Kiss of the SunbyILmonamour©
A small pressure vibrated in her stomach when she realized that she was hungry. Leaving everyone at the end of the street, she came up short when she saw Jason leaning against his truck, waiting for her.
Nervously, she pushed strands of her unruly hair behind an ear. "I didn't think you would still be here."
"I was watching you with all of the vultures."
"You're terrible, they're not that bad. Nosy is all, wouldn't you be?"
He shrugged. "What I would be is hungry. What do you say? It's been a hell of a day."
Without giving her time to answer, Jason ushered Lilly into his truck and together they drove along the roads out to Lahaina. It was still early enough that the sun was high, but given an hour or so darkness would smother the skies. For their dinner, he took her to a small hole in the wall dive that served the best short ribs. Lilly laughed at the wounded look Jason gave her when she confessed short ribs weren't her favorite. Reacting quickly, he handed her the spare menu, from which she chose the Lomi Salmon and exaggerated just how much she enjoyed the food once the waiter dropped it off.
The salmon really was some of the best she had eaten, and the conversation seemed to flow so easily between the two of them. To ease the silent air, Lilly chose to ask questions about the man sitting across from her.
"So, why Maui of all the places you could have lived in?" When Jason had mentioned he was from Toronto, the statement flooded her curiosity.
"My wife was from here, she grew up on Honolulu." Lilly put the fork down when she heard Jason mention a spouse and the tone of his voice. Leaning forward on the table she lifted sorrowful brows, urging him to continue. "Cancer, three years."
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Cole."
"Call me Jason." A sudden chill filled the air around the small table. Lilly rubbed her arms trying to warm them. "After the seventh try of chemo, she wanted to be close to family so we moved back here. She passed a month after we got settled."
Absentmindedly, Lilly reached across the table and placed he hand on top of Jason's. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Lilly couldn't describe the flash of emotion that swept over his eyes, but Jason squeezed her fingers in return and cleared his throat before speaking. "Your turn to come clean. What brought you to the island?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." The incredulous look he gave her made her laugh surreptitiously.
"I told you, so the least you can do is tell me."
"Who doesn't want to live in an endless summer?" He raised a disapproving brow, which only made her drop her elbows to the table and rest her chin comfortably in her palm. For what seemed like the hundredth time she tried to explain how she left Chicago and was deciding on whether she was staying permanently or taking a long vacation. One of the things she decided as she began meeting more people was to conceal the inheritance Charles left her. Not until she was more comfortable and actually understood what the hell she was going to do with it, then she would bring it up.
"That's pretty adventurous. All in good faith, eh? And hey, you picked a great time to be here while you do what you have to do."
His words triggered something that made Lilly stop talking for a minute, knowing it was Charles who had the faith. After the dinner, Jason drove her back to the shack which made her nervous. She hadn't told anyone that she was staying in the carport. With the shack completely torn down, she would need to find another place that actually had a shower. Thankfully up until that point, she hadn't had to worry since she used the only bathroom in the shack to get ready during the mornings. That night, Lilly wondered how often he would stop by the site, considering the foreman had taken over.
"From time to time. Enjoy your evening, Ms Hammond," he answered smoothly with a hint of humor before leaving.
Hastily, Lilly slammed the mailbox shut and slowly walked back to the construction site. Summer was just around the bend and the humidity was beginning to creep up. The foundation had been laid, and the construction crew was starting to frame out the base. A panicky feeling coursed through her body, as she held the standard white envelope. Her fingers tingled before she slipped one under the lip of the envelope to open the letter. With all of the work getting done on the property, she had forgotten about transferring her credentials to the State of Hawaii. Holding her breath, Lilly squeezed her eyes shut and uttered a silent prayer. Scanning the document until her eyes fell on the words, three paragraphs down, she sighed. The State Board of Hawaii approved her application and she was now licensed.
Lilly fanned herself with the papers as relief soothed her right down to her toes. Even though she didn't have anything to worry about with the application, it was still up to the Board to approve her, and the wait was terrifying. Those unwanted nasty little thoughts that plagued her whenever she had to re-test for anything had settled down until just then.
