Crash and Burn - Chapter 47: Kala ‘ana

“Can I tell you a story?”

Reena looked up into his eyes in surprise. She’d thought they’d simply dance—though she still wasn’t sure why he’d asked her to—without speaking. And he goes and surprises her again, by talking—and not empty pleasantries either. He wanted to tell her a story.

“What kind of story?”

He paused. “A story of a princess and a warrior.”

Why he wanted to tell her a Hawaiian folk story was beyond her, but what the heck. “Uhm, sure.”

“Okay.” Steve pulled her a little closer. “Relax, Reen,” he whispered into her ear and felt her shudder. “Let me lead you.”

The music coiled around them, cocooning them in sensuous magic, the guitar melody caressing, the tender female voice soothing to the senses.

Steve tucked her head under his chin, closed his eyes, and started the tale of love and heartbreak.

“Once upon a time,” he murmured, “lived a brave warrior. They said he had no equal in battle, his lethality spoke of a cold, empty shell. He didn’t need anyone, he didn’t let emotions rule him...Until one day he fell in love with a princess.”

“Typical,” Reena scoffed. “It’s always the woman’s fault.”

“Don’t talk, just listen,” he ordered. “This princess was famed for her extraordinary beauty and intelligence. She had never been in love, because she never let her emotions rule her.”

“Smart woman.”

“Shhh. The princess fell in love with the warrior and for a time they were happy.”

“I sense a dramatic twist approaching,” she murmured.

“What part of ‘don’t talk, just listen’ don’t you understand?” he asked.

“Sorry.”

“Then one day a prince from a faraway kingdom approached the princess, demanding the crown jewels—Not a word,” he admonished when she took a deep breath. “The princess, of course refused, but the prince wouldn’t be deterred. The jewels were too secure to be stolen, so the evil prince decided to exploit the princess’ only weakness. He threatened the warrior she loved.”

Reena froze and Steve smiled.

“Keep dancing,” he whispered into her ear. “Where was I? Oh, right. The evil prince threatened the brave warrior and the princess caved. She couldn’t allow her beloved to die, so she severed all contact with the warrior in hopes to convince the foreign prince the warrior wasn’t important to her and he’d be spared. The warrior demanded to know what happened to make his darling princess change her mind. He’d even decided to end his employment in the kingdom’s army to be with her—”

Reena lifted her head to look at him, her eyes wide, questions warring in them.

“—but he never got to tell her. And to make sure he was convinced she didn’t love him anymore, the princess persuaded him to think someone else, a nobleman, had stolen her heart. To further ensure the warrior’s safety, the princess handed over the crown jewels and the evil prince returned to his kingdom.”

Steve smiled down at her. “But the princess was a warrior as well. She and her faithful guards followed the evil prince, took back the crown jewels, and destroyed the prince and his men.” He looked away. “While the warrior, his heart broken, left the kingdom and decided to forget the princess and her betrayal.” When he looked back at her, she was staring, her eyes sad, at the spot where her palm rested against his sleeve.

“A few years later, the princess visited another kingdom only to discover the warrior she had loved and lost was captain of the guards and had started a new life alongside another woman. The ruler of the kingdom asked the princess for an alliance against an evil king, and discovering the evil foe had been the one to truly want her crown jewels and threaten the life of the warrior all those years before, she accepted.”

Reena was still staring at her hand, her mind in turmoil. How did he know everything? How could he possibly know? God, he knew. And now what? Did he hate her even more? Did he pity her? What should she do? How should she act? When would the dance end?

“The alliance struck, the warrior and the princess had to spend a lot of time together, their past and their unresolved feeling constantly hanging above their heads. She knew the warrior had another woman, he thought she’d betrayed him, convinced the nobleman he was sure had stolen her heart before, was the ruler of the kingdom the warrior now lived in.”

Reena had finally had enough. She looked at him. “Steve—”

“I’m not done yet,” he murmured and when she shook her head, tried to move away, he clasped her fingers tighter, holding her close. “It’s almost finished, Reen. Patience.”

She looked away again, fighting hard to keep the tears at bay. He was still calling her ‘Reen’.

“The new woman in the warrior’s life saw what was between him and the princess and decided to end the relationship, but the warrior, jealous of his ruler, let the princess believe otherwise. Then the evil king, who’d also had the warrior’s parents killed, finally made his appearance, demanding the princess’ jewels, threatening the warrior again. When the evil king took the princess hostage, trying to avenge his dead queen, the warrior had no choice but to kill him.”

