Warrior Nights - First Chapter

A loud, rolling roar of thunder shocked Jack awake from a dead sleep. It took a second for him to identify it as
harmless, holding back from grabbing the nearby pistol from the coffee table. He turned onto his back, the couch springs
whining at his movement, and stared at the ceiling, taking long, deep breaths to calm his racing heart.

The raindrops pounded on the windows like a boxer working the speed bag, intermittently switching to wet snow that
slapped the glass with feeble blows.

Jack Hammerson sighed and sat up, scrubbing his eyes with his palms. The temperature in the room was already
dropping, his bare skin prickling at the cold. It was the start of winter, the cold weather taking charge of the small
Colorado town for the next few months.

He’d fallen asleep on the sofa, listening to the all-news channels drone on as he enjoyed one of his few days off. The wet
boots sat in the hallway, drying out along with his jacket, soaked from the short run to the apartment from his truck. A day
off didn’t mean he didn’t work, just that it wasn’t at the warehouse loading skids into the delivery trucks.

Wait.

His body tensed, instinctively reacting to something other than the thunder.

He reached over slowly and wrapped his fingers around the pistol grip.

Another loud clap of thunder and Jack got to his feet, the automatic by his side. He held his breath and listened.

There.

Something scratched against the front door.

Not sleet or hail.

He went to the nearby window and peered out between the blinds. His grip tightened as he squinted into the darkness,
focusing on what lay outside.

A lightning bolt shattered the sky, a heavenly flare illuminating the world for a few brief seconds.

“What the hell?”

He unlocked the front door before jerking it open with his free left hand, swinging the pistol up to aim into the driving storm.

A woman fell past him onto the hardwood floor, landing on her hands and knees as the rain drove in, dousing Jack’s
face and bare chest. She was soaked through, her leather jacket and jeans waterlogged and providing little protection.
Long blond hair stuck to her face, hiding her features. He tucked the pistol into the small of his back before
taking hold of her arms and dragging her inside, kicking the door shut with one bare foot.

Jack knelt down, pulling the woman up so he could get a clear view of her face.

Her soft blue eyes locked with his. The pang of recognition shot through him like the lightning bolt that had revealed her.

Kara.

He swallowed hard, finding his voice. “Are you okay?” The ball of panic in his gut twisted, expanded.

Kara lifted a shaking hand to cup his cheek. “Liam?”

“Yes,” he answered instinctively.

She slumped in his arms, unconscious.

Jack twisted around, nausea building and burning his throat.

If she’s here…

He laid her on the ground carefully before rushing to lock the front door, double-checking the deadbolt before scooping her
up in his arms and carrying her to the bathroom. The tub wouldn’t be comfortable, but it might offer some shelter from the
gunfight he feared was about to break out at any second.

Jack placed her gently in the bathtub, doing a quick once-over before snagging the off-white towel from the rack and draping
it over her.

Nothing. No weapons, no wallet, no identification of any type. No open wounds, either, lifting that weight from his heart.

He snatched the combat knife off the small shelf and tucked it into his pocket—he wasn’t going to leave any weapons within
reach.

Just in case.

Jack ran a hand through his shoulder-length hair, his pulse hammering in his ears.

“Fuck,” he said aloud.

The thunder shattered his thoughts, and he raced back to the living room, pulling the pistol free.

Jack positioned himself and looked out through the blinds again.

There was nothing more to see, the various shades of black and gray shattering only with the lightning flashes. If anyone
was out there, they’d have to wait in the driving cold sleet until dawn.

Jack glanced toward the bathroom.

Kara.

He rubbed the back of his neck, the memories rushing up.

Her mouth, so hot and soft. Legs wrapped around his hips with a strength that surprised him—but the woman could kiss.

And when she came…

He swallowed hard, desire rushing southward with a vengeance.

That little sound was enough to make him follow. With the scratch of her nails on his back…

He bit the inside of his cheek, forcing himself out of the vivid memory. Their affair had lasted only a week, no promises or
commitments offered or given, but it’d stuck with him for over a year.

