Award-winning photographer Danica Austin is the essence of urban chic. But with her love life going nowhere fast, she's more than ready to swap houses for a month in Hawaii. The minute her plane touches down on exotic Hilo, Danica can't wait to check out the social scene and catch some breathtaking sunsets. Until gorgeous real estate investor Boyd Reed comes into the picture to stake his claim on the house...and her heart!
If this stunning stranger thinks she can just move into Boyd's jointly owned waterfront property, she can think again! Although he must admit: his temporary tenant is one irresistible woman. Sharing passion under tropical skies is making Boyd believe in the power of love. But Danica's not sure she wants to make Hawaii her home. If only he can just persuade her to spend the rest of her days and nights with him in their one-of-a-kind island paradise....
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May 01, 2012
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Excerpt from Aloha Fantasy by Devon Vaughn Archer
Danica Austin waited impatiently at the Dearborn Street martini bar in Chicago for a lunchtime date that her fellow photographer friend Jessy Sarchuk had insisted would be worth her while. With no man in her life at the moment Danica had reluctantly decided to go on the date, if only to show Jessy she was totally over the guy she'd dumped six months ago after he'd hit on one of her other friends. Now it looked as if she had been stood up.
She checked her iPhone smartphone for messages and saw it was blank. It pissed her off, but Danica was careful not to show anything other than the outward appearance of a beautiful, well-dressed African-American woman sitting all by her lonesome enjoying a Death by Chocolate martini. You owe me, Jessy, for wasting my valuable time. I won't make that mistake again.
Suddenly she was in no mood to finish the drink and decided to head home and relax a bit before going back to work.
Danica was an award-winning professional photographer who made a good living doing everything from fashion to scenery to corporate photography. Though independent, she belonged to a loose group of other female photographers which included Jessy.
Speak of the devil, Danica thought as her phone rang just as she got into her Subaru Impreza sedan.
"Your friend never bothered to show up," Danica told her curtly, putting the call on speaker so she could drive safely.
"That's why I'm calling," Jessy said. "He accidentally deleted your number. He called me instead to say that he was running late but still wanted to get together."
Danica sneered. "It's called Bad Karma. We just weren't meant to be. Sorry."
"So am I. Just don't say I told you so."
I'll think it instead, she silently replied. But to her friend she uttered, "I'm not saying a thing. I think I'll just stay on my own for now and see what the future holds."
"A guy won't simply fall into your lap, girlfriend," Jessy said. "You have to make things happen."
"I'll try to remember that. For now, I'd like to focus on the present. Talk to you later."
Danica disconnected and brushed away some of her long, straight brown hair with blond highlights that had fallen into her face. She wondered if it was her true destiny to be single for the rest of her life. Granted, she was only thirty-two. It wasn't as if she was at the end of her road and couldn't get a decent man if she tried. It was more about quality over quantity. Much like her photography.
And for this day anyway, it just wasn't going to happen. At least not with some guy who couldn't hold on to a phone number.
Danica arrived at her loft on Michigan Avenue just south of the Loop and parked in the garage. She took the elevator up to the place she'd called home for three years now, having been the first person to occupy the converted warehouse loft. She loved the space, with the high concrete ceilings, exposed beams, large windows and bamboo flooring.
Maybe it would be a little better if I had someone to share it with.
She kicked off her clogs and poured herself a glass of white wine. Her cell phone chimed to indicate she had a text message. Lifting it from the granite countertop, she saw it was from her old college roommate, Ashlyn Hirokawa.
If not busy, make a Skype call.
Danica smiled, only too happy to video chat with her friend. Ashlyn lived in Hawaii on the Big Island, a place Danica had always wanted to visit. Somehow, though, it never seemed to be the right time. She had not seen Ashlyn in person for nine years now--since, a year after their Michigan State University graduation, Ashlyn had met her briefly in New York while they both were there for business.
Danica sat down at her workstation and turned on the computer. She brought up the Skype interface and clicked on Video Call for Ashlyn. A moment later her friend's smiling face appeared on the screen.
Danica returned the island greeting. She noticed Ashlyn's raven hair had been cut into a cute bob that highlighted her light brown complexion and big sable-colored eyes. She had gotten the best features of her Polynesian mother and African-American father. Ashlyn had chosen to use her mother's maiden name, both in memory of her and as part of her Hawaiian heritage.
"What are you up to?" Ashlyn asked.
"It's more like what am I not up to?" Danica said, then vented over her arranged date failing to show up.
"Join the club," Ashlyn complained. "The men in my life haven't exactly been at my beck and call, when they bother showing up at all."
Danica laughed. "Maybe it's just us." She didn't truly believe that. Both of them were beautiful, successful women who probably could have had any decent man they wanted--if there was such a thing.
"I seriously doubt that. Could be we're just looking in all the wrong places."
