Authors: Reon Laudat
Dominic, Brody, and Zoe showed off, curling their
bodies into cannonballs for the next two lines. This maneuver allowed for
challenged herself to make it across the next line with her eyes open, but
couldn’t nail it as the zip lines got longer and higher. Kendra clutched the
rope railing and took baby steps across the swinging bridge with her head
tilted to the sky. As long as she didn’t look down she wouldn’t freeze.
The final line was called The Big Kahuna at seven
hundred and ten feet long and two hundred feet above ground.
Misting rain now falling between zips
did not deter their group.
Kendra watched Zoe take off. Brody followed.
Because this last line was unique and specially designed so two people could
ride in tandem, an elderly husband and wife team zipped together, in a
newfangled contraption that positioned them side by side.
Corinne clearly noticed the fresh splash of fear
on Kendra’s face. “I can go with you if you like.”
Kendra managed to speak, or rather, squeak, “No,
er, you go on ahead. I can see how much fun you’re having performing your
little tricks and all. You can’t do that if you’re busy holding my hand. I’m
Dominic moved behind Kendra. “You okay?”
Kendra turned, tipping her head back to look up at
him. It was difficult maintaining a warrior woman stance with knees shaking
like maracas. “Of course! I’m fine!”
Casually peering over the edge, Dominic whistled.
“Wow. That’s some drop there. The other lines were child’s play in comparison.”
“Next!” one of the tour guides called out.
“That’s me!” Corinne rushed ahead to the platform.
That left Dominic and Kendra. The guide signaled for them to approach.
“You go next,” Kendra said to Dominic.
“No, ladies first, always,” he replied.
“No, I insist. Save the best for last.”
“And you’re the best?” Dominic scoffed. “Have you
anything? Couldn’t have
pried your eyelids open with a crowbar during that last zip.”
“Something flew in my eye,” Kendra replied
“If you say so.” Dominic grinned, only temporarily
distracting her with that brilliant smile.
“C’mon, you two,” the guide called out to them
again. “We’re running behind.
need to catch up with the group. Why don’t you do tandem to make up a little
“I’m game if you are,” Dominic said to Kendra.
Kendra considered declining, until she peeked over
the ledge again. Vertigo slammed her. Her heart went on a tear and her belly
yo-yoed as she surveyed the drop. More flop sweat.
“Or you can sit this one out,” the guide said.
“You all right? You don’t look so good.”
“Isn’t she a pretty shade of green or is it
honeydew?” Dominic teased.
“I’m good,” Kendra squeaked again.
“What was that?” Dominic asked.
“I’m, er, good to go.” Her feet felt bolted to the
“We’re doing tandem,” Dominic said, taking charge.
He stepped beside Kendra and took her trembling hand as the zip operator
reached for the contraption that secured their cables and harnesses and then
tethered Dominic to Kendra, side by side.
“Put one arm around me,” Dominic said.
“Huh?” Kendra replied, still in a daze.
“You’ll feel more secure.” Dominic reached out,
positioned her arm around his waist, and then put one arm around her.
Her fists unclenched. She wasn’t too frightened or
thickly gloved to notice how solid and good he felt. If she ultimately plunged
to her death, this was definitely the way to go, embracing a beautiful,
exceptionally fit man. They used one hand to hold onto the horizontal bar
attached to the cable.
The guide did the countdown. “Five, four, three,
The momentum of
Dominic’s weight bulleted the pair forward, and then they were off.
Again, the wind whipped Kendra’s face and roared
inside her ears, but she saw nothing with her eyes pinched closed.
“Yeeeeeeaaaah!” Dominic boomed as he held her
tight. “Open your eyes! You don’t want to miss this!”
“I can’t!” she whimpered.
“Yes, you can. You know I’ve got you, and I won’t
let you go.”
Kendra took comfort in his sincere encouragement.
“C’mon,” Dominic said. “You don’t want to miss
managed to open one eye, and then the other. She gasped, but not out of fear.
The misting rain had left behind a brilliant rainbow.
rainbow.” Dominic smiled.
