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His Charity Challenge: The Alexander Series, #6

His Charity Challenge: The Alexander Series, #6

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His Charity Challenge: The Alexander Series, #6

ratings:
5/5 (1 rating)
Length:
293 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 13, 2015
ISBN:
9781386332077
Format:
Book

Description

Philanthropist, Heshan Alexander, had no interest in dating until he met a certain volunteer waitress - a beautiful woman he can't seem to keep his eyes off of. He knows the strong-willed, independent, Charity Eason, is not interested in him, but that's only because she doesn't know him. That's why, when his mother, Padma Alexander, tells him about Charity's idea to open a summer camp for underprivileged children, he's thrilled about the possibility of working with her on the project.

Charity is reluctant to work with Heshan one-on-one. But since she has a soft spot for children and charity work, she decides to collaborate with him on the summer camp. Still, she has no intention on being with him. She loves her independence and the freedom that comes along with it. Besides, there are certain things she can't stand about Heshan - the foremost being that he reminds her of her ex, Landon Burke. But, when she gets to know just who Heshan Alexander really is, will she change her mind about him?

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 13, 2015
ISBN:
9781386332077
Format:
Book

About the author

TINA MARTIN is the Amazon #1 Bestselling author of over 70 romantic suspense novels, novellas and short stories. She currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.tinamartin.net


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His Charity Challenge - Tina Martin

CHALLENGE

Prologue

With her head resting on top of her flattened hands, Charity stretched out on a green beach towel enjoying her day off from lifeguarding duties. In ultimate chill mode, she closed her eyes, allowing the whirring of the ocean on the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina beach to flood her mind and her senses. The welcoming sun shined bright, baked the surface layer of sand around her and made the sunscreen she wore shimmer against her caramel-colored skin. This is what days off work were supposed to feel like. Now all she needed was a cocktail, a good book and a masseuse with monstrous-sized, skilled hands, working the kinks out of her neck.

"You know he really likes you, right?" Eden said, diving on the sand-covered, navy-blue towel next to Charity.  She’d just run from the shoreline after going for a swim.

Ugh. Thought you were swimming. Charity looked at her sister through a pair of silver-tinted shades that Eden had described as ‘cop glasses’ on their drive to the beach. She knew the he Eden was referring to was none other than Heshan Alexander. So what if he liked her? Did that mean she had to like him in return? She didn’t think so.

Ignoring her sister, Charity closed her eyes behind her sunglasses, stretched her arms and drifted back into relaxation mode. Ah, this is the life. By ignoring Eden, she hoped it would encourage her to go for another swim or at least be quiet.

Then...

Charity, don’t act like you don’t hear me, Eden blurted out.

Ouch. Charity opened her eyes again when she felt a fingernail dig into her shoulder. She rubbed the area then said, Eden, you are completely killing my vibe. Had she known Eden would be so annoying, she would’ve come to the beach alone.

Then talk to me, Eden told her.

The sisters had been reunited months ago when Heshan found Eden on a website, subsequently hiring her to watch after Dilvan, his brother, since Dilvan had made the decision to move to Belize. Worried about his brother’s well-being, Heshan and Eden came up with a plan for Eden to become Dilvan’s vacation housekeeper. It was a rocky introduction, but now Eden and Dilvan were happily married and had recently purchased their dream home.

Charity eased up, rested on her elbows and said, Eden, it wasn’t too long ago that we were reunited. Why don’t we talk about what’s going on in our lives instead of who may or may not like me?

Oh, he likes you, Eden said with a chuckle. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

Charity sighed heavily and lowered her head again, turning her face away from Eden.

All right, all right...let’s talk about our lives. Let’s see... Eden made an annoying humming sound like it would help her think of something to say. Well, you know Dilvan and I just bought a house a month ago, and you haven’t been by to see it yet.

Charity turned to face her sister again. She didn’t want to talk about Dilvan either. Or their house. Or anything else. She just wanted to relax. She blew a breath.

"By the way, you should really try getting to know Dilvan before you completely write him off, Charity. After all, he is your brother-in-law, and if that isn’t motivation enough, his brother is like insanely in love with you."

And we’re back, Charity said in a dry monotone, eyes rolling. I don’t have to be friends with Dilvan just because he’s your husband, Eden.

Yes, you do.

With raised eyebrows, Charity said, No, I don’t.

That’s so wrong, Eden said. If you would just take the time to get to know Dilvan and not judge him by everything you’ve heard about him, you’d see that he’s a good man, Charity.

