For better or worse, she's family now.
Duffy Dufraine just found out he's going to be an uncle. Jessica Aguirre came to Harmony Valley in search of the father of her unborn child, which is by no means him. An accident may have damaged the expectant mom's memory, but he knows his twin is the man she's looking for. But Greg's gone, which leaves Duffy the only family Jess has. And he has to make things right. Offering her a temporary place to stay seems an ideal short-term solution. Until she stirs desires that make the embattled vineyard manager rethink his own long-term game plan. Is he ready to offer Jess and her baby a home to call their own—with him?
Heat level: As with all Harlequin Heartwarming books, this story is sweet (has no overt sensuality, rated PG).
A Memory Away
Did he love me?
A man got out of the truck. Dark hair. Straight nose. Familiar eyes.
She leaned forward, peering through the paned glass, her heart sailing toward him, over ever-hopeful waves of roses and rainbows.
Jess didn't usually let herself dream. But now...today...him...
He wore a burgundy vest jacket that clashed with a red long-sleeve T-shirt. Worn blue jeans. A black baseball cap.
Instead, she saw him in a fine wool suit. Black, always black. A navy shirt of the softest cotton. A silk tie in a geometric pattern. Shiny Italian loafers...
He took the stairs two at a time, work boots ringing on wood.
Jessica's heart sank as certainly as if someone had drilled holes in the boat carrying her hopeful emotions. Clouds blocked the sun. The rainbow disappeared. Unwilling to sink, Jess clung to joy. To the idea of him.
He entered without a flourish or an energetic greeting. He entered without the smile that teased the corners of her memory. He entered and took stock of the room, the situation, her.
Their eyes met. His were the same color, same shape, so heart-achingly familiar.
It was the cool assessment in them that threw her off. Not a smile, not a brow quirk, not an eye crinkle.
He came forward. "I'm Michael Dufraine, but everyone calls me Duffy."
His name didn't ring true.
Had he lied to her?
She couldn't speak, could barely remember her name.
The wind shook the panes. The house creaked and groaned.
He smiled. A polite smile, a distant smile, an I-don't-know-you smile.
Disappointment overwhelmed her. Jess resisted the urge to dissolve into a pity puddle on the floor.
"And you are...?" He extended his hand.
On autopilot, she reached for him. Their palms touched.
Jessica's vision blurred and she gripped his hand tighter as clips of memory assailed her—his deep laughter, him offering her a bite of chocolate cheesecake, his citrusy cologne as he leaned in to kiss her.
It is him.
Relieved. She was so relieved. Jessica blinked at the man—Duffy—who she vaguely recalled and, at the same time, did not.
She'd practiced what to say on the hour-long drive up here from Santa Rosa. Ran through several scenarios. None of them had included him not recognizing her.
She should start at the beginning. Best not to scare him with hysterics and panicked accusations, of which she'd had five months to form.
Don't raise your voice. Don't cry. Don't ask why.
And don't lead the conversation with the elephant in the room.
Despite all the cautions and practicing and caveats, she drew a breath, and flung her hopes toward him as if he was her life preserver. "I think I'm your wife."
The Story Behind the Story
I was coming up with pitch ideas for my editor for the next round of Harmony Valley stories and searched on Amazon for romance themes that were popular. Do you know what came up? Amnesia stories. I can’t remember the last time I read an amnesia book. So I added an idea for an amnesia story to my list of ideas.
Fast forward to a bar at a writer’s conference. My editor was shocked that I would pitch the book. She couldn’t remember the last time she read a good amnesia story. I took this as a gauntlet being thrown down. I worked out the kinks in the story and she bought it. I based the amnesia premise on a real condition – head trauma leading to selective memory loss which eventually is recovered. And guess what? I found that if you’re open to amnesia stories, you’ll enjoy this. If amnesia stories aren’t your thing, you might want to try another book.