One minute, beautiful Louisiana shipping heiress Remy Jardin was being swept away by the uninhibited party madness of Carnival in France’s Côte d’Azur. The next, she wakes up in Nice, suffering from amnesia after a brutal attack, her identity and memories lost in a dizzying eddy of confusion. Found by her family and rushed back to her home in New Orleans, Remy feels neither relief nor calm—only dread. For Remy is surrounded by strangers.
Her father claims to have Remy’s best interests at heart, yet he seems too anxious to have her committed. Her conniving brother is filled with cryptic warnings. And what is she to make of slippery and handsome Cole Buchanan, CEO of the family’s Louisiana shipping line? He claims they were once passionately involved, but his secrets suggest something devious. Now, as Cole claws at her heart anew, Remy wonders if he’s just another soul she dare not trust, or the only man whose declarations of love can save her.
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About the Author
Janet Dailey, who passed away in 2013, was born Janet Haradon in 1944 in Storm Lake, Iowa. She attended secretarial school in Omaha, Nebraska, before meeting her husband, Bill. The two worked together in construction and land development until they “retired” to travel throughout the United States, inspiring Janet to write the Americana series of romances, setting a novel in every state of the Union. In 1974, Janet Dailey was the first American author to write for Harlequin. Her first novel was No Quarter Asked. She has gone on to write approximately ninety novels, twenty-one of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. She won many awards and accolades for her work, appearing widely on radio and television. Today, there are over three hundred million Janet Dailey books in print in nineteen different languages, making her one of the most popular novelists in the world. For more information about Janet Dailey, visit www.janetdailey.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
She sipped at the wine in her glass and watched with marked indifference the lewd gyrations of a short, fat man garbed in the costume of Bacchus, a wreath of grape leaves encircling his bald head and a toga stretched tautly around his protruding stomach. His partner wore a simple black cocktail dress, a collection of ribbons and bows in her hair, and festive makeup that included glittering pink eye shadow and blue stripes on her cheeks. Near them, a woman in a high, powdered wig, a fake mole, and a gown from the court of Louis XVI danced with a man in a red tuxedo with devil's horns on his head.
Turning from the sight, she let her gaze wander over the hotel's renowned rooftop garden, ablaze with light from colored lanterns strung all around, tiny fairy lights wound through the potted plants and trees, and votive candles on all the tables. Tonight it was the site of a private masked party —one of those intimate little affairs with two hundred or so guests, many in costume but some, like herself, choosing only a mask. Hers happened to be an elaborately feathered, hand-held one in amber satin that matched the dress and fur-lined stole she wore. It was lowered now, revealing the sculpted lines of her face, its expression untouched by the band's driving rock music, the laughter, the voices that filled the night air, a babble of French and Italian with a smattering of German, Dutch, Swiss, and English rising here and there —voices of people caught up in the party madness that gripped Nice, the undisputed queen city of France's Côte d'Azur, the party madness of Carnival that encouraged its revelers to celebrate all that was flesh, to don masks and shed inhibitions, to conceal and reveal.
Reveal. She finally looked at him, feeling the anger rise in her throat—along with the hurt and bitterness of disillusionment. He stood some thirty feet from her, his face partially hidden by the black satin mask he wore, fashioned to resemble a pirate's eye patch. A pirate—criminal of the high seas. My God, how appropriate, she thought. Looting, plundering, destroying in the name of —there was only one word for it—greed.
She took a quick sip of the wine, but it couldn't wash away the disgust, the revulsion she felt. Her fingers tightened on the glass's slender stem. What was she doing at this party? Why was she going through the motions of pretending everything was all right when it wasn't—when nothing would ever be all right again?
A waiter said something to him, and he lifted his head sharply, then nodded once and moved off, coming directly toward her. She took a quick step closer to the roofs edge, with its spectacular views of the gardens below and the Mediterranean beyond. She didn't want to hear any more of his explanations, his justifications.
But he wasn't walking toward her. He was heading for the entrance to the rooftop terrace to her left, a firmness in his stride that spoke of purpose. Curious, she turned and stiffened in alarm at the sight of the dark-haired man in a business suit waiting for him. What was he doing here? He belonged a half a world away. She watched as the two men met and immediately moved off to a quiet corner, away from the throng of party guests.
Why was he here? What was this all about? She had to find out. She cast a cautious glance around, then slipped closer.
"—realizes what went on that night. She's put two and two together and figured out what we did and how we did it."
"'We'? You told her I was involved?" he demanded, anger and accusation in his tone.
"I didn't have to. I told you she figured it out. That's why I called. I felt I should warn you. So far, I haven't been able to make her listen to reason."
They were talking about her. She almost stepped out from behind the concealing fronds of the palmetto plant and confronted them both with her knowledge. She wanted them to know they weren't going to get away with this. But his next words stopped her cold.
"If she can't be made to see reason, you've got to shut her up. She can't be allowed to tell what she knows. There's no place for sentiment in this. She's proved that. And you'll never have a better opportunity than now. Kidnappings, accidents happen all the time in Europe. Back home, she'll be just another statistic."
