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       Obligation, p.6

         Part #2 of Underground Kings series by Aurora Rose Reynolds
 
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  Chapter 5

  Swimming with the Sharks

  “Are you sure about this?”

  No, I’m not sure now that we’re out in the middle of the ocean, but there’s no way I’m backing out. When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to find Kai sitting on the side of the bed, watching me. I was even more surprised when he told me that we were going to have to have our date today because my parents would be here in two days and he wouldn’t have much time to get away during the week.

  Although I’m excited to see my parents, I still have a fair amount of anxiety about their visit. Even if Kai and I are going to be seeing where this thing goes, I have no idea how it will play out with two people who know me having a front-row seat at the start of our relationship.

  I look from the ocean, where a cage has just been placed into the water, to Kai and give him a shaky nod. When I was around ten, I watched Jaws for the first time and instantly became obsessed with the ocean and all the creatures that live in it. One of the things I loved the most about the ocean was sharks, and I promised myself that, if I ever got the chance, I would go swimming with them.

  This plan always seemed like a good idea. That was before I was sitting on a large boat, wearing a diving suit, getting ready to be lowered into the ocean in a cage, where fish blood and body parts will be tossed into the water with me, at which time I’ll come face-to-face with one of the world’s greatest predators.

  “I promise you will love it,” he tells me, grabbing my hand, running his fingers over my skin.

  “I want to do it.” I swallow thickly.

  When I told Kai what my plan for our first date was, his face lit up and he looked like I had given him some kind of gift. He told me that shark diving is one of his favorite things to do, next to surfing. He said that he doesn’t get to go often but his friend would be willing to take us out on his boat. I can’t believe how fast everything happened. It felt like all I had done was snapped my fingers, and then I was on a boat, wearing a wetsuit.

  “Do you remember what to do once we’re in the cage?” he asks.

  I nod again, my voice seeming to be lost. Luckily for me, I took diving lessons a couple of years ago, and when Kai and his friend went over everything with me and asked me questions, I still knew all the right answers and what to do in case of an emergency.

  “All right. Let’s get the rest of your gear on, makamae.”

  He takes my hand and leads me to the ledge, where I don the breathing mask and the rest of my gear. After Kai gets me ready and has checked me over at least three times, he quickly puts on his own, gives a thumbs-up, and then signals me to place the breathing apparatus in my mouth. I do and immediately feel the flow of air that will allow me to breathe underwater.

  As soon as I’m set, Kai pulls me over to the side of the boat, where a set of stairs leads into the water and down into the cage. He goes ahead of me and waits at the bottom of the steps for me to follow him down. When I reach the step that has half my body in the water, I become fully aware he is there, his body caging me in. His hand gives my waist a squeeze of reassurance before he submerges himself fully into the water.

  I follow him under and am instantly stunned by the serenity. The ocean is so blue from above, and the water is so clear from below that I swear I can see for miles. The silence is like nothing I have ever known. The only sound I can hear is the noise coming from my own concentrated breathing.

  I spin around slowly and come faceto-face with Kai, who points to his eyes then up to the top of the water. Suddenly, the water turns red and there are specks of white, which I know are fish particles filling the area surrounding us. Even though I know what’s coming, I’m still in awe when small fish swim near the cage and begin to eat up the smaller pieces of chum.

  As I watch them, I realize they are almost moving in slow motion up until the moment their mouths open, and then they move suddenly, snatching up the food they were after. I don’t know how long it takes—it could have been minutes or maybe even hours—but Kai taps me on my shoulder. When I look over at him, he’s pointing to the far end of the cage, where there is a large, black mass heading towards us. I grab Kai’s hand and try to keep my breathing even as the fuzzy image clears up and the black mass becomes a large shark. I know right away that it’s a tiger shark, one of the deadliest animals on Earth.

  I grab Kai’s hand tighter as the shark swims around the cage a couple of times. The moment seems almost suspended in time, but before I have even really had a second to appreciate the beauty of the magnificent creature in front of me, he’s gone. We float around the cage for a few more minutes, but when Kai taps his wrist, I know that it’s time to head up.

  Once we reach the surface, Kai’s friend helps me onto the boat and begins getting my gear off me. When my mask is off, I take a deep breath of the salty ocean air and look around for Kai. When our gazes connect, I try to convey with my eyes how much this moment means to me. It’s not every day you get to live out one of your childhood dreams, and I couldn’t be more thankful that he is the one who gave this to me.

  I finish getting everything off and put away while trying to understand the feeling I have in my chest. It’s not until Kai comes over and drags me from where I was sitting to a large couch at the back of the boat when I realize what it is: Happiness.

  I have always considered myself a happy person, but I didn’t know that, deep down, I really wasn’t, and since the moment I arrived in Hawaii, I have been truly happy. I miss my shop and my girls, but to me, I was just getting by before. And now that my life has evolved, I’ve been forced to do something I never would have done before, and I’ve left what I’d thought of as the security of my home, I’m finally, really, and truly happy. With that thought, I curl into Kai’s side, lay my head on his chest, and drift off to sleep with the smell of the ocean and the rocking of the boat lulling me into dreamland.

