Joy Is Found (Ocean Beach #3)(2)

By: Emma James


“I need more on you.” I pull out my wallet and fish out a card for our T-shirt business, Limbitless Tees, that is on cheap card stock, and I hand it over. “Look at it. It comes with details.”

He sighs heavily as he takes it. “Have you heard of the band Blue Monday?”

Having heard of the band, I cock my head to the side, studying the guy in front of me. “Holy shit … You’re the lead singer from Blue Monday?”

They had a string of hits and more money, sex, and rock n’ roll than they knew what to do with. Blue Monday broke up a few years ago then just seemed to disappear, shunning all media, but here’s the lead singer, standing in front of me, dressed in expensive clothing and looking closer to the rock god he was, albeit scruffier and thinner.

“I don’t remember a Hudson Raine in Blue Monday.”

“Er … Yeah, we were all given a moniker, just like the Spice Girls had theirs. I had the obnoxious name Rebel.” He shuffles on the spot uncomfortably before asking, “I need you to keep it to yourselves until I can talk to Hope, please. Can I trust you three to do that?” I can see in his eyes that he has Hope’s best interests at heart as he continues, “I need to be the one to explain myself and how I’m about as far from a homeless person as I can get.”

“Yeah, let’s get to that bit now. So what’s your deal with the camouflage outfit?” This, I gotta hear.

“Let’s just say I decided to live the life of a homeless person out on the streets for my own personal reasons. Jai was the only one who knew what I was doing.”

He nods towards his driver. “You caught Jai, my right hand man and most trusted confidant, checking up on me when I was off the grid for too long. He said I looked like shit, and he gave me a bottle of water and some Ibuprofen for the splitting headache I had. You caught me leaving the car, and it looked pretty bad from your standpoint. I thought for sure I had been discovered until you thought the worst. It worked in my favor, but at the same time, I couldn’t stomach you thinking what you did, so I called you out here to dispel the idea you had of me before I left.”

“Okay, I no longer think you were handing out blow jobs to make money, which is good to know. Now let’s get on to the homeless-man act.”

“Hope should hear that first.”

“Not gonna happen.”

Hudson curses under his breath. “Hope crossed my path not long after I decided to go undercover.”

“Undercover!”

“Are you going to interrupt the whole time, or can I just say what I need to say so I can get on my plane?”

“Your plane?”

“Keanuuu!” Harley gives me a shut-up-and-listen whine.

I hold up my hands. “Okay, Hudson has the floor.”

“I set out on a journey to get back what I had lost and to make things right again in my world. You can have all the success and money you could ever spend in a lifetime and still be lost and unhappy.

“I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to learn how to make a difference in my life and other people’s lives, so I decided I was going to submerge myself fully into the life of a street person. I was going undercover. Jai thought I’d finally cracked, but I knew this was what I needed to do.

“When I found Hope, I knew she didn’t belong on the streets, and I needed to keep her safe. She has seen a lot, but she’s still fairly untainted considering the seedy side of being homeless.

“Hope introduced me to other people on the streets and became my moral compass. She is kind, intelligent, and gifted with music. She has so much to offer society but no way of getting herself out of the life she’s been living. Yet Hope doesn’t complain; she just accepts her lot in life and lives it as honestly as she can. She’s a survivor.” He sounds very proud of her.

“Hope doesn’t know it yet, but I owe her a great deal. I now know what it takes to survive on the streets, scrounging for food and a safe place to sleep. I brought my old guitar with me, and it staved off boredom, the repetitiveness of having nothing to do all day but survive. I just needed to wait until I could figure out what my next move was. Then we found you lying beside a dumpster, and let’s just say I’ve been watching you and your friends very carefully. I can see you have already claimed her, and I trust you all to look after Hope. You are the one who will now keep her safe.”

“So you were doing what you were as a pay-it-forward thing?” I am a bit confused over what he is telling me.

“You are still being really vague here, bro. Hope is going to have a hole in her heart that only Ajax can fix, and I’m going to have to trust that you’re gonna fill that void. I’ll be coming after you if you don’t. You were her only friend; she trusted you to sleep beside her at night and keep her safe. That was quite an honor she bestowed on you.”

Hudson curses under his breath. “Believe me, I know. I honestly didn’t expect to meet somebody like Hope. She’s amazing and so selfless. There is this stigma about homeless people … She just doesn’t fit any of it,” he says with apparent awe of her, “so I’m not out to abandon Hope—quite the opposite. I want to try to make things right. Just give me some time to sort through some things.”

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