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Reilly was going to show up sooner or later. It was fate, destiny, an ominous portent that had appeared in her morning horoscope. She could feel it in the bottom of her belly, that deep, hollow sense of impending doom. She could feel it in the weight of the antique gold bracelet that circled her left wrist with tingling warmth. That was a sure sign.
It wasn’t going to matter a bit that she had left Hollywood and moved up the coast to Anastasia—hundreds of miles away from Tinsel Town in more ways than just distance. The year of waiting was over, and he was going to find her.
Jayne Jordan abandoned the wall she’d been washing, dropping her sponge in the metal bucket full of soapy water that sat beside her. Tucking her feet beneath her, she took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut as if preparing to dunk her head under water. Heedless of the fact that she was sitting on a scaffolding eight feet above the floor of the stage, she released the air from her lungs and willed herself to relax. Strains of a Mozart serenade floated through her mind as she attempted to banish the sense of dread from her body. Unfortunately, the sweet joyous notes that had poured unblemished from the composer’s soul did nothing to erase the image of Pat Reilly from her mind.
She could see him clearly. His image was indelibly etched on her memory. Those breathtaking sky-blue eyes, pale and opalescent, staring out at her from beneath straight dark gold brows; eyes set in a face that was ruggedly masculine. She could feel the intensity of those eyes penetrating her aura, burning through her veneer of restraint and searing her basic feminine core.
It had been that way from their first meeting, and she had cursed both him and herself for it. It had been that way at their last meeting, and it would be that way again, once he found her. And he would find her. Pat Reilly was many things, not all of them admirable, but he was nothing if not a man of his word.
Jayne could still feel the mist on her face. She could see the green of the hills and the gray of her husband’s headstone and Reilly as he’d stood before her with the collar of his leather jacket turned up against the wind. She could still taste his kiss, the only kiss they had ever shared, a kiss full of compassion and passion, wanting and guilt, sweetness and hunger. And she could hear his voice—that low, velvety baritone with the Australian lilt that never faded, vowing that in a year’s time he would return to her. When they both had had a chance to lay Joseph MacGregor’s ghost to rest, he would be back.
The year was up.
Jayne sucked in another deep breath as a wave of panic crashed over her. In a valiant effort to fight off the feelings and the memories, she pinched her thumbs and forefingers together to make two circles, held her hands out before her, and began chanting. “Oooommm . . . oooommm . . . oooommm . . .”
The community theater was empty for the moment. Because she hadn’t been able to sleep, Jayne had shown up at the crack of dawn to begin cleaning up the building that had stood unused for the past six years. But it wouldn’t have mattered if there had been a hundred people present. She would have gone right on chanting had her entire staff of volunteers been gathered around. When a person needed to meditate, a person needed to meditate. It wasn’t good for a body to block out its spiritual needs.
“Oooommm . . . oooommm . . . oooommm . . .”
She scrunched her eyebrows together in an expression of absolute concentration and oooo-mmmed for all she was worth, but it didn’t do a darn bit of good. In the theater of her mind the memories played out, undaunted, in all their Technicolor glory. Memories of Reilly proved to be as stubborn as the man himself.
The theater was dark and dank, an unpleasant contrast to the sunny spring morning outside. Pat Reilly ignored the atmosphere. His mind was on more important things than the musty state of the auditorium. He ignored the clutter of junk that had been piled haphazardly backstage, stepping over and around the stuff when necessary, but barely sparing it a glance.
He had followed Jayne Jordan’s trail to Anastasia, wondering how long it would take actually to track her down once he got there. But luck had been with him. Driving into the picture postcard coastal village, he had spotted her car—a vintage red convertible MG—slanted drunkenly into a parking spot on a side street with one chrome-spoked wheel on the curb.
If he’d had any doubts about the vehicle being hers—and he hadn’t because only Jayne would desecrate the beauty of an antique car with a Save Catalina’s Wild Goats bumper sticker—the building the car was parked beside would have settled the question. The marquee was missing several letters, making the building look like an old crone whose teeth were dropping out one by one, but there was enough of the words left so they were understandable. It was the Anastasia Community Theater—a fitting place to find the woman he was looking for.
Now he wound his way through the rubble to the stage proper, following a weird chanting sound. That would be Jayne, he thought, a wry grin tugging at his mouth. The glue beneath the false beard he wore pulled at his skin and he winced. Damn, he probably should have taken five minutes to peel off the disguise. It was his fans he was trying to hide from, not Jayne.
He’d done enough hiding from Jayne and his attraction to her. The time had come for both of them to face facts. Mac was dead and there was nothing standing in their way. It was time to face this damnable attraction that had burned between them from the first time they’d laid eyes on each other, this attraction both of them had denied and cursed and fought against. She had been his best friend’s bride, and Lord knew Pat Reilly would sooner have died than betray a mate. But Mac was gone now. A year had passed since they’d laid him to rest. And there was no reason for the living to go on feeling guilty.
He stopped in the wings, stage left, his booted feet spread slightly. He jammed his big hands at the waist of his well-worn jeans and shook his head as he got his first look at the woman he had come there to find.
Jayne sat atop a rickety-looking scaffolding, her legs twisted into a impossible pretzel design that probably had something to do with yoga or some equally mystical malarkey. She was just as he remembered her: pretty in a way that had nothing to do with cosmetics or fashion. Especially not fashion. Jayne’s outfits would have made any other woman look like a refugee from Goodwill. This morning she wore gray thermal underwear bottoms, a purple T-shirt, and a man’s gray plaid sport coat that swallowed up her petite frame.
Still, she looked damned appealing to Reilly, proving that hers was an inner beauty that was enhanced by delicate features and eyes like huge pools of obsidian. Her hair was spread around her shoulders in a dark auburn cloud that was nearly black in this light and so wild, Reilly would have bet she couldn’t get a comb through it to save her life. But it was soft and silky. He knew because he’d once buried his hands in it. He’d dreamed of it nearly every night since; every night for a year.
From the Paperback edition.