Joy Is Found (Ocean Beach #3)

By: Emma James


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“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”

– Bob Marley



“WHAT THE HELL do you mean your name is Hudson Raine?” Standing before me is Ajax, but not Ajax. This guy is already a different person with the way he holds himself.

“Look, Ajax or Hudson whoever-you-are Raine…” I’m struggling with the transformation of this man right before my eyes and what Hope means to him.

“I know you have your connection with Hope, and I appreciate that, but…” I pause to watch a black SUV rolling up Harley’s driveway. The same one with black tinted windows that I saw him getting out of the other day is now creeping towards us, making me feel like this guy is somebody.

Hudson whoever-you-are Raine acknowledges the driver with a short wave as he steps farther out onto the driveway, and the driver stops the car. I feel like the person behind the wheel is sizing up the situation before he shuts the lights off as he waits silently for instruction.

“Keanu, I really do need to go. I have a plane to catch. I just wanted to get something off my chest.”

“A plane? Wow! First class or private? I’m just guessing here.”

Hudson sighs, placing his hands on his hips. I just got my answer.

“I swear you’re not getting on that plane until you tell me who you really are and what you are doing with Hope. You could have let me give you a ride, and that was that, but you gave me the strip tease and the name.”

The driver’s door to the black SUV opens up, and a massive guy gets out then starts advancing towards us.

“Raine, you okay?” The tone of his voice issues a warning to me, and then his eyes land on my arm as he sizes me up from head to toe. One brow cocks up, and I don’t even know what that means.

I sense movement to my right, and out of the shadows, Harley and Slade emerge like ninjas, looking all badass and ready to back me up. Slade has a particularly menacing look on his face. Sometimes, that guy has this hidden type of scary I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of.

I signal I’ve got this to them. I don’t need backing up. Then Hudson acknowledges Harley and Slade with a nod and turns towards the tank of a guy, holding one palm up to him.

That’s right. Stay, boy.

When Harley and Slade move a little closer, I hold the back of my hand up to them without taking my eyes off the two in front of me, reaffirming I’ve got this.

The one thing I know is the man who looked after Hope isn’t a danger to me. Now his buddy, on the other hand, looks like he was made to serve and protect and could smash pumpkins into soup with his fists.

His dark brown hair is cut short, he’s suited up with a tie, and I bet his shoes are polished to a shine. He’s a professional, and I know he has to be carrying a concealed weapon.

I keep my attention focused on Ajax/Hudson Raine. I’m finding it hard to call him Hudson, and all of a sudden, I’m beginning to wonder how inferior I am to his station in life.

“You were saying?” I question.

“Jai, go wait back in the car. Everything’s fine. There’s just been a misunderstanding.”

The Jai guy looks at all three of us for a moment longer and then walks backwards to the black SUV, getting in yet leaving the door open, all the while, not taking his eyes off us.

“You were saying?” I repeat myself. I won’t be intimidated by this guy.

“Shit,” Ajax/Hudson Raine mumbles to himself, staring down at his feet. He rubs the back of his neck like what he has to say to me next is something he really doesn’t want to.

“How about you start with meeting Hope and we can take it from there?” I’m just standing here, waiting to be enlightened on something. Homeless guy, he is not, and that is confusing the shit out of me, so I want some answers. He has fooled us all.

He looks up. “I know I owe you all an explanation, most importantly Hope, but tonight is not the night, so I would like to keep in touch and get back to you on that. Please trust me when I say I mean Hope no harm—quite the opposite, actually. She’s like a sister to me.”

While he reaches into the back pocket of his designer jeans and pulls out his wallet, I look across at Harley and Slade, who are like two big bears, and then back at Ajax/Hudson Raine.

He pulls a business card out of his wallet then flicks it against his hand a few times before he hands it over to me. “Please, call me Raine.”

I examine the silver card with black ink. There is only the name Raine and a cell phone number embossed on it.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Hudson.” I turn the card over. “Where’s the rest of your details?”

“Hudson, it is,” he mutters, obviously not liking that I didn’t call him Raine. “I don’t need any more details. If you’ve been given one of my cards, then you are among the select few. I don’t give out my cell number to just anybody.”

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