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Heat Wave
Author:Karina Halle

Yes, I know, it’s not the typical outlook of someone going to Hawaii on a job prospect. I should be as happy and excited as the rest of the passengers on the plane, chatting and laughing merrily through their Mai Tai buzz, flipping through the in-flight magazine and pointing out the different places to go. But while they’re most likely going on vacation, I’m going there to live.

And once again…

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

In an ideal world, I would have found a job right away after my last one. As the chef de partie at one of Chicago’s biggest Italian chains, Picolo, I thought finding another job would be easy, even in such a highly competitive business. But it didn’t matter that I’d worked at the place steadily since I got out of culinary school, starting as a line cook and working my way up. The pickings were slim, (for a reason I might add) and without a job I couldn’t afford my apartment, which meant moving back home with my parents for one-hellish month. Sure, they live in a multi-million-dollar house in Lincoln Park, but if you knew my parents at all you’d understand why I had to get the hell out of there.

And get out of there I did. I’m pretty sure my parents felt the same way about me because it was them, my mother specifically, who told me about the cook position at Moonwater Inn. Of course, it meant leaving my friends and life behind and moving to the island of Kauai, but even so it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to pass up.

At least, I keep telling myself that. In reality, I don’t have a choice in the matter.

It’s not long before the plane gets lower and lower and then the wings dip slightly to the left and the blue blue ocean comes crashing against dramatic green cliffs, the island of Kauai, my future home, rising dramatically from the depths.

A thrill runs through me, the kind that tickles your heart, makes your stomach dance. My hands grip the arm rest as the plane goes through some mild bumps.

“Afraid of flying?” the man beside me asks. He’s in his late fifties, a round face, skin that’s so tanned it’s almost red, and wearing a rumpled white shirt. He hasn’t said two words to me the entire flight.

“Afraid of crashing,” I tell him and turn my attention back to the window just in time to see the runway rushing up beneath us, red dirt bordering the asphalt. But instead of feeling relief as the wheels make contact with the ground and the plane does its overdramatic braking, another wave of nerves goes through me.

This is it.

If this doesn’t work out, there’s no way off this island except for a six-hour flight over open water. If this doesn’t work out, I’m back at square one with my tail between my legs. If this doesn’t work out, I’m once again a disappointment in the Locke family.

Kauai’s airport is in Lihue and it’s small. Like, way smaller than I had imagined, and dated. It looks like it was built in the 70’s and hasn’t had a single upgrade. I always assumed that a city’s airport was indicative if the city itself, which makes me think that Kauai is a little more backwoods than I thought.

And it’s muggy too, I realize as I step out into baggage claim to find my two suitcases. It’s open to the outside and a hot blanket of air settles over the carousels, nearly choking me with the humidity. On the screens above the baggage are safety videos droning on and on, warning visitors of the millions of dangers that wait on the island.

There’s also a damn chicken hanging out near the entrance.

I’m definitely not in Chicago anymore.

Eventually I find my two giant suitcases—there was no chance of me packing light for this—and I’m already sweating by the time I haul them out to the road, hoping to spot a taxi.

“Veronica?” a voice asks.

I look over to see a guy with a big smile and a goatee, holding a piece of lined paper that’s obviously been torn out of a notebook with Veronica scrawled across it in blue ink.

“Yes?” I say, frowning at him. “Are you from the hotel?”

He nods, offering me his hand. “Yup. Charlie,” he says. “Sorry the boss couldn’t make it, he’s tied up in some emergency with the pool. You know how it is.”

Actually I don’t, but I shake his hand and give him a tight smile. Truth is, part of the reason my nerves are going all crazy was because I thought Logan was picking me up and I’d have to endure an awkward car ride with him. Yes, Logan’s my new boss and I’m sure there will be plenty of awkward times to come, but for the moment I’m relieved I don’t have to face him.

Yet.

“Nice to meet you,” I say. Charlie’s easy on the eyes, I have to admit. The goatee, the spiky light brown hair, the tanned limbs and tattoos. Then I notice he’s not even wearing shoes.

His eyes follow mine and he grins broadly. “Welcome to Kauai,” he says. “No shoes, no shirt, no problem.” He tugs at his neon green Billabong tank top. “Though I wore the shirt just for you. Come on, let me help you.”