Maybe so but I won’t be taking the time to get to know anyone anytime soon. And, just so you know, Dilvan’s not the reason I haven’t been by your house. I just figured I’d wait until the housewarming party to see it.

Eden squeezed water from her hair. What housewarming party?

The one I’m sure Padma is planning for you. Once you get the house decorated all nice and glamorous, then I’ll come over and take a tour. Now, can I go back to enjoying the ambience?

How about telling me why you don’t like Heshan?

Here you go with that again, Charity said, withholding a smile. I never said I didn’t like Heshan.

"Right. You didn’t. You said he annoys you and in my opinion that’s about the same thing. So why does Heshan annoy you so much, Cha-ri-ty?" Eden flashed a knowing smile while waiting for Charity to come up with an answer.

Charity sat up again, flipping her hair behind her ear. Why did Heshan annoy her so much? Being the deliciously handsome, half-Indian, half-black, smooth-skinned man he was, every time she saw him, she couldn’t help but be rapt by those alluring, slate-colored eyes of his – the same gray eyes his brothers had.

The oldest of the Alexander brothers, Heshan seemed to have replaced the idea of having a family of his own, to dedicating his time and energy to helping the community. Charity, though not working directly with Heshan, had been around him long enough to notice how respectful he was of his parents. If a woman was serious about life, ready to settle down, get married and have children, Heshan Alexander would be the perfect man for the husband position.

But not for Charity. While he was textbook perfect, something about him did annoy her, and she knew exactly what that something was.

She’d dated him before – well not him, but a man like him – Landon Burke. Everyone labeled Landon as the perfect guy. He was chivalrous, a teacher, giving of his time to help his students. He coached softball on the weekends and used every opportunity he could to present himself as a gentleman. But he ended up being the man who broke her heart.

She wouldn’t be a fool twice. And it wasn’t like she was looking for a man because she wasn’t. Being single meant she was free of relationship drama. And, if she decided to start dating again, it definitely wouldn’t be with a man who reminded her of a loser from her past.

Well? Eden asked, still waiting on an answer.

Well, what? Charity said.

Why does Heshan annoy you?

Right about now, you’re the only one annoying me, Eden.

Eden laughed. Nice. I love how you just keep dodging my question.

Okay, fine. It’s not just Heshan who annoys me. All men annoy me. And I don’t have time for a man in my life, anyway, Charity said. After a few moments of passing silence, she went on to say, There’s just something about Heshan that reminds me of my ex-fiancé.

Who? Lying Landon?

Charity grinned. "Yes. Lying Landon."

"I’m about to Landon another woman’s bed, Landon?"

Good one, Eden. Charity chuckled. "And yes, that Landon. I never went into detail about what happened between me and Landon because it was just too painful to talk about. But, long story very short, he was cheating on me. Our entire relationship was a lie. And here I am thinking that I found the perfect guy. We were both teachers. He loved kids. I loved kids. We worked the same hours. We would’ve had the perfect life, but I caught him in the act, leaving that rundown motel in Nags Head called The Shell-ter. What kind of name is that for a motel, anyway? The Shell-ter...sounds like something a two-year-old came up with." Charity laughed to keep from crying.

Eden laughed, too. Well, you can’t blame the motel for what people do in it.

Charity popped the cap on her water bottle, taking a drink. The really screwed up part about it all was, he tried to deny it. Even after I sat there and— Charity stopped speaking. The more she talked about it, the more her head seemed to throb. Anyway, I called off the wedding and haven’t dated a guy since.

Don’t you want to share your life with someone?

I do, I think. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I just don’t think I’m ready yet. I honestly don’t know if I ever will be. I like my life. I’m in no hurry to jump back into a relationship that’s guaranteed to make riptides in my otherwise smooth-sailing life. Besides, in relationships, you have to make too many concessions, and I’m not willing to do that.

Eden shook her head slightly.

What? Charity asked.

You’re too young to be set in your ways, Charity? Everyone has to make compromises in their relationships and marriages. It comes with the package deal.

Which is why I’m still single.

Jeez, Charity. Landon really did a number on you.

Like they say, everything happens for a reason.

"Okay, sis, look...I can see how the whole lying Landon situation can be discouraging, but you can’t hold one man accountable for the actions of another man."

Charity raised a defiant brow. Sure I can.

