“Elvis will set you free!”
“Oh, brother,” Candy muttered. She stretched to get a better view
of the hypnotist and her stepdaughter over the heads of Hawaiian-shirted tourists
crowding the small club.
“You will fall into glorious lust with the hunka hunka burning love nearest
you when the King sings. Ah, amour.” The small man kissed the tips
of his fingers in ecstatic enthusiasm.
Candy couldn’t keep quiet. “What if there’s only a hunka
hunka burning jerk near her when the King sings?” She grunted as a waiter
complete with sideburns, pompadour, and a tray of Hawaiian Hound Dawgs elbowed
her on his way to the bar.
“Sorry, li’l darlin’,” he apologized.
The hypnotist cast her a quelling glance. “What is passion without danger?
But do not worry. I am an artiste.” He pressed a hand to his heart. “If
necessary, I will stand beside her when Elvis sings.”
Candy frowned. “That’s what I was afraid of.” The hypnotist
glared. “Silence.” He returned his attention to his victims. “When
I snap my fingers, you will awaken.”
He snapped his fingers, then turned to his audience. “These ladies”—he
gestured at the row of women taking part in the group-hypnosis session—“are
now under my suggestion.”
While husbands filed up to stand beside their wives, Candy cast a frantic glance
into the audience. There must be someone besides the “artiste”
who could stand beside Julia.
She’d settle for a big green frog. At least if Julia kissed the frog,
she’d have a shot at a prince.
Nope, no frogs. Only a few lounge lizards.
A gurgled groan brought her attention back to the hypnotist.
“Excuse-moi. An urgent message. I must leave for a few moments
only. When I return, I will complete my demonstration, then erase the suggestion.”
He rushed from the stage.
Twenty minutes later, Candy glanced impatiently at her watch. Blue Hawaii would
close in ten minutes. The other women had left with comments about it being only
entertainment. Huh. She wondered how entertained they’d be when their husbands
caught them kissing the butcher to the tune of “Love Me Tender.”
“Tell me what the suggestion was, Candy.” Julia sipped her drink.
“I didn’t hear because I was thinking about Wonder World. How about
rubber fish? They don’t go belly-up like the real thing, so there’s
no replacement cost.”
Candy scanned the room. Even Half-wit the Hypnotist was better than listening
to more of Julia’s money-saving ideas. She gave up with a sign. “What
do rubber fish do?”
Julia shrugged. “You’re right, Connally wouldn’t go for it.
I could tell from his picture he’s the inflexible type.”
“Really? Wasn’t that the picture of him the gorilla suit?”
One more minute; then she’d go hypnotist hunting.
“Okay, so I couldn’t see him, but if I could hed’ have stubborn written right across his forehead. And what kind of man dresses up in a gorilla
outfit? Anyway, I didn’t hear the suggestion because I was concentrating
on the park. So tell me.”
“In…” Candy paused as a man walked to the microphone.
“Monsieur Dupre had to leave. An emergency. He’ll be unable to
“He’s got the runs,” a loud whisper explained. “Locked
himself in the john. Says he won’t be out till next year.”
“He hopes you all had a wonderful time and will return to Blue Hawaii
soon.” The speaker disappeared into the crowd.
Julia stood. “Guess we can leave now. Whatever suggestion he made didn’t
work because I don’t feel any different. Why’d I let you talk me into
coming here? I could’ve been back at the motel looking at discount catalogs.”
She made her way to the exit. “By the way, you still haven’t told
me what the suggestion was.” Julia didn’t turn around.
Possibilities. “Nothing, dear. Just something about kissing
a frog.” Or a gorilla. Candy smiled.
“Okay, you’re the King. Give me some kingly advice. What should
I do about Julia Raine?” Dylan Connally tugged at his gaping shirt. Pirates
needed more buttons.
“Hard Headed Woman, uh-huh,” the Elvis figure agreed.
“Yeah. Tell me something I don’t know.” He adjusted his eye
patch, then cocked his head so he could see better. “Even as we speak, the
Wicked Witch of Weird Ideas I climbing on her broomstick. Wants to nix all my
virtual-reality ideas. Can you believe it? So what should I do about her?”
“Return to Sender.” His companion swiveled his hips to emphasize
“Great. I’ll UPS her right back to the mainland.” He turned
to glance at other figures frozen on ministages around the cavernous room that
was his Rock ‘n’ roll Legends theme building. No use asking them.
