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Authors: Meryl Sawyer

Tags: #Island/Beach, #Amnesia

Unforgettable

BOOK: Unforgettable
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UNFORGETTABLE

 

Meryl Sawyer

 


I CAN MAKE YOU LOVE ME.

They met at the edge of a Maui rain forest, at the far side of Paradise. In the midst of a raging tropical storm, Greg Braxton found her unconscious, at the bottom of a cliff. She clung to him fiercely, passionately, and whispered the words that both stunned and aroused him. When she awoke, she couldn't remember her name or recognize her own fac
e in the mirror. He called her “
Lucky.

Lucky. It sounded so simple. But she had been luckier than anyone could imagine. She had survived a car crash that should have killed her.

And it wasn't over. Someone was watching and waiting

some
one with sinister ties to Lucky’
s forgotten past. Now, accused of a crime she couldn't remember committing, she had to discover her true identity before someone else did. Her last chance was Greg Braxton, the rugged outdoorsman with the ice-blue eyes who'd saved her life. But dare she t
rust this man she barely knew—
a seductive stranger who could be hiding explosive secrets of his own?

As Lucky found herself drawn deeper into a passionate affair with Greg, she prayed her luck wasn't about to run out

 

 

 

 

The best way to love anything is as if it might be lost.

—G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

1

 

 

T
he bleached-white skull of a moon shot out from between the clouds, lancing the night sky with a single beam of light. The sudden brightness revealed a man squatting on his haunches, a dog at his side. They had been on the rocky ledge overlooking the ocean for more than two hours.

The rain lashed the wind-sculpted bluffs as it had all evening, a storm with blinding bolts of lightning followed by earthshaking thunder. Neither man nor dog even flinched. They possessed the gift of supreme concentration, the ability to focus on their task regardless of the conditions. The man came by it naturally calling on some inner source of strength that had always been a mystery to others.

He had trained the dog to home in on his objective and ignore everything around him. Now they were out for the ultimate test.

Thunder boomed an ominous warning, and with a final flash of light on the turbulent sea and its scudding whitecaps, the moon disappeared behind a bank of churning clouds. The wind rose, howling along the volcanic cliffs and valleys. Chain lightning arced across the sky and seared the tops of the wind-whipped palms.

“There for a second, I thought it was going to clear,” Greg Braxton said to the greyhound at his side. “That would have ruined all our fun.”

Dodger gazed at his master through the pelting rain. His fawn-colored coat was soaked to a deep mahogany. Rivulets of water cascaded off his ears and sluiced down his sleek back to pool around his haunches.

“It’s not going to get much rougher,” Greg told the dog. “We might as well go for it.”

Though his legs ached from being in one position for so long, Greg instructed his mind to ignore the pain. With a flick of his wrist, he signaled for Dodger to rise. The greyhound shifted to his feet, steadier on all four than Greg was on two. Still, it had to be hard on the dog. This was by far the most difficult exercise he’d put him through, but it was necessary. Soon they would fly to the mainland for certification. Before Dodger could qualify as a disaster dog, he’d have to pass a grueling test that even the most highly trained dogs often failed.

“Search,” Greg commanded, turning up his palm.

Like an eagle, Dodger soared off the cornice and landed on the boulder below. He pivoted, whirling to the right, then bounded effortlessly over jagged rocks and loose slag. One misstep and Dodger would plummet to the base of the cliff, where the savage riptide would drag him out to sea.

Greg followed, lightning—nature’s flashlight—guiding him. Scrambling to keep up with the dog, he hobbled over the rough boulders, scythes of wind-driven rain slashing at him. Despite the rocky terrain, leafy ferns had taken root, making the rocks dangerously slippery.

“Dodger! Where are you going?”

The dog veered sharply to the left, not to the right where Greg had planted the vial. It was hidden so carefully in a lava rock crevice that he doubted he could find it again. The vial
of scent had been distilled from a cadaver and was used to train disaster dogs.

Pseudo-corpse was expensive as hell. So what d
oes Dodger do? Runs away from th
e “body in a bottle.” Greg took a second to catch his breath. Okay, this is what happens when you let a dog’s mournful eyes get to you. Dodger had been bo
rn
to race—and trained like a robot to chase a mechanical rabbit. Maybe the greyhound couldn’t be retrained.

