Authors: Metsy Hingle
And before she realized his intent, his mouth came crashing down on hers. Then his mouth was shaping hers, claiming her lips in a hungry kiss that made her blood heat, made her heart thunder in her chest. For a moment sanity deserted Claire. Her senses whirled beneath the searing demand of his mouth.
The sound of his groan hit Claire like a slap. Shocked by her actions, she snapped open her eyes.
“Do I know you?” She blurted out the question and immediately regretted it. Of course she must know him, she reasoned. Why else would he be at the hospital with her? And why else would he have planted that toe-curling kiss on her?
“Yeah, I guess you could say you know me,” he said, his mouth hardening. “After all, I am your husband.”
Welcome to the world of Silhouette Desire, where you can indulge yourself every month with romances that can only be described as passionate, powerful and provocative!
Popular author Cait London offers you
this April's MAN OF THE MONTH. We're sure you'll love this tale of lovers once separated who reunite eighteen years later and must overcome the past before they can begin their future together.
The riveting Desire miniseries TEXAS CATTLEMAN'S CLUB: LONE STAR JEWELS continues with
Her Ardent Sheikh
by Kristi Gold, in which a dashing sheikh must protect a free-spirited American woman from danger.
Wife with Amnesia
by Metsy Hingle, the estranged husband of an amnesiac woman seeks to win back her loveâ¦and to save her from a mysterious assailant. Watch for Metsy Hingle's debut MIRA title,
in August 2001. Barbara McCauley's hero “wins” a woman in a poker game in
Reese's Wild Wager,
another tantalizing addition to her SECRETS! miniseries. Enjoy a contemporary “beauty and the beast” story with Amy J. Fetzer's
Taming the Beast
. And Ryanne Corey brings you a runaway heiress who takes a walk on the wild side with the bodyguard who's fallen head over heels for her in
The Heiress & the Bodyguard.
Be sure to treat yourself this month, and read all six of these exhilarating Desire novels!
Joan Marlow Golan
Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire
Metsy is an award-winning, bestselling author of romance who resides across the lake from her native New Orleans. Married for more than twenty years to her own hero, she is the busy mother of four children. She recently traded in her business suits and a fast-paced life in the hotel and public-relations arena to pursue writing full-time. Metsy has a strong belief in the power of love and romance. She also believes in happy endings, which she continues to demonstrate with each new story she writes. She loves hearing from readers. For a free doorknob hanger or bookmark, write to Metsy at P.O. Box 3224, Covington, LA 70433.
For my children, Cathy, Jimmy, Chrissy and Stephen.
Though you may not have grown under my heart,
you grew in it.
udging by the look on your face, Officer, I take it no one's claimed the child.”
Seated in the office of Saint Ann's Orphanage, the child in question remained quiet as a mouse, but she slid a glance to the doorway where Sister Mary Patrick stood speaking to someone in a hushed voice.
“I don't understand it, Sister.”
It was himâthe policeman who had found her hiding inside the confession box at the big church. Suddenly her tummy felt funny.
Maybe he had come to tell Sister that she didn't have to stay here anymore. That her mommy had come back for her just like she'd promised.
“It's been over a week since the hurricane,” the policeman said. “We've run the kid's picture in the local papers and on every news show in the New Orleans area, but so far nothing. No one's come forward to claim her
or even filed a missing person's report on anyone matching her description. It just doesn't make any sense.”
“It seldom does,” Sister told him.
“She's whatâ¦maybe three, tops? Just a baby. She has to belong to
So why isn't somebody looking for her?”
belong to somebody. She belonged to her mommy. And her mommy would come for her. She always came back for her.
Sister Mary Patrick glanced back in her direction, and she held her breath, tried to remain still as a statue the way Mommy had told her to do. Finally Sister turned back to the policeman. “I'm afraid we may never know the answer to that. She still isn't talking. She won't tell us her name or who her mother is, assuming that she even knows.”
“Do youâ¦you know, think there might be something wrong with her?”
“The doctors say no. She obviously understands what's being said to her because she does whatever she's told to do. But for whatever reason, she refuses to speak. The doctors believe she's suffered some kind of trauma. And it's obvious from the bruising and marks on her that the child's been physically abused.”
The policeman made an angry face that reminded her of Carl. Suddenly afraid, she wanted to run, to hide again. Instead she clutched the teddy bear tight. She had to stay here for now, she told herself. She had to be a good girl and wait. Just like she'd promised.
“Promise you'll be a good girl, kitten, and don't make any noise. Mommy's got to take care of something, make sure that Carl can't find us. Then I'll be back for you.”
