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Sinclair Adams was tired. No, scratch that. She was damn tired.
"And why am I so blasted tired?" she grumbled.
She briefly closed her eyes and inhaled a fortifying breath before allowing it to softly blow out of her full lips.
She had been expecting a car and driver, supplied by the Kealohas, to meet her at the airport. At least, that is what she had been told would happen.
And yes, a car had been sentif you could call it a car. The one that had arrived for her shuddered and rattled so badly, she hadn't been the least bit surprised when it just.. stopped.
A heartfelt groan slipped from behind her closed lips.
She closed her eyes again, knowing even as the driver, an older man named Kanoa whose hands had shaken just as badly as the car, turned to her with a resigned look on his aged, weathered face.
"Guess I'd better go check under the hood." His voice registered hopelessness.
He hopped out of the car, spry for his obviously advanced age, and popped the hood. After a lot of noise, tinkering and mild curses, most of which Sinclair didn't understand, he walked to her side of the car and looked at her through the open rear window.
"Miss, I'm sorry, but old Mou Mou here
" Kanoa began, scratching his nearly bald head. "Well, she ain't gonna make it to the hotel. I gotta call a tow."
The look he cast toward the car was so sympathetic as he lovingly patted the rusted roof of.. .Mou Mou, that had Sinclair been in a better frame of mind, she would have felt sorry for the old man. And his obviously beloved car.
As it was, she barely checked her irritation. After all, it wasn't the old man's fault. She laid the blame squarely on one person: Nick Kealoha.
She groaned, but her choices were limited. She could either wait for another ride to take her to the hotelwhich God only knew how long that would takeor climb out of the jalopy and wait alongside the road with Kanoa as the car was towed. She chose the latter, believing it the lesser of two evils and the quickest means to get to the hotel.
By the time she made it to the hotel where Althea Wilde had reserved a room for her, she was tired. And grumpy as all get-out, as her daddy used to say.
"Don't forget that part. I'm tired and I'm mad, and
" She paused in her verbal rant and lifted an arm, daintily taking a sniff as the elevator swiftly ascended. "Lord, I'm sweaty!"
After the elevator made it to her floor, she briskly exited, her high heels sinking into the lush carpeting as she strode down the hall. She slowed her gait, glancing at the slim credit-card-like key in her hand and up at the doors she passed, wanting to locate her room as quickly as possible.
"But at least I'm here," she murmured. Just as she located her suite, she heard a small ding. She glanced down at the Cartier watch, the last gift she'd received from her beloved father before his passing, and muttered a mild curse.
"Could this day get any worse?" she mumbled at the alarm notification. She was supposed to be at the A'kela Ranch in less than an hour.
Thank God she'd allowed Althea to make the reservation. Althea was married to Nathan Wildethe oldest of her "Wilde Boys," as she collectively called the three men she considered brothersand the woman was organized to a tee.
"No telling what the Kealohas would have had in store for me otherwise," Sinclair huffed as she dragged her suitcase inside the suite.
"Whose fault is all of this?" she continued her ranting monologue. To no one in particular.
It was all
With a disgusted harrumph, her lip curled. She wasn't about to extend him the courtesy of saying his name out loud.
Name, image and everything about him had taken up too much of her energy, occupied way too much of her brain time than it should have, she thought, as she hauled her oversize bag inside the room and allowed the door to close softly behind her.
And there was no way she was taking the blame, even if only to herself, for the current state she found herself in.
"The rideor-die girl herself, Sinclair," she said, releasing another disgusted puff of air from teeth clenched tight. "But
I have to take care of my Wilde Boys," Sinclair said, sighing heavily. "They're family."
She absently glanced around the room, taking it in quickly before dumping bags and her purse on the large king-size bed.
She slumped down on the bed, closing her eyes and arching her sore back.
But it wasn't the Wildes with whom she had issue.
One name, one face, came to mind and claimed that number-one spot: Nickolas Kealoha
Nick, as he went by.
Nick, along with his twin brother, Keanu, and father, Alek, owned and operated the A'kela Ranch in Hawaii.
And there was the rubalong with the reasons she was far away from home and the Wyoming Wilde Ranch, and now in Hawaii.
Sinclair clenched her eyes tightly closed. And as usual, what had become irritatingly familiar, the image of Nick Kealoha came to mind. She bit the corner of her lip. She knew what he looked like, every feature down to the lopsided grin he tended to have on his sensual mouth. The way one dimple would appear near his lower lip whenever he would smile, even the slightest bit. In that way he had
Sinclair quickly opened her eyes, batting them several times as though that would scrub the image of Mr. Tall, Golden and Fine from her mind.
help me," she muttered and reached down to slip the ridiculously high heels from her feet to massage her arches.
Okay. She was definitely tired. She'd become accustomed to blocking his image from her mind the minute it bombarded its way inside, as though he had every right to take up residence.
Increasingly, his image was the first that came to her mind in the morning as soon as she woke. And it was the last one she visualized at night, right before bed.
Right before dreaming.
"Arggg!" The groan rolled out from between her tightened lips.
She refused to admit how it was affecting her, how his image had been flirting inside her mind for the past several months, relentlessly. Without ceasing.
It had started even before she'd seen his family's show.
As soon as the Wildes had come to her for help with the situation, Sinclair had gone online to check out the Kealohas in an effort to get an idea of what she would be dealing with. It hadn't been a hard task. As soon as she'd put their name into the search engine on her laptop, pages had filled the screen and she'd clicked through the various links and images. They were, in fact, quite
Googleable. Curious, she'd then decided to check out the show.
