A gentle nudge roused me from a sound sleep.
I blinked a few times, trying to orient myself. My surroundings came into focus, and the moments before I’d fallen asleep came back to me. Getting on the plane. Taking a seat in the spacious first class area instead of the confines of coach. Sitting beside…
My heart skipped.
He glanced down from putting his laptop case in the overhead bin. “Hated to wake you up, but we’re getting ready to land.”
“Already?” Derek laughed and stood to put the case in the overhead bin. “You’ve been out for hours.”
I looked at my watch. Holy Christ, I’d slept away most of the six and a half hour flight. “Damn.” I tilted my head to work out some stiffness while I tried like hell to ignore the vague tightness in my gut, yet another niggling worry that I was making a huge mistake by being here.
So this was real. I was doing this. I’d cancelled my reservations on Oahu. After we got off this plane, we were getting on another one to Maui. To spend two weeks together. At his place.
Two weeks with Derek. The fellow passenger I’d met yesterday after a snowstorm stranded us in the terminal. The man with whom I’d spent last night in a passionate, insatiable embrace. The man with whom I’d be spending the vacation that would have been my honeymoon if my fiancé hadn’t—
I rubbed my eyes. What the hell was I thinking?
My mind wandered back to last night. Just the memory of his kiss, never mind the sex that had kept us awake half the night, was enough to remind me why I’d thought this was a good idea. It didn’t make it a good idea, but I could sure remember what I’d been thinking. More sex like that? Hell yeah. But…crap, Elliott, this could be a total disaster.
He took his seat again and glanced at me as he reached for his seatbelt. “You all right?”
“Yeah.” I looked at him and forced a smile. “Still waking up.” And wondering what the hell I’m doing.
He cocked his head slightly. “You sure?”
He put his hand over mine on my armrest. “If you’re having second thoughts, it’s not too late to change your mind.”
Something deep down relaxed. That was one thing that had swung the pendulum in his favor from the get-go: no matter what he wanted, he was willing to back down and back off if I showed the slightest hesitation. Last night, when I got cold feet in the heat of the moment, he’d given me a few minutes and some breathing room. Didn’t push me at all, and in fact let me make the first move to get things started again.
“I’d rather go to sleep frustrated,” he’d said, “than try to sleep knowing I’d pushed you into something you weren’t ready for.” If I was going to have some reckless rebound fun, I could do worse than committing myself to two weeks with someone like him.
I turned my hand over and slid my fingers between his. “I have second thoughts about everything.”
He offered a cautious smile. “Okay, but do you still want to go with me? You can always—”
“I do want to go.” That was no lie. I didn’t doubt for a second that I wanted to. He didn’t need to know about my internal debate over whether “want to” outweighed “shouldn’t.”
“Well, if you decide you’re not sure about staying at my place,” he said, “it won’t hurt my feelings if you want to get a hotel room.”
“You trying to kick me out before we even get there?”
Derek chuckled. “Not a chance.” His humor faded. “I just don’t want you thinking you’re obligated to stay with me.”
“If I do stay with you, does that mean you’re obligated to sleep with me?”
He trailed his fingers along the inside of my wrist. “Trust me,” he said, almost whispering, “obligation is a moot point where that is concerned.”
We exchanged grins.
As the plane descended, I yawned, partly to pop my ears and partly because, in spite of a few hours of sleep, I was still tired as hell.
“Man, now I’ll be all fucked up for sleep,” I said.
“You’ll be fine. I’ll make sure you’re tired enough tonight.”
I laughed. “I’m sure you will.”
“Trust me.” He winked.
I shivered. I had no doubt he’d keep his word. “What time is it, anyway? Local time, I mean.”
Derek looked at his watch. “Almost four-thirty in the afternoon.”
Four-thirty? Seriously? It felt like…like…not four-thirty. One flight across the ocean, and suddenly my internal clock was blinking 12:00.
“So how long does the jet lag usually take to wear off?”
“Not long. A day or so, tops. Going home, though?” He grimaced. “That’ll knock you on your ass.”
“Yeah. Hell if I know why. Just be glad you’re not crossing the Date Line. That time change is murder.”
“Can’t say I’ve ever traveled that far.”