Greg turned to go back to the camp. Three sharp barks pierced the air, all but lost to the wind and the rain.

“What in hell was that? Couldn’t be a signal!” Above the drumbeat of the rain and the wind scouring the volcanic ridges, three sharp barks rang out again. “Christ! It
is
a signal.”

Greg sprinted across the jumbled remnants of the age-old lava flow. The rain flew sideways in the wind, blasting his face like bullets and funneling down his chin into his slicker. He finally found Dodger. “What do you see, boy?”

The dog peered down the sheer drop, one foot raised, pointing like a retriever. Good, Greg thought, at least he had learned to point out targets even if he couldn’t locate the vial of pseudo
-
corpse. Lightning flashed, momentarily flooding the area with an eerie violet-white glow.

“No way!” Greg muttered, spotting the car at the base of the cliff.

His mind must be playing a trick on him. It was too much like another night when he’d looked down from a road and had seen a car at the bottom of an embankment. Of course, it hadn’t been raining that night, and he hadn’t been alone. The Maui Search and Rescue Team had been with him. But they’d been too late.

Greg mentally gave himself a hard shake. That was then and this is now. He yanked out the flashlight fastened to his belt and concentrated the beam on the rocky beach below. The tunnel of light stabbed through the darkness and hit a white Toyota.

“Where’n hell did it come from?”

Greg had ch
osen this remote spot because th
e road ended a mile behind him. The Hana side of Maui was rain forest, and what passed for a road washed out whenever the Pineapple Express blew in and drenched the Hawaiian Islands. The road had been impassable for the better part of the day, but some fool had ventured out. Was the fool still alive?

He put his finger in the air and twirled it as if starting the Indy. Dodger responded to the signal and sprinted down the steep ravine. As the dog vaulted over the rocks, Greg calculated his chances of bringing anyone up the embankment. He had some gear back at the camp, but not nearly enough.

Summoning help was out of the question. The crack rescue team in Kihei would need a helicopter to get to this remote site. Sure as hell, the chopper would be grounded by the weather. There was a police substation back in Hana, but the road had been closed by the storm.

Dodger was almost near enough now to determine if the person inside was alive or dead. Greg couldn’t help thinking this was a good test. Part of the canine certification exam would be to find a body underwater. Body gases lifted off the water at the spot where a person went down. One whiff and a trained dog could pinpoint the location and determine if the victim was dead or alive.

Tonight there’s more than enough water to call this an aquatic test.
He shielded his brow from the rain and squinted into the tunnel of light. Dodger barked once, then waited exactly five heartbeats before barking again.

“How could anyone have survived that fall?”

Greg charged over the rocks, leaping across several small boulders until he reached the pup tent where he’d set up camp earlier. Inside was a small emergency kit, a length of rope, and heavy-duty gloves. The bare essentials were all he’d been able to bring on his motorcycle. He brought them out of habit, never expecting to need them.

“Let’s hope this rope is long enough,” he mumbled to himself as he dashed back to the bluff. “Or else you’re a dead man.”

He secured the rope around the largest boulder he could find. He yanked on his gloves and repelled down the treacherous embankment much faster than was safe. His boots slammed down on the boulder at the base of the steep ravine. Waves that usually rolled onto the peaceful shore now pummeled the beach, blasting the rocks with blinding clouds of spray and flinging chains of seaweed into the air.

“Good work, boy,” he yelled to Dodger over the thunderous roar.

As he opened the door, he saw the interior of the car was dry and dark, but a flare of lightning revealed a woman slumped sideways from the driver’s seat to the passenger side of the car. She was slight with a wild mane of blonde corkscrew curls that hung to her shoulders. He reached for her wrist and immediately found a strong pulse.

Greg pulled out his flashlight to determine the extent of her injuries and didn’t see anything more serious than a few bruises. She’d collapsed facedown, and in the clusters of wild curls he saw a little blood seeping from the back of her head.

“A head injury,” he said over his shoulder to Dodger. “Doesn’t look bad, though.”

He stood there a moment, the rain drumming across his back and splashing into the car. The storm was moving inland; he imagined the thunderheads stacked like pyramids against the buttress of Haleakala. The dormant volcano blocked tropical storms, making this side of the island a rain forest.

Great. He could count on this ravine being under water when the runoff from Haleakala became a flash flood. How long did he have? Not more than a few minutes, half an hour at most.

