Author Name: Chelle CorderoPrologue through Chapter One
He felt his muscles clench as he stared into the woman’s face that lay beneath him. If he hadn’t already felt her trembling, he would have known she reached her own climax just by the expression of her face. With one more powerful thrust he felt everything he had spilling into her, he felt a completeness he would have never thought possible. Everything stopped and then he swore he felt their hearts start beating again as one. Pausing a moment to look into her eyes, and they were beautiful eyes he thought, he brushed a long strand of chestnut hair away from her face and kissed her. Then he rolled off of her.
“I love you.” Her voice was soft, like the touch of her lips. He couldn’t believe the tingling he felt in his loins at hearing her words.
“You’re not even human...”
“What?” She almost laughed at his choice of words.
He hadn’t even meant to say that thought out loud. “I mean... I just never felt so... consumed before. I feel like I am under some kind of spell.” As he sat up to face her, he was surprised by the life he felt in his groin. Feeling a touch embarrassed, which was a new feeling for him, he admitted, “I almost feel like I can go another round, and considering how powerful that was...”
She faced him and gave him a sultry smile; her bare breasts were firm and small. But not too small, he thought, just enough to fill his hands. He felt his groin tighten again and just stared.
“Hey, are you okay?” She suddenly sounded self-conscious.
“Uh, yeah.” He forced himself to look at her face.
She touched his arm, her fingers felt light like feathers. “Can I do anything for you?”
“Yes.” He glanced at her breasts again and then back at her face. “Tell me... who are you?”
She laughed, it was a full-bodied sound. “Just one day married and...” She saw the surprise in his eyes as he looked at his left hand and saw the ring. Pulling the bed sheet up to cover her nakedness, she looked at him puzzled. “You’re serious?”
He frowned. “Fraid so.”
“Was your last name really Smythe?” He looked from the marriage certificate to her and back again. He wondered if maybe she had checked into the hotel with him under an assumed name. After all, weren’t variations of the name Smith often used to hide one’s identity?
“Yes.” She sounded a bit defensive. She had pulled her hair into a loose ponytail and he thought it made her look incredibly young. Almost a little too young for his comfort.
“Hey look... Caitlyn,” he had to glance at the certificate again for her name. “All I know is the first thing I remember about you is that I woke up having really incredible sex with you this morning.” He certainly did remember the fantastic sex and how it much he enjoyed it.
“I thought we were making love.” Her lip barely trembled.
He sighed. “It was wonderful, really. Look, I don’t mean to hurt you, but I don’t remember anything else.” Brandon, that was the name on the marriage license, stood. He felt frustrated. “I don’t know who you are, or me, except for these names on this paper. I don’t know why we’re here. I don’t remember these clothes I’m wearing. You told me that I drink my coffee black, I don’t remember that.” He knelt beside her and felt bad because she looked almost ready to cry. “I’m sorry. Really I am.”
She was a pretty girl, he thought. It was easy to see how she would have caught his eye. Her dark chestnut hair framed a nearly perfect oval face. Her eyes were bright and her lips invited kisses. Her slender body and its womanly curves invited much more than just kisses. He felt that now familiar stirring in his groin as he studied her.
When she realized he really didn’t remember anything, Caitlyn had been remarkably calm. She had gotten out of bed protectively wrapping the sheet around her, got clothes from a suitcase and went into the bathroom to get dressed. She had politely asked him to please get dressed and told him that the other suitcase was his. When she came out of the bathroom, neatly dressed in black slacks and a short sleeved pink blouse, she made a call to room service and had coffee, tea and some breakfast Danish sent up. While they waited, she showed him the marriage license, her wallet with her driver’s ID and photos of the two of them. Even without his memory, he had to admit that they looked right together. She suggested that he check his own wallet as well. At least now he knew his name, birth date and where he lived.
