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The Scent of Orchids

Elissa Martin arrives in Hawaii to save her cousin from terrible trouble...Adam Wolcot. But she is unprepared for the effect the man has on her. She decides the months of self-imposed exile on her Missouri farm, following the deaths of her parents and a failed love affair have taken their toll on her otherwise healthy mental state. Yet, the more she gets to know him, the more she convinces herself that any danger he represents to Lyla is just a figment of her over-active imagination. Can Elissa overcome her distrust of men, and to Adam in particular, enough to fall in love with him?

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Holly Lynne Rose

A published poet, journalist, and photographer, Holly Lynne Rose turned her heart to romance writing when she brought her newborn baby girl home. She has never looked back. Proud mother of Fire Fighter, Matthew, and Missionary, Jennifer, she ranks her role as mother as her most important accomplishment.

Holly lives in the deep south, a hop, skip and jump away from bayous, cypress knees, and alligators. She is owned by two cats: Gobo, a gentle giant, and Buttercup, small but scrappy.

Visit my website at http://homepages.msn.com/lyricln/hollylynnerose/index.html

Reviews

Rose delivers a well-structured story. Well done!"

Affaire de Coeur -- 4 Stars!


"A sweet contemporary, SCENT OF ORCHIDS is set in exotic Hawaii ... Ms. Rose has crafted a fast-paced story that is a fun read."

Scribes World Reviews

"This is an enjoyable, well-crafted novel, with both Elissa and Adam stuck in moral quandaries. There is a theme of forgiveness and tolerance running through it, making the behaviour of the characters understandable, believable. This novel is quite short too, so its a pleasant way to spend an afternoon."

Wendy Harding -- CompuServe Romance Reviews
Excerpt

Prologue

Present day

Petaluma, California

This was the woman who had seduced his father.

Adam Wolcot stared at the fragile scrap of newsprint, and nearly crushed it in his fingers. Catching himself before he crumpled the only visible clue, he swore softly into the early morning fog.

It wasn't that cold, but the moisture-laden air, rushing inland from the California coast, cut through him like a knife. Yet, he waited... clad only in a bathrobe on the front porch of the last home his father would ever see. Never again would the old man's deep, gentle voice bellow down the stairs, telling him to get ready to go fishing. Soon, this elegant structure, the only tangible memory of his father that Adam had left would be gone too, unless he caught her.

Adam didn't know why he grasped the faded picture in his curled-up fist. He would never forget each fuzzy line of that face, even though the description would fit thousands of women, not a few of whom lived and walked the streets of his home town. Dark hair she had, and a full, sensuous mouth -- an attribute he favored. Damn, he swore again. Just how much could he tell from a blurred image on a faded scrap of newsprint? Could his father have been so ill that he wouldn't have recognized a con artist when he met one?

At the sound of a slamming car door, Adam cringed, then relaxed at the knowledge that his childhood friend had at last arrived. He started off the porch into the deep fog but kept still when he heard Bill's heavy footsteps along the flagstone. The huge shoulders appeared as a shadow from the depths of the dark, and Adam decided he would know the man anywhere just from his shape alone. Bill moved to the lower step, and Adam saw him extend his hand in greeting. He shuffled his feet and the fog curled around his ankles like a skinny gray cat. The morning was dismal, and so was he. A depression so deep it touched his very soul snaked around his heart in the same way the mist crawled along the boards on which he stood. Shaking the feeling aside, he looked toward his best friend in the world.

"Welcome to Petaluma, my friend," Adam said, grasping the palm his visitor extended.

"He's gone, then."

"Less than an hour ago. There wasn't anything the doctors could do. They said his heart just gave out. I know his heart was already broken." He stopped. The hated nuisance of emotion choked off his voice. It did serve a purpose, though. It spurred his determination and filled him with the desire to discover the truth about Emily Montrose.

"Come on," he continued at last. "Let's move inside. It's not quite as dreary there."

The dreariness followed, however, as the men moved quietly into the drawing room. Even when the roaring fire in the fireplace forced the chill into the far reaches of the room, neither man could put aside the grief that enveloped him.

Bill accepted tea when Adam offered it. For himself, he chose brandy, a drink guaranteed to put him into a splendid stupor. He usually didn't drink in the morning, but since he hadn't slept the night before, maybe he could pretend it was evening.

He slouched into a waiting armchair and handed the scrap of newsprint to Bill after he had settled into the matching chair.

"He left everything to her," Adam said in little more than a whisper. "She's his sole beneficiary of the million dollar insurance policy, and he charged me to find her." He stared at his guest. "I'd find her myself, but I'm afraid I have so little to go on that it may take months. I need help, my friend."

Bill lowered the steaming mug from his mouth and whistled low. "That's a tall order, especially when we have so many other cases to work on. What information do you have to work with?"

"That picture, her name, and that she was headed for Hong Kong."

Bill studied the picture. "Clipped from a newspaper. No caption, no header. Could have come from a town called Podunk in Outer Slobovia for all we know. Photo not very good, either. How'd you get it?"

Adam shrugged. "Dad asked me to get it out of his wallet so he could keep it close."

"Well," Bill ventured. "We've had less. But what does this mean for your business? How are the bills going to be paid if you're off chasing this woman?"

Adam heaved a sigh. The brandy muddled his thinking, but he heard the question. He just didn't know how to answer it.

