Passion Flowers


                 FROM CHAPTER ONE

        The restaurant host was a huge Hawaiian man wearing an orange and white flowered shirt. A happy smile gleamed on his round face.       
        "Aloha! Welcome to Mike's. Restaurant or bar?"
        Leigh crawled out of her thoughts and  managed to smile back at him. "The locals hang out in the bar?" 
        He nodded, indicating an open flight of stairs leading to the upper deck. She thanked him and navigated around a large group waiting for dinner. A singer grated out the lyrics of a corny country song, and laughter swept down the stairs as she began to climb.

Molly Charles

Contemporary Romance Author

Somewhere on the upper deck a guitarist hit his final lick, and the old wooden building rocked with whistles and applause. The noise died down, giving way to a Rod Stewart classic, "Tonight's the Night."
Tonight's the night.
        Leigh smiled grimly to herself. Maybe she'd be lucky. Maybe tonight would be the night she found her quarry. It would be a great relief, for she was more than ready to put this time-consuming distraction behind her.
        She'd spent the last months becoming thoroughly disgusted with David  Kearney. Searching for the man and getting frustrated by every dead end, growing angrier and more appalled that he had been so absent and unfeeling that he had not been in contact with his own grandmother for years. What decent man would turn his back on the woman who raised him? Not a man Leigh wanted to find.
        But a promise was a promise. Carefully, she picked her way along the narrow wooden steps. Glancing up, she stopped. And stared.
        A tall lion of a man in a faded blue Aloha shirt and khaki shorts blocked the top landing. Sun-streaked hair too long to be businesslike. Scruffy three-day beard. All bronzed and hard-muscled, he was impossible to ignore. Especially if you liked the type. Which she most certainly did not.
        The lion was shaking out a match. A just-lit cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth. Seeing it, a tremor of distaste rippled through her.
        Didn't the restaurant have a no-smoking policy?
        Still she couldn't help but watch as he took a draw on the cigarette. Exhaling, he descended the stairs, his deep-set blue eyes boring into hers.
        Giving him a cool glance, she climbed purposefully until she realized his territorial position on the stairwell didn't afford room for them to pass without touching. Too late, she shrank back, digging her hip into the railing.
        He stopped and grinned lazily at her, his cigarette clamped between even white teeth. Through a curl of smoke, she caught a glint in his eyes.  Of what?  Amusement?  Irritation?
       She wasn't sure which and she didn't much care. She was travel-cranky and stressed out--just let him try to mess with her. It would be a relief to unleash her temper on a deserving subject.
       He took the cigarette from his mouth with an annoyingly graceful swagger.
       "I won't bite," he drawled, his whisky-rough voice dripping with deliberate sarcasm.
       She shot him her best frosty glare. "More than I need to know."
       His expression was impassive, but his eyes flashed in response.
       Leigh looked away and took a step to sidle past. Their hips brushed. Just a feather touch, but she swayed precariously. He grasped her wrist, steadying her with a strong brown hand that looked stark against her pale skin. A disturbing sizzle of electricity jolted up her arm.
       Leaning close, his breath hot at her temple, he purred, "Until I know you better, babe."
       She jerked her hand away as if she'd been burned and rubbed her wrist.
       He chuckled and moved on down the stairs. A quiet sound at first, his rumbling laughter grew louder until it chased her all the way up to the second floor.

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