মুখ্য Hiding in the Shadows

Hiding in the Shadows

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এই বইটি আপনার কতটা পছন্দ?
ফাইলের মান কিরকম?
মান নির্ণয়ের জন্য বইটি ডাউনলোড করুন
ডাউনলোড করা ফাইলগুলির মান কিরকম?
Terror waits just out of sightHiding In The ShadowsAccident victim Faith Parker has done what her doctors feared she never would: awakened from the coma that held her prisoner for weeks. But she has no memory of the crash that nearly killed her—or the life that led up to it. Nor does she remember journalist Dinah Leighton, the steadfast friend who visited her in the hospital...until she disappeared without a trace. Now as Faith begins to regain her strength, she's shocked by intimate dreams of a man she doesn't recognize and tortured by visions of violence that feel painfully real. Something inexplicable ties her lost memories to Dinah's chilling fate. But even as Faith tries to understand the connection and reach out to save Dinah, death is stalking both women. And one of them will not escape its lethal grasp.FBI agent Noah Bishop has a rare gift for seeing what others do not, a gift that helps him solve the most puzzling cases. Now, read more of his electrifying adventures in two stand-alone tales of psychic suspense.
ক্যাটাগোরিগুলো:
সাল:
2000
সংস্করণ:
Reprint
প্রকাশক:
Bantam Books
ভাষা:
english
ISBN 10:
0553576925
ISBN 13:
9780553576924
বইয়ের সিরিজ:
Stealing Shadows 2
ফাইল:
EPUB, 1.96 MB
ডাউনলোড (epub, 1.96 MB)

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আপনি একটি বুক রিভিউ লিখতে পারেন এবং আপনার অভিজ্ঞতা শেয়ার করতে পারেন. অন্যান্য পাঠকরা আপনার পড়া বইগুলির বিষয়ে আপনার মতামত সম্পর্কে সর্বদা আগ্রহী হবে. বইটি আপনার পছন্দ হোক বা না হোক, আপনি যদি নিজের সৎ ও বিস্তারিত চিন্তাভাবনা ব্যক্ত করেন তাহলে অন্যরা তাদের জন্য উপযুক্ত নতুন বইগুলি খুঁজে পাবে.
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সাল:
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ভাষা:
english
ফাইল:
EPUB, 2.39 MB
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Praise for Kay Hooper

HAUNTING RACHEL

“A stirring and evocative thriller.”

—Palo Alto Daily News

“The pace flies, the suspense never lets up. It’s great reading.”

—The Advocate, Baton Rouge

“An intriguing book with plenty of strange twists that will please the reader.”

—Rocky Mountain News

“It passed the ‘stay up late to finish it in one night’ test.”

—The Denver Post


FINDING LAURA

“You always know you are in for an outstanding read when you pick up a Kay Hooper novel, but in Finding

Laura, she has created something really special! Simply superb!”

—Romantic Times (gold medal review)

“Hooper keeps the intrigue pleasurably complicated, with gothic touches of suspense and a satisfying resolution.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A first-class reading experience.”

—Affaire de Coeur

“Ms. Hooper throws in one surprise after another.… Spellbinding.”

—Rendezvous


AFTER CAROLINE

“Harrowing good fun. Readers will shiver and shudder.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Kay Hooper comes through with chills, thrills, and plenty of romance, this time with an energetic murder mystery with a clever twist. The suspense is sustained admirably right up to the very end.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Peopled with interesting characters and intricately plotted, the novel is both a compelling mystery and a satisfying romance.”

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Kay Hooper has crafted another solid story to keep readers enthralled until the last page is turned.”

—Booklist

“Joanna Flynn is appealing, plucky, and true to her mission as she probes the mystery that was Caroline.”

—Variety


AMANDA

“Amanda seethes and sizzles. A fast-paced, atmospheric tale that vibrates with tension, passion, and mystery. Readers will devour it.”

—Jayne Ann Krentz

“Kay Hooper’s dialogue rings true; her characters are more three-dimensional than those usually found in this genre. You may think you’ve guessed the outcome, unraveled all the lies. Then again, you could be as mistaken as I was.”

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Will delight fans of Phyllis Whitne; y and Victoria Holt.”

—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

“Kay Hooper knows how to serve up a latter-day gothic that will hold readers in its brooding grip.”

—Publishers Weekly

“I lapped it right up. There aren’t enough good books in this genre, so this stands out!”

—Booknews from The Poisoned Pen

“Kay Hooper has given you a darn good ride, and there are far too few of those these days.”

—Dayton Daily News





Bantam Books by Kay Hooper

ALWAYS A THIEF

ONCE A THIEF

SENSE OF EVIL

WHISPER OF EVIL

TOUCHING EVIL

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

HIDING IN THE SHADOWS

STEALING SHADOWS

HAUNTING RACHEL

FINDING LAURA

AFTER CAROLINE

AMANDA

ON WINGS OF MAGIC

THE WIZARD OF SEATTLE

MY GUARDIAN ANGEL





HIDING IN THE SHADOWS

A Bantam Book / October 2000

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2000 by Kay Hooper

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information address: Bantam Books.

eISBN: 978-0-307-56767-3

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, New York, New York.



v3.1_r1





FOR MY FAMILY





Contents


Cover

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication



Dinah

Faith

The Search Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen



Prologue





DINAH





Kane MacGregor looked up from the morning newspaper as she came into the kitchen, and reflected not for the first time that Dinah Leighton was the only woman he’d ever known who managed to create the illusion of incredible bustle while never moving faster than a lazy stroll. It was a peculiarly endearing trait.

“I am so late,” she said by way of greeting, dropping her briefcase into a chair across from him at the table and going around the work island to pour herself a cup of coffee. He always made the coffee in the morning, favoring a gourmet blend rich with taste, a selection Dinah accepted cheerfully even though she considered the beverage merely a simple and efficient means of getting caffeine into her system as quickly as possible. “You turned off the alarm again.” She didn’t sound annoyed, just matter-of-fact.

“After all your long hours recently, I thought you could use a little extra sleep. Besides, it isn’t all that late. Just after nine. Do you have a meeting this morning? You didn’t mention anything last night.”

“No, not a meeting.” She spooned enough sugar into the coffee to make him wince, and poured enough cream to make him wonder why she even bothered with coffee. “I just … They allow visitors only twice a day, and I’m always too late in the evening.”

It was Thursday. He’d forgotten.

“I’m sorry, Dinah. If you’d reminded me—”

The smile she sent him was quick and fleeting. “Don’t worry about it. I still have time, I think.” She put two slices of bread in the toaster and leaned against the counter.

Kane looked at her, wondering as he had wondered often in recent weeks if it was his imagination that Dinah was a bit preoccupied. He’d thought it was because of the accident, but now he wasn’t so sure. She tended to get wrapped up in her work, sometimes to the exclusion of other things. Was that it? Just another story that had drawn her interest and engaged that lively mind?

He wanted to go to her, but didn’t; he was experienced enough to recognize the warning in both her actions and her body language. She had not touched him, had not even come near him, in fact. She was across the room with the island and the table between them and showing him most of her back.

She might just as well have worn a no-trespassing sign. In neon. It irritated him.

“Will you stop on the way to work?” he asked, keeping the conversation going while he decided whether or not it was time to do something about this.

Dinah checked the wide, leather-banded watch she wore and nodded absently. “For a few minutes.”

“You don’t have to go twice every week.”

“Yes,” she said. “I do.”

“Dinah, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know that.” But her voice lacked certainty. She seemed to realize it, because she cleared her throat and quickly changed the subject while she buttered her toast. “Anyway, we’ll be going in opposite directions this morning. Just as well, I expect. Steve has me chasing after that building inspector for an interview and the wretched man is never in his office, so I’ll need my Jeep.”

Steve Hardy was Dinah’s editor at the small but well-known magazine where she worked, and he tended to push her almost as hard as she pushed herself.

“Another exposé?” Kane said lightly. “Bribery and kickbacks in the city?”

She laughed. “I wish. No, this is just for a series on our local officials. You know—a day in the life of, and how, exactly, your tax dollars are being spent.”

“Easy stuff for you.”

Dinah shrugged. “Easy enough.”

Kane watched her load the toast with grape jelly and take a healthy bite. She was, he decided, very watchable no matter what she was doing. She wasn’t beautiful, but damned close. Regular, not-quite-delicate features that fit together well, the best of which being a pair of steady blue eyes that sometimes saw more than one would guess. Her pale gold hair was cut casually short in tousled layers—“wash and wear,” she called it—and her tall, voluptuous body was clothed in a simple tunic sweater and jeans. Dinah didn’t care much about clothes, and it showed. On the other hand, what she wore hardly mattered because the enticing figure underneath was what caught the eye. The male eye, at any rate.

His eye, certainly, more than six months ago.

It hadn’t taken them long to get intimate, but getting to know each other had become a much more complex, drawn-out process. And a cautious one. Both were fiercely independent, with busy careers and cluttered lives and rocky past relationships that had left scars, and neither had been in a hurry to delve beneath surface passion.

It had been enough, for a while.

But even wary relationships either evolved or fell apart, and theirs was evolving. Almost against their wills, they had been drawn together to share more than a bed, tentatively exchanging views and opinions and comparing tastes and basic values. They liked what they had discovered about each other.

At least, Kane thought so.

They were not quite living together, but after nearly four months of my-place-or-yours, Kane had been wondering if he should be the one to suggest they stop the shuttling back and forth almost every night.

And then, a little more than a month ago, the accident happened and Dinah began to distance herself from him. He had assumed the cause was Dinah’s worry for her friend and the ridiculous guilt she felt. For the first time, though, he asked himself if that was the case.

“I’ll probably be late tonight,” Dinah said, eating the second piece of toast.

“More research?” It had been her excuse so often of late. Was it time for him to pick a fight and clear the air between them?

“Just something I need to check out. I’ll probably be closer to my place than here by the time I get finished, though, so—”

“Why don’t I meet you there?” he interrupted, unwilling to hear her suggest another night apart. There had been several recently. Too many. “Eight? Nine?”

Her hesitation was brief. “Eight. I should be through by then.”

“I’ll bring Chinese,” he said. “Or would you rather have something else?”

“No, Chinese is fine. Sesame chicken.”

“And no egg rolls. I remember.”

Dinah sent him another brief smile, but her mind was clearly elsewhere.

Kane sipped his coffee and watched her. He could accept that her job was important to her; his was to him, after all. So it would hardly be fair of him to protest her abstraction, to demand all her time and attention for himself. But was that really it?

An easy story about the city officials of Atlanta was the sort of thing she could do with her eyes closed. But she had more than once juggled two stories at a time, one of them unknown even to her editor; it was her way of combining the routine work of a magazine writer with the more gritty and urgent instincts of an investigative journalist.

“Dinah?”

Finishing her toast, she sent him a glance, brows lifting inquiringly.

“Why don’t we go away this weekend. Maybe drive out to the coast?” He had a beach house, a peaceful retreat that both of them found a welcome change from the hectic pace of the city.

