February is the month for romance, and in the spirit of
St. Valentine, the Star-Bulletin has teamed up with the Aloha Chapter
of the Romance Writers of America to bring you
"Tropical Dreams" in five parts.
Chapter One | Two | Three | Four | FiveBy Sally Sorenson
Special to the Star-Bulletin
OF all the cowardly, humiliating things she could imagine him doing, not showing up at the altar hadn't even crossed her mind.
A fax! Now she understood why Russell insisted she fly a day early to take care of the wedding details. Jilting her was one little detail he failed to mention. She focused on the toes of her satin slippers peeking from the hem of her lace-trimmed sheath and fought down a maelstrom of hurt, anger and confusion.
Gradually she became aware that the others were waiting for her to do something.
"It's not your fault," Lindsay said to a worried looking Auntie Luana. "Thanks for the message."
She looked around the tidy little wedding chapel. Its nondescript, nondenominational interior functioned for weddings, not worshiping God. The window behind the altar framed a view of palm trees and the famed coastline of Oahu's North Shore. A beautiful sun-swept day both bolstered her flagging spirits and deepened her sense of loss. Oddly, not the loss of Russell, but the loss of the wedding itself.
Lindsay looked at Luana and the best man, for whom this was strictly a business deal. "My mother should be standing here, in this dress, with this bouquet," she said. "The wedding package was my parents' gift. They were married in Honolulu when my father had a leave of absence during the Vietnam War. They barely saw the island, never did get a honeymoon. Russell and I were to live their dream."
Luana dabbed at her eyes. "Maybe lucky you never marry the guy if he's not the right one, eh?"
Lindsay unpinned the headpiece of her veil and ran her fingers through her blonde pageboy. "Well, there's no sense all of us standing around, is there?"
She dared a glance at the organist and minister who sat with their backs to them. "I know these people expect to be paid, but could we talk about a partial refund? The pack-age included the full three-day honeymoon, which obviously isn't going to happen."
At the mention of refund, Luana's eyes took on a peculiar gleam. "No refund. You still get the ali'i treatment."
"I can't eat double every meal, go on every activity twice." Lindsay hadn't spent years owning and managing an art gallery for nothing. She could haggle about prices with the best of them.
"You guaranteed satisfaction or my money back. Well, I'm not satisfied, and I want a refund."
Evidently, Luana had some negotiating skills of her own. "You never give 72 hours notice. Deposit is made on the bed and breakfast, all tours arranged already. Pikake Dreams is even willing to throw in a tour guide. Very akamai, aren't you, Pono?"
Luana touched Lindsay's arm. "You want stories to share with mom and dad? Make them here in Hawaii. They bought you this vacation; don't disappoint them."
Lindsay could call it a vacation instead of a honeymoon. After three years with barely a holiday off, she certainly deserved a break. At the moment, she just wanted to shed this wedding gown and get rid of any reminders of the un-wedding, but her luggage was safely stowed. The ali'i package included photos of arriving at the B&B in full regalia.
And arriving in a limo with this "tour guide" certainly beat showing up alone. Lindsay wondered what he did besides stand in chapels and act as best man to strangers. Physical work, she assumed, judging from the way he filled out a tuxedo.
"OK. I'll do it."
James picked up the garland of flowers draped over the alter railing and placed the lei around her neck. The scent of pikake filled the air. He brushed a kiss onto her cheek. "Aloha. Welcome to paradise."
Lindsay's mood brightened considerably.
"Why did you agree to do this?" Lindsay asked James as they sipped champagne in the ridiculously large limousine. He raised his glass in salute. "Isn't it obvious?"
"Yes," she replied. "But thank you for not saying you feel sorry for me." He poured another splash into her glass. "My ex-wife got the house. It beats sleeping in a tent on the nursery lot."
He answered her unspoken question. "I own a landscaping business."
"Your aunt called you Pono, not James."
"A nickname. It means righteous."
"Ahh. So you come to the aid of ladies in distress all the time?" His cockeyed squint told her she was pushing her luck.
He proved as knowledgeable as Auntie Luana promised by pointing out the local landmarks and naming the fauna along their route. In no time they were in the gravel driveway of the Lani-kai Inn, and the butterflies in Lindsay's stomach began to flutter a new beat. How much would she have to explain to the desk clerk?
Pono stuck by her side as she leaned her satin elbows on the counter. She gleaned some satisfaction from their appearance as a couple, even though they weren't. "Harrington," she told the young man. "Reservations paid by Morgan."
"Kealoha," Pono added. "Reservations paid by Pikake Dreams."
"Ms. Harrington, I apologize." The clerk looked truly stricken when he handed her the key. "We inadvertently reserved a room with twin beds. Since it's your honeymoon, we would move you immediately, but we're full with guests who have already checked in."
"No problem," she replied.
"And Kealoha?" Pono asked.
"I have no reservation for Kealoha. And no room." The clerk's confusion showed in his face as his gaze traveled from tuxedo to wedding dress. Lindsay's fingers knitted together on the countertop as she braced for the second jilt of the day. "I guess this means another night at the nursery for you."
A very long pause ensued before Pono's voice rumbled near her ear. "I don't snore."
A wicked tickle flowered in Lindsay and made her smile. A vacation instead of a honeymoon didn't have to mean boring.
Pono's hand covered hers and slipped the key from beneath her clenched fingers. They were part way across the small lobby before Lindsay turned and hurried back to the desk.
The last thing she wanted was calls of congratulations from her parents, or excuses from Russell. Tomorrow, when she'd had time to sort and think, she'd phone her mom and dad. "Please," she told the clerk, "hold all calls for Harrington."
The clerk finally cracked a smile. "Privacy is one of our best features."
To be continued tomorrow
Sally Sorenson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. A variety of writing/editing jobs and work on community newsletters convinced her that fiction must be more fun. She is the president of the Aloha Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Perry have been married 29 years. They enjoy travel, skiing and tennis. They are parents of two college students and a third child who works in Silicon Valley.
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