didnít want to move.
didnít want to even think about moving, but somebody in
her room was pulling her from a blissful if not unusually
deep sleep. As Gia Doyle concentrated harder, she realized
it was not one but a group of people huddled in mass at
the far end of her room. The words they spoke drifted toward
her in slurred phrases and whispers. Nothing was clear,
nothing made sense, but she knew one thing for certain.
She was not going to listen to them for one moment longer.
the hell up! And get out!" She meant it to be a shout, but
it came out as a murmur only hinting at her normal level
of confidence which she was sure the nurses, yes, she could
see now that they were nurses, knew about.
made her presence known to the women in white in her usual
gruff style. A few ran out of the room immediately but one
or two lagged behind. One was a grandmotherly woman with
salt and pepper hair. Gia pointed at her.
Stay." She commanded the nurse like some sort of lap dog.
She wanted to know what she was doing here. What had happened
to put her in the hospital? The elderly womanís nose lifted
in the air and she huffed striding out the door stepping
aside for the man who filled the doorway.
out for that one, Mitch. Sheís a handful."
Grayson laughed and nodded at his nurse. "Donít worry Maddie.
I think I am old enough to take care of myself."
Holland strode out the door with the only other nurse left
in the room hot on her heels.
it something you said?" Mitch smiled at Gia and she turned
away dismissing him as easily as she had dismissed the gaggle
of nurses. "You might as well give it up. Iím not as easily
intimidated as my staff seems to be."
voice was hoarse. "Where am I?" The words came out as barely
in the Legacy infirmary. Seems you had a nasty run in with
else is new?" She started to laugh but the pain cut it short.
checked her chart and picked up her wrist. Her pulse was
stronger now. He was thankful for that. During the night
he thought he might have lost her once or twice. After what
sheíd been through already, he knew this woman was a fighter.
tried to ignore the zinging sensation that traveled up his
arm at the mere touch of her wrist. The primal stirring
in his body reminded him he was still a man, if only by
could see something flash in his eyes. A remembered pain?
As he walked around to the other side of the bed he noticeably
limped. Not much, but a little. His face strained with the
pain. She wondered if it was an old football injury. He
seemed the type. Large muscular chest and arms gave her
the sense that he regularly worked out and his thighs were
nicely filling out his dark slacks.
wasnít usually the type to notice such things. But lying
in bed with a truckload of pain in her side didnít leave
her much else to do.
sat on the far side of the bed, his thigh brushing against
hers through the covers.
me about what happened?"
should she tell him? She didnít remember being shot? She
didnít. She didnít even remember getting home that night.
confusion in her eyes told him all he needed to know.
push it. The memory will come." He eyed her with a certain
amount of awe. "We almost lost you last night ‚Äď twice.
And I can rightly tell you, you had my heart rate skyrocketing
like a needle on the richter scale."
he became more relaxed with her, she noticed his accent.
Southwestern? Maybe Texas or Oklahoma? If that was true,
this doctor was far from the homestead.
sat up unexpectedly. "When can I leave?"
honey." Mitch pushed hear back down against the covers.
"Youíre not well enough to go anywhere. Didnít you hear
me mention the fact of that pesky bullet that tried to take
have more important things to do than recuperate. Get me
the hell out of here or Iíll check myself out." Gia searched
for her gun opening and closing drawers. "And get me my
youíre not gettiní your Glock and youíre sure as hell not
gettiní that pretty little behind out of this bed. If I
have to, Iíll hog tie you to the mattress."
voice lowered dangerously. "You do that I just might have
to show you exactly what I can do to you."
hundred kilowatt smile came unexpected. "Promises. Promises."
Fairchild swung her red hair around and Cassie giggled in
little girl glee. She was so precious. Such a motherís dream.
For three years she was allowed to feel this joy, this all
consuming love from another human being. And Cassie knew
only how to love, not how to hate. But also, the three years
had been a horrible kind of torture. She felt such wonderful
joy and such horrible pain. Pain from losing the one man
in her life who ever mattered. Even now she felt the pain
of having to give up Kevin.
him she didnít think she could be happier, without him she
found herself in a self made misery. It had to be this way.
