A Little Harmless Addiction
Falling in love might not be the smart thing, but it might be the one thing they both need.
Jocelyn Dupree has come to Hawaii to heal. After a horrific experience with her last boss, she is on the mend and ready to start again. She is focused on rebuilding her life and her career as a pastry chef. She definitely doesn’t need a man in her life, or so she thinks.
Kai Aiona has always been the guy to mend a broken heart. Unfortunately, the last heart that was broken was his. He has sworn off damaged women, but he can’t resist Jocelyn’s sad eyes, not to mention her determination to succeed.
One little date turns into several and soon, Jocelyn finds herself easily addicted to Kai’s sensual nature. Resisting him becomes impossible, but Jocelyn isn’t ready to trust completely. When Kai discovers she hasn’t been telling him everything, Jocelyn is left with two choices: trust her heart, or let the one man she has ever loved go.
»WARNING: The following book the following: Scenes from Hawaii, nosey friends and family, two people who are right for each other but too stupid to realize it, a tattooed and pierced hero, a sassy Southern heroine, one drunken night, and love scenes that will curl your toes, warm your heart and leave you panting for more. Remember, Harmless stories are not for the weak.
Read an Excerpt
Jocelyn Dupree smiled as her brother showed her around her soon-to-be sister-in-law’s house.
“Now the kitchen is in here.”
She shared a smile with Cynthia. “Yeah, you don’t say?”
“I know it is small compared to your house in Atlanta, but things are smaller over here because of the space issue. There is a lot of counter space. I was even thinking of getting Evan to give me an estimate about redoing the area.”
“Really?” Cynthia said, and then leaned closer to Jocelyn. “That’s the first I heard of it.”
He tossed her a look then smiled at Jocelyn. If she hadn’t missed her brother so much, she would be irritated with his behavior. There was a tiny part of her that wanted to be the biggest bitch on the face of the earth just to see if he would keep smiling at her that way.
“I just thought it might be a good idea. You know, if you decide to stay. You need a bigger kitchen. More professional.”
She nodded as she started to walk around the small house. A year ago something like this would have driven her insane. The house she had shared with Mike in Atlanta had been huge. It had also sported a world-class kitchen with a six-burner Viking and a double oven. God, she missed that kitchen. Sadly, she missed it more than Mike. It probably didn’t say that much about her relationship that she longed for her Viking stove more than the man she’d lived with for over a year. With effort, she pushed aside those ideas.
She tucked her tongue in her cheek. “Not sure I’d want you redoing the kitchen right now. Seeing that I just got here. It would be kind of a pain to do without a kitchen.”
“Evan would do it really fast.”
She didn’t say anything as she wandered through the kitchen. She knew she could probably get a new convertible out of her brother right now. He was ready to do anything to make her feel at home, and if he’d acted like this when she had been a teenager, she definitely would have used it against him. But now, it just amused her at the same time it warmed her heart.
The house was a bit like a doll house. The walls were painted a soft green, with the ceiling off-white. The koa wood floors gleamed and creaked under her feet as she stepped. It was smaller than she was used to, but she had the strangest feeling as if she had arrived home. Warmth filled every corner and pulled at her. Here she would be able to live. Here she would feel safe.
“Of course, if you don’t like that idea we can find you somewhere else to live.”
She thought she heard Cynthia groan so Jocelyn took pity on her brother—and Cynthia. Truthfully, she was afraid her future sister-in-law might beat him if he kept it up.
“I think maybe I should be here for at least a day before I start coming up with ways to redecorate Cynthia’s house. Or plan any major reconstruction,” she said with a laugh.
Chris went on as though she hadn’t spoken. “Well, if you come on through here you can see the hallway leads to the bedroom.”
“Really?” she asked, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
He glanced at her, apparently noticed her expression and his lips quirked. “I’m just trying to show you around.”
She snorted as she leaned against the doorjamb. “It’s about fourteen hundred square feet. I think I can find my way around the house, Chris.”
His smile broadened and her nerves settled. “Fine. But if you can’t find the bathroom, don’t be calling me in the middle of the night. My woman has me up early to get her to the bakery.”
Cynthia laughed. “I can get myself to the bakery just fine. You’re the one who insists.”
