It has been a great week for us, two new books out this week!
On February 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

Her lover’s Face is out today!  We are very proud to announce that Patricia Elliott’s book Her Lover’s Face is on sale now!

Here is the Prologue and Chapter One, a little flavor of this lovely story.

Prologue

Freedom.

The word played in her head like sweet music on the radio. She stared down at his coffin as the pallbearers lowered it into the waiting grave.  It landed on the ground with a dull thud. She cringed, unable to take her eyes off the wooden casket. Expecting at any moment for her husband to shove back the lid and pull her into the grave with him.

Relax, Laryssa, he’s dead.

She searched her heart for any feelings whatsoever for the man she’d been married to for seven years, but none surfaced. He’d put her through living hell. That’s why, when the coroner went to give her his personal belongings, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘bury them with him’. The man’s jaw dropped and he’d simply stared at her.

She yanked off her wedding ring and dropped it onto the casket. Whispers could be heard behind her, but she didn’t care. From her pocket, she pulled the divorce documents, which were drawn up earlier that month, and dropped them into the grave. She never did find the courage to tell him she wanted a divorce, not while the bruises on her back were still healing.

The positive pregnancy test she’d taken a few weeks ago only enforced her need to stay. There was no way she’d have made it on her own. She’d hoped a miracle would come her way and he’d change when she told him the news. She learned the hard way that he had no intention of changing. If he could speak, he’d probably say it should have been her in the grave instead of him. Fate intervened and brought her freedom, despite her hesitancy to step out into the world.

The only feelings inside her were guilt for being partly responsible for his death, and sadness for her child, who would grow up without a father. She turned away and walked through the crowd of people who, one by one, offered their condolences.

No one knew what he put her through. He’d been a master deceiver, always putting on a lovey-dovey act when his friends were around. But the monster inside him lurked beneath the surface, waiting for the moment when they were alone. His words were warm, his eyes cold. She shivered when a snowflake slipped beneath the collar of her jacket.

His business partners made sure she gave him a funeral service. She agreed for fear of what might happen had she done otherwise. If it was up to her, she’d have just had a graveside service and be done with it. Her heart remained cool and distant, as though she was viewing a stranger. He was no longer the man she’d fallen in love with in college. Now that was the man she could truly mourn for. The one she’d miss.

Her first tear slid down her cheek as she reached the last person in line who offered their condolences. He looked vaguely familiar, but her brain wasn’t working well enough to remember him. A large bandage covered his left cheek. His friendly voice made him appear sympathetic, but his eyes, which concentrated on her so intently, looked as though they held a secret she’d rather not know. They made her shudder with unease.

She said a quick thank you and then excused herself. She could feel his eyes still watching her as she hurried away. The hair on her arms stood on end and she wondered if she really was free after all.

***

He watched Laryssa make her way to the car. “It’s not over. Not by a long shot,” he murmured. He noticed a woman beside him staring, and pulled the brim of his hat down low. “Sad, sad day.” He shook his head for her benefit.

Now there was nothing to stop him from taking what he wanted. For seven years he’d been patient, seven bloody years. He ached with anticipation of having her all to himself. An ache that was all too familiar from watching her night after night. No more seeking relief by his own hand; not when she would soon be able to do it for him.

His gaze slid down her body. She wore a full length black dress, but that didn’t ease his excitement. He knew her body too well. His hands tingled at the thought of peeling the dress off her and he grew hard just thinking of her naked. The veil she wore covered her face, but he knew the brown curly hair and matching eyes that hid beneath it. There was nothing about her he didn’t know. What song she sang in the shower. What color her favorite underwear was. He’d left no stone unturned. He would bide his time. Let her mourn for her loss.

He chuckled.

Loss? What a laugh. How many times had he seen her crying in her bedroom at night? How many times had she pretended to be asleep, hoping that Aidan wouldn’t beat her when he got home? Only Laryssa, his sweet Laryssa, could be upset over such a man.

He made the sign of a cross as he walked back to his car. He put the key in the ignition and sat back in his seat, letting his gaze linger over her a final time. She sat slumped at her steering wheel. “Make no mistake, Laryssa. I’m coming to take what’s mine.”

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

“Huh, what?” Laryssa bolted straight up in bed, nearly smacking her head on the overhead lamp. The phone rang again, startling her. “Get a grip, Laryssa. You brought the phone in last night.” She reached out and grabbed the phone off the night stand.

