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The first twenty years of Maddie Horton's life seemed of little importance as she anticipated the next few weeks. This upcoming Christmas vacation promised to be a time of pleasure and adventure. Her first airplane ride. Her first trip outside the continental United States. And when she landed in Honolulu in a few hours, she would see Lincoln Carey for the first time in over ten years.
Recalling that momentous occasion when Lincoln, who preferred to be called Linc, came into her life, brought fleeting sadness to Maddie. Her father, Commander Stanley Horton of the U. S. Navy, had been on a six-month assignment to Hawaii when he was killed in an airplane crash. Maddie was only ten years old. Linc, a junior officer under her father's command, had accompanied his body home to West Virginia for burial.
Unaware, the handsome sailor had stolen Maddie's impressionable heart at their first meeting. The years hadn't changed her affection for him. After her mother died, Maddie kept in touch with Linc with an occasional note. She had also sent him her high school graduation announcement, which he hadn't acknowledged.
But when she'd written to ask him to provide some information about Hawaii's role in World War II for a History project, he invited her to spend the Christmas holidays with him in Hawaii and do on-site research. Maddie had jumped at the chance to find out if the man she'd enshrined in her heart for ten years was as wonderful as she imagined.
Anticipating the trip, Maddie had become as flighty and excited as a kitten chasing sunbeams. She lived in a state of euphoria for weeks. But she'd come down to earth with a thud when she visited Caroline Renault, director of theValley of Hope facility, where Maddie had lived for two years. VOH was a residence school for at-risk teenagers. Maddie didn't qualify for admission to the school for the usual reasons. But knowing that she was dying, Maddie's mother, who had been Miss Caroline's friend for years, had arranged for Maddie to live at VOH until she was eighteen.
"Did you seek God's guidance before you planned this trip?" Miss Caroline asked.
Embarrassed, Maddie admitted that she hadn't. "I haven't received any positive reassurance when I've prayed about your trip," Miss Caroline continued. "Since you've already accepted the invitation, there isn't anything I can do except warn you to be careful. But I sense that danger waits for you in Hawaii."
Because she respected Miss Caroline and her opinions, her concern caused Maddie several anxious days. But in the excitement of the final preparations, Maddie often pushed her friend's cautionary words into the background. During today's ten-hour flight, though, she wondered if she would encounter some kind of trouble in Hawaii.
When she'd discussed her concerns with her roommate, Lucy Harrison, Lucy scoffed at the idea.
"What could happen, unless Lincoln Carey turns out to be a jerk?" Lucy said in her matter-of-fact way.
"And you've got a return ticket. If he makes a pass at you, you can always go to a hotel for a few days. In the meantime, you'll have a lot of new experiences."
Her eyes sweeping Maddie from head to toe, Lucy asked, "Does Linc Carey know what you look like?"
"I've never sent him a picture. He probably remembers the way I looked when I was ten."
"And how old is he?"
"Eleven years older than I am. He's thirty-one now." With twinkling eyes, Lucy said, "Chances are he still thinks of you as a child. Your appearance may be quite a shock to the man."
Remembering Lucy's lighthearted assessment of the situation eased Maddie's apprehension. She settled back in her seat and looked out the small window. When the plane took off from the Houston airport, she had been on pins and needles watching the rapidly receding ground. Below her now was a white layer of clouds. She took her Bible from her tote bag and searched for some Scriptures that dealt with clouds. One from the book of Isaiah resonated with her.
See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud.
Momentarily, she wondered if her feeling of being suspended in space was a foretaste of what Heaven would be like.
But another passage in Isaiah had always been special to Maddie since the day she'd accepted Jesus as her Savior and God as the Guide of her life.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
The clouds blocked her view of Earth, yet they also served as a reminder of God's forgiving spirit.
Maddie put the Bible away and peered out the window again. Through occasional breaks in the clouds, she saw the wide sweep of the Pacific. She had chatted with the passenger seated to her left, a Hawaiian businessman, until he went to sleep during the movie. He was still sleeping. Fidgeting, eager to reach her destination, Maddie noticed a headline in the Honolulu newspaper on her companion's lap. Her eyes widened. She straightened in the seat while a flicker of apprehension tingled her spine. Leaning closer she read the headline.
Deathbed Confession Leads U.S. Navy to Investigate Ten-Year-Old Accident.
Her heartbeat accelerated. Maddie tapped the man gently on the shoulder. When he opened his eyes, she said, "May I look at your newspaper?"
Smiling, he handed it to her. "I've finished with it. Keep the paper, if you like."
Maddie gripped the newspaper in trembling fingers. Her hands moistened, and her rapid heartbeat threatened to choke her as she read.
