Read an Excerpt
It's Hotter in Hawaii
By HelenKay Dimon
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One "Move one inch in any direction and you'll be sipping your food through a straw."
Caleb Wilson jerked back at the sound of the outraged feminine voice and smacked his head on the frame of the jimmied window. He cut loose a stream of profanity inventive enough to make even his old Air Force buddies proud.
He had come to an empty house in the middle of nowhere Kauai, Hawaii, just after midnight, looking for information about a missing friend he now feared dead. Instead of explanations, Cal got a welcoming committee of the angry female variety. His least favorite type of woman.
As plans went, so far this one sucked.
Since the element of surprise no longer rested on his side, Cal decided to try a new tact. Until he figured out who the unidentified woman with the big mouth was and what she was doing in this small house, he would stay right where he was.
He cleared his throat in an attempt to sound as reasonable as a guy curled in a ball on a windowsill could sound. "Maybe I could-"
So much for the reasonable route.
He twisted his six-foot frame around in the small opening. Finding a tolerable position grew more impossible by the second. His muscles hardened and his patience started a countdown to zero.
"Ma'am, I'm stuck." He attempted to laugh, but being doubled over the sound came out more like a wheeze.
"What you are is trespassing."
Okay, that too. "You have me at a disadvantage here."
He moved to his next plan. Charm.
"I'm sitting in a window," he explained, throwing in an endearing chuckle to see if that could win over the woman with the voice so throaty it should be illegal.
"I didn't put you there."
Also immune to charm. Check.
But she did have a point. "Admittedly I got into this position without your help, but if you could-"
Then he heard it. An unmistakable metal clicking sound. The noise chased away all thoughts about the long legs that might complete the matching set to that husky voice.
The woman held a gun. He survived for thirty-six years on the planet without having a female threaten to shoot him. Looked like he could consider that streak broken.
With the door locked, slipping through the window seemed like a good idea a few minutes earlier. Now he was sorry he skipped his initial plan to pick the lock and use the door like a normal person.
"I'm not a thief." He played many roles in his life. Not that one.
"Then why are you breaking in?"
Tough talk, but he heard it. A subtle and unmistakable hitch in her voice. One that meant she was not as in control or calm as her words suggested. One that made that gun of hers even more dangerous.
Cal went with an abbreviated version of the truth. "This house belongs to an old friend of mine. He invited me. Now I'm here."
A beat of silence filled the room as his arm fell asleep. The whole idea of Hawaii being the perfect beachside paradise was lost on him at the moment. So far, it had been an obstacle course. No sign of Dan. A round of apologetic glances and mumbled comments about being "sorry" when Cal asked after Dan at the private hangar where Dan kept his helicopter.
Top all that with a near-black night and a tire-rutted dirt road leading to a cabin in a wooded area in the middle of Kokee State Park. The same cabin not being anywhere near the beach.
Yeah, not exactly what Cal expected to find when he got on the plane that morning. Neither was the non-welcome from a female with questionable emotional stability.
Cal toyed with the idea of launching the still-awake parts of his body at his perfumed attacker. Without seeing her, he guessed he outweighed her by at least fifty pounds. That made the chance of knocking her down pretty damn good.
But the gun posed a problem. A big one. If the lady with the deadly weapon and deep voice was a novice, he might leave Kauai in a zipper bag. An amateur would shoot first. Probably fire straight into his forehead. On the other hand, a skilled markswoman definitely would hit him in the forehead. Fifty-fifty and both options ended with his death. Not the best odds.
Then there was the problem with the tremor moving through her voice. Now that he was listening for it he didn't hear anything else. She was afraid. Probably smart under the circumstances. Still, there was another emotion mixed in with the fear. He was just clueless enough about the inner workings of the female mind to not be able to define it.
He inhaled, drawing in the strong floral scent on the warm Hawaii night air. "I'm here to see Dan Rutledge."
The stumble in her voice was more obvious that time. It gave her away. Stern words wrapped around a mushy inside.
Now Cal was getting somewhere in analyzing his opponent. He decided to test her. "What part of the comment didn't you understand?"
"How do you know Dan?"
The woman's tone softened. Cal guessed she was one in a long line of his friend's spirited bedroom conquests. Being a commercial pilot in an island paradise apparently had not cut into Dan's ability to score with the ladies.
Cal just hoped this woman didn't fall into the ex-girlfriend-of-Dan category. Calming scorned women was not one of Cal's skills. Especially another guy's scorned women. He had enough trouble keeping his own sex life straight without taking on someone else's.
