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A Memory Away

A Memory Away

4.8 13
by Melinda Curtis

For better or worse, she's family now 

Duffy Dufraine just found out he's going to be an uncle. Jessica Aguirre came to Harmony Valley in search of the father of her unborn child, which is by no means him. An accident may have damaged the expectant mom's memory, but he knows his twin is the man she's looking for. But Greg's gone, which


For better or worse, she's family now 

Duffy Dufraine just found out he's going to be an uncle. Jessica Aguirre came to Harmony Valley in search of the father of her unborn child, which is by no means him. An accident may have damaged the expectant mom's memory, but he knows his twin is the man she's looking for. But Greg's gone, which leaves Duffy the only family Jess has. And he has to make things right. Offering her a temporary place to stay seems an ideal short-term solution. Until she stirs desires that make the embattled vineyard manager rethink his own long-term game plan. Is he ready to offer Jess and her baby a home to call their own—with him?

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A Harmony Valley Novel , #6
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Read an Excerpt

Did he love me?

Jessica Aguirre didn't know if he loved her. She didn't know if he knew her.

She stood on a gravel drive in the midst of a vineyard in Harmony Valley. Heart pounding. Head pounding.

Did he love me?

The man in the photograph would tell her.

Jess clutched a newspaper photo, and stared at the group of men and women in front of a two-story farmhouse with a vintage weather vane. There was a man in the back row on the left. He was the one.

She recognized him right away. Recognized dark hair with a curl at his temple. Recognized a straight, no-nonsense nose. Recognized caramel-colored eyes. Those eyes. If only she could remember…

What if it wasn't him? What if this was a dead end? What if… ?

Jess drew a steadying breath against the panic rising in her chest and lifted her gaze to the well-looked-after farmhouse. The day the picture had been taken there'd been big fluffy clouds in the sky above the cupola. Today the sky was clear and blue. The late January air was crazy cold, stinging Jessica's toes in her sneakers.

The slender woman who'd greeted Jess on this Monday morning hurried down the front porch steps. "He'll be here in a few minutes. Come inside the tasting room." Christine was the winemaker for the newly opened Harmony Valley Vineyards, which was headquartered in the farmhouse, the subject of the newspaper article, and where he worked. Christine's carefree smile told Jess the woman had never lost a moment, a day or weeks from her past. "We have all the amenities inside—hot tea, a bathroom and a place to sit down."

"I don't want to be any trouble." Jessica resisted glancing at the clipping again. Would her unannounced appearance be welcome? Or create mayhem?

"It's no trouble. You're no trouble." Christine had the kind of smile that invited you to relax, to open up, to be part of the family. "Come inside. It's cold out here."

It was cold. Jessica's jacket wouldn't zip up anymore. And family.

In no time, Jessica was sitting at a table cradling a cup of hot tea. The tasting room was elegant in a simple way that fit the farmhouse. Dark wood, intimate tables for two, out-of-Jessica's-price-range granite slabs on bar tops. But the room was oddly empty.

"Where's the wine?"

Christine followed the direction of Jessica's curious gaze to the bare shelves behind the bar. "Barrel aging. I'll be blending some for limited release soon. But most of our harvest will age another year."

"Aging wine is all about patiently waiting, isn't it? Even when you don't know how it will turn out." Jessica had become good at biding her time. "Making wine is like waiting for bread dough to rise." Or babies to be born.

"Exactly." With a contented sigh, Christine's gaze lingered on the room as if seeing it filled with bottles of her making.

Outside, the wind whistled past, drawing Jessica to the window in time to see a muddy gray truck pull into the gravel drive.

"There he is." Christine gave Jessica's shoulder a sisterly squeeze, and then headed toward the door. "I'll be upstairs if you need anything."

Did he love me?

A man got out of the truck. Dark hair. Straight nose. Familiar eyes. It's him.

She leaned forward, peering through the paned glass, her heart sailing toward him, over ever-hopeful waves of roses and rainbows.

Jess didn't usually let herself dream. But now…today…him. And yet.

He wore a burgundy vest jacket that clashed with a red long-sleeve T-shirt. Worn blue jeans. A black baseball cap.

Instead, she saw him in a fine wool suit. Black, always black. A navy shirt of the softest cotton. A silk tie in a geometric pattern. Shiny Italian loafers.

He took the stairs two at a time, work boots ringing on wood.

Jessica's heart sank as certainly as if someone had drilled holes in the boat carrying her hopeful emotions. Clouds blocked the sun. The rainbow disappeared. Unwilling to sink, Jess clung to joy. To the idea of him.

He entered without a flourish or an energetic greeting. He entered without the smile that teased the corners of her memory. He entered and took stock of the room, the situation, her.