He wouldnít have understood what she was doing. Or why she
was doing it.
spending time with Cassie seemed to quell the pain and bring
her a temporary peace.
had been completely absorbed playing with Cassie and didnít
notice when her father walked into the room.
my pretty granddaughter doing?" Nathan Fairchildís booming
voice carried across the room. He eyed his daughterís frown
with an arching eyebrow. "Whatís wrong, honey?"
red hair flew back in startled amazement. "Wrong? Why would
there be anything wrong?" Eden couldnít keep the catch out
of her voice.
spoke to her like the knowing father he was. "You miss him.
I can see it every time I look at you."
Eden feigned ignorance. "Him who? I donít know what youíre
talking about, daddy."
know perfect well whom I am referring to. Kevin. Why wonít
you tell me what happened between the two of you? Did he
hurt you? If he hurt you‚Äď"
eyes grew wide. "No, daddy. Never. Kevin would never hurt
me. Iím the one who did the hurting." She closed her eyes
to the truth surging inside of her. "Iím the one who pushed
him away. Me. Not him."
of Cassie." Nathan desperately needed to understand his
adopted daughter. He wanted to understand her. He pulled
Eden into his fatherly embrace holding her to his chest.
found a steady, loving comfort there. She pressed her face
into his white shirt. It smelled of leather and musk.
all my fault." Eden couldnít hold back the tears. "I loved
him and I pushed him away!" The sob caught in her throat.
he asked sternly. "Tell me why."
paused for a moment. "I canít. I promised. I promised I
would never tell anyone. Ever."
was not happy by these confusing developments. "So youíre
going to keep this secret at the expense of your own happiness
God. She had never thought about it like that before.
pulled her away from him and gave her a good shake. "Tell
me, Eden. Tell me everything."
did WHAT?" Nathan Fairchild couldnít believe what he was
hearing. "You told me Ian Fairchild raped you three years
ago while you were at boarding school with your cousin and
thatís why Cassie was born."
fatherís voice shook the ceiling. She knew he was going
to be unhappy, but she didnít think he would become nearly
violent. He looked like he wanted to slaughter someone.
tear slid down her face. She couldnít believe how far she
had let the deception go.
silence at her statement was deafening.
did you lie?" he whispered in a strained, yet controlled
voice. "What in the hell would provoke you to say such a
thing about Ian? You knew what good friends we were. What
did he ever do to you?"
didnít have an answer for him.
daddy. Ian did nothing to me." She paused trying to collect
her thoughts. "He wouldnít even think of touching me. He
knew about my relationship with his brother. With Kevin."
why? Explain it to me. If what youíre telling me is true,
youíve ruined a manís reputation, his career, hell, youíve
ruined his life! Before your and Faithís revelations about
him, Ian was one of the most honest and humble men I knew."
Nathan grew more angry by the minute but he was holding
his fury back waiting for an answer. "Tell me why."
motioned to the nanny who had entered the room and had her
take Cassie outside to play.
canít tell you that," she said after Cassie was well out
of ear shot.
damn well better!" Nathan wasnít one to raise his voice,
but for this, he was making an exception. "Tell me! Tell
me now, Eden!"
struggled against her fatherís iron grip. His hand bit into
her arm. He wasnít going to just let it go. She knew that
now. He knew a fraction of the tawdry story, now he wanted
the rest. He deserved the truth.
she said, softly. I did it for Faith."
asked you to lie about Ian raping you?" Nathan sighed. Then
the horror of it all came crashing down upon him. "My God!"
The implications were repulsive. "If that is true and you
lied about Ian for Faith, I suspect she was lying as well."
daddy. No." Eden couldnít believe what he was suggesting.
She wouldnít have done any of this if she hadnít believe
Ian had raped her friend.
Faith actually tell you he raped her? Or was it Julian who
ran the events of that night through her mind. Why couldnít
she remember Faithís confession? There had been a confession,
hadnít there? Why else would she have suggested such a thing?
She raised a shaking hand to her mouth. "Oh, my God."
a new slant to the situation came into his mind. Cassie.
"If Ian didnít rape you, who is Cassieís father? Is it Kevin?"
Ian is Cassieís father."
know what I said." Eden couldnít help but interrupt him.
"Ian never touched me."
how?" His eyes held hers for the longest time. "That could
only mean one thing. Sheís not yours, is she?"
came upon her in abundance as she hung her head in shame.
