A Man She Couldn’t Forget

BOOK: A Man She Couldn’t Forget
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
As Clare leaned over Brady, she was hit with the scent of him after a shower

It was so potent, so
that it took her breath away.

“Something wrong?” he asked. “You’re flushed.”

Her hands went to her cheeks. “Must be the heat from the stove.”

She’d lied. It wasn’t that. It was heat…but from Brady himself.

Because when she got close to him she felt her body tighten, her pulse speed up and a low coil of reaction in her belly.

All signs that were familiar.

All signs she remembered.

How could this be? She didn’t understand. Why was she
by Brady’s nearness, the male smell of him, the physical presence of him!

her best friend?

Dear Reader,

A Man She Couldn’t Forget
is a combination of plotlines I’ve enjoyed as a reader. First, the story deals with amnesia. I researched the malady and it fit nicely into this plot. Next, there is a friends-to-lovers angle. It’s fun to develop characters who know each other, then fall in love—and are shocked by it! Finally, I like the concept of a love triangle, although I hadn’t realized how tricky it would be.

Another challenge was the characterization. The hero, Brady Langston, jumped off the pages—sexy, artistic, fun loving and head over heels about Clare. However, I did struggle with finding a way for the reader to know Clare when she doesn’t know herself. I hate dumping information in, so instead I filtered her personality into conversations, while giving a bit of background.

Last, Jonathan, the “other man,” had to be likable, though not
likable. What kind of heroine would Clare be if she was involved with someone who didn’t appeal to readers?

Of course, Brady and Clare are meant to be and the best part is that she somehow knows it even when she can’t remember him. Hopefully, her dawning awareness will keep you reading.

The story also has books. Brady writes children’s stories, while Clare writes cookbooks. By the way, my own family has passed the recipes in this book through generations, or they have created them after great trial and error. (It took my sister twenty-one tries to get the minestrone right.) You can find these recipes on my Web site at www.kathrynshay.com. Visit my blog there, and e-mail me through the site or at [email protected]

I hope you love Brady and Clare and their very complicated but heartwarming story.

Kathy Shay

Kathryn Shay


Kathryn Shay is the author of twenty-three Harlequin Superromance books and nine novels and two novellas from the Berkley Publishing Group. She has won several awards. Among them are five
Romantic Times BOOKreviews
awards, three Holt Medallions, three Desert Quill awards and a Booksellers’ Best Award. A former high school teacher, she lives in upstate New York, where she sets many of her stories.

Books by Kathryn Shay















To my sister Joanie.
Thanks for the recipes in this book, for watching numerous cooking shows with me and for enduring all those amnesia movies!
I love you.


the driveway of a huge Victorian house with peaked roofs, slate-blue siding and luscious landscaping, Clare Boneli stared at the sprawling structure without a shred of recognition. A quick burst of panic shot through her, and her breathing sped up. The darkness inside her yawned, widened, threatened to take her under.

“It’s all right, Clarissa. Everything’s going to be fine.”

The man beside her spoke the soothing words, her panic abated somewhat. It went away more quickly now than it had before. When Clare had first awakened from the coma a week ago, she hadn’t even known her name. That had come back suddenly, unlike the memories of her past.

She managed to choke out, “This is where I live?”

“Yes.” Jonathan, who’d been at her bedside most days over the past two weeks, smiled sadly. He was dressed in an impeccable gray suit and pristine white shirt. He’d told her he owned the TV station they said she worked for.

And more. They were dating. Seriously, for over a year. But try as she might, Clare couldn’t remember him or this beautiful house or anything else about her life. Panic threatened again, and she grabbed for his hand.

“I don’t remember,” she murmured.

He linked their fingers. Even his touch was foreign. How could she not recognize someone she’d been so close to? Someone, he’d told her, she’d been intimate with? Shouldn’t she sense things about him? Again, her heart began to pound, like it always did when she tried to make herself remember and couldn’t.

“You’re going to be fine. It’ll all come back. Dr. Montgomery thinks when you’re in your own environment, familiar things will jog your memory.”

Retrograde amnesia,
the neurologist had told her.
The loss of memory of events that occur before a trauma. Usually it lasts a few hours.

In Clare’s case, the trauma had been a car accident on a rainy morning at two a.m. She’d crashed into a guardrail, lurched forward and banged her face on the steering wheel. Her head had ricocheted to the side, resulting in a huge bump on her skull and injuring her brain. Once the swelling had gone down, the tests revealed no permanent brain damage, and the doctors expected her memory to return soon. But it hadn’t. So she’d been referred to a psychiatrist, Anna Summers, whom she’d seen twice and would continue to see now that she had been released.

“Dr. Summers told me that sometimes it takes a while for memories to come back, even if there’s no visible brain damage.”

“As I said, I think being home will help.” He scowled. “I wish I didn’t have to go out of town today. It’s just that I postponed meetings in Chicago three times when you were in the hospital.”