If the King couldn’t help him…
Funny, he’d put the same sweat into programming all his figures, but
he’d always felt a little something extra for the King. As if there were
a kind of connection. Dumb.
“God, I love this place.” He breathed deeply, absorbing the smell,
the special excitement he always felt here. “Maybe I’ll give a listen
to her ideas about the rest of the park, but if she tries messing with you and
the rest of the legends, it’s war, baby.” He pulled at the waist of
his pants. No way could pirates make it with fair maidens in this outfit. Too
tight. No expansion room. “Hmm. Maybe her broomstick will run into a headwind.
Slow her down a little.”
He turned at the sound of an opening door. Damn. No one should be here this
early. This was his time alone with his friends. Sure, their vocabulary was a
little limited, but he did his best thinking around them. He’d just kick
out the intruder.
Maybe not. The woman walking toward him was…incredible. He liked tall
women with curves that were curves and not acute angles. He liked long golden
hair touched with the red of a Hawaiian sinrise, uh, sunrise.
She stopped in front of him, and he shifted his gaze to her face. Wow.
Killer eyes. Blue eyes that reminded him of—
Without warning, Elvis shattered the silence with “Mean Woman Blues.” What the… He could have sworn that song wasn’t in the King’s
programming. He’d talk to Carlos.
Forget talk. As he stared into the woman’s eyes, something so strong
it made him catch his breath flowed between them. Her eyes widened and her full
He had only a moment to realize that she felt the current, too, before she
stepped back and stumbled over an exposed cable.
Too stunned to move, he watched her teeter, then totter. Do something. Any second she’d go bump on her beautiful behind. In the end, instinct took
over as he flung himself to his knees and caught her just before she bounced off
the red carpet.
Fragmented thoughts fought for dominance. Sex. This must be the software saleswoman
he’d expected. Sex. Why was she here so early? Sex.
He shook his head to clear it.
So close. She gazed up at him, and he could see his own confusion mixed with
the heat of instant flame reflected in her eyes. She skimmed the side of his face
with shaking fingers, then touched the medallion that lay against his chest.
Sexy software saleswoman. He’d never appreciated the beauty
of the S words before. Enough. He had to get up off the floor. Kneeling was not
a great position from which to being a business relationship. If he could
get up. No wonder pirates always looked mad. Tight pants didn’t make for
But even shrink-wrap pants couldn’t keep his attention from her. She
sure had a winning sales approach. He’d buy—
She kissed him.
Kissed him long, hard, and with her mouth still open to tell him whatever she’d
been about to tell him.
Vaguely, he noted that the King had switched to “All Shook Up.”
Things were out of sync. He’d have to check…
Then her mouth moved against his, and he forgot everything.
He slanted his lips across hers, absorbing the scent of vanilla and the taste
of desire. Hers or his? Who cared? Deepening the kiss, he savored the hot sweetness
of her mouth, closed his eyes to the spiraling excitement that her small moan
of pleasure loosed, felt her deep shudder of regret, withdrawal.
Too soon. He wasn’t ready for it to end. His hard-and-ready-to-party
engine was just revving up.
The last notes of “All Shook Up” ended. Uh-oh. Sexual-harassment
suit. He’d kissed her. No she’d kissed him. He brightened.
It was all her fault.
Turning her head from him, she scrambled to her feet. He followed—more
slowly, more carefully—listening for the tell-tale sound of ripping seams.
When she finally looked at him, he saw the memory of their kiss warm and alive
in her gaze. Good.
“That shouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry. I didn’t
know why I…” Distractedly, she brushed at a nonexistent spot on her
suit skirt. “I’m Julia Raine, and I’m looking for Mr. Connally.
The man at the gate told me he was in here.” She glanced around. “He
said today was Mr. Connally’s gorilla day.”
Dylan narrowed his gaze. Betrayed. Sure she had killer eyes, eyes that reminded
him of Malia’s Siamese cat, Regret, just before it pounced on an unsuspecting
lizard. “Ah, the Queen of cheap has arrived. Wanted to get an early start
on your reign of terror, right?” He smiled his deadliest smile. “Oh,
and today is Mr. Connally’s pirate day.”
