Title: Hula Girl
Author: Lara Ward Cosio
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Chloe Bell Arts
Release Date: November 7, 2019
Cover Design: Chloe Bell Arts
Release Date: November 7, 2019
What happens in Maui, stays in Maui. Unless you run into your vacation fling back home.
Much to her annoyance, workaholic lawyer Ava Ruiz is forced to take a vacation to a tropical paradise. Unable to tear her mind off her cases, she’s counting down the days until she can go back to work.
Until she meets Ford.
Admittedly, she has nothing in common with the gorgeous surfer. She’s type-A and he’s the definition of laid-back. But for a few steamy days, that fails to matter thanks to their instant and undeniable attraction.
Inevitably, all good things must come to an end . . . or do they?
Once back to their “real world” lives, Ava and Ford come face-to-face in a surprise reunion that takes a turn when he asks her to help him out by playing along with a fake engagement. Reluctantly going along with the ruse, Ava soon finds herself wondering if either of them are pretending, after all.
Fans of sizzling vacation romance will find themselves swooning over Hula Girl!
After showering and grabbing a quick breakfast of local Maui fruits and coffee, it’s still only seven o’clock. That means another long day stretches out in front of me.
Before I can convince myself otherwise, I call for my rental car at the valet and set off in search of a store to buy a laptop, not even thinking of the fact that such stores wouldn’t be open at this hour.
A working vacation is better than nothing, I rationalize as I fiddle with the GPS. I’m not all that far from the hotel when I realize I’ve started off in the wrong direction. I have to go several miles more before I can find a spot to make a U-turn. Just as I get going on the road that will lead me to some kind of civilization, a chicken appears in front of me.
Yes, a chicken.
There are tons of wild chickens that roam all over the island, and everyone just lets them be. It’s a little weird.
This particular chicken startles me so much that I slam on the brakes and swerve onto a dirt road, not wanting to hit it. Coming to a stop, I try to catch my breath. My adrenaline is pumping.
Over a chicken.
Laughing, I shake my head.
Once more, however, I need to find a spot to turn around. I slowly continue down the rust-colored dirt path. The road isn’t wide enough to make an easy turn, so I keep going, hoping it will open up. On either side of the road, tall green grass cast golden by the morning sunlight, waves in the breeze. It feels like it’s just me out here, and for a moment, I don’t mind. I don’t think about my mission to go find a laptop. I don’t think about how much longer I have to stay on vacation. I don’t think about the mistakes I made. Instead, I roll down my window and put my arm out, letting my fingers graze the tips of the grass as I go unhurriedly by.
It’s a fleeting moment of peace because soon I’ve come to the end of the path. It overlooks the ocean from at least two stories above and is a breathtaking vista. I drag my eyes away from the expansive blue water and realize the area has opened up with plenty of room to make a U-turn, even with the handful of other cars parked there.
I decide I’d better use this opportunity to get a better sense of where I’m going. Parking the car, I grab my cell phone and step out. The salty air is humid as I watch the scattering of surfers down below. A few of them catch a long, rolling wave, but most hold back. It’s hard to tell from here whether the waves would be considered “good.” What I can see is that there are a lot of rocks, even a large outcropping, that must be avoided. It looks dangerous, leading me to think that the surfers must be well experienced if they’re out there.
Turning to my phone, I quickly find that I have absolutely no service. I fiddle with it anyway, hoping that if I angle it one way or the other, I’ll get a couple bars. Nothing. Desperate, I hold it up over my head and wave it around a little.
“If you add a little hula dance, it just might work.”
I gasp at the suggestive words directed at me, turning to find a grinning man to my left. It takes me a second to realize how foolish I had probably looked as I contorted to try to find a signal on my phone and that this stranger is teasing me over it.
This gorgeous stranger.
The man is tall with lean, sculpted muscles straining against his thin T-shirt, a chiseled jaw lightly covered by the scruff of a beard, and defined cheekbones. His skin is tan, his eyes are pale brown with gold flecks, and his medium-brown hair is on the shorter side and untamed. But it’s his playful smile that does me in. And it’s the upturn at one corner of his mouth that has me wanting to take a taste of his lips.
