More than want you, p.14
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       More Than Want You, p.14
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         Part #1 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black

  “What?” I go for innocent. “I was just thinking that we should look upstairs.”

  “Sure you did, perv. Let’s go.”

  She follows me up, onto the landing. I walk beyond the delicate chair and small table with the glowing lamp, then push open the double doors. A humongous bed on a raised wooden dais sits majestically under a teak ceiling. Just like the floor below, the usual doors have been removed in favor of a sliding glass wall that’s been shoved off to one side, allowing open skies and the Pacific breeze to stream in.

  “Holy ocean view…” Keeley whispers beside me.

  “Yeah.” Nothing but blue water, white sand, green grass, and swaying palms. It really is perfect.

  Through the opening, a deck jets out onto the rooftop covering the lanai directly below. A round table, chairs for two, and a chaise take up the space. The vistas go on forever. I’ve lived on Maui for so long that I often think I’m immune to the sights of beautiful tropical beaches. I joke sometimes that I’m going to vacation in Alaska for a change of pace. Then a place like this comes along and reminds me why I didn’t move back to the mainland when I had the chance.

  You just can’t beat Maui. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn well become home.

  In fact, if I had my own family, I wouldn’t mind calling this particular place my home.

  Keeley seems to float to the edge of the railing and stare out at the unobstructed views. I know in my head that there are neighbors nearby, but they’re far out of sight. Someone planted palms years ago along the property line so the illusion of being utterly alone with nature is completely maintained.

  “Just…wow.”

  I couldn’t agree more. I see beautiful places every day. I deal in them. I never look at anything that isn’t gorgeous. But this is special. Homey. “I know.”

  “Not to depress myself, but what does a place like this cost?”

  “About five and a half million. It would be more, except it’s only three bedrooms and three thousand square feet.”

  “Only?” She snorts. “I could put four of my last apartment in here and still have room leftover.”

  She isn’t exaggerating. I saw it as we moved her out and wondered how the hell she didn’t trip over her own two feet in there.

  “I can see this as a bed and breakfast. It would be cozy and quaint. Exactly what I wanted…” Her face looks wistful, but her posture is completely defeated. “There’s no way I can come up with that kind of money.”

  “There are less expensive places on the water. If you find something with good bones, you can fix it up and give it the kind of charm you want, especially if you’re handy or an out-of-the-box thinker.”

  Keeley bobs her head. “Yeah…but I don’t know if I can ever accomplish this.”

  “Don’t give up before you start,” I murmur as I step behind her at the railing.

  It’s all I can do to keep my hands off her. I want to touch her—that’s a given. But I’d like to comfort her, too. Tell her I’ll help her and that it’s going to be all right.

  I refuse to make a promise I can’t keep.

  “Did you say this place has a detached ohana?” she asks.

  “It does, but it needs work from what I read.”

  “Can we see it?”

  I shrug. “Sure. Follow me.”

  On our way out of the room, we spot a private dining room on the far side of the space with those fold-back windows and killer views. A kitchenette sits tucked in one functional corner. On the other side of the bedroom is a luxurious bathroom that’s all sleek and teak and glass. Spa-like and lush. Like something out of a magazine.

  After snapping photos, I pull Keeley out of the room reluctantly. We wend our way through the house, retrieve our shoes, then head around back. A stunning infinity-edge pool is situated between the main structure and the ohana, seeming to drop off right into the ocean. It’s an optical illusion I don’t think I’d ever get tired of if I lived here. The deck has a tropical feel with waterfalls, palm trees, and native stones. It looks almost like this man-made oasis grew organically out of the ground.

  After grabbing more images on my phone, we stroll to the ohana. On one side of the structure, we climb its stairs, then open the door. Cans of paint and boxes of tile await. The ceilings obviously need repair since I see daylight, and the owners have a tarp thrown over a computer workstation against one wall, probably in case of rain. But it’s a wide space with double French doors and more of that amazing view.

  “Morning yoga here would be so inspiring. It always centers me, but this would be beyond.”

  I don’t downward dog, but I can imagine that any period of time up here in silence trying to commune with your body and thoughts would be a hell of a lot less trying if the view was this fantastic.

  “So when you’re looking for a place of your own in the next few years, keep some sort of ohana in mind. With a little spit and polish, this would be a great asset to your inn.”

  “Sure,” she says quietly. “That makes sense.”

  But there’s no enthusiasm in her voice. Reality has set in.

  A place like this is way beyond her reach.

  After capturing the last of my snapshots, I lead her toward the car.