She felt her mouth and lips suddenly go dry with fear. He wouldn't agree to that ... would he? He wouldn't hurt her. He couldn't. Not him. But his face was in profile, shadowed by the mask that covered his right eye, making his expression unreadable.
There came a sigh, heavy with defeat. "I don't see any other choice."
No! She backed up a step, moving her head from side to side in mute denial, not wanting to believe what she'd heard.
"Are you going to arrange it, or do you want me—" The wineglass slipped from her fingers and crashed to the terrace floor. Both men turned and stared directly at her. There was a split second when she couldn't move, paralyzed by the accusing look in their eyes. Then she turned and ran. "Stop her! She'll destroy everything."
She looked back and saw his familiar face, half concealed by the mask, coming after her. She brushed past a slim young man in a Degas ballerina costume and pushed through the doors to the bank of elevators, conscious of the shock, the disbelief that blurred everything but the panicked need to escape.
He reached the elevators to the rooftop terrace just as the doors to one of them slid shut. He punched impatiently at the button to summon another, gripped by his own kind of fear, the fear that came with guilt and desperation. He couldn't let her get away, or all would be lost. Why couldn't she see that? Why was she doing this? Why was she making him do this?
At the lobby, he emerged from the elevator in time to see her dart through the hotel entrance and into the street. He hurried after her. A cab pulled away as he stopped outside. He lifted a hand to call another, then saw her cutting across the street toward the Espace Masséna. If he lost her in that mob of revelers in the square—he couldn't let that happen.
But it did. The crowd swallowed her.
Where was she? The black mask cut off his peripheral vision to the right, forcing him to turn his head to scan the boisterous throng on that side of the Espace Masséna. There was a loud splash behind him, accompanied by a woman's shriek of laughter. His back was to the square's fountain, with its spectacular pillars of water shooting some forty feet into the air. He swung around, his glance briefly resting on some madcap brunette frolicking in the fountain's pool. The instant he identified the woman as a stranger, he looked away, resuming his search and unconsciously clenching his hands into tight, trembling fists.
Ignoring the tangle of confetti at his feet, he took two quick steps toward the boulevard. In one direction, only a short stroll away, was the Promenade des Anglais with its glittering casinos and palatial hotels, bastions of privacy and exclusivity for the wealthy and celebrated. In another lay the narrow, cobbled streets of Nice's Old Town section with its mélange of galleries, outdoor cafés, and boîtes de nuit. Beyond that were the Baie des Anges and the Mediterranean.
He hesitated, then stopped. Three-story-tall cartoon figures, garishly outlined in a blaze of colored lights, mocked him from the distinctive roccoco red buildings that flanked the square. He swung abruptly to his left, only to be met by the taunting grin of the giant papier-mâché King Carnival enthroned on the square.
For an instant, he glared at the figure, then swept his glance over the milling crowd again. How could she have disappeared so quickly? He scanned the throng, seeking the amber shimmer of her satin gown, the streaks of gold in her sun-lightened brown hair, and the gleam of the topaz brooch she wore at her throat. Again he saw no sign of her, and he felt the knot tighten in his stomach.
Someone jostled him from behind. Instinctively he turned, protectively lifting a hand to cover the slim wallet tucked inside the inner breast pocket of his black tuxedo jacket, well aware that Mardi Gras celebrations always attracted a sizable contingent of pickpockets as well as sun-and-fun-loving tourists. This time his caution was unnecessary as a fair-haired German raised a wine bottle to him in an apologetic salute and then reeled away, his arm hooked around his svelte companion.
He absently brushed at the wet splatter of wine on his sleeve and turned back. At that instant he saw her, near the sidewalk of the tree-lined boulevard, looking warily about, poised for flight. But she hadn't seen him yet.
He came up behind her and caught hold of her arm, his fingers curling into the satin of her stole. "You're coming with me—now."
She pulled back, her head coming up, her gaze clashing with his, her temper willfully set against his, stubbornly resisting him. "So you can have me kidnapped? Murdered?"
For an instant everything inside him went still. "It doesn't have to be that way. If you'd just listen to reason. Nobody got hurt in this. No one."
"What about the company? This could destroy it." She threw him another angry and challenging look, only this time it was colored by hurt and accusation. "But you don't care, do you?"
"I had no choice."
His grip tightened on her arm, checking the pivoting turn she made away from him and steering her into the concealing shadows beneath a tree. "You've got to understand—"
"I'll never understand!" she flared, then her voice grew all tight and choked. "How could you do this? Who are you? I don't even know you anymore."
The revulsion, the distrust she showed for him broke the thin thread of his control. Seizing her high on both arms, he began to shake her, mindless of his roughness. "Don't you realize what's at stake? How can you betray me like this? If you truly love—"
"Stop. Stop it!" As her hands came up to push at him and end the violent shaking, the rodlike wand that held her satin mask struck against his upper lip, sending a needle-sharp spasm of pain through his face.
Stunned by the blow, he instinctively released her to explore the injury with his fingers and tongue. He tasted blood and realized that she'd hit him. She'd hit him. A sudden rage welled up in him and he lashed out, backhanding her across the face.
