Once Upon a Time, They Loved Each Other...***
Nothing about the room that Eppie awakens in feels like home--not the furnishings, the ill-fitting clothes, or the Colorado sunlight streaming in through the windows. And certainly not the stranger with long dark hair and silver eyes who claims to have been waiting for her for three long years.
Micah Spalding has spent each day hoping that Eppie would open her eyes and return to him. Yet the Eppie he loved was spirited and outspoken--utterly different to this reserved, aloof woman. Since her injury, Eppie has no memory of Micah or their daughter, or of a passion that was powerful enough to defy every convention. And though his scent and touch trigger something deep within her, Eppie can't bring herself to believe in him.
Once, when war between his countrymen had almost broken him, Eppie brought Micah back to life. Now he must find a way to reach through the distance between them and remind her of everything they once shared, and prove that he has belief enough for both of them...
Plum Creek, Colorado
He smiled and reached out to touch her cheek with the back of his hand. "The sunlight makes your skin glow. You know this is our spot?"
Eppie couldn't help but be startled. "Our spot?"
"Where we met every week for almost a year." He looked to the left to a group of aspen trees. "I'd bring that big blue blanket and we'd lie out under the stars. When I saw you came here, I can tell you my heart started beating a mile a minute. Maybe somewhere you do remember deep down."
Eppie's heart joined in and beat right along with his. Was he right? Could she remember things by instinct? She had no idea they'd met for a year before she was injured, but the fact that they were so different should have given her a clue their relationship wasn't the normal type.
"Why did we meet here?"
He jerked a thumb towards the house. "You didn't want Madeline to know. I always hoped it was because you weren't embarrassed by me, but rather that you didn't want to marry me since I'm a crazy hermit from the mountains."
She shook her head in disbelief. "You're a crazy hermit and you asked me to marry you and I said no?"
"Oh, you sure did. Let me see if I can remember your exact words. 'I might love you, you crazy fool, but that don't mean I am crazy enough to marry you. I ain't got to this point in my life to marry the first man to ask me.'" He shrugged. "I've thought about that night for the last three years. It was the last time we, well, were together. I think it was the night Miracle was made."
Eppie's throat tightened and she knew a moment of panic. Had she spoken like that to him? Who was she to throw away a chance at happiness with a man who obviously loved her? She was already intimate with him, that couldn't be debated, so why didn't she want to marry him?
"I'm sorry if I hurt you."
Micah chuckled, sounding like half-pain, half-amused. "Ah, Eppie, love can bring a mountain of hurt and an ocean of happiness. I accepted one and embraced the other."
The silence between them stretched into an uncomfortable one. Eppie didn't know what to say so she let the quiet continue until he finally spoke.
"What else did the doctor say?"
A safe topic, thank God. "He said I was in good health, but underweight and needed lots of fresh air and exercise. My muscles hurt because I haven't used them in so long, but he also said someone had been caring for me by stretching them regularly. Was that you?"
"I did everything he told me too. I wanted to make sure you came back to me." Micah's simple explanation told her a great deal about his motivations, which were selfless and selfish at the same time.
"He's going to consult with a few other doctors in New York and Chicago, then do some reading in a journal for doctors. I don't know how much Madeline is paying him, but to be a doctor's single patient is a bit odd. I told him I didn't want to become an experiment." She already felt as if she were on display and it would only get worse if he used her to study on.
"I won't let that happen. I've kept you safe for three years, please let me continue." His silver eyes glittered in the dappled sunlight and Eppie felt odd for a moment, as if the world tilted beneath her.
An image flashed through her mind of a younger Micah, with fuller cheeks and longer hair, smiling and tickling her nose with a feather. She yelped and scampered backwards, scared and unsettled.
"What is it? What happened?" Micah looked as worried as she felt.
"I think I just remembered you."
If she had given him the keys to a golden city, he couldn't have looked more thrilled as his eyes danced with joy. "Really?"
"I think so. It was here, only you were younger and you were tickling me." She tried to swallow but her throat was so dry, she couldn't.
"With a white feather?"
Eppie stared at him in astonishment. He'd confirmed what she had suspected. She'd remembered.
With a squeal she threw herself into his arms and lost herself in a tight embrace as they celebrated the minute taste of her previous life. Her heart beat so hard, it knocked against her ribs, and she felt the answering throb of his.
When she pulled back, she was close enough to count his eyelashes. His pupils had dilated and felt an answering arousal growing within her, whether or not she wanted it. Her body felt as if she'd been hit by lightening.
"Please." He didn't beg or take, just asked politely.
Eppie couldn't refuse him, her body wouldn't let her. She nodded and closed her eyes as his head lowered. This time the kiss was more intense because their bodies were touching. Her nipples pressed against his hard chest at the same time his hands roamed up and down her back. Sweet, sweet heavens, kissing Micah was like nibbling on the most decadent dessert.
She forgot where she was and what was around her. Diving into Micah was like diving into a pond on a hot day. It felt wonderful, exhilarating and exactly what she needed.
He leaned back and touched her cheek, rubbing his thumb along her cheek bone. She stared up at him, waiting and wanting, what she wasn't sure. It could've been sex, it could've been confirmation she was desirable.
Of course, judging by the stick of wood in his pants currently pressing against her hip, Eppie was definitely desirable.
"I don't want to rush you."
She shook her head. "You're not. This is my choice." She swallowed the lump of fear and uncertainty. "Show me."
He smiled then, a sweet, beautiful smile that lit up his whole face and Eppie knew then what he looked like when he wasn't wallowing in the depths of misery. Micah was exceptionally handsome and for some reason, God decided to give him to her.
For the first time since she'd woken, Eppie took a chance on something other than what to wear or eat. She took a chance on Micah.