  “Wait.” She looks back at the place as if she’s drawn to it against her will. “Can I go back inside? Just one more minute.”

  I’m at her disposal for the rest of the day. If that’s what she wants to do, it doesn’t bother me. I’m weirdly fond of the house myself. “Sure.”

  Keeley gravitates back to the family room, sits on the sofa, and stares out at the ocean. Before I can settle in beside her, she’s up and headed for the kitchen, touching the sleek, pale quartz counters. She visits each of the bedrooms and stares as if she’s trying to imprint herself with their memories.

  This place has actually been vacant for the better part of six months. The owner moved back to Australia and paid a management company for its upkeep until it sells. If a house had feelings, this one would be lonely. And Keeley looks more than eager to keep it company. If I could simply give it to her, she would be its most ardent caretaker, I’m sure.

  “Let’s go,” she suggests finally. She sounds more disheartened than ever.

  After checking my phone, I take her to a few other properties around the island with ocean views. The first is another plantation-style house in white, so I’m thinking she’ll like it. It’s about half the size and acreage. It needs work, and the price reflects that. But it’s got nice bones and a good view of Molokai.

  We tour the house in silence. Like the last one, it has three bedrooms and three baths. I admit, the kitchen needs an overhaul, the bedrooms are cramped, and the bathrooms are crappy. But the beach is awesome, very private. She could do worse.

  “Well?”

  She shrugs. “I’m just not feeling it.”

  “I know. But I’m trying to teach you two valuable lessons.”

  Keeley raises an annoyed brow at me. “You’re kicking a girl when she’s down, huh?”

  “No, sunshine.” It hurts me to see her dejected, so I take her hand. I’m so thrilled when she doesn’t pull away. “Helping you see this through a business eye. First, when you start shopping for property for real, don’t look outside of your budget. It’s way too easy to get attached to something you can’t afford.”

  “Yeah, I’m learning that lesson fast. You should have warned me to stay in the car on our last stop.”

  “You would have ignored me,” I point out.

  Her noisy sigh tells me I’m right. “You could take some of the blame.”

  Her grousy attitude is kind of adorable. “All right. I will. It’s so my fault.”

  “Thanks. I don’t feel better. What’s my second lesson?”

  “Don’t look at what it is. Consider what it could be.” I lead her out the door from the family room onto the lanai. “This place could benefit from a fresh coat of paint. They’re selling it furnished, so that saves money.”
>
  “A lot of this furniture is really beat up.”

  “Smoke and mirrors. Buy some slipcovers, learn to reupholster. Add bright accents. You’d get the most out of this view by taking half the crap out of the crowded space, anyway. Spend the money to replace some of the old windows with an accordion glass door and maximize the view. That’s why vacationers come here, not for the sofa. That other stuff can wait.”

  We walk the place one more time, and I give Keeley the more logical breakdown of how this property could be a moneymaker. She’s not having it. In all fairness, when she points out that none of the bedrooms have a view of the water, I can’t refute that. That’s something else customers want. Her realizing that enormous flaw is a bonus.

  We hit the next place, this one about three hundred thousand more expensive than the last. It’s got five bedrooms…but only two baths—awkward for guests who don’t know one another. It’s smaller than the last place. Nicer views, sure. But the house is a turquoise-colored cracker box in need of repair with a giant satellite dish in the front yard.

  “No.” Keeley doesn’t even want to go inside.

  “The house has redeeming qualities,” I argue.

  “I don’t care. The dirt road up here was so jarring I don’t even know how many teeth I have left.”

  “You’re being stubborn,” I point out.

  “You’re being ridiculous. Who puts this giant hunk directly between the house and the beach?” She points to the dish. The existing owners have tried to cover it by planting a bird of paradise…but there’s really no disguising something this ugly. “And it’s so far away from civilization. Is this place even connected to the island’s sewer system?”

  “It’s completely off the grid, but you’ve got solar panels and a fresh water well that’s certified. If you’re looking to appeal to green-minded guests—”

  “But I have to live here, too, and that’s a lot of hassle. Let’s go.”

  With a sigh, I escort her to the car and drive her to the last location on our tour. It’s in Haiku, perched on the side of a cliff. When we pull up, the views are absolutely majestic but…

  “How do you get down to the—” Keeley frowns as she looks over the edge. “There is no beach.”

  No, just black rocks below, which guests would undoubtedly kill themselves trying to reach. “You’d have to see about building a great pool.”

