"You're just my size!"
The man's irrelevant remark puzzled Janessa as she strove to regain her composure after this Hawaiian warrior had nearly flattened her at the exit of her hotel. His automatic apology for the accidental collision seemed to have been spoken light-years before.
"I beg your pardon?" Her thoughts--usually straightforward and logical--tripped over themselves as, simultaneously, an instant feminine reaction caused her breasts to feel heavy and her nipples to pucker provocatively.
"I said?" His warm smile communicated pleasure at the discovery. "You're just my size."
Then Janessa's cognizant powers kicked in and she grinned. Height! He was referring to her height. She'd spent most of her life looking over a sea of heads from her lofty vantage point, which increased when she wore high-heels, like today. Even so, she actually had to lift her chin to meet the stranger's ebony gaze.
He towered above her by another six inches. It was difficult to guess his age. He seemed so confident and at ease, but Janessa knew that his muscular build and stature made her feel small by comparison--a new and exhilarating experience for her. What might it feel like, she wondered, lying in the arms of a man this size?
Lovely! she thought.
Nevertheless, one glance into his dark, dancing eyes told her this man definitely was not the boy next door. His long tanned fingers held her upper arms, warming her bare flesh while the brilliance of his assured smile melted her reserve. The powerful energy surging through her body from his touch almost caused a moan to escape her lips. People milled about them in the crowded lobby, but neither noticed, both so intrigued by the unexpected current crackling between them.
Janessa finally blinked to break the connection. She needed time to regroup, but she spent the moments wisely, using her talents of deduction honed during her years in the courtroom. To be able to take the full measure of a person, whether client or adversary, was an important skill.
Her mentor and law partner, Abe Trenton, had drummed the hard and fast rule into her head. "Figure out what a person needs most," he'd lecture, "and you'll find the key to winning." With Abe's Law in mind, she did a five-second survey.
This man wore designer clothes and soft leather Italian loafers, she noted; he certainly didn't appear to need money. She raised her eyes and saw powerful thighs, lean hips and a trim waist molded within tailored white slacks. He certainly didn't need exercise or diet information either!
Her deductions, accompanied by a tingling sensation along her spine, she savored because his manhood appeared to be Herculean, as well. He might be more than my size, she thought, swallowing another sigh as her excitement rose. When she quickly lifted her sable lashes past his chest, her azure blue gaze caught sparks from his hooded eyes. Had he read her thoughts?
Broad shoulders shut out any hope of seeing around or over them. Prominent cheekbones, thick straight brows and wide forehead, and shining midnight hair brushing the collar of his pale blue shirt, acknowledged his Hawaiian ancestry.
He stood there in a regal stance, feet slightly apart, gazing down at her. A faint suggestion of his first smile lifted the corners of his wide mouth as he too perused her pleasing form. Meeting his watchful eyes, she felt sure the man could also teach classes in charm, confidence or positive thinking.
But what did he want? What did he need?
If Janessa had sensed his thoughts concerning wants and needs at that moment, she might have bolted for the exit. To his credit, he masked his carnal interest so she was none the wiser when he did his own swift survey.
Dressed in a sheer white sundress, this tall woman appeared strong, yet lithesome, he observed. Her breathtaking figure, accentuated by a narrow waist, cinched with a lavender sash, balanced her high proud breasts and her softly rounded hips, then tapered to very long, very shapely legs.
Those legs go on forever! he mused, visually tracing her lines all the way to her pink polished toenails as he savored the instant fantasy conjured by his libido.
He cups her breasts in his palms and rolls her bold nipples between thumb and fingertips. Leaning forward he suckles their sweetness while his hand slides to her secret warmth, wet and willing, bringing her to a shattering climax, begging for more.
Careful, he kept his breathing even when he met her gaze again. She, on the other hand, did a less than exemplary job of covering her interest, he decided, and his smile widened when he completed his private fantasy.
Her crowning glory, shining black hair, as smooth and straight as her body was curvaceous, lay across her shoulders, cascading down her back to her waist. Soft wispy bangs accentuated thick lashed, arresting blue eyes. Her small nose, her spectacular cheekbones and proud chin provided a direct contrast when he compared her mouth with the rest of her features. Whereas all the planes of her face were classic, her full lips were a sensual marvel?totally kissable.
