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The ceiling fan had an annoying squeak.
Sam gave it an irritated glance. The weary days of traveling, the long hours of worrying and doubting, the agitated phone conversations with the others, had culminated in a squeaky ceiling fan. He supposed it said something about him that the annoyance seemed more real than the man standing at the window staring out into the empty street.
Luc, if it was Luc, looked remote, a stranger in a stranger land, his graying hair braided into a long tail hanging with almost mathematical precision down the middle of his back. The tightly woven black poncho exaggerated the power of his upper body; at least Sam hoped it was an exaggeration. In contrast, his legs in their thin cotton pants looked weak and wasted. There was something odd about him, something that didn’t quite match, but other than the physical changes Sam couldn’t put a finger on it.
This man should have been dead. He was an enigma wrapped in a mystery and he should have been dead seven years ago. Sam was appalled at the lack of sympathy he felt.
He studied the still figure. It could be a mistake; it could all still be a mistake. Nothing about him seemed familiar. There was nothing about this man to warm Sam’s heart, to make him glad his band mate had survived the plane crash and had emerged from it relatively whole.
The reluctant fan blades sent long, slow shadows sliding over bulky shoulders and the muscled arm exposed by a flipped back corner of the poncho. The shadows slipped to the wooden floor and circled around to climb the mismatched body again. Luc’s immobility was complete. If he knew someone had entered the room he gave no indication.
Sam cleared his throat.
The still figure finally shifted awkwardly, turning his head to present his profile. Sam’s heart sank. He recognized the arrogantly arched nose, the sensual lips now pressed tightly together instead of curving into the well-remembered smile. He found his hands were sweaty so he wiped them on his jeans while his heart pounded in his throat.
“Sam.” The voice was harsh.
“Luc.” Sam smiled weakly. “Welcome back.”
Luc turned all the way around and Sam gasped. “My God…”
“Pretty, no?” Luc said bitterly as he limped toward the nearest chair.
Same was quite literally speechless. He couldn’t tear his gaze away. It was Luc, of that there could be no doubt, but so changed. Where was the handsome, laughing man he remembered; the man so light on his feet, so charismatic, so in love with life? He was gone, replaced by this imposter with the lurching walk and the anger in his soul.
For seven years Luc had been dead and gone, his body and indeed, the entire plane, lost in some remote, rocky tomb; having him rise from the grave so suddenly made the whole situation surreal. He didn’t know this man who lowered himself so carefully into the hard wooden chair.
His gaze was drawn from the Jekyll-Hyde face with the horrendous scar slashing down the left side, to the hands fumbling in a pouch at his waist. Once almost daintily elegant in their beauty, now they were thickened and callused, the nails jagged and rough. A leaf was raised to the sullen mouth and disappeared inside. Luc hunched down as if trying to disappear within himself, his jaw muscles bunching as he chewed.
Sam nervously twisted his cap in his hands. “Where have you been all these years?” he asked softly, feeling as if he was speaking to a ghost. “Why did you call me and not Willie or Vic?”
“Vic.” The right side of Luc’s mouth curled in dislike as he shook his head. “No Vic. No.” He looked at Sam in frustration, the lines of pain around his eyes and mouth deepening.
“Micah!” he called out in his ruined voice.
“You could have called Kat,” Sam insisted.