Winter's Edge

By: Anne Stuart

Prologue


She was coming back. The cunning little tart had managed to fool them all. She’d survived the blow on the head, the coma. So far she hadn’t said a word, but there was no counting on that happy state of affairs to continue.

She had a reason for her silence, there was little doubt of that.

She would have to die. Sooner or later. Before she decided to start talking. Before she decided to turn the tables, and try her delicate hands at a little extortion. She would have to die.

The only problem was how to arrange it. Make it look like an accident? Or make it look like someone else had murdered her. That would be the most delicious of all. Kill two birds with one stone. She would die. And he would he blamed.

Ah, life could be very sweet indeed.

SHE WAS COMING BACK. He had no choice in the matter, Patrick Winters thought as he slammed around the



empty kitchen. She’d been hurt, she needed time to recover. She’d been implicated in a suspicious death, and she’d refused to answer questions. The police wanted her readily available, and he was the logical person to provide her a place to live.

He leaned back against the kitchen counter. It was just past dawn, and if he was a decent, caring man he’d be preparing to drive across the river to New Jersey, to the hospital, and fetch her back to Winter’s Edge, the only home she’d ever known. She’d lived there for seven years, and she had no place else to go.

If she had, he’d gladly send her there. He never wanted to see her again, not if he could help it. She’d caused too much harm, destroyed too much, with her willful anger and childish spite. He wanted her away from here, out of his life.

Before he made the mistake of thinking there might be something else, some faint glimmer of hope.

He’d been a fool in the past. He wasn’t about to let her make a fool of him again. She’d come back, spin her persecution fantasies, and then, once the police or someone was able to force the truth out of her, he’d send her away.

He had no responsibility for her. She had more than enough money, more than enough self-absorption to handle life. She could go, and he’d never think of her again.

Until he signed the divorce papers.

He wasn’t going to waste his time, his day, going after her. There were plenty of other ways to get her safely transported back to the sprawling estate in Bucks County.

Someone else could do it.

In the meantime, he was getting the hell out of there. And he wasn’t sure when he’d bother to come back.

Not until he could look at her, at her pale, innocent face with the green-blue cat’s eyes, at her soft mouth, and not think about the past.

And how much he’d wanted her, once, long ago. And damn it, how much he still wanted her.

SHE WAS GOING BACK. She knew it; the thought danced through her befogged mind as she drifted in and out of sleep. She felt both frightened and excited, reluctant and eager. Yet she wasn’t sure where she was going, or why.

She didn’t know what she’d find when she got there. She only knew she was returning to where she belonged.

Whether they wanted her or not.





Chapter One


It was very still in the room, still and warm. Maybe that should have reassured her, but it had the opposite effect. She fought her way out of the cocooning sleep, the too familiar feelings of panic beating about her like the dark wings of a thousand bats. She opened her eyes to face the sterile whiteness of a hospital room, and she remembered nothing. Except that she was afraid.

Without moving a muscle she slowly began taking in her surroundings.

Her head pounded like a sledgehammer, and she reached a tentative hand out to touch it, finding a tender scalp beneath a surprisingly heavy mane of hair. Drawing back her shaking hand, she looked at it closely. It appeared neither foreign nor familiar, a tanned, capable hand with long fingers, short nails and no rings. And her panic grew.

“You’re finally awake then.” A voice broke through her tangled thoughts, and her eyes met the warm, friendly ones of a young nurse.

“I thought you’d sleep forever after that last shot we gave you. You were pretty upset.” She moved closer, her eyes cheerfully curious behind the wire-rimmed glasses.

“How are you feeling, hon?”

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