Book 2 in the Santinis Series
Part of the Santini World
Marco is the quiet one of the four brothers which works well for his career as a Navy Seal. Living in Hawaii is a dream come true, his only problem is the infatuation he has for his landlady. He’s not sure he wants to act on his attraction until his brothers push Marco’s temper with a little harmless flirting.
Alana Kailikea is a woman who understands loss. Her entire family was killed when she was only eighteen, leaving her an heiress. A bad experience with gold digger has left her wary of most men—especially gorgeous men like Marco. She never expected him to ask her out, or that it would lead to a romance that has them burning up the sheets.
Marco doesn’t want an affair—he wants forever. He decides to woo the love wary woman all the while taking everything he can do to make sure Alana understands they were made for each other.
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Marco Santini jogged up the stairs to his cottage, enjoying the loose feelings in his muscles. It had been a few days since he had been able to hit the beach to run in the morning. He’d been so busy with work lately he hadn’t had the time to make it out. He did his PT but his morning run started his day off right.
As he stepped up to his tiny lanai, he noticed his landlady walking in his direction. Although, every time he thought of her that way, it felt wrong. For most of his life, Marco had always thought of a landlady to be older. Alana was young and beautiful and always had a smile for him.
“Good morning, Lieutenant Santini,” she said.
Marco resisted the urge to tell her she didn’t have to use his rank, but he knew it was useless. He knew she did it out of respect and there was a part of him that found it kind of cute.
Now, the rest of her, he found downright gorgeous. She was wearing a blue t-shirt that hid most of her curves, but she had on a pair of black spandex shorts that she regularly wore for her walks. They clung to the sleek muscle and emphasized her long legs.
“Your brothers are getting in today, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Sort of an after the fact bachelor party for Leo.”
“That’ll be fun. You have the keys to the SUV, yeah?”
“Yes. I really appreciate you switching cars with me.”
“No problem. I couldn’t pass up a chance to drive your convertible.”
When he had asked her about renting an SUV she had been more than willing to switch cars for the weekend. The truth is, she had to be one of the most accommodating people he knew.
“We’ll try not to disturb you too much. I appreciate you letting me have them stay here.”
Her eyes widened. “Of course I would. There’s nothing as important as family. Make sure to let me know if you need anything else.”
Before he could respond to that, she waved and headed down to the path to have her morning walk. He watched until she disappeared around the hedge then started to his house.
He had found the rental through his commander who told him Alana liked to rent to military folks because her father had been an Army ranger. It had been a godsend. Marco wasn’t in the mood for apartment living.
He walked up the steps and unlocked his front door. His cell played the Air Force song before he could close the door.
“Hey, Gee, shouldn’t you be on your way?”
“There’s a delay here, but we should be taking off within the hour.”
“I’ll be picking you up at Hickam so just call like I said.”
“We were going to rent a car. I don’t think that little convertible of yours can fit us all.”
“No, it can’t. My landlady has an SUV she’s letting me borrow.”
There was a beat of silence. “Don’t tell me you’re letting her drive your car.”
All his brothers thought he was fanatical about his car. Sure he didn’t let Gee or Leo drive it, but if anyone saw their driving skills, they would understand. Vince was the only one he allowed in the driver’s seat. Sometimes.
“Yes. Well, sort of. I’m leaving it here for her today.”
There was a sigh on the other side of the line. “I wouldn’t want to think about some little old lady driving Sally.”
“Stop calling my car Sally. It’s weird.”
“A man that in love with his car should at least have a name for it. What?” There was some mumbling in the background. “Vincente said you should at least buy her a drink or two considering you’re using it to fulfill your lack of a sexual relationship with a woman.”
“Oh, shove it down your pie hole, Gee. It’s not like Vicente can talk.”
“Mom wouldn’t like that kind of talk.”
He chuckled. “Mom taught me the phrase. What time are you set to land?”
“They’re saying we’ll be landing at fourteen hundred.”
“I’ll be there before that. I’m only working half a day.”
After getting a few more things cleared up, complete with name calling, Marco hung up and decided to grab a bite to eat. As he poured cereal into a bowl, his mind drifted back to his landlady.