After the bellboy wheeled the cart into the room, he gave Brandon the receipt to sign. When he hesitated, Caitlyn took it and signed. Her scrawled signature read Caitlyn Price. Motioning with her hands, she suggested that Brandon offer the bellboy a tip. He placed a few bills in the young man’s hand. She reassured him he could afford it. Closing the door behind the bellboy, Caitlyn walked back to the cart with the coffee and teapot and the Danish tray. She poured him a cup of hot coffee from the pot and put two spoons of sugar in it, then stirred. Brandon sat in an armchair next to a small round occasional table. She selected cherry Danish from the plate of baked goods and served it to him on a china plate. After pouring herself a cup of herbal tea, she sat in the opposite armchair facing him. She didn’t take any baked goods for herself. Brandon heard her tea cup rattle for just a moment. It was then that he first noticed that she was holding back tears, but he had no idea what he could do to comfort her or even if he should try.
She looked at him and sighed before putting her teacup and saucer onto the table. “We got married last night. You thought it would be romantic to do it in Vegas.” Caitlyn twisted the small diamond ring she wore next to a simple gold band. “We’ve been seeing each other for almost two years and a few months ago you asked me if I would consider marrying you. We didn’t make it official, but a few days ago, on my birthday, you showed up at my door with this ring and asked me to come with you to Vegas. I said yes.”
She held her left hand out towards him so he could see the ring. He was tempted to take her slender fingers in his hand and caress them. The ring she wore was delicate, just like its owner he thought, and the stone was cut in a pear shape. The diamond was small, he thought, and yet she seemed to wear it proudly. Couldn’t he have done better than a tiny diamond? Her gold band matched the one he was wearing.
He really tried, but he couldn’t remember anything. “What about our families? Did we call them? Didn’t your parents want to see you married?”
She looked surprised at his question and then shrugged. “My parents are dead, they have been since I was twelve. I was an only child.”
“I’m sorry.” He was sincere about that. “What about... do I have any family?”
“Your father is alive, but you’ve been angry at him and haven’t spoken to him, I don’t know why. As far as I know, you haven’t seen him since before you moved to New York. I don’t think you have any brothers or sisters, but I don’t know because you really haven’t wanted to talk to me about your family. You haven’t really talked much about yourself.”
Brandon looked at his driver’s license again. Price, Brandon Price. He was twenty-seven years old according to his license. “Where did I grow up?” Maybe he should look up his family...
“You told me it was outside of Chicago, but you never wanted to talk about it. You were always kind of quiet about your childhood.”
“Didn’t that bother you?”
“It did. It does. That’s one of the few things we’ve always argued about.” Caitlyn knew how much she wished her folks were alive, but a drunken driver destroyed that possibility years ago. She couldn’t understand how Brandon could ignore a living parent. “But it also became one of those things we agreed to disagree on. You had just made it clear that the topic was off-limits.” She shrugged as if she had given up.
He looked through the rest of his wallet and saw that he had both cash and credit cards. “I assume I have a job. I hope so, especially if I can afford this.” While he apparently hadn’t gone so far as to reserve a suite, the room was certainly well appointed. The king size bed was definitely comfortable, and memorable. He glanced at the woman sitting quietly sipping her tea. She had seen his glance at the bed and the slight flush in her cheeks told him she was remembering the passion they had shared as well. “I didn’t see any business cards in my wallet.”
“You’re an IT consultant. I think you carry some cards in your jacket pocket, your suit jacket, it’s hanging in the wardrobe closet.” He hadn’t thought to look in the armoire when he chose clothes to put on; he had taken a pair of khaki trousers and a dark blue shirt from the suitcase. “I’m sure you brought some cards because you originally planned this trip for business. You have some kind of an appointment later today.”
“With who?” He went to the closet and found a suit bag hanging there.
“You didn’t tell me.” She paused. “You don’t talk much about your business either.”
Brandon found a packet of business cards, all they had on them was his name, the words Information Technology Consultant and a New York City phone number. He looked at her suspiciously, “I’m secretive about my family and I’m secretive about my job... How well do you really know me?” He couldn’t have sounded more accusatory.