Thunder grumbled outside, and she grabbed at her
mommy's skirt. “No leave me, Mommy! I 'fraid. The sky's mad at me.”
“The sky's not mad at my baby girl. It's just a storm, sweetie. That's all. Okay?”
“'Kay.” She brushed tears from the sore cheek where Carl had hit her that morning.
“You'll be safe here until I come back. But remember if anyone finds you, don't say a word to them. Don't even tell them your name. Just be a good girl and do what you're told. And don't worry, Mommy will come back for you.”
“So what's going to happen to her?” the policeman asked.
“We've made arrangements with the State for her to remain here at Saint Ann's.”
“You mean until someone adopts her, right?”
A sad expression crossed Sister's face. “Of course adoption is what we hope for for all of our children. But most couples looking to adopt want an infant. I'm afraid her age will be a strike against her. Her refusal to speak, and the fact that she's been abused, makes adoption less likely for her. But if we're lucky and the Lord is willing, we'll eventually be able to find a good foster home to take her.”
Sister was wrong. She didn't need any foster home. Her mommy was going to come back for her just like she promised.
“She's so little,” the policeman said. “It just doesn't seem fair.”
“It isn't. But then it isn't fair for a child so young to have eyes that look so old. Unfortunately, that's how it is with most of the children who come to us. That's why we need your prayers.” Sister touched his arm. “Would you like to say hello to her?”
“Iâ¦uh, sure. Why not?”
Sister led him into the room and over to the chair where she sat. “Claire, you remember Officer Jamison, don't you? He's the nice policeman who brought you to us. He came by to see how you were doing.”
“Claire?” the policeman repeated from his crouched position in front of her.
Sister wrinkled her nose. “Somehow Jane Doe didn't strike the other sisters and me as right for a little girl. Since you found her during Hurricane Claire, it seemed an appropriate choice. So until she tells us differently, we've decided to call her Claire.”
Twenty-five years later
here's my wife?”
Her eyes snapped open at the whiplash demand in the man's voice. Jerking upright in the bed, she winced as pain exploded inside her head. She groaned, lifted an unsteady hand to her aching head and froze as her fingers met a thick wad of gauze along her right temple.
“Damn it, I want to see my wifeânow!”
The impatient command sliced through her pain and confusion. Angling a glance toward the sound of that hard voice, she spied the door slightly ajar and frowned. Apprehension skittered down her spine as she stared at the unfamiliar door, the tan-and-white tile flooring.
Where on earth was she?
Dropping her hand to her lap, she spotted the plastic
ID bracelet circling her wrist. “Claire Gallagher,” she read aloud the name stamped on the band and waited for it to strike a chord of familiarity, some sense that the name belonged to her. When none came, nerves twisted into knots in her stomach. Suddenly anxious, she kicked at the sheets tangled around her legs, and pain streaked to her left ankle. Gasping, she clutched at her ankle and felt something tug on her arm.
With her heart hammering, Claire swung her gaze to her left, and the breath stuck somewhere between her chest and her throat at the sight of the IV contraption attached to her arm. One look at the tube and painful-looking needle taped to her hand had her stomach pitching.
“Oh, God,” she moaned. She was going to be sick.
Panic swimming in her blood, she clamped a hand over her mouth and willed herself to calm down. She needed to breathe slowly, try to focus, she told herself as she drew in several breaths. There was an easy explanation for this. There had to be. She simply had to sort things out.
Quickly she took stock of her surroundingsâthe narrow bed she occupied, the sterile white sheets and khaki-colored blanket twisted around her legs. Swallowing past the nerves that still tightened her throat, she swept her gaze over the rest of the room. A pair of utilitarian chairs filled one corner. A chrome table with a plastic water pitcher and a cup stood against the wall. Uninspiring beige drapes hung across a window. Even without the telltale ID band and IV strapped to her arm as clues, the decor alone screamed the word
and did nothing to settle her uneasiness. Slumping back against the pillows, Claire tried to think, tried to remember. But it was difficult doing either while her head and ankle continued
to throb relentlessly. Everything ached. Even her hair seemed to hurt.
What on earth had happened? Had she been in some kind of accident? When? Where?
Fingering the bandage on her head, she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to rememberâ¦somethingâ¦anything that would tell her what had caused her to end up in a hospital.
But between the hammering in her skull and that hum of voices outside her door, concentration proved impossible. Besides, everything seemed so hazy. Just a vague recollection of a man in a white coat waving his hand in front of her face while shining a light in her eyes and asking her how many fingers she saw.
“Either you take me to see my wife now, or I'll find her myself.”
