Since the tsunami nearly ended his career a year ago, extreme surfer Kai Brady has kept a dark secret: he's terrified to get back on his board. With everything he's worked for on the line, Kai needs a miracle and a kick-ass trainer. That "miracle" is single mom Jun Lee.
Jun Lee can see that the heartbreakingly gorgeous surfer who'd selflessly rescued her son when disaster struck now needs to be saved himself. But the attraction between them proves to be a force stronger than the ocean, and just as dangerous.
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Jun Lee tried to steady her nerves as she walked up to the front door of Kai Brady's luxury beach-side villa on the west coast of the Big Island. Bright Hawaiian sunshine warmed her bare shoulders as she breathed in the scent of hibiscus, which grew in bunches along his pristinely manicured yard. Every local on the island knew Kai Bradymillionaire, entrepreneur, world extreme-surfing champ. Even his massive koa door was intimidating, not to mention the mansion itself: an impressive two-story glass-and-concrete structure that loomed above her, looking expensive and enormous.
Jun tried not to feel a pang of envy. She couldn't afford to rent a single room in a house like this, much less own one. Not so for Kai Brady, gorgeous and wealthy, who ranked three years running as Hawaii's most eligible bachelor in the local magazine, beating out even legendary rock stars who had taken up residence on Kauai. It was no wonder she was nervous. But she wasn't a groupie, she reminded herself. She was here on a mission.
She rang the bell and waited. Her sweaty hands squeezed the handle of the bag holding the thank-you gifts she'd brought: two of her homemade aromatherapy candles, which she hand-dipped, and some crayon drawings her four-year-old son, Po, had made for him. Then there was the gift certificate for a free session of Tai Chi, not that she thought he'd use it, but she didn't have much money, and lessons she taught fell into the category of the meager things she could offer.
She considered, for a minute, leaving the package on his doorstep, but she thought the candles would melt in the afternoon sun. Besides, she had it in her mind that she wanted to thank him personally. He deserved at least that. That was why she hadn't just sent the gifts in the mail.
She glanced at her reflection in the glass door. Jun kept her pale skin flawless by applying excessive sunscreen and avoiding the sun like the plague. Her mother, born in Beijing, had been insistent on that long before anyone really knew about the benefits of SPF. She'd come before her shift as a personal trainer at the big local gym, so she wore her fitness-instructor outfit of yoga ca-pris, flip-flops and an athletic tank top, her dark hair up in a high ponytail. In the shadow of Kai's villa, she felt suddenly underdressed. Then again, what was the proper attire to wear when thanking the man who had saved your son's life?
This week marked the year anniversary of the tsunami that had nearly drowned Po. If it hadn't been for Kai Brady, her precious boy would've died.
She'd never forget that morning. Jun had dropped Po off at day care as usual, but then, when she was already at work, on the tenth-floor gym of a high-rise, the earthquake hit, the tsunami came ashore, wrecking much of the western shoreline, and she got the worst news a parent could receive: her boy had never made it to the evacuation center. He was missing.
Then, after a horrible day of waiting, she got a message on her Facebook account: friends of Kai Brady were trying to reach her. Kai had broken his leg saving her son, and they were both in the hospital. Po, thankfully, had only scratches. Thanks to Kai.
Jun's heart constricted anytime she thought of that miserable day: the horror and bone-chilling fear when the day-care center told her Po was missing. Jun lived for her boy. He was her whole world. She'd had him at age nineteen, barely older than a child herself. It didn't matter to her that he had been an accident, the result of a brief relationship with a football player on the island for the Pro Bowl, a father who wanted nothing to do with Po.
Jun never fought Dante Henley, Po's father, for support. She wasn't going to beg anyone for anything. She didn't like the idea of being indebtedto anyone, for any reason.
Which was why, as grateful as she was to Kai, she hated the feeling that she owed him. One way or another, she was going to find a way to pay that debt. Right now the only thing she could think to do was honor him on every anniversary of that tsunami.
She told herself her preoccupation with the famous surfer had nothing at all to do with the fact that he had the kind of sculpted body and bright white smile expected of a Calvin Klein underwear model. Or that he had enough cash from endorsements to live in a place like this.
She rang the bell once more and peeked in through the wall of glass windows along the front of the house. All she could see was tasteful granite, smooth-finished wood and gleaming floors. Was that a lanai out back? The wallless living room was bigger than her whole condo! It overlooked a glistening mirrored pool that looked as though it cascaded into the ocean.
