Rollie paced back and forth down the hall like a caged tiger, his eyes darting repeatedly toward the doors through which Angie had been taken seemingly an eternity ago. His fear was driving him insane, fear that the woman he loved more than life was going to die.
Against his will, Rollie’s mind went back again to what had brought them here. He and Angie had been setting up a gag on their latest movie. Production was behind schedule, so they’d found themselves having to set things up at the same time as parts of the set were still being built.
It was when Angie went to check on one of the explosive devices that disaster struck. The crane setting a roof beam in place malfunctioned, dropping the beam down onto the explosives, causing them to detonate. Rollie closed his eyes against the memory of seeing Angie fly through the air to land with a thud on the ground and lie still. He would never forget the agony he’d felt at the thought that she was dead. But she wasn’t dead. She was alive, and she was going to be all right. She had to be.
Rollie spun around to see a doctor coming toward him. He hastily covered the distance between them.
“How is she? Is she all right?” he blurted out.
The doctor made a calming gesture. “Your wife is going to be fine, Mister Tyler. There are some first and second degree burns on her arms and neck. She suffered a broken right arm. She also got a rather nasty blow to the head, which resulted in a moderate concussion. But the CT scan didn’t reveal anything to give us concern.”
“What about . . .” Rollie swallowed, “what about the baby?”
The doctor’s smile grew larger. “Your baby is just fine, Mister Tyler. There’s no sign of any trouble.”
Rollie visibly relaxed. “Thank God. Can I see her?”
“She’s being taken up to a room as we speak. They’ll have her settled in a bit. I should tell you that she may very well sleep the rest of the day. Have you filled out all the necessary paperwork?”
“There wasn’t much to fill out. Angie’s been here before, so you already have her in your records.”
“Ah, I thought she looked familiar.” The doctor studied Rollie’s face. “So do you, for that matter.”
Rollie laughed, his relief making his voice a bit shaky. “Yeah, I bet I do. I’ve been a guest of your hospital a few times too.”
The doctor chuckled. “Well, we always appreciate our customers bringing their business back to us.”
Rollie laughed again. “You’ll excuse me if I say that I’d really prefer it if we had no need to bring business your way.”
The doctor smiled at that. “Such is the nature of our business, Mister Tyler.”
A few minutes later, Rollie was walking into Angie’s room. Even though he knew that she was going to be all right, the sight of her lying unconscious in a hospital bed still ripped the Aussie’s heart open. He made his way over to the chair, pulled it up to the bed, and sat down. He gently took his wife’s hand.
“You scared me, Ange,” Rollie said quietly, tears beginning to sting his eyes. “I really thought for a while there that I’d lost you. But you’re going to be just fine.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I love you, Angel.”
Time dragged by as Rollie sat beside his wife, waiting for the moment when she’d open her eyes and look at him. Around 6 p.m., Rollie’s stomach started reminding him that it hadn’t been fed since breakfast. The nurse who had just walked in chuckled at the loud growling sounds.
“Why don’t you go get some dinner, Mister Tyler,” she suggested. “You look like you could use some sustenance,” she added after studying his slim frame and the slight paleness of his face.
“I don’t want to leave in case she wakes up,” the Aussie said.
“Nonsense. Your wife will be fine. You don’t want her to wake up only to watch you keel over from hunger, now do you?”
Rollie smiled at the grandmotherly nurse. “No, I guess not. I’ll just go grab a sandwich and bring it back here.”
“You do that. I promise that we’ll take good care of Angie while you’re gone.”
Rollie bent over and kissed his wife on the forehead. “I’ll be back in just a little while, sweetie.”
The nurse watched him leave with a tender smile. She then checked on Angie.
“That one loves you a lot, dear,” she quietly told her. “You’re a lucky girl.”
Angie arose slowly toward the light. As she did, sounds and sensations began filtering through to her, the distant murmur of voices, the feeling of a bed beneath her, the smell of antiseptic. But above all of this was the pain. A deep, throbbing pain in her head, a sharper ache in her right arm, and some more pain here and there on her left arm and neck. That’s when Angie became aware of the feeling of bandages on her head, left arm, and neck and the stiffness of a cast on her right arm.
Cautiously, Angie opened her eyes. She was in a hospital, that was immediately apparent. What happened? She had no memory of how she’d gotten here or how she’d been injured. The last thing she remembered was setting things up for the gag that was going to be filmed that night. Had there been an accident? Where was. . . .
Angie’s thoughts were interrupted by a nurse.
“Well, hello there, Angie,” the nurse said with a bright smile. “It’s good to see you awake.”
“What happened to me?” Angie asked.
“Um, I don’t know all the details, but, from what I understand, there was an accident on the movie set you were working on, and you got caught in an explosion.”
“An explosion?” Angie’s brow knit in puzzlement.
Just then, the door opened again, and Angie was greeted by the sight of Rollie.
“Angie!” he said happily upon seeing that she was awake. He set his sandwich and tea down and hurried forward to take her hand. “How are you feeling, sweetie?”
Angie didn’t answer. Instead, she just stared at Rollie strangely.
“Angie, what’s wrong?” the Aussie asked.
“What happened to your face?” she finally asked.
“My face? What’s wrong with my face?” Rollie asked in bewilderment.
“It . . . it looks . . . older.”
“Older?” Rollie gave a short laugh. “I admit that I’ve had a rough last few hours, but I didn’t think I looked that bad.”
“And your hair. . . .” Angie’s voice trailed off, the confusion on her face even deeper.
“What about my hair?” Rollie was starting to get worried.
Angie shook her head as if to clear it. She winced at the movement, her hand going to her head. “Ow. My head hurts.”
“Yeah, I bet it does. You got clunked on the head pretty good.”
The nurse came forward. “We can do something about that now that you’re awake, dear. I’ll see about getting you put on some pain medication.” She left the room, promising to be back shortly with something to ease Angie’s discomfort.
Rollie laughed softly. “She reminds me of everybody’s grandmother.”
“Hmm?” The Aussie turned back to his wife, still smiling.
Rollie stiffened, the smile freezing on his lips, then slowly fading away.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen to him?” Angie asked in a panic upon seeing Rollie’s reaction.
“A-Angie, what are you talking about?”
“What do you mean what am I talking about? Rollie, what’s going on here?” Angie had gone from just being scared to being scared and angry.
A terrible thought filled Rollie’s mind and leaked into his chest, making it feel tight and heavy. “Angie, what’s the last thing you remember?”
The blonde frowned. “We were setting things up for the warehouse fire. Dad was arguing with Breen about the gag, about it being too dangerous to do what Breen wanted.”
The color drained out of Rollie’s face. “Oh my God,” he whispered hoarsely.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” Angie was getting more scared by the minute.
“Angie, that . . . that was seven years ago.”
This time, it was Angie’s face that lost color. “S-seven years ago?”
Rollie nodded. “It’s 1998, Ange.”
Angie shook her head. “No, that can’t be. That can’t be.”
“But it is, Angie.”
“Seven years? I’ve lost seven years?” Utterly stunned, Angie stared up at the ceiling. Then another thought and a deeper fear supplanted her shock. Her gaze went back to her friend. “Rollie, where’s Dad? Where’s my father?”
Tears came into Rollie’s eyes. “Oh, Angie. I’m so sorry. He’s dead, sweetie. He died that night doing that gag for Breen’s movie.”
Angie started shaking her head. “No. No, no, no, nooo!” A wail of pain rose from her lips and tears burst forth.
Rollie gathered Angie into his arms, holding her tightly as she wept. A nurse came running into the room.
“Get the doctor,” the Aussie told her.
The nurse stared at Angie, watching her heartbroken sobs for a moment, then nodded and disappeared back through the door.
“Shhh. Shhh, Angel. It’s all right. I’m here. I’m here.” Rollie whispered, stroking Angie’s hair and back.
A few minutes later, Angie’s attending physician, Doctor Riker, came in. By then, Angie had quieted a little.
“What’s going on?” Riker asked.
“I think you’d better run some more tests, Doctor, because there’s definitely something very wrong with Angie. She can’t remember the last seven years of her life.” Rollie tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but only partially succeeded.
“What?” the doctor said in shock, quickly stepping forward.
“You heard me. My wi-- She can’t remember anything that happened past June of 1991.”
Riker stared at Angie. “Mrs.--”
Rollie cut him off quickly. “Angie. Call her Angie.” He met the doctor’s eyes meaningfully. Suddenly understanding, Riker nodded.
The doctor returned his attention to his patient. “Angie, can you talk to me?” he asked gently. When she didn’t reply, Riker looked at Rollie.
“I just had to tell her that her father’s been dead for seven years,” the Aussie explained.
“Oh. I’m very sorry,” Riker said in sympathy. “Could we speak outside for a moment?”
Rollie looked down at Angie, who was clutching his shirt tightly. “Angie? Is it all right if I go out and talk to the doctor for a couple of minutes? I promise I’ll be right back.”
For a few seconds, Angie didn’t respond, then she nodded her head faintly. Rollie laid her back on the bed gently, placing a long kiss on her forehead. She gripped his hand for a moment, then released it.
Rollie accompanied Riker out into the corridor. They walked a few paces away from Angie’s room.
“All right, now I want you to tell me what the hell’s going on,” the Aussie demanded.
“I’m sorry, Mister Tyler. We hadn’t anticipated this. Your wife is apparently suffering from acute anterograde amnesia. It’s likely an unexpected complication to her head injury.”
“An unexpected complication?” Rollie nearly shouted, keeping his voice down with an effort. “My wife’s lost seven years of her life. I’d call that a hell of a lot more than an unexpected complication.”
“Please try to remain calm, Mister Tyler. Memory loss is almost always temporary. The chances are good that your wife will regain all of her lost memories.”
“Almost always? You mean there’s a chance she won’t?” The leaden feeling in Rollie’s stomach grew heavier.
“Virtually nothing in medicine has a one hundred percent guarantee, Mister Tyler, but I have every reason to believe that Mrs. Tyler’s memory loss will be temporary,” he paused, “unless we’re speaking of a psychological rather than a physiological cause.”
“You mean that Angie may be subconsciously blocking the memories?”
“It happens. Usually, it’s caused by the subconscious mind’s attempt to protect the conscious mind from a severe emotional trauma. What have these last seven years been like for Angie?”
“They’ve been great, at least mostly. We’ve both been through a lot, but we’ve also had a lot of really good times.” Rollie looked over at Angie’s door thoughtfully. “It is strange, though. The last thing Angie remembers is an incident that happened shortly before her father was killed.”
“Hmm. That is interesting. I think that it would be wise to have a psychologist speak to Angie. But I also want to run some more tests, do another CT scan.”
Rollie nodded. He met the doctor’s eyes. “Doctor Riker, in my wife’s mind, she is still eighteen years old. Other than her dad’s death, she knows of nothing that’s happened in these past seven years--including our marriage. We weren’t even in a romantic relationship back then.”
“Until I feel that she’s ready to be told, I’d appreciate it if you’d make sure everyone on the staff knows not to call her Mrs. Tyler or refer in any way to our relationship as husband and wife. And even more importantly, don’t say anything about the baby.”
Riker nodded. “I agree that would be for the best at this time. It’s going to take her a while to adjust to things, and too many shocking revelations wouldn’t be good.” They started walking back toward Angie’s room. “We’ll let her rest for the rest of the night. In the morning, we can start running the tests. I will contact a psychologist for Angie to speak with.”
Rollie watched the doctor leave, then turned toward the door to his wife’s room, thinking about what the next few days were going to bring. How was he going to keep the knowledge of their marriage a secret? It wasn’t going to be easy. He’d wanted to kiss her ever since she awoke.
The Aussie looked down at his wedding band. Regretfully, he removed it and slipped it into his pants pocket. Fortunately, Angie’s ring had been removed by the people who treated her injuries and put with the rest of her belongings, so he didn’t have to worry about that.
It was going to be tough getting though this. Angie was going to need a lot of support until her memory returned. But what if it never returned? What if the last seven years of their lives together were gone forever? How was she going to handle that? How was he going to handle it?
Not wanting to think about that terrible possibility, Rollie took
a deep, steadying breath, squared his shoulders, and opened the door.
Angie looked up at Rollie as he came through the door, again struck by how much older he looked than what she remembered. Well, it had been seven years. She probably looked quite a bit older too. Angie frowned, not sure that she was prepared for the sight of her own face.
“Hey there, sweetie. Are you feeling better?” Rollie asked gently as he came up to the bed. He sat down in the chair and took her hand. His other hand came up and brushed away the wetness on her cheeks.
“I . . . I guess so. The nurse came back and put me on pain killers.” She fell silent for several seconds. “It’s just so hard for me to believe that he’s gone, been gone for seven years.” Angie felt her tears returning as she spoke about her father’s death. Rollie saw them and got up, moving around to the right side of the bed.
“Scoot over,” he told her.
“Scoot over,” the Aussie repeated.
Angie slid across the bed a little. Rollie raised the bed to a sitting position and settled on it beside her. He then held his arms out to her. Hesitating only a moment, Angie went into them, resting her head on Rollie’s chest. His arms went around her, one hand going to her hair. All at once, Angie felt safe and loved. It felt so right to be held like this by him, not the least bit awkward, as if her body was used to it. Angie snuggled deeper into him, laying her hand on his stomach.
“How did it happen?” she asked in a low voice.
Rollie remained silent for a moment, trying to decide the best way to tell her. Haltingly, he described the events that took her father’s life.
“It was Breen’s fault,” Angie said, anger now in her voice. “Dad told him that it was too dangerous, but he wouldn’t listen. I hope the bastard paid for it.”
Rollie paused. “I’m sorry, Angie, but he didn’t. The movie was shut down, and there was an investigation, but Breen was cleared of wrongdoing, though he did get a ‘black eye’, so to speak, in the industry. It took him a while to get out from under the shadow of Manny’s death.”
Angie lifted her head and stared at Rollie, her rage building. “You mean he got away with it?”
“Yeah. But it . . . well, it finally caught up to him in the end.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s dead, Ange. Murdered. And, for a while, you were the prime suspect.”
Angie’s eyes widened. “I was?”
Rollie explained the events of Nick Breen’s death, how the killer used Angie’s history with Breen, framing her for the murder.
“I can’t say I’m sorry he’s dead,” Angie remarked. “So, what happened after Dad died? We’re apparently still in the business.”
“Manny willed the company to me, and I took it over.”
Angie nodded. “It doesn’t surprise me that Dad did that. He was going to make you a partner, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. But I didn’t find that out until years later.”
“What about me?”
“You went to college and studied computer science and graphics, graduated with honors, second in your class,” Rollie told her proudly.
Angie smiled at the pride in his voice. “Then I went to work with you?”
“Are we partners?”
“We are now, though that’s a, um, fairly recent development. But then, I always did think of you as more of a partner than an assistant.”
“So, how’s business?”
“Well, we haven’t won any Oscars yet, but we’re doing pretty good,” Rollie said with a grin. “Though you’d be happy if we did less of the guts and gore movies so that you wouldn’t need a shower curtain anymore.”
Rollie laughed, telling her about the incident while filming Eye of the Dragon when she got sprayed with fake blood and their resulting conversation about her using a shower curtain. He was delighted when Angie laughed at the story.
“It sounds like we’ve had fun,” she murmured, laying her head back down on Rollie’s chest.
“Yeah, we have had fun, Ange. It’s been a great seven years. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Angie looked up at Rollie upon hearing the fervor in his voice. He met her eyes, smiling into them tenderly. Angie felt something stir inside her, a feeling she hadn’t known since her crush on Rollie when she was a child. Surprised by the feeling, Angie pushed it to the back of her mind.
“So, are you still hanging around with Leo McCarthy?” she asked.
A deep sorrow filled Rollie’s face. “He’s dead,” he said in a low voice.
“Oh, Rollie. I’m so sorry. I know that he was a good friend.”
“Yeah, he was. He was my mate.” The sadness deepened even more. “Rick’s gone too.”
“Oh no.” Angie’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of the pain Rollie must have suffered over losing two of his closest friends. “Do you want to tell me about it?”
Haltingly, Rollie told Angie about Rick’s death, then Leo’s.
“Then you were still getting involved in police matters all those years?” Angie asked.
“What about now?”
“Still am, though, now, it’s Leo’s partner, Francis Gatti, and a woman detective named Mira Sanchez whom I work with. Then there’s the occasional case with the FBI.”
Angie shook her head. “I doubt I was very thrilled with that.”
Rollie gave a short laugh. “You’ve got that right. You were never happy with my, um, ‘moonlighting’. That reminds me. I never called Frank and Mira to tell them about the accident. I’m going to have to do that. They’ll want to visit you.”
Angie made a face. “That’s going to be weird, talking to people who know me when I don’t know them.”
“It’ll be all right, Ange. You’ll like Frank and Mira. They’re good people.” He fished a photo out of his wallet. “Here they are.”
Angie looked at the picture, which was of Rollie standing between a short, dark-haired man and a beautiful Hispanic woman, his arms draped over their shoulders. Angie felt a prick of jealousy upon seeing how pretty the policewoman was.
“She’s pretty,” she said, trying to sound casual.
“Yeah, she is, though she’s got a fiery temper when she’s provoked.”
“Does she have a family?”
“Divorced, no kids.”
“Oh.” Angie was tempted to ask Rollie if he was involved with Mira, but decided that she didn’t want to know. Instead, she laid her head back down on the Aussie’s chest.
Rollie gazed down at her. “You should get some sleep, Ange. We’ll have all day tomorrow to catch up on things.”
“I am kind of tired,” Angie admitted.
Rollie got up and lowered the bed to a reclining position. He bent over and gave Angie a kiss on the forehead. “Sleep tight, sweetie. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Night, Rol,” Angie mumbled, already falling asleep.
Rollie stayed until Angie was asleep. He then gathered up the bag that held Angie’s personal belonging and left the room.
Back at the loft, Rollie pulled out the contents of the bag. In a ziplock bag at the bottom of the pile were Angie’s watch and wedding ring. The Aussie gazed at the ring. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to delay telling Angie about their marriage for long. Chances were that, if the tests they were going to run tomorrow didn’t show any problems, the hospital would discharge her within a couple of days. Rollie would then have no choice but to tell Angie the truth. She’d figure out for herself that they were romantically involved as soon as she learned that they lived together in the loft.
Rollie still didn’t know how he was going to tell her. ‘By the way, Angie. I thought I should mention that we’re married. Oh, and you’re also pregnant. Surprise, surprise.’