Claire's pulse kicked again. She pressed her fingers to the space between her brows and wondered for a moment why the man's voice had such an unsettling effect on her. Did she know him? There was something about his voiceâ¦something that tugged at the fringes of her memory. But whatever it was, the memory stayed just out of reach. Giving up, Claire tried to focus on her own dilemma. But the more she tried to remember what had happened and how she had ended up in a hospital, the more her head hurt.
“You can go back to your station, Nurse Galloway. I'll handle this.”
Claire jerked her head up and winced at the movement. But she recognized the second man's voiceâthe doctor who had wanted her to count his fingers.
“Try to get a grip, Matt. You're making a scene.”
“Yeah? Well unless I see my wife in the next ten seconds, I'm going to make an even bigger one.”
And he would make good on the threat, Claire thought, as she listened to the exchange between the doctor and the other man. There was no mistaking the steel in the angry man's voice.
“You know, pal, I didn't have to notify you that she was here. When they brought her in, she was barely conscious and didn't have any ID. It was just pure luck that I was the one on duty and recognized her. Considering the situation between you two, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that I broke some sort of hospital confidentiality rule by calling you. Don't make me regret making that call, Matt.”
“Aw, hell, Jeff. I'm sorry. It's just when you said she'd been hurt, and that the guy had used a gun, Iâ¦I guess I went a little crazy.”
“All right. A lot. It's justâ¦I was afraid thatâ¦I thoughtâ” His voice broke. “Hell, it doesn't matter what I thought. The way things have been between us lately, she probably won't even want to see me. But
need to see her, Jeff. I really do. I need to see with my own eyes that's she's all right.”
“Take it easy, man. No one's trying to stop you from seeing her. But she's been drifting in and out of consciousness since they brought her in. Give me a second to find out if she's awake yet, and then you can go in.”
“Jeff, wait! First, I need to know what to expect. Be straight with me. How bad off she is. Is sheâ¦is she going to make it?”
Poor guy, Claire thought as she heard the anguish in his voice. Chiding herself, she turned away from the door. She had no right to eavesdrop, to listen to his anxiety over his wife's condition, she told herself. Besides, she had enough problems of her own to worry aboutâ
like why she was in a hospital and why couldn't she remember how she had ended up here.
“Damn, I could kick myself! I'm sorry, Matt. I didn't realize you thoughtâ I never meant to imply that her injuries were that serious. They're not.”
“But you said the mugger used a gun.”
“He did. According to the witness, the guy hit her on the head with one.”
Finding it impossible to concentrate on her own situation while the drama unfolded outside her room, Claire gave up and listened.
“The blow to her head was the most serious of her injuries. It took a dozen stitches to close up the gash and she's probably going to have a doozy of a headache. She's also got a sprained ankle, some nasty scrapes and bruising from being shoved to the ground. But the bruising will fade and the cut on her head should heal with little or no scarring.”
“But you said there were complications.”
“I said there
be complications. She's suffered a serious blow to the head, Matt, and whenever you're dealing with a head injury that's always a possibilityâ”
A voice squawked over the PA system, cutting off the rest of the doctor's explanation as well as any response that followed. After a few more seconds in which more announcements followed, Claire could make out only low-pitched murmurs and the squeaking wheel of a passing cart. Finally she gave up trying to pick up the threads of their conversation again.
Just as well, she thought with a sigh. To listen took concentration on her part, and concentration took energy. And suddenly she was feeling incredibly tired. Weariness washed over her, stealing the last of her reserves. Her eyelids felt as if they were weighted with lead. Keeping
them open or even trying to think became impossible. So she gave up the battle.
But the moment Claire's eyelids fluttered shut, storm clouds seemed to engulf her, muddling her senses, dragging her deeper and deeper into some dark abyss. She was running. Faces and voices became jumbled. The need to escape grew stronger. Someone was chasing her.
a voice whispered inside her head. Fear climbed in her throat as she ran and ran. She tasted the salt of tears, heard someone weeping, but still she ran.
Don't stop! Run! Hide!
The voice urged her on, and Claire continued to run. She ran and ran, racing through the shadows. She fell. She got up. She ran harder still, ignoring the ache in her side, the burning in her lungs. And as Claire slipped into the well of unconsciousness that beckoned, she could have sworn she heard the rumble of that whiskey-rough voice from the hall once again. And this time he was calling her name.
“Claire? Claire, can you hear me?”
Pain knifed through Claire's skull, and she whimpered as she battled through the heavy fog surrounding her.
“Shh. It's okay.” His breath was a soft rush of air against her chilled skin. Warm, callused fingers caressed her cheek. Instinctively she moved closer toward the source of that heat. “That's my girl. Try to wake up, sweetheart. Open those pretty brown eyes for me.”
