“You okay?” She’d caught up and watched
me through those hazel eyes that had always reminded me of my dad, until I’d
found out he wasn’t actually her dad. Now I realized they were a different
shade and more like her Uncle Owen’s eyes.
I was a good two inches taller,
and we looked nothing alike, which I supposed wasn’t surprising since we had
different fathers, both losers who had abandoned us. At least hers was still
alive somewhere. Not that I wanted my dad alive. No, he was better off at the
bottom of the ocean, where he couldn’t hurt anyone. Where he couldn’t hurt me.
And for the past nine months I’d thought my mom there with him. Now I wasn’t so
“Yeah, fine.” I lied. But what
could I say? I think Mom might still be alive? Either that or it was time to break
out the straight jackets. I started down the back hall, knowing she followed
but wishing she’d leave me alone.
“Okay.” I could read the
hesitation in her voice. I didn’t need to be a mind reader to know she was
wondering about my odd behavior. “There’s something I want to tell you.”
I headed into the kitchen,
attempting to avoid the inevitable. We’d slowly been redecorating the house
that had belonged to Aaron, Cameron’s real father. The cold steel kitchen had
been replaced with warm cherry cabinets and granite countertops. He might have
been a loser dad, but at least he was a rich loser who didn’t mind sharing his
wealth. Sometimes guilt was a great thing.
“Just listen, alright?” Cameron
said. “Don’t interrupt. Don’t curse or go all crazy.”
Too late for that. I placed the
bag onto the countertop and eyed her suspiciously. Time to face the truth. “What
do you know?”
Her dark brows drew together. “Huh?”
This couldn’t be good. “What did
Caroline tell you?”
“Uh, nothing.” She paused for
one long moment; the only sound was the soft hum of our stainless steel refrigerator.
“What did she tell you?”
Obviously we were talking about
two different things here. To say I was relieved would be an understatement.
But if she didn’t know about my lapse at the grocery store, what was her deal?
By the hesitant way she was acting I had a feeling that whatever she had to
say, I wasn’t going to like. “Okay, just get it over with.”
She took in a deep breath and
stuffed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “I had a dream about
Maddox last night.”
Of everything I’d expected her
to say, that had never even crossed my mind. Stunned, I stumbled, my lower back
hitting the edge of the countertop. It had been years since Maddox and I had dated.
Years since he’d betrayed me, so why the heck did my heart still beat wildly at
just the thought of him? Why did I feel like he was going to stroll through the
door with that cocky grin in place? I took in a deep breath and faced her
without flinching. Yes, it had been years, and I’d had plenty of practice
hiding my true feelings.
“Wow, dreaming about other guys
and you’ve only been with Lewis less than a year?” I opened the first bag,
ignoring the way my hands trembled. “What will he say?”
She settled on a stool near the
island, frowning. “You know it’s not like that.”
Late one night, while it was too
freaking cold to do anything but huddle under blankets near the fireplace,
Cameron had blurted out, rather amusingly, that she and Maddox had kissed.
She had been tired of the lies and
of the secrets and wanted to start anew. I’d wished she’d kept her thoughts to
herself. I didn’t want to know about her love life with my ex. It was the last
time we’d spoken of Maddox, but for some reason the guy always managed to reemerge
in my life, no matter how deep I tried to bury him.
“It wasn’t a dream, but more
like…” She rubbed her forehead, grimacing. “More like a mind travel.”
I froze, a can of peas in hand,
surprised yet again. “You traveled?”
She hadn’t traveled with her
mind since Mom had died. I’d thought maybe that particular power had died with our
mother, but apparently not. Or maybe her emotional connection with Maddox was
stronger than I’d realized. I ignored my irrational flare of jealousy and
stacked the cans of vegetables in the pantry.
“I was in a prison,
prison.” She raked her hair from her
face, and from the corner of my eye I could see her hands were trembling as
badly as mine. “They’re going to transfer him.”
