Read Intimate Strangers Online

Authors: Denise Mathews

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency

Intimate Strangers (6 page)

BOOK: Intimate Strangers
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"Is there something wrong, Martha?" Sara finally broke the silence, mystified and a little uncomfortable under the woman's scrutiny.

Clearing her throat, Martha answered softly, "Maybe you could answer that better than me, Miss Sara. But I was just standing here thanking our lucky stars that you're home and getting well. That was a horrible accident you had."

Startled by Martha's response to her question, Sara asked, "Why would you think I could answer my question better than you, Martha? Roarke told you I have amnesia and can't remember anything that happened before I woke up in the hospital. I'm pleased you're glad I'm here, but I have the feeling that something isn't right and you know what it is."

Martha started moving toward the door. "Miss Sara, I've taken care of Mr. Roarke for years, and when you came to this house as a bride, you were like a daughter to me. I couldn't love you two any more if you were my flesh and blood. I've tried never to interfere in your lives and I'm not about to start now. This has been a terrible time in this house, and now I pray that it gets back to normal. Anytime you want to talk or if you want to know something, just ask me. I'll tell you everything I can. It's just so wonderful to have you home."

Sara was surprised to see Martha reach up and wipe a tear off her cheek and was speechless as the woman left the room. What a strange conversation!

Her coffee cup clattered against the saucer. Why did any conversation she have with anyone who had anything to do with her past have to be so cryptic? It seemed to her that she had more questions than answers. No one seemed to want to help her remember, not Roarke and not Martha.

Sara pushed her chair away from the table slowly, got to her feet, and hobbled around the room. Her habit of pacing the small hospital room to relieve her tension unconsciously took over. The one thought that kept surfacing through her tumultuous thinking was Roarke's behavior today. From the moment he had appeared in her doorway at the hospital, he had been an enigma. He had been barely civil and almost surly at times, withdrawn and uncommunicative at others. His anger was unexplainable and uncalled for. She felt he had made several oblique references to her past, but what did they mean? What kind of a person had she been? If only he'd sit down and calmly tell her what their life together had been like and what kind of a person she was, then she would understand him. After all, he admitted he was the only man who knew what she was really like!

Sitting on the edge of the bed, she rubbed her hand over her eyes.
He said so many perplexing things to me, if only I knew why
, she thought.
Am I really a man-chaser who plays games? Oh, my God, surely that isn't true
! She curled up on the bed and put her head on the pillow, tears trickling down her cheeks.
Am I the sort of woman who throws herself at men and is this why Roarke is so contemptuous and bitter toward me? When he saw Ted holding my hands, that seemed to set off his anger. Does he have reason to accuse me as he did

Sitting up, Sara wiped her face with her fingertips and looked around the room.
I have to quit weeping at the drop of a problem
, she reflected.
I have to get my mind off this mess for a little while, or I will go stark raving mad
. Until someone would tell her about her past or her memory came back on its own, she was a prisoner in this house and in this room. More than that, she was a prisoner of her own mind, walls of forgetfulness blocking out her past.



"Sara, where are you?" the deep voice demanded.

Struggling with her balance, Sara peered around the edge of the closet door. "I'm here, just a second."

Roarke! It was Roarke calling her, she thought nervously. She was hoping against hope he would leave her alone until she could strengthen herself and figure out what approach to take with him.

"What on earth are you doing?" Roarke asked as she came into view.

She limped over to the chaise longue and sat down, hesitating until she felt a little more composed before answering him. "I was tired of lying in bed with nothing to do. My curiosity got the better of me"—she shrugged her shoulders—"so I decided to look around. Are all those clothes really mine? That closet is huge and just jammed with beautiful things."

Roarke glanced over toward the closet and nodded his head. "Yes, they're all yours. You love clothes, obviously." He took a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, shook one out, and lit it while his eyes lowered to concentrate on the glowing end.

Sara watched the flame from the lighter flicker quickly across his face, the plains and ridges of his cheeks prominent in the flash of light. His black hair was a little unruly and one strand fell across his forehead. Then he looked up and their eyes locked. Sara's breath stopped as the blueness of his eyes seemed to draw her into their depths. There seemed to be no way she could break the spell. Several heart-wrenching seconds drew out as he studied her face. Sara could feel her lips part slightly and finally, with a shuddering breath, she lowered her eyelids.

"Sara, I hope you'll accept my apology for this morning." Roarke's voice, even though it was low, seemed to roar in her ears, the waves of sounds beating against her eardrums. "I can't give you any explanation right now, but I realize I was overreacting to what was possibly an innocent situation—"

"Possibly innocent!" she interrupted. "I don't believe this, Roarke. Even your apology is qualified!"

Holding his hand up, he appealed, "Please, let me finish, Sara. I don't want to fight with you. That's not why I came in here. I tried to think this through today while you were resting, and I've come to the conclusion we can't continue this way. It's not going to help you get better and I certainly don't want to feel responsible for that." He put the cigarette to his mouth and drew the smoke deeply into his lungs. Exhaling, his face secret behind a fog of smoke, his breath swirling it in the air, he continued. "I do want you to get well, Sara. I want to help anyway I can. I know this isn't easy for you, but it isn't easy for me either. I'm not asking for your sympathy, but I do need some understanding from you… and a little patience too. I feel helpless and confused." Pausing, he took another drag from his cigarette.

