Authors: Barbara Kaylor
“You’re the boss of this place.” Elliot’s whimsical smile made Geneva dizzy. She turned from him and took several deep breaths to keep upright. Thankfully, he was too busy loading a tray with dessert dishes to notice her swaying.
“Ready?” He handed her the lighter tray so he could take the one with the filled coffee mugs.
They carried both to the living room where Perry sat, watching a news program. He turned it off when he heard them approaching and smiled when he saw the dessert plates.
“Mmm, Key Lime pie.”
“Your favorite, Grandpa.” Geneva placed her tray on the coffee table. Elliot set his next to it.
“One of my many favorites,” Perry corrected, good-humoredly. “They’re all so good, I can’t make up my mind.”
“All these desserts are going to start showing up on my waistline,” Elliot worried out loud.
“Not the way Geneva makes them.” Perry scooped out a bite of his pie.
Elliot glanced at Geneva with a befuddled grin.
“I have a few secrets.” She winked back.
“I don’t know how you managed all this while helping me with the lake today,” Elliot remarked as he settled on the sofa. He remembered Olivia’s objection to home-cooked meals. To Elliot, sitting around the table over one was the delight of the day. He looked forward to the time like a child waiting for Christmas morning.
Geneva shrugged. “It’s a trick I learned from my Grandma Inez. When I cook or bake, I make two or three dishes at a time and freeze the extras. That way, when I’m pressed for time, I can just reach into the freezer and pull something out.”
“Smart,” Elliot said, charmed by her expertise and humility.
While they ate, Elliot mentioned the possibility of his family visiting the next week.
“That’s wonderful!” Geneva blurted. “I’d love to have them for dinner while they’re here.”
“I’m sure they’d love to come.” Elliot quipped.
“All I can cook up is a sermon.” Perry laughed. “They’re welcome to attend the church services.”
Elliot nodded. “They’ll be delighted with that, too.”
“It’ll be nice to see your family again, Elliot,” Geneva said, honestly. “Your mother and Peggy used to attend all the company socials. As I recall, your mother was a real charmer. She was always full of life and sweet as a daisy.”
“She still is,” Elliot admitted, even though he couldn’t remember the past. Jewel Starling was a silver-haired ball of energy and spunk. “She has fond memories of you. So does Peggy.” He shared their comments about her. Geneva blushed at their generous words.
Perry watched as Elliot and Geneva bantered over their dessert and coffee. The looks in their eyes told him it was time to leave. Excusing himself, he took his dishes to the kitchen, washed them up at the sink then retired to his room with the hopes the two would make the most of his absence.
“I feel like a walk. Care to join me?” Elliot asked when they finished cleaning the kitchen later. The latest memory convinced him he’d had feelings for Geneva at one time. It was time to address them. Brushing them aside was getting him nowhere. Just like he confronted Olivia with their history together, he had to do the same with Geneva.
Geneva chuckled. “I was just going to suggest that.” She grabbed a shawl to throw over her shoulders. “Do you mind if Russell tags along? He likes nighttime walks.”
“I’ll get the leash.” Elliot pulled it from a basket by the back door and hooked it to Russell’s collar when they stepped on the front porch. “Let’s go pal.” The dog was ecstatic.
“What are you and your family going to do next week?” Geneva asked in a casual way as they strolled under a full moon.
“They’re going to help me clean the lake,” Elliot explained.
“How nice! Nothing bonds people together like team work.”
They walked along the edge of the road, moving to the grassy shoulder whenever a vehicle passed. Geneva tingled each time Elliot steered her from danger with a touch at her elbow.
Elliot searched the stars overhead. “The world is so peaceful here, Geneva. It’s almost like I belong here and not in Orlando.” His voice wrinkled in places with longing. “I wouldn’t mind starting a new life here and never returning to the other one. Is that selfish of me?”
“Considering you don’t remember your other life, I would think not.” A warm sensation overwhelmed Geneva at the thought of Elliot living in Holly Park. Her imagination took off as she visualized a life with him. She felt hopeful, knowing he’d grown fond of her hometown.
They walked a little ways in silence, each in their own thoughts until Elliot couldn’t hold his in anymore.