Two inmates escaped from the federal prison yesterday. One of the inmates, Demitirio Sanale, was shot during the escape attempt. His brother, Kamu, is still at large. Demitirio died from his injuries, but on his deathbed, he confessed that he had been part of a plot that caused the death of a naval officer ten years ago. The airplane crash that took the officer's life had been considered an accident, but a new investigation into the crash has been launched. The public is warned that Kamu Sanale is armed and dangerous.
Maddie felt as if a hand was closing around her throat. Fearful images flashed in her mind. A dreadful flicker of uneasiness touched her heart. Could this incident be related to her father's death ten years ago? Maddie had accepted her father's death when she thought it was an accident in the line of duty as he served his country. But if he had been murdered, the old wounds would bleed again. Was this the reason Miss Caroline sensed she shouldn't go to Hawaii? Suddenly, Maddie wished she had never left home. But her troubled thoughts were interrupted when the pilot asked the attendants to prepare the cabin for landing.
As she always did when anxious, Maddie twisted the opal ring on her forefinger. Her father had given it to her mother as an engagement ring, and Maddie had worn it every day since her mother died. Once again, grief over her parents' untimely deaths engulfed her. She'd never felt so alone. Of course, Linc waited for her, but he was a stranger to her. Why had she been so foolish as to accept this invitation?
The attendants walked through the cabin collecting earphones, taking cups and other trash, while Maddie's heart pounded in anticipation coupled with fear. Following directions, she fastened her belt and restored her seat to an upright position. When she next glanced out the window, a sight of unbelievable beauty greeted her eyes.
The string of islands looked small in the vivid blue water. White waves pirouetted like mermaids in the surf. Volcanic peaks soared majestically toward the sky. There wasn't as much green as she'd expected, but she knew she couldn't compare this island paradise with the verdant forests of her native West Virginia.
As the giant plane dropped quietly toward the distant islands, Maddie tensed for the landing with a sense of unease. Would her vacation in Hawaii be as enjoyable as she'd imagined? She'd tried to put Miss Caroline's words out of her mind, but it was impossible to discredit what her mentor and friend had said.
Maddie had concluded that Miss Caroline thought it inappropriate for her to accept the invitation from a man she barely knew. Linc had assured her that he had a resident housekeeper as a chaperone, but she had only his word for it. After reading the newspaper article, Maddie feared that Miss Caroline's concerns heralded a more dangerous situation.
Wondering what he'd gotten himself into, Linc Carey nervously waited for Maddie's plane to land. He carried an orchid lei and the sweet scent of the blossoms stung his nostrils. When he starting pacing for the fifth time his companion, Ahonui Kingsbury, said, "Can't you sit still? The plane isn't due to land for fifteen minutes. I knew this would happen when you insisted on coming two hours early."
Linc sat down, but Ahonui's words annoyed him. In fact, her presence annoyed him. She had been his secretary since he'd organized his restaurant chain eight years ago. She didn't normally interfere in his private life, and he couldn't understand why she was so intent on coming to the airport with him. He was uncertain of how this visit with Maddie would turn out, and he didn't want anyone watching when he met the girl he hadn't seen for ten years.
"I don't know why you asked this child to visit you for a whole month anyway," Ahonui said. "This is our busiest time of the year."
"She isn't a child. She's in college. And I invited Maddie for a visit because I promised her father I'd keep in contact with his family. I kept my commitment fairly well for a while, but I've been so busy the past few years that time got away from me."
Ahonui's perfectly curved eyebrow lifted as she asked, "Why haven't you mentioned her before this?"
Although he was tempted to say that he didn't see why it concerned her, he ignored the question.
"Maddie is researching Hawaii's involvement in World War II for one of her courses," he continued as he paced the short aisle where they sat, "and she asked me to send her some material on the subject. I realized that I hadn't kept in touch with Maddie and her mother as I should have, so I tried to make it up to her by inviting her to Hawaii during the semester break. While she's here, I'll take her to World War II sites."
"Well, I know she's going to be a nuisance to us," Ahonui countered.
Linc looked at her sharply. "Us! Maddie isn't your responsibility. I expect you to handle the office while I entertain her. I don't even know why you insisted on coming today."
"I'd think you would want me to help, especially now that you've finally realized she isn't a child."
He sat down again, but didn't bother to answer this comment. Roselina, his housekeeper, was all the help he needed in seeing that Maddie enjoyed herself.
When the arrival of the plane sounded over the loudspeaker, Linc jumped to his feet and walked briskly to the door where passengers would deplane from the security section. When he had talked to Maddie by phone two days ago, he'd asked, "How will I recognize you? I'm sure you've changed a lot in ten years."