“We don’t have any choice,” he said to himself, but Dodger answered with a sympathetic whine. “We have to move her.”

He gently turned the woman to face him, then checked again to see if she had any serious injuries. She might have internal injuries, but he doubted it. How lucky could someone get?
I
t
was a one in a million chance that anyone could survive a crash like this.

He took a closer look at her face. An angel in a whore’s makeup. Her heart-shaped face, framed by wild bleached blonde curls, sported cherry-pink lipstick and eyelashes with enough mascara and shadow to have wiped out an entire cosmetic counter.

The tiger-print dress she wore was just as cheap. It had a short skirt that skimmed the tops of her thighs and a halter top too small for her breasts. Sexy as hell, though, if she was your type.

“Hardly the girl next door,”
he said to himself. An image o
f Jessica appeared out of nowhere. During the last two years Greg had willed himself never to think about his dead wife— and he’d succeeded—until now. Jessica had appeared as wholesome as if she had just baked cookies. Maybe it was better when they looked like this woman. At least you knew you were dealing with a tramp.

 

 

G
reg stumbled toward his tent, not certain if he could make the last few steps without dropping the woman. He elbowed the flap open and laid her on the air mattress. He collapsed beside her, breathing like a racehorse. She wasn’t heavy, but the trip up the ravine had been brutal. If he hadn’t been in Olympic shape, he would never have been able to ca
rr
y her.

A whine caught his attention. “Come in, Dodger,” Greg called. “I don’t have the strength to dry you.”

The dog nosed his way in, then shook, spraying the inside
o
f the tent with water. Greg almost laughed. He’d purposely brought the tent so they could be dry after the test
. Between Dodger and their rain-
soaked clothes, it was as wet inside as it was outside.

Dodger settled at his feet while Greg hung the flashlight from its noose at the top of the tent, then reached for the Mylar blanket he kept with his emergency supplies. He unfolded the
long foil sheet from a small pouch. The storm had brought a damp chill to the warm tropical air that wouldn’t be good for someone in shock.

“Doesn’t look like the same person, does it?” he asked Dodger.

The grueling climb up the ravine in the pouring rain had washed away the woman’s garish makeup and soaked her wi
r
y curls so that they hung in limp strands to her shoulders. The rain had plastered her dress to her body, outlining her slim hips. The halter top seemed even smaller now, the sheer fabric revealing the fullness of her breasts.

“I’m losing it,” he muttered as he wrapped the blanket around her. Not only was he talking to his dog more than usual, but now the woman was beginning to seem attractive. “Okay, so go out and get laid.”

He could think of a half-dozen women who’d let him know that they’d be thrilled to accommodate him, but after Jessica’s death, none of them held any appeal. He secured the blanket around the woman’s torso, concealing her provocative breasts, then worked his way down to her feet.

“She’s damn lucky,” he said, nose to nose with Dodger in a tent designed for one person. “She might have a slight concussion, that’s all.”

Dodger wagged his tail, fanning the moist air that was musky with the smell of rain-soaked clothes, wet dog, and body heat. Greg pulled off one of her tennis shoes, thinking it was a weird choice of shoes considering the sexy dress. He was working on the laces of the other shoe when he realized they didn’t match.

“What’s this?” He held them up to the dim light shining from overhead. One shoe was a size six with red corkscrew shoelaces, while the other was a size seven and had ordinary laces. “Why’s she wearing a size six?” he asked, and Dodger cocked his head. “Her toes had to be doubled over.”

He inspected her fee
t, the light even dimmer now, th
e
fl
ashlight sure to conk out at any
moment. Her toes were painted
the same cherry-pink as the lipstick she’d been wearing. The skin on her right foot was scored with indentations from the smaller shoe.

“Ooookay. It takes all kinds.” He tucked the Mylar around her feet. Then he shucked his
slicker, tossed it into the corn
er, and shrugged out of his shirt.

Greg heard the crackle of the foil blanket. He spun around and saw the woman was sitting up, the Mylar barely covering her breasts, her eyes open. When he’d checked her pupils, he’d noticed that her eyes were green, but now as she stared at him, he saw they were kelly green with gloss-brown lashes and delicate brows that flared upward. Her eyes were so astonishing that he sucked in his breath.

BOOK: Unforgettable
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