My dear Miss Harcourt, pray forgive your brother. I fear the humidity has addled his brain. The rain is unrelenting, but it has brought the gift of wildflowers, quite unlike anything I have ever seen. The field is a carpet of lavender and white, and I cannot help but think you would like it very much.
—from Thomas Harcourt (and Edward Rokesby) to Cecilia Harcourt
Cecilia was soon back to her old self, save for a few scabs on her legs where she had not been able to keep from scratching. She resumed her search for Thomas, and Edward often accompanied her. He’d found that mild exercise improved his strength, so when the weather wasn’t too overbearingly hot he tucked her arm in the crook of his elbow, and they walked about town, running errands and asking questions.
And falling in love.
She was, at least. She refused to allow herself to wonder if he felt the same way, although it was more than obvious that he enjoyed her company.
And that he wanted her.
He had taken to kissing her good night. And good morning. And sometimes good afternoon. And with each touch, each shared glance, she felt herself slipping further into a falsehood of her own creation.
But oh, how she wished it were true.
She could be happy with this man. She could be his wife and bear his children, and it would be a wonderful life . . .
Except that it was all a lie. And when it fell apart, she wasn’t going to be able to escape by swallowing a strawberry.
Goal for today: Stop falling in love.
Never had one of her little goals felt less attainable. And more destined for heartbreak.
There were already small signs that Edward’s memory was returning. One morning as he was pulling on his uniform, he turned to Cecilia and said, “I haven’t done this for a while.”
Cecilia, who had been reading the book of poetry he’d brought with him from home, looked up. “Done what?”
He was silent for a moment before he answered, and he frowned, as if he were still working out his thoughts. “Put on my uniform.”
Cecilia used a ribbon to mark her place and closed the book. “You do that every morning.”
“No, before that.” He paused and blinked a few times before saying, “I didn’t wear a uniform in Connecticut.”
She swallowed, trying to set aside her unease. “Are you sure?”
He looked down at himself, smoothing his right hand over the scarlet wool that marked him as a soldier in His Majesty’s Army. “Where did this come from?”
It took her a moment to realize what he was asking. “Your coat? It was in the church.”
“But I wasn’t wearing it when I was brought in.”
This, Cecilia was startled to realize, was a statement, not a question. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think so. I did not think to ask.”
“I couldn’t have been,” Edward decided. “It was far too clean.”
“Perhaps someone laundered it for you?”
He shook his head in the negative. “We should ask Colonel Stubbs.”
“Of course,” Cecilia demurred.
He did not say anything, but Cecilia knew this meant that his mind was whirring double-time, trying to find the outline of a puzzle that was still missing too many pieces. He stared sightlessly at the window, his hand tapping against his leg, and Cecilia could only wait until he seemed to suddenly come alert, turning sharply toward her to say, “I remembered something else.”
“Yesterday, when we were walking along Broad Street. A cat brushed up against me.”
Cecilia did not speak. If there had been a cat, she hadn’t noticed.
“It did that thing cats do,” Edward continued, “rubbing its face against my leg, and I remembered. There was a cat.”
“Yes. I don’t know why, but I think . . . I think it kept me company.”
“A cat,” she repeated.
He nodded. “It probably doesn’t mean anything, but . . .” His voice trailed off, and his eyes lost their focus again.
“It means you are remembering,” Cecilia said softly.
It took a moment for him to shake off his faraway expression. “Yes.”
“At least it is a happy cat memory,” she offered.
He looked at her quizzically.
“You could have remembered that you’d been bitten. Or scratched.” She moved off the bed and stood. “Instead you know that an animal kept you company when you were alone.”
Her voice caught, and he took a step toward her.
“It comforts me,” she admitted.
“That I was not alone?”
“I’ve always liked cats,” he said, almost absently.
“Even more so now, I should imagine.”
He looked at her with a half smile. “Let us make a summation of what I remember. I didn’t wear a uniform.” He ticked this off on his hand. “There was a cat.”
“Yesterday you said you’d been in a boat,” Cecilia reminded him. They had been out near the river, and the salty tang in the air had jogged loose a spark of memory. He’d been in a boat, he told her. Not a ship, but something smaller, something not meant to go far from shore.
“Although,” Cecilia said, giving the matter more thought than she’d done the day before, “you’d have to have been in a boat, wouldn’t you? How else would you have got to Manhattan? There’s no bridge to this part of the island. And I don’t think you swam.”
“True,” he murmured.
Cecilia watched him for a moment, then could not help but giggle.
“What is it?” he asked.
“You get this look,” she said. “Every time you try to remember something.”
“Oh really?” He made a look like he was trying to be sardonic, but she knew he was teasing.
“Yes, you go a bit like this—” She drew her brows together and let her eyes go blank. She had a feeling she was not getting it quite right, and in fact a more prickly man might think she was poking fun at him.
He stared at her. “You look unhinged.”
“I believe you mean you look unhinged.” She waved one of her hands near her face. “I am your mirror.”
He burst out laughing, then reached out and tugged her toward him. “I am fairly certain I have never seen anything so delightful in the mirror.”
Cecilia felt herself smiling, even as warning bells went off in her mind. It was so easy to be happy with him, so easy to be herself. But this wasn’t her life. And she wasn’t his wife. It was a role she’d borrowed, and eventually she’d have to give it back.
But no matter how hard she tried to keep herself from growing too comfortable in her role as Mrs. Rokesby, it was impossible to resist his smile. He pulled her closer, and then closer still, until his nose rested on hers.
“Have I told you,” he said, his voice warmed with joy, “how very happy I am that you were at my side when I awakened?”
Her lips parted, and she tried to speak, but every word sat uncomfortably in her throat. He had not said this, as a matter of fact, at least not so explicitly. She shook her head, unable to take her eyes from his, drowning in the warmth of his bright blue gaze.
“If I had known,” he continued, “I’m sure I would have told you not to come. In fact I am quite sure I would have forbidden it.” His mouth twisted into that wry spot halfway between a grimace and a smile. “Not, I imagine, that that would have swayed you.”
“I was not your wife when I boarded the ship,” she said quietly. Then she died a little when she realized this might be the most honest statement she would utter all day.
“No,” Edward said, “I suppose you were not.” He cocked his head to the side, and his brow drew together the way she’d been teasing him about, but his eyes stayed sharp. “Now what?” he asked, when he saw how she was studying him.
“Nothing, just that you were almost making the same expression as before. Your brow was the same, but your eyes didn’t glaze over.”
“You make me sound so appealing.”
She laughed. “No, it’s interesting. I think—” She paused, trying to figure just what she was thinking. “You weren’t trying to remember something this time, were you?”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com