“Hello?”

“Laryssa, where are you?” a voice shrilled in her ear.

“What? Oh, Melissa?” Laryssa asked. She shook her head to clear away the cobwebs, as she let her legs dangle over the side of the bed.

“Of course it’s me. Have you looked at the time?” Melissa’s voice lowered to a whisper, “The meeting is in forty minutes.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She turned the clock on the nightstand; it read 9:30 am. “Peachy. I’ll be right there.”

Placing the phone on the bed, she stood up quickly and experienced a sudden bout of nausea, which had her rushing to the bathroom. Not again; would this never end? Every morning she found herself with her head in the toilet. The only bad thing, this time, was she couldn’t jump in the shower to refresh herself. Slowly standing back up, she went to the sink and splashed cold water on her face. Exhaustion was evident by the dark bags under her eyes which was, she guessed, how she ended up sleeping through the alarm.

Laryssa rushed through her bathroom routine, and then hurried back into the bedroom. She grabbed the red three-piece suit which hung in her closet and stared at it before putting it on. This was the first maternity suit she’d treated herself to. She’d bought it the day the doctor told her she was going to have twins. The revelation of that was still enough to dazzle her senses. She had finally accepted she would be a single working mother with one baby. The thought of having two frightened her. How would she cope when she could barely afford to feed herself? Even though weeks had passed since the doctor gave her the news, she still felt overwhelmed at times.

Quickly grabbing a bagel, Laryssa rushed out the door; it wasn’t the most nutritious of meals, but she couldn’t afford to be late and lose her job. She had to work full-time just to make ends meet. The days following Aidan’s death had been agonizing. The lawyers informed her that she’d been left with nothing. He never had a cent to his name. Since the death had been his fault, the insurance company didn’t have to pay her anything either. All his debt and bills had fallen squarely on her shoulders. She could barely pay the mortgage with her semi-decent administrative assistant wages, let alone all the other bills that plagued her.

She’d thought about selling the house, but being pregnant and working full-time, who had the time to get it ready? As it was, the doctors told her she needed to rest as much as possible. If she could afford it, she’d pay someone to help her, but whatever money she received disappeared as quickly as it arrived. It was times like this she longed for her parents. Unshed tears burned in her eyes. Get over it, Laryssa.

She slid into the driver’s seat, started the car, and executed a perfect U-turn to get going in the right direction. She was glad she took the advice of her friend, Melissa, and applied for a job a month ago. The job helped her re-gain not only her independence, but her life as well; a life that didn’t include him. Well, almost. His face still haunted her, not only in her dreams, but during her waking moments as well.

With only five minutes to spare, she pulled into the parking lot of Richards’ Enterprises. Wasting no time, she hurried inside and skidded to a halt. It couldn’t be possible, could it? A man, who looked frighteningly familiar, stood in the elevator across the lobby. She rushed to the elevator before the doors closed and squeezed inside, keeping her eyes trained on the floor, her heart pounding like a runaway freight train. Willing herself, she looked up at the man who stood beside her. Her stomach twisted and cramped as though someone had punched her. The ground opened up and she lost her balance, bumping into him. She reached for the hand rest on the side of the elevator as it ascended.

“If you’re afraid of elevators, you should take the stairs,” the man said in a low voice. “Not everyone appreciates being bumped into, even if it is by a pretty lady.”

The voice, oh God, even the voice was the same. The elevator came to a halt and she stumbled out of the car. The man strolled past her and started to walk down the narrow corridor created by two long rows of green partitioned cubicles.

Okay, she was going insane. First, she saw him at a club that she and Melissa had gone to a week earlier and now here. How could she be imagining him everywhere? She wasn’t that crazy.

Doctors had told her that occasionally people suffer hallucinations after losing a loved one because they are in denial. She’d seen him in the coffin, being lowered into the ground. Damn it, she was at his funeral. Who knew better than her that the father of her babies was dead? She had asked the doctors why it was happening now and not back then. They kept saying everyone was different, or that there was a part of her that needed closure.

Surely, it wasn’t just her mind playing tricks on her? He neared the end of the corridor and stopped to speak with one of her colleagues. How can you bump into a hallucination? She needed another look, and started down the corridor after him, only to be stopped by her Supervisor, Dan.