“Of course you have to go. You put everything on hold for me.”

“I wanted to.”

She peered out the window again. The late-afternoon June sun sparkled off the black shingles on the roof and the many windows of the exterior. “Tell me about my condo before we go inside.”

“Your favorite room is the kitchen.”

Still facing away from him, she sighed. “Because I’m a chef, right?”

“The best.”

They’d told her a few things in the hospital so she wouldn’t go into shock when she got back to her life. She lived in Rockford, a medium-sized town in upstate New York, and was a chef and successful cookbook author. Jonathan was WRNY’s station owner and had offered her a cooking show,
Clarissa’s Kitchen,
three years ago. Her parents were dead, she had a sister who lived in Arizona—a teacher, divorced, no children. And though Clare was thirty-six, she wasn’t married. She wondered why.

Jonathan kept hold of her hand. “Let’s go inside.”

“In a minute.” Stalling, she pulled down the visor and opened the mirror to check her appearance, briefly wondering if she was vain. What stared back at her was a stranger with green eyes and short sandy-blond hair. Again the lack of recognition shocked her, and she had to take in deep breaths.

“Can you tell your hair’s different?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No.” But she knew it had been long. In the hospital, the doctors had to cut away a chunk of it on the left side and shave the area to take care of the bump on her head. When she awoke from the coma, Jonathan brought in the town’s best stylist to cut it flatteringly. “Did I like my hair long?”

“Yes. I think the short style suits you better, though. It’s more sophisticated.”

Closing the visor, she smoothed down the peach sun-dress she wore. It was beautiful and expensive, she could tell. Someone had brought it to the hospital, but she didn’t know who.

Jonathan smiled at her encouragingly. “Ready now?”

“I guess.”

They got out of his car, which she recognized was a Jag. It was funny how she knew things like that. She had what the doctors called episodic amnesia, where she didn’t remember past events but could remember objects and procedural things, like how to change a lightbulb or take a bus.

As they walked up the brick path to the front porch, they passed a profusion of big fat peonies, petunias and geraniums. Pots of the latter variety hung from the rafters, she noticed as they climbed the steps. Warmth seeped into her at the sight of them and as she reached the house; the remnants of fear abated. She felt comfortable here.

The double wooden front doors had a digital lock, and Jonathan keyed in some numbers.

“You know the combination?” she asked.

“Yes.” So they must be close, as he said. “I come here often.”

When they stepped inside, she took in the huge foyer with an exquisite Persian rug on the hardwood floors, a breathtaking solid oak staircase and large windows. Again, calm infused her.

“Clarissa,” Jonathan said gently. “Are you all right? Is this too much?”

“No, not at all. Just give me a minute.” She looked around at the first floor. “There are four condos in the house, right?”

“Yes. Two on the first and two on the second. There’s also an attic of sorts.” He added the last with a note of displeasure tingeing his voice.

“I live on the second floor.”

Jonathan smiled. It was a nice smile, though forced sometimes; often it didn’t reach his hazel eyes. She guessed her not remembering him had been hard to take. “You knew that.”

“Nothing else, though.”

He kissed her forehead. “That’s enough for now. Just be glad familiar things are already jogging your memory.”

Taking her hand again, he led her over to the elevator. She caught another glimpse of the staircase that spiraled upward and had a quick vision of dark hair and startling blue eyes. “Brady, the other man who came to the hospital every day? He lives here, right?”

Jonathan’s face hardened. “Yes.”

Suddenly, she saw herself, carrying grocery bags, climbing those steps.

And the memory of someone teasing her.
Elevators are for older people and the ill. I never take it, but if that’s the kind of girl you are…

The voice belonged to Brady.

The elevator pinged, and she and Jonathan entered the car. They rode in silence, and when it stopped, they exited on the second floor. The first thing she noticed was color on the walls. A variety of sketches lined the hallway. As she got closer she saw they were illustrations done mostly in colored pencil: a couple of cartoons that made her laugh, an adorable mouse and rat in some kind of square off, a picture of a dish of piping hot lasagna, a green salad and a wine bottle. Dull pain began to form in her head. She raised her hands to her temples. “Oh.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Some pain for a second. It’s gone now.”

Jonathan stared at the sketches. Glared, really. “Too much too soon.”

He grasped her arm and led her down a corridor to condo number three. Number four was next to hers, their doors side by side. Hers sported a simple wreath of silk flowers, but the other one had been painted like a mural. The light-blue background was broken by white puffy clouds; birds fluttered over the door, all done in the same style as the illustrations on the wall. She imagined that when the door opened, the birds would seem to be flying. On closer examination, the little feathery creatures had…personalities. One blue jay sported a baseball cap and winked. A goldfinch had an apron tied around its body and held a spatula. There was a sparrow with a baby bird, and a robin in a suit.

Tension coiled inside her. “Who did this? And the sketches on the walls?”