"Know thine enemy" had been a saying she had long learned to adhere to, even before completing her law degree. She'd settled down on her sofa and scrolled the various sites before finding the reality show.
That one show had done it
Oh, Lord. She swallowed deep, the memories making her face burn. Her self-massage came to an abrupt halt, her fingers pausing midrub.
She'd promised herself not to watch another episode. There was absolutely no reason for her to continue, after all. She had watched simply to see the men of the A'kela Ranchto watch and observe for anything she could use against the Kealohas. Strictly research fodder for her Wilde Boys, no more, no less.
For reasons she refused to analyze, although she'd promised herself not to watch another episode, she'd been spellbound. Like a deer caught in headlights, she'd sat on her loveseat watching episode after episode
And what had started out as a mission simply to "know her enemy," had turned into a marathon TV session that had her viewing both seasons one and two of the popular cable network show. Episodes where Nick seemed to be most present, she'd watched twice. Sometimes three times.
The man was drop-dead fine as hell, no two ways about it.
After that, his image had been scored into her brain, from his golden-boy good looks to the bright blue eyes that seemed to show mischief even if the camera wasn't aimed in his direction. Even if he wasn't the one the scene was focused on, he seemed to attract all the attention to his broad shoulders, narrow waist and muscled thighs that even behind the signature rugged jeans he wore couldn't disguise the masculine appeal.
All of him had captured Sinclair's attention. And although she should have been irritated at the way he seemed to know it, the way he carried himself as though he was the only man on the planet, alpha to the nth de-gree
she'd found herself getting wet. Just from looking at him.
Sinclair had noticed that although the show featured the Kealoha ranch, the actual Kealohas, both brothers as well as father, were rarely on camera. However, when Nick glanced into the camera and spoke, it was as though he was speaking directly to her.
She felt a tangible
warmth invade her body. Sexual.
Ingrained into her mind was the way his low-hooded, intense blue eyes would glance into the camera
his sculpted cheeks
And the hint of a dimple that would appear near his lower lip when he gave that ghost of a smile that Sinclair now associated with pure, raw, masculine
She sucked in a deep breath of air.
It all screamed that he was a man who knew his way around a woman's body.
Her face flushed. Her panties grew wet.
Hot mess? Nah
she was way past that.
"Uhhhh!" The growl of frustration slipped from her lips and Sinclair quickly snapped her eyes open and batted them profusely.
She needed help.
Nick Kealoha was a player. Straight. Up. Player.
No two ways around it. It was all in his image. The way he carried himself. She'd read his bio
and she was not going to be played. Never had, never would.
Sinclair straightened her spine and tossed her hair back over her shoulder. She ignored the way her thick, wavy curls refused to behave, and how the once-straight strands were a memory of the past.
She ran a hand over her hair and circled the bunch in one hand. After opening a pocket of her messenger bag she'd tossed on the bed, she withdrew a covered band and deftly secured the thick, dense mass of curls.
No. She did not see him as one part of the "dynamic duo" that he and his twin had so cheesily been dubbed by the media.
She only saw the irritating man she had come to truly
have issue with.
Their communication had begun when Sinclair had taken over all dealings with the Kealohas immediately after Nick's initial terse letter to the family, demanding retribution.
Although the Wildes, as well as Sinclair, had been surprised to find out that their adoptive father, Clint Jedediah Wilde, had fathered a set of twins more than thirty years ago, they had been happy, ready to meet their "brothers" and to hear their story.
Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that that they realized the Kealohas, in particular Nick Kealoha, was not exactly in the "family reunion" sort of mood. His demand was concise, to the point. He and his brother were demanding they get what was theirs legally: interest in the Wyoming Wilde Ranch.
"Not even gonna happen," had been the collective response from her Wilde Boys, big arms crossed over their large chests, faces set.
Although she didn't feel like smiling, the image of the big men, hard looks across their handsome faces, brought a smile to her face.
Although the Wildes were adoptive brothers, sharing no blood link, the men were just about as close as three brothers could be. And when they felt threatened it was quite an impressive sight to see them rally together.
Ready to kick ass first and take names later, if necessary, as Holt Wilde had once so eloquently put it.
Not that it would come to that, Sinclair had assured them, confident in her abilities as a mediator and the speed with which she'd contacted the Kealohas. In particular, Nick Kealoha.
Soon, her confidence had taken a radical turn.
With their first correspondence via email she'd known she was in trouble. She'd immediately sought out verbal communication after his rude response to what she'd viewed as a perfectly reasonable request for a meeting.
He'd ignored her, as well as her request for a meeting, to the point she'd felt every one of her back teeth would grind down to dust in her frustration from dealing with the irritating man.
Finally she'd gotten him on the phone and sparks had flown swiftly, strongly. After hanging up, Sinclair had felt as though she'd been skinned alive.
unnerved by the man. His voice had been the first thing to cause the dichotomy of feelings.
She'd felt her heart slam against her rib cage, but had forced the crazy reaction to the side.
This was war. And from the get-go, he'd identified himself as the enemy.
Shelving the odd feelings, she'd at first wanted to walk away, but had known she couldn't, that she wouldn't.
She was not only the Wildes' lawyer, she was.. family. There was nothing she would not do for her Wilde Boys. With resignation she'd gone to work, seeking to find out what she could about the Kealohas.
It hadn't been hard. As soon as she'd discovered they'd had their own reality show, the information had been relatively easy to acquire.
Not that she'd had to go that far for info. As soon as she'd plugged their name into her search engine, there had been pages and pages of information. And images