Make Me Forget

By: Beth Kery

Make Me Part 1




Chapter One


There was something about the Tahoe air that made everything clear and luminous. Not just physical things either, Harper McFadden thought as she jogged down a stretch of beach, the cerulean lake glittering to the left of her. Her perception felt sharper in her new home. She felt a little lighter. The brilliant sun and pure air seemed to penetrate even the murkiest, saddest places of her spirit.

Alive.

That was it. She felt more alive here than she had since her parents’ tragic death last year. Hopefully she was slowly—finally—leaving the shadows of grief behind.

She tensed and pulled up short in her run when a large, dark red dog with white markings began to charge her. She staggered back, dreading the imminent crash. The slashing teeth. “Stay calm around them. Keep your fear boxed up tight. It’ll only make them more aggressive if they sense it.”

The big dog pulled up at the last minute. He started to spin in excited, dopey circles in front of her.

She gave a startled laugh.

“You’re not so scary, are you?” she murmured, reaching down cautiously to pet behind floppy ears. The dog immediately stopped dancing around and lifted his head, eyelids drooping and tongue lolling. Harper laughed and rubbed harder. “No, you’re just a big pushover, aren’t you?”

The dog whimpered blissfully.

Clearly, this particular dog was a cuddly pup with the appearance of a bear. Even so, her limbs still felt a little tingly from anxiety. This was one of the few things she wasn’t so fond of in her new town. People adored their dogs here, to the point where they brought them inside the local stores and even the post office, and no one complained. She’d also noticed Tahoe Shores canines tended to be of the enormous variety. Unlike her former home in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, leash laws were largely ignored here.

A figure cast a shadow over her and the dog.

“Sorry about that. He’s like a two-year-old kid with the body of an ox. He doesn’t know his own weight.”

Harper didn’t glance up immediately when the man approached. The thought struck her fleetingly that while his dog was a hyper, quivering beast, his owner’s voice sounded mellow and smooth. Unhurried.

She dropped her hand from the enraptured dog and straightened. His head and shoulders rose above the background of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the setting sun. His dark shadow was cast in a reddish-gold corona. She held up her hand to shield her eyes and squinted. He came into focus. Her hand fell heedlessly to her side.

He was wearing a pair of dark blue swim trunks and nothing else. He’d just come out of the water. The way the trunks molded his body shredded her thoughts. Water gleamed on a lean, powerful torso, gilding him even more than the sun and his bronzed tan already did. His short wet hair was slicked back from a narrow, handsome face. Like her, he squinted as he examined her, even though he was turned away from the sun.

“It was a little intimidating, to be honest,” she managed, gathering herself. He was gorgeous, sure, but she was still a little irritated that he let his gigantic dog roam free. Not everyone thought it was fun to be run down by a hundred-and-fifty-pound animal. People around here really needed to watch over their dogs better. “He was coming at me like a locomotive,” she added.

“This is a private beach. It belongs to a friend of mine.”

Harper blinked at the sudden coolness. It wasn’t just his clipped tone, either. His narrow-eyed gaze was somehow . . . cutting as it moved over her face. It was like being scanned by a laser beam. The thought struck her that whoever this guy was, he regularly left people feeling tongue-tied and about six inches tall.

“I’m sorry,” she said stiffly, standing tall to diminish the shrinking effect of his stare. “I was told by my Realtor that a Tahoe Shores resident could walk or run along the entire lakeshore within the town’s city limits.” She started to walk away from him.

“You misunderstood me.”

“What?” She halted, looking over her shoulder.

Something crossed over his features, there and then gone. Was it frustration?

“You’re right, technically speaking. The beach directly next to the lake is the town’s property, even if we are on my friend’s property at the moment,” he said dryly, nodding at the distance between where they stood and the lake forty or so feet away.

“I’ll get closer to the water, then.”

“No, that’s not what I meant. I wasn’t calling you out for crossing my friend’s beach. He’d be fine with it. You’re welcome anytime.”

“Oh.” She gave a small shrug of bewilderment. She glanced uneasily at the lovely, sprawling, ultramodern mansion to the left of her, the one that must belong to his friend.

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