By: Joan Swan
“On my own. I know. How long are we going to wait for that to happen? I want to know now. After all I’ve been through, I would have shut down a long time ago if it was going to happen.”
Her gaze flicked to his, then over her shoulder toward Alyssa. Q put his hand under her chin and guided her gaze back to him. “Jessica, I need to know. If it’s too much, I’ll tell you.”
She held his gaze for a moment, then resumed work. “Do you remember anything about the warehouse fire?”
“No. What fire?”
Pain flashed in her eyes. “Our team was called to a warehouse fire. The building was owned by the government and there were chemicals in the warehouse, chemicals that shouldn’t have been stored there.”
She glanced up, searching his face. When he shook his head, she said, “The chemicals exploded in the heat and everyone was critically injured and exposed. We were taken to a military hospital nearby, the only location with quarantine facilities large enough to house us all—or so we were told.”
She paused to refold the rag. Her hands shook. Q found himself leaning forward. “And then what?”
She pulled in a breath, wet her lips. But couldn’t seem to form words. After she started on his other arm, tears slid down her cheek and she rubbed them away with her shoulder.
“And then . . .” she said with a helpless little shrug. “You . . . died.”
“You mean I coded? My heart stopped? And they brought me back?”
“No.” She looked up at him with a sudden and unexpected rage tightening her expression. “I mean someone decided that you would be a perfect science experiment and told the team that you didn’t make it. That you’d died. They took you—”
She choked on her emotions. Struggled for air. Q gathered her in his arms, held her close.
“They took you from us,” she finished against his shoulder, fingers digging into the skin of his back.
Her pain brought tears to his own eyes, but as the view of his life widened, all the happiness, all the possibilities that had been stolen from him surfaced and his fury boiled. He could see how close this team had been. How important he’d been to these people. How drastically and painfully their lives had been changed by his death. He was humbled to have meant so much to such good people and enraged that those bastards had taken such a rich, meaningful, rewarding life away from him.
Jessica pulled out of his arms and sat back on her heels. She wiped at her wet face with her forearm.
“Why me?” he asked. “If we were all in the explosion, if we were all hurt, why did they take me and not anyone else?”
Her hand paused mid-stroke along the top of one foot. She didn’t look up, but her lashes lay against her cheek for a long moment as she closed her eyes. “That’s my fault.”
“You were trying to protect me.” She lifted her head and met his eyes with so much regret, so much guilt, it made his gut ache. “There were two containers of chemicals. One exploded and hit you. When we came in to help, you knew the second would explode, too, so you knocked me down and covered me.”
Q imagined the scenario. A truly heroic act, though Q couldn’t see it as something he’d done. He saw it as something Quaid had done. Something Quaid had done out of a deep love for Jessica.
Were we happy?
Very. We were very happy.
Damnit, there had to be some of Quaid inside him if he still had these strong emotions. And he wanted to remember.
“How did that make me worth taking above the others?” he asked.
“You had double the chemical exposure. It would stand to reason your abilities would be stronger.”
Q sat back. “Abilities?”
“Your powers.” She raised a cautious gaze to his. “Cash told you—”
Q shook his head.
Jessica’s gorgeous mouth rounded into a perfect O. Her eyes widened.
“Well, you’d better tell me now.” A new sense of anger lodged between his ribs. “And you’d better be honest with me, Jessica. I’ve spent all of the life I can remember being lied to, having secrets kept from me. I won’t live like that again.”
Jessica Fury, Washington lobbyist, has money, connections, and her own firm. But five years ago she had something better: happiness. Her firefighter husband, Quaid, was handsome, courageous, and crazy about her. Then one day he walked into a chemical inferno—and never walked out. Jessica has been through hell to get back on her feet. And then a rumor surfaces that could bring a miracle or shatter her world – again.
Q has been a prisoner forever. He’s honed his mind and body into weapons. He’s developed abilities no one else understands. But he’s still at the mercy of a cabal of ruthless men, who blank his memory, test him like a lab rat, and tell him lies. Although his past has been erased and his future looks grim, instinct tells him he has a woman to live for. What his mind can’t remember, his body can’t forget…
The heat is on.
Joan Swan writes sexy romantic suspense for Kensington (Phoenix Rising Series) and independently (Covert Affairs Series). She also works as a sonographer at a top medical facility in San Francisco and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.
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