Cold water washed over her legs. Salt water sprayed her face, and stung her eyes. The unwelcoming gray clouds above signaled rain was imminent. She glanced over her shoulder at the beach.
Where am I?
The beach stretched out as far as the eye could see. There was nothing but the sand and the sea. No people. No houses. Not even a sign to indicate the name of the beach.
Why am I sleeping on the beach? And how the hell did I get here?
She tried to recall her last memory, but couldn’t remember anything before she woke up. A chill ran up her spine, and sent icy tingles over her scalp. Think…where are you? Who were you with?
A red, tacky substance covered her hands. She lifted one hand to her nose, startled by the unmistakable metallic scent. Blood!
She ran her hands over her body, and searched for any signs of injury. None existed, as far as she could tell. More blood covered her shirt with traces of it on her jeans.
What the hell is happening? Why can’t I remember what anything?
She swallowed hard, but her mouth was as dry as the desert, and her throat like sandpaper. Start with something easy. My name is…
Her mind was blank. The beating of her heart quickened, rapping painfully in her chest. She closed her eyes as if that would help her concentrate fully.
What the hell is my name?
Pressure built at the base of her skull. The pounding in her ears was deafening. Her chest tightened and her heart took off like a racehorse straight out of the gate. She had no memory. No name. No idea who she was or where she had come from.
She scrambled to her feet, whipped her head from one side to the other, and searched the beach for anything that looked familiar. Sand was stuck to the blood on her hands. Paranoia zapped her like a bolt of lightning. Was someone watching her? Had someone seen what she’d done?
What did I do? The blood that covered her was not her own, so where—or who—had it come from?
Is someone lying on the beach bleeding to death? She had a sinking feeling in her gut. Are they already dead?
“I can’t stay here,” she muttered. Running down the beach with no direction, without a clue as to where she was going, she knew she had to find a safe place to hide. At least until she could determine what the hell was going on.
After a couple of minutes, she stopped and bent over to catch her breath, her lungs on fire. Have I always been this out of shape?
She squinted against the muted glare of the sky. Still no sign of anyone. In the distance, a dark, narrow tower jutted into the sky. It was ominous and imposing against the gray background, yet there was something about it that put her at ease.
A lighthouse. What were the chances that it was uninhabited? Do people still live in lighthouses?
She trudged through the wet sand, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her. She glanced over her shoulder. No one following her. So why was the hair on the nape of her neck standing on end? She picked up her pace, her head telling her she was being ridiculous. Her instincts were screaming that she was not alone.
The lighthouse appeared to be abandoned. There was no light coming from any of the windows. If someone were there, a light would be on, especially on this gloomy day.
The white exterior was dulled and dirty, weathered by the years of sea salt and sun. The few remaining black shutters hung by a single nail. Wind pushed against her back, and forced her forward a step or two. The gust threatened to rip the shutters from the building and send them flying through the air.
The tall grass that surrounded the lighthouse came up to her hips and she had to high step in order to walk through it. At the back of the lighthouse, a black wooden door stood slightly ajar. With her face in the opening, she listened for any noise inside.
“Hello?” Her greeting reverberated through the cement enclosure. She pushed against the door, but it didn’t budge. Taking a step back, she threw her weight against it. Pain shot through her shoulder, radiated down her arm, and left her fingers tingling.
The door squeaked open, but not by much. She considered trying to hit it again, but her throbbing shoulder squelched that idea. Sliding sideways, she managed to squeeze through the tight opening.
The concrete floor, which had been painted at one time, was faded and chipped. Large crooked cracks meandered from one side of the entry to the other. In some places, chunks of the concrete were missing.
A weathered white pole stood in the center of the vestibule. A circular staircase with a blue banister and white spindles twisted around to the upper floors.
Gingerly, she placed her foot on the first rise, and bounced on it to see if it would hold her weight. The stairs groaned from disuse, but appeared sturdy. Slowly, she made her way up the stairs. The metal clanged with every tread, the echo throughout the enclosure loud enough to wake the dead.
On the second floor landing, she pulled the lever on a heavy metal black door, and popped the lock. Placing both hands against the door, she gave it a shove. The door swung out easily. “Would’ve been nice for the entry door to have done that,” she said to no one, and stepped out onto a balcony. The ocean reached to the far horizon, and she wondered what it would be like to be on a ship, floating around the world. No destination—just the current dictating the course.
