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"That's just great," she grumbled, shoving a stray strand of auburn hair behind her ear. "Just what I need." Between the August heat and humidity and the double shifts she'd been pulling at the hospital, not to mention the occasional bouts of nausea, she'd just about gone her limit. And now this.
Shading her eyes against the bright glare of morning sunlight that not even the deep porch of the old Victorian home could block, she stared hard at him.
At least this one appeared to be still breathing, she thought as she noted the slight rise and fall of his back. The last one she'd found on the porch had been dead, cancer and malnutrition according to the coroner's report.
Still staring at the man, she slowly shook her head. The fact that they kept showing up amazed her. It was almost as if every bum in New Orleans had some kind of built-in radar that directed them to her front porch.
"Thanks a lot, Grandm'ere," she muttered as shetightened the belt of her thin cotton robe more securely then stepped out onto the porch to get a closer look.
Almost a year had passed since her generous, softhearted grandmother had died, and still they came. Leah had inherited her grandmother's house, but she had no intention of taking over her grandmother's charity work as well. Even so, no matter how many times she called the police to come and haul away one of the unwelcome, indigent visitors, more kept showing up to take their place.
Most of them were harmless and simply there for a hand-out, but Leah had learned not to be as trusting as her grandmother had been.
"Enough's enough," she grumbled as she crossed her arms protectively around her slightly rounded abdomen and tapped her bare foot against the wooden floor of the porch. Unlike her grandmother, who had felt that it was her calling in life to help every hungry, homeless man who showed up on her doorstep, Leah didn't feel that she could take such chances, especially now that she had her unborn baby to protect.
With her eyes still on the man and with every intention of returning inside to call the police, Leah took a step backward toward the door. Instead of going inside though, she hesitated.
Tilting her head and narrowing her eyes, she frowned. There was something different about this one, different from the normal run-of-the-mill bums who had showed up in the past.
For one thing, even though he could use a haircut, his thick, dark hair looked fairly clean and well kept instead of long, greasy and dirty. And instead of the usual sweat and dirt-crusted pants and shirt, this man was wearing what appeared to be hospital scrubs.
Leah's frown deepened. Strange. Very strange indeed.
Even so, the hair and clothes had nothing to do with why he seemed different. Though it was probably a silly notion, she could swear there was something familiar about him. That she'd seen him before ... somewhere.
Growing more puzzled with each passing moment, she continued staring at him. Was it possible that he was a former patient, someone she'd treated at Charity Hospital? Leah frowned. Now she was really getting paranoid. There was no way a former patient would know where she lived.
So why the nagging feeling of familiarity? Leah had no answer. Maybe if she saw his face, maybe then she'd know.
Just forget it. Go call the police and have his butt hauled off.
Leah glared at the man as indecision warred within her. "Oh, for Pete's sake," she muttered. There was only one way to find out for sure, and though she was curious, she wasn't careless. Her experiences working as a nurse at Charity Hospital had taught her to be cautious.
She reached just inside the doorway and grabbed the baseball bat that she kept propped there. Unlike her grandmother who, in Leah's opinion, had always been far too trusting, Leah kept the bat handy, just in case of trouble.
Taking a deep breath for courage, she gripped the bat with both hands and eased over to within a couple of feet of the sleeping man. Using the tip of the bat, she poked him just below the shoulder blades.
"Hey, you!" she called out. "Wake up!"
The man groaned, but he didn't budge.
Gripping the bat tighter, she poked him again, pushing harder than she had the first time. "You're trespassing, mister. If you don't leave I'm calling the police." She poked at him once more for good measure. "Now, get up!"
Suddenly, like a coiled spring, the man jumped to his feet.
With a yelp of surprise, Leah immediately jerked the bat into a swinging position as she stumbled backward. "Please leave," she shouted, her legs trembling. "Go on, get out of here."
Then, the man turned to face her, and she froze. Her breath caught in her lungs, and all she could do was stare at him, her eyes wide with disbelief, her heart pounding like a bass drum against her rib cage.
"Hunter?" she whispered. The baseball bat slid through her nerveless fingers and fell to the porch with a clatter. "No," she moaned as she slowly shook her head from side to side, trying to deny what was before her eyes. Had she finally lost it, gone over the edge? "Not possible," she protested. Hunter was dead.