Her hesitation was almost imperceptible. “I wish I could. But I have an appointment on Saturday.”

“Can’t reschedule?”

“No, I’m afraid not.” She smiled regretfully. “There’s an assistant D.A. I’m supposed to talk to, and she’s got a big case coming up, so her schedule is full. It has to be Saturday.”

Kane thought she was lying to him. “Well, it was just a thought. Maybe next weekend.” He let the exasperation in his voice lie there in the silence between them.

Her eyes flashed, but her voice remained calm when she said, “Relationships are hell, aren’t they?”

“Sometimes.”

“I gather you’re feeling neglected?”

“Dinah, don’t try to make me feel and sound like the typical selfish male.”

“There’s nothing typical about you,” she murmured.

He decided not to ask if that was a compliment. “Look, I know work gets the best of both of us from time to time, and that’s as it should be.”

“But?”

“But there’s more to life than work.”

Her lips twisted in an odd, fleeting smile. “I know.”

“Then talk to me, dammit.”

“I don’t talk about my stories, Kane, you know that.”

“I’m not asking you to betray a confidence. I just want to know what could be so important that you barely have time to eat or sleep these days. And don’t give me that bullshit about the story on city officials. That isn’t what’s making you toss and turn at night.”

Disconcerted, she said, “Am I doing that?”

“Yes. Since the accident.”

“Well, it’s that,” she said, grasping the handy reason with relief. “The accident. I’ve been worried about her, and—”

“It isn’t the accident. Or it isn’t only the accident. So it has to be a story. Or it has to be us.”

“I don’t know why you would think—”

“Dinah. I know when something is off-kilter in your life. And what affects you affects me. Tell me what’s wrong. I can’t fix it until I know what it is.”

She looked across the room at him, and something changed in her face. She went behind his chair and bent to put her arms around him. Her warm, smooth cheek pressed against his.

“I really don’t appreciate you, do I?” Her voice sounded shaken.

He lifted a hand to her head, letting his fingers slide into her silky hair because he loved it and she never minded. “No,” he said a bit dryly. “I’m a prince.”

She chuckled. “You certainly are. And I have been neglecting you, I realize that. I’m sorry.”

He looked down at her hands on his chest, the fine-boned strength of them, the red-polished nails that showed her one vanity. “So what’s going on? Is it just work, or have you met a better prince?”

She hesitated, then moved around him to lean a hip against the table and smiled down at him. “Let’s just say I’ve stumbled onto a story with a lot of potential. A story that could make my reputation.”

He frowned. “Your reputation is already made.”

“Locally, sure. Even regionally. But this … this could put my name on the national map.”

Kane felt a prickle of unease. “What kind of story is it?”

“You know better than that.”

“I’m not asking for details, Dinah. Just a general idea. Is it criminal? Political? Business?”

“Criminal and business. Maybe wanders into the political arena as well, although I’m not sure about that yet,” she replied, still smiling.

“Jesus. Dinah—”

“Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.” She reached over and brushed the backs of her fingers down his cheek in a familiar caress.

He didn’t allow it to distract him. “Just don’t tell me you’re on your own in this. If Steve doesn’t know—”

Her smile vanished. “He’s my editor, Kane, not my nanny.”

“That isn’t what I meant and you know it. If there’s a criminal element in this story, things could get very nasty in a hurry.”

“I know that.” Her voice was patient. “I have been doing this for a number of years, in case you’ve forgotten.” She went to pick up her briefcase, the tension in her shoulders obvious; that alone told him he’d crossed the line.

She was already moving toward the door; it was too late to apologize, to explain that he was worried only because he cared, not because he doubted her instincts or abilities.

“Just be careful,” he called after her.

“Always,” she tossed back lightly. And then she was gone.

The silence of the apartment settled over him. With a new anxiety in his mind, the morning seemed darker and much less peaceful than it had only minutes before.


Unlike Dinah, Kane seldom had to cope with downtown traffic, which, in Atlanta, could be truly horrendous. His company was on the outskirts of the city, a five-story stone and glass structure of considerable beauty set on five acres of sprawling grounds just as lovely. It was an engineering and architectural firm founded by his father and his mother’s brother, named MacGregor and Payne; Kane hadn’t felt the need to change the name, despite the fact that his uncle, Jonah Payne, had died a bachelor, leaving his share of the business to his nephew.

Kane had been in charge since his father, John MacGregor, had taken an early retirement more than ten years before, happily setting off with his second wife to see the world, then choosing to settle in California when his traveling was done.

Kane enjoyed the work, although lately he seemed to concentrate more on administrative details than on the engineering and architecture he loved.

Which was probably why, after Dinah left that morning, he decided on the spur of the moment to visit the construction site where MacGregor and Payne was building new offices for the mayor’s support staff and other city officials.

“Kane? What are you doing out here?” Max Sanders, the owner of the Mayfair Construction Company, approached Kane’s car briskly. He was wearing a hard hat and carrying a rolled-up set of blueprints, neither one detracting from his superbly cut dark suit—though the liberal coating of dust didn’t help. Behind him rose the steel skeleton of what would be an impressive building, which today was crawling with construction workers. Huge earth-moving machines working inside the foundation were kicking up waves of dust.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Kane said as he got out of his car. “Since when does the boss get his nice suit dirty if he doesn’t have to?”

“He has to,” Max replied with a grimace. “Somebody misread your plans and fucked up at least three of the support beams. Something the foreman said to me yesterday bothered me, so I came out this morning. Good thing I did, too.”

“It can be corrected?”

Max nodded. “Shouldn’t lose more than a day or two. And I’ve warned Jed he’d better be more careful from now on.” Jed Norris was the construction foreman.

“How did he come to misread the plans? He’s been in the business long enough to be an expert.”

“Well, that might be part of the problem. He thinks he knows how things should be, so he doesn’t always consider somebody else’s opinion.”

“Blueprints are opinions?”

Max grimaced again. “What can I tell you? I had a talk with him, Kane. He’s too close to retirement to want to fuck up his twilight years, so maybe that’ll be enough. I’ll keep an eye on things, though, don’t worry.”

Kane was concerned; the job was highly visible, and if anything went wrong, reputations could end up with mud all over them. But he wasn’t about to tell another man how to do his job, and once construction began, his own responsibilities were purely advisory and explanatory.

“I’ll leave it up to you, then,” he said. “If you find something wrong on the blueprints, give me a call. Otherwise, it seems you have everything under control. So I’ll get out of your way.”

“You just don’t want to get your nice suit dirty,” Max retorted, his slightly wary expression vanishing, then saluted Kane with the roll of blueprints and headed back toward the site.

Kane had just opened his car door when Max returned. “By the way, did Dinah find you yesterday?”

Kane frowned. “Yesterday?”

“Yeah. About, I don’t know, two in the afternoon, maybe? I dropped by here for a look-see, and she came around about fifteen minutes later. Said she thought you might have been out here instead of at the office. I showed her around since she seemed curious. She didn’t stay long, though. Did you two meet up later?”

Kane nodded. “Yeah, thanks, we did.”

“Okay, great. See you, Kane.”

“ ’Bye.”

Kane didn’t know why Dinah had come out there, though it wasn’t the first time she had shown up at a construction site looking for him—and finding him, once or twice. But she hadn’t mentioned it last night.

Then again, he hadn’t mentioned dropping by her office the previous week hoping to find her there.

The detour cost Kane only half an hour. It was just after ten-thirty when got to his office. As usual, his secretary, Sharon Ross, presented him with a dozen messages, which meant he’d spend the remainder of the morning on the phone.

“Shit,” he said elegantly.

Sharon grinned. “I can pretend you didn’t come in today.”

Kane was tempted, but since he only enjoyed ditching work when there was a fun alternative—and today, there wasn’t—it didn’t seem worth the bother. “No, I’m officially in today, Sharon.”

She nodded. “I didn’t add it to the rest, but Dinah called about two minutes ago.”

Kane said shit again, but silently. He would have liked the opportunity to finish his discussion with Dinah; being at odds with her screwed up his whole day. “Did she leave a message?”

“Yeah, she said to tell you she just found out her cell phone battery was dead, so not to worry if you don’t talk to her until tonight. She’s going to be on the run and out of her office most of the day.”

“Okay. Thanks, Sharon.”

In his office, Kane pushed Dinah out of his mind and concentrated on work. Two hours later, he was frowning down at an engineering schematic of a gravity-defying design when the door opened and Sydney Wilkes strolled in. She looked serene and cool as always, which was not unusual on a nippy October afternoon but earned her astonished stares in the heat of an Atlanta summer. Her business suit was immaculate, the beautifully tailored style and mustard color flattering her tan and pale blond hair, and she walked with the easy confidence of a woman who is beautiful and knows it.

Kane swiveled his chair away from the drafting table and looked at her with lifted brows. “Bored, Syd?”

“Is that the only reason I ever visit my favorite brother? Because I’m bored?” Her voice was rich and lazy.

“I’m your only brother—and yes, usually.” But he smiled to remove any sting from the words.

She smiled in return, the pale gray eyes they shared amused and tolerant. “All right, so nothing much is going on today in the residential arm of MacGregor and Payne, and I thought you might like somebody to buy you lunch. I ran into Dinah yesterday, and she said she’d be tied up all day, so …”

An architect herself, Sydney had chosen to specialize in residential work, whereas Kane’s preference was commercial; it was an easy and profitable partnership. There were only three years between them—at thirty-two, Sydney was the younger. Her marriage had kept her working only part-time until her husband’s accidental death more than two years previously; she was now fully involved in the family firm. As for her personal life, though there was certainly interest from just about every male she encountered, she had been unwilling, so far, to begin dating again.

“Well,” Kane said, “if you’re buying …”

Lunch was pleasant, and the remainder of the afternoon hectic. In fact, he wasn’t able to leave the office until after seven-thirty. Determined not to be late, he rushed to pick up the Chinese food and get to Dinah’s apartment, but even so it was well after eight when he got to her building.

Dinah’s Jeep wasn’t in its parking space.

Both relieved and irritated, Kane parked his car and went inside. The security guard knew him well enough just to wave a greeting.

He let himself into Dinah’s third-floor apartment with his key, fumbled for the foyer light, and took the food to the kitchen. As usual, the place was very tidy; not only was Dinah naturally neat, but she had a cleaning service come in once a week—and by the fresh scent of lemon in the air, Kane knew the apartment had been cleaned today.

Maybe that was why it felt so … empty. He went around the living room lighting lamps and turned on the television. He changed out of his suit into jeans and a sweatshirt, and waited.

By nine o’clock, he was hungry and angry.

By ten o’clock, he was worried.

He couldn’t remember Dinah being so late before without calling. And even if her cell phone did have a dead battery, there were pay phones, weren’t there? All over the city, there were pay phones.

Kane called her office and got her voice mail; he left a brief message asking her to call him if she came in or checked in before coming home. She never carried a pager, so his options were limited.

