Edge (Gentry Boys #7) - Cora Brent

CHAPTER ONE

CONWAY

There’s an old story. I forget where I heard it and I probably have some of the details wrong but it haunts me anyway.

The ending is not a happy one.

This story is about a boy and a girl. They grow up together and become outrageously brilliant and good looking and everyone thinks the sun shines out of their dazzling asses. It seems like destiny when they fall in love, skip through the mythological flowers, and swear that they will hold hands until the end of time.

Then out of nowhere the girl gets bitten by a poisonous snake. Or maybe she was crushed by a falling tree branch. I forget which.

Anyway, that detail doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s gone and the guy can’t seem to think straight without her at his side. So he wanders around in a fog of bewildered grief; kicking puppies, knocking over straw bales and generally acting like an asshole until everyone hates his guts.

But unlike other unhappy legends he’s not about to throw in the towel and swallow a thimble of green poison, not this guy. He comes up with a plan. If he can just find his way to the underworld he’ll seize his lost love and take her back to the land of the living so they can get back to their flower skipping, hand holding euphoria.

Now this is the part that suspends belief somewhat and makes me think it’s probably one of those perverse old school fairy tales that was eventually transformed into something more cartoonish and happy.

The guy finds this magic boat and rows through miles of spider webs and gnarly bones and rotting decay until he gets to the underworld. Once he’s there he finds the king or the devil or whatever the underworld president is called and gets down on his knees, begging for the girl’s return.

The underworld king ignores him at first because the girl’s been sleeping in a brass cage under his bed and he kind of likes keeping her there. But he must have had a soft side because finally he agrees to return her to the heartbroken hero.

There’s only one condition. The guy needs to climb this long, narrow stairway all the way to the earth’s surface without glancing backwards.

That last part is really important. If he turns around, even once, all bets are off and his girlfriend has to go back to her underworld cage.

It sounds like a stupidly simple demand and the guy sets off happily, girlfriend in tow. Well, it must have been a really long walk or else the guy was such a dingbat he totally forgot the only rule he had to follow. He’s only steps away from the surface when for some ungodly reason he turns around. All he sees is one fleeting glimpse at the beautiful face of his lost love before she vanishes forever in a puff of smoke.

Next time no one pays attention to the guy’s crying and pleading. I guess you only get one shot at convincing the king of the underworld. The poor guy winds up stuck back on earth with no hope of ever being reunited with the girl he loves.

All because he couldn’t follow fucking directions.

How’s that for a kick in the ass?

There was no reason for that morbid old tale to be running through my mind as I watched the sunrise from the hotel’s rooftop pool. The view from up here wasn’t anything special, not now. When this place was built back in the nineteen twenties it was the tallest structure in downtown Phoenix. Down in the lobby there are still some old photos in cracked frames that hang crookedly on the walls, depicting the hotel in its heyday. The city was young back then and the Hotel San Gabriel boasted the height of luxury for the traveling businessman.

Now the hotel, along with many of the oldest city buildings, had crumbled under the weight of the decades, overshadowed by all the newer, shinier, taller versions in their midst. The place hadn’t operated as a real hotel in years and for the moment was owned by a ninety year old land baron who lives in Pasadena. As long as he keeps receiving a hefty check every month our landlord doesn’t seem to care who the fuck we are; gamblers, dealers, gang bangers. And we had all kinds here. In fact the Hotel San Gabriel has become sort of like a halfway house for the criminally enterprising.

The neglected roof of the old