Cassie isnít my daughter. Sheís Faithís. Faithís daughter
she collapsed onto the floor of her fatherís study, she
knew that a time would soon come when she would lose the
one thing that had come to mean so much to her, being a
mother to Cassie.
later, Mitch found himself outside the door of Giaís hospital
room. He didnít know why he was there that late at night,
but he felt compelled to check on her one more time before
going home. The leg that had been wounded in battle ached
like it did every night before a big storm. Tonight, however,
the ache was bigger. He guessed it had something to do with
the woman lying in bed on the other side of this door.
had been so long since he even thought about a woman in
that way. And he didnít know why he was reacting to this
particular woman. He knew she was trouble with a capital
T. She wasnít the sort of woman he went after. He preferred
ladies more frilly and ladylike and who dressed the part.
He had a feeling Gia was none of those things. Hell, she
had even barked at Maddie and gotten away with it. What
sort of woman did that?
opened the door and light spilled in from the hallway. She
was tossing on the bed in the throws of a nightmare. He
knew heíd kick himself later, but he let himself into the
room and sat on the side of the bed. He had barely settled
in when Gia bolted upward.
face was filled with pain. When he steadied her shoulders
and her eyes focused in on his, a mask of indifference covered
her lovely face. She shrugged his hands away from her shoulders
like a woman who didnít want to be touched, or one who didnít
feel they deserved the warmth from another humanís hand.
Mitch asked softly, relying on his gracious bedside manner
to get him through this conversation.
was already noticing things he shouldnít notice. The way
the hospital gown molded to her breasts revealing the curves
underneath. The way her breath came in short gasps as she
concentrated on steading her breathing. Even though she
was a good distance away, he could still feel that breath
on his face ‚Äď and he liked it.
donít know. I donít remember," Gia lied.
he said, accepting her answer but knowing soon heíd find
out eventually what tortured her so. "Have you remembered
anymore from the shooting?"
eyes furrowed together in annoyance. "You never give up,
of a good doctor. Tenacious to the end."
could see the spark in his eyes when he talked with her,
and she knew that spark would only get him hurt. So she
set out to dissuade him from ever coming near her.
even think about it, Country." She didnít know why she made
up a nickname for him. Maybe only as something to remember
him by. "Iím not the type of woman you want to get involved
chuckled. "Blunt. Itís what I expected. Am I that obvious?"
a train wreck. Iím serious. Getting involved with me will
only lead you into trouble."
donít know me well enough to hang that on me." Mitch felt
the need to explain his background to her. So much for leaving
her alone and walking away. "For your information, Iím already
in trouble. I work for the Legacy, donít I? I could be sitting
pretty in my old office in Tyler, Texas divvying out pain
medication to senior citizens, but Iím not. Iím here. So
that means I must enjoy trouble. And you sure as hell are
you donít know the meaning of the word trouble." Gia bit
out the sentence in her usual "stand back" tongue, but he
paid no mind to her grumbling.
attitude usually work on people, darliní? Because it doesnít
work with me. I was here when you had that nightmare you
wonít talk about. I know youíre venerable even if you donít
want others to know it."
they sparred back and forth, her eyes glazed with a desire
she found shocking. Sex wasnít something she thought much
about. Sure she had seduced Ian, but that was only a physical
release. This was something more ‚Äď a connection on all
levels. And it scared her. It scared the hell out of her.
It made her realize that she really did have a heart in
her chest after all.
you knew me better, Country, youíd know to stay the hell
away from me. Iím more trouble than you can handle, Mr.
Small Town Boy."
had reached the point where he had had enough. He wasnít
going to listen to her tell him who he could and couldnít
get involved with. So he decided to show her exactly what
he was thinking and feeling.
reached around the back of her neck thrusting her forward
so he could claim her lips. It was thoroughly unprofessional,
but heíd gone past professional the minute he walked into
the room. His mouth roamed against hers tracing her lips
with his tongue.
a moment she remained stiff but as his tongue touched hers,
she moaned and pressed into him harder meeting him and matching
him kiss for fervent kiss.
is crazy," he muttered against her mouth. "We hardly know
he mashed his mouth to her one more time, neither noticed
someone walk into the room. That same person clearing their
throat brought a bit of sanity back into his head.
is it?" he asked, pressing his forehead into Giaís.
like one of those head honcho guys are coming this way.