“Ahem.” Elliot cleared his throat. “I wasn’t completely honest with you this evening when I told you about my new memory.”
“Oh.” Geneva couldn’t read his face in the dark. Was it a good or bad thing? She prepared herself for something bad.
Elliot stopped where the oak trees formed a canopy over the narrow road and pulled Geneva to a spot saturated with moonbeams.
“I can’t go any further without telling you the truth, Geneva.” He gripped her shoulders tenderly.
Geneva trembled under his gentle touch and powerful gaze. “What are you talking about, Elliot?”
“I haven’t told you before because I wasn’t sure what it was I was feeling. I couldn’t trust my own emotions.” He slid his hands from her shoulders, down her arms, to her hands. “You’re shaking,” he said. “Don’t be afraid, Geneva.”
Geneva smiled under a thread of moonlight. “I’m not afraid.” Her honeysweet tone was all the encouragement Elliot needed to speak his heart.
“I—think—I’m in love with you, Geneva.” His words caught in his throat.
you’re in love with me,” Geneva echoed with speculation.
Elliot shook his head, confused. “No, I
in love with you. At least that’s what I believe I’ve been feeling whenever I remember you.” He caressed her hands. “I’m really botching this up, aren’t I? I guess I’m still confused by what’s happening.”
“It’s okay, Elliot.” Geneva squeezed his hands to calm her own nerves. His confession came from nowhere. It stunned and overwhelmed her. It was too much to absorb in the simplicity of their surroundings. Geneva felt off kilter. Her legs were about to buckle. She had to pull Elliot back to the real world. “You don’t have to pour out your heart and soul to me at this very moment. There’s still a lot of uncertainty inside you. You have to move slowly.” She couldn’t read his face, but she felt the muscles in his arms tense. It was clear her response bothered him.
“Do you have feelings for me, Geneva?” His directness challenged Geneva to face the truth. She met his question with just enough silence to draw an aching sigh from Elliot. He dropped her hands. She lifted one and touched the side of his face. Her fingers felt the soft scruff on his jaw.
“I’m not sure what I’m allowed to feel, Elliot.” Her honesty moved him. He clasped his hand over hers.
“Tell me what you feel right now, Geneva.”
Geneva hesitated while her thoughts gathered. She took a deep breath and jumped in where moments ago she feared. It wasn’t fair to keep Elliot wondering. Hadn’t she’d prayed for this moment since she’d met Elliot Starling, to tell him how she felt about him.
Here’s your chance, Geneva. Make the most of it. It may be the only time you get.
“I care for you in a special way, Elliot,” she started with restraint. His hand twitched next to hers as if that wasn’t good enough.
You can do better than that,
she scolded herself.
Romancing a man wasn’t exactly easy for Geneva. She didn’t have a bit of experience. Her only brush with it had been a crush on Elliot Starling, and that had been oh-so brief and unsuccessful.
Or had it been?
Geneva braced herself.
Go ahead. Tell him how you really feel?
“You don’t have to say anything, Geneva.” The finality in Elliot’s tone stomped the fire out of Geneva’s thoughts. He took his hand from hers. A cold sensation ruffled through her veins as he spoke. “I’m pressuring you to admit something you obviously don’t feel. I assumed you felt the same about me as I did about you. I guess I was wrong.”
“No, Elliot,” Geneva heard herself blurt out. “You’re not wrong.”
“I’m glad you were honest with me, Geneva.” Elliot played with the rim of his coffee cup.
Before admitting her feelings for him, Geneva had suggested they return to the house. She brewed a fresh pot of gourmet coffee to ease their tension then they settled at the kitchen table to talk it all out.
“I couldn’t let you dangle between knowing and not knowing. You seemed so pathetic.” Her emerald eyes teased. When Geneva had confessed her school-girl crush on Elliot a few minutes earlier, he’d surprised her by blushing and told her he was flattered.
“I’d hoped you felt the same as me,” Elliot said, now that everything was out in the open. “I thought I was going crazy. Now it makes sense.”
“What?” Geneva propped her elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her palm, taking all of Elliot’s handsome face in. She’d dreamed of this day for so many years in so many ways, she almost pinched herself to make sure she was awake.
