Authors: Christie Ridgway
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction
He might as well have been alone.
Jane didn’t let that deter her. Instead, she dragged a molded plastic chair to his side and plunked herself onto its seat, tucking her wild hair behind her ears. Not a single male muscle twitched.
With a huff, she sent him a pointed look, but that didn’t appear to pierce the bubble he’d erected around himself, either. Though she supposed waiting him out would give her the upper hand, she didn’t have that kind of patience. His deadline was at stake. Her reputation.
She huffed again. “Griffin.”
Only his lips moved. “Honey-pie.”
Her back teeth ground together. “Look, I’m here because you told your agent you were interested in someone helping you with your manuscript. That’s what I do.”
When Griffin didn’t respond, she raised her voice. “I’m a book doctor,” she said. “My name is Jane.”
That prodded him a little. His eyes opened a slit. They closed again as one corner of his mouth ticked up. “Of course it is.”
She ignored his amused tone. It wasn’t an unusual reaction, after all. She looked like a Jane. Her brother Byron—as serious and renowned a scientist as their father—had the wild and dramatic appearance corresponding to his literary namesake. Her other overachieving brother, Phillip Marlowe Pearson, could pass for a hard-boiled detective, though as a medical researcher he was much more interested in running DNA tests than running down criminals. Just like them, her name matched her exterior. Her dishwater-blond hair, her pleasant but unremarkable features, her plain gray eyes all said—in a restrained, ladylike hush—
If her mother hadn’t died when she was still an infant, Jane might have asked her why she hadn’t made a more exotic choice for her only daughter’s given name. Would she have looked different if she’d been called Daisy or Delilah?
However, Jane had an inkling that Griffin Lowell would be attempting to ignore her even if she looked like Scheherazade. And the one who had stories to tell was the man on her left. “About your book…” she started.
“I can’t talk about that at the moment,” he said.
“Why? You don’t look busy.”
His lashes remained resting on his cheeks. “I have guests.”
“Who have found their diet cherry cola,” she pointed out, inexplicably annoyed as she glimpsed that particular woman at the other end of the deck. When she bent over to brush some sand off her calf, her bountiful chest nearly escaped its triangular fabric confines.
“She doesn’t look like she needs to watch her weight, though, does she?” Eyes wide open now, he was looking in the same direction as Jane.
“I wouldn’t care to opine,” she said.
He snorted. “You even sound like a governess.”
She smiled at him. Thinly. “All the better to get the job done.”
“Yeah?” The picture of nonchalance, he folded his arms over his chest and crossed his legs at the ankle. “I think your luck would improve if you’d loosen up a little. Why don’t you go inside and track down a swimsuit. Pour yourself a drink. Then we’ll talk.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, willing, for the moment, to play along. “And you’ll be right here when I return? I have your word on that?”
His gaze slid off to the side. “Let’s make an appointment for next week.”
As if. After meeting him and seeing the setup he had here, she was only more determined not to allow him another inch of wiggle room. His agent was right. The man was in serious denial. “You’ve got to get to work immediately, Griffin, or you won’t make your deadline. The first half of the book is due at the end of the month.”
He ignored that, his gaze fastened on the label of the bottle in his hand. “Book doctor, huh? You know your way around vocabulary and grammar?”
“Yes, though I do more than—”
“So you really know your stuff?” he asked. “Can you spell humulus lupulus? Do you have a familiarity with Saccharomyces uvarum?”
She held onto her patience. “Unless you’re writing a treatise on beer, specifically lagers, I don’t think either of those terms will come up.”
He paused as if vaguely surprised, then he gave a slight shake of his head. “Fine. Let’s talk serial commas, then. Please state your views on their usage.”
Really, the man could make a woman start to consider serial murder—beginning with him. “The serial comma, also known as the Oxford or Harvard comma, refers to the punctuation mark used before the final item in a list of three or more. It’s the standard in American English—”
“According to who?” He bristled.
“Whom,” she corrected. “And it’s according to
The Chicago Manual of Style.
“Though that’s for non-journalistic writing,” she went on, ignoring his interruption. “I’m aware reporters like yourself follow the
which recommends leaving out the comma before a coordinating conjunction.”
He was silent at that.
She waited a beat. “Did I pass the test?”
“Look.” He sounded exasperated. “I just want to be left alone.”