The Aussie grimaced. “This isn’t going to be easy.” Then he thought of something else. What was he going to tell her about Loubar? The thought of telling her about what the assassin did to her made Rollie feel sick. How could he possibly break that news to her?
Rollie took off the necklace he wore and removed the medallion from the leather thong. He then slipped his wedding band and Angie’s onto the thong and retied it around his neck. Gazing at the two bands, now side by side, Rollie thought about what they represented to him. If Angie never regained her memory, could they ever rebuild the relationship that had formed between them in the months since the rape? Angie had been a different person at eighteen, and she hadn’t been in love with him. Would that love grow again?
Sighing, Rollie went over to the phone and called Francis.
“Hey, Rollie. What’s happening?” the detective asked.
“There was an accident on the set today. Angie was hurt. She’s in the hospital.”
“Oh no! How is she?”
“A broken arm and a concussion. It could have been a lot worse.”
“Thank God it wasn’t.”
“Um, there is one problem, though.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Angie can’t remember anything that’s happened over the last seven years.”
There was a long moment of silence. “You’re joking,” Frank finally said.
“I wish I was. As far as Angie’s memory is concerned, it’s 1991.”
“Holy cow! But then that means that she doesn’t remember you’re married. Uh oh. What about the baby?”
“‘Uh oh’ is stating it mildly, Francis. I didn’t tell Angie about us or the baby. She was overwhelmed enough when I had to tell her that her father was dead.”
“You can’t keep it a secret forever, Rollie,” Frank said.
“I know. I’ll have to tell her before she gets out of the hospital.”
“When will that be?”
“They want to run some more tests to make sure they didn’t miss something the first time around, something that would explain Angie’s memory loss. The doctor also suspects that the memory problem might be psychological, so a psychologist will be coming to talk to Angie.”
“Knowing Angie, she’s not going to like that.”
“No, she’s not,” Rollie agreed.
“What do the doctors say about her memory coming back?”
“That it’s very likely it will return.”
“That’s good news. I’d like to stop by and see her tomorrow, if you think that would be okay.”
“Yeah, that would be great. But you have to be sure not to let slip anything about the baby or the marriage.”
“Not a problem. Have you told Mira yet?”
“No. I’ll be calling her next.”
“Well, good luck, Rollie. I really hope that Angie gets her memory back soon.”
“So do I, Frank. I miss my wife.”
Rollie called Mira next, explaining everything to her. She said that she’d visit Angie with Frank in the morning.
That night, Rollie lay in bed, alone in the darkness, staring up at the ceiling. The ache of not having Angie there beside him was making it impossible to sleep. He missed her desperately. He’d grown so accustomed to feeling her warm body next to him, her soft skin against his. He wanted nothing more than to go back over to the hospital and curl up with her in her bed. Rollie smiled at what Angie would say if he did that.
An unsettling thought sobered him. What were they going to do about the sleeping arrangements once Angie got out of the hospital? Chances are that she’d feel pretty uncomfortable sharing a bed with him. That realization sent a sharp pain stabbing through him. He thought about the other room, the one that was Angie’s bedroom years ago when she’d lived in the loft with Manny. Up until their marriage, it had been a storage room. It had been cleaned out to make room for Angie’s things from her apartment. After Angie found out that she was pregnant, they began converting it into a nursery. It wouldn’t be hard to put a bed in there. In fact, he still had Angie’s old mattress and box springs tucked away in the garage area, and the frame was probably there too. He was now glad that they kept the bed.
Feeling sad and lonely, Rollie closed his eyes and tried to get to
sleep. It was the wee small hours of the morning before sleep finally
When Rollie walked into Angie’s room, it was to be greeted by the sight of his wife’s pale and sweaty face.
“Angie, are you all right?” he asked in concern.
“No. I’m sick to my stomach. I just finished throwing up a few minutes ago,” she told him. “I don’t know what caused it. Maybe I caught a flu bug from another patient.”
“I hope not. That’s the last thing you need right now.” He brushed the sweat-dampened hair from her forehead. “Would you like me to get you something to settle your stomach?”
Rollie tracked down a nurse and told her what was going on. “Do you have anything you could give her for nausea?”
“I’m sure I can find something,” the nurse assured him. “Do you want me to page a doctor for her?”
“No. Let’s just wait to see if it clears up. If it doesn’t, then we can talk to a doctor.”
Rollie returned to the room. A few minutes later, the nurse came in with some tablets, which Angie gratefully accepted. Rollie quietly talked with her until the nausea receded.
“Feeling better?” he asked.
“Yeah, much better. Whatever she gave me works pretty good.” Angie looked intently at him. “Rol, I want to know about my memory loss. In movies and TV, people with amnesia usually recover their memories in time. I don’t know how accurate that is, but. . . . I am going to get my memory back, aren’t I?”
Rollie took Angie’s hand. “I . . . I don’t know, Ange. The doctor said it was very likely that you would, that memory loss is usually only temporary, but . . . there are no guarantees. I’m sorry.”
Angie’s eyes dropped from his. “It’s so strange. In my mind, I’m eighteen years old. I don’t remember what it’s like to be older than that.” She returned her gaze to Rollie. “Did I change in those seven years? Am I a different person?”
“In some ways, yes, you did change. That’s only natural. You’ve had a lot of experiences in those years, things that altered your perspective and viewpoints. But, in other ways, you’re exactly the same as you’ve always been.”
“In what ways am I the same?”
Rollie smiled. “You’re still brilliant, one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. You’ve still got the same fire and drive, that refusal to let anyone push you around. You love to have fun as much as you ever did. When you’re playing a video game or something else like that, you’re as unrestrained as you ever were.” His smile grew teasing. “You’re as opinionated and stubborn as ever, that’s for sure. And you’ve still got that temper.” The smile became tender. “Your heart hasn’t changed. It’s still warm and generous. You’re just as ready to do battle for the people you care about as you always were.”
Angie thought a moment about Rollie’s description of her. She had to admit that he’d been pretty accurate, though some of the things she hated to admit were true. Rollie thought she was warm, generous, and brilliant? Angie smiled inwardly at that, pleased that he thought of her that way. “So, in what ways am I different?” she asked him.
“Well, I think you’re more pragmatic. I mean, you were never what I’d call idealistic, but any illusions you had about the world and life in general have pretty much disappeared. Which, by the way, is pretty strange considering that you still insist on believing in all that stuff about aliens, ghosts, and the like. Now, I’m not saying that you don’t still have your dreams, because you do, but your dreams are ones that at least have some chance of becoming a reality. I’d say that you’re more comfortable with yourself now, more satisfied with who you are. You’ve grown up a lot in these years, especially since you left college and started working full time. In the beginning, you . . . well, you could be a real pain in the butt at times, especially when it came to my private life. But that changed a lot as we continued working together, most notably within that first year.”
“What about us?” Angie asked. “How has our relationship changed in these years?”
For a moment, Rollie panicked, not knowing what he was going to say and still manage to avoid telling Angie that they were married. Then he decided to stick with the way things were between them before Victor Loubar changed their lives forever.
“Well, during the time that you were in college, we weren’t quite as close as we were before. You had your college friends, your school work. We’d still see each other, but it was usually only every other weekend or so.” Rollie tried to keep the regret and sadness out of his voice, but knew he hadn’t entirely succeeded.
“I’m sorry, Rol,” Angie said quietly. “I don’t remember what I was thinking or feeling back then, but I know that I would still have cherished your friendship. I’m sorry if I hurt you or made you feel left behind.”
Rollie shook his head. “It’s all right, Ange. You were a college girl with a whole new world to live in. I did understand. I just . . . missed you.” He put a smile on his face. “But that all changed when you graduated and came to work with me. Then we saw plenty of each other.”
“I bet you grew sick of the sight of me sometimes.”
“Never,” Rollie said emphatically. “I love working with you, being with you. We’re a great team, Ange. The best. When we put our heads together, whether it’s for a gag or to put some bad guy away, it’s like magic, like two pieces of a puzzle fitting together. We can almost do the impossible. In fact, we have done the impossible, or at least what others thought was impossible.”
Angie smiled, Rollie’s words making her feel good.
“We’ve been though a lot of things in these years,” Rollie told her. “We’ve both been hurt; we’ve both suffered. But, through it all, the one thing that both of us could always count on was each other. You’ve always been there for me, Angie, and I’d like to think that I’ve been there for you. You’re still my best friend in the world.”
Angie looked into Rollie’s eyes, feeling her throat tighten. “You’ll always be my best friend too,” she murmured.
Rollie leaned forward and gathered Angie into his arms. They held each other tightly for a long, silent moment. As they drew apart, Rollie kissed Angie’s forehead, then looked deeply into her eyes, resting his brow against hers.
“You know I love you, don’t you?” he asked softly.
“Yeah. I love you too, Rol.”
The Aussie gave her a gentle smile. “We’re going to get through this, Angel. No matter what, we’ll be okay.”
Angie nodded. “I know we will, Rollie.”
At that moment, the door opened. They turned to see Frank and Mira walk in.
“Hey there!” Rollie greeted happily.
“Hi, Rollie,” Frank said with a smile. He looked at Angie, his smile growing a bit hesitant. He stepped up to the bed. “Um . . . hi, I’m Frank Gatti. I guess Rollie’s told you a little bit about me.”
“Not really,” Angie told him. “He only told me that he works with you like he did with Leo. Oh, and that you’re ‘good people’.”
Frank shook his head slightly. “This is really weird. I’ve known you and Rollie since I partnered with Leo. It’s strange thinking that you don’t remember me.”
“It’s strange for me too,” Angie told him. “I guess that, until I get my memory back, I’ll just have to get to know you all over again.”
Angie turned to the other woman in the room. Mira Sanchez was even prettier in real life than she was in the photo. Her flawless complexion, high cheekbones, luminous eyes, perfect lips, and shapely figure made Angie feel inadequate. How could she compete with someone who looked like that? It wouldn’t be surprising if Rollie was in a relationship with this woman.
Trying to ignore how miserable that thought made her feel, Angie put a smile on her face as Mira came forward.
“Hello, I’m Mira Sanchez,” the policewoman greeted. “I haven’t known you and Rollie as long as Frank has, but we’ve still gotten to be pretty good friends, which was rather surprising considering that I’d never have thought that would happen when we first met.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” Angie asked, curious about how Mira had come into their lives.
“Well, when we first met, Mira was positive that I was dirty,” Rollie informed her with a grin.
“Nope. She was definitely out to get me.” The Aussie’s grin widened.
Mira turned to him. “I was just doing my job, Rollie. The evidence seemed to point to you, Francis, and Leo being involved in illegal activities.”
“Whoa. Wait a minute. You thought all three of them were crooked?” Angie said in surprise. She laughed. “I bet Leo was pissed.”
Silence descended on the room like a lead weight. An expression of sorrow filled the faces of Rollie and Frank.
“Mira was with Internal Affairs, Angie. She came in to investigate Leo’s death,” the Aussie explained.
“Oh.” Angie struggled for something to say. “I’m sorry, Rol. I didn’t realize.”
“I know you didn’t. When I told you how Leo died, I didn’t include all the stuff about the investigation, that Leo and Frank were suspected of being dirty cops, and that I was believed to be in cahoots with them.”
Rollie went on to explain everything to her, how he met Mira, his flight from the law, his attempts to find evidence to clear Leo, Frank, and himself. The two cops filled in details here and there.
Angie turned to Mira. “So, you ended up believing him, huh?”
The cop nodded. “After Sarah Gatti told us about the man who tried to kill Frank and what Rollie did, I began to suspect that we had it all wrong. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“So, are you still with Internal Affairs?”
“No, I was transferred out of I.A. I’m back to being a detective. I don’t regret it. I’ve had a whole lot more excitement in my life since I met this guy,” she pointed a thumb at Rollie, “than I could ever have gotten in I.A.”
“I’m so glad I kept you from getting bored, Mira,” the Aussie said sarcastically.
Mira grinned at him, and Rollie grinned back, sending another spasm of jealousy through Angie.
Just then, one of the nurses came in. “We’re going to be taking Angie for her CT scan now,” she announced.
“I guess that’s our clue to leave,” Frank said. “We’ll come back and visit again tomorrow, that is if you’re still going to be here, Angie.”
“I probably will be,” the blonde responded with a sigh.
As an orderly came in to put Angie in a wheelchair, Rollie went out into the corridor with Frank and Mira. Once Angie had left for her scan, he accompanied the two cops down to their car.
“So, what are you going to do, Rollie?” Mira asked. “How long are you going to wait to tell her about your marriage and the baby?”
Rollie sighed. “I don’t know. I’ll have to tell her before she gets out of the hospital. I just don’t know how I’m going to break it to her. It’s going to be one hell of a shock.”
“I’m sure she’ll handle it fine, Rollie,” Frank commented. “After all, she’s still the woman who fell in love with you.”
“Yeah, but I can’t help but wonder how much her feelings toward me were shaped by the things we experienced in those years. If we’d lived an ordinary life, would she still have fallen in love with me?”
“I think she would,” Francis replied. “Some people are just meant for each other. It doesn’t matter how they met, how much time they knew each other, or what they went through. You and Angie are right for each other. That was true even before you woke up to the fact that you were in love with each other.”
Rollie smiled in amusement. “I didn’t realize that you were a romantic, Francis.”
“It comes from living ten years with a woman I adore, Rollie.”
The Aussie nodded. He said goodbye to the detectives, then went back to Angie’s room. As he waited for his wife, he thought about what Frank had said. In his heart, he did believe that he and Angie were meant for each other. She was his perfect mate, everything he could want in a woman and more. Ever since Angie reached adulthood, every time he dated, he had subconsciously compared them to her, and not one of them had equaled her. He hadn’t even realized he was doing that, not until years later when the truth of his feelings toward Angie became apparent. Only one other woman in his life had captured his heart, Taya Kwan. Taya had been a complete opposite from Angie, in appearance and manner. Thinking about it now, Rollie knew that, though he had loved Taya, he would eventually have realized that she wasn’t the right woman for him, even if they had stayed together. There was only one woman for him . . . and she’d been right there beside him the entire time.
After Angie returned, they talked more about some of the cases they had worked on with the police. Rollie avoided all mention of Victor Loubar. That was a subject that he was not going to bring up until he had no choice.
Doctor Riker came in about an hour after Angie had gotten the CT scan.
“The scan is still coming back clean,” he told them. “I am even more inclined to believe that this memory loss has a psychological cause. Have you discussed speaking to a psychologist?”
“A psychologist? What are you talking about?” Angie asked, her eyes narrowing as they turned to Rollie. The Aussie suddenly had a fervent desire to be anywhere but there.
“Uh . . . Doctor Riker, could you give us a moment alone?” he asked.
Riker frowned in puzzlement. “Yes, I can come back in an hour or so. The doctor I consulted with will not be here until this afternoon anyway.”
Once the doctor was gone, Rollie took a deep breath. “Um, okay, Angie. Here’s the deal. The doctor thinks that you might be blocking your memories for some reason,” he explained, trying not to cringe at what he knew was coming.
“You think I’m doing this on purpose?” Angie asked, nearly shouting.
“No, no! Not on purpose. He thinks it might be like it is when people go through a traumatic ordeal, like witnessing the brutal death of a loved one, and block it out of their conscious mind because it’s too painful to remember.”
“That is so stupid, Rollie. I cannot believe you think I could be that . . . that emotionally fragile. It’s insulting. From what you’ve told me so far, it sounds like I’ve been in a lot of dangerous situations. Why would this one incident cause my mind to blank out seven years of my life?”
Rollie dropped his gaze to his hands. “Maybe . . . maybe it has to do with your dad’s death,” he said quietly.
“What do you mean?”
Rollie met her eyes. “He died in an explosion, Angie, an explosion on a movie set. You got hurt in an explosion on a movie set. Is it just a coincidence that you can’t remember anything from right before the moment of your dad’s death?”
Angie didn’t say anything to that. She just stared off at the wall across the room, a frown on her face.
“I don’t know if he’s right, Angie. All I’m saying is that we need to consider it. We need to do everything we can to get your memories back. Please, just consider it, okay?”
Angie heard the pleading in Rollie’s voice. With a sigh, she turned back to him. “All right. I’ll talk to a psychologist, but I don’t have to like it.”
Rollie smiled in relief. “Thanks, Ange. And I want you to know that I don’t think you’re fragile in any way whatsoever. You’re the strongest person I know.”
When Doctor Riker returned, they told him that Angie had agreed to see a psychologist. An appointment was set up for that afternoon with a Doctor Barnes.
After Riker left, Rollie went off to get lunch. As he headed
for the restaurant, his mind was filled with what that afternoon might
At two o’clock, a tall, buxom African American woman came into Angie’s room.
“Hello. I’m Rachel Barnes,” she said. She held her hand out to Rollie, who shook it. “You must be Mister Tyler.” She turned to Angie. “Hi. May I call you Angela?”
Deciding she liked the woman’s warm, genuine smile, Angie nodded. “I like Angie better, though. Almost nobody calls me Angela,” she glanced at Rollie, grinning, “unless they’re pissed off at me.”
The psychologist laughed. “Angie it is then.”
“And please don’t call me Mister Tyler,” the Aussie added. “It’s Rollie.”
“Good, and both of you please call me Rachel.” The psychologist pulled up the other chair and sat down. She pulled out a notepad from her briefcase. “So, I understand you have a bit of a problem with your memory,” she said to Angie.
“That’s an understatement,” the blonde replied.
“You had an accident on a movie set, an explosion of some kind?”
Rollie filled the woman in on what happened. The psychologist nodded, taking notes. She then focused her attention on Angie. “Doctor Riker told me that you woke up with no memory of the past seven years. Is this true?”
“Yeah. I remember nothing at all of those years,” Angie confirmed. “It’s a complete blank.”
“What is the last thing you remember clearly?”
Angie gave a detailed account of the warehouse gag and her father’s argument with Nick Breen.
“I get the feeling that this moment is significant,” Rachel commented.
“Yeah, it is,” Rollie told her. “Angie’s . . .” he glanced at his wife, “Angie’s father died less than an hour later. He was killed doing the thing he’d said was too dangerous.”
An expression of interest grew on Rachel’s face. “Hmm. How exactly did he die?”
Hating to do so again in Angie’s presence, Rollie told the psychologist about the explosion and subsequent fire. He looked over at Angie and saw that her eyes were bright with unshed tears. He reached out and took her hand.
Rachel noticed Angie’s distress. “I’m sorry, Angie. That must have been very difficult for you.” She looked at Rollie. “Did Angie witness her father’s death?”
