Walking in fire: hawaiian heroes, book 1

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Dedication

 

For my husband Jeff

My hero

There for me in good times and bad, holding me up with his strength

The one with whom I love to share Hawaii

Author’s Note

 

Nawea Bay and the characters in this story are my invention and in no way intended to resemble real people. I also took the liberty of creating a new legend around Pele, guardian of Kilauea Volcano.

I hope I have conveyed my affection and respect for the islands, the people and themo’olelo—entwined history and legends, of Hawaii.

Aloha, Cathryn

Prologue

 

Monday, May 9th

He awoke in a rough bed, a roof of green moving above him. Through the icy talons of pain gripping his head and shoulders, he gathered enough strength to focus one eye. The other seemed to be swollen shut.

The shadows shifting overhead were huge ferns hanging from a steep bank. He turned his gaze the other way as much as he was able. The ground sloped off abruptly past black lava boulders.

Somewhere above him, the tropical sun burned fierce and bright, but only a little light filtered down through the layers of tropical rain forest. Warm, humid shadows enclosed him. The bed on which he lay was earth, fallen leaves and palm fronds. He was on Mauna Loa.

Not dead, then, but badly injured. Pain held him in its grip, making every breath an effort.

Shifting carefully, exerting his will over his leaden limbs, he discovered he could move both his hands and feet. Arms and legs worked too, although not without clawing from thepilikua nui,the monster that seemed to have him by the side of his head and neck. Slowly, he lifted a hand to touch his temple. It came away wet and sticky. Blood.

He remembered now—finding the woman, then hearing a noise behind him, and pain exploding in his head. He was a fool. He’d let his guard down, thinking he was superior to his opponent. This was his punishment.

Voices murmured in his head. The old ones. Somewhere, the Ho’omalu were chanting for him. That was good, for theirs were not the only voices he heard. His heart gave a great thump and began to race, urgency thrumming through his veins as a man called out just above him on the mountainside.

“Oh my God!” he exclaimed. “Is she dead?”

Footsteps pounded. Small lava rocks skittered down, bouncing past him. A gecko, startled by the motion, darted onto his chest, its tiny feet a familiar tickle. It ran down his belly, toward his hand. Something draped over his fingers.

Slowly, nearly groaning with the effort, he lifted his hand and squinted at the gecko’s gift. It was a small, knotted length of leather, broken in one place. His hand clenched around it. He’d last seen it only hours before—on someone’s wrist.

“She’s not dead—she’s alive,” said another man’s voice. “Get over here, help me lift her. Careful!”

“She looks terrible.”

“Of course she looks bad—beat up, then left lying here all night. Let’s get her on the stretcher.”

“Oh God. Who would do this to her?”

“What do you mean, who?” another man demanded. “Malu disappeared at the same time, didn’t he?”

At this new voice, the injured man tensed. His good eye narrowed to a slit as if his gaze could penetrate the ferns over his head. Rage roared through him, hot and fierce, a deep, primal rumble in his chest battling to erupt from his throat. Though he hadn’t seen who had clubbed him and beaten the woman into unconsciousness, he knew. The evidence lay in his fist.

He held himself still, sweating with the strain. He mustn’t move yet. The enemy was just above him, but so was the injured woman and her rescuers. He wouldn’t risk their safety. The only one who knew he was down here was his attacker, who no doubt thought him safely dead. Before thatkepoloreturned to check, he’d be gone.

“Malu did this?” one man asked. “But…he seemed so nice. Are you sure? Maybe he was attacked too.”

“I’ll worry about Malu. Right now, all of you help me get this girl out of here.”

The footsteps moved slowly away, down the trail. The voices of the rescuers faded. He listened, straining to hear if they were truly gone. Would one set of footsteps return in stealthy haste? No, all was quiet in the forest. The birds had begun to call again. They would warn him of an intruder.

The voices in his head continued, steady and rhythmic, soothing, encouraging. Spreading his hands flat on the warm earth, he drew on the power of his island. He let the chant take him, let healing flow into his battered body.

Deep beneath him, the island rumbled as Pele stirred, sighing in her sleep. She sent a stream of heat and healing up through her island to him.

He must rest, gather his strength. The blow that felled him would have killed a lesser man, but he belonged to Pele, patroness of these islands.

One of her warriors. One of her Ho’omalu—ancient protectors of Hawaii.

Chapter One

 

Melia’s Make It Fresh Blog

Recipe for fun—take one Hawaiian vacation and enjoy.

I’ll be away for a week, but when I get back, I hope to have lots of fun ideas for you. Fresh cooking with an island twist. Aloha!

 

Saturday, May 7th

Melia Carson climbed onto the Hawaiian Dive boat. As the shining white catamaran bobbed slightly under her feet, she grabbed the high railing for balance.

She couldn’t believe she was finally here in Kona, Hawaii, with palm trees swaying overhead and the tropical sun warming her clear to her toes. This was definitely an antidote to the chill of early spring in Washington State. Hopefully, it would warm the chill in her heart as well.

Hot, buttery sunlight poured down on the boats, the buildings lining the shore and the clustered palms. Two long canoes slid by, paddles flashing in unison as the teams propelled their crafts toward the mouth of Kailua Bay. On the other end of the pier, a big pontoon boat with a blue awning was also boarding passengers. Above them all, the mountains stood, mysterious and cloud-capped.

“Aloha.” The Hawaiian woman waiting on the boat smiled at Melia. She wore a white tank with the Hawaiian Dive emblem on it, her long, wavy black hair caught up under a baseball cap. “I’m Leilani. We leave for Nawea Bay in ten minutes. Help yourself to cold drinks.” She gestured to an open cooler of soda and bottled water in the sliver of shade from the tall mast.

