I never really expected to write an amnesia story, but when it came to Zach and April’s story, I couldn’t resist.
When April’s memory goes missing, not all her millions can buy it back.
Zach Harris was sure the girl he’d picked up in the bar last night said her name was Angel. Too bad she didn’t tell him anything more about herself, because this morning, she can’t remember anything-not even her name!
What poor-little-rich-girl April Valenzuela views as a problem, however, Zach sees as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; a chance for her to discover who she really is. Not her name or her address, but the important stuff. Her personality. Her likes and dislikes. Her preferences-in and out of bed.
* * * * *
This early in the day, Malibu Beach was deserted; a flat expanse of golden sand under a pale, blue sky. I stared through the window of Gladstone’s restaurant, where Zach had taken me for breakfast, watching the waves roll in–ceaseless, never ending, like the questions in my mind–until his voice recalled me. “You figure out what you want to eat yet?”
Reluctantly, I turned away from the window and gazed at my menu, once more scanning disinterestedly through the list of breakfast items. “No. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I like. I can’t even tell if I’ve eaten any of these things, or just heard about them.” And I wasn’t sure I cared. I had serious doubts about Zach’s contention that I’d feel better after I ate something. Could a full stomach really compensate for an empty head?
“Order the pancakes,” he suggested, smiling sweetly. “You can’t go wrong with that, right? I mean, nobody doesn’t like pancakes.”
“Okay,” I agreed, trying hard not to sound ungracious, trying even harder to hide my resentment over the fact that he could still smile and make jokes and be so cheerfully good humored at a time like this.
Our waitress returned with the drinks Zach had ordered when we first sat down: coffee for both of us, plus a large glass of orange juice for him.
“Are you sure you don’t want any juice?” he asked now, as if we hadn’t just had this conversation five minutes earlier. I shook my head.
As he ordered our meal, pancakes for me, something called a Hangtown Fry for himself, I picked up my coffee cup and sniffed the aroma, trying to determine if it was familiar.
Of course it’s familiar, I realized after no more than a few seconds. I’d been smelling it for the past fifteen minutes, ever since we first stepped foot in the restaurant; I just hadn’t known what it was. Sighing, I returned the cup to the table.
“Anything?” There was a trace of sympathy in Zach’s voice.
I shrugged a little. “Not really.”
“Try tasting it.”
I lifted the cup to my lips. It was hotter than I’d expected, with a dark, bitter edge, a mellow undertone and a hint of something not quite sweet. “It’s okay.”
“Want some whipped cream to go with it? Sugar? How about some of these little chocolate chips they got here? Maybe you’ll like it better that way.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s fine.” I wasn’t all that interested in the coffee. I had much bigger things to worry about.
“Look, this doesn’t have to be so bad, you know.”
“You think not? Maybe you should try it.”
“I kind of wish I could,” he said, and I could tell by the wistful look on his face that he really meant it. “It’s gotta be like…well, like being a virgin all over again. Everything is brand new. You’ve got the whole world to discover.”
“I don’t want the whole world. At the moment, I’d be happy just to discover what my name is.”
Zach sighed. “I already told you that, didn’t I? Your name’s Angel.”
“Well, that’s not very helpful, is it?” One name? One name was useless. Worse than useless, really, since this was LA where entirely too many people used stage names. For all I knew, I was one of them. “I just wish there was something I could do.”
“Like what? We’ve been through this already. You didn’t want to go to the hospital, which, hey, I completely understand.”
“No.” I shook my head. “No hospitals.” What could they do for me in a hospital? There was nothing physically wrong with me, so far as I could tell. And the thought of getting trapped there–with no way to leave, and nowhere to go–was almost more frightening than anything else I could imagine.
“And, like I said, there’s no sense in going to the police yet, since if anyone’s going to file a missing person’s report, they’ll have to wait twenty four hours before they do it. Plus, it’s a weekend, which means there’s a good chance you won’t even be missed until Monday.”
I nodded my head and sipped more coffee, disguising the vague sense of uneasiness that gripped me every time Zach made that particular point. It couldn’t be normal, not to be missed for days on end. Why was he so anxious for me to believe that it was?
“Besides, like I keep telling you, it’s probably just temporary, anyway. You had a lot to drink last night. You hit your head. You’ll probably wake up tomorrow morning remembering everything.”
“I hope so,” I murmured, clinging to the idea. And, if it turned out he was right, and I’d brought this on myself; if this amnesia was the result of nothing more than a night of too much partying? Then I was never going to take so much as a sip of anything alcoholic, ever again. “We’re still going to check out that bar, though, right? The one where you say we met? Just in case I left my purse there, or my cousin left a message, or something?”
Zach nodded. “Sure. We’ll swing by Zephyr right after breakfast. It won’t be open yet, but they know me there. They’ll let us in and we can take a look around. Who knows, maybe just being there’ll be enough to bring your memory back?”
I sighed. “That would be nice.” But I sure wasn’t counting on it.
Our food arrived, accompanied by a hot blast of fragrance. I sniffed the air appreciatively. Everything smelled so good and I could feel a rumbling anticipation in my stomach. Perhaps Zach was right, after all. Maybe eating really would make me feel better.
I was digging into my pancakes when he stopped me. “Hold on,” he said, picking up the little plastic tub that had accompanied my meal. “Can’t forget the syrup, right?” His eyes were twinkling as he poured it over the contents of my plate. “There. Now try it.”
I slid the first forkful into my mouth and felt my eyes widen in surprise as the soft, melting sweetness, the warm, creamy flavor hit my tongue.
“Good?” Zach asked, eyeing me curiously.
My mouth full, I nodded; and forked up another bite.
“Want to try some of mine?”
I glanced at his plate. According to the menu, his dish was a classic: oysters sautéed with bacon, onion and scrambled eggs. Which meant precisely nothing to me. “I don’t know. How does it taste? Is it good?”
“Well, I think so. Here. Let’s see what you think of oysters.” He leaned across the table. The little blob at the end of his fork looked gray and unappealing, but I opened my mouth obligingly, just the same. One taste, however, and I immediately wished I hadn’t been so trusting.
“Omigod,” I mumbled, clasping my hand to my mouth. I don’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t this. The taste was dark–much darker than the coffee–intense, slightly salty, I swallowed it fast and then drank more coffee to wash it down.
“So? D’you like it?”
I shook my head. “Mm-mm.” Sure, there was something faintly intriguing about the flavor, but it was much too strong.
“Oh.” Zach looked vaguely crestfallen. “Probably more of an acquired taste, I guess. We’ll work on that later. Here, try some of this melon.”
This time, a bright, orange square glistened on the end of his fork, I gazed at it doubtfully. “No, thanks. I think I’ll stick to pancakes.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Zach urged. “Give it a try. What’s life without a few risks?”
“Safe,” I answered, taking another bite, hoping to deflect him. No such luck.
One of those hard to resist grins lit up his face. “C’mon, I promise, you’re in no danger from this cantaloupe. Unless you’re a diabetic, of course, in which case those pancakes you’re eating will probably kill you.”
Startled, I stopped eating and stared at him. “What?”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry. You’re not diabetic. You wouldn’t have been out drinking last night, if you were.”
I sighed in relief. “Don’t scare me like that.” He was still holding his fork out to me, and it was clear he had no intentions of backing down. “You don’t take no for an answer, do you?”
That put the grin back on his face in a hurry. “Not if I can help it.”
“Okay, fine. Let me have it.”
* * * * *
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