"How are you doing today, Rick?" With one weight off of her shoulders, she spoke cheerfully to the foreman. The large man barely looked at her before nodding, never saying a word. She breezed past him and several of the workers who were huddled around and walked to the water. There was something about that man she couldn't figure. Rarely he would talk calmly and barked out orders to the crew, who listened attentively. He seemed to get along with Jason but she had yet to see him smile, and making him smile was becoming one of her personal missions.
"Make sure you follow the yellow tape that's out."
At the sound of a deep voice that was becoming familiar, she turned around and smiled up at Jason. "Do I need to wear a hard hat to walk down to the beach?"
Jason tapped the white hat resting on his own head, attempting to sound stern. "One day, this thing could save your life. Try saying that about swim trunks."
"I don't wear swimming trunks!"
"Neither do I."
Lilly laughed until Jason took the hat off and followed her down to the sand. His thick hair stood in tufts in every direction, some parts even lying flat against his head. As he ran his fingers through it, Lilly's eyes candidly followed until he dropped them to his side.
A ribbon of liquid heat teased her cheeks, and quickly she turned to the water to avoid him seeing the pinkness of the blush. "I think I am making good ground with Rick."
"You might need to get a copy of Bambi or a leave a girly magazine out for him; that would get him to react faster." She had confided to Jason her relentless desire to understand the man who didn't smile. "The Inspector will be coming tomorrow. You're working, right?"
She had completely forgotten about someone from the Buildings Department coming to check the progress of the construction. It was standard, and something she didn't want or need to witness. "Yes, how do you think it will go?"
"You know with our contract, we have an independent guy who has been watching over everything. Tomorrow is protocol for the BD, so if there is anything out of the ordinary—believe me, you would have known about it."
The envelope had bunched in her palm as she forgot the importance behind the words inside. Everything about this house was foreign to her, including the very watchful eye of municipal authorities in Maui. Luck was on her side with Jason looking out for her best interests, because if she were fooling anybody, it was herself. When he handed her the contract to sign, she was barely able to read through it. To her, it could have been Greek.
Gesturing at the brutalized envelope, he asked over the light crashing of waves. "I think your palm needs some air. You're killing an innocent envelope."
Lilly smiled, his prying was infectious and she felt compelled to answer. "Reality has come knocking. Summertime is over."
"Last time I checked, which was an hour ago, it was only beginning."
"It's time to start looking for an actual job."
Jason's eyes searched her face, reading into her despondent statement. "Are you happy doing what you are doing right now?"
"Yes, yes I am." Her mouth moved delicately as her mind didn't have time to process the question. It already knew the answer.
In the face of a man who seemed to see too much, she had to admit that she had never felt so free and content with every day. There was no permanency, and yet it felt as if there were. Jason placed his hand on Lilly's shoulder and caressed the uncovered skin. It was the barest of touches, but stopped all of her thoughts. The soft look in his eyes intended a natural question, which her body provided the answer. The corner of his mouth curled into a smile as she leaned into his hand.
"How about dinner tomorrow night?"
"More ribs?" she teased him.
"No more ribs, something different. What do you say?"
With his hand brushing against her skin and the warmth in his voice, Lilly did something she never did and shushed her mind. For her entire life, she had always put other people ahead of herself and forgotten about life's precious gifts. Instead of going out on dates, she filled her days and nights with work or the people around work. Since being here, she was filling her time with things she wanted to do, and dinner with Jason was one of those things.
Rain pummeled the construction site, trickling down the grass and spilling onto the sand, leaving it in clumps. Even with the heavy drops, Lilly stood out overlooking the ocean. Content with the peace it gave her, she stood under an umbrella waiting for Jason to finish talking with Rick, her cotton sundress soaking up the falling drops. The Inspector had spent the afternoon at the site and she was thankful that the floral shop had been busy and didn't give her much time to worry. Dana had given her a hard time when she opened up about her plans that evening. Since the shack had been torn down, Dana opened a spare room in her house for Lilly to stay in until she found someplace to stay during construction. As she walked up the drive, she could see Jason and Rick in an involved conversation and left them to walk to the beach. Off in the distance, she heard the sound of a vehicle starting and moved back up to the small workspace where Jason would be. The grim look on his face was hard, and made her eyes widen in alarm.