All he could do was wait.

By eleven he was going often to the front window to look searchingly out at the busy streets. By midnight he was pacing the floor.

He only just stopped himself from calling her boss. He reminded himself that Dinah was a grown woman, no fool, and able to take care of herself. She would certainly be unhappy with him if he pushed the panic button when she was just tied up with something and had forgotten to phone.

He told himself that several times.

The streets outside got quieter and grew shiny in the streetlights because it had started to rain.

It got later.

And later.

And Dinah never came.





FAITH





She opened her eyes abruptly, as though waking from a nightmare, conscious of her heart pounding and the sound of her quick, shallow breathing in the otherwise silent room. She couldn’t remember the dream, but her shaking body and runaway pulse told her it had been a bad one. She closed her eyes and for several minutes concentrated only on calming down.

Gradually, her heart slowed and her breathing steadied. Okay. Okay. That was better. Much better.

She didn’t like being scared.

She opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling. Gradually a niggling awareness of something being different made her turn her head slowly on the pillow so that she could look around the room.

It wasn’t her room.

Her other senses began waking up then. She heard the muffled, distant sounds of activity just beyond the closed door. She smelled sickness and medicine, the distinct odors of people and machines and starch. She noted the Spartan quality of the room she was in, the hospital bed she was lying on—and the IV dripping into her arm. All of that told her she was in a hospital.

Why?

It took a surprising effort to raise her head and look down at herself; her neck felt stiff, and a rush of nausea made her swallow hard. But she forced herself to look, to make sure all of her was there.

Both arms. Both legs. Nothing in a cast. Her feet moved when she willed them to. Not paralyzed, then. Good.

With an effort, she raised the arm not hooked to the IV until she could see her hand. It was unnervingly small, not childlike but … fragile. The short nails were ragged and looked bitten, and the skin was milky pale. She turned it slowly and stared at the palms, the pads of her fingers. No calluses, but there was a slight roughness to her skin that told her she was accustomed to work.

Afraid of what she might find, she touched her face with light, probing fingers. The bones seemed prominent, and the skin felt soft and smooth. There was no evidence of an injury until she reached her right temple. There, a square adhesive bandage and a faint soreness underneath it told her she’d suffered some kind of cut.

But not a bad one, she thought, and certainly not a big one. The bandage was small, two or three square inches.

Beyond the bandage, she found her hair limp and oily, which told her it hadn’t been washed recently. She pulled at a strand and was surprised that it was long enough for her to see. It was mostly straight, with only a hint of curl. And it was red. A dark, dull red.

Now why did that surprise her?

For the first time, she let herself become aware of what had been crawling in her subconscious, a cold and growing fear she dared not name. She realized she was lying perfectly still now, her arms at her sides, hands clenched into fists, staring at the ceiling as if she would find the answers there.

She was only slightly injured, so why was she there? Because she was ill? What was wrong with her?

Why did her body feel so appallingly weak?

And far, far worse, why couldn’t she remember—

“Oh, my God.”

The nurse in the doorway came a few steps into the room, moving slowly, her eyes wide with surprise. Then professionalism took over, and she swallowed and said brightly, if a bit unsteadily, “You—you’re awake. We were … beginning to wonder about you, Fa—Miss Parker.”

Parker.

“I’ll get the doctor.”

She lay there waiting, not daring to think about the fact that she hadn’t known her own name, and still didn’t beyond that unfamiliar surname. It seemed an eternity that she waited, while cold and wordless terrors clawed through her mind and churned in her stomach, before a doctor appeared. He was tall, on the thin side, with a sensitive mouth and very brilliant, very dark eyes.

“So you’re finally awake.” His voice was deep and warm, his smile friendly. He grasped her wrist lightly as he stood by the bed, discreetly taking her pulse. “Can you tell me your name?”

She wet her lips and said huskily, “Parker.” Her voice sounded rusty and unused, and her throat felt scratchy.

He didn’t look surprised; likely the nurse had confessed that she had provided that information. “What about your first name?”

She tried not to cry out in fear. “No. No, I—I don’t remember that.”

“Do you remember what happened to you?”

“No.”

“How about telling me what year this is?”

She concentrated, fought down that icy, crawling panic. There was nothing in her mind but blankness, a dark emptiness that frightened her almost beyond words. No sense of identity or knowledge. Nothing.

Nothing.

“I don’t remember.”

“Well, try not to worry about it,” he said soothingly. “A traumatic event frequently results in amnesia, but it’s seldom permanent. Things will probably start to come back to you now that you’re awake.”

“Who are you?” she asked, because it was the least troubling question she could think of.

“My name is Dr. Burnett, Nick Burnett. I’ve been your doctor since you were admitted. Your name is Faith Parker.”

Faith Parker. It didn’t stir even the slightest sense of familiarity. “Is … is it?”

He smiled gently. “Yes. You’re twenty-eight years old, single, and in pretty good shape physically, though you could stand to gain a few pounds.” He paused, then went on in a calm tone completely without judgment. “You were involved in a single-car accident, which the police blame on the fact that you’d had a few drinks on top of prescription muscle relaxants. The combination made you plow your car into an embankment.”

She might have been listening to a description of someone else, for all the memory it stirred.

The doctor continued. “It also turned out to be highly toxic to your system. You appear to be unusually sensitive to alcohol, and that, along with the drug, put you into a coma. However, aside from the gash on your head, which we’ve kept covered to minimize scarring, and a few bruised ribs, which have already healed, you’re fine.”

There were so many questions swirling through her mind that she could grab only one at random. “Was—was anyone else hurt in the accident?”

“No. You were alone in the car, and all you hit was the embankment.”

Something he’d said a minute ago tugged at her. “You said … my ribs had healed by now. How long have I been here?”

“Six weeks.”

She was shocked. “So long? But …” She wasn’t sure what she wanted to ask, but her anxiety was growing with every new fact.

“Let’s try sitting up a bit, shall we?” Not waiting for her response, he used a control to raise the head of the bed a few inches. When she closed her eyes, he stopped the movement. “The dizziness should pass in a minute.”

She opened her eyes slowly, finding that he was right. But there was little satisfaction in that, with all the questions and worries overwhelming her. And panic. A deep, terrifying panic. “Doctor, I can’t remember anything. Not where I live or work. I don’t know if I have insurance, and if I don’t, I don’t know how I’ll pay for six weeks in a hospital. I don’t even know what address to give the cabdriver when I go—go home.”

“Listen to me, Faith.” His voice was gentle. “There’s no reason for you to worry, especially not about money. Your medical insurance from work hadn’t started yet, but arrangements have already been made to pay your hospital bill in full. And I understand that a trust fund has been set up for you when you leave here. There should be plenty of money, certainly enough to live on for several months while you get your life back in order.”

That astonishing information made her panic recede somewhat, but she was bewildered. “A trust fund? Set up for me? But who would do that?”

“A friend of yours. A good friend. She came to visit you twice a week until—” Something indefinable crossed his face and then vanished, and he went on quickly. “She wanted to make certain you got the best of care and had no worries when you left here.”

“But why? The accident obviously wasn’t her fault, since I was alone.…” Unless this friend had encouraged her to drink or hadn’t taken her car keys away when she had gotten drunk?

“I couldn’t tell you why, Faith. Except that she was obviously concerned about you.”

Faith felt a rush of pain that she couldn’t remember so good a friend. “What’s her name?”

“Dinah Leighton.”

It meant no more to Faith than her own name.

Dr. Burnett was watching her carefully. “We have the address of your apartment, which I understand is waiting for your return. Miss Leighton seemed less certain that you would want to go back to your job, which I believe is one of the reasons she made it possible for you to have the time to look around, perhaps even return to school or do something you’ve always wanted to do.”

She felt tears prickle and burn. “Something I’ve always wanted to do. Except I can’t remember anything I’ve always wanted to do. Or anything I’ve done. Or even what I look like …”

He grasped her hand and held it strongly. “It will come back to you, Faith. You may never remember the hours immediately preceding and following the accident, but most of the rest will return in time. Coma does funny things to the body and the mind.”

She sniffed, and tried to concentrate, to hold on to facts and avoid thinking of missing memories. “What kinds of things?”

Still holding her hand, he drew a visitor’s chair to the bed and sat down. “To the body, what you’d expect after a traumatic accident and weeks of inactivity. Muscle weakness. Unstable blood pressure. Dizziness and digestive upset from lying prone and having no solid food. But all those difficulties should disappear once you’ve been up and about for a few days, eating regular meals and exercising.”

“What about … the mind? What other kinds of problems can be caused by coma?” The possibilities lurking in her imagination were terrifying. What if she never regained her memory? What if she found herself unable to do the normal things people did every day, simple things like buttoning a shirt or reading a book? What if whatever skills and knowledge she’d needed in her work were gone forever and she was left with no way to earn a living?

“Sometimes things we don’t completely understand,” the doctor confessed. “Personality changes are common. Habits and mannerisms are sometimes different. The emotions can be volatile or, conversely, bland. You may find yourself getting confused at times, even after your memory returns, and panic attacks are more likely than not.”

She swallowed. “Great.”

Dr. Burnett smiled. “On the other hand, you may suffer no aftereffects whatsoever. You’re perfectly lucid, and we’ve done our best to reduce muscle atrophy and other potential problems. Physical therapy should be minimal, I’d say. Once your memory returns, you may well find yourself as good as ever.”

He sounded so confident that Faith let herself believe him, because the alternative was unbearable.

Trying not to think about that, she asked, “What about family? Do I have any family?”

“Miss Leighton told us you have no family in Atlanta. There was a sister, I understand, but I believe both she and your parents were killed some years ago.”

Faith wished she felt something about that. “And I’m single. Do I—Is there—”

“I’m sure you must have dated,” he said kindly, “but evidently there was no one special, at least not in the last few months. You’ve had no male visitors, no cards or letters, and only Miss Leighton sent flowers, as far as I’m aware.”

So she was alone, but for this remarkably good friend.

She felt alone, and considerably frightened.

He saw it. “Everything seems overwhelming right now, I know. It’s too much to process, too much to deal with. But you have time, Faith. There’s no need to push yourself, and no reason to worry. Take it step by step.”

She drew a breath. “All right. What’s the first step?”

“We get you up on your feet and moving.” He smiled and rose from the chair. “But not too fast. Today, we’ll have you gradually sit up, maybe try standing, and monitor your reaction to that. We’ll see how your stomach reacts to a bit of solid food. How’s that to start?”

She managed a smile. “Okay.”

“Good.” He squeezed her hand and released it, then hesitated.

Seeing his face, she said warily, “What?”

“Well, since you might want to read the newspapers or watch television to catch up on things, I think I should warn you about something.”

“About what?”

“Your friend Miss Leighton. She’s been missing for about two weeks.”

“Missing? You mean she—she stopped coming to visit me?”

There was sympathy in his dark eyes. “I mean she disappeared. She was reported missing, and though her car was found abandoned some time later, she hasn’t been seen since.”