“You’re late,” he said coolly, tapping on his watch.

“I’m so sorry. I went to bed early, but was so tired I slept through my alarm.” Tears sprung up in her eyes. Darn hormones, she thought to herself.

He looked down at her belly and understanding dawned in his eyes. “Do you need more time off? If we’re working you too hard, I can always get someone to fill in an extra day or two a week.”

“I’m fine, really. Maybe I’m not getting enough iron or something. Did you find the papers I left on your desk last night?” She attempted to change the subject.

“Yes, thank you. I do need you to find the company’s complete personnel file, though. Mr. Richards’ grandson has taken over for him and decided to work out of this office for now. He wants to make a few personnel rotations. He’s brought in some of his own people.”

She looked around. The place didn’t really look like it needed changing, but then she hadn’t been back for overly long. “He doesn’t plan to fire anyone, does he?” she asked, biting on her bottom lip.

Dan chuckled. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t let anything happen to my favorite assistant.”

“I really am grateful for my old job back, especially after all these years.” She rested her hand on his forearm.

“Don’t mention it.” Dan glanced down at his watch. “But better hurry up with those files, though. The meeting is about to start.”

Laryssa approached the filing cabinets that lined the wall south of the elevator. Melissa must have heard her approach and looked up from her desk, eyeing her intently.

“Everything okay, you look pale?” her friend asked.

Trust Melissa to notice. She had too good an eye sometimes. “I’ll tell you about it later. If I don’t find the personnel file, in like one second, Dan will have my hide.” Laryssa pulled open the drawer marked with a ‘P’ and raced through the files. “Ahaa, here it is. Catch you later.”

With unsteady feet and a heart that wouldn’t slow down, she made her way to the conference room. She stood at the door, her hand resting on the doorknob, when she heard his voice again. The familiar sound sent a snake-like shiver down her spine.

Gathering her courage, she opened the door. Her mind was not prepared for what she saw in front of her. There, at the head of the table, stood her worst nightmare. Her newly found freedom ceased to exist at that moment.

“Don’t just stand there gawking at me, take a seat,” he ordered. His cool voice cut through her like a newly sharpened sword.

The file fell from her hand and her feet involuntarily moved towards him. Dan was on his feet in a split second and by her side. “Laryssa?” He touched her shoulder gently.

Silence spread throughout the room. The only sound was her labored breathing, which verged on hyperventilation.

“Miss, take a seat, please,” the man said again.

She shook her head as she approached him. This wasn’t possible. How could he be standing here? The doctors couldn’t be right. She couldn’t possibly be hallucinating again.

Confusion and frustration clouded his face. “Miss, is there a problem?”

Laryssa stopped an arm length away from him and reached up with a shaky hand to touch his face. “Aidan.” She jerked back and bumped into the chair behind her. Distress overwhelmed her entire being.

“No,” she gasped. “This isn’t possible.” She stumbled backwards away from him. “Go away, you’re not real.” The walls of the room closed in around her as she struggled to breathe. Her vision blurred and everything faded. The last thing she saw was his ghost rushing forward.

Alex sensed what was about to happen and caught her, lowering her to the ground. “What on earth is she doing working in her condition?” he barked.

“Her condition is called pregnancy; something perfectly normal.” He looked up and saw the young woman he had seen her with earlier rush into the room. She must have heard the commotion from down the hall. She dropped to her knees next to her friend.

“Laryssa, sweetie, talk to me. It’s Melissa.” She tapped her friend on the cheek. The only response was a groan. “Gosh, is everyone an idiot today? Call an ambulance.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her and she quirked her eyebrow back. He would have grinned if he didn’t have an unconscious woman in his conference room. Obviously, Melissa wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion. “Forget the ambulance. I’ll take her,” he said.

Melissa’s eyes widened as she stared at him. He couldn’t say why he blurted that out. After all, he appeared to be the one causing her distress. It would stand to reason someone else should take her, but she intrigued him. What caused her to panic when she saw him? This was not quite the way he planned to spend his first day at the company, although it was definitely more interesting than anything else he had planned.

Dan picked up Laryssa and walked towards the door. Alex left the meeting in the capable hands of his second in command and led them to his car. He rushed through the city streets. The reality of what he was about to do hit him hard. He’d actually agreed to walk into a hospital, without thinking twice, except for now. The one place he always sought to avoid. Laryssa moaned and moved slightly on the seat beside him, but didn’t open her eyes.