“Yeah. We both did,” Rollie whispered. And, afterwards, he’d been the one who had to identify the body--what was left of it. That had been something he could not let Angie go through.
“I believe that this is very significant,” Rachel said. She turned to Angie. “The correlation between the two incidents, the death of your father and your own accident, is too close to ignore. The subconscious mind is a strange and mysterious thing. It may very well be that when you were caught in that explosion, your subconscious related it to the explosion that took your father’s life--a very traumatic and emotionally painful event for you--and took action to prevent more emotional trauma to your conscious mind.”
“So, how do I convince my subconscious mind to give back my memories?” Angie asked.
Rachel smiled. “Well, I’m afraid that you can’t reason with it like a recalcitrant child.” Her smile faded. “We could recover the memories with hypnosis, but I’d prefer to allow them to return on their own. The first step is to go home, immerse yourself in a safe environment.” She turned to Rollie. “Have you been telling Angie about things that have happened during these years?”
The Aussie nodded.
“Good. Keep doing that. It would be best to focus mostly on happy incidents or things with a good outcome.”
“That’s it? That’s all you want us to do?” Angie asked in surprise.
“To begin with, yes. If, after a week or so, you show no signs of regaining your memories, we can begin to take a more aggressive approach.”
“So, you really think that I’ll get my memories back?” Angie asked hopefully.
“Absolutely. If all else fails, we have the hypnosis to fall back on. I have never failed to recover repressed memories through hypnosis.”
Both Angie and Rollie smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Rachel. That’s really good news,” the Aussie said.
The psychologist rose. She handed Rollie her card. “Give me a call in a week and let me know what progress you’ve made.” She wished them both goodbye. Rollie accompanied her out into the hall.
“Rachel, I want to ask you about the, um, situation with the marriage. Doctor Riker probably told you that everyone’s been keeping it a secret from Angie that we’re married and that she’s pregnant. With everything that Angie’s had to deal with, the death of her father and such, I thought it would be best to wait until things had settled down a little before dropping that bomb on her.”
Rachel nodded. “I take it that you two were not involved seven years ago.”
“No. I’ve known Angie since she was eleven. We’ve always been friends, like family. The romantic facet of our relationship didn’t develop until a year ago.”
“I see. I can’t really say that it would be bad for Angie to learn of your marriage and her pregnancy at this time, though I’m sure it would be quite a shock, especially considering that she presently has the emotional development of an eighteen-year-old. To wait another couple of days or so would give her more of a chance to adapt to her situation and relax a bit. But you don’t want to wait too long, Rollie. It would be far better for her to find out from you than accidentally. She would very likely be resentful and angry if she found out from another source and realized that you were keeping something that important from her. Besides, learning of the happiness of your marriage would be even more of an encouragement to her subconscious mind to release those memories.”
Rollie nodded. “Thanks for your help, Rachel. I’m glad we talked with you.”
Rollie went back into Angie’s room. She was lying back, looking up at the ceiling. When she heard him approach, her eyes went to him. He was surprised to see a look of melancholy on her face.
“Hey. What’s wrong, sweetie?” he asked, sitting on the bed beside her. “I’d think that you would be ecstatic, what with the good news Rachel just gave us.”
Angie sighed. “I am. I just. . . .”
Angie shook her head. “It’s nothing. I’m just being silly.”
“No you’re not, Ange. You’re obviously unhappy about something. What is it?”
“It’s just that. . . .” She signed again. “I . . . I don’t have anyone, do I.”
“Yeah. A, um, boyfriend, a romantic interest. If I did, he’d be here, wouldn’t he?”
Rollie swallowed, his heart rate increasing. “Do . . . do you want that?”
“I’m not really sure. I mean, when I was a kid, I thought about getting married and having children, but then, as I got older, I decided that I wanted to go to college and have a career instead. I decided that marriage and kids wasn’t something I really wanted at this time. I mean, um, that time. I wasn’t ready for it.”
Rollie experienced a painful, sinking feeling in his chest. With an effort, he kept his voice even. “And that’s the way you feel now?”
“I guess so. In my head, I’m eighteen years old, and at eighteen, I just wanted to be the best computer programmer and CGI expert I could be. But . . . well, it would be nice to know I have a boyfriend.”
Rollie couldn’t say anything. The ache in his throat was too great. Angie didn’t want a husband or kids. She wouldn’t welcome the news that she was married to him and expecting their first child. It was the very thing he’d feared, one of the main reasons why he hadn’t told her about them. Rollie tried to pull back from the sorrow he was sinking into by reminding himself that Angie would eventually regain her memories of their life together, but it only partially helped. The fear of how this was going to affect their relationship was back full force.
“Rol, what’s wrong?”
Startled out of his thoughts, Rollie looked up at Angie. He hadn’t realized that he’d lapsed into a long silence.
“Nothing,” he said. “I was just thinking about things. I have to keep reminding myself that, as far as you’re concerned, you’re only eighteen years old.” He forced a smile on his face. “I guess I must seem ancient to you now. You were always teasing me about the difference in our ages. Now, I’m like sixteen years older than you--or, rather what you think of yourself as being. Looked at that way, I’m almost old enough to be your father.” That thought depressed Rollie even more.
Angie snorted. “Trust me, Rollie. I don’t look upon you as a father-figure.” She studied his face, clearly able to see that he was trying to hide the fact that he was upset. Until now, she hadn’t even considered how hard all of this was on him. He’d lost something too. He’d lost the friend she had become in those seven years. He’d lost his work partner, the woman who’d been by his side throughout all the movies and other things they’d done together. That’s when it hit her. He missed her. She was here with him, but he still missed her. And he was also feeling unsure of their relationship.
“Hey,” she said, taking hold of his hand. “It’s still me, Rol. I know I don’t remember the way things were between us before the accident. I know I don’t remember what it’s like to work with you side by side each day. I don’t remember the joy and pain we went through together. But I’m still here, Rollie. I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me, no matter what. And even if I never got my memories back, we’d still have each other. We would just have to make new memories together.” She gave him an encouraging smile. “And, for your information, I don’t think of you as some old guy. Yeah, you have a few more lines in your face than what I remember, but that doesn’t matter to me.”
Rollie smiled. “Yeah, but just wait until some twenty-year-old studmuffin goes walking by you on the street.”
Angie looked at Rollie closely. He’d made the comment teasingly, but she sensed that it wasn’t a joke to him. She couldn’t believe that Rollie was actually feeling insecure. Women were constantly coming onto him. It was true that, most of the time, he didn’t take them up on their sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle offers, but she’d always figured that he was secure in the knowledge that he was attractive to the opposite sex. Not that she thought he was conceited. Far from it. He showed no conceit over his looks at all, seeming not to care most of the time how good he looked. Could she have been wrong about his self-image all these years?
“Now, what would I want with some twenty-year-old kid?” Angie said, deciding not to directly address the issue of Rollie himself. “I remember what it was like in high school, and most of the guys my age were way too immature for my tastes. Besides, though I may think of myself as an eighteen-year-old, I’m really twenty-six. I’d want a mature adult.”
“Well, that’s a relief, though I bet any twenty-year-old would fall all over himself to be with you.”
Angie’s eyes widened at the same time as Rollie blushed. He had never said anything like that to her before. There had been times when he told her she looked nice, like when she got dressed up for the prom, but he’d never made such a bold statement as what he’d just said. Was this part of the way their relationship had changed over the years she couldn’t remember? Were they more open and freer with the compliments? She wished she knew.
“Um . . . thank you. That’s nice of you to say.”
Rollie shrugged, his blush receding. “It’s just the truth.”
Angie decided to give Rollie’s ego a boost, which he seemed to need right now. “Well, I know of a few twenty-year-olds who’d probably fall all over themselves to be with you too, Rol,” she informed him. “In fact, there were some of the girls in school who gave you the eye every time you came there to pick me up. One in particular, Becky Morrison, kept going on and on incessantly about how hot you were.”
Rollie’s blush returned full force, spreading from his cheeks out across his whole face. He ducked his head, staring with sudden intensity at the floor between his feet. Angie wanted to smile at the sight, thinking he looked adorable.
“And I bet that Mira Sanchez would love to do more with you than just solve crimes and catch bad guys,” she continued, her body abruptly growing tense. What if Rollie confirmed that there was a thing between him and the detective?
The Aussie’s gaze shot up to hers, his head shaking emphatically. “There’s nothing between Mira and I, Angie. Nothing. I’ll admit that I was a little attracted to her in the beginning, after that whole misunderstanding was over, but that’s as far as it went.”
Angie relaxed, feeling relieved and delighted. But her relief was short-lived. Okay, so there was nothing going on between Rollie and Mira, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a girlfriend.
“So, what’s your love life been like these past seven years?” she blurted out, then immediately wished that she could disappear into a hole somewhere. What had possessed her to ask a question like that?
Rollie’s eyes had widened as far as possible, and it looked like he was going to choke on his own tongue. He coughed and cleared his throat. “Angie, that . . . that’s a pretty personal question.”
The Aussie was panicking again. He had to get out of answering this question. He couldn’t possibly answer her without either telling her about their relationship or lying to her face.
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I had no business asking that. Please forget I did.” Ashamed, Angie looked away from him.
Rollie watched her, his panic being replaced by the desire to dispel her discomfort. “It’s okay, Ange. I’ll tell you what. One of these days, you and I will have a talk about this. I’ll tell you about the loves in my life, and then I’ll tell you about the guys you’ve been involved with--though I have to admit that some of those guys were real losers.” He grinned mischievously.
Angie raised her eyes to his. “Are you accusing me of having bad taste in men?” she asked, trying to sound offended.
“No, not always, but there were a few, like Mister Pretty Boy Model. I mean, puleeaasse. A blind date? I’d thought you knew better.”
“Blind date? I went on a blind date? What possessed me to do that?”
“I think Lucinda talked you into that one.”
Rollie smiled and told her about the actress who’d come into their lives under terrible circumstances and ended up becoming one of their dearest friends.
“She sounds like someone I’d like,” Angie remarked.
“Yeah, you guys became good friends. You taught her how to use those inline skates you always go around in.”
Angie grinned. “I still use them?”
“Oh yeah. You just about live in them.”
“So, how come Lucinda hasn’t come to visit?”
“She lives in LA now, moved there last year. She comes to visit us when she can. We both miss her. Luce is . . . well, she’s Luce. There’s no other way to describe her.” An affectionate smile came to his lips.
“Did you ever date her?” Oops. There she was asking those questions again. Why did she keep doing that?
Rollie didn’t seem to mind this time, though. “No. I did have a, um, crush on her when we first met and I thought she was this Jennifer she was pretending to be, but that passed pretty quickly.” His eyes grew sad. “Luce fell in love with Rick. She was there when he died.”
“Oh no. God, that must have been horrible for her.” Angie thought about what she’d feel if she saw Rollie die.
The Aussie nodded. “She was a mess for a while afterwards, but Lucinda’s a trouper. She may be a little ditsy at times, but she’s strong, and she bounces back fast. She and Rick were a good pair, though. I think she was the only woman Rick ever actually fell in love with. If he’d lived. . . .” Rollie didn’t finish the thought, not wanting to dwell on the loss of another good friend.
Angie reached out and touched his cheek. The Aussie met her gaze.
“I’m so sorry you’ve lost your friends like that, Rollie,” she said. “I hope. . . . Is your dad still alive?”
Rollie nodded. “Yeah, Dad’s still out there, getting himself into trouble, no doubt. He’s visited a few times in the last three years. Things are better between us, though I still wish he’d settle down and stop his scamming and gambling.” He sighed. “But that’s not likely to happen any time soon.”
Deciding it was time to lighten the mood, they both switched to safer topics of discussion. Later that afternoon, Angie was taken for some more tests. Doctor Riker let them know a while later that these test results had also come back negative.
“I’d like to keep you here one more day for observation, but I think that we can let you go home on Friday,” he told Angie.
“Hey, that’s great,” Angie said, delighted at the thought of being out of the hospital.
“Yeah, that is great,” Rollie agreed, keeping his concern off his face and out of his voice. He only had one more day to try to figure out what he was going to do about telling Angie the truth.
That evening at home, Rollie thought about what was going to happen on Friday. How was he going to tell her? She’d made it clear that she didn’t want a husband and kids at this time. How was he going to break the news to her that she already did? Maybe he’d get lucky and Angie would regain her memories before Friday. Then everything would be fine--he hoped.
Rollie closed his eyes and rested his head against the backrest of the sofa. He’d thought about letting Angie believe that she’d lived in the loft with him in a platonic relationship, but there were too many things that would give their real relationship away. He could have set up the soon-to-be nursery to make it look like it was Angie’s bedroom, but they’d already started decorating the room in preparation for the new arrival. Rollie smiled at the memory of the fun they’d had doing that. Angie had been so happy about the baby. . . . The Aussie shook his head, pushing that thought away.
The trouble with setting up the room wasn’t the only problem. There was also the fact that there were clues everywhere that Rollie and Angie were a couple. There were all the photos that had been taken of them together, from their wedding, the honeymoon, and the months since then. They’d all have to be hidden away where she couldn’t find them. Then there was the bedroom. Looking at it, any fool could see that a woman slept there. The feminine touches were obvious. Rollie’s plain, masculine bedcovers had been replaced with a fluffy blue quilt. The hardwood floor now had oriental rugs here and there. His old, battered chest of drawers had been replaced with a big, beautiful, mirrored bureau, matching night stands taking the place of the old ones. Then there was the bed itself. Rollie had gotten rid of the old one after he found out Loubar raped Angie in it. The one he’d bought to replace it was a plain, metal frame one. After they got married, that one was replaced with a bed that had a beautifully carved, spindled headboard and footboard. Rollie grinned upon recalling why they’d gotten that particular bed, what his wife had whispered in his ear at the furniture store about how handy the spindles would be during their lovemaking. They’d gotten good use out of that headboard and footboard in the six months since they bought the bed.
Rollie sobered. He would have to keep the bedroom door closed at all times to prevent Angie from seeing inside. But what would happen if Angie came knocking on the bedroom door to talk or if she went into the bedroom for one reason or another while he wasn’t in it? The chances of her seeing the bedroom were too great. The other feminine touches to the loft could be explained away since she’d supposedly been living there all this time, but not the ones to the bedroom.
The Aussie shook his head. No, there was no way that she could stay at the loft without being told that they were married. Rollie suddenly had a thought. What if she didn’t come to the loft? What if he could figure out a way to keep her away from here until he decided that the time was right to tell her the truth?
Rollie began foiming a plan. He remembered something that Frank had told him once and decided to call the detective.
“Hey, Rollie, what’s up?” Frank asked. “How’s Angie?”
“She’s doing good. The doctor said that they’ll probably release her on Friday.”
“That’s great news.”
“Why do I get the feeling that you’re less than thrilled about this?” the cop asked upon hearing the tone of the Aussie’s voice.
“I am looking forward to Angie getting out of the hospital, but. . . .”
“If she comes home, I’ll have to tell her that we’re married. I just can’t do that yet. So . . . I need to keep her out of the loft. I was thinking that I’d tell her I want to take her to a nice quiet place to relax for a while. You once told me about a great little Bed and Breakfast upstate. What was that place called?”
There was silence on the other end of the line, then, “Rollie, why are you doing this? Why don’t you want to tell Angie that you’re married?”
Rollie opened his mouth to give the same story about thinking it wasn’t the right time, but stopped. He slumped on the couch. “Because I’m scared,” he whispered. “I’m afraid of how she’s going to react. Today, we were talking about how she feels now, seeing as it’s like she’s eighteen again. She told me that she didn’t want a husband and kids, that she didn’t feel ready for that. How can I tell her now that she already has a husband and is pregnant?”
There was another short silence. “Rollie, what Angie told you is what she felt when she was eighteen. Of course she didn’t feel like she wanted a husband and kids at that age. Not many girls these days do when they’re that young.”
“You don’t understand, Frank. As far and Angie’s concerned, she is eighteen. That’s all she remembers. She has all the emotions and viewpoints of a teenager. Fortunately, she was a very mature teen, otherwise, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“What’s the prognosis of Angie regaining her memory?”
“The psychologist we talked to today said that Angie would get her memories back, that, if all else fails, we could try hypnosis. But it could be weeks before that happens. In the meantime, we’ve both got to live with things as they are.” Rollie couldn’t keep the depression out of his voice.
“I’m sorry this happened, Rollie. You two have been so happy lately, what with your marriage and the business with Loubar finally over. But this will pass. You will go back to your life together and planning for that baby.”
Rollie sighed. “I know, Frank. I guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself right now. My life was finally almost perfect, as perfect as it’s ever been, and then one freak accident turns it all upside down. God, I missed her last night. It was horrible.”
“I know what you mean. I hate the nights I don’t have Sarah with me. I never sleep well without her.” Frank paused. “If you really feel that you need to delay telling Angie about your marriage a few more days, then I can give you the name and phone number of that Bed and Breakfast.”
“Thanks, Francis. I really appreciate that.”
Phone number in hand, Rollie said goodbye to the detective and went
up to the bedroom. He looked over at the bed, remembering the nights
of passion he’d shared with Angie there, wondering how long it would be
before he’d know that joy again. He prayed that it would be soon.
Rollie walked into Angie’s room the next morning, only to hear her retching in the bathroom. Instantly concerned, he stood at the closed door, waiting for the sound to cease.
“Angie? Do you want me to get the doctor?” he asked, his worry evident in his voice.
“No, I’m okay,” Angie replied weakly.
“No, you’re not okay. Something’s making you sick.”
There was the sound of running water for a couple of minutes, then the door opened. Rollie took a look at Angie’s white face and gently led her back over to the bed, helping her get into it. He poured her a glass of water. She took it with a trembling hand.
“Angie, please let me page the doctor. He needs to take a look at you,” Rollie pleaded.
“It’s probably just something stupid. Maybe my stomach doesn’t like what they’re feeding me for breakfast. I felt just fine yesterday after the nurse gave me those pills. Then, bam, it hit me again this morning at just about the same time.” She took a deep breath. “I’m already starting to feel better, though.”
“Hmm. So, you’re only getting sick in the. . . .” Rollie’s voice died in his throat as the realization of what was wrong with Angie hit him. She was suffering from morning sickness. Up until now, she hadn’t experienced any. The Aussie silently cursed. Why, of all times, did this have to happen now?
Angie noticed the look that came to Rollie’s face. “What? What is it? You know what’s causing this, don’t you.”