She blinked. “You can’t be.”
Her gaze slid the length of his body, and his body responded with interest.
No, not interest, anger. Definitely anger.
She sighed, and his gaze followed the lift of her breasts beneath the silky
blouse she wore, remembered their softness pressed against him. He forced his
attention back to her face.
Classic. Okay, so maybe her nose looked a little bent out of shape right now.
Maybe her lips were a little tight. He guessed having someone call her the Queen
of Cheap could do that.
“Look, I don’t want to be here either.” She opened her eyes
wide as thought she could see more of him that way.
He sucked in his breath at the mule-kick affect those eyes had on him. “Great.
We agree. You can leave now.”
She shook her head, and he was momentarily diverted by the golden swirl of
her hair as it fell across one shoulder.
“Sorry. It’s not that easy. Dad’s your major investor. He
wants costs down and profits up. I’m here to make it happen.” She
glanced around. “For starters, I’d update this place. Limited appeal.
Bring in figures to attract young kids.” Her eyes glowed. He could almost
see dollar signs reflected in them. “I have it. Cartoon characters. And
we could sell T-shirts by the door. Maybe you cold program the figures to remind
people to buy a shirt before they left. What do you think?”
“It stinks.” He gazed around him, seeing it through her eyes. The
ministages, the plush seats and red carpeting.
He closed his eyes, remember his first rock concert. The Stones. His father
had yelled that he’d raised his son to appreciate good music, classical
music. Dylan had responded that he was old enough to make his own decisions. After
that, he’d moved away from his parents’ influence and never looked
He opened his eyes. She wanted to get rid of the legends! His anger gathered
force and violence, like on of those monster hurricanes surging in from the Pacific.
No Beatles? No Van Halen? Julia Raine intended to turn his vision into a sale
at Buddy’s Bargain Barn. No way! She’d cut him where it hurt.
“You’re letting your emotions get in the way.” She tilted
her head. Probably so all her blood could flow to the left side of her brain.
She didn’t need any right-brained warmth and creativity creeping into her
“I could’ve sworn Elvis just winked at me.” She leaned forward
to get a better look.
“Lady, you’re crazy if you think I’ll get rid of my Rock
‘n’ Roll Legends.” The rest o his theme park was for the public,
but this…this was for him. His passion.
She frowned. “There He did it again.”
“You’re seeing things. Elvis isn’t programmed to—“
She offered him a tentative smile “Well, if he were programmed to wink
it’d be a cute touch.”
He heaved a sigh of resignation. “Right.”
Dylan glanced away from her mouth, still swollen from his kiss. Ignore
her mouth. Remember the cartoon characters. He’d think ugly thoughts
of Bugs Bunny, and that should take care of his body’s renewed clamor of
“Guess I’m suffering from jet lag. My stepmother and I had a long
flight from New Jersey. Got in last night; then Candy dragged me to that club
and—“ Her smile faded. “Look, we don’t have to be enemies.
I know you’re not receptive right now, but give my ideas a chance.”
“What ideas? If they’re all like the cartoon character one, forget
it.” He didn’t trust her. Wouldn’t trust anyone who suggested
he get rid of his Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends.
She shrugged. “We can discuss them tomorrow. I’m still tired, so
now that I’ve met you, I think I’ll head back to my mote.” The
champion of careful spending turned to leave.
“Wait.” Why had he stopped her? His best sight all day would be
the view of her rounded bottom swaying out the door. “This park means a
lot to me.” The fun I never had, the reality I was never part of. “I won’t stand by and let anyone trash it.”
She lifted the weight of her hair from her neck, then let it slide through
her fingers. The dim light lent each stand a golden sheen. Sighing, Julia looked
back over one shoulder. “No one’s going to trash your park.
Believe it or not, Connally, I do know when to bury the best and say to heck with
“Like when?” He wondered how much their kiss would cost. She might
be a cost-cutting dynamo with his park, but with her kissing? Her kissing was
“I like rich, smooth ice cream. Strawberry.” She offered him a
teasing smile. “I like fine wine. Red.” She strolled toward the door.
With each step, her hair swung like a pendulum of temptation. “And I like—“
Janis Joplin interrupted to be her lover to “take another little piece of
my heart.” When the volume lowered a moment later, he caught “—big
What? What did she like big and bold? Dylan had to know. “Wait. You didn’t
see the rest of the legends.”