He smiled. “You should. Jet lag aside, there’s a lot to see on that side of the world. I go to Australia every other year to go diving.”
“Worth the jet lag?”
“And then some.”
“Well, let’s see how I handle a floating U.S. state before I start living dangerously and heading off to other countries, shall we?”
He laughed and squeezed my hand. “Trust me, you’ll love it.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” I grinned. “Especially since I fully expect you to put your money where your mouth is and make sure I enjoy it.”
He put his other hand to his forehead in a mock salute. “On it.”
A few minutes later, the plane touched down. Once we’d taxied to the gate, shuffled off the plane with everyone else, and started down the concourse toward baggage claim, Derek pulled out his cell phone and speed-dialed someone.
“Kanani, aloha, it’s Derek, I’m—no, they didn’t kick me off the plane, you fucker.” He furrowed his brow, listening to the person on the other end. “We’re heading to baggage claim right now. You mind picking us up in the usual place?” Another pause. This time he rolled his eyes and chuckled. “You’re an idiot. We’ll see you in twenty. Mahalo.”
“Our limousine awaits?” I asked after he’d hung up.
“Yeah. Kanani’s the pilot, and since I let him use my Jeep on Maui whenever I’m out of town, he drives my ass around whenever we’re on Oahu.”
“No direct flights back to the mainland?”
He shrugged. “Oh, there are. But sometimes I have meetings here, or just feel like visiting Kanani on my way out.”
“Does he charge you to fly?”
Derek snickered. “Trust me, his company is price enough.” He paused. “Okay, seriously, he’s usually carting passengers back and forth, and lets me hitch a ride for free. If he has to make a special trip for me, I spot him for gas.”
“Is he making a special trip for us?” I asked.
He nodded. “No one else is flying out today.”
“Are you sure I don’t owe you for—”
“Don’t worry about it.” He made a dismissive gesture. “I’ve got this one.”
He just grinned, and we kept walking. It struck me that he didn’t bat an eye at paying for fuel. Something told me a tank of gas for a plane, even a small one, would make my wallet bleed. Then again, maybe it was cheaper than buying a ticket, so it might have been the lesser of two evils.
Once we’d picked up our suitcases at baggage claim, we went outside to wait for Kanani.
Neither the heat nor the humidity were as oppressive as I expected. My skin was instantly damp and the air was hot to say the least, but a light wind kept it all bearable. It was a damned good thing I’d remembered my sunglasses, too. Even the pavement was blinding.
While we waited, I stole a few glances at Derek. In the shade of a wind-rustled palm tree, he finally looked at home in his sandals, Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts. Amidst snowbound passengers in Seattle, he’d stood out, but here, his attire blended him in, as did that tan, his sun-bleached sandy blond hair, and his dark, wraparound sunglasses. That, and as he had since the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he was completely calm and cool. One thumb was hooked in the pocket of his shorts while the other hand held the strap on his laptop case, which was slung over his shoulder. He rested his weight on one foot, and there wasn’t a hint of tension anywhere in his posture.
Something in the distance caught his eye, and he straightened. “There’s our ride.”
A battered white pickup pulled up to the curb and stopped. The driver left the engine idling and came around to greet us.
“Aloha, my friend.” He embraced Derek, then looked at me. To Derek, he said, “You brought home another souvenir?”
“Another souvenir?” I raised an eyebrow. “You make a habit of this?”
“Yeah, something like that,” Derek muttered. He gestured at the two of us. “Kanani, this is Elliott. Elliott, Kanani.”
“Nice to meet you.” I shook Kanani’s hand.
“Aloha.” He gestured at Derek. “Can you believe this guy? I keep asking him to bring me home a pretty girl, but he never does.”
“Hey, I try.” Derek put up his hands. “Not my fault they run like hell when I show your picture.”
Kanani huffed. “They probably don’t believe a handsome man like me hangs around a creature like you, so they all think you’re scamming them.”
“I’ll have you know I’m a magnet for attractive men.” Derek nodded toward me. “Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”
Kanani looked at me again, then shrugged. “Opposites attract.”
“Whatever. Let’s face it, Kan,” Derek said. “Even a born salesman like me can’t find a girl who’s desperate and gullible enough to want you, even if it includes a trip to Hawaii.”