Their eyes met. His were the same color, same shape, so heart-achingly familiar.

It was the cool assessment in them that threw her off. Not a smile, not a brow quirk, not an eye crinkle.

He came forward. "I'm Michael Dufraine, but everyone calls me Duffy."

His name didn't ring true.

Had he lied to her?

She couldn't speak, could barely remember her name.

The wind shook the panes. The house creaked and groaned.

He smiled. A polite smile, a distant smile, an I-don't-know-you smile.

Disappointment overwhelmed her. Jess resisted the urge to dissolve into a pity puddle on the floor.

"And you are…?" He extended his hand.

On autopilot, she reached for him. Their palms touched.

Jessica's vision blurred and she gripped his hand tighter as clips of memory assailed her—his deep laughter, him offering her a bite of chocolate cheesecake, his citrusy cologne as he leaned in to kiss her. It is him.

Relieved. She was so relieved. Jessica blinked at the man—Duffy—who she vaguely recalled and, at the same time, did not.

She'd practiced what to say on the hour-long drive up here from Santa Rosa. Ran through several scenarios. None of them had included him not recognizing her.

She should start at the beginning. Best not to scare him with hysterics and panicked accusations, of which she'd had five months to form.

Don't raise your voice. Don't cry. Don't ask why.

And don't lead the conversation with the elephant in the room.

Despite all the cautions and practicing and caveats, she drew a breath, and flung her hopes toward him as if he were her life preserver. "I think I'm your wife."

Duffy released the woman's hand as if he'd accidentally grabbed a rattlesnake. "I'm not married." And he'd sure as hell remember if he had been.

"Or I was… Or I was your girlfriend…maybe?" She glanced down at her belly. Her very pregnant belly.

Holy in-need-of-a-handrail.

Duffy sat down heavily across from her, still chilled from the winter cold. Chilled now to the bone. "I haven't… You couldn't…" He swiped a hand over his face, very much aware that his boss was upstairs and the walls in the century-old house were very thin. "Who are you?"

"Jessica. Jess Aguirre." There was a quiet beauty about her. Long dark hair, big dark eyes, a smooth olive-skin complexion. Many women shared her physical features. Few carried themselves with a combination of contained dignity and edge-of-her-seat intensity. "You…um…don't know me?"

"You or your passenger."

Reality was returning. He could see it in her face. Jessica seemed stricken that she wasn't his significant other, but otherwise she appeared stable. She didn't wield a knife, didn't draw a gun, and she wasn't screaming to high heaven that he should know who she was.

"But…you have to know me." Jessica leaned over the table—or as far as she could with that baby bump—and whispered, "We've kissed and." She glanced at her stomach.

And here Duffy had thought he'd taken care of all of his brother's loose ends. "I'm not Greg."

"Greg." She murmured his brother's name, then repeated it—stronger.

"My twin." Duffy took out his wallet and handed her a picture he'd only recently started carrying—him and Greg before a Little League game.

She placed the photo on the table next to a crumpled newspaper clipping of the winery staff, her smile as soft as morning dew on a grape leaf. "Greg." She said the name as if testing it with her tongue and finding it acceptable.

He felt compelled to explain. "We were identical."


"He died nearly six months ago."

"No." She moved a hand to her belly.

"Struck by lightning." Yes, there was a God. Although, "He was killed instantly and didn't suffer." Duffy was proud of the detached way he delivered the news. His brother had been a greedy piece of trash, which some siblings may have forgiven, but not when the target was Mom and Dad. "So if you're looking for the man who did you wrong, it was him." Duffy gazed out at the cold, dormant vineyard, which felt much like his heart. "My brother was no saint."

"I don't believe that." She slid Duffy's picture across the table. "Or you wouldn't be carrying his photo."

He wasn't going to rehash the painful details of his life with this stranger. "Why are you here?"

Jessica closed her eyes. "I came looking for closure."

"Did Greg steal from you?" The question had to be asked, and he didn't hide the bitterness. Greg had taken every penny of their parents' retirement fund. Luckily, Greg hadn't spent it all before he died. "Did he promise you he'd love you until the end of time?"

"I… I… I can't remember."

He was dead.

Whatever Jess had been expecting to find by coming here, it hadn't been this.

He was dead.

Whoever Greg had been.

He was dead.

There'd be no tearful reunions, no admissions of mistakes, no offered apologies. How foolish she'd been to expect to show up here and find a man who loved her, one who'd fall to his knees as he held her hands and begged for forgiveness.

Sadness for Greg's death mired her insides, more for her baby—who'd never know his or her father—than for the man she barely remembered. It seemed wrong somehow. The day. The news. The man she was left facing.

