In her wildest dreams, Toni, city-girl detective, never imagined she would seriously consider the proposal of a muscled, tattooed sheep rancher, with a rope of hair to his waist, dressed in a loin cloth and feathers.
Rad knew the moment he spied the knockout petite trespasser, and she pointed the tip of the ritual-leaf at his heart, that she came in war. The war turns deadly when an old enemy vows to destroy and kill Rad. But will this battle end in love or tragedy?
“Rad, open your eyes!” She patted his face. She was about to look for water when he moaned. She smoothed his brow. He blinked several times, as if dazed.
“Are you all right?”
“I'll live.” He sat up. “Untie me, will you?”
She worked at the ropes, loosening, tugging and forcing ends through tight loops.
“Ohhhhh. Shoulder cramp. Could you hurry it up, please?”
“What do you think I’m doing? Knitting?” She figured his short temper was directed at himself for getting them into this mess. Nevertheless, she gave a hard yank and caught some of the fine hairs on the back of his hand in the withdrawing knot.
“Ouch! Was that necessary?”
“Very.” And satisfying, she thought, tugging harder. Finally, the ropes fell away.
He rubbed his wrists. She had an urge to go to him and massage the feeling back into his hands, but wiser defensive instincts told her touching him would be a mistake, one she dare not make again. She traced trembling fingers over her lips, still swollen from his earlier kisses. He was her client, albeit a very sexy one, but a client nonetheless. That meant he was off limits. In a reckless, vulnerable moment, she'd allowed herself to taste the forbidden. And now she was paying with an impossible craving.
Rad stood and helped her up as he rose. Fighting a wild vulnerability to his touch, she followed him to the boulder. He pushed on it in vain. “Tinihanga did this?”
“He confined us in here to keep from killing us.” She brushed back tendrils of auburn hair that had loosened from her ponytail. The tendrils, damp from the earlier swim chilled her. She shivered. “It's your buddy’s way of showing a fondness for you.”
Rad knocked against the cave wall. Solid rock. He shook his head. “I trusted him like family.”
Toni bit the corner of her lip to avoid saying if he'd listened to her they wouldn't be in this predicament. She flashed the light around.
Rad’s gaze followed the beam, scanning the walls with searching eyes. “Mutunga-iho Cave!” he said.
Her heart beat faster. Endless sounded ominous. “There must be many caves around. How do you know this one?”
“I've been here before with Tukaha.” He grasped her hand and pointed the flashlight at the Maori drawing on the side wall. The beaked, birdlike image had an almost oriental look. Its slanted eyes and clawed hand with a spur thumb gave it a paranormal appearance.
She shivered and looked ahead into the darkness. “Are you sure there isn't another way out of here?”
“Tukaha told me ‘those who dare to go beyond the waterfall in the ceiling crevice are never seen again.’”
“You didn't check it out? Were you afraid?”
“I'm seldom afraid, even when I know there's danger.”
She aimed the spherical flashlight beam at him.
With a cool penetrating look, she appraised his wide chest and broad shoulders. “That's right. I forgot. You're one of those macho men.”
“Why don't we just get this over with?” His umber eyes flashed with quick temper. “This is my fault. If I'd listened to you we wouldn't be trapped in here. Right?”
“You said it; I didn't.”
She spun away from him and lifted the lid of the cardboard box next to the wall. She aimed the light inside. It had a rolled sleeping bag, a water jug with a spout, cans of food, and even a bottle of wine. “At least we won't starve. Not for a week or so, anyway.”
“Think we can trust the food and drink provided by a man who drugged everyone on my station?” He held her gaze. When she didn’t respond, he said “Is there another flashlight in there?”
“Just a lantern, candles and matches.”
“I'll take the lantern. You keep the flashlight here with you.” He reached into the box and pulled out the lantern.
Toni grabbed his arm. Her fingers sank into the soft wool of his sweater until she felt the hard muscle underneath. “You're not going anywhere without me!”
“I told you that no one has ever come back from the bowels of this cave.” He stared at her hand gripping his arm, then into her face. In the subdued lighting, his piercing eyes looked black.
She returned his intimidating look with all the defiance she could muster. “It might take both of us to find a way out of here. I'm going with you, and that's final.”
“If I said no, you'd follow anyway, wouldn't you?”
“You've got the picture.”
He took her hand off his arm and lifted the box of provisions to his shoulder. “Let's go then.”
The deeper into the cave they walked, the colder and darker it got. Toni flashed the light ahead.
Rad grabbed her arm. “Watch out. Don't trip on that plank of wood.”
As she stepped over it, Toni felt a drop of water on her head, then another. She flashed the light upward to see its source. Water dripped from the lacy threads of crystalline, icicle-shaped, stalactites that hung from the cave’s ceiling.
“What are all those tiny lights up there?”
“You're kidding, right?” It was hard to talk with her teeth chattering from the cold. She almost bumped into the spear-like stalagmite formed from the floor to meet the stalactite above.
“No joke. If I remember correctly the crevice waterfall is just ahead. We can rest there.”
She flashed the light on her watch. Three in the morning.
By the time she heard the roar of the falls, her feet felt like lead. Strange, the air suddenly became warmer, and her skin turned dewy from the humid spray that misted the atmosphere. Still no sight of any falls. Then ahead, there it was. It blocked their way and dropped from above at least forty-feet with silvery waters crashing into a swirling pool of foam and mist.