Next to the lighthouse, a blue hand pump was barely visible in the grass. Fresh water. At least she hoped it was fresh water. So far, she seemed to be doing okay. Shelter, water—now to find food and firewood.
The balcony encircled the lighthouse. On the opposite side from the door, a road cut through the grass not far away. It didn’t appear to be well travelled. In fact, she wasn’t convinced it was paved. Just beyond the road was a grouping of four houses. People milled about in their yards, hanging up laundry, while kids played on swing sets and kicked balls around. The scene was happy, serene, and she wondered if somewhere she had a clothesline waiting for her to hang clothes on, or children wanting her to kick the ball around with them. A family that missed her.
Something dark moved in the grass below her. A shiver raced up her spine. She pushed back against the wall of the lighthouse and inched her way to the door. She scanned the area for anyone lurking in the grass, but whatever she had seen was gone. Probably just a dog or some other animal. A cold chill cut through her. She wanted to believe that her eyes had been playing tricks on her, but she couldn’t completely banish the idea that someone was stalking around the lighthouse, keeping an eye on her.
Waiting. She didn’t know what or why, and wasn’t sure she wanted to speculate. The blood on her hands made the prospects gruesome.
Once inside, she locked the door, and leaned against the doorframe. Slowly. she breathed in and out. Across the small landing was another doorway. Twisting the handle, she gave the door a hefty push, and entered a small, kitchen in it’s original state.
Every wall had peeling paint. The floors were filthy, and in desperate need of a good sanding and refinishing. A farmhouse table sat in the middle of the room with three chairs around it. A fourth chair was toppled over on it’s side on the floor, missing a leg and the seat. Along one wall was an old cast iron stove with large venting pipes. A porcelain coffee pot, with about a centuries worth of dust on it, sat on the back burner. On the adjacent wall was a large pantry with shelves and a cupboard underneath. A few metal canisters sat on the top shelf, dishes on a lower shelf, and two large basin bowls.
Up on the third floor there was a bedroom with a large metal-framed bed, topped by an old, dusty mattress. It wasn’t much to look at, but it would save her from sleeping on the floor. She lifted a blanket off the bed, and held it up for inspection. Light shone through the Swiss cheese holes in the wool. She sighed. Okay, see if there are any other blankets around. Maybe in a cabinet, or a chest she hadn’t stumbled across yet.
Directly across the hall was the bathroom. A pungent odor hit her as she stepped just inside the door. She pinched her nostrils and held her breath. The sink was attached directly to the wall, a mirrored medicine cabinet above it. Mercifully, the lid was down on the toilet. That would have to wait until she was desperate.
Peering around the corner, she gasped. A deep black and white claw-footed cast iron tub sat in front of a large picture window that overlooked the sea. She closed her eyes and imagined it filled with steamy hot water, and big bubbles clinging to the sides. She’d give anything to be able to soak until every part of her body was pruned and wrinkly.
Making her way back down the stairs to the kitchen, she slumped onto one of the chairs, and peered out the window.
I wish I knew the time…
The sun looked as though it was starting it’s slow descent in the west. It’d be dark in a few hours. If she was going to survive there with some level of comfort, she’d have to venture out and scrounge up food and basic necessities. Grabbing one of the large basins, she decided to check the water situation. Sticking her head out the of the door, she glanced around to see if anyone was on the beach, and then slipped outside. At least, for the moment, she didn’t have the eery feeling of eyes watching her.
She pumped and pumped and pumped the handle—switched arms at least four times—until water trickled from the spigot. A few more pumps brought a steady stream. She held her hands under the water, and scrubbed the black dirt and blood off.
Cupping her hand under the water, she brought it up to her nose. No rotten egg smell, that’s a good sign. She stuck her tongue into it. No salty taste, either. As far as she could tell, the water was drinkable, so she placed the basin under the stream, and filled the bowl. At least she could get started cleaning. Carefully, she climbed the stairs to the kitchen retaining more than half a basin of water.
But cleaning would have to wait. She glanced out the window at the houses not far away. No time like the present. Traversing the tall grass, she used it as cover until she got to the road. Two tires grooves in the ground could hardly be considered a road.
