Tired of the cold winters in Washington, D.C. and disturbed by her increasingly obsessive boyfriend, Kailani Kanaka savors her move back to her native Big Island of Hawaii. She also finds a new job as personal chef for the Jorgensen family. The gentle caress of the Hawaiian trade winds, the soft sigh of the swaying palm trees, and the stunning blue waters of the Pacific lull her into a sense of calm at the House of Hanging Jade--an idyll that quickly fades as it becomes apparent that dark secrets lurk within her new home. Furtive whispers in the night, a terrifying shark attack, and the discovery of a dead body leave Kailani shaken and afraid. But it's the unexpected appearance of her ex-boyfriend, tracking her every move and demanding she return to him, that has her fearing for her life . . .
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House of the Hanging Jade
By AMY M. READE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Amy M. Reade
All rights reserved.
I knew I should have stayed home.
I bent my head as the wind whipped down Massachusetts Avenue, hurling snowflakes at my face, stinging my cheeks with hard, frosty pellets. The icy sidewalks were treacherous, making my walk to work precarious and slow. There were very few others brave or foolish enough to be out in this weather. I passed one man out walking his dog and silently praised him for being so devoted.
I finally arrived at the restaurant. I stamped on the snow that had piled up against the front door and slipped my key into the lock with fingers stiff and clumsy from the cold. Once inside, it only took me a second to realize that no one else was there. On a normal day, one without a blizzard, my assistant Nunzio would already have come in through the back and flipped on the kitchen lights before I arrived.
I groaned. Even Nunzio, whom I could always count on, had stayed home. I moved through the darkened dining room and turned on the lights in the kitchen. As they blinked to life, I heard a heavy knock at the front door.
Hurrying to open it, I recognized the face of Geoffrey, the restaurant's owner and my current boyfriend, bundled up in a thick scarf and hat.
"Kailani, what are you doing here?" he exclaimed, brushing snow off his boots in the vestibule.
"Someone has to be here to get things started," I answered testily.
"I don't think we can open today," Geoffrey said. "There's no way the delivery trucks can get through, and I don't think we'd have any customers even if they could."
"You mean I came all this way for nothing?" I whined.
Geoffrey smiled down at me. "Sorry. I just assumed you'd know not to come in on a day like this."
"Why did you come in, then?"
"To catch up on paperwork. Plus, snowstorms don't bother me."
"Ugh. They bother me. Well, I guess if you don't need me here, I'll head back home."
"Want me to stop by later?"
I didn't, but I nodded. Geoffrey and I hadn't been dating for long. He was already becoming a little too clingy.
He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "Be safe getting home. I'd call you a cab, but there isn't a single one on the streets."
"Believe me, I know."
I trudged home the same way I had come, the snow falling even harder now and blowing sideways, making it difficult for me to see.
When I finally made it to my apartment building, I clumped up the stairs in my heavy boots and stood inside my apartment, leaning against the door for several moments to catch my breath. It took me a while to peel off all my layers. I left them lying on the floor while I heated up milk on the stove for hot chocolate. As the milk warmed, I gazed at a canvas photo that hung in my front hall. It was a faraway view of the beach, taken from my parents' backyard, overlooking the black sand and the curling waves of the azure Pacific Ocean.
"We've got to go home," I said aloud to my cat, Meli, as she stepped daintily around me. This wasn't the first time I had expressed this sentiment to Meli, but this time she stopped and looked up at me. She blinked and twitched her ears.
It was the sign I needed.
I watched the snow continue to fall for several hours from the warmth and safety of my apartment. Meli and I curled up on the couch while I tried to read a book, but I couldn't concentrate. My thoughts returned again and again to palm trees and warm, caressing trade winds, to the faces of my mother and father, of my sister and her little girl.
Geoffrey eventually stopped by, bringing with him an icy blast of air as I opened the door to the hallway.
He laughed. "Looks like this storm may never end."
I invited him into the warmth of the apartment. "Take off your stuff. Want some hot chocolate?" I called over my shoulder as I walked into the kitchen.
"Sure," he answered, struggling with one of his boots.
I joined him in the living room a few minutes later. He was trying to stroke Meli's chin, but she apparently wanted none of that. Her ears flattened back and she squirmed out of his reach.
I handed him the mug of hot chocolate and sat down opposite him. "Geoffrey, I have news," I told him warily, knowing he probably wouldn't be as happy as I was.
"What is it?"
"I'm going back to Hawaii." I waited for his reaction.
"That's nice. It'll do you good to get out of this weather for a while."
He obviously wasn't getting it. "No, not for a while. I'm moving back. For good."
I was right. He was not happy. In fact, he looked stricken, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. "What do you mean, for good?" he asked, choking on his hot chocolate.
"I mean, I just can't stand it here any longer. I'm never going to get used to the weather, I miss my parents, and my niece is growing up without her auntie. It's time to go back. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time.
"I'll miss you, Geoffrey, but this is what's best for me," I added, trying to soften the blow.