“Beautiful,” she whispered in awe, taking in the
ethereal bands of color arching across the sky. That, along with Dominic’s
protective embrace, eased her fear.
“Yes, you are,” Dominic said, looking into her
eyes. Tingles—the good kind—raced through her body, and then she
smiled. A real smile.
“She can see! She can see!” Dominic cheered.
“Yes! Yes! She can!”
Kendra said, joining him in laughter.
With Dominic beside her, maybe she’d even stick the landing this time.
Then something happened. Halfway through the zip a
strong gust of wind pounded them. Their smooth ride sputtered to a stop in the
middle of the line.
“It’s okay,” Dominic said. “We’re not going to
hang like this for long.”
“I know! We’re going to fall!”
your eyes again if that helps,” he said.
If this were in a people-in-peril flick, this was
the scene in which someone would slap the taste out of Kendra’s mouth.
Kendra Camille Porter, the shrieking person whose
hysterics put others in mortal danger. “We’re going to diiiiiiiiie!” she wailed
with her eyes shut tight again. The line suddenly felt loose—too
loose—as it bobbed, portending doom. Her writhing grew more frantic.
“This line is going to snap any second now!” She tugged and groped at the
straps securing her shoulders. “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” She gasped
and yanked at her collar. “I should’ve never got on this death trap! I knew it!
I knew it! What was I thinking! I should’ve never left the platform! No, I
shouldn’t have left the bus! No, the hotel! I should’ve stayed in New York!”
“It’s going to be all right,” Dominic said in his
best soothe-the-ledge-leaper tone and held on tight despite her jostling to
push him away. “Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. It’s going to be
all right. Exhale. Inhale.”
“No! We’re going to diiiiiiie!”
With his right arm holding onto the bar, Dominic
cupped her face in his left hand and held it still.
“Oh, I’m not ready to diiiiii—”
Dominic pushed his mouth against hers mid-yowl in
an explosive move. At first their helmets and teeth bumped. The temple piece of
his eyeglass frame lifted off one ear until he quickly readjusted it.
Then Dominic and Kendra angled just so and their
lips met again. His tongue stroked hers, sweeping her worry away. Kendra
murmured her appreciation and greedily returned the kiss, rejoicing in the
flavor of him. She held the zip’s bar in one hand and curled the other around
his waist. If she were a goner, would ripples of pleasure bolt through her body
to mingle with her adrenaline surge? Though the line continued to bounce, they
weren’t plummeting to the ground.
He slanted her head to one side to deepen the kiss
she wanted to go on forever even after something tugged at the cable above
She could hear the zip
operator, who had strapped on his harness to zoom out to them. “Hey, you two,
get a room!”
he joked as another
operator pulled the three of them to the next platform.
Dominic and Kendra kissed their way back. When
they finally parted, she swayed dreamily.
Speechless. Punch-drunk with
“Couldn’t you have waited about ten more minutes?”
Dominic said to the operator. Then he fixed his gaze on Kendra as he released
and unsnapped the various latches and hooks of their zip-line gear.
Kendra removed her helmet and gloves.
“I did it! I actually did it! I made it
across all the lines, even the Big Kahuna!”
“Yes, you did it,” Dominic said, removing his
“But you set me up to succeed with the perfect
Dominic came to her for a fist bump. “Give me
She pounded knuckles with him.
“Now blow it up,” he said, as they spread and
rippled their fingers, and then made exaggerated exploding sounds.
“Thanks, Dominic, for everything,” she said
softly. Her body was still heated and humming from their aerial and epic first
Back on the bus, everyone
kept their prior seating arrangement, much to Kendra’s dismay.
She would’ve liked to sit with Dominic,
although it was a bad idea. She didn’t need to be anywhere near him until she’d
sorted through what had happened between them.
Brody settled in next to Kendra and plowed through
his backpack. “That was fun,” he said before taking big gulps from his water
bottle. “I think I have an idea I’m going to include in my work in progress.”
hair askew, sidled down aisle to reclaim the seat next to Dominic. “Had I known
you were open to tandem, I would’ve gladly been your partner,” she said with a
was a last-minute decision.” Dominic looked over at Kendra.