"You could be right about that," Danica said. "I wonder when the first flight to Mars is going out. We could sign up to take the trip and see who's on that uncharted land."
Ashlyn's head fell back in laughter. "Count me in."
She grew serious. "Or maybe there's another way to take on uncharted territory..."
Danica watched as her friend's eyes seemed to twinkle. "I'm all ears."
"We could swap places."
"Are you serious?" Even as she asked, she tried to imagine actually trading life in the Windy City for the more laid-back Hawaii.
"Why not?" Ashlyn responded. "I've got a month's vacation coming up and I would love to spend it anywhere other than the Hawaiian Islands for a change. Chicago seems as good a place as any to meet some new people and enjoy the hustle and bustle of life that I don't really get to see here. And you, girlfriend, would just love it in Hilo, where there are activities galore and so many things you can take pictures of to build up your portfolio. Not that you need to."
Danica smiled and sipped her wine. Admittedly the thought was intriguing. She'd never done something so crazy. At least not since they were in college, where seemingly any adventure was acceptable, if only to keep pace with school tradition. But this was the real world and people did not just fly across a country and an ocean to swap places.
On the other hand there was nothing--or no one--holding her back. Fortunately, as an independent photographer, she could operate anywhere. And where on earth could be better than Hawaii, or more specifically, the Big Island?
She looked at her friend. "I'm warming up to the idea."
Ashlyn beamed. "I was hoping you might."
"So how would we do this?"
"It's simple, really," Ashlyn said. "Let's decide on dates, leave a key under the doormat and cars at the airport, and let the adventure begin."
"Hmm...that does sound simple," Danica said with a laugh. Maybe too simple. Could she really take over Ashlyn's house and car for a month and vice versa? Was she overthinking this?
Ashlyn seemed to read her mind. "Look, if you run into any problems, Boyd will be around to help you out."
"Your brother?" Danica had seen a picture of him way back in the day and thought he was handsome, but she had no idea what he looked like now. She knew he was Ashlyn's half brother on her dad's side. And that he and Ashlyn were pretty close.
"Yes," Ashlyn said. "Boyd actually does come in handy around here every now and then. I'm sure you two would get along just fine."
"Oh, you do, do you?" Danica narrowed her eyes. If she hadn't known better, she would think Ashlyn was trying to fix her up with her older brother. Hadn't he once been married and a playboy ever since?
"Boyd's totally your type--tall, solidly built and cute as a button. Especially when he gets that dimple thing going in his cheeks when he grins."
"Sounds interesting," Danica admitted. "But I'd rather keep my options open in your neck of the woods, if it's all right with you."
"Fair enough." Ashlyn smiled. "I wouldn't want to push you two together or anything."
That was a relief to Danica, as the last thing she needed was pressure when it came to dating. Particularly where it concerned her good friend's brother.
"So...about the accommodations--"
"Boyd doesn't live with me, if that's what you're thinking."
"I wasn't," Danica told her, even if the thought had crossed her mind and not necessarily in a bad way. She just didn't want things to be awkward between them if Boyd had his run of the residence as she tried to make the most of it during her stay.
"We both own the house our dad left us," Ashlyn said, "but Boyd has his own place and this is pretty much mine to do as I please. And, for a month, it'll be yours."
"I like the sound of that." Danica had long been envious of her friend's beachfront house in paradise. The idea that she could borrow it for a few weeks was very enticing. Not to mention the environment was perfect for a photographer to do her thing.
And if Boyd was willing to show her around to some of the best places the island had to offer, all the better.
"Are there any hotties among your male neighbors or friends who might be in the market for a petite, sexy, fun-loving Hawaiian girl?" Ashlyn asked.
"Let me think." Danica pretended to consider the question deeply. "Uh, yeah, I'm sure there's somebody." She smiled. "Probably all of them. Only I doubt that most would appeal to you. But I'll see who I can come up with who might be able to show you a good time."
Ashlyn beamed. "Sounds like a plan."
"Yes, it does, and I can hardly wait to make the switch." Danica took a sip of her wine. "I just hope I don't get so comfortable in your tropical paradise that I don't want to come back."
"Then don't come back, if that's the case," Ashlyn said with a straight face. "I'd love to have a roommate to share that big house and some good times."
"I'll keep that in mind." Danica tried to imagine relocating to Hawaii permanently. It would be hard to leave behind Chicago and the contacts she had built and maintained both personally and professionally. But that didn't mean she couldn't keep them from afar and establish new ones if there were strong enough reasons to remain in Hilo.
For now she was just happy to be taking this big adventure, having no idea what to expect. She was up to the challenge, though, and clearly Ashlyn was, as well. If it worked out well, maybe they could do it again in the future.
She raised her wineglass. "To a great swap!"
"Ditto," Ashlyn said as they virtually clinked glasses.