He looked like he was struggling for words.
"But ... but ... what will you do?"
"I'll do the same thing I do here, Geoffrey. Sous-chefs are not unique to DC."
"Okay, but what will I do? Without you, I mean?"
I felt sorry for him. He looked crestfallen.
"Geoffrey," I said gently, "there are lots of women in Washington who are looking for someone as wonderful and kind and handsome and successful as you are. I have to do what my heart is telling me to do, and that's to go back to Hawaii."
He nodded slowly, his eyes downcast. "Is there anything I can say to keep you here?"
"I'm afraid not."
"When are you leaving?"
"I don't know. I just made the decision this morning."
He sighed and leaned back against the couch cushions, holding his mug on his lap and staring into space.
"Geoffrey? You okay?" I asked.
He set his mug on the coffee table and pushed himself up from the sofa. "I guess I should get going, then. Will you keep working at the restaurant until you leave?"
I was surprised that he wanted to leave already, but I didn't mention it.
"Of course. I'll give you plenty of time to find another fabulous sous-chef."
I watched Geoffrey as he walked down the hallway of my apartment building. His shoulders were stooped and his gait slow. He looked like a forlorn little boy. Poor Geoffrey. At the end of the hallway, right by the elevator, he turned around and made a pleading motion with his hands and walked back toward me.
"Kailani, how can you just throw away all the time we've spent together?"
I was a little taken aback, but I suppose I shouldn't have been. Such dramatic statements were normal with him. "Geoffrey, we haven't really spent too much time together. We haven't been dating very long."
"But doesn't that time mean something to you?"
"Yes, of course it does. I've enjoyed getting to know you and we've had fun together. But it's time for me to go home. And I'm afraid a long-distance relationship just isn't possible. It's too far away."
"There's got to be a way, Kailani. I just can't stand the thought of losing you."
"I'm sorry, Geoffrey. I've got to go. I'll see you at work tomorrow." I closed the door gently and stood there until I heard the ding of the elevator.
I waited a few hours before calling my mother since there was a five-hour time difference between DC and Hawaii.
She and my father were both thrilled by my news, as I knew they would be. They had a million questions for me, like when I would be coming home, where I would be looking for a new job, and whether I could live with them for a while.
"I don't know!" I laughed. "I'm going to start putting out some feelers right away for jobs in restaurants and resorts along the Kohala Coast. Someone must need a sous-chef. Or even a head chef. But I'll be home soon, don't worry. I can't stand another day of this winter weather."
I hung up, promising to keep them posted about my job hunt. Suddenly, the winter seemed a little warmer.CHAPTER 2
I was still working for Geoffrey a couple weeks later, still floundering through the endless winter weather and finding our relationship a bit awkward. He made excuses to be wherever I was, whether it was in the kitchen or the basement of the restaurant or while I was coming to work or leaving work to go home. I was actively looking for a job on the Big Island, and didn't want to return home without any employment prospects, but I was seriously beginning to consider going home without a job just to get away from Geoffrey. I had told all my friends and colleagues in DC and on the island of Hawaii that I was going back home; everyone wished me well.
One night I worked very late at the restaurant. I couldn't catch a cab, so I had to walk home. I walked briskly on the dark sidewalk, trying to stay warm. I slipped on a patch of ice at one point, dropping my bag. As I stooped down to pick it up, I noticed a man walking not too far behind me. He had a toque pulled low over his forehead. I walked a little faster after that, not wanting to be the only woman on the street late at night. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed that the man walked a little more quickly too. A shiver of apprehension crept up the back of my neck. I ducked into a tiny twenty-four-hour grocery store and browsed for a few minutes, buying nothing, but giving the man plenty of time to walk past me and continue on his way.
When I went back outside, I looked left and right to make sure no one was following me. Seeing nobody, I kept walking, but it wasn't long before I noticed the same man walking slightly behind me and on the other side of the street. I wanted to run, but I couldn't because the sidewalks were too treacherous. All I could do was fumble for my cell phone and have it handy to call 911 if he came any closer. I looked over my shoulder again; he was crossing the street, walking a bit faster. I went faster too.
I took off my gloves and shoved them in my coat pocket so I could dial 911 quickly. I was almost in front of my building, pulling my phone out of my other pocket when I heard footsteps directly behind me. The man grabbed my elbow and I let out a cry.
"Kailani, it's me."
"Geoffrey! You scared me to death! What on earth are you doing?"
"I was just following you to make sure you made it home okay," he said, still gripping my elbow.
"You've never done that before," I said, my voice grating in irritation. "Why start now?"
"I was just concerned about you, that's all."
"Thank you, but I'm fine. Don't ever do that again. You really scared me."
I shook his hand off my elbow and walked away. As I unlocked the door to my apartment building, I saw him out of the corner of my eye, watching me. I shivered, but not from the cold. Now I really couldn't wait to leave Washington. And Geoffrey.