  “I doubt the ground is level enough since this place is built into the side of a mountain. Besides if I’m on vacation, I’ve come to the islands to feel the sand on my feet, to splash the ocean salt on my skin.”

  I can’t argue with that. “At your price point, you have to compromise. This house has more than 180 degree views of the ocean.”

  We head through the front door. The layout is immediately freaky because we’ve just walked into a disaster.

  “Someone call the 1980s. I’m sure they want their kitchen back.” She’s getting tart now. Feisty.

  “I’m just the messenger. This place is already close to one point four million. Three bedrooms, two baths, two thousand square feet. And hey, water, electrical, and sewer are part of the bargain. Besides, the kitchen isn’t that bad. Lots of windows. Good view. The marble floor is classic. Gut or paint what you don’t like.”

  “Why is the refrigerator on the far side of the room, next to the breakfast table?”

  I shrug. “You’re nitpicking because you’re still attached to the first place.”

  Keeley doesn’t say anything for a long time. “All right. I am. I’m not sure how to get past that.”

  “Time. Perspective. Thinking about what’s really important to you in a property.”

  “But it was as if I could see my whole life at that first place, entertaining guests, walking in the sunlight, teaching yoga, raising children…”

  Normally, I would pfft that and tell her to get practical. But if Keeley was more practical…she wouldn’t be the woman I know. And want. And oddly I can picture being in that big house. I can imagine living there with her.

  Crap, I need to get my head screwed back on straight.

  “Lunch?” I ask. “There’s a great fish place not far from here.”

  She shakes her head. “I need to get back and study before we start working on…whatever we’re going to work on tonight. Tests begin Monday.”

  “Sure.”

  I take her home. She’s absolutely silent. I see the pensive thoughts roll across her face. Instead of reminding her of her own sage words—I understand wanting what you want when you want it—I reach across the car to squeeze her hand. She doesn’t stop me. In fact, she squeezes back.

  I’m silently celebrating my small victory when we hit my front door. But the moment we enter my condo, she runs into the spare bedroom and shuts herself in. I hear the lock engage. I’m not sure, but I think I hear sobbing ensue, too. I want to comfort her, but I think she needs time to reconcile her dreams with the reality of property value on Maui. Besides, I’m pretty sure she’d tell me to fuck off.

  When seven o’clock comes and goes, I still haven’t heard from her. This time is supposed to be mine. We still have so much about Griff to discuss…but I don’t want to be a bastard and add to her burden right now. I order some pizzas from room service in case she gets hungry, then take my laptop out to the lanai.

  The view really is spectacular. Being out here clears my head. Even if I don’t have Keeley beside me, I can thank her for the appreciation of my outdoor space. That’s something.

  But I’d rather be holding her right now.

  CHAPTER NINE

  The next morning, Keeley teaches her seniors’ yoga class, then returns. About the time she pops in the door, I receive a frantic call from a client whose neighbor advised them that their investment property sprung a leak and there’s water everywhere. By the time I arrive at the house, located on the other side of the island, it’s flooded. I know the exotic hardwoods are toast, and this will be a major remodel before we can market the property again. I get the emergency cleaning crews out there and deal with the mess the owner can’t manage because he’s half a world away, then I look up. The sun has already set.

  I haven’t eaten since seven a.m. and I’m exhausted.

  When I open the door to my condo, the smells of Italian greet me. I inhale, so damn glad I don’t have to call someone for mediocre food that takes an hour to arrive.

  “Lasagna?” she asks.

  “Please.” I grab a beer from the fridge, then notice an apple on the counter. I rarely have produce around the house, and I need to eat something now before I fall over. I bite into the fruit and hold in a moan. When did apples start tasting that good?

  “Rough day?” she asks.

  “Terrible. You?”

  “It was all right. I got in a lot of studying. I feel ready for my tests.”

  My logic tells me that’s good. We can spend time this evening discussing my brother and exactly how to trip him up. But I’m so wiped out. It’s unusual for me—I don’t normally like TV—but all I want to do is curl up with Keeley on the sofa and feel her soft body beside me while we watch something mindless.

  “That’s good.” I take another bite of the apple as I open my beer and wash it down.

  “You okay?” she asks.

  “I will be once you feed me. How about you?”

  Keeley pauses as if she’s gathering her thoughts. “Yes. I apologize if it seems like I threw a hissy yesterday. I was overwhelmed by how far apart my dream and my pocketbook are. It’s not your fault, and you were trying to show me alternatives, the bright side, other ways to look at this. I was being a brat. I’m sorry.”

 
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