"Look, can I step down or not? I'm losing feeling in my legs and my neck is getting stiff." Not to mention the spasm in his back and the fact his defenseless position made him wary.
She-whoever she was-treated him to a sigh. "Fine. Go ahead and stand up."
"You're too kind," Cal said in his most sarcastic tone.
"I can still change my mind, you know."
"Well, I do now."
Thanks to years of military training, his body functioned at high level. He could outrun and outshoot men much younger. But the combination of the long plane ride from Florida, the break-in and trying to decipher both Dan's cryptic message, and the odd reaction to his name by everyone on the island took a toll. Cal feared the worst and so far he had not been wrong in his low expectations.
"My initial threat still stands," she said in what Cal took to be her shoot-first-say-hello-later hint.
He unfolded his cramped legs and stretched, working out the kinks in his muscles one at a time. Feet hitting hard floor had never felt so good.
When his nerve endings started firing again, he glanced over at his gun-toting greeter. Now that she backed up, a halo of yellow from the weak night light in the kitchen cast her in shadows in the dark room.
Cal blinked, straining to see the owner of that raspy voice but could not make out her face. Did see the glint from the barrel of the gun, however. That was enough to keep him from moving closer.
"Put your hands on your head." She did not so much ask as she ordered.
"You can't be serious."
"Just do it."
Seemed she was serious. "What if I like my hands right where they are?"
"I have the gun, so I decide."
He wondered what she'd say when she realized he possessed a weapon or two. Hell, she wasn't the only one in the room who knew how to wave a gun around and make threats.
"Why don't we turn on the light so we can see each other?" He shifted until he felt the secure press of his gun against his lower back.
The silhouetted woman reached to her left. Cal heard a scratch as she grazed the wall for the switch. After a click, a soft white glow poured through the small room and over the furniture.
Not just any furniture. Broken furniture. Torn overstuffed chairs with ripped fabric. Crushed glass and documents littered the floor. Someone had tossed the place.
He mentally inventoried the damage before settling his gaze on her. When he did, his blood froze. Hiding a face like hers in shadows should be a sin. Long blondish-brown hair and amber eyes.
And the way her snug white T-shirt pulled across her chest highlighted her high, round breasts. Hell, if she were more blond she'd be a living, breathing Barbie doll. Also made him think the doll's measurements were not quite as unrealistic as his sister insisted.
He tried not to gawk as he visually toured her lean legs from the bottom of her cut-off blue jeans shorts down to her painted pink toenails.
Tried and failed.
"Is there a problem?" she asked as she buried the shaky voice under the growl of a drunken sailor.
"About a dozen of them," he mumbled.
Her eyes narrowed until only slits of gold were visible. "Who are you?"
Under those impressive looks she carried a gun. Since he did not know if she intended to use it, he fell back on his plan of appeasement. "Tell me what happened in here."
"I guess you weren't the only person who tried to break in here tonight." Her gaze moved from his chest to his shoulders. "Wearing black from head to toe. Subtle, by the way."
He glanced down to his dark sneakers. Maybe the monotone outfit amounted to overkill. He chalked it up to another choice that made sense at one point but now seemed a bit over-the-top.
"Despite how it looks, I'm not here to burglarize the house," he said even though he knew it sounded lame.
"You just really like black?"
The time had come to shift attention away from his wardrobe choices. He moved around discarded pens and miscellaneous papers with the tip of his shoe.
Her frown slipped, showing the much more vulnerable face of the woman behind that, at times, unsure voice. "Tell me who you are."
"We're not going to play the game this way."
"Oh?" She waved her weapon from side to side as if to emphasize her point. All that did was convince him of her novice status.
That shot to the forehead looked more and more inevitable.
"We're going to share information. Give and take." He rested his hands on his hips, close to his weapon.
"You've got the gun. I got time. We can stand here all night for all I care." He figured a smile would work right about now, so he shot her one. "But you might want to remember something else."
"You think I'm a criminal."
"That's where the evidence points, yeah."
"If I'm such a bad guy, chances are you'll blink long before I do, sweetheart."
Chapter Two Forget about later. Cassie Montgomery fought off the urge to blink right then. If she swallowed any harder her tongue would end up in her stomach.
She had yelled and ordered this guy around while panic flooded her insides. She was not the type to take on complete strangers with little more than a bad attitude. Unlike her mysterious guest, she did have something to lose-like what was left of her life.
The wide-shouldered stranger with the dark brown hair and piercing hazel eyes kept breaking her concentration. In the safety of the darkness she had not been able to see Mr. Tall, Dark, and Deadly.
