“Hot sex, kick-ass female lead character, paranormal, suspense, and tons of emotion. I couldn't put it down.” ―Filmchick
To Keahilani Alana, family is everything. When her mother dies, Keahilani must take charge of her siblings, but with an underage brother and no education, she's out of both money and options—until she discovers the valuable secret her mother hid on the slopes of an extinct volcano.
Blake Murphy is an assassin working to infiltrate a Hawaiian cartel. He's got his sexy surf instructor Keahilani pegged as a criminal—and not just because the passion between them is too hot and too dirty to be legal.
But the secret Keahilani discovered is bigger—and darker—than ties to a drug ring. As reality unravels and exposes truths about her family that should have remained deep under the mountain, Keahilani must either resist the call of her blood or risk losing everything to its darkness.
When Keahilani's family is threatened, the only cure for her hot-blooded fury is a loaded clip with a body bag chaser.
Book 1 in Kendall Grey's ‘Ohana paranormal thriller series
Release date: July 13, 2014
Publisher: Howling Mad Press, LLC
Print pages: 312
Content advisory: Graphic sex, language, and violence
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Maui—Five Years Ago
“You think Bane will win this year?” Kai asked from the backseat. It was hard to hear him over the sputter of the coughing engine, but a tinge of uncertainty blurred his soft voice.
From the passenger seat, Keahilani glanced back at her twin. The wind from Mahina’s open window in front of him blew the sun-kissed brown hair from his face. His locks executed complicated flips like a drunk diver stumbling off the cliffs of Black Rock on Kāʻanapali Beach.
“Maybe.” Keahilani didn’t want to jinx their little brother’s chances, so she kept her thoughts to herself. Kai had always been the optimistic one who searched for the good in every situation. She considered herself practical above all else. In short, Kai hoped. Keahilani hedged.
That said, she had no doubt Bane would totally kill it in the surfing competition today.
“Absolutely,” Mahina said. Keahilani felt her mother’s smile rather than saw it. That’s how Mahina was. Energy rather than form. Larger than life. A force to be reckoned with. To those who didn’t know her, Mahina was intimidation made flesh. To her family, she was the epitome of love and respect with a sharp edge.
Years filled with alternating tragedies and triumphs had that hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside effect on a person.
Keahilani fumbled with her hair, wrestling the tangles from the wind’s clutches as she squinted into the sun. Damn car’s air conditioning hadn’t worked in ages, and Mahina wouldn’t have run it even if it did. She pinched pennies at the expense of the smallest comforts. Recycled water for gardening. No lights on during the day. Not a single bite of food wasted. Hell, the members of the household even took timed, lukewarm showers. Five minutes was all anyone ever got, birthdays included.
Keahilani sighed. As soon as she landed a higher-paying job, she’d help the family move out of government housing into something better. Her mother had given so much of herself to keep the ‘ohana strong. She deserved some reward for her struggles. They all did.
Mahina shoved one hand into the hemp bag lying between the bucket seats while the other maintained tenuous control of the steering wheel. She glanced away from the road a couple of times.
Sitting up, Keahilani swiped the thin sheen of sweat from her leg. God, this heat. “What do you need? I’ll get it.”
Mahina gently pushed her away and continued fumbling around in the bag.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” Keahilani gibed. Her mother always said the same when she drove.
Mahina paused her rifling as she rounded a sharp curve. “Bane told me that rude haole boy from Kīhei—what’s his name? Josh something? —is the biggest competition this year. That little shit needs his ass handed to him.”
True. Josh beat Bane (barely) at their last surfing contest, and afterward he bragged about haole surfers being better than Natives. Mahina’s lip curled, and she bared her teeth over a growl. Keahilani had to physically restrain her from attacking the kid. Mahina could take a lot of crap, but when you brought her or her children’s heritage and/or wave-riding abilities into question, things were guaranteed to get ugly.
And they did. Josh ran to his mother and hid behind her. Keahilani was pretty sure he peed his pants too. Served him right.
Most people agreed religion, money, and politics were topics best avoided in social situations. Mahina’s top three incendiary topics were Native Hawaiians, surfing, and social justice.
“He’ll get his.” Keahilani gazed at the ocean. “They always do.”
The bend navigated, Mahina resumed digging through her purse. “Damn it. Where did I put those cigarettes?” She glanced down and shoved half of the contents aside.
Smoking was her one vice—the single luxury she allowed herself. She only smoked two cigarettes a day, always out of sight from Bane, so Keahilani tried not to nag her too much about it. Mahina said she felt guilty for spending an extra seven bucks every week and a half on cancer sticks, but Keahilani was more concerned about her health than a few lost dollars.
Another curve snuck up on them like a rogue wave out of nowhere, and a motorcycle breached the double yellow lines, heading straight for them.
Fear punched her in the gut, and Keahilani slapped a hand to the dashboard.
“Mahina!” Kai’s shout from the backseat struck a perfect chord with Keahilani’s cry.
“Shit!” Their mother yanked the steering wheel, avoiding the motorcycle, but the car careened across pavement, tires screaming in protest.