But now Kara was here, hundreds of miles away from where they’d first met.

She also was using his real name.

Jack rolled the unfamiliar word off his tongue. It’d been over a year since he’d heard the name, shrugged off before coming
to Everett’s Ridge.

Liam.

None of this could end well.

He checked his pistol and stared out into the driving storm, squinting as he stood guard.



Kara came back to herself with a start, gasping for air. For a horrifying moment she thought she was underwater, the fog
in her mind clouding her senses. A few long, deep breaths pushed that fear away, and she opened her eyes, blinking as
she took in her surroundings.

White tiles. Porcelain.

Her fingernails skittered across the sides of the tub.

Where am I?

She gripped the edges and levered herself up to a sitting position, the large white bath towel falling into her lap. Her blouse
stuck to her skin, her leather jacket and jeans soaked through. Her shoes squished as she moved, toes wriggling in wet
socks.

A bathroom. Someone’s bathroom.

Her bathroom?

No.

Where am I?

The thought skipped across her mind like a rock on water before sinking fast, replaced with a more terrifying reality as she
searched her thoughts.

Who am I?

A flash of memory jabbed her consciousness—soaring through the clouds, her wings beating hard as they lifted her higher
and higher.

The lance in her hand felt good, felt right. It vibrated as she etched the invisible symbol in the air, the glyph asking
for…

Then the vision was gone, popping like a balloon punctured by a pin.

She lay back down, her skin itching from the wet fabric.

She ran a hand through her blond hair, noting the shoulder length.

The edges were ragged, telling her she hadn’t had it cut for some time.

That was all she had. A brief search showed nothing in her pockets, no clue as to who she was and how she’d gotten here.

Wherever that was.

She stretched out her long fingers. The nails were neat and tidy. Calluses marked her palm even though her skin was soft
and supple.

The door opened a crack. “You decent?”

She pulled her hands into fists, hiding them under the towel. Whoever she might be, she wasn’t about to be taken advantage
of.

“Yes,” she murmured.

The crack grew to show a man. He stepped into the small room, giving her a friendly smile. Kara sized him up, trying to
assess if he was friend or foe.

Dark brown hair, long and pulled into a small ponytail. A matching beard and mustache framed a pair of deep blue eyes, the
piercing gaze holding her in place.

The emotional storm burst in her mind, a lightning strike bringing a memory back to life. She remembered something—a
laugh, a sly grin as he dragged his tongue along her bare skin…

His mischievous smirk as he moved down her front, leaving a trail of hot, wet kisses in his wake…

A lion’s roar in her ear, her own scream matching his in a shared release.

The hot flush surged through her, banishing some of the chill from her bones as part of the fog lifted.

She knew him—intimately.

He wore no shirt—just a pair of jeans, tight on a well built, muscled frame. His bare chest showed a set of tight abs, the
muscles flexing as he held a small stack of clothing.

Her heart gave a little flutter as she struggled to sit up properly, uncurling her fingers. One hand gripped the towel as if it
were a shield, holding it between them.

She might recognize him, but that didn’t mean she should let down her guard.

“I got some soup warming up.” He put a pair of gray track pants and a clean dark blue T-shirt on the toilet. “Thought you
might want to change into something dry before you eat.”

Kara looked down at herself again, feeling foolish.

“Yeah.” She cleared her throat. “Yes. Please. And thank you.”

He offered his hand. “Here, let me help you out of the tub. Don’t want you slipping and falling. I put you in there in case…”
His words trailed off.

She frowned, waiting for him to finish the thought. “In case you didn’t wake up for some time. Better you be in something like
that instead of getting my carpet all wet.”

She knew it was a lie, heard the falsehood in his voice, but let it go—she was in no position to demand the truth.

But she knew one thing right now.

His name.

“Liam.” She cleared her throat. “Your name is Liam.”

He didn’t smile, didn’t frown at hearing his name. The only reply was to wriggle his fingers, his hand still extended.

She took his hand, slowly rising from the tub with care.

