By: Melissa Schroeder

Kade drew in a deep breath. He needed to get a drink. He needed to go away, far away. He could not breach the trust his friend put in him. If another man had thoughts about his sister like he had about Shannon, well, he would kill him. Of course, his sister was married with five kids, so there was a really good chance his brother-in-law had those thoughts.

He headed over to the bar. After ordering another beer, he turned and found himself face to face with Kai Aiona, Shannon’s brother-in-law.

“Hey, man. I saw you out there with Shannon.”

“Yeah. I’ve known all the Duprees for a long time.”

He nodded. “Those two women, though, they melt a man’s brain.”

He didn’t know what else to say, so he just nodded and took a shallow sip off his bottle.

Kai laughed. “Don’t worry, bra. I won’t be bugging you about your intentions. The one thing I understand about the Dupree women is that they have their own minds. Just make sure you know what you’re about. I’d hate to have to beat the crap out of you to make Jocelyn happy.”

“I’m a Seal.”

Kai laughed in his face again. “And I’ve been working on the docks since I was a teen.”

They eyed each other, and Kade realized he’d come up against an adversary he might not be able to beat. He wasn’t as muscular as Kade, but there was something to be said about a man who knew how to fight dirty.

“Now, speaking of my bride, I need to hunt her up. We have a big suite to use for the night.”

He left Kade alone to his thoughts. He didn’t have to look for Shannon, he knew where she was. It didn’t matter if he tried to ignore her, he could always sense where she was if she was nearby. He could find her in a crowd of a thousand. He watched as she pulled May and Kai’s father out onto the dance floor and tried to teach him to two-step. It was silly that his heart turned over just at the sight of her. She was smiling as usual, her joy easy to see. Shannon enjoyed life, every little bit of it, to the fullest extent. Out of all of the Duprees, she was the one who could always find a silver lining in any cloud. And now she had pulled away the barriers he’d thought were there. She had made her interest clear.

As he watched her dance, he felt his resistance melt. He might not have the right, but the lady had given him an invitation, and even if it was for just this one night, he would taste a little bit of paradise.

With his job, there were few opportunities for it. Once—just this once—he would take the chance.

• • • • •

Shannon looked at herself in the mirror and drew in a deep breath. She looked good. No, correct that. She looked damned hot. The dress Cynthia had picked out for her had been fantastic. Red was definitely her color, and the design suited her fuller figure. Best of all, it was a dress she could wear again. And she would. Either to remind her of a great night, or remind her not to have stupid yearnings that would never come true.

She groaned and grabbed a bottle of water. After taking a swig, she hoped that it helped cool off her raging libido. If history served, nothing would help. Not even her battery-operated boyfriend could relieve the fire that man started in her. She closed her eyes and tried to calm her heart. Just thinking about Kade had her body humming with anticipation. She was already driving herself crazy, and she had only been in her room twenty minutes. It took all of her control not to pace the room. It would be stupid to worry herself over the invitation she’d given Kade. Seriously, she didn’t expect him to show. Hoped, but didn’t really think it would happen.

Oh, there was no doubt he wanted her. A man didn’t get that hard by just dancing unless he wanted a woman or had just had a handful of the blue pills. Shannon was pretty damned sure that Francis McKade didn’t need them.

She stepped out onto her balcony and looked out over the water. The scent of salt filled her senses. She loved it in Hawaii. She would never be able to leave New Orleans, but she definitely liked it in Chris’s adopted home. While her hometown was always abuzz with activity, something she loved, she did like the slower pace of the islands. She liked to come here and gaze out over the water and just…breathe.

But even that didn’t work. Being in the same hotel as Kade, she couldn’t think of anything else other than seeing him in her room, preferably naked. She needed something to occupy her time. If she didn’t, she would definitely tear into the bag of chocolate macadamia nuts. Her as**s didn’t need that.

She watched the surf as it rolled in, and she could see why her brother and sister had been drawn to Hawaii. This was a soothing place. Oahu could be a jungle, that was for sure, but there was something so...relaxed. She could never live here. It would take an act of war to get her out of New Orleans. She had rebuilt her bar after Katrina, and she wasn’t leaving any time soon. But she needed to find time to return to Hawaii. She had a niece or nephew about to make an appearance, and she was sure Jocelyn and Kai would have children soon.

A little ping hit her heart harder than it ever had before. Thinking of her sister, her confidant, having a baby brought about yearnings she never thought she would have, not now. She thought they would come after marriage, but it was probably because the first Dupree grandchild would be arriving in five months.

Shannon shook herself free of her funk. This wasn’t like her. She had men. Not a constant stream of them, and she did have the problem of her career. Her business took up a fair amount of her time, so it had been a long dry spell between men. But for some reason, she hadn’t felt the need to scratch the itch. Not until she saw her brother coming down the escalator at the airport with Kade.

She closed her eyes and shivered. Damn, the man got to her. And if he didn’t take her up on her offer, she would write him off. His loss. She opened her eyes and glanced at the ABC Drugstore bag. She would throw away the condoms she bought and drink whiskey and eat the chocolate.

There was a knock at the door, pulling her out of thoughts of rebellion by gorging herself. She drew in a deep breath and approached the door. When she looked through the peephole, she sighed. It was an older Asian man. She opened it, and he looked confused.

The door across the hall opened, and a woman who was apparently his wife frowned at him.

“Sorry,” he said with a smile.

“No problem,” Shannon said, trying to fight the disappointment that now swamped her as she watched his wife usher him into their room. She was closing the door when a hand braced against it and stopped her. She looked up and found Kade staring at her.