Home > Danger Rising (Red Stone Security #20)(5)

Danger Rising (Red Stone Security #20)(5)
Author: Katie Reus

Heart rate kicking up, she lunged forward and caught the seven-year-old in midair.

“I knew you’d catch me!” Athena had one volume—loud.

Lana laughed even as she willed her heart rate back to normal. This child was always on, like a small tornado that never stopped. “Are you supposed to be diving off stools?”

Athena just cackled as Lana set her on her feet. Then she grabbed a donut from her plate and ran off.

“I wish I could say it’s normally not like this here, but you’d know I was lying,” Belle said as she stood at the stove pouring pancake batter into a pan. Her thick dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she still had on her pajamas—which told Lana it had been a tough morning.

Katerina, two years younger than Athena but far more serious even at five, shook her head. “That girl is going to break her leg one day.”

Lana snorted out a laugh at her flat tone, then looked at Belle, who was shaking her head.

“Why don’t you go check on Athena?” Belle asked. “Make sure she’s not breaking any bones, huh?”

Katerina let out a put-upon sigh, but grabbed a donut as well and jumped down, racing in the direction of her sister.

“You’re my hero,” Lana said as she grabbed a Lysol wipe, started cleaning the messy countertops.

“See, this is why you’re always welcome here. My kitchen is always cleaner after you visit. And you never judge my hurricane children.” Belle grinned as Lana continued tidying up.

“I expect to be paid with food. Grant said something about revani cake?”

“There’s plenty. My mom gave strict orders that I better send a plateful home with you. She also made a bunch of other stuff—and labeled it for you.”

Lana snickered slightly. That definitely sounded like Eirene Manikas. “I love her so much.”

She started putting up the clean dishes in the rack by the sink, basically making herself at home. Lana knew she had a bit of a neurosis to keep things clean, but when she was here she simply liked to help Belle and acted as if she really was part of the family. They made her feel grounded, reminded her that while her own mom was gone, she still had people who loved her, even if they weren’t related by blood. Sometimes she wondered what they’d think of her if they knew the things she’d done. And it shamed her, so she tried not to dwell on it ever. But it was hard sometimes.

“She loves you too… So how are you doing? Really?” Belle’s expression turned sympathetic. Not overly so, not enough to make Lana uncomfortable, but the kindness and caring was right at the surface. And Belle was one of the most stunning women she’d ever met. She had that “movie star” quality that some people were simply born with. One of those truly gorgeous humans walking around with mere mortals. She was petite, with olive-hued skin and bright emerald eyes. People often did double takes when she walked by.

She was definitely one of the most popular nurses at the hospital, though that had everything to do with her bedside manner. She had a way of making people feel at ease, safe.

“Okay. Not terrible, but not great either. So, okay I guess.” Lana wouldn’t lie to Belle, not about this. Her mom had died—been murdered. Something that was difficult to even think about. She’d always looked up to Belle as a sort of older cousin or sister type. Their moms had been friends, though Lana’s mom had dragged her around the world growing up so she hadn’t seen Belle as much as she’d have liked. But they’d often visited Miami between the jobs her mom had set up, and when Lana had turned twenty, her mother had made her promise to leave their stealing ways behind.

The change in her mom, the demand that Lana start walking the straight and narrow, had been abrupt. But Lana had always craved her mother’s approval. It was why she’d gotten a degree in nursing. That, and she liked helping people. It had been a strenuous program, one she was proud to have finished. Even if she was taking a short break. At twenty-six, she’d never had a real break, and after…everything that had happened to her recently, she needed downtime.

“I…think I just need a break from everything,” she continued. Well, that and she was determined to get back what Cashe had stolen from her mom immediately after her death. Lana couldn’t rest until she had her family heirloom back. The fact that the necklace was worth millions obviously mattered, but it was the history as well. It had belonged to her great-grandmother, had been snuck into the country with her when she’d immigrated. It was the only real piece of her family history she had left, the last piece of her mom. They’d moved so much over the years and had never had any roots. She’d always felt adrift, but that necklace was something she’d always associated with her mom, with whatever home they lived in.

She was getting it back no matter what it took.

“Is that why you’re not taking the permanent position at the hospital?” Belle asked. “I know they offered you the job.”

Oh, of course she knew. Belle had recently been promoted to the CNO position—Chief Nursing Officer.

Lana had been offered a permanent position at the hospital after six months in her traveling position. She’d been working as a traveling nurse the last few years, and then six months ago had ended up back in Miami. And she’d kept extending her contract here instead of moving on. She loved Miami, loved the weather, the people. And the fact that she actually had friends here helped too.

Then her mom had been killed, the man she loved had died, and she’d discovered that Cashe had stolen from her, all in the span of a couple days. Though Belle only knew about her mom’s death, not the death of Teague or the theft. Those were Lana’s secrets to keep.

It was all so much, Lana felt as if she was drowning sometimes. She couldn’t accept a permanent job yet. “Sort of. I love it here, I want to stay here. I just…need to get some things figured out first. So I took a little break. My traveling contract is over and I told the hospital I’m taking a month to get some life stuff in order. They said they’d hold the position.”

“They definitely will. There’s such a shortage right now and they really want you,” Belle said almost absently as she quickly scraped off a burned pancake and tossed it into the trash. “Oops.”

Freshly poured coffee in hand, Lana leaned against the countertop next to Belle. “What else do you need help with?” The kitchen was straightened and the pancakes smelled amazing. Though she wanted revani cake more than anything.

“Nothing. And come here. I didn’t get my hug.” Belle, who was a good four inches shorter, pulled her into a tight grip.

Lana blinked back the unexpected rush of tears as her friend enveloped her. She’d gone without much human contact since her mom died, since Teague… God, she couldn’t even think the words. Couldn’t think about him, about all the unsaid things between them. They’d been friends for years, then had one blissful night together and then—he’d just been gone.

Now it was too late to say all the things that mattered. Her mom and Teague were gone forever. Some days she felt as if she had no one.

But not today. “You give the best hugs,” she murmured, the scent of coconut and lemon surrounding her.

“True,” Belle said as she stepped back. “Your cake is in the fridge. I think you need a couple pieces right now.”

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