Authors: Meryl Sawyer
Tags: #Island/Beach, #Amnesia
Some distant bell rang, telling him that he needed protection. Aw, crap! The only box of condoms he had was in the glove compartment of his car because he always went to the woman’s bed, never bringing her to his. That realization brought a tiny ray of sanity to a brain hijacked by his libido. This woman wanted him to have sex with her—another tie that would bind him to her. She was counting on him not being able to resist her.
So far it was working. Every chance he’d had, he’d been all over her. And taking her once wouldn’t be enough. That much he could tell by the little he’d already sampled. Then she would have a hold over him. He would be damned before he’d be led around by his cock.
The idea was startlingly simple and unbearably erotic. Yeah, take charge. Of course, he would have blue balls for a week, but he would have the satisfaction of not allowing another woman to manipulate him.
With the moist tip of his tongue, he scorched a path of kisses down the flat plane of her belly, shoving aside the nightgown
as he went. The sweet delicious scent of her skin became sexier when he reached the dark patch of silky curls, which made him shudder with anticipation. It was all he could do to control his own body.
His fingers skimmed through the slick curls. “You’re so wet,” he said and she responded with a low moan. “So sweet.”
He eased his finger inside her, surprised at how tight she was even though she was more than ready. With his tongue he found the right spot and stroked the supersensitive skin.
What are you doing?
she asked with a gasp.
“Panning for gold.” He almost laughed at the stupid joke, but he was so close to losing it that he needed to divert his attention. She was driving him crazy, but he’d be damned before he would let her know.
It only took a few seconds—she was easier than he’d anticipated—and she began to shudder from within.
“Oh, my,” she cried. “Help me.”
Greg rolled onto his back, huffing like a racehorse. Okay, so there was a stick of dynamite in his pants and a willing woman beside him. He could get through this, he assured himself, resisting the temptation to roll over and bury himself to the hilt inside her.
As it turned out, there wasn’t any temptation to resist. The even cadence of Lucky’s breath, and the rise and fall of her breasts told him she’d fallen asleep. He was left staring at her gorgeous body, wondering if she’d gotten the message: No woman was going to manipulate him.
omeone named Greg Braxton posted her bail,
the Orchid King informed his partner.
“What do we know about him?”
His partner hunched forward, concentrating on the computer screen that was tracking orchid shipments out of Singapore. There was only a trace of concern in his partner’s voice, but the king knew better. His partner was upset she had found
another man. With a man to help her—she was dangerous
if she remembered what had happened.
“Braxton is the man who found her,” the king explained. “He’s a volunteer with the local search and rescue unit, but he works at the Marine Institute.”
His partner turned to him. “Is Braxton married?”
“No. His wife died in an accident over two years ago.”
“So Miz Nine Lives sucked him in, huh?”
“Looks like it,” the king admitted. “Wonder what she’s up to. Maybe she really doesn’t remember.”
“She’s fakin’ it. The only reason she hasn’t exposed us is that I have the ace.”
A few minutes later the king was walking up the path to his home, still concerned about the whole situation. He knew his partner was right, though. The ace was the key.
Greg Braxton was the wild card. The name alone conjured up an image of a tough guy. And a smart one. The data banks the king had accessed—and he’d hit every one—told troublingly little about the man.
MIT on a scholarship. Worked
full time throughout college. Afterward he’d received a grant to do research at the marine facility at Woods Hole, then he’d returned to Hawaii.
The king didn’t like not knowing more. Most people left tracks that could easily—and anonymously—be traced through the Internet. But not Braxton.
Worse, he could imagine the woman he loved in Braxton’s arms. It made him want to kill them both.
ucky gazed out the kitchen window. The sun glistened on the waves like a thousand fallen stars.
It feels so good to be alive.
The world seemed beautiful and new and full of promise. The opposite of last night, when she had hidden in the closet.
She returned to the macadamia nut pancake batter and wondered how she would face Greg when he awoke. The memory of what he’d done made her ache with pleasure, but obviously
the man had problems. He seemed virile and totally capable of making love to her the way she instinctively knew he should. But he hadn’t.
It was probably a physical thing. No, that didn’t seem right. He’d been erect, yet he hadn’t made love to her properly. What was wrong with him? Maybe it was something that she was supposed to do or know—like the mongoose.