“You want to swim to Maui?”
Derek shrugged. “Probably safer that way.”
“Hey, I’m the best pilot on this island.”
“Yep, best pilot on the ground.”
“Oh, fuck you, Windsor.”
“I’d love to, but—”
“God, shut up.” Kanani started toward the driver’s side of the truck.
“You know you want me.”
Just before he got in the truck, Kanani threw over his shoulder, “You’re a sick, sick fucker.”
Derek looked at me, offering an apologetic shrug. “I never said I hung around with gentlemen.”
“Birds of a feather, right?”
He shot me a playful glare. “Touché.”
“When you lovebirds are done,” Kanani called out the window, “how about putting all this crap in the truck so we can get out of here?”
“Service with a smile.” Derek hoisted his suitcase into the back of the truck. “That’s why I love you, Kan.”
We loaded everything into the bed, then got into the cab with Derek in the middle and me riding shotgun.
“So, we taking the limo or the fly this time?” Derek asked as we pulled away from the curb.
“Damn it, asshole, it’s not a fly,” Kanani said.
“I assume it does fly, though?” I asked.
“Yes, it does. Quite nicely. But this one”—Kanani elbowed Derek—“is obsessed with size.”
“I am not!” Derek glared at him. “I just prefer flying into the airport in something they’ll direct in for landing instead of trying to swat.”
“Well, tough shit,” Kanani said. “I don’t have any other passengers to pick up on Maui, and you two are the only ones crossing today. So unless we pick up some hitchhikers, we’re taking the little one.”
“Great,” Derek muttered.
“The fly” turned out to be a tiny red four-seater. Derek and I had both packed pretty light, and we still had to work at it to get all of our luggage to fit. I wasn’t so sure about these little planes, but this was our ride, and presumably it was safe, so it would have to do. That, and the price was right. I certainly couldn’t complain.
“Why don’t you sit up front?” Derek nodded toward the co-pilot’s seat. “More legroom, and a way better view.”
I didn’t know if I wanted a better view of all the land and water that would soon be that far below us, but what the hell?
Before I got in, I looked up at the plane and chewed the inside of my cheek. The thought of getting into it with Kanani and Derek was odd. I felt like I was getting into a car with a couple of strangers. That wasn’t far from the truth, I reminded myself. I knew at least half a dozen ways to make Derek’s breath catch and I knew exactly how to make him come, but beyond that? I didn’t know a damned thing about the guy.
He put a hand on my arm. “You all right?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I nodded at the plane. “Just trying to decide if I should get in or find a flyswatter.”
“Hey!” Kanani yelled from the other side. “I heard that.”
Derek laughed and clapped my shoulder. We exchanged grins, then boarded the plane.
“Not exactly first class,” I said, adopting the snobbiest tone I could muster.
“Oh, I know,” Derek groaned. “And the flight attendant’s a dick.”
“Keep it up, both of you,” Kanani said. “I swear to God I’ll make you swim.”
“You’ve been threatening to make me swim for years,” Derek said. “You’re full of shit. Now fly.”
Kanani muttered a string of something I didn’t understand. Hawaiian insults, maybe. I couldn’t tell. Then he fired up the engines, radioed the control tower, and started toward the runway.
“Derek and gentlemen,” he said. “Aloha, and thank you for choosing Kanani Airlines. Please keep all hands, feet, and small animals inside the plane at all times, and if you see any aircraft tape attached to anything, please leave it alone.”
“Oops,” Derek said from the backseat.
Kanani glanced over his shoulder. “Man, you destroying my plane already? We’re not even in the air yet.”
“Shut up and fly.”
Kanani flipped him off, then started down the runway.
“Hey, Kan,” Derek said. “You ever replace that engine?”
“Which engine?” The plane picked up speed, screaming down the runway.
“The one that caught on fire.”
“Oh.” More speed. “Shit. Forgot all about that.”
A second later, the ground dropped out from under us.
It wasn’t their banter that made me close my eyes and take a deep breath. It was the finality. I was doing this. There was no turning back. Oahu was behind me. Next stop, Maui.
“Doing okay over there?” Kanani asked.
I opened my eyes. “Yeah, I’m good.”
“Not getting airsick or anything, are you?” Derek asked.
