A Forever Man
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by Sally Falcon
Description: Can a new start include a past love? After a terrible year that included rebuilding her business after a fire, Sandi Canin needed a break. When she decided to go on a week-long cruise, she was hoping to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Instead, she ended up getting stuck on the ship with the last man she ever wanted to see, Max Avery. Max knew he had made the biggest mistake of his life when he left Sandi. Determined not to waste this new chance, Max refuses to take no for an answer. He's willing to do whatever it takes to convince this angry, betrayed woman that he's here to stay. Because when it comes to Sandi, Max knows he's a forever man. This Retro Romance reprint was originally published by Kismet Meteor in August 1991.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [287 KB]
Reading time: 186-261 min.
An unworldly scream from nearby jerked Sandi to consciousness as the sound suddenly drifted away, then stopped as abruptly as it began.
"It's agreed then? We jump at the first sign of the fire reaching the roof."
Sandi tried to protest against the man's words, but could only manage a raspy sound from where she lay. The air around her was sweltering, so thick it was like a living thing trying to steal the breath from her congested lungs. With a supreme effort, she lifted her soot-encrusted lashes. Her smoke-irritated eyes streamed tears, allowing her only to see three vague shapes standing over her--three strangers who were making a pact to be companions in death.
She opened her mouth to protest, gulping polluted air into her already tortured lungs. Her weak attempt was lost as more sirens sounded some sixty stories below.
"That's the seventh or eighth fire department to arrive," another male voice stated from Sandi's left. She turned toward the sound, hoping he would bring sanity back to the group. The fourth person was kneeling at her side. Was he the man who had picked her up from the floor of the salon's reception area and dragged her back from the sweet oblivion of unconsciousness before forcing her up three flights of stairs and onto the roof? She hadn't wanted to move, but he'd made her, swearing and pulling on her to move her feet.
"Seven or eight. What difference does it make how many? None of them has the equipment to reach us," a woman's voice put in tonelessly, a voice that Sandi thought sounded familiar, but the roaring of the fire was coming closer.
"They're taking away the poor wretch's body now," the man next to her reported. "I guess we'd better take a vote. Jump, or stay and burn to a cinder."
Sandi tried to protest among the other voices of assent.
"It's unanimous," announced the man, taking her croaking protest for a vote of yes. She couldn't make another sound as they hauled her to her feet, pain from her leg stabbing through her body. She wanted to scream that she didn't want to go. They would be rescued. No one would leave them here to die so horribly.
"You hold on to the girl while the rest of us join hands. We'll all go together the minute the flames reach the stairwell," another man instructed as the smoke shifted to enfold them in dense gray cloud. "We only have to take two steps and it will be done. Up and over."
How can they be so calm? Sandi thought wildly, trying to struggle against the man holding her. He picked her up and slung her small body over his shoulder before stepping up onto the ledge, which was the only thing that separated them from endless space.
"On my signal we go," the man next to them ordered over the quiet prayers of the others.
Sandi looked back over the desolate rooftop. She didn't have the energy to yell that the smoke was clearing; the air was suddenly fresher now. Or was she hallucinating? It sounded as if the sky was filled with the beating wings of hundreds of birds.
They had to wait. They could survive if they would just wait.
A ball of red, angry flames shot up from the stairwell in the center of the roof. "We go on the count of three. One. Two. Three."
Sandi's scream tore from her throat, the effort propelling her to a sitting position. There was no smoke, no rooftop, no fire. She sucked clean air gratefully into her lungs. She was safe; no one was going to carry her over the side of a sixty-story building.
Dragging an unsteady hand through her tousled blonde hair, she tried to control her ragged breathing. Her skin was damp from fear at the recurring nightmare, her heart beating almost out of control. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness of her bedroom, she found reassuring signs that the fire was ancient history--over a year past. Her suitcases were gaping open, waiting for her last items in the morning before leaving for the cruise ship.
A glance at the luminous digits of her clock told her she only had a few hours before dawn. Swinging her legs over the side of her rumpled bed, she got up, resigned to the fact she wasn't going back to sleep. Though she hadn't had the dream in four months, she knew the pattern of her nights when it came. She could try to sleep and chance having the second dream that always followed the one of the fire--a dream that disturbed her even more. Or she could get up.
It bothered her that the dream had come back. She'd put that day and everything associated with it behind her. Neither dream had disturbed her sleep for months, a release from remembering physical and emotional pain.
Sandi padded into the living room without turning on any lights and went directly to the wall of glass that looked out over Puget Sound. Tomorrow she would be sailing north. A vacation of sorts while the renovations of her new salon were completed. A cruise to Alaska that was supposed to put all her unpleasant memories behind her--the fire that destroyed her business and brought a heartless man into her life.