Page 4 of What Lies Beneath

“I have something for you.”

She perked up in her bed, his sudden announcement unexpected. “Really?”

Her room had been flooded with gifts early on. It seemed like every flower and balloon in Manhattan had found its way to Cynthia’s hospital room. Since then, the occasional arrangement came in from family or even strangers who heard about her story on the news. Being one of three survivors of a plane crash was quite newsworthy.

Will reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. “The airline called earlier this week. They’ve been sifting through the wreckage, trying to identify what they can, and they found this. They traced the laser-etched serial number on the diamond back to me.”

He opened up the box to reveal an enormous diamond ring. Part of her wanted to believe it was a well-made costume piece, but after what she’d seen of her family and their large, plentiful and authentic jewelry, she knew it was breathtakingly real.

“It’s beautiful.”

Will frowned. Apparently that was the wrong response. “It’s your engagement ring.”

She almost laughed, but then she noticed the serious look on his face. Owning a ring like that seemed preposterous. “Mine?” She watched as Will gently slipped the ring onto her left ring finger. It was a little snug, but with that arm broken and surgically pinned, her fingers were swollen. She looked down to admire the ring and was pleased to find there was a vague familiarity about it. “I do feel like I’ve seen this ring before,” she said. The doctors had encouraged her to speak up anytime something resonated with her.

“That’s good. It’s one of a kind, so if it feels familiar, you’ve seen it before. I took it to be cleaned, had the setting checked to make sure nothing was loose, but I wanted to bring it back to you today. I’m not surprised you lost it in the accident. All that dieting for the wedding had made it too loose.”

“And now it’s too small and I look like I’m the loser of a boxing match,” she said with a pout that sent a dull pain across her cheek. It didn’t hurt as much as her pride. She had no idea what her wedding dress looked like, but she was certain that if she’d thought she looked better in it thin, the swelling wouldn’t help.

“Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time. It’s only October. May is a long way off, and you’ll be fully recovered by then.”

“May at the Plaza.” She wasn’t sure why, but she knew that much.

“It’s slowly coming back,” he said with a smile that didn’t quite go to his eyes. Standing, he slipped the ring box back into his pocket. “I’m having dinner with Alex tonight, so I’d better get going.”

She remembered Alex from his visit the week before. He was Will’s friend from school and quite the flirt. Even looking like she did, he told her she was beautiful and how he’d steal her away if she wasn’t Will’s fiancée. It was crap, but she appreciated the effort. “You two have fun. I believe we’re having rubber chicken and rice tonight.”

At that, Will chuckled. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He reached out to pat her hand reassuringly.

The moment he touched her, she felt a familiar shiver run down her spine. Every single overworked nerve ending in her body lit up with awareness instead of pain. Her chest tightened, her hand involuntarily gripping his to maintain the connection it craved.

His touches, however brief or fleeting, were better than any morphine drip. Just the brush of his fingers against her skin made her feel alive and tingly in a way totally inappropriate for someone in her present condition. It had been that way since the first time he’d pressed a soft kiss against the back of her hand. She might not know him by sight, but her body certainly recognized her lover. The pleasurable current cut through everything—the pain, the medication, the confusion.

If only she reacted that way to a man who liked her. The thought was like a pin that popped the momentary bubble that protected her from everything else in her life that was going wrong.

Will looked at his hand, then at her with a curiosity that made her wonder if he were feeling the same thing. She noticed then that his eyes were a light blue-gray. They were soft and welcoming for a moment, an inner heat thawing his indifference, and then a beep from the phone at his hip distracted him and he pulled away. With every inch that grew between them, the ache of emptiness in her gut grew stronger.

“Good night, Cynthia,” he said, slipping through the door.

With him gone, the suite once again became as cold and sterile as any other hospital room and she felt more alone than ever.