Rad placed the box of provisions on the stone floor. He lit the lantern and placed it on a ledge. The flame threw images onto the wall. Shadows of Toni and Rad danced there like lovers. Next to them, icicle stalactites reaching toward lacy spears of stalagmites, reflected like prehistoric demons.
Toni stooped and dipped her finger into the pool at the base of the falls.
“This is warm!” The echo of her raised voice bounced off the walls of the cavern.
“Tukaha told me that in years past, Maori women came to swim here.
They liked seeing themselves in the mirrored pool. It was said that the water embodied magic and that those who swam here became more beautiful.”
“Guess I'd better take a swim.”
He looked into her eyes. “You don't need it.”
Embarrassed, she glanced away. She had shamelessly hinted for that pitiful compliment. Instantly, she was sorry.
“The brightness here from the glow worms is extraordinary,” she whispered in awe, “as if the ceiling blazes with ten-thousand tiny, clear, Christmas bulbs.”
“Turn off the flashlight, and save the batteries. Besides, with the lantern lit, you don't need it.”
The last of the romantics, she thought. Toni rubbed her sweater-covered thawing arms, glad to get feeling back into them.
“Are you cold?” He stepped toward her.
She had an urge to walk into his arms. She remembered their heat, their strength. She retreated a step. “Not anymore. The air is warmer here.”
“The thermal underground stream feeds into the pool and heats the air, primitive steam heat.”
“With enough power to run a thermal generator?”
“Hmmm. The puzzle pieces are falling into place.” She felt her excitement rising. “I'm going in. Maybe there's a way out behind the falls.” She sat down on a rock and started taking off her boots.
“Stay here. I'll check it out.” Rad quickly removed his sweater and shirt. It seemed he was always getting naked around her. Her breath caught. In the dim light, the shadow of his upper body magnified on the cave's wall, like a giant warrior. The man himself looked no less impressive. Toni fought the urge to reach out and touch him. Imagining if she did, his powerful, work-hardened arms would close around her.
A piercing cry echoed through the cave.
Posted by Unknown on 16th Apr 2012
When Toni Conners is first sent on assignment to investigate the rustling of sheep at a Maori farm in New Zealand, she is unaware of the massive changes that this investigation will bring about in her life. She’s a simple minded, hard-edged California born detective, with enough brains to out- smart and outwit any other detective around. She is ready and more than willing to investigate the rustling and the murders that took place on the farm. She is even moderately convinced that it may be connected to the fall and loss of her mother and late step fathers dairy farm as well. Now all she has to do is convince the brawny Maori boss man that she is an able bodied detective who is perfect for the job, even if he only sees her as a weak American born woman.
When the sexy little red head Toni first approaches Radford Manawa-Nui Murdoch outside his ranch home, he is immediately on edge. The little spitfire, and her grassy green eyes bore into him with an intensity he’s never known before, and it greatly unnerves him. The last thing he needs is a non-Maori woman bewitching him. He certainly doesn’t want her on this case. He figures that as a woman, her place is definitely not here. Unfortunately, he just can’t seem to tell her no, and decides to take a chance on her. The last thing he ever thought would happen was that he would fall in love with her.
As the investigations of the rustling and murders move on, Rad and Toni find themselves becoming increasingly attracted to one another. Rad is becoming desperate to keep Toni safe, and around each corner they turn, Toni ends up being the one who seems to come to the rescue of Rad. He’s astonished at the risks that this woman takes, and wants more than anything to be by her side throughout the investigation now. She’s getting to his heart, and he’s not one hundred percent sure that it’s okay. The problem being that Rad has always told himself that he would only fall in love with a woman of Maori culture. He feels torn as to what his heart feels, and what his head says at the same time. He continuously fights to get over the growing feelings that she invokes on him, even though all signs say she is the woman for him. Toni, on the other hand, has a more immediate answer; she’s fallen in love with this gorgeous man. He brings forth in her a woman, waiting to erupt with love and passion. Now all she can do is wait and see whether he feels the same way. So along with mystery, intrigue, and danger, Rad and Toni now have to deal with feelings of newness and growing love.
Rad is a confused man. He holds a deep passion for his Maori culture and wants to honor his late grandmother by choosing a wife who contains characteristics just like her. He’s honorable in this sense, and I find that to be completely appealing in a character. He’s tough as nails but has a vulnerability to him that hides just below the surface. It takes a lot for him to open up, but when he does, he is sweet and completely sensitive. He holds this exoticness too that you can’t help but find attractive. As a matter of fact, throughout Pointing Leaf, I found myself googling Maori men just to try and put a mental picture to the beauty that he is described in.
Toni is a kick-butt heroine with a knock your socks off kind of attitude, and I absolutely loved it! She truly was a character who could hold her own, and I was right there with her through it all. She made me want to run out and become a detective due to her fierce and fighting ways. I greatly admired that about her, and wish that more female characters held the true heroine position like she did. She was so fun to read about!
Overall I would have to say that Pointing Leaf was a very enjoyable read. I felt as though each character was written with a great deal of passion and edge behind them, and the development of each character was spot on. Pointing Leaf held the perfect balance of fantasy and reality, and I felt it was a perfect Sunday afternoon escape. I loved the suspense, and mystery Pointing Leaf brought along with it. I also loved how the romance was steamy enough to get your blood pumping, and yet still held an air of mystery during the love scenes. So in the end, I recommend Pointing Leaf to anyone in need of a good romantic suspense, with a love story that will woo you until the end.