The Big Break

By: Cara Lockwood

CHAPTER ONE

JUN LEE TRIED to steady her nerves as she walked up to the front door of Kai Brady’s luxury beachside villa on the west coast of the Big Island. Bright Hawaiian sunshine warmed her bare shoulders as she breathed in the scent of hibiscus, which grew in bunches along his pristinely manicured yard. Every local on the island knew Kai Brady—millionaire, entrepreneur, world extreme-surfing champ. Even his massive koa door was intimidating, not to mention the mansion itself: an impressive two-story glass-and-concrete structure that loomed above her, looking expensive and enormous.

Jun tried not to feel a pang of envy. She couldn’t afford to rent a single room in a house like this, much less own one. Not so for Kai Brady, gorgeous and wealthy, who ranked three years running as Hawaii’s most eligible bachelor in the local magazine, beating out even legendary rock stars who had taken up residence on Kauai. It was no wonder she was nervous. But she wasn’t a groupie, she reminded herself. She was here on a mission.

She rang the bell and waited. Her sweaty hands squeezed the handle of the bag holding the thank-you gifts she’d brought: two of her homemade aromatherapy candles, which she hand-dipped, and some crayon drawings her four-year-old son, Po, had made for him. Then there was the gift certificate for a free session of Tai Chi, not that she thought he’d use it, but she didn’t have much money, and lessons she taught fell into the category of the meager things she could offer.

She considered, for a minute, leaving the package on his doorstep, but she thought the candles would melt in the afternoon sun. Besides, she had it in her mind that she wanted to thank him personally. He deserved at least that. That was why she hadn’t just sent the gifts in the mail.

She glanced at her reflection in the glass door. Jun kept her pale skin flawless by applying excessive sunscreen and avoiding the sun like the plague. Her mother, born in Beijing, had been insistent on that long before anyone really knew about the benefits of SPF. She’d come before her shift as a personal trainer at the big local gym, so she wore her fitness-instructor outfit of yoga capris, flip-flops and an athletic tank top, her dark hair up in a high ponytail. In the shadow of Kai’s villa, she felt suddenly underdressed. Then again, what was the proper attire to wear when thanking the man who had saved your son’s life?

This week marked the year anniversary of the tsunami that had nearly drowned Po. If it hadn’t been for Kai Brady, her precious boy would’ve died.

She’d never forget that morning. Jun had dropped Po off at day care as usual, but then, when she was already at work, on the tenth-floor gym of a high-rise, the earthquake hit, the tsunami came ashore, wrecking much of the western shoreline, and she got the worst news a parent could receive: her boy had never made it to the evacuation center. He was missing.

Then, after a horrible day of waiting, she got a message on her Facebook account: friends of Kai Brady were trying to reach her. Kai had broken his leg saving her son, and they were both in the hospital. Po, thankfully, had only scratches. Thanks to Kai.

Jun’s heart constricted anytime she thought of that miserable day: the horror and bone-chilling fear when the day-care center told her Po was missing. Jun lived for her boy. He was her whole world. She’d had him at age nineteen, barely older than a child herself. It didn’t matter to her that he had been an accident, the result of a brief relationship with a football player on the island for the Pro Bowl, a father who wanted nothing to do with Po.

Jun never fought Dante Henley, Po’s father, for support. She wasn’t going to beg anyone for anything. She didn’t like the idea of being indebted—to anyone, for any reason.

Which was why, as grateful as she was to Kai, she hated the feeling that she owed him. One way or another, she was going to find a way to pay that debt. Right now the only thing she could think to do was honor him on every anniversary of that tsunami.

She told herself her preoccupation with the famous surfer had nothing at all to do with the fact that he had the kind of sculpted body and bright white smile expected of a Calvin Klein underwear model. Or that he had enough cash from endorsements to live in a place like this.

She rang the bell once more and peeked in through the wall of glass windows along the front of the house. All she could see was tasteful granite, smooth-finished wood and gleaming floors. Was that a lanai out back? The wall-less living room was bigger than her whole condo! It overlooked a glistening mirrored pool that looked as though it cascaded into the ocean.

Jun blinked rapidly and tried not to press her nose against the glass. This might be the most beautiful house she’d ever seen.

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