Authors: Bella Andre
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #General, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Missing persons, #Fire fighters
“WHAT ARE you doing here, Sam?”
He didn’t know how he’d expected her to react to his showing up unannounced, but given the sparkling jewels on her fingers and ears he’d have bet on cold and distant, that he was merely one of the many peons coming to worship at her feet.
He was surprised by the heat beneath her words, the unspoken accusation that he shouldn’t have come—and that she didn’t want him here.
Didn’t she realize he hadn’t had any other choice but to get on the next plane to Colorado? That hearing about her accident had sent him into a tailspin, into his own head-on collision with the past?
He’d never been one for telling lies. He wasn’t going to start now.
“I needed to make sure you were okay.”
He wasn’t saying anything she couldn’t have figured out for herself and he didn’t feel as if he was giving away a deep dark secret. But when her eyes suddenly softened and she unclamped her jaw, he found himself adding, “Connor told me about your accident and I was worried about you. I couldn’t sit at home without knowing how you were doing, without seeing you for myself. Considering how bad they said the crash was, you look good.”
He desperately wanted to reach out to her, to touch her skin, to see if it was still silky soft.
“You don’t just look good, Dianna. You look amazing. Simply amazing.”
DELL BOOKS BY BELLA ANDRE
NEVER TOO HOT
(Coming Summer 2010)
HOT AS SIN
For Julia, Hunter, & Paul.
I love you!
FIRST AND foremost, I want to thank my agent, Jessica Faust. Best. Agent. Ever.
A big thank-you to Shauna Summers and Jessica Sebor for your excellent editing and enthusiasm for what I do.
As always, huge thanks go to my Nor Cal crew: Monica McCarty, Jami Alden, Barbara Freethy, Anne Mallory, Veronica Wolff, Carol Grace Culver, Tracy Grant, Penelope Williamson, and Poppy Reiffin. Great company, lots of laughs, and incredible brainstorming. A perfect combination!
Again, thank you to my parents, Louisa and Alvin, and my mother-in-law Elaine for wearing my kids out every Monday. When I tell them they’re spending the day with you, they always cheer!
And to everyone who wrote me to say how much you loved Logan and Maya’s story, thanks so much for taking the time to drop me a note. I hope you love Sam and Dianna’s story just as much!
COMING TO Colorado had been a mistake.
Dianna Kelley slammed the door of her rental car shut and turned the heat on full blast, then wrapped her hands around her upper arms as she shivered on the cold leather seat.
Earlier that day when she’d flown into the small Vail airport, the breeze had been cool and steady, but the sky had been blue and clear. Tonight, however, wind howled through the trees while black, ominous clouds spat out sheets of rain all over the quickly flooding sidewalk.
She closed her eyes and fought back a heavy wave of sorrow at the emotionally charged blowout she’d just had with her younger sister in a bustling café. Dianna knew better than to expect too much from April, but she’d never stopped hoping that the two of them would finally connect.
Growing up, Dianna had longed for a baby brother or sister, so when she was eight and April had been born, she’d showered her baby sister with love. Until the horrible day when their easily overwhelmed, usually broke single mother had decided there were too many mouths to feed and gave four-year-old April up to the state.
As soon as Dianna turned eighteen, she began her fight to pull April out of the foster system, but it took four years to bring her sister home.
In the decade that they’d been apart, April had changed. The innocent, cheerful, inquisitive girl she’d once been was long gone. In her place was a hardened, foulmouthed fourteen-year-old who’d seen and experienced way too much.
Dianna’s hands tightened on the steering wheel as she remembered the way April used to lash out at her, accusing her of ruining her life, of trying to control her every move like a jail warden. All through April’s high school years, Dianna had tried to protect her sister. From the mean girls in her classes who thrived on picking on the new girl, from the cute boys who would break her heart just because they could, and from the teachers who didn’t understand that April needed more patience and attention than kids with normal upbringings.
But it had proved impossible to protect her little sister.
As the years ticked by and she grew from a lanky teen into a knockout young woman, April retreated further and further into herself. She refused to share any details about her various foster homes with not only Dianna, but a series of therapists as well. By the time April eked out a high school diploma, they were nothing more than two strangers who passed each other at the fridge a couple of times a week.
In the two years since graduation, April had bounced from part-time job to part-time job and boyfriend to boyfriend, and Dianna worried that April was going to get pregnant and end up marrying one of the losers she was dating. Or not marrying him and becoming a broke single mother in a trailer park, just as their own mother had been.