There’s an expression in Spanish that perfectly captures how positively delicious someone like him is: es un mango.
He’s a mango. A sweet, juicy fruit.
“I was just playing,” he says, thankfully pulling me from my completely inappropriate thoughts. “Odds are good you won’t be able to use that thing out here, though. You need help with something?”
Uh, yeah, I need help. I need help pulling my tongue up off the dirt and back into my mouth. Figuratively, at least. He is objectively the finest man I’ve ever seen. And he’s left me speechless. I realize I must look like one of those hyper-dramatic actresses in a telenovela, at a loss for words when faced with a handsome stranger. I remind myself that I’m a thirty-year-old attorney and that I need to snap out of it.
“No, no thank you,” I say, standing taller. “I’m fine.”
“You sure about that? You really seemed to want to get that phone to work.”
God, even his voice is sexy. It’s deep, but with a hint of raspiness.
I can’t remember the last time I was so intensely attracted to someone. It sure wasn’t like this with Bryce. I mean, he checked all the boxes: handsome, smart, in great shape. But there was no real heat between us.
And even though this stranger is still eyeing me with amusement, waiting for me to answer and probably thinking I’m some sort of flaky weirdo, heat is exactly what I feel between us.
“I, um,” I start. “I was on my way into town, actually. But one of those crazy chickens ran me off the road, and I turned down here sort of by accident.”
He laughs, but it doesn’t feel like it’s at my expense. Not when his eyes are so warm, his expression so open. There’s something both boyish and world-weary about him. The combination doesn’t make sense, but it is incredibly compelling.
“Yeah, those chickens don’t exactly follow the rules of the road.” He glances over my shoulder at the water, and I can tell he’s anxious to be in it.
His eyes drift back to mine. And then they slide downward, surveying me. Every inch of me.
The gauzy white slip dress I’d thrown over my ruby-red bikini falls short against my thighs. I’ve always thought that my legs, shaped by the quick, high intensity runs I squeeze into my schedule whenever possible and accentuated by wedge sandals, are one of my best features. By the way this gorgeous stranger is eyeing me, he would seem to agree.
“Listen, uh, I’d invite you to join me in the water down there,” he says, tearing his eyes from me, “but it’s not the best place for a casual swim.”
“That’s okay. I’m sort of on a mission, anyway.”
“Right. You said you were headed to town?”
“Yeah. I’m desperate to buy a laptop. I need to check in on a case.”
“A case? That sounds like lawyer-speak. God, I hate lawyers,” he says absently and I cringe. Thankfully, he doesn’t notice, as his eyes have once more been drawn to the water below. “Uh, you’re not a lawyer, are you?”
“A lawyer? Me? No. Um, nope.” Why I felt the instinct to lie to him baffles me, but there it is.
“Oh, good.” He graces me with that crooked grin once more. “Well, Hula Girl, good luck with your mission.”
“Thanks.” That one word trails off prematurely as I watch him pull his T-shirt off, revealing a chest that makes my mouth water. It’s smooth, except for ridges of muscles. The exquisite definition I noticed earlier in his arms is matched on his torso and even down to his hips where his black and gray swim trunks are slung low enough to showcase a perfect V.
He turns to the bed of a Chevy pickup truck that has seen better days and pulls a surfboard from it.
I hesitate longer than I should before forcing one foot in front of the other toward my rental car.
“Oh, hey,” he calls out.
I whip around to face him once more.
“There’s a little place, a locals’ place for food and drinks, called Makai’s. I’ll be there tonight after eight. Why don’t you stop by? That is, if the chickens don’t run you off the road.”
His smile is a tease. A flirt. An invitation.
It makes me melt like a teenager. I struggle not to show the effect he has on me.
Clearing my throat, I give him a noncommittal shrug. “Maybe.”
He nods before securing the surfboard under his arm and making his way barefoot down a barely defined red-dirt trail.
Lara Ward Cosio is the author of contemporary romance books that are raw, realistic, sometimes funny, and always feature swoon-worthy men and strong-willed women.