“You were losing it out there, Kendra,” Zoe said
with a taunting gleam in her eyes.
If Zoe had seen Kendra’s meltdown, she’d also
witnessed the kiss that followed and clearly wasn’t pleased about it. Kendra
empathized, but Dominic was, well, irresistible, when he put his mind and lips
Kendra opened her mouth to explain, but Dominic
“Kendra was just
kidding around, providing a little comic distraction after we stalled.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me,” Zoe
insisted. “It looked as if she—”
“Did I miss something?” Brody asked. Apparently he
had ventured so far ahead he’d missed the show.
If Brody ended up actually inquiring
about representation, Kendra certainly did not want him to have the mental
image of her locking lips with his current agent.
“No, you didn’t miss anything important. And I
enjoyed near-perfect zips,” Dominic stated firmly, cutting off further
discussion on the matter.
When Dominic slipped Kendra a wink, she gave him a
private smile, looked away, and rested her head against the window. She closed
her eyes and replayed that magnificent rainbow kiss all the way back to the
hotel. Familiar yearning besieged her. That first flush. That first blush of
Kendra should’ve been
exhausted after the Haleakala trip; instead she felt invigorated. When the bus
had pulled up to the hotel’s front entrance, Dominic had asked her to join him
She’d read that when
two people experienced simultaneous adrenaline rushes triggered by the same
dangerous situation, mutual attraction intensified, she figured their little
zip-lining adventure had been equivalent to base jumping or
the Running of the Bulls in Spain. With
flagging willpower, she’d accepted Dominic’s invitation. It was just a meal,
after all. She would insist on treating him, her way of thanking him for the
way he’d handled her embarrassing anxiety attack on that zip line.
They were adults, fully capable of
controlling themselves on terra firma.
There would be no more public displays of affection. Who knew who could
Kendra Porter had a
professional reputation to uphold.
In her room, Kendra made a to-do list which
included a quick Internet search for a yarn shop. Afterward, she hopped in her
Aveo to find the quilt shop that stocked a collection of hand-dyed yarns. Upon
her return, she completed that fourth read, actually more like a skimming of
the highlighted areas, of Corinne’s
manuscript and typed up notes about it.
It had been a full, fun, and productive day. And it wasn’t over yet.
She stood before a full-length mirror, smiling at
her reflection. What should she wear to dinner that evening?
From that point forward she and
Dominic would conduct themselves like cordial business associates, maybe even
casual friends, with enough pleasant memories tucked away to foster future
goodwill. But she couldn’t very well wear a business suit for their dinner.
Sexy battled safe as she looked through her outfits. She rejected outfit after
outfit until her cell phone chirped with a text from Vanessa.
Vanessa had attached two skimpy bikini shots to
The bandeau? The halter top?
The Brazilian? Thong? Cheeky? Cheekier?
calculated the time difference. It was 11:42 p.m. in Nassau.
Only reality TV stars, Post-a-Pic fitness
gurus, and Vanessa snapped and shared butt selfies (
) so late at night. But Kendra couldn’t deny the frisson of
satisfaction. Vanessa had asked Kendra this time, not her
Kendra did not respond to Vanessa’s previous text
in which she’d griped about her “confinement” at a small airport in Podunkville
due to their plane’s mechanical problems. She had to reply to this one:
your pick. Both suits would look fantastic on you.
Then she added two
same photos would eventually pop up in Vanessa’s Post-a-Pic feed with
Thanks, girlie! It’s all due to the latest adjustments in my diet and
exercise routine! I’ve gone Paleo and CrossFit! Gotta keep it tight and right
for honey bear!
Kendra had read all about it all on The Blag. At
age forty-seven, her five-ten glamazon mother looked improbably youthful:
drum-tight skin, towering cheekbones, perky B-cups, sleek thighs, and a
gravity-defying bottom that could still work boy shorts. All without surgical
enhancement, according to Vanessa.
