Crash and Burn - Chapter 41: Ka koi kuaʻana

A tissue froze in mid-air as her doorbell rang. Reena glanced at the clock on her phone, paused the DVD, and wiped her teary eyes, wondering who her evening visitor might be.

Marc’s smile almost blinded her when she opened her door. He was in jeans and an untucked white shirt, holding two boxes—one large, the other much smaller.

His smile disappeared as he saw her red-rimmed eyes. He looked over her shoulder, saw the tissues on her coffee table, the soft glow coming from the TV, and immediately knew what ailed her.

“You’re watching The Lion King again.”

She glared. “It’s my last night in Hawaii, I can do whatever I please, even watch movies that make me cry.”

He suspected she didn’t have to watch a movie to accomplish that. “You could spend your last night in Hawaii a little differently.”

“Yeah?” She crossed her arms over her chest, a pose that reminded him of Steve McGarrett. “How?”

“Dancing and being merry.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to that stupid ball with you.”

“Why not?”

Another eye-roll. “Because I don’t want to go—”

“Sure you do.”

“—because I got you a date. I called you about it earlier—”

“I want to go with you.”

“—and because I don’t have anything to wear.”

He grinned and thrust the two boxes at her. “You do now.”

She glanced down at the two ‘gifts’, back up to him, and knew she’d walked straight into his trap. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”

He shrugged. “There’s still time. I have the tux in the car. Don’t you want to look at what I brought you?”

“No.”

He chuckled, grabbed the two boxes out of her hands, pushed past her, and kicked the door closed. “Of course you do.”

He put the boxes onto the coffee table, shut down her DVD player and TV, and looked at her expectantly. “Go ahead.”

She didn’t want to. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being right, but she couldn’t resist. She went for the shoes first, she was a woman after all. Her eyes widened at the sight of the sandals with their needle-thin heel and thin, thine-stone encrusted toe- and ankle straps, each with a little bow in the back.

“The bows are supposed to be removable,” Marc supplied, though the dazed look in her eyes told him she wasn’t listening. He grinned. She was hooked. Now, for the dress...

She lifted the shoe-box, her eyes zeroing in on the logo on the dress-box. She glared at her brother. “Pippa? Really? No wonder she emailed me two days ago, asking whether I still wore the same size.”

He nodded. “I needed reinforcements. Won’t you open it?”

She shook her head, looked away, a film of tears blurring her vision.

“Why not?”

“Because I know I’ll have to try it on and I won’t go to that ball of yours.”

“Why not?”

She looked at him, her glare furious behind her tears. “Why? Why?!” She shoved at his chest. “Because the USS Enterprise is still docked in Pearl. Because he’ll be there with her, and as much as I want him to be happy, I just can’t bear to look at them together.” She sniffed. “I just want to wallow a little and then leave this damn island and never see him again.”

“And what will you do, huh? You quit from DHS, so what will you do, Reen.” He shook his head. “Don’t give me that look. You’re not the only one with contacts. Answer my question. What will you do?”

She shrugged. “I’ll find something.”

He pulled her into his arms, hugged her close, kissed the crown of her head. “Okay, fine, leave. But tonight is not meant for wallowing. Come with me. Whatever comes, whatever happens, you’ll bear it with your head held high.” He held her at arm’s length, looked into her eyes. “Reen, come to the ball with me.”

“Marc—”

“Please.”

“Why?” she asked. “Why do you want so bad for me to go?”

He had a very good reason, but he’d be damned if he told her what it was. He’d also be dead if he told her what it was before he got her to the party. “Because you’re my sister. Because I love you. And because I want to see you in that dress.”

Her gaze moved to the still-closed box. She lifted the lid, removed the top sheet of silk paper...and gasped. “Damn.”

“You haven’t even seen it yet.”

“I don’t have to.” It was the model she’d admired—still in its sketched form—the last time she visited her friend Pippa’s salon.

A crisp white corner poking out of the edge of the box caught her attention. She grabbed the piece of paper, pulled it out, and grinned at her friend’s fancy handwriting.

ENJOY IT AND MAKE ME PROUD.
LOVE, PIP

Reena lifted the fabric, let it flow through her fingers. Made up her mind. “Fine,” she sighed, suddenly feeling like she was walking to her doom. “I’ll go.”

“Yay.” Before she could continue, he interrupted. “And don’t worry about anything else. You have an hour and a half of pampering awaiting you.”

She frowned, suspicions of her brother’s possible hidden agenda rearing their ugly head. Why all this insistence she join him for the party? Why the elaborate dress and sinfully yummy shoes? Why the pampering? What did he have in mind? What was he planning?

Marc could see she was starting to think. Probably about reconsidering, about any ulterior motives he might have...If she only knew. And he couldn’t allow her to reconsider or think too hard or too long. So he grabbed the two boxes, tucked them under his arm, firmly clasped her wrist with the other hand, and pulled her toward the door.

“C’mon, Reen. Your fairy godmother awaits. And this one’s magic lasts longer than just midnight.”




A little more than two hours later, when Marc helped her into the limo, she felt like Cinderella. The dress and the shoes had looked incredible in their boxes, but on her, combined with the simple hair-do and even simpler make-up—God, what a difference.

And the fact the dress was a Philippa Covington model just added to the magical allure of the evening. She grinned, squealing like a school girl on the inside, it wouldn’t do to do so aloud. This wasn’t the only Pippa’s model she possessed, but those in her closet were all cute little cocktail dresses or mix-and-match-style suits. All perks of knowing the famous designer since school days. She’d even brought a cocktail dress with her for a possible fancy occasion, but the little black dress would’ve looked severely out of place at a formal ball.

“You ready?” Marc interrupted her thoughts as the limo slowly rolled away from the curb.

“No.”

He chuckled. “It’s a little late to reconsider.”

She shook her head. “Not really. I could still jump out of the car.”

“And ruin the dress? Pippa would never forgive you.”

“True. Okay, I’m ready, but we’re late. What will your guests think?”

He shrugged. “It’s expected. Hawaiian time.”

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