Lucky felt Dodger’s cold nose at the hem of her shorts and knew Greg must be up. As she reached down to pat the dog, she heard him walk into the kitchen.
“Been up long?” he asked.
She turned to him with a smile. “A couple of hours. Long enough to make coffee and start on pancakes.”
He poured himself a mug of coffee. He was still wearing the shorts he’d had on last night and his hair was mussed, giving her a hint of how he must have looked as a boy. Greg, turned, and his eyes met hers over the rim of the cup.
The hot flush of humiliation that she’d felt so often surged through her once more. “I’m sorry about last night. The closet part, I mean.”
He shrugged it off, but she wondered what he was really thinking.
“I feel so much better now.” She tried for a light tone. “It’s amazing what a few hours’ sleep can do.” Greg sat at the table without responding, making her want to fill the uncomfortable silence. “I’ve been thinking,” she continued, quickly turning away from his questioning eyes.
Actually, she had been doing more than just thinking, Lucky acknowledged as she ladled a dollop of batter onto the griddle. She had been up for hours and had made a call, learning no one had come forth to identify her. She couldn’t continue to impose on Greg; she had to take action.
“I’ve been thinking,” she repeated, facing him again. “There’s no medical reason I shouldn’t remember my name. Yet I can’t. I honestly can’t. But what if I were hypnotized?
I’d say my name just like that”—she snapped her fingers. “Right?”
Greg stared at her, his face expressionless, but she sensed that he thought this was a wild idea. Lucky turned away, inspected the air bubbles in the batter, and flipped the pancake.
“I think Cody could locate a psychologist who uses hypnotherapy,” he finally responded.
“Thanks,” she said, but she barely had the word out when the crunch of tires sounded on the lava rock lane that led up to the house. It was a police Bronco. Suddenly, she was afraid, yet unexpected anger surged through her, eclipsing her fears. Why couldn’t the police just leave her alone?
he minute Cody walked through the door and saw Greg at the kitchen table, an intense surge of relief swept through him. His brother was safe, alive. And as sullen as ever.
“What brings you out here?” Greg’s tone could have frozen vodka.
Rather than admit how worried he’d been, Cody slid into a seat and began to explain.
I thought that you might want to know what the FBI fingerprint search revealed.”
“No, you didn’t.” Lucky gave Greg a plate of pancakes that made Cody’s stomach growl. “You were worried that I’d killed Greg, weren’t you?”
Cody met her furious gaze, then he turned to his brother. Greg was staring at him, waiting to hear why he’d driven all this way when he could just as easily have used the phone. “I was at the station when Lucky called. She asked if she’d been identified yet. The duty officer called me over, and I told her that she wasn’t in the FBI’s computer. Then I asked to speak to you, but she wouldn’t—”
“Greg needed his sleep,” Lucky interrupted as she handed Cody a cup of coffee. “I didn’t want to disturb him.”
“What were you doing at the station on Sunday morning?” Greg asked.
“A meeting.” Cody shrugged as if it hadn’t been important. He didn’t want to tell Greg how hard Tony Traylor was pressing him to make a case against Lucky. As head of the joint council, Traylor packed a political wallop that would make most mainland politicians green with envy.
“The hiker’s been dead for over a year, but her remains are going to be exhumed and sent to the FBI facility in Quantico for analysis.” He didn’t add that Traylor had insisted on this. Cody had resisted; no policeman wanted the Feebies homing in on their territory telling them how to do their jobs.
Greg said, “You must have some theory about this case.”
“Lucky’s fingerprints aren’t in the police computers or the DMV data banks in any of the larger states. Could be she’s from a small state that hasn’t computerized yet.”
“What do you
think?” Lucky asked.
Cody realized that she was far too perceptive. He’d thought she would be easy to ID, but that hadn’t proved to be the case. He’d developed another theory.
“I think that you were here with a married m
an. You had a fight with him…
or something. When you ended up in the hospital, he couldn’t come forward without exposing his illicit affair.”
“You’re saying I’m someone’s mistress.” Lucky slowly sank into the chair, her expression grim.
“That doesn’t explain why she was wearing a dead woman’s shoe,” Greg interjected.
“My theory doesn’t cover everything.” Cody took a swig of coffee. “Someone knows who Lucky is. They must have a good reason for not coming forward.”
“What are you going to do now?” Greg wanted to know.
