Authors: Leona Karr
The warning was so blatant that it made Andrew reply just as forcibly. “I’m sure she does— I’m one of them.”
Janelle’s amused glance took in the two men. “Well, now that we’ve got that settled, why don’t we give Patricia some privacy? I’ll bet she’d like to rest and get into some of her own clothes.” She eyed the simple sundress that Andrew had bought for Trish. “I think a woman’s wardrobe always helps her to identify herself.”
If only it were that simple,
Trish thought. Didn’t Janelle realize outward trappings couldn’t miraculously rescue her from a deep-seated memory loss? She knew the woman was doing her best to cope with this awkward situation, and Trish had the feeling she was as much a friend as a business associate.
At that moment the doorbell rang, and the housekeeper, Sasha, who had been hovering at the back of room listening to the conversation, hurriedly went to answer it.
Both Janelle and Curtis stiffened as they heard voices and a woman’s sharp question, “Is she here?”
Trish gasped as a faint flicker of recognition almost rose to the surface.
Did she know it? As she fixed her gaze on the living room door, her knees suddenly felt ready to give way. Andrew touched her shoulder and she gained strength from his warm squeeze.
Sasha led two people into the room, a curvaceous blond woman wearing a tight sexy crimson dress, and a young man somewhere in his twenties who looked about ten years her junior. They stopped just inside the room and stared at Trish as if she were some apparition suddenly appearing from the dead.
Trish didn’t remember either of them.
“There you are,” the woman said in her loud, breezy voice. “I can’t believe it. This whole thing has been a dreadful nightmare. I want some answers, Patricia, right now.”
The young man grabbed her arm. “Take it easy, Darlene.”
“Shut up, Gary,” she snapped, keeping her demanding eyes fixed on Trish. “Tell me, what happened to Perry? Where is he? I want the truth, Patricia. No more of this sneaking around behind my back.”
“For godsake, Darlene,” Janelle snapped, “this is no time to go into your paranoia tirade.”
“Paranoia, is it?” she scoffed. “The two of them sneaked off on an afternoon rendezvous, I just know it. And they took advantage of the storm to make us
all crazy with worry. I’m willing to bet that the two of them were cuddled up somewhere all this time, having a good laugh on all of us.” She narrowed her heavy thick eyelashes, and then turned to Curtis. “What kind of a story has she told you?”
“We haven’t had a chance to talk,” he answered sharply. “But I agree with Janelle. You don’t have any cause to throw around such malicious accusations.”
“Oh, you know my stepmother,” the young man said with a sardonic smile as he flopped down in a chair. “She creates her own soap operas, don’t you, Mama, dear?”
Darlene sent him a glare that would have withered most people. “We’re not all as stupid as you are, Gary. Just because your father always bails you out of your miserable schemes doesn’t make him a saint.” Her eyes flashed back to Trish. “Especially when there’s a designing, manipulative woman around.”
“Are you referring to yourself by any chance, making these outlandish accusations?” Andrew asked boldly. He could see that Trish was reeling under the onslaught of the woman’s vitriolic insinuations, and he was ready to physically remove the obnoxious woman from the room.
“And who in the hell are you?” Darlene demanded, turning on Andrew with flashing eyes.
“Our hero of the moment,” Curtis answered dryly. “Darlene Reynolds meet Andrew Davis. I was just asking him if he’d seen anything of your husband.”
Curtis just shrugged.
“Enough of this!” Trish snapped. From some deep well of latent strength, she found the courage to take
charge, and speak her mind. “I don’t remember any of you. And at the moment, that seems to be a blessing.”
Andrew gave her an approving grin.
I have a temper. Good, for me,
she thought. At least, she wasn’t afraid of the present situation anymore. Pent-up feelings of paranoia that she’d been harboring seemed to fade in this face-to-face meeting with the people in her life. She felt more than capable of handling any of them. “Right now, I want all of you except Andrew to get out of here and leave me alone.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Patricia,” Curtis responded in a conciliatory tone. “At the very least, Janelle should stay. She’ll be able to help you orient yourself in the apartment, and run interference with unwanted visitors.” He didn’t add Janelle would also serve as chaperone, but the look he gave Andrew was clear enough.
