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The voice cut through the fog, rousing her from the grips of the protective sleep her body insisted on. She wanted to tell the voice to go away, that she was happier asleep and oblivious to the pain, but it insisted she wake up.
"Cynthia, Will is here."
There was something nagging at her brain, a niggling sensation that made her frown with confusion every time someone said her name. It was like a butterfly that would sit on her shoulder for a moment, then flitter away before she could catch it.
"Maybe I should come by later. She needs her rest." The man's deep voice pulled her closer to consciousness, her body responding to him against its will. Since she'd first heard it, he'd had that power over her.
"No, she's just napping. They want her up and moving around, engaged in conversations."
"What's the point? She doesn't know who any of us are."
"They said her memory could come back at any time." The woman's voice sounded a touch distraught at his blunt observation. "Talking to her is the best thing we can do to help. I know it's difficult, but we all have to try. Cynthia, dear, please wake up."
Her eyes fluttered open as she reached the surface of consciousness. It took a moment for everything to come into focus. First there were the overhead hospital lights, then the face of the older woman that hovered above her. Who was she again? She dug through the murky recesses of her brain for the answer. They told her she was her mother, Pauline Dempsey. It was discouraging when even the woman that gave her life barely registered in her brain.
That said, she looked lovely today. Her dark hair was nicely styled. She must've been to the salon, because the strands of gray were gone and it swung lightly, as though it had been trimmed. She had a silk scarf tied around her neck with flowers that matched the blue in her pants suit and the green in her eyes. Wanting to reach up and adjust the scarf, she was thwarted by the sling protecting her broken arm. Just the slightest change would've made it much more flattering and modern, although she didn't know why she thought so. Amnesia was a strange companion.
"Will is here, dear."
The worry slipped from her mind as Pauline pressed the button to raise the head of the hospital bed. Self-consciously, she smoothed her hair and tucked it behind her ears, readjusting her sling to make her heavy, casted arm more comfortable.
Sitting up, she was able to see Will seated at the foot of her bed. They said he was her fiance. Looking at the handsome, well-dressed man beside her, she found that very hard to believe. His light brown hair was short but long enough on the top for him to run his fingers through it. His features were aristocratic and angular, except for the full lips she found herself watching while he talked. His eyes were blue, but she didn't know exactly what shade because she avoided looking him in the eye for long. It was uncomfortable, and she wasn't sure why. Maybe it was the lack of emotion in them. Or the way he scrutinized her with his gaze.
She knew absolutely nothing at all, didn't even know what she didn't know, but she had managed in the past few weeks to realize that her fiance didn't seem to like her at all. He always lingered in the background, watching her with a furrowed brow. When he didn't appear suspicious or confused by the things she said or did, he seemed indifferent to her and her condition. The thought was enough to make her want to cry, but she didn't dare. The moment she got agitated, nurses would run in and give her something to numb everything, including her heart.
Instead she focused on his clothes. She found she enjoyed looking at everyone's different outfits and how they put them together. He was in his usual suit. Today it was a dark, charcoal gray with a blue dress shirt and diamond-patterned tie. He ran a newspaper and could only visit during lunch break or right after work, unless he had meetings. And he had a lot of meetings.
That or he just didn't care to visit her and it was a convenient excuse.
"Hello, Will," she managed, although it didn't come out quite the way she wanted. The multiple surgeries they'd done on her face went well, but there was more healing still to go. The accident had knocked out all her front teeth. They'd implanted new ones, but they felt alien in her mouth. Even after all the stitches were removed and the swelling had gone down, she had a hard time talking with the large, white veneers. And when she did say anything, she sounded like she'd swallowed a frog from the smoke and heat that had seared her throat.
"I'll leave you two alone," Pauline said. "Would you like some coffee from the cafeteria, Will?"
"No, I'm fine, thank you."
Her mother slipped out the door, leaving them in the large, private hospital room reserved for VIP patients. Apparently she was a VIP, because her family had made a large donation to the hospital several years back. At least that's what she was told.
"How are you feeling today, Cynthia?"
Realizing she wasn't sure, she stopped to take a personal inventory. Her face still ached and her arm throbbed, but overall she didn't feel too bad. Not nearly in as much pain as when she'd first woken up. If they'd told her she'd been locked inside a giant dryer, tumbling around for three days, she'd have believed them. Every inch of her body, from the roots of her hair to her toenails, had ached. She could barely talk or see because her face was swollen so badly. She'd come a long way in the past few weeks. "Pretty good today, thank you. How are you?"
Will frowned slightly at her but quickly wiped the expression away. "I'm well. Busy, as usual."
