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.
In parts one, two and three, Lindsay Morgan was left at the altar by her fiance, who sent his condolences via fax from Washington, D.C. At the urging of Auntie Luana, who had arranged the ceremony through her company, Pikake Dreams, Lindsay decided to go on her "honeymoon" to escape the gossip of friends back home. Luana assigned her nephew James -- nickname Pono -- to show Lindsay around.
Chapter One | Two | Three | Four | FiveBy Helena Mark
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The next day Lindsay found herself standing in the middle of a lawae fern bed with her arms outstretched. "This is amazing!" She gave a dazzling smile to Pono, who was standing a few feet away.
"I thought you'd like it. This hike is pretty mild compared to some of the others on Oahu. And the rewards are worth the climb, aren't they?" Pono grinned back at Lindsay, revealing a dimple in his left cheek.
"OK, I have to admit, I was really nervous when you said we were going on a hike. I haven't been on a hike since I was a Girl Scout. And you know how I feel about heights. It was a little shaky for me, back there when we were on the edge of the ridge. But you were right. This is worth the anxiety. Hold on; let me get my camera out. No one back home will believe this." Lindsay busied herself by getting the camera out of her backpack and snapping a few quick shots of the ferns. "Smile," she ordered Pono, taking a picture of him by surprise. No one will believe I'm with this incredible guy, either, she murmured to herself.
"Tourist!" Pono laughed at her. "You'd better save some of your film. The best is yet to come. Come on." He grasped her hand firmly, leading her along the narrow trail.
Lindsay walked on the trail, holding Pono's hand as if they did this all the time. It was strange that holding Pono's hand should feel so natural. Russell had never held her hand. He had been against all public displays of affection. Lindsay grinned wryly to herself. Russell hadn't been that great at showing affection privately, either. She was definitely better off without him.
The trail snaked through the lawae bed, gently sloping upward. Where the ferns grew sparser, other types of flora were more abundant. Lindsay savored the changing landscape, the blue warmth of the sky above, and the quiet strength of the man beside her. Yesterday had started out as a nightmare, but Pono had managed to make her forget the humiliation of being left at the altar.
She cleared her throat, "I, um, I want to thank you for letting me cry on your shoulder about Russell yesterday. It can't be easy listening to a woman vent about another man whom you don't even know."
Pono turned to look at her. "No problem."
"I really appreciate it. You helped me put it all in perspective."
"Well, I have four sisters and a lot of female cousins, so I'm used to hearing sob stories about men. I know we can be jerks sometimes." He gave her a quick wink.
Lindsay chuckled, "I couldn't agree with you more," she said wholeheartedly.
The trail was getting steeper now, and Lindsay found her breathing getting shallower. But, she was determined not to be a wimp. Gritting her teeth, she focused on keeping up with his long stride.
Pono must have realized she was struggling because he slowed down. "Sorry, Lindsay. I didn't mean to go so fast. Here, let's take a break." He led her to a big lava rock a few yards off the trail, and she gratefully sank down.
"Whew. Thanks. I'm really enjoying this hike, but I am an out-of-condition city girl, you know." She took a swig from her water bottle.
"You look like you are in great condition." Pono eyed her approvingly. "For a city girl, that is." He was teasing again.
"Thanks a lot," Lindsay commented dryly, but she could feel a blush creeping up her neck. She changed the subject. "How much farther do we have to go? What are we going to see when we get there?"
"I'd say we have 14, maybe 20 minutes more to hike. And what we're going to see is a surprise." Pono spoke with an air of mystery.
"I can't imagine anything better than what we've already seen."
It was true. So far, in addition to the fern bed, she had several breathtaking views of Maunalua Bay and the blue Pacific behind her, Hahaione and Kamilonui Valleys below her, and now she was in the middle of a small pine grove.
"I never knew there were so many different types of pine trees in Hawaii." Lindsay reached up and broke some nettles off a tree. She crushed them in half and closed her eyes, inhaling the sharp fragrance.
"Hawaii is full of surprises," Pono whispered softly.
Lindsay's eyes snapped open at the note in his voice. Pono's face was close to hers, his dark eyes unfathomable. He looked like he wanted to say something more. For the briefest second, their eyes met.
Then the moment was gone.
"Are you ready? Let's go." Pono held his hand out to her and helped her get up from the rock.
The rest of the hike was in silence. Lindsay surreptitiously considered the man beside her. Pono was unlike any other person she had ever met. His long, wavy black hair was smoothed into a ponytail. He wore a T&C surf shop T-shirt and khaki shorts. His limbs were dark and muscular.
All of the men she knew in Washington were businessmen, politicians, or artists. She could categorize them as either "Suits" or "PIBS," "Persons in Black." She didn't know anyone back home who made his living working outdoors.
This can't be happening, she thought. I was ready to be married to someone else yesterday. A warning sounded in her head: rebound. She erased the unwelcome thought.
Pono stopped suddenly and waved his arm with a flourish. "Here we are."
All Lindsay could do was stare in awe. The windward side of Oahu spread out below her like a jade fan. To the left, the Ko'olau Mountains stood, ringed with wisps of cloud. To the right, the Pacific Ocean stretched as far as the eye could see: turquoise near the shore, azure farther out, and finally a soft pale blue that blended into the horizon.
"That's Maui, Molokai and Lanai out there." Pono pointed to the dark shadows in the ocean mist. "Down below is Waimanalo, where I live."
"This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me."
Lindsay was so enchanted by the gorgeous scenery unfolded before her that she momentarily forgot her fear of heights. Then reality struck, and she got dizzy. She gasped, stumbling.
Pono caught her before she could fall. His arm was around her shoulders, his body close to hers.
"Are you OK?" Pono asked, his face tense with concern.
Lindsay looked into his dark brown eyes. "I am now."
Helena Mark is a pseudonym for the author of this chapter. A member of Romance Writers of America for one year, she has been taking writing seminars and committed herself to writing at least one page a day. She is spending an extended Valentine's holiday in England with her husband, perhaps researching her next romance.
About the writer
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