Authors: Maggie Shayne
Tags: #Book 2, #Shattered Sisters
The Shattered Sisters Series
Copyright 2016 by Margaret S. Lewis
First published 1994 as Forgotten Vows
Cover art and formatting by Jessica Lewis
Editing by Jena O’Connor
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the author. All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They arc not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
This is for Jessica,
my special heroine,
who has a heart as big as
the moon and a smile as
bright as the sun.
I love you.
Postscript: THANK YOU
He was the key.
Joey Bradshaw shifted in the hard little chair and studied him. It was the first time she'd seen him...with her eyes. Everything was the same, though. The square, cruel jawline, the thick, dark lashes that tried to soften its effect, the tiny, crescent-shaped scar amid the curling black hairs at his wrist. His hair seemed blue black against the stiff, white linens. The only difference was that, at the moment, he was breathing. Even his scent was exactly as she’d imagined it. A blend of blatant male virility and some spicy shaving cream. Such a potent mix was a pleasant distraction from the disinfectant aroma of the hospital.
She’d left her half sister Toni in a hospital not far from this one only a few weeks ago. Toni was fine. All wrapped up in testifying against a drug kingpin, promoting her brand new true crime book, and house hunting with the man who’d won her heart and got her a puppy instead of an engagement ring.
Joey’s other sister, Caroline, might not be so fine. And that was why Joey was here.
The handsome man’s eyes opened, blinked into focus and narrowed as he studied her. Beyond his curious expression she saw nothing. They were empty, those deep brown eyes. Vacant, just as the doctors had warned her they would be. It was cruel, what she had to do to him. It might not even work. But what choice did she have, really? She'd foreseen her sister Caroline’s murder. It was going to happen right after the murder of the man in the bed.
"Do I know you?" He sat up slightly as he spoke and the sheet slipped down to his waist. He wore no hospital gown. The sight of his tanned skin, stretched taut over a broad chest sent a little shiver of pure appreciation up her spine. In answer to his question, she nodded.
He shook his head, frustration showing in the way his gaze intensified. "Bad enough I couldn't remember my own name. I can't believe any blow to the head would make me forget
lady, whoever you are."
Heat crept up her neck and yet another round of doubt came with it, She wasn't sure if his lighthearted flirting would make this easier or harder. Especially since the attraction was mutual. She'd prepared herself for the sexual magnetism that drew her to him. She'd sensed it before she'd ever come here—and decided she could handle it. But if it was a two-way street, traveling it might get damned complicated. For a moment she seriously considered getting out of her chair, walking out the door and never turning back. She’d spent too much time in hospitals lately. She’d almost lost one sister to the mob. Now another sister was in the sites of a serial killer.
No rest for the gifted, she supposed.
Then she glanced at his chest again, and in a flash that left her dizzy, she saw it bloody; pale skin between splashes of crimson. She felt the stillness of once-powerful lungs, and the deadening silence of a magnificent heart.
"Hey. Are you okay?"
Joey forced her white-knuckled grip on the chair arms to ease and dragged her gaze from his chest, back up to his milk-chocolate eyes. Numbly she nodded. She shifted in the chair, leather creaking against vinyl.
"You gonna tell me who you are, or am I supposed to guess?"
"You'd never guess in a million years," she said softly to the man she'd never met until today. "I'm your wife."
He shook his head slowly and she could feel how badly it ached. A white bandage at the back of his skull stood like a banner of surrender amid his soft, sooty hair. The car accident that had put him here had caused no other injury. Only that one blow to the head, and the resulting memory loss. For Joey's purposes, it was the perfect opportunity to intervene in a deadly situation.
"My wife." He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again, studying her with poorly disguised skepticism.
"You don't believe me."
He shrugged, eyes narrow, almost mocking. What had happened to the emptiness? Her mind was wide open. The problem was, she had no control over what she "picked up," and what she didn't. The images, the feelings, were random. God knew there were some things she'd rather not feel at all. Sickening, horrible things.
"I don't believe much of anything until I see proof," he told her. "That's just the way I am."
She frowned. "And how do you know
way you are?"
The sardonic smile died and the clouds returned to his eyes. "I don't know. That just came out." He shook his head slowly.
Joey felt a rush of sympathy for him, followed quickly by a rush of guilt. Her presence here wouldn't make things any easier. "It must be pretty lousy, forgetting your entire life." Worse yet, with what she was doing to him.