Kendra’s nose, taut midsection, and huge dark eyes
resembled Vanessa’s, but that’s where the similarities in their looks ended. At
average height for an American female, with plentiful boobage and bottom,
Kendra assumed she’d taken after the women on her father’s side, but didn’t
know for sure.
She’d never known
him or his people. According to Vanessa, he was a much older man, “a rolling stone
type,” who “up and split,” soon after “knocking up a fifteen- year-old,” thus
avoiding statutory rape charges and child support demands when Kendra arrived a
few months later.
Kendra cared for her mother, as much as she could
under the circumstances. She wanted to give her a chance even while coping with
dark memories. One, recently exhumed, had her reeling. Kids were sometimes
prone to “recall” incidents that had never happened. Was it real or just a bad
dream buried by an eight-year-old?
Alexander and Jacqueline Miller had taken in
Kendra to live with them around that time. It was Uncle Alex and Aunt Jackie
who had given Kendra unconditional love and stability Vanessa could not provide
because she was so busy pleasing her confounding succession of men.
Now that Kendra was an adult, did she need Vanessa
straggling in and out of her life when she didn’t have much time for Kendra
Before the Millers, there had always been a new
live-in boyfriend a.k.a “honey bear” playing daddy. Different friends.
Different homes. Different schools.
Would-be step siblings— some nice, some downright nasty—also
came and went like seasonal time shifts. But that unsettling sensation of being
uprooted and replanted too often still plagued Kendra to the point that she was
often resistant to the smallest changes.
To this day, she steadfastly refused to place her sock wads anywhere but
in the front right side corner of a sock drawer. She rotated plates to eat all
side dishes from the left. A plate without side dishes, still required rotation
before she said grace and dug in.
All things she could control, no matter what.
shook off the unpleasant recollections. If nothing else, she had been
resilient. When self-pity threatened to engulf her, she’d give thanks for her
life with the Millers, who’d never had children of their own.
She reached for her phone and sent Aunt Jackie a
Hope all is going well on
your end. Miss you bunches! Hey, check this. Better than a snail-mail
Kendra attached a shot
of the gorgeous panoramic view from Haleakala snapped with her cell phone
during the hike.
Kendra attached another photo.
Check out these beauties, hand-dyed yarns ‘rinsed in the waters from
the West Maui Mountains.’ Let me know which colors you like, and I’ll snap them
After hitting SEND, she read a day-old email from
Roberta Gellis, an acquisitions editor she’d been calling, actually pestering,
for months before leaving for Maui. Roberta had good news. One of Kendra’s clients
who’d had a briskly selling women’s fiction debut, would get prime real estate
or placement in brick-and-mortar and at online bookstores for her second book,
scheduled for release in six months.
Kendra hummed, did a little jig, and held up a maxi dress she’d picked up
at a thrift store in Soho.
Dominic had mentioned his reservations for a
She wasn’t sure if they would
sit on chairs or mats so her outfit had to be suitable for both. She put the
cumbersome boho glam dress aside.
Kendra showered, dressed, and broke her personal
speed record doing her hair. Sexy crushed safe as she settled on lacey dark
shorts to show off her toned legs and a strapless matching top that made the
girls look fabulous. Strappy gold sandals, hoop earrings, and more color for
the signature streak in her hair completed the ensemble.
She dusted her
décolletage with a shimmery powder and
dabbed a bit of scented oil at her pulse points. One last check in
the mirror and her confidence soared; she and Dominic
inadvertently dress alike that night. When the hotel
phone rang, she assumed it was him, but heard Brody’s voice instead.
“Sorry we didn’t get to talk on the bus today,”
Brody said. “We can still do coffee, but I’d like to come out with it right
now, if you don’t mind. Do you have a minute?”
glanced at her watch. “Sure. What’s on your mind?”
seeking new representation.”
“You are?” she replied, injecting a note of faux
surprise and twirling around the room.
need a change.”
“You’ve had such a
successful career so far.”
