East of Redemption (Love on the Edge #2) (2 page)

BOOK: East of Redemption (Love on the Edge #2)
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“They’re in pristine condition,” he said, taking a few from my hand. “The myths were true. Solomon’s treasure does exist, and the Babylonians who burglarized the majority of it escaped through the mountains of Israel.” He glanced around the area. “Who knows what else could be hiding down here. The possibilities are endless.”

The gears turned behind his eyes, and my own thoughts matched his—our names in the media, taking over every major news outlet with a discovery that had to be one of the most prized in recent decades. I visualized more excavations in the cave, with sponsors and proper equipment and
power
. I grabbed his shoulder and shook it.

“You did it, Harrison. You’ve found evidence for King Solomon’s treasure! The Ark could be here!”

“Easy there, Indiana, we still have to authenticate everything.” His silver hair glinted underneath my light, but he looked younger than I’d ever seen him as he secured the satchel in his pack. “And
we
did it,” he said. “You didn’t think I was crazy when I asked you time and time again to dive into the darkness underneath Israel.”

I pressed my lips together, forcing down the instinct to hug him. We didn’t do that shit.

After exploring the rest of the chamber and turning up only a few more artifacts—some intact pots, a brass dagger, and a gold necklace—we quickly found a fault in our brilliant plan to cross the bridge.

“There is a small ledge on this side, but we’ve got no idea if it’ll get us all the way back to our initial entrance,” Harrison said. “If we tried, and found out the ledge ends in the middle, we’d be stuck backtracking to this spot, and that would use a considerable amount of our already dwindling strength.”

I sighed. “We have to cross again.” I pointed the wrist cam at myself and then to the left and right of the chamber.

“What is done once can be done again, my boy.”

I nodded, less than thrilled to walk the rock-tightrope a second time.

Harrison hesitated at the edge of the chamber before slipping off his pack and handing it to me. “Trade me.”

“What? No.” I shook my head. “That is your find. Your discovery.”

Harrison grabbed the straps of my pack, jerking them off despite my protests. “I know it is, but I’m crossing first. If anything happens, at least the artifacts are safe.”

“Then let me cross first,” I argued.

“Not a chance, son.”

“Stop. Let’s just think for a minute. Maybe we should try the ledge on this side,” I said, scanning the area again, hoping to find a surefire alternate route. “I don’t like your lack of confidence this time around.”

“I’m still confident, just smart. It takes both to survive in our business and one usually outweighs the other. Always choose the right one, okay, Easton?”

I gave him a single nod and secured the pack with a load of treasure that was worth more than my life, and tried to ignore the stab of fear as he slipped on my pack. The ring I intended to give Rain was nestled inside it, and I hadn’t asked for Harrison’s blessing yet. I’d planned to do it after the expedition . . .

“No worries, kid,” Harrison said, slamming my thoughts to a stop as he stepped onto the bridge.

I took a deep breath as he made it safely to the halfway point. Good, just like the first time around. He would make it across, and then I would, and we’d get out of here and show the world what Dr. Walker finally discovered after decades of searching.

A shriek cut off my visions of our picture on the cover of
Time
magazine. Harrison’s footing slipped, the moisture in the damn cave upping the difficulty level to the nth degree. He windmilled his arms and bent his knees, regaining his balance. He glanced at me, a smirk cracking his otherwise panicked face.

I huffed out a dark laugh. “Not cool.”

He shrugged and took another step. A loud crack filled the space between us, followed by the distinct sound of crumbling rock. Harrison jerked forward and tried to right himself once more, but overcompensated on the unstable structure.

I didn’t think.

I blinked, and I was
there
, a foot from him. Just enough for an arm’s length reach and a prayer as he lost his footing and fell backward.

I grabbed his hand and the force of his weight snapped my body to the rock, my stomach hitting it like a bad belly-flop in a deep pool. My scream echoed his, and bounced off the walls of the cave, making it sound like there were a thousand men crying out.

The muscles in my shoulder seared and ripped as I struggled to move my other arm to him. Harrison hung beneath me, clutching my hand with one of his. He didn’t flail, he was too practiced for that. He tried to get a hold of the edge with his free hand, but the thing was just out of his reach.

I grunted and struggled to gain purchase on the rock that quickly crumbled beneath me. The structure trembled, vibrating my bones. Chunks of rock closer to the edge of the chamber wall fell off, further weakening the only thing stopping Harrison and me from plummeting to our deaths. A few minutes more and we’d both fall.

I pulled with everything I had, but without leverage, I wasn’t strong enough to lift his full weight more than an inch. Not enough for him to grab hold of the ledge to help.

Tears streaked my face, and I screamed, yanking and pulling until I could barely breathe, all while he tried to reach the bridge, too.

“Easton.” His voice was too calm. “Easton, look at me.”

I opened my eyes, which I’d clenched shut, thinking somehow it would give me more strength. A crack split beneath me to my right, several inches wide and growing. The rock bridge slipped, dropping an inch, forcing my heart into my throat.

“No,” I said.

He didn’t need to say the words. I could read them in his eyes.

“It’s all right, son,” he said as a pile of dust and rock fragments soared past him.

I focused on his face, his tan skin, his blue eyes, so much like Rain’s, because if I looked beyond that, all I could see was the black pit that would swallow us whole in minutes.

“The bridge won’t hold. Too much weight. You have to let go.”