Well, she saw all of him now. Criminals were not supposed to look like him. Hell, no one should look like him. Slim black jeans and a sleek black shirt that hugged his body, molding to his muscles like a second skin. Not exactly an outfit meant for late-night hiking.
Sun-kissed hands peeked out from underneath the covert clothing, suggesting that whoever he was, he liked to be outside. With her luck, he was probably an escaped convict who worked on the road crew during the day. The fact the man knew her brother's name kept her from engaging in a bit of uncontrolled screaming and gunplay.
That and the fact the guy looked vaguely familiar. Cassie could not place him, which was odd since this guy wasn't exactly the forgettable type. Still, something about that face tickled at her memory.
She'd spent weeks trying not to remember anything. Now that she needed to call something up, her mind stuttered to a halt.
Anger she could handle, so she went that route. "I'm waiting for a formal introduction. And if I have to ask again, I might just go ahead and try talking with the gun."
A sly smile crossed full lips as Cal nodded toward the overturned chair. "May I?"
Muscles strained against the fabric of his pants as he hitched one of his thighs on the arm of the chair. He picked the only piece of furniture not smashed to pieces. That left her to stand, but hovering above this guy felt better than the reverse.
"You can actually sit down," she said so she would have the advantage if he decided to strike. Despite his athletic look, she'd bet he could not outrun a bullet.
His smile only grew. "I'm good here on the edge."
That made one of them. "Are you ready to talk?"
"Didn't exactly come here to chat."
A good reminder. She knew staying at Dan's house carried a few risks. She expected a flood of tears and regret. She had not counted on a six-foot-something walking risk with broad shoulders and an intelligent flash behind his eyes.
Time to act like a woman being hunted. "Talk or I'll call the police."
He shot her one of those all-too-knowing smiles that all men seemed to have mastered. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Option B it is." She flipped open her cell phone and pretended to dial.
True. She didn't really have anyone to call, but how could he know? "That's wishful thinking on your part."
"More like a calculated guess. One I'm willing to play out."
"This isn't a game."
"Sure feels like it."
Before she could maneuver him to the door, he sprang from the chair and knocked the gun and phone from her hands, sending them skittering across the smooth hardwood floor. Losing her balance, Cassie crashed to the ground on her stomach and smacked her forehead against the chair leg.
In a panic, her heart raced and her head spun. She had been numb for weeks, like the walking dead, but nerve endings snapped to life at the unexpected assault.
She kicked out aiming for any weakness she could find on her visitor's trim, lean body. He blocked her attack and launched one of his own. The breath whooshed out of her lungs as he squeezed her upper body in a fierce bear hug against the floor.
Being surrounded and crushed by about a hundred and ninety pounds of furious male made her adrenaline pump. Finding strength she didn't know she had, she flailed and tried to punch. Nothing worked. When he flipped her onto her back and pinned her hands above her head, a squeal escaped her tight throat.
Heavy breaths beat against her chest as he straddled her. Long-distance running and hours at the gym had not prepared her for this fight. Not now. Not after all that had happened. No, with the weight of everything crushing in on her she lost ground almost from the start.
"Now you don't have the weapon," he said, more as a fact than a threat.
She calculated the distance from her knee to his groin and waited for the right time to attack. "Get off of me."
"Tell me who you are first."
His face did not look quite so handsome now that it loomed over her. And that bored look he wore before, yeah, that disappeared as fast as her balance.
"Go to hell." She wiggled her shoulders, trying to break his stranglehold, but his weight held her down.
The vulnerability of her position set her heart pounding until it formed a steady drumbeat in her ears. She bucked her hips and went rock still when her midsection met with his lower body.
Big mistake. No reason to encourage anything down there.
"Don't look so horrified." A rough edge tinged his voice. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Easy for him to say since he was on top and in control. "Like I trust you after that tackle and roll move."
The pounding in her head suggested otherwise. For the first time in weeks Cassie felt something other than frustration and sadness. But she wasn't sure terror-filled minutes were any better than those that came before.
"Let me up," she said in the strongest voice she could muster.
He loosened the grip on her wrists but kept her pinned. "Stop moving around and tell me who you are and how you know Dan."
She glared but stayed quiet.
"Okay then. We'll skip the introductions and get to the point. Where is Dan?"
The question showed this guy lived somewhere else. Either that or the story about being Dan's friend was just that, a story. "I thought you and Dan were supposed to be so close."
Excerpted from It's Hotter in Hawaii by HelenKay Dimon Copyright © 2009 by HelenKay Dimon. Excerpted by permission.
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