Sara could feel her heart begin to swell. He seemed so vulnerable. Then the whole irrationality of his words took hold. She spoke softly but adamantly. "Roarke, I have felt sorry for both of us. But, I have to admit, I don't understand you. I don't remember you or anything else and you don't seem to want to help me. How can I understand you and have patience with you when I don't have either for myself? I tell you I'm afraid, and you ignore me. I beg for you to tell me about our past, and you put a wall between us and I don't know why. I plead for understanding from you and feel your contempt. Don't you think it's ironic that you'd ask me for understanding and patience? Understanding about what? Patience for what? You have the advantage. You know why you need my understanding and patience, but I don't remember why I need yours, and… and I do."

She could feel her voice rising with each sentence and stopped short, catching her breath. She put her hand over her mouth and stared at Roarke as he moved toward the door. Was he going to leave her? Had she gone too far?

But instead of leaving he walked over to her and sat down on the foot of the chaise. "Sara, I know this is hard for you. The whole situation is terrible, and you must be very frightened, but so am I."

"You're frightened?" She sat up and leaned toward him. "What are you frightened of? Why won't you explain things to me? You keep telling me you'll help me anyway you can, so why don't you?"

Jumping to his feet, Roarke started pacing. "I do want to help you but you're not listening to what I've really been saying…
anyway I can

"That's what Martha said to me this morning, word for word. Why is everyone being so cryptic? What in the hell is going on? What is so frightening to everyone in this house?" She leaned back and closed her eyes. Sagging under the weight of her thoughts, she gasped. "Maybe you're all looking on my amnesia as a blessing. Is that it, Roarke?" Sitting up brusquely, her eyes flew open wide and she cried out, "What is it you don't want me to remember and everyone is afraid I will? For God's sake, Roarke, did I kill someone?" She flung her hands over her face as she tried to stop the tears that stung her eyes.

She felt her hands being pried away from her cheeks and, opening her eyes, saw Roarke kneeling beside her. "Sara, don't be so foolish. Of course you didn't kill anyone." He stood up and turned his back to her. "Maybe I do feel a little that your amnesia is a blessing." His voice was anguished and she waited breathlessly for him to continue. "But, believe me, I only want good to come of it. Ted Maxwell says you'll remember everything on your own and I've decided to take my chances and wait for that to happen. In the meantime, short of telling you all the details of your past, I'll help you all I can. I'll help you get back in touch with yourself. I'll take you to some of your favorite places when you're well enough to get around. I promise you I won't block your remembering." He turned back to face her and looked deeply into her eyes. "But I want you to remember about us on your own."

Later that night, watching the moonlight shine obliquely through her window, slanting a solid path across the carpet, Sara drifted between wakefulness and sleep. Her mind replayed her conversation with Roarke and she sleepily wondered if their truce would last. They never seemed to be able to have a lucid, calm conversation. Their times together were always fraught with high-powered emotion.

She just wished she knew what Roarke was frightened of. What was in their past that he was afraid to tell her? He still hadn't told her why he had been so angry when he came into her hospital room, but she knew it had something to do with Ted Maxwell. Sighing, she rolled over onto her side. Roarke's accusation of her not being happy with one man still rang in her head. Maybe this is what he didn't want her to remember, that she liked men and this had given them problems in their marriage. Maybe she was a flirt or worse! Her half-closed eyes flew open. That just couldn't be… just couldn't be!


The next three weeks crawled with miserable slowness. To alleviate some of the boredom, Bradley and Roarke had brought a TV set to her room and, while she enjoyed some of the programs, most of her time in front of the set was spent in mindless inattention.

She could feel her strength returning more and more each day. Martha tried on several occasions to convince her to go downstairs, but Sara put her off. Her security, what little she had, was bound up with the four walls of her room. Ted hadn't wanted her to go up and down the stairs more than once a day anyway, so she used this as a partial excuse.

The truce between Roarke and herself remained in effect. Sara would catch him looking at her with a speculative expression sometimes, but they didn't have any more arguments. They established a routine of dining together in her room when Roarke was at home.

These encounters with him left her in turmoil. The truce may have eased some of the tensions between them, but it caused new tensions in her. While he wasn't the same loving man she had first seen in the hospital, his charm and charisma embraced her. He didn't initiate any intimacy between them, but when he'd casually touch her hand or kiss her on the forehead when he left to go to his own room, her body would ache with unfulfilled longings—the longing to have him hold her close, to touch her, the longing to make her feel wanted. Even though she struggled against these yearnings, the struggle was in vain. She'd He in bed at night imagining he was holding her in his arms. She didn't permit her imaginings to go any further. The constant battle with these feelings made her sick with contempt for herself because they made her recall his accusations of other men in her life and made her wonder what kind of woman she had been. Sometimes Sara was glad when Roarke couldn't make it home for dinner and she would eat alone, content with her own company without having Roarke's presence to stir up her ambiguous feelings about him.

BOOK: Intimate Strangers
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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