Love Changes Everything (Hawaii Billionaire Romance) is now Available
Love Changes Everything (Hawaii Billionaire Romance) is now AvailableIt's always with trepidation, excitement, and a few nail-biting sessions that I release a new book. I'm particularly thrilled about this one. I started writing it nearly a decade ago when I was a college student in Hawaii. I was taking a Hawaiian Studies Class at the time and became enthralled with the rich heritage and traditions of the people in the Pacific Islands. Hawaiians are very proud of their heritage and know down to the percent how much Hawaiian blood runs through their veins. I built upon this mindset as I crafted my story.
A funny story about the inspiration behind Keoni, the hero. Years ago, my husband and I lived in Hawaii before we had any kids. As newlyweds, it was an adventure exploring the island together in one of the most romantic spots in the world. My younger sister came to live with us for a few months. On one particular day, a group of my sister's friends and myself were at the next-door neighbor's house. We heard the hum of a lawnmower, and to my surprise, all the girls stopped what they were doing and ran to look out the window. I got up to see what the fuss was about. The strapping Hawaiian guy who lived a house over was mowing the grass (shirtless). I suspect he knew what a stir he was causing in the neighborhood. He worked out 24/7 and was one of the star dancers at the Polynesian Culture Center. To this day, I still get a chuckle when I think about the girls rushing to the window to gawk at the eye candy.
I hope you enjoy the book! And be sure to leave a review on Amazon so I can learn what you thought of it.
I love, love, love this cover! The guy looks exactly like I imagined Keoni would.
Indigo Quinn doesn’t go to college in Hawaii to escape her high school sweetheart, but she does need a break from all the pressure he’s been putting on her to settle down. While her head knows she should be sensible, her heart craves adventure—a chance to really live, to find something more! But when adventure comes in the way of Keoni Alana, a former championship surfer with movie-star looks and piercing green eyes, Indigo is unprepared for the sparks that fly.
Intense attraction gives way to a tender romance as Indigo is pulled into Keoni’s enchanting and exotic world. But Keoni has a complicated past and a billion-dollar inheritance on the line. The idyllic island setting takes a darker turn when Indigo fears she’s being stalked and unwittingly becomes the pawn in a web of deceit as Keoni rushes to save her.
Caught between duty and love, Indigo and Keoni must decide how much they’re willing to risk to find out if love really can change everything.
The idea of going to Hawaii for college was great. It was the reality of the whole thing that took some getting used to. From the moment Indigo’s family and friends found out she’d been accepted to Pacific University in Hawaii, she became a celebrity of sorts. After all, it wasn’t every day that someone from Cloverdale, Alabama got the opportunity to go halfway around the world just to attend college. Most of the people she knew went to Sweeny Community College, and the few privileged ones went to either Auburn or Alabama. Yet here she was, sitting beside some girl snoring like a donkey with her face pressed against the glass, drool streaming from her mouth. On the other side was a middle-aged mother of two teenage girls. Mindy was kind and soft-spoken, forcing Indigo to lean in slightly to hear her. Before the plane took off they struck up a conversation and Mindy explained that she grew up in California before moving to Hawaii twenty years prior. The chitchat helped ease Indigo’s nerves about the trip, but once the plane got into the air Mindy and Indigo ran out of things to say. It was a relief when the inflight movie started, giving them both a break. Indigo didn’t like having a middle seat. It was awkward having to crawl over Mindy every time she had to go to the restroom, which had only been three times—a feat, considering it was a nonstop, ten-hour flight. She’d hoped to be able to switch seats once the flight got underway, but it was a full flight. She looked at the screen on the back of the seat in front of her. Now that the movie had ended, the screen showed a diagram of a plane tracing the flight with arrows going over the entire US and then out into the Pacific. Underneath, the numbers read 5,557 miles. Just thinking about how far she was from home caused Indigo’s heart to pound. She rubbed her thumb back and forth across the tips of her fingers, still remembering the feel of Wallace’s wet cheeks and how she’d tried to wipe away his tears before others fell. And then there was Trent, standing straight and tall. The only evidence of his tender feelings was the slight trembling of his lips when he kissed her goodbye. Three years older than Wallace, Trent was determined to show he was too old for such nonsense. Her mom on the other hand let her tears fall unashamed, displaying a brave smile. “I love you, Indigo,” she said. “Remember, if you don’t like it, you can always come home.”
“Of course she’ll like it,” her stepfather Phil countered in a booming voice. “It’s Hawaii for Pete’s sake.” Then she saw his eye twitch the way it always did when he fought to control his emotion. Despite his gruff exterior, he was a teddy bear inside. He embraced her in crushing hug. “We’ll miss you, Indie. I don’t know what your mother’ll do without you.”
