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Love Lies

MaryJanice Davidson



  MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-84360-307-1

  Mobipocket (PRC) ISBN #1-84360-308-X

  Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned):

  Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), & HTML

  (c) Copyright MaryJanice Davidson, 2002.

  All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave.

  Ellora's Cave, Inc. USA

  Ellora's Cave Ltd, UK

  This e-book may not be reproduced in whole or in part by email forwarding, copying, fax, or any other mode of communication without author permission.

  Edited by Martha Punches

  Cover Art by Scott Carpenter


  The following material contains strong sexual content meant for mature readers. LOVE LIES has been rated Hard R, erotic, by three individual reviewers. We strongly suggest storing this electronic file in a place where young readers not meant to view this ebook are unlikely to happen upon it. That said, enjoy…


  Victor Lawrence glanced at his watch and sighed. Administration had been keeping him waiting four minutes by his count, and they were allowed exactly one more before he walked out of here. He was the money-man, for God’s sake. What did they think they were doing, making him cool his heels like a patient?

  He got up and stepped outside to see if Dr. Langenfeld was on his way, when he heard a shrill, “Look out!” and then felt a walloping pain in his knees. The impact drove him to the carpet.

  Holding both knees and swallowing an undignified yelp of agony, he rolled over on his back and glared at the reckless driver. She was sitting in her wheelchair, both hands clapped over her mouth, looking at him with wide, shocked eyes.

  Immediately, he swallowed half the things he wanted to say. He was a bastard, at least, according to his ex-wife and her lawyers, but he wasn’t mean enough to scream at a woman in a wheelchair. Especially one who looked as horrified as she did, if the size of those baby blues was any indication.

  “If you’re late, don’t let me keep you,” he managed to say without gasping. His knees were throbbing in perfect rhythm with his heart. He was afraid to let go of them to see how badly she’d shredded his slacks. But not knowing was actually worse, so he cautiously let go, sat up, and looked. Amazing! The fabric wasn’t torn. Neither, presumably, was his skin. And now that he thought about it, he’d taken harder knocks in the dojo. But there, at least, one expected it. Hospitals were supposed to be safe places. “Were you going to therapy?” He gentled his tone, not wanting to frighten her further.

  She made a strangled sound and he climbed to his feet, forcing a smile. “It’s all right. No harm done,” he lied, certain he’d be limping the rest of the week. “Don’t get upset, now.”

  She finally dropped her hands—and started laughing. He saw at once that she hadn’t been frightened at all, that she’d been covering her mouth in an attempt to swallow the giggles before they could escape. By the time she finished she was slumped in her wheelchair, wiping her streaming eyes.

  “I’m sorry,” she gasped, “but you—oh, God! You went over like a bowling pin. And the look on your…” She snorted and appeared ready to go off into still more gales of laughter, but he interrupted her.

  “As an apology that leaves a lot to be desired. You…” Should watch where you’re going, he’d been about to say, but that wasn’t the sort of thing one said to someone who didn’t have the use of her legs. Perhaps he should have been more careful—they were in a hospital, after all. “You could have been hurt. You should be more careful.”

  She grinned up at him and her great looks hit him like a blow. She had rich brown hair that glowed with red highlights, even under poor fluorescent lighting. Her eyes were pale blue, almost icy, and if she weren’t smiling they would have seemed cold. And her smile! Her mouth was wide and mobile and her lips were full, the upper lip a near-perfect cupid’s bow. It was a mouth meant for staring at, for worshipping, for kissing. She was very pale, but her skin had a pinkish undertone, giving her face a healthy glow. In short, she was the best looking woman he’d seen outside Hollywood, much less within the bowels of The Carlson-Musch Institute for Mental Health.

  He realized he was staring with his mouth open and said again, harsher than he intended, “You should be more careful.”

  “Don’t get huffy with me,” she said tartly—and unrepentantly! “You’re the one who didn’t look both ways before exiting the office. Tall people, I swear. They can’t see below five feet.”

