anything from the store?" Lindsey asked, refusing to feel guilty for having a bailout plan. She'd be crazy not to protect her future in the event the business failed. Naturally she had faith they would kick butt, but just in case, it was good to have a backup. Which she did, thanks to her former boss, who said she would always be welcomed back.
"No, I'm good. I think I packed everything."
Lindsey snorted. "Uh, yeah, I think you did."
"Just wait until you need to borrow something because you forgot to pack it."
They'd been checked in for less than an hour and Shelby already had spread out, scattering heaps of clothes on the beds and dresser. It didn't matter. With any luck, none of them would be in the room much anyway.
Naturally that thought led to Rick. Was he here? Had he even seen the Facebook shout-out? Even if he had, why would he have given it a second thought? They'd known each other for eight measly hours. A guy like him probably met women on the beach all the time. Making love to them under the moon and stars was no big deal.
That night had meant everything to her. He'd been the second guy she'd been with, and he'd shown her what the fuss was all about. Jeez, she could still remember how she'd come apart at the seams. In all the years since, she hadn't felt anything like it. "I'm gonna go," she said. "Are you meeting Mia in the bar?"
"I've got to put away my stuff and dry my hair." Shelby shook out a blue halter top. "What about you?"
"I don't know yet. Eventually we'll meet up." She wanted to be alone when she saw Rick. If she saw him. Please, God, let her see him. She slipped her purse strap onto her shoulder and headed for the door. "See you later."
"I won't forget the bronzing lotion." Without a backward glance, Lindsey smiled and checked the outside pocket of her purse for her key card before shutting the door behind her.
She had the elevator to herself and used the few seconds to study her pale legs, her unpolished toenails. Maybe she shouldn't have worn shorts yet. If she'd had the time she would've hit a tanning salon and gotten a pedicure, but between easing out of her job and packing up her apartment, she'd been busy up to the last minute.
The elevator doors slid open and she stepped into the lobby, greeted by the tangy salt air and a buzzing group of Asian tourists. She quickly got out of their way so they could board the elevator, and then paused until she got her bearings. The lobby opened out to the beach, and she gazed at the white sand and crystal blue water, the late afternoon sun sinking on the horizon, so beautiful, so soothing. This was her week to chill, to find bliss with or without Rick. She was meant to be here. This was perfect.
Even walking to the store would be a pleasure. Everything smelled of the sea and suntan lotion, every view was a treat, and there were men here, lots of them, so it was all good. With a final look, she turned around.
And saw Rick. Standing not ten feet away. Their gazes met and her heart swooped into a free fall. For all she'd hoped, she'd never believed, but it was him, all right.
He hadn't changed much. In fact, wearing tan cargo shorts and a black T-shirt, he looked as if he still belonged on a college campus. His light brown hair was still long, maybe more sun-streaked, his shoulders broad, his skin a deeper bronze. His mouth curved into that slow, killer smile she'd dreamed about for six years.
"Jill," he said in a voice huskier than she recalled.
She blinked, swallowed. "Rick." Before she knew what was happening, she was wrapped in his arms and he'd lifted her off the floor.
She clung to his shoulders for support, muscles bunching under her palms. Oh, he'd definitely filled out. Her heart beat wildly as he spun her around, both of them grinning like kids. A moment passed, then two, and she was aware once more of the crowded lobby, of how tightly he held her against his body.
"Everybody's looking," she said with a shaky laugh.
"Let 'em." He set her down, and lowered his head for a kiss that merely brushed her cheek. "You look great."
She combed a self-conscious hand through her hair. "I didn't expect to see you."
A brief frown darkened his hazel eyes. "Facebookthat was you, right?"
"Yes." Her purse strap had slid down her shoulder, and she twisted it around her hand. "I meant that I just checked in, and well, here you are."
He winked with that same casual confidence she'd admired before. "I couldn't wait."
Unfortunately, her attempt to sound casual came out as a small strangled laugh. He seemed taller than six feet but that had to be wrong because he'd been twenty-three when they'd first met, past the growing stage. Of course, they hadn't been vertical much. The thought made her blush. Darn him for catching her off guard. She'd needed time to slip into Jill mode. Shoot, she needed to give him her real name. That was going to be fun. "You feel like catching up?" he added.
He took her hand, which affected her far more than it should have. When she saw he was taking her to the Plantation Bar, she put on the brakes and shook her hand free.
Rick cocked a brow. "Something wrong?"
"How about the bar at the pool?"
"The Plantation Bar might be quieter."
"One of my friends is there," Lindsey admitted. "I'd rather be alone."
He took her hand back and changed direction. The thrill was just as strong. Come on, Lindsey, get a grip, it's just holding hands, for goodness' sake. If hereallykissed her, she'd probably pass out. She wished she'd gotten the sunglasses though because she couldn't stop staring at him. He wasn't just hot. He'd left hot in the dust and gone straight to burning. In her dreams, he'd been yummy, but not nearly this tanned or ripped and, he hadn't been able to wait!
