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 through four, 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 Penelope Neri
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THREE days. They'd come and gone like a dream -- a lovely tropical dream she wished could last forever! But her flight for the Mainland was scheduled to take off at noon tomorrow. She intended to make the most of what little time she had left.
Time with Pono ...
Officially, his promise to his Auntie Luana ended that morning, when they checked out of the Lanikai Inn. But when Pono offered to drive her back to Honolulu, she'd accepted.
Once they reached the city, Pono mentioned that he'd like to show her the sights, then suggested they enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Reluctant to end their time together, Lindsay accepted.
They'd strolled through the International Market Place and haggled for trinkets with the vendors of Duke's Lane. They'd explored Queen Emma's Summer Palace in lush Nuuanu Valley and admired America's only royal palace, the Iolani Palace, in the heart of Honolulu. When hunger drove them in search of food, they'd devoured dim sum and boiled peanuts in Chinatown, and shave ice in Kalihi. They'd crammed more fun into a solitary afternoon than Lindsay believed possible.
A delicious meal of island delicacies, followed by dancing, had been the perfect ending to this last perfect day. Now, swaying to the romantic Hawaiian music, Lindsay let Pono's arms guide her around the starlit terrace.
Over his broad shoulders, she could see the full tropical moon, framed by fronded palms. Its light gave the dark ocean a patina of glittering silver and turned golden sands an ethereal white. The scent of flowers and coconut tanning lotion surrounded them as they swayed to the balmy music of slack-key guitars. How could she go back to Washington and leave all this, she wondered, her throat constricting? How could she say aloha to Pono, knowing she would never see him again?
"Ms. Morgan? Ms. Morgan?"
Feeling Pono release her, Lindsay opened her eyes, startled to see a hotel messenger standing nearby. He was holding a small silver tray, on which lay a folded sheet of paper.
Her heart skipped a beat. A telegram. And telegrams meant one thing. Band news.
"Yes?" she asked shakily, darting a quick look at Pono. He took her hand in his and squeezed it to reassure her. "What is it?"
"A gentleman asked me to give you this note, ma'am."
A note. Not a telegram. Oh, thank God. "Mahalo." Relieved, she unfolded and read it. "I don't believe this!" she exclaimed. "The nerve!"
"Believe what?" Pono looked concerned.
"Russell." Seeing that the name meant nothing to him, she added, "Russell Harrington. Remember? My ex-fiance. He's here. In Hawaii."
Pono's black brows lifted. "Aah."
There was a world of meaning in that single exclamation.
The messenger still hovered.
"Was there something else?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. The gentleman said if you'd like to speak with him, he's out there by the pool." The little man pointed.
"Thank you." She shrugged and gave Pono a bewildered look. "I suppose I should talk to him, don't you think--?"
"No rush," Pono murmured, taking her hand and leading her back to their table across the terrace. He pulled out her chair, fingertips brushing her bare shoulder as he seated her. They lingered, gently stroking. "Harrington will keep. Let's have a mai tai while you think this through."
"He's reconsidered. That's what the note said. Can you believe that?" she exclaimed after their drinks arrived. "He's reconsidered, so he thinks he can just pick up our relationship, right where it ended! Where he ended it, as if nothing has happened!"
She sipped her drink. Purple orchids, colorful parasols, cherries and pineapple chunks gave the balloon glass a festive flair. She was too angry to care.
"Did he give you any reason for the brush off? Brain surgery, say? A double amputation? Rabies shots? Pono shot her a spectacularly evil grin.
She had to smile despite herself. "Nooo, nothing that drastic. He blames pre-nuptial nerves. Last-minute wedding jitters made him back out. But now he's sorry and wants to go through with the wedding, as planned."
Pono whistled under his breath. "I bet he does. And? Where are you with this?"
She shrugged. "He expects me to leap into his arms, accept his apology, forget what he did and marry him! Not to mention how he did it. By fax, the creep."
She took another hefty swallow. Bottled courage? Maybe. She didn't care.
"What do you want? Do you want him back? Do you love him?"
