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Part Thirty Four

Adam watched the car leave kicking up a cloud of dust and turned to Kristi with venom in his eyes.

"I told you I am not interested in going to the dinner. When are you going to realise that no means no? Jesus Kristi! You've really blown it now!"

The taxi had long gone, so he pushed her towards his car. "I'm taking you as far as Santa Monica, and you can do what the hell you want then, and don't call me again!"

She mumbled in protest from beside him, never one for being aware of anything other than herself she was confused.

Ignoring her, he reached for his phone and dialled Marcus, his right hand man. Earlier he'd worried about being pulled over by the police, now he didn't care.

Marcus was as chirpy as he could be at six on a Friday, he was taking his wife out for a meal this evening, his wedding anniversary, Adam was all too aware of that. "Adam! Not about to ruin my plans?"

Adam hissed through his teeth, "hope not. But I do need you to work your magic a little urgently." He'd never relied on anyone like he did Marcus. And the older man never let him down. "Laura Marshall."

Marcus whistled, appreciating exactly what that meant. Though Adam hadn't shared details of all that had happened when he was overseas, the change in him was more than obvious, and he knew that this step sister was a lot to do with this. "Ok..."

"She's in LA, can you find her?"

Marcus groaned, "She came and you've lost her?"

"It was a long story."

Laughing the other man replied, "If anyone can find her my contacts can. I'll get on it asap, I AM going to dinner in two hours, you hear me?"

Adam ended the call just as he approached the built up area that became Santa Monica. Knowing that Kristi had friends nearby he swerved to the side of the road, climbing out of the car and walking around to the passenger door.

"Please don't EVER do this again!"

Kristi smiled and linked her arms around his neck, "don't be like that sugar!"

Adam thought he was going to explode, how the hell did he ever date this woman? Untangling himself, he pushed her away a little too firmly, "I mean it Kristi. I said I was busy tonight, but you didn't NEVER listen! And you've ruined everything!"

Shaking his head he got back n the car and drove off, destination unknown.

Through the blaze of tears Laura tried desperately to follow the road along the coast. She had no idea where to go, a few minutes earlier she was asleep in a car trying to cope with transatlantic travel and jetlag. Now she was running scared and just about out of options. Pulling into the car park of a supermarket in a place - she didn't know where, she took time to compose herself. She needed sleep; her lack of planning of this trip was ridiculous. She was always prepared. Just not today, not around Adam!

Locking up the car, she headed towards the mall. There was an internet cafe there and she suddenly had an idea.

Ordering a coffee and a doughnut she made for a free terminal and logged onto www.surfing It was the equivalent of LinkedIn for surfers; a few years ago she'd met up with the guys who'd created the site. It was meant to be a way of recommending places, things to fellow surfers and to catch up with them via a messaging/profile system.

Typing ACCOMMODATION and LA into the search engine on the side, a list of 'surf friendly' properties cropped up. Using Google maps and her own location she managed to locate three places that weren't that far from her. And the beach front property in Venice Beach ticked all her boxes, not a hotel as much as a hostel, you could rent a bed, a room or an apartment, and the owner was a name she recognised. Marina Porter, an old rival of Alana's back in her semi pro surfing days. Clicking on the contact button she sent her a quick message. Then logged off. Finishing her coffee she made for the car and tapped the address into the sat nav. The rest was easy.

"What do you mean she hasn't used her credit card? What about her rental car? Can't you trace that?"

Marcus groaned, he'd promised his wife they'd be at the restaurant in an hour, and Adam was starting to be unreasonable. "Look, I've got an eye on every airport in South California. If she uses any of her bank accounts I will have a beacon flashing from my phone. She can't go anywhere!"

"I CAN'T sit here and wait for you to maybe find her!"

Marcus laughed, "I don't know what the hell happened with you and her, but I have to say that it is NOT eating into my anniversary. I'll message you the details of the PI we use. You can call him direct if you aren't satisfied with waiting, and you want to burn money!"

Frustrated Adam threw the phone across the room and was relieved when it landed on the sofa rather than the floor. It was his only link to Marcus. Pacing the lounge he couldn't believe the events of the day. But he paused at the large glass doors that overlooked the veranda, and of course the beach, then realised it was the first time he'd been truly aware of his surroundings since he'd left Laura. That was the best feeling, his desire for life had returned, and whilst at the moment that might mean frustration at losing her, at blowing his chance with her, it also meant she was here, in LA, and he'd do anything he could to find her.

Marina was awesome, she owned the building that sat behind the beach front shops and had direct access to the surprisingly white sands of Venice Beach. She had gushed to meet a friend of Alana's, someone she remembered as great competition. Respect in surfing was great and there was a loyalty amongst the devoted. Whilst she was on a limited budget, she wasn't up for bunking in a dorm with strangers, and fortunately there was a small single room.