Keahilani clutched her seat, and the world slowed to a dreadful, slow-motion panorama. Reality spun into blurred brown lines intermingled with blood-curdling, rubber-ripping howls that danced around her head like little cartoon birds. Her body succumbed to laws of physics she couldn’t break as it thrashed against the belt crossing her chest. Bones protested at the impact.
Twirl. Skid. SLAM!
The dreamlike scene ended abruptly. A bloody wake-up call infused with a double shot of delayed reaction lit up her pain receptors. Deadly silence, save for a hissing radiator, commanded the airwaves.
Keahilani tried to unbuckle herself, but her arm wouldn’t cooperate. It was stuck between the seat and the door. Dazed, she turned toward Mahina and wished she hadn’t.
Red. Not on her lips where it should be, but trickling down her temple. Saturating her light shirt. Pooling on the seat. The crumpled door embedded her side as if it were made of cardboard rather than steel. Red-dipped glass fragments lay shattered in a macabre butterfly shape on her lap.
A chill alighted on Keahilani’s skin, soft like a blanket at first, but then it seeped in, a sinister terror, seizing her whole body.
“Mahina?” Keahilani whispered, afraid that if she spoke too loudly, she might somehow break her mother further. Heart shuffling into a gallop, she couldn’t catch her breath. Couldn’t catch her racing thoughts as they sped away, leaving her control high and dry. Sanity whirled into a vortex, and adrenaline-powered fear clamped around her throat. “Mom?” she said more forcefully.
Kai groaned behind Mahina and lifted his head from his tipped-over position in the seat. He’d avoided the impact when the door caved in. Thank God.
A quiet rattle nabbed Keahilani’s attention. Dread anchored to her gut, and gravity dragged it down. No. No. No. Mahina would be okay. She had to be.
With great effort, she wrestled the door. She wriggled her sore arm free and scrambled for the seatbelt. Mahina’s chest crested with another rattle.
Mahina … oh God, Mahina … Her pulse increased to an impossible speed, flooding her ears with wild thumps, goading her into action. The belt sprung loose, and Keahilani’s hands flew to her mother, who was such a horrific mess, she didn’t even know where to start.
Flag someone down for help. You can’t fix this yourself.
“Mom?” The high pitch of Kai’s normally low voice startled her.
Keahilani yanked the door handle and shouldered it open. The grisly rattling spurring her on, she stumbled out of the car. Searing pain shot down her leg. She caught herself before face-planting on the pavement and limped into the road.
The asshole on the bike that almost hit them was long gone, but a car headed their way. She waved her good arm in an exaggerated arc. Eyes wide, the driver slammed into park and pulled out a cell phone. “I’ll get help.” Keahilani nodded her thanks. She awkwardly galloped back to her ‘ohana.
Kai tumbled out of the backseat, wincing, eyes watering, brows knitted together in a tight weave of physical and emotional agony. A furious bruise bloomed on his cheek. “She’s gonna die.” His voice cracked. “Mahina’s gonna die.”
Keahilani ignored him and rounded the car to the driver’s side. Avoiding the bloodied bag of flesh trapped in the seat, she studied the accordion of metal and gave it a gentle tug. Nothing happened. She grasped the panel with one hand, the handle with the other, and put all of her might into pulling it open. Kai appeared beside her, sniffling, shoulders heaving. Barely controlled panic rolled off him. With his help, she managed to budge the door open. Mahina jerked as the air hit her, and blood flooded out of her side in a rush.
Kai tugged his shirt over his head and stuffed it into the wound. He smoothed Mahina’s wet hair. “Mom. Mom, can you hear me?” The sudden calmness in his tenor frightened Keahilani more than the blood did. Her brother was right. Mahina—her mother, her sister, her best friend—was going to die.
A lump clogged Keahilani’s throat, but the approach of a wailing siren didn’t give her time to grieve. Kai knelt beside their mom until the paramedics barreled up with a gurney and took over.
The ensuing moments were yet another blur in the blizzard of unbelievable events. Someone asked if she was okay. They helped her to the side of the road and checked out her and Kai. Red and white lights whirred. Urgent voices chattered. A line of cars backed up the highway. Dazed, Keahilani followed when a paramedic guided her into the back of the ambulance with Kai and the bundle of splintered pieces that used to be their mother.
Doors slammed behind them, locking her into a wheeled mausoleum. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t be trapped in there with her mother as she died. Panic tore through her, weakening and electrifying all at once.
The engine roared, the siren shrieked, and tires spun.
No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening.
“I’m dying,” Mahina whispered on a shallow current of air. The garbled words blended with what Keahilani feared was blood filling her mother’s punctured lung. They were a plea. Whether for relief, a merciful end, or escape, Keahilani wasn’t sure, but she felt as if she was the one who’d been crushed by the door.
Clutching the crisp white sheet on the gurney, Mahina tensed and arched her back. More blood seeped through the bandages the EMT slapped over her abdomen. God, so much blood. The horrible rattling inside her chest picked up. Thick creases of anguish and fear marred her unusually pale face, gobbling up her ha, her very breath.
