Horatio Longsworth lives and works with the Mojave Mountain Wolf Pack, but he’s never gotten over his lost love, Fain. Though Fain tricked and almost killed him, Horatio believes there has to be an explanation. Fain could never really hurt him. Or could he? But when one of his own is also nearly fatally wounded, can Horatio overlook all the evidence to give Fain a second chance?
Fain Para is a man of myth and mystery. He loves Horatio but left him to protect him. Or so he led Horatio to believe. When the Mojave Mountain Wolves relocate from Timtuk Canyon Ranch to the more isolated Icebox Canyon, strange things start happening to the pack. Is he the dangerous predator people say he is, or is there something…someone out there, even deadlier than Fain?
She walked in circles, moving around the exterior of the West Hollywood apartment building. “I know this place,” she murmured.
“Yes. You live here.”
“I do?” Gen seemed puzzled.
He watched as she struggled to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t recognize her own home.
“I like these flowers.” She touched the pale pink blossoms of a camellia tree, as though afraid they might bite. “At least, I think I like these.” She dropped her hand again. “I don’t remember.”
He knew she’d planted the tree long ago, and that she’d installed the myriad pots of tropical plants around the courtyard and up the stairs leading to the second floor. There were spaces. Lots of empty spaces. He glanced at the hardy drought resistant plants she’d put into what should have been have been a strip of lawn out front. Only a few had survived the weeks she’d spent away from the place. The tropicals were dead, and or discarded.
“You’re the building manager,” Horatio said, keeping his tone gentle.
“Really? Why did I pick such a hideous shade of pink?” She frowned again. “It reminds me of something.”
Pepto-Bismol. Not that Horatio said this aloud. Jones had instructed him carefully on what he could and couldn’t say.
She hummed the song, ‘Hungry like the Wolf’ and switched her purse from one shoulder to the other. She let out a strange giggle. It was unnerving. She’d done it the whole way here. Jones hadn’t explained the weird laugh or the song. He’d have to ask when he got home.
“The place is clean. Well kept.”
Horatio Longsworth had never seen an apporter undergo such a significant transformation. Reprogramming really works. Well, I’ll be… He stared at her. Was she kidding? He was fascinated now. Jones had predicted this. She would only see the good. She would be positive. He sensed the gazes of the building’s residents watching from behind closed doors. Horatio shook his head. How would any of them explain how not a single one of them had called the police reporting her missing? How could they explain not watering her sacred plants?
And not paying rent?
The building owner pawed around the courtyard. He kept glancing at Gen. He seemed intimidated by her. He’d come to meet her and Horatio, believing that she’d been in an accident and had been in the hospital.
“Twenty years she’s managed this property,” he told Horatio. “Twenty years. I’ve never seen her like this. Did she have some sort of breakdown?”
Yeah. Some kind. Horatio said, “All I know is, they said she’d have some gaps in her memory.”
Gen frowned when she spotted one door of the tiny, five-block unit standing ajar. “Wonder what’s going on in there?”
“That’s Ryland Smith’s place,” the owner said. “He’s vanished. Nobody knows where he is, but somebody emailed me and said he’d be back to get his things.”
Horatio opened his mouth to correct him. His friend’s name was Smith Ryland. Not Ryland Smith. No matter. Horatio had no time to respond. Gen bolted ahead of him and pushed open the door shouting, “Hello, hello?”
Horatio held his breath as they walked inside and surveyed the damage. Somebody had torn the small apartment apart. What had they been looking for? He’d have to call Smith and tell him there wouldn’t be much to salvage.
Gen ran from room to room, as overhead, a helicopter whirred loudly.
“Probably a drug bust,” the property owner said from the doorway. He held up his arm. “Thirty-five grand I paid for this watch and it still doesn’t keep the correct time.” He gave a disgusted glance at the small space. “Vandals.” He cleared his throat. “I trust you to clean this place up,” he told Gen. “I gotta fly. I booked a massage at four-thirty.”
Gen either didn’t hear him or was ignoring him. Or, she didn’t realize he was talking to her. As the short, squat, unpleasant little man took off, she opened a sliding door in the living room and stuck her head outside. “Huh,” she said, looking up into the sky. She pointed then turned back to Horatio, a befuddled expression on her face. “I don’t know why, but I feel happy. I think I want to lie down and sing.”
He stared at her. What?
Her vacant expression cleared, and she took in Smith’s scattered belongings strewn everywhere. There was even a sock hanging from the venetian blinds in the tiny kitchen.
“I feel I know the person who lives here. Maybe they don’t anymore. Place doesn’t look lived in.” She passed a hand across her eyes. “I wish I could remember who used to rent this place.” Her voice trembled. “I really do need to sing. Or sleep. I—I don’t remember which.” Gen plunked herself down onto the sofa and whispered, “Smell like I sound, I’m lost in a crowd.” She gave him a sweet but sad smile and curled up on the sofa. “Must sleep,” she said.
He waited a few moments before calling Smith to give him the bad news. He spotted a shelf above the desk in the corner containing books and papers that didn’t appear to have been touched, glancing again at the woman. She would be fine even though she was acting crazy right now. He’d never actually been around a person whose mind had been cleared. She would be ahead of most humans. She’d haven no past memories, no old shame, no emotional baggage to deal with. Her mind would be like a new-born babe’s. She’d been programmed to be happy. Nothing holding her back anymore. She could move forward with her life.