Liam reached for the towel as she stepped out of the tub and onto the bathmat. He folded and placed it on the nearby rack
as she held in a sigh of relief at finding herself steady on her feet.

“Kara,” he said. “How did you find me?”

She frowned, trying to part the clouds filling her mind.

He stared at her, his forehead furrowed. “Are you okay?”

“I just…” She touched her temple, the frustration growing inside. “Kara? My name is Kara?”

“Yes.” Liam cocked his head to one side. “Don’t you know that?” He tapped his chest. “Do you remember me?”

“Yes. No. Your name, yes.” She put a hand on her heart, trying to control her racing pulse. “I’m sorry, I’m just… confused.”
Her eyes met his. “We’ve met before.”

She didn’t make it a question.

He nodded, confirming her gut reaction. “Yes. We have.”

“Are we…friends?” Kara pushed the heated memory down in her foggy mind, afraid she’d gotten him confused with
someone else. Or that they’d parted on less than good terms.

One edge of his mouth turned up in a half smile. “I’d say so.”

Her cheeks burned, the flashes of memory now confirmed beyond doubt. “Right.” She looked around the sparsely-furnished
bathroom. “I’ve got…” She fumbled for words. “Holes in my memory.”

He frowned. “Holes. As in, you don’t remember me.”

An odd look came over his face, as if searching for a way to ask an uncomfortable question. “You don’t recall anything.”

“No. I remember some things,” she corrected him. “I know my name, and I know yours.” She didn’t want to mention the
intimate flashes—at least, not yet. She had no context to put them in, and depending on how they’d parted, it could make an
uncomfortable situation unbearable.

He let out his breath in a low whistle. “Damn.” He rubbed his chin, nails scratching through the thick beard. “First things first—
got to deal with the physical before we move on to the mental. You need to warm up, have something to eat. Hope you don’t
mind chicken soup.” He stepped back. “I brought you some dry clothing. If you’d like to take a hot shower, go ahead. It
might help get the chill out of your bones before you catch cold.”

Kara looked down at herself again, the cold clammy fabric sticking to her skin. “That’s a good idea. Thank you.”

“Put your wet things on the rack, give them a chance to dry. Drop the shoes in the tub afterward, and we’ll work on them
with a hair dryer later, see if we can dry them out without cracking the rubber. Same with the jacket.” He spoke in a calm,
measured tone as if used to dealing with soaked clothing.

“Okay.”

“Okay,” he repeated. A light blush touched his cheeks as he backed out. “See you in a few.”

The door closed, leaving her alone again.

She looked at her reflection in the mirror. “Kara,” she said again, feeling stronger with each pass. “My name is Kara. His
name is Liam.”

What else have I forgotten? And why?

Liam laid out two bowls on the kitchen table, even though he had no appetite. The automatic pistol lay within easy reach with
a bullet sitting in the chamber.

Just in case they had any uninvited visitors.

He braced his hands on the counter and shook his head, letting out a low curse. His first instinct was to throw his head back
and scream, rage at the unjustness of the universe, but that’d draw attention to himself—if not from Kara, then from the
other inhabitants of the motel who might hear him over the storm and wonder what their quiet, withdrawn neighbor was doing.

But he wanted to—Lord, he wanted to.

It was hard not to stare down the hallway at the bathroom. Steam curled under the closed door and escaped, ghostly wisps
reaching skyward. For a brief second Liam imagined her naked and immediately berated himself. It wasn’t the time or place
to do that.

But he was only human.

And no matter how much he might want to deny it, the connection between them was a weakness, one that could be used
against him.

He forced his attention back to the storm still raging outside, assessing the situation. The local forecast had it continuing for
another few hours—if anyone was outside without shelter, he or she would be soaked through and frozen with the
temperature drop.

Hopefully, it’d be enough to keep any would-be intruders at bay.

He reached over and picked up the pistol, checked it again.

Just in case.

A half hour later, Kara came out of the bathroom, tugging at the too-large shirt as it fell almost to her knees. Her blond hair
was pulled back into a tight braid, still wet. She padded over to the table and sat down on the wooden chair, curling her bare
feet up under her.