“I’m sending her prints to the DMVs in smaller states to be hand-checked. It’ll take time, but it yields results.”
“Don’t waste the taxpayers’ money.” Lucky stood, then walked over to the stove. “Find someone to hypnotize me. Then I’ll be able to tell you my name.”
“Great idea. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“I have no idea,” Greg replied, his voice laced with sarcasm. “I’ll go back to the station and check our records. Seems to me there’s a list of all kinds of reputable therapists.”
Cody sipped his coffee, conscious of the tension in the air. At first he assumed it was a time bomb of anger that had ticked inside Greg since Jessica’s death, threatening to explode. But as they discussed contacting the hypnotherapist, he realized that the tension was between Greg and Lucky. She seemed to be subtly trying to please him, handing him more of those mouth-watering pancakes and refilling his coffee. His brother never spared her a
glance, refusing to look directl
y at her— until she turned away. Then he tracked her every movement. Uh-oh. He’s falling for her.
Not that he could blame his brother. Lucky had sex appeal in spades. A dynamite figure. A pretty face with unusual green eyes. With that bleached hair pulled into a braid and the tan shorts, she almost looked like a model for L.L. Bean. But
Cody kept seeing her on the gurn
ey in that too-tight, cheap dress with her wild hair. No. There was nothing wholesome about Lucky.
She was intelligent, though. He would grant her that. You could see it in the way she sized up a situation and came up with solutions, like being hypnotized. He sensed the chip on her shoulder and the conniving attitude.
He’d bet a year’s salary that under hypnosis Lucky still wouldn’t remember her name. It was just a ploy to make Greg believe in her. No doubt Lucky had her own reasons for not wanting to be identified.
reg silently followed Cody out to his car. For a moment, while they’d been sitting in the kitchen eating, it had seemed
like old times. Cody dropping by, hanging around for a third cup of coffee.
But everything had changed.
Greg wanted to ask about Cody’s boys and about the baby he’d never even seen. But he’d be damned before he would give in to the urge. He refused to be dragged back into his brother’s life again.
“You’ll find someone to hypnotize her, won’t you?”
“I’ll get on it right away,” Cody promised as he opened the Bronco’s door. “You agree with me, don’t you? Lucky’s someone’s mistress. She wasn’t here alone.”
Greg shrugged, remembering how Lucky had looked when he’d first seen her. Mistress was far too glamorous. A two-bit hooker was more like it.
Cody leaned against the open door, his arm casually draped over it. “Lucky’s just like Jessica. Can’t you see that?”
Greg gazed past Cody at the wind-ruffled water, striving to maintain his control. Just hearing his brother say Jessica’s name made him want to hit something. Yet he knew Cody was right. Why in hell was he destined to become involved with tramps?
“Lucky was afraid to go to sleep last night. She hid in the closet with a knife to protect her. I think someone’s after her, but she doesn’t remember.”
Cody listened with a knowing nod.
Maybe it’s not a married man. Maybe she’s up to her pretty little eyeballs in some drug deal that went sour. Remember, she crashed on the remotest part of this island, not far from where the Feds caught the
—the Hawaiian mafia—sub last winter.”
Greg couldn’t argue. Running a small submarine that usually took tourists around the coral reefs, the
had been stopped by federal agents. A cache of pricey “Maui Wowie” from marijuana plants in the rain forest had been aboard.
Drugs were a possible explanation, but there was still a seed of doubt in his mind. That cry in the night and Lucky’s face when he’d awakened her disturbed him. A piece of the puzzle was missing, yet Greg didn’t have a clue as to what it was.
“Guess I was wrong,” Cody said, climbing into the car. “I thought for sure she’d have you in the sack by now.” The door closed with a heavy thud and Cody leaned out the window. “That’s what she’ll try to do, you know. Women often use sex to get what they want.”
The Bronco shot forward, spraying bits of crushed lava and leaving Greg standing there, itching to haul into Cody with both clenched fists. He watched the car until it was out of sight, then slowly walked around the house to the rocky beach. Usually, the sea calmed him, easing his tensions and making him forget the past. He watched the undulating waves for some time, but it didn’t help.
The anger he’d suppressed for so long had eaten away at him, changing him. He could live with that change and pretend the past never happened until now. Until Lucky. She was forcing him to deal with his brother. And with the anger that still burned white-hot like the core of a flame.