“Maybe it would be best if I stayed, Patricia. Don’t you think so, Andrew?” Janelle asked, looking at him for his approval.
He nodded, and lowering his voice, he said softly to Trish, “I’ll come back later, after you’ve had a chance to settle in. You can always call me. The office is only a few minutes away. Okay, Trish?”
He searched her face, wanting to take her in his arms and tell everyone else to get the hell out of there. If there had been some way to spare her all of this, he would have jumped at it.
She drew in a deep breath, trying to still an impulse to beg him to stay—or take her with him. He was right, of course. Nothing would be gained by trying to run away. She had to know the truth about herself,
even if the ugly things the malevolent blonde was saying about her were true.
“Good. Everyone but Janelle will clear out and give you time to reorient yourself.”
“And who put you in charge, Mr. Whatever-your-name is?” Darlene snapped.
“I was wondering the same thing,” Curtis said, his dark eyes narrowing. “Aren’t you being a little presumptuous telling Patricia what to do? How long have you known her? A week? Maybe you ought to back off and let her old friends look after her.”
“Just go, all of you,” Trish ordered. “Now.” She turned to Janelle. “Show me where my room is. I want to lie down.”
Trish turned on her heel and started toward an open door leading off the living room.
“No, not that way.” Janelle said quickly, stopping her. “That’s the hall that leads to the library, dining room and kitchen. The hall to the bedrooms is this way.” She looped her arm through Trish’s. “I’ll show you.”
Trish gave her a grateful look and ignored the poignant silence that followed them out of the room.
After they had disappeared down the hall, the young man, Gary, smirked as he got to his feet. “Quite a performance. I felt like clapping.”
“For once, I agree you with, Gary,” said his stepmother said in a tone that indicated any agreement between them was a rarity. “It’s obvious that this whole amnesia bit is a put-on.”
“Oh, come on, Darlene,” Curtis said impatiently. “Why would Patricia participate in such an elaborate hoax?”
“Don’t be naive, Curtis,” she snapped. “She was
always able to pull the wool over your eyes. Don’t you see? She and Perry are trying to pull off some nefarious scheme to make more money, and keep every precious dollar for themselves.” She glared at Andrew as she put her hands on her curvaceous hips in a challenging manner. “I don’t know what your part is in this con game, but it isn’t going to work. I’m warning you. The authorities are going to get an earful from me.”
“Good,” Andrew responded smoothly. “I’m glad we have a meeting of the minds on this. We all want to know what really happened, don’t we?”
As he let his gaze meet those of the three people facing him, he stiffened against a wave of apprehension. Did they know things that would fall together in a hard truth that would replace his captivating Trish with an unappealing Patricia Radcliffe?
HE BEAUTIFULLY FURNISHED
bedroom didn’t evoke a single strand of recognition as Trish hesitated just inside the door, and let her eyes travel around the room. She could have been visiting someone else’s house, and if Janelle hadn’t led her into this room, she might have made a mistake and chosen a different one.
A lovely embossed wallpaper in shades of cream and soft pink harmonized with floral curtains, a matching bedspread and ruffled pillows. A graceful chaise lounge was set in a corner near a bookshelf.
“You just had the room redecorated,” Janelle offered, as if this fact might change Trish’s blank expression to one of remembrance. “Eloise at Sullivan Interiors did it. You spent a lot of time selecting the right swatches of material for the drapes, bedspread and rug.” She smiled at Trish. “You and Eloise had
a few words about what you wanted, and what she thought you should have.”
The choice of colors and fabrics were clues that Trish embraced eagerly.
I like pastel colors, floral prints, and soft fabrics.
Yes, the bedroom seemed friendly and comfortable. “I like it,” she said with a sense of relief.
“Would you like to shower and change into some different clothes?” Janelle asked in a tone which suggested that a change was in order.
Trish nodded. Like a person snooping into someone else’s walk-in closet, she surveyed racks crowded with designer clothes.
Are all of these mine?
Cautiously, she studied some of the suits, dresses and evening clothes, hoping they would provide more personal information about herself. She even closed her eyes, trying to draw some fleeting images from them, but nothing would come to her. If she’d ever worn these clothes, nothing remained in her mind as an imprint of remembrance.
