Silver Shadows

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EXTRAS

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Leisure LoveSpell; May 1997
ISBN 0-505-52202-0

A Shadowed Past…
…was what Kyra Kirtland saw in the nightmares that  disrupted her ordered life. She’d come to Park City, Utah,  in search of balance, but soon visions of an ominous silver  shadow filled even her waking hours. And the only person  who seemed to keep her grounded was Mac McKane—the  man who’d broken her heart when he’d left her at the altar  seven years before.

A Sterling Chance…

…was what Mac had to win back Kyra’s love. Until his  past came back to haunt him. Mac would do anything to  keep her safe, even if that meant losing her again. But Kyra  refused to go away, insisting they had to fight the evil  threatening all they cared about. An evil that would never  rest until they learned beyond the shadow of a doubt that  love could conquer all.

EXCERPT

Prologue
Park City, Utah. Twenty-eight years ago.

Rebecca Brennan pressed the infant close to her breast  and wrapped her black cape around them both. She glanced  both ways before sneaking out of her private hospital room  and inching down the deserted hall. She stopped before she  reached the nurses’ station and waited, watching for her  chance to steal by unnoticed.

When the baby fidgeted, rooting noisily for a nipple,  Rebecca’s heart beat a mad race. She stuck her pinkie in the  infant’s mouth and, even though she’d just been fed, the  baby sucked greedily. When the lone nurse at the station  turned to answer the phone, she slipped past the rounded  desk and stole down the stairs.

The late October wind bit through her cape, but she didn’t care. She was going to die anyway. The important  thing was to save her baby.

She slunk from shadow to shadow, stopping every few  minutes to catch her breath and to make sure no one  followed. Her every footstep echoed through the rising fog,  making her gasp and jump at imagined dark fingers  snatching at her cape. When she reached her destination,  she slumped against the brick wall of a neighboring house  to restore her drained energy.

She waited, ankle-deep in snow, in the dark between  two houses, watching her goal carefully for signs of  betrayal. Then, she took a deep breath and braved the  openness of the porch light.

She knocked and tried to melt her shape into the navy  door. A minute passed before she ventured a second knock.

“Please be home,” she whispered, tears choking her  throat.

Soft footsteps padded to the door and stopped.

“Who is it?” a gentle voice queried from the other  side.

“Miriam, it’s Rebecca Brennan. Open, please.” The door barely opened before Rebecca slipped  through, closing the door firmly behind her.

“What’s wrong?” A frightened look passed through  Miriam Kirtland’s pale blue eyes.

“I need help.” Rebecca sniffed, holding back the tears  that threatened to flood. She couldn’t give in now, not  before her mission was accomplished. Not before her baby  was safe.

“You’re shaking. Come sit by the fire.” Miriam  ushered her to a living room strewn with packing cases.  “Sorry for the mess, but we’re moving to Florida  tomorrow.”

“I know. I want you to take my child with you.” “What?!” “If you don’t take her, she’ll die,” Rebecca pleaded. “Rebecca?” Miriam shook her head back and forth,  fright rounding her eyes.

“I don’t have time to explain.” Rebecca handed  Miriam the sleeping child and a dry sob croaked through  her parched throat.

Miriam pushed the baby back toward its mother. “But  we’ve met only once. Wouldn’t a family member be  better?”

“No! No one here must ever know you have my  baby.” She dug through the cape’s deep pockets. “I’ve  signed the release papers. You’ll be able to adopt her  legally when you get to Florida.”

“But…”

“You must never try to contact me.” “But…”

Rebecca placed the child in the woman’s arms, then  positioned her hands on Miriam’s shoulders. “You have to  take her. It’s her only chance. I can’t trust anyone else.” “Rebecca…” “You must never tell her who her parents were.  Promise.” She shook Miriam’s shoulders. “Promise!” “Rebecca…” Sheer panic cut through Rebecca like shards of broken  glass. Her fingers turned white as they dug into Miriam’s  pale blue terry bathrobe, but Rebecca couldn’t stop the  movement borne out of desperation. “Promise!”