Jun blinked rapidly and tried not to press her nose against the glass. This might be the most beautiful house she'd ever seen.
She saw movement inside and held her breath. Was he going to answer the door? Or was he too rich for that? Did he have a butler? Her stomach lurched. She fought the urge to smooth down her ponytail, to double-check her tinted lip balm in the glass. She didn't know why she cared. As a single mom, she didn't have time to date. She barely had time to sleep.
She heard the door lock click and the knob turn and Kai stood there, shirtless, clad only in swim trunks.
For a second, all rational thought fled her head. The words she'd been about to utter simply dried up on her tongue. All she could think was tall broad chest. Miles of smooth tanned skin, a wall of rippled, strongly defined muscles and not a single ounce of fat anywhere. She tried to swallow, but she couldn't. Her mouth was parched. He was so tall. So big.
Big muscles. Big, big muscles.
She felt as if she'd devolved instantly into a cavewoman. Big muscles. Me like.
The last time she'd seen Kai, he'd been recovering in a hospital bed, fully clothed, his hurt leg in traction. He'd been tanned and attractive, sure, but he'd been clothed. That fierce six-pack had been safely tucked away under a white hospital gown.
She realized she was staring at his perfectly formed abs, her fingers itching to touch them. How did he get such definition? She worked at a gym and she was stumped just looking at them.
Also, she noted, he was a lot taller than she remembered. A lot taller. Her eyes were level with his chest. And, wow, what a chest.
His full lips curled up in an amused smile. "May L.help you?"
Oh, yes. Yes, you can. She immediately felt her face grow bright tomato red. She normally wasn't this forward, even in her own head. She didn't go around panting after men like a teenager. What was wrong with her? As if she'd never seen a man without a shirt on before. Get a grip, Jun. All those meatheads at the gym should've long since inoculated her against the power of the male form. And yet clearly they hadn't.
"I uh " Why couldn't her mind form words any longer? She felt as though she'd been hit on the head. Could a person get a concussion from close proximity to Hawaii's hottest and richest bachelor? He probably got this all the time: women who lost the ability to speak in his presence.
"Yes?" Kai asked politely. With great effort, Jun pulled her attention away from his physique and tried to focus on his face.
She found that was a mistake. His chest might be distracting, but his face was worse. He was all chiseled perfection up there: dark, intelligent eyes, expressive yet playful eyebrows, sensual mouth and the kind of just-there stubble on his square jaw. He slumped his broad, muscled shoulders against the doorframe and crossed his arms, patiently waiting her out. She had to say something. Why wasn't her mouth working?
"Hi " Say your name. Your name. "Jun."
"June? Like the month?"
This was going even worse than she'd feared.
"No. I'm Jun." Heat flared up the back of her neck. "Uh Jun Lee. I "
Kai's face showed zero recognition. She felt a little pinch in her chest. It had been a year since she'd seen him and she didn't have Po with her, and yet, somehow, she'd been hoping he'd remember her.
"Maybe you'd like to come in? Get out of the sun?" he offered, looking concerned.
Yes, because clearly she was acting like a sunstroke victim.
She just bobbed her head and stepped inside the cool interior, into the masterful space of a living room leading out to a huge terrace, the massive lanai she'd seen from the window. Cushioned couches filled out the open space, and what appeared to be a small wooden footbridge led out over a koi pond and to the patio surrounding a glassy square pool. Beyond that, there lay miles and miles of pristine blue Pacific.
This didn't help. She felt like hyperventilating. She didn't know what was sexier: his house or his body.
"So, Jun, how can I help you?"
"We met last year?" Jun said, now distracted by his expensive furniture and what had to be an $18 million view. At least. Eighteen, maybe even twenty.
"Last year?" He scoffed a little, staring at her blankly. Then he studied her, his dark eyes giving her body a slow, appreciative sweep. "Uh did we ?" He trailed off.
Jun realized with a start he thought they might have hooked up.
"Oh, no. I mean, no, we didn't." Now her neck felt as if it were on fire. Even her ears burned. Not that I wouldn't go for that. Right here on this gleaming wood floor. "We met at the hospital."
Kai's face darkened, the playfulness instantly disappearing. "The hospital," he repeated.
The tsunami had been life changing for her and Po, but for Kai, clearly it hadn't made much of an impression at all. And, she understood with sharp disappointment, neither had she.
"I'm uh.Po's mom."
Kai furrowed his brow as if trying to remember. "Po?"
"Kai?" A woman's voice called from one of the hallways.
"Oh, uh one minute." Kai turned toward the voice, moving away from the rich koa-wood table in his living room.
