White Heat

By: Jill Shalvis

Prologue



The surf raged against the rocks on the shore with a violence that, oddly enough, soothed his soul. Seagulls dipped and glided in the fading light, in and out of the faint fingers of fog kissing the Pacific Ocean.

If he squinted, that fog could be smoke. If he cocked his head and listened, the calls of the seagulls could be cries of anguish and disbelief.

So Griffin Moore didn’t squint, didn’t listen. He just sat on a rock, arms resting on his bent legs, watching the sun slowly sink toward the horizon. Behind him the hills of San Diego stood out against a darkening sky. To his right, lights flickered as commuters made their way home on the 5 South, to their families, friends. Lovers.

Griffin waited for the wave of pain over that. After all, not that long ago, on another coast entirely, one of those cars might have been his as he headed toward his own life. And he’d had a great one. Warm family, lifelong friends—

Ah, there came a twinge now. Yeah, he’d had it all. Interesting that the thought didn’t come with the stabbing pain it used to. He ran his fingers through the sand at his sides as he thought about that—

“Southern California instead of Southern Carolina,” someone drawled. “Who’d have thought?”

The unbearably familiar voice went right through him as at his side appeared a pair of scuffed tennis shoes he’d have recognized anywhere. Griffin kept his gaze on the pounding waves and realized why he felt such little pain—he was numb. Blessedly numb. “I asked you not to come.”

“Yeah.” His younger brother toed a rock loose from the sand, then bent and picked it up. Studying it, he said, “But when have I ever done anything you’ve asked of me?”

“Brody—”

“Save it.” Brody hurled the rock into the spraying surf with an anger that matched the sea. Then he hunkered at Griffin’s side, his voice softer now, only his eyes reflecting the swirling emotions that ate at both of them. “You’re my brother, Grif. I miss you. I—”

“Don’t say you’re worried about me.”

“I’m worried about you—”

“Damn it.” Griffin surged to his feet, shoved his fingers in his hair, and turned so that he wouldn’t have to see that worry for himself.

But even with his back to the only person who’d managed to find him in all this time, the sweet numbness that had taken him so many months to achieve dissolved faster than the salty ocean spray on the breeze. “Go away.”

“Can’t do that.”

There was no missing all that was there in Brody’s voice: fear, sorrow, need.

Too bad. At twenty-eight and thirty-two years old, they were grown men now. Plenty old enough for separate lives.

But that wasn’t exactly fair, and Griffin knew it. They’d been close as far as brothers went; closer still as friends and confidantes. Close enough to live in the same town, hang with the same crowd. Close enough for Griffin to have spent plenty of years of his own worrying about Brody’s lack of drive, lack of ambition.

The fact that the black-sheep son now worried about the golden one didn’t escape him; it was just that he didn’t care. Couldn’t care. “I want to be left alone,” he finally said.

“Yeah, I think I got that. But I have a job for you.”

Griffin stared at the man who looked so like him. Same sun-streaked brown hair. Same blue eyes. Same long, lean build. He let out a raw laugh. “A job. That’s pretty funny.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because unless you’ve made some great transformation in the past year…” Griffin reached for a rock, too, and chucked it into the sea. “Jobs give you hives, remember?”

“I remember everything. And did I say I had a job for me?” Brody let out a mock shudder. “Let’s not go overboard, here. I have one for you.”

“Doing what? Counting clouds as they go by? Because that’s all I’m interested in at the moment.” Griffin took another rock, a flat one, and tried his skills at skipping it. It bounced over the water one, two…five times. That’s what sitting on a beach all day did for him, it built great rock-skipping skills. Good to know the time hadn’t been wasted.

Brody watched the bottom of the sun butt up against the edge of the horizon. Then he picked up another rock. “There’s this mountain range in Mexico, near the northwest corner of Copper Canyon.” His rock sank after three bounces. “Alpine forests, cold stream canyons, amazing fly-fishing—”

“You’ve been spending Dad’s money fly-fishing in Mexico again?”

“And down there, this wildland fire has taken root in the hills.”

Griffin’s half smile froze. So did his body, poised to skim another rock.

“It’s threatening this village, you see, and yes, I know about it from a fly-fishing trip I just took not too far from there. Because of the big drought this year, there are so many bigger fires in Mexico burning that this one is small potatoes. What makes it worse, their firefighters have antiquated equipment, no agency backup, nothing. They really need a team leader for this one—”

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