With no real plan, she scampered through the grass toward the back of the houses, and hopeful things would fall into place once she reached them.
The lighthouse looked in even worse shape than it had just a month before when Peter Edmunds had been out to check on it. At that time, he thought the lighthouse was worth saving, and made a recommendation to the historic preservation society to purchase the property at auction. Looking at it now, Peter was glad none of his colleagues had come with him. The place looked as if it might crumble into the ocean and be swept away with the tide.
The exterior showed years of decay from salt water rushing in at high tide. The hurricanes probably hadn’t helped much either. Large chunks of the exterior were missing, exposing the underlying brick to the harsh elements. Not a good sign. No telling the extent of the damage to the bricks.
He parked the truck, grabbed his clipboard and flashlight, and clomped through the tall grass toward the once majestic building. The entry door stood partially ajar. Peter shone his flashlight, revealing sandy footsteps in the entryway.
Someone’s been here. Recently.
“Hello?” Peter called from the doorway. “Anyone here?”
Silence. He considered going back to the truck and finding something to use as a weapon, but dismissed the idea. Whoever made the tracks was most likely long gone. Probably someone who needed to get out of the downpour last night, and had since moved on.
He pushed against the door, the bottom scraping against the concrete. Forcing his way through the gap, he headed up the stairs. They creaked under his weight, and he hoped to hell he made it to the second floor. The kitchen was in pretty good shape. No—it was in great shape. The equipment looked as if it might not work any longer, and the interior walls were showing some deterioration, but the place was…spotless.
Had someone cleaned the kitchen? Odd, but maybe they were bored waiting out the storm.
After making some notes on the disrepair in the room, he made his way up to the next floor and entered the bedroom. The room appeared to have been cleaned, as well. On the bed was a neatly folded blanket devoid of any dust.
Bored was one thing…this reeked of severe OCD.
Whatever the reason, the mystery housemaid appeared to have moved on with the rising sun, and Peter was certain there wouldn’t be a return visit. Who in their right mind would want to stay in this place longer than necessary? The lighthouse was good enough as an escape from a torrential rainstorm, but that would be about the extent. No electricity. No running water. No way to cook or bathe. And from the looks of the bed—well, Peter had stayed at roach motels that looked like luxury hotel accommodations compared to this place.
But someone spent a lot of time and energy to make this place somewhat inhabitable…
Peter finished his inspection, complete with detailed notes for his report, and headed back down the stairs to the entry. He grasped the handle, and a shiver ran down his spine. Yanking on the door, he managed to get it closed only halfway, in the same position it had been when he arrived.
The hairs on his neck and arms stood on end. Someone’s watching me. He casually glanced over his shoulder. No one there. The wind swirled around him, and the cool breeze cleared his head.
Ridiculous. There’s no one here.
He climbed into the cab of the truck, turned the vehicle around, and drove toward town. Bouncing down the rutted dirt road, he glanced at the lighthouse in the rearview mirror. Something was niggling at him. What was going on with the lighthouse? Who had been there and cleaned the place up? And had they returned and found him there? Is that why he felt as if someone was watching him? Too many questions, and not enough answers—but he was determined to find some.
Laundry filled a clothesline in the backyard of a white brick and dark wood house. Quickly surveying the yard to make sure no one was watching, she slipped through the sheets hanging over the first couple of rows. Jackpot. The last two rows were clothes and towels. She grabbed a couple of shirts that looked like they’d fit, and a pair of sweatpants. They would do for a while. At the very least, she’d get out of the blood stained clothes, and into something clean. Who cares what I look like? If everything went as planned, no one was going to see her, anyway.
Snagging a couple of the towels from the end of the line, she rolled them together with the clothes. Too bad she couldn’t take the sheets, as well. But taking too much would tip off the owners to a cat burglar in the area. An investigation would eventually lead the police to the lighthouse, which was exactly what she was trying to avoid.
She snuck out of the backyard, darted across the field, and half-jumped, half-fell over the chain-linked fence into the neighbor’s yard. The clothesline was empty. She ran to the corner of the house, and stood with her back against the wall. Drawing in a long, slow breathe, her chest ached from the tightness. She shouldn’t be winded from that little bit of exertion. But the stress of being discovered was also taxing her body, she supposed. Popping her head around the corner of the house, she spotted a bucket with sponges ready to wash vehicles.