“Hey, Melia, you made it.” A small group of people stood in the prow of the boat. One of them waved at her. The afternoon breeze coming in off the ocean tousled his streaked blond hair. “Come and meet everyone.”

“Hi, Dane.” She’d met Dane Gifford in the Kona Winds hotel lounge the first evening, and the next morning in the lobby, when she was poring over excursion pamphlets, deciding which snorkel trip to take. Discovering she was traveling alone, he’d asked her if she’d like to join a group of his friends on a three-day trip down the coast.

At first, her naturally cautious nature had made her hesitate, but on learning there would be other women along and that they’d be staying in a place with staff, she’d agreed. Now she was glad to see a familiar face, even such a recent acquaintance.

Dane was surrounded by the same people she’d seen him with in Kona—two men and two women, young, glossy and tanned. And someone new.

He lounged against the rail like an ad for sexy Hawaiian vacations. He was big, Polynesian heritage clear in his build. He wore a pair of long, red swim trunks over one of the most impressive physiques she’d seen, Hawaiian from his golden skin and short black hair to the dark tattoos on one side of his broad, smooth chest and one huge shoulder. His white teeth flashed as he smiled at something one of the women said. Still smiling, he turned and looked at Melia.

Melia took one look into his dark eyes and felt a solid thunk in her middle, as if that dark, liquid gaze had reached clear inside her. A shiver of heat rocked her to her core, signaling the force of their collision. She’d never seen this man before, but in some visceral way, she felt as if she knew him. Her smile echoed the cautious joy blossoming inside her. She knew it was crazy—she was so not the type to fall for a guy, even one as drop-dead gorgeous as this one. Especially not one as gorgeous as this one—they were usually trouble with a capital T.

But as he looked into her eyes, his own smile disappeared, his heavy, dark brows drawing together, his mouth straightening into a grim line. Bewildered, feeling as if she’d been slapped, Melia looked away.

“Melia, meet Cherie and Jacquie.” Resolutely, she focused on Dane’s introductions to the rest of the group, hoping the heat of embarrassment didn’t show on her already sun-flushed face.

The two girls snuggled against the rail on either side of the big Hawaiian were in their twenties, like her. But they had artfully styled hair, one auburn, one brunette, with dangling earrings, jewel-toned nails and plenty of salon-tanned skin on display. Looking her over behind designer sunglasses, they murmured greetings. Jacquie smiled, showing small white teeth. Cherie didn’t bother.

Jealousy stung. Melia knew her advantages—her long, wavy hair was streaked with light and dark blonde. She was active, so her legs were toned, and she had a nice waist. Her eyes were green under arching, dark blonde brows, her mouth soft and bow-shaped in her oval face.

She also knew her faults—her bottom was bigger than she would’ve liked, but she wasn’t a dieter, so that wasn’t going to change. And although her breasts were high and firm, they were certainly not as big as Cherie’s or Jacquie’s.

And she had freckles. She could tan, but time in the sun also enhanced the light freckles that dappled her skin from head to toe. Her dad—from whom she’d inherited them—laughed and told her some guy was going to love them, but Melia envied girls with smooth tans. Today she hadn’t bothered with any makeup because it was hot, humid, and she was here to play in the water, not look chic. Now she wished her freckles were subdued, her eyes enhanced with smoky shadow, her lips glossed with the latest shade.

She also envied the two women their complete lack of self-consciousness in wearing bikinis to begin their trip. She had two new ones in her duffle bag, but today she wore tropical camo shorts and a tee with matching leaf print, purchased in Kona the day before, along with a floppy straw hat to ward off new freckles.

Clay and Jimmer, male equivalents of the girls, greeted her with lazy smiles, eyes hidden by their sunglasses.

The two, so alike Melia knew she was going to have trouble remembering who was who, wore necklaces made of shells and intricately tied twine. Clay, no, Jimmer, wore a bracelet of knotted leather.

“And this is Malu,” Dane said, grinning at the big Hawaiian.

His name was Malu. She managed to smile vaguely in Malu’s direction without meeting that brooding dark gaze again, then turned away, relieved, as Frank Lelua spoke behind them.

“All right, everybody, have a seat, and we’ll take off. Time for some fun in the sun.” The owner of Hawaiian Dive, a short, wiry Hawaiian with wavy salt-and-pepper hair, was clad in faded shorts and a white T-shirt with his dive emblem. Melia had confirmed her reservations with him the day before.

“Malu, get that forward tie-down, eh?” he asked, firing up the boat’s twin outboards. The motors rumbled to life, the non-skid floor vibrating.

Malu and Leilani unfastened the catamaran from the dock cleats, and the big boat moved slowly away from the dock, past the others moored in the small bay.

Melia found a seat away from the rest of the group, to the starboard side. Dane flopped into the seat beside her.

“You look dazed,” he teased. “Too many names and faces? Just say ‘Hey, you’—we’ll all answer to that.”

She laughed, relaxing as the boat moved away from the dock and out of the bay into the open sea.

 

Kona coast was beautiful from the water. Even after thirty-three years, Malu never failed to appreciate it. The blue ocean rimmed with white surf, the sun-faded buildings and glistening white boats along the shore, the palms swaying in the breeze, Mauna Loa rising majestic and foreboding behind them, a reminder this island had been built by Madame Pele’s fire. It was a scene that had been painted many times and photographed countless more.