Authors: L.G. Castillo
opyright © 2016 by L.G
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, or institutions is completely coincidental.
Editor: Kristie Stramaski with EKS Edits
Cover Design & Photo: ©Regina Wamba with
MaeIDesign and Photography
Models: Ripp Baker and Vanessa Marie
right eye was twitching. She was pretty sure it was going to pop out in the next ten seconds—five if Candy didn’t shut up.
“My dad is like colorblind or something. Like really. I told him I wanted metallic pink. Why bother asking what color Boxster I wanted if he wasn’t going to even get it right? I mean, for real, look at it.”
Candy flicked her wrist, sending water droplets in the air as she pointed out the window with a wet fork.
“Does it look metallic pink to you? It’s not even close.”
Leilani gripped the steak knife she’d been cleaning, her eye twitching faster.
I should’ve asked for toilet duty.
Anything was better than listening to Candy go on and on about that damn sports car.
“You’re so quiet today. Aren’t you going to say anything about my birthday present?”
If Candy batted those false eyelashes of hers one more time, Leilani swore she would . . .
I need this job. I need this job. Think of Sammy.
Plastering on her sweetest smile, Leilani carefully placed the knife in the tray with the other utensils. One of the busboys whisked in and grabbed the tray off the counter.
“It’s nice,” she managed to squeak out as she glanced at the pink nightmare sitting in the parking lot where Sammy’s Taco Shack used to stand. “You know, some of us aren’t so lucky to get such a nice gift.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Candy leaned against the counter, twirling a strand of dark hair around her finger. “I guess. It could be worse. Like, I could be without a car and hitching rides like you.”
She did not just say that. Where did that busboy go?
“No offense, Leilani. I mean, it’s great that you’re so, uh, self-reliant, especially with your mom and stepdad dead and all.”
She clenched her fists, ready to whop Candy if she didn’t shut her trap soon. She couldn’t believe she’d actually been friends with that girl. Candy used to be cool. Then one day . . . Bam! Boobs appeared. Brain disappeared.
“None taken.” She swallowed her anger and pride. Bimbo or not, if it hadn’t been for Candy and her father, she wouldn’t have had this job. It had been Candy’s idea to ask her father to give Leilani a job in the restaurant—though she suspected that it was more out of guilt than friendship. Only a few months after her parents had died, Sammy’s Taco Shack had been torn down and a sign announcing the Hu Beach Resort and Restaurant had replaced it.
“Hey, I know what. I’ll let you take my car for a test drive. You’ll like that. But make sure you take a shower before you get in. The seats are a special kind of leather.”
Ignoring Candy’s rambling, Leilani rubbed her chest. The ache was still there. It was always there. Since the day she’d woken up in the hospital and seen Auntie Anela’s face, the immense pain had settled into her chest and taken up residence.
Funny how the things you once hated suddenly turned into the things you longed for.
In the days after her parents’ death, she’d find herself sitting alone in the shack, wishing for her old job back. She wished her mom would step out of the kitchen and tease her about her short hair and harass her about waiting on a table. She wished her stepdad would come sweeping into the shack, sneaking up behind her mother and grabbing her waist, swinging her in the air. She wished she could roll her eyes when he kissed Mom deeply and Sammy yelled out, “Eww. Old people.”
Wishes are dreams that never come true.
She snatched a dishrag and wiped the already clean counter vigorously, fighting against the stinging in her eyes.
She’d been stupid to think she could keep the taco shack and run the business with Auntie Anela’s help. Reality had slapped her in the face when she’d found out her stepdad had a huge mortgage on the place and an outstanding debt. Auntie Anela was living off public assistance. They barely had enough to feed themselves. And what bank was going to lend money to a fifteen-year-old?
Yeah, that had been stupid. Wishing, dreaming. She was done with all that childish nonsense.
“Oh, my.” Candy leaned in, whispering, “Talk about being a lucky girl.
get to ride home with Kai every night.”
Kai stood by the kitchen door, dressed in his fire dancing costume. Massive biceps flexed as he adjusted his haku lei, a grass headdress.
Candy’s lashes were batting so fast she was about to get liftoff.
She really couldn’t blame Candy for drooling over Kai. A lot of girls fell over their feet whenever they saw him, especially when he was wearing his red malo, a sarong that showed off his muscular legs.
He was all muscle, and he had worked hard for it. He worked out every day in the backyard, lifting weights and doing pushups with Sammy as his personal coach.
She chuckled, remembering when Sammy would climb on his back, counting, as Kai lifted him above his head. If it wasn’t for Kai asking Sammy to help him with his workouts, Sammy would probably still be sitting in the living room mindlessly watching TV.
“The new costume looks great on you. I knew it would. Ooh, I love the tat!” Candy trailed red polished nails down the tribal tattoo that covered Kai’s upper arm.
He frowned. “So this was your idea? Did you ask for the micro size or something?”
“Don’t be silly. It was my idea, and I was right. You look fabulous.”
Leilani rolled her eyes. If Candy gawked any harder, her eyeballs were going to pop out.
Hmm, now that was a thought. Maybe she could ask Kai to flex his muscles just a tad more.
“It’s too small and tight. I can barely move in this thing.” He tugged at the malo, shifting it uncomfortably.
“I can help you with your wardrobe adjustments anytime.”
Good grief. The crazy girl was actually purring her words. Kai had that bad boy, fire dancer thing going for him that drew Candy and every girl within a ten-mile radius to him. But to Leilani, he was just Chucky.
“What’s wrong, Leilani?” Kai asked, ignoring Candy.
I threw up a little in my mouth.
“Nothing.” She plastered on a smile. She’d gotten really good at the fake smiling thing over the years.