  *

  I wake up and attempt to roll over, only to find myself tethered to the bed by an arm over my waist and muscular, hairy legs tangled with mine. And then I remember that my parents are in Hawaii, sleeping a few doors down from our room.

  “Go back to sleep,” Kai rumbles against my neck, causing goose bumps to break out all over my body.

  “I thought you were going to stay on your side of the bed?” I whisper, rubbing my legs together, which have suddenly become restless.

  “It got cold. I needed your body heat to stay warm.”

  I smile at his reply and turn in his arms to face him, noticing that it is much colder in the room than it normally is. As soon as I’m facing him, he wraps an arm back around my waist, places his hip over mine, and begins to play with my hair. It has gotten easier over the last couple days to be this close to him, and if I’m honest with myself, I have come to crave his touch and presence. He’s like a drug I know is bad for me but can’t help wanting more of.

  After a moment of enjoying the ease of the moment, I tilt my head back and ask, “Do you think it will be weird today, having my mom and dad and your parents here?”

  His gaze travels from the piece of hair he’s playing with to mine, and then he looks over my head before replying, “No. My mom and I talked. She won’t even be bringing up the fact she knew your mother.” He tucks my face under his chin, forcing me to inhale a lungful of his scent.

  “I still think it’s going to be awkward.”

  “I’ll be with you for most of the day. I have to leave for a couple of hours around noon, but after that, I’m all yours,” he tells me, and I ignore the feeling I get from him telling me that he’s mine and pull my face out of his chest so I can look up at him.

  “You know, if your mom brings up planning a wedding while my mom is here, we’re completely screwed,” I sigh.

  “If that happens, we will deal with it when the time comes.”

  “You act like it’s not a big deal, Kai. It was bad enough that I got married once and it wasn’t real. I don’t want to do it again, only this time wearing
a white dress and doing it in front of my parents.”

  “Don’t worry about that right now. Just enjoy the time you have with your parents while they are here,” he encourages.

  I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from saying more. It seems like, no matter what I say, he’s not understanding that that, for me, is way more than I can handle right now. I have never been a good liar, and it’s not something I want to become good at.

  “We should probably get up.” I pull away, take the blanket off, and shiver when the cold air hits my skin. “Did you turn on an air conditioner?”

  I look over my shoulder, and though his back is to me, I hear him mutter, “No,” under his breath as he stands. I try to pull my eyes away from him, but seeing the muscles of his back flex when he raises his arms above his head keeps my eyes in place.

  “Do you need to shower?” he asks, smiling when he catches me staring at him.

  “I do.” A cold one, I think but don’t add as I stand and go to the bathroom.

  I shut the door, go to the sink, get my toothbrush, and see that Kai’s toothbrush is next to mine in the holder. I ignore the feeling that gives me, squeeze some toothpaste onto the toothbrush, and brush my teeth before going over to the shower.

  “What are you doing?” I ask him as he walks into the bathroom just as I’m turning the water for the shower on.

  He ignores my question, walks over to the sink, and begins to load his toothbrush up with toothpaste.

  “I’m going to shower,” I say, looking at him through the mirror and frowning when he begins to brush his teeth. “Do you need to do that right this moment?”

  Our eyes connect and he pulls the toothbrush from his mouth. “Feel free to get in,” he tells me, and I can hear the challenge in his voice.

  Something in me snaps, and I pull off the pair of panties I have on then rip my nightshirt over my head and get into the shower, keeping my back to him.

  The glass doors are mostly fogged, but I know he can still see me. I honestly can’t believe I did something so ballsy, but I feel like he is constantly pushing me, maybe even testing me. I peek over my shoulder and find his gaze locked on me through the mirror.

  My nipples harden and I feel my pussy contract from the look in his eyes. I start to think I’m an idiot when all he does is stare, but when his body turns to face me, he starts to take a step in my direction. Instead, he stops and shakes his head, adjusting the bulge in his pants and then leaving the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. I let out the breath that was locked in my chest and turn the water temperature to cold for a moment, needing to cool down before switching it back to warm, quickly washing up, and getting out.

  By the time I make it into the bedroom, Kai is gone, but the scent of his cologne is still lingering in the air. I put on a pair of navy-blue shorts that fold at the hem and a white, linen button-down shirt over my navy-blue bikini before toeing on a pair of white flip-flops that have rhinestone studs across the straps and putting my hair into a quick braid. Then I leave the room.

  “Hey, Pika,” I say when I open the door to our room and find him leaning against the wall across the hall.

  “Kai asked me to take you to the dining room.”

  I nod and begin to follow him down the hall. Things have gotten a little easier between Pika and me, but I still hate the look of pity I sometimes see on his face when he’s looking at me. I guess it helps that he doesn’t talk much, and honestly, half the time, I forget he is even around.

  “Did you have a good night off?” I ask, trying to fill the silence between us.

  His eyes come to me over his shoulder, and he shrugs. “Didn’t do much,” he grumbles then turns around and continues walking.

  “Sounds like fun,” I mutter then bite the inside of my cheek, wondering why the hell I said that.