The baby kicked her ribs.

"What does that mean?" Duffy asked, pulling her back to the present. "You can't remember."

Flashes of memory shuttered in her head with every word Duffy uttered, every shrug of his shoulders, every nuanced flick of his brow. His face was austere, where Greg's had been amiable. His eyes were care-lined where Greg's had been carefree. And the clash of burgundy vest with a red-sleeved T-shirt? Greg would never have paired those two colors. Of that, she was certain.

"I was in a car accident five months ago." Jessica dropped her gaze to her baby barge, needing to swallow twice before she could get more words out. "I have retrograde amnesia. I can remember growing up. I can remember how to make sugar cookies from scratch." She swallowed again. "But I haven't been able to remember anything about my baby's father." She couldn't even remember whether they'd once been married or in love. "Not until I saw you."

"So Greg's the father?" Even Duffy's voice was different. His words spoken slower. His tone deeper and filled with cynicism.

"I'm certain of it…now." She took a drink of her once-hot tea, feeling as cold as the green beverage. How much should she tell Duffy? He wasn't coming across as the most supportive listener. But what had she to lose by holding back? "You seem so familiar. I remember you kissing me—"

"Greg," he inserted tersely, staring at her hard. Not only had Greg been unwelcome here, Jess was, as well.

She strengthened her voice. She'd lived too long without answers to walk away from his obstinacy. "I remember us—him and I— laughing." It was hard to imagine her laughing with Duffy.

"Well, I'm glad he made someone happy." He'd perfected that unforgiving look.

Greg, what did you do? "But…you were twins…brothers. You didn't get along?"

"Greg would steal the belt from your waist if he could make a buck off it." So much anger. It vibrated in the air between them, pressing her back as if he'd pushed her.

Snatches of images. Smiles and laughter. Tender touches and endearing words. She couldn't believe Duffy's opinion of Greg. Still, doubt crept up her throat, closing it off.

"Greg took all your money, didn't he?"

So much weariness in his tone.

It weighed on Jess. She'd felt burdened for so long, she wasn't sure how much more she could take.

It couldn't have been Greg who'd taken her money. There'd been love between them. She just knew it. Every time she began to question it, a feeling of love would rise up. That feeling was conspicuously absent today. "I can't prove he took anything."

"Fess up. There's something missing." His gaze probed for the truth, but there was a reluctant slant to his eyes, as if he didn't want to know.

I'm so sorry, Baby. Jessica's hand drifted to her stomach. "The only thing I know is that a week before the accident, my bank account was drained."

"He did it." Duffy was maddeningly certain.

Jessica shook her head when instead she wanted to shake him. "I can't be certain of that."

"I am. I know my brother better than anyone." His lips pinched upward at the corners, so tense she wouldn't have called it a smile. "Twins, remember?"

She didn't want to believe him. There were the recently remembered smiles and kisses.

Duffy stood. His gaze cut toward the door. His feet pointed that way, as well. "Sorry about the memory thing, but I need to get back to work."

She should never have gotten her hopes up. She should have accepted that the father of her baby was gone and his family wouldn't want anything to do with her. Being unwanted was her reality.

But something inside of her wouldn't settle. Not this time. "Wait. Can I see you again?" At his frown, she rushed on. "I've recovered quite a bit today just by listening to you talk. For five months, I've had nothing." Desperation seized her and squeezed. "Please. It's important to me that I remember."

His jaw worked. He didn't look at Jess. Clearly, he didn't want to see her again and be reminded of Greg. But his hesitation meant he wasn't as cold and uncaring as he might want her to believe. That perhaps somewhere in that closed-off heart of his were memories of Greg he cherished.

Above them, the ceiling creaked.

"There's no point." But he didn't leave or ask her to go.

Hope flooded her chest. "There is. There's every point. Up until today, I couldn't remember how I got pregnant. If I'd been abandoned by my husband or raped…" Steady, girl. She squared her shoulders. "I grew up without knowing my father, not even his name. All I'm asking for is a little of your time."

"I know I'm going to regret this—"

"You won't." Jessica gathered her things, anxious to leave before he changed his mind.

"Come back Saturday at six. There's a restaurant in town, El Rosal. I'll be having dinner there." She wasn't entirely sure she'd heard him because it sounded as if he'd added the words Whether you're there or not.

Meet the Author

Melinda grew up on an isolated sheep ranch, where mountain lions had been seen and yet she roamed unaccompanied. Being a rather optimistic, clueless of danger, sort she took to playing "what if" games that led her to become an author.  She spends days trying to figure out new ways to say "He made her heart pound."  That might sound boring, but the challenge keeps her mentall ahead of her 3 kids and college sweetheart husband.

