He shivered as he made his way down the highway, the icy cold rain plastering what little clothing he had to his skin.
Something was very wrong. He needed to go somewhere. Be somewhere, but…
He shoved the long white hair out of his face. The wind was whipping it around, slashing him in the face with the strands.
Why couldn’t he remember?
The sum total of what he knew was this barren highway, this pouring rain. Nothing, not even a glimmer of what he’d once been, lived within his mind.
Why? What had happened that he didn’t even know his own name?
Headlights cut through the dark, dreary night, slowing to a stop beside him to reveal a dark sedan. The driver’s side door window rolled down, revealing a familiar face.
He gasped, stumbling back a step.
“You.” The shock that raced through his system at the sight of the woman behind the wheel nearly staggered him. Heat raced through his system at the sight of turquoise eyes, almost too large for her face. Her shoulder-length brown hair was pushed back by a headband, causing the bangs to stand almost on end. The effect was oddly rooster-like, and made him want to laugh. But it was that face that riveted him, held his attention like nothing else had before or, he suspected, would in the future.
Her face was far from beautiful. Her features were too large, her jaw too square, her mouth too wide and full for true beauty. But the strong, square jaw and large, once-broken nose were offset by the smile lines around her mouth and eyes and the way her gaze seemed to zero in on him to the exclusion of all else.
The sum of all her features was arresting. Hers was a face that would age well, give her character where traditional beauty would fade into bland obscurity.
He was absolutely enchanted by it.
Long, elegant fingers clutched the steering wheel, a pearl ring decorating one hand. That, too, was strangely familiar, but like everything else the knowledge of where he’d seen it before eluded him.
But it was the fear in her gaze that had him searching the area around her car, ready to do battle. For some bizarre reason, the thought that this woman feared anything set off every protective instinct he had.
Nothing would harm her. He’d destroy anything that tried.
And that frightened him more than the sight of her had. The only thing he could be certain of was he’d never, not once, had the desire to protect someone as fiercely as he did this woman.
What the fuck was going on?
“Si…” She gulped back whatever it was she’d been about to say, staring at him with huge eyes as he held up his hand for her silence. He needed to hear what the winds told him, but that voice…
He shuddered. Her looks might be average, but her voice was stunning. Throaty, slightly scratchy, it was pure sin and seduction, a song that lured him toward her like a moth to a flame. “What has frightened you so?”
Those huge eyes widened before her features stilled. “You.”
He took a step back. How had he made her afraid? There could be only one answer. “You know who I am.”
She nodded. “Yes. But you’re in danger, so please, get in the car. I’ll try to explain some of it on the way.”
The urge to do as she asked was nearly overwhelming, but some instinct of self-preservation held him back. He shivered, and not just with cold. If he climbed into that car, his life would change in ways he could not foresee. “Why should I trust you?”
“I…” She blinked, obviously startled by the question. “He told me to find you.”
“Who?” He approached the car warily. “What do you know?”
“Please, get in the car. I promise I’ll tell you, but hurry.” She glanced behind her, her fear so obvious he was reaching for the handle before he even realized. “I don’t know how far behind me they are.”
“Who?” Damn it. Why wouldn’t she tell him?
“Get in!” She leaned over and pushed the door open, her panic so real, so consuming, he had no choice but to do as she asked. He climbed into the passenger seat, ignoring her sigh of relief, and buckled the seat belt as she took off into the cold, dark night.
He gave her a few minutes to calm herself before he began his questions. She knew what was going on, that much was clear, and something in him demanded he trust her on some level. Whether she was worthy of his complete trust remained to be seen, but he decided to heed his instincts until she proved herself unworthy.
He frowned, the certainty that she would do just that ratcheting through him. Had she betrayed him in the past? Was that why he was both drawn to and loath to spend time with her? “Tell me what’s going on.”
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, but her attention remained where it should, on the icy roads. “A seer sent me for you. He told me where to find you.” He jumped, that term bringing back odd feelings, some pleasant, some not. “I’m to bring you to him as quickly as possible, but I’ve been told only to reveal what happened to you in bits and pieces.”
“It has something to do with why you’ve lost your memory, and how to return it to you with the least amount of injury possible.” She shrugged. “I can sense the damage the poison has done, but the effects are complicated to heal. If I try to do it all at once, I could do irreparable harm to your psyche.” She patted his knee, her touch inflaming him. Such a simple thing, yet his cock had hardened instantly. “I give you my word I will get you to Shane safely.”
Shane. He jolted at that name. Another familiar, unremembered name.
Something about her tone, the odd, echoing quality, shivered through him. An oath, then, and binding. The tingle of…magic?…reassured him as nothing else could.
“Who are you?”
She grimaced. “Cassie. I’m…a friend.”
Somehow he doubted that. His reaction to her was far too visceral for mere friendship. “Who am I?”
Again, that sideways glance, that glimpse of turquoise beautiful, haunting. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me.” This was it, the moment she would lie and betray him.
She bit her lip before sighing. “Your name is Oberon.”
Oberon. That name, so familiar, settled around him like a cloak. Yes. He was Oberon, and he was…something more as well. Damn it. Whoever had poisoned him would pay dearly. “My last name?”
“I don’t know it. No one does. You never speak it.”
That was odd, but he’d let it go for now. It certainly proved they were not friends. Any friend of his would be gifted with his surname.
He frowned. Gifted? Why would that, rather than his first name, be considered the gift? “Where are we headed?”
She grinned, her whole face going from plain to utterly devastating. Such a smile could blind the sun. “Nebraska.”
“Why there? Why not Kansas, or Oklahoma?”
“Because the man who can help you most is there. In the meantime, relax. I’ve got you now, and I’ll keep you safe.”
Oberon scowled. “I think not. Despite my lack of memory, I am perfectly capable of defending myself.” He knew that without a doubt. He could sense the magic, potent and intoxicating, answering the call of his will.
“But would you know who to defend yourself from?” She shook her head, her brows lowering, that blistering smile gone. In its place was an equally dazzling determination. “No. Let me deal with the bad guys. You heal, work on getting your memories back.” She glanced around, taking the off-ramp to some highway that seemed vaguely familiar. “I can take care of things for now.”
He very much doubted it if the fear that flashed across her face again was anything to go by. Whoever was after him, had poisoned him, must be very dangerous for her to fear them more than she did him.
Oberon braced himself against the window, the car’s heater finally driving the chill from his skin. “How did you break your nose?”
She shrugged. “I was healing someone, and he accidentally hurt me. It happens sometimes.”
“Getting your nose broken?”
“Getting hurt by a patient.”
He wanted so desperately to reach out and stroke the broken bridge, to see if there was pain though he knew, deep down, there was not. “Why not heal it?”
“It’s a lot harder to heal yourself than it is someone else.” She patted his arm, putting the questions to an end. “Rest now. You need it.”
As if he could. He kept a covert eye on the rearview mirror, ready to do whatever it took to make sure Cassie remained unharmed. The thought of her bleeding, wounded, fueled an astonishing rage within him. The wind outside the car picked up, Cassie growling and gripping the wheel tighter as she fought the elements. Strong though she might be, he suspected there was very little she would be able to do against his enemies in a real fight. It was up to him to make sure the strange, alluring woman did not come to harm.
Oberon would protect her, whether either of them wished it or not.