“No, I’m not getting airsick.”
“If you do” —Kanani gestured over his shoulder—“puke on him.”
Derek smacked the pilot’s arm, and all three of us laughed.
With my eyes open, I understood why Derek had insisted on me sitting up front: the view was unbelievable.
My computer’s screen resolution and the printers that had produced all the books and brochures I had didn’t even begin to do justice to the vivid deep blue laced with pale green. In the shallower water, even from up here, the reefs were visible, thick gray and brown meandering and coiling along the lighter colored sand. The opaque gray-green waters of Puget Sound would never look the same.
After we’d flown for a while, Kanani turned to me. “Want to drive?”
I stared at him. “Pardon?”
“Go on.” He gestured at the control stick in front of me. “Give it a try.”
“I’ve never flown a plane.”
“Flying’s easy.” He pointed back at Derek. “Even this idiot can fly.”
He nodded. “Hard part’s landing. All you gotta do up here is hold the control stick.”
“Go on,” Derek said. “He can take control in about two seconds if anything happens.”
I looked over my shoulder. “If anything happens? Such as?”
“Like if a train’s about to hit us.” Kanani leaned forward, scanning the horizon. “No trains out here today. All clear.”
“Very funny.” I laughed in spite of myself. “Okay, sure, I’ll give it a try.” I hesitated, but then put my hands on the control stick.
After flipping a couple of switches, Kanani released his own and folded his arms across his chest. “It’s all yours. Don’t scratch my plane.”
Jesus. Forty-eight hours ago, I’d still been in shock from my fiancé bailing on our wedding. Twenty-four hours ago, I’d been snowbound and stranded, wondering if I’d ever make it to Oahu. This morning, I was in bed with Derek.
“Keep her straight,” Kanani said. “Might be asking the wrong guy for that, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, can’t help you there.”
Up ahead, an island came into view.
“Wow, are we there already?” I asked, expecting Kanani to take control of the plane again.
“Nope,” he said. “That’s Molokai.”
From the air, the island was dark red. Clay or stone, I guessed. I didn’t imagine it was particularly arid, but from here, it could almost be mistaken for drier land than I’d expected in Hawaii.
Molokai was smaller than I’d thought any of the islands would be, and yet it was somehow huge at the same time. Twin coastlines twisted and wound their way into the horizon, and only the scattered, toy-sized buildings and microscopic cars kept it in perspective, making this tiny speck of land into something large enough for people to live on.
The farther we flew, the more the terrain shifted from dark red to lush green. Before long, we’d passed it, and yet another landmass appeared in the distance.
“There’s Maui,” Derek said. “Home sweet home.”
“Home?” Kanani snorted. “Only because we let you live there.”
“Oh, right.” Derek’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Because you’re an authority on the subject.”
“I am.” Kanani glanced at me. “Okay, my turn to fly. I don’t let anyone park this baby except me.”
I lifted my hands off the controls. “All yours.”
While he took over, I craned my neck to get a better look at the island as we approached.
Like Molokai, Maui was simultaneously huge and tiny. Green in some places, desert-like and rugged in others, the whole island edged with white sand and black rocks and just fucking gorgeous. Hair-thin ribbons of pavement sliced cleanly through the forests and wound between mountains and patches of civilization.
“Think we can see everything in two weeks?” I asked Derek.
He laughed softly. “Not a chance. I’ve lived here for five years, and I still haven’t seen it all.”
“That’s because you’re not allowed to go to all the good places,” Kanani said.
“Kan, they know me by name at all the good places.”
“I said good places, not gay places.”
“What’s the difference?”
The pilot looked at me. “You want a real tour guide, you call me.”
“Tempting, but do you give the same kinds of tours he does?” I grinned just enough to make sure he read between the lines.
He muttered something, shaking his head and looking out the windshield. “You two are made for each other.”
Kanani landed at a small airport near the coast, and once the plane was parked outside a hangar, we unloaded our luggage.
Derek held out his hand. “Keys?”
“What keys?” Kanani asked.
Derek raised an eyebrow. “You want Elliott and me to join the Mile High Club on the return trip?”