He searched her face. "I've talked to the people I work with—"
she inserted, just to show him she knew.
He nodded, his gaze intensifying, never wavering from hers. "They filled in a lot of the blanks for me. But no one mentioned a wife. How do you explain that?"
She wasn't unprepared. She'd known which bases would need covering, and she'd covered them. He had no family, or none she'd been able to trace. There would be no doubting in-laws to contend with. She called to mind the lines she'd rehearsed for this moment and cleared her throat. "Did they tell you about your weekend in Vegas?"
He nodded, his face wary. "I went there to follow up a lead on...a story.”
"The Syracuse Slasher." His eyes widened, but he hid his surprise quickly. "Your lead was a dead end. But the trip wasn't entirely wasted." She reached down to the backpack on the floor beside her and pulled out the rolled, ribboned document. The scent of fresh ink worried her, but she doubted he'd notice that. She handed it to him, kept talking as he unrolled it. "When you asked me to go along, I had no idea what you were planning, Ash."
He frowned over the marriage certificate that proclaimed Ashville Allan Coye and Josephine Belinda Bradshaw were husband and wife. For what she’d paid for the thing, he’d better not find a single flaw.
Finally he shook his head. “So I have a wife. It's so odd. It's like I've never seen you before in my life. I hope that doesn't hurt your feelings too badly."
"I knew what to expect." She swallowed, failing to remove the hard lump in her throat
"So we were just married on Saturday?” he asked. “And no one else knew about it?"
"That's right. We arrived back on Sunday night. I went to my house and you went back to your apartment...to pack a few things, you said. When you didn't come back, I didn't know what to think."
"And now that you know?"
She drew a bracing breath and steadied her jangling nerves. It was necessary, she reminded herself. If she let him out of her sight for a minute, it could mean disaster. And this was the only way. She couldn't very well go to the police. They'd laugh her right out of the building. They'd never believe her. Very few people ever had. It was sickeningly ironic that she could get people to accept lies more easily than the truth. The super at the building where Ash lived, for example. He'd bought this same story, hook, line and sinker, and unlocked the apartment for her. If she'd told him the truth, he'd have dialed 911 to report a woman having an obvious psychotic break.
Except with her dad. The one who’d raise her, not the one who’d sired her, He’d never doubted her gift. He'd never accused her of having an overactive imagination. But he was nothing to her now. Less than nothing.
"Well?" Ash prompted, reminding her he'd asked a question.
She straightened her spine, met his velvety brown gaze. "I’m hoping we can pick up where we left off." She let her eyes search his face, tried to put longing into her expression. It was easier than it ought to be. "That is...if you still want to."
Ash felt his eyebrows arch. So she wanted to play house with him. Well, that would require some serious consideration. He studied her again. Her hair was a mixture of honey gold and strawberry blond. It was wild and long. His gaze lingered on her exotically slanted, emerald green eyes and the black velvet forest surrounding them. She was small, no more than five feet tall, and she had incredible legs. No contour was hidden beneath the skintight leather pants she wore. The rest of her shape was concealed by her matching jacket. She smelled like fresh air and leather, and she looked at him like she was trying to see right through him.
"Can we do that, Ash? Pick up where we left off?”
He licked his lips. "I'm thinking." Who the hell
she, anyway? What was her game?
She rose, scooping her backpack from the floor and dropping it on the chair. Then, turning her back to him, she bent over it. He heard the rasp of the zipper, watched her rummage around in the bag. Watching the subtle movements of her black-leather-encased, perfectly round backside, he felt himself inclined to go along with her scheme, whatever it was.
When she turned, she held a pair of jeans—
—and a pale gray button-down dress shirt. Holy shit, she’d been in his apartment.
"These are for when you're released." She opened the narrow closet opposite the bed and busied herself hanging the clothes. She'd brought socks, too, underwear, his cross trainers. He noticed that her hands trembled just slightly as she stowed each item in the closet. "I wasn't sure what kind of shape your other clothes were in, after the accident."
He just watched her. She was obviously nervous, seemingly making things up as she went along. She couldn't seem to hold his gaze or sit still or stop filling the tense silence. "Is there anything else I can bring you? Magazines or books or—"
"No." He was baffled. "Look, um..." He glanced down at the marriage certificate in his hand. "Josephine—" She grimaced and her nose wrinkled. Damn. When she wasn't outrageously sexy, she was unbearably cute.