No, you can’t. Let me give you an example. A man walks into a bar, robs the joint, then escapes. Should the police randomly select another man, a bystander, and take him into custody to stand trial for the robbery?

Charity grinned. Knowing these shady officers nowadays, that’s a real possibility.

Really, Charity?

What? I’m serious, she said with a smirk. You don’t watch CNN? Charity laughed harder. When she heard Eden sigh, she said, Okay, okay. My answer would be, no. In your example, the police shouldn’t randomly charge someone with the crime, and I see where you’re going with this, but that’s not what I meant when I said you can hold a man accountable for the actions of another.

Eden held up a finger. Don’t try to back pedal now. That’s what you just said.

"Okay, well let me clarify. What I was trying to say is, you learn from experience. If something didn’t work in the past, then you’d be more cautious in the future...if you’re smart."

Right, but... Eden took a breath. Charity, I left and moved to Belize because—

You and mom weren’t getting along, Charity interrupted. I know.

But not only that...my ex was stalking me. When we were together, he was abusive. He would smack me so often, I was beginning to think it was normal. But one day, I woke up and had to get away.

Charity pulled her sunglasses from her eyes. I still don’t know why you didn’t tell me this was going on.

I was too ashamed, and Mom and Dad held you in such high regard that I thought letting you guys know what I was going through would make me look even worse in your eyes, so I said nothing. I just took the abuse. Eden dabbed her eyes. I say all that to say this...I could’ve written off all men after that, especially a man like Dilvan who doesn’t necessarily have a squeaky-clean past. He told me everything he did. I know about the trouble he was in. The time he served. He told me everything, and I could’ve bailed on him. I could’ve said, you know what, self...don’t link up with another man who has an abusive past, but I didn’t do that. I believed Dilvan when he told me he had changed, and that he wanted to start over and I decided not to allow my past relationship to dictate a future one. I knew it was a risk, but it was definitely one worth taking. I love Dilvan more than you can imagine, and I’m glad I gave him a chance...glad I gave love a chance.

Charity nodded. So maybe she had been using her ex as a cop-out to write men off. Okay. Fine. But what did that admission have to do with Heshan?

I get what you’re saying, Eden, but I still don’t want to date Heshan.

That’s too bad. The man is in love with you.

Smiling, Charity said, Stop saying that. He’s not in love with me.

He is, and you know it. That’s why you’re smiling.

No, I’m smiling because it’s comical that you could believe such absurdness. Read my lips, Eden...Heshan Alexander is not in love with me. How could he be when he doesn’t even know me?

Okay. He’s infatuated with you. Is that better?

Well, he can run along and be infatuated with someone else.

Eden shook her head. You’re bypassing a good man if you let him go.

I’ve passed up a lot of good men, and would you take a look...I’m still alive and well. Charity laughed.

I’m just saying, Eden said. Plus, Dilvan told me that, like you, Heshan doesn’t date much, if any.

Yeah, and I know why.

Eden’s mouth quirked up. Why, Charity?

Because he’s a smooth operator.

Eden chuckled. "Now that’s comical." She laughed harder after she made the statement.

Laugh all you want, Charity told her.

It’s funny because Heshan is an avid philanthropist, following in the footsteps of his parents. He doesn’t have time to be a smooth operator.  And who wouldn’t want a man who is so giving of himself, his time and his energy to help people? Complete strangers in most cases?

She had a point there. Heshan was giving of his time, but after all the work he’d done, all the people he’d met through his community work, why would he want her? Surely he’d met his millionaire match – a brilliant woman in her mid-thirties who shared his passion for giving back.

Look, Charity, I’m not saying run off to Paris with the man. And if you’re not interested in dating him, fine. But you could, at least, be nice to him.

Nice? Charity said, seemingly taken aback by her sister’s insinuation. I’m not nice?

Eden lifted a brow. To him, no. You don’t even speak.

I do speak.

Eden shook her head. That mumbly-grumbly noise you make whenever he passes...that’s not speaking. I’m talking about actually opening your mouth and saying hi.

Charity took another sip of water. She was so done with the Heshan conversation.

Anyway, what are you doing tomorrow? Eden asked, changing the subject.

Why?

Dilvan and I have been so busy getting the house in order that we wanted to take a day to do something enjoyable. So we’re going fishing. You’re welcome to join us.

Nooo, thank you.

Charity, you really need to spend time with Dilvan. He’s not the person he used to be.

"While that may be true, I can’t just magically become friends with your husband just because he’s your husband, Eden."