Sand between her toes surprised her into stopping. She looked down at her sandals and then at Rick. They were on the beach and not headed to the pool, which was in the other direction. "Rick"
"I know this cool bar on the beach. You won't run in to anybody there." He flashed a dazzling smile. "Unless you left more than one broken heart here six years ago."
Even though she knew he was teasing, her breath caught anyway. "I lost count."
His grin broadened. "It's so good to see you, Jill."
"I have something to tell you."
"My name isn't Jill." She cleared her throat. "It's Lindsey."
An odd expression crossed his face, and she had the horrible feeling that he was about to walk away, leave her standing in the middle of the beach. He only kicked off his brown flip-flops, and then stooped to pick them up. "That's going to take some getting used to. You want to take off those sandals?"
"You can take your top off if you want."
"No." Heat crawled up her neck. "No, I meant about me giving you a fake name."
His smile told her that he'd been teasing again. She seriously needed to loosen up.
"You were being cautious." He shrugged. "I get it Lindsey." He said her name slowly, as if trying it out. "I like Lindsey. It suits you."
"Good." She felt better except for her feet. The sand lodged between her arches and sandals felt gritty and uncomfortable. She slipped the sandals off before they continued down the beach.
"Are you going to tell me your last name?" He playfully bumped her shoulder with his. "Or do you want to wait and see how the day goes?"
"Not a bad idea."
A faint smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Mine is Granger."
She had to give him points for not reacting badly to the fake name. "Shaw." But she wouldn't give him her room number yet. "When did you get here?"
"The end of November."
"I meant Hawaii."
"I know." He jerked his chin toward a hotel bordering the beach and guided her in that direction. "I have a house here."
"The other side of the island. On the North Shore."
She shook her head, totally confused. She knew he'd gone to school in Southern California, and that he was from Michigan. "When did you move here?"
"I didn't." He shaded his eyes and gazed out over the ocean, briefly focusing on a couple of bodysurfers. "I'm only here part-time. This is it," he said, gesturing.
The bar was little more than a grass hut without walls. She'd seen it from a distance and thought it was a concession that rented out surfboards and canoes. But there were shelves of liquor in the center, surrounded by a wooden bar and wooden stools. Inside the circle, a big man wearing a yellow Hawaiian shirt garnished frothy drinks with pineapple wedges and cherries.
The bartender looked up when they slid onto stools facing the water, and a grin softened his craggy features. "Hey, Rick, long time no see. What you doin' on this side of da island, bruddah?"
The man chuckled, leaned closer as he picked up the glasses. "You right about that," he said in a discreet voice, giving Lindsey a quick wink before carrying the order to the customers sitting at the other end of the bar.
"Slumming?" Lindsey repeated. Rick swiveled around to face her, his legs spread, effectively trapping her. "Not you. It's a tourist thing."
"I'm a tourist."
He picked up a lock of her hair and rubbed it between his fingers in a surprisingly intimate gesture. "I can't believe you're here," he murmured.
"I figured you'd have forgotten about me by the next day."
He let go of her hair, met her gaze. "Why did you disappear without waking me up?"
Lindsey tensed, unprepared to explain herself, unwilling to admit that he'd frightened her by making her feel things she'd never dreamed possible. "I woke up late. I didn't want to miss my plane, and I honestly didn't think it mattered. You knew I was leaving."
He studied her a minute, then shrugged. "I figured it was something like that." He swiveled back around just as the bartender approached. "When did you start working here? I thought you were at the Hyatt."
"I'm workin' two jobs. Gotta pay da bills, bruddah."
"Yeah, I hear you," Rick said, and the older man's brown eyes glinted with amusement she didn't quite understand. "This is Lindsey, Keoni."
Keoni acknowledged her with a nod. "What can I get you?" he asked, and then said to Rick, "Beer for you, I know."
Lindsey thought for a moment. "That sounds good." Rick's brows went up. "No fancy drink?"
"They have a way of sneaking up on me," she admitted.
Keoni had already moved away to grab mugs, but she saw him smile.
Rick turned back to face her, this time taking one of her hands and lightly pressing it between his slightly callused ones.
"I don't want you drunk," he murmured in a low voice meant only for her ears.
She started to laugh, thinking he was teasing, but his hazel eyes were serious. "I wasn't drunk last time, if that's what you're implying."
"No" He looked as if he wanted to say something else, but Keoni slid their mugs in front of them. "Thanks."
He might have stuck around, but a young couple came up from the beach and pulled out stools, and Lindsey watched Keoni amble toward them.
Rick stroked her palm with his thumb. The pad wasn't smooth like that of a desk jockey. When they'd met he'd been an engineering student. She wondered if he'd finished school, or decided he'd rather hang out at the beach.
"I wish I'd known Keoni was working here," he muttered. "Nice guy, but I was hoping for a bartender I wouldn't know, so we'd be alone like you said."
She slowly swung her gaze to his face.
His lips twitched. "To talk."
"Of course." She looked deeply into his eyes, entranced by the way the hazel had become a warm gold. Her breathing slipped slightly off-kilter, and as hard as she struggled to look away, she couldn't.
"Screw it." He leaned in and kissed her.
Not a quick one, either.