Faith was surprised by the rush of emotions she felt. Confusion. Shock. Disappointment. Regret. And, finally, a terrible pain at the knowledge that she was now completely alone.

Dr. Burnett patted her hand, but seemed to realize that no soothing words would make her feel better. He didn’t offer any, just went away quietly.

She lay there staring up at the white, blank ceiling, which was as empty as her mind.


He laughed at her, the sound rich with amusement.

“Well, how was I to know you couldn’t boil water without ruining the pot?”

“I just forgot,” she defended herself with spirit. “I had more important things on my mind.”

He shook his head, fair hair gleaming like spun gold and a wry expression on his handsome face. “To be honest, I’m glad there are a few things you don’t do well. If you were perfect, I wouldn’t know how to cope.”

She reached out a hand and touched his face, the backs of her fingers stroking downward in a quick caress. Her hands were strong and beautiful, well kept, the neat oval nails polished a vivid red. She felt the slight bristle of his evening beard, a scratchiness that was familiar and pleasant, even erotic. It made her breath catch at the back of her throat, and her voice emerged more husky than she had expected. “I may not be perfect, but I’m starving. And since I ruined dinner, I thought maybe we could go out.”

“Only if you’re buying,” he said, still humorous even though his eyes darkened in response to what he heard in her voice. “I refuse to buy dinner for a woman who ruined three pots and really stunk up my kitchen.”

“You needed new pots anyway,” she said, and danced away, laughing, when he lunged at her.

But she didn’t try too hard to escape, and when his hands were on her, strong and sure and exciting, she let herself melt against him. Their bodies fit together as though they’d been designed to, and his mouth on hers was still a shock of wild, overwhelming pleasure, instantly seductive. But as always, the warning voice in her head told her not to yield completely, to hold back something of herself because she knew how this would end, she knew it. And as always, she ignored the warning and reached eagerly for what he offered.

A burst of heat raced through her and her heart began to pound, and when his hands slid down her back to curve over her bottom and hold her even tighter against him—


Faith woke with a start, shaken yet also exultant.

There was a man in her life. Or had been.

She closed her eyes and tried to recapture the image of his face, pleased when it rose easily and vividly in her mind. That gleaming, spun-gold hair, a little longer than the current fashion, even a bit shaggy—and decidedly sexy. Gray eyes steady and intelligent, going silvery with laughter. Firm, humorous mouth, determined jaw. Deep, strong voice.

And the way he’d looked at her …

Faith shivered and opened her eyes, realizing that her cheeks were hot and she was smiling helplessly, that the quiver deep inside her was something other than fear and panic. She swore she could smell the cologne he used, that pleasant scent mixed with the sharper, clean fragrance of soap.

Then that sensory memory abandoned her, leaving only his face distinct in her mind. She held on to it—fiercely.

Her room was quiet but for the murmur of the television, tuned to CNN. She was almost sitting up, the head of the bed raised because she’d been looking through magazines before she’d suddenly fallen asleep. She still did that sometimes, even though it had been almost a week since she’d come out of the coma. Days of painful transition, of moving from a patient who was bedridden and totally dependent on the nursing staff to one slowly and cautiously reclaiming independence.

Small movements had required a great effort at first, and walking even more so. Her muscles were weak and slow to obey her, though daily physical therapy was gradually changing that. Her blood pressure had stabilized, but her stomach still had trouble with solid foods.

The removal of the feeding tube had been surprisingly painless and would leave only a tiny scar, but having the catheter taken out had not been pleasant.

Three days ago she had actually made it into the bathroom on her own, and had spent long minutes staring into the mirror at a face she didn’t know. A thin, pale face, framed by mostly straight, dull red hair that fell just below her shoulders. Her green eyes were very clear and strong, but the remainder of her features struck her as less than memorable. Straight nose, generous mouth, determined chin.

Some might call her pretty, perhaps.

She had discovered that she was only a few inches over five feet, very slender, and fine boned. She had small breasts and virtually no hips—minimal curves at best. She thought her legs were okay, or would be once they began to hold her up for more than a few minutes at a time.

Yesterday morning she had taken a long, luxurious bath, and though a nurse had had to help her dry her hair afterward because she’d used up all her strength, the results had been worth it. She felt much better. As for her hair, the dull red had become a rich auburn, which made her pale face look luminous.

It was a face, she thought now, that might attract a handsome man with gleaming blond hair. A man with intelligent gray eyes and a way of leveling them when he spoke that said he was accustomed to getting what he wanted.

What was his name? And if they were so involved that physical intimacy had been very much a part of the relationship, why had he never come to visit her?

That bothered her. A lot.

But the flowers from Dinah Leighton continued to arrive once a week, even after her own disappearance. Faith had gotten up the nerve to call the florist and had found that the order had been paid ahead for another week.

Obviously, no one else cared enough even to acknowledge Faith’s presence in the hospital—or her absence from the life she had led before the accident.

Where was that blond man?

How could he be so vivid in her mind—her only real memory—if he had not been a recent part of her life?

A nurse came in carrying a stack of magazines. “I brought you a few more, honey.” She was a motherly woman with a warm voice and gentle hands, and over the last few days she had been the most helpful and encouraging of the nurses.

“Thanks, Kathy.” She eyed the short, neat, unpolished nails of the nurse, then looked at her own still-ragged ones. “Kathy, do you happen to have a nail file?”

“I’ll get one for you.” Kathy put the magazines on the bed and smiled at her with genuine pleasure. “You’re looking much better today, honey. And obviously feeling better.”

Faith smiled at her. “I am, thanks.”

“Dr. Burnett will be pleased. You’re one of his favorites, you know.”

Faith had to laugh. “Because he wants to write that paper on me, and we both know it. Not too many long-term-coma patients wake up.”

“That’s true,” Kathy said soberly. “And those who do tend to be in much worse shape than you are, honey. With you, it’s almost like you were just sleeping.”

Faith didn’t feel as though she had just been sleeping, but said only, “I know how lucky I am, believe me. And you and the other nurses have been terrific. That makes a difference.”

Kathy patted Faith’s shoulder, said, “I’ll go get that nail file,” and left the room.

It was easy enough to say the right words. Faith had been doing that for days now. She had been positive and upbeat. She had listened closely to the psychiatrist on staff and obediently followed her advice to take things one step at a time. She had agreed with the nurses’ cheerful predictions that her life would get back on track sooner rather than later. She had read newspapers and magazines and watched television to catch up on current events. She had made herself smile at Dr. Burnett when he visited and had not mentioned the devastating panic that was always with her and how she often woke in the night terrified by the blankness inside herself.

She had some knowledge now, but almost all of it dated from the moment she’d opened her eyes in the hospital. The nurses’ faces were familiar, as were the doctors’. The layout of her floor and that of the physical therapy rooms two stories above.

These things she knew.

And there was, absent from her mind until someone asked her a direct question, the sort of knowledge that came from a normal education. She had completed several crossword puzzles, and a game show she had found on television had shown her that she had some awareness of history and science. Facts. Dates. Occurrences.

Fairly useless trivia, for the most part.

But of memories, all she had, all she could claim as her own dating from that otherwise blank part of her life, were the dreams of a blond man she thought she had loved.

There had been two other dreams before today, and they were brief and very similar; just scenes from a relationship, casual and intimate. Each time, the scene had erupted into laughter and ended in lovemaking.

But she still didn’t remember his name.

She hadn’t mentioned the dreams to anyone. They were something all her own, a piece of herself not given to her by someone else, and she held on to them as to an anchor.

“Here you go, Faith.” Kathy returned to the room and handed her the nail file. “Before you start working on those nails, how about a trip around the floor? Doctor’s orders.”

Faith was more than ready to move. Painful as it still was, at least it allowed her to concentrate on muscles and bones and balance, instead of having to keep thinking and wondering.

“You bet,” she said, and threw back the covers.


On November fourteenth, three weeks after waking up from her coma and nine weeks after the accident, Faith went home.

She was not fully recovered. She still got tired very easily, her sleep was erratic and disturbed by dreams she remembered and nightmares she didn’t, and her emotional state was, to say the least, fragile.

Dr. Burnett drove her to her apartment, claiming it was on his way home but fooling nobody. He had several times shown himself more than a little protective of Faith.

Faith was more than happy to accept his escort. She was nervous and panicky, afraid the place where she lived would jar memories. Terrified it would not.

She wore her own clothes, thanks to Dinah Leighton’s foresight in packing a bag for her and taking it to the hospital just a week after the accident, but though the slacks and sweater fit fairly well, she was uncomfortable in them. Perhaps it was because she had spent so much time in a nightgown.

Her apartment was on the sixth floor of a nice but ordinary building in a suburb of Atlanta. No doorman or guard greeted them, but everything looked clean and in good repair, and the elevator worked smoothly.

Dr. Burnett came in with her, carrying her small overnight bag, which he set down by the door. “Why don’t we take a look around?” he suggested, watching her. “I don’t want to leave you until you’re comfortable here.”

Faith accepted the suggestion because she didn’t want to be alone.

The apartment was … nice. Ordinary. There was one bedroom; the queen-size brass bed had a floral, ruffled comforter set, with lots of pillows tossed against the shams. Curtains at the single window matched the comforter. There was a nightstand and a chair, both white wicker and a white laminated dresser with an oval wicker-framed mirror hanging above it. The color scheme was white and pink.

Faith thought it an odd choice for a redhead, and rather girlish.

The one bathroom was small and standard, with white tiles and plain fixtures. The rugs, towels, and curtains on the window and shower bore another floral pattern, this one with pink and purple predominating.

The kitchen was also standard, white cabinets and a neutral countertop blending perfectly with the vinyl floor. There was a small breakfast table, again of white wicker and glass, with a cheap area rug underneath it. Little attempt had been made to personalize the space as far as Faith could see. There were no place mats on the table, and except for a coffeemaker, nothing cluttered the countertops.

The living room struck her as having been recently decorated, and she had the feeling—certainly not a memory—that some picture in a magazine had been the inspiration. The intended style might have been shabby chic, with distressed wood, lots of texture in materials, and antique-looking accessories.

It didn’t quite work, though she couldn’t have explained why.

“Nice place,” Burnett said.

She nodded, even as she wondered why the little apartment felt stifling to her. Was it the several locks on the door, an indication of someone who had shut the world out—or herself in? Faith didn’t know, but it disturbed her.

She shrugged out of her jacket and left it over a chair, then returned to the kitchen and checked the cabinets and the refrigerator. “Sloan was as good as his word,” she noted, seeing the stock of foods.

The lawyer had come to see her several days ago, after being notified by Dr. Burnett that she was up to having visitors. He had explained the financial situation, including Dinah Leighton’s arrangements to pay the hospital bill and the trust fund she had set up for Faith’s use. Her disappearance, he had explained without emotion, changed none of that. In addition, Faith’s regular monthly bills had been paid, including recently incurred debts. She wasn’t to worry, everything had been taken care of.

