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By Lorie O'Clare
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Lorie O'Clare
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Jenny Rogers, are you ready for your last chance for happiness?"
Jenny gripped her podium, all too aware of the sensitive microphone so close to her mouth. As Joe Jobana—the middle-aged game show host, who looked a lot better on TV than he did in real life—asked the well-known question, the studio audience chanted along with him.
"Are you ready for your last chance for happiness?"
Her heart thumped so loud she was sure the mic would pick it up. "I'm ready, Joe," she managed, remembering to smile when the gaunt man standing next to the two cameramen ran his fingers along the side his face, gesturing for her to look happy and excited.
"I bet Jenny is always ready," Joe Jobana said, grinning and giving a knowing look to the studio audience. "Are you always ready, Jenny?"
The paperwork she and her nana had to sign when they bought their tickets for the show had stressed repeatedly that she always agree with Joe Jobana's jokes and one-liners if she was chosen as a contestant. At the time, she couldn't figure out why they'd tell her that over and over again. Now it made sense. His jokes were funnier when he was making fun of other contestants and not her.
Jenny was here for her grandmother. Ever since Papa had died a few years ago, Jenny spent as much time with Nana as possible. Nana's favorite show was Last Chance for Happiness, the popular game show, and it was all she wanted to talk about. Nana adored Joe Jobana. During weeks when Jenny ended up working overtime at Bernie's—the grocery store where she'd worked since high school, and located five blocks from her apartment—Nana recorded Last Chance for Happiness so Jenny wouldn't miss any of the episodes. Jenny and Nana would shout out the answers and make fun of contestants when they got the answer wrong.
It was far from the highlight of Jenny's life, but it sure made Nana happy. When she knew Jenny was coming over to watch the show, she'd cook dinner, bake cookies, make a day out of preparing for their time sitting together and watching TV. Jenny knew it was the only time anymore that Nana, who used to live in the kitchen, did any cooking.
Nana pointed out continually how Jenny could walk away with the grand prize. She seldom missed an answer. Nana got all of the answers right, too. If Jenny pointed that out, Nana simply waved her off, grumbling something about her missing more than Jenny did. Jenny knew it wasn't true. The Rogers might not go down in history for much else, but they could definitely make their mark as masters of useless trivia.
One glance at Nana, sitting front and center in the studio audience, her hands balled into fists in front of her face as she bounced up and down in her seat, and Jenny smiled.
"I'm always ready, Joe," she said, trying for the same knowing smile he'd given the audience.
Her response worked. The audience roared. Joe Jobana laughed and said something into his mic as he faced the camera. He sauntered over to his podium, although in truth he walked stiffly. It was amazing how different he was in real life.
"If you answer correctly, your last chance for happiness will be ..." He stressed the last half of his sentence, and the crowd again chanted.
"Last chance for happiness!"
"Last chance for happiness!"
The last thing Jenny wanted was to be on Last Chance for Happiness. It was bad enough having gone through high school being known as the class nerd. In her yearbook she had been voted most likely to always win at Trivial Pursuit. But when Nana surprised her with tickets to the game show, Jenny couldn't disappoint her. She had suspected foul play when her name was called at the beginning of the show to be a contestant, but Nana swore Last Chance for Happiness was on the level. There wasn't any way to fix it. It was just a stroke of luck. Jenny suspected it was karma getting back at her for spending her life with her head in books, but she had kept her thoughts to herself.
Jenny watched Nana, who now stood along with everyone else in the three rows. The studio audience was a lot smaller than she thought it would be. Nana glowed with happiness. It made sweating under the incredibly hot lights while cameramen zoomed around her all worth it.
"An island giveaway!" Joe Jobana yelled.
Jenny jumped. The camera wasn't on her at the moment. There were three men riding the cameras, which rolled across the cement floor on squeaky wheels, while crew members hurried around them making sure all props were in place. The cameramen zoomed in on two sexy ladies who waved their hands around large posters that said Island Giveaway.
"That's right, Joe," the announcer's voice boomed. "To the wonderful island of Hawaii!"
Jenny stared at the cardboard posters, trying to see them as the cameras blocked her view. She'd been told not to stare at the monitors that allowed everyone to see what the viewer at home saw, but there wasn't any other way to tell what they were describing.
"You'll be staying at the exquisite Honolulu Paradise, where everyone's dreams come true. Bask on the beach, enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and famous," the announcer continued. "Because this is your last chance for happiness!"
Once again, the audience chanted along with the announcer. "Last chance for happiness." Nana yelled loud enough Jenny heard her over the dull rumble.
"Now, Jenny." Joe Jobana looked at her seriously. "Are you ready for your question?"
