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A Man Worth Remembering
By Delores Fossen
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLeigh realized she was being murdered.
She regained consciousness in the water. Cold, deep, dark water. It was above her, beneath her, around her on all sides. Smothering her.
Terror shot through her. She frantically tried to swim but couldn't. Her hands and feet were tied together. Water gushed into her nose and mouth. Her throat clenched. It hurt. She hurt. Her chest pounded as if it might shatter.
Someone had put her there. But who? She could just make out a milky image on the bridge above the water's surface. No face. No name. Just someone who obviously wanted her dead.
Inch by excruciating inch, she sank lower. She fought against the urge to surrender, to close her eyes and just give up so the pain would stop. No. She wouldn't give up. Couldn't. God, she didn't want to die.
Leigh twisted her body, using the last of her breath to try to stop her downward slide. She didn't succeed.
The water coiled around her and sent her into a dizzying spiral until her feet dipped into the clotted mud at the bottom.
She didn't see the man before his arm snaked around her waist, but she felt his firm grip. It was a lifeline. Hope. Right now, hope and this man were all she had.
He stopped the mud from swallowing her up and began to haulher toward the surface. Leigh tried to help, but her wrists and feet were still bound. No matter how hard she struggled, she couldn't free herself.
Somehow, he got them out of the water, dragging her onto a muddy embankment. And then he kissed her. At least she thought that's what he was doing until she felt the air gust into her mouth. No. Not a kiss. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"It's okay," the man said. "You'll be all right." He knelt beside her, his movements jerky but somehow controlled, and he got the ropes off her hands and feet. Every few seconds, his gaze darted around them as if he was watching for something.
Not something, she realized. Someone.
After all, the person who'd tried to kill her could return to finish the job.
She didn't have time to react to that terrifying realization. Her teeth began to chatter. Her body shook. She was cold and wet, and her head throbbed in pain. For that matter, the rest of her throbbed, too. But at least she was alive. Because of this man, she was alive. Too bad she didn't have enough breath to thank him.
He leaned over her to examine her forehead. It was dusk, but what was left of the filmy sunlight allowed her to see him and his resolute expression. Did she know him?
No. He was a stranger. "You saved my life," she managed to say.
Water slipped off him and splattered onto her face. With the same gentle touch he'd used on her forehead, he wiped away the drops, letting his fingertips linger on her cheek.
"Yes. I did." He mumbled something else under his breath. Something in Spanish. And he shook his head. "I'd still like to have your butt for what you pulled, but we can get into all of that later."
She didn't understand what he meant. Exactly what had she pulled? She hadn't asked to be in that water. Had she? No, she was sure of that. This was no suicide attempt. She'd fought to stay alive.
"Who are you?" she asked. Something she couldn't distinguish rifled through his eyes.
"What the devil do you mean by that?"
"I'd like to know your name," she clarified.
He sat back on his heels and glared down at her. "Just what kind of sick game are you playing, huh?" She barely got out a denying shake of her head before he continued. "Believe me, it won't work." With each word he got louder. "I want answers. I deserve answers."
"I'd like some answers, too. For starters, please tell me who you are."
"Gabe," he said, hissing it out like profanity. "But you know that."
No, she didn't. She shoved her fingers through her hair to push the wet strands out of her eyes. Part of her thought she might recognize his name, the way he'd said it, but she couldn't be sure. Mercy, if her head would just stop pounding, maybe she could sort through all of this.
"Gabe Sanchez," he added after a moment. Still nothing. But she should know him. Maybe she felt that because of his formidable expression and not because of any true recollection. "Well, thank you, Mr. Sanchez, for saving me. I thought I was going to die."
He sat there as drops of water slid down his face. He seemed oblivious to the water, to his drenched clothes. Oblivious to everything around them. Everything but her. He stared craters in her.
"You would have died if I hadn't been here," he assured her. "Someone shot you. When that didn't work, they clubbed you and threw you in the lake."
She gasped, horrified that someone would do such terrible things to her. "Someone shot me?"
"Looks that way. It's just a graze, but combined with that lump, you'll probably have one heck of a headache."
She nodded. She already had one heck of a headache so there was no probably about it.
"Who did this to you?" he demanded. "Who tried to kill you?"
He seemed angry with her, and she didn't know why. Worse, she didn't know why things didn't make sense. Who had done this to her? Why had she been in the water? And who was this stranger who expected her to have all the answers?
"I don't know." She touched her forehead. When she drew back her hand, she noticed the watery blood on her fingertips. She was injured but didn't even remember how it'd happened. God, how could she possibly not know that? "Did you see anyone before you jumped in after me?"
"Just a car speeding away. I couldn't make out the license plate." Vigilantly, he looked around them again. "When I saw the air bubbles in the water, I dived in."
Thank God he had. If not, she would without a doubt be dead. "Where are we?"
"Lake Pontchartrain." His narrowed gaze came back to her. "Are you trying to make me believe you really don't know?"
She glanced around her. All she saw was the sun setting on an ordinary lake. Other than that, it didn't look familiar. "Are we near Houston?"
"Houston?" he spat out. "We're just outside New Orleans."
Excerpted from A Man Worth Remembering by Delores Fossen Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.