“True, my books have done extremely well, and I’ve
made a ton of money, but it’s about more than that for me now. I never forgot
how much care you took in explaining exactly what you enjoyed about my debut
novel and why. And you shared all the detailed ways you thought we could
strengthen it together. I was very impressed. If you read the book after
publication, maybe you noticed I took your advice on quite a few plot points
and characterization changes.”
“But you went with another agency.”
“Yes, the starving artist in me was drawn to the
razzle-dazzle and dollar signs, but things shift. Priorities, people,
relationships, needs. Views change.”
“You’re talking about your relationship with your
agent or editor?”
“Both. My former editor, who was great by the way,
recently retired. I have a new one. I think my agent is more concerned about
keeping the new editor happy. What about me? And my new editor, I
could picture Brody sulking like a big kid. “Keeping you and your new editor
happy aren’t mutually exclusive.”
know. It can be done, but I believe my agent is losing sight of what’s
important about the art of writing.
His focus is on money.”
voice held a note of distaste.
Brody made a point not to mention Dominic’s name.
Kendra followed his lead; it was more impersonal that way. “Have you discussed
these concerns with your agent by any chance?”
“Yes, more or less.”
“But have you actually told your agent that the
disagreements have escalated to the point that you’re exploring other options?”
“No. Our talks haven’t gotten that far yet.”
Kendra had to choose her next words carefully. She
felt as if she were choking on what
All she wanted to do was
burn a trail in the carpet, hotfooting it to Brody’s room with a copy of her
agency’s retainer agreement—so fresh off the printer it would feel warm
in Brody’s hands. With The Sassy Sheep still needing Kendra’s financial
assistance, his next contract, along with others in the works, would surely
provide a lucrative commission that would further stabilize her agency. But as
she exercised restraint, she wondered if her libido had blunted her edge. After
all, this was an opportunity to stoke the flames of Brody’s discontent and land
a nice big fat fish of a client, whose work she’d long admired.
But at that lunch date back in New York, Kendra
had chided Dominic about underhanded tactics and lurking in gray areas. She had
no proof of any wrongdoing on his part.
Despite what she’d suspected others had done to her, she would do what
felt right. It was all about integrity, after all. Never mind that little devil
sitting on her shoulder whispering,
Brody’s voice broke through her
reverie. “You still there?”
“I understand what you’re saying,” she took a deep
breath and pushed out the difficult words, “but you should have a frank
discussion with your agent first. Let him know just how dissatisfied you are.
Give him a chance to make things right. If I were your agent, that’s what I’d
“So you don’t want to work with me?” Brody asked,
Kendra understood why Brody wanted to know if he’d
have an immediate place to land if he left Impact. Other considerations that
required discussion were not appropriate to get into at this point when he was
still contractually linked to Dominic and Impact. He could not legally sign
with her yet. Brody and Kendra would also need to disclose expectations and
working styles to ensure their compatibility now that he was no longer a
novice. In her experience, new authors tended to be more flexible. Best-selling
veterans were often set in their ways.
“You need to give notice.”
Kendra required clarity on Brody’s
present agent/client agreement. “About what? The standard thirty days, sixty
“I believe it’s thirty days, if I recall
correctly. I haven’t looked at the contract in a while.”
. When you’re free, I’ll be happy to talk in more
detail about potential representation,” was all she could offer in good
Brody heaved an impatient sigh, Kendra reminded him that she was still a huge
fan of his work. Was it enough assurance? She could hardly wait to continue
he’d put his
other affairs in order.
As Kendra walked to the
lobby to meet Dominic, the conversation with Brody lingered on her mind.
What if Brody officially ended his
working relationship with Dominic to team up with her? That could ratchet up the
tension between Dominic and her. Tension. Friend or foe? On the one hand, a
little pressure would keep things interesting, exciting even.
She could actually have an excuse to
explore having a relationship with him. Or she could choose to stay the course
and date a different type of guy when she returned to New York.
Her streams of convoluted logic
coiled around each other each like a double helix.