“I’ll miss you too, Phil,” she said, pushing back the lump in her throat.
Her mother chuckled. “Look at us blubbering like babies when it’s only five and a half months. Indigo’ll be home this summer.”
“Yeah, five and a half months on the beach while we’re freezing our butts off. No wonder I’m crying,” Phil said.
Wallace scrunched his eyebrows, a look of consternation on his chubby face. “Does Hawaii have a beach?”
“Just a little one,” Indigo said, ruffling his hair as they all laughed.
Just five and a half months. Who was she kidding? Five and a half months seemed like forever. And, technically, her music scholarship required her to make a long-term commitment to the school. But she’d see how she felt after she’d been there a while. She wanted to go to Hawaii, and was excited, but was apprehensive about leaving her home and family. And then, there was Bryce to consider. He’d called the previous night begging her not to go. “I don’t know how I’ll survive without you,” he lamented. “Let’s get married. You can get your music job back at the school. The kids love you. I’m sure they’d take you back in a heartbeat. And, with what I make at the carpet mill, we can get us a nice apartment. Just think about it, Indie, we could settle down—start a family like we’ve always talked about.”
Indigo’s stomach knotted as an image of Bryce with his compassionate, brown eyes and toothy smile flashed before her face. Was she making a mistake? Bryce was her high school sweetheart. While she’d been crazy about him the first few years they were together, their relationship had lost the zing it once had. Maybe it was her. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but there was something inside her, a persistent whisper, that made her keep reaching for more. She wasn’t ready to settle down. She wanted to experience the world, live a little first. When the opportunity to go to Hawaii arose, she jumped at the chance. Partly because it meant she could stall things with Bryce.
But last night after talking to Bryce and hearing the anguish in his voice, she started to second-guess her decision. Maybe she was being selfish. Bryce was devoted, loyal, a God-fearing guy who got along well with her family. What more could a girl want? The wretched doubts swirled like a tornado in her head, preventing sleep. Indigo lost count of the number of times she’d almost gotten up and gone to her mom and Phil’s room to announce that she was staying home. College in Hawaii? It seemed so unreal—so far-fetched. And yet so glorious at the same time—that tantalizing sliver of gold sunlight at the top of the mountain that she had to keep chasing.
In the end, it was Grandma Kim that shifted the balance in favor of Hawaii. Well, if the truth be known, it was Grandma Kim who pushed Indigo to apply for a music scholarship at BYU in Hawaii. And she’d been ecstatic when she learned Indigo got it.
Even though Grandma Kim wasn’t blood related, Indigo was super close to her. Grandma Kim and her husband adopted Indigo’s father when he was a baby. Maybe the kinship Indigo felt with Grandma Kim stemmed from the fact that Indigo’s dad died in a boating accident when Indigo was twelve. Grandma Kim was the last connection Indigo had to him.
“Yes, going to Hawaii is right,” Grandma Kim said in a solemn tone that made Indigo feel there was a larger purpose to all of this beyond simply singing in a choir. “I can’t explain it,” she said, “but I have a strong feeling that you’ll find the answers you’re seeking in Hawaii.” What answers was Indigo seeking? She wasn’t exactly sure, but there was no way Indigo could let Grandma Kim down. And if Bryce really loved Indigo like he claimed, he’d wait five and a half months for her to return. She could spend the summer at home and then decide what she wanted to do from there. Indigo hoped her time spent apart from Bryce would give her clarity.
The girl by the window jerked in her sleep and knocked Indigo’s arm. Indigo shifted as far away from the girl as she could without ending up in Mindy’s lap.
The captain’s voice came over the speaker. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent into Oahu and are scheduled to arrive in Honolulu in approximately thirty minutes. The cabin crew will now prepare the plane for landing. Please stow all trays and return your seats to the upright position. Thank you.”
Finally! It had been a long ten hours. But what would Indigo find at the other end? She didn’t know a soul in Hawaii. Would the shuttle be there to pick her up as scheduled? Indigo’s stomach churned, and she could feel bits of the wilted turkey wrap she’d eaten an hour ago working its way up her throat. Great. She stood, giving Mindy an apologetic smile. “Do you mind if I get by?”
“No worries,” Mindy chirped pleasantly, turning sideways.