Seeing her in his peripheral vision, he looked at her and smiled. His features softening as they relaxed, only the smile was sad at the corners.
"Nothing we can't talk about over dinner. It's raining like a sonofabitch and neither of us needs to get sick."
For the drive, they barely spoke to each other. The silence wasn't uncomfortable, but Lilly could tell that Jason needed time to calm down. It was funny to her that since getting to know him, if he wasn't talking he was strategizing. The truck pulled off onto a side-street in an older development. There were houses that had been renovated, and then many looked to be designed under the same theme. Slowing, Jason parked the vehicle in a short driveway next to a modest two-storey home painted in a pale brown. To her dismay, he did not pull the truck into the garage but rather parked it in the drive. At the base of the house was a stretch of wooden stairs that led up to the front door on the second level. It was an odd placement for stairs and she pitied anyone who couldn't walk up them, which was herself at that moment.
Jason laughed at her bewildered expression and she found herself following his footsteps up to the top. The air held a perfect breeze, the scent of rain still hovering teased with hopeful promise. As he unlocked the door, she peered around the side and saw that palm trees lined the shabby street and blocked several of the windows from a neighbor's view. Cool air billowed out of the house from the opening and she gladly walked through the entranceway.
Filling his walls were several framed drawings of houses, buildings and some major structures. He placed his keys on a sideboard and took her on a short tour that began and ended in the front room. Lilly lost herself in an uncontrollable laugh at the sight of his back wall which was a giant bay window.
He merely shrugged, before laughing. "When you live on an island, every view counts."
Lilly sat on one of the bar stools and listened to Jason explain the Inspector's visit to the site, while he cut up the vegetables.
"He looked over the lot longer than he did the actual foundation. The foundation itself has a few cracks that I'm not concerned about because masonry shrinks as it cures, and makes the cracks noticeable. What he was concerned about was the grade slope of the house."
"I honestly have absolutely no idea what you're saying right now. Why wouldn't you be concerned about a crack?"
He laughed, "Sorry, I keep forgetting you're not a developer."
"Try a nurse turned bookkeeper for a small flower shop. Potatoes potahtoes." She waved her hand dismissively.
"Sometimes there is excess water in the concrete mix. When concrete hardens and dries, it shrinks. The shrinkage causes forces in the concrete that tighten and pull the slab apart. It cracks. It's not uncommon to happen, but he took note of a few cracks that were a result of this."
"Should I be worried about anything?"
"If there were concerns, you would have been the first to know. It is your house."
As the vegetables were sautéing on the stovetop, Jason walked over to main room and opened up several doors at the back end of the house. Lilly watched as he moved about each room. Since they had been inside he shucked off his shoes and opted to go barefoot. Her own feet had become accustomed to wearing sandals every day, and she too removed her shoes and left them near the front door. When he came back over to the kitchen, he smiled over at her and then without a word tossed two steaks onto the exposed grill of the stove. A delicious aroma filled the air. When he was watching over the steaks, he talked about the level of the house and how drainage could potentially be an issue. She wasn't surprised to know that among himself, the foreman and the Inspector, tempers had flared. He might appear to be calm for the most part, but she had talked to him on the telephone in those early days, which felt like a lifetime ago.
Feeling the need to help him out, Lilly searched the cabinets in spite of Jason's laughs until she found the plates and silverware. With him shouting to the back of the house, she set the small table that sat on the back deck. Because his house was farther inland, he didn't have an ocean view. The house was high on a hillside and had a general view that was just as breathtaking. Lilly leaned on the wood railing and let the wind blow against her. She didn't hear Jason when he placed the plates on the table and then leaned against the doorframe, watching her.
As they sat together eating the meal, Lilly couldn't deny the undercurrent of emotion that was coursing through her. Jason had been showing up at the construction site more frequently, making sure she knew what was going on. She knew for a fact that Rick should have been her main point person to turn to, but he seemed to take matters into his own hands. Especially with the Inspector. It was something she was beginning to understand about the man sitting to her side. Once he made a decision to do something, he was loyal to a fault.