  Normally, Aye is with us, so it’s easier to deal with Pika and his cold demeanor. He seems like an all right guy—if you like the silent, broody type who would be more inclined to watch paint dry than to talk to you.

  We walk the rest of the way in silence, and as soon as we make it just to the entrance of the dining room, I hear my mom ask if I’m coming and Kai tell her that I was getting out of the shower when he left the room. I duck my head and fight back a blush that is getting ready to take over my face, remembering what I did.

  When we enter the dining room, I take in my mom, who is sitting next to the large open doors that lead out to a balcony. If you didn’t know any better, you would think I’m her biological child. We have the same blond hair and blue eyes, and she is also tall and lean.

  My dad is sitting at the table with a newspaper open in front of him. He shaved his hair off when I was fifteen and hasn’t grown it back since. He is also tall, but his body is larger, and where he used to be fit, his body has started to go soft with age. His dark-brown eyes meet mine and he smiles, pushing back from the table and coming towards me.

  “There’s our girl,” he says quietly, wrapping me up in a hug.

  “Hey, Dad,” I reply just as softly, wrapping my arms around his back while soaking in one of his wonderful hugs—one of my favorite things in the world.

  “You doin’ okay this morning?”

  “I am.” I lean back and smile up at him.

  His face goes soft, and he leans in and kisses my forehead.

  “I can’t get over how beautiful you have become,” my mom whispers.

  I turn towards her just as she engulfs me in a hug. Even though she said the same thing yesterday when we picked them up from the airport, my head soars from hearing her words. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed them. They are the only parents I have ever known, and there was never a moment growing up that they didn’t make me feel welcome and loved.

  “I’m happy you’re here,” I whisper back honestly.

  “You know, wherever you are in the world, if you needed me, honey, I would go through hell to make it to you.”

  A sob climbs up my throat. I know she is telling the truth, and that is why I have always tried to protect both my parents. The thought of something happening to them because of what their son has done has always made me fearful.

  “Don’t cry. We’re here now.” She holds me tighter then whispers in my ear, “Your husband looks like he’s going to murder someone. I don’t think he likes it when you cry.”

  I pull my face away from her chest, and my gaze collides with Kai’s. “I’m okay.” I wipe my face with a tissue my dad hands me.

  Kai comes over to me and wraps an arm around my waist before kissing the side of my head. “I was telling your mom about our shark diving trip.” He looks down at me and smiles.

  “I told him about when you were little and you were fascinated with the ocean but how the closest you ever got to sea life was at the aquarium,” Dad says.

  “Dad used to tease me about him having to work more hours just to afford my obsession with the aquarium.” I smile at the memory.

  “I loved having that time with you,” my dad says then looks at Kai. “My sons were always doing one sport or another, and life was always hectic. It was nice to spend a quiet afternoon once a month with a little girl who wanted nothing more than to sit in the observatory of the aquarium, watching the fish swim around.”

  “I loved that time with you too—just as much as I liked helping you in the bakery on Saturdays when I got older,” I tell him.

  “You were always a good kid.” He looks at me with eyes full of sadness then takes my mom’s hand. “I don’t know what we did, but whatever it is, we’re sorry. We tried to be good parents.”

  “Oh God,” I choke out. “You didn’t do anything,” I get out around the lump in my throat. “You were amazing parents—the best. I just… I just…” I pause, not knowing what to say. There is no way to explain to them why I left home and never looked back without calling out their son, and I’m not willing to risk telling them what he did to me.

  “I know there is much to talk about, but if we could
put all of that off until another time, I would be grateful. Myla has been very stressed since we got married, and I really don’t want my wife to spend the first few weeks of our marriage depressed,” Kai says.

  My face goes soft, and I lean deeper into his side.

  “This should be a happy time for us, makamae,” he adds, tilting his head down towards me.

  I look up at him in wonder and know that this is one more reason why I could fall in love with him so easily. He has a way of reading me that no one has ever had before.

  “I agree,” my mom says quietly, and my eyes go to her. She is looking up at Kai with her eyes shining. “We have plenty of time to talk about everything. Let’s just have a good time while we’re here.”

  “Thanks, Mom,” I whisper.

  She smiles at me and reaches out to gently hold my cheek before dropping her hand to her side.

  “I, for one, am starving,” my dad chimes in, and the energy in the room becomes lighter.

  Kai presses another kiss to the side of my head then leads me over to the table and pulls out a chair for me before taking a seat at my side.

  “Thank you,” I whisper, looking at him when the servers come in to take the breakfast orders.

  “Any time.”

  He leans in and I tilt my head back without thinking, accepting his kiss. When our lips part, his eyes stay locked on mine and the look I have been trying to decipher appears on his face again before he turns away, not giving me a chance to figure it out.

  *

  “I’m glad you found a good man.” My dad smiles at me as we walk down the beach.

  After breakfast, we decided to take a walk while my mom went to lie out in the sun.

  “You have always put everyone before you. I’m glad you found a man who makes sure you’re taken care of.”

  “He’s good to me,” I say while taking in a lungful of ocean air.

  “You can see it when he looks at you that he adores you.”

 
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