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Authors: Zenobia Renquist

Wet: Undercurrent

Wet: Undercurrent

Zenobia Renquist

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Zenobia Renquist

BIN: 05924-01900
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Publisher:
Changeling Press LLC
315 N. Centre St.
Martinsburg, WV 25404
www.ChangelingPress.com
Editor: Katriena Knights
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

Adult Sexual Content

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Wet: Undercurrent

Zenobia Renquist

 

 

Still waters hide deep passion.

 

Lulu was sent to spy on the competition so she could find out the secret of their success. Her search turns up Hotsuma, a man bound to water so he can use his power to bring good luck to those who imprisoned him.

 

Working to set him free ignites a passion in Lulu only Hotsuma can quench, but they can’t afford to let sex, no matter how good, distract them. Hotsuma’s captors aren’t about to let Lulu leave with their property, and they’re willing to use deadly force to stop her. They’ll need more than luck for their new love to survive.

Chapter One

 

Lulu had a seven-day, six-night all-expenses-paid working vacation to Onsen, one of the most luxurious and expensive spa resorts in the whole of the United States. Onsen was also the top competitor of Voda, the spa resort an hour down the road where Lulu worked.

Vacations weren’t made for people like her. Her idea of a fun vacation was staying at home with no one bothering her. She’d spent the first three days at Onsen running around doing everything so she could assess it all. The only thing she’d felt like doing twice was the massage. But she couldn’t get massages every day. Well, she could, but without stress to tighten up her muscles the effects wouldn’t be the same.

Today she decided to soak in the hot springs. That was what the hotel was most famous for, after all. The walk took Lulu past a group of laughing women. One wore a tiara and a sash with
Bride-to-be
in big gold lettering. A bachelorette party. Nice. Lulu had seen something similar at Voda many times.

No differences. It must be luck of the draw. At least Voda was second to Onsen. Her boss didn’t see that as a good thing, but Lulu did. A few of the other spa resorts were struggling worse than Voda was. Customers would never know it to look at the places, but the overworked employees who hadn’t had raises in two years knew better.

“Are you lost, miss?”

Lulu snapped out of her thoughts and looked at the smiling woman before her and then at her surroundings. “Oops. I must have walked past the entrance to the hot spring.”

“Yes, some of these corridors do look alike.” The woman gestured back the way Lulu had come. “The entrance is at the end of this hall and to the left.”

“Thank you. Sorry.” Lulu smiled apologetically and then retraced her steps. She wasn’t the type to get lost or even turned around. She hadn’t realized she’d gone off course. She glanced over her shoulder before she turned the corner and found the woman still standing in the hall, watching her.

That was weird and a little creepy, but Lulu shrugged it off. Maybe she had wandered into an employees-only area. But she hadn’t seen any signs. A hotel map on the wall caught her attention. She put her finger on the
You Are Here
dot and then traced the path she’d taken.

The hallway wasn’t marked, as in wasn’t there at all. According to the map, there was no other hallway except the one that led to the hot springs and beyond that was the outside of the hotel. Why would the hotel leave off the hallway, even on a visitor map? That was a safety hazard. Someone could get lost. She could understand the hotel not wanting visitors in certain areas, but they usually marked those spots as employees only so guests knew to stay away from them.

Lulu walked to the end of the hall and inched around the corner to see if the woman who had directed her was still there. She wasn’t. Lulu still didn’t see anything that marked this hall as employees only or any reason for it not to be on the map.

“That is a beautiful painting, isn’t it?”

The man’s voice so close to her shoulder made Lulu gasp. She looked at the smiling, robe-clad guest who had spoken.

He said, “It’s by a famous Japanese artist from the eighteen hundreds. I heard the hotel almost had to fight the Japanese government to get it out of the country. It’s a national treasure, after all.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that.”

“I’m a college professor of Japanese history and culture. This hotel is a treasure trove of both. I wish I could bring my students here as part of my curriculum but there’s no way they could afford it.”

“I bet.” Lulu chuckled a little because it was expected, but she had no idea what the man was talking about. What painting? She was looking down a long hallway that led to an unknown location. There were no paintings in sight. “Perhaps you could ask the hotel to sponsor a day trip to the spa for you and your students as a cultural exchange. It’s a tax write-off for them and makes them look like they are giving back to the community.”