Then he had promised to have her apartment cleaned and stocked with food, ready for her return. All per Dinah’s careful arrangements.

Faith had been given a generous amount of cash, and her checking account, he told her, had been credited with even more. In addition to that, her rent had been paid for the next six months.

It had been too overwhelming for Faith to think about then, and now she felt a prickle of uneasiness. All this from a friend? Why?

“My advice,” Burnett said cheerfully, “is to fix yourself something simple for dinner or order in a pizza, and have an early night. Familiarize yourself with where everything is. Make yourself comfortable here.” He smiled at her perceptively. “Stop thinking so much, Faith. Give yourself time.”

She knew he was right. And she was even able to say goodbye to him calmly, promising to return to the hospital as scheduled in a few days for a checkup and another session with the physical therapist.

Then she was alone.

She locked the door, turned on the television in the living room for company and background noise, and wandered again through the apartment. This time, she looked more closely.

Her initial puzzlement took on a chill of unease.

There was no history here. No photographs, either displayed or tucked away in drawers. And very little to indicate her interests. A few books, mostly recent best-sellers that ran the gamut of genres, and many of those apparently unread.

She found plenty of clothes in the drawers and closet, and the bathroom held the usual supplies of soap and shampoo, moisturizers and bubble bath and disposable razors, and a small toiletry bag of makeup containing the basics, all new or nearly so. A blow dryer and a curling iron were stowed in the cabinet below the sink.

What there was not was evidence that a woman had lived here for more than a few weeks or months. No old lipsticks or dried-up mascaras in the drawers. No unused foundation compacts that had turned out to be the wrong shade. No nearly empty tubes of moisturizer or hand lotion. No fingernail polish or remover. No samples given out at cosmetics counters in practically every store in the world.

Either Faith Parker was the neatest woman alive … or she had spent very little time here.

She went into the living room and sat down at the small desk tucked away in a corner. The single drawer held only a few things. A small address book showing meager entries—names, addresses, and phone numbers that meant nothing to her. Her checkbook and a copy of her lease, both of which indicated that she had lived here for nearly eighteen months before the accident. There were regular deposits made on Fridays, obviously her salary, which was enough to live on without living particularly well; some months it appeared that ends had barely met. Checks had been written to the usual places, some of which matched entries in the address book. Grocery stores, department stores, hair salons, dentist, a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy, a women’s clinic, a computer store.

A computer store.

Faith looked slowly around the room with a frown. According to the register, she had bought a laptop computer on a payment plan only a few weeks before the accident. It should be here.

It wasn’t.

She’d had only a purse with her when she rammed her car into that embankment, they’d told her. So why wasn’t the computer here?

On the heels of that question, the phone on the desk rang suddenly, startling her. Faith had to take a deep, steadying breath before she could pick up the receiver.

“Miss Parker, this is Edward Sloan.” The lawyer’s voice was brisk. “Forgive me for disturbing you on your first day home, but I thought there was something you should know.”

“What is it, Mr. Sloan?”

“The service I hired to clean your apartment this week found it in … unusual disarray.”

“Meaning I’m a slob?” she asked, even though she already knew the answer.

“No, Miss Parker, I think not. Many drawers had been emptied onto the floor, pillows and other things scattered about. It had all the earmarks of a burglary, perhaps interrupted in progress, since nothing appeared to have been taken. This was three days ago. Knowing you were still in the hospital, I took the liberty of acting in your stead. I reported the matter to the police, then met them at your apartment. They took the report, took photos of the place, and questioned others in the building. But since no one saw or heard anything out of the ordinary, and since your television and stereo were still there and nothing had been damaged as far as we could determine, no further action was taken.”

“I see,” she murmured.

“The cleaning service was allowed to do their job immediately afterward. They were instructed to put things back in place as neatly as possible, and to use their judgment as to where everything belonged. Do you have any complaints on that score, Miss Parker?”

“No.”

“Have you discovered anything missing?”

He knew about her amnesia, but it seemed an automatic, lawyer’s question.

“No,” Faith repeated, looking down at the checkbook entry concerning the computer. She did not want to mention it, though she couldn’t explain why, even to herself. “Nothing.”

“If you do discover anything, you’ll let me know?”

“Of course, Mr. Sloan.” She hesitated. “There is one thing. You said that all my recently incurred debts had been paid?”

“Yes.”

“How did you know about them, Mr. Sloan?”

“Miss Leighton supplied that information, Miss Parker. I believe she took the liberty of going through your desk to get a correct accounting. Other than regular monthly bills such as utilities, rent, a small credit card balance, and so on, there were two recently incurred debts. One for a laptop computer, which Miss Leighton informed me had been in her possession since your accident, and the other for new living-room furniture. Both accounts were paid in full.”

“I see.” She swallowed. “Thank you, Mr. Sloan.”

“My pleasure, Miss Parker.” He hung up.

So Dinah Leighton had the laptop that Faith had bought weeks before her accident. Why? And where was it now?

Her thoughts were whirling, confused. Then, to make matters much, much worse, she caught a glimpse of something on the television. She lunged for the remote and turned up the sound.

“… Kane MacGregor, one of those closest to the missing woman, expressed his trust in the efforts of the police to find her,” the off-camera voice intoned solemnly.

The blond man before the cameras looked tired, his face drawn and thin, his gray eyes haunted. Numerous microphones were thrust at him. A question Faith could barely hear was asked, and he replied in a deep voice that made a warm shiver course through her.

“No, I have not given up hope. The police are making every effort to find her, and I believe they will do so. In the meantime, if anyone watching has any information they believe could help locate Dinah”—his calm voice quivered just a bit on the name—“they should call the police and report it as soon as possible.”

“Mr. MacGregor, have you called in the FBI?” one reporter shouted out.

“No, the matter is not within their jurisdiction. We have no evidence that Dinah has been kidnapped,” he answered.

“Have you hired a private investigator?”

Kane MacGregor smiled thinly. “Of course I have. I’m doing everything in my power to find Dinah.”

“Which is why you’re offering a million dollars to anyone providing evidence that will locate Miss Leighton alive and well?”

“Exactly.” He drew a breath, the strain really beginning to show on his lean face. “Now, if you people don’t mind—”

“One last question, Mr. MacGregor. Were you engaged to Miss Leighton?”

For an instant, it seemed Kane MacGregor’s face would crack open and all his wild emotions would come spilling out. But it didn’t happen, and only his voice, harsh with pain, revealed what he was feeling.

“Yes. We are engaged.” Then he pushed his way through the reporters, followed closely by a tall, dark man with a scarred face, and both disappeared into a waiting car.

Faith found herself sitting on the couch, her arms hugging a pillow to her breasts, dazed, no longer hearing the news broadcast.

Kane MacGregor was the man in her dreams. And he was Dinah’s fiancé. She was having dreams about Dinah’s fiancé? Intimate dreams?

Pain, hot and cold like a knife made of ice, sliced through her. She heard herself breathing in shallow pants, felt her heart thudding, her body trembling.

Had he been her lover first? Had their relationship ended a long time ago, before Dinah came along? Or was Kane MacGregor’s haunted, grieving face hiding the knowledge that he’d been involved with her and Dinah at the same time?

Then Faith went even colder.

Dinah was missing. Faith had been in a serious accident.

Did it mean something?

Her apartment had been broken into after her accident, and though she couldn’t know for certain if anything had been taken, the lack of personal papers and photographs was decidedly unnatural.

Did it mean something? Anything?

Why couldn’t she remember?

“Oh, God,” she whispered. “What’s happening?”





THE SEARCH





ONE


“Were you?” Bishop asked.

Kane, concentrating on driving, spared him only a quick glance. “Was I what? Engaged to Dinah?”

“Yeah.”

“Unofficially.”

Bishop thought about that for several beats. “Does unofficially engaged mean it was all in your mind or all in hers?”

Kane felt a flicker of grim amusement. “You have to have everything spelled out, don’t you, Noah?”

“Just trying to understand.”

“Then I guess I’d have to say it was all in my mind. I hadn’t asked her yet.”

“But you were going to?”

It was Kane’s turn to think, and when he answered it was with a weary sigh. “Hell, I don’t know. I think so. I mean, I hadn’t planned to, but it was in the back of my mind that’s where we’d end up. At least …”

“Until just before she disappeared?”

Kane nodded. “It’s like I told you. Everything was fine. Then she got preoccupied, I assumed by whatever story she was working on. Then there was the accident her friend was in, and she seemed to get even more distant and distracted.”

“And she never told you what she was working on?”

“Goddammit, Noah, you know Dinah. She’s always been like a clam when it comes to a work in progress. With that amazing memory of hers, she never needs notes. And sure, a story absorbs her, sometimes makes her oblivious to most things. But this time it had gone on long enough to bother me. So I tried to get her to talk about it that last morning, to tell me what she was investigating. She told me practically nothing and ended up mad at me to boot.”

“Stop feeling guilty,” Bishop said. “You couldn’t have known she’d disappear that day.”

Since guilt was only a small part of what Kane was feeling, he was able to shrug without comment.

Bishop looked at him thoughtfully. “And you’re sure, absolutely sure, that wherever she went, it wasn’t willingly?”

“Absolutely positive. And even if I’m wrong about that, she would never stay away this long without letting me know where she is. If she could get to a phone, she’d call me.”

Bishop was silent for a couple of miles, then said, “We’re reasonably sure that nothing in her personal life would have driven somebody to snatch her.”

It wasn’t a question, but Kane answered anyway. “Nothing I can imagine. When her father died a few years ago, he was the last of her family, I told you that. Or at least the last she knew of. He left her a huge portfolio of stocks and other investments, but she just turned the management of everything over to someone and more or less ignored the money, as far as I could see.”

“You said both you and the police talked to her financial consultant?”

“Sure, early on. Easy enough for me, since he manages my money as well. He said Dinah’s business affairs were perfectly in order, that she wasn’t being blackmailed or pressured in any way as far as he knew. No large, unexplained deposits or withdrawals to or from any of her accounts. Nothing. Not a single goddamned breadcrumb to follow.”

“Still,” Bishop said, “maybe it’d be worthwhile to talk to him one more time. Money tends to be at the root of most bad things one way or another. He might know something no one else could tell us, especially now that he’s had plenty of time to think about it.”

By this point, Kane wasn’t willing to discount anything, even going over familiar ground a second time. Dinah had been missing for more than a month, and so far the investigation had led nowhere.

Noah Bishop, special agent for the FBI, had come into the picture only the day before, when he’d arrived in Atlanta. He had been out of the country, whether on Bureau business or his own, Kane hadn’t asked. He wasn’t formally a part of the investigation, but both his badge and his manner meant that when he asked questions, even of cops jealous of their territory, he usually got answers.

Kane and he had been good friends since college, when they’d competed in track-and-field events, and had been roommates in their junior and senior years. Their career choices had taken them in different directions after graduation, but Noah always found a long weekend every few months to visit Atlanta.