I pulled a box of cereal from
the bag and shoved it into the pantry, anger, annoyance and confusion combining
in a heavy mixture that made me feel ill. We’d discussed Maddox months ago, but
with no word as to his whereabouts, we’d assumed he’d gone into hiding. “So.”
he’s in North Carolina now.” She surged from the barstool. “When
I talk about transfer, I’m talking Siberia. You know as well as I do we’ll
never see him again.”
I laughed, although it came out sounding
harsh and bitter. “The farther away, the better.”
“You don’t mean that.” Her
cheeks were flushed with righteous indignation. Leave it to Cameron to stand up
for a criminal. “He saved me. He saved Lewis. He saved Caroline.”
She was brilliant at that,
always believing in the good in people. I wasn’t so forgiving. Then again, she
didn’t know the real Maddox. “Wonderful for him.”
I shoved another box of cereal
into the pantry. With about twenty people living on the estate, we went through
a lot of food. Fortunately Cameron’s father had plenty of money in the bank. I
forced my thoughts away from Maddox and instead focused on the night’s dinner
menu. Chicken was always good. Kids were picky but they always liked chicken.
“Nora, if we don’t save him now,
I have a feeling we’ll never see him again.”
Hamburgers would work, too. “And
why would that be bad?”
“You don’t mean that.”
My anger flared. I slammed the
pantry door shut and moved around the island, heading toward the hall. Let her
put the rest of the groceries away. If I didn’t leave now, it wouldn’t end
“Nora,” Cameron called out
I spun around to face her, fury
making me see red. “I don’t feel sorry for people who try to murder me. He can
rot in hell for all I care.”
With those parting words, I made
my way toward the stairs, swearing to never think again about the man who had
torn out my heart. But fate was a real bitch, and she had other plans.
“Where are we?”
The deep, familiar voice echoed
eerily around me, vibrating against my skull. A familiar voice I never thought
I’d hear again. Didn’t want to ever hear again.
Slowly, I opened my eyes. Cement
walls wavered in and out of focus, a world of glistening gray and darkness. A
world of nothingness. For a moment, a brief heart-stopping moment, I thought I
again. I shoved my
hands into the cold hard floor and bolted upright so fast the room spun.
With a groan, I brought my knees
to my chest and lowered my head. No, I wasn’t in that prison. My father wasn’t
still alive. They weren’t going to hack open my brain. This place was
different. Familiar, yeah, but not frightening. No, the cold sweat that broke
out on my skin was from the memory of the prison. Just a memory.
“Where are we?” the voice asked
Oh God, I hadn’t imagined him.
. Why was he here?
I jerked my head toward the left, searching the darkness. Sure enough I found
him sitting on the floor not ten feet from me. Instantly my instincts kicked
in, my hands curling into fists, my heart pumping madly. I wanted to hit him,
hurt him before he hurt me. But deep inside, always, every time I came into
contact with him, I also wanted to go to him. To wrap my arms around his neck
and press my lips to his.
“What the hell are you doing
here?” I demanded.
“I don’t know.”
He wore a dark jumpsuit…a prisoner
suit. Damn Cameron for telling me about Maddox. This was obviously a dream
brought on by our conversation. He shifted, coming closer and into the lone
light of the fluorescent bulb that hung above. It was an odd walk, a stiff gait.
I would not feel sorry for him. Slowly,
I stood, hardening my heart even as I noticed he was lean. Much leaner than
he’d been the last time I’d seen him almost a year ago. Scruff darkened his
cheeks and chin, giving him an almost desperate look. Despite not wanting to,
my heart lurched. He was still gorgeous as hell, but he looked different.
Haunted. I knew the look well. I’d seen it in my own eyes, in my mother’s eyes,
in Cameron’s eyes.
“What’s wrong with you?”
He shrugged. “Prison has a way
of getting to a person.”
It was a dream. All a dream. I
knew because my body felt odd, like it wasn’t attached to my brain. I rolled my
shoulders, then swung my arms around and around, attempting to get the blood
pumping but nothing I did mattered. I felt buzzed. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s a dream,” he said, exactly
what I’d been thinking, so why didn’t it make me feel any better?