Alex pulled up to the front of the Hospital’s emergency doors. He hurried around to the other side of the car and lifted her into his arms. Shocked, he looked down at her. He hadn’t expected such a feather weight, not with her rounded belly. While he studied her, a weird emotion ran through him that he was unable to identify. She snuggled closer to him and sighed softly. The sound wrapped itself around his heart. He couldn’t help but feel oddly connected to her, and the need to protect her washed over him. Why? He didn’t know.

Alex rushed into the emergency room. The nurse at the admission desk looked up from the patient she was currently dealing with and signaled another nurse who rushed out front with a gurney. He laid her down gently.

“What seems to be the problem,” the nurse asked.

“She’s pregnant. She fainted.” Alex’s eyes darted around the room as discomfort settled deep inside him. If it wasn’t for his interest in the lady’s reaction to him, he’d leave and never come back. He was usually known for being able to keep calm in high stress situations, but that ability high-tailed it out the door when it came to setting foot inside a hospital.

“Are you her husband?” the nurse asked him.

It was a truly reasonable question, but it still rebounded in his head as he looked down at the woman on the bed. Panic nearly numbed him as events from his past threatened to overcome him.

“What’s her name?” the nurse spoke again.

“Laryssa.”

He looked around the waiting room, thankful that it was relatively empty. Within ten minutes, the nurse whisked them into the back. She wheeled Laryssa into an empty room.

Not long afterwards, a doctor walked into the room. “What happened?”

“I’m not sure, we were in a meeting at work and then she started hyperventilating. Next thing I knew, she fainted.”

“Why don’t you go have a seat while I examine her? There is a chair just outside.” The doctor nodded towards the door. Alex studied Laryssa for a moment, hesitant to leave her.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of her.” The doctor put the stethoscope in his ears and turned towards the woman on the table.

Alex walked reluctantly out of the private room and plunked himself in the chair next to the door.

“Laryssa, can you hear me?”

In a small corner of her mind, she could hear the voice. She struggled to open her eyes.

“Good girl. I’m Dr. Martin. Do you know where you are?”

With blurred vision, she could make out the white walls, and heard the beeping of machines around her. “The hospital?” She squeezed her eyes closed and rubbed them. When she opened them, she could finally see again.

“Do you know how you got here?”

“Not really. What happened?” She tried to push herself up, but the doctor gently pressed against her shoulders and made her lie down again.

“You fainted at work. Have you eaten today?”

“I ate a bagel.” She noticed the look of disapproval on his face and quickly continued, “I know, I know. I was a little behind this morning. I was going to grab an early lunch after the meeting finished.” Remembering the meeting, all the details came flooding back and a shiver rippled through her. Thankfully, the doctor was too busy fiddling with the blood pressure machine to notice.

After a few moments the doctor said, “Your blood pressure is a little high. Has your doctor mentioned anything about it before?”

“During my last appointment it was a little high, but he said it wasn’t too bad. He mentioned that, since I was having twins, it might be higher than normal and that I should relax as much as possible.” Laryssa blushed sheepishly. She hadn’t really been following doctor’s orders. Work left her with little choice.

“I think it is in your best interest to apply for maternity leave as soon as possible.”

“I haven’t worked long enough to qualify.” She cursed under her breath. If only Aidan would have let her continue working, but, no, he had to make her quit. Tears filled her eyes for the second time that day. What was she going to do now?

“Here, let me bring your husband in.”

“I’m afraid my husband is—”

“He’s waiting just outside. I’ll go get him,” he interrupted.

She tried to speak again, but the doctor disappeared out the door. Aidan, outside? No, that wasn’t possible! The man she saw couldn’t have been Aidan, could he? But the doctor was saying he was here. Oh God. Her stomach churned and foul-tasting acid rose in her throat. She covered her mouth with her hand and made a bee-line for the garbage can at the end of the bed.

After she finished retching, she sat back down on the bed and wrapped the blanket around herself like a cocoon. She had to remain calm for her babies’ sake. The hard part was getting her heart to listen. There had to be a reasonable explanation for all this. Logic and reason fled from her thoughts when the doctor re-entered the room, followed by…him.

“No…no…no.” She grasped the railing of the bed and a wave of dizziness washed over her. Tears pricked at her eyes. “This isn’t happening. This isn’t possible.”