“Thank you,” she said in a whisper.

“No problem.” He divvied out the soup into the bowls and placed them on the table. “No crackers, sorry. Just bread and
butter.” Liam gestured at the loaf lying between them. “Help yourself.”

He ate because he had to, not because he was hungry—a habit picked up in the field. He’d need energy if things went
sideways.

A woman showing up from his past definitely fit the definition.

Kara went through half a loaf of bread, smearing butter across it and dipping the folded slice into the hot soup. She took a
big bite, letting out a hum of satisfaction.

He clenched his teeth, remembering the last time he’d heard that sound.

Oblivious to the damage she was wreaking on his body, she continued to spoon soup into her mouth, gripping the utensil like
a weapon.

Liam didn’t dare interrupt her until she slowed down, afraid she might bite her fingers off by accident.

Another crack of thunder blasted overhead, reminding him of what had brought her to his door.

Finally, he figured she’d sated her appetite enough to risk speaking. “You been out there long?”

Kara paused. “I guess so.” She ran her spoon around the edge of the bowl. “I’ve been trying to remember how I got here.”

“That’s a good start,” Liam prompted. “And?”

“I remember going along the road, walking.” She looked up at him. “What’s the name of this place?”

“Everett’s Ridge. We’re about three hours’ drive from Denver, up in the mountains.” He studied her face, looking for any
signs of recognition. “You don’t have any car keys—do you remember driving in?”

She pursed her lips, frowning. “No. I don’t recall being in a car.”

“There’s two Greyhound buses a day from the city, one early in the morning and one in the evening.”

“Guess I came in on one of those, then.” She shrugged as she drained the last of the soup. “I feel like I’ve been traveling
forever.”

“Where’s your luggage?”

Kara frowned.

“Where’s your luggage?” Liam said for a second time. “A purse, a backpack? I’ve heard of traveling light, but no phone?
Nothing?”

“I don’t have any of that. I think.” She leaned back in the chair. “No wallet, either. Maybe I hitchhiked my way into town, got
mugged along the way—they took everything, left me alone.” She shook her head. “Can’t think of a lot of alternatives.”

The thought of a group of thugs manhandling Kara had him stifling a growl, banishing the image from his mind’s eye.

No, that wasn’t likely to have happened—no one touched Kara unless she wanted them to. He’d seen what she did to
anyone getting up in her personal space without permission.

He glanced at the windows, the rain pelting against the glass. There wasn’t a lot of traffic coming into Everett’s Ridge, not at
this time of year. A random group of people running around and mugging visitors would be unusual, to say the least—and the
police chief wouldn’t stand for it.

He still had more questions than answers.

“Do you remember your last name?” Liam asked. Inside he flinched. They hadn’t gotten that far last time.

“Kara.” Her forehead furrowed. “I’m sorry, that’s all.”

“Did you take any pills? Do you recall being at a bar,
leaving your drink alone for a second? Someone offering you a cigarette, a candy?” He got up and collected the plates
as she settled on the couch. “Do you remember anything else before arriving at my front door?”

The urge to sit her in a chair and do a professional interrogation was overwhelming, her confused replies not enough to quiet
the voice screaming at the back of his mind.

Danger.

But the honesty in her voice held him back—that, and the time they’d shared together. If she’d been sent to kill him, she was
doing a good job of hiding her emotions. He wasn’t sure if anyone could be that good.

She rubbed the back of her neck, eyebrows drawing together in a frown. “No. It’s all a blur.”

There was another possibility—one easily checked out. He’d done a quick once-over when he’d put her in the bathtub but
could have missed something in his rush to secure the apartment and guard against intruders. Now he could take his time. If
she consented.

“Hmm.” He crossed over to her, lifting his hands. “May I?”

Kara jerked back, eyes wide.

Liam showed his palms in what he hoped she’d see as a calming gesture. “Just want to check your head for any bumps or
bruises. You might have a concussion. Are you sore anywhere? Do you have a headache?”

