Every freaking bone in my body feels like it’s just been used as a drumstick.
What on earth did I do? I can’t move anything without this stabbing pain. Even breathing hurts. I reach up to touch my chest, but my arm barely moves.
I don’t remember signing up to get flattened by a truck.
Actually, I can’t remember anything.
My mind is a total blank. This weird, clean, whiteboard kind of blank, without a single marker in sight.
I swallow hard, but nothing goes down.
Big mistake. Bile churns up instantly, burning my throat. Oh God, if a shot memory isn’t bad enough, I’m going to—
Yep. I can’t stop it.
My stomach revolts and turns itself inside out.
Despite the agony, my body jerks up and I let go.
Dear God, I hate barfing.
Always have. Always will. Whatever blanked out my brain isn’t strong enough to hit the reset button on that.
I suffer through a few more seconds and wipe my mouth. Then I look up at a large hazy silhouette standing over me. I’m not alone.
“Don’t fight it. You drank a lot of seawater,” a man says. “It’s good to let it out.”
Seawater? Is that why I woke up with this insane roar in my head like an angry waterfall? Can’t say I remember pissing off Poseidon enough to deserve this, but maybe—
Oh. There’s that queasiness again. Round two. Hopefully the last.
I follow the stranger’s advice and just let go. There’s the faint sense of him gently helping hold my head up, right over a bucket he has in his other hand, but I’m tearing up too much to see. And suddenly, I feel like I could walk on air.
It hurts, but by the time I’m done ralphing so loud I think I’m speaking bear, it isn’t so bad.
There’s just this warm, fuzzy, free-falling lapse into darkness.
“There. You’re gonna be just fine, lady. Rest all you want.” That voice again.
It’s deep, strange, but soothing.
I think I smile, wondering if I’ve just met my guardian angel.
Then I tumble backwards into the cloud of pillows under my head and shut my eyes.
I hear voices again, faint and faraway, yet also close by.
How does that work?
Oh, but I guess it does when you’ve lost your sense of direction.
My heart starts racing when I make out a word. Valerie.
They’re saying my name. Calling to me. I can’t open my eyes. My eyelids just won’t pull apart. I have to work to force them open.
Valerie. I hear it again.
That’s my name. No doubt about it.
Honestly, I’m not so sure. If I’m hazy on dang near everything else, how can I be so sure I’m right about my own name?
But my heart pounds faster, making it hard to breathe. That’s when I freak.
I’m a shaking, panicked, mumble-mouthed mess.
Why? What’s wrong? What’s happened?
Wrenching my eyes fully open, I blink at the brightness, and then freeze at the huge man staring at me. I can see him clearly this time. Air sticks in my lungs until I slowly remember to push it out.
He smiles. All six-foot-something of his tall, chiseled, Hercules-chested self. Those angel fantasies don’t seem so wild just looking at him.
But he’s a total stranger. For all I know, he could be the devil himself in a sinfully handsome disguise.
I roll my shoulders, more air rushing out of my lungs.
“Hey, sleeping beauty,” he says with a deep, rich voice I recognize. One that’s far too velvety for a man his size. “How you feeling?”
“Like...like a crap sandwich.” I pinch my lips together. Wondering why I’d answered.
Why I’d said that. I sure have a way with words.
He chuckles. “Never worked up an appetite for those sandwiches. Damn if I can blame you, though, considering...well, this shit.”
This shit? Very helpful.
Who is he?
His beaming smile returns. It reaches the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. They’re almost sea glass blue.
I love sea glass. I’ve built up a collection of it. Sometimes I hunt for it on the beaches when I’ve got nothing better to do.
“Don’t mind me, just came to change the sheets,” he says with that smoked bourbon voice. Then he smooths a perfectly cozy blanket over my legs.
Um, blanket? I’m still in bed. Why?
Goosebumps rise wild up and down my arms.
Why’s this stranger sitting on my bed? Or is it his bed?
I don’t know him. I don’t know this room or this bed. The wheels turn in my head, but can’t get traction.
I don’t know anything. There’s a gaping black hole where my life should be.