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"Five bucks says he's an undercover prince."
Lexi Brennan stood back and watched the older nurse pull a crumpled bill from her uniform pocket and slap it on the counter.
"He's handsome enough," another RN said. "But I say he's a politician's son. God knows we get our share of them in Teton County."
"Put me down for the undercover prince," charge nurse Rachel Milligan said. "Then we'd better get to work."
The staff scattered, leaving Lexi, one of the hospital's social workers, alone at the nurse's station with Rachel and a nurse's aide. During the five years Lexi had been working at the Jackson Hole hospital, she'd lost a lot of money on these friendly wagers. Last month she'd vowed not to participate in another. Still, she was curious. "What are you betting on this time?"
"Our new patient, John Doe," Rachel said. "He's been the topic of conversation since the rescue team brought him in yesterday."
"He is super cute," the aide gushed.
"Mr. Landers's call light is on." Rachel kept her gaze focused on the young girl while handing Lexi John Doe's chart. "Would you mind seeing what he needs?"
As the aide hurried off, Lexi flipped through the handful of pages. "Not much here."
Rachel smiled. "When a patient doesn't remember his name or any of his history, it makes for a pretty sparse medical record."
Lexi recognized Rachel's handwriting on the initial documentation. "Looks like you were working in the E.R. yesterday when they brought him in from Teton Village."
"He was lucky," Rachel said, her blue eyes suddenly serious. "He might have lost his memory, but another few minutes under that snow and he'd have lost his life."
"Why skiers venture into the back country is beyond me." Lexi wasn't sure why she found the man's recklessness so disturbing. He certainly wasn't the first hotshot skier to take advantage of the mountain's "open gate" policy. "Anyone who goes through that gate knows they're taking a big risk."
Rachel's gaze took on a sad, faraway look. "Young men in that late-twenty, early-thirty range think they're invincible."
Lexi wondered if Rachel was thinking about her husband who'd been killed several years ago trying to protect a clerk during a convenience store robbery.
"Medically, John Doe is stable," Rachel said after a long moment. "Once you find him a place to stay, he's ready to be dismissed."
Raising a finger to her lips, Lexi considered the available options. "There aren't many motels that will take a man with no money."
"He's got money," Rachel said. "He had a couple thousand dollars on him."
A couple thousand dollars? Lexi had twenty-seven dollars in her pocket and that had to last until payday. She pulled her brows together. "Did they find drugs on him?"
"Nope." Rachel laughed. "And his tox screen came back negative. My guess is he's just some rich guy who ran into trouble on the back side of the mountain."
"Well, the money will make it easier to find him a place to live," Lexi said, her mind already flipping through the options. She gathered the chart in her hand and walked the few steps to the patient's room. "I guess it's time to meet Mr. John Doe."
"Prepare to be dazzled."
Lexi paused. "What are you talking about?"
"I forgot to mention the most important part," Rachel said. "Not only does he have money, he's gorgeous. That's why my bet is undercover prince."
Gorgeous. Undercover prince.
Lexi pushed open the door. John Doe's money and looks weren't going to help him get a room. That would take luck and a lot of phone calls. And if the weather reports were accurate, a late spring blizzard was bearing down on Jackson Hole. That meant her focus needed to be on finding this man without a memory a place to stay sooner rather than later.
John had just pulled on his ski pants and had a shirt in hand when a knock sounded at his hospital room door. "Come in."
He didn't bother to look when the door opened, knowing his visitor would be another nurse, wanting to check his pupils and blood pressure. But at the click of heels on the tile, he turned.
The woman striding into his room didn't have on scrubs. Instead she wore a stylish green-and-brown dress with a short green sweater. Her dark hair hung loose to her shoulders in a sleek bob, and her amber-colored eyes were focused on the chart in her hand.
When she finally looked up, her eyes widened. "I'm sorry," she stammered, stepping back. "I didn't realize you were dressing. I'll come back later."
He dropped his gaze to his bare chest then back to the two bright spots of pink dotting her cheeks.
No, he decided, this one was definitely not a nurse.
Her hand reached behind her for the doorknob.
"Don't leave." With one quick movement he pulled the turtleneck over his head, ignoring the fierce ache in his neck and shoulders. That pain, the doctor told him, was to be expected. "There. I'm dressed and ready for visitors."
The woman dropped her hand to her side. She smiled, showing a mouthful of perfect white teeth. "I'm Lexi Brennan, one of the hospital social workers and part of the discharge planning team."
She crossed the room. When she drew close and extended her hand, he inhaled the light floral scent of her perfume.
The grip was firm, her gaze direct. He found himself glancing at her hand—as if it had been his habit—and noted she wasn't wearing a wedding ring.
"Mr.… Doe. I've been charged with finding you a place to live." Her expression was serious and all business. "Somewhere you can stay until you regain your memory."
He thought of a dozen quips that might make her smile again. The trouble was he didn't feel like joking.
This darkness in his head annoyed him. Okay, it had him worried. His rescuers had reported that when they'd pulled him out from under the snow, he'd been talking and joking. It wasn't until they'd taken him to the clinic at the bottom of the hill that they'd realized he didn't know who he was…or even if he'd been skiing alone. Only the news that his transceiver had been the only one emitting signals reassured him.
Still, he wished he knew for certain. "Has anyone showed up?"
A look of confusion settled on the social worker's pretty face. "Showed up?"