The doctor looked from Laryssa back to Aidan and motioned Aidan outside. She craned her ear to hear what he would say. “I think we might keep her in overnight just to be on the safe side. She seems to be upset over something and I want to monitor her blood pressure; make sure it doesn’t get too high.”

Aidan looked back into the room and stared directly at her. The usual evil glint in his eyes had been replaced by what looked like sincere concern for her. If the doctor could see him, he definitely wasn’t a ghost.

“Give her a private room. I’ve got to run for a bit, but I’m going to send her friend down to keep her company.” Wandering back inside the room, he gave her a gentle squeeze on the hand. “I have to run. I’ll send Melissa down to keep you company. She’s worried sick.”

Laryssa was unable to respond and could only stare at him as he turned to walk away. She had to be dreaming. There was no way he was alive and the Aidan she knew would never have bothered saying good-bye, let alone touch her as tenderly as this man had done. Not unless there were more people around to witness his husbandly acts. Her wish for the perfect husband must have caused her to create this fantasy. That was the only explanation which made any sense. Any minute now, she’d wake up and he would be dead. Buried deep in his grave on the other end of town, and she’d be safely inside her house.

She squeezed her eyes closed and willed herself awake. When she opened them, she was still in the hospital room, and Aidan, who now stood at the door, was staring at her with pure curiosity.

The nurse unlocked the wheels of the bed and started to push her out of the room. Once they were out in the hallway, he gave her hand another quick squeeze and said, “I’ll come back soon and see how things are going.”

He started to walk down the hall. She twisted on the bed and watched him disappear out the doors. The nurse took her up to the maternity wing and set her up in a private room. Her composure broke the minute the nurse left, closing the door behind her. She buried her face in her hands and cried.

***

The tears were still falling when Melissa arrived at the hospital.

“Oh, sweetie.” Her friend sat on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around Laryssa. “It’s okay, girl. Everything is going to be okay.”

“I’m going crazy. I’m seeing him everywhere.” She pulled another Kleenex out of the near empty box and blew her nose.

Melissa gave her a squeeze. “You’ll be fine, you’ll see. Just give it time. The mind can be a funny thing.”

Definitely funny alright, and it would lead her straight to the funny farm, she thought with a certainty. Maybe she had imagined it all. Yes, that was it. If she saw him again, he probably wouldn’t even look like her dead husband.

***

Alex leaned back in his black office chair, unable to focus on his work. He couldn’t help but think of the young woman he had taken to the hospital. Why were so many people mistaking him as a man named Aidan? This was the third time in the past two weeks. Granted, no one else reacted quite so strongly. The others who questioned him just shrugged their shoulders and went on their way when he said who he was. With her, he never even had the chance to get that far. Instead, she fainted in his arms the minute she saw him. That was not exactly the type of reaction he was used to from the opposite sex.

Flirting, he was used to and enjoyed it as much as the next man when he was in the right mood, but this; this was entirely new, and it intrigued him. She was riddled with mystery and he would do whatever it took to unravel it. He never backed away from a good challenge. He needed to learn more about her and decided to pull up her personnel file.

He glanced over it and learned she was a widow, and twenty-seven years old. That meant she was single. Not that he cared about that particular fact. He continued reading and discovered that she worked for the company a few years back, and then sent in a resignation letter. What prompted her to come back again years later? He didn’t like that this created more questions than answers, so he closed the file.

Sitting forward, he tried to focus on the work in front of him. Since taking over this branch of the company from his grandfather, his work load had increased and he couldn’t afford to be distracted. Within minutes, though, he tossed his pen against the beige colored wall in frustration, and it landed in the brown ceramic planter of his green fern.

He was already a little behind, with his detour to the hospital, but he couldn’t get her image out of his mind. How she sat there on the hospital bed, scared out of her mind. The way she cringed whenever he touched her didn’t escape his notice either. Most women he could forget while he worked; but her, she kept invading the corner of his mind. Something had pierced his soul during the trip to the hospital and seemed to link him directly to her.

He hoped that the next time he saw her, the connection would go away, and he could get back to work. He couldn’t say he relished the idea of her overreacting to him again; but there was a part of him that told him it was his fault she was there, and that he should try to reassure her that he wasn’t this Aidan fellow, and hopefully put her mind at ease.

