Published by Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster on November 24, 2015
Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense
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From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones, the first book in the CARELESS WHISPERS series.
Please note: This is the standalone spinoff of the INSIDE OUT series. New readers can enjoy this without reading INSIDE OUT but those who love INSIDE OUT will FINALLY find out what happened to Ella!
Ella Ferguson awakes alone in Italy, unsure of who she is, and a gorgeous man has claimed her as his own. He's tall, dark, and sexy, with money and power, the kind of man who makes a girl want to be possessed. And he does possess her, whispering wicked wonderful promises to her, stealing her trust and her heart. Soon though, the past finds her, yanking her from a cocoon of passion and safety. Everything is not how it seems. The truth will shatter her world, but it can set her free, if it doesn't destroy her first.
Meet Kayden in Book one in the CARELESS WHISPERS series.
This is a standalone spin-off of the INSIDE OUT series (soon to be a TV show) that follows Ella Ferguson, Sara McMillan’s best friend. #SayyestoKayden
I blink, and once again I’m staring into pale blue eyes. “Kayden?”
His lips curve, and those eyes of his, which have a way of stealing right into the emptiness of my mind, light with satisfaction. “You remember me. Progress. The last two times that you woke up, you didn’t know my name.”
“What last two times?” I try to focus, to remember anything but him. “The MRI machine—”
“You had a panic attack inside it, and they had to sedate you.”
My brow furrows, and I flash back to the violin playing in my ears. “No. I was fi ne, just cold and sick to my stomach.”
“Until you weren’t fi ne anymore,” he says, running his hand over the dark shadow on his jaw that I don’t remember being there before. A bad feeling comes over me.
“How much time has passed?”
He glances at his watch again, and I’m relieved to remember it’s a Cartier, relieved by all things familiar. That is until he announces, “Thirty-six hours.”
Losing that much time is like a blow; my throat is suddenly so dry it’s sandpaper. “I need water.”
He stands and finds the pitcher, filling a cup for me. I try to sit, and he quickly abandons his efforts, gently shackling my arm, his touch electric, familiar in a way that no longer surprises me but still confuses me. “Let me lift the bed,” he offers, and I nod, allowing him to help me, the way I have so many times before, it seems, when really it hasn’t been that often at all.
The bed rises, and I settle against it while he reaches for the cup. He offers it to me, and this time when I accept it, and our hands and gazes collide, I don’t look away. I can’t look away. “Déjà vu,” I whisper, feeling the sensation clear to my soul.
“Yes,” he agrees. “Déjà vu.” While I could dismiss it as just that, I have this sense that there’s more to this moment than a simple repeat action.
I down the contents of the cup, drinking quickly before he can stop me, and when I’m done, he takes the cup from me. “More?”
“No, thank you.” I glance down, unnerved to realize my IV is gone. “It’s hard to comprehend that I woke up twice and don’t remember.”
“You not only woke up—the last time you were awake, you ate some soup and had a nurse help you shower.”
“Shower? Okay, I’m even more freaked out now. How can I not remember that? How bad is my head injury?”
“Your tests were all normal aside from the concussion, which is healing. Your back should be healing as well.”
I flex my shoulders and nod. “It feels better, and my head doesn’t hurt the way it did. But I’m not encouraged that I can’t remember the last two times I woke up.”
“It’s the drugs they gave you after you had the panic attack.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the second time you woke up and didn’t remember the first time, I was worried and asked.”
“Could my entire memory loss be the drugs?” I ask, hopefully.
His lips tighten. “No. Sorry. I asked the same as well.”
“Of course it’s not the drugs,” I say grimly. “That would be too easy a solution. At least I showered, I guess.”
“As did I,” he says. “I was afraid they’d kick me out if I didn’t.”
It’s then that I notice he’s now in a light blue T-shirt and faded jeans, which indicates, I assume, that he went home, changed, and made the decision to return here to me. “It’s been thirty-six hours since my test, and at least another eight before that, and you’re still here.”