Why? Because you’re friends with Gabrielle?

Gabrielle has nothing to do with it. And do you really think Gabrielle sits around rehashing that part of her life? I’ll answer that for you. No. We talk about other things. We watch TV, laugh, joke, eat...what friends do.

So why can’t you come fishing with us?

Not that I owe you an explanation, but I’m meeting Padma tomorrow.

"And why are you meeting my mother-in-law?"

Charity cocked her head to the side. Why was Eden asking so many questions? Her peaceful day off work had turned into an inquisition. To toss around some ideas with her. Business-related stuff. None-of-your-business stuff.

Oh. I see how it is, Eden replied. You don’t like Heshan, but you get along well with his mother.

Of course. Who doesn’t like Padma Alexander? She’s a sweetie pie.

Glad you feel that way. So when she becomes your mother-in-law, you two will already have a good relationship. This is perfect.

Charity squinted at Eden. If we were in the water, I would totally drown you.

Eden laughed. See, that’s what I’m talking about. You’re not nice. I’m your sister and you just threatened me. Poor Heshan...

The women chuckled.

You know I’m kidding, Charity said. But seriously, though, stop talking about Heshan. If something happens between us, which it won’t, it would be because it happened organically...not because you, or anyone else, were trying to play matchmaker.

Eden flashed a playful grin. Remember you said that.

Chapter 1

Two Weeks Later

––––––––

Looks like my day just got a little brighter, Heshan said to his cousin Tyson but loud enough for Charity to hear him.

Tyson glanced up to see the source of Heshan’s cheerful mood, grinning when he saw her – a mean-faced, narrow-eyed, Charity Eason. She had just passed through the double doors, entering the restaurant’s kitchen with a large, round tray, ready to grab the order for the next table, when she glared at Heshan in passing.

Heshan smiled at her.

She looked away.

Heshan chuckled, then kept on staring at her. No, he studied her. Committing her to his short-term and permanent memories, he observed her cinnamon-colored hair in a ponytail, wrapped into a ball. Her hairdo forced him to visualize when he’d seen her wear it loose, hanging down her back and framing her gorgeous face. He traced the outline of her oval-shaped face, down to a pair of delicate, pouty, gloss pink lips. She appeared to have applied some makeup this morning, but with that honey-brown, sun-kissed skin of hers, she didn’t need any makeup. Besides, makeup seemed to hide the few gorgeous freckles sprinkled on her face.

Heshan’s eyes left her face to roam her petite body. She had on an outfit similar to what she always wore when she volunteered at the restaurant – a pair of black khakis, a white ruffled blouse and a pair of comfortable black flats. The black apron covered her from the front, but from the back, Heshan could see her limber, yet shapely body. She had to be in shape to be a lifeguard.

Tyson glanced up at Heshan and smirked. Heshan was in the zone. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Charity.  He stared at her as she placed food dishes on the tray. She always double-checked her orders, making sure everything was right. Other waitresses often joked about how Charity was a perfectionist when it came to serving her customers. She wanted to make sure they enjoyed their meals at Padma’s Food House. It didn’t matter if they were homeless or of the elite class in the Outer Banks – she treated and served everyone equally.

Right now, she was concentrating intently on making sure her order was correct, so much so that she hadn’t felt the laser-like heat of Heshan’s eyes against the side of her face.

Your day might’ve gotten brighter, Tyson said, But seems to me Charity has a rain cloud hovering over her head. I think you better fall back, man.

Heshan’s mouth turned up. Nah. She always looks like that...trying to play hard to get. You know how women do.

Yeah, but I don’t think she’s playing, Tyson said, then let out a chuckle.

How would you know?

Easy. See those frown lines in her forehead? She doesn’t look like that all the time. She was at the house last night, hanging out with Gabrielle and T.J. They were laughing and having a good time. The look she just gave you was ice cold, man...so cold, I think I might need a jacket.

Doesn’t matter, Heshan said, opening a five-pound bag of sugar. I have a feeling she likes me.

That’s funny because all I feel is an arctic chill reminiscent of a Midwest winter.

Oh, you’re an expert on women since you’re happily married now?

Tyson laughed.

I’m sure Gabrielle didn’t like you when y’all first met, Heshan said.

"Not popping my collar or anything, but actually, Gabrielle did like me. Even though she didn’t say it outright, I knew. I know you’ve been out of the game for a while, man, but you have to learn to read the signs."

Tyson continued slicing the moist pineapple

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