“Oh, those keys.” Kanani dug a set of keys out of his pocket and tossed them to Derek. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“That’s what I thought.” Derek pocketed the keys. “All right, we’re out of here. Thanks for the lift.”
“Anytime.” Kanani looked at me, but gestured at Derek. “Keep an eye on him.”
“I fully intend to, believe me.” I winked.
Kanani rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Meant for each other. God help us all.” He paused. “Oh, Derek, I meant to tell you. I kinda put a dent in your car while you were gone.”
“Nice try, Kan. I left the Jeep, not the car, remember?”
“Jeep, car, same thing.”
“Hey, watch it.”
Kanani laughed. “Anyway, it’s not much of a dent. More of a hole.”
Derek gave him the bird. “Whatever, man.” He looked at me. “Shall we?”
I followed him through the hangar and into a parking lot. There, we threw our bags into the back of his Jeep.
“So how far is your place from here?” I asked as I got into the passenger seat.
“About half an hour.” Derek started the engine. “Not the most scenic drive, I’m afraid.”
I clicked my tongue. “Well, Jesus. I haven’t seen any scenery today.”
He laughed. “Yeah, haven’t seen a damned thing all day, have you?”
“Oh, no, not a bit,” I said. “So, Molokai looks pretty interesting. I hadn’t even thought to look up anything about that island.”
“You want to check it out?” he asked. “There’s a ferry that runs between the islands. We could spend a couple of days up there.”
“Hell yeah, I’d love to. When?”
He shrugged. “We’ve got time to figure it out.”
The neurotic planner in me wanted to get twitchy at the idea of throwing an entire island into our already mostly blank itinerary, but I could go with this. Go with the flow, relax, enjoy it.
“Sounds like a—” I paused. “Well, not a plan. But, close enough.”
“Close enough. And we’ve still got a few hours of daylight yet today. Anything you want to do or see?” He glanced at me and we both grinned as he put his hand on my leg. “We’ll get to that. Don’t you worry.”
“Okay, okay, so we’ll get to that.” I laughed. “For now, though, I could honestly use a shower. If nothing else to wake myself up a bit.”
“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”
I rubbed my eyes. “How does traveling get so tiring, anyway? You’re not doing anything except sitting there.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t sleep much last night.”
I looked at him. “Good point. I did sleep on the plane, though. All damned day.”
“I don’t think sleeping on a plane counts. It’s not real sleep, just a way to pass the time.”
“Well, it does do that. Makes the flight go by much faster.”
“Must be nice,” he muttered.
“Can’t sleep on planes?”
He shook his head. “I’ve tried. Can’t do it. So, if you can, enjoy it.”
“If I’d known you were staying awake, I’d have tried to myself Instead of upgrading my seat so we could sit together and then knocking out on you.”
He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. I had a game to keep me busy.” He glanced at me. “Besides, you can make up for lost time between now and when you leave.”
“That I can do.” And, oh, I fully intended to.
Thirty minutes or so after we left the airport, he turned off the main highway and down a smaller side street. At this point, I didn’t know a damned thing about Derek, but just how little I knew became clearer when he pulled up to a broad wrought iron gate. He swiped a card through a reader, and a second later, the gate creaked and clanged into motion.
Above the gate was a sign that read Kihei Heights Golf Club.
“We playing a round of golf?” I asked.
Derek smiled. “Nope. This is home.”
Is it, now?
He pulled through the gate, and as it closed behind us, we started down a street lined with palm trees and some of the most gorgeous homes I’d ever seen. They weren’t enormous, but what they lacked in size, they made up in elegance. Every house had the same pale cream exterior with a red tile roof, but no two were built exactly the same. Some had wide picture windows, some had elaborate walkways. Two and three-story. Two-car and three-car garages. A single palm tree in the yard or a huge garden. Big houses with small yards, small houses with big yards. All different, all uniform, all expensive as hell by the looks of it.
Along either side of the street, luxury cars glistened in the tropical sun: Mercedes, Cadillac, BMW. With cars like that parked outside, I wondered what the owners kept sheltered inside the closed garages. I’d never have guessed it until then, but unless Derek was someone’s pool boy, the man must have been loaded.
The road swept to the left and ended in a cul de sac. Derek pulled into one of the driveways and brought us to a gentle stop in front of one of the many extravagant homes.