Janelle tried to be helpful. “Do you remember this one?” she asked Trish as she handed her a lovely peacock-blue dress.
Trish touched the shimmering cloth and let her fingertips trace its soft silken folds. The fabric was sensual to the touch, and the color captivating to the eyes. “It’s beautiful,” she said softly.
“You bought it at Francine Originals the last time we went shopping. Just a week before…before you disappeared. We spent the whole day trying on dresses, going to the spa and beauty parlor.” She sighed. “I can’t believe you’ve forgotten all the good times we’ve had together. Ever since I came to work at Atlantis, six years ago, we’ve been more than just
business associates.” Janelle’s lips quivered as if she was struggling to hold back tears. “We’ve been friends.”
Impulsively, Trish reached out and hugged her. “I could use a good friend right now, Janelle.”
“Me, too. The office is in a mess ever since you’ve been gone. Curtis is throwing his weight around. Everyone is pointing a finger at someone else. My workload is doubled. I’m so glad you’re back. I could always depend upon you to understand.”
They sat down on the edge of the bed together like two girlfriends sharing with each other. After Trish listened to Janelle’s problems at the office, she felt comfortable talking about the nightmare she had been living.
“You have no idea how totally lost I feel.”
“No, I can’t imagine,” Janelle agreed. “And I feel helpless trying to figure out how I can help.”
“Just be there for me, and be willing to answer all my stupid questions. You must know me as well as anyone.”
She nodded. “I guess that’s true since I joined Atlantis a year before your father died. He loved you dearly. When I heard Andrew call you Trish, it surprised me because your father was the only one I ever heard call you that.”
“Really?” Trish breathed in wonderment that the one thing she remembered was her father’s pet name for her. Somehow his love had remained with her.
“I don’t want to prod,” Janelle said, apologetically. “But, surely, you’ve remembered a few other things as well?”
“Like a blue-and-yellow cosmetic bag with but
terflies on it?” Trish asked, looking at her for verification.
Janelle gave her an incredulous look. “I was with you when you bought it. Why would you remember something trivial like that? It doesn’t make sense.”
“None of this makes sense,” Trish admitted readily. “I would like to look at a picture of Perry Reynolds.”
Janelle’s eyes widened. “You remember Perry?”
“I’m not sure. When I read his name in the newspaper article, I had a fleeting image of someone. Do you know if I have any photos of him?”
“I imagine so. There are some photo albums in the library. Do you want me to go check?”
Trish nodded, but as Janelle started to leave the room, Trish stopped her. She knew it was childish, but she didn’t want to be left alone in this unfamiliar bedroom, trying to become a woman she didn’t remember. “Wait, I’ll go with you.”
The library looked more like an office than a place to curl up with a good book. Filing cabinets were lined up against a panelled wall, a large desk held all the components of a computer, and several small stands held copiers, a fax machine and other office equipment. One leather couch and two matching chairs were equipped with study lights as if they were used for nighttime work. Windows looking out on the world were bare except for venetian blinds. Apparently the recent decorator, Eloise, had been forbidden to touch this room.
“Patricia Radcliffe is a workaholic,” Trish said as if talking about a third person.
Janelle nodded as she stooped down and opened some lower cupboards. “Even with a partner like
Perry assuming half of the obligations, running a company like Atlantis is a demanding job. It’s too bad you were an only child. A couple of brothers or sisters would have lightened the responsibility.”
“Did you know my mother?”
“No, she died when you were a baby. It was just you and your father. Ah, here we are.” She drew out several albums and some packets of photos that had never been mounted. Glancing at the dates on the outside of the packets, she said, “It’s more likely you’d find one of Perry in these rather than in the albums. I don’t think any of the albums are very recent.”
As they sat down on the sofa together, Janelle asked, “Do you want me to sort through these envelopes and find a photo of Perry, or do you want to look at all of the pictures?”
“Just find one of Perry,” Trish answered quickly. She wasn’t ready to look at the faces of dozens of people she didn’t know. She leaned back on the sofa and closed her eyes as Janelle sorted through the photographs.