“Yes. I’m still here.”
Reality hits me with gut-wrenching clarity. “No one came looking for me.”
He gives a grim shake of his head. “No.”
I inhale and then let the breath out, devastated by this news. Kayden is here out of obligation or some sense of responsibility. Whatever the case, he won’t admit it, and I’m not going to pathetically drive home the topic. I need out of this place, and so does he.
“Do you know when the doctor will be back around?” I ask.
“Not until tomorrow.”
“I can’t wait until tomorrow; I need to talk to him now,” I insist. “Please call him.” I realize I’ve grabbed his arm and I’m squeezing. “I’m sorry.” I jerk my hand back, and it’s trembling. I’m trembling. All over. “I just need them to fix me. They . . . they have to make me remember who I am.”
“The doctors keep saying that you will,” he assures me, reaching to the table beside the bed and presenting me with a leather book.
“What is that?”
“A journal. The staff psychologist left this for you. She wants you to write down your thoughts and dreams. Apparently there’s reason to believe it will help you regain your memories sooner.”
In disbelief, I ask, “That’s my medical treatment? A journal?” I take it from him, my brow furrowing with a memory that’s here and then gone, leaving me frustrated and ready to throw the darn thing. “How is this supposed to help me?”
“It’s one part of a treatment plan they intend to present to you on Monday.”
I set the journal on the bed, rejecting it along with the “treatment plan.” “They seem to believe that your brain is suppressing memories to protect you from some sort of trauma.”
“Leaving me homeless and without a name?” I ask. “That’s a horrible way to protect myself. And I don’t even have memories to write in it.”
He shifts on the bed, his hand settling on my leg. It’s a strong hand, the hand of a man who knows what he wants and goes after it, while I know nothing at all. “Maybe if we talk, it’ll help.”
“That’s no different than writing in the journal. I can’t talk about what I don’t remember.”
“My memories might stir yours.”
I sigh. “Okay. But it would be so much easier if there was a pill for this kind of thing.”
His lips hint at a smile. “Most of us would agree with that at some point in our lives. Why don’t we talk about the night you were mugged?”
“That’s exactly why I’m here,” says an unfamiliar male voice.
My attention shifts to the doorway, where a man in his mid-thirties leans on the doorjamb, his suit and dark brown hair a bit rumpled and his tie slightly off center.
“What the hell are you doing here, Gallo?” Kayden demands, shoving off the bed to face him.
“My job,” the man states, striding toward us. While his features are too hard and the lines of his face too sharp to be called good-looking, there is something about him that refuses to be ignored, and he stands at the end of my bed, fixing me in a steely gray stare. “I’m Detective Gallo. I hear you were mugged, and I want to ask you a few questions.”
“You don’t handle muggings,” Kayden points out.
“I do when your name’s on the report,” the detective says shortly. It’s pretty clear these two don’t just know each other; they don’t like each other.
“Of course,” Kayden replies, sounding amused. “Because I’ve broken so many laws.”
The detective is not amused. “Just because you haven’t been caught doesn’t make you innocent.” He gives me a pointed look. “I’m guessing you aren’t Maggie.”
I blanch. “What? I . . . no. Or . . .” I look to Kayden for help. “What is he talking about?”
“He’s being a smart-ass,” Kayden states. “I registered you under that name and told them you were my sister.”
My brow furrows. “What? Why?”
The detective takes it upon himself to answer. “Because it gave him access to you.”
“Exactly,” Kayden confirms, offering no apology or explanation.
He doesn’t need to, and yet I want more. More what, though? I don’t know. Just . . . more.
“At least he put you up in the ritzy end of the hospital,” the detective points out, demanding the attention again, and making a big show of glancing around the room. And as obviously intended, I follow his lead, and for the first time since I’ve been lucid, I look at it, as well. Really look at it—and realize it’s larger than expected, with a sitting area to the left and a mini kitchen.