Now why the hell was she helping out the competition? Lulu was too good at her job. She couldn’t shut it off, not even when she wasn’t at the place where she worked.

“That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you. I’ll have to speak to the manager. I’m Richard Grant, by the way.” He held out his hand.

Lulu shook his hand with a congenial smile and noticed the way his gaze darted down to her left hand. Of course. He was flirting. She’d almost missed it. “Lulu Swade. I’m a human resources admin.” She offered a generic title for her profession since he’d already told her his. Hopefully he wouldn’t ask her to elaborate.

“That sounds tough. I’m sure you’ve been looking forward to this vacation for a while.”

“Oh, you have no idea.” She really hated small talk. “I was just on my way to relax in the hot springs before dinner.”

“Me too.” He stepped back while watching her expectantly.

Lulu obliged him and they walked back to the hallway that led to the hot springs. She half listened to Richard’s chatter about hot springs and the cultural significance to Japan, but her thoughts stayed on the invisible hallway. When the door that separated the women’s side from the men’s side appeared, Lulu almost sighed in relief.

Richard said, “It’s a shame they separate the two sides, but that is holding with the Japanese culture.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Perhaps we can meet for dinner, and I can tell you more about that painting.”

“That sounds interesting.” Actually it did. Richard must have come alone if he was flirting with her. She hoped that was the case. She hadn’t signed on to this trip for dramatics. Plus talking to him would help with her assignment.

Lulu had glossed over the décor. She hadn’t expected the paintings and sculptures to be real Japanese objet d’art. If they were, that might be the difference. Maybe Voda could embrace the Russian motif a bit more. People liked the myth of Princess Anastasia. Even if Voda couldn’t get originals, close facsimiles -- advertised as such -- would do just as well.

Richard said, “How about we meet in the lobby at seven?”

“It’s a date.”

“I’ll see you then, Lulu.” He pushed open the door of the women’s side and held it while Lulu passed him.

A gentleman. Point in Richard’s favor, though no amount of points would do him any good. Lulu had no plans of getting tangled up with any man while on this trip, least of all him. He was a means to a researching end.

Besides, her interests lay with that mysterious hallway and why Richard hadn’t seen it while standing right in front of it. It wasn’t a hallucination, since she had walked down it. Once she returned to her room, she would do a search on the building plans for this hotel.

Thinking up possibilities for why the hotel had a hidden hallway kept Lulu from enjoying the dip in the hot spring. She decided to cut her visit short so she could do research instead. Yup, vacations were definitely lost on her.

She rushed back to her room without looking like she was rushing and sat at her computer. Before she started typing, she set her phone alarm for six. That would give her enough time to shower and get dressed. She didn’t want to get immersed in her work and forget her dinner date.

Except her precaution wasn’t needed. There was nothing to immerse her. An hour of searching turned up no information, useful or otherwise. Lulu had access to many sites and resources that should have given her details about when the hotel was built and how. There wasn’t even a public record of the building permit. That wasn’t too surprising. Onsen had been around since the town was founded. The city probably hadn’t gotten around to scanning in the physical copy.

But the original hotel had changed drastically from the wooden structure of two hundred years ago. Wait… Lulu changed her search to historical photos and drawings of the town. They wouldn’t be two hundred years old, but that didn’t matter since the hotel wouldn’t have changed that much in the early years. The grand hotel she now stood in hadn’t come to be until the seventies. And even that version had been updated.

Historical photos proved easier to find, though Onsen remained elusive in all of them. A few periodicals of the day made mention of the hotel, but only as a passing thing since the owners were Japanese and that was a rare sight in those days. The same family had owned the hotel since it was built. They’d even made a few minor headlines as one of the only Japanese families to avoid the internment camps during World War II.

That wasn’t their only lucky break. They weathered the Great Depression as though it wasn’t happening just like the most recent recession. Nothing bad seemed to touch this hotel or the owners. Everyone in the family had died of old age -- extremely old age. Most of them lived past one hundred. The oldest living member of the family was already one hundred and seven.

Weirder and weirder. If Lulu believed in deals with the Devil, she would swear this family had made one. But devils and the like didn’t exist. But neither did coincidence. This family had an ace up their sleeve that had kept them and their hotel on top since the beginning. Women’s intuition or a gut feeling made Lulu believe the answer to their luck and success could be found in that mysterious hallway that didn’t exist.

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