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A Memory Away 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
LizD1 More than 1 year ago
A Memory Away ( A Harmony Valley Novel ) By: Melinda Curtis A Memory Away is A Harmony Valley Novel . I have not read any of the others yet , but I did not have any problems following the story or the characters. Melinda Curtis captured me right at the start and did not let go till the end , and then I wanted more. She has me hooked and hopefully I will be reading more by this wonderful author. Jessica was in an accident and lost some of her memory . She has come to Harmony valley to see if she can find the father of her baby she is having . Duffy finds out from Jessica that his twin brother is the father of her baby . What is Jessica up to and what is she really wanting, money? I caught myself laughing at and some of Duffy’s neighbors. They are Quirky , funny, and really nosy . This is a heartwarming story that will have you reading faster so you can turn those pages faster to see what is going to happen next. I was given a copy of this book by the author for my honest review.
LoriP123 More than 1 year ago
A Memory Away by Melinda Curtis is a sweet romance. Duffy Dufraine has finally gotten all of the people in his life taken care of and that frees him up from his responsibilities. Now he can just focus on what he wants or not in his life. Jessica comes searching for her baby's father and instead finds his twin brother. She isn't asking for much, but with her memory gone and no family to help turning to Duffy seems like the most natural thing in the world. With Jessica stirring up feelings that Duffy is not sure he wants he begins to rethink what he wants for his future, but is he really ready to take on Jessica and her baby? I really enjoyed this story and going back to Harmony Valley. I given an ARC for an honest review. All conclusions are mine and mine alone.
jboehmke More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. It was so much fun going back to Harmony Valley again. I love that little town and all of the people in it. Even the annoyingly nosey neighbors. Jessica is there looking for the father of her baby, a man she can't remember because of a car accident. Instead she finds his twin brother, and news that her baby's father is dead. This was a very heartwarming and emotional story. I felt so bad for Jessica, being judged because her baby's father had stolen money from his family and was known to them as a con artist. But the people of Harmony Valley were their normal wonderful selves and took her in and treated her like family. I loved every minute of this book!
WinnieL More than 1 year ago
Many times, we get many stories with similar storylines but in A Memory Away, I thought the storyline was quite unique. A pregnant heroine who has partial amnesia due to an accident and a hero who is gruff and wary after his thieving brother made a mess of his parents' lives. How unlike they would be together. But after Jessica came to Harmony Valley looking for Duffy thinking that he is the father of her child, things happen to bring them together. 2 people who are most unlikely to be together come together, finding a way to let go of their past and move on. The characters in Harmony Valley are hilarious and bring lots of cheer and laughter to the story. There is definitely magic in Harmony Valley.
evna777 More than 1 year ago
A Memory Away is an exceptional book. The characters makes lots of mistakes and sometimes the wrong choices, but these makes them look more human instead. They love, hate, regret, understand and many more. Duffy Dufraine wanted his freedom after fifteen years getting a lot of responsibility. He still held a grudge of her twin, Greg. Greg wasted the family money and when he was dead, he left a legacy. When Jessica Aguire came to the town claiming she got a memory loss and in search of her baby's daddy, Duffy knew that responsibility was coming and a lifelong commitment should be made. Duffy didn't believe Jessica at first considering that she was together with Greg, but as time goes on, he realized that she was trustworthy. He may looked like he didn't care about anyone, but he actually did and it was one of his best qualities. Jessica was a brave woman and she was not afraid to admit that she was wrong. A great character indeed. The senior characters in the story added some dynamics and I have to admit they were annoying at first, but as the story went on, I started to like Eunice. If you like a heartwarming romance and a small town romance, I recommend this book! I received an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.
grandmareads102 More than 1 year ago
Jessica Aguirre is suffering from memory loss after an accident. She's come to Harmony Valley looking for the father of her unborn child. She desperately wants baby to have a loving family. She's stunned when she finds that her baby daddy is dead and that he had a twin brother. What's going to happen now? Duffy is sorry for Jessica. He knows that his brother was a con man. He wants to help this gentle woman. She doesn't deserve what Greg has done. Can these two find love and happiness after such a troubled start? Jessica is a strong woman who has endured abandonment by a careless mother. She wants baby to have the love and security that she never had. Baby will be surrounded by people who love him. Duffy doesn't want commitment. He has been the good son and stayed to take care of his parents when his brother stole from them and ran away. He's attracted to Jessica but he isn't willing accept the responsibility of a family. I knew these two belonged together, but I wasn't sure that they could get past their hang ups. I should have known that Harmony Valley and her people would work their magic. This is such an emotional love story. I couldn't put this book down until I knew that Duffy and Jess would get their HEA complete with baby and man's best friend. Melinda Curtis captured my heart with her wonderful characters and tender romance. I never miss a chance to visit Harmony Valley. I love this series.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