He stood up and quickly grabbed his jacket before rushing out the door to his car. A serious case of ‘should he, shouldn’t he’ played in his head. The ‘should he’ won and he found himself pulling into the visitors’ parking of the hospital. All he was going to do was go inside, introduce himself, and leave. Since they worked together, it was the least he could do. He couldn’t have her reacting this way all the time.

If she couldn’t figure out how to work with him, he’d have to let her go. This visit would determine that. The trip wasn’t personal and had nothing to do with the fact he couldn’t stop thinking about her. He just wanted to make sure she was well enough to do her job, and see what he could find out about this man he kept hearing about. That was what he kept telling himself all the way to the hospital. It was the only rational explanation, given his avoidance of the female race, except to scratch an itch that rarely surfaced, if at all.

***

Laryssa sat on the edge of her bed, picking away at the supper the hospital provided. Melissa had left a little earlier to go home and cook supper for her husband. She promised to show up bright and early the next morning since it was her day off.

The hospital food wasn’t as bad as everyone always claimed it to be; but her stomach still refused to let her enjoy anything. Morning sickness was only supposed to last till second trimester, and then go away. She’d started the second and it still hadn’t shown any signs of disappearing. It was always worse when her stress levels were elevated. Pushing the tray away, she swung her legs up on the bed and rested against the mattress, which had been raised to a sitting position. She pulled up her gown and rested her hand on her stomach.

“It’s still hard to believe I’ve got two of you in there.” She ran her hand in little circles over her belly, laughing with delight when one would push out to meet her hand. “Bet it’s getting a little squished, eh.” It was nice to have a serene moment like this after a stressful day. She loved sitting and watching her stomach before falling asleep. Something she’d definitely miss after they were born. Gosh, it was hard to believe she was already twenty-one weeks.

She couldn’t imagine what it would be like when they finally made their appearance. Excitement and fear all mingled together as she thought about it. Excitement filled her at the thought of finally being able to hold them, yet she couldn’t help but feel afraid at the possibility of being alone when the time came. Melissa promised to be with her, but it just wasn’t the same. They deserved a daddy. Aidan’s face appeared in front of her and it was like ton of bricks falling on her heart.

He could have been a good man, if he had made any effort to be. He showed her that when they first met. It was for that reason alone she tried to make it work, knowing what it could be like. Now, it would seem she was doomed to be haunted by his memory and his face the rest of her life. A memory so fresh that Laryssa swore she could hear his voice.

When the familiar voice got louder, her eyes widened in fear. “No, it can’t be,” she gasped. She stared at the door as if a ghost was about to walk through it, and within seconds, one did. The spitting image of her husband walked in the room.

“Go away! You’re not real! You’re not real!” Laryssa cried out, taking shelter under the covers.

Alex chuckled at the spectacle of a grown woman hiding under the sheets, the way a child would hide from a ghost. Her reaction only intrigued him more. “Miss,” he inquired softly.

“Go away. You’re not real. You can’t be real. You’re dead.” She kept a death grip on the sheets as he tried to pry them down.

“Last time I checked, I was real,” Alex commented. Finally, he managed to pull the sheets off her head. She swung her arms at him. He grabbed her forearms and held them away from him.

“You’re dead. I saw them bury you.” She wrenched her arms away from him and proceeded to keep swinging. He wrapped his fingers around her wrists and gently lowered her hands down beside her.

“Ms. Mitchell, I’m not sure who you saw buried, but it wasn’t me. I’m not, what’s his name, Aidan?”

Laryssa nodded her head and eyed him warily. “Who are you?”

She tried to pull away, but he didn’t relinquish his hold on her. He was going to make her see the truth if it was the last thing he did. Her latest reactions re-enforced his need to share who he was.

“My name is Alexander Richards. We’ve never met before, I assure you.” He was sure of that. There was no way he’d forget someone as beautiful as her. “I’m sorry if I frightened you.” He wanted to say more, but a nurse walked into the room.

“Is everything okay in here? We really can’t have her getting upset right now.” The nurse looked at the clock on the wall. “I’m afraid that, while we do allow family to stay, we really need her to get some rest, so unless you’re willing to let her sleep, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

He wanted to argue with the nurse, but knew she was right when he looked back at Laryssa. She was tired personified; the dark bags under her eyes more evident than before. Alex didn’t really want to leave; he wanted to pry more information out of her, but it probably was for the best. Maybe time alone and a good night’s sleep would allow what he said to sink into her mind. Hopefully, the next time he came to the hospital she would be more willing to speak with him. He grabbed his jacket and strolled out of the room.