"None of that matters anymore," he said, finally. "The business isn't large enough to pay the mortgage on this huge house. I'll have to sell it. I don't really care, though. It won't be the same with him gone, anyway." He paused as he drained the last of the brandy from the snifter, then raked his fingers through hair just washed after a two-day death vigil. It had been in the solitude of that shower where he'd at last realized his father was really gone, and loneliness surrounded him under the hot stinging spray.

He felt that sense of loneliness building once again as he continued. "He said she was helpless and needed the money more than I did. 'She's one of 'life's unfortunates,' the 'walking wounded' were his exact words." Turning his back to face the fireplace, he stared deep into the flames. "I never expected him to die so young." He rubbed his fingers across tired eyes. "I never expected to be looking for a strange woman to fulfill my father's dying wish." With a heavy sigh he continued, "Even if I lose everything, my business, this home everything, I'll do as he asked."

Bill sat back. For Adam to leave his insurance investigator's business in a secretary's hands while he ran all over the world chasing leads could prove disastrous, but he had faced disasters before and bounced back, overcoming tremendous odds.

"Your father wouldn't want you to wallow in grief for him. If he were here, I'd bet he'd tell you to remember the good times and get on with your life."

Adam didn't answer right away. Instead, he inhaled the last vapors from his empty snifter and shuffled to his feet. "Bill, I'm certain Dad was conned into making this Emily Montrose the beneficiary to his insurance policy. I don't care about the money if he was happy and he truly loved and wanted her to have it." Sighing, he rolled the glass between suddenly cold hands. "But there's the very real possibility that she's done this before. The way she disappeared leads me to believe that Dad was only one of many victims, and if he was conned, then I'll move heaven and earth to keep her from getting anything."

His friend whistled low.

Adam continued, "If I had been home instead of in Texas on a case for three months, maybe I could have prevented this. As it is now, the trick is going to be finding proof." He rubbed his fingers over his eyes and smoothed his forehead.

Walking to where Bill sat, Adam picked up the mug, and moved with heavy-footed sureness to the kitchen. Without asking Bill if he wanted more, Adam put the water on to boil and plucked another tea bag from the box in the cupboard. Once the water had heated, and he splashed the liquid into the cup, he made his way slowly back into the drawing room. Throughout his absence, he noticed Bill's silence and his lack of a continuing conversation yelled down the hall to the kitchen as was his usual habit.

When he placed the cup on the table beside Bill's chair, Adam's gaze went to the picture placed in the center of a frilly doily, a keepsake from his mother. Picking up the picture, he ran a fingertip over the three figures posed so haphazardly. The boys sprawled on a log while the older man stood behind. Dad, Bill, and him. God, it had been so long ago but despite Dad's passing, he couldn't help smiling. That had been some weekend.

He glanced at Bill. "Do you remember the weekend we went to the lake house and decided to go track Bigfoot? Lord, how old were we then?"

Bill blew on his tea then sipped tentatively. "Nine, ten, I suppose and yes, I remember. I remember we got in trouble and you almost got grounded for the rest of your childhood."

"Dad was so mad," Adam continued. "He'd just broken his foot, and we'd gone to the lake house so he could recuperate." He smiled at Bill who returned the grin with an amused glint in his eyes.

"Yeah, we thought we were so brave and got a wild hair to go hunting. The news had been on about Bigfoot being spotted in the mountains. The perfect big game for boys armed with slingshots." Bill said with a subdued chuckle.

He spoke over his friend's chortle. "We sneaked out and were on the verge of being lost when we came across the strangest Bigfoot tracks we ever saw. One big foot, and one wooden stump." Spirits lifting, he couldn't help but laugh while Bill picked up the memory.

"One footprint and one hole. We were so scared neither one of us noticed the similarity between the tracks and your dad's walking cast."

He shook his head and with a knot in his throat said, "Followed the trail all the way back to the house. Dad led us home."

He went to the sideboard and poured a cup of coffee for himself, needing a little caffeine to counteract the brandy. When he turned back, he found Bill smiling at him.

"I also remember the Christmas you put itching powder in his Santa Claus suit. I can still imagine his scratching." Bill stopped talking long enough to make clawing motions against his ribs. "Thought you were really going to get it for that," He said.

"Dad never lifted a hand to hit me. Came close sometimes but, God bless him, he always kept a sense of humor about all the tricks I used to pull on him." He sipped at his coffee as he resumed his seat across from Bill.

Taking a deep breath, his love for his father rose to fill him with a fierce determination. "I have to find her, Bill. I will find her."

Bill rose and clamped a hand on Adam's shoulder. If anyone could prove insurance fraud, Adam could. He was known for his gut-feelings and bulldog tenacity. At the moment, though, Bill wasn't certain that grief over the loss of his father hadn't colored his friend's otherwise abundant intuition.

"So, what can I do?" He asked, finally.

"Dad wanted me to give this Emily Montrose news of her inheritance. I intend to do just that."

"And?"

He sighed, then, a tiredness like he'd never known before spread across his shoulders. "Bill, my friend, I'm giving you an assignment. Lord knows, I may never be able to repay you." He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees partially covered by his bathrobe. "First, I want you to get your friends at that computer lab to do an enhancement of this picture. I'm afraid that's the way we'll have to go. We don't have the time to find the newspaper to get a decent print. Second, help me track this woman."

He felt anger kick in at that moment. Perhaps, it was the recollections of the good times he and his dad had shared. Perhaps, it was seeing his father's cold, lifeless hand resting so lovingly on his own. Perhaps, he just needed to know once and for all if a deceitful woman had robbed a man whom he loved with all his heart.

"Finally, I want you to help me trap a thief and put her in jail for a very long time."