The Big Break(6)

By: Cara Lockwood

She must be one of those New Age nuts, the kind that ate only granola and rabbit-pellet food. Kai had never been in that camp. He had always been a barbecue-rib kind of guy. He flipped the card over and saw the “Good for One Free Tai Chi Class” scrawled on the back. He thought that was something only old people did, but Jun wasn’t old. At least it wasn’t yoga. Kai couldn’t see himself doing yoga. But Tai Chi, maybe he’d try it.

Or maybe he’d just call her and ask her out for a drink.

Then he remembered the look of complete horror when he’d asked her if he could see Po, how quickly she’d squealed out of his driveway. Maybe she had a boyfriend. Po’s dad, maybe?

Or maybe she’s just not interested.

Somehow, the thought electrified him just a little. It had been weeks since he’d found any girl a real challenge. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman flat out told him no.

He held the card between his two fingers, thinking about her lean, athletic body. She was sexy, no doubt, but there was something else that intrigued him about Jun Lee.

You could change that. She’d seemed so sure he could turn around the disaster his life had become, as if she had some magic bullet to solve all his problems. He knew she couldn’t, that it was probably just talk, and yet the way she’d said it, with unwavering conviction, got him wondering. Could he?

He glanced at her card again and then nearly laughed out loud. What was he thinking? The Tai Chi instructor didn’t have the answers. It was just his little head doing all the thinking again. It was just about him being attracted to the woman, nothing more.

Besides, she was far too serious for him, he reasoned. A grown-up. That was what came to mind when he thought of Jun Lee. The exact opposite of the tourists he’d been having fun with lately. They never took anything too seriously, which was fine by Kai. Right now taking anything seriously just seemed like a waste of effort. After all, in the end, what was the point? You get all serious and the next thing you know, a freak national disaster and a freight train of water takes away everything you cared about.

The office door swung open and Kirk Cody, Kai’s manager—tall, blond and excessively tanned from spending too much time on the beach—leaned out. He wore his trademark Tommy Bahama gear from head to toe. “Sorry about that, Kai! You ready?” Kai walked in and was quickly surrounded by pictures of himself: him endorsing all kinds of products; him on a Wheaties box; him launching his clothing company nearly two years ago.

Kai had made Kirk rich, but Kirk had done the same for Kai. Kai never thought in marketing terms. He just liked to surf. When Kai was at the top of his surfing game, the relationship worked perfectly. These days, however, Kai felt as though it was only a matter of time before Kirk found out his knee hadn’t healed right. Then the endorsement deals would disappear overnight.

Hanging above Kirk’s desk was a giant photo of Kai surfing a stomach-churning nearly forty-five-foot wave at Mavericks, California, the break so heinous even some pro surfers steered clear of it. Kai thought about his performance earlier that week on a wave not even a fifth that size. He’d made his fortune risking it all on big waves, and now he couldn’t even stand upright on five measly feet.

“How are you, man?” Kirk asked Kai, who simply shrugged.

“Fine, I guess,” he said, studying the old picture on the wall.

A quarter Hawaiian, a quarter Japanese and half Irish, Kai had always felt as if he had the pulse of the water. All of his ancestors came from one island or another, and that brought with it a healthy respect for the sea. But lately, it felt as though he’d simply lost his gift.

A knock at Kirk’s office door drew Kai’s attention. He realized with a start that Bret Jon stood there. Bret was Kai’s tow partner, or had been, before the tsunami. Bret was the one who’d driven the Jet Ski that took him out to the big waves, the seventy-footers that no one could physically paddle to. Bret was also the one who had risked his life to go in and get him whenever Kai wiped out.

Bret glanced at Kai and frowned.

“You didn’t tell me he would be here,” Bret said. “You asked me to come here to talk about a new job. Now I see why you didn’t want to do it on the phone.”

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