We DID IT! Over the last two months we've finished up The Picture and started a new MS, Lost and Found. I was curious if any agent would be interested in it so I queried. I got rejection after rejection and then all of a sudden, Melissa Jeglinski from The Knight Agency asked for a partial! I'm sending it in today. She used to be the senior editor for Harlequin Desire and is now acquiring new talent as an agent. I've been blessed enough to be one of the ones she wants to see more work from. So, without further ado, I give you my Chapter 1 of Lost and Found!!! (please forgive the formatting, I'm too lazy to fix it).
For five years, Thomas has lived without a past. A horrible motorcycle accident has left him with permanent amnesia and a lot of anger. Working as a private investigator with his only friend, he knows one day he'll feel the need to figure out who he once was. But now, he's content in his misery and denial. If his family doesn't care to find him, the feeling is mutual.
But the love of a tender-hearted, sassy redhead might just change his mind.
Alyssa Morgan is searching for the man who left her five years ago without a trace. She believes Thomas could be her husband, but she has to admit that even she's not sure. Leaving everything behind, she's determined to get to know this aloof man who has her husband voice and the disfigured face of a stranger. But when she finally figures out the truth, Thomas asks her to help him figure out who he is.
Does she tell him the truth? Does she risk losing him again now that she's finally found him?
Her red hair was like a beacon in the foggy air as he entered the pool hall that night. Thomas Williams shook his head and tried to ignore her. It was the same woman who stared at him down the previous night while her boyfriend looked on in confusion. She was alone tonight but the place was crowded with men who watched her closely. Surely she'd find someone else to annoy. He wasn't interested in whatever game she was playing.
Yet she continued to stare right at him.
“Iced tea, please,” he said to the bartender who watched him with a grin.
“Creature of habit, huh?” he asked and handed him the glass. He leaned over the bar and settled on his elbow, cocking his head to the side. “So that cute little red head over there has been asking about you.”
Thomas almost choked on a swig of tea. “What?”
“She was curious about what happened to you.” The bartender glanced up at his face and then looked away, standing erect and vigorously drying a glass with a towel.
“Most people are curious. What did you tell her?” He tried unsuccessfully to keep his eyes off her as she was staring unnervingly at him. By all rights, he should be used to that kind of stare, but something in the intensity of it made him curious.
“Same thing I tell everyone. To ask you.”
Thomas nodded once in gratitude and patted the bar. Two men abandoned a pool table to his left and he grabbed it before someone else could. He was almost done loading the rack when he noted out of the corner of his eye the red head was moving toward him. He ignored her and leaned down to break.
Thomas all but missed the ball when a behind clad in tight jeans leaned up against the table so close he could have moved an inch to his left and touched it.
“I hear you're pretty good at pool,” she said.
He grunted and bent, doing everything he could to ignore that shapely behind, but it was right where he needed to line up his break. He stood and looked at her with a cocked eyebrow, trying to convey his annoyance. It didn't matter if she was the prettiest thing he'd seen in a long while, he didn't want the trouble she was no doubt offering. He ignored the sweet smell that drifted to him among the cigarette smoke and beer.
“How did you get that scar?”
Thomas sighed and stood up again. “Why do you want to know?”
She cocked a mocking eyebrow in a way that made her look both sexy and cute. “I'm just making small talk.” Her innocence was charming and completely fake.
“Small talk usually doesn't entail butting into people's business.”
“Sore subject?” she asked.
“No, just none of your business.”
“So you won't tell me?”
“Where is your boyfriend?” he asked impatiently, looking around. He wanted this woman out of his hair so he didn't do something he would regret. His own temper had a way of getting the best of him when he least expected it. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her.
“I don't have one.”
“So that guy you were all over last night isn't a boyfriend?”
She shook her head.
“So, you're a hooker then? You must be getting low on cash to approach me, but I can tell you right now I'm not into that kind of thing.”
“I'm not a hooker, I'm just curious.”
“Well, don't be.”
“My name is Alyssa.” She paused as if she were waiting for something.
His eyebrows arched and he waited for her to continue. When she said nothing, he offered, “I would say nice to meet you but I don't really want to encourage you.”
She grinned. “How about we change that?”
“Just tell me what you want.”
Her gaze slid down his chest and he could imagine how smooth it would feel if it were her palm instead. He cleared his throat and kept a steady eye on her face.
“Just to talk,” she said softly. “What's your name?”
He rolled his eyes and lined up his shot, this time pushing past her so that she had no choice but to move. She waited until he sank several balls before approaching him again. “Was it a car accident?”
Thomas felt his blood pressure rising. This woman didn't know when to quit. “Look, I don't talk about anything with strangers, so give it up, alright? And if you're looking for anything physical, I'm not interested.” He almost ducked under the table waiting for lightening to strike for his lie. He may not want whatever she was offering, but that didn't keep his mind from imagining things.
“You certainly know how to kill the chase, huh?” she grinned and walked up to him. She was only inches away and he could smell her again...roses. He loved the smell of roses and suspected he always had. He even planted two rose bushes outside his porch that bloomed big and white during the summer.