An expression of sheer panic spread over Rollie’s features. He got up and went to the window, his back turned toward her.
“Rollie, what is it?” A terrible thought came to Angie. “Do I have cancer?”
Rollie spun around. “No! No, you don’t have cancer,” he hastily assured her.
“Then what is it?”
Rollie turned back to the window. It was all falling apart. His plans were crumbling before his eyes. There wasn’t going to be any time to prepare himself or Angie. He was going to have to tell her the truth now.
The Aussie swallowed, took a deep breath, and turned around to face Angie. She was staring at him with fear in her eyes.
“Angie, you’re sick because. . . .” His voice cracked. He stopped to regain control of himself. “God, this is even harder than I thought it would be,” he whispered. Taking another deep breath, he forced himself to continue. “You’re sick because you’re . . . pregnant.”
Angie’s eyes flew open wide, a sharp gasp leaving her throat. “P-p-pregnant?” she squeaked.
The Aussie tried to laugh at the comment, but it came out as more of a choking sound. “In the same way such things usually happen, Angela. I don’t think you’ve forgotten how that works.”
Ignoring his remark, Angie asked, “Who’s the father?”
Rollie’s gaze dropped to the floor, a blush rising to his face. Seeing his reaction, realization abruptly hit Angie with the force of a sledgehammer. The Aussie returned his gaze to her to see her eyes grow even larger than before.
“You?” she whispered.
“Yeah. Me, Ange,” Rollie confessed quietly.
Angie just sat staring at him for what seemed like forever, her mouth opening and closing several times as if seeking words to speak. With each passing second of silence, Rollie’s fear and anguish increased exponentially. He was waiting with dread for the words he was certain were going to come, words telling him that she was not happy with what he’d just told her. And, now, he had to drop the second bomb.
Coming forward, Rollie sat down in the chair beside the bed, careful not to touch her in any way. “There’s more, Angie. I know this isn’t something you want to hear, but. . . .” He reached into his shirt, removed the rings from around his neck, and held them out to Angie. She stared at the twin bands of gold.
“We’re married?” she asked, her voice still a hushed whisper.
Angie’s gaze returned to him. Reeling with the news, she was rendered speechless again.
“I’m so sorry,” Rollie said hoarsely. “I know that this is the last thing you wanted to hear. I know that you’re not prepared for it. But we have a happy life, Angie. Things have been so wonderful. Please don’t be upset. I know it will take some getting used to, but you can take all the time you need to--” His voice broke, and he looked away from her, no longer able to meet her eyes.
Angie stared at Rollie, seeing tears fill his eyes, a stricken expression on his face. This was her husband, the father of the baby growing inside her. The fantasy she’s had as a child had come true.
All at once, Angie found herself filled with joy. Rollie didn’t belong to any other woman. He was hers, hers for the rest of their lives, and they were going to have a family together.
Angie laid her hand over the Aussie’s. “I’m not upset, Rol,” she told him gently.
He brought his eyes to hers. “You’re not?”
Angie shook her head and smiled at him.
The brightest smile she’d ever seen lit Rollie face. He was on the bed in an instant, pulling her rather abruptly into his arms. Angie buried her face against his chest, wrapping her arms around his waist. This time, the feeling of being in his arms was so much different. This was her husband holding her, a man she’d made love with and created a new life with. She took a deep breath of his scent, not afraid that he might figure out what she was doing. Then she felt Rollie’s lips press against her hair then travel across her temple and down to her cheek, and a little quiver passed through her.
Feeling Angie shiver, Rollie pulled away slightly, concerned that he might have gotten too familiar too quickly. He had to keep himself in check. She had no memory of their lovemaking. He would have to be careful, not make her nervous.
“How long have we been married?” Angie asked, her cheek still pressed against his shirt.
“The wedding was on May 16th.”
“Seven months? So, we’re still newlyweds.” Angie smiled secretly into his shirt. Newlyweds. What an amazingly wonderful thought.
Angie’s smile grew. “And I’m already pregnant?” She lifted her head to look at him.
Rollie shrugged, looking slightly sheepish.
“How far along am I?”
“Not quite eight weeks, if we figured correctly.”
A question came into Angie’s mind and, with it, a touch of anger. “Why didn’t you tell me this in the beginning, Rollie? Why did you let me believe that we were still just friends? You should have told me.”
Rollie’s arms dropped from around her, and his gaze fell to his hands. “I’m sorry, Angie. To begin with, I didn’t tell you because you were so overwhelmed with the loss of your memory, the news of your dad’s death, and everything else that I thought it would be best to wait before dropping this on you as well. Then, I . . . I got scared. I was afraid of how you’d react. When you told me yesterday that you didn’t want marriage and a family--”
“Rollie, what I said then was stupid,” Angie interrupted. “Yes, I did feel that way when I was really eighteen, but I’m not eighteen, and it’s time I stop thinking of myself as being that age. I’m a twenty-six year old woman, regardless of what memories I’m missing. It’s time for me to grow up and act my age.”
Rollie smiled at her. He took both of her hands in his, holding them tightly. “I love you, Angie,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
Angie met Rollie’s eyes and saw in them the deepest love she’d ever seen. It made her heart flip flop in her chest and race madly. For the first time, the thought hit her. Rollie Tyler was in love with her. Her. Angie Ramirez. No, she wasn’t Angie Ramirez anymore. She was Angie Tyler, his wife and the mother of his unborn child. Wow.
Starting to feel overwhelmed again, Angie forced herself to focus on the question that was foremost in her mind. “So, how did this happen?” she asked. “How did we end up getting together like this? Have we been involved long?”
Rollie had known that this question would come up once he told Angie about their marriage, so he was prepared for it. “No, not long. A year ago, we began reevaluating our relationship and feelings toward each other. We started dating. Our first official date was on December 19th.”
“So, what did we do on that first date?”
“Oh, the usual. We went to a nice restaurant, danced for a while, then caught a late movie.” He smiled at the fond memory. “It was really nice. We did a lot of talking that night, about things that we’d never talked about before.”
Angie smiled at the look on Rollie’s face. “Like what?”
“Our hopes and dreams for the future, regrets of the past, stuff like that.”
Angie nodded, wishing that she could remember that night. “So, dinner, dancing, and a movie. What next?”
“Then I took you home and said goodnight.”
Angie’s eyebrow lifted, a skeptical look on her face. “No goodnight kiss?”
Rollie gave her a stern look. “I’ll have to know, Angela, that, as a rule, I don’t kiss a girl on the first date, at least not on the lips. I generally wait until the second date.”
“Oh, really. So, did we kiss on the second date?”
“Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves?”
“Sorry,” Angie said, a smirk on her face.
“All right. Second date. Even better than the first. We spent the whole day together, visiting museums, walking through the park, quiet stuff like that.”
“Really? I’d have thought that we would have gone out and had a blast.”
“No, we did that on the third date.”
“Ah, the third date. Can’t wait to hear about that one. But let’s get back to that second date. Museums, the park, quiet stuff, then you took me home and. . . .” Angie let her voice trail off, waiting for Rollie to finish her sentence.
Rollie blushed. “And we kissed.”
“Uh huh. And is that all we did?”
“Uh, well . . . no, not exactly,” Rollie admitted. His cheeks grew hotter at the memory of that first kiss and what happened afterwards. The first kiss had been gentle, hesitant, almost shy. But the second kiss, which had followed a few seconds after the first, had been anything but shy. One second their lips were touching lightly, then the next, they were exchanging a soul-deep kiss with the heat of a bonfire. Before he’d known what was happening, he’d had Angie pressed up against the wall of her living room, their hands all over each other.
“Did we make love?” Angie asked, bringing Rollie’s mind back to the present.
“No. It was bloody hard to leave you that night, but I did.”
“Why did I leave? Because things were happening too fast. Our relationship was changing too quickly. We both agreed that we needed to take a step back and think about what the whole thing was going to mean for us and our future. We waited a week for our third date.”
“What did we do on the third date?”
“We went to one of the big arcades, spent a few hours there. Then we went ice skating.”
“Ice skating? You’re a lousy ice skater, Rol.”
“Yeah, I know, but it was still fun. You had your arm around me the whole time, partly to keep me from falling and partly because . . . well, because you wanted to.” Rollie gave Angie a warm smile.
Angie smiled back at him, again wishing that she had memories of that time. “So, you took me home that night and. . . .”
Rollie looked straight into her eyes. “And made love to you all night long.”
Angie gazed into her husband’s eyes, feeling heat come to her face. “All night long?”
Rollie nodded, never breaking eye contact. “It was one of the most wonderful nights of my life,” he said quietly, yet with absolute conviction.
Angie’s eyes dropped from his. “I wish I could remember.”
Her husband’s hand covered hers where it lay on the bedcovers. “You will, Angie. It’ll all come back to you. We have to believe that.” He hesitated a moment, then lifted her hand to his lips and placed a kiss in her palm. His gaze dropped to the rings he still held. Angie followed his gaze.
“Would you . . . would you put it on me?” she asked tentatively.
Nodding mutely, his throat tightening, Rollie removed the rings from the leather thong. He lifted Angie’s trembling left hand and slid the smaller band on her ring finger. He then placed his ring back on his finger.
Angie stared down at the rings, physical evidence of what Rollie had told her. Yet, even with the ring on her finger, she was still having a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that it was all true.
“This is all so . . . overwhelming,” she murmured.
“Yeah. It is a lot to take in.” Deciding that Angie would probably like to have some time alone to think, Rollie got up. “I’m going to go take care of some stuff. I need to go over to the studio and talk to our producer. He’s afraid that we’re going to sue them. I have half a mind to do that. We shouldn’t have been made to set up that gag while the set was still under construction. It was too dangerous. You could have been killed.”
“Well, don’t piss him off too much, Rol.”
The Aussie grinned. “I’ll try not to.”
After Rollie had left, Angie laid back against the pillow. Her hand went to a place low on her belly. Their baby was in there, hers and Rollie’s. All at once, Angie felt scared. Was she ready to be a mother? It was a huge responsibility. She wondered if she had this fear before she lost her memory. Had she been more prepared for it then? At least then, she’d had an additional seven years of experience to help. Now, she only had her memories of childhood and adolescence. Fortunately, she’d get her memories back long before the baby came. And part of those memories would be the ones of how this baby came to be. Angie smiled at that. She was really looking forward to getting those memories back.
Angie heard a sound and saw Nurse Lewis, the one Rollie referred to as the grandmother type, come in.
“Good morning, dear,” the nurse said. “And how are you doing today?”
“Uh, okay now. I was sick a little while ago.”
“Oh? Do you wish me to get the doctor?” Nurse Lewis asked in concern.
“No, it’s all right. I know what was wrong with me. It . . . it was morning sickness.” Angie’s feelings of amazement colored her voice.
The nurse paused in what she was doing. Then she noticed the ring on Angie’s finger. “Ah, he finally told you, did he.”
Angie looked at her in surprise. “You knew that Rollie was keeping our marriage and the baby a secret?”
Nurse Lewis nodded. “We were all sworn to secrecy. It was announced at the staff meeting that we were not to call you Mrs. Tyler or make any reference to your marriage or the baby.”
Angie shook her head. “I didn’t even notice that everyone was using only my first name.”
“Your husband has been very worried about you. He loves you a great deal.”
Angie smiled. “Yeah, he does, doesn’t he. I had a crush on him when I was a kid. Later on, I’d never have believed that the things I dreamed about would someday come true.”
Nurse Lewis gave her a motherly smile. “How very nice that one of your dreams came true.”
“Yeah.” Angie touched her stomach again. The nurse noticed the gesture and got a knowing look on her face.
“Would you mind a little advice, dear?” she asked.
“No, not at all.”
“I’ve given birth to six children in my day, all of them healthy, all of them beautiful. I remember my first, my son, Charles. I was terrified throughout the pregnancy, afraid that something would go wrong, afraid that I wouldn’t know how to take care of him properly. But when the moment finally came and I held him in my arms for the first time, I knew that we were going to be all right, that as long as I gave him all the love I had to give, everything else would work out. The first one is almost always the most frightening, not only for the mother but also the father. My poor husband was a nervous wreck throughout the pregnancy, wouldn’t let me do a thing for myself. And when I went into labor. . . .” She laughed. “I think the hospital staff thought seriously about giving him a sedative and putting him to bed until after the baby was born.”
“I didn’t think about how Rollie was feeling about the pregnancy,” Angie admitted. “Do you think he’s as scared as I’m feeling right now?”
“Perhaps. Maybe even more so, in some ways. A lot of things can go through a man’s mind when the woman he loves is with child.”
“What do you mean? Oh, you mean worrying that there will be complications with the pregnancy or birth?”
“Yes, that’s one thing. But there’s also the fear that he won’t be a good father. He has quite a responsibility ahead of him too. Sadly, some men think that their responsibility ends with bringing the paycheck home and paying the bills.”
Angie shook her head. “Rollie wouldn’t be like that,” she stated emphatically. “He’s great with kids. He’ll be a terrific dad.”
Nurse Lewis nodded. “I had a feeling he was that sort. I have a good feel for people, and I could tell that that man has a lot of love in him to give.” She rested a hand on Angie’s. “I’d like to give you some other advice. Don’t leave him out of any part of the pregnancy or birth. Let him know about everything you go through. Whenever the baby kicks, let him feel it. When your feet or back hurt, let him rub them. Make him feel as much a part of the process as possible. It will be of tremendous help to both of you. You see, while you will be able to feel that life growing in you, he won’t. With some men, the ones who love the most, it can be a sad thing that they don’t get to feel the wonder and joy of having their child grow inside them. They feel as if they aren’t as much a part of the baby as the mother is.”
“I never even considered that,” Angie said thoughtfully. “Thanks for your advice, Nurse Lewis. I’ll do my best to follow it.”
After the nurse had left, Angie lay back again with a smile on her
face, waiting for the father of her child to return.
Angie nervously watched the road before them. They were going home. At first, she had paid attention to the sections of the city they were driving through, noting how many things had changed, but the closer they got to the loft, the more nervous she became. What was it going to be like to walk into the loft, seeing the differences there and knowing that her father was not there waiting for her? The last memory she had of the loft, it was hers and her father’s home. To Angie, that seemed like only a few days ago. Now, she and Rollie were living there, and her dad was gone.
At last, they turned onto Brewery Lane and pulled up before the loft.
“It hasn’t changed much on the outside,” Angie commented as they got out of the car.
“No, it hasn’t.” Rollie looked at her closely. “You ready?”
“Not really, but I’ll be okay.”
Rollie watched her for a moment longer, then nodded. He unlocked the door and opened it, letting Angie go in first. No sooner had she walked through the doorway when she was greeted by the sound of a dog barking.
“We have a dog?” she asked. “I didn’t think. . . .” Angie’s voice trailed off, her mouth remaining open as she saw a small, spider-like robot walking toward them, its ‘tail’ wagging. The barking was coming from it.
“What in the world is that?” she asked.
Rollie chuckled. “That’s Bluey.” Rollie stepped toward the robot. “Hey, Blue! That’s a good boy! Did you miss Angie?”
Blue nodded his head and barked again, looking at Angie, who smiled and laughed.
“He’s great,” she said. “Did you design him?”
“Uh huh. You may remember an earlier incarnation of him that I was working on back when we first met. I’d been toying with the idea for a long time before I finally succeeded in making it work.”
“So, is he just sort of an electronic pet or does he do more?”
“Oh, he definitely does more. Bluey here is quite versatile. His main function is controlling the environment and security systems in the loft, but we also use him at work, and he’s been a lifesaver when we’re doing something for the police. He’s a killer chess partner too.”
“He’s got an artificial intelligence program?”
“Yep. Audio and visual recognition too. He can be programmed to do just about anything.”
“Did I write the program?”
“No, I did. You have added a few enhancements over the years, though.”
Angie stared at Rollie. “So, you’re a programmer too?”
The Aussie laughed. “Not hardly. I mean, yeah, I can write programs, and I can take a computer apart and put it back together. But, compared to you, I’m a novice. You’re the computer genius, Ange.”
Angie smiled faintly at the comment, pleased that Rollie regarded her in that way. She then turned back to Bluey, who was walking off to occupy himself elsewhere. “So, how did you learn programming?”
“Books mostly. I did a whole lot of reading. You helped me too when you could.”
Angie began looking about the loft. “What’s that?” she asked.
Rollie followed her gaze. “That’s a virtual reality chamber,” he replied. “We originally designed it for a theme park in Texas. I liked it so much that I built one for us. Would you like to try it out?”
“Maybe later.” Angie looked about, a puzzled expression on her face. “Where’s the kitchen?”
“We don’t have one, not a real kitchen anyway, not anymore. There’s a small fridge, a microwave, and a few other appliances over there in the lounge. We have been talking about putting in a full kitchen, though. We’re going to need it once the baby arrives.”
Angie continued wandering through the loft, asking questions whenever she spotted something she didn’t recognize. The mask-making equipment fascinated her.
“So, we can actually create masks of anyone’s face just like that?”
“Pretty much. We just need either a three-dimensional scan of their face or photographs that we can enter into the computer. We’ve come a long way in the last few years.”
“I’ll say. This is like something out of ‘Mission: Impossible’.”
Rollie grinned. “Well, there have been times when we’ve used this to pull off a seemingly impossible mission.” He pointed up to a circular, glass-walled room. “And that, my dear, is your cleanroom. That’s where you create your magic.”
Angie smiled. Then her eyes went to the living quarters above the garage, and the smile faded. “I guess it’s changed a lot up there too,” she said quietly.
Rollie rested a hand on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. “You want to wait until later to go up there?”
Angie shook her head. “No, I think I should just get it over with. It’s not going to be any easier in a few hours.”
They ascended the stairs and went through the door. Rollie turned left and headed for the nursery, figuring that would be the easiest thing for Angie to start with.
“We laid the carpeting a couple of weeks ago,” he told her as they walked into the room. “We got started on the wall decorations last week.”
Angie looked at the teddy bears and bunny rabbits that adorned the back and side walls. Her eyes then went to the only piece of furniture in the room. “Isn’t that my bed?”
“Yeah. I never got rid of it. I pulled it out and set it up last night. I, uh, figured that you’d . . . well, that you’d be a little, um, uncomfortable sharing a bed with me seeing as you don’t remember. . . .” Rollie shrugged, blushing faintly.
Angie blushed as well. “Thanks, Rol. That was sweet of you.”
The Aussie nodded. He didn’t quite know what to say or do. He was feeling more than a little awkward. Angie was his wife, yet he had to treat her as if she was the Angie of seven years ago, at least in some ways.
