“It is a risk. That’s why I want Swayze to really think this over before making a decision. She could remember things she saw, but she could also relive the feelings.”
“But that’s just it,” I interrupt. “It’s driving me crazy to have these images but no feelings or emotions attached to them.”
Griffin turns to me. “So you want to remember what it felt like to die? Or worse … to be murdered?”
“No. But I’d rather remember the feelings than let another woman actually die at his hands. And it’s not just that. There were good times too. I hate seeing them in my head but not feeling them like Daisy did. This familiarity keeps clawing its way to the surface of my conscience like it wants to be felt. Like it needs to be felt.”
He scoffs, shaking his head while looking away from me. “Good times? You mean Nate.” He says his name with such contempt. “You want to remember how you felt about him?”
I glance up at Dr. Albright, but she doesn’t look like she’s ready to jump in the pool and save me from drowning.
“Not in the way you think, Griff.”
Griffin gives Dr. Albright his attention. “Please tell me you don’t condone this. We’re engaged. I want to spend the rest of my life with her, but I don’t want to compete with another man for her feelings.”
She returns a concentrated nod. “Swayze, can you elaborate on the kind of feelings you want to remember. If they’re not romantic feelings, then maybe you can set Griffin’s mind at ease a little bit.”
The muscle twitching in Griffin’s jaw says I won’t be easing his mind anytime soon, but I try anyway.
“We were young. And before there were any feelings of love, we were friends. Sometimes I think the reason this other life moved forward with some memories intact is because I’m here to do something for Nate.” I’m not saying this right.
Griffin’s expression goes from irritated to murderous.
I hold up a flat hand to keep him from losing it. “He feels responsible for Daisy’s death. And her murderer is still killing. And a baby lost her mom. The timing is too coincidental. I think I have these memories to deal with Doug Mann, and take care of Morgan, and let Nate know that it wasn’t his fault. His wife died. When I first saw him at Dr. Greyson’s office, I could tell he was hanging by a thread.”
With his thumb and middle finger, Griffin massages his temples.
“If I may make a suggestion…” Dr. Albright folds her arms on the edge of her desk “…think about you first, Swayze. What you want. What you need. What you’re really willing to risk. Try to ignore any sense of debt to anyone else or the fear of guilt over Doug Mann. What is the one thing you really need from this?”
I don’t have one need. I have a million undefinable needs. My need doesn’t have a word. It’s a feeling. A nagging, soul-deep feeling. And maybe I’m the only one who can understand it, but something tells me Dr. Albright does too, even if she won’t say it aloud in front of Griffin.
So I go with the one thing that should make sense. “I need to feel safe.”
He grunts a laugh while shaking his head more. “I told you, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“You can’t make that promise!” I cringe.
Dr. Albright’s sympathetic gaze lands on me.
I release a slow breath of regret. “You have a job. I have a job. We can’t be attached at the hip for the rest of our lives.”
“And no one can guarantee that hypnosis will give us the missing piece of evidence to convict a man of a possible murder that happened over twenty-two years ago. But in the meantime, you risk remembering something that could haunt you forever, or you risk …”
Releasing the end of his sentence in a quick sigh, he rubs his lips together.
“Finish,” I say.
He stares off in the opposite direction.
“I need this, Griff.”
“Fine.” He stands and grabs his jacket from the back of the chair. “Whatever you need, Swayz.”
“Let him go, Swayze.”
The click of the door behind him makes a tiny tear in my heart.
I hold my emotions intact, even with Dr. Albright’s empathetic expression. “Please tell me you understand me.”
“I do. But I also understand Griffin. He’s scared of losing you to Nate.”
“Is it? Some people would see this story as fate. Nate loses his first love, and when he loses his second love, he finds you—again.”
“Fate?” I cough a laugh. “You think it’s fate for us to be together again?”
“No. I’m not some people. But it’s no more crazy than you believing you have memories from that life for reasons of fate. Maybe fate exists, maybe it doesn’t. I love the idea of fate, but it’s possible you’re not recognizing your true fate yet.”
“What’s my true fate?”
She sips the last of her tea and sets her cup down before sharing a hint of a smile. “I have no idea. But if it’s fate … you’ll find out.”
“I’d better get going. I should go see if I need to call for an Uber.” I stand. “If I don’t try the hypnosis, I fear I may always regret it. And I don’t want to marry Griffin with that kind of regret lingering.”
“It’s ultimately your choice, and yours alone. I’m here for you in whatever capacity you need me to be.”
Griffin’s not outside her door, and there’s no sign of him down the hallway toward the elevators. He left. The curse of Daisy has made me self-destructive.
I take the stairs to the first floor and turn left toward the entrance to the parking lot.
And then I start to hurt.
Hands shoved in the front pockets of his jeans, and one leg bent with his foot on the wall, he pushes off and shoots me a sad smile.
I hurt more.
“But you’re mad.” I slow my pace the closer I get to him.
“That’s code for mad.”
He holds out his hand. I take it.
“It’s not code for anything. Let’s just go home.”
I let him guide me to his truck. He even opens the door for me. Before he steps back to shut it, I clench his jacket and pull him closer.
“Let’s grab something for dinner.”
He nods, eyes searching my face. Dear God, I love him something fierce.
“And then let’s hide under the sheets and pause life for a few hours.”
Griff kisses one side of my mouth, then the other side, ending squarely on my lips while nodding ever so slightly.
At some point we won’t be able to press pause and hide from the world, but I’m going to do it for as long as I can—as long as he’s willing to love me back.
“You recognize it?” Nate asks as we pull in the driveway to the pale yellow two-story house.
There’s an actual picket fence around the yard, caging ornamental grass and day lilies that need to be cut back before it snows.
I nod. I didn’t know this was in my memory until now. The way I didn’t know I knew Nate until I saw him. Twenty-two years isn’t long enough to understand or even describe this feeling of knowing something—someone—so intimately, yet Swayze Samuels has never seen this house.
I swallow hard. “It’s like …” I shake my head. “It’s like opening a new door to a new world. The second I saw you, I didn’t just think there’s Nate Hunt. A flood of memories infiltrated every inch of my brain.
“She has blond hair and blue eyes. He has slightly darker blond hair and brown eyes like Daisy. He painted the fence gray; she hated it and made him repaint it white. In the spring red tulips bloom beneath the maple tree in the backyard. There’s also an old shed in the corner of the backyard. Handprints in the concrete slab just off the deck.”
Unbelievable … I shake my head and look over at Nate.
He smiles. “Your handprints.”
This is the part that hurts the most. More than the missing feelings—I don’t remember me.
“I want to feel this so badly. It’s like I can’t truly make sense of it if I can’t feel it. I’m going to do the hypnosis. I have to.”
Nate rests his hand on mine. He doesn’t hold it or rub it. This is the only part I feel. How the hell do I not remember myself as Daisy, but I remember his touch?
“I don’t need you to love me back … in this lifetime.” He smiles.
My eyes fill with tears. How can one sentence be so beautiful and so forlorn at the same time?
I don’t need you to love me back … in this lifetime.
Nate Hunt deserves to be loved back in every lifetime—especially this one.
“Maybe after today you’ll see enough to be able to let go.”
Narrowing my eyes, I slowly turn my hand so our palms are pressed together. Still, we’re not interlacing our fingers or holding onto anything more than the familiarity of his skin touching mine.