He walked toward the two of them, a concerned look in his face. “I just wanted to make sure you were all set.”
There it was again. The look, the tone of voice, the things that told her he didn’t trust her alone. Because of one bastard of a boss, she had lost all standing within her family. It was as if she were sixteen years old again and he caught her hanging out on Bourbon Street with her friends. The logical part of her knew that he had a reason. Even if it wasn’t her fault, she understood. Still, it was getting damned old.
“I’m fine. Go. My flight was late and I know Cynthia gets up at three in the morning.”
He crossed his arms over his broad chest. “But what about dinner?”
“Cynthia said there was bread, coffee and peanut butter. I’m set for tonight.”
He hesitated. Now she was getting irritated. All her brothers had been bad, but Chris had been acting odd since she’d arrived. She wasn’t a danger to herself. Dr. Sawyer had never deemed Jocelyn a risk for suicide. It had just been physical and mental exhaustion. But she knew that her family saw it differently, especially Chris. Just like she knew he didn’t want to leave her alone, but he knew at the moment there was no way out of it.
“I’ll just be outside,” Cynthia said softly as she escaped, leaving Jocelyn to contend with Chris.
She watched the front screen door close before she forced herself to look at Chris. She loved this man. He had been more of a father figure than a brother. In recent years, he hadn’t been so bad, but as she watched the worried expression move over his features, she knew she had lost some ground in his opinion. And she knew the look settling on his face. He wanted to have a discussion. Lord, she couldn’t handle another talk about her condition.
“I thought you might need someone around,” he said.
The urge to scream tickled the back of her throat. “I can handle myself, Chris. I did back in Atlanta. I can do it here.”
If she hadn’t been watching him so closely, she would have missed the tightening of his jaw. “I’m sorry.”
She sighed. “Oh, Chris, I wasn’t blaming you. I didn’t want you there. What I meant was after. I did that by myself. Without Mike, you or Mama. I can do this. Please, don’t treat me like I snuck out during Mardi Gras.”
“Which you did more than once,” he said with a chuckle. He pulled her in his arms and hugged her. “You know I’m just trying to look out for you.”
She gave into the need to feel his arms around her, the security she could always count on. From the time their father died, he had been there. He had guided her, helped her pay for culinary school and supported everything she had ever attempted. And in this, she knew that he was on the one real thing in her life.
She pulled back and smiled up at him.
“I know. I can handle myself.”
The look he gave her told her he wasn’t too sure of it. And she couldn’t blame him considering the circumstances she’d been in nine months earlier. Still, it didn’t make it any easier to admit that she had to earn his trust again. Especially when it wasn’t her fault to begin with.
“Okay.” He gave her another quick squeeze. “I’m only a phone call away. And you have Evan’s phone number right?”
She nodded. “Don’t worry, you got me covered.”
She walked him to the door.
“I’m really glad you’re here, Jocey.”
She smiled at his childhood name for her. “I am too. Now go. Cynthia has an early morning.”
He jogged down the path to the car where Cynthia waited for him. With a smile and a wave, he slipped into the car, and she watched the taillights disappear into the Hawaiian night.
She shut the door, locked it, then leaned against it and closed her eyes. For the first time in months, she was alone. All alone. The months in Atlanta she had been partially alone, but not in a real sense. Her mother, her brothers and sister, and the memories had all been there to gnaw at her. She opened her eyes and let the knowledge that she was on her own again settle. Nerves had her stomach tightening, but she smiled as she opened her eyes. She was on her own again.
She walked through the house, a cottage really, and tried to gauge how she would handle tonight. She knew she would handle it just fine, but it wouldn’t be easy. Or maybe it would. In Hawaii, she was far away from Atlanta and the memories of Mike and the house they had shared. And she was far away from Greg. She no longer would have to wonder if every little sound was her former boss showing up to finish the assault he had started months earlier. She closed her eyes and pulled in a deep breath, using the breathing exercises her therapist had taught her. After a moment, her heart rate slowed and her panic eased as she opened her eyes.
First thing, she thought as she glanced at her luggage, was to unpack. With more energy than she knew she had, she delved into unpacking her clothes and personal items. Cynthia had moved all of her things to Chris’s house in Hawaii Kai, but had left all her furniture. Jocelyn loved the look. It had been Cynthia’s grandmother’s cottage and many of the furnishings were antiques. And, Jocelyn thought as she placed some of her shirts into the dresser, definitely Hawaiian.