“So, I guess we should go on to the other bedroom, huh,” Angie said, a little reluctantly.
“We don’t have to do that now, Ange. It can wait.”
“No, I need to get it over with.”
They went back down the short hallway to the other room. Rollie slid open the door and entered first, turning around to watch Angie closely. She came in slowly, her gaze taking in everything. She went over to where the bureau sat. Her hand stroked the polished surface.
“Dad’s dresser sat here,” she said in a low voice. “I remember that it was all scratched up on the side from Chiops’ claws.” She looked at Rollie. “What happened to Chiops? Is he dead now?”
“No, he’s still alive and kicking, though he is getting pretty old. The Gattis are taking care of him. What with all the time I was spending at the hospital, I decided he’d be better off over there. They often look after him when we’re gone on location. Frank’s kids adore him.”
Angie nodded, then went back to looking about the room. “That old easy chair of dad’s was right here,” she said, walking over to the far corner. “It was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, but he wouldn’t part with it.” Her voice trembled on the final word. Rollie immediately went to her, putting an arm around her.
“I’m okay,” she told him, wiping away a single tear. “It’s just kind of hard. I thought that when I came here, I’d still feel Dad somehow, but I don’t. It’s been too many years. There’s nothing left of him.”
“That’s not true, Angie. There will always be something of Manny in the loft. You lived with him here for ten years. It was the two of you who turned it not only into a workshop but also a home. I still see him sometimes when I’m here; I hear his voice, his laughter. Even after all these years, I sometimes swear that I can hear him coming down the stairs, calling your name.” Rollie blinked back his tears, swallowing the painful lump in his throat.
Angie wrapped her arms around the Aussie’s waist, resting her face against his chest. He felt wetness soak into the material and realized that Angie was crying. He held her close.
“You miss him, don’t you,” she whispered.
“Yeah, I do, a lot. He was my mentor and my friend, one of the first true friends I had in this country. In one day, he changed my life for the better and gave me the woman I’ll love for the rest of my life. I will always be grateful to him for that.”
“I wish he was here.”
“Me too, Angel. Me too.” He looked down into her eyes. “He would be so very proud of you, and he’d be delighted about the baby. I think . . . I hope that he’d have approved of our marriage.”
“He would have,” Angie said with conviction. “He loved you like a son, you know.”
Rollie gave her a long kiss on the forehead, then rested his head on hers. They remained like that for a long, silent minute, then pulled apart. Angie went over to the bed, wiping the wetness from her face. She touched the headboard.
“It’s pretty. Did you have this before we got married?”
“No, that was one of our first purchases together as husband and wife.”
Angie nodded. Looking at the bed, she had a sudden image of her and Rollie in it, making love. The image was vivid enough that it made her blush. She couldn’t help but wonder how it was between them. Glancing up at her husband, she caught him looking at her intently, desire in his eyes. When he met her gaze, however, he dropped his own and focused on the bed. He cleared his throat.
“So, um, would you like some tea or coffee?” he asked, his voice a little strained.
“Tea would be nice. Thanks. I’ll be down in a minute.”
Rollie nodded and left the room. Angie sat on the edge of the bed. She was beginning to realize how hard this situation was on the Aussie. He was her husband and a man still in his sexual peak. It was probably taking a lot for him to curb his desire to physically express his love for her.
It made Angie unbelievably nervous thinking about making love with Rollie. Was he pleased with her body? She didn’t have the to-die-for figure that a lot of the girls he dated had. Did she have what it takes to satisfy him?
With a sigh, Angie got to her feet and left the bedroom. Going out on the stair landing, she watched Rollie as he went about making the tea. She began to look at him from the viewpoint of a woman. From the moment she met him, she’d been aware of Rollie’s handsomeness. She’d seen guys who were more physically handsome than him, but there was something about his looks that caught and held onto your attention, making a lot of handsomer men seem to pale in comparison, especially when he smiled. That smile could light up the darkest room. And then there were his eyes, rich brown eyes that seemed as deep as the ocean and as warm and comforting as an evening spent curled up beside a lit fireplace in your favorite sweater with a cup of hot cocoa.
Angie smiled at that analogy, wondering what Rollie would say about it. Yet, that’s how she felt, not just about his eyes, but all of him. He was Rollie, her sometimes brother, always best friend, the man who’d been there throughout the most important years of her life. She couldn’t imagine a life without him. And now . . . now he was her husband and the father of her unborn baby. They’d made a commitment to spend the rest of their lives with each other.
Angie descended the stairs and went into the lounge.
“Hey,” Rollie said softly, looking deep into her eyes.
The Aussie reached up and brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “You doing okay?”
Angie nodded. She then pulled Rollie into a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“For being with me, for not going away.”
Rollie tilted her head up to meet his eyes. “I’m not going anywhere, Angie. You’re stuck with me forever.”
Angie smiled faintly. “I think I can live with that.”
Rollie returned her smile. After a moment, the smile faded and was replaced by the same expression of desire that Angie had seen earlier. Slowly, his head lowered. Oh so softly, he brushed his lips against hers. A jolt of crackling energy passed through Angie, making her gasp. Rollie immediately drew back.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He pulled out of her arms and turned to the teapot. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Removing her fingers from her lips, Angie found her voice. “No. It’s all right, Rollie. It just took me by surprise. You do have the right to kiss me. We’re married, after all.”
“I know. But I also know that you’re going to need time to . . . adjust to things.”
Angie remained silent. What could she say? He was right. She wasn’t ready yet to take on the role of his wife. She’d had no time to prepare herself for that. One day, she thought she was a single woman, and the next, she’d learned that she was not only married but also pregnant. As far as her mind was concerned, there had been no courtship, no engagement, nothing.
“I’m sorry, Rol,” Angie murmured.
The Aussie turned to look at her. “You have nothing to be sorry for, Angie. We’ll just have to make the best of things until you recover your memories.”
Rollie poured the tea, and they sat on the sofa.
“When are we expected back at the studio?” Angie asked.
“Well, they wanted us back on Monday, but I told them you wouldn’t be ready for that. I’ll go in myself and work on what I can. Because of the set being severely damaged by the explosion, they had to rework the schedule.”
Angie chewed on her lips. “I could work, Rol. I’m feeling fine now.”
The Aussie shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’re supposed to be taking it easy. And besides, it’s going to be a little tough to do anything with this cast on.” He tapped the cast covering her right forearm.
“I’d still like to try.” Angie sighed. “But then, I guess there isn’t much I’d be able to do anyway, is there. I wouldn’t know how to operate the equipment or the software. All that knowledge is gone.”
Rollie got a thoughtful look on his face. “Is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You lost the memories of the events that happened over the last seven years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve lost your knowledge and training.” He got up and held his hand out to her. “Come on. Let’s see.”
Angie let Rollie lead her over to one of the computers. He sat her down in front of it and started one of the CGI programs.
“Okay, let’s see what you can do,” he said.
Angie stared up at him for a moment, then returned her attention to the computer. She took a look at the file list and opened the last file that was worked on.
“That’s something you’re doing for this shoot,” Rollie told her. “It’ll be a CGI of the alien monster landing on the rooftop. The live action sequence has been shot. We’ve got the footage here.”
Angie began playing around with the image, manipulating it this way and that. The more she worked with the program, the more familiar it seemed. She found herself somehow knowing how to do things. Within a few minutes of starting, she could remember everything about the program.
Rollie grinned in delight. “You’re doing it, Ange.”
Angie laughed. “This is so weird. I know how this program works, but I have no memory of how I learned to use it. It’s like the knowledge is just there.” She looked up at Rollie. “I want to go to the studio Monday. I want to work.”
Rollie hesitated. “Well, why don’t we see how well you feel by the end of the weekend. If you’re doing good, then maybe you could work part of the day. I just don’t want you overdoing it.”
“Yes, Mommy,” Angie said, a twinkle in her eyes.
Rollie gave her a sarcastic look. They returned to the lounge and finished their tea. The rest of the day was spent with Angie refamiliarizing herself with the loft and the software, hardware, and equipment that she’d have to use at work. Frank and Mira stopped by late in the afternoon to see how they were doing.
“I have to say that I was relieved when you called me last night and let me know that you told Angie about the marriage and the baby,” Frank said to Rollie when they were alone.
“Well, I didn’t really have a choice,” the Aussie admitted. “Leave it to Angie to get morning sickness now.”
Frank grinned. “A pregnant woman’s body has a mind of its own, Rollie. You’d better be prepared for that.”
“Were you? The first time, I mean?”
“Hell no. I didn’t know what to expect next. And that was just the physical stuff Sarah went through. The emotional stuff was ten times worse. She was a regular Jekyll and Hyde, happy and loving one minute, snapping my head off the next. And she’d burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I walked on eggshells throughout each of her pregnancies.”
“Oh, joy,” Rollie muttered.
“Well, it might not be that bad with Angie--then again, it might be even worse.”
“Oh, thank you so much, Francis. I really needed to hear that,” Rollie said sarcastically. He looked over at Angie.
“How are things going with you two?” Frank asked.
“Okay. It’s tough for both of us. I, um, set up a bed for Angie in the nursery.”
“Oh.” A wealth of understanding was in that one word. “How are you dealing with that?”
“The truth? It’s damn hard. I want to be with her. I want to go to bed with her beside me and wake up feeling her body next to mine. It’s funny. I spent all my adult life sleeping alone, for the most part, yet it didn’t even take a week for me to become totally addicted to having Angie share my bed.”
Francis nodded. “I know what you mean.”
Rollie sighed. “But I can’t expect her to do that, not when she remembers nothing of our life as a couple.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“Nothing. Just wait for her to get her memory back. I’m hoping that, now that she’s home, it will return faster.”
“I hope so too, Rollie, for both your sakes.”
Angie looked over at Rollie where he stood talking to Frank.
“How are you doing?” Mira asked.
“Okay,” Angie replied. “As good as could be expected, I guess.”
Mira glanced over at the Aussie. “And how’s he doing?”
“About the same. He’s being so sweet about this whole thing, but I know it’s frustrating for him. He wants the old me back, the woman who . . . well, you know.” Angie blushed faintly.
Mira hid a smile. “Well, you guys are newlyweds.” She sobered. “But I have to tell you something, Angie. That man adores you. He’d go through anything for you. He almost died for you.”
Angie turned to the cop sharply. “What are you talking about?”
Mira paused a moment. “Just something that happened a while ago. You were in danger, and Rollie nearly got himself killed saving you. But then, that wasn’t the first time he put himself on the line for your sake. You two have been through a lot together.”
Angie studied the detective. “Could I, um, get some womanly advice?”
“What should I do in regards to Rollie and me? He put a bed in my old room for me to sleep on, but. . . .”
“But you’re wondering if you should offer to stay with him?”
“Knowing Rollie and how much he loves you, he’d probably be happy just to have you there sleeping with him, but the question is, would you be ready for even that?”
“I don’t know. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it.”
“You have to do what you feel comfortable with, Angie. Rollie will survive sleeping without you for a week or two.” Mira smiled. “He may not like it, but he’ll survive.”
The detectives left a while later. Rollie and Angie got take-out for dinner and ate it mostly in silence. The rest of the evening passed quietly. Finally, it was time for bed.
“I guess we’d better put some of your clothes in the nursery closest, huh,” Rollie said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Angie agreed, starting to feel awkward.
They went upstairs to the master bedroom. Angie retrieved some of her clothing and carried it into her temporary bedroom. As she was hanging it up, Rollie came in with some pajamas.
“You’ll need these too,” he murmured, not meeting her eyes.
“Thanks.” Angie took the sleepwear from him.
“Well, I, uh . . . I guess I’ll say goodnight,” Rollie said, still not quite meeting her eyes.
Angie gazed at him, trying to read his expression but failing. She sighed silently. “Goodnight, Rol. See you in the morning.”
“Yeah. Sweet dreams.” The Aussie turned and left, shutting the door behind him. He went to the master bedroom and sat heavily upon the bed. The neutral expression he’d fought to maintain in Angie’s presence fell.
“Damn,” he whispered. He’d known this was going to be hard, but he’d no idea it would hurt this much. The ache to hold her in his arms as they slept was like a physical pain. It was bad enough when she was in the hospital, but now that she was just a few yards away, it was even worse.
‘Get used to it, Rollie,’ he told himself. ‘It could be a good two or more weeks before you have her back. You slept alone before, you can do it again.’
The Aussie got up and got undressed. The bed felt cold to him
as he climbed into it. Lying alone in the darkness, it was a very
long time before sleep finally came.
Rollie woke abruptly out of sleep, a feeling of unease gripping him. He lay still for a minute, listening for any sound that might have aroused him, but the loft was silent. Deciding it must have been a dream, he closed his eyes. But the uneasiness didn’t go away. He had an odd feeling that it had something to do with Angie. At last, he decided to check on her.
The Aussie padded down the hall. As quietly as possible, he slid the door open. In the low light, he saw Angie huddled beneath the covers. Rollie watched her for a few seconds, then, determining that she was okay, he turned to leave. That’s when he heard a small whimpering sound. Concerned now, he stepped up to the bed. The noise came again, a sound that was both a moan and a sob. Realizing that Angie was having a nightmare, Rollie sat on the edge of the bed and gently took her shoulders.
“Wake up, Angie. You’re having a nightmare,” he said gently.
Angie didn’t awaken. Instead, she moaned something that sounded like, “No. Papa.” Rollie could see that she was crying now.
The Aussie shook her shoulders gently. “Wake up, sweetie. It’s a bad dream.”
“Papa. No, please, no,” Angie mumbled, becoming restless. Then she abruptly let out a scream and sat bolt upright, her eyes flying open.
“Angie! Shhh. It’s all right. It was just a dream,” Rollie quickly said, still holding onto her shoulders. She turned to him.
“Rollie?” Angie’s voice was shaking, choked with tears. “Oh, God!” Then she was in his arms, sobbing.
“Shhh. It’s okay, baby. I’ve got you. It’s all right.” Rollie held onto his wife as she cried heartbrokenly. A few minutes passed before she quieted.
“I saw Papa die,” Angie whispered. “I saw him walk into the warehouse set, a-and, suddenly, there was fire everywhere, burning him. He was burning, and I couldn’t help him.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Rollie murmured, stroking her hair, feeling tears prick his eyes.
Angie looked up at him. “Is that how it happened? Please tell me that’s not how he died.”
“No, Angie. It didn’t happen that way. Manny was killed instantly in the explosion. He didn’t suffer.”
“Are you sure?”
The Aussie nodded. “I’m sure. The coroner determined that your dad died in the initial explosion.”
Angie laid her head back on Rollie’s chest. A few more minutes passed, then she laid back down.
“Are you going to be all right?” the Aussie asked, brushing the hair from her face.
“Would you like me to stay here until you get back to sleep?”
Angie hesitated. Part of her wanted to ask him to stay with her the rest of the night. She had a feeling that, as long as she was being held by Rollie, no nightmares would come for her. But she decided it wouldn’t be a good idea.
“No, I’ll be okay,” she told him. “Thank you.”
Rollie kissed her forehead and rose. He hesitated at the door. “If . . . you change your mind, I’m right down the hall. Don’t worry about waking me.” He then slipped out the door and closed it behind him.
Angie stared at the door for a long time, wishing now that she’d taken Rollie up on his offer. While he had been with her, she’d felt all right. Now that he was gone, the memories of the nightmare and her sadness were taking hold again. Angrily, she pushed them away. ‘Think of something else, Angie.’
In her need to distance her mind from the nightmare and the reason for it, Angie found herself starting to think about what happened yesterday, the kiss Rollie gave her. It had shocked the hell out of her. It wasn’t the fact that he’d kissed her that had shocked her so, it was what she felt when he did. It wasn’t the first time she remembered being kissed by a guy, but never had she experienced that feeling like a jolt of electricity had coursed through her, electrifying every molecule. It had barely even been a kiss, really just a brushing of lips together, but it had left her feeling giddy and flushed. What would happen if he really kissed her, kissed her in the way that he no doubt had before the accident. Angie found her pulse speeding up just thinking about it. And she could have that, if she wanted it. All she’d have to do is ask, and Rollie would pull her into his arms and make love to her. She knew it was what he wanted. But nervousness and doubt reared their ugly heads again. She just didn’t know if she was ready for that.
Angie sighed and rolled over onto her side, away from the door, pushing these thoughts out of her mind as well. Eventually, sleep returned, this time dreamless and undisturbed.
Rollie looked up from his coffee to see Angie coming down the stairs.
“Morning, sweetie. How did you sleep after that bad dream?” he asked.
“Pretty good. I didn’t have another one.”
“That’s good. Want some coffee?”
The Aussie poured her a cup, fixing it just the way she liked it.
“So, what are our plans today?” Angie asked, settling on the couch beside him.
“I didn’t really have any plans. I thought maybe we’d just talk for a while, try to jog your memory with some more stories of our exciting adventures.” Rollie grinned.
“I don’t know, Rol. It sounds like we went through some pretty scary experiences. We might end up convincing my subconscious that I’m better off not remembering all those things.” Angie grinned to let Rollie know that she was teasing. Then she grew serious. “Actually, there is something that I want to know about, something Mira mentioned. She told me that you almost got yourself killed saving me a while back. What was that about?”
Rollie’s gaze fell from hers, and he suddenly seemed very interested in his coffee cup. After several silent seconds passed, Angie opened her mouth to ask again. Just then, however, he finally spoke.
“It was just a . . . a really bad situation that we got into. An enemy of mine kidnapped you, and things got pretty hairy when I went to rescue you.”
Angie could tell that Rollie was holding a lot back. There was something about this one that was particularly bad. “How hairy?” she asked, almost afraid to find out.
“I, um . . . ended up with a bullet in my chest.”
Angie gasped in horror. “Oh my God! Was it bad?”
“Bad enough. But, as you can see, I survived.”
Angie reached for Rollie’s hand. It terrified her to think about how close she must have come to losing him.
Rollie held onto Angie’s hand, praying that she didn’t ask any more, that he wouldn’t have to tell her about Victor Loubar and the final time he attempted to rip their lives apart. It had happened last March. For three months, he and Angie had wondered if the assassin was alive or dead, if he would return to seek vengeance yet again. Then, one day, Angie disappeared from the loft, with no trace of what had become of her except for a note left taped to the inside of the door, a note that simply read, “I’m back.” Even before Rollie watched the loft’s security tapes and saw a man with his face subdue Angie with chloroform, he’d known that it was Loubar. What followed was a terrifying nightmare that ended with Loubar’s death and Rollie’s near-death. It was while Rollie lay in the hospital that he proposed to Angie. Two months later, they were married.