"You know… family, friends."
Lexi could see the frustration on his face and hear it in his tone. She offered a sympathetic smile. "They probably haven't heard the news yet. Your ordeal was on local television news last night. My understanding is they plan to run the piece again today. And the hospital is putting together a press release that will be sent out if no one comes forth by tomorrow."
He began to pace, finally stopping at a window overlooking the Elk Refuge. "What am I supposed to do in the meantime?"
Lexi didn't have an answer. She placed her leather portfolio on the closest table and moved to his side. The endless sky had turned cloudy as if picking up on the mood inside the hospital room.
"The forecasters are predicting a blizzard." Lexi held to the tenet that when in doubt talk about the weather. "We don't get many this late in April."
Lexi felt his gaze on her and her body prickled with awareness. He smelled clean, like soap and some other indefinable male scent. Rachel had been right. He was dazzling. Standing just over six feet with a lean muscular build and dark hair brushing his collar, he was just the size she liked. Coupled with a face that could easily grace the cover of any magazine, he was one potent package.
"When is it supposed to hit?" he asked.
Lexi faced him. "It's supposed to start snowing this afternoon and continue throughout the night."
"The doctors say there's nothing more they can do for me."
His tone gave little away and if Lexi hadn't been looking directly at him, she'd have missed the momentary flash of fear in his brown eyes.
She offered him a reassuring smile. "Look at this move as the next step on the journey back to your old life."
"I'm certainly not remembering my past by sitting and looking at these four walls." He glanced around the hospital room. "I'm ready to get out of here."
Lexi wondered if he was trying to reassure her or himself. She couldn't begin to imagine how scary it would be to think of going out into the world with no memory. Her heart softened. "I'll make some calls to hotels in the area. See what they have available."
"Can I help? I mean, it's not like I have anything else to do." He flashed a smile. "Besides, this is my problem, not yours."
Lexi steeled herself against the mesmerizing warmth of those chocolate-brown eyes. "That's kind of you. But finding you a place to stay is my job. And I'm hoping to get you the special pricing the hospital has for patients and their relatives."
"The E.R. doctor said I had a couple thousand dollars on me when I was found." He waved a dismissive hand. "Money isn't an issue."
"It won't be if your family or friends come forward." Lexi chose her words carefully, not wanting to dash his hopes. "But if they take a while, or if your memory comes back more slowly than anticipated, you could run out of money. Then—"
"I understand," he said. "I could end up on the street and out of money. That certainly isn't where I want to be." He grinned and pretended to shiver. "Not with snow on the ground."
Lexi returned his smile, admiring the way he kept his spirits up with such a heavy weight on his shoulders. John Doe was definitely one of a kind.
While she was immune to his physical perfection, the humor, the smarts, and the level-headed attitude— those attributes were much harder for her to resist. But resist she would. Because there was no room in her life for a man, even one as handsome and charming as John Doe.
Thirty minutes later, Lexi sat back, frustration coursing through her veins. "How can they all be full?"
The words had barely left her lips when Rachel breezed into the room. Her gaze slid from Lexi to John. "What's the verdict? Where's your new home?"
"It's seems," John said, bestowing that hundred-watt smile on the pretty nurse, "that there are no rooms at any of the inns."
Rachel's eyes widened. She turned to Lexi. "Seriously?"
Lexi raked a weary hand through her hair. "It's the storm. Travelers who were going to move on decided to stay. Others who were passing through stopped and got their rooms early."
Rachel's cornflower-blue eyes began to dance. "Surely there has to be some place that wants him."
"Hey, I'm right here in the room," John shot back. "Thanks for making me feel like a loser."
The two laughed and Lexi felt a twinge of something that felt an awful lot like jealousy, but couldn't be.
Still, the nurse looked especially pretty today. Lexi wondered if John preferred blondes. Not that his taste in women mattered to her. Besides, for all anyone knew he could be married with a couple of kids.
"I've got an idea." Rachel turned to Lexi. "What about Wildwoods?"
Lexi shook her head. "When I left for work this morning, all the rooms and cabins were full."
"Mrs. Landers had been staying in the lodge while her husband was here," Rachel said. "The doctor dismissed him early this morning and they headed for home."
"Wildwoods?" John cocked his head.
"It's the B and B where Lexi lives," Rachel said. "Just outside of Wilson. About ten miles from here."
John's brows pulled together. He shifted his gaze to Lexi. "You live at a bed-and-breakfast?"
"That's right," Lexi said easily. "And I cook there on the weekends, too."
When she'd been a little girl standing on a stepstool helping her mother prepare meals, she'd never imagined the skills she'd learned would come in so handy. In exchange for low rent she prepared gourmet meals on weekends and holidays. It cost a lot to live in Jackson Hole and a social worker's salary only went so far.
"Sounds like you're a busy woman." John's gaze lingered. Instead of pity or condescension she saw admiration and something else. The pure masculine appreciation lighting his dark eyes took her by surprise. It had been a long time since a man had looked at her that way.
"So, are you going to call Coraline?" Rachel asked.
"Right now," Lexi said.
Coraline Coufal, the owner and proprietor, answered on the second ring. Lexi explained the situation and then held her breath. She wasn't sure whether to be relieved or distressed when she learned there was one room still available.
"We'll take it." Lexi flipped her phone shut and smiled at John. "Congratulations. Somebody wants you after all."
Posted July 14, 2014