I look at Kayden in shock. “How much is this costing? I don’t even know if I have a bank account, let alone money to pay for this!”
“Don’t worry about money. I have this,” he says softly.
“You mean you’re paying my bills. Kayden, I can’t let you do that. I don’t know if I can pay you back.”
“Let him pay,” the detective interjects. “He’s got a boatload of cash. But I do have to say, his registering you under a fake name, on top of the upgraded security in this wing of the building, does make it damn hard for anyone looking for you to find you.”
“The staff know to direct any inquiries that might fit your description to me,” Kayden assures me, flicking the detective an irritated look. “Obviously—since you found her.”
“I found you, not her.” He looks at me again. “And I’d ask for your real name to connect a few dots, but I understand that you don’t remember it.”
“That’s right,” I confirm, resisting the urge to fidget, like I have something to hide, when I don’t. Do I?
“What do you remember?” he asks.
“Nothing before the moment I woke up here.”
He arches a brow. “Nothing?”
“Not even the actual attack?” I shake my head.
“I see,” he says, stroking his clean-shaven jaw. “I was hoping the actual attack wasn’t a part of your memory loss.”
“I’m completely blank, Detective, and it’s really quite terrifying to think about being in that alleyway, passed out and alone. I’m thankful Kayden was there to get me help.”
“Right.” His hand leaves his face, and he grips the railing at the foot of the bed. “That was lucky.” His gaze lands on Kayden. “Not often a real hero comes along.”
“If you have something to say to me, Gallo,” Kayden says calmly, “then say it and let’s move on.”
The detective’s steely eyes fix on Kayden, and the hate radiating off him is so fierce. I’m clearly in the center of something very personal, and very bitter.
“Detective—” I say, intending to ask for the help he swears he’s here to give me.
“You and I need to chat for a few moments alone,” he says, his hard stare returning to me.
“Let’s cut to the chase, Gallo,” Kayden interjects. “You’re here to badger me by badgering her, and I’m not going to let that happen. Especially while she’s fragile.”
“I’m not fragile,” I insist.
“I can assure you,” the detective replies, ignoring me, “this is about her, not you.”
“If ‘her’ is me,” I say, certain this one-on-one is going to happen, “I’ll talk with you alone.” I glance at Kayden. “I get that there are two agendas here. I can handle it. I just need to solve the mystery of who I am.”
The detective’s approving gaze falls on me. “At least two of us are on the same page.”
Kayden’s lips thin, but he accepts my answer. “I’ll be right outside the door if you need me.”
I give him a nod, and he meets the detective’s stare, the two of them exchanging what I’m pretty sure are some heated silent words, before he strides out of the room.
Detective Gallo claims the stool Kayden favors and scoots closer to me. “It really was lucky that he just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, to rescue you.” His tone says he doesn’t think it was a matter of luck at all. “And talk about dedication to a stranger. Forty-eight hours later, he’s not only still here, he’s paying your bills.”
Already he’s attacking Kayden, but I’m not foolish enough not to find out why. “What are you getting at?”
“That maybe, just maybe, he knew you before he found you.” He holds up a finger. “And maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t in the right place at the right time by chance.”
My mind flickers with an image of Kayden’s hand on my back, and I can almost feel the familiar sensation of his touch spread from my shoulders down my spine. “He says I didn’t know him.”
“Do you believe him?”
“You know I have no memory.”
“You have instincts.”
“Which could suck, for all I know.”
He rests his arms on the railing, the position eating away much of the space between us. “I’m trying to help you—you know that, right?”
“You are here for him, not me.”
“I’m here because of him, but for you.”
“I don’t know what that means,” I say, “and I honestly don’t care. I have to find out who I am, before I’m discharged and on the street.”
“You won’t end up on the streets. There are programs—”
“So that’s the help you’re giving me?” I interrupt. “You’ll stick me in some government program and I’ll cease to exist before I landed in this hospital room?”
