Excerpt When their gazes locked, her knees went weak. Cort's eyes brightened to luminous green pools. Lani steeled herself. She didn't want him to affect her this way. He moved forward. Don't touch me. I won't be able to bear it.
Cort bent and kissed her cheek. His warm breath sent a tingling through her. “You're beautiful,” he said. He tucked a red hibiscus in her hair, his finger grazing her ear.
She shivered deliciously and considered returning the compliment until she remembered Julie's warning. “Thank you,” she said warily.
Cort smiled down at her. Electricity shot between them. She yearned to throw herself into his arms. She’d have to keep her guard up against Cort’s magnetism and charisma. She was only going out with him to talk about the spiritualist. Lani frowned at the lie she told herself.
He had tucked the flower on the left side of her hair, the side that declared she was taken. She switched it to the other side. If he meant to make her believe he’d claimed her as his own, it wouldn't work.
After they said good-bye to Grandfather and were on their way, Cort glanced at her and winked. Her heart pounded. That damnable seducing wink again. Well, she refused to be seduced.
“Do you like bubbles?” he asked.
Was he thinking of a bubble bath? Jacuzzi? “Champagne bubbles,” she quipped.
“I have another kind in mind.”
She could well imagine, but held her tongue. She wasn’t playing his game—whatever it was. Cort's face creased in a wider grin as he pulled into the parking area of Kawaikui Beach Park.
For a moment the early evening sun glinted on the windshield and blinded Lani, but she refused to be blinded by Cort's charm. She was surprised when he grabbed two jars of kiddie bubble mix from a duffel bag between their seats and stepped around to her side of the car. She fought the rush of adrenaline as his warm hand closed around hers.
Cort gave her one of the bubble jars and a circular wire wand. “Making bubbles works up an appetite.”
“We're actually going to make bubbles?” she asked, feeling off balance. Whatever Cort was up to, she had to be ready to nip it in the bud.
“Take your shoes off.” He removed his.
What comes off next, the dress? “What now, bubble instructor?” Sarcasm dripped from her voice as she stepped out of her sandals.
“Just do what I do.” He began jogging along the shoreline with the wand held high, bubbles trailing. His snug white slacks emphasized his lean buttocks and long, agile legs.
Lani followed his lead, letting the bubbles flow behind her. In spite of herself, she was getting into the spirit of the bubble-making. She laughed. The soapy orbs floated out over the water, the trade winds taking away her anger along with the tiny spheres.
Cort sent a stream of bubbles into the air. Some of his bubbles rained down on her, bringing joy to her heart. She circled in a skipping dance, letting the rainbow colored orbs flow in a long curved stream behind her.
Cort eyes crinkled in the corners, and he laughed merrily. “You look like a sweet little girl of about four.”
His voice sounded deep and definitely all man, making her feel anything but childlike. She flipped her wire toward him so bubbles landed on his hair. “You look rather boyish yourself.” It was another lie. Nothing about him looked boyish.
He ran ahead, then returned to her, falling in with her shorter stride. “I called you at work this afternoon.” He met her gaze with concerned eyes. “Chinn said you left early for a doctor's appointment. Nothing serious, I hope?”
“General check up.” It was the perfect opportunity to mention the spiritualist and ask Cort to attend the séance, but her request sounded so ridiculous she needed time to work up to it.
“Good.” He looked at the sky and touched her shoulder. “Look at that sunset!”
Lani's breath caught. The sun set in a blaze of golden tangerine and satiny pink. The clouds and ocean caught the reflection in a magical kaleidoscope. “It reminds me of the strawberry-mango shave-ice I had as a child.”
“Sounds tasty.” Cort dropped to the sand and pulled her down next to him. His arm felt light and natural around her. He squeezed her shoulder. “People should only share sunsets with those they care about. I sense there's going to be something special between us.”
He was moving too fast for her. It was probably a line anyway. But what if it were true? Cort was fun to be around, and she couldn’t deny the powerful attraction between them...
Lani took a deep breath. I may regret this, but I’m going to ignore what Julie said about Cort and accept him at face value. “I'd like that,” she said.
Cort pointed. “There goes the sun, pouring its gold into the sea. Doesn't that grab you in the gut? It's like, like, infinity...a whole eternity, in a single sunset.”
Cort's hold tightened and she leaned back, settling into the comfort and warmth of his arms, feeling no need to reply. He'd said it all.
Sharing the passage of daylight with Cort, seeing it through his eyes, as well as her own, was like seeing a double rainbow. She smiled, feeling a transcendent well-being. It touched her to see a man get as excited over a sunset as she did. Regardless of whatever pain or disappointments may lie ahead, for the moment she felt a oneness with this man, and she refused to deny herself that.