Indigo barely made it to the restroom before the contents of her lunch exploded out of her mouth. Motion sickness was nothing new. She often got carsick on long trips, but getting sick on the plane was a first. Then again, this was the longest flight she’d ever taken. A couple of minutes later, she felt a little better. She splashed water on the pale face staring back at her from the mirror. “Just five and a half months.” She needed to focus on the positive. Few people got an opportunity like this. She’d wanted to see the world, and now she was getting the chance. Her family would be just fine without her and so would Bryce. She offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the experience and asked for strength to make the best of it—take advantage of every opportunity.
The prayer helped, and by the time Indigo got off the plane, she was starting to get excited.
* * *
The first thing Indigo noticed was the moist, sticky air that reminded her of the laundry room when the dryer was going. Alabama was humid, but nothing compared to this. An exotic, floral scent floated on the breeze near the open-air walkway that framed a garden of mammoth palm trees and tropical plants holding bold, red flowers in their spidery hands. The warmth felt good in comparison to the twenty-degree weather at the Atlanta airport. She followed the other passengers to the baggage claim area, all the while trying to remember where she was supposed to meet the shuttle. There were lots of people with big smiles, holding leis and signs listing various hotels and conferences, but nothing for Pacific University. Hot prickles covered her and she wondered again what she would do if no one showed to pick her up. She willed herself to take a deep breath. The first thing to do was to get her luggage. Then, she’d worry about the rest.
She’d just managed to hoist her last suitcase off the conveyor without impaling herself or anyone else when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see a surfer-looking guy wearing khaki shorts, a white t-shirt, and flip-flops.
“Hi, there.” He smiled broadly. “Aloha.”
“Looks like you could use a hand.”
Indigo’s first impulse was to let him help, but then she remembered her mom’s warning about being too friendly with strangers. “Oh, thanks, but I’ve got it.” He looked at her things with a raised eyebrow. She’d managed to get all three suitcases plus a carry-on bag containing her laptop into a pile. But Indigo still hadn’t figured out how to get it all out the door and to the shuttle—wherever the heck it was.
He folded his arms, a smile sliding over his lips. “Now this, I’ve gotta see.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
“How much do you weigh? 115? 120? And you’re gonna somehow carry all this by yourself?” He chuckled. “Ri—ght.”
She eyed the apple-pie guy who had a mop of blonde hair and a pimple on his chin. After the ten-hour trek her nerves were wearing thin. “Look, I appreciate your offer to help, but I don’t have time for this. I’ve got a shuttle to—”
He held up his hands with a laugh. “I guess I should’ve introduced myself first.”
“Zach Mitchell. The Coconut Express.”
“Your shuttle driver. That’s what we call it … The Coconut Express.”
She gave him a sheepish grin tinged with relief. “And here I thought I might have to walk to the other side of the island, which wouldn’t have been a pretty sight with all this luggage.”
His jaw went slack, and he was at a loss for words.
“Sorry,” she explained. “I was worried the shuttle might not be here to pick me up. You’ll have to excuse my poor attempt at humor.”
He chuckled. “Small kine.”
“Small kine. It’s Hawaii Pidgin for ‘no prob’.”
“Yeah, local talk.”
She frowned. “But, you’re not Hawaiian.”
“Heck no, I’m from Utah.” He studied her. “You kind of look like you might be part Hawaiian.”
“No, my dad was half Native American.”
“Oh, cool. I can tell from your accent that you’re from somewhere in the South. Texas?”
She cringed. Why was it that people always poked fun at the South? Maybe it stemmed from watching one too many reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies. The words left her mouth before she had time to think about them. “No, it’s Alabama,” she said, enunciating every syllable.
The startled look on Zach’s face told her he got the point. She instantly regretted calling him on the carpet when red blotches climbed up his neck.
“Oh … yeah,” he stammered. “Well, let’s get your stuff. Derek’s outside with the van.” He glanced around. “Did you see any other students on your flight?”
“Not that I could tell.” She offered a friendly smile to help make up for her snide remark. After all, she needed all the friends she could get.
“Two more students, a guy and girl, are supposed to be coming in around the same time as you. Let’s get your stuff in the van, then I’ll come back for the others.”
Zach grabbed her two heaviest suitcases, one in each hand. She took the other one and piled her smaller piece of luggage on top. “Thank you,” she offered. “I appreciate your help.”
He flashed an unencumbered smile, letting her know all was forgiven. “You’re welcome, Bama.”
He stopped suddenly when they got outside, causing her to barrel into the back of him.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
He didn’t seem to hear her but instead looked around. “Derek’s not here.” He dug in his pocket and fished out a cell phone. A minute later, he ended the call and shoved it back in his pocket. “Security wouldn’t let him keep the van parked by the curb. He’s circling back around. One of the other students has been calling him. She came in on United and is at baggage claim, and the other guy isn’t coming until tomorrow.” He motioned. “Let’s put your stuff over here, and I’ll run back in.” He looked at her. “You stay here and wait for the van. Derek’ll be here shortly.”