Just past the bucket, sitting in the middle of the driveway, was a newspaper. Darting across the pavement, she grabbed it—and the bucket, as she passed—and ran back to where she had left her other items. She dumped her latest acquisitions and headed toward house number three.
With one leg already over the chain-linked fence, she looked up just in time to see a woman walk past the large sliding glass door. Too risky. If the woman glanced outside and caught her skulking through the yard, she’d be arrested for trespassing.
No lights were on at the next house, but they had sheets left out to dry. They probably thought their belongings would be safe this far away from civilization. She was kind of sorry to ruin their fantasies, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
The wind picked up, and swirled around her, the sheets snapped against her arms and face. She wrestled with the sudden gust for possession of a pillowcase.
Hmmm…this could work to my advantage.
Tugging a sheet off the line, she balled it up and shoved it inside the pillowcase, and tossed both on the ground at her feet. Liberating a few of the clothes from the line, she tossed them into the breeze, and watched them drift around the yard before landing in various places. A few were kicked around by the air current, and ended up against the fence.
Perfect! Now, the owners will think the items I’ve pinched were carried away by the wind—not my sticky fingers.
Heading back to the fence, she stumbled across a small vegetable garden, and nearly squealed out loud in delight. Her stomach gurgled & growled. How long since I’ve eaten? Long enough to feel famished, according to her empty belly. She tossed carrots, a head of cabbage, and a small pumpkin into the pillowcase. Tucking in her shirt, she placed a few red tomatoes, a handful of small green tomatoes, and some zucchini. That should hold me for a couple of days.
Carefully climbing over the fence, she returned to the bucket and clothes. She crossed the makeshift road, and ducked through the tall grass, and came to an abrupt stop. A pick-up truck was parked next to the entry of the lighthouse.
“Fuck!” she whisper-yelled. “Fuck, fuck!” Her heart beat in double-time, ready to implode at any moment. Seriously, the place doesn’t look like it’s been inhabited in fifty years, and today, someone shows up?
Maybe one of the neighbors reported someone hanging around the lighthouse. She crept closer to the vehicle. A picture of a lighthouse inside a circle with the words Cape Lucille Historic Society was on the door.
Okay, not the cops. Still, the last thing she needed was someone asking nosy questions like What are you doing here? Where did you come from? Or What’s your name? None of which she could answer until her memories returned. If her memories returned. Nope, best to stay hidden, and hope the interloper would leave soon so she could squat in peace.
Wood scraped against the concrete, and she glanced over her shoulder in time to see a man yank on the door.
Leave the damn thing alone! She’d never get the stupid thing open if he managed to get it closed. It hasn’t been fully shut in more years than you’ve been alive, idiot!
As if he could hear the bellowing in her head, he released the handle, and accepted defeat. Crouched in the high grass, she eyeballed the man. Brown, wavy hair, tanned muscular forearms, filled out his jeans really well. She growled from below her belly, in that region where heat led to tingles and yearning…and desire. He climbed into the cab of the truck, and meandered down the road.
She dropped onto her bottom, a long, loud sigh bursting from her lungs. God how she hoped he was just out there performing an annual check on the lighthouse, and wouldn’t be coming back. He was definitely nice to look at—and was welcome to visit in her dreams—but she’d be just fine not seeing him in person again. She picked up her appropriations, and squeezed through the front door. In the kitchen, she dropped the items on the table, and sunk into the chair wondering where in the hell to start cleaning.
Digging the newspaper out of the pillowcase, she quickly scanned the articles for any stories abut a missing woman—or a dead body. It didn’t take long. The paper contained six pages. Apparently, not a lot happened in the little town. Most importantly, there was no mention of dead bodies on the beach or a mysterious woman who disappeared.
The lights from town were more visible in the twilight. She wondered how far of a hike it was to get there. Maybe it held the answers to her questions…
Maybe answers she was running from…things she didn’t really want to know.
Peter looked up from his computer screen at his co-worker, Don Reynolds, standing on the other side of the desk. “Want to grab a beer?” Don asked.
