Dead Heat (Combustion 2)
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Copyright ©2014 Kate Hill
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She opened her eyes and glanced around the unfamiliar room. It was scarcely large enough for the bed and dresser. The green curtains on the window matched the quilt covering the bed on which she lay. Rain pelted the roof and wind howled outside.
Her heart raced and she trembled. She felt so strange, almost desperate, like she needed something but didn't know what.
Glancing at the door across the room, she hoped it led to a relief chamber. She sat up on the bed and winced, then touched a hand to a sore place on the back of her head. Why couldn't she remember where she was and what she was doing here? Panic clogged her chest when she realized she didn't remember anything about how she'd arrived at this place.
She walked to the door, but no sooner had she opened it than her worries regarding her failed memory vanished, replaced by a much bigger problem -- the dead body slouched on the floor in the shower.
Her heartbeat quickened even more and waves of intense heat broke over her as she backed out of the relief chamber. She walked to the primitive communication device on the bedside table and picked it up, then paused.
Who should she call?
The entrance door opened and three men stepped inside. One was short and old with a bushy gray beard and a paunch that even his oversized yellow raincoat couldn't hide. The other two were younger and quite handsome, though vastly different in appearance. Both had blue eyes and dark hair, but one was of average height with a sturdy build while the other was tall and rangy. The taller one wore a long black coat, but the other had only a drenched white shirt that clung to his muscular torso. Rain-soaked jeans molded to his strong thighs.
"Erica, how are you?" Mr. Tight Jeans approached, concern gleaming in his big blue eyes. He rested his large hands gently on her shoulders.
Damn, his hands were hot. They only increased the fever that burned in her. An ache started deep in her belly. That delicate place between her legs tingled. She might not remember details, but she instinctively knew sexual desire. Still, this was a strange time to be horny. Was this a bad dream? None of this felt quite real.
"I... there's a body in the relief chamber."
He glanced quickly toward his companions.
"The what?" growled the old man.
"She means the bathroom. The whack on the head might have messed up her vocabulary."
"Really?" The tall man arched a dark eyebrow and strode past them toward the relief -- bathroom.
"What's going on?" she asked. "I don't know where I am or who you all are. I --"
"You hit your head when the thief broke in and attacked us," explained Tight Jeans. He guided her to the bed and she sat while he took her face in his hands and examined her head and eyes. "How do you feel?"
"Does your head hurt?"
"She should be examined at the hospital," said the tall man, stepping out of the bathroom. "Unfortunately due to the storm the only road leading to this motel is closed on both ends and the phone lines have been knocked out."
"I told you I'm a doctor," said Tight Jeans. "I've examined her and I think she'll be all right."
"Who are you and will someone tell me what's going on?" she demanded, feeling panicked again. Why couldn't she remember?
"You think she'll be all right?" the old man said, his voice gravelly. "The woman don't remember nothin'."
"Will somebody please just --"
"Erica, calm down. Do you know my name?" asked Tight Jeans.
"No. I don't know any of you and if you tell me that my name is Erica, I'll take your word for it because I don't remember that either."
He looked even more concerned and said, "I'm Carlos."
"You're a doctor?"
"Yes, and I'm also your boyfriend."
Lucky her. He was damn cute.
"You say the man in there knocked on your door and when you opened it he forced his way in?" asked tall, dark and inquisitive.
"Yeah. Erica opened the door and he grabbed her. I was in the bathroom and came out as soon as I heard them fighting. When he saw me, he pushed her away. That's when she hit her head. I fought with the guy and during the struggle he dropped dead," Carlos explained.
The other guy looked skeptical.
"Why does shit like this have to happen at my motel?" growled the old man.
"All right, so you own the motel so I'm guessing we've never met before," Erica went on. She glanced at the tall man. "How about you? How do you fit in?"
"You can call me Ian. I'm a federal agent."
"So I guess that means you're in charge then?" she said, her gaze locking with Ian's. Unlike Carlos' large, sincere eyes, Ian's were almond-shaped and seemed to hide a million secrets.
"Yes," he said, his voice deep and husky. "I'm in charge."