She didn't feel like smiling. This was the moment. Her head itched from the heat of the lights glaring above her. The cameras were moving in so close she couldn't see anything else. And the gaunt man who'd been gesturing at her wildly throughout the show was giving one hell of a performance right now as he waved his hands in the air to get her attention.
"I'm ready, Joe," she said, wishing she had water. Her mouth was suddenly too dry.
"I knew you were." Joe laughed. "Here is your question. On August sixteenth, 1977, many believed their last chance for happiness came to an end. Miss Jenny Rogers, for the grand prize Hawaiian vacation, what monumental event occurred on August sixteenth, 1977?"
Jenny shook so hard she almost knocked over the podium. She gripped it, her hands sweaty as she stared at Joe Jobana. That wasn't the question she needed to answer to win a trip to Hawaii. The show was never this easy. She stared at the powder plastered on his face and the way the lights reflected in his thick, shiny black hair. Any second he would add something to the question, something obscure that no one would know.
Looking at the audience, lights suddenly blinded her, preventing her from seeing her grandmother. Jenny didn't need to see her. Nana was laughing. Jumping up and down and laughing.
Who would have expected the day her Nana thought the world had ended would turn out to be Jenny's last chance for happiness? It was too much to believe. She and Nana would be leaving for Hawaii. It was all too good to be true.
"Time's running out, Jenny."
She shot her attention back to Joe Jobana. She hadn't answered the question yet.
"On August ..." Her voice cracked. Jenny cleared it and the microphone hummed. The gaunt man made a face at her, obviously disapproving of her unladylike grunt. "On August sixteenth, 1977, Elvis Presley died."
Jenny stood just outside the terminal at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. It had taken over an hour to drive there, almost as long to park, and she was starting to understand why everyone told her to arrive three hours before her flight. As disappointed as she was that Nana refused to go with her, she couldn't deny how exciting all of this was.
Nana wasn't about to get on an airplane, especially one that would be flying over the ocean. She didn't like Hawaiian food. There was no way she'd go so far from Papa, who was buried in the cemetery just outside Parkville, Minnesota, where they lived. Jenny wished Nana would explore a bit of the world. She could count on one hand the amount of times her grandmother had left Parkville, one of those times being to attend Last Chance for Happiness with Jenny. Nana wouldn't be persuaded, though.
"Well I'm not turning down a free trip," Jenny had decided, gripping the plane tickets in her hand. "Maybe I can sell the second ticket."
"That's a good idea." Nana had sat in her favorite chair, watching Jenny on Last Chance for Happiness for the tenth time since they'd returned home. "You can buy more film and take more pictures. We'll make a photo album of your trip once you're home."
The plane tickets were nontransferable. No one in Parkville would cash the two-hundred-dollar voucher that came with her tickets. She had her confirmation for her hotel room and the shuttle that would take her there. There were meal vouchers and drink vouchers. Maybe it wasn't so bad that she couldn't do anything about the second ticket. It wasn't like there was anyone in Parkville she wanted to take with her other than Nana. Jenny didn't have any other family, her parents having died in a car accident while out of town when Jenny was a baby. With Papa gone, it was her and Nana. She hadn't paid for the ticket, so she wasn't out anything.
Jenny pushed her suitcases forward with her foot as the line moved until it was her turn to show her ID and plane ticket to the attendant.
"Enjoy your flight," the attendant told her, after a team of men in uniform had gone through all of her luggage and determined she wasn't a terrorist.
Jenny struggled to put everything back into her suitcases as the airport employees went on to the next passenger. Once she managed to at least get them closed, with all her contents inside, she grabbed her luggage and entered the secured area where the other passengers sat and waited to board the plane. Jenny found an empty seat that faced large windows. There were so many planes outside.
"Are you going to Hawaii, too?" she asked the woman sitting next to her. She appeared to be about Jenny's age.
"Hmm." The woman leaned over and pulled a laptop out of her luggage and shifted her body so her back was to Jenny.
Fine. Jenny didn't want to talk to the woman, anyway, especially if she was going to be a bitch. Glancing at the crowded area, she wondered how all these people would fit on any of the planes parked outside. Wasn't everyone inside this closed-in area for the same flight?
Several men in suits stopped in front of Jenny. An old lady took the chair across from her and spoke to the men, who apparently were there to assist with luggage and help the elderly woman.
"I'll make sure your seat is ready," one of the men in suits told the old woman. "We'll get you on board so you can get comfortable."
"I'll sit there and wait or sit here and wait. One chair is the same as the other."
Jenny wished Nana were here. Obviously older people flying received better treatment.
"You'll have privacy on board. You can choose which movie you wish to watch and have a drink. It's rather noisy here and so many people mean germs."