Even thinking her name made his heart skip a beat. It was corny to even think of it in those terms, but it was the truth. It was understandable he would be attracted to her. She was tall and curvy, but there was also a sweetness about her that drew him in. He wondered about the family she often referenced but never saw visit. She seemed like such a happy person, always wearing a smile, those blue eyes sparkling at him…
He drew in his breath and ordered his body to take a rest. It had been a long time since he had been this interested in a woman. She was just his type, but she was off limits. He wasn’t ready to get tangled up with his landlady. No matter how much he wanted to.
Alana was cutting up the pineapple she bought the day before for the Santini brothers when she heard the car in her driveway. She knew the sound of that engine, knew the way the person parked.
She wiped off her hands as the front door opened and closed. Not many people had access to her house, but Colin always had a key. A girl had to have a best friend and basically, he was hers. From the time they were in kindergarten they had been fast friends. Usually, she didn’t have a problem with him dropping by unannounced. Today, though, she wasn’t in the mood, especially since she had a bad feeling why he had decided to come over.
“In the kitchen, Colin.”
He turned the corner and she inwardly cringed. He looked like he had been run over by a truck.
“So, I guess you and Sara are broken up, again.”
He sighed and walked into the kitchen. She knew it was hard on him. Being the boyfriend to a woman who didn’t want to acknowledge your relationship because of her conservative Chinese family couldn’t be easy. Sara came from a very wealthy family and for some reason she didn’t think they would approve of Colin. She used Colin for a lot of things, mainly sex and to make herself feel better. It tore Colin to shreds emotionally and Alana was stuck picking up the pieces every time. She ached for her best friend. Alana hated Sara and that was saying a lot. Alana didn’t use that term to describe her feelings that often.
“This time, I think we are really through.”
She would be happy if it were true. But she knew it wasn’t. It was a mantra she’d heard so many times before.
“Whatcha doing there?” he asked.
She looked down at the knife and pineapple. “Playing bridge.”
He chuckled, although it didn’t sound happy. “Did I ever tell you you’re a little sarcastic for your own good?”
“Many times, but I have also told you that I only do it with you and other people I love. Let me finish this up and then we can decide what to do tonight.”
“I didn’t say I was spending tonight with you.”
“It’s five on a Friday, you’re in a rotten mood and I’m not letting you hit any damned clubs in Honolulu tonight. You’ll do something you’ll regret. Then, I will have to deal with that. I don’t have time for that. How about we do dinner in?”
He smiled. “That sounds good.”
“And you can drink as much as you want and stay over.”
She packaged up the fruit while Colin made himself coffee.
“I might want some of that,” he said without turning around.
“Too bad. It’s for the Santinis.”
“Santinis? There are more of them?”
Before she could answer, she heard her SUV pull into the drive and then over to the cottage she rented Marco.
“Yes. They’re here to visit.”
She picked up the container and headed to the door. She felt him on her heels and turned around and put her hand on his chest. If Colin saw her with the lieutenant, he would know she was interested in him.
“No. You stay here. I’m not going to deal with you and them.”
He frowned but there was a bit of sparkle in his eyes. She sighed and headed out to catch the brothers before they left. She could have slipped in earlier and left the fruit for them but she didn’t. She knew the lieutenant wouldn’t have minded but for some reason, that had felt wrong. Unless there was a good reason, she didn’t like to invade a tenant’s privacy.
As she neared the cottage, the noise level rose. There was laughing and she was sure insults. She smiled. It reminded her a lot of her brothers when they were younger. Kai and Mikala always seemed to have their volume set to twenty on a scale of ten. She knocked on the door, then had to do it again because apparently she couldn’t be heard over the discussion.
The door opened with a whoosh and she came face to face with a younger version of Santini. Except, this one was blond and had golden brown eyes. He blinked, then, his lips curved. Two dimples appeared.
“Well, hello. Can I help you?” he asked.
“Who is it, Gee?” a man asked loudly from somewhere in the cottage. She wasn’t sure if it was Lieutenant Santini though.
“I have no idea but I think I’m in love,” the aforementioned Gee said.
“Lieutenant Santini, it’s just me.”
She thought she heard him curse, then he came to the door with a frown. Oh, no, he was irritated with her. She always tried her best to stay out of her tenants’ way but she wanted to make sure his brothers were welcomed properly to the island.
“I just brought some pineapple by for your brothers.”
“You can move now, Gee,” the lieutenant said.