He had managed three of those visits after Kane had become involved with Dinah, so he had known her fairly well. And since she had been characteristically curious about the FBI and Noah’s very specialized abilities and knowledge, and he had a high regard for investigative journalists with integrity and strong ethics, they had found much to talk about.

So, he was almost as upset over her disappearance as Kane was, but only the whitening of the scar down his left cheek bore witness to that emotion. Otherwise, he appeared completely calm and in control, his voice steady and sometimes filled with a dry humor, his powerful body relaxed, pale sentry eyes watchful as always but tranquil.

Kane wasn’t fooled.

In response to Bishop’s statement, he said, “Okay, we’ll talk to Conrad Masterson. I’ll call him tonight. In the meantime, there must be something else we can do.”

“Between you, the cops, and your private investigator, I’d say everything that could be done has been.” As if ticking off the facts on his fingers, Bishop said, “Her movements that last day have been traced as much as possible and every potential lead followed. Everyone she’s known to have talked to that last week has been questioned at least once. You’ve kept a fire burning under the police. Your P.I. has been dogging every step of the investigation and working his own contacts. You’ve spent days in Dinah’s office going through ten years’ worth of files, and weeks running down information on anyone she might have pissed off in the course of doing a story. You’ve talked to her financial manager, her co-workers, and her boss. You’ve talked to neighbors in her apartment building. You’ve searched her apartment—twice. You’ve offered a million-dollar reward for information.”

Kane braced himself.

Quietly, reluctantly, Bishop said, “Unless something new comes to light … Jesus, Kane. I’m sorry as hell—but the trail is looking awfully goddamned cold.”

Kane hadn’t wanted to admit that to himself. Not today, when Bishop had kept him from lunging across the desk of a police lieutenant and choking the man. Not yesterday, when the last of Dinah’s known enemies had proved to be in prison on the fifth year of a ten-year sentence. Not the day before that, or the days and weeks before that, when useless information had piled up and leads dwindled and hope dissolved.

“I know,” he said. “I know.”


Conrad Masterson had always amused Kane. He was average in appearance—average height, average weight, an average bald spot atop his head. He didn’t care how he dressed, which explained his badly cut suit, and wasn’t impressed by impressive surroundings, which was why his small office was filled with aged furniture and worn rugs and smelled vaguely like a wet dog. Or two.

He had no charm, tended to stutter when he got excited (always about a new stock or other investment opportunity), and had been known to arrive at the office wearing different colored socks and unsure where he’d parked his car. But what he lacked in common sense and personal style, Conrad more than made up in financial brilliance. In the investment community, it was well known that he made money for all his clients, handled their business with scrupulous honesty, and was the absolute soul of discretion.

Blinking behind his thick glasses, Conrad said miserably, “I want to help, Kane. You know I do. And if I thought there was anything, anything at all, in Dinah’s financial dealings that might help find her, I would have said so to you or the police long before now.”

“But you won’t show us her file?” It was Bishop who asked, his voice level.

“I can’t do that. As long as there’s no proof otherwise, I have to assume she could walk in that door any minute. And given that, I have to keep her files confidential. I can’t give you details—I just can’t. And the judge agreed with me when the police tried to get a warrant, Kane, you know she did. Unless you or the police come up with information that indicates Dinah’s disappearance was somehow connected to her financial dealings, my hands are tied.”

“Legally tied,” Kane noted.

“I have to protect my clients’ privacy.”

Kane drew a breath and tried to remain patient, knowing only too well that he would want his own affairs treated exactly the same way. “Okay, Conrad. But think. Surely you can tell us if there was anything unusual, say in the last few months. You’ve had time to think about it.”

“Yes, but … unusual how? Dinah left her investments to me for the most part, you know that, Kane. Occasionally she sold stocks against my advice for quick cash, usually because she was trying to help somebody—”

“What do you mean?” Bishop interrupted.

Conrad considered the question and whether he would be breaching confidentiality, then decided to answer frankly. “Just that. She’d do a story on a home for battered women, and then call me to sell some stock so she could give them fifty thousand to remodel or hire a better lawyer, something like that. She’d do a story on a poor congregation losing its church, and right away pour tens of thousands into their rebuilding fund.”

He smiled with wistful fondness. “I could always tell. She’d have that note in her voice when she called, so determined you could call it hell-bent, and I’d know she’d found another wounded soul or bird with a broken wing. She’s given millions over the years. Even before her father died, she used most of the income from her trust fund to help others.”

Kane swallowed. “I … never knew that. She never said anything about it.”

“No, she wouldn’t have. It wasn’t something she talked about. She once told me that her father had taught her a lesson she’d never forgotten—that you helped people without shouting about it, because just the act of helping them made you and your own life better. She believed that. She lived up to that.”

Bishop glanced at Kane, then said coolly to Conrad, “With that in mind, don’t you think she’d want you to help us find her? So she can help more people, if nothing else. The trail is cold, Mr. Masterson. And she’s been missing for five weeks.”

Conrad bit his bottom lip. “I wish I could help, Agent Bishop. You have no idea how much. But—”

“Had she come to you recently and asked you to sell stocks without any explanation, or without an explanation you considered reasonable?”

“No. She always had a reason, and, after all, it’s her money. She’s free to spend it however she pleases. Usually, it was her stories and learning about somebody in need that started it for her. Something that got her passionate and made her get involved.”

Bishop frowned. “Did she talk about her stories to you before they were written, Mr. Masterson?”

That question surprised Kane; it was not one he would have thought to ask. But the investment manager’s answer surprised him even more.

“Sometimes,” Conrad said, clearly unaware of having said anything remarkable. “She’d come in here and talk, and days or weeks later I’d read one of her articles and there’d be the things she told me about.”

“How about recently?”

It was Masterson’s turn to frown. “Let’s see. She told me about that murder out in Buckhead about six months ago.”

Both Kane and Bishop nodded; that article and its outcome had already been thoroughly checked out.

“And a few weeks after that she was talking about that political scandal she covered, all those goings-on in the lieutenant governor’s mansion.”

Kane said, “Which, like all good scandals, ended with a miserable whimper instead of a bang.” Bishop lifted a brow at him, and Kane explained. “They paid the girl off and she suddenly remembered it was somebody else with his pants down around his ankles. Then she decided she’d rather live elsewhere, and moved out to California.”

He looked back at Conrad. “But that was more or less just reporting, and everybody knew what was going on. What else did she talk about?”

Conrad pursed his lips in thought for a moment, then an arrested expression crossed his face.

“What?” Kane demanded instantly.

“Well … let’s see, it must have been around the first of August or thereabouts when she came in looking really upset. Said she felt rotten and the heat made it worse. It was terribly hot that day, just dreadful. I asked her what was up, and she said she’d just stumbled across what looked like a really big story. She said …”

He closed his eyes, the better to concentrate. “She said heads were going to roll, no doubt about that, and what made it worse was that it appeared somebody she liked an awful lot might be involved. I said involved in what, and she shook her head and said it was big, very big. Then she got a look on her face I’d never seen before, sort of cautious and very worried.” He opened his eyes and peered at them. “She wasn’t—isn’t—cautious, you know. Reckless if anything. Always prone to rush in without thinking if somebody’s in trouble.”

“I know,” Kane said.

Bishop looked at him, then at Masterson. “Sounds like it might be political. Did she tell you anything else?”

He brooded. “No, not that day. And I didn’t hear from her again for weeks. She called me about a month later, very … subdued. Said she wanted me to free up half a million.”

Bishop blinked. “And you didn’t find that request unusual?”

“It wasn’t the largest amount she’d needed, if that’s what you mean. But it was big enough that I asked her if she was sure she wanted to do that, since it’d mean selling a few things better kept awhile longer. She just said somebody had gotten hurt because of her, and she had to take care of the matter.” He shrugged. “I did as she asked, freed up the money, and wired it to her bank.”

Kane frowned. “There was no deposit that size into her account in the last six months.” Dinah’s bank had been more cooperative than Conrad in releasing information to the police.

Conrad hesitated, then said, “Well, it wasn’t her regular bank. She used another one for this sort of thing. And a lawyer other than her usual one to arrange things, I believe.”

“Will you tell us which bank, so we can verify this?” Bishop asked.

After a few moments, Conrad nodded. “I suppose I can do that.” He jotted down the name and address of the bank on a piece of paper.

Bishop took it.

“What about this other lawyer, Conrad? Who was it?” Kane asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know. She just mentioned once that it was sometimes handy to have two attorneys on retainer, one for public stuff and one private.”

“And you have no idea exactly what she intended to do with that half million?”

Conrad shook his head. “I never asked how she planned to help this friend of hers. And … that was the last time I spoke to her.”

A few minutes later, driving away from Conrad’s office, Bishop said, “You know, it occurs to me that half a million dollars to help a friend is a bit excessive. Didn’t you tell me this friend of Dinah’s had been in a car accident and has been in a coma since?”

“Yeah.” Kane paused, then muttered, “Oh, shit. I should have gone by to see her. Dinah went twice a week, regular as clockwork.” His guilt was obvious.

“Isn’t she in a coma?”

“Yes. I looked in on her that first week, when I went to talk to the hospital staff about Dinah’s visits. They couldn’t tell me or the police much we didn’t already know, and Faith Parker certainly couldn’t help. I gather they aren’t expecting her to come out of it.”

“Then,” Bishop said, not uncaring but matter of fact, “she wouldn’t know if you visited or not.”

“I said something like that to Dinah once,” Kane confessed. “And she gave me the oddest look. She didn’t say anything—but she didn’t have to. I kept my mouth shut about it after that.”

Bishop looked at him. “Dinah told Masterson this woman had been hurt because of her. Was that true?”

Kane shook his head. “Only in that she was driving to meet Dinah when it happened. But she felt responsible and nothing I could say made any difference. Said if it hadn’t been for her, her friend would never have been driving that afternoon, and so would never have run her car into an embankment.”

“She lost control of it?”

“According to the police report. I asked about it as a matter of course, after Dinah disappeared. The police couldn’t see a connection, and I couldn’t either. Just a common traffic accident, caused by carelessness.”

“And she was a good friend?”

“It certainly sounds that way, although I can’t remember Dinah ever mentioning her before the accident. Not that it’s all that unusual for her to have old friends I’ve never heard of. Especially if they’re work related.”

“And was Faith Parker work related?”

“Dinah was so upset about the accident, I didn’t ask too many questions. All I know for sure is that Faith never appeared in any of Dinah’s stories, at least not by name.” God knew he was familiar with Dinah’s backlog of work; he had spent long hours reading and rereading everything she’d written, looking for clues to her disappearance.

“I don’t like coincidences,” Bishop said grimly. “A friend of Dinah’s, possibly someone related to her work, rams her car into an embankment and ends up in a coma, an accident about which Dinah feels excessively guilty—to the tune of half a million dollars. A few weeks later, Dinah herself disappears. Now, there may be absolutely no connection between the two things, as the police believe. But I think we’d better make sure.”