Before Jonathan could answer, the door to number three—her place—swung open. Inside her condo stood Brady Langston. His grin was big and broad and genuine. Though he wasn’t any taller than Jonathan, his muscular stature made it seem as though he towered over them both. When he’d been at her bedside in the hospital, she’d found his presence soothing. When he held her hand, that, too, felt right. “There you are. I thought I heard voices.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Jonathan asked.

Brady’s brows raised. “I’m the welcome wagon, Harris.”

A quick glance told her Jonathan’s light complexion was flushed. “I have home health-care aides scheduled to be with Clarissa around the clock while I’m gone.”

Brady squared his shoulders—they were big and broad, too. Jonathan mirrored the gesture. Clare didn’t need her memory to feel the animosity crackle between them. And it made her stomach clench.

“I sent the woman who showed up home,” Brady said. “Aides are for people who don’t have family and friends. We’ve all arranged to be here at various times, so Clare doesn’t have to surround herself with strangers. And her sister is coming in when she gets back from France.”

Which was why, apparently, Clare’s only blood relative hadn’t come to her bedside. Despite the explanation that Cathy was in Europe, Clare had wondered about that.

Fists curled at his sides, Jonathan asked, “What gave you the right to decide all this, Langston?”

Brady’s palm hit the doorjamb hard.

At the sound of the slap, blinding pain shot through Clare’s skull. Leaning into the wall, she closed her eyes. Brady reached out and touched her arm. “Clare, baby, you okay?”

“Now look what you’ve done.” She heard Jonathan’s voice but it was far away. “Come on, Clarissa, let’s get you to bed.”

Eyes still shut, her stomach roiling, she could only brace herself against the wall. Then she felt strong arms slide beneath her legs and around her back. She was picked up and cuddled to a warm, hard body. Nosing into his shirt, burying her head in his chest, she breathed in his scent. It was familiar and calmed her dramatically.

She felt herself being carried and heard mumbling behind her, but she closed it off and reveled in the safety of being in this man’s arms. It was something she hadn’t truly felt since she’d woken up in that hospital and recognized nothing.

Soon, she was set on a bed and covered. “Sleep, sweetheart,” Jonathan mumbled.

No, wait, that wasn’t Jonathan’s voice. She pried her eyes open. Brady stood over her bed. And in her gut, she realized she knew this man well. Very well. But her lids got heavy and closed on their own. Maybe she could figure all this out when she awoke. Lips brushed her forehead just before she drifted off.


, B
to collect himself before he left her bedroom. At least Harris had waited out in the living room and not upset her anymore with this aide thing. Taking deep breaths, Brady knew the guy would go on the attack with him—Brady would do the same if their roles were reversed—so he prepared for a fight but preferred to be in control.

He found Harris staring out the big bay window in the back, on his phone, of course. “Yes, I’ll be there late afternoon. Tell the Chef’s Delight people my plane leaves in ninety minutes.”

When the guy clicked off, Brady spoke. “You can go anytime, Harris. I got it here.”

Harris spun around, and there was fire in his eyes. So Brady tried even harder to stay cool. Rocking back on his heels, he stuck his hands in his jeans pockets.

“What the hell are you trying to pull, Langston?”

Innocently, he raised his eyebrows. “Nothing. I’m Clare’s best friend. I’ve made arrangements to take care of her.”

“You may have been her best friend before, but we both know things changed over the last year.” Harris started to punch in a number on the phone. “I’m getting the aides back.”

“Not after you see this.” Feeling smug, Brady turned away and strode into Clare’s office off the living room. He found what he was looking for in the tray of her fax machine. He’d gotten the form in case Harris tried to pull something. Brady skimmed it to be certain Clare’s sister, Catherine, had done what he’d asked. She’d been thousands of miles away when the accident had occurred, shocked and frustrated when he’d called…



“She doesn’t remember anything.”

“Brady, I can’t come home from France. I’m with fifteen people who depend on me.”

“You don’t have to come home. I’ll take care of her. But I need something from you.”

After he told her what, she asked, “Why do you want to do this, Brady?”

“Because we’re her friends.”

“I know, but after what she did to all of you. To all of us.”

“None of that matters. And she needs you now, too.”

“I know. I wish I could come back sooner.”

“Leave it to me, Cath. Send the fax, and come to Rockford when you get back…”


of paper. Perfect. He left the den, crossed to Harris and handed it to him.

“What’s this?”

“A notarized directive from Clare’s sister, who’s her only living relative and has power of attorney in case something happens to Clare.”

Harris cocked his head. “I thought they were estranged. That’s why I’ve never met her.”

“You thought wrong.” Brady folded his arms over the chest of the shirt Clare had given him for Christmas one year. She thought the color matched his eyes.
thought it might bring him good luck. “Wrong about a lot of things, I might add.”

BOOK: A Man She Couldn’t Forget
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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