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Eden Burning by Elizabeth Lowell - Romance>Contemporary
Paradise calls to Chase Wilcox. A man of science fascinated by the rebirth of life in the wake of cataclysmic natural upheaval, he is drawn to the lush beauty of the island of Hawaii and the secrets it holds—while escaping the destruction of his own personal world. Here where warm breezes caress the skin and vibrant colors assault the senses—and where dangerous fires rage unseen beneath the earth's surface—Chase plans to immerse himself in his work...and somehow heal and forget. The last thing he needs or wants is love.
But the island is home to many unexpected wonders, which is why Nicole Ballard could never leave it. A research assistant, an artist, and a dancer—a tall, stunning redhead who goes by the stage name of Pele, the goddess of fire—she, too, hides a secret pain, releasing her pent-up sensuality to the accompaniment of native drums before a mesmerized audience. Nicole has never met a man quite like Chase, strong, intense, and brilliant. And he, in turn, is fascinated by this remarkable woman who seems to be a breathtaking force of nature in her own right. Fate has cast them together, causing a chain reaction that neither imagined in their most secret dreams.
Joined on an important scientific project that carries them into the verdant heart of a tropical wonder land, Nicole and Chase will be forced to confront their own lingering inner darkness, while resisting a newly inflamed need to touch, to give...to care. But in the shadows of Kilauea, all restraints will be broken, as emotions flow as hot and free as rivers of molten lava. And desire will erupt, as unpredictable and dangerous as the living volcano, transforming the very landscape of their lives—a torrent that no power on earth can contain, a passion that bums like fire.
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"You've never seen anyone like her. That picture we sent doesn't begin to do her justice. No picture could."
Sitting in Oregon -- on the bed, because the motel room chairs were piled with reports -- Chase Wilcox frowned at the phone and the eager affection in his younger brother, Dane's, voice. His married younger brother. The younger brother who had a lovely wife and two wonderful children. The younger brother who couldn't stop talking about some glorified shimmy dancer who was giving his daughter hula lessons.
Hula, for God's sake.
Not that Chase objected to his niece, Sandi, learning the dance. From the little he had seen of hula dancing, it looked like good exercise. The problem was Sandi's daddy. He was much too enthusiastic about the instructor for Chase's comfort.
And that instructor was sexy enough to set fire to stone.
Almost reluctantly he touched the facedown photo that had come with his brother's latest letter from Hawaii. Slowly he turned it over, hoping it wasn't as bad as he had first feared.
It was worse.
Lust hit him hard and low and hot, the kind of heat even his very beautiful, very skillful, sexually manipulative ex-wife hadn't been able to generate in him.
The woman in the snapshot apparently had been caught just as she finished turning in a swift circle with Chase's little daughter in her arms. Lisa was laughing with a freedom he had been afraid would never come again after her mother's casual cruelty. He owed Dane's wife, Jan, for helping Lisa. Jan had a gentle patience and welcoming love that came to her as naturally as breathing.
Chase owed the dancer "Pele" something entirely different. She of the hip-length, flame-red hair and luminous gold cat eyes. Pele, who radiated sexuality like fire radiated heat. He couldn't see what kind of body she had beneath the seething curtain of hair, but he was certain it was showgirl caliber. Women who strutted their stuff onstage for the benefit of cheering, leering men generally had something to strut.
"Hey, bro, you there or are you trimming your mustache?" Dane asked.
"Yeah, I'm here, yawning and listening to you run over like a plugged toilet about some exotic dancer who isn't your wife."
In Hawaii, Dane laughed despite the frown that came from his brother's sour view of humanity in general and women and particular -- except for Jan, his sister-in-law. For her, Chase had a well of tenderness as great as he had for his own daughter. That was what gave Dane hope that his brother was coming out of the bitterness that had followed losing custody of his daughter.
"Hey, don't worry. Jan is the first to sing Nicole's praises," Dane said. "She's good with kids and has real talent as an artist. In fact, wait until you see the drawings she does. You'll see why we wanted her to do the illustrations for..."
While his brother ran on and on about Pele/Nicole's skill as both an artist and a scientific illustrator, Chase drummed callused fingers silently on the desk in the generic motel room that was presently his "home." Outside the window, invisible beneath the Pacific Northwest's customary lid of clouds, the shattered cone of Mount Saint Helens steamed, brooded, and waited for the energy to blow its top again.
Chase wouldn't have to wait as long for his own personal eruption.
Eden BurningBy: Elizabeth Lowell