Caitlyn looked hurt. “Obviously not well enough.” She looked like she was mulling over her next words. Finally she blurted them out. “How can you not remember me?” She sounded frustrated. A lone tear finally rolled down a cheek.
“I can’t remember anything, damn it!” He slammed the wardrobe closet door shut. “Who the hell am I? And who are you?” He strode across the room to look out the window at the Vegas strip. “Right now, I can’t remember anything. I am relying on you to tell me everything and something tells me I am not the kind of man that relies on someone else very easily.” Even the circus-like lights outside the window looked foreign to him.
After a few moments of silence, he heard her soft voice. “I think maybe, then, that you are remembering something about yourself. You’ve never liked asking for help.” He never even heard her move and yet she was suddenly behind him. Her voice was quiet and reassuring. “I think you do some kind of work with government contracts, something with computers, but you don’t talk about it. Not to me anyway.”
He took a moment to calm the nervous churning in his stomach before he turned to face her. “Do you know if I work with anyone else? Maybe someone else can fill me in on some part of my life.” He was willing to grasp at anything to escape the feeling of emptiness he had. He had even had to compare the face he saw in the mirror to the face on the driver’s license she showed him to realize it was really him.
“You have a secretary.”
“I do?” He sounded anxious and slightly relieved.
“Her name is Amanda.”
He felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand up when he heard that name. “Amanda?” Although it was an overall uncomfortable feeling, the name Amanda evoked a strange reaction somewhere deep inside. “Uh, I hate to ask this but, well, is my relationship with her only professional?” Could something else be going on, something that raised the back hairs of his neck?
“It had better be.” She wasn’t joking. “Why don’t you call her? That’s your office number on the card. If she’s not there, you can leave a message and ask her to call you back.” Caitlyn motioned him to the phone. “I’m sure that you’ve shared some facts with her she probably needed for your business,” she added a little testily.
He called and left a message on his office voice mail. A woman’s voice greeted him in a recorded message. Somehow he recognized that it was Amanda’s voice. He remembered her voice, but how could that be when he couldn’t remember anything else? Caitlyn scribbled the hotel and room number for him on a paper napkin so he could leave it in the message. He finished his message and kept the phone to his ear through the rest of the recorded options. Wondering if his message sounded urgent enough, he thought about re-recording his message and then decided to let it stay as it was. He hung up the phone.
“I guess now I just wait.” He sat back down at the breakfast tray and resigned himself to the uncertainty. “How did we meet? Please, tell me everything through last night.”
“You know, I am really worried about you...” She came back to stand next to him. “Maybe you should go to the hospital? I don’t understand why you lost your memory?”
“No. I’m not going to leave this room until I figure out some things about myself.” The sights and sounds of whatever lay beyond the walls of the room nearly frightened him. There would be more people, more strangers, and more unknown routes to deal with. He felt safer staying put. He felt safe with this girl. Even though he still couldn’t remember her, he felt safe.
“But sweetheart, something is wrong...” She seemed to understand his reluctance to face more things he wasn’t familiar with. “I would go with you. I could keep telling you things I know about you, things you might even remember. I wouldn’t let you be alone.”
“I said no.” He hadn’t really yelled, but Caitlyn stopped short. “I don’t know what’s happened to me and right now, I just need to find out about myself. Please, talk to me.” He felt completely helpless. He was afraid of facing a bigger unknown world and getting permanently lost.
Caitlyn sighed and sat in the armchair facing him. He studied her as she spoke. He watched the way her lips moved, the expressions she made with her face. Nothing looked familiar. “We met at a college career day almost two years ago.” She saw his puzzled expression. “I’m an art student at a school in New York City, I was looking for a job. I had just moved to the city from upstate.”
He listened to every word and felt frustrated that he remembered none of it. “Did I hire you?” He toyed with the golden fabric covering the table. The room was decorated in golden earth tones. A watercolor of a lonely desert scene hung on the wall; it reminded him of how lost he felt. He wondered if that was the kind of art that Caitlyn studied.