Putting aide the dire consequences beyond his exquisite fantasy, he wanted to kiss those lips, releasing volatile emotions he sensed lay hidden within her voluptuous but controlled body?waiting, waiting to escape.
His dark eyes locked with hers. "My name is Michael Pele."
"Pele? Like the goddess?" Her roommate would swear that synchronicity prevailed.
"The very same." What had she been thinking when she asked?
"And I'm Janessa Hart." She offered her hand and he head it a moment too long for Janessa's comfort. "I've just arrived from Minnesota."
"I visited the area last summer." He allowed her to extract her warm trembling hand. "Even then it was cold."
"I'm tempted to agree with you," she replied, rubbing her hands over her bare arms where he had touched. "That's why I chose Hawaii for my vacation. It's the first time in my life that I'm able to wear summer clothes in November."
"Are you staying long at the Waikiki Mailia?" he asked, although he already knew the answer.
"Four weeks, though I may try to convince my partner to open a branch office here." She laughed musically. "My main argument would be that one can practice corporate law wherever there are corporations."
"There aren't many female corporate lawyers here."
Janessa quickly gauged the tone of Michael's voice and decided he was only making conversation, so she gave him another friendly smile. "There are more of us in the field every year. What's your line of work?"
"Venture capital investments, for the most part."
She tipped her head thoughtfully. "Hope you have a good attorney, Mr. Pele. Some of those deals can be very tricky."
Silently he watched the silver light dance through her swaying hair. "I have two extremely competent lawyers on my staff." He wanted to touch her hair. His fantasy erupted again when he imaged her silken tresses blanketing his bare torso and tangling with his wiry nether hair and attentive manhood. "And it's Michael? please."
Janessa nodded and her silken mane slipped behind her shoulders again. "That's good, Michael. Now you can relax and forget the rat race while you enjoy your vacation, too."
"No," he replied, smiling bemusedly. "I am kamaainas. I belong here."
Without thinking, Janessa placed her hand upon his arm. "How wonderful for you. I've dreamed of such a possibility. You live in Paradise."
"Some people think it is so."
"And I'm one of them." She turned her gaze to the cloudless sky. Then she laughed softly and removed her hand. "My roommate is going to be sorry for not coming along with me."
"Your roommate did not travel with you this time?"
She shook her head, sending strands of silk flying again. "Kelly decided to go skiing in Colorado. Brrr, more snow!"
Michael didn't know whether to frown or celebrate. Finally he opted for chivalry. "What a shame that you must be alone. He is a cad."
Janessa smiled knowingly. "Kelly is attending a high school reunion, plus a family reunion, at the same time. You know, she's killing three birds with one ski, so to speak."
And so have I, he admitted privately. "Family is very important, but I still maintain that Paradise is meant to be shared." He wrapped her arm over his. "If you will allow me to be your guide?"
"By all means," she replied, smiling.
He escorted her to a nearby open air market where he helped her choose the best for sampling from a wide variety of tropical fruit?guava, kiwi, star fruit, kumquat, pomegranate. Such varied colors. It was like tasting a rainbow.
Together, they strolled to the beach. He carried the bag filled with tropical treasures. When they arrive at a tidal wall he put the bag on the ledge, then lifted her to her seat as if she were a feather?another new experience for tall, muscular Janessa.
Leaning against the concrete structure he held open the bag. "Close your eyes and choose." She pulled out a kiwi fruit.
Michael took it from her. He had already opened his small penknife and "washed" it in the sand. Then he peeled and sliced and fed her small pieces, sharing an occasional slice for himself.
As she sampled each delicacy Michael would ask, "Good?" and Janessa would answer, "Mmm," or "Ambrosia." When a drop of nectar slid down her chin, he caught it on his fingertips and sucked it into his mouth. At the sight, Janessa's gaze widened and her belly fluttered with excitement.