Less than thirty minutes later, she was done. She glanced around the bedroom when she was done and smiled. The queen-sized bed was covered by a bright Hawaiian quilt and with lots of pillows. It looked so comfortable that she wanted to just collapse on it. Over eleven hours of travel had taken its toll on Jocelyn. But something pushed her out of the room the moment she thought of being alone on that bed. With a sigh, she walked out into the little living room. Now what? It was odd that she would have longed for this day for so long, but now that it was here she didn’t know what to do with herself. Usually, she would do some baking to get rid of nervous energy, but she wasn’t sure if Cynthia had done any shopping of that kind.
After a little rummaging she found the makings of sugar cookies and started to work. She should have known Cynthia would have had some things ready for her. A fellow baker, they both used baking to console themselves, to forget men, and well, to keep themselves busy. She pulled out what she needed and got to work.
Kai cursed his sister. The woman was a pain in the ass. Always had been, always would be. People wondered why he had never had a serious relationship. All they had to do was look at the crazy woman he had grown up with and, until a few months ago, lived with. She drove him insane. No matter how many times he said he wouldn’t do what she wanted, here he was driving out to Cynthia’s old house to drop off a welcome package for Chris’s sister.
Oh, he could have argued with her, but with May, he had figured out years ago to just do what she wanted.
With a sigh, he parked in front of the house and grabbed the basket out of the front seat. He slammed his car door shut and noticed the lights flooding the front lawn. Damn. He was hoping to just leave it in the kitchen and head back home. He was pretty sure that Chris would have taken his sister out for dinner. But apparently, from the music he heard drifting out the windows, he hadn’t. He could just make out Brother Iz’s voice as he sang about places over the rainbow by the time he made it to the porch. Along with the music, the scent of vanilla and butter mixed in with the plumeria.
He knocked on the door and waited. The music lowered and he heard light steps over the wooden floor.
“Joceyln? I’m Kai Aiona, May’s brother. She sent me over with a basket for you.”
She opened the door, the chain still firmly in place. He could barely make her out through the crack of the door. Her green gaze moved down his body then back up, as if she were checking for weapons.
“You say you’re May’s brother? I thought you were in college.” Suspicion clouded her voice.
Irritation boiled in his gut and he ground his teeth together. Dammit, he wasn’t in the mood for a woman from the big city who was afraid of her own shadow.
“That’s Danny. I’m Kai, the older one who is thinking very seriously of beating May.” He held up the basket. “May thought you would be out and gave me keys to get in. I think she wanted to surprise you.”
Her eyes softened and he ignored the jolt in his chest. She closed the door and pulled the chain free. When she pulled the door open, he found himself absolutely and positively stunned.
Skin the color of warm cocoa, brilliant green eyes surrounded by a wealth of lashes and a full, red mouth. It was all he could see. The woman was gorgeous. She kept her hair short, which accented her high cheekbones. As he allowed his gaze to travel down her body, he felt his heart stop. She was tall, mostly leg, with small pert breasts, and from the shape of her hips, a nice round backside. Oh, Lord, the woman was a goddess.
When he reached her face again, she was frowning. For a moment or two, he couldn’t truly think. Those eyes just about did him in. They were exotic, tipped up at the corners.
“You said you had a basket?”
He lifted the basket, still a little taken aback by the woman standing in front of him
She smiled then and stepped back to allow him to walk through the door. It took him a second or two before he could get his feet to cooperate with him. By the time he did, she was looking at him strangely again. He couldn’t blame the woman. He was acting like an idiot without a lick of sense.
“Sorry to bother you. May thought that you might be out to dinner with Chris.”
“Chris wanted to. In fact, I think he wanted to drag me to Dupree’s and introduce me to everyone he knows in Hawaii.” Her voice was filled with enough sisterly affection that Kai knew she loved her brother. “The truth is, it was a hellacious day of traveling.”
He offered her the basket and noticed that she did everything in her power not to touch him. And she left the door open. Sure there was a screen there, but he thought it odd that she kept glancing out as if she wanted to assure herself she was safe.
“Yeah, well, May was really worried that you needed that tonight.”
