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Adam O’Connell exited the elevator promptly at four o’clock but stopped before the black lacquer door of The RH Group to take a calming breath. Trepidation mixed with a generous portion of guilt tightened his throat. He rubbed his hand over his jaw, encountering the unfamiliar texture of a beard. He hadn’t shaved since he gave Nick his letter, hoping it hid the resemblance to his father. Even he was sometimes jarred by the likeness.
After a final breath, he grasped the nickel handle of the door and opened it, entering a high-ceiling reception area. A woman with dark hair and deep green eyes sat at the desk and met his gaze with a polite smile.
“Good afternoon. How may I assist you?” Her husky voice held a hint of a British accent.
“Good afternoon. I’m Adam O’Connell. I have a four o’clock meeting.”
Her smile widened further. “If you will follow me, please.” She rose and led him through an open office area where several employees were seated at large quad desks. Adam noted her movements were measured and she kept her head ever so slightly turned toward him, walking behind her.
She’s the agent that was with Loren last night. “How long have you worked here?” he asked. The woman stopped at a solid oak door flanked by frosted glass panels and knocked.
“Not very long,” she replied, opening the door for him.
The office was large; a modern desk sat at one end with a seating area at the other. Movement near the windows caught his eye when a couple turned to face him. The woman was tall, her long legs encased in slim, dark denim and brown knee-high boots, and she wore a deep blue tunic that gave her pale skin some color. Her hair was darker than he remembered and cascaded past her shoulders to soften the angles of her face. Her silvery eyes were filled with too many emotions to identify, but when she raised her chin, any apprehension he saw was hidden behind a cool facade.
She was Loren Mackenzie, professional cyclist. The Ice Queen.
“Nick was right,” he said, giving a smile. “You can be a little intimidating.”
Loren huffed. “Well, he was being a bit stalker-ish.” Her voice was deeper than over the phone, with just a hint of British accent.
“That’s true.” Adam took a few steps toward her. “God, look at you, all grown up.” Her eyes widened as she backed away, holding up her hand.
“Please, don’t,” she said, her voice strained.
“It’s okay. I understand.”
“Do you?” she croaked, her fists clenching at her sides. Loren turned to the man next to her. “Please, I can’t do this.”
“It’s alright, love,” Graham Atherton murmured, then stepped forward with his hand extended to Adam. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
“You, too,” he said, accepting the greeting.
“Please, sit.” Graham motioned to the couch, where Adam chose one of the chairs while the couple sat close together on the sofa across from him. Silence enveloped them for several long moments when he leaned toward her.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Loren said, glaring at him. Graham shifted slightly to put his arm around her shoulders, and her expression softened. “I’m sorry. This is very hard. My brain is overwhelmed by fragments of memories.” Her eyes turned to quicksilver. “There are so many ghosts.”
“I see them too,” he whispered.
“You do?” She hesitated, then reached out her hand to him. Her palm was cool, but dry against his skin and as she pulled, he pulled, and they both stood. “I’m not dreaming. You’re really here,” she cried and stepped into his arms.
“I’m here, Shadow.”