“How? If Faith Parker is in a coma, who do we ask?”

“We’ll have to look more closely at the police reports of the accident, maybe take a look at the car, too. Talk to her doctors again, the nursing staff again.”

“And ask them what?” Kane was baffled. “According to the staff, Dinah spent her visits in that room talking to her, not to anyone else. And they don’t seem to know anything about Faith’s background or history.”

“Maybe with a different set of questions to ask, we’ll get different answers,” Bishop assured him.

Kane valued Bishop’s intuition as much as he did his investigative training—maybe more so. And he was eager to try anything that might help to point them in a new direction.

“It’s worth a try,” he agreed. “And maybe Dinah’s other lawyer can tell us something as well.”

“Maybe. At the very least, we can verify that Dinah really was giving money to worthy causes.”

Kane frowned. “You think it could be something else?”

“No, but it never hurts to be sure.” He smiled slightly as his friend shot him a look. “Dinah was—is—too smart to pay blackmail money even if she had done something to be blackmailed for, which I very much doubt. But it’s possible that someone took advantage of her and she found out about it later, after the money was handed over.”

Kane nodded slowly. “Dinah would have been furious, would have wanted to get her money back and punish whoever had deceived her. She wouldn’t have been afraid to face up to whoever it was and threaten retaliation, even prosecution. But then—” He broke off, and Bishop didn’t have to hear the words to know how his friend had silently finished that sentence.

In that case, getting Dinah out of the way for some amount of time wouldn’t help. Unless she disappeared permanently.

Bishop knew that Kane had been clinging to what was very likely an unrealistic hope. That if she had an unknown enemy, that person had wanted Dinah out of the way only for a while. That she was being held hostage somewhere, undoubtedly furious and bored but safe. That somehow the crisis would be resolved and Dinah would be released unharmed.

Bishop knew better. He didn’t want to know it, but he did. Within hours of his arrival in Atlanta, his training and experience told him that it was only a matter of time before Dinah’s body was found.

But he wasn’t about to offer that cold knowledge to Kane. Stranger things had happened, and there was always a chance, however slim, that Kane was right. Bishop wouldn’t take that away from him.

There was time enough for brutal reality if and when it had to be faced.

In the meantime, investigating possibilities was one way of keeping Kane busy. He needed to feel he was doing something to help the woman he loved. And they had to find out what had happened, whether or not the information could help Dinah now; if she was already dead, somebody had killed her, and that somebody was going to pay for it.

Before the silence could grow too large and become filled with paralyzing thoughts and fears, Bishop said, “I still think blackmail is unlikely, but it’s something we need to look into. And the connection between Dinah and this friend of hers. Since the police didn’t see a connection and moved on, I doubt they’ll look again, especially now.”

“Why especially now?”

Bishop shrugged. “I have a feeling they’re going to have their hands full now that your reward has been announced.”

“You still don’t think that was a good idea, do you?”

“I think a million dollars is a hell of a lot of money. And I think there are quite a few people willing to make something up if they think there’s a hope in hell of getting that money. It could just muddy the water, Kane.”

“Or it could inspire whoever might be holding Dinah to tip the police as to where she can be found.”

“Yes, it could. Especially since you worded the statement to make it plain the money would be paid only if Dinah is found alive and well.”

Kane changed the subject. “Getting back to the second lawyer, do you think he’ll be willing to talk to us?”

“I don’t know. He’ll be bound by attorney-client privilege, but given Dinah’s disappearance, he might be willing to set that aside in her best interests. We won’t know until we talk to him. Assuming we can find out who he is.”

“Well, until the banks open on Monday, we can’t pursue that lead anyway. Which leaves us with Faith Parker. The hospital is on our way. Do you think—?”

Bishop did.

But at the hospital, they encountered an unexpected obstacle.

“She was released two days ago.” Dr. Burnett, hunted down for them by a somewhat startled nurse, had an air of weariness about him. But he brightened when he talked about Faith, clearly feeling a proprietary pride in his former patient.

“Released?” Kane stared at him. “When I was here a month or so ago, she was in a coma.”

“Yes, she was. But she woke up a little more than three weeks ago.”

“Isn’t that … unusual?” Bishop asked.

“Very. I’m writing a paper for the medical journals. It’s also unusual that she awakened with minimal aftereffects. No brain damage, good response to physical therapy—she was on her feet and walking within days, and in better emotional shape than most. Even if she did lose her memory—”

“Her memory?” Kane felt a crushing disappointment. “She can’t remember anything?”

“No, poor thing. Her life before the accident might as well have been wiped clean. All her language skills are intact, she reads and writes, recalls historical events and even current events right up to the time of the accident—but she has no personal memories. She didn’t know her name, didn’t even know what she looked like.”

“Will her memory come back?” Bishop asked.

“Probably. Though it could take years. She suffered a blow to the head, but we’re not sure if the amnesia was caused by the physical trauma or something psychological.”

“Meaning the loss of memory could be a defense mechanism, a way of protecting herself from memories too distressing to recall?”

The doctor frowned at Bishop. “Perhaps.”

After exchanging a quick look with his friend, Kane said to the doctor, “I talked to you when I was here before, about Dinah Leighton. Do you remember?”

“Certainly. A very nice lady, Miss Leighton. As I told you before, she and I talked several times—but only about Miss Parker’s condition and prognosis. Miss Leighton was most concerned about her.” His face changed, and his brilliant eyes narrowed as they fixed on Kane. “I assume there’s been no word?”

Kane shook his head. “Agent Bishop and I are gathering information on our own, trying to piece together what Dinah was doing in the weeks before her disappearance.” By now, the spiel was automatic.

Burnett frowned. “I wasn’t aware the FBI had been called in.”

Smoothly, Bishop said, “We don’t always alert the media, Doctor. Working quietly behind the scenes often garners faster results.”

“I see. Well then, I assume you’ll want to talk to the nursing staff again about Miss Leighton’s visits?”

“If you could arrange that, we would be most grateful,” Bishop said, all but bowing.

“Of course. If you’ll wait here, I’ll go speak to the floor supervisor and get things started.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Kane watched him stride down the hallway, then looked at Bishop. “You were very polite. Do you dislike him as much as I do?”

“Yes, I believe I do. And I wonder why.”

“You shook hands with him—pick up any bad vibes?”

Bishop gave him a look. “None to speak of.”

“Then,” Kane offered, “it’s probably just our natural dislike of human godhood.”

“That’s an oxymoron.”

“No, that’s a doctor. I don’t like hospitals or doctors as a rule,” Kane said, “so maybe that explains my reaction. I couldn’t find even a whisper of a reason he might have been involved in Dinah’s disappearance. And he appears to have witnesses to his movements that entire last day.”

“I didn’t seriously suspect him,” Bishop said.

Kane sighed and decided not to tell his friend that he had, over these last weeks, suspected virtually everyone he met.

It took them a couple of hours to talk to the staff members who had seen or talked to Dinah. They heard about her friendliness, her quiet charm, her concern for her friend. What they did not hear was any awareness that Dinah had been pursuing a story or any explanation for her excessive guilt over Faith Parker’s accident. No one remembered the name of the lawyer who had come to see Faith, and by then Burnett had finished his shift, so they hadn’t been able to ask him.

It was late afternoon when they headed to Kane’s apartment. “Since we didn’t get any information,” Bishop said reflectively, “we have good reason to go talk to Faith. Amnesia or no amnesia, she can tell us who the lawyer is.”

“You sound doubtful of the amnesia,” Kane noted.

“I think it’s very convenient, that’s all.”

“Convenient for whom, dammit? Faith could have answered a lot of my questions, but now …”

“Let’s wait until we talk to her before we rule her out as a possibly helpful source.”

“And we can talk to the rest of the hospital staff on Monday,” Kane said, “and see if they have anything helpful to add. I just have an awful feeling we’re going to hear more of the same—lovely opinions of Dinah that don’t help us one bit.”

“That awful feeling is probably an empty stomach,” Bishop said prosaically. “We haven’t eaten since breakfast. And there’s probably nothing in your apartment.”

Kane recognized the attempt to take his mind off things, and smiled. They settled on take-out Chinese food, and by seven o’clock, were in the process of putting away the leftovers. When the doorbell rang, Kane assumed it was a delivery boy from the grocery store he’d called. But when he went to the door, he found a woman he didn’t recognize standing there.

She was just a bit over five feet tall and too slender by at least a dozen pounds, but she was a knockout. Gleaming dark red hair with golden highlights, luminous pale skin as smooth and without flaw as polished porcelain, full lips—the bottom one currently being worried by small white teeth—rich with natural color, a straight nose, and big eyes the most unusual shade of green he’d ever seen.

After he silently acknowledged her beauty, he realized she was frightened, and that made him speak more gently than usual.

“Can I help you?”

She was staring up at him, an odd series of emotions crossing her face. Disappointment, bewilderment, pain, speculation, frustration, helplessness. She took a step backward.

“No. No, I—I think I have the wrong apartment. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

Before she could turn away, he reached out and grasped her arm. It felt very fragile. “Wait. Are you—Do you have any information about Dinah?”

She looked at his hand on her, then up at his face, her own frozen in indecision. “I don’t think so,” she whispered.

Kane didn’t release her. A sudden memory surfaced in his mind, a memory of a still, slight figure in a hospital bed glimpsed briefly as he’d stood in the doorway. Her thin face was so colorless and immobile that it had appeared to him masklike, an inanimate thing holding no life. Eerie and ghostly, especially with the nearby machines audibly counting off the beats of her heart to insist, with a machine’s irrefutable logic, that she was, in fact, a living creature.

It was almost impossible to recognize that comatose patient in this woman, whose rioting emotions were the very definition of chaotic life. But suddenly he was sure. “You’re Faith, aren’t you? Dinah’s friend.”

Her eyes searched his face, but whatever she was looking for she apparently didn’t find. A little sigh escaped her, and she said, “Yes. I’m Faith.”





TWO


He didn’t know her.

There hadn’t been a flicker of recognition in those first seconds.

They hadn’t been lovers.

And since they hadn’t been lovers, her dreams could not be memories of a relationship.

As Kane MacGregor led her into his apartment, that realization swirled in Faith’s mind, baffling, frightening. What could it possibly mean?

He didn’t know her, yet her response to him had been immediate and intense. She knew he could feel her shaking, and she was afraid the heat in her skin would also betray her. His voice, his touch, his face, all were utterly, painfully familiar, a small pool of bright, clear certainty in the ocean of blackness all around her, and she feared it would kill her if she had to turn away from that, from him, and plunge alone into the dark unknown.

But she would have to. There was only one explanation she could think of to account for the dreams, one thing that made a certain kind of sense to her, and if what she suspected was true, then those dreams, that connection she felt so vividly between her and Kane MacGregor, were yet another thing someone else had given her. Not hers at all.

She had no sense of herself, and it was terrifying.