As he drove home, the situation kept popping into his mind. Unease settled into the deepest part of him as he recalled the terror in her eyes when he walked in the room. Did he really look so much like this other man that she’d react so strongly? Maybe she was just so distraught over her loss that everyone she saw looked like him.

He had heard of cases where a person had suffered such severe hallucinations because they couldn’t accept the loss of a loved one. They wanted them to be alive so badly that they were able to convince their minds that their loved ones were still around. Would that have happened both times she’d met him? Or could there actually be something more to this than either of them realize? That was what he was going to find out.

***

The next morning, true to her word, Melissa popped in at the start of visiting hours. “Hey girl, how’s it going today?”

“Lousy!” Laryssa sighed, cuddling deep beneath the covers. “What’s wrong with me?”

“Do you want to talk about it?” her friend asked.

“I don’t even know what to say.” She leaned forward and whispered, “Hi, my name is psycho, I see dead people.” Despite the absurdity of the situation, they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

After a few minutes, they calmed down and Laryssa leaned back against the bed. “Gosh, that felt good.”

“Glad I could help,” Melissa said, grinning.

“I’m scared, Mel. If I keep having these hallucinations, they might take my babies away.”

“Are you so sure they are hallucinations?”

Laryssa got up out of bed and walked toward the window, resting her hands on the window sill. She leaned her forehead against the glass and looked at the cars in the parking lot below.

“I’m not sure of anything anymore,” she said honestly.

“Did Aidan have any family? Maybe Alex is a relative. That might explain the resemblance.”

“If only it were just a resemblance. He looks exactly like him. Almost as if, nah, it’s impossible.”

“What, what’s impossible?” Melissa joined her by the window and they watched a family climb in their car.

“What’s impossible?” his deep voice spoke from behind them.

Laryssa jumped and grabbed onto Melissa’s arm. It was him. He said he would come back and now here he was. Her feet remained rooted on the floor and she couldn’t make herself turn around. All she wanted was for him to go away. She didn’t want to see him.

“Hello, Alex,” Melissa said. “Laryssa, can you lighten your grip on my arm, it’s going numb.”

“Oh, sorry.” She released her friend’s arm, but reached out for her again when she started to move away. “Don’t go.”

“You’ll be fine, don’t worry. I’ll check in on you again later.” Mel gave her a kiss on the cheek, and then walked towards the door. “Alex, be gentle,” she chided.

Laryssa’s heart skipped a beat when the door clicked behind her, indicating that Melissa was gone and she was alone with him. Shoes squeaked on the polished hospital floor behind her. She stiffened at the sound. He was coming closer; and there was nothing she could do but wait for the blows.

Breathe, Laryssa; in through your nose, out through your mouth. When his hands came to rest on her shoulders, she jumped.

“It’s alright. Don’t be afraid,” he said softly. The pressure on her shoulders increased, just a little, in an attempt to turn her around. At first, she resisted, but, knowing it was inevitable, she slowly turned.

She stared at the floor, unable to find the strength to lift her head. He placed his hand under her chin and, with great care, lifted her face to look at him.

The tenderness of his touch undid her and helped her realize the truth. “You’re not Aidan, are you?” she asked in a quiet voice. He led her to the bed and coaxed her to sit down next to him.

“Afraid not, Miss, although I have a feeling you don’t want me to be, do you?”

Numbly, she shook her head. “This is some cruel joke.”

“My apologies for startling you at the office yesterday,” Alex let his hand rest on top of hers. She stared at his hand for a moment then pulled hers away. She lifted her head to study his features. Her hand reached up to touch his face for a second time and he let her fingers alight on his unshaven face. A slight scar rested just under his left earlobe.

“I need to lie down.”

Alex helped her swing her legs up on the bed and lowered the head of it for her. Her eyes moistened and she closed them tightly. Tears slipped down her cheeks. He brought his hand to her face and brushed the tears away.

“Please don’t,” Alex spoke with a gentleness Aidan never used. “I hate when women cry, especially because of me.”

Laryssa opened her eyes and looked at him. “Why do you keep coming back here?” she asked suspiciously.