She glanced one last time over her shoulder, and she’d stopped smiling.
“I’ve seen all I need to see. I’ll admit it’s…extraordinary.”
Ask her. “What do you like big and bold?”
Her lips curved up slightly, a coming-attraction smile. “Horses, of course.
I love horses.” She pulled open the door.
“Wait. I’ll walk you back to the mote.” Shut up, Connally.
You don’t need to walk her anywhere except to the airport. She’s dangerous.
Got it? D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S.
But hey, he couldn’t waste a chance to force hr to listen to his side
of the story, make her see the logic of spending more on new technology, to quote
a few statistics. It wasn’t as though he wanted to walk her anywhere.
Nope, this was battle strategy.
“Uh, thank you.” She didn’t look thankful. “I’ll
wait outside.” She slipped out the door and slammed I behind her.
“Shoot.” Dylan stared at the closed door. “Horses.”
Who would’ve thought? He’d expected her to be thin lipped, beady
eyed, a woman of few words and no laughter. So much for preconceptions.
He glanced up at the King. “I don’t know who’s been messing
with your programming, but Carlos’d better fix it.”
“Uh-huh,” the King agreed.
Julia leaned against the closed door of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends
building. If Dylan opened it now, he’d knock her flat on her face. Okay,
be honest. He’d already done that.
Dad had said Dylan was brilliant and financially impulsive, but he hadn’t
mentioned physically spectacular.
The eye patch was a stroke of luck. One hazel eye framed by a thick, dark fringe
of lashes was all she could take at first shot. She’d work up to both eyes
later. High cheekbones, a determined mouth that refused to look harsh with its
sensual slant. Sensual slant? Yep. She had tactile proof of that. And
his hair—dark, long. With that white shirt practically open to Texas, and
those tight black pants…
Then he smiled. The power of that smile had almost blown her back to her reasonably
priced apartment in the reasonably priced section of Haddonfield, New Jersey.
She wondered how much pirates were going for on the open market. Heck, she’d
pay full price of him.
But why had she kissed him? She wasn’t impulsive. Sure, those incredible
lips just inches away had tempted her, but she’d spent a lifetime resisting
temptation. Not like Dylan Connally. Never like Dylan Connally. It had
to be jet lag. She was too tired to think straight.
Recovering enough to push away from the door, she waited.
When he finally emerged, he’d removed the eye patch. He smiled at her.
She started walking. Not now. She didn’t have the strength to
deal with two eyes and the smile at the same time. Instead, she stared at the
scenery. “It’s almost too much, isn’t it?”
“What?” He sounded distracted.
“The sky, the water, the plants. Colors so intense they hurt your eyes.
Too lush. Too rich.” She turned to him and found him staring at her. She
looked away again. “You know, when you eat something so sweet it makes your
teeth ache? You love it, but you can’t take too much.”
His deep chuckle moved across her skin and she shivered.
“That’s why I had to walk you back to your mote. Kauai is dangerous
Julia couldn’t let that go. She turned to cast him a skeptical glance.
“Right. A kukui tree tried to mug me on the way in this morning.”
Good, she thought. She hadn’t even twitched.
“There’re dangers everywhere. You can’t be cheap with your
emotions here. The island won’t let you.” He ran the tip of his finger
the length of her jaw, then traced the curve of her neck—a searing line
of heat. “How much are you willing to spend, Julia?” Her name on his
lips was a husky whisper.
Uh-oh. Time for a conversational detour. “That hotel over there.”
She pointed. “I’d love to stay there, but I guess it costs a bundle.”
She frowned. Did she sound wistful? Wistful was bad. She should sound contemptuous
of any place that cost more than $39.99 plus tax per night. She called up Dada’s
mantra—A bathroom, a bed, that’s all anyone needs.
Her frown deepened. Dada. This was all his fault. He was the one who’d
insisted she could make Dylan Connally toe the mark. Huh. Not likely. She knew zip about theme parks, had never been to one. Theme parks came under
the heading of extravagant spending for Dad. And after she had gotten old enough
to pay her own way… Well, theme parks were for kids, weren’t they?
Cost cutting? Sure, she knew about that. Dad had taught her the power of saving
a buck. He had the first penny he’d ever made. He had a lot of people’s
first pennies. She banished that cynical thought.