He didn't move but said, “You're the only one chasing, and what your chasing is your own tail. I'm not looking to hook up.”
At this, she smiled and then laughed. Just the sound of it made him grit his teeth. He shifted his weight to relieve some pressure on his crotch.
“Maybe you should try it. It might relieve some of that stress.”
Completely flustered, he hung up his pool stick. He didn't bother looking back, he just knew he had to get out of there. He was suffocating. In the parking lot, he took a deep breath and fished for the keys in his pocket.
“You can't get rid of me that easily,” he heard her say. Turning, he saw she was right at his side, keeping an easy stride next to him in her three-inch heels.
“What do you want! Do you think I'm really going to believe you want to screw me? Have you taken a good look at me?”
“No, but I would like to.” She leaned against the back of his car when they stopped.
“I think I see why you don't have a boyfriend.” he mumbled. The was something in her casual pose that alerted him. It was almost too casual. As if every movement was thoughtfully composed. The uncertainty in her eyes was what did him in. He knew in that moment she didn't come on to men very often. Now the question was: Why him?
Her laughter filled his ears again. If he didn't get out of here and fast he was going to do something stupid. Like kiss her.
Taking a deep breath, he took a step forward, so they were thigh to thigh. She looked at him openly, waiting, daring him with those blue eyes to do something. He encased her with his arms, his palm flat on the hood of his car, successfully trapping her. He would figure out what she was up to or die trying.
His gaze riveted to her breasts and leaned forward to inhale her. “I guess you'll do,” he whispered, baring his teeth.
She smiled and crossed her arms, looking nonchalant. “Don't you think you should tell me your name first?”
“Who needs names. It's obvious we don't need to be friends to do what you want to do.”
“You don't intimidate me.”
“Good. We couldn't have that, could we? You planning on robbing me blind if I take you home with me?”
She shook her head.
“And you don't cost anything?”
“Yes or no.”
“Not a thing.”
“And you don't have a boyfriend who's going to kill me?”
How could he believe anything she was saying? He didn't even know her.
“Who was the guy you were with last night?”
She gave him a teasing look. “So you noticed me last night after all.”
“Hard not to when you were staring at me like the freak I am. Who was he?” he snarled.
“Dancing the way the two of you were dancing? I don't believe that.”
She looked away. “Let's just say he wants a little more than I do at this point in our lives.”
“What do you want, Alyssa? I don't think I'm real clear on what we're doing here.”
“To get to know you. To talk,” she said, leaning her head to the side and studying his mangled face. “Maybe we can go back to your place.”
Thomas frowned. “Is this some sort of joke?”
“Of course not.”
He studied her face and she looked genuinely irritated that he didn't believe her. “Why me?” he demanded. He found he was irritated at the idea she might actually be interested. “There were twenty other men in there watching you with their tongues hanging out. Why me?”
“Because you weren't watching me with your tongue hanging out. And besides, I think you've got a story to tell.”
Thomas leaned in, inhaling her fresh scent. Their lips were so close he could feel the puff of each breath. “You think I've got a story to tell?” he asked, looking deeply into her eyes.
Those blue eyes framed with thick, come-hither lashes turned dark as they focused on his lips. She nodded.
He hovered there a moment, unsure if he wanted to kiss her for his own benefit or to punish her. An angry snarl pulled back his lips when he decided against both and he whispered, “Get lost. I'm not interested.”
* * *
Alyssa Morgan called to the bartender for a shot of whiskey as Jeff looked at her in concern. “You can't drink, Alyssa. You've never drank before and I won't let you now. And something tells me you're a cheap date.”
Ignoring him, she slumped over and pressed the heels of her hands to her forehead. “I thought it was him, Jeff. I thought we had finally found him. He even sounded like Chris. If I could just have some sort of closure,” she cried and swiped at the tears. Jeff declined the whiskey when the bartender sat it down in front of her. “Hey,” she said, feeling an edge of hysteria bubbling inside of her. “I call the shots around here.” Then she grinned miserably. “Ha, get it? The shots?”
Jeff simply rolled his eyes. “Let's go.”
“What if we never find him?”
He looked at her. “Then I think you should close the book and move on. It's been five years.”
“Move on with you, right?” Alyssa glared at him. Jeff was once Chris's best friend. Over the years, Alyssa feared Jeff had developed feelings for her. The feel of his hands kneading the tension from his shoulders felt too good to brush off, but it was those small gestures that clued her into his unspoken feelings.
But Alyssa knew she could never truly move on until she knew what happened to Chris. And she knew she could never move on with Jeff. Their grief was all that connected them and once they both had closure, what would be left?
Alyssa's muddled brain barely registered that Jeff had ushered her out of the pool hall and she was now sitting in his truck. She looked at him. “Sleeping with you would be a huge mistake, you know that, right?” She kept her eyes trained on her nails, waiting for his response.