  “We can when we get run down like a gopher in the road,” Victor snapped back, then immediately felt bad. No one liked it when he was angry, ex-wives, divorce lawyers, aikido partners, and now she would cringe, and those gorgeous eyes would glisten with unshed tears, and she’d fumble for the wheels so she could roll away, probably sobbing, and—

  “You whine like a toddler,” she informed him cheerfully. Before he could respond to that, they both heard the chime of the elevator. “Oops! Company coming.”

  “Finally,” he muttered. “Stimulating as this has been, er, whatever your name is, Dr. Langenfeld has finally remembered I’m his ten o’clock. Time to part ways.”

  The effect of his statement was electric. The woman’s eyes widened, then narrowed, and she leapt out of her chair. Out of her chair? In his surprise he nearly fell back to the carpet again. “Dammit!” she cried, dodging past him and into the office. “He can’t see me, if he sees me he’ll kick me out and I’m not—listen, cover for me, okay?” And with that, she dived into the closet, slamming the door shut behind her.

  Victor stared at the closet door, nonplused. He hadn’t been this astonished when he managed to successfully evade being audited for the third year in a row. When his ex-wife left him but disdained alimony. When—

  “Ah, Mr. Lawrence. I'm Dr. Langenfeld.” Langenfeld held out his hand and, robot-like, Victor shook it. “Sorry to keep you waiting—what, over ten minutes!” Langenfeld gulped thirstily at his coffee and sat down. “Yes, well. We had a problem with a patient’s family…my secretary should have told you.”

  “Ten minutes?” Victor echoed stupidly. It had been four minutes when he stepped outside and got creamed by what’s-her-name. Time flies when you’re being assaulted and insulted.

  “Yes, and, as I say, it’s unforgivable. Take your coat?” Langenfeld didn’t wait for an answer, just scooped up Victor’s jacket and opened the closet door.

  “Don’t!” Victor yelled, startling the doctor into turning and dropping the jacket. The closet door hung part-way open and Vic could see the woman standing amidst white lab coats. Langenfeld, completely unaware that she was standing less than two feet away, was looking at Victor over his shoulder. The woman backed deeper into the closet, but there was nowhere to go. Do something, she mouthed.

  “Beg pardon?”

  “My coat. I’d like to keep it. Here, give it to me.” He hurried to Langenfeld’s side, grabbing his coat back and slamming the door shut at the same time.

  It was rumored that Dr. Dean Langenfeld had gotten his job through nepotism, and that may have been true, but he didn’t get to be the head of one of the most prestigious mental hospitals in the country without learning something about people’s idiosyncrasies. As such, he didn’t comment when Victor snatched his jacket back and slammed the closet door. He just gestured to an empty chair and walked around his desk to the other side.

  “All right, then,” he said briskly. “Where were we?”

  “You were apologizing for keeping me waiting.”

  “Right. Sorry about that.” The man didn’t sound too worried, though. Victor decided to remind him just what was at stake.

  “Massachusetts General might be able to put my money to better use,” he t
hreatened, “and they likely wouldn’t keep me waiting to write the check, either.”

  Ah! This was satisfying. Langenfeld nearly choked on his coffee. “Oh no, no, no, Mr. Lawrence. I—that is, we want—we need the money. Very much. Please?”

  “I’m not a big fan of hospital charity work.” Victor dropped into the proffered seat with a grimace. Aargh, his knees! “The medical community has billions of dollars, but hospitals are always whining for more money. Figure that one out.”

  Langenfeld squirmed, but, Victor noted with an internal sigh, didn’t dare argue. Flash a little money at someone and they turned into a jellyfish. The country’s medical crisis was just a tad more complicated than all that. A pity Langenfeld wouldn’t point that out. Victor liked people who had guts. They were rarer than honest lawyers. He ought to know.

  He tried once more. “If you guys spent a little less on inflated doctor’s salaries and a little more on equipment, you’d be doing a lot better.” Nope. Nothing. Langenfeld was even nodding in agreement. Victor sighed. “That’s neither here nor there. I’ll be frank, Langenfeld. I need the tax break. And good PR never hurts.”