"Marc, I don't plan on getting sick again. Quit worrying. It lowers your immunity and you'll get sick."
As if to prove her point, Marc sniffled and turned from the old lady, covering his nose so he wouldn't sneeze. Jenny met the old lady's gaze and grinned.
An hour later, Marc was starting to get on Jenny's nerves. She knew from him pestering the attendants that waiting this long to board the plane wasn't normal. The other man standing by the old woman's side looked equally annoyed. Not to mention those sitting around Jenny were growing antsy and some had started pacing.
Finally, a male attendant announced that the plane was going through some final mechanical inspections, and they hoped to have all passengers boarded within the next half hour.
"This is really unacceptable." The woman next to Jenny swore, speaking louder than was necessary.
"I'd rather have the plane safe than the airline hurry us aboard and risk our lives," Jenny mumbled as loud as the lady just had. She'd spent hours reading about airplanes and correct airport behavior, of which she was seeing none.
The woman looked down her nose at Jenny. "They're probably just trying to sober up the captain," she sniffed.
"I doubt that," Jenny said, although she prayed that wasn't the case. She'd also read how flights were being delayed for this reason or that. However, Jenny had intentionally avoided all information the Internet had to offer about plane crashes.
"I have meetings scheduled, and the board isn't going to wait," a man sitting on the other side of the bitch next to Jenny complained.
Jenny refused to let grouchy travelers ruin her vacation. She stared across the aisle at the old woman, who appeared to be nodding off. Marc fidgeted on one side of her, and the man on the other side of her stood like a statue.
Another hour passed before the attendant returned to the counter and turned on the microphone. "We'll start boarding now," she announced, and the room went into motion as everyone began gathering luggage and standing. She announced which rows would board first, and half the room almost attacked each other hurrying to the counter.
"You'd think they were worried someone might steal their seat." Jenny laughed at the sight of it all.
"You don't fly much, do you?" the woman next to her snapped.
"I don't need to fly much to know there is an assigned seat on my ticket." Jenny gave the sweetest smile she could when the woman rolled her eyes at her.
"Some of us are on business trips and have deadlines," the woman retorted, sliding her laptop into her suitcase and inching to the edge of her seat.
"If I had the kind of job that sent me to Hawaii, I'd consider it a vacation."
"Which is obviously why you don't have the kind of job that flies you to Hawaii." The woman stood, fighting to gather all of her luggage, then hauled her bags closer to the counter.
"I would hate being in any kind of meeting with that woman," Jenny mumbled.
The old lady wasn't as asleep as she appeared when she looked at Jenny and grinned.
More people hustled toward the counter when the attendant called off the next section of rows. Jenny looked at her ticket for at least the twentieth time when her row was called, then gathered the overnight bag she'd chosen as her carry-on so she wouldn't have to pay extra for having too many suitcases. Her free trip to Hawaii allowed for only one suitcase and one carryon bag.
A large man pushed his way through the crowd and bumped the bitch who'd been sitting next to Jenny. The bag holding the woman's laptop fell to the ground, and several people walked over it indifferently. Jenny hurried forward. Just because the lady had an attitude didn't make it fair when others started acting like children.
"Here you go," Jenny offered, squatting and blocking anyone else from running over the bag, which had fallen open.
The woman cursed under her breath as she frantically shoved files and shoes back into the case while trying to keep the laptop in place.
"Try placing the shoes like this," Jenny said, grabbing a pair of heels that had toppled loose from the woman's other belongings and showing the lady what she meant. "Toe to heel and heel to toe," she explained.
"It won't matter how they're in there if I miss this meeting." The woman ignored Jenny's suggestion and slammed the case closed.
Jenny stood, deciding some people just couldn't be pleased. That's when she noticed the crowd wasn't moving. For whatever reason, there appeared to be another delay in boarding. The crowd was growing hostile, and complaints were easily overheard as those around her began demanding to get on the plane.
"I guess I would be grouchy, too, if I hadn't won this trip and was going to Hawaii for free."
"How nice for you," the bitch snapped. "I bet if you arrive late, though, your reservations will be canceled." She smiled at Jenny for the first time.
"I won them off Last Chance for Happiness. The reservations are for several days." Jenny pulled her itinerary out of her purse and flipped it open, looking at it, although she'd memorized every word since she'd received it.
"And if you're taking the shuttle to your hotel and miss the last shuttle run, you'll be stuck in the airport all night." Again the woman grinned.
"When is the last shuttle?" Jenny didn't see a schedule for the shuttle in her paperwork.
Excerpted from Temptation Island by Lorie O'Clare Copyright © 2011 by Lorie O'Clare. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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