One Night in Napa
One Night, Book 3
by Allie Boniface
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60504-627-3
Print ISBN: 978-1-60504-711-9
Journalist Grant Walker has one chance to salvage his job and his relationship with his father: deliver a high-profile Hollywood interview. But Kira March, who’s returned home after seven years in hiding, is determined to find and destroy all evidence of the family secret that Grant is after…
Grant knew it was going to be a long day when he woke up and couldn’t remember the name of the woman lying beside him. His head throbbed. His stomach roiled. Late morning sun slanted across his face, and he squinted. He lifted himself onto an elbow and ran one hand over his stubbled jaw, then rolled over and stared at a digital clock he didn’t recognize.
He heard the sound again, the one that had jerked him from sleep. Somewhere across the room, his cell phone beeped. What the he—? Was it the weekend yet? Or was he supposed to be at work? Why did the room smell like vanilla? He groaned and struggled to pull sense from his sleep-muddled brain.
“Babe?” A manicured hand snaked out from the covers and caressed his bare chest. “Everything okay?”
Babe? He blinked and the room swam into focus. “Um, yeah.” He slipped from between satin sheets, planted one foot on a throw rug, and ended up on his ass next to the bed.
He swore under his breath and pulled himself up. The room was small, decorated mostly in pinks and lavenders. A collection of candles sat on a pink-and-white dresser across the room and, for one horrifying moment, he thought a Hello Kitty stuffed animal stared at him with black plastic eyes. He shook his head and looked again, and the cat changed into a pink dragon with wings. Still a stuffed animal, though. He kept his gaze on the ground so he wouldn’t see any others. Near the door, his keys, phone, and boxers lay in a heap beside a leopard-print bra and something made of clingy red fabric.
Grant licked his lips and silently called himself a few choice words. Again. I did it again. Maybe his father was right, after all.
He searched the bedroom until he found the golf shirt and shorts he remembered wearing the night before. Shots of tequila, he recalled. And a blonde at the end of the bar with a gorgeous rack and pouty lips who wouldn’t stop staring at him. His two vices, served up neatly at Mick’s, the local watering hole conveniently located at the end of his block.
“Shit. I’m late. Really late.”
Now he knew what day it was, because he only hit Mick’s for their Thursday night wing special, which meant it was Friday. The day of his final interview with Francesca Morelli. And his last chance to please his father or lose his job, condo, and sports car in one fell swoop. He swore again and opened two doors before he found the bathroom.
Grant splashed water on his face and glanced out a window swathed in gauzy curtains. He might have started the night in familiar territory, but he had no idea where he was now. Almost unconsciously, his gaze narrowed as he looked at the view outside. His mind’s eye framed it, assessing the light and the shadows. Upscale, downtown, definitely not his usual neighborhood. Directly across the street sat a renovated warehouse, all black and chrome and tinted windows—one of the new nightclubs, probably, that had closed just a couple of hours earlier. To his right, a collection of narrow storefronts took up the rest of the block. An art gallery, and a coffee shop, and…he craned his neck but couldn’t make out the rest.
A pony-tailed teen on a skateboard came riding into view from the left, and Grant adjusted his focus slightly. Buildings forgotten, he narrowed in on the moon face and the black watch cap, the silver streak the skateboard made in the morning sun. His fingers twitched, hands empty. For a moment, he wished for his zoom lens, so he could concentrate on the blur of the wheels, the graceful way the kid held his arms out for balance, the grayish-blue of the street—
He stopped himself. Not going to do that anymore, remember? No matter how good the shot. And anyway, he didn’t have time, especially this morning.
Clothed, he palmed his cell instead and checked his voice mail. And then was sorry.
“Grant? Where are you? It’s past nine.” His father’s voice, cool and disapproving, sliced across the phone line.
“Yeah, I know,” he answered aloud as he slipped back into the bedroom. “Morelli interview. Napa Valley.” His big chance, and he was about to blow it.
He clasped his watch and glanced at the body still lying under the covers a few feet away. A perfect body, too, he began to recall, with its curves and soft spots and sweet smells. For a moment, he considered tossing the phone out the nearest window, stripping down, and spending the rest of the day rediscovering the places he’d visited last night.