“And she badgered you until you brought it.” New Orleans threaded her voice. It was deep, sensual and completely at odds with the person in front of him. She looked the part, but there was the way she held herself. As if she didn’t want to be touched, talked to or bothered.
“Yeah, well, you know how little sisters can be.”
She laughed then. The short, sweet sound had his libido dancing.
“Yeah, I do, especially since I figure if it was the other way around, I would be May and you would be Chris,” Jocelyn said.
He laughed. “You have her phone number to report that I dropped it off?”
She nodded. “Afraid of her?”
“My father didn’t raise an idiot.”
They stood like that for a moment or two, the odd silence filling the air around them.
“Well, I guess I should let you get back to…” He glanced in the kitchen. “You just got here and you’re baking?”
A light blush stained her cheeks. “I am little out of sorts. Thought I would work off some nervous energy.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy the goodies. I’ll see you around.”
She set the basket on the small kitchenette table. “Oh, please, could you take some of these cookies home?”
Without waiting for an answer, she hurried into the kitchen. He followed her, but not too closely. He apparently made the woman nervous and she was offering free cookies. He didn’t want to miss out on that especially as the smell grew the closer he got to the kitchen.
She was sealing up a plastic baggie by the time he reached the entrance. She handed them to him.
“Thanks again for bringing the basket all the way out here.”
“No problem.” He turned to leave then stopped. “You wouldn’t be interested in going out to dinner would you?”
A look of something akin to panic moved over her face before she hid it behind a mask. “I just got here, so I am not really sure…”
“No. It’s…I just got out of a really, really bad relationship. I can’t…” She closed her eyes and pulled herself together. When she opened her eyes, he saw regret and embarrassment. “I just don’t think I am ready for a date of any sort.”
By the time Kai was on his way back down H-3 he realized there was something really off about Chris’s sister. She had been through a bad break up, but there was more to it than that. There were women who wanted nothing to do with the locals. Of course, it could just be that soured relationship. And that made her off-limits. He was sick of being the guy who helped women through breakups. The last one had left him bloodied and a little bit more cynical. He definitely wanted to make sure to avoid any woman who was trying to mend a broken heart.
With that, he punched the gas and headed into Honolulu. He had an early morning.
Jocelyn went through the basket trying to ignore the fact she had made an idiot of herself. God, did she have to act like the frightened little kitten that couldn’t take care of herself? It was embarrassing. Where was Queen Jocelyn, the head bakery chef who scared the hell out of the lower staff members?
She’d turned into a crumbling mess in Atlanta, that’s where.
She closed her eyes and held herself in check. She would not cry. It was her first night in Hawaii. The first night of the rest of her life. Greg wasn’t here, wouldn’t be here. He couldn’t hurt her. And dammit, she refused to let the memory of what he had done to her ruin her first night.
The first real interaction with a man and she had acted like a virgin, afraid to even touch him. Hell, she had been scared to let him in the house. Even after she knew who he was, remembered May mentioning him, she had been frightened.
He wasn’t as tall as Greg. He’d been just an inch or two over her five-foot-eight frame. But he was big. What was it that May had said he did…worked on the docks. And it showed. Sinewy muscles and an alertness that told her he watched everything around him. Oh, he gave off the vibe of a lazy guy, but that was the deception. Her brother Malachi was like that. And he was a Navy Seal.
Kai Aiona was a gorgeous man, who apparently was afraid of his sister, and had been so nice as to ask her on a date. And she had freaked.
With a sigh, she lifted the basket and carried it into the kitchen. She would have to take that step when she could, but she knew she wasn’t ready.
But at least she still had some kind of sexual desires. Kai had proven that. She had always had a thing for Asian or Polynesian men. She knew he was Hawaiian, but May said their mother had been white, and there was a little Chinese somewhere in their bloodline. Damn. Whatever his genetic makeup, it was one hell of a tasty mix.
And if she was still Jocelyn the Queen, she would have jumped at the chance of a date with him and would have gladly jumped his bones. She could just imagine how those large hands would feel over her skin, or how that fast mouth of his would work magic on her…
Regretfully, she pushed those ideas out of her mind and set to getting the fruit stored. She needed her rest and there was no use in thinking about a man she would never have.