One of the things I love about road tripping is hotels and motels. I don’t know why. Even if I’m only in a hotel room for nine hours—eight of which I’ve slept through—it still somehow feels like an adventure, a vacation from the routine. In another way, it’s like when you’re a kid and being on a sleepover at a friend’s house, and they have all the movie channels you don’t get at home. You get to stay up late eating junk food and watching silly TV—or TV you’d be grounded for if you were caught watching. *g* Either way, its an escape from regular life.
Another thing I love about motel rooms is the stories they hold. I oftentimes find myself wondering who’d been there before me, where they were headed and why. Were they just traveling from point A to point B? Were they running from their past, from the law, or to their future? Were they lovers secreting a few hours together? If those walls could talk…
In Riding with Heaven, Evan McGrath spends a couple of nights in motel rooms while traveling across the country with his rideshare driver, Lucas Briscoe. On one of those two nights they share a room, and the moment they enter it Lucas begins a thorough inspection. Which makes Evan wonder why. I like to check my motel rooms too—lock the door and close the curtains, flick on some lights, and do a quick walkthrough. But Lucas does it with the diligence of someone making sure the room is secure for their safety from some unseen threat, or perhaps, the way someone on the run from the law might to make sure they hadn’t been followed.
And therein lies Evan’s problem. He doesn’t really know Lucas, but he sure as hell wants him—whether the man turns out to be an escaped serial killer or not.
Riding with Heaven is available now at Loose Id.
When his flight home for his brother’s birthday is canceled due to a Category 5 hurricane on the Eastern seaboard, art major Evan McGrath places an ad on Craigslist for a rideshare from Colorado to South Carolina. He hadn’t expected an immediate reply, nor had he expected to fall head-over-heels for the handsome and mysterious driver, Lucas Briscoe.
As the miles disappear behind them Evan grows more and more attracted to the enigmatic Lucas, and the desire is mutual. The only problem is that a serial killer dubbed “The Domino Slasher” has just escaped a federal prison transfer, and funny little coincidences keep pointing toward Lucas – who looks like Heaven incarnate, but who could be the Devil in disguise.
“Oh. My. God.” Evan gasped and sat up straighter in his seat as Maddy steered her trusty Subaru wagon into the near-empty gas station lot just outside Denver city limits. “I have just seen Heaven, and he wears distressed Levi’s and mirrored Oakleys.”
Only one vehicle was parked in the lot: a spotless black Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows and black utility rims. The kind of vehicle the government or secret agents or mobsters would drive. Big, menacing, mysterious. The driver stood outside, leaning casually against the passenger door with one booted foot rested over the other, arms crossed in front of a broad chest. A chocolate-brown leather aviator jacket covered a gray hoodie and gave him a slight bad-boy vibe—just enough danger to entice the wee little mouse into the lion’s lair. Stylishly mussed blond hair reflected the bright morning sunlight in shimmering threads of gold and auburn, and day-old stubble hugged a strong, square jaw and slightly cleft chin.
“If that’s your rideshare, you’re staying here, and I’m going with him,” Maddy said in her take-no-prisoners voice.
“Not on your life, sister. That man’s mine.”
“No way.” Maddy had yet to take her eyes off the man in question. “He’s totally straight.”
“Eyes on the road,” Evan teased. “And he’s totally not.”
Maddy laughed. Long, red-streaked blonde locks brushed her shoulders when she shook her head. “Always so damn argumentative.”
“Because I’m always right. You should know that by now.”
She harrumphed and parked the car a couple of spots from the SUV and then turned to face him. Laughter gone from her honey-colored eyes, she worried at her bottom lip.
Evan sighed. Almost two years younger than he but so dead set on being the mother hen. “It’s going to be okay. I mean, look at him. He’s gorgeous. This could be the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I don’t know,” she said, shooting a quick look over her shoulder before leaning in closer to Evan. She dropped her voice low. “He could be a total nutcase for all we know. And you’re going to be alone with him in the middle of nowhere for three days.”
Evan wiggled a salacious eyebrow at her. “If there’s a God, you better believe it.”
Clearly not amused, she smacked him on the arm. “Come on, Ev. I’m serious. I’d lose my marbles if anything ever happened to you.”