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for women who fall all over me.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“I didn’t fall all over you,” Laryssa said defensively.

“You didn’t exactly stay standing either,” he said, winking at her.

“Touché.”

A few moments later, the doctor joined them. “Well, Ms. Mitchell, all the tests came back okay. Babies are healthy. You’re free to go. However, you’ll need to start visiting the obstetrician once a week from now on, and be sure to remember to take your prenatal vitamins. I also want you to rest as much as possible. No more working. We can’t risk the babies coming too prematurely. I’m releasing you into your husband’s care.”

“My husband,” she squeaked.

“Sure, Doctor. I’ll make sure she’s taken care of.” Alex shook the doctor’s hand.

“Just let the nurse at the front know when you’re ready to go.”

“Will do. Thanks, Doc.”

She watched the exchange. Husband? An uneasy feeling washed over her. If Alex wasn’t Aidan, why would he allow someone to believe they were married?

“Why didn’t you tell him you aren’t my husband?”

“If he knew you were going back to your house alone, do you think he’d have let you go?”

“How do you know I’m alone?” Laryssa asked, folding her arms across her chest.

“Oh sure, you got a million men waiting in the wings. I don’t think so.” He pointed to her belly.

“There are many men out there who find pregnant woman attractive,” she countered, holding her chin high.

“Oh, I know,” he said smugly, “I’m one of those guys. While you get dressed, I’ll bring the car around. I’ll phone my housekeeper, Joanne, and let her know we’re having company.”

“I don’t know what gave you that idea, but I’m not staying with you.” She widened her stance, ready to fight him.

“Yes, you are. You heard the doctor, you need to rest.”

“Look, you’re welcome to drive me, but I am going home and nowhere else. You aren’t my husband. I’m never having a husband again.” Her words spewed out of her mouth with more vehemence than she meant to display.

Alex placed his palm against his forehead and let out a breath. “Aren’t you the least bit curious as to why I may look like this Aidan fellow? God knows, I am. I’m offering you a place to rest while we figure it out.”

Curiosity didn’t even come close to what she felt right now. She was an emotional mess, with anxiety and fear rolled into a ball, bouncing back and forth inside her stomach. “Thank you, but I—” she tried again.

“Good. Then it’s all set. Get yourself dressed. You’re staying with me,” he said. “I’ll go pull the car around. See that you’re ready by time I get back.”

She did as she was told, although, she had no intention of staying with him. She’d deal with that when the time came. Alex must have mentioned to the desk that they were ready to go, because in came a nurse with a wheel chair.

“I’m fine. I don’t need a wheel chair,” Laryssa argued. She was not going to feel like an invalid who couldn’t do things on her own. After Aidan died, she took great pride in stepping up to the plate and being master of her own life. There was no way she was going to let someone else take that control away from her.

If Alex thought she would just give in to him, well, he had another thing coming. Feeling pampered for once would be nice, but not at the expense of losing her self-respect. No man was going to boss her around and get away with it. If she didn’t fight for respect, she’d never get respect. She had no plans on being any man’s doormat again.

Laryssa stood there, fighting with the nurse about the wheel chair, when she heard a noise behind them, and looked up to see Aidan’s look-a-like stroll in. If she was honest with herself, she did want to find out the story behind the face. And at the moment, his face looked pretty determined.

“Sit.” Alex pointed to the wheel chair.

“Mr. Richards, I will not be told what to do. I lived with that long enough.” Temper flared, like a ball of fire inside her.

“I tried to explain that it is hospital policy. She won’t listen,” the nurse grumbled.

“Ms. Mitchell, sit! Or I will carry you to the car myself,” he dared. A sparkle of humor danced in his eyes.

“You wouldn’t,” Laryssa gasped.

“Wouldn’t I?”

Her mouth opened and she let out a squeak when he took a step towards her. The corners of his mouth curled up into a grin.

 

 

 

 

Our latest and soon to be released books. Black Velvet Seductions

Out of the Shadows by Gabriella Hewitt is out now!

A Woman’s Secret by C.L. Koch is out now!

Love times Infinity by K.L. Ramsey is out now!

Her Lover’s Face by Patricia Elliott is out now!

Naval Maneuvers by Dee S. Knight is now available at a pre-order sale price of $2.99 until the release date 9th March.

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