Read an Excerpt
She opened her eyes abruptly, as though from a nightmare, conscious of the pounding of her heart and the sound of her quick, shallow breathing in the silent room. She couldn't remember the dream, but her shaking body and runaway pulse told her it had been a bad one. She closed her eyes and for several minutes concentrated only on calming down.
Gradually her heart slowed and her breathing steadied. Okay. Okay. That was better. That was much better.
She didn't like being scared.
She opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling. Gradually a niggling awareness of something being different made her turn her head slowly on the pillow so 5he cotald look around the room.
It wasn't her room.
Her other senses began to wake then. She heard the muffled, distant sounds of activity just beyond the closed door. She smelled sickness and medicine, the distinct odors of people and machines and starch. She noted the Spartan quality of the room she was in, the hospital bed she was lying onand the IV dripping into her arm. All of that told her she was in a hospital.
It took a surprising effort to raise her head and look down at herself; her neck felt stiff, unused, and a rush of nausea made her swallow hard. But she forced herself to look, to make sure all of her was there.
Both arms. Both legs. Nothing in a cast. Her feet moved when she willed them to. Not paralyzed then. Good.
With an effort, she raised the arm not hooked to the IV until she could see her hand. It was unnervingly small, not childlike but. . . fragile. The short nails were ragged and looked bitten, and the skin was milky-pale. She turned it slowly and stared at the palm, the pads of heir fingers. No calluses, but there was a slight roughness to her skin that told her she was accustomed to work.
Afraid of what she'd find, she touched her face with light, probing fingers. The bones seemed prominent, and the skin felt soft and smooth. There was no evidence of an injury until her exploration reached her forehead and right temple. There, a square of adhesive bandage and a faint soreness underneath told her she'd suffered some kind of cut.
But not a bad one, she thought, and certainly not a big one. The bandage was small, two or three square inches.
Beyond the bandage, she found her hair limp and oily, which told her it hadn't been washed recently. She pulled at a strand and was surprised that it was long enough for her to be able to see. It was mostly straight, with only a hint of curl. And it was red. A dark and dull red.
Now why did that surprise her?
For the first time, she let herself become aware of what had been crawling in her subconscious, a cold and growing fear she dared not name. She realized she was lying perfectly still now, her arms at her sides, hands into fists, staring at the ceiling as if she would find the answers there.
She wasn't injured except slightly, so why was she here? Because she was ill? What was wrong with her?
Why did her body feel so appallingly weak?
And far, far worse, why couldn't she remember
"Oh, my God."
The nurse in the doorway came a few steps into the room, moving slowly, her eyes wide with surprise. Then professionalism obviously took over, and she swallowed and said brightly if a bit unsteadily, "Youyou're awake. We were.., beginning to wonder about you, FaMiss Parker."
"I'll get the doctor."
She lay there waiting, not daring to think about the fact that she had not known her own name, still didn't beyond that simple and unfamiliar surname. It seemed an eternity she waited, while those cold and wordless terrors clawed through her mind and churned in her stomach, before a doctor appeared. He was tall, a bit on the thin side, with a sensitive mouth and very brilliant, very dark eyes.
"So you're finally awake." His voice was deep and warm, his smile friendly. He grasped her wrist lightly as he stood by the bed, discreetly taking her pulse.
"Can you tell me your name?"
She wet her lips and said huskily, "Parker." Even her voice sounded rusty and unused, and her throat felt scratchy.
He didn't look surprised; possibly the nurse had confessed that she had provided that information. "What about your first name?"
She tried not to cry out in fear. "No. No, II don't remember that."
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"How about telling me what year this is?"
She concentrated, fought down that cold, crawling panic. There was nothing in her mind but blankness, an emptiness that frightened her almost beyond words. No sense of identity or knowledge. Nothing.