, Book Two
The bitter cold woke him.
A shiver ran through Pete, rousing him from sleep. He blinked, opened his eyes and peered into utter darkness. For a moment he didn’t know which way was up. Then he registered the frigid leather beneath his cheek and the dead weight of his arm pinned beneath his body.
He pushed up slowly and immediately regretted the movement. The dull throb he’d felt behind his eyes when he’d been lying down kicked up to the roar of a Dophins game when he moved upright, and he closed his eyes again. He rubbed frozen fingers against his temples to abate the pounding in his skull and cringed as pain sliced through his skin.
He pulled his hand back, tried to squint to see what the wetness was on his fingers. It felt sticky and cold. Blood?
Okay, drinking himself into oblivion had been a really dumb idea, although he couldn’t remember drinking anything after dropping Maria off at her apartment. He must have fallen somehow and hit his head. Regardless, a thirty-eight-year-old man should know better.
When he felt certain he wasn’t going to black out, he opened his eyes and quickly realized something else wasn’t right.
He was still in the limo. He could feel the cold, Italian leather cradling his body, the hard floor at his feet. Around him was a blanket of some kind. He reached a hand out to test his surroundings and met vinyl and wood surrounding the wet bar.
He paused and listened, tried to figure out what was going on. The limo wasn’t moving, the engine wasn’t on, and there were no voices or even sounds for that matter.
Where was he? In an underground garage? If so, then where was the driver? Why had he been left in here all alone? And who had put this blanket on him?
His adrenaline shot up, and he moved closer to the window, cupped a hand against the glass and peered outside. Nothing. A black void met his eyes.
Slowly, and with cautious movements because his stomach was rebelling with every shift, he moved to the other side of the vehicle and did the same. Through the tinted glass, he could just make out what looked like a dim light coming from a distance away. A door? It looked like it, cracked open a few inches. If so, he was definitely in some kind of garage or building.
He pushed toward the Mercedes’ back door, caught the handle and gave it a shove. The exertion sent the pounding in his head up another notch, and he groaned. As he eased out of the vehicle, he wondered if staying inside hadn’t been the smarter choice. It was fucking freezing out here.
He wrapped his arms around himself, pulled the tux jacket tight against his body to conserve heat, and took slow steps toward the door ahead. The light was soft, as if from a lamp, and warmth radiated from the room before he even reached the threshold.
Heat was good. No matter what was on the other side of that door, it was better than staying out here and freezing his nuts off.
He placed one hand on the solid wood, more to steady himself than anything else, and pushed.
It was an apartment of some kind. The room stopped churning long enough so he could make out a TV in the far corner. Beat-up furniture filled the space. His wobbly gaze landed on the figure curled up in a ball on the sofa.
“Hey,” he said in a raspy voice he barely recognized. He cleared his throat as the figure stirred. He’d tear off someone’s head if he didn’t get the hell out of here and back to his suite at the Waldorf pronto. There was an Alka-Seltzer there with his name on it. “What the hell is going—”
The figure sat bolt upright, blinked several times and stared at him with big, brown, stunned eyes. And suddenly he couldn’t remember just what he’d wanted to know in the first place.
“Oh, shit,” he whispered.
The blood rushed from his head and went due south, leaving him lightheaded and shaky. No way this was happening. He was still drunk. That was the only explanation. He was tripped out on some seriously bad champagne and hallucinating because this wasn’t real. He wasn’t staring at Katherine Meyer alive and in the flesh because she was dead.
She rose slowly from the couch.
Stunned into silence, all he could do was stare as she rubbed her hands against her thighs and took a cautious step toward him.
It looked like Kat. A variation anyway. This woman’s hair was nearly black and cut short as a boy’s. But the face—holy hell—the face was the same. The same wide doe eyes, the same pouty lips, the same dark mole on the upper right side of her mouth.
“Pete. You startled me. I…are you okay?”
It sounded like her, too. His eyes widened in disbelief.
Her gaze darted over his face. “You look a little better. How do you feel?”
How did he feel? Like he’d just been hit by a bulldozer, head-on.
He barely managed to catch the door handle for support before his legs gave out. His mouth dropped open, a thousand questions fired off in his brain, and though he tried to form words, he couldn’t get his lips to work.
Hallucinating. You’re hallucinating, man. That’s the only explanation.
“I tried to move you, but you were like dead weight, and I, well, I’m a little tired after everything else. So I got you a blanket and left the door open. I know it was cold out there…”
Her words trailed off. And she closed her mouth quickly at what he knew had to be his stunned expression. Then sank her top teeth into her bottom lip the way Kat always had when she’d been shy or uncertain about something. “I guess you’re ready to chat. I think it’s safe to say you look a little surprised.”
No fucking way.