Dianna blinked hard through the windshield wipers into the driving rain as she replayed the moment when she came home from work three months ago and found April’s key on the kitchen table. Running into April’s room, she’d realized her sister’s favorite ratty jeans and tops were gone along with her duffel bag. At least she’d taken her toothbrush.
For seven horribly long days, she’d waited for some word as to where her sister had gone, and when—
she was coming back. Finally, April left a message on Dianna’s cell phone when she was taping her live television show and couldn’t possibly answer it. She was in Colorado and she was fine. She didn’t leave a new number or address.
Again and again during the past three months, Dianna had tried to tell herself that her little sister was simply going through a patch of self-discovery. After all, normal twenty-year-old girls tried things out and learned from their mistakes and moved on, didn’t they?
But nothing about April’s life was normal. Not after ten years bouncing from family to family in the state foster system. Dianna hated not being able to keep watch over her sister, hated knowing she couldn’t keep her safe.
So when April finally called and asked if Dianna could come to Vail to meet with her, although it wasn’t easy to shift all of her interviews on such short notice, Dianna couldn’t miss her chance to connect with April.
But instead of connecting, they’d fought. And April had stormed out of the café. Leaving Dianna to helplessly wonder how she could possibly save her sister this time.
The rental car’s windows were covered with condensation, so Dianna hit the defrost button, but it didn’t work. Reaching into her large leather tote for a package of Kleenex, she wiped a clear circle on the windshield and slowly pulled into the street, inching forward as marble-sized hail battered her car. Every few seconds, she hit the brakes and wiped the moisture off of the windshield.
Prudence told her to turn back, but all she wanted was to be back home in San Francisco, wrapped up in a soft blanket on her couch with a novel. As it was, she was cutting it close to get to the airport in time for her flight.
The two-lane road that led from Vail to the airport was narrow and winding, and she seriously considered pulling over, turning around, and finding a nearby hotel to wait out the storm. Instead, she took a deep breath and forcefully shook off the sick sense of foreboding she’d carried with her ever since April had moved to Colorado, turning the radio on to a pop station.
I’m pulling out windows and taking down the doors
I’m looking under the floorboards
In the hopes of finding something more
Listen to me now ’cause I’m calling out
Don’t hold me down ’cause I’m breaking out
Holding on I’m standing here
Outstretched for more
Her throat grew tight as she realized that this was one of the songs April had played over and over in her bedroom. How sensitive her little sister obviously was beneath her thick armor if she liked a heartbreaking song like this … and how hard she must be trying to hide her true feelings from everyone. Especially her big sister, who loved her more than anyone or anything.
But it had already been an emotional enough day without some song making her cry, so she shifted her gaze to the stereo for a split second to turn it off. Lifting her eyes back to the road, she was startled by bright headlight beams from an oncoming car. Temporarily blinded, she swerved away from the light.
Too late, she realized that the only thing between her and the headlights was a wall of rock.
Dianna screamed as the oncoming car clipped the front bumper of her rental, instinctively bracing for further impact as she spun around and around in circles. The airbags exploded in a burst of white powder and thick, sticky material. Despite her seat belt, she flew into the tight bags of air, the breath knocked out of her lungs as she hit them hard.
Oh God, she was suffocating!
Ripping, grabbing, pulling, she tried to shove the airbag away from her mouth and nose, but she couldn’t escape. Sharp pains ran through her, top to bottom. And yet, she didn’t pass out, couldn’t seem to find that numb place where everything would be all right.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, someone found her: a firefighter-paramedic, with jet-black hair and beautiful blue eyes.
“Everything’s going to be all right,” he said. “I’m going to take care of you.”
Looking up at him, his features and coloring were close enough to Sam MacKenzie’s that his words twisted up in her head, in her heart, and she was thrown back to another car crash, one that had taken everything from her.
She’d been desperately craving Chinese food, so she’d driven into town for takeout. But after throwing up all morning, she’d been so starved that she couldn’t make it out of the parking lot without dipping into the mu-shu pork
She’d mixed the plum sauce into the cabbage and meat with her fingers and pretty much inhaled it, barely having any time to appreciate the sweet-salty combination before heartburn got her, right under her ribs
Her obstetrician said it was normal, that the morning sickness would ease as soon as next week, when she hit her second trimester, but that the heartburn would probably get worse, along with possible constipation from the iron pills and being kept awake all night by a kicking baby
The doctor had grinned and said, “Quite a lot to look forward to, isn’t there?” and Dianna hadn’t wanted to admit that she was still trying to get her head around being pregnant