Wanting to get Angie off the subject of what happened with Loubar, the Aussie began telling her about some of the other things they’d gotten involved in, stopping only long enough to fix breakfast.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” Angie said some time later. “He froze me?”
“Yep. You were a regular Angie-cicle. By the time we got to you, you were severely hypothermic.” Rollie closed his eyes briefly at the memory. “After we pulled you out of the cryo unit, your heart started fibrillating. I shocked you with the paddles, but then you flat-lined. I started doing CPR. I was so scared that I was going to lose you. I was really starting to fall apart. But then you came back to us. Those minutes when you were lying there with no heartbeat were some of the worse minutes of my life.”
“Did you know that you were in love with me then?” Angie asked.
“No. I think I knew it subconsciously, but my conscious mind wasn’t getting the message, maybe because I was afraid.”
“Afraid? Of what?”
“Mostly, that you couldn’t love me back in that way. But I was also afraid of how it would change our relationship if we did move it beyond friendship. What if we’d tried, and it didn’t work out? And then there was the fact that you were Manny’s daughter. It just didn’t seem right to have those kinds of feelings for you. Long before I realized that I was in love with you, I had an . . . attraction to you. I didn’t realize what was going on it at first, but as the years passed, it got harder and harder to pretend it didn’t exist, though I tried my best to do so.”
“So, when was the moment that you started feeling attracted to me?” Angie asked, curious about this transformation in Rollie’s feelings toward her.
Rollie made a face. “I’d really rather not say. It would be a big shock.”
That increased Angie’s curiosity. “Oh, really? Hmm. This sounds interesting.” She grinned.
The Aussie face began to redden. “This is really embarrassing, Ange.”
“Oh, come on, Rol. You gotta tell me.”
Rollie looked at her and gave a deep, martyred sigh. “All right. It was, um, when you went to the senior prom.”
Angie’s mouth fell open. “The senior prom? You . . . you thought about me in that way?”
Rollie’s blush rushed across his face and down his neck. “No, I didn’t think about you in ‘that way’. I just. . . . When you were all dressed up, looking so grown up and beautiful, I thought about the boys that would be dancing with you, holding you, maybe even kissing you, and I was . . . I was angry and jealous. I didn’t realize it was jealousy at the time. I just knew that I didn’t want any of those boys touching you. In my mind, I reasoned that it was just my protective instincts kicking in.”
“Wow. I had no idea. You never let on at all, though, now that I think about it, you did give Bobby Whitaker that glare when he came to pick me up.” Angie laughed. “I think you scared the pants off him.”
Rollie chuckled. “I wanted to make it crystal clear that he wasn’t to try any funny stuff with you, and, if he did, I’d hunt him down and remove his skin inch by inch.”
“Yeah, and he made sure he had me back home at ten o’clock on the dot, didn’t even give me a goodnight kiss. Not even Dad inspired that much fear in him.”
The Aussie grinned. “Well, I can be a fear-inspiring guy when I put my mind to it.”
“Uh huh--to teenage boys who are five inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than you. Bobby was a wimp, but he was one of the only boys in school who was smart enough not to be intimidated by my brain. Let’s face it, Rol. You really aren’t the type who inspires terror in people. You’re just too sweet.” Angie’s eyes were sparkling with laughter.
“Sweet?” Rollie repeated, a bit miffed. “I’ll have you know, Angela, that I’ve had some people cowering in fear of me. I once threatened to tie a man to the bumper of my truck and drive him through the front of the restaurant belonging to his boss, the man who wanted him dead--and he believed me.”
“That was quite a bluff,” Angie said, smirking.
Rollie went still for a moment. “I wasn’t bluffing,” he finally said in a voice that was far too quiet.
The smirk on Angie’s face disappeared. Rollie would actually have done that?
The Aussie saw her expression. “It was to do with Leo’s death,” he told her. “Frank went undercover on his own to get the guy who ordered the hit on Leo, a man name Vincent Capriccio, but his cover was blown. Capriccio was holding him captive. There was this guy the cops had in protective custody, a Charles Koenig. He was a former employee of Capriccio’s and had agreed to make a deal in exchange for the cops helping him escape the hit Capriccio had put on him. We’d helped him by making it appear he was dead. But Capriccio had learned that he was alive and wanted to exchange Frank for him. Well, Koenig refused to help us. He was so arrogant. He knew that the cops couldn’t force him do anything. I just . . . snapped. I threw him down on the ground, reminded him that I wasn’t a cop, and let him know what I’d do to him if he didn’t cooperate.” His mouth twisted into a parody of a smile. “He was pretty eager to help after that.”
Angie stared at Rollie, suddenly realizing that she didn’t know him as well as she thought she did. Or was it that he’d changed that much in those seven years she couldn’t remember? Rollie at twenty-six had been a sweet, funny, sometimes irritating guy who’d never done anything more violent than punch a guy out for getting out of line with Angie. Yes, he did have a temper, but he usually didn’t act on his anger except to raise his voice, and even that was rare.
Rollie met Angie’s stare, seeing that he’d shocked her. It came to his mind that this Angie didn’t know him nearly as well as she had before. She hadn’t seen him out of control like he was when he faced Luther Cale--and Victor Loubar. She couldn’t remember witnessing the depth of his rage or seeing him fight someone to the death. He was a different man than he had been seven years ago. He was harder, far less innocent and possessing a lot more personal experience with the horrors that humans committed. He’d witnessed death and terrible destruction time and time again. The Rollie of seven years ago would have been made physically ill by some of the things he’d seen in the last three years. When he had to identify Manny’s body, he’d run into the bathroom and gotten thoroughly sick afterwards. Years later, when he again had to identify the charred remains of a dear friend, this time those of Leo McCarthy, he’d been able to maintain complete control, only really breaking down after the funeral.
Thinking about it, he’d changed a lot more in these years than Angie had. Would she be able to accept these changes in him? She remembered him the way he used to be. What would she think if she really knew how much he’d changed?
Rollie sighed softly. “Ange, a lot of things have happened over these past few years. I’m not the same person I was back when you were eighteen. All the things we’ve been through, all the things I’ve seen and had to do, they’ve changed me. Once you find out about some of the stuff I’ve done, you might not even like me as much, but--”
Angie interrupted him by placing her fingers over his mouth. “Rollie, I know you’ve lived a lot in these years. I know that you’ve been through a great deal. That was made clear to me by listening to some of the stories you told about the stuff that has gone on. But you’re still the Rollie Tyler I’ve loved since I was a little girl. You’re still the man who’d sacrifice anything for a friend, who’d go to the ends of the earth to help someone you loved. You’re still the guy who blushes when you’re really embarrassed, who does goofy things without worrying about how silly you look, who always thinks about others before himself, and who has one of the most caring hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. You may be a bit tougher and more hard-edged than you used to be, but that’s life. It happens to a lot of people. There really isn’t anything you could tell me that would change the way I feel about you.”
“Even if I told you I was a crazed ax murderer?” Rollie asked, a smile twitching on his lips.
“Hmm. Well, okay, so that might possibly change things. I’d make sure there were no axes hidden in the loft. But, other than that . . . nope, my heart has definitely made up its mind about you. You’re in there for keeps.”
Rollie’s smile broke free. He pulled Angie into a tight hug. “I love you,” he murmured in her ear, “more every day.”
“I love you too, Rol.”
They drew apart. “How about if we go have a nice lunch somewhere, then I’ll take you to the arcade?” Rollie suggested.
Angie smiled. “That sounds great. Hmm. I guess I’ll have to learn the new arcade games all over again.”
Rollie snorted. “I doubt it. You’ll probably be racking up the points and breaking scores in no time.”
With a laugh, they headed out the door, two friends ready to have
Angie came walking into the loft behind Rollie carrying an orange ball of fur. They had stopped to pick up Chiops from Frank’s house on the way home. The cat was now contentedly purring in her arms. Angie rubbed her face in his soft fur. To her, he looked no different than he did in her memory, even though he was a lot older. He was one of the only things that didn’t look different, and Angie found herself not wanting to let him go. But Chiops had other ideas, and, after a couple of minutes, he began squirming. Angie released him and watched in amusement as he immediately walked up to Bluey, gave the electronic dog a sniff, then turned his butt to him and walked off as if he’d lost interest. Bluey watched the cat for a moment, then turned away to head off in the opposite direction.
Angie chuckled. “Well, it looks like they’ve learned to tolerate each other.”
Rollie grinned. “Yeah, but it wasn’t pretty at first. Chiops just about went airborne when Bluey first confronted him. We had to peel him off the top of the TV. Then, the second time they came face to face, Chiops decided to attack rather than run. Poor Blue got batted in the head a few times before he decided he’d had enough and dug out one of the animal sounds I’d stored in his database.”
The Aussie’s grin widened. “A lion’s roar. That time, Chiops was up the stairs in about five seconds and hiding under the bed.”
Angie laughed. “How long did it take for them to get used to each other?”
“About a week. From then on, they’ve pretty much done what you just witnessed.”
Angie excused herself and went up to the bathroom. After she’d finished, curiosity drew her to the master bedroom. She wandered around it for a while, looking at the photos and other personal things, trying to imagine was it must be like to be here with Rollie in the way they were before the accident. She went over to the bureau and started opening drawers, soothing her conscience by reminding herself that she was Rollie’s wife and had a right to look in there.
Angie found that the right side of the bureau held Rollie’s things, the left side hers. The top drawer on her side contained undergarments, and Angie was surprised to see what kind of bras and panties she had in there. She certainly hadn’t worn ones like that when she was eighteen. What she was wearing now were plain white undergarments, the same kind as she had been wearing since leaving the hospital. She wondered if Rollie had gone out and bought them for her so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed by wearing the sexy, lacy things that were in this drawer.
The second drawer made Angie blush even more. The pajamas that Rollie had brought to her last night were the simple, modest kind she wore during her teens. Well, that wasn’t the case with what was in this drawer. Angie pulled out a teddy that was so sheer it might as well not be there. The next one she looked at was black lace and had a plunging neckline that would show a copious amount of cleavage. Even the ones that the average woman wouldn’t consider sexy showed a whole lot more skin than Angie was accustomed to.
“So, this is what I wear to bed with Rollie,” she murmured.
“Only sometimes,” said a voice behind her. Startled, Angie jumped and spun around. Rollie smiled faintly at the blush that flared up on her cheeks.
“Only sometimes?” she stuttered, trying to cover her embarrassment over having been caught.
“So, what do I usually wear?”
“Do you really want to know?” the Aussie asked, his voice taking on a husky quality.
Angie paused, thinking that maybe she was treading on dangerous ground. But curiosity won out, and she nodded.
“You . . . we usually don’t wear anything at all,” Rollie told her, his voice dropping another octave.
Angie found herself caught by Rollie’s eyes, which were looking at her with such an expression of desire that it made her feel like her skin was going to catch on fire. She swallowed, her respiration increasing, a flash of heat racing through her body. Then the panic hit. Angie turned around quickly, staring into the drawer as if it was the most fascinating thing in the world. She heard a soft, sad sigh from Rollie and was hit by a wave of guilt and inadequacy. Rollie was her husband. He had the right to want her, make love to her, yet she was too cowardly to take that step.
“I’m sorry,” Angie whispered, feeling tears sting her eyes.
“Sorry? For what?” Rollie asked.
“For not . . . for not being able to give you what you want.”
She heard Rollie step toward her, coming up right behind her but not touching her.
“That doesn’t matter, Angie,” he said softly. “It’s not what’s most important.” He gently turned her around. “Yes, I do want to make love to you. You are the most sexy, desirable woman I’ve ever been with. When we’re together, it’s like magic, like nothing I’ve ever known before. But what I feel for you in my heart is so much more important than that. If I could never make love to you again for the rest of my life, I’d still be grateful that you’re with me.”
Angie gazed into his eyes, seeing the truth of his words. She went into his arms, snuggling against him. After a few moments, she drew back.
“Rol, there’s, uh, something I should tell you.”
Angie felt her cheeks redden again. “I . . . I have no, um . . . no memory of being with a man. When I was really eighteen, I was a virgin.”
Rollie stared at her. He’d begun to suspect this, but hearing Angie say it really drove it home. No wonder she was so nervous.
“I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable,” he said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”
Angie shook her head. “No, Rol. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s only natural that you’d want . . . that sort of thing from me. We’re married, and we’ve been lovers for nearly a year. You can’t be expected to suddenly turn those feeling off.”
Rollie pulled her back to him and kissed the top of her head. “I can wait for it, Ange. Soon, you’ll get your memories back, and then things will be all right.” He gave her a final hug, then headed toward the door. Angie turned back to the drawer and was getting ready to close it when something caught her eye. She reached in and pulled out a book. It was a journal.
“Rollie, what’s this?”
The Aussie turned back. Seeing what she held in her hands, he paled. “It’s . . . it’s your diary.” He’d suddenly grown very tense.
Angie looked at the book. She’d kept a diary before, but she had assumed that she no longer did. “Why didn’t you show me this? It might help get my memories back.”
“Because there are things in there that you’re not ready to know, Angie.” Rollie’s voice was tight with emotion.
Angie met his eyes, feeling scared all of a sudden. “What things?”
“Things that . . . that happened to you. Things that were done to you.” His voice was shaking now, his eyes pleading with her not to ask any more.
“Rollie, what are you talking about? What do you mean?” Angie’s instincts were screaming at her, warning her to forget it, to just put the book away and leave this whole thing alone. But she couldn’t leave it alone. Something horrible had apparently happened to her, and until she knew what it was, she wouldn’t be able to think about anything else.
“Please, Angie. Don’t ask me to tell you,” Rollie begged. “I don’t know if I could take that. It would be like living through it all over again.”
Angie looked back down at the journal. “Okay, Rol. I won’t make you tell me.”
Rollie stared at her intently. “You’re going to read it, aren’t you.”
“I. . . .”
“Damn it, Angie! Why can’t you leave it alone? You’ll remember soon enough. Why can’t you let yourself live in ignorance for just a little while?”
Angie met his eyes again. “Because it’s my life. Good or bad, it’s what made me who I am, and I need to know.”
They stared at each other silently for a long time, then the Aussie’s shoulders slumped. His gaze fell away from hers, and he nodded.
“All right, Ange. I’ll tell you. I don’t want you to find out on your own.”
Not speaking, they went back downstairs. They sat on the couch, Rollie close to her. He said nothing for a while, gathering his courage.
“His name was Victor Loubar,” he said at last. “He was an assassin and arms dealer, the most evil man I’ve ever met. He was also a master of disguise. Over three years ago, he assumed my identity as part of a plot to steal a top secret weapon.” Rollie went on to recount the first time he tangled with the man who would become his greatest enemy, not leaving anything out.
Angie was silent for a moment, thinking about how Rollie had nearly died because of this man. “Where was I during all this?” she asked.
“You were off on one of your mountain-climbing trips.”
“I can imagine what I said when I came back and you told me about this.”
“I didn’t tell you. I didn’t think you needed to know.” Rollie closed his eyes for a moment. “I wish it could have stayed that way.”
“Are you saying that he wasn’t dead?”
“No, he wasn’t. We found that out a few months later.” With a sigh, the Aussie told his wife about the second entanglement with Loubar.
Angie gave a shudder. “My God. When I think about how many people that bio weapon might have killed. . . . You saved a lot of lives, Rollie.”
“We saved them, Angie. I couldn’t have done it without you. I just wish that . . . that it hadn’t come with such a high price.”
“What do you mean?”
Rollie stood abruptly, walking away a few feet. His arms had wrapped themselves around his chest. “He came back a third time. Only . . . only, this time, he came for revenge.”
Angie stiffened. Again, her instincts were telling her to stop now and not push for anything more. But it was too late now. She had to know the rest of the story.
It was quite a while before Rollie turned around. When he did, there was such a look of torment on his face that it made Angie’s breath catch in her throat. He slowly came back to the couch and sat down.
“It happened a year ago,” he said in a low voice, not looking at her. “Loubar kidnapped me, and stuck me in a warehouse in Chinatown, kept me drugged the whole time. Then, for three days, he pretended to be me, all the while setting up an elaborate frame that would make it look like I’d murdered the Chinese Trade Minister. On December seventh, he went with you to the wrap party for the movie we’d just finished, a movie called Red Storm, which, coincidentally, was about a man being unjustly imprisoned in China. At the wrap party, he continued building the frame against me, making a speech that made it appear as if I intended to confront the trade minister personally.”
“You mean I couldn’t tell he wasn’t you?” Angie said, appalled that this Victor Loubar had been able to fool her.
“No, you couldn’t tell.” He abruptly covered his face with his hands. “Oh, God. You didn’t know he wasn’t me.”
“Rollie, what did he do?” Angie asked, her voice shaking with fear.
The Aussie looked at her, tears running down his face. “He . . . he took you back to the loft and . . . and . . . and s-seduced you. He made you think he was me, and then he . . . he. . . .”
Angie’s face drained of all color. Horror overwhelmed her, choking her breath. “Oh, God,” she whispered. Abruptly, she was off the couch and stumbling upstairs. She barely made it to the bathroom before losing the contents of her stomach. Heaving and sobbing, Angie clutched at the toilet. Finally, when there was nothing left to come up, she slumped back on the tiles, resting her head against the sink cabinet. The tears continued to fall. He’d raped her. She may have been a willing participant, but it had been rape all the same because he wasn’t the man she thought he was, and she wouldn’t have willingly slept with him if she’d known the truth.
Now Angie knew why Rollie had so desperately tried to protect her from this. She wished she had listened to him. She didn’t want to know this.
For a long time, Angie sat there on the floor of the bathroom, trying to recover from the shattering blow of what she’d just learned. At last, she shakily got to her feet. She washed her face and took a drink of water. Straightening her shoulders, she left the bathroom. The first thing Angie became aware of as she walked out onto the balcony was the sound of heartrending sobs. She looked down and saw Rollie hunched over on the couch, his whole body shaking from the force of his sobs. She went down and sat on the sofa beside him. Rollie seemed to curl in on himself, turning away from her.
“Rollie?” Angie inquired quietly.
The Aussie flinched as if he’d been hit. She reached out, touching his shoulder, and it was like she’d stuck him with a hot poker. He launched himself off the couch and was out the door of the loft before Angie had time to blink. Quickly, she went after him to find him a few yards away, beating his fist bloody against the building. Angie ran up to him and grabbed hold of him.
