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The South American's Wife
By Kay Thorpe
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSOFT but insistent, the sound of her name drew Karen out of a dreamless sleep. She opened her eyes to gaze for a blank moment or two at the unfamiliar, sun-filled room, her mind struggling to orientate itself.
Her eyes dropped to the lean, brown masculine hand covering hers where it lay on the white bed cover, travelling slowly up the length of a bronzed muscular arm to reach the face of the man seated at the bedside: a vital masculine face beneath thick black hair, short-cropped to control its curl.
"So you're back with us at last," he said in heavily accented English.
Mind still fogged, Karen eyed him in perplexity. "I don't understand," she murmured, surprised to hear how weak her voice sounded. "What happened? Where am I?"
Some nameless expression flickered across the dark eyes. "You were involved in an accident and suffered a concussion," he said. "You're in hospital here in Rio."
The fog deepened. "Rio?"
"Rio de Janeiro," He paused, brows drawing together. "Do you not remember?"
Karen stared at him in total confusion. Rio de Janeiro? That was in Brazil, wasn't it? The farthest she'd ever been from home was Spain!
"I don't understand," she repeated helplessly. "Who are you?"
There was no immediate answer; theexpression on the hard-boned face was disturbing. When he did speak it was in measured tones. "I'm Luiz Andrade. Your husband."
She froze, eyes wide and dark, mind whirling. "I don't have a husband," she got out. "What kind of game is this?"
The hand still covering hers tightened as she tried to draw it away. "The concussion has confused you. Relax, and everything will come back to you."
"No, it won't, because it isn't true!" She pressed herself upright, wincing as pain shot through her head, but in no frame of mind to give way to it. "I'm Karen Downing! I live in London! I've never been to Rio de Janeiro in my life, and I'm certainly not married - to you or anyone!"
"Hush! You must not agitate yourself this way," Looking concerned, he reached for the bell-push on the bedside table. "The doctor will give you something to calm you. When you waken, everything will be clear again."
"No!" She tore her hand free, shrinking as far as she could get from this stranger, now on his feet and towering over her. "It's all lies!"
"Why would I lie?" he asked. "For what possible reason would I claim to be your husband if it were not the truth?"
"I don't know!" she flung back. "All I do know is that I never saw you before in my life!"
As if on cue, the door opened to admit a uniformed nurse. Looking from one to the other, she said something in a language totally foreign to Karen's ears, answered by the man claiming to be her husband in what appeared to be the same language.
"What did you tell her?" she demanded as the woman exited again.
"To fetch a doctor," he said. "You're obviously suffering from a temporary amnesia."
"There's nothing temporary about it!" she claimed.
"Whatever this is about, you can forget it!" She glanced down at the white hospital smock she was wearing, then wildly about her. "Where are my clothes?"
"The ones you were wearing at the time of the accident have been disposed of," he said. "Others will be brought when you're deemed fit to be discharged."
"I want to go now!" she shot back at him. "You can't keep me here against my will."
Powerful shoulders lifted. "To where would you go? You know no one in Rio," A muscle jerked in the firm jawline as if he'd clamped his teeth together on some addition to that statement. "Be patient," he went on after a moment, "and everything will be all right."
He turned as the door opened again, this time to admit a white-coated doctor, addressing him in the same language he'd used with the nurse. Portuguese was the language spoken in Brazil; Karen knew that for a fact. She felt trapped in a never-ending nightmare.
The fight went out of her suddenly. She subsided on to the bed, unable to summon the strength of either mind or body to protest when the doctor produced a syringe. Sleep would be a welcome release from the turmoil in her head.
She opened her eyes again to soft lamplight, and for a moment imagined herself safe in her own bedroom, having fallen asleep reading as she often did.
Only it wasn't her room, and it hadn't been a dream, because the same man was seated at the bedside.
"How are you feeling now?" he asked.
Her voice came out low and ragged. "Afraid."
Face expressionless, he said, "Do you know me?"
Karen shook her head, too demoralised by the realisation that the nightmare hadn't ended to summon any semblance of spirit.
"So what exactly do you remember?" he asked.
"I'm Karen Downing," she said. "I'm twenty-three years old, and I share a flat in London with a friend who works for the same firm. My parents were killed in a plane crash four years ago."
That memory alone was enough to pierce her fragile control. She swallowed on the lump in her throat, recalling the agony of those days, weeks, months it had taken her to come to terms with her loss.
"This much I already know," Luiz Andrade returned.
"What appears to have happened is that your mind has somehow blanked out the past three months of your life. The three months you've spent here in Brazil as my wife," He paused again, as if gathering himself.
"We met at the hotel where you were spending a holiday. We were married within the week."
"That's impossible!" Karen burst out. "I'd never ..."
She broke off, biting her lip. If she couldn't remember, how could she be sure of what she might have done? But three months! Three whole months missing from her life! It didn't seem possible!
"How did I get to Rio?" she asked, forcing herself to calm down a little. "I couldn't afford a holiday in Brazil on my earnings."
"You told me you had won a sum of money on your lottery, and decided to see something of the world outside of Europe while you had the opportunity."
"So you didn't marry me on the assumption that I was rich," she murmured, trying to make sense of the story.
The strong, sensual mouth slanted briefly. "It was your beauty that attracted my eye, your personality that captured my heart," He registered the expression that crossed her face with another humourless smile. "You looked much the same way the first time I made my feelings clear to you - as if you doubted your power to stir a man to such a degree. Only when we made love did you begin to believe in me."
Warmth rose beneath her skin as her eyes dropped involuntarily down the length of his body to the lean hips and long legs clad in close-fitting white jeans, the stirring deep down in the pit of her stomach no fluke of imagination.
Excerpted from The South American's Wife by Kay Thorpe Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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