She looked at the people swarming around them, wrestling with their luggage and trying to get their transportation sorted out. An elderly couple caught her eye. They donned matching floral shirts with leis around their necks, and were engaged in a heated argument about their rental car. She shook her head. So much for paradise. “How will he know which one is me?”
“I told him where we are. It’s a big white van that has Pacific University on the side. Just flag him down when you see it.”
“What? I don’t think—”
He was gone before she got the words out. She rubbed her hand over her forehead and looked at all the vans buzzing by. Her sweatshirt was starting to feel too heavy in the muggy air. She shifted to keep it from sticking to her shoulder blades. She thought about calling her mom to let her know she’d arrived, but didn’t want to miss seeing the van. A black convertible BMW pulled up right in front of where she was standing. Great. The guy driving the van would never see her now. A man stepped out of the car, and she did a double take. He was almost too perfect to be real with his thick hair and golden skin. His white pants and black polo shirt seemed to be an extension of his lean, muscular frame. She was aware of things she’d never noticed before like the flow of her own blood coursing through her veins and the flutter of her eyelashes against her face when she blinked. She could feel the pores of her skin tingling like tiny needles were poking her all over. She had this weird impulse to rush up to him and jerk the sunglasses off his face just so she could learn the color of his eyes. It wasn’t just a notion. She thirsted to know the color of this man’s eyes. She chuckled inwardly. Thirsted to know his eyes? Yeah, that was a little over-the-top. She needed a cold drink of water, a shower, and sleep … in that order. Her attention was pulled back to the man. He must be Hawaiian, but was thinner than she would’ve expected, more like an Aztec warrior with his sharp jaw and triangular-shaped nose, which contrasted with his full lips. There was a sense of refinement in the way he carried himself.
Indigo wished at that moment she’d never laid eyes on him. She could’ve gone on, her whole life not knowing a man like this existed, and she would’ve been just fine. Poor Bryce paled in comparison, as would every other guy she could ever hope to meet. She had to laugh at herself. She didn’t even know this man. He was nothing to her—a stranger at a crowded airport. Was she totally losing it? Yeah, she needed sleep in a bad way.
He walked around the car and opened the passenger door. She gulped as the most beautiful girl she’d ever seen emerged from the car. An unreasonable stab of jealousy went through Indigo. So the bronze warrior was taken. Also Hawaiian, the woman was the man’s equal in every way with her wide smile and fluid sheet of black hair, which sparkled like gems when it caught the sun. Indigo watched, mesmerized, as he leaned in and embraced the girl. It was like watching a vision, two perfect people. Then he noticed her. Turn away, her mind commanded. Turn away! But she couldn’t. It was like looking at the sun for too long when you know you shouldn’t but you just can’t make yourself stop.
The girl realized something had caught his attention, and she too turned and saw Indigo standing there, gaping like a moron. Then the woman looked past Indigo as if she could hardly believe an ordinary girl like Indigo had caught the attention of this godlike creature.
“Hi,” Indigo stammered under her breath, making a poor attempt to wave. The girl dismissed her with a smug toss of her hair, turning away, but the guy gave Indigo a slight smile like he was amused she was gawking. Indigo couldn’t help but return his smile with a tentative one of her own. And for the tiniest moment, everything around her seemed to disappear, and it was only the man and her. Then he broke the spell by tipping his head in a slight nod before looking away. He darted around to the trunk of the car and pulled out several pieces of luggage.
The beautiful couple embraced in a tight hug, then kissed. Indigo averted her gaze, ashamed to be openly staring at them. She was about to turn her back to them when she felt a tug on her arm.
It took a moment for it to register that the blonde guy was standing in front of her. Her mind went blank for a second as she floundered to remember his name. “Hey … Zach,” she finally said. Then Indigo noticed a girl about her same age was standing beside him. The girl pushed her purse strap back on her arm and extended her hand. “I’m Rindy Matthews.”
Indigo clasped her hand in a firm shake. “Indigo Quinn.”
“Where are you from?” Rindy asked.
“Alabama. And you?”
“Here’s the van,” Zach announced. Rindy grabbed the handle of her suitcase and moved to follow him.
Indigo hesitated, allowing herself one final glance at the glorious man.
“You coming?” Zach called.
“Of course.” She hurried to catch up.