“Be still, Mahina.” Trembling hand squeezing her mother’s, Keahilani shot her gaze out the ambulance window. Not too far from the hospital, but the way things were going, it might not matter.
Her mother could not die. Could not.
“Mom, you gotta stay awake. Let me know you’re still with me.” Keahilani kissed her mother’s clammy cheek. Forbidden droplets poised at the corners of her lids. A fresh rush of adrenaline surged and prevented those damned tears from falling. She had to be strong for Mahina. And for Kai.
She glanced to her twin in the seat beside her, head stuffed in his tanned, shaking hands. Damp brown waves of hair framed his thumb and fingers. The unbearable siren stifled what must have been chokes issuing through his dry lips.
“The doctors will help you.” Keahilani didn’t believe the words any more than her mother or Kai did. Even if her mom had a chance, the family had no insurance. Odds of getting quality treatment were nil. The haole doctors were interested in paying patients, not “moochers” off their precious system. If you couldn’t help them cover their golf expenses at the country club or the mortgage on their multimillion-dollar suites at the tourist-dominated condominiums, they’d provide only the most basic services because they had to. People like Mahina were nothing more than quickly forgotten chores marked off over-filled to-do lists.
Keahilani clutched her mother’s hand tighter and wiped her nose on a lifted shoulder. Another deep rumble of fluid inside Mahina’s chest fought for control of a space designed only for air. Mahina’s body rose from the gurney again. She emerged gasping, nails digging into Keahilani’s flesh. With a glut of super strength, her mother commandeered Keahilani’s T-shirt, balling the thin, faded cotton. Her bloodshot brown eyes widened, and frightening acceptance dawned over them. She swallowed a couple times in quick succession, her gulps like those of a fish left on a dock to die.
“My garden. You must protect my garden. You know where it is, huh? You remember?” Her words transformed from desperate pleas into unyielding demands.
Keahilani nodded. “I remember. But I won’t need to tend to your plants. You’ll be here to do it,” she lied.
Somehow Mahina’s eyes popped even wider, and her grip became painful. Heated droplets pooled in Keahilani’s palm. Blood.
“No. Death hunted me for years, and now he’s found me. My secrets—our secrets—lie near Kula within the slopes of Haleakalā.” Her brows wrenched together. “Protect them.”
Why would Mahina care about her stupid plants at a time like this?
“Keahilani!” She tried to sit up, but the straps across her chest stopped her. “Promise me!”
“I promise.” Keahilani pressed her lips together to keep the emotion at bay, but an eruption was overdue. Boiling sorrow welled from deep within, tainted by the unfairness of her mother’s situation. Waves of regret rolled off Kai beside her, clashing with the whiff of death surrounding Mahina. The combined stench overwhelmed her, suffocated her, lured the burning lava higher up her gullet. She tried bargaining with the impending explosion. Mahina needs you to remain calm. Don’t upset her. If this is her end, honor her with your silence.
“How much longer?” she demanded of the driver through clenched teeth.
Mahina didn’t have three minutes.
Ironic how fast life could transform into death. One moment, they’d been driving to Lāhainā Harbor to see Bane surf in the groms competition. The next, a freak car crash robbed her not only of her mother’s life, but her entire family’s. If Mahina hadn’t been rifling through her bag for that damned cigarette instead of paying attention to the road, they’d be sitting on the beach now, cheering for Bane as he dominated the surf and showed the haole surfers how it was done.
Keahilani had always feared cigarettes would kill her mother.
She hated being right.
Mahina’s breaths decreased to mere whispers of garbled air. Her dark eyes lost focus. Her hold on Keahilani loosened.
“Stay with me, Mom. Come on. Wake up.” Keahilani tapped her mother’s cheek a couple times. Kai lifted his head, his face streaked with tears. He leaned closer.
“Mom.” His voice cracked.
Their mother latched onto Keahilani and Kai in turn. “‘Ohana is everything. The blood is everything …” The words were barely intelligible. The ghost of a smile passed over her parted lips. The gurgle kicked up again with her inhale.
Keahilani held her own breath and counted the seconds.
Five … six … seven …
The word “‘ohana” surfed on the wave of Mahina’s lengthy exhale.
The ambulance driver slammed the brakes and took a sharp right into the emergency entrance at the hospital, jostling the three bodies in back. Two reacted. One didn’t.
Kai shook their mother. Her vacant gaze remained fastened on Keahilani, her final word forever emblazoned in Keahilani’s mind.
As shadows converged and undiluted rage consumed her, she channeled the heavenly fire she was named after, pushed it out from her core, and unleashed all of her anger and frustration and sorrow into a vocal eruption. “NO!”
The ambulance windows rattled and sent the petrified EMTs scrambling to cover their ears.
When the last echo of the word died on her lips, the searing heat cooled like lava expelled from the darkest depths, forced to chill in the unyielding harshness of reality. Left with cold blood and too many memories, Keahilani threw herself over her mother’s lifeless body and cried, “No …”
Kai’s shaky hand pressed into the small of her back. “We’re alone.” His frame quaking, he nuzzled her shoulder.
‘Ohana was all they had left.
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