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.
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Loose Id, LLC
June 04, 2012
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Excerpt from Riding with Heaven by L. C. Chase
An Excerpt from L. C. Chase's Riding with Heaven
"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 daysriding 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?
Evan opened the door and climbed into the SUV, settled into a firm leather bucket seat, and buckled up. Oh, luxury. Heated seats.
"Girlfriend?" Lucas asked as he turned the key over in the ignition. The Tahoe's engine woke with a low growl.
Evan shook his head. "Best friend, roommate, and mother hen."
"Aren't they all?" Lucas chuckled. The sound rumbled up from deep within his chest and tickled Evan's eardrums. He shifted in his seat.
Attention on the road, Lucas pulled out of the gas station and onto Sheridan Boulevard as Wednesday morning nine-to-fivers began their grumbling daily commute into downtown Denver.
"So, what do you do, Evan?" Lucas asked after he'd navigated busy city streets and merged onto I-70 headed east.
"I'm a student," Evan said. "Last semester at CU-Boulder for my master of arts degree."
"What are you going to do with that?"
"Teach, probably. I haven't quite decided yet, but I have a lot of offers."
Lucas nodded in response but didn't continue the conversation. When it didn't look like he was going to, Evan asked, "How about you? What brought you to Denver if you live in Charleston?"
"I travel a lot for work. My last ca--last delivery brought me here, and you know what happened to my flight home."
"What kind of work do you do where you have to make cross-country deliveries? Are you a high-end FedEx man or something?"
Lucas shot a sideways glance at Evan, one side of his mouth lifted in what might have been the beginnings of a grin, before returning his focus to the interstate. A tendril of heat took up a slow dance in Evan's groin. Oh, God. Dimples.
"I'm in the...eradication business."
"Like termites and rats?"
"Something like that." The tentative grin fell flat as did the tone of Lucas's voice. "I'm officially on vacation right now, so I'd rather not talk about work if you don't mind. The last job was...uh...long and stressful."
"Yeah, I get that. I can't kill anything. Not even spiders, and they scare me to death."
"Spiders? Really?" Lucas shook his head, and that little tease of a smile reappeared. "What's in Charleston for you?"
"My brother, Leo," Evan said. "I have to be there for his birthday."
Lucas slanted an amused glance his way. "Have to? Couldn't he cut you a little slack this year since a hurricane is headed his way?"
"He can, and he did." Evan dropped his head and fidgeted with the end of the skinny red tie that stuck out from under his black silk vest. Maddy teased him for overdressing for the road trip, but that's just the way he was. A boy's gotta look his best, he teased back. At least he wore jeans and running shoes. "But I promised."
"Man of your word, then."
"Something like that," Evan said, mimicking Lucas's earlier not-going-there flat tone, then turned and looked out the passenger window. Denver fell behind them one steel-and-glass building at a time as concrete gave way to sunburned fields and the plains began to take over. His family couldn't understand why he'd had to leave South Carolina practically the day he graduated high school for college in a landlocked state. Why the only time he came home was for Leo's birthday. But Leo understood. His brother had never said it out loud, never would, but Evan knew by what Leo did say with those deep blue eyes of his, eyes so much like Evan's own. Leo knew Evan wouldn't come home until he could forgive himself.
"Do you like Halloween?"
Evan jolted in his seat when Lucas's random question cut into his wandering thoughts. A warm hand clapped on his shoulder and gave a quick squeeze, momentarily stealing his words and thoughts.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you. Just saw a billboard for the Slaughterhouse Gulch haunted tour that made me think of it."
Evan cleared his throat. "No, it's okay." He fanned his hand by his head and said, "Just wandering."
Lucas dropped his hand back to rest on the steering wheel. "So? Do you like Halloween?"
"Not anymore." Evan mentally groaned. That wasn't what he meant to say, and Lucas's raised eyebrow making an appearance above his sunglasses wasn't what Evan wanted to see. A raised eyebrow generally meant one thing.
"Why not? It's the best holiday ever."
And there it is. Evan sighed. "It's not a holiday."
Lucas huffed in disagreement. "Sure it is. I love Halloween. I do all those tours of haunted hotels and houses. Wear scary masks, tell ghost stories, try to get a rise out of people and make them jump."
"Now that's just mean."
"No way. It's fun," Lucas said. "Didn't you ever sit around a campfire and tell scary stories to see which of your buddies would pee his pants first?"
Evan shook his head and laughed. "Hell no."
Lucas shot a look at Evan for an extended moment. The dark sunglasses hid his eyes, but Evan felt the intensity of Lucas's gaze through them nonetheless. One side of Lucas's mouth lifted in a half grin, and that one dimple threatened to break out in full-on dazzle mode.
"We're losing the radio," Evan said, hastily looking away. He reached for the glove box as he tried to ignore the sudden full-body hot flush. "Got any CDs?"
"Not there," Lucas said quickly. "Uh, there's a CD case in my bag."
They reached around at the same time, both leaning into the space between the passenger's and driver's seats. Evan's temple connected with the hard angle of Lucas's cheekbone. Lucas grunted. Evan cursed.
"Sorry," Evan mumbled and pressed his open palm gently to the side of his throbbing forehead. That was going to leave a mark or at least a bump.
"No, I'm sorry," Lucas said. He ran a hand over his cheek and took off his sunglasses, looking where Evan was rubbing his head. "You okay?"
For a second Evan forgot what he'd just been asked, having been suddenly snared in an intense hazel-eyed trap. He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. "Uh, yeah. Fine. You?"
"I've taken worse hits." Lucas smiled. Dimples capped both sides of his mouth, and gold flashed in those captivating eyes. Evan quickly turned away before he embarrassed himself--or hurt himself due to the lack of extra room in his now too-snug jeans. What the hell was with him? He'd never reacted to anyone like that before. Not even Jay, his last boyfriend. He'd definitely been attracted to Jay the first time he'd seen him, sitting alone at a window seat in the coffee shop across the street from campus. But with Jay it was "hey, let's get together sometime." With Lucas it was "hey, I want to jump you right now!"
"I'll, uh, get the CDs," Evan said, his voice deeper than usual. "You drive."
Evan dug the case out of the bag with a trembling hand and then settled it onto his lap like a shield to hide his body's obvious interest in his new acquaintance. He focused all his attention on the music choices they had. Not on the man sitting beside him. Definitely not the man who smelled like leather and cedar and mint, or the blinding smile, devastating dimples, and badass vibe that had Evan's body humming.
When he was finally able to see the words on the labels before him, Evan couldn't hold back a burst of laughter. "Where's the metal? The alternative?"
He looked over at Lucas and caught the pink flush spreading over the man's cheeks. Huh. Maybe not so badass after all. Evan wanted to puff his chest out. For whatever reason, he felt like he'd accomplished something by making Lucas blush.
"Those are classics, I'll have you know," Lucas said. "Not that a young punk like yourself would have any concept of real music."
"I'm not that young," Evan said. "And you're not that old."
"Shut up and put in a CD."
"I'm trying to find something from this century," Evan teased. Lucas made an inarticulate sound that might have been a stifled laugh and Evan selected a Michael Buble CD. They fell silent while Michael crooned in his trademark tenor that the best was yet to come. And Evan had a funny feeling the singer just might be right.