Only when her luggage was loaded and she was sitting in the van did she dare steal another glance at the man. The BMW was gone. A curious disappointment settled over her. She chuckled under her breath thinking how her mother would react if she tried to articulate what had just happened. “Too much travel, not enough sleep, and a whammo case of the nerves,” is what Mom would say. Grandma Kim on the other hand would press her for every detail. She would say the meeting was not by chance and that there was something intriguing about the strong attraction Indigo felt to the man. Whatever direction the conversation took, the inevitable conclusion would leave Indigo feeling that she was somehow more important than the scads of other girls her same age, and that the man would play an important role in her future. No wonder she loved her grandma so much—and no wonder everyone else in the family thought she was crazy. She’d lived off Grandma Kim’s fantasies for far too long. It was time for a fresh start and new perspective. She would adopt Mom’s viewpoint today. Merely thinking the words helped restore a sense of wellbeing. She’d never see the man again anyway.
“So, what’s your major?”
Indigo turned. She’d completely forgotten about Rindy sitting beside her. The two guys were up front. “Oh, my major?”
“Yeah, what’re you studying? Which one of the hales are you in? What do you think about Hawaii so far?”
Indigo felt lightheaded. The combination of exhaustion and nerves was getting the best of her. She tried to remember which question had come first. “Music.”
A dubious expression crossed Rindy’s features.
“That’s what I’m studying—music,” Indigo clarified.
Rindy barely took a breath before spouting out a dozen more sentences in rapid-fire pace that had Indigo mentally dodging bullets. Another ten minutes and her head started pounding. Indigo figured Rindy was nervous, but this was a little extreme. Just when she thought she couldn’t handle one more word, Zach joined the conversation. Thankfully, Rindy focused on him, giving Indigo a chance to breathe. She angled herself away from Rindy and faced the window. The first thing Indigo noticed were the stacked houses on the hill that looked like they were climbing over each other to get to the top. Then there were ragged apartment buildings that had everything imaginable crammed onto the patios—clothes, surfboards, bikes. One even had a rusted washing machine with an umbrella perched over it. She tried to picture what it would be like to live in one of those tiny spaces. No open sky. No cool grass under her feet. Honolulu wasn’t that different from inner city Atlanta, she decided.
“The university’s about an hour from here,” she heard Zach say. Her stomach lurched, and she leaned over so that she could watch the road ahead. That usually helped stay the carsickness. “It’s only about thirty miles away, but you can’t go faster than thirty-five miles an hour on most of the roads.”
A few minutes later Indigo closed her eyes and tried to will her headache away. Had it only been eleven hours since she said goodbye to her family? Here in this place, with these strangers home seemed a planet away. She must have dozed because the next thing she knew Rindy was “ooing and awing.” She rubbed her eyes and looked to see what all the commotion was about. “It’s incredible,” Rindy gushed.
Indigo looked to see a small island just off the shore surrounded by the most vivid, turquoise water she’d ever seen.
“Chinaman’s Hat,” Zach said, and from the touch of pride in his voice one would’ve thought he’d placed it there himself. It did look exactly like a hat someone had left floating in the water. From this vantage point, the clusters of trees growing on the upward slope looked like green feathers tucked into the crease of the hat.
Zach pointed to the other side. “That’s Kualoa Ranch.” Indigo turned. The mountains looked close enough to touch, and they were so green they might’ve been covered with neon moss. Indigo was used to rolling mountains, but these were both lush and jagged. “Wow,” she exclaimed. This was even more magnificent than she’d imagined.
“Jurassic Park was filmed at Kualoa Ranch,” Zach explained.
Yes, it did look prehistoric. A surge of adrenaline raced through Indigo. She was here in this faraway place, seeing things most people could only dream about. The wave of impending doom that rolled over her caught her off guard. She was so far away. What if something happened to Grandma Kim or one of her other family members while Indigo was away? Even though Colorado was far from Alabama, it was comforting knowing that Indigo could get in a car and drive there if necessary. Now, there was an ocean in the way.
“I just know you’ll get the scholarship,” Grandma Kim said. “The requirements fit you perfectly.”
“How can you be so sure?” Indigo had asked.
“Because I’ve seen you there—standing on a hill … no, a cliff with the waves crashing at your feet and the wind flapping at your dress. The wind is anxious.”
“For the song of your voice. Can’t you feel it calling to you?”
Geez. What was she, Moana? Indigo rubbed her forehead and tried to squelch the growing nausea. Maybe her mom was right. Maybe Grandma Kim was a touch loony. Maybe she’d end up the same way if she harbored such crazy thoughts. “Stop the van,” she said.
Zach turned and gaped at her. “What?”
“Please, stop the van. I think I’m going to be sick.”