What happens when a brokenhearted computer nerd and culinary whiz gets rescued by a relationship-phobic psychologist with a past that haunts her? For Leilani and Justin, it’s an attraction they can’t deny but which each is reluctant to pursue. More so for Leilani whose family had to flee their troubled country when she was only nine.
Leilani is focused on leaving the past behind, moving forward. But when she learns the truth behind her family’s flight—the shocking, shameful secret about her father’s role in a deadly political web—she is devastated.
Is her father a hero or a villain? Can she deal with the truth?
But she finds the past impossible to run away from. Together with Justin, she must get her father out of her former home. Can she forgive her father, accept him for what he is? And can she reconnect with her roots and be at peace with who she is?
In Welcome Reluctant Stranger, Book 3 in a family saga, the many faces of love are spun in a tale of loss and international political intrigue.
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If you could see heat, you would see it that day rising from the concrete paving in the schoolyard, colliding with rays plummeting from the sun. The light was blinding, the heat oppressive.
The schoolyard was unlike most others on this tiny island on the Pacific. A concrete wall, eight-feet high and topped with countless pieces of broken glass embedded into the concrete, surrounded both the school and the perimeter of the 30,000 square foot yard. A young woman fully covered—except for her face and hands—in the white habit of a Catholic novice, circled the yard, watching pupils play.
About a hundred girls, ages six to eleven, clad in dark blue skirts and white shirts with peter pan collars loosely tied with wide, dark blue bows, formed groups around three or four games. Despite the buzz of activity, no one shouted, shrieked, or raised a ruckus.
The girls ignored the heat as they played in the few minutes they had for recess. All, except one girl. She sat in the shade, smiling, content with observing everyone else, and enjoying the light breeze that blew now and then.
Younger girls hovered around rectangular hopscotch courses drawn with chalk on the cemented yard. Some older pupils ran games of tag but the majority, along with a few younger ones, waited in a long line to take their turn at jumping rope.
From a slatted wooden bench, Leilani watched the game with cool interest until her best friend, Myrna, ran into the arc of the spinning rope to join another girl from her class. Leilani leaned forward.
Two girls, each holding one end of the rope, swung vigorously down, sideways, up, and around over and over. The rope whirled so fast that all Leilani saw was an elliptical form pinched at its ends, like a sausage bulging in the middle. Inside, the girls jumped, as fast and as high as they could to evade the whirling rope. If they got their feet caught, they lost and had to get out. The player who lasted longest won.
Myrna was good at it, maybe the best. She skipped like a fawn and could outlast everyone else Leilani had seen. Before long, the other girl gave up and yielded her place to another. Leilani clapped hard for her friend, a wide smile wiping away the pout on her lips.
“Why aren’t you with the other girls, Leilani?”
Leilani turned as Sister Young sat on the bench next to her. Sister Young was the newest novice who alternated with another novice, Sister Mariano, in watching the children in the schoolyard. Leilani liked Sister Mariano better. She had a nicer smile and she spoke in a soft, sweet voice. Sister Young, tall, thin, light-skinned, and sharp-featured, looked like she disapproved of everyone. And she was too nosy.
Leilani shrugged, her pout returning, as she turned her attention back to the girls skipping rope.
“Is anything wrong, Leilani?”
“No. It’s too hot to play.”
“Your classmates don’t seem to think so. Myrna looks like she’s having fun.”
“Myrna likes to jump rope better than school.”
Sister Young chuckled. “I can understand that. When I was your age, I preferred running around with my brothers than playing with my dolls or reading. But what about you? What do you like to do best?”
“Is there much fun in that?” Sister Young sounded as if she believed the opposite.
Leilani shrugged again. The novice said nothing more for a few minutes.
Myrna jumped out of the spinning rope, yielding her place to a girl who had just joined her in it. Standing outside the arc of the rope, she swiped her arm across her face and wiped it on her shirt. She ambled to the side and dropped her butt down next to one of the girls swinging the rope.
“She must be tired,” Leilani mumbled to herself, sitting back on the bench and sticking her lower lip out farther.
Sister Young said, “What did you say?”
“How’s your family doing, Leilani?”
“Sister Mariano told me your father is a doctor who’s part of the team that takes care of the president. You must be very proud of him.”
“He’s no better than other doctors.”
“But he must be pretty good to be on the team. Do you see him much? I know doctors can’t keep regular working hours like others do.”
“I see him enough.”
“What about your mother?”
“Mamá is Mamá.”
“Does she work?”
Leilani scowled. “She paints her nails different colors every day and fills lots of vases with flowers.” She knew no one who worked, among the mothers of her classmates. She added, “We have maids who do the housework.”