Leisure LoveSpell; May 1997
A Shadowed Past…
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.”
“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.
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 cheated the shadow and freed her daughter.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.”
“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.
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.