Miriam wavered. Rebecca held her breath. A million  emotions passed through the woman’s eyes. “Miriam,  please. You’re her only chance.”

The moment Miriam’s face showed capitulation,  Rebecca relaxed her grip and allowed herself to breathe.

“Oh, Rebecca. I’ve wanted a child for as long as I can  remember. Your daughter is a gift from God, but how will I  explain her presence?”

“You’re leaving tomorrow. Nobody will know she’s  not yours.” She dug through her cape once more. “Here,  show your husband this letter. It’s from my grandmother  and it’ll explain everything. The threat to my baby’s life  isn’t idle. The silver shadow has killed before. Tell no one  how you got her. Tell no one who she is. You must  promise.”

Miriam loosened the yellow-and-green hospital  receiving blanket wrapped around the infant. A smile  played on her lips and the light of desire shone in her eyes.  “What will I tell her when she grows up?”

She hesitated, looking at the baby’s soft green eyes.  “Tell her she was loved.”

Miriam shifted her hold to better support the moving  infant’s weight. “I can’t bring danger into our home…”

“We have no connection. You’re moving tomorrow.  The danger will follow me, and she’ll be free.”

Miriam searched Rebecca’s face, and Rebecca could  only hope Miriam saw how desperate she was. “Please,  Miriam. I’ve no one else to turn to.”

Miriam looked down at the baby in her arms. “I-I  promise.”

“Never tell her where she came from.” “I promise.”

Relief washed through her, leaving in its wake a  leaden weariness. “Thank you,” she whispered.

She removed a silver chain from her neck. From the  chain dangled a moonstone trapped in the filigreed head of  a key. She slipped it around the child’s neck, exposing a  sliver of shoulder with a crescent-shaped birthmark.

“She must never return to Park City. If she does, she’ll  die.”

Miriam sucked in her breath and her pale blue eyes  reflected her fear. But Rebecca knew how important it was  for Miriam to believe her warning. She kissed the baby’s  downy head for the last time and let her fingers linger over  the soft skin of the infant’s cheek.

“Good-bye, baby. I’ll always love you.”

Rebecca slipped the hood of her cape back in place  and left before her pain and sorrow took over. She stole one  last look at her daughter before she plunged back into the  cold night air. As she closed the door behind her, the infant  began to wail. Her heart lurched in her chest and a small  wounded cry escaped her. But she hurried on, carefully  retracing her steps to the hospital. The baby’s distressed  cries ripped through the quiet night, tore at her heart, and  reverberated through her mind.

Once she was back in her bed, she allowed herself to  shed the waterfall of tears she’d held back.

When the tears finally ran dry, she shut down the  portion of her brain holding any memory of her child. It  was the only way to keep her daughter safe when the  shadow came.

Her full breasts ached for the release of a suckling  child, and she pressed a pillow to her chest to alleviate the  pain. Sleep finally claimed her exhausted body.

She woke from a dreamless sleep with a cold breeze  chilling her body down to her soul and scrambled up in the  bed.

“Who’s there?”

When no answer came, she reached for the nurse’s call  button, but couldn’t depress it.

A silver shadow crept across the floor.

“Where is the child?” the rough voice asked.

“She’s in the nursery.” She pressed her body deeper  into the hard pillows.

“Where is the child?” the raspy voice insisted.

“I told you, in the nursery.” She slid the blanket up  like a shield.

The shadow climbed onto the bed. A cry for help  welled from deep inside, but went unuttered.

“I will find her.”

The cold fetid breath tingled against her cheek,  branding her. She turned her head away, and tried to  scream, kicking at the blanket, seeking escape. But like a  clamp, the shadow held her in place. She whimpered. The  shadow crept up and settled on her throat.

“Where is the child?”

The weight on her throat increased. She didn’t have  the energy to fight for both herself and her daughter. Her  last act of courage would be to safeguard her daughter’s  future. As the weight squeezed at her throat, Rebecca  exhaled. Unprepared for the move, the shadow’s grip  slipped, crushing her windpipe. With sheer will, she kept  her mind closed to the shadow’s prying fingers.

The shadow’s angry growl resonated in her head. Gray  mist clouded her mind, and her weariness left her.

She’d won.

 

She’d cheated the shadow and freed her daughter.

Chapter 1

Park City, Utah December 1997.

In the dreamy world created by the steam rising from  the hot tub’s bubbling water into the cold December air, the  calming New Age music spilling over the outside speakers,  and the veil of falling snowflakes, Kyra Kirtland could  forget.

Sighing, she leaned her head back against her small  black dog’s curled on the edge of the tub, using Misty as a  pillow. “I’m glad we came. I feel comfortable here.”

Much to her surprise, she found the statement true.  She yawned, closed her eyes and let her tense muscles relax  for the first time in over a month. She was so tired that  every cell of her body felt weary. Maybe here she could  sleep without dreaming.

Despite the soothing warm water burbling around her,  an icy shudder rippled through her. The latest installment in  her series of nightmares floated up from the recesses of her  mind.

Maybe she couldn’t forget after all.

* *

The too-warm air inside the trailer that housed Hadley  Restoration Services’ temporary headquarters had Kyra’s  eyelids drooping once again.

Her hand drifted from the drawing showing a wood  bracket’s detail. She pinched the bridge of her nose and  closed her eyes, giving her fuzzy eyesight a chance to rest.  If she didn’t get a good night’s sleep soon, she’d lose  everything she’d worked toward in the past seven years.  She fought the pull, but it was too strong. Resting one elbow on her drafting table, she let her head flop into her  hand.

A cat nap couldn’t hurt. A few minutes, then she could  get back to work refreshed.

She floated on cottony layers of gray. Then like  quicksand, a murky past she didn’t understand sucked her  conscious mind. She looked into her own green eyes, but  her reddish curls had turned to straight brown hair twisted  into a high chignon. Her cream sweater and comfortable  blue pants had changed into an embroidered white  shirtwaist and gored black skirt. She had no idea who the  man beside her was or why he glared at her. They  exchanged heated words, but Kyra couldn’t hear their  voices. She could only stare aghast as the man hit her. Kyra  gasped. The action jolted her head off her hand, waking  her.

Keys clattered against her drafting table, slid down the  incline and plopped into her lap.

“I’m working you too hard,” George Hadley said. He  sat in the chair next to her desk.

“I did it again, didn’t I?” She sighed and dropped her  pencil in a holder before she rubbed her temples. With each  circle of her fingers, she tried to erase the clinging dread  that always accompanied these dreams that had plagued her  since she’d arrived in Summit Station, Utah.

George nodded and smiled. His thin blond hair slipped  into his face. He pushed it back. George kept his  appearance meticulously groomed, but he’d let his hair  grow long—because he’d been too busy covering for her  over the past few weeks.

“I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again,” she said. “That’s what you said yesterday. And the day before.  And the day before that, too.”

“I’m sorry.” She looked down at her hands in her lap  and played absentmindedly with the keys that had dropped  there. The small dog snoozing at her feet stirred. Misty  propelled herself into Kyra’s lap, faced forward and butted  Kyra’s hand for a petting. Kyra obliged.

“You need a break. After we present the Summit  Station project to the Utah Historical Restoration Society  tomorrow, why don’t you take a vacation? Our next project  doesn’t start until after the New Year.”

His chin jerked toward the keys in her hand. “My  sister’s got a house nearby. Those are the keys.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“She’s ten years younger. We’re not close.” George  shrugged and gave her a don’t-ask-any-questions look. “I  met her for dinner last week. I’d planned on visiting with  her after this job, but she and her husband are spending the  holidays in the Caribbean. I’d rather get home to the girls  than spend a few days alone here. But you could go skiing,  rest, and get whatever it is that’s messing up your mind out  of your system.”

When she didn’t comment on his suggestion, George  placed his elbows on the chair’s arms and tented his hands.  “We’re two weeks behind on this project.”

“I know.”

“We’re known for our reliability. I can’t let it get  around we can’t meet our deadlines.”

She played with the dog’s coarse black hair. George  was the combination of father/brother she hadn’t had  growing up. They’d met when she worked an internship for  him while pursuing her degree in architecture at the  University of Florida in Gainesville.

When she’d graduated, George attended the ceremony  and presented her with a contract of employment. Liking  George and the freedom he gave her with her work, she’d  gladly accepted. She loved the visceral sensation bringing a  neglected building back to life gave her. The way it made  her feel alive and useful—needed. She wouldn’t trade her  job for the world.

But she also knew George couldn’t tolerate incompetence. And in the past month, her work had fallen  just short of that. Those awful dreams sucked all of her  creative instincts.

“It’s not just my reputation that’s at stake. It’s yours,  too,” George continued.

Her hand stopped petting the dog, and Misty twisted  around, demanding Kyra continue.

In all the years she’d known George, he’d always  insisted on approving everything that went out and never  let anything go without his name on it; his way of keeping  integrity, he claimed. His obsession with a scrupulous  reputation kept the personnel flowing through the door at  regular intervals. Except for Betty, his secretary—the only  person who dared talk back at George when he was being  impossible—Kyra was the only person who’d lasted more  than a year.

“What do you mean my reputation?”

George leaned forward, his hands still tented above his  lap. A mischievous grin twisted his face, taking a decade  off his fifty-odd years. “I was going to leave a big surprise  under your Christmas tree.” The smile disappeared, leaving  George’s this-is-serious look behind. “I think I need to let  you mull my proposition over now.”

“What kind of surprise?” She’d never liked surprises,  especially around Christmas. Those brightly wrapped  packages were bound to house a few disappointments, and  she’d never been good at hiding her emotions—which tended to lead to hurt feelings all around.

“A partnership.” George sat back and waited for her  reaction.

“A partnership?!” She straightened on her stool, nearly  bouncing Misty off her lap. She couldn’t believe her ears.  Misty nipped her hand, reminding her of her presence.

“I don’t have a son to pass this business on to.” “But you’re still young—” George held his hand up to silence her. “My daughters  don’t seem to have an interest in what I do, so I doubt they  care what happens to my business when I decide to retire.  You love your work, and you’re the only person I know that  understands the importance of staying true to the past when  you do a restoration. It’s almost as if you can see the past,  see the truth, and somehow balance that with what our  clients want. That’s a rare gift.”

“Is something wrong? You’re not sick, are you?” Her  mind reeled. Having recently lost her mother to cancer, the  thought of losing another loved one frightened her.

“No. I’m just thinking ahead. I’ve got a poor track  record at keeping my employees happy. You’ve been  loyal—more like third daughter, really—and I believe in  rewarding that loyalty. I’m prepared to offer you a full  partnership.”

Oh-oh, here comes the but. “Kyra…”

That was even worse than but. George never used her  name unless something displeased him.

“I won’t give you the partnership unless you straighten  out your problem. I know your mother’s death’s been hard  on you, but to give you half my business, I’ve got to be able  to depend on you in any situation.”

Her nightmares could certainly be classified as a  problem. She’d tried to cope with them, but the more she  concentrated, the worse the unwanted interludes got. The  more she tried to analyze them, the more confused she got.  And going without sleep wasn’t the right answer either.

“What if I can’t get rid of these nightmares?” She held  her breath.

George hesitated before he answered. “I’ll have to let  you go.”

That statement would shock anyone who didn’t know  George, but she wasn’t. She’d come to appreciate George’s  directness. She liked knowing where she stood, and with  George she never had to wonder.

“I’ve got too much work lined up not to be able to  depend on you,” George said. “You can understand my  position, can’t you?”

“Yes, of course.”

She jingled the keys in one hand. Maybe a vacation  wasn’t such a bad idea. She’d hated the idea of spending  Christmas at her mother’s cottage in Florida, alone with her  memories. Christmas spent with a throng of happy skiers  might prove less depressing. Besides, with a good rest the  dark clouds and mental confusion just might go away.  When was the last time she’d had a real vacation?

Seven years was much too long—even if she’d had a  good reason to avoid vacations.

“Are you sure your sister won’t mind?” “Lynn and Brad will be pleased.”

“Why don’t you draw me a map to the house then?”  Kyra reached for a piece of scratch paper on her desk and  handed it to George.

George smiled. “That’s a girl.”

He drew a quick sketch with his bold hand. “I’d rent a  four-wheel drive if I were you. I don’t think your little Del  Sol’ll make it up the side of the mountain they live on.” “Sully can get me through anything.” “Sully isn’t used to hairpin turns on a six degree grade.  I’d feel better if you rented something else. My treat.” George handed her the paper. “It’s number 196 on  Timberline. It says McKane on the mailbox. Can’t miss it.  Is there anything else I can do for you?”

She shook her head and smiled. That was something  else most people didn’t realize, George would give the shirt  off his back for a friend. “No, I’ll be just fine.”

“You know where to find me if you need me.” George  patted her knee, then uncurled his long frame from the  office chair.

“Thanks.”

“You’ll love Park City.”

Park City! Her heart palpitated at the mention of the  town. An irrational fear curled through her stomach. She’d  meant to go there since she’d arrived in Utah, but they’d  been too busy for her to take an afternoon off.

George was halfway out the door before he popped his  head back into the trailer. “Oh, by the way. Brad’s brother  might stop by to check up on the house.”

“The house or me?”

George had the decency to look embarrassed. He’d  known all along she’d accept.

“I’ll be fine, you know,” she said.

“I know.” George pointed a finger at her. “Don’t forget  to rent a sturdier car. I don’t want to have to worry about  you when I’m back in Florida.”

“When are you leaving?” She turned her attention  back to her work and whisked away the involuntary shiver  by running one hand through the reassuring warmth of  Misty’s hair.

“As soon as we’re done with our presentation  tomorrow.”

She chuckled, thinking how George liked to surprise  his wife with his unexpected arrivals and how much Janice  hated not knowing George was on the road. “So does Janice  know this or are you going to surprise her again?” “Surprise her, of course. It keeps everybody on their  toes.”

* *

Kyra shifted uncomfortably in the water, tamping back  the memory. Misty’s cold nose jabbed at her ear. “Sorry,  girl.”

She adjusted the hot tub’s jet more to distract her  thoughts than because they needed it. Misty stretched her  legs out and swiveled her head to look curiously at Kyra.  As she lifted a hand to pet the dog, she dripped water onto  Misty’s coat. Her thoughts drifted once more to the dreams  that were fast becoming the center of her life.

She had no idea where those dismal images of death  and violence, or the feeling of terror accompanying them, had come from, or why they insisted on cluttering her  mind. She knew only that because of them she had a good  chance of losing the one thing she needed more than  anything, especially now—her job.

But for the next few days, she wouldn’t think of  anything except resting and relaxing. Refreshed, she could  put a plan of action together and discover who she was.  Maybe then she’d understand the drifting feeling that had  followed her all of her life.

“What do you think about skiing? I’m thinking of  taking a lesson or two. Something new and different might  distract me.”

As shea sank deeper into the water, Misty’s body  tensed beneath her head. The low rumble of a growl started  deep in Misty’s belly and rose to her throat in both a  warning and a threat. “All right, take it easy. We’ll eat in  just a bit.”

Misty popped to a standing position, adding menace to  her growl with an occasional bark.

Kyra shifted to look at Misty. “What’s wrong with  you, girl?”

Then she heard the noise.

Footsteps. Stealthy, steady.

Her pulse jittered in alarm. She probed the steam and  snowflakes trying to locate their direction. Her heart beat  hard against her ribs, drowning the sound. A man’s face  swam dizzily in the mist. She shrank against the tub’s side,  realizing belatedly how vulnerable she’d left herself.

As he approached, the fuzzy features drifted into  concrete lines—narrow chin, strong brow, clear-cut  cheekbones chiseled roughly in an otherwise pleasant face,  the whole softened by a full, sensuous mouth. Dark hair,  smoky eyes. He moved with a primitive masculine grace  she recognized only too well.

Mac Connor!

Horror washed over her. Feeling light-headed, she  scrambled to get out of the tub. One foot slid from beneath  her. She fell back on the seat with a splash.

Not him. Not now. Not after all this time.

Her body tensed against the avalanche of memories  threatening to spill back into the present. She refused to let them cascade through her brain, fought the edge of panic  building in her chest. She couldn’t lose control now. “What  are you doing here?”

Picking up on her distress, Misty launched herself at  Mac’s jean-clad leg. Growling, and using her thirteen­pound weight as leverage, she fought valiantly to protect  her mistress.

Mac lifted his leg. Misty refused to let go and hung in  midair. “You’re not depending on this miniature Tasmanian

Devil for protection, are you?” he asked with a deep­throated chuckle.

The sound struck her with a fierce longing she thought  she’d long ago set aside. Her thoughts scrabbled like mice  in an attic. “Do I need protection?”

Always a man of few words, Mac didn’t answer. He  lowered the dog back to the deck, and Misty resumed her  growling.

His silence confused her. So did his intense granite  stare. She suddenly became aware of her state of undress  under the frothing water. She hugged her legs against her  chest, looking for the heat which had somehow vanished  from the hot tub.

“Come here, Misty.” The dog gave her an are-you-sure  look without letting go of the leg in her jaws. “It’s okay.  That’s a good girl.”

Giving a sneeze of disapproval, Misty released her  prey and returned to Kyra, plunking her stout body between  Kyra and Mac. She gave Mac one last teeth-baring growl.  Kyra petted Misty, soothing her.

“What kind of animal is that?” he asked, watching  Misty with amusement. Tall and dark, he looked like a  fortress bathed in fog—solid and ephemeral at the same  time.

“A Schipperke. A Belgian barge dog. You haven’t  answered my question.” The shock of seeing him again  gave way to anger. After the humiliation he’d put her  through, she’d hoped she’d never see him again. She  resented him with the passion of a woman rejected,  resented him for showing up in her life at another weak  moment. “What are you doing here of all places?”

“You stole my line.”

And you stole my heart, my soul. How could you leave  me like that? “Don’t you live in California somewhere?” “Not anymore. I thought you lived in Florida.” “I’m here on business. Or was. I’m on vacation now.  You?”

“I own a ski resort nearby.”

She cocked her head, scrutinizing the lines of his face,  trying to imagine the intense, solitary man she’d known  managing a business involving people. She couldn’t get the  math to add up. “You?”

“Yeah, me.” He smiled, and the action transformed his  face.

She sucked in her breath. “What happened?” she asked  without meaning to.

“It’s a long story.”

She shrugged and glanced away. She didn’t care.  Really. Why should she?

Just by standing there in his black ski jacket, jeans,  and boots, he overpowered the space she’d found so  soothing moments ago. She wanted to escape the narrow  confines of the hot tub, wanted to put layers of clothes and  acres of air between them. If only there were a graceful  way of doing it. But staying like this with him looking  down at her with grave gray eyes, made her nervous  beyond reason.

Here goes nothing.

She took a deep breath, reached for the thick beach  towel she’d left on the edge of the tub, and rose from the  water. Fumbling for her sandals in the banked snow on the  deck, she dropped one side of the towel. Mac reached over  and drew the towel around her shivering body.

Their gazes met. His jaw twitched, his eyes appeared  to calculate minuscule muscle contractions at high speed,  like a computer sorting through data. She held herself  straight, not bowing to his intense scrutiny.

“We need to talk,” Mac said. His face turned to  inscrutable granite once more.

“Seven years ago we needed to talk. Right now, we  have nothing to discuss.”

“I understand you’re hurt.”

“Hurt! Hurt doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Do  you think I’ve been pining away waiting for you all these  years? Don’t flatter yourself, Mac Connor. I got over you.” She tried to move past him, but he blocked her way. “I always expected you would, Sunshine.” Was that regret in his eyes? “Don’t call me that.” Misty scrunched her way between Kyra and Mac, and  voiced her disapproval with a sharp yip.

Mac stepped back and raked a hand through his hair.  “Listen, I know this is awkward, but we’ll have to deal with  it. The snowstorm’s made the road nearly impassable.  We’re stuck here together until tomorrow.”

“Why are you here in the first place?”

“Part of my roof caved in, and Brad said I could use  his house while he was away.”

“How do you know Brad McKane?” “Brad’s my brother.”

A cold chill hit her like a slap. “Your brother?” Holding on to her towel with tight fists, she backed  away from Mac. “Your last name is Connor.”

Brad’s brother might stop by to check on the house.  “You knew I’d be here.” The words came out in a harsh  whisper.

He reached for one of her hands. His energy rippled  through the gentle caress of his fingers on her skin. She held her breath once more. Desire and hatred fought a  wicked battle, gushing memories of pleasure and pain,  draining her of all remaining energy. Her head spun as if  someone were twisting a kaleidoscope using her emotions,  shifting them with each turn. Her overtaxed system had  reached overload and threatened to crash at any moment.

“You’ll catch a cold like this,” Mac said gently. “Let’s  go inside.”

“No, explain.”

“My name is Owen Connor McKane.”

Her body turned to ice. “And just when had you  planned on telling me this? For heaven’s sake, we were  going to get married!”

She tried to jerk away from him. He closed the  distance between them. The look in his eyes was  dangerous, his touch possessive, his earthy scent  tantalizing. “I couldn’t tell you.”

“Why? Were you some sort of spy on a secret  mission? What did that make me, Mac? Just a passing  diversion?”

“No, Kyra.” His voice trembled with emotion. His  hands skimmed up her toweled arms, to her neck, and  stopped. He cradled her face with his thumbs. His fingers  on her nape played havoc with her senses.

“Don’t, Mac. Don’t touch me.” Panic slithered through  her like a striking snake. She didn’t want to fall so easily a  second time. Not with this man.

“I had no choice, Kyra. I had to leave.”

She shook her head, fighting the pain, the humiliation,  the tearing loss battering the barely healed wound on her  heart. “But not at the altar, not with no explanation. What  you did was unspeakably cruel.”

“I had no choice.”

She searched deep into the melting glaciers of his  eyes, looking for the potent stability that had grounded her  so powerfully seven years ago, knowing it had proved an  illusion as formless as the steam surrounding them.  “There’s always a choice.”

“And I made the wrong one.” “Why come back now?” “Kyra…”

His lips covered hers gently. She realized with horror  she didn’t feel disgust, but pleasure. He’d betrayed her. She  needed to hate him. Yet her body remembered his heat, his  strength, and responded to him the way it always had. It  melted against him, seeking his warmth, his energy, his  bold passion. She wanted to cry with joy, with pain. Could  he still care?

His mouth on hers shut down the reasoning part of her  brain. As if a few days had gone by instead of seven years,  her hands, of their own volition, splayed over his jacketed  chest and drank in the warmth of him. The exploration of  his hand on the small of her back, his fingers tangled in her  hair eclipsed the years with a river of memories. An  impossible yearning seared her soul.