Peter glanced at the time on his computer. 5:37p.m. Most of the lights in the office were off, and everyone but Don had already left for the day. Had Peter really been sitting in front of his computer for three hours without noticing time ticking away?
Leaning back in his chair, he let out a long exhale. A beer would take the edge off a bizarre day, but he still had some work to get done. And truth be told, beer was probably not going to shake the eerie feeling that had been slithering through his nerves since returning from the lighthouse earlier in the day. “I’m going to try to get this cost analysis on the lighthouse wrapped up while everything is still fresh in my mind, ” he said.
Don nodded. “Another time.”
“Absolutely.” Peter watched as Don left the building. Dark gray clouds had moved in. A white streak of light brightened up the street, the lightning splitting into gnarled fingers. A thunderous boom shook the walls. Another storm…worse than last night.
The storm did nothing to alleviate feeling unsettled all afternoon. He wondered if whoever had tidied up the lighthouse had returned and was taking refuge there again tonight. That might explain why he felt as if he was being watched when he left the old building that afternoon.
Putting the finishing touches on his report, he turned out the lights in the office, and locked up as he left. Turning toward his pick up truck parked on the street, he stepped into the path of a man coming down the sidewalk. “Sorry about that,” Peter said, stumbling backward before getting his balance again.
The man’s dark eyes narrowed. His chest was about as broad as he was tall, and he towered over Peter who was a respectable six foot two. Peter didn’t recognize the man—he wasn’t from Port Lucille-that was for sure. Peter would have remembered a tree masquerading as a man around the small town.
A smile slid across the man’s face. “No problem, man.”
Peter gave the man a head nod, and stepped around him to the curb. Climbing into his truck, Peter glanced out of the front windshield. The man hadn’t moved from his spot on the sidewalk. He just stood there staring at Peter. Prickles crept up Peter’s spine. What the hell is with this guy?
Putting the truck in reverse, he backed out into the street. The man lifted his hand and waved at Peter. Peter waved back. “Later, freak,” he murmured without moving his lips. He peered into the rearview mirror as he drove down the street toward his home. The man continued to stare after him. Who was this guy? The fact that this man had appeared in town the very day that Peter had discovered someone staying at the lighthouse seemed like way more than a coincidence. Maybe he is the one staying there? Something told Peter there was more to it than that, but what?
Pulling his truck into the garage, Peter watched the door close completely before he exited the vehicle. He half expected the odd man to be standing in the driveway still staring at him. Peter snorted. Paranoia had gotten the best of him. Peter had never been one to create drama where there was none. In fact, the lack of excitement in Port Lucille was what had appealed most to him when he took the Lead Preservationist position. Five years had passed without a single incident. Too much drama had surrounded him in Boston, and his escape to the quaint seaside town had been exactly what Peter had needed to reset his life. Yeah, the job wasn’t precisely what he hoped to be doing, but it was close enough.
Heating up leftover stew, he popped the top off a bottle of beer, sat in his recliner and clicked on the TV. Concentrating on the news was a hopeless endeavor. His mind kept drifting back to the lighthouse and the odd man in town. He would have to make another visit to the lighthouse and look for answers. There had to be some clue to the person who had been there and how the mammoth man in town was connected.
Either someone was inhabiting the place or there was a ghost in the lighthouse.
Sleep had not been a friend to the woman. The lightning seemed to encase the decaying building, flooding the windows with intensely bright light all night long. She felt as if God was interrogating her and her actions. Apparently not happy with her non-answers, thunder shook the lighthouse, and she worried the entire structure would collapse around her, burying her in the rubble.
When she did manage to drift off to sleep, her dreams were filled with faces of people she didn’t know—or didn’t recognize, at any rate. They kept asking her questions. She told them she couldn’t remember, but they didn’t believe her. One man with graying hair and a potbelly yelled at her to stop lying. “We both know what you did. Just admit to killing him and tell me why you did it. Things will go easier for you if you do.”
She had awoken drenched in sweat. Not wanting a repeat of the dream—nightmare—she decided against attempting to get anymore sleep and wandered to the kitchen wishing she had some coffee. Great, can’t remember my name, but know that I can’t function without coffee. In a cruel and ironic twist, the one thing she remembered was as unattainable as the rest of her memories.