She gazed around her, taking in the half-dressed beautiful beach people who were drinking his booze and crowding his deck as the sun slid toward the horizon. “Your need for solitude would be a bit more convincing if you weren’t surrounded by a crowd. If your guests didn’t call your place Party Central.”
Something flashed in his eyes. “That’s none of your business.”
Oops. Though clashes between herself and a stalled client were to be expected, downright hostility was not her friend. Jane scooched her chair closer, twisting it to face him. “Griffin…” she said and, like a good governess with a recalcitrant charge, put out a placating hand to touch his leg.
Weird happened when fingers met shin. An electric spark snapped, a tingle shot up her arm, their gazes collided, veered away, crashed again. As yet another glow of heat radiated across her skin, she was paralyzed, still touching him, still staring at him. Confused, she couldn’t seem to pull away. Members of the opposite sex didn’t produce such strong physical reactions in her. She was above all that, she’d always assumed, her interest more in a man’s mind than in his…manliness.
“Griff!” someone said in the distance, then became more insistent. “Griff!”
“What?” He didn’t move. Their stares didn’t waver.
“Sammy says he’s going to jump,” the voice answered.
“Fine,” Griffin responded without emotion. “Tell him to watch the rocks.”
“He says he’s going for the record. He says he’s going to beat you.”
Griffin jerked. The movement broke Jane’s paralysis, and she snatched her hand from his leg. His head swung around to address the man who was standing right beside them. “What did you say?”
It was Beach Boy from the front door. Ted. He pointed to the bluff at the south end of the cove. Even from here, Jane could see a handful of men scrambling along a path up its side.
“Sammy says he’s taking off from a spot five feet above your last leap.”
Griffin glanced over his shoulder. “Sammy’s drunk.” Beach
Boy’s curls bounced when he nodded. “It’s why he’s talking trash. But I think he means it. I think he’s going to outdo you this time.” “Outdo me? Like hell he will.” Griffin was already standing. Then he gripped the railing of the deck and swung himself over and onto the sand below. “Get your camera ready,” he advised the other man as he stripped off his shirt and ran toward the outcropping.
Jane realized she’d spent too much time with English majors and MFAs. They preferred Frisbee golf and strolls through farmers’ markets. They didn’t splash through surf that rose to their knees and then ascend a steep hillside, the muscles in their backs shifting and their strong arms flexing as they reached for each handhold.
They didn’t shout something indistinct and then hurl themselves off a jutting boulder into the roiling ocean.
Several of Griffin’s party guests did just that, from various heights. Jane found herself holding her breath as each man launched himself into space. Her initial reaction could mostly be summed up by “Why?” but after the first couple of men made it back to shore, she could admit there was a certain…exuberance in the activity.
Ultimately there were only two men left on the bluff. One, she guessed, was the drunken Sammy. The other was Griffin. They stood beside each other, the wind tugging at the legs of their shorts.
“Griff should talk him out of it,” one of the partygoers lining the deck railing said. They all wore dark glasses or had their hands up to shade their eyes from the lowering sun. “He’ll have the record if he takes off from there, but Sammy’s just pickled enough not to realize that height means he has to jump farther outward into deeper water.”
But if Griffin tried to talk sense into the other man, it apparently didn’t work. Those on the deck gasped in unison as Sammy bounded from the rock. The others followed his descent, but Jane kept her gaze on their host, who instantly scrambled even higher.
“Is Griffin trying to get a better look at his friend?” she asked Beach Boy, who was still beside her.
“No,” the dude said on a sigh, as Griffin stopped at a sharp nose of stone. “He’s upping the ante. Nobody’s ever attempted a jump from that height. It could be…” He didn’t finish, but the expression on his face did it for him.
It could be dangerous.
Appalled, Jane closed her eyes, squeezing them tight. Though she’d been concerned about her latest author’s uncooperative attitude and then his penchant for crowded beer bashes, she’d remained confident in her ability to help him mold his memoir. She’d been taught long ago that failure was not an option, after all. But clearly the task of aiding Griffin Lowell was going to be more complicated than mentioning deadlines and being available with red pen in hand.
This man was more than a stalled writer. Clearly he was also an impulsive risk taker with an overblown competitive streak.
Or a full-fledged death wish….
BEACH HOUSE BEGINNINGS
Copyright © 2013 by Christie Ridgway
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries.