Leaving Lavender Tides (Lavender Tides #2.5)

By: Colleen Coble

Chapter 1

The first time he saw her, he stopped and stared with his mouth open, absorbing the aroma of the flower lei around his neck. Hawaiian music floated through the hotel lobby like a movie track, and his vision narrowed until all he saw was her beautiful face framed by her black hair. Even from this distance he could see the vivid green of her eyes and the planes of her high cheekbones. He could almost feel the soft texture of her creamy skin and smell the scent of her, something sweet and wonderful for sure.

She was a vision from another world, and he wasn’t sure she was real until she turned and looked at him. It was as if she could see straight into his soul, down to everything that made him who he was, and she loved every speck. They’d had some good times together, and he’d thought he lost her. This was his second chance to do it right, to hold her close and never let her go.

A porter came for her luggage, and she broke her gaze with him. With her luggage gone she glanced around with a smile that reached down and seized his heart. The sweet curve of her neck drew his attention when she tilted her head back to look at the ornate ceiling in the lobby. He’d kissed that neck many times, and he thought never to see it again, yet here she was. Tourists and hotel staff flowed past him as he stood rooted to the spot.

The love on her face took his breath away. A smile split his face and he opened his arms. He took one step toward her, then realized her smile wasn’t directed at him but at another man. She didn’t see him at all.

His smile fading, he stood staring after her as she walked away. He wasn’t aware he’d crumpled the rose in his hand until blood dripped onto the floor from where a thorn had pierced his skin.

She’d see him—soon. She would remember the love they’d shared and would share again.

The Honolulu sunshine warmed Shauna Bannister’s skin as she stood at the balcony railing beside her new husband and waved at the crowd on the pier. A few clouds drifted lazily overhead in a perfect blue bowl of sky. The sweet aroma of the lei around her neck wafted to her nose and added to her sense of well-being.

Back home in Lavender Tides, Washington, the leaves would mostly have changed, and the October temperatures would be in the fifties instead of this wonderful eighties weather.

Zach’s warm lips nuzzled her neck. “I have you all to myself for the next eight days.”

A delicious shiver went up her spine, and she leaned against Zach with a contented sigh. “It sounds wonderful. I’ve always wanted to see Hawaii.” She turned and peeked into the spacious suite. “This must have cost you the earth.”

She still couldn’t believe this wonderful man was all hers. His dark good looks attracted plenty of appreciative female glances wherever they went, but his blue eyes watched only her. Thoughtful, strong, brave, and committed were words that all described Zach Bannister, but his most admirable trait was his steadfastness. How he’d gotten to be thirty-three without being snagged by another woman was a mystery.

He took her hand and brought it to his lips. “The cost wasn’t bad. One of the cruise line’s bigwigs is one of my longtime customers. He gave me a great price.”

She followed him into the penthouse suite and marveled again at the huge bed topped with crisp white linens accented with a pop of aqua. Spacious windows and sliding doors let the Hawaiian sunshine stream into the space and revealed an impossibly blue ocean. It was far from the cramped cabin she’d expected.

“As beautiful as this is, I want to see the rest of the ship. Let’s go get some coffee.”

“My thoughts too.” He held open the door for her, and they stepped out into the hall and found their way to the deck with the coffee bar.

She looked around as he ordered them both black coffees. The casino machines faded to a dull roar as she noticed two older men staring at them from the casino next door. One was almost as round as he was tall with a balding head that gleamed in the overhead light. He was probably in his sixties. The other one had an aging surfer look with tousled brown hair streaked with blond like he might have worn it in the sixties. His tailored khaki slacks and crisp white shirt gave off an expensive vibe, and she guessed him to be in his midsixties as well. Both men were smiling as if they knew them.

The portly gentleman gave a half smile and waved as if he expected her to recognize him. When he approached her with the other guy behind him, she clutched Zach’s arm. “Do you know these guys?” she whispered.

Zach turned around and a smile lifted his lips. “Otis, I haven’t seen you in ages!” The two men shook hands, and Otis clapped Zach on the shoulder as he pumped his arm.

Otis drew the other man forward. “This is Raul Jackman. We met here in Honolulu a few days ago. Raul retired a few months ago after an impressive career in Silicon Valley. He’s forgotten more about computers than I’ve ever learned.”

Zach shook his hand. “Good to meet you, Raul. Zach Bannister. Otis was my favorite professor in college.”

The tension drained from Shauna’s neck and shoulders, and she stepped toward the men with her hand extended. “I’m Shauna, Zach’s wife.”