“This must be your motel. It’s the cheapest one around.”
“Huh?” She blinked. “Oh, yes.” She cast one last glance
at the shining hotel in the distance. Room service, satin sheets. Plush carpet,
satin sheets. Panoramic views, satin sheets. Hmm. There seemed to be
a pattern forming here.
Looking away from the hotel, she gazed up at Dylan, a living, breathing pirate
who’d already managed to steal a big chunk of her peace of mind. She cherished
the little that was left.
He plucked a feathery red blossom, then carefully tucked it behind her ear.
He skimmed the length of her hair, running his fingers through the strands, and
like a serious attack of static electricity, she felt the tingle in every nerve
“It’s ohia-lehua. In early Hawaii, the blossoms were considered
sacred. Chiefs made leis of them for Pele, the volcano goddess.” He grinned.
“Suits you.” He walked away.
Kauai was beautiful. She couldn’t deny the undeniable as she touched
Watching him stride away, she admitted another truth. She’d wanted to
go on a spending spree all her life. And like a lifetime dieter, she had to beat
back the temptation daily. Her fear? Dylan Connally had outrageously expensive stamped on every delicious inch of his body.
The next morning, Julia shuffled out of the bathroom feeling only marginally
less tired than the day before. She should’ve been too exhausted even to
turn over during the night, but her dreams of a broad, tanned chest exposed by
an open pirate shirt refused to leave her.
Flop. On her back, staring at the ceiling. The smile transfixed her.
Flop. On her side, staring at the bureau mirror. Those hazel eyes taunted her.
Flop. On her stomach. Hah! She wouldn’t see anything now. Wrong.
Dylan Connally’s total amazing package stared at her from the white surface
of the pillow. Give it up. She needed a cup of coffee.
Candy stood in the middle of the motel room, her petite form rigid, arms outstretched,
Julia walked around her stepmother, then poured herself a cup of coffee. Caffeine.
She’d need all the stimulation she could get today. Hmm, stimulation. No, she wouldn’t go there.
She sat down on the bed and asked the question she knew her stepmother had
been waiting for her to ask. “What’re you doing?”
Candy took a deep breath, opened her eyes, then relaxed. She reached for her
cup of herbal tea. “Visualizing you.’
“Good.” No harm in visualizing.
“With a man.” Candy smoothed her gauzy purple nightgown. The shiny
gold moons and stars scattered across its surface made Julia blink.
Nothing new. Candy was always visualizing her with a man.
“He’s tall, dark, with long hair, and he’ll fulfill your
Julia carefully set her cup on the nightstand. “I think I see where you’re
headed, and that road’s closed for lack of interest.” Would her nose
start growing now?
Candy fluffed up her bright red hair, then cast Julia a sly glance. “I’ve
placed you both within a protective white light. Together.”
Oh, no. Trapped in a white light with Mr. Spare-no-expense-Connally.
“It won’t work, you know.”
Candy took a sip of tea. “He’s very big.”
“Right. Broad shoulders, yadda yadda.” She sounded indifferent.
Too bad she didn’t feel the same way.
Candy cast her an impatient glance. “No. I mean he’s very big.”
She made the appropriate shape with her hands.
Great. She could look forward to another restful night. Flop. She’d land
on her belly and come face-to-whatever with Mr. Big. She could already feel the
heat level rising. “Give me a break, Candy. You have no way of knowing that.”
Candy moved deliberately toward the bathroom, but before she closed the door
she flung an unarguable dart at her stepdaughter. “Gifted psychics know
It was going to be a long day.
Julia dressed carefully while Candy hummed what sounded lika Gregorian chant
in the shower.
Jeans. No shorts for her. Too exposed. Plain white blouse. One button undone
to indicate casual indifference. No more than one. Two buttons might give him
the impression she was interested, which she wasn’t. Sturdy walking shoes
to show him she was ready to get down to the business of cutting the fat from his business. She liked that image. Of course, he personally had no fat
to cut. She’d noticed that.
By the time Julia had dressed, Candy emerged from the steamy bathroom. Her
stepmother cast Julia a long-suffering look. “I suppose your clothes are
mean tto proclaim your complete obliviousness to the male animal?”
Julia sighed. “They’re just comfortable clothes. No statement.” Liar.
