She didn’t stumble, she continued walking, balancing perfectly on the high heels even as she thought that if she had to run, it would take precious seconds to shed the impractical footwear.
“Desmond usually comes on these little forays with me.” Her mother continued chatting. “It’s too bad he had that meeting this afternoon in D.C. He could have accompanied us.”
Lilly had breathed a sigh of relief when Desmond had announced he couldn’t take the trip with them. For some reason, she no longer felt as though she could trust the uncle she had once cherished. That feeling left her off balance as if she couldn’t trust anyone anymore.
It was locked in her memories. All the answers she needed were locked behind the veil of shadows that had wiped out the past six years of her life.
What had happened the night her father’s car had gone over that cliff with her in it? Had they argued? Had they been in danger? Why had they left the party that night without telling anyone or making their excuses?
None of the explanations she had been given when she awoke in the hospital nearly four months ago made sense. She had lost more than just memories. Lilly felt as though she had lost herself as well.
She had lost her life, her father. Her mother and uncle felt like strangers, and where was the brother who had always tried to protect her? When he had come to see her in the hospital, he had disowned her as a lying, scheming tramp attempting to steal his sister’s identity.
And perhaps that hurt most of all. She had idolized Jared. To have him turn on her had broken her heart in ways she feared would never heal.
“You’re too quiet, Lilly. How do you hope to ever acclimate if you refuse to try?” Her mother’s voice was hard now, censorious. “I still think you needed time to heal further. The clinic in France . . .”
“Mother, really.” Lilly smiled gently, consolingly. “I’m acclimating fine. I’m just getting my bearings, I promise.”
“And you would tell me if it were otherwise?” her mother questioned, concern softening the hardness in her tone.
“I promise I will,” Lilly lied.
“The dress becomes you.”
Lilly froze at the sound of the voice at her ear, slightly husky, rich and dark, like the finest black velvet rubbing against the senses.
She knew that voice. It sank inside her, caressed against memories that chafed beneath the shadows and eased a sense of fear that had been riding inside her for the past months.
She hadn’t realized how frightened she had been until that clenched, tight part of her soul seemed to relax marginally.
“I think I prefer the jeans, boots, and thigh holsters you wore in Afghanistan better, though.”
She felt his cheek against her hair as her heart began to race, to pound erratically with fierce anticipation. Her body suddenly became too sensitive, too warm, as a distantly remembered heat began to flare inside her.
“Et.” The halting sound delayed her attempt to turn around. “Stay still, no need to turn around yet.” There was an edge of darkness in his voice as he gripped her hip with one hand and held her in place.
There were too many sensations racing through her body now, too much heat and too many pinpoints of emotion that she couldn’t make sense of.
“Who are you?” she hissed as she gazed around desperately, wondering where her mother had gone off to, wondering what she would think of the man standing much too close to her daughter.
“You don’t remember me?” There was an odd note in his tone, one she couldn’t decipher quickly. “As much trouble as we’ve instigated together? I think I’m offended, Belle.”
A sense of vertigo assaulted her at the chiding tone.
“Evidently I don’t.” She fought to still her racing heart, to ease the harshness of her breathing.
“I heard you’d been wounded. Evidently the rumors of lost memories is true.” The comforting tone to his voice did nothing to still the alternating emotions that were suddenly tearing through her. “Trust me, baby, you know me.”
She believed it. She knew it. She could feel that knowledge heating her body.
“Then I can look at you.” She kept her voice low, as he did, her gaze continually scouring the interior of the shadowed store for anyone that could be watching or listening.
“Not yet. Turn around and I won’t be able to help myself. Your mother would find you in a very compromising position. She doesn’t seem the type to look the other way if she caught her daughter being seduced in a back corner of an antiques store.”
Her mother would be absolutely mortified. Furious.
“Do you remember Friendly’s Sports Bar?” he asked then.