She chuckled. “You weren’t looking for an artist, at least not a graphic artist.” He tried to imagine what she apparently meant by her pun on words, but gave up. “But you kind of monopolized my attention and before the day was over, you asked me to join you for dinner.”
“Did you accept?” He wondered what kind of man he was and if dinner had been his only invitation. She was a beautiful young woman and surely he must have been interested in more from her.
“I’m an art student... a starving artist. You offered a meal, I accepted.” He struggled to remember and then shrugged when he couldn’t. “You called me a few days later, just to talk, and then a few days after that you asked me out.”
He remembered that her license said she had just turned twenty-one. She looked so very young. “Last night... you said we got married?” Brandon looked again at the ring on his finger. Surprisingly, he felt very comfortable wearing it.
She looked into her lap. “We had spoken a few times about marriage, but we never set any dates or anything...”
“Why not?” Could he have been toying with her?
“I’m a student with a poorly paying job. I barely make ends meet. The first time we spoke about marriage, I told you I needed to wait, to become more self-sufficient. You made the offer to pay for my school and said I wouldn’t even have to work. You kind of reminded me that you made a comfortable wage and could afford to let me do whatever I wanted.” She grimaced. “I don’t know, it actually sounded kind of insulting. It was like you didn’t take me seriously. I accused you of trying to buy me and it’s been a touchy subject since.”
“What made you change your mind now?” He looked at her stomach. “Are you pregnant or something?” He felt a nervous pang that he might be about to become a father.
“No.” She shook her head. That would be something he’d think of, she mused.
He looked straight at her and again thought of how young she looked. “Uh, this wasn’t our first time together, was it?” Hell, what if she had been a virgin and he didn’t even remember it!
She smiled shyly. “No, far from it. We’ve been lovers for a while now, although... you were my first.” She let him absorb that information. “You were so spontaneous, you just showed up at my door with a ring and plane tickets. It... it was just romantic.”
He struggled for something to say, but just like his memory, nothing came. Knowing how sweet it had been to wake up in her arms that morning, to be making love with her, he wished he could remember the first time that they were together. He hoped he had been gentle.
“The Good Reverend Elvis Presley Cosby married us.”
He pictured the legendary rock and roll singer. He imagined the theatrical production that must have been. He laughed. “You’re kidding!” Although it was a fuzzy memory, at least he knew who Elvis Presley had been.
“No, I’m quite serious. Afterwards we went out to dinner and celebrated. You had quite a bit to drink...”
“I got drunk?”
She half nodded. “Not drunk but definitely... uh, you were definitely high.”
“After the ceremony?” He stressed the word after.
“Yes. You were fully aware of what you were doing when you said I do. You can’t use the excuse that you weren’t in your right mind when we got married. You had been very sure that you wanted it. I admit it didn’t take that much convincing, but you took the time to talk me into it when you showed up at my apartment with the ring.” She paused.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t accusing you of tricking me into this.” How could he be sure of that without his memory? But he was sure.
It showed that she was relieved he believed her. “I had never known you to drink so much that you lost control and I was really surprised when you insisted on having a drink before dinner last night, especially since you had that business appointment today.”
“Uh, my drinking, did it affect my, you know, performance?” It was embarrassing, but he didn’t even know what kind of lover he was.
She found it ironic that he was so worried about his virility. “You were fine in that department.” She blushed. “But maybe, just maybe you should be more worried that maybe the alcohol made you lose your memory?” Her body still tingled from his “performance” through the night.
“What did I order?”
“Before dinner, you ordered a scotch on the rocks...”
“I drink scotch?” A good strong whiskey... It was the kind of drink for a strong man with strong ties, a capable person. He was trying to get an image of himself.
“That and other stuff.” Caitlyn was remembering what else he ordered. “There was wine with dinner and a martini in the casino.”
“I was mixing drinks... and it got to me?”
She picked up the china cup with the rest of her now cold tea and drank it slowly. “We were in the casino. You wanted to play at the tables. That’s when you got paged to the hotel phone. You really sobered up quickly, you looked a little worried. You handed me your chips and some money, told me to play some slots or something and went to take the call. You were gone over half an hour...”