No! She was furious at her loss of control. She  wouldn’t put herself through the heartache again. Mac  Connor didn’t honor commitment. Mac Connor didn’t honor  love. Mac Connor didn’t honor her. After a month of hard  work, no sleep, and terrifying nightmares, she was in no  shape to handle him.

She snapped their invisible connection. Every nerve in  her body tingled, leaving her feeling adrift. The misty  world she’d found so safe spun like an orbit gone out of  control.

“Kyra? Are you all right?”

His words sounded far away, yet they pounded like a  jackhammer on her eardrums, pulsating between the  whoosh whoosh of her blood. Suddenly, the whole situation  was more than she could bear. As she turned from him, the  world dipped crazily to the left. She bumped her leg against  the edge of a deck chair and stumbled to the door like a  drunk.

“Kyra?”

She lunged for the door and hurried to her room. With  a swipe of her arm, she sent her unpacked suitcase flying to  the floor and fell into bed. She rolled the blue-and-white  monkey wrench quilt around her. She needed warmth. She  needed comfort. She needed safety. And she would find  none of those in Mac Connor’s arms.

Silent tears flowed down her cheeks. Why had he  come back? Why now?

They’d betrayed her. They’d lied to her. Her mother.  Mac. And unless she could find herself again, the  nightmares would cost her what little she had left. She  wouldn’t let Mac, or Owen, or whatever his real name was,  cheat her out of her future.

“Are you all right?” Mac asked, concern in his voice. She hadn’t heard his footsteps and startled. “I’m fine. I  just need to rest. I haven’t had much sleep lately.” A long  rest with no dreams.

“We need to talk.”

“I don’t think so. I think you should leave. And now  sounds like a real good time.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“It never was with you.” She was amazed at the cool  control of her voice.

“There was a lot at stake.”

She shot him a glance over her shoulder. “For me too,  Mac.”

He nodded, backing off for now. “We’ll talk after you  sleep.”

If she ignored him, would he go away? Ignoring hadn’t  worked for her mother’s betrayal. It hadn’t worked for the  nightmares. It probably wouldn’t work for a man with Mac  Connor’s assurance either. He’d be there when she went  back into the other room, waiting.

Misty jumped onto the bed. After licking the salty  tears from Kyra’s face, she snuggled at the crook of Kyra’s  legs. The bedroom door closed with a gentle click.

She thought of their whirlwind romance, their  explosive passion. He’d wanted her, pursued her, and won  her. She’d had no defenses against his relentless energy  then. Now, her defenses were shaky at best. He could still  get to her, hurt her. And where would that leave her?

Dark clouds drifted over the gray sky, blanketing out  the afternoon light. She’d thought she’d be safe here. The  house had seemed to welcome her. From the rough-hewn  cedar planks on the chalet-style house, to the snow drifts  banked cozily around the home, to the interior’s inviting  balance of colors and textures, she’d sensed this house was  just what she needed to whisk away the darkness that had  plagued her since she’d arrived in Utah last month.

But the McKane’s home wouldn’t be the perfect place  to rest. Not with Mac here.

A viscous chill wrapped itself around her shoulders.  She shrugged it away and reached for the flannel  nightgown inside her suitcase. Curling up in the quilt once  more, she sighed. She wouldn’t think of Mac. She wouldn’t  think of her mother. She wouldn’t think of betrayal at the  hands of the people who’d said they loved her.

As she concentrated on blanking her mind, she stared  at the lulling display of snowflakes drifting by her window.  After what seemed an eternity, her heavy eyelids closed.

Please God, don’t let me dream.

As if in answer, the whole mountain on which the  McKane home stood shook in a low, resonating rumble.

Lost in the swirling mist of impending sleep, her last  conscious thought was the deep-seated, absurd feeling that  the mountain on which this house stood was hollow and  hungry and that it wanted her—and that Mac would lead  her there.