A throat cleared behind her. Whirling around, her heart leapt into her throat. The man that had been there the day before stood in the doorway to the kitchen. His green eyes narrowed on her, his mouth in a flat white line across his face, making his chiseled featured even more pronounced. Every part of her body trembled. She inched her way around the table, keeping as far from the man as she could. He stepped into the room, clearing the entrance of the kitchen.
She bolted toward the door. The only chance she had to escape was to get down the stairs, and hope she could run faster and farther than him. Tall orders, but it was her only chance at freedom while she waited for her memories to return.
But she wasn’t fast enough, and the man easily blocked the doorway before she had a chance to get out. His hand wrapped around her arm, and he pulled her back into the kitchen.
“Not so fast,” he said.
She wrestled her arm free from his grip and quickly backed around the table away from him. His glare was intense. Could she get to one of the knives before he came after her?
“What are you doing here?” he asked, his bark loud in the small space.
She cringed, and inched closer to where the knives were stored.
The man exhaled through his nose, his jaw clenched. “Okay, what’s your name?”
The first question was easier to answer, but she couldn’t chance giving this man any information, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. Something, maybe from her dreams the night before, told her that talking was a bad idea. Even if there was no reason to hide information.
The man reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. “Well, if you won’t talk to me, perhaps the police will have better luck getting answers from you.” He looked up at her from his phone. “You do realize you are trespassing?”
She didn’t answer.
The man pushed a button. The drawn out tone startled her.
Her heart beat wild and erratic, her breathing loud and quick. “No, please don’t call the police.”
“Then tell me your name.”
He pushed another button.
“Please, I don’t know my name.”
The man peered at her her, skepticism etched into his features. “What do you mean, you don’t know your name?”
“I can’t remember.” Her voice cracked, and for the first time, tears filled her eyes. How was it possible she hadn’t cried before now? And why the hell did it have to be in front of this angry—albeit really good looking—man?
“Are you telling me you have amnesia?”
She nodded. He dropped into one of the chairs, his gaze burning into hers, and let out a somewhat exasperated chuckle.
“I woke up yesterday on the beach. I don’t know how I got there. I have no memories.” Her voice was just above a whisper. So much for not talking. The threat of police involvement made that notion impossible.
He motioned for her to take a seat. “So, what do you know?”
She slid onto a chair across the table from him, but remained perched on the edge. “That’s it.”
“Are you from around here?”
She shrugged, but her patience was simmering to a boil. What about ‘I don’t remember anything’ does this guy not understand?
Peter couldn’t seem to drag his eyes off the woman. Hair as black as night fell around her shoulders. Porcelain white skin that didn’t have a blemish anywhere. But it was her cerulean blue eyes that had his focus anchored to them. They were stunning, and when she had teared up at his questions, he had wanted to swipe them away, hating himself for nearly making her cry.
What the hell was wrong with him? He hadn’t felt this way about a woman since…
He shook free of his memories and concentrated on the other problem sitting directly across from him. “Tell me what you do remember.”
She took in a deep breath. “I woke up on the beach, and was covered in—” her eyes grew wide. She dropped her gaze to her hands that rested on the table. “—Um, sand. I was trying to remember who I am and why I would be there. I guess I got a little freaked out, so I just started walking along the beach.
She’s hiding something…
Peter let it slide, but had every intention of revisiting what she was covering up. He wasn’t into playing games with women. He had given that up as soon as he left Boston, and didn’t have any desire of going back. “How did you end up here?”
She glanced out the window, as if she had to see where she had come from in order to explain the journey. “I was just walking along the beach and saw the lighthouse. It looked abandoned, and I wanted to get out of the rain before it started.”
“Rain’s over, yet you’re still here, and looks as if you plan on staying.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she exhaled loudly. “I just needed a place to stay—to see if my memory would return. I thought since no one was here, it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I was here or not.”
“It matters to me,” he said. “And it matters to the historic society that owns this building.”
Awkward silence filled the space between them. She looked so scared, yet ready to battle for what she wanted. What was it about this woman that was pulling so damn hard at his heartstrings?
Peter took a deep breath. “Why you don’t want to go to the authorities?”