Michael leaned closer. "I want to taste you," and so saying, he gently kissed her, drawing in her lower lip, savoring. "Exquisite!"
Janessa laughed softly. "And a sticky mess!"
For the moment the spell was broken. "I can take care of that, too." He took out a clean linen square, strode to the drinking fountain and returned with the wet cloth. Instead of offering to help, he simply handed her the cloth, which caused her to sigh in relief.
Thus, began his ill-advised campaign to win her confidence, though he knew it was folly. The danger was so great, for them both, and he'd given Abe Trenton his word to protect her. Now his physical attraction to her added another aspect to the puzzle.
His gaze narrowed when he watched her track a drop of nectar that slid between her breasts. Sweet Pele! He wanted to protect her, he decided as the frozen prison around his heart began to melt.
They spent two hours together that afternoon. She never did pinpoint what he needed according to Abe's Law. Instead, during their next afternoon stroll she shared some of her background about graduate school and a subsequent partnership in a leading St. Paul firm.
"Your family must be very proud of you, Janessa."
"It's my grandmother I wish I could thank. She was my only family and raised me since I was five, after my parents were murdered by a drug addict who tried to rob their neighborhood pharmacy." She lifted her gaze, shimmering with unbidden tears, and blinked at the fleecy clouds now drifting overhead. For the moment she was far away from Paradise. "Gram died when I was eighteen, but she taught me everything I know about trusting my instincts and caring about people."
"She must have been a wonderful woman."
Janessa nodded, then gave him an innocent look and a gamin smile. "And then Abe took over and honed my killer instinct."
"I think I hate the guy," muttered Michael with a frown. "You aren't engaged to him, are you?"
"No, he's senior partner in the firm, and married to a very "with it" woman who doesn't share," she replied with soft laughter. "Abe Trenton has an international reputation for going for the jugular. He's absolutely uncanny when it comes to sizing up the opposition."
Michael silently agreed with her summation. "And did Mr. Trenton teach you to do that?"
"It took almost two years of pounding." She groaned. "But I'm quite capable now of analyzing someone's character without letting my emotions intrude. That's the key, you know."
"You judge with your head and not your heart?"
"Professionally it could be suicide if I didn't." She gazed into his ebony eyes, sensing a shift in the conversation. "But you must do the same thing in your business, Michael?"
He trailed his fingertips along her cheek, ignoring her question. "And do you also use your head and not your heart outside the courtroom?"
Janessa pursed her lips, then smiled. Michael was flirting with her! "I'd have to have confidence in a friendship before I'd risk more."
Nice evasion, thought Michael, wishing Abe was not so proficient. "Perhaps one day you'll have confidence in our friendship."
She tilted her head to one side and flirted back. "Oh, are we having one?"
"At the very least, Janessa."
"So tell me about yourself."
As it turned out, he told her little more than his name, and that his mother still lived on one of the out islands. "She says she has only been my caretaker, that I am really the son of Pele, Goddess of Fire."
Janessa burst into laughter. "And I'm the Queen of Sheba."
"I could be Pele's spirit-son," he protested good-naturedly. "After all, I'm Michael Pele."
She gave her head a shake, sending black silk undulating against his arm. "Nope, I don't believe a word you say."
"You one stubborn haole," he countered, lifting one dark brow for emphasis.
"Ah, Michael, you're just teasing me. Pele is only a figment of your people's lively imagination. I've read many of your Island legends, but they're folklore, all of them. Remember, I'm a lawyer. Things have to be proven to me." She shrugged. "So far I've heard or seen no concrete evidence."
"Sometimes it's better to take things on faith alone."
"I've been trained to think logically."
"The true Hawaiian spirit doesn't think. It feels. With the heart." Michael gave her a stern look. "Your Grandmama would understand, and she would scold you, I think, because you forget."
Janessa stopped walking. "Michael, you have no right?"
"You're right, I don't. I apologize." He refused to argue further and brought her hand to his lips for a kiss, then he continued to guide her along the thoroughfare. A mysterious smile played upon his tanned features as he secretly vowed to find the way to make a believer of this fascinating Mainlander, even as he watched over her.
* * * *