“Yo, Candy. Chill. I can handle it myself,” he said, peeling her hands off his malo before turning his attention back to Leilani. “What time is your shift over?” he asked her.
“Well!” Candy huffed as she headed out of the kitchen. “The show starts in fifteen minutes, Leilani.”
“You’re gonna get me fired, Kai,” Leilani said when Candy was gone.
“She’s all hot air. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. So when’s your shift over?”
“Right after the show.”
“Good. Wait for me in the parking lot?”
“Yeah, sure.” She gave him a small wave as he took off to join the other fire dancers, who were doing some last minute rehearsals. When he was gone, she snatched her apron off and tossed it on the counter.
Fake smiles. Fake thank yous. Fake everything. That was her life now.
Thank you for the job, Mr. Hu. Thank you for bulldozing the taco shack and covering it with asphalt. Thank you for making me hula with Candy every Friday and Saturday night.
She remembered a time when dancing was all she’d wanted to do. Now it was only a quick way to make a few extra bucks. The day her parents died was the day her world had gone dark and all the magic had gone with it.
he dressing room
was a mess of girls and hairspray. The air was so thick with it, she could barely breathe.
“So are you and Kai an item now?” Candy sat in front of a mirror, pressing bronzing powder over her ample cleavage.
“Nope, just friends.” She sat on the only empty chair next to Candy.
“Oh, really? I thought since he only dated you that you two were an item?”
That was just great. She was never going to live down the one time she’d caved and let Kai take her to their high school prom.
“It was only one date.” Leilani tugged at the band holding her hair. Removing it, she ran her fingers through her thick hair, fluffing it out.
“Ah, the pity date. I get it.”
I need this job. I need this job.
In reality, she couldn’t be angry with Candy, because it had been kind of a pity date. Since her parents’ death, Kai had done everything he could to help out. He’d been a big brother to Sammy; he’d helped around the house, fixing things whenever they broke down; and he’d even offered to lend them money, which she’d adamantly refused. Though once in a while, she’d caught Auntie Anela stuffing some cash into the pocket of her house dress while patting Kai’s cheek.
She suspected that Auntie Anela and Kai had planned for her to go to prom, even though it was the last thing she’d wanted to do. Kai had asked her over dinner right in front of Auntie. It was hard to say no after Auntie said yes for her and immediately marched into her room and brought out a dress she’d bought just for the occasion.
Yep, totally premeditated.
“So is he seeing anyone?”
“Not that I know of. If you’re so interested in him, you should ask him out.”
“Hmm, maybe.” Candy gazed at her reflection thoughtfully for a moment. “Hurry up and put on your skirt. Don’t be late like you were last time—oh!” Snatching a tube of lipstick from the counter, she tossed it to Leilani. “Put this on. That cheap stuff you wear isn’t working for you. We have to look good. We need to keep the place packed, you know. Have you seen the girls down at the new resort on the other side of the island? They’re smoking.”
Leilani’s eye twitched again.
I need this job. I need this job.
Candy whisked out of the makeshift dressing room just before Leilani could tackle her to the ground.
Good grief, the things I do to pay the bills.
She swiped the lipstick over her lips and gazed at herself in the mirror.
Damn it! Candy was right. The color did look good on her.
Tossing the lipstick on the table, she kicked off her shoes, threw on her costume, and padded toward the stage.
She peeked over at the crowd. All the tables on the lanai were filled. That should make Mr. Hu happy.
Some of the bus boys were busy lighting the torches that surrounded the outer perimeter. The crowd buzzed with excitement as some of the hula girls mingled with the guests.
She hated that part of the job. It was like pimping herself out to the tourists. She was about to join them when a strange feeling swept over her.
Something was wrong.
Sammy! Where’s Sammy?
She scanned the audience, suddenly anxious.
Then she let out a breath when she spotted him sitting at the table where she’d left him.
Poor kid. He looked bored with his feet propped on the table, leaning back against his chair and reading a comic book. He was used to having to wait around for her shift to end whenever Auntie Anela wasn’t feeling well enough to look after him. He never complained.
The anxious feeling didn’t go away, though. Instead, it grew stronger.
Her eyes looked over the audience, wondering what was different. Near the stage were five tables filled with what looked like fraternity guys wearing matching t-shirts with Greek symbols. Of course Candy was busy at one of the tables, writing out her number on a napkin.
Leilani’s heart pounded. Why was she nervous? She never got nervous.
Music softly played in the background. It was their cue that the hula show was about to begin. Her heart raced faster as Candy and the other girls went onto the stage to take their places.
“Are you okay, Leilani?” one of them asked.
She nodded as she stared out at the back end of the lanai. Just behind a pair of torches, she saw a shadow.
She squinted, trying to see who it was. The fire danced as if teasing, blocking her view. The figure moved and she jolted backward as memories raced through her mind.
Screeching tires. Sammy’s cries. Spinning and turning upside down. The crunch of metal. The shattering of glass. Fire blazing. Then . . . him.
Golden hair emerged from the smoke. Blazing fire in the shape of angel wings came out of his perfectly sculpted body. Sapphire eyes gazed tenderly.
No! Not now.
She pressed her palms against her eyes, shoving the memories back where they belonged, in the tiny corner of her mind, buried away.
It was the same dream she’d had every night since the accident. It had taken months for them to finally stop.
She didn’t know why she’d dreamed of Jeremy. The butthead hadn’t even bothered to check in on them. He’d just left without a word.
She and Sammy were better off without him anyway. It was stupid to think Golden Boy had ever cared about them. He was just another stupid haole.
The music grew louder, and she tore her eyes away from the figure behind the fire. It was probably another stupid tourist with his same body shape. She didn’t have time to think about the past.
This was her life now.