“Why I never forgot you,” he said in a humble voice. “My first memory was of the day I fired you because it hurt me so badly. I thought you had given your heart to someone else, and I panicked. I flew into a jealous rage and fired you. After you walked out, I knew in my heart that I was in love with you. I think the reason I changed was because I couldn’t have you. I’d put a wall between us. It was my fault. I know that now.”
Elliot reached across the table and pulled one of Geneva’s hands away from her chin. He caressed it tenderly. His love for her was profound.
“Is it too late to repair all the damage I caused?”
Geneva slid him a starry-eyed look while pushing a curly lock of hair behind her ear. “There was really no damage, Elliot. Getting fired set the wheels in motion for me to be here when my grandmother needed me and to start the Serenity ministry.”
“What if I hadn’t had the accident and amnesia?” Elliot wondered aloud. Would he have found his way to Geneva?
“God would have brought us together another way,” Geneva said, convincingly. “I promise you that.”
“I love you, Geneva.” Elliot never meant anything more deeply, but then Olivia popped in his head. Had he said the same to her?
“What about Olivia?” Geneva read his thoughts. She eased her hand out of his.
Elliot pressed his palms against his temples with frustration. “If only I could remember how I really felt about Olivia, but I can’t. I did suggest we postpone the wedding.”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing good.” Elliot expanded on his time with Olivia.
Geneva frowned. “She sounds determined to marry you whether you remember her or not?”
“I can’t marry someone I don’t love.”
“I think we’ve covered a lot for one night. Let’s sleep on our thoughts and talk some more tomorrow.” Geneva stood and cleared the table.
“I like that idea.” Elliot followed Geneva to the sink. He gently turned her around to face him then surprised her with a tender kiss. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do that,” he whispered in her ear when his lips released hers. “I couldn’t wait any longer.”
Geneva’s radiant smile expressed her pleasure. She hooked her arms around his neck. “I can’t believe this is happening, Elliot. I thought I’d go through my whole life not ever seeing you again. Now, you’re here, and I’m in your arms. I’m so grateful. I love you so much.”
Elliot pulled her closer and kissed her again then let her go abruptly. “I’d better say goodnight and get going.” He headed to the door then turned with a delicious smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Geneva.”
Geneva stayed awake half the night, too keyed up to sleep. Her dream was coming true, but at what price? She wasn’t fond of Olivia Swanson, but the woman was Elliot’s fiancée. Thus, the crease in Geneva’s blessing, if that’s what this was. She couldn’t just toss the woman aside as if she didn’t exist, no matter how coldhearted Olivia acted. After praying about it, Geneva knew what she had to do. She explained it to Elliot the next day over breakfast at the lake before they started working.
“I’m sure of my feelings for you, Elliot, but I’m not ready to celebrate,” she told him in a whoosh as she handed him a plate of sliced cantaloupe with a bagel. “It feels too much like we’re cheating. Olivia is your fiancée despite the fact you can’t remember her. I won’t proceed into a relationship with you until your one with Olivia is resolved.”
Elliot wasn’t thrilled to put his love for Geneva on hold, but he agreed.
“I couldn’t sleep last night from thinking about it,” he said, frowning. “I’ve been so busy, trying to figure out why I remember only you that I haven’t spent any time trying to figure out my involvement with Olivia. I didn’t get anywhere when I saw her last week. We don’t communicate well because we’re no longer on the same page. She’s not an easy person to be around.”
“You have to try, Elliot,” Geneva urged. “I’m not Olivia’s biggest fan, but she’s first in line. Any moment you could remember everything. All of this between us could go
! I want to be prepared.”
Elliot put his plate down. “I won’t let that happen, Geneva. My feelings for you started years ago when you worked for me. If I hadn’t been such a fool, I would have told you then. I wouldn’t have let you go.”
“You can’t erase what’s happened, Elliot, no matter how we feel about each other.” It pained Geneva to point that out. “I wish we could pretend Olivia isn’t in the equation, but that would be all kinds of wrong. I couldn’t live with myself, knowing she was left dangling. You need to deal with your relationship with her.”
“You’re right. Again.” Elliot agreed, reluctantly. “I don’t want to start
relationship out on an unfavorable note. I have to end things with Olivia. I made a mess of my life, and now I need to fix it.”