He had to find her brother, and then he'd return to her. What? Lesley. Lesley's voice. Did he find Gabe in Afghanistan?
He floated. He pressed his back against the cushion to stay grounded. Answer the question, Lieutenant.
He'd found Gabe. Found him and stashed him away in a safe place. Then he'd gone back to Gabe's kidnappers. Had to find out how Farouk was going to use the virus.
Farouk. The enemy. His enemy. Prospero's enemy.
He knew. The virus is a weapon. And then? They'd found him. And he'd jumped off a cliff...into darkness.
Darkness. He knew. He wanted. Lola.
LOLA PERCHED ON THE EDGE of the couch, her mouth dry, her hands trembling as she smoothed a lock of Jack's black hair from his brow. "Are you sure he's okay?"
Lesley snorted. "The man's as strong as an ox. He'll be fine, maybe a little nauseous when he comes out of it." She shook a bottle of pills that clacked in her hand. "And I have something for that, too."
"W-was it successful?"
"He made a great start. I don't know how much he'll remember of what he said, but I taped it." She pressed a micro tape into Lola's hand. "I asked him questions, and he answered many of them. The memories, bypassing that inhibitor in his brain, flowed to his tongue. I think the headaches are functioning in the same way as the truth serum--breaking down the blockage."
Lesley put the bottle of pills on the desk next to the mini recorder, a hospital-issued water pitcher and a paper cup. "Have him take one of these for the nausea when he wakes up. Call me if you need me. He has quite a story to tell."
She slipped out of the office, leaving Lola with Jack still stretched out on the couch. His dark, spiky lashes jumped up and down as his eyes rolled beneath his lids.
Was he dreaming? Remembering? Longing for someone else?
Taking one of his calloused hands between hers, she leaned forward, the ends of her hair tickling his chin. She whispered. "Come back to me, Jack...and then never leave me."
She squeezed his hand as if that could steady the wild beating of her own heart. He'd come to mean so much to her in such a short time. Was he right? Did she know him at all?
He'd protected her, taken on her cause as his own. Nobody had ever protected her before, not even Gabe, certainly not her parents.
Because of that, had she bestowed some magical quality on him? Some sheen of golden glory that he didn't possess? No. Jack Coburn was the real deal. The knight in shining armor. The man she'd waited her entire life for.
The knight twitched and groaned. He shifted and licked his lips. One dark eye opened.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and then slid his fingers into his tousled hair. "God."
"Are you okay?" She disengaged her fingers from his and reached for the pitcher of water. With a wobbly hand she poured some of the water into a cup.
When she turned around, he was sitting up massaging his temples. She offered him the water and her hand collided with his as he reached to grab the cup.
A stranger looking on would think she was the one who'd been sedated. She scooped in a lungful of air and blew it out in a gust. Jack wasn't going to break down.
He swished the water around in his mouth and swallowed. "Ugh, that stuff leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, sort of like crunching on a couple of cloves of raw garlic."
"Do you feel sick? Lesley left some antinausea medication for you."
He eyed the bottle on the desk with suspicion. "No thanks. I think I'll pass on any more of Lesley's prescriptions."
Lola's knees bounced with anticipation, but she didn't want to bombard him with questions. "More water?"
"Yeah...please." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
Butterflies beat wings against her belly and she pressed her hand against her stomach to still their flight. If Gabe were dead or if Jack were really a traitor, he wouldn't be so cavalier about it. She planted her feet flat on the floor. "Give me the bad news first."
"I still don't remember where Gabe is."
She nodded, clutching her hands in her lap. "I--I didn't expect you to have total recall about your life and...and everything else."
"The good news is I rescued him and stashed him in a safe place."