“So you keep telling me,” Jeff mumbled, his voice low with some unknown emotion. “I get it, ok, Alyssa?”
“It would kill Chris.”
His pursed lips told her he was holding back what he really wanted to say and she narrowed her eyes at him.
“So we can't ever sleep together or take this any further.” Her eyes drooped as exhaustion hit her full force.
“No, we can't,” Jeff sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Alyssa decided to leave it alone. The last thing she needed was the closest thing to her missing husband to be angry with her. She valued Jeff's unwavering support in the search for Chris and they shared many good memories together when Chris was with them and in the five years since his disappearance. Her life wouldn't be the same without him in it.
The next morning, Alyssa awoke with a throbbing tension headache and immediately downed some aspirin. Jeff came out of the bathroom of the hotel room with only a towel around his waist. A blind woman could see how gorgeous he was, made beautiful by his hard labor outdoors with his landscaping business, but Alyssa could only wish it was Chris.
Chris wasn't the body builder Jeff was, but he held his own. His eyes and smile shadowed anything else physical. Each time Alyssa thought of him, her heart ached to hear his laughter just one more time.
“So, I was thinking we should move on to the next town,” Jeff said, opening his suitcase and pulling out his clothes.
“Why? We're not scheduled to leave until tomorrow” she asked. They had only been in this small town in Alabama for two days. As she waited for Jeff's answer, she studied him. He kept his eyes averted. “I don't think Chris is here.”
Keeping quiet for a moment, she watched him. The close friendship they had forged over the years had its advantages. She could read him well and she could tell he was hiding something from her. When he finally glanced up at her, the truth was written in the worried frown of his brow and the tight line of his pressed lips.
A gasp escaped her lungs and she clenched her fists until they ached. She stood from the bed and walked over to him, glaring. “You really think it's him, don't you?”
Again, Jeff averted his gaze, looking uneasy and confused.
“Answer me!” Her voice trembled and panic overwhelmed her at his deceit. How could he try to do this to her after the hard work they put into finding Chris?
“It's a long shot, Alyssa,” he tried. “But -”
“You think Chris is here and you're trying to trick me into walking away from him? Are you here to help me or keep me from finding him?” Anger swelled and she took another step toward him.
“If he's still alive, I want to find him just as much as you do. He was my friend.”
“And he is my husband!”
“And what are you going to do if you really do find him? Hmm? Are you just going to pick up where you left off? Exactly where did you leave off, Alyssa? What if after five years he doesn't want you anymore, or has a life of his own? He left you for a reason, you know. He could have another wife and kids by now!”
Pain lanced through her. What a callous thing to say to someone who was supposedly her friend. It just wasn't a possibility that Chris could move on. Not after one silly argument. And especially not after sharing the kind of love they had. “Jeff, I know it's hard for you to think past your own selfish motivations, but if Chris is still alive, I know he still wants me.”
“If the man you talked with was Chris, he didn't even recognize you, let alone want some reconciliation. You said yourself he wouldn't even tell you his name.”
“How could that man be Chris?” she wondered aloud, angry with herself that she didn't see the same thing Jeff saw. Even after her conversation with him, she was fairly certain it wasn't Chris. Other than a slight physical resemblance and a voice that sounded similar, there wasn't much the two men had in common. And even those things could be wishful thinking after five years of faded memory.
“You saw the scar, Alyssa.”
“You think Chris was injured somehow?” The thought was like a knife in her heart. Thinking of the angry man from pool hall made her cringe. Chris could have never turned into someone so full of hate, injury or not. He'd rather be dead.
But Alyssa wasn't sure which was worse. For Chris to be dead, as she had feared for several years now, or for him to be alive but not himself.
“It would explain why he didn't recognize us and why we haven't been able to locate any kind of financial records,” Jeff went on. “If he doesn't know who he is, he can't access anything.”
“How could he not know who he is?”
“Look, we can stand here and speculate all day or we can go back out there and try to find him to see if it really is him. Then we can move on if it's not.” Jeff angrily pulled his clothes on and gave Alyssa an accusing look. She tried to remember that Jeff had feelings for her but it was no excuse for him to even suggest moving on if he thought the man at the bar was his best friend. Chris had a life to get back to with a family that loved him.
“I'm not going with you, Jeff. I think this is something I have to do on my own now.” Alyssa wasn't quite sure how she was going to pull that off considering the man from last night wasn't very social. Nor did he appear to be the kind of man who would take kindly to her marching up to him saying, “Hi, I think I'm your wife. Can I have a DNA sample?” No, this man was a ticking time bomb and if she wanted to get into his good graces and find out what kind of past he had, she'd have to play her cards right.
Across the room, Jeff's defeat caused his shoulders to slump. “I didn't mean it, Alyssa. I want to find him just as much as you do. I just feel like we're spinning our wheels, you know?” His gaze traveled over her face and a soft look came over his features. “Is it so selfish of me to want you for a little while longer?”
She placed her hand on the doorknob and narrowed her eyes at him. “Yes, Jeff, it is.”