A Memory Away is yet another fabulous read by Melinda Curtis. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and this book is proof as to why that is. It is fun, sweet, clean and romantic. A new favorite! 5 plus stars.
DaliCastillo More than 1 year ago
Yup, It Was Just That Good! 'A Memory Away' (Harmony Valley Series Book 6) by Melinda Curtis is another great book by this author. Melinda just has a way where she combines romance, humor, a little mystery, and some angst in a way that ends up as a wonderful story. Once again, the story returns to Harmony Valley, a place that has some quirky, but interesting characters which always add a little extra flavor to the story without overshadowing the main characters and story line. Jessica Aguirre's first meeting with Michael "Duffy" Dufraine begins with the line, "I think I'm your wife." Needless to say, that was not the line Duffy was expecting. However, the author weaves her story in such a way that you just can't help smiling, sighing, screaming, laughing, and even crying. All of the emotions the characters experience are also experienced by the reader. That in itself is just one thing that captures you from beginning to end, and you'll be turning pages as fast as you can to see how it all turns out. Yup, it's just that good. ***I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and viewpoints are my own.
emilyk52281 More than 1 year ago
'A Memory Away' (Harmony Valley Series Book 6) by Melinda Curtis is a great read. I really enjoyed reading about Duffy and Jessica. It was great to catch up with all the other extremely entertaining characters that live in Harmony Valley as well. This is a great addition to the Harmony Valley Series. This story is packed full of humor, emotionally touching moments, second chances, and a close community. Looking forward to seeing what happens next in this wonderful series. Highly recommend to all fans of romance, second chances, and close community.
LynnB888 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this sweet romance! Jessica Aguirre has partial amnesia after a car accident. When she shows up at Michael Dufraine's door, she thinks from a memory flash that she had, and a photo she saw of him in the newspaper, that he is the father of her unborn baby. Duffy knows that he's never seen her before, but as she explains her story, he knows it is his twin brother Greg that she's remembering. Greg was a swindler, and died six months ago, and Duffy is afraid that Jess is trying to pull one over on him too. As they spend time together and start to have feelings, will he be able to get over his trust issues in time to be there for her and Baby? ** Received free in exchange for an honest review **
JuliaAD More than 1 year ago
Jess is pregnant, but can't remember the baby's father. She sees a picture in the paper and recognizes the man. When she meets Duffy, he isn't her baby's father, he is the twin brother of the father. The father, however, has died. Duffy is really suspicious of Jess. If she was involved with Greg, she must be a con too. Greg did nothing but steal from other people, including their parents. The more Duffy gets to know Jess, the more he realizes that she is not anything like Greg. In fact she was another victim. Jess was raised in foster care and all she wants is to belong to a family. Can she and Duffy become a family with everything that is between them?
ReadsWithGranddaughters More than 1 year ago
I read this can't-put-it-down book in one day, which is very unusual for me. It was wonderful and is now my favorite Harmony Valley book until the next one is published. The author is very insightful in dealing with one's problems in everyday life. Michael, known as Duffy, has lost the ability to trust after his twin brother, Greg, betrayed his family. Jessica has been alone most of her life after her mom abandoned her at the tender age of nine. She never knew her father's name, much less anything about him. With temporary memory loss due to an accident, and with a baby who is due to be born in two months, she seeks answers to her amnesia, and what better way to do so then to find the man whose picture in the paper triggered part of her memory. She seeks him out in Harmony Valley, hoping to fill in the blanks of her mind. Instead of finding Greg, she finds his identical twin, Duffy, who lets her know that Greg is not alive anymore. This small town of about 100 people with a population of mostly elderly folks will grip your heart. They play a big part in this book with their quirky, grouchy, stubborn, and loving ways, and you will laugh with them and about them. They will do anything to bring more youth and businesses back to town, and will literally make it happen. I look forward to reading more books in this series, and treasure the ones that I have read. [I received this ARC from the author.]
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
An awesome sweet read that was hard to put down. Jessica Aguirre comes to Harmony Valley looking for answers. After being in an auto accident that left her with memory loss, she trying to find anything that will connect her with the father of her unborn child. Duffy Dufraine gets the shock of his life when a woman approaches him claiming he's the father of her child. He might forget some things but he's pretty sure he would remember that!! This is a fabulous story of these two finding answers for the past and forging a future together. I definitely recommend this one!