His best friend and roommate of six years, Madison Jervis—or Maddy, as he’d called her from the moment they met when he literally ran into her his first day on campus—hadn’t been keen on his plan from the start. Evan loved that she looked out for him, but he had to get home. He’d promised, and come hell or high water—or hurricane—that was one promise he would never break.
His flight out of Denver International had been canceled when Hurricane Rex had been upgraded to a Category 5, and all flights in and out of the entire Eastern Seaboard were grounded. That it happened two days before a busy Labor Day weekend didn’t help matters any. It would be a minimum of three to four days to reschedule his flight, and that would be after the runways were cleared to reopen.
The next best thing? He placed an ad on Craigslist in search of a rideshare headed to Charleston. Evan knew from his life experiences that things always had a way of working out, one way or another, no matter how bad they appeared on the surface. Sometimes shitty things happened to good people, but in the aftermath, the reasons generally became clear. Even if he could never accept some of those reasons. And as luck would have it, he’d received an e-mail that morning from a fellow traveler headed in the same direction.
Now that he had a look at his cross-country driving companion, he knew it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. Three days riding with Heaven. Or, if he was really lucky, three days riding Heaven. Not that he was one for hookups. Ever. But damn…
Evan grinned, threw his arm over Maddy’s shoulders, and pulled in her close. She tucked her head under his chin with a defeated sigh.
“Don’t worry, sweetie. I’ll be careful. I’ll call you every time we stop or if anything starts to feel hinky, okay?”
Maddy nodded. “Okay. But I’m still sneaking a photo of him and his license plate. And if you don’t call me at least twice a day, I’m going to freak out and call the police and the FBI and SWAT and—”
“I get it!” He laughed and kissed the top of her head. Her strawberry-scented shampoo tickled his nostrils. “I promise I’ll call.”
Appeased, she straightened up and chucked his chin playfully before unbuckling her seat belt and exiting the car. Evan unfolded his long frame from the compact vehicle, gathered his bags from the back, and made his way over to Heaven and the black chariot, praying he didn’t trip over his shoelaces and fall flat on his face or something equally embarrassing. That wasn’t the kind of first impression he was keen on making, though usually did.
He couldn’t see any more than his own distorted reflection in the man’s dark sunglasses as he approached, but Evan had the distinct impression of being sized up, weighed, and measured. A little charge of excitement danced in his chest, instead of the usual discomfort at being the subject of a stranger’s scrutiny—especially when this particular stranger could make angels swoon.
“Lucas Briscoe?” he asked. His breath puffed out in a swirling cloud in the cool early-morning air. A hank of hair drifted over his left eye in the crisp breeze. He flicked his head to clear the obstruction.
Lucas nodded, pushed off from his leaning post, and stuck out a hand. “And you would be Evan McGrath.”
Robbed of words by the smooth, low pitch of Lucas’s voice, Evan could only nod. A warm hand engulfed his and held it firmly for an extended beat. Or was that wishful thinking? Lucas released his hand and, after holding his gaze for a second longer, turned to open the back door of the vehicle.
“Toss your stuff in there. Lots of room.” He motioned to Evan before heading around to the driver’s side but not before Evan sneaked a sideways glance at his retreating backside. Nice.
Evan placed his backpack and one suitcase on the backseat as directed, then took off his black sport coat and tossed it over his bags. He closed the door and turned to catch Maddy slinking around from behind the SUV, stuffing her cell phone into her jacket pocket. He shook his head and grinned. She shrugged.
“Please be careful,” she whispered against his ear when he pulled her into a hug. He gave her a squeeze and stepped back.
“Stay out of trouble while I’m gone,” Evan teased. “No wild house-wrecker parties.”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “Yes, Dad.”
She hesitated a second; then with a quick glance at his driver, she turned and walked back to her car. Evan watched until she’d climbed in, fastened her seat belt, started the little red Subaru, and backed out. He returned her wave with a confident smile while a little seed of doubt drifted through his mind, looking for purchase. He abruptly swept it away. Nope, he had nothing to worry about. I mean really, how much trouble could there be in Heaven anyway?
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