Her forehead furrowed. “No.”

“Just relax. If I hit a sore spot, sing out.” He moved in. “Did you notice any problem when you washed your hair? Clotted
spots, blood in the water?”

“No, and no.” The impatience in her voice helped to settle his nerves. She might be confused, but she was still very aware of
her surroundings and in full control of her faculties.

Liam cupped her face in his hands, staring into the deep blue eyes. His heart skipped a beat as he studied her soft, open
gaze. “Pupils clear, matching. That’s good.” He ran his fingers around to the back of her head, gently probing. “No bumps or
open wounds—no apparent signs of injury.”

“I could have told you that,” she whispered.

His hands tangled in the soft blonde hair, and he caught a whiff of the generic shampoo he used—but somehow, it’d turned
into a flowery, almost hypnotic scent on her skin.

Liam was tempted to grip the back of her neck and take her mouth, devour her as he had over a year ago. It was a
concentrated effort to step back.

“How does the rest of you feel? Any aches and pains, any…” His mouth went dry as he searched for the words. “Maybe you
shouldn’t have showered.”

There were different types of trauma than getting smacked in the head.

Her eyes widened as she looked at him, making the mental jump. “No. No,” she said again, the steel in her voice coming
through. “I’d know something like that. I’m fine.”

“Right then. Tomorrow, after breakfast, we’ll go see Marie.”

“Tomorrow morning?” Her gaze darted around the apartment, reminding him of a wild bird trapped in a cage.

He pointed at the front door. “Have to wait until the storm stops and the sun comes up.”

“Who’s Marie?” Kara drew back, out of his grasp.

“The police chief. She’ll run your fingerprints, see if you’re in the system. That way we can find out who you are and where
you came from.” He hesitated, unsure if he wanted to say anything more.

He gave in to his curiosity, their shared need for information. “But I can tell you something right now.” He weighed the data,
deciding how much to say. “We met a year ago at a hotel bar, out near Las Vegas. Do you remember it?”

“We…” She narrowed her gaze. “Why didn’t you say something before?”

He resisted the urge to step back, out of range. “Just wanted to see how much you recalled without being prompted.”

She pressed her lips into a tight line. Her fingers uncurled, the tension easing out of her shoulders as he watched. “Oh.”

“Let’s kick it back a bit.” He crossed his arms. “Try to remember where you were born?”

Her stare moved past him, up to the ceiling. “I came from…” Kara frowned. “I don’t remember.” There was no fear in her
voice, just a trace of anger underlying the concern. “Not even where I was born? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing as far as I can see. We’ll visit Marie tomorrow—she’ll help us figure it out,” Liam said softly. “But for tonight, you’re
staying here.” He pointed down the hall. “My bedroom’s down there. I’ll take the couch.”

“But…” Her eyes darted to the window by the front door, the icy rain pummeling the glass. He saw her squint, mentally
weighing her options.

He shook his head. “No buts about it. You’re in no condition to go anywhere else tonight.” Liam extended a hand again.
“Work with me here—I’m only trying to help.”

“I appreciate it.” She grasped it and got to her feet. “I’m just…” She scrubbed her eyes. “I’m just out of sorts.”

“Totally understandable, given the situation. Take it easy, try to get some sleep if you can. If you feel sick or get a bad
headache, let me know. The rest can wait until morning when we’re both more awake and aware.” He led her down to the
bedroom, fighting back the urge to interrogate her further.

It wasn’t until he’d settled her down and closed the door that the major question returned, banging around the inside of his
mind like a steel-drum band gone haywire.

The question wasn’t who she was, although that was a mystery he’d gladly crack.

How had she found him? A year and hundreds of miles away, after he’d worked hard to cover his tracks…

How?

He felt Jack begin to slip away, the persona drying up and falling off to leave Liam behind.

Liam Wolfson. A man he’d thought long dead.

Liam retreated to the living room and checked the front door lock one last time. He settled in the chair, pistol in his lap and
facing the entrance.

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