“Rollie! Rollie, stop it! You’ll break your hand!”
The Aussie pounded the wall a few more times, then slid down into a heap on the ground. “I’m sorry,” he whispered brokenly. “God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It was my fault. He raped you to get back at me. He hurt you to hurt me, to destroy our friendship.”
“Rollie, how could it possibly be your fault? He may have done it to get revenge on you, but that doesn’t make it your fault. How could you think that?”
Rollie turned and looked up at her. “You said almost the exact same thing to me when we finally talked about it a year ago.”
“So, why didn’t you listen to me the first time?” Angie tugged on his arm. “Come back inside, Rol. It’s cold out here, and I need to do something about that hand.”
The Aussie meekly allowed Angie to lead him back inside and sit him down at the kitchen counter. She got the first aid kit and silently treated his hand, disinfecting it and wrapping it with gauze.
“You need to get this x-rayed just to be sure you didn’t break something,” Angie told him. She looked up to see Rollie gazing at her with love and humility.
“I don’t deserve you, you know,” he said quietly.
“Where did you get that stupid idea?”
“You’re so strong, so amazing. I feel weak compared to you sometimes.”
“Rollie, you’re the strongest person I know,” Angie said, a little angry that he felt that way about himself. “You think I’ve forgotten what happened back when we first met, how that guy tried to kill you again and again? You went through more in a couple of weeks than most people suffer in a lifetime. Yet you didn’t buckle. You kept fighting, determined to catch that guy, putting your life at risk again to do so. And then there’s what you did to save me when that bomb went off on the set. How many guys would do that? How many? When Dad told me about it, he said that he’d never seen such an act of selfless courage in his life--except when Mom chose to stay behind in Cuba to save us.” She paused. “Did you know about Mom?”
“Yeah. You told me about her after Loubar . . . after I found out what he’d done.”
Angie sighed. “I guess you should tell me the rest of what happened with him.”
Rollie shook his head. “Not now, Ange. You’ve already been through too much. It will wait for another day.”
“No, Rollie. I want to know now. I want you to tell me how that bastard paid for what he did.” Angie’s voice had grown hard.
“He did pay eventually, but not then.” Rollie told Angie the rest of the story about that day in December.
“I shot you?” Angie gasped, horrified.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t bad, no muscle damage. I was sore for a while, but that’s all.”
“I’m so sorry, Rollie. I’d never want to hurt you.”
“I know, sweetie. If I hadn’t had the knife, it wouldn’t have happened. For the life of me, I don’t know what I was thinking when I pulled that knife. No, that’s not true. I do know. I wanted him dead. I wanted to kill him with my own hands.”
Angie said nothing in response. She could understand why he’d felt that way. “So, what happened after that?”
“Well, after you shot me, Loubar tried to convince you that I was him. But then, I said something that made you realize who was the real me. It was something you’d said to me when you told me about your mum. Loubar realized that you knew and dived under the lake. You emptied the gun into the water, but we didn’t know if you’d hit him. They dragged the lake but didn’t find his body.”
“What happened then?”
“For several days afterwards, we didn’t talk about what had happened,” Rollie told her. “We just tried to go on as before and pretend that nothing had changed. But it didn’t work. Finally, we started to talk. It was . . . pretty emotional. In the end, we’d both begun to reevaluate our relationship, trying to figure out what we wanted and where we should go from there.”
“So, this is what made us start dating?”
“Yeah. It cut through all the doubts and fears that had kept us from going beyond friendship. What Loubar did was one of the worse things that happened to us, but it led to the best thing in our lives.”
“What about Loubar? You said that he eventually paid for what he did.”
Rollie nodded. “Remember when I told you that you were kidnapped? It was Loubar who took you. He snatched you from the loft while you were alone, posed as me again to do it. This time, he wasn’t going to bother with a plan to frame me for murder or anything like that. He’d finally figured out the best way to get his revenge: by killing you.”
Rollie took a deep breath. “For two days, Loubar let me wait. The whole time, I was terrified of what he was doing to you. When he finally contacted me, he led me all over the city on foot, leaving notes that instructed me where to go next. It was like something out of a TV show or movie. Maybe he did it that way on purpose because of the irony, or maybe he was just enjoying toying with me. I knew that I was being watched, that someone was making sure I wasn’t being tailed. Finally, I got to an underground parking garage, and there was Loubar waiting for me. He ran a scanner over my body, checking for bugs and tracking devices, then he made me get into a panel van and handcuffed me. He took me to a warehouse, and you were there.”
“What happened next?” Angie prompted when Rollie fell silent.
“Loubar told me what he was going to do to you,” he replied, looking sick. “He . . . was going to rape you again before my eyes, then he was going to torture you slowly until you begged to die. And then he . . . he was going to make me choose b-between killing you myself or letting him continue to rape and torture you until you died or were left a mindless shell.” Rollie’s voice broke off, his eyes closing tightly at the memory. He felt Angie’s hand slip into his. After a while, he met her gaze. “He knew that it would destroy me, that he wouldn’t have to kill me afterward, because I’d already be dead inside.”
“But something kept him from doing it.”
Rollie nodded. “Loubar made the mistake of giving me two days to prepare.”
Angie smirked. “That was pretty stupid.”
The Aussie shrugged. “He always did underestimate me, underestimate us. It’s what resulted in his failure the first three times, and it’s what brought about his downfall this final time.”
“So, what plan did you come up with?”
“It was actually quite simple. I was wearing a tracker.”
“But I thought you said that Loubar scanned you.”
“He did, but he didn’t count on the fact that I’d come up with a way to hide the tracker from the scanner. It was in my watch. In fact, it was my watch. I’d removed the insides of the watch, created a fake face for it, and built the tracker right into it. When I saw Loubar, I turned the tracker off so that it couldn’t be detected. After he finished the scan, I turned it back on. Since I figured that Loubar might guess I’d wear a tracker so that the cops could follow me, I wore a second one, one that he’d find, which he did. And just to be safe, I wore a third tracker. It was taped to the inside of my right wrist. That one, I left off. It’s a good thing I had it, because Loubar had something set up in the van that detected the transmission of the one in my watch when I turned it on. He left the watch behind in the garage, figuring that the cops would sit there for ten minutes or so before they got the idea that something was wrong. But they didn’t. I’d rigged the watch to send a different signal if it was removed from my wrist, a signal that warned the cops it had been discovered.”
Angie smiled inwardly, thinking about how good Rollie was at this.
“So, we headed off to the warehouse, Loubar confident that no one was going to be following us,” the Aussie continued. “When we got there and were away from the van, I palmed the tracker on my wrist, turned it on, and dropped it on the ground.”
“But how could you be sure that you’d be within range for the cops to be able to detect the signal?”
“Well, let’s just say that it was a pretty powerful little tracker, even though it was only a quarter-inch thick and the size of a quarter. I was pretty sure that, no matter where Loubar took me, it wouldn’t be too far.”
Angie smiled again. Rollie really was good. He was probably one of the few people alive who could have done what he did.
“So, all the while that Loubar was taunting me, telling me how he was going to get his revenge, the police were converging on the building,” Rollie said. “I’ll never forget the look on his face when he realized that I’d outmaneuvered him yet again.” With a grim smile, the Aussie thought back to that moment. . . .
Just then, a warning buzzer sounded from the surveillance equipment Loubar had set up. The assassin spun around and strode over to the table. He stared at the screen, which showed a dozen cops converging on the front of the building and more approaching the other exits.
“How?! How did they find us?” he cried.
“By following the tracker that you didn’t find,” Rollie told him, “the one I didn’t turn on until after we got here. You underestimated me again, Loubar, just like you always do.”
As he talked, Rollie was busy slipping out of the handcuffs Loubar had put on him. Enraged, the arms dealer stalked toward him. With the speed of a snake, Rollie snatched the medallion off his neck, which was a perfect replica of the one he usually wore. He threw the medallion at Loubar, and it exploded in midair. Thick smoke was suddenly everywhere. Rollie grabbed Angie and threw her to the ground just as Loubar fired blindly into the smoke. He pulled out the pick he’d hidden in the collar of his shirt and frantically worked to unlock the cuffs that chained her to the pole. Within a few seconds, he heard the click of the cuffs unlocking.
Rollie spun around, ready to flee with Angie, only to find himself face to face with Loubar.
“This time, you die,” the assassin growled.
With no time left to think, Rollie dove for Loubar. The gun went off, and the two toppled to the floor, struggling for control of the weapon. With a distant part of his mind, Rollie felt a burning pain in his lower chest, but his entire being was focused on the man who had raped the woman he loved more than his own life, the man who had intended to torture her in the worse ways possible.
With his rage giving him strength beyond normal, Rollie forced the gun away from himself, pushing it between their struggling bodies. Suddenly, it went off. In the silence that followed, both men froze. Rollie felt something warm and wet cover his hand. He looked down and saw blood pouring from the assassin’s chest. An expression of utter shock on his face, Loubar stared at his own blood. Then his eyes met Rollie’s for a timeless moment. The Aussie watched as the life went out of those eyes, and the arms dealer crumpled to the cement.
Rollie struggled to his feet, staring down at his mortal enemy. He heard Angie call his name and looked up to see her through the thinning smoke. He was about to step toward her when a wave of pain and dizziness hit him. Through a gathering fog in his mind, Rollie looked down at himself and saw blood spreading across his shirt over the ribs on his left side. All at once, the strength dribbled out of his body, and he went to his knees, suddenly finding that he couldn’t breathe. The last thing he heard before blackness closed over him was Angie’s terrified voice screaming his name. . . .
The Aussie continued his narrative of the events. “When I woke up in the hospital, I found out that I was apparently hit when the gun went off when I grabbed Loubar’s arm. The bullet had passed downward through the lower left lobe of my lung and into my spleen. The doctors were amazed that I’d actually managed to fight Loubar with that kind of injury.” He covered Angie’s hand with his other hand. “I proposed to you right there in the hospital. I’d almost lost you, and I didn’t want to wait another minute to tell you and the rest of the world that I wanted you for the rest of my life.”
Angie smiled, then she leaned back, her gaze drifting away.
“Are you okay, Ange?” Rollie asked gently.
“Yeah. I guess it helps to know that we’ve had a happy life since he . . . did that to me. It must have really been hard to get over before, though.”
“You were strong, Angie. You handled it a lot better than many women would. It took a while for me to finally get you to let the pain out. You were holding it all inside and wouldn’t let yourself lose control. After you did, I think you felt better.”
“Thank you, Rollie. I don’t know if I thanked you before for being there for me, but I am now. I know that I probably couldn’t have made it through without you.”
Rollie pulled her to him. “I would do anything for you, Angie. Anything.”
“I know, Rollie. And I would do anything for you.”
Angie awoke with a gasp. Breathing heavily, she sat up in bed and wiped away the wetness on her face. Hugging her knees, she stared into the darkness of the room. She’d had the nightmare again, though it had not been quite as gruesome this time. In this version, she’d simply seen her father go into the warehouse, then witnessed it blow up. But, this time, there had been an added element. Amidst the flames, Angie had seen a faceless man laughing, saying that this was his revenge against her and Rollie for killing him. Then he’d leaped at Angie, torn her clothes off, and thrown her to the ground. That’s when she awoke.
Angie knew that her subconscious was now mixing her father’s death with what she’d learned about Victor Loubar. She looked over at the door, wishing that Rollie would come in and hold her like he had last night. But he was probably sound asleep. He’d been pretty tired by the time they went to bed. Apparently, he hadn’t gotten back to sleep after Angie’s nightmare.
Feeling like she just needed to see him, Angie slipped out of bed and silently made her way to the master bedroom. Sliding the door open, she looked inside. Rollie was fast asleep, his tousled hair the only thing visible above the covers.
Seemingly of their own volition, Angie’s legs carried her to the side of the bed, where she continued to watch him. She’d been there only a few seconds when Rollie’s eyes abruptly flew open. Seeing her, he quickly sat up in bed.
“Angie? What. . . . Did you have another nightmare?” he asked, his voice thick with sleep.
“Yeah. But I’m okay. I just. . . .” She shrugged, embarrassed. “I just wanted to see you.”
Rollie gazed at her for several seconds, then, apparently coming to a decision, he pulled back the covers on the empty side of the bed. “Come here,” he said softly.
Angie hesitated, thinking that maybe she’d better just go back to her room. But the truth was that she didn’t want to sleep alone. Feeling nervous, she climbed into the bed. Rollie scooted over, putting several inches between them. They both laid down, Rollie on his side, Angie on her back. There was a long, uncomfortable moment of silence.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Rollie asked.
“No. I’ll be all right.”
Silence fell between them again, then Angie felt Rollie’s hand cover hers. She looked over at him and met his eyes, which were looking at her tenderly. A silent message passed between them, and they moved simultaneously. Rollie gathered Angie into his arms, holding her gently, her head resting on his chest. Angie gave a deep sigh and relaxed, feeling as if she was where she belonged. Her eyes closed and, within a few minutes, she was asleep.
Rollie looked down at Angie, a smile of joy on his face. This is what he’d been aching for, to feel Angie sleeping in his arms. There were other longings, but this was enough for him.
With a sigh of contentment, Rollie laid his cheek against Angie’s hair and surrendered to sleep.
Angie awoke slowly to the feeling of a heavy weight on her body. Confused, she opened her eyes. As soon as she saw where she was, she remembered about coming to Rollie’s room last night. Angie looked down and saw that, in their sleep, they had changed positions. Rollie’s head was now pillowed on her chest, his arm draped around her waist. He was nearly laying half on top of her, his legs pressed up against hers. Strangely, she didn’t feel embarrassed by the closeness of their bodies. It felt right, like this was the way it should be. Angie realized that, though her mind might have forgotten the past memories of this, her body had not. She felt at home in his arms, his sleeping body so close to her. She wanted to stay like that forever. Unfortunately, her bladder was talking to her rather vociferously.
Angie ran her hand through Rollie’s hair, then down his cheek. “Wake up, Rol,” she said quietly.
Rollie’s grip on her waist tightened. “Let’s sleep in,” he mumbled, still mostly asleep.
“I’d love to, but my bladder has different ideas.”
Angie felt the Aussie come fully awake. He drew back quickly when he realized that he was laying half on top of Angie. Blushing, he stuttered an apology.
“It’s okay, Rol,” Angie assured him. “It felt . . . nice.”
Startled, Rollie met her gaze. Angie watched hope begin to grow in his eyes.
“It’s . . . it’s good to hear you say that,” he murmured.
“Maybe we could, um . . . share again tonight,” Angie said a bit shyly.
“I’d like that, Ange. I’d like that a lot.”
Excusing herself, Angie went to the bathroom. When she got back, Rollie was up and ready to use the shower.
“Ah. Not sleeping in after all, are we?” Angie asked, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
Rollie paused, a wicked grin coming to his face. “Sleeping in is something we’ve done quite a lot of over this past year, Love,” he said, putting particular emphasis on the ‘sleeping in’ part.
It took a moment for Angie to realize what Rollie was hinting at. By the time she did, the Aussie was past her and heading to the bathroom, so he missed the blush that stained her cheeks. As the blush faded, a smile replaced it. She had a feeling that things were really terrific between her and Rollie in the bedroom. She was looking forward to getting those memories back.
Angie’s smiled disappeared as she felt nausea begin to well up inside her. Knowing what this was going to lead to, Angie looked around for something to be sick in, but there was nothing. In desperation, she went to the bathroom and pounded on the door, but Rollie couldn’t hear her above the sound of the shower. For a moment, Angie hesitated, not knowing what to do, then her stomach told her that she’d better find someplace right now or she’d be making a mess on the floor. Decision made, she opened the door, dashed into the bathroom, and made a beeline for the toilet, arriving just in time.
Angie wasn’t aware of Rollie’s presence beside her until she felt a hand start rubbing her back. Her retching ceased soon after that. A wet washrag was handed to her, and she took it gratefully. She leaned back against the cabinet and looked at the Aussie. He was dripping wet, clothed only in a towel. Even feeling as lousy as she did, Angie found her eyes traveling over his body.
“You okay, sweetie?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be all right. I didn’t get sick yesterday morning, so I was hoping that this wasn’t going to happen anymore.”
“I’m afraid not, Love. Sarah told us that she was sick nearly every morning for two months.”
Rollie helped her to her feet and got her a glass of water.
“I’m sorry for bursting in on you like that, Rol. I was kind of desperate,” Angie said.
“No worries, Ange. We are married, you know.”
“I know, but. . . .”
“But you don’t remember all that,” the Aussie finished.
Angie nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“Ange, will you please stop apologizing? There’s nothing to be sorry for. Now, go on downstairs. I’ll finish my shower and be down in a few.”
By the time Rollie got downstairs, Angie was feeling fine. The Aussie fixed them a light breakfast, telling her to just relax and take it easy.
After breakfast, Angie began going through the diary she’d found and the ones for the previous two years, which Rollie had retrieved for her from where she kept them. The journals were pretty large, yet, even though she had written in them only an average of once a week, they were all full.
Angie found herself starting to cry when she got to the entry about doing the movie for Nick Breen. In the journal, she’d talked about how seeing him again had brought back all the pain of losing her father and that, though she hadn’t killed Breen, she was glad he was dead.
Her tears changed to a smile when she read about her disastrous blind date with the man Rollie had dubbed “Mister Pretty Boy Model.” It was interesting to note that, though she had only briefly described the date as a disaster and the man as a self-centered ass, she had quoted word for word Rollie’s comment about it being good to have her home.
As she continued to read, Angie realized that a lot of the entries focused on Rollie. There was a particularly long passage as she talked about Rick’s death and how Rollie had cried as he gave the informal eulogy to some of the crew members. In the diary, she said that she wished she knew how to comfort him.
The tone completely changed a few entries later as she talked about a woman from Rollie’s past coming back into his life. The jealousy was in every word written, as well as concern for Rollie. This Taya Kwan had apparently broken Rollie’s heart two years earlier. Had he been in love with her?
“Rol, who was this Taya Kwan?” she asked.
The Aussie abruptly stopped what he was doing. He didn’t say anything for several seconds. “She was a woman whom I thought I was in love with,” he finally said. He then sighed. “No, that’s not fair to her. I was in love with her. I’d never felt that strongly about a woman before.” His eyes met hers. “But what I felt for her couldn’t compare to what I feel for you. It didn’t even come close.”
Rollie’s words made her feel good inside. She wondered what she would have thought back when she was writing these words if she’d learned that her friendship with Rollie would become so much more.