“You dream about me often?” I
asked. “Because I never dream about you.”
He grinned, reminding me of the
Maddox I’d once known, charming and sexy as hell. “Liar.”
I ignored him and strolled the
cement room, needing space, needing to break eye contact. The walls were a
thick gray brick. Across the side were three rows of lockers that faded into
darkness. All so very familiar. Only one door. “Where the hell are we?”
“Yeah, figured that out, Genius.”
He was silent for a moment,
which made me curious. I turned toward him. He was holding his side as if in
pain, but his gaze was on me, like he couldn’t quite figure something out. I
was a puzzle he was trying to solve.
“What?” I demanded.
“You don’t remember?”
The words brought images to mind,
a memory that tugged at my brain. Suddenly I did remember. I glanced toward
that far corner where he’d been sitting just moments ago. A bench placed along
“You sure you know what you’re doing?” he asked.
“Just sit still.” I settled beside him and pressed the cotton pad to
the cut on his forehead. “I’m going to school for nursing, remember?”
“You can’t be a nurse.”
“You’re too beautiful. Your patients will fall in love.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please, you think that line will work on me?”
His firm fingers wrapped around my wrist. “It wasn’t a line.”
Before I could properly prepare myself, his lips were on mine.
“You remember,” his voice
I jerked back from the memory,
startled to see I was still in the locker room, still in the dream. Years ago he’d
been injured playing football. I’d volunteered to be the nurse on staff during
the game just to get closer to him. I hadn’t meant to get that close. Our first
kiss. A shock went through my body, a heated flush that left me breathless. I’d
done my best to repress any memory where he was concerned.
“No,” I whispered.
“Liar,” he repeated.
He had his hand pressed to his
side as if in pain, but he was focused on me, his gaze intense. So very intense.
As much as I hated to admit it, he knew me well.
“You look like hell,” I snapped,
attempting to change the subject.
He flashed me a grin. “Thanks,
I frowned. I didn’t want to hear
that endearment; a pet name that was as familiar as my own name. And I didn’t
want to care. I swore I wouldn’t care. “I’m outta here.” I turned and started
toward the metal door.
“Yep,” he said, “Do what you do
I actually stumbled, my shock
was so great. Was he seriously mocking me after what he’d done? The urge to
confront him overwhelmed me. But I managed to come to my senses and quickened
my steps toward the door. No way was he going to draw me in, even if it was
probably just a dream.
“Screw you.” I grabbed hold of
the doorknob and pulled. The door opened easily, but it wasn’t what I had
expected to see. A great sucking void of blackness roared before me. The air
tugged at my hair, pulled at my body, making me stumble closer, balancing on
the precipice of nothingness.
Suddenly Maddox was there, throwing
himself between me and that black void and shoving the door shut with a thud.
He leaned against the panel, gasping and hurting, if the grimace on his face
was any indication. I started to reach for him, my concern overwhelming me
before I thought better. At the last minute I managed to pull back, crossing my
arms over my chest and staring at him mutely. The room fell quiet. Damn, why
did my body have to react to him? Why did my heart have to thump so painfully
hard at his nearness?
“What the hell?” he demanded.
“That’s not normal,” I
whispered. “We’re dreaming, aren’t we?”
He pushed away from the door. “We
have to be.”
I didn’t want to be stuck in a dream
with him. I wanted out. Away from him. So why wouldn’t I wake up? Frantic, I
spun around, searching the dark room. There had to be a way out.
“Maybe…” he started. “Maybe
we’re supposed to talk. Maybe we’ve got unresolved issues.”
I snorted. “To say the least.”
“Well then, how are you?” he
I paced the dark room, ignoring
his biting tone. There had to be some way out. Hell, I’d take a cold shower, a
bullet, falling from a building, anything that would wake me up. “Why do you
“Careful, you reek of bitterness
and bitterness means you still have feelings for me.”
I gritted my teeth. He’d always
known how to get to me. “Hardly.”