“Who called me?” Who was so important that he would he have left his new wife on their wedding night? The call must have been very important. And why would he be worried?
Caitlyn shrugged. “You didn’t say. When you came back, you rushed me up to the room. You said you had a headache from drinking, those were your words.” She frowned. “When we got up here, I offered you aspirin for your headache and you said you didn’t need it. You said the headache wasn’t really all that bad anyway. Then you laughed. It was strange; I didn’t know what you found so funny. You said you just wanted to make love. We did and then we fell asleep. You woke me this morning and said you wanted to be with me again... well, that’s where we are now.”
“I had a headache?” He didn’t feel hung over, not that he remembered ever feeling that way before. It just didn’t feel like he was suffering the effects of a hangover.
“That’s why I think you should get checked out.”
“But I didn’t want any aspirin? So it couldn’t have been that bad.” Maybe it was just an excuse to finally take his lovely bride up to their room.
“I watched a TV show once where this guy took sick and didn’t even realize it...” Caitlyn pulled her chair to sit directly in front of him. “Look at me.” She stared at his eyes, they looked okay to her and she nodded. “Squeeze my hands...” She took hold of both of his hands and rested them on her knees. He squeezed both of her hands firmly. “You seem to be okay. I guess.”
He wondered what had happened to him. He knew that she was checking for signs of a stroke and yet he didn’t understand how he realized that. She was looking for an explanation for why he couldn’t remember anything. He really felt fine except that he had no idea who he was or how he got there. There was nothing wrong with him that a little relaxation wouldn’t take care of. Maybe a massage or even another tumble in the bed with this woman... the thought of making love with her again was tempting.
The phone rang and he practically lunged for it. “Hello?... Yes... Amanda thanks for calling me back.” Her voice definitely resonated in his memory. He listened for a few moments. “No, I... forgot. Actually Amanda, I don’t remember anything... no, nothing.” And the few random memories he had gave him no indication of who he was.
He turned his back to Caitlyn and lowered his voice. “No, I’m not alone... I’m here with Caitlyn, uh, Caitlyn Smythe.” He quickly glanced at her to see if she had heard him say her maiden name, she had. Oh well, he thought, I don’t remember any marriage anyway. He looked away. “What?” Stealing another look at Caitlyn while he listened, Brandon managed to move a little further away. He listened for a few minutes, nodding and grunting every so often. When he hung up, he stared suspiciously at Caitlyn.
“What’s the matter?” His stare discomfited her.
“Is your name really Caitlyn Smythe?” He wasn’t sure if he should believe her.
She smiled. “Actually it’s Caitlyn Price now.” He remained quiet. “Brandon? What’s wrong? What did Amanda say?”
“Why are you worried what Amanda had to say?” He was beginning to sound as paranoid as he felt. “Do you have something to worry about?” How much of what she told him was true, if any of it was? He had begun to believe her, anything and everything she had told him, and it angered him that he now had reason to question her honesty.
“She barely knows me, what would she have to say?” Caitlyn was exasperated. “Brandon, what did Amanda say to you? What do you think I’m hiding?”
He wanted to trust the woman in front of him, he really did. He could understand why he liked her even if he had no memory of her. Her gentleness and supposed naivety had lured him into a feeling of safety. He said he had felt like he was under a spell during their lovemaking, maybe she was some kind of pro and he wasn’t thinking with the right brain. That other woman, Amanda, her voice was so familiar, how could he not trust her? He knew that he remembered Amanda. He didn’t know anything about Caitlyn before waking up this morning. And if he knew and trusted Amanda... then he couldn’t trust Caitlyn no matter what.
He paced in silence for a few minutes. Amanda had given him some information and he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Whether it was because Caitlyn was good in bed, he thought crudely, or because there was something more there, he decided to warn her. “Amanda is faxing some information to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. She expects that they’ll be here shortly to take you into custody.”