As she continued to read the journal for 1996, Angie noticed something. There were increasingly more remarks about Rollie that had nothing to do with a job they were doing or a case they were working on. They were just comments about things he said or did or thoughts she had about him. In reading the words, Angie realized that she’d been falling in love with Rollie for quite some time and had been attracted to him for even longer. Yet, apparently, she had not realized that she was falling in love with him, only that she was attracted to him in a way that was not simple friendship. It was strange that, looking back on her journal entries with no memory of recording them, she was able to see something that she’d failed to see then. Angie wondered if she’d ever have come to realize that she’d been in love with him for years if this hadn't happened.
Angie finished browsing through the 1996 book and started in on the one for the next year. Soon, she came to Leo’s death. It broke her heart to read about how his death affected Rollie, how he held in all his grief, keeping his mind on clearing himself, Leo, and Frank of the charges they were accused of, until after the funeral. Rollie had gone home alone, saying that he wanted to be by himself for a while. Worried, she had gone over there after about half an hour and had found him sobbing uncontrollably. Angie’s eyes burned with unshed tears as she read about holding him for hours as he cried himself out, then fell asleep in her arms.
Angie looked up to see that Rollie was watching her. Without a word, she got up, crossed the space between them, and hugged him.
“What’s this for?” he asked quietly.
“I was reading about Leo’s death.”
“Rollie, please don’t ever think that you need to hide your pain from me. I’m here for you whenever you need me.”
“I know, Ange.” The Aussie tilted her chin up. “And the same goes for you. You tend to hide things from me when they’re really hurting, like when we went to work for Breen and when Loubar. . . . You always thought that you needed to appear strong. That’s changed quite a bit since we became involved romantically, which I’m glad of.”
They gave each other another tight hug, then Angie went back to reading. She found out that the jealousy she’d recently felt over Mira had been there near the start of Rollie’s friendship with the policewoman. But it had faded when it stared to look like the two were not going to be more than friends. But then, she encountered an entry where Rollie became involved with a woman named Dani Vandenglas. Unlike the situation with Taya, it appeared that Rollie’s attraction to the actress was purely physical, but that didn’t stop Angie from being jealous.
The tone of the entry changed abruptly when it got to a part that talked about Rollie being injected with snake venom.
“God, I was so scared,” she’d written. “He was lying there, and I didn’t know what was wrong with him. I was trying to find a wound or some mark on his body. I was really falling apart, total panic. I somehow sensed that he was dying, and it was killing me.”
There were more entries with Dani, one being an instance where she helped them on a case involving a gambling casino onboard a plane.
But Angie forgot about Dani when she came to another entry, and a particular name leapt out at her from the page. Her whole body tensed upon seeing the name of Victor Loubar. She read the account of stopping the arms dealer from selling the bio weapon. If she had known then what that act would bring down on her, would she have asked Rollie to stay out of it? Considering what not getting involved would have resulted in, Angie hoped that she would have chosen to help anyway.
Upon Rollie’s insistence, Angie put the book aside as they ate lunch, but picked it back up afterwards. Shortly after that, she came to a part of the journal that grabbed her attention fully. Mangela, the Aborigine that partly raised Rollie, had come to New York seeking a stolen religious artifact called the Soul Stones. The man who’d stolen the stones was named Luther Cale, a man who had nearly killed Rollie when he was a boy. Angie wondered why Rollie had never told her about him.
That’s when Angie got to a part that made her mouth drop open in shock.
“For years, Rollie has teased me about my beliefs in paranormal phenomena, and now I find out that Rollie himself is psychic, that he had a precognitive dream about these things that just happened.”
Angie looked over at Rollie, who was now doing something at his workstation. “You had a dream predicting the future?” she asked.
The Aussie stiffened, his hands stilling. “It’s not like you think, Ange,” he replied after a few seconds. “It wasn’t like you see on TV or in movies, where psychics get pictures in their head that show them something that’s going to happen. I had a Dreaming. It’s a common thing among the Aborigines. I haven’t had one since then.”
Angie opened her mouth to ask more, but shut it when she noticed Rollie’s expression. It was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about this. Deciding not to pry, Angie went back to reading.
The closer she got to the end of the book, the more tense Angie became. She knew what was coming. She was almost through November when she felt rather than saw Rollie sit beside her. A hand came out to lay on her arm. She looked up to see him watching her with concern and love. Somehow, he had apparently sensed her growing apprehension.
“You don’t have to read that part, you know,” he said softly.
“Yes, I do. I need to get through it and put it behind me.”
Rollie simply nodded and put an arm around her shoulder. And that’s where he stayed as Angie read the account of Loubar coming back into their lives to destroy them. Soon, she was crying, Rollie’s arm wrapped more tightly about her. Finally, she was past it.
Rollie took the book from her fingers and set it aside. He then wrapped his other arm around her and just held her for a long time. Even after the tears had dried, he continued to hold her. Angie wasn’t about to object. It felt so good to be in his arms, his warmth suffusing her, his hand stroking her back soothingly.
Angie was not quite certain when things began to change. She just became aware, all at once, that Rollie’s embrace had grown less comforting and more . . . something else entirely. The touch of his hand on her back became more of a caress, and he was holding her a bit more tightly. The pitch of his breathing was different, faster and more shallow.
Angie lifted her head and looked up at Rollie. He met her eyes, looking into them deeply. His hand came up and wiped away the last traces of her tears. As he did, his thumb brushed lightly over her lips. Rollie’s gaze focused on where his thumb had been and stayed there.
“Angie,” he whispered, barely audible. “I want to kiss you.” He dragged his eyes from her lips to see her reaction to his statement. She was staring at him, neither discouraging nor encouraging him. Taking that as permission, he closed the distance between them.
The moment Rollie’s lips touched hers, Angie felt the same jolt of energy that she’d experienced before. But, this time, their kiss was not a brief, brushing contact. His hand curling into her hair, Rollie kissed her slowly and gently, his lips warm and soft against hers, filling her with the most amazing feeling she’d ever experienced. With each passing second, the feelings inside her grew stronger. Her heart was beating madly, her body feeling more alive than she could ever remember. Without being consciously aware of it, she had begun to respond. Her response made Rollie pull her more tightly against him and increase the pressure of his mouth on hers.
Neither of them knew how long it was before Rollie broke the kiss. Slightly breathless, they gazed at each other intently. The Aussie’s eyes were questioning her, asking silently if he’d gone too far, if he could kiss her again. Equally as silently, Angie answered him, letting him know that she wanted more.
Their second kiss began like the first, but then Angie felt Rollie’s tongue touch her lips, sending a surge of desire through her. Her lips parted with a quickly indrawn breath, and, with a deep moan, Rollie plunged into her mouth. Angie answered his moan with one of her own as fire raced through her body like a lava flow. She felt her control shatter. Instincts that she could not remember possessing took over, and she began to plunder Rollie’s mouth with the same hunger as he was hers.
Groaning into her mouth, Rollie crushed her body against his. His hand slid down to cup her bottom, then pulled her thigh over his lap so that she was now half straddling him, her lower body pressed tightly against his. Angie moved slightly against him, eliciting another groan from Rollie. He pulled away from her mouth, much to her disappointment.
“Angie, we have to stop now. I . . . I don’t want to do anything that you’re not ready for,” he said, his voice deep and husky.
Angie searched his eyes, seeing his desire for her burning there. She wanted to keep kissing him, but he was right. She wasn’t yet ready to go all the way, and it wouldn’t be fair to him to continue this.
She nodded, and Rollie reluctantly released her.
“I’m sorry that went so far,” he murmured, his voice still rough.
“Now who’s apologizing for no good reason?” Angie responded. “In case you didn’t notice, I was as much a participant in that kiss as you were.”
Rollie smiled. “Oh, believe me, I definitely noticed.”
Angie returned his smile. “So, are, um, those the kinds of kisses we usually share?”
Rollie’s smile grew into a grin. “Which kind, the first or the second?”
“Not always. Lots of times, they’re more like the first one.”
“That’s nice to know. I probably sometimes need a break from the second kind in order to recover.”
Rollie’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at the comment, then he started to laugh. His laughter dwindled after a moment, and he looked at her intently. “God, I’ve missed you, Angie.”
Knowing what he meant, Angie reached out and caressed his cheek. “I know you have, Rol.”
The Aussie took her hand and kissed it. “How about if we go catch a movie? We could then go to dinner.”
“That sounds great.”
Angie washed her face and put on some makeup, then she and Rollie
headed out, ready to put all their thoughts behind them for a few hours.
Rollie and Angie entered the loft, laughing.
“Lights, Blue,” the Aussie commanded. The lights came on.
“You know, he’s pretty handy to have around,” Angie commented with a smile.
“You have no idea how handy he’s been at times,” Rollie responded.
Angie draped her coat over the sofa. “That was fun, Rol. I had a great time.”
“Me too.” Rollie went into the kitchen area. “Want some tea?”
“No thanks. It’s getting pretty late. What time do we have to be at the studio in the morning?”
“Not until ten. We can sleep in.”
The moment the words were out of the Aussie’s mouth, both he and Angie fell silent. For an awkward moment, they avoided looking at each other. Finally, Rollie gave a small sigh and turned to his wife.
“Ange, I, um, know that we talked about you staying with me again tonight, but, uh . . . considering what happened earlier, I think it might not be such a good idea. Can you understand that?”
Angie held Rollie’s eyes with hers. “Yeah, I do. I think that you’re right.”
Rollie nodded. He came forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Goodnight, sweetie.”
Angie watched Rollie ascend the stairs. She hadn’t missed the regret and sadness in the Aussie’s eyes as he said goodnight.
With a sigh, Angie went up to her room. She got dressed for bed, the happiness of the evening dimmed. She completely understood why Rollie had recommended that they sleep separately. He had made no secret of his desire to make love to her. After what happened earlier, it would be totally unfair for Angie to share his bed tonight and expect him not to want more than just holding her as they slept. But that didn’t change the fact that she knew she was going to be lonely tonight. It was strange. Other than last night, she had no memory of sharing a bed with anyone since she was a little girl, yet she felt like she didn’t belong in this bed, not alone. Angie wondered if something deep inside her was again tapping into memories of the way things were before the accident.
Angie sat down on the bed. She had been hoping that reading her diaries would bring her memories back, but there had been no sign of that happening. She still had one more book to go through, but she had a feeling it would make no difference. Her memories were stubbornly staying hidden. What would it take to get them back?
With another sigh, Angie crawled under the covers and turned off the light.
Rollie stared up at the ceiling. He’d been lying there, wide awake, for over an hour. He missed having Angie with him. For a moment, when they said goodnight, he’d been tempted to let her sleep with him, but he had known what that would lead to. Having her soft, warm body beside his, with the memories of their kisses still fresh in his mind, would have been torture. He wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Well, he wasn’t sleeping anyway, but at least he wasn’t being tormented by Angie’s presence.
With a sound of frustration, Rollie shut his eyes, trying to force himself to go to sleep. A sound alerted him to the fact that the bedroom door was being opened. He looked over to see Angie standing in the doorway. With a gasp, the Aussie sat up. Angie was dressed in her pajama top . . . and nothing else. The top barely reached the tops of her thighs. Swallowing, Rollie let his gaze slide down the length of her bare legs.
“A-Angie?” he whispered hoarsely, his throat suddenly dry.
Silently, Angie came toward the bed. In the dim light, he could see the height of color in her cheeks and the quick rise and fall of her chest.
For a moment that lasted forever, their eyes locked on each other.
“Make me remember, Rollie,” Angie then whispered.
Knowing that there was no need to ask her if she was sure, Rollie reached for her. He pulled her down on the bed and took her lips with his. Angie gave a deep sigh and melted into his arms.
Rollie’s kiss was slow and deep, reaching into her soul. With caressing hands, he touched her body, bringing tingling heat to her skin. Then his lips left her mouth to explore her neck. Angie released a moan as she felt his tongue dip into the hollow of her throat.
Rollie’s hands slid down her body to where her pajama top ended. He began easing the material up. Angie lifted her hips, trembling as he slipped the top over her head. Naked, she lay beneath him. The touch of his bare skin on hers made a deep tremor pass through her. Rollie lifted his head and looked at her. One look into his eyes, which were so full of love it made her want to cry, and her nervousness vanished. She felt an answering love flow up into her like a wellspring.
“I love you,” she whispered.
With a smile of joy, Rollie closed his mouth over hers. Angie buried her hands in his hair, holding him to her as she surrendered completely to the wondrous sensations of their lovemaking. Rollie’s lips lifted from hers and moved downward to take possession of her breasts. Angie cried out softly as he took a nipple into his mouth. She arched her back, pressing herself into him. Her hands slid down his back and encountered his pajama bottoms. The sudden desire to feel him completely naked against her hit her. As if sensing her need, Rollie reached down and removed the material covering his body. When he laid back down upon her, and she felt all of him against her, a wave of desire so powerful it took her breath away hit her.
“Rollie,” Angie moaned deeply. She pulled his lips back to hers, plundering his mouth with a wild hunger. With a groan, Rollie slid fully on top of her, returning the kiss in like kind. The movement of his hands became bolder, driving her even wilder. They began rocking against each other, skin sliding upon skin.
Rollie lifted his head and met Angie’s eyes. Then, with a gentle movement of his hips, he slowly united his body with hers. Angie’s breath caught in her lungs as she was overwhelmed with the sensation of becoming one with him, feeling him fill her body and her soul. She closed her eyes, totally lost in the feeling.
And then, something else happened, something beyond understanding. She felt their connection expand beyond the physical, their hearts and minds linking together.
Utterly one with each other, they began to move, slowly at first, then faster. Angie’s body rocked with Rollie’s, instinct and her connection with him guiding her movements. The fire rose higher and higher, wordless sounds coming from both of them as their bodies continued to speed up. Deep inside her, Angie felt something building, a rising feeling of ecstasy pushing upward. No longer fully in control of her body, she sped up the movement of her hips even more, and the sensation burning inside her rocketed upward. Then, suddenly, it exploded outward, roaring through her like a nuclear blast. A cry ripped from her throat, every muscle in her body tensing and shuddering.
Immersed in the indescribable rapture, Angie felt Rollie’s body move against her wildly. Then, with a cry, he found his release, filling her body with liquid heat.
An eternity later, the rapture subsided. Taking in deep, heaving breaths, husband and wife gazed into each other’s eyes.
“I love you, Angie,” Rollie said, his voice shaking.
Angie stroked the Aussie’s cheek. “I love you too, Rollie. I may have forgotten our life for the past seven years, but I couldn’t forget that.”
Rollie shifted slightly, preparing to move off her.
“No. I want you to stay,” she told him, wrapping her arms around him more tightly.
Rollie smiled and laid his head down on her shoulder. “I didn’t know if you would want to this time.”
“Do we often stay like this afterwards?”
“Yeah.” Rollie gave a contented sigh and nuzzled his face in the place between her neck and shoulder.
Angie closed her eyes and caressed Rollie’s hair and shoulders. It felt wonderful having him like this, his body resting on hers, still connected with her. The utter joy she was feeling suddenly overwhelmed her, and she felt tears spill over and slide down her cheeks. Feeling the wetness, Rollie lifted his head and gazed at her.
Angie gave him an embarrassed smile and wiped the tears away. “You must think I’m pretty silly.”
“Angie, I cried like a baby after we made love for the first time,” he told her, gently wiping away the remaining wetness. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Is it always like it was this time? I mean, is it always that amazing?”
Rollie smiled faintly. “You mean between us or making love in general?”
“Both, I guess.”
“Well, in general, no, not even close, but between us, yeah, it is. Every time.”
Angie chewed on her lip, trying to decide something. “Rol, when we were making love, I felt . . . something. I felt. . . .” Angie stopped, words failing her.
Her husband met her gaze. “A connection?” he asked.
Angie nodded. “What was it?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that it happens every time, and that I’ve never felt it with anyone else.” He caressed her cheek. “The first time we kissed, I felt as if it was right, that we were meant to be. The first time we made love, I knew it with absolute certainty.”
The minutes passed as they kissed and caressed. In time, their kisses and touches grew in passion, and they made love a second time, both of them experiencing the completeness of their union again. Afterwards, satiated and content, they fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Angie awoke to the early morning light. Rollie’s warm body was curled up behind her, his breath tickling the hairs on the nape of her neck. Not wanting to wake him, she very slowly turned over to look at him.
Last night, she’d come to him because she had wanted to remember the joy of being made love to by him. Though their lovemaking had not brought back her memories, it did bring her a greater joy than she could ever remember feeling.
Angie ran her eyes over her husband’s face. In sleep, he looked younger, carefree, the pain and worries of life shed for a few precious hours. She loved him, so much that it awed her. Was it because she was subconsciously remembering how she felt before or had she fallen in love with him all over again? She didn’t know, but she did know that she wanted this happiness to last forever.
It was then, as Angie thought about how happy her life with Rollie would be, that she began to remember. The memories came slowly at first, filling her mind with images. She remembered the times she and Rollie comforted each other, the fun they had together. She remembered their first date, their first kiss, the night they finally went from being friends to lovers, the day she told Rollie that she was going to have a baby. Then came other moments of their life together, the work they did on movies, the cases they helped the police solve, the everyday stuff they did together.
Angie then began to remember the other things of her life. The memories of her father’s death hit her but did not overpower her. When the memories of Victor Loubar came, she was, again, not overwhelmed. The memories could not hurt her now. They were in the past, much of the pain washed away by the happiness she’d found since then.
Without realizing it, Angie had closed her eyes. As the final pieces of her memory fell into place, she opened her eyes to find Rollie watching her.
“You remember,” he said.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I just knew. Something woke me up, and when I looked at your face, I knew that you were remembering.”
Angie hugged her husband. “It’s all there, Rol. I remember everything. I remember us.”
Rollie smiled joyfully and pulled her tightly against him. “It’s so good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be back. It was so frustrating and upsetting not to remember such a big chunk of my life. But . . . I think that, in a way, what happened, me losing my memory, was a good thing. It has really shown me how lucky I am, that, regardless of all the lousy things that have happened to me, to us, my life has been great--and it’s all because of you.”
Rollie caressed her cheek. “I feel the same way, Ange. Without you, I know that I would have been a lot lonelier and less content with my life.”
Angie snuggled against her husband. “I will never forget what it felt like not to know that I’d found this with you and what it felt like to get it all back.”
With a contented sigh, husband and wife drifted back into sleep, the
memories of their life together bringing happy dreams of yesterday and