Reena met his eyes again, briefly, then looked down at the knot of his tie. The story was almost over.

“The ruler of the kingdom threw a ball to wish the departing princess a safe journey. But he also had an ulterior motive. He refused to let the princess continue deceiving the warrior, so he revealed she was in fact his sister, asking his father to reveal the entire story to the warrior in hopes the two might finally get closure.”

Reena glared at Sebastian who watched her with suspiciously shiny eyes. So he’d tattled.

“But the warrior, blinded by pride, left before the princess could speak to him. An old friend tried to talk some sense into him...” He smirked. “And it worked. The warrior realized only complete truth would get both him and the princess closure. So he invited her to dance.”

He was silent for so long, Reena lifted her eyes to his. He was looking at her intently, as if trying to read her mind. She went for glib. “A rather iffy ending, if you ask me.”

Steve tried to discern something in those gray eyes, anything to tell him how she truly felt, but she kept her expression carefully blank. It was his turn. The last one. So he’d better make it count.

“It’s an open ending. One of those ‘make a choice and see how it ends’ types.”

She looked back down at his tie-knot. She couldn’t believe she was going to ask. “What are the options?”

“Well, there’s something I left out,” he murmured. “You see, the warrior had been unable to forget the princess. He was still calling for her in his sleep. He was still in love with her.”

Her head snapped up and her eyes widened.

Steve looked into those startled eyes and smiled softly. “She was the one. He’s never stopped loving her. And so he told her, hoping she loved him, too.”

Reena felt tears gather in her eyes and she blinked, trying to clear her vision. She wanted to see him clearly, read the emotions in his eyes.

“I love you, Sabrina Logan,” he whispered and watched as a tear rolled down her cheek. “With all my heart. Do you still love me?”

Another tear trickled down her cheek as Reena lifted her left hand off his sleeve, placed it at the back of his neck, pulled his head down, and kissed him.

Steve’s heart skipped a beat as the tip of her tongue slipped between his lips. He opened his mouth a little more, curled his other arm around her, and kissed her back. He groaned softly as her other hand joined the first, her fingers tunneling into his hair. He slid his tongue against hers, retreated, sucked her lower lip into his mouth, and slowly let go, lifting his head to look at her.

Her eyes slowly opened and he smiled down at her. “Should I take that as a yes?”

She looked a little unfocused before she nodded, her eyes zeroing onto his mouth again.

“Say it,” he growled.

Reena met his eyes, letting her emotions into her gaze, her famous inner wall lying in ruins. “I love you,” she whimpered. “So much.”

“Good.” He lowered his head again, capturing her mouth in a scorching kiss that made her want to be anywhere else but in the middle of the dance floor. Preferably somewhere private. Then his tongue invaded her mouth again and she forgot everything else but the fact she was back in his arms, under the assault of his demanding mouth, with only two layers of clothing and no lies or half-truths between them.

Time ceased to exist, the crowd vanished, the music grew silent. There were just the two of them, the sound of their heartbeats and mingled breaths. The touch of his fingers on the bare skin of her back, the silky feel of his hair against her fingers, the slide of his tongue against hers, the tender sting of his teeth on her lower lip.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but get a room.”

With regret, Steve lifted his head, and glared at a grinning Marcus Hawthorne.

“Getting a little too hot’n’heavy for this place, bro,” Mary remarked from the cocoon of Marc’s arms.

“Don’t listen to them,” Reena whispered, playing with the hair at his nape. “They’re just envious.”

“Of course I am,” Marc replied. “I wish I could do something like that without it getting plastered all over the news.”

She poked her tongue out at him, then looked at Steve and smiled. She pulled him closer and whispered into his ear, “Take me away from here.”

He grinned, kissed the back of her hand, tucked her against his side, and started toward the veranda.

Sebastian twirled Kono to a stop beside his son and Mary McGarrett—a wonderful girl with just enough chutzpah to keep Marc on his toes. He’d watched his daughter and McGarrett kiss, it had been hard to miss, and couldn’t help but gloat. His little conversation with the boy before Sabrina had arrived had been the catalyst for the two to work things out.

“Where are they going?” he asked.

Marc grinned. “If you have to ask, Dad, you really need to get a life.”

They watched as Steve gently kissed Sabrina on the veranda, before they both disappeared through the door.

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