If I lost an arm, I’d still be me. If I shaved my head, I’d still be me. If I lost all memories, I’d still be me. I need to carry this one absolute truth with me at all times.
“I have to get to work. Let’s go out for dinner tonight and plan a wedding.”
After a few blinks, Griffin surrenders something resembling a smile. “Good idea. I don’t want a long engagement.” He nuzzles his face into my neck.
I hug him. This is the only embrace I want comforting me for the rest of my life.
I pull into Nate’s driveway a few minutes early and call the detective working on Erica’s case. He tells me there’s too much inconclusive evidence to question Doug Mann any further. There was no sign of foul play. It was an accident. Case closed.
She slipped and hit her head while getting into the bathtub and she drowned.
Daisy drowned. Daisy’s death was an accident.
Except … my memories tell a different story.
I take a deep breath to calm my anger before opening the door to Nate’s house. “Good morning.”
“Shh … in my office.”
I peek around the corner. “She’s still asleep?”
Nate glances up as he slips his laptop into his messenger bag. “Yes. She was up earlier. For whatever reason, she wanted to smile and giggle at 4:00 a.m.” He fists a hand over his mouth to hide his yawn. “I’m going to feel it later today.”
I offer him a hint of a smile, trying to move past last night and everything the detective just told me.
“Did you sleep well?” Nate saunters toward me.
I turn and lead the way to the kitchen. “Well enough.” Not that well. Sex. I had endless sex with Griffin until my mind let go of what happened here, with you, Nate.
“Coffee?” He holds up the pot before filling his cup.
“Just had some, but thank you.”
He pours it and brings the cup to his mouth, eyeing me with an unreadable expression. “You seem distracted.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Nate takes a sip and rubs his lips together. “You can ask me anything.”
“If I admit that I’m Daisy, can we forget about it?”
His eyebrows shoot up his forehead, brushing his wayward curls. “You believe it?”
I shrug. “For lack of any other explanation … yes.”
His chin dips into a contemplative nod. “You didn’t just wake up this morning with recognition of her life?”
He fails at masking his disappointment.
“I feel like you want me to admit that I’m her. The books in your nightstand confirm it.”
There’s not an ounce of shock on his face. He knows I’ve been snooping.
“I think there’s a chance that you’re right. And I’m not sure what the protocol is for this, but no matter what memories I have from another life, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m Swayze Samuels in this life.”
“So you want to forget about everything?”
I grunt a painful laugh. “I don’t think I have the option to forget anything. Unless they invent an off switch for the brain. I just don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’ll try to keep all of my comments relevant to things I would know about you in this life, and you’ll stop looking at me like …”
“Like?” He slips an apple and protein bar into the back pocket of his bag.
“Like … I don’t know. Like anything other than the twenty-one-year-old nanny that I am.”
“You want us to pretend.”
“No … yes. When you say it that way it sounds ridiculous. You know what I mean.”
His teeth rake along his lower lip several times while he eyes me. “This is causing problems between you and Griffin?”
My gaze drops to my feet. “Sometimes. I don’t want to lose him. It’s not fair to ask him to share me with another life. It’s insane to ask him to understand. And I’m tired of feeling ripped down the middle.”
My head snaps up. “Okay?”
Nate nods. “We won’t talk of it again. Your happiness comes first.”
“Don’t say that. An employer wouldn’t say that.”
He chuckles. “I disagree. A good employer would want a happy employee.”
“Happy? Yes. As in, maybe leave a little more food in the house. Or trusting me enough to not need constant surveillance. That would make me happy. Happiness implies more. It implies you have concern for my future beyond this job. I don’t want you to be invested in my happiness.”
Nate flinches. It’s slight, but I don’t miss it. He slides the strap to his bag over his shoulder and snatches his coffee. “I’ll stop by the grocery store on the way home. Text me with your list of food.” His tone is a little abrasive. “If you were my friend Daisy, I’d shut off the cameras. I know Daisy. I trust her implicitly. Swayze is a twenty-one-year-old nanny whom I’ve not known long enough to warrant such implicit trust. The cameras stay on. Have a good day, Swayze.”
I bite my tongue. He’s respecting my wish. I have to let it go. I just didn’t imagine it feeling like this.
“Good day, Professor Hunt.”
My words make him pause at the back door. I wait for him to turn back toward me. I wait to see the pain on his face. He doesn’t turn. He doesn’t show me his reaction. And that’s for the best.
Weeks pass without mention of Daisy. Each night I leave Professor Hunt’s house with a lukewarm goodbye and hurry home to my fiancé. We immerse ourselves in wedding planning and dinners with his family and my mom. I find a rhythm to my life again.
I wish I could say I don’t think of Daisy, or Erica, or the free man who murdered them. I wish I could say I don’t miss the friendship I had with Nate. I wish I could say everything in life is mind over matter.
I wish …
“What are your plans for Thanksgiving?” I ask Nate as he goes through his morning routine in the kitchen while Morgan rolls around on the floor, working her way up to all fours only to flop back down to her tummy and take off rolling again.
“The usual gluttony,” he replies without making the slightest glance in my direction.
“Griffin and his dad are smoking a turkey. I’m in charge of the mashed potatoes.”
He nods once, keeping his gaze on his busy hands. I miss him. Even though I see him five out of seven days, I still miss him. And the worst fucking part … I still carry that picture of him in my pocket. It’s my dirty little secret.
It’s flat-out crazy because I can’t explain my need to have it near me or my need to stare at it for long minutes when I’m alone or out of the camera’s view.
“Are your parents coming to your house or are you going to their house?”
“Not sure.” He brushes past me with no visual acknowledgment as he lowers to the floor and kisses Morgan goodbye. “Love you, baby doll. Have a good day.”
I stare him down, silently begging for him to look at me, but he doesn’t. This shouldn’t hurt, but it does.
“Hey …” I jump up and chase after him.
He stops at the door. “Yeah?”
That’s all I wanted, just to have him look at me.
I shake my head, feeling stupid for my desperation. “Um …” I wanted him to look at me and now I can’t keep my gaze locked to his. It’s too matter-of-fact. Neutral. Impersonal.
It’s exactly what I thought I wanted.
“I was thinking of going through Morgan’s clothes. She’s outgrown a lot of them. Do you want them put in bags to sell or donate or …” I bite my lips together for a few seconds. “Do you want to save them in case you have …”
Gulp. Choke. I’m dying. All I wanted was for him to look at me and it’s careened into a train wreck.
“Have more children?”
“I pay you to watch Morgan. I’ll deal with her clothes and their fate.”
“No,” I murmur.
“Okay.” He opens the door.
I grip his arm. I have no idea why. My brain has a two-second delay.
Nate stares at my hold on him a few seconds before shooting me the look. The why-the-hell-are-you-touching-me look. I crawled onto his lap and cried my eyes out. He promised to never let anything bad happen to me. And now we’re here in this cold existence.
Yank your arm out of my hold, Nate. Reprimand me for crossing a line. Tell me you’re just obeying my wishes. Do anything. Say anything. But don’t just look at me, frozen in place, submitting to my touch.
I suck in one breath after another, each time hoping the right words will spill from my mouth, but every inhale dies in a wasted exhale of nothingness. Right now my feelings don’t have words, so I release him.
After a few more seconds of silence, I turn and go back to Morgan. The thunk of the door sounds behind me.
The next few days I spend all of Morgan’s nap time staring at the photo of Nate. Sometimes I keep it in my book instead of in my pocket. If he’s monitoring the video feed, all he sees is the book, not the photo I keep shifting from page to page like a bookmark.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com