  “Right, right. And we’re very grateful. Ah…how much—I mean, what amount were you—did you want to—”

  “Five hundred thousand,” Victor said casually. “To start, we’ll see how it goes from there.”

  Langenfeld was, to no great surprise, nearly overwhelmed with gratitude. So overwhelmed he stood and pumped Victor’s hand for more than a minute. So overwhelmed that he let Victor kick him out of his own office after Victor explained he needed to use the phone to make a private call.

  “Fine, fine, dial nine to get out.” Dr. Langenfeld was walking backward, practically genuflecting. Victor fought not to roll his eyes. “I’m late for a meeting anyway.” He rushed out.

  Victor crossed the room and rapped on the closet door. “It’s safe now.”

  The door opened and the woman stood there, shaking her head. “That was not a pretty sight. Luckily I couldn’t actually see it. Who’da thought Langenfeld could be so…so…”

  “Beside himself with gratitude?”

  “Cringing and groveling.”

  “Can you blame him?” Victor asked, a little piqued that she wasn’t staring at him with an awed gaze. She must have heard everything. She knew he had gobs of money to flash around. “It’s not every day someone drops a check for a half mil in his lap.”

  She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you’re a real humanitarian.” Her voice roughened, deepened. “‘I’ll be frank, Langenfeld. I need the tax break. Also, I’m such a big shot that I’m going to torture you for keeping me waiting. Also—’”

  “If I give you five hundred thousand dollars,” he asked silkily, “will you shut up?”

  “Better than that, I’ll leave for free.” She gave him a haughty look and swept grandly out of the closet. He smothered a laugh. God, she was fun. And so beautiful it almost hurt to look at her.

  “You can’t go yet,” he said reasonably, shrugging into his jacket. “I saved you from a humiliating discovery. How were you planning on explaining your presence to Dr. Langenfeld? He would have taken one look at you—” And fallen in love. Victor scowled. Where had that thought come from?

  “—and called security,” she finished. “Tell me about it. He and I go way back.”

  “I knew it!” he said triumphantly. “You are a patient. Why the wheelchair? You walk as well as I do. Are you a hypochondriac? Is it Munchausen syndrome?”

  “What incredibly rude questions, Mr…uh…what’s your name again?”

  “Lawrence. Victor Lawrence.”

  She gave him a funny look. “Can I see your driver’s license?”

  “What are you, a cop?” he asked good-naturedly, but he fished it out for her.

  She glanced at it and wrinkled her nose. “Nice picture. You look embalmed.” Again, he had to choke back a laugh. It took most of his will power to look irritated. “Lawrence, Victor,” she continued. “Yep, there it is. Is that your birthday? You’re ancient.”

  “I’m only thirty-four.”

  “Only, he says! Do you realize if we were still in high school I’d be a seventh grader and you’d be a freshman in college? All your friends would laugh at you for dating me. And think of my parents! They’d have a fit! If I had parents, I mean.”

  “You must be a patient. You can’t be a normal person.”

  She handed his license back. “Forget it. Thanks for letting me see your I.D. I was a little weirded out when you told me your last name. It sounds like mine. I’m Ashley Lorentz.”

  “Lawrence?” he said doubtfully.

  “L-O-R-E-N-T-Z. See? They’re pronounced exactly the same. If we got married I wouldn’t have to get new monogrammed towels. Not that I have any now, but you know what I mean.”

  “I doubt anyone but your psychiatrist knows what you mean. Why were you in the wheelchair?”

  “Because they were after me,” she said matter-of-factly. “I had to ditch them until shift change.”

  He nodded, pretending to understand. Paranoia. Poor thing. “Well, are they still after you, or is it safe to leave?”

  “What time is it?”

  He told her. She thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, it’s safe. I can go back up to the floors. Thanks a lot for covering for me.” She smiled at him and, annoyingly; he started to get hard. She’s a mental patient, for God’s sake! Stop thinking with what’s in your pants. She could not be more off-limits if she had do not disturb tattooed on her forehead.

