There in his drive sat a shiny, little Mustang convertible, fire-engine red, the ragtop down. Perched on the hood was Anne-Marie Kincade. One look at her hit him like a punch right in the solar plexus and all thoughts of Sheri faded away, lost in the fog of need that took over as he stared at Anne-Marie.
Her thick, black hair was falling around her shoulders, shoulders left bare by a simple, white camisole-styled top. Long legs were revealed by a pair of neatly cuffed, black shorts and her small feet were shod in a simple pair of canvas tennis shoes.
She didn't look like a doctor; nope, she looked like a high school coed, too young and too damn innocent. Until she turned her head and met his eyes. The look in those misty, green eyes was pure woman and Jazz could literally feel it as the blood drained out of his head, straight down to his cock.
His breath caught in his chest as her gaze locked with his, a small, mysterious smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Sweet God, how had she grown up to be so beautiful?
A soft breeze fluttered her hair around her face, framing it in dense black. She slid off the car and moved towards him, that mysterious, teasing smile still on her lips. "Hey," she said softly, coming to a stop a few feet away. Cocking her head, she studied him in the fading light. "You had your hair cut."
A soft, illusive scent floated to him on the air and an insane desire to bury his face against her neck seized him. Gruffly, he asked, "What are you doing here?"
Her shoulders lifted and fell and she said, "I wanted to talk to you."
"I don't know." She shrugged, her smooth shoulders lifting and falling. "So here I am."
Looking at her, he saw Alex. Though they looked nothing alike, he saw his old friend in the arrogant lift of her chin, in the confident way she held herself. The way she offered no explanation for her actions. She was so alive, as Alex had been. So damned alive, and Jazz had felt dead inside for too damn long. He didn't think he could keep his hands off her if she stayed so close.
"Did you forget who I am, Annie?" he asked, moving closer, until his toes nudged hers.
She had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes. "I know who you are, Jazz. I've always known you."
Shaking his head, he scoffed at her, "You don't know me any more than I know you. Hell, you haven't seen me in sixteen years and the last time you did see me, I was laid-up in a hospital bed after I killed your brother."
He wanted to scare her away, and for a second, she paled and her eyes darkened with pain but then her features smoothed out and she shook her head. "Nice try, Jazz."
Instead, she cocked a brow at him. "What's my favorite color?" she asked.
Blue, he thought, even opened his mouth to answer before he clamped his lips shut.
"My favorite food?"
Strawberry shortcake. "How in hell am I supposed to know? I haven't seen you in years, sugar."
She smiled serenely. "Why do I like rainy days?"
So you can curl up with a book and munch on popcorn. Brows lowered, he stared at her.
She shrugged and said, "You like the color green." Green, like her eyes. "You love steak and potatoes, sour cream only. You don't like butter. Rainy days don't bother you but you always liked the sun better. When it rained, you were supposed to stay in out of the rain. And that made it easier for Beau to find you."
Shame slid through him, hot and greasy. He'd always done his best to hide from her whenever he took a pounding. It was humiliating looking at anybody, but it had been so much worse with her. All the years since then hadn't done a damn thing to lessen that shame, either. She caught his shoulder as he turned away. "You think I don't know what he did to you? To your momma? I was young, Jazz. Not blind. I knew. I'm the one who saw you go into the barn that first time after Beau nearly beat the life out of you. I told Alex about it because I didn't think you would want Daddy to know."
Whirling around, he shrugged off her hand. "I don't need sympathy, Annie."
"I haven't any for you," she replied evenly. "If my heart breaks for the little boy who was beaten black and blue, so be it. But what I felt about that little boy has nothing to do with why I am here now.
"I do know you," she whispered, reaching out, laying one small, neatly manicured hand on his rigid arm. "You were my hero, Jazz. And I wanted to talk to you; we were friends, of a sort."
"We were never friends, angel. I was friends with your rich brother and you were the nosy, little brat who had a crush on me," he snapped. "Go home to Daddy, Annie. You want to talk to somebody, go talk to him."
In the fading light, he saw the delicate color wash out of her cheeks and hurt bloom in those green eyes. And then she blinked, and as easily as that, a mask fell. She shrugged, carelessly. "Your loss, Jasper," she told him, turning on her heel and heading for her car. The denim drew tight across her hips as she dug into the hip pocket for her keys.
Before Anne-Marie could reach for the handle, hard hands closed over her elbows, twirled her, pinned her against a heavy, male body. Against her back, she felt the cool, smooth glass of the window and the heat of the metal door against her legs. She raised her head, looked into those deep brown eyes that had haunted her dreams for years on end.
"I don't wanna talk to you," he whispered as he lowered his head to hers.