For an instant he wondered if the woman in the bed called him that because she didn’t remember his name either.
She sat up, not bothering to cover herself with the sheets. Model-thin, with a sprayed-on tan that covered every inch, she leaned back on her elbows and looked at him from under heavy lids.
Amber, he remembered after a desperate moment of fumbling around his memory.
“Hey.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ve gotta go to work.” His leg bounced with nerves, and he willed his father not to call again. I’m on my way. Won’t even stop for coffee.
She nodded. “You have that big interview with Edoardo Morelli today, right?” Her eyes widened in awe.
Ah. So that was the story he’d told last night in the bar. And that explained the melted candles around the room, the eager way she’d shed her clothes, the reason his lower back still ached.
“Yeah,” he lied. “It’s the last one, too, so I gotta be on time.” His interview wasn’t with Edoardo—it was with the star’s sixty-year-old mother, fading film icon Francesca Morelli. But Grant didn’t think Amber would have been too impressed by that fact last night.
“Wow. You’re lucky.” She sighed the words, and Grant had to fight to keep his mouth from twisting into a smirk.
Sure. Lucky. That’s me.
“Tell me about him.” Her voice sounded a little breathless, and Grant wondered if it were possible to be jealous of someone you had never met and didn’t stand a chance competing against.
“Does he look the same in person as he does in the movies?”
“Well, you know—not exactly the same,” he hedged, wanting to be gone. “They do a lot with makeup and lighting.”
She nodded, her eyes dreamy, and Grant thought it probably didn’t matter what he said, as long as the words “Edoardo” and “Morelli” were in the same sentence. The guy made mostly love stories and sappy stuff—but in both English and Italian, which made every woman in the country swoon and just about every man look up the cost of learning the Romance language. Grant couldn’t stomach the guy’s movies, but that didn’t matter when it came to writing for the Chronicle. Just ask his father.
Again the camera in his mind’s eye moved into place. Amber said something else, but he only nodded in response. Late morning light filtered through the curtains and cast a shadow along the patterned pillowcase. Grant laced his hands behind his head and struggled to pay attention. It was easier, somehow, to see the world through a lens, to catch it in a series of still-frames for later study, than to meet it head-on all the time.
Especially with a raging hangover.
“Hey. You in there?” A dainty finger tapped him on the wrist.
He blinked, startled. “Sorry. Just drifting a little.”
She brushed her fingertips across his chest. “Is it true, about him being adopted when he was almost dying?” She looked a little teary-eyed at the thought of today’s healthy, virile Edoardo left for dead in a run-down Greek orphanage.
“Far as I know.” He got to his feet. “Francesca was filming Closer to the Sun over in Athens—she was young, twenty or so—and she got on this kick with the local orphanage. Gave them all kinds of money, spent weeks there with the kids…and fell in love with this one little boy.”
“He was probably adorable,” Amber whispered. “Even then.”
“Actually, he was born with a club foot,” Grant said. Not many people knew that part of the story.
“Nope. Hobbled around the orphanage begging for food, until one day Francesca saw him, and that was that. She brought him back to the States on the next plane. Took three surgeries to straighten out his foot.” Grant had actually seen the photos of Edoardo as a little boy, leaning on crutches with a leg wrapped in plaster.
Amber’s eyes grew wider. “I never knew that.”
“Most people don’t.” It pleased Grant to have that nugget of knowledge about the otherwise perfect movie star—that one day he’d been crippled and flawed like the rest of the world.
Amber sighed, and Grant wondered if she was picturing Edoardo Morelli in the bed beside her instead of him. After a moment, she slipped from the sheets and reached for a pink robe. “Well, thanks for coming over,” she murmured. “It was fun.”
Grant grabbed his keys and met her near the front door she pulled open. He planted a kiss somewhere near her left ear and wound up with a mouthful of hair. “Yeah, it was.” He didn’t ask for her number and she didn’t offer it. No promises, no commitment, just a good old-fashioned roll in the sack.
He only stopped to wonder if maybe, at thirty-one, he was getting a little old for meaningless rolls when he pulled out of Amber’s condo complex and still had no idea where he was.
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