The force of the blow sent her reeling backward against the tree. The momentary gratification he felt vanished when he heard the cracking thud of her head striking the trunk a second before she crumpled to the ground.
"My God, no." He took a step toward her, automatically reaching out to her with his hands. "I didn't mean to, I swear—"
But she didn't move.
"Hey?!" someone shouted, the voice American in its accent. "What's going on there?"
He shot a quick glance over his shoulder, regret, fear, and guilt warring for control. He hesitated for a split second, then took off across the boulevard.
Two T-shirt-and-denim-clad twenty-year-olds ran to the pool of amber satin lying in the shadows by the street. The one with dark-rimmed glasses knelt down to check her pulse while the blond sporting a California tan started after the fleeing man.
"Let him go, Brad," his buddy called him back. "You'll never catch him anyway, and this girl's unconscious."
"Is she hurt bad?"
"I don't know, but we'd better get an ambulance."
"And the police," his friend added.CHAPTER 2
Blackness. Swirling, eddying, trying to pull her deeper—away from that distant light. She fought against it, straining toward that light, obeying some inner voice that said she must reach it. But it hurt. It hurt so much.
One last time she kicked for it. Suddenly it was there—glaring on her eyelids. She'd made it.
She struggled to open her eyes, fighting the lids' heaviness. The light—she didn't understand why it was so bright. Something was wrong. Dazed and disoriented, she looked about her in confusion, not recognizing the stark walls or the drab curtains at the windows.
A man loomed beside her, his features blurring for an instant and then coming into focus. "Where—" Her lips were too stiff, too dry; she couldn't get the words out. She moistened them and tried again. "Where am I?"
"Américaine," someone said softly, very softly, giving the word the French pronunciation.
Groggily she tried to locate the source of that voice and finally saw the balding man standing at the foot of the bed, dressed in a comfortable tweed coat and a turtleneck sweater. He looked like a kindly old professor.
"You are in an hospital, mam'selle," the first man replied.
"A hospital." She frowned at that, certain there was somewhere else she was supposed to be. "I have to go." Something told her it was important. "I have to leave." But the instant she tried to lift her head, pain knifed through her and the blackness rushed back, threatening to swirl her away again. Somehow she managed to hang on, clinging to the sound of the man's voice even though she couldn't actually hear the words; they came from too far away. Finally the black pain receded to the edges.
"—lie quietly." The voice was clearer now. "Do not try to move."
She opened her eyes again, focusing on his regular features, etched with tired lines. "Who are you?" She searched without finding anything familiar about this plain-looking, brown-haired, brown-eyed man.
"I am Dr. Jules St. Clair." A faint smile edged the corners of his mouth. "And what is your name, mam'selle?"
"My name. My name is—" She frowned, not understanding why she couldn't think of it. But when she tried, there was only a confusing blankness—and a throbbing pressure in her head that wouldn't go away. "I—I can't remember it." She saw the doctor's somewhat startled look, followed by the quick narrowing of his eyes. She felt a rising sense of panic and fought it back. "What's happened to me? This pain. I—I can't seem to think."
"You have suffered a head injury, mam'selle— a concussion. I will have the nurse give you something for the pain so you can rest."
"But my name—what is it?" Even as she made the weak demand, she was conscious of the welcome promise of his words. She was tired, so very tired of fighting to hold the pain at bay, tired of struggling to penetrate this thick, bewildering mist in her mind.
"Later, mam'selle. There will be time for all your questions later," he said.
Without the strength to argue with him, she closed her eyes. Distantly she heard the doctor murmur instructions to someone else in the room. She sensed that he was no longer standing beside her, but she didn't bother to open her eyes again to see where he'd gone. She drifted instead.
At the foot of the hospital bed, Dr. St. Clair picked up her chart and began making notations on it. Inspector Claude Armand watched him in silence for several seconds, then asked, "Is it possible she cannot truly recall her name?"
"Yes," the doctor replied, without looking up from the notes he was making. "Patients with head injuries such as hers are frequently confused and disoriented when they first regain consciousness. Some memory loss is not uncommon. In the majority of cases, it is a temporary condition."
"That is difficult to say, Inspector. A few hours, a few days, a few weeks." His shoulders lifted at the impreciseness of his answer as he finished the last of his notes and retracted the tip of his ballpoint pen with a sharp click. "Your question leads me to assume that no one has come forward to identify her."
"Personally, Inspector Armand"—he paused to hand the chart to a waiting nurse—"I find nothing unusual in our mystery lady's inability to remember her name. But she was admitted—what? —nearly thirty hours ago. How could someone forget to remember such a beautiful woman? To me, that is strange."
"Oui." But it wasn't the how that puzzled Inspector Armand as he left the hospital room. No, it wasn't the how so much as the why.
Excerpted from Masquerade by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1990 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book, it was so wonderful! the way Janet Dailey used the past and present to convey her story was masterful and intruiging, i couldn't put it down! The story line was awesome, a very good read
I luv New Orleans and u covered it well. Loved all the history insights. Thanks for writing this book.
Loved this book