Another missile of pain fired inside her head, but Claire muscled through it. She wanted, needed to get closer to that warmth, to see the face that belonged to the voice that had comforted her during the long night of dark dreams. When at last she managed to force her eyes open, two things registered simultaneously. First, the
man's face was every bit as compelling as his voice. Cary Grant handsome with jet-black hair, razor-sharp cheekbones, a square, uncompromising chin and eyes the color of flint. And second, she didn't have a clue who he was.
He stared down at her with an intensity that she found disturbingly intimate. “Welcome back,” he said in a voice that packed a sensual punch and sent a shiver of awareness through her.
“Thanks,” she murmured and worked to put a name with his face.
“You feeling okay? I can call the doctorâ¦.”
“No,” she told him, wanting a moment to get her bearings. She was in a hospital, and her name wasâ¦ Claire. Claire Gallagher, she recalled after a quick glance at her wristband. And the
hunk watching her with anxious eyes wasâ¦ She frowned, tried to remember. A flutter of panic danced along her spine when she came up blank. Pushing to sit up, she winced as the movement set off new explosions of pain in her head and ankle.
“Hey, take it easy,” he soothed. “Head hurting?”
She nodded, only to wince when the movement elicited another stab of pain in her head.
“I'll call the doctor and see about getting you something for the pain.”
“No. Wait. Please. It was only a twinge,” she told him. “I'm okay.” And she didn't want to take anything that would make her feel fuzzier than she did already.
“Yes. I'm all right. Honest.”
“I'm glad to hear one of us is,” he said, giving her a halfhearted grin. “I was scared spitless when Jeff called and told me you were hurt.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair.
“Keep doing that and you're going to pull it out.”
He grimaced at her remark. “Reflex, I guess. Like I said, I was worried. It wouldn't surprise me to find out every hair on my head has turned white,” he told her, another half smile curving his mouth.
It hadn't, Claire noted. His hair was as black as coal and had a tendency to curl just at the edges. He looked and sounded so familiar. So why couldn't she remember who he was or how he fit into her life?
“God. I was so scared I was going to lose you,” he said, his voice raw. All traces of humor gone. He squeezed his eyes shut a moment. “When Jeff called and said they'd brought you in, I thoughtâ¦I was so afraidâ¦”
“Don't,” she said, moved by the anguish in his voice, in his eyes. Reaching out, she touched his clenched fists. “I'm all right.”
He stiffened momentarily at her touch. Something dangerous flashed in those steel-colored eyes. But before she could pull her hand back, he closed his fingers over hers, held. “I know. It's just thatâ¦” He whooshed out a breath. His expression grim, he continued to stare at her while he seemed to engage in some inner struggle. “I'm sorry. I know how much you hate it when I push. But after last nightâ¦after thinking that you mightâ¦” He scrubbed a hand down his face. “I guess you're just going to have to add one more sin to my list of transgressions. Because God help me, I've got to do this.”
And before she realized his intent, his mouth touched her own. He brushed his lips against hers in a kiss so soft, so gentle, that instead of pushing him away, Claire rested her palms against his chest. Muscles flexed beneath her fingertips, and she could sense the strength, the tightly leashed control, the fire held in check. The sweet
ness of his restraint moved something inside Claire. Curling her fingers in his shirt, she returned his kiss.
When he lifted his head, he stared at her. Sure she'd made a mistake, Claire started to retreat. But before she could, he angled his head and his mouth came crashing down on hers again. Then his mouth was shaping hers, claiming her lips in a hungry kiss that made her blood heat, made her heart thunder in her chest. For a moment sanity deserted Claire. Her senses whirled beneath the searing demand of his mouth. Feminine need shuddered through her, throbbed in her womb. Instinctively she arched her body toward him.
His groan hit Claire like a slap. Shocked by her actions, she snapped open her eyes. Sweet heaven, what on earth had she been thinking? She didn't know this manânot even his name. Shaken, she unclenched her fingers from his shirt and shoved at himâhard. He released her at once, and had she been standing, she was sure she would have fallen. “Wh-who are you?” she demanded, hating the tremor in her voice, a tremor that she realized wasn't caused by fear alone.
Eyes narrowing, desire still glittering in their gray depths, he watched her with the same intensity that he'd kissed her. Out of nowhere the image of a wolf tracking its prey raced through Claire's mind. Whoever this man was he was dangerous. Maybe not physically, because she didn't think he would harm her, but on some deeper, more personal level. “I asked who you were,” she said, unnerved by his silence.