His lips tighten and he leans back, crossing his arms over his chest. “I ran a general check on all missing persons reports, including anyone traveling from outside the country.”
“And?” I ask, holding my breath, almost as afraid to hear the answer as I am desperate for it.
“At this point there are no active reports that match your description locally.”
“What about internationally?”
“Or for anyone traveling by way of a passport,” he adds.
I’m shell-shocked, trying to figure out what this means for me.
“However,” he adds, “there tends to be a slight delay in reports filed for a missing person who lives or travels alone.”
“Alone.” The word carves a hole in my soul, taunting me with the idea that no one’s looking for me because no one cares about me. “No,” I say, rejecting that idea. “I might not know who I am, but I know I wouldn’t live here without learning the language, which means that I’m visiting. And I wouldn’t visit a foreign country alone.”
“And as you said, your instincts might suck.”
Infuriated at his lack of help, I say, “I don’t need instincts to know that I can’t wait for a missing persons report that might not come, to deal with my situation.”
“And you don’t have to. If you are indeed an American citizen—”
“I am. I know I am.”
“Well then,” he says, “you’d be traveling with a passport, and there will be fingerprints on file.”
A ray of hope replaces my anger. “You mean we can crosscheck my records?”
“Exactly. I’ll pick up a fingerprint kit, and we’ll run them through the database. If we get a hit, then we’ll know your name, home country, and even your parents’ names.”
“Why wouldn’t we get a match?”
“There are any number of reasons,” he says, “but let’s cross that bridge if we come to it.”
“No. No, I want to know the reasons.”
“I want to know.”
He sighs. “You could have crossed the border illegally.”
“Why would I do that?”
“There’s a black market for American women in the sex trade. Normally they’re drugged, and you have no marks on your arms. But—”
“Enough,” I say, not needing anything else to freak me out. “I get the point: there are reasons. What happens next?”
“I’ll bring in a fingerprint kit.” He glances at his watch. “It’s nearly five now, and visiting hours end at eight. So most likely I’ll have to bring it tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to get a photo that I can show around the neighborhood where we found you. Maybe someone knows you.”
A photo—good God, I don’t even know what I look like! “I . . . Yes. Okay.”
He pulls out his phone. “I’ll take a few now, if that works for you?”
“Of course.” I’ve barely issued the approval before he snaps a few shots and is inspecting them.
“Looks good,” he says. “Do you want to approve it?”
He offers me the phone and I hold up a hand again. “No,” I say quickly, irrationally panicked at the idea of seeing myself, especially when seeing myself, finding me, is exactly what I’m after. “I really don’t want to know how I must look right now.”
“Far better than you might think,” he says, a hint of warmth in his tone as he slips his phone back in his jacket and stands, his hands settling on the railing as he stares down at me. “There’s a reason he told them you’re his sister.”
“What do you mean? You said he did that to be able to be in my room with me.”
“A decision he made the moment he brought you to the hospital. That doesn’t add up to being a stranger to me.”
“Why can’t he simply be a good guy helping someone in need?”
“Because this is Kayden Wilkens we’re talking about, and Kayden Wilkens doesn’t do anything, including you, without an agenda.” He’s looking at the doorway now.
My gaze follows his, my lips parting with the impact of finding Kayden standing there. If Detective Gallo demands attention, Kayden just plain claims it. He is power, control, beauty, and, right now, anger. The air crackles with its intensity, and when his piercing blue eyes shift from Gallo to me, I have a sense of a wolf who doesn’t bother with sheep’s clothing, with his sights set on me.
And I’m certain that it’s not protectiveness or obligation I see in his face. This time, it’s one hundred percent possession.
For More information on The Inside Out series page including: buy links, and excerpts for the previous two and also upcoming releases.
Visit Lisa’s website here: http://lisareneejones.com/connected-books/inside-out-series/