"Marina, you are a star!"

The other woman grinned, "any friend of Alana Carter is a friend of mine!" As she spotted Laura reach for her wallet she waved a hand in front of her, "no, please! Pay at the end! There's a barbeque planned for this evening on the deck, and surf is up tomorrow at around six am, nine. If you fancy it come and sort things out before then?"

"You rent boards?" was met by raised eyebrows, and suddenly the prospect of staying in LA for a few days wasn't so bad.

The room was basic, but she could expect no less, but it ticked every box for her. A long hot shower was luxurious and woke her up. If she could last another few hours then she'd beat the jetlag at least.

The veranda of the hotel was busy there were at least forty people gathered, drinking, talking. She accepted a beer from Marina who was the hostess, then fell naturally into conversation with some like minded people.

Adam had spent the evening pacing, calling Marcus, who ignored him, before finally trying the number his colleague had given him. 'Ace Barker' was a smooth sounding man, who chuckled in a deep manner when Adam explained his predicament.

After explaining that a Friday night job was "pricey man", he hung up with a "be in touch real soon!"

And that left Adam to brood even more.

It was almost eleven pm when Ace called back.

"Located her Ford Mustang outside the Venice Beach Surf Lodge. Have it on good authority she's on the check in sheet there. Texting details. Check in post!"

Then he hung up.

Leaving Adam to shake his head, the best surf beach, and the best hang out for surfers, he should have guessed! Fortunately he knew Marina Dudridge, not well, but enough that banging her door at almost midnight may not find him wrestled to the floor or frog marched off by the LAPD.

No brainer, he got straight in his car.

Years ago when he'd been a student, Marina had been the talk of the SoCal region. She was an amazing surfer, and left the area when he was still at University to hit the pro circuit, taking her around the Pacific. And she'd been mightily successful. He'd been to many of her welcome home parties, and met her on a few occasions, but not since he'd become the business man that he was. His success was demanding and he no longer wandered the beaches surfing and chatting as he had in his teens and early twenties, but it didn't mean he didn't know who was there and what was happening, he managed to keep his finger on the pulse in that respect.

"Well if it isn't Adam Purcell!" Considering it was after midnight, Marina Dudridge looked amazingly fresh. "What brings you out to my humble abode this late at night?"

Adam smiled at her geniality, he couldn't' guarantee that he'd be so accommodating at that time of night, "Marina, I'm looking for someone I believe is staying here. Laura Marshall?"

She gave a knowing nod, "should've known that it was a lady, you don't stoop this low these days!"

"Au contraire, I'd love to have the chance to catch a few sets down here, but work and family commitments fill my days, Malibu is hardly a substitute for Venice, it's so much flatter. Maybe I should make the effort and meander down here more often!"

She nodded, "you definitely should!"

She was flirting, he thought, and that wasn't good, not when he was trying to right things with Laura. "Is she here? Laura?"

Marina sighed, "you know I can't reveal that! Confidentiality and protecting the client and all that...but needless to say Surf's Up at around six am. If she's in the area that's the time to look for her!"

Then with a wink she closed the front door.

For Adam it was a long drive home in frustration.

Laura couldn't wipe the grin off her face, the sea wasn't even cold. The wetsuit was needed, but not essential like it was back home. Nope, she could definitely cope with surfing the Pacific every day, it was awesome. Dropping onto her belly on the rented board, she started to paddle as a wave seemed to rise behind her. Catching it she leapt to her feet and managed to surf into the shallows. Perfect.

After a dozen more waves she felt tired, drinking the previous evening, plus residual jetlag and the time difference all meant her body had no idea what was happening. But she was reluctant to leave the water. Surfing was her escape, and today of all days she needed that escape more than anything.

It was more than an hour later that she finally strolled out onto the sand, her rented board under her arm, and the early morning sun warm on her salty face. Dropping down onto the sand, she found the bag she'd left there and pulled out a bottle of water and took a long drink. Then tipped her face to the sun, closing her eyes, letting the warmth dry her face.

Laura stayed like that for a while, and it was the noise of the beach getting busier that made her finally open her eyes, leave the place where she could skew reality and she wasn't alone in the world. Looking around she saw there was so many more enjoying the tail end of the surf, the real hardcore surfers had left before her. But it wasn't the surfers that attracted her attention; it was a man paddling in the shallows throwing sticks for two large dogs. A man she thought didn't like dogs, a man she'd walked away from the previous day, a man whose appearance made her heart race - even though it shouldn't. Adam.

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