He introduced Noah Bishop as his friend, and she vaguely recognized him as the man who had been with Kane on television. The angry scar down his left cheek didn’t bother her, but his pale, watchful eyes made her uneasy; they were more silver than gray, and peculiarly reflective. She had the disturbing notion that he could see all the way to her soul.

“Some security building you’ve got here,” Bishop said dryly to Kane.

“It’s just electronic security on the front door at night,” Kane replied. “Easy enough to get into the building if one of the neighbors is buzzing in a visitor.”

“That’s how I came in,” Faith confessed, not needing to explain that she’d been unsure of her welcome.

Bishop sighed. “An armed guard or two would probably be a good idea.”

“I’ll add that to my list of things to do,” Kane said. “Sit down, Faith.”

She did, at one end of the couch, grateful to be off her feet. She still tired easily, and just getting up the nerve to come here had been exhausting.

Kane frowned down at her. “You’re frozen. How do you take your coffee?”

She had no idea, and tried to choke back the bubble of hysterical laughter trying to escape her throat. “I—just any way. It doesn’t matter.” At least he’d misread her shaking and her flushed cheeks, assuming both to be due to the chilly evening.

“I’ll get it,” Bishop said, and went around the corner into the kitchen.

Kane joined her on the couch, no more than a foot away and half-turning so he could watch her. “I’m glad you came, Faith.” He added almost apologetically, “Do you mind my using your first name? It’s the way Dinah spoke of you, and—”

Faith shook her head. “No, I don’t mind.” Maybe it’ll start to sound familiar.

“Good. Thank you. I’m Kane. As for my friend, most people call him Bishop.”

“Everybody but you,” Bishop called from the kitchen, proving that either he had very good ears or the walls were thin.

Kane smiled slightly, then repeated to Faith, “I am glad you came. We wanted to talk to you, even though Dr. Burnett said you couldn’t remember anything.” There was the faintest questioning lift to the statement.

“Nothing of my life,” she confessed. “Nothing … personal. Not who I am or where I came from. I’m still not used to the name, the face I see in the mirror. It’s … disconcerting.”

“I’d think it would be scary as hell,” he said bluntly.

“That too.”

Bishop returned to the room with coffee and handed her a cup. Their hands touched as she accepted it, and she was suddenly conscious of a moment of intense stillness. His eyes seemed to bore into hers, and she was acutely aware of his warm fingers touching hers. The connection was so powerful, it was as if he held her physically in an inescapable grip.

Then, even as she became aware of it, the moment passed. His fingers drew away and he straightened, his gaze calm and cool once more. Shaken, Faith sipped the coffee and tried to think only of the drink. He had fixed it with plenty of cream and sugar, and since it tasted pleasant she assumed this was indeed how she took her coffee. “Thank you.”

He nodded and chose a chair across from the couch. Very conscious that he was watching her closely, she turned to Kane.

“I was obviously Dinah’s friend,” she said to him. “I didn’t know you?”

“We never met. I—went to the hospital after Dinah disappeared, to talk to the staff about her visits, and saw you briefly, but that was all.”

She was afraid her hands would shake and betray her growing weariness and fear, so she set her cup on the coffee table and laced the fingers together in her lap. “Do you have any idea how long I’d known Dinah, or where we’d met? Anything like that?”

He shook his head. “Dinah and I didn’t meet until about seven months ago. I know a lot about her, but certainly not everything. And if you were in any way connected with her work, I’d be even less likely to know about you.”

Bishop said quietly, “Were you connected with her work?”

“From what I gathered from news reports, she’s a journalist?”

“Right.”

“Then I don’t see how. According to the pay stubs I found in my apartment,” she said wryly, “I worked for the city. I called and spoke to my supervisor. Apparently, I was a small cog in a very big wheel. I did routine office work.”

“Which office?” Kane asked.

“Building Inspections and Zoning.” She grimaced. “About which I know nothing. Or at least nothing I remember. My job involved typing and filing.” She considered for a moment. “I think I know how to type.”

There was something forlorn in her voice, and Kane acted instinctively. He reached over and covered her tightly clasped hands with one of his own. “The doctor said your memory will eventually come back to you, Faith. You have to believe that.”

She looked down at his hand, her eyes wide; and Bishop, watching her, was reminded of a deer frozen in a car’s headlights, paralyzed and unable to save itself from certain death.

In a constricted voice, she said, “Something has been coming to me, but—not my memories. I thought they were at first, but now I see they weren’t mine at all.”

Kane released her hands and leaned back, frowning. “What do you mean?”

“They started when I was still in the hospital. Just dreams, but maybe memories too, I thought. Dreams like … like little vignettes, brief scenes of someone’s life.”

“Whose life?” Kane asked slowly.

She drew a breath. “Yours. And—and Dinah’s.”


Out of the coma.

Christ. From everything he’d been able to find out, that was the last thing he’d expected, that she’d wake up. Ever.

He paced for a few minutes, then went to the phone and called a familiar number. Barely waiting for the answer at the other end, he said, “Faith Parker is out of the hospital.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

There was a long silence, and then, “It doesn’t have to change anything. Even if she remembers what happened before the accident, the drug would’ve scrambled everything, left her confused at the very least—and possibly psychotic.”

“After so many weeks?”

“Look, don’t panic, all right?”

“Dammit, I told you we shouldn’t have stopped looking. I told you we needed to find it—”

“I said don’t panic. The first thing we have to do is find out if she’s even a threat.”

“And if she is?”

“Then we’ll take care of it.”


“You dreamed about us?”

Faith winced at the disbelief in Kane’s voice. “Oh, I know it sounds absurd. I’ve told myself that. But the dreams were too vivid, too real, to be something my own imagination conjured up. I think—” She swallowed hard. “The only answer I can think of is that somehow, in some way I can’t explain and don’t understand, I’ve … tapped in to Dinah’s memories.”

Coolly matter-of-fact, Bishop said, “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I was psychic before the accident.” Her hands lifted and fell in a brief, helpless gesture. “Or maybe I am now because of the accident. I went to the library yesterday and looked up coma. According to what I read, a few people have come out of comas demonstrating unusual abilities—especially if there was a head injury involved.” She reached up and pushed her hair off her forehead, showing them a small square of adhesive bandage.

Kane remained silent, staring at her. It was Bishop who spoke.

“It’s easy enough to claim you’ve … dreamed something. How do we know you really have?”

She bit her lip again. “I don’t know how to convince you. What I dreamed were ordinary little scenes. Things anyone could guess would happen between two people. Fixing meals together. Driving in a car.” She blushed suddenly and looked down. “Taking a shower together.”

“Any birthmarks or distinguishing features?” Bishop asked dryly.

“He has a small scar low down on his left side. It—it’s shaped like a triangle,” Faith replied, almost inaudibly.

Bishop looked at Kane with lifted brows. “Do you?”

Kane nodded slowly. “I was thrown from a horse a few years ago and landed on a pile of rusty tin pieces torn off an old barn. Took a chunk out of me.”

Reflectively, Bishop said, “I suppose someone else could have known about it?”

“My doctor. A few women. Dinah.”

Still flushed, Faith said to Kane, “I dreamed about the two of you at a beach house somewhere. It has a screened-in porch with a funny-shaped chair, like something from the sixties. It sticks out from all the wicker furniture out there. The house has a fireplace and a spa tub. Lots of books on built-in shelves. And at the end of the walkway to the beach, there’s a flag that says, ‘Just one more day, please!’ The house is sort of isolated, with dunes all around it.”

Again Bishop looked at Kane questioningly.

Kane met his friend’s gaze. “All correct. The house has never been photographed, and we never had guests there. It was redecorated a couple of months before Dinah disappeared, the porch screened in, the fireplace installed. She had the flag made our last trip out. It was a joke between us, because we always wanted just one more day there.”

Faith looked back and forth between the two men and said, “Maybe I’m psychic. Does that make sense?”

Still looking at Bishop, Kane said, “You can’t tell?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Bishop shrugged. “Maybe because of the lack of identity. The lack of self. That sort of emptiness throws up its own barriers. And she’s panicked by the memory loss. Trying to protect herself from losing anything else—that’s probably blocking me as well. Completely reasonable on her part, but not very helpful.”

“I don’t understand,” Faith said.

“Noah has a knack,” Kane explained. “He calls it a bullshit detector. I call it something more.”

Before Faith could ask for more clarification, Kane addressed his friend again, and she forgot all about Bishop’s knack.

“It has to be Dinah,” Kane said, his voice tight.

“We can’t know that,” Bishop insisted. “It could just as easily be Faith. People have come out of comas with new and inexplicable abilities.”

“Maybe, but we know Dinah is psychic.”

“We know.” Bishop’s voice was patient and careful, the tone of a man unwilling to assume anything or to raise false hopes. “But her abilities worked a different way, Kane. She wasn’t a telepath, wasn’t able to touch someone else’s mind. She was precognitive, able to … tune in to future events, to predict the turn of a card or the throw of dice. And it wasn’t something she could control with any reliability. Maybe she could tell you the phone was about to ring, even who was calling, but she couldn’t project memories into someone else’s mind. Even the strongest psychic would find that virtually impossible.”

“If she were desperate enough, she might be able to. If it mattered, if it meant the difference between life and—and death. She’d find a way, Noah. Dinah would find a way.”

“It isn’t that simple. Psychic ability has its own kind of rules, Kane. And a seer doesn’t become a telepath. Not one psychic in a thousand has dual abilities.”

Listening in fascination, Faith began to understand just what Bishop’s “bullshit detector” was.

Kane said, “So tell me where Faith’s memories are coming from. Either Dinah is sending them, or Faith is somehow tapping in to them. No matter which way you look at it, it means Dinah’s alive, Noah. Alive.” His voice was exultant.

At that moment, Faith realized that deep down inside himself, Kane had believed Dinah was dead—and hated himself for giving up hope.

There was a brief silence, and then, with obvious reluctance, Bishop said, “Dinah visited Faith in the hospital a dozen times. Sat by her bed, read to her, talked to her for hours. We can’t deny the possibility that she talked about her past with enough detail to plant those images in Faith’s mind, even though she was unconscious.”

“But—”

“Kane. It’s possible Dinah is somehow able to transmit images to Faith. It’s possible Faith came out of the coma with psychic ability, and that, combined with their friendship, is enabling her to reach out to Dinah telepathically. But the most likely explanation is that Faith’s subconscious retained everything Dinah said to her with unusual vividness and in remarkable detail.”

Kane shook his head and opened his mouth to dispute, deny, refuse to believe—but then Bishop cut in, speaking very softly.

“Past, Kane. All those scenes are from the past. If Dinah was in direct communication with Faith, don’t you think she’d be trying to tell us where she is?”

His shoulders slumped, but Kane struggled to hold on to the newfound hope. “Dinah wouldn’t have told her about the scar, dammit. How could she know that?”

“It’s possible that happened in the hospital. Trying to wake up, and with psychic ability she perhaps didn’t know she had, Faith co