I thought maybe you might want the heads up. Didnít expect
to see you two going at it like that. My, the young work
fast these days. I was going to give you a month before
you got up your gumption and asked the lady out. I see I
was mistaken." Maddie sniffed and walked back out into the
hallway checking the manís progress."
you, Maddie." Mitch said the words as calmly as he could
but he didnít recognize his voice. It was a husky imitation
of his normal speech.
I guess you want me to go now?"
would be preferable." Mitch turned back to Gia hoping to
not see regret in her eyes. All that stared back at him
was that glassy eyed indifference. Sheíd reverted back into
her mask of security. He wondered if heíd ever be able to
break through it again. "Iíd better see what the man wants.
But know this Gia Doyle, weíre not through with this conversation."
strode out with a new purpose. Why did Gia have a feeling
sheíd never see him again?
had he ever come up here?
Fairchild wiped the fog from the window trying to see better
out of the old pickupís windshield. He couldnít believe
Ethan still had his old truck. Maybe that meant Ethan was
on his side? He could only hope that their twin connection
helped his brother believe that he was innocent of the lies
Faith had spread about him.
deception was even bigger than Ian ever imagined. He had
become the dead scapegoat on which to dump the sins of the
world. Or at least, the sins of the Legacy. And who could
blame them? In their position, would he do the same thing
to some other unsuspecting schmuck?
biggest concern was Julian. So far he had been able to avoid
Julian Black, head of the Black Council, but soon he knew
Black would find a way to cross paths with him. This time,
he was sure Julian would make sure the deed was done correctly.
This time Julian would want him dead -- probably thrown
into a furnace. At least ashes couldnít come alive again
and bring destruction onto Faith.
could remember the fury in Julianís ebony eyes back at the
were few clear details in his mind about the events at the
underground lab. He could remember Julianís hate piercing
eyes, Faithís scream and Gia.
was a patience there he could tell few had ever seen or
witnessed. Even when faced with taunts from Chandelor Knight
and Julian, Gia had still remained on his side.
he didnít know why.
had used her in a selfish way. He knew that. And he suspected
she did too. They hadnít known each other more than a day
before falling into bed with one another. At one point,
he thought he heard her scream Ethanís name, and at the
time, he ignored the word. He and Ethan were easily confused.
They were twins after all.
Ethan was the reason Gia slept with him. Ian hadnít been
around for three years. He didnít know what peopleís motivations
were now. Maybe Ethan and Gia had an affair at one time.
He didnít want to contemplate the possibilities.
just wanted to get away. Away from Faith. Away from Julian
and away from the Legacy and all its inhabitants.
from women period.
turned to ice pellets as the pickup climbed up the mountain.
Going to the mountains had always centered him. It was in
the mountains where he learned to love woodworking. Funny
how the mind remembered such trivial things. And if he hadnít
gone to the mountains he would have been back at Smith Island
in his wood shop carving a chair or a bird house. Anything
to get his mind off of Faith and her betrayal. The pain
was still ripe in his chest. Too ripe too deal with adequately.
wiped at the windshield again as he passed a small sign
for Jackson Pass. Heíd never been to the small town, but
heíd been through there many times in the past. It was a
quaint little village that had stepped back in time. A place
where he believed peopleís word meant something. A place
where the women who were in love with the men didnít betray
he would have to stop there before continuing on up the
mountain to the summit. Maybe heíd find out if his assessment
of their little town was correct.
ahead the road became precariously narrow. Somehow every
trip up the mountain he had encountered a car or bus at
this exact point. He wondered if the folks up here had stranger
radar and rumbled by just to give him a rise in his blood
night was no different than the rest.
tractor trailer came around the bend flashing blinding high
beams into his eyes. He would have been okay if the road
hadnít been icy and he hadnít been distracted thinking of
Faith and the little town of Jackson Pass. The big rig honked
at him. The noise startled him, and he slid into a side
skid. He was pretty far up the mountain now. Far enough
that a drop off the edge of the road could mean death. And
maybe that wasnít so bad.
had been dead and maybe dead was where he should have remained.
The rig careened by nipping the pickup flat against its
bed. The truck was now spinning and skidding, and the edge
was getting closer. Ian did everything he could think of
to bring the truck out of the deadly slide. Nothing he tried
worked. Moments later, the white and red pickup bucked over
the guard rail.
head crashed against the windshield with a sickening thud.
could feel himself slipping away, and all he could think
about was that being dead wouldnít be so bad. At least in
death he would be free of this pain.