“Why?” She sounded totally dumbfounded.
“You’ve got a record. You’ve got a string of aliases...” He knelt in front of her. He was sure he had done the right thing to warn her. “Caitlyn, if you leave now, you’ll get away. I wasn’t supposed to warn you but I don’t want to see you arrested.”
“I haven’t done anything...” Her protest sounded genuine and it twisted his gut to think otherwise.
“Caitlyn, she has proof.” He thought for a moment and then stood to take his wallet out of his back pocket. “I don’t know how much money I have in here, but,” he pulled a wad of bills out and handed them to her. “You should be able to get somewhere with this. Go, go now while there is still time. I don’t know how far you can get but you have to get away from here.” He put the money into her hand.
She dropped the money on the floor. “I’m not going anywhere, I haven’t done anything illegal. Why would someone want to arrest me?”
He watched several bills float down to the carpet. “Damn it Caitlyn, I’m trying to help you!” Why didn’t she just take the damn money and get the hell out of there?
Her voice was a hoarse whisper. “What did she tell you I did?”
He frowned. It was hard for him to make the accusation. “You are an artist all right... a con artist. Caitlyn, she said you stole from me, and you stole from some other people. And they want to press charges. I’m not but they are.”
“You believe this?” She sounded so hurt, so wounded, and all he wanted to do was protect her.
He was consumed by guilt that he questioned her. “Come on, let’s get out of here...” He tried to take her arm and push her towards the door. She pulled herself out of his grasp.
“No!” The tears welled in her eyes. “I thought you loved me. You married me! How could you believe I would steal from you?”
He took her by both arms and shook her. “I don’t remember you!” Brandon stared in disbelief as he saw apparent fear in her eyes. He dropped his hands from her arms suddenly. “I’m sorry.” He took a few steps back and spoke in hushed tones. “I know that it felt right to have you in my arms this morning, it felt good to be so close to you, but I don’t know you. But Amanda’s voice, I remembered that, I know her voice... and her name. I know Amanda. I have to trust her.” His explanation lacked conviction.
There was a firm knock at the door.
“Go hide, I’ll tell them you left.”
Another knock. A single man’s voice called through the closed door. “Hotel security.”
“Please Caitlyn...” He motioned for her to hide.
“No.” She stood where she was. “I haven’t done anything.” She sounded almost convincing to his ears, But he worried that she wouldn’t be as convincing to the police.
She stood there defiantly.
After a few more knocks at the door, Brandon answered it. Caitlyn stood silently. Two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers entered with the hotel detective.
The hotel detective stood back while the two police officers asked Caitlyn a few inane questions to confirm who she was. One of the police officers frisked her and nodded in satisfaction when he didn’t find anything of danger.
Caitlyn looked confused and scared.
The second officer had a copy of a forged check and a New York City Police report with Caitlyn’s picture on it. He read a list of charges out loud which included theft, embezzlement, forgery and passing bad checks. Her rights were read to her. They called her Mary Jones. The name under the picture on the NYPD report was Mary Jones.
She went to reach for her purse claiming she had plenty of identification to show them. One of the officers caught her wrist and cuffed her. He twisted her arms painfully behind her and cuffed the other wrist.
“My roommate... she’s traveling in Africa right now, but I’m sure we can track her down.” Caitlyn winced as the cuff tightened from her struggling. “Keisha can vouch for who I am.”
One of the officers mocked her. “Keisha?” He looked towards his partner. “Doesn’t even sound American to me.”
“I have family in upstate New York...” Despite her protests, Caitlyn was led from the room.
Brandon couldn’t stand the tears he had seen on her cheeks. She had seemed so bewildered, not like she was hiding anything. When the door was closed behind them, he sat on the bed with its still rumpled sheets and felt even more lost and more alone than he had before. Eventually he realized that he wasn’t the type to sit and wallow and it wasn’t long before he left the room on a mission.
Website Address: http://chellecordero.blogspot.com/
Purchase Link: http://shop.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com/product.sc?categoryId=5&productId=22
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