“Here we are.” He set the parking brake. “Derek’s den of debauchery.”
I laughed. “I’m surprised you don’t have that painted on the front of the house.”
“I tried. Homeowner’s association got all pissy about it.”
“Imagine that.” As we got out of the Jeep, I added, “But they let you park this thing outside? Where it can be seen?”
“What’s wrong with a Jeep?”
“Nothing, nothing.” I gestured at the Escalade parked in front of his neighbor’s house. “Just doesn’t go with the local décor, you know?”
He chuckled and opened the back of the Jeep. “True. And it annoys the hell out of my neighbor, especially when it’s muddy, so that’s why I leave it out here.” He pulled my laptop case out and handed it to me. “That, and the garage is a bit full.”
He grinned and reached for my suitcase. “You’ll see.”
I could only imagine.
We gathered our luggage and followed the meticulously laid stone walkway up to the front door. Derek keyed us in, and while he shut off the security system, I looked around.
The uniform opulence of the house’s exterior didn’t extend to the interior. Though it was clear he had some expensive taste—a huge flat screen television, a few exquisite pieces of artwork on the wall and tables, the house itself—he wasn’t ostentatious about it. It was like a tastefully spartan upgrade from a bachelor pad, set in an extravagant building.
“Come on upstairs. We can dump all this stuff off in the bedroom and take showers.” He nodded toward the stairs, and I followed. “I wasn’t expecting company, so the place isn’t exactly spotless.”
“This is not exactly spotless?” I laughed, picking up my suitcase to carry it up behind him. “You haven’t been in too many bachelor pads, have you?”
“Oh, I have.” He glanced over his shoulder and winked. “Trust me, I’ve been in a few.”
“I’ve been called worse.”
“Who says it’s a bad thing?” Jesus, Chandler, listen to yourself! Up until a few days ago, I’d have said it was a bad thing. Oh, well. Enough of my world and perceptions had been turned on their asses in the last couple of days, so what was one more thing? So what if Derek was a slut? His experience had obviously served him well, and I wasn’t about to complain about any of it.
He showed me to his bedroom, which was huge and even more spartan than the rest of the house. A California king bed took up about two thirds of the room. Besides that, there was a nightstand with a lamp on it and a bare-topped dresser. This part of the house was obviously not designed to impress, but then, if someone was in this room, they were probably already duly impressed. I sure was, and it had nothing to do with anything except all the things he’d let me indulge in last night. I couldn’t care less if he was rich. He was damned good in bed and he was damned good company.
After I’d set my luggage down, Derek found me a towel, and I took that and a change of clothes into the bathroom for a shower.
Jesus. Even the bathroom had the same elegant opulence as the rest of the house. It was almost half the size of my bedroom, and lined with stone and marble. The shower was easily big enough for two. The Jacuzzi bathtub, probably a few more.
Leaning on the sleek white countertop, I stared into the mirror. Some fatigue showed under my eyes, and my surroundings made my reflection look alien. I was out of place. Or unnervingly in the right place. I couldn’t tell.
Exhaling hard, I held my own gaze. I was still of two minds about all this. Lying in Derek’s arms this morning—that was this morning?—this had seemed like a good idea. I mean, how the hell was I supposed to say no when my lips still tingled from the cries my still-fading orgasm had driven from me?
Now, after my impulsiveness had blown me miles off course, the dust finally settled and the “what was I thinking?” set in. I didn’t do this. This wasn’t me.
Two days ago, I was someone’s fiancé. Last night, I was someone’s one-night stand. Today, I didn’t know who the hell I was.Maybe over the next two weeks, I’d figure it out.
It started with a snowstorm and ended with a sizzling one night stand, but neither man is ready for it to be over.
Jilted groom Elliott Chandler doesn’t do last minute or impulsive, but at the very last minute, he impulsively changes his flight from Oahu to Maui. What was supposed to be his honeymoon just turned into two weeks with a man he just met.
Derek Windsor is all about last minute and impulsive, but what he doesn’t do is fall in love. He’s a happily promiscuous bachelor and that’s final.
They thought one night together wasn’t enough. Two weeks is going to be more than they bargained for.
This book was previously published, and is also available as part of the Changing Plans collection.