Home > Grant's Blaze (Shark's Edge #6)

Grant's Blaze (Shark's Edge #6)
Author: Angel Payne

 

Chapter One

 

 

Rio

 

 

“In five hundred feet, you will have reached your destination. Your destination is on the left.”

My Fiat’s navigational assistant directed me to the Malibu address with efficiency. This wasn’t a part of Southern California I was intimately familiar with, but my little car was perfect for the tight streets and dimensionally unusable parking spaces that had to be passed over by the larger luxury sedans and town cars that were more prevalent in this zip code.

Five days had come and gone since I arrived home from my Hawaiian vacation with Grant. Well, what I had rebranded as a vacation. In reality, the trip had been the man acting as my savior. Once again. When he broke me out of a mental health facility in downtown LA, I was in the throes of a crisis that no one in my life wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole. So instead of doing whatever they could to support me, they had me committed to Clear Horizons.

But Grant swooped in to save the day. My very own action hero—Christ knew he had the looks and the physique for the role—carried me out while my mind swam through a drug haze and then stole me away for the trip of a lifetime.

But that three-week pleasure cruise aboard a private yacht with one of the world’s most eligible bachelors ended with my life’s second-worst day. Late in the night, automatic-weapon-brandishing maritime pirates boarded our vessel and took Grant hostage.

Disbelief still twisted my gut. I pictured myself pitching this crazy bullshit to studio execs as the plot of next summer’s biggest blockbuster.

If only I were making it up.

Back to reality, though, and the hulking house before me. I dug into my jeans’ back pocket for my phone to make sure I had the right address. Never mind I’d just done the exact same thing before I parked.

Concentrating on anything for longer than a minute or two was proving to be a challenge. Even on an average day, it wasn’t my strong suit. Throw in the trauma of the last week, and I’d become a real basket case again. Reminded me a lot of the days right after Sean’s accident, only Grant wasn’t here to pick me up every time I fell down.

I could not lose another man I loved. I wouldn’t survive this time. I knew that declaration to be real with every breath I took. It was the thought that scared me into action every morning and terrorized me in my nightmares every night. I had to do everything in my power to bring Grant home.

That plan started right here.

“Focus, Rio,” I muttered to myself and took a deep breath of salty air to let it center my wayward thoughts. The ocean had always been a balm for my frazzled nerves, and I hoped like hell when the agony of witnessing Grant’s abduction wore off, I would again feel peace when I heard the familiar sound of waves breaking and watched seagulls dancing and dipping on the offshore breeze. Right now, the only things settling over me were fear, anxiety, and a lot of frustration.

I pressed the button at the solid wooden gate and waited. My gaze wandered over the meticulously crafted iron trim and followed the shallow gully it created up at least ten feet to the highest point on the fence. With an easy rock back on my heels, I could see the entire property was surrounded like a fortress. I took a quick look behind me, hoping none of the neighbors were watching me gawk like an obvious outsider while I waited for the homeowner to answer. Finally, a low buzz sounded, quickly followed by a click as the gate was unlocked.

With a fortifying inhale, I pushed my way inside and followed the pebble-finished sidewalk to the front door. I half expected a team of Doberman pinschers to bound around the corner with their teeth bared and hungry snarls set in place as they positioned themselves to defend their master’s property.

Instead, Elijah Banks appeared at the front door. His bare feet drew my gaze down, and I admired his powerful, dark-denim-clad thighs on the way back up to the plain white V-neck T-shirt that stretched across his defined chest and arms.

Had this man always been so good-looking? His sandy-brown hair flopped carelessly to one side, and a few days of unshaven beard stubble complemented his olive skin.

Instantly, I felt guilty for checking him out so thoroughly. I darted my stare back to the ground and then casually to the landscaped apron around the front walk.

“Elijah, hey. You have a beautiful home, this location…wow.”

Perfect. Now I was a tongue-tied basket case in front of Grant’s best friend. Though between my sleepless nights, this larger-than-life house, and the man himself, who could blame me for having an utterly scrambled brain?

The castle-size front door swept inward, and Elijah stood back and motioned for me to enter while saying, “Thanks for coming here to meet. I know it’s a bit out of the way, but given the nature of the conversation, I just felt like it was the best choice.”

Like an obedient child, I followed him once he closed the front door. The house was enormous, and my nervous energy flowed right out through a snarky remark.

“Jesus, Elijah, I didn’t realize you ran a bed-and-breakfast. How do you find the time?”

He didn’t even grace me with a glance back over his shoulder at the comment.

Ohhhkaayyy, not one for sarcasm. Got it.

We passed through room after room until we came to the kitchen. Instantly, I relaxed in the space where I felt most at ease in any home.

“Can I get you something?” he asked. “Coffee, tea, something else?”

“I’d love a cup of tea, actually. Thank you,” I said quietly, trying to make sense of the crooked smile he offered between his words and mine. Was that a habit of his, or was he that relaxed about what was happening with Grant? Because I hadn’t slept for days. My nails were chewed down to the quick, and I was wearing a path in my carpet from anxiety-induced pacing.

The light clatter of the cup and saucer against the marble counter snapped me out of my thoughts. My host slid my tea across the island and motioned toward it with a lift of his chin.

“Take a seat,” he instructed, and just like that, I wasn’t pondering his smile anymore. He issued the instruction in that same tone of voice that Grant always used. That tone. The timbre that always made my body move before I thought twice about what was happening.

Four stools lined the marble-topped island on the nonservice side, so I climbed onto one of the buttery-soft leather chairs and tried to relax a bit. I took a moment to look around the kitchen again, thinking everything in this room had been planned with a level of care that only came from someone who loved to cook.

With a bit of intrigue, I stared at Elijah as he moved—almost gracefully—around his kitchen but quickly lifted my tea to my lips when he caught me watching him.

“What is it?” the man asked. Nearly demanded, really.

“Hmm? Nothing.” I shook my head a bit, wondering why this guy was making me so edgy.

“Bullshit. If you have something to ask, ask it.”

A secret smile spread across my lips before I could hide it. “It’s not really a question.” I tried to distract myself by stirring my tea, but it was pointless. “You and he act so much alike. It’s sweet how good of friends you are.” When I finally dared to look up, Elijah’s hazel eyes were studying me.

“Bas, Grant, and I have been friends most of our lives.” Now Elijah was the one smiling wider. The expression had me entranced. Maybe memories were playing on a quick reel in his mind.

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