Once I was inside my apartment I kicked off my boots and leaned down to stroke Meli, who came to greet me. My heart was still pounding from my encounter with Geoffrey. I leafed through the mail as I walked into the living room. The red light on my answering machine was blinking.
"Kailani? This is Dr. Barbara Merriweather-Jorgensen. I live on the west coast of the Big Island and I have heard through the grapevine that you are a sous-chef looking for a job here on the Kohala Coast. My family and I are in the district of North Kohala and I am looking for a personal chef to manage our kitchen and cook for us. I understand that you are a very capable young woman with local ties, and I think you might be perfect for the job. If you're interested in finding out more about this opportunity, give me a call." She went on to give me her email address and asked that I send her my résumé.
Was this the phone call I'd been waiting for? I was intrigued, but I wasn't so sure about the job title. I didn't know any personal chefs and I didn't know what responsibilities such a job entailed.
After sending her my résumé, I called Dr. Merriweather-Jorgensen back. I was soon talking to a receptionist at Orchid Isle Wellness.
"Ms. Merriweather-Jorgensen has left for our Kona office and won't be back today," the woman noted in a quiet, smooth voice.
"Oh. She's not a doctor?" I asked, surprised.
"She is a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine."
"Oh," I repeated. "Well, I'll try her again tomorrow."
I went online and searched for Barbara Merriweather-Jorgensen. I found out that she was a partner in a "wellness practice." Besides her work in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the clinic also offered dermatology, massage therapy, internal medicine, personal training, and nutrition services at several locations on the island of Hawaii.
I thought of nothing else at work the following day as I tried to avoid Geoffrey, waiting to get home to call Ms. Merriweather-Jorgensen again. I reached her that night.
"Thank you for sending me your résumé. I've contacted your references and they speak very highly of you. So now that the formalities are out of the way, let me tell you more about the job. There are four of us. Besides me, there is my husband and our two children. You would be expected to prepare breakfast and dinner six days a week, plus provide school lunches for the children and luncheon for anyone who might be in the house on any given day. On Sundays, we require only dinner. In addition, you would be expected to prepare food for any entertaining that my husband and I do. You would, of course, have a suite of rooms in the house. You get vacation whenever we do, and obviously we would make arrangements for you to get time off if you need or want it. We pay a very good salary, naturally."
I listened breathlessly. It sounded like a huge commitment.
"Is this something you're interested in? Or would you like a day or two to think about it?"
I swallowed. I didn't want to make a decision right then, but I didn't want to lose this opportunity. "I am interested, yes," I heard myself say.
"That's wonderful! When can you start?"
We agreed that I would start in three weeks.
"If I may ask," I said. "Where did you get my name?"
"All my clients and colleagues know I'm looking for a personal chef. One man lives in Punalu'u and said the talk of the town is a young sous-chef, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, who wants to come home. I got your information that way."
So my parents and sister had been spreading the news!
We talked about more particulars for several minutes, then I told her I would see her soon.
She laughed lightly. "Fair warning: You may have a hard time at first. My husband and my kids prefer heavy American and European-style meals, and my goal is to get them to eat healthier."
"I'll do my best," I promised.
I was going home.CHAPTER 3
Over the next two and a half weeks I packed, shipped the big things I didn't want to sell, and said my good-byes. Geoffrey still couldn't believe I was going.
"I didn't think you'd go through with it," he said, half-smiling. "Washington is such an exciting place to live. I was sure you'd decide to stay."
I shook my head, returning his small smile. "I know, but I really miss the Big Island. I miss my parents and the rest of my family. I miss the weather. I miss seeing the ocean when I drive down the road."
"I guess I can't blame you for that." He gave me a hug as I stood stiffly. "I'll miss you, Kailani."
"I'll miss you too, Geoffrey," I lied. "Take care." I waved to him as I turned around and walked back to my apartment for the last time.
Early the next morning I was on a plane heading for Kona. It was a long flight, with two long layovers, and I finally arrived on the Big Island that night at eight o'clock. I was exhausted, still on Washington time, but I got my second wind as soon as I saw my family waiting for me by baggage claim. My parents and sister hugged me while my niece, Haliaka, jumped up and down, clapping her hands and laughing. I looked around me, breathing in the warm tropical air, and felt an enveloping sense of peace and belonging.
Though it cost me a small fortune, I had checked four bags. My father and sister helped me get them to the car while my mother held Haliaka's hand.
"All your other things arrived yesterday," Mom said as we drove home in the darkness. "We put everything in the guest room for you."
"When do you start work?" Dad asked.
"Later this week, but the day after tomorrow I'm going up to Ms. Merriweather-Jorgensen's house to have a look at the kitchen and my rooms."
"The place must be pretty nice if they can afford a personal chef," my sister piped up. "Do you think we can come and see it?"
"Probably. But not until I've worked there awhile."
Excerpted from House of the Hanging Jade by AMY M. READE. Copyright © 2016 Amy M. Reade. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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