Chapter One

So much for paradise.

Hawaii looked nothing like the pictures in the pamphlet. Penny had been expecting the airport to be a tiki-style structure with a welcoming line of women in grass skirts handing out leis, but it looked like any other airport Penny had seen. 

There was nothing but black tarmac and a low, modern building in the distance. Hot, humid air pressed down on her, and the stench of jet fuel hung in the air. 

She wasn’t impressed. She’d spent the last six months saving for the plane ticket, and she couldn’t help feeling disappointed. All those movies she hadn’t gone to, all the canned soup she’d eaten, all the times she’d hand-washed her stockings to make them last instead of springing for a new pair… It suddenly didn’t seem worth it. 

“Oh, my gosh! It’s beautiful!” 

Penny turned to look at Lou, her roommate and best friend, who viewed the world through rose-colored glasses—and often from behind a camera lens.

“Put that thing away.” Penny tugged on Lou’s arm, dislodging the camera from her face. “We’ll look like tourists.”

“We are tourists.”

“We don’t have to look like them.” Penny shrugged out of her jacket, sweat already beading on her brow. “What’s there to take a picture of, anyway?” 

Lou clicked away before lowering her camera. “Don’t you see that palm tree over there?” She gestured toward the distance. “It looks sooo cool against the backdrop of the airport.” Her forehead creased. “Mr. Tanaka was right about black-and-white film. Color might not do it justice.”

Penny swept her gaze across the tarmac. Sure enough, a lone palm tree had sprouted next to the airport entrance. Penny squinted at the tree, trying to see it from Lou’s perspective, but she wasn’t a photographer. Neither was Lou, not officially. She worked as a bank teller, but no one would know it from the way she handled her camera like a professional. 

A stiff breeze rolled across the tarmac, stirring the heavy air. The scent of coconut and sea salt tickled Penny’s nose. 

A bubble of excitement filled her chest. Ten days of sun and sand awaited her. After months of picking up extra shifts at the dance studio so she could afford her plane ticket, she was ready to relax. And maybe have an adventure.

Penny’s cousin Henry lived in Hawaii and was picking them up from the airport. He could always be counted on for a good time.

She scanned the crowd for Henry, but her gaze skidded to a stop at a tall, powerfully built man towering above the others in the crowd. Her breath hitched as she stared. She’d never seen someone so incredibly masculine. His face had been sculpted by a master, with chiseled cheekbones, a straight, proud nose, and a wide mouth. He had bronzed skin, kissed by the sun, and dark hair that skimmed the tops of his mountainous shoulders. His biceps were nearly as big around as her waist. 

Dark sunglasses covered his eyes, but she could feel his stare like a trace of fire across her body. Goose bumps rippled under her skin. 

“My, my,” she said, catching her breath. “They don’t make ’em like that in Seattle.” 

Lou lowered her camera and stared, open mouthed. “No, they don’t.” 

“He’s huge. I wonder…”

“Penny!” Lou laughed. “I can’t take you anywhere.”

The crowd shifted, and Penny noticed the man was holding a cardboard sign. She read the name printed in slanted block letters, and her heart dropped to her belly. 

The name on the sign was hers.

Lou noticed it too. “Your cousin Henry must have sent them.”

Them? Penny shifted her gaze and noticed a man next to the giant specimen of pure masculinity. The shorter man was also quite tall—and devastatingly handsome. He was the kind of dreamboat she’d seen in the movies, with an intensely broody expression and short, dark hair that framed his face in untamed waves. A bruise marred his cheek, giving him bad-boy vibrations, but when he smiled at something the big guy said, the effect was enough to make any girl’s heart rate spike. 

They made quite a striking pair. The taller one looked like he’d been ripped out of a history book on Hawaiian warriors. His serious mouth and broad shoulders would have an enemy shaking in their boots. And the other guy had a graceful poise, like the descendant of a king. 

Penny liked what she saw. They should have put those guys in the pamphlet. 

The taller man pulled off his glasses and handed them to his friend. Time stilled as their gazes collided. There was something familiar about him, something that made her step falter and her knees weak. It wasn’t just that he was gorgeous. It was more. She felt as if something was ripping through her. 

Grandma Agatha had always said Penny had a touch of the old ways, which meant she had strange dreams that sometimes came true and she could read people in an instant. Her instincts were telling her this guy was going to change her life.

“Do they look a little dangerous?” Lou’s voice wavered halfway between concern and excitement.

“Yeah,” Penny answered. “They do.”

She’d never been so keenly aware of a man touching her with his gaze. Her breath caught in her throat, and a thrill of anticipation raced down her spine. 

They looked dangerous in the most delightful way.