"You look tired." And he did. She didn't know what he looked like normally, but she'd noticed that the dark smudges and lines around his eyes had deepened each time she saw him. "Are you sleeping well?"
He paused for a moment, then shrugged. "I guess not. It's been a stressful month."
"You need some of this," she said, tugging on the tube that led to her IV. "You'll sleep like a baby for sixteen hours, whether you want to or not."
Will smiled and it pleased her. She wasn't sure if she'd seen him smile since she came to, but it was enough of a tease that now she wanted to hear him laugh. She wondered if he had a deep, throaty laugh. The suited man looking at her oozed a confidence and sexuality that even a sterile hospital couldn't dampen. Certainly his laugh would be as sexy as he was.
"I bet." He glanced down, looking slightly uncomfortable.
She never knew what to say to him. She was constantly being visited by friends and family, all of whom she'd swear she'd never seen in her whole life, but none of those chats were as awkward as talking to Will. She'd hoped it would get easier, but it just didn't. The nicer she was to him, the more resistant he seemed, almost like he didn't expect her to be civil.
"I have something for you."
She perked up in her bed, his sudden announcement unexpected. "Really?"
Her room had been flooded with gifts early on. It seemed like every flower and balloon in Manhattan had found its way to Cynthia's hospital room. Since then, the occasional arrangement came in from family or even strangers who heard about her story on the news. Being one of three survivors of a plane crash was quite newsworthy.
Will reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. "The airline called earlier this week. They've been sifting through the wreckage, trying to identify what they can, and they found this. They traced the laser-etched serial number on the diamond back to me."
He opened up the box to reveal an enormous diamond ring. Part of her wanted to believe it was a well-made costume piece, but after what she'd seen of her family and their large, plentiful and authentic jewelry, she knew it was breathtakingly real.
Will frowned. Apparently that was the wrong response. "It's your engagement ring."
She almost laughed, but then she noticed the serious look on his face. Owning a ring like that seemed preposterous. "Mine?" She watched as Will gently slipped the ring onto her left ring finger. It was a little snug, but with that arm broken and surgically pinned, her fingers were swollen. She looked down to admire the ring and was pleased to find there was a vague familiarity about it. "I do feel like I've seen this ring before," she said. The doctors had encouraged her to speak up anytime something resonated with her.
"That's good. It's one of a kind, so if it feels familiar, you've seen it before. I took it to be cleaned, had the setting checked to make sure nothing was loose, but I wanted to bring it back to you today. I'm not surprised you lost it in the accident. All that dieting for the wedding had made it too loose."
"And now it's too small and I look like I'm the loser of a boxing match," she said with a pout that sent a dull pain across her cheek. It didn't hurt as much as her pride. She had no idea what her wedding dress looked like, but she was certain that if she'd thought she looked better in it thin, the swelling wouldn't help.
"Don't worry, there's still plenty of time. It's only October. May is a long way off, and you'll be fully recovered by then."
"May at the Plaza." She wasn't sure why, but she knew that much.
"It's slowly coming back," he said with a smile that didn't quite go to his eyes. Standing, he slipped the ring box back into his pocket. "I'm having dinner with Alex tonight, so I'd better get going."
She remembered Alex from his visit the week before. He was Will's friend from school and quite the flirt. Even looking like she did, he told her she was beautiful and how he'd steal her away if she wasn't Will's fiancée. It was crap, but she appreciated the effort. "You two have fun. I believe we're having rubber chicken and rice tonight."
At that, Will chuckled. "I'll see you tomorrow." He reached out to pat her hand reassuringly.
The moment he touched her, she felt a familiar shiver run down her spine. Every single overworked nerve ending in her body lit up with awareness instead of pain. Her chest tightened, her hand involuntarily gripping his to maintain the connection it craved.
His touches, however brief or fleeting, were better than any morphine drip. Just the brush of his fingers against her skin made her feel alive and tingly in a way totally inappropriate for someone in her present condition. It had been that way since the first time he'd pressed a soft kiss against the back of her hand. She might not know him by sight, but her body certainly recognized her lover. The pleasurable current cut through everythingthe pain, the medication, the confusion.
If only she reacted that way to a man who liked her. The thought was like a pin that popped the momentary bubble that protected her from everything else in her life that was going wrong.
Will looked at his hand, then at her with a curiosity that made her wonder if he were feeling the same thing. She noticed then that his eyes were a light blue-gray. They were soft and welcoming for a moment, an inner heat thawing his indifference, and then a beep from the phone at his hip distracted him and he pulled away. With every inch that grew between them, the ache of emptiness in her gut grew stronger.
"Good night, Cynthia," he said, slipping through the door.
With him gone, the suite once again became as cold and sterile as any other hospital room and she felt more alone than ever.