She hesitated only a few seconds before answering. "Come to think of it, I know exactly what I want, Pono," she murmured, gazing into his dark eyes. "To be honest, I think I've known in my heart ever since I stood in that chapel, reading his fax. It's just taken me a while to admit it. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to get it ..."
Setting down her drink, she pushed back her chair and stood up before Pono could assist her.
He stood himself, watching as Lindsay wove her way between the dancing couples. She was headed toward the pool, toward Russell J. Harrington III, and away from him.
Fishing the top from his pants pocket, he flung the bills onto the table and started after her. Maybe that Harrington jerk could let her go without a second thought, but not him. He was different. He was ready to put up a fight for what he wanted, if that's what it took.
Especially when what he wanted was Lindsay.
"Lindsay, darling! You look incredible!" Russell exclaimed. "The sun and surf have been good to you, sweetie."
When she hadn't rushed to his side the minute she got his note, he must have decided to come looking for her, Lindsay thought. She'd almost bumped into him by the pool.
"Hello, Russell," she said coolly.
He was wearing perfectly creased white slacks, white slip-on deck shoes of Italian leather, a white polo shirt and a big white crocodile smile. Not a hair was out of place. He looked like a mannequin, she noticed for the very first time.
A few late swimmers were doing moonlit laps before going night-clubbing or up to their rooms. Older hotel guests lounged on the plastic chaises around the pool, gossiping and watching young couples on their way to the beach, holding hands.
Tiki torches guttered in the scented tradewinds. Dancing flames, reflected in the water, created an exciting, mysterious atmosphere. A reminder of ancient Hawaii, where sacrifices had once been made to the gods of old, she thought.
"I take it you read my note?" Russell began, adopting what she knew he called his "suitably shamefaced" expression.
"That's why I'm here."
"Good. Then you're going to be sensible about this little ... postponement we've had?" His brows rose in inquiry.
"Oh, I think so, Russell. Very sensible. In fact, the last three days have really helped me to get things into perspective. To decide what I want from life."
"Splendid." He smiled expectantly. "And?"
"News flash, Harrington. It's not you!"
Stepping forward, Lindsay planted her palm squarely in the center of Russell's immaculate white polo shirted chest and shoved. Hard. "Go fish, chump!" she whooped.
Harrington toppled backwards with a shrill, almost feminine squeal that turned heads from all directions. A look of utter horror crossed his face, then he hit the water with a tremendous splash that soaked those on the chaises. Several of the onlookers roared with laughter as he bobbed to the surface, madder than any wet hen.
Russell Harrington III. A sacrifice to the gods of pomposity, Lindsay thought with satisfaction. And what an offering he was!
"Way to go, Lindsay. You really do know what you want," Pono said in an admiring tone. "A wahine after my own heart."
Turning, she saw him leaning against the moss-rock wall, his arms crossed over his chest. He was grinning as Russell, streaming water, hopping about in the pool's shallow end, trying to capture an expensive Italian leather shoe that bobbed about like a small canoe.
"Yes," she agreed with a smile, turning her back on Russell, and on the past. "I really do."
"Good. That makes two of us." Pono lifted her hand to his lips. His dark eyes never left hers as he kissed her knuckles. "What time did you say your flight leaves tomorrow?"
"Cancel it," he ordered, adding, "Please?"
"Consider it done." Happy laughter bubbled up from inside her. There was a very real chance that this was one flight she'd never reschedule.
"Ever strolled Waikiki Beach in the moonlight?" Pono asked. He linked his fingers through hers.
He nodded. "Well, now's as good a time as any, don't you think? Let's hele on."
Her tropical dreams hadn't ended at all, Lindsay thought as she linked her fingers through Pono's. This was only the beginning. The start of a dream that could last a lifetime.
Penelope Neri is the award-winning, best-selling author of 23 historical romances and several novellas worldwide, as well as the author of the popular "Hawai'i Chillers" series, published by The Bess Press under the name P.J. Neri. This summer will also see the launch of a new juvenile romance series called Diamond Head High, with three titles written by Neri, Laureen Kwock and Michelle Calabro. Neri and her husband Harvey live in Mililani. She will be signing copies of her current release, "Scandals," at noon tomorrow at Borders Waikele.
About the writer
Click for online
calendars and events.