“No,” I repeated. “I can do this.” I pulled again, screaming as my muscles refused to fucking work. The rock dropped another inch as the crack made its way to the right wall, where chunks continued to slough off as it detached from where it’d been secure for who knows how long.

“Tell Rain I love her. Tell her I’m sorry. And you
take
this find, Easton. You take it and set the bar for your entire career. It’s yours, son. You were meant to do this. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

I gripped his hand harder. “No.”

“Easton!” he snapped as another loud crack echoed beneath me. “Don’t be a fool. Let go, damn it! I need you to take care of Rain, son.” Harrison unwrapped his fingers from around mine, flattening them against my palms.

“Stop!” I screamed, grasping at his slick hands, maintaining my firm hold.

“You have my blessing. Don’t let me down. Now, let go.” He nodded.

I shook my head. I couldn’t do it.

“She can’t lose us both. Let go!” he ordered as the bridge dropped another inch. The motion jarred my hold, and my grip slipped.

I reached and snatched at air as I watched him fall, the darkness engulfing him.

He didn’t scream.

The man didn’t scream.

I scrambled to the other side of the cave just before the bridge split into chunks. It took a full thirty seconds before I heard the sickening crunch of first a body, and then rock, crash against the bottom of the cave floor.

Easton

“YOU’VE GOT TO
be fucking kidding me.” I leaned my elbows on the smooth glass table in the conference room.

“Mind your tone, Easton.” Robert, the head producer of my show, sat at the other end of the table. The other four producers sat silently on either side of him.

“Excuse me? You just told me that viewers aren’t impressed anymore—that my survival expeditions aren’t extreme enough.”

“That’s correct.” He sat back in his chair in a move that was way too casual, like he hadn’t just lowered an axe over my head.

“I’ve had more on-the-job injuries than an MMA fighter!” Hell, I’d done everything from broken bones to jungle fevers—I’d fractured my spine after my line snapped while rappelling down a mountainside not three years ago. “What kind of focus group is this? What more do they want from me? My soul?” Too bad for them I hadn’t had one in a long time.

“It’s not the focus group’s fault. We only placed
Unearthed
up for review after the ratings dropped significantly over the past year.”

I raked my hands through my hair, quelling the urge to punch someone. “For nine years I’ve unearthed some of the world’s greatest treasures—
and
survived the environments they were buried beneath. Your cameras have caught every piece of history I’ve brought to life—”

“You haven’t had a major discovery in three years,” he cut me off, and the other producers at his side nodded.

“Your definition of major and mine drastically differ.” I took a deep breath and let it out as slow as I possibly could. Sure, I hadn’t located a hundred-million-dollar find in a few years—not since I’d unearthed a lost scroll of Alexandria that had escaped the fire, presumably looted before the blaze—but I’d found countless, high-value artifacts to make up for it. Not even mentioning the historical value of some of the pieces I found that proved life had thrived in a location previously thought barren.

“This is about the money, isn’t it?” I smacked my hand on the table. “Because I donate the items to museums and never take a cent.” The places I gave the artifacts to always offered to pay me generously for them, but I couldn’t ever bring myself to take it. It was wrong. The artifacts never belonged to me, I’d just found them when no one else could. And by not taking the money, the producers weren’t able to get a cut out of it, either.

“No. We’ve made plenty of money off you over the years from sponsors alone. And you not taking anything for your finds is the one thing viewers still agree on that they love.” He shifted in his seat. “Look, you’re not the kid who found pieces of King Solomon’s treasure anymore. That was nearly ten years ago. You can’t sustain a show forever. Eventually they get stale.”

I swallowed hard. No shit I wasn’t that kid anymore. I left him there to die alongside Harrison, burying that life—including Rain—deep in the bowels of that cave.

“This show—what we do, it’s my life,” I said, my tone calmer.

I lived for the hunt and surviving the harsh environments without assistance. It’s what made my show stand out—combining survivalist skills with the search for some of the world’s most notorious lost treasures. The only thing I couldn’t control was the finds . . . I couldn’t always get lucky, and I knew better than anyone that some things should simply remain buried.

Robert pinched the bridge of his nose like this affected him more than me. I supposed in a way it did. He cared about the money the show generated far more than I did. I lived on the bare necessities and gave away most of the show’s paychecks to a variety of charities—organizations I thought Harrison or Rain would like. It didn’t matter how much I gave, though, nothing was ever enough to erase the guilt from my heart. “There is also the matter of your techniques being called into question by a disturbing percentage of your viewers.”

And the anger was back, boiling in my gut like acid. “I thought we quashed that shit?”

He pressed his lips together and fingered the iPad screen before him. “I thought the episodes we ran showing the behind-the-scenes interaction with your crew would quash the rumors, but there are still viewers who aren’t convinced you’re surviving all the situations you get yourself into all on your own.”

I rubbed my palms over my face. “It’s coming at me from all angles, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid so.” Robert looked up from whatever report he’d been glancing at. “We have to kill the show.”

I bolted from my chair, the adrenaline in my body too much to take sitting down. I couldn’t lose this. It was the only thing I lived for—without the show, without my excavations, I wouldn’t know who I was anymore.

Everyone else stood and exited, leaving Robert and I alone. He buttoned his suit jacket that could feed an entire village in Africa for a year and walked toward me.

BOOK: East of Redemption (Love on the Edge #2)
6.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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