“Hmm.” Candy picked up her tarot cards, which were wrapped in silk.
“Perhaps a reading might get to the bottom of this.”
“No!” Thank heavens Candy had to do her yoga and wouldn’t
be tagging along with her this morning.
“You’re resistant to the spirit guides trying to help you fulfill
your destiny, dear.”
“Guides? What guides?” Julia cast a quick glance to either side
of her. Sometimes Candy was downright scary.
Candy closed her eyes. “I see one now. He has sideburns, a pompadour,
and is so bright I can hardly watch him.”
“Sequins?” Candy’s eyes popped open.
“You’re seeing Elvis. Probably one of the waiters at the club you
dragged me to the other night. Blue Hawaii, wasn’t it? I can’t believe
you talked me into that group-hypnotism session.”
Candy brightened. “Wonderful. Imagine. Elvis is your spirit guide.”
“Sheesh. Elvis is not my spirit guide.” And Elvis had
not winked at her over Dylan’s shoulder. Dylan had said that Elvis
wasn’t programmed to wink, and she believed him on that. Only that. Not
other things. Definitely not other things.
Candy’s gaze turned thoughtful. “Are you sure you don’t remember
Julia edged toward the door. “Nope. Everything’s sort of vague
and blurry.” Vague and blurry, hah. The truth? She’d been
so tired from the plane ride she’d fallen asleep the minute the lights had
dimmed and hadn’t wakened until the hypnotist snapped his fingers. She’d
never admit it to Candy, the Energizer Bunny of the baby boomer set, because Candy
would just brew up some noxious potion for her. Julia had experience with Candy’s
“Vague and blurry?” Candy grinned. “Good. Oh, I have a few
errands for you to run before you see Mr. Connally.” She pulled out a list
that in Julia’s mind almost reached the floor.
“Fine.” Julia grabbed the list. Talk about opposites attracting.
Candy spent money as though it were her sole duty to keep the world’s economy
afloat, and Dad never said a word. Go figure. At least Candy’s
errands would give her time to ready her ammunition for Wonder World’s free-spending
“I don’t know about the vampire outfit, Malia.” Dylan studied
his secretary. “Undead isn’t you. Too tanned, too—“
Malia glared at him. “I’m a big woman. You have something against
“Hey, I love big vampires, but most vampires I’ve seen look sorta…unhealthy.
Guess it’s their basic blood diet. You look way too healthy, Malia.” Whew.
“Like I had another choice, boss?” Malia’s gaze narrowed.
“Werewolves have fuzzy faces. No way I do the tweezer thing at home, then
come to work and glue hair back on my face. And ghosts wear white. White’s
fattening. And I don’t do mummies. Daddies, maybe, but not mummies.”
Dylan breathed out on a gust of impatience. Bad jokes were the price he paid
for having his office in the Haunted Castle.
Okay, so he insisted everyone in the park dress in a costume. He watched Malia
study one of her perfectly manicured, inch-long nails. Okay, so the nails matched
“I’ll be out for most of the day, Malia. Have ot make sure Julia
Raine doesn’t run my Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends into Toon Town. Oh,
and if Raddock calls, tell him to go to hell.”
Malia’s attention never wavered from her nail. “Should I schedule
that for A.M. or P.M.?”
Dylan raked his fingers through his hair. “I don’t give a damn.”
He turned toward the door, which was disguised as an iron maiden.
“One more thing, boss.”
He almost groaned. He couldn’t take one more thing.
“There’s someone waiting in your office.” She shuffled some
papers on her desk, which was disguised as a coffin.
“Who? Why didn’t you stop them? That’s in your job description.
It’s even on your desk.” He pointed to the small nameplate. “Malia.
Keeper of the Gate to Hell.”
Malia avoided his gaze. “Couldn’t stop her. Threatened to break
all my nails if I got in her way.” She made a mouse of apology. “A
girl’s gotta protect her best assets. Can’t let loyalty get in the
“Right. No loyalty. Remind me of this when it’s time to negotiate
your next raise.”
Dylan flung open his office door, stepped inside, then slammed the door shut
The overpowering scent of vanilla pushed him back against the door, and he
glared at the lit candle glowing happily on his desk. Then he glared at the woman
sitting next to his desk.
Must be a full moon tonight. The stars dangled from her ears. Every stone known
to man and some he suspected had originated on alien planets hung from her neck.
She was petite, with purple shorts and red hair. Hmm. Trouble.
He opened his office door and pointed. “Out. Whatever you’re selling,
I don’t want any.”
Her smile said she was serenely unimpressed. “I don’t think you
want me leaving right now. Julia just came in toting a whole list of major changes
for your park. You need my help.” Her smile widened. “Oh, and I’m
Candy, Julia’s stepmother.”
He peered out the door, then slammed it shut again. Rats.
“I admire big men secure I nether masculinity.” Her gaze drifted
down his body, then stopped.
From outside, Julia’s voice drifted through the door. “Why can’t
I see him? I told him—Ohmigod! Those spiders are a foot wide.”
Candy sighed. “But that’s not why I’m here. Here’s
something you need to know. Julia will disturb your cosmic balance, but she has
the potential—under the right guidance—to release her inner passion
and become one with the universe. She needs you to channel her inner sensuality
in a way that will create a calm, fulfilled aura. I hope you’re a Scorpio.”
“Huh?” Dylan scowled. How could he concentrate with Julia making
all that noise?
“I demand to see him right-- did you know there’s a severed head
in the file drawer you just opened?”
Dylan massaged the bridge of his nose. “Get to the point.”
Candy blinked at him. “Let me guess, a Taurus.” Her smile returned.
“Anyway, I love Julia like she was my own, and I want her to be happy. At
her age I was slave to passion, but she’s just a slave to her store, Cheap
Chic. Every woman should experience some lust in her life. What do you think?”
“Right. Lust is good.”
Julia’s voice grabbed his attention once again. “I think I need
to use your rest room.”
He drew in a deep breath of inevitability.
“We’re going to do each other a favor.” Candy rooted through
her purple beaded purse, then pulled out a tape of Elvis’s greatest hits.
“Elvis is the answer.”
And here he hadn’t even heard the question. Oh, boy. Where was
his faithful secretary, she of the inc-long nails able to rip out Godzilla’s
heart at a single swipe?
He forgot about Malia, though, as Julia’s shriek shattered the semisilence.
“The ghosts of Alfred Hitchcock is sitting on your toilet! Ghosts don’t
need to go. I do.”
Candy looked unconcerned. “She’s screaming, so she’s alive.
Anyway, Julia has a small cosmic blip in her personality. She becomes passionate
when she hears Elvis sing.” She thrust a purple-nailed finger at his chest.
“Passionate with the nearest man when the music begins. That’s going
to be you, handsome.”
Crazy. The woman was crazy. But a part of his body that shouldn’t be
listening was starting to pay attention.
Julia’s voice sounded faintly through the door. “I think I’ll
sit on your couch for a moment…as soon as I pry this body part from between
the cushions. Where should I put it?”
Candy droned on. “It’s a win-win situation. You distract Julia
from cutting all your expensive upgrades, and Julia experiences a fun time with
a good-looking man.”
She gave him no chance to respond as she put down the tape and hurried from
his office. He heard Julia’s surprised exclamation before he quietly closed
the door behind Candy.
What a crock of… Then he remembered. The kiss. The heat of her
body pressed to his. The sweetness of her mouth. She’d kissed him.
When? He close dhis eyes. Elvis. “Mean Woman Blues.” His eyes popped
open. Impossible. Then as urprising stab of disappointment. If what Candy
said was true, then Julia’s…enthusiasm had been Elvis-induced, not
for him at all.
Dylan glanced at the Elvis tape. Tempting, but he still had some ethics. He
slipped the tape into a drwer, then blew out the candle with more enthusiasm than
the act warranted. Maybe he had a few cosmic blips in his personality. He liked
vanilla; he just didn’t like it rammed down his throat—or up his nose,
in this case.
He’d spent a lifetime battling to build this park, to be himself. He’d
thought the battle was over, but he was wrong. First Julia’s father, now
Julia. And if that wasn’t enough, Phil Raddock, like a damned hyena, was
still sneaking around in hopes of being in on the kill. The slimeball thought
that if Dylan went belly-up, he could move in and buy the park cheap.
Not in this lifetime. He yanked open the desk drawer and pulled out
the tape. Slipping it into his jeans pocket, he turned toward the door…and
found Julia watching him.