Yet, even while logic dictated that there was no way this man could be Hunter, her insides quivered with the ache of recognition. The same ruggedly handsome face, made even more rugged by the shadow of his dark beard ... the same deep-set, steely blue eyes ...
Though myriad questions rushed through her head, for the moment, she didn't care. For the moment, more than anything, she longed to throw herself at him, to once again feel his arms around her, just to assure herself that the man really was Hunter.
Then, their gazes collided, and when she saw the clouded, confused look in his eyes, her mind reeled with her own confusion. Something was wrong ... terribly wrong.
He held up his hands defensively. "I don't mean you any harm," he said in that rich whiskey voice that had always sent goose bumps chasing up her arms. "You called me Hunter. Do you know me? Is that my name?"
He didn't know her.
Leah fought to gain control over her runaway emotions.
"Lady, do you recognize me?"
Lady? Even more disconcerted, Leah could do little more than nod. Of course she knew him. How could she not know her own husband? But why did he even have to ask such a question?
Mixed feelings surged through her, then suddenly, without warning, his face and the porch began to spin. Her vision grew hazy then dark around the edges even as she felt her knees buckle.
"Whoa - hey, lady -" He reached out and wrapped an arm around her shoulder to steady her. He was a tall man, six foot two to her mere five foot five, and her shoulders fit just beneath his armpit. His touch was a jolt to her senses, and memories of all the other times he'd touched her assailed her.
"Take it easy. You look like you're about to pass out. Are you sick?"
"No, not - not sick," she whispered, shaking her head as she gave voice to the half lie.
She had been sick though. For four, long, hellish months, she'd been sick with guilt and remorse. How could she not? After all, it had been her fault. If it hadn't been for her, he wouldn't have gone out that night, he wouldn't have had the accident ... he wouldn't have died. Despite the heat, a chill ran through her. But how could he have died when he was standing next to her, talking to her, touching her? She began to shiver.
"Hey -" His arm around her shoulder tightened. "You'd better sit down before you fall down."
Hunter. But was Hunter his first name or his last name? the man wondered as he silently repeated it. He nudged the woman toward the porch swing. She looked exactly as he'd
Excerpted from Dangerous Memories by Barbara Colley Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 8, 2005
Hunter Davis returns to his home and wife, Leah Davis. Hunter has amnesia and doesn¿t remember his name, he doesn¿t know that Leah is his wife, and he doesn¿t know anything else about his life. All he had was a vague image of a woman and an address in New Orleans. Four months earlier, Leah had been told by the Orlando Police Department that her husband had died in an automobile accident with an 18-wheeler. People are shooting at Hunter and he can¿t remember why. Leah is pregnant with Hunter¿s child but can¿t tell him because she doesn¿t know if knowledge of that fact would endanger their unborn baby, so she tells him that they were friends before the accident and that her name is Leah Johnson and she doesn¿t mention the baby growing inside her. Hunter realizes that Leah is the key to unlocking his memory but he doesn¿t know if he can trust her. On his first day after returning to the home he does not know is his, FBI agents with a search warrant knock on the door and once inside tell Hunter that they are not there to hurt him but to protect him. They tell him they can¿t tell him any more than that. Hunter and Leah agreed to go into protective custody but while the FBI agents are driving them to a safe house, a mysterious black SUV tailed them and shot out the rear window and chased them with guns a-blazing. The FBI agent driving the car allows Hunter and Leah to jump out of the car after turning a corner and were out of the SUV¿s view for a few brief seconds. Throughout the rest of the story, Hunter and Leah have to dodge both the FBI and the bad guys as they try to unravel the mystery of why someone wants Hunter dead. Barbara Colley has brilliantly weaved a set of intricate details and circumstances into a superb and intriguing mystery that kept me wondering and guessing right up to the very last page. She has embedded into her story numerous cliffhangers that would not let me put the book down. Every page is filled with suspense and the sexual tension between Leah and Hunter keeps building and building throughout until they can no longer control their urges and desires. The main characters are interesting and believable. Even the secondary characters were true to life. I enjoyed reading about New Orleans and all of its charms: a camp on Lake Pontchartrain decorated in Mardi Gras motifs, New Orleans streetcars, a tropical storm, oyster po¿boy sandwiches, Audubon Zoo, and a Mardi Gras parade, to mention only a few. Barbara Colley¿s book is so extremely well written and intriguing that I can¿t wait for the next one to be released. I felt really good reading this book and I know that anyone else would enjoy it as well. I highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.