  “Can I walk you back to your room?”

  “No, but you can walk me back up to 12A. I’m not a patient here.”

  “Of course not,” he soothed her, gesturing for her to precede him. “If you don’t mind my asking, why were you in a wheelchair?”

  “That’s the third time you’ve asked, actually, and not that it’s any of your business, but they had Wet Floor signs all over and I didn’t want to slip while I was running. I borrowed one and was well on my way to making a clean getaway when you had to blunder into my way.” She took the sting out of her words by patting his arm. “I’m really sorry about plowing into you.”

  “And laughing at me,” he prompted.

  “Oh, I’m not sorry about that. You looked so funny! But I suppose it was kind of mean. Still, it’s not like I’ll ever see you again. Having written the check, the writing hand moves on, and all that. In fact, why are you still here? Don’t you have a hostile takeover to engineer or something?”

  “As soon as I see you back to your room,” he said with as much dignity as he could muster, “I’ll get right on that.”

  She laughed and, after a moment, he joined her. His arm still burned where she had so casually touched him. What a pity she was a lunatic.

  “You don’t have to walk me back,” she told him. “I know my way around. I’m here all the time. In fact, O Great God of Money, I know my way around here better than you do.”

  “I don’t doubt it. Where did you say your room was? 12A?”

  She kicked him. Actually kicked his ankle! “I didn’t say my room was on Wing 12A, I said I would go to 12A. Obviously you inherited your zillions…you’re not bright enough to have made all that money on your own.”

  “Not bright—” He forced himself to calm down and started again. “For your information, I made my own damn money. And I’m very smart, extremely smart. Top-of-my-class smart. I went to Harvard, for God’s sake!”

  “Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”

  “If you were not ill,” he told her through gritted teeth, “I would turn you over my knee for that.”

  This dire threat fazed her not at all. “I’m not a patient here, I told you that.”

  “You’re not a patient here.”


  “But you were in a wheelchair, which you don’t need.”


  “To get away from them.”

  “Yes,” s
he said impatiently.

  “Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but have you taken your medication today?”

  She let out a yowl that brought the hair on the back of his neck to stiff attention. “Stop making that noise!” he begged. “You sound like a squashed cat.”

  “Stomped on a lot of them on your way to the top, eh? And for the last time, I’m a guest, not an inmate. Come on, I’ll prove it,” she said, grabbing his hand and practically wrestling him into the elevator.

  “Sure, you’re a guest,” he said, humoring her. “A special guest.”

  “You’re an idiot,” she informed him. “And there’s nothing special about that.”

  “You’re amazing,” he said, laughing, then clenched his teeth to keep further nonsense from sneaking out. It was true—she was amazing, refreshing and marvelous in all ways—but it would never do to tell her such things. Oh, why are you bothering with her? he asked himself impatiently. The ink on your divorce papers is barely dry, she’s a mental patient, and you’ve sworn off women until the end of the next century. Get her back to her room and get out.

  Ashley could sense the change in him and wondered about it. The silence gave her a chance to get her head together, to attempt to collect her whirling thoughts.

  She’d hardly been able to take her eyes off him from the moment he plowed into her wheelchair. He was, without question, the handsomest man she had ever seen. Tall, he was broad-shouldered and muscular, but not bulky. His hair was so dark it was nearly black, and his eyes were black—so dark it was impossible to tell where the iris ended and the pupil began. Looking into those eyes was like staring up into a starless night—exhilarating and even a bit frightening.

  He was darkly tanned, almost swarthy, and his mouth was thin, saved from being severe by a sensual twist of his upper lip.

  She was so captivated by his good looks, she had spoken without thinking. Repeatedly. Thank God he seemed to like it. To like her. Though that had been short-lived. Now he was standing against the wall of the elevator, staring straight ahead, arms folded across his chest. He looked like he’d rather be anywhere in the world but here.