The Big Break(4)

By: Cara Lockwood

What did you expect? A red-carpet welcome? Why would Kai remember you, when he’s got beautiful women falling at his feet?

And why do you even care?

It hit her that for the past year she’d been idolizing the man a little bit, making him out to be the kind of selfless hero who only existed in novels and movies and comic books. Kai was just a man. The woman wearing only the shirt lazily grinned at her. Okay, a very flawed man.

Belatedly, she remembered she was still holding the thank-you gift. It seemed so childish now, so inconsequential. What had she been thinking? The man had everything he could possibly want.

“It’s been a year, but I just wanted to...uh, thank you. For Po.” She thrust the bag at him as if it were a hot potato and bolted for his front door. She’d been planning a whole speech, but at this point, she didn’t care about it at all. Kai stared at the bag, puzzled, as she nearly tripped over the two steps leading to the door. But she swung open the door and was outside, then hurried toward her old used hatchback, an ancient car that ran only by her sheer will and her mechanic cousin’s generosity. It looked like such an eyesore there at the edge of his beautiful lawn.

“Jun!” She turned at the sound of his voice to see him running after her, barefoot in his swim trunks. She tried not to notice his muscled calves work. “Wait.”

She hesitated, car keys in hand.

“How’s Po?” Now she could tell that he remembered. Po’s small scrapes and scratches from the tsunami had long since healed, but he still woke up screaming at night sometimes, haunted by nightmares. Then there was the fact that he hated water. He’d refused to swim ever since that day, not that she blamed him. But Jun looked at Kai, at his kind eyes, and then back at the frowning women waiting on his porch. She couldn’t tell him all that. Why would he care? He was having the time of his life apparently.

“He’s good,” she said, which was 80 percent truth. “He talks about you all the time. He really wanted to come see you...”

Kai glanced back and for a split second looked embarrassed. That was something.

“Oh, right. But I’m...well, not G-rated.” He grinned sheepishly, as if half-naked women were just the price he paid for being...him. Maybe that was true. “I’ll straighten out my act sometime. I just don’t know how.”

“You could change that,” Jun said sharply, more sharply than she’d intended. Kai looked surprised for a moment. She guessed he wasn’t used to people talking to him like that, but Jun had zero patience for self-pity, even the hint of it. Self-pity was just a selfish, useless waste of time. She thought about all the days she could’ve wallowed after Po’s dad left or later, when her mother died. But she hadn’t. She had things to do, a son to raise. Kai needed a good shake. Her tiger mom would’ve agreed if she’d still been alive.

“Well, I’ve got to go.” Jun turned the keys in her hand.

“Uh...wait. Maybe you could bring Po around sometime? I’d love to see him.”

“No,” she said before she could even think about it, imagining an orgy of alcohol and sex and half-naked tourists.

“No?” Kai looked taken aback by her flat refusal. She got the impression women didn’t tell him no very often. Which was why two of them were standing near his front door. “Just no? Come on, at least pretend to consider it!”

Usually, men were put off by her bluntness. She’d rarely had one take rejection so lightheartedly before.

Kai flashed his bright white smile, radiating warmth from his brown eyes, the ones she’d thought about often in the past year. He reached out and touched her arm, and the electricity nearly bowled her straight over. For the briefest of seconds, she found herself leaning into him. She glanced down at his hand and wondered what it would feel like on the small of her back, pulling her in for a kiss. She glanced up and found him looking at her, longer than he ought to, and all she wanted to do was sink into those eyes.

That was before Jun’s brain kicked in again. What was she doing? Pining over a man who plainly had more women in his life than he could handle? She wasn’t going to throw herself on top of the pile. She wasn’t a maiden who planned to sacrifice herself to the volcano.

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