She shifted in her seat, and her gaze dropped back to her hands. “I’m afraid.”
She lifted her gaze to his, her eyes soft, and something deep inside of him stirred. A longing he had thought had died with…her. No, not now. I can’t think about the disaster with Julie while dealing with this new one.
“Everything.” The woman stuck a loose tendril of hair behind her ear. “I’m scared of all the things I don’t know. Why was I on the beach? Was I running away from something? Or someone? If I go to the police, and they find out who I am and where I’m from, how will I know that I’m not going right back into a situation I was trying to get out of?”
He hadn’t thought of that.
“In fact,” she continued, “you could be the person I was trying to get away from…and I would have no idea.”
Hadn’t considered that, either. A chill hit him, and nearly took his breath away. Her reality had to be a frightening place to be. Surely he didn’t need to make it more harrowing then it was—especially when he had the ability to help.
“So, it’s your intention to just stay here until you get your memory back?” Peter glanced around the kitchen. Even in the decrepit condition of the lighthouse, she was making it comfortable. Sparse, but homey.
She followed his gaze, and then looked into his eyes. “I was hoping it would only take a day or two for them to come back. I guess I hadn’t really thought past that…”
“And if you have no more recollection than you do now?”
Her shoulders dropped, but she had her gaze locked on him. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
He glanced around the kitchen once more. A stack of firewood sat next to the wood stove, and vegetables were heaped into a couple of bowls on the counter. “How do you plan on surviving out here? There’s no electric, no heat, no water—”
She sat up straighter in her seat and lifted her chin. “There’s a water pump outside.”
How can one woman be so strong yet so vulnerable? He could tell she was a force to be reckoned with—even without her memories. This woman was one tough cookie. But not having any clue as to who she was or anything in her past strummed his heartstrings like a sad love song. He was drawn to this woman. Not just because she was gorgeous—he hadn’t come in contact with any woman more beautiful—but he couldn’t deny a need that bloomed in his chest to comfort and support her. He wanted to help her rediscover herself and her past. He wanted to be her hero.
Don’t get involved. Nothing good comes from being a knight in shining armor. Julie had been proof of that.
He scrubbed his hand down his face. “I’m probably going to regret this, but I think I can help you—but it’s only temporary.”
A spark lit up her blue eyes, making them sparkle like the Mediterranean sea on a summer’s day. Heat flooded though his veins, as if he had dove into the blue ocean in her eyes, and was bathing in the sun-warmed waters. When the warmth hit him below the belt, it turned to raging heat that woke a desire in him that no woman had in five years. He cleared his throat and readjusted himself under the table. “The lighthouse will be undergoing some renovations. Lucky for you, we’ll be restoring the water and electric service for the workers.”
He placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward. “You can stay here—and I’ll keep your secret—but it will just be a few weeks. After that, I’m not sure I can keep your existence out here from my boss, or other people in town. Once the we start on the major renovations, whether or not your memories have returned, you’ll have to leave. Agreed?”
For the first time, a smile spread across her face, and it was nearly his undoing. If she was gorgeous before, she was downright angelic when she smiled. “Yes—agreed—” she said with a giggle. “Thank you.”
“You may not be thanking me when this place has electricians and plumbers traipsing in and out…which leads to our first issue. You need a name.”
“Oh, uh, I don’t—” she shook her head from side to side.
“According to local history, mariners named this lighthouse Lucy.” He cocked his head to the side, one eyebrows raised.
Slowly, the corners of her mouth tipped up and she nodded. “I like it.”
“Lucy it is.” He stood. “The electrician is meeting me here this afternoon, so if there are no major issues, you should have electricity within a day or two. And if anyone asks, you’re the caretaker hired by the historical society.”
“Okay,” she said.
He stood and walked out of the kitchen. “I’ll try to fix the door before I leave, so it will close and lock.”
She followed him out of the kitchen, and stood on the landing as he started down the steps. “Excuse me?”
He stopped and glanced over his shoulder at her.
“Do you have a name?”
He chuckled. “Peter,” he said and reached his hand across the banister to her. “Peter Edmunds.”
She took his hand in hers. It was warm and soft, and he didn’t want to let go.
“Nice to meet you, Peter.”
Until next time…