“I think Mom would be embarrassed by your manners.” He didn’t stop staring at her and something tickled the back of her throat as she felt her face heat up. He took her hand in his. “My name is Gianni, but everyone calls me Gee. Will you marry me?”
Before she could answer, another of the brothers showed up. This one was older and if possible, bigger. Dark haired and blue-eyed, he was just a gorgeous as the others. Goodness.
“And you can call me, Vince.”
“Go away. I found her first,” Gee said playfully. “If you won’t marry me, how about just dating me?”
Vince bumped his brother in the back but Gee ignored him. The older brother sighed. “How many times do I have to tell the rest of you? Finders are not keepers, especially when there’s a Marine around.”
“She’s mine,” Marco said.
Both brothers broke their attention from her and looked at him. She did the same and thought his cheeks were turning pink. It was actually very cute. He was such a big man and to see him blush…well it made her like him even more.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I meant this is my landlady, Alana Kailikea. These are two of my idiot brothers. The third is on the phone with his wife.”
She couldn’t say anything. There was just too much male beauty to form a coherent thought. Two of them were smiling at her and one was frowning, but it didn’t matter. Any heterosexual woman would have problems speaking around them. Lord, Honolulu wouldn’t know what hit them.
“Guys, you’re making her nervous. And, Gee, it’s going to be hard to be a PJ missing a hand.”
Gee raised her hand to his lips, kissed it, then winked before letting it go. After the brothers shuffled back in the house, Santini sighed.
“I’m sorry about that. They can be pains in the a…butt.”
She smiled. “No worries. My brothers were the same way. Here’s the pineapple. I don’t want to intrude on your weekend, but seeing that you’re men, I have a feeling you won’t make it to a good produce stand before they leave. Everyone needs to have fresh pineapple when they come to the islands. It’s a rule.”
Good lord, she was rambling on about fruit and Hawaii. She blamed it on the Santinis but it was one reason she avoided long conversations with the lieutenant. She babbled when she was confronted by a gorgeous man.
He took the fruit and smiled. “That sounds fantastic. But we might have some decent food since Vince likes to cook.”
“I’m not cooking for you, Marco,” his brother yelled from the other room.
“I’ll let you get back to your brothers. Make sure you let me know if you need anything.”
He nodded and just kept staring at her. He was so quiet at times, it was hard to be in his presence. For a few moments, she just stood there and stared. When she realized what she was doing, she stepped back.
“Have a good time.”
“Thank you for the pineapple.”
She nodded and turned to walk. She was hoping he went into the house, but she had a feeling he was standing there staring at her. He did that a lot. He always seemed to want to make sure she was in the house or on her way before he broke his attention from her. It had to be a SEAL thing.
When she walked around the corner she found Colin waiting for her. “You’re supposed to be in the house.”
He rocked back on his heels and smiled. “I have to look out for my girl.”
She snorted. Colin had never been interested in her and the feeling was mutual, but he did feel it was his duty to watch out over her now that she was alone. “I don’t think you need to worry about that.”
“I’m not so sure about that. They all seemed to be interested, very interested. Especially the tenant.”
She rolled her eyes and walked past him into the house. She didn’t need to get all excited about how that made her feel. She had a little crush on the SEAL since he moved in a couple months earlier, but she had learned early in her life men like him would be interested only in her for her money. Otherwise, they were just nice to her. Like a brother. A really hot brother.
God, she needed to get her mind on something else.
“I think you’ve gone mental,” she said as Colin shut the door behind him.
“I think you have a blind spot. And, I think you need to take a chance again.”
She didn’t want to talk about Pete or the mistake she had made. It had been five years and she still felt like a fool. Her romantic life had been desperately barren since the episode, but it was better that way. A woman in her position couldn’t take a chance on a man, not when every one of them knew how much money she had. The thought that Pete would have gotten ahold of the money for the charity still haunted her. Thankfully, she had found out what a scum he was before.
“I don’t want to talk about it. Tonight is only for happy discussions. Unless you want to bash Sara.”
He wanted to say more, she could tell from the expression on his face. He rarely held back when it came to her love life, but thankfully he refrained.
“I’ll make the drinks, you get out the carbos that will kill my waistline,” he said with a smile.
“You got it.”
And maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t go to sleep thinking about one sexy lieutenant just yards away from her bed.
End of Excerpt
May 10, 2013
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