"Thank you, Jason. This was the most delicious meal I've had in a while." Lilly placed the fork on the corner of the plate, and fidgeted with the paper napkin.
He leaned on the table. "I figured you would like it. You are definitely a steak and potatoes kind of woman."
"I'm from the Midwest, what can I say? I'll help you clean up."
"No, leave it. I'll clean it up later. It's nice sitting here."
"You don't normally have people over?"
"Not really. If family is in town, sure, but apart from that it's pretty quiet around here."
"You don't have friends over or anything? This deck is perfect for a party."
His face softened, "Since my...well, since then I covered myself with work and haven't had time to have guests. Until now."
For some time they sat there on the back deck enjoying each other's company. The little bits of information he shared only added to his appeal. Later, when she stood to leave, Lilly realized that she really wasn't ready to go back just yet. Never minding her wants or needs, they both walked to the door. Standing behind Jason, Lilly saw his hand stall as it rested on the doorknob. Turning to her, he let out a deep breath and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, his fingers lightly caressing the silky strands. Lilly's eyes searched his face, trying to read him. For that moment her voice failed her so it was he who spoke for her.
"Miss Hammond, you are something else. I'm glad it was my company that you called."
With a mind of its own, Lilly's own hands raised and rested on his chest. She could feel the strong beat of his heart through the frail cotton material of the shirt. "Me too."
Dropping his lips, Jason fanned them lightly against hers. The touch was ever so soft, and she wanted to feel more of him. Tilting his head, he dropped individual kisses to her fuller lower lip, the sensations increasing her breath. Needing to feel his body against hers, she stood on her toes and pressed into him. His big hands rest in the small of her back, but he wouldn't give in just yet. Leaning away from her attempt to get closer, he eyed her with growing interest.
His thumbs massaged the soft skin on her sides, "Nothing at all." Lilly stared dumbfounded at him. "Tonight was a dinner date." Leaning around her, he reached for his keys and tossed them up in the air, when they landed in his palms they rattled annoyingly.
Lilly bristled with mock anger and wriggled past him. "How do you serve dinner without dessert?"
Jason laughed. "Definitely something else."
Another tumultuous couple of weeks went by all too quickly. Lilly was beginning to think that Jason was teasing her since they hadn't done anything together since they shared that kiss. Which didn't do much for her, considering she thought about it constantly. Granted, with the framing happening around the house, he was definitely busy. Sure they saw each other just about every day and exchanged smiles and greetings, but neither made any moves. Like him, she was busy. With the tenacity she was known for, Lilly found a little apartment that wasn't much, but cheaper than most. Considering she had lived in the shack for two months, the small studio would do. Staying in a hotel that first night after the demolition was hard enough, and she was thankful for Dana's gracious hosting. Getting her own place that was paid for from her own paycheck was important.
Her savings would cover whatever else the small paychecks couldn't. So over the last couple of weeks, she found herself rushing from her shifts to look at apartments. Some places were littered with laundry on the outside, while others offered spacious rooms. Lilly decided after the third viewing, there were some shady parts to Kihei that she didn't need to go back to. While she was picking up mangos at the market, the clerk asked how the hunt was going. Reluctantly, Lilly opened up about the last apartment she had seen. The man was ecstatic despite her shaky voice and cut her off before she could finish. It turned out that down the street about a quarter mile away from the flower shop, there were small studio apartments above the mail center. The man who rented them out shopped at the market and had asked if he could put up a sign near the door the morning before.
One look at the small space and Lilly was sold. On the second floor nestled at the back of the eight unit complex, the studio was perfect. It had a tiny kitchenette and room large enough for a pullout couch and coffee table. The apartment was close to the point that she could walk to the flower shop, and not feel as if she depended on a car again, a feeling she had missed since living in Chicago. She liked the coziness of the apartment, but felt something was on her side when the clerk mentioned it and didn't want to miss the opportunity. Applications from several of the hospitals and clinics in the area lay untouched on the shabby coffee table she found at the flea market. Lately something else she was doing was filling her thoughts, and right then she didn't want to go back to being overworked and wanted to enjoy the time.