"Kai? Everything okay?" The woman's voice drifted in from a back room, and as Jun turned, she saw a tall blonde, wearing nothing but a man's white button-down oxford with the bottom three buttons done up, long tanned legs on display and her ample, gravity-defying cleavage showing. Her mascara had seeped into dark rings around her eyes, but given her half-naked state, Jun doubted anybody else noticed. The woman clearly didn't care about anyone seeing her either, as she moved closer to Kai and the door. Of course a mansion like this would have an accessory like that: a gorgeous model type ready to serve the owner's every whim.
"Sorry, sweetheart, just give me a minute," Kai said as the blonde wiggled her way in for a kiss, putting her hands on the man's amazing chest, exactly where Jun would have, too, right in the sternum, her other hand trailing the ridges of his abs. Jun felt a hot flash of envy.
"But today's our last day on the island!" the woman said, jutting her lower lip out in a pout. Great, a tourist, too! Figures.
"Babe?" Another woman emerged from somewhere in the house. Jun moved a little and saw a glimpse of stainless steel, granite and an ornate minitiled backsplash, all slate gray and white. This woman wore a bikini and held a fruity drink in her hand. "We're out of ice."
Jun nearly barked out a harsh laugh. Now it had gone from uncomfortable to downright ludicrous. She'd assumed someone as gorgeous and rich as Kai wouldn't be single, but two women at once? Was it the Playboy Mansion in here?
It was the cold, brisk wake-up call she needed. She'd been in some kind of daze, drawn in by the power of Kai's charisma, but now she snapped to attention. Every fiber in her allorganic, holistic-yoga-loving body rebelled against the scene. There was such a thing as too much sex. She'd done a whole paper on it for her graduate class last year on Qigong, the study of meditation and healing. You gave away too much of your Chi during sex, and then you didn't have enough energy left over for anything else. Kai looked as if he barely had enough energy to hold open his front door. Obviously these women had spent all night draining the man of his.Chi.
She didn't need any ancient Chinese alternative-medicine theories to tell her that Kai was on the wrong path. And that if she got involved with him, she'd be, too. The realization made her feel a little bit better somehow. You couldn't get with him anyway, but even if you did, would you want to be one more woman through a revolving door?
The two women, apparently sensing competition, closed ranks around Kai. The other came up and slid her hand through the crook of his free arm. Both women eyed her with interest, trying to surmise if they needed to defend their territory. Jun felt like telling them not to bother.
"I'm going to go," she said, wanting to get out of there, fast.
What did you expect? A red-carpet welcome? Why would Kai remember you, when he's got beautiful women falling at his feet?
And why do you even care?
It hit her that for the past year she'd been idolizing the man a little bit, making him out to be the kind of selfless hero who only existed in novels and movies and comic books. Kai was just a man. The woman wearing only the shirt lazily grinned at her. Okay, a very flawed man.
Belatedly, she remembered she was still holding the thank-you gift. It seemed so childish now, so inconsequential. What had she been thinking? The man had everything he could possibly want.
"It's been a year, but I just wanted to uh, thank you. For Po." She thrust the bag at him as if it were a hot potato and bolted for his front door. She'd been planning a whole speech, but at this point, she didn't care about it at all. Kai stared at the bag, puzzled, as she nearly tripped over the two steps leading to the door. But she swung open the door and was outside, then hurried toward her old used hatchback, an ancient car that ran only by her sheer will and her mechanic cousin's generosity. It looked like such an eyesore there at the edge of his beautiful lawn.
"Jun!" She turned at the sound of his voice to see him running after her, barefoot in his swim trunks. She tried not to notice his muscled calves work. "Wait."
She hesitated, car keys in hand.
"How's Po?" Now she could tell that he remembered. Po's small scrapes and scratches from the tsunami had long since healed, but he still woke up screaming at night sometimes, haunted by nightmares. Then there was the fact that he hated water. He'd refused to swim ever since that day, not that she blamed him. But Jun looked at Kai, at his kind eyes, and then back at the frowning women waiting on his porch. She couldn't tell him all that. Why would he care? He was having the time of his life apparently.
"He's good," she said, which was 80 percent truth. "He talks about you all the time. He really wanted to come see you."
Kai glanced back and for a split second looked embarrassed. That was something.
"Oh, right. But I'm . well, not G-rated." He grinned sheepishly, as if half-naked women were just the price he paid for being him. Maybe that was true. "I'll straighten out my act sometime. I just don't know how."