The flame burned even hotter because Cody was absolutely right. Jessica had used sex to get what she wanted. When he didn’t pay enough attention to her, Jessica would have an affair. Nothing serious, she would say, crying and claiming to love him—just a “fling.”
The first time he’d forgiven her, but the second time, he asked for a divorce. And Jessica had tried to kill herself. He’d taken her back, truly believing she was sorry and knowing her lifelong battle with depression meant she often thought about killing herself. For a while things had improved then he realized she was involved with someone. It had never occurred to Greg that it was his own brother.
“Stop thinking about it,” he said out loud. He couldn’t do a goddamned thing about the past, but he could prevent Lucky from manipulating him the way Jessica had. The sooner they identified her and she was out of his life, the happier he would be.
After what he had gone through last night, he’d have aching balls for a week, but at least he had shown her who was in
charge. Tonight she could just sleep in the damn closet for all he cared. He wasn’t taking her into his bed and giving her another opportunity to seduce him.
hat do you think he’s doing out there?” Lucky asked Dodger. She had been watching Greg from the kitchen for the last fifteen minutes. He was still sitting on a chunk of lava rock and staring out at the sea. “Come on, Dodger. Let’s see if he wants company.”
Outside, the sky was so clear and blue it made her want to skip. With Dodger at her heels, Lucky crossed the small grassy area to the glistening ribbon of sand that wound between the dark lava rocks and the shimmering water. Garlands of deep green seaweed were being nudged ashore by a never-ending troop of waves pebbled with whitecaps. When she reached Greg he didn’t turn around, even though he must have heard her approaching.
“Greg.” She touched his shoulder with her hand. The warmth of his body, its solidness and the security he represented, caused a sudden tightness in her chest. He pulled away with a quick flex of his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Sit down,” he told Lucky without looking at her.
She sat on a small rock nearby, bracing herself for what could only be more bad news. Dodger settled himself at Greg’s feet, leaving her alone. Greg was silent and avoided looking at her, the same way he had all morning. Lucky gazed out at the sea that stretched in one magnificent aquamarine sweep to the horizon. It seemed so vast and empty, echoing the loneliness she felt.
“We need to talk,” Greg said, finally turning to face her.
Clear and startlingly blue, his eyes gazed into hers with disturbing intensity. In that instant, she was again lost to a feeling that was quickly becoming too familiar. She wanted this man to believe in her, to care about her. It took her a second to remind herself that this was just wishful thinking,
and that the longer she indulged in it the harder it would be to accept the truth: Greg didn’t care about her the way she longed for him to do.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“Someone is after you. That’s why you were hiding in the closet. Wh
y don’t you tell me about it?”
There. He had stopped waffling and made his decision. He didn’t believe her. As much as she might have wished otherwise, she’d known all along how he felt. Lucky had no idea why it was so terribly important that Greg believe in her, but it was.
“You know I can’t remember the past. The doctors say I hav
e Hoyt-Mellenberger syndrome—”
“True, but there seems to be some dispute about how much someone remembers when they still have their sense of smell.”
“Really? Why didn’t anyone tell me this?”
He shrugged and looked away, as if the gulls squabbling over a small fish in the tide pool nearby were more important than she. His reaction triggered a wellspring of anger that surfaced with unexpected suddenness. I have a quick temper, she realized.
“I didn’t tell the police everything,” he continued, taking her by surprise. He turned to her, his expression deadly serious, and she knew s
he didn’t want to hear this. “
The night I found you in the car you were wearing lots of makeup. The way you were dressed in an outfit that was indecently short and too tight across your breasts made me think that yo
In that instant, she somehow knew that he had more to say, and she shuddered inwardly.
What else? I might as well know everything.”
You were in some sort of trance or something.
He shifted uncomfortably, but his gaze remained steady. “You couldn’t keep your hands off me. In two seconds you had my zipper down—”
“No way!” She jumped to her feet, furious. “You’re wrong!”
Why are you yelling at him? asked a little voice inside
head. Greg’s an earnest, honorable man. He saved your life. Control your stupid temper.
“I unzipped your pants?” she asked, her voice low, and he nodded.
Oh, God, it couldn’t be. But she remembered the gaudy pink polish and the wild-looking woman in the mirror. She also remembered
last night. She hadn’t been able to resist the urge to touch him and she had kissed him, starting everything.
Dear Lord, could she actually be the woman in the mirror?