Authors: Sara Humphreys
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy
Copyright © 2012 by Sara Humphreys
Cover and internal design © 2012 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Jamie Warren
Cover images © Stephen Youll, Isselee/Dreamstime.com
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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“What we remember from childhood we remember forever: permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.”
For my parents… who have inked and stamped my life with love.
“You are one sexy bitch.” Kerry grinned broadly and shut the door to Samantha’s bedroom. She leaned back and folded her arms to get a better look at the bride. “Seriously, does Malcolm know how freaking lucky he is?” she asked skeptically. Kerry bent down and smoothed out the train of Samantha’s simple ivory gown.
“Oh he does, and so do I.” Samantha smiled serenely and adjusted the bodice of her strapless silk wedding dress. Kerry stood behind her best friend and removed the one or two kinks in the delicate veil. She smiled at their contrasting reflections in the oval antique mirror. Kerry was a good head taller than Sam. Sam’s hair, swept off her neck, was as blonde as Kerry’s was black. Samantha had always been beautiful, but today she was truly radiant.
Tears stung at the back of Kerry’s eyes. Her best friend, her only friend, was getting married. She took a deep breath, wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist, and braced herself. It was always a gamble touching another human being. Samantha was the only person Kerry could bear to touch. Everyone, including Sam, thought it was a germ phobia. The truth was much more complicated.
It was far more frightening.
She embraced Sam and saw the one image that always burst into her mind, an enormous gray wolf. As odd as it was, that unique image gave her comfort. Since they were children that was the only thing Kerry saw when she touched Sam. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when she touched other people. Kerry let out a heavy sigh, a mixture of relief and comfort as Sam gave her arms a squeeze.
“I’m not going to Mars, you know. I’m just getting married.” Sam laughed. “Now I’ll be two houses down the beach instead of one. At the very most I’m a phone call away.”
“That’s what they all say.” Kerry sniffled and released Sam from the embrace. She turned quickly and wiped the tears away, feeling foolish for such a display.
“Besides, you’re the famous model,” Sam said with a teasing lilt in her voice. “You know… always jet-setting around the world on photo shoots. We only get to see each other a couple of times a year anyway. Who knows? We may see each other more now.”
Sam took Kerry’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. The wolf image burst into Kerry’s head, but at least there was no pain. She could almost tolerate the visions. It was the crippling pain that terrified her. Kerry’s body stilled, and she prayed her friend wouldn’t notice.
“I promise nothing will change! Look at it this way, every time you come to your parents place for a break at the beach, you can count on me being here.”
“He better not be one of those Neanderthal types that won’t let you have a girls’ night out. I mean I don’t even know this guy. Are you sure this is it? You’ve only known him for a month.”
Even as the words escaped her lips she knew what the answer was. In truth, she’d never seen her friend this happy. Ever since Samantha met Malcolm, she glowed. Kerry had heard about that but hadn’t witnessed it until now. Her lips curved. She had always been envious of Sam because she’d been raised in a household with real love and affection. Sam’s family was a far cry from the icy environment of her own childhood.
Sometimes she wondered if her parents’ cool behavior was a reaction to her unusual… sensitivity. They hadn’t tried to embrace her or touch her in years. They had tried a few times when she was a child, but whenever they did she screamed bloody murder and wouldn’t speak for days. Soon they just stopped trying. It saddened her to know that they never would’ve adopted her if they’d known how different she was.
To top it all off, she didn’t exactly fit the preppy, upper-crusty mold that the Smithsons were cut from. She towered over everyone in the family and was built more like an Amazon than a delicate WASP. In every picture she stuck out like a sore thumb. Tall, big-boned, dark-haired, dark-eyed… loner. They didn’t know human contact brought not only horrifying images, but excruciating pain.
Except for when she touched Samantha. There was something special about Sam. Thank God.
“Hey!” Sam snapped her fingers and brought Kerry out of her trance. “Hello in there? You okay?” Sam knitted her brow worriedly at Kerry. “Maybe we should’ve postponed the wedding? I don’t think you’re quite yourself since…”
Kerry put her hand up in protest before Samantha could finish her thought. “Don’t even think about bringing up that ugliness, especially today! I’m fine. I don’t even remember any of it. I mean it!” She clapped her hands and quickly changed the subject. “Hey, why are we standing around here? You’ve got a big hunk of man waiting to marry you underneath that beautiful tent on the beach.”
Sam smiled and gave a quick nod, knowing her friend well enough to know the subject was closed. She picked up her bouquet of red roses and headed out the door toward her new life. Kerry held Sam’s train off of the floor, a traditional maid of honor duty, and followed her down the stairs. She tried to concentrate on the smooth fabric between her fingers, instead of the fact that she’d just lied to her best friend.
She did remember.
She had a vivid memory of one thing from the day she was attacked. A pair of eyes had been fixed on her, eyes that glowed like embers in a fire, accompanied by a deep guttural growl. Every night since the attack, her dreams were haunted by that memory. As she walked into the bright September sunlight, she couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever sleep soundly again.
The music from the lively band flowed lightly around Kerry and the rest of the wedding guests. She sipped the cool, crisp champagne as she watched Samantha dance with her new husband and could practically feel their happiness mixed with the late summer breeze. Her gaze drifted over the intimate group of guests gathered around the bride and groom. They all had that same serene look while they watched Malcolm and Samantha share their first dance as husband and wife. He towered over her as he twirled her around the dance floor, and the sound of her laughter peppered the air.
The two of them hadn’t taken their eyes off each other for one second. If Kerry didn’t know any better, she’d swear they were reading each other’s minds. She chuckled quietly and sipped her champagne from the delicate crystal flute. The guests were limited to only thirty or so close friends and family members. Her own parents had sent their regrets from Europe, which was something of a relief. Kerry could only handle them in limited doses and didn’t want their chilly demeanor ruining such a beautiful day for Sam.
“May I have this dance?”
The deep voice rolled over her like sudden thunder in the distance. She jumped with a yelp and splashed champagne onto her red satin gown. “Shit,” she hissed under her breath. Kerry brushed at the droplets, which were now making dark stains on her dress, and shot an irritated glance at Malcolm’s best man, Dante. “I don’t dance.” Something about this guy threw her off balance. Kerry prided herself on her ability to stay in control, and this guy rattled her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d have that effect on you.”
The amusement in his voice made her want to punch him square in the mouth.
Or kiss him. Shit, she was in trouble.
She glared at him through narrowed eyes and put on her most stuck-up and obnoxious tone, hoping she could frighten him away. “Don’t flatter yourself, Tarzan. I got startled. That’s all.”
He had moved in next to her without a sound. How long had he been standing there? He didn’t go away, but instead, he moved in closer, just a breath away from her. The warmth of his body whispered along her bare arm and all the little hairs stood on end. She was terrified he’d touch her and at the same time worried he wouldn’t. She quickly turned her attention back to Malcolm and Sam, trying to ignore him, but failing miserably.
He was a difficult man to ignore. At five foot ten, she was usually taller than most men, and this guy towered over her, even in her Jimmy Choos. He was massive, well over six feet tall—a solid wall of muscle. He had a handsome, masculine face with the most enormous amber eyes she’d ever seen. His thick auburn hair was almost the exact same color as his eyes.