Authors: Barbara Kaylor
“What about your family? They must be worried about you.”
Elliot nodded. “They are, and they’ve been good, but I don’t have any memories of them. They’re complete strangers to me. I have no memory of the company either or what I did there. I don’t even remember how to use the computer. Rick even had to give me a refresher course in driving before I came here.”
Geneva sipped her lemonade to ease her nerves before they jackknifed. “What are you going to do while you’re here? Holly Park isn’t Orlando. It’s not exactly bubbling with activities.”
“I brought a laptop. I’ll try to find my way around it again. Other than that, I have no real plans.” He lowered his head with embarrassment and eyed Geneva from underneath a hedge of lashes. “I was hoping I could spend some time with you. I won’t get in the way. I promise.”
“What are you expecting to happen?” A tingle wiggled up her spine. She tucked a loose curl back into her messy bun as if it mattered. Elliot Starling underfoot every day was a dream- come-true, but reason prevailed. He was using her to jog his memory. It was a recipe for more heartbreak. A woman probably waited for him back in Orlando. He hadn’t mentioned one, and he wore no wedding band. Geneva was too embarrassed to ask.
“I’m not sure. Hopefully, I’ll start to remember things.” Elliot’s reply pulled her away from wrinkly thoughts.
“So, you’re here until your memory returns.”
“Or until you get tired of me and kick me back to Orlando.” Elliot surprised them both by chuckling.
Geneva smiled at his humor.
Elliot’s expression flattened. “Seriously, Geneva, I wouldn’t mind helping out around here if you needed me.”
Geneva thought about all the yard work she wouldn’t have to do and the floors that needed cleaning.
“Uh—okay,” she stammered. Having a handyman around would relieve her grandfather of some chores.
“Great.” Elliot nodded. “I was also thinking of asking the Palmers if they needed any help just to keep me busy. I wouldn’t ask for any money. According to Rick, I don’t need any. I’m more interested in finding out who I am than making money.”
“I’m sure the Palmers will take you up on your offer. They have a hard time paying for help, and Ed has arthritis. He can’t do what he used to. Grandpa and I have gone over and helped them a time or two with the maintenance. I hate to think about it, but one day they’re probably going to sell out and move away. The upkeep is getting too hard for them.”
“I’ll speak to them today then,” Elliot said. “I’m anxious to do something besides sit around, wondering about my past. I still have the present. There’s a chance I may never get all my memories back. Rick says God may be working on me. He’s pretty certain it has something to do with the way I treated you.” Elliot dropped then lifted his gaze. “I’m sorry for the way I treated you that morning, Geneva. It’s not the most pleasant memory to have replaying over and over in my head.”
“Trust me,” she replied, somberly. “It’s not the most pleasant for me either.”
“So you still think about it.” Something akin to delight rallied in Elliot’s voice. For some reason he couldn’t fathom, he wanted to be stuck in her head.
“It shuffles across my mind every once in a while.” Geneva shrugged. She wasn’t about to admit how much the firing haunted her memories.
“I was pretty angry that day.” Elliot squirmed. He put his lemonade back on the tray. “Do you know why I reacted like that with you? Rick couldn’t really help me.”
“That puzzled me, too,” Geneva confessed. “We got along fine until then.”
“Rick said I favored you over the other sales reps.”
Geneva blushed, remembering several incidences where Elliot’s compliments had been on the gushing side. She wasn’t aware that he’d favored her.
“You were always very professional,” she told him just as the clip holding her hair on her head snapped in two, spilling her curly locks down her back. Geneva blushed with embarrassment.
“You’ve changed your looks,” Elliot spoke what he’d already noted. His tone didn’t indicate whether or not he approved.
Geneva shook out her hair then finger combed it in a knot at the back of her neck. “Actually, I changed my looks back then. What you see now is the real me.”
“Why did you do that?” Elliot sat mesmerized by the expert way Geneva’s hands had corralled the long tresses.
“To fit in of course,” Geneva scoffed.
“I prefer this look on you.” The compliment rolled off his tongue before he could stop it.
Geneva blushed again. “Speaking of looks, you’re not all starched shirts and cropped hair anymore.”
Elliot rubbed the scruff on his jaw. “I don’t remember that guy.”
“I’m sorry.” Geneva didn’t know what else to say and talk was getting too personal. She stood abruptly, signaling the end of the conversation. “I need to finish my work. Dinner is at six. You can come early if you’d like.”
Elliot returned at five forty-five and visited with Perry while Geneva put the finishing touches on dinner. Table talk was awkward until Perry took over with stories from the pulpit which Elliot enjoyed.
Geneva was relieved when the day finally ended so she could retreat to her room and ponder Elliot’s arrival and what it meant to her life.
Over the next two days, Elliot made good on his offer to help the Palmers out wherever he could. The couple was delighted. When they came over for their usual Wednesday night meal with Geneva and Perry before church services, they praised Elliot to high heaven.
“I’m pretty sure I’m getting more out it,” Elliot said, blushing at all the complimentary remarks. The physical labor made him hungry. He was eating like a horse. Geneva’s cooking amazed him. It was his third meal at her place. He had offered payment, but she had refused.
“You’re earning your meals,” she’d told him.
When dinner was over, Elliot started clearing the table.
“I’ll help with dishes again if you don’t mind,” he said, following Geneva to the kitchen with a load of plates. He’d helped the night before, too.
“You’re going to get dish-pan hands,” she teased as she prepared the soapy water. Geneva had a dishwasher, but she’d made a habit of washing by hand. She enjoyed the time to mull over the day’s events while gazing out the kitchen window, especially when the evenings stayed lighter longer. The tranquil, rolling hills beyond the yard calmed her down after busy days.
“I like doing the dishes and looking out the window.” Elliot echoed Geneva’s thoughts. “The landscape is so peaceful. It really calms me down.”
Geneva gaped at him. “That’s exactly how I feel!” Her openness surprised her.
“I guess we think alike.” Elliot smiled as he gently pushed Geneva aside. “I’ll wash, you clear the table.”
Geneva didn’t argue. She needed a few moments to catch her breath. Elliot Starling was sweeping her off her feet again.
When she returned to the kitchen, she was skipping. Elliot turned to her with a pout. “Hey, I just realized we didn’t have dessert tonight. I feel abused.”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” Geneva set her armload on the counter. “We have dessert after prayer meeting on Wednesdays. You’re welcome to join us for the service then come back here. It’s chocolate cheesecake.”
“Sounds good, but,” Elliot paused. He couldn’t remember going to church. He had bowed out when Rick and Jewel had invited him to tag along with them the Sunday before coming here.
Geneva didn’t need a thump on the head.
“Don’t feel pressured about coming to church with us, Elliot,” she told him in a soft, understanding voice. “You can still come for dessert if you’d like.”
He declined. “Maybe another time.” He finished the dishes a little downhearted. He’d been looking forward to spending some extra time that evening with Geneva now that they had grown more comfortable with each other.
All he had to look forward to now was another night, lying awake in bed, thinking of her and wondering why he could only remember her and nothing else. It puzzled him to the point of exhaustion. Had he been secretly in love with her?
Geneva was restless all during the service that night. An idea had wormed its way into her head, and she couldn’t wait to act on it. When everyone gathered in the kitchen after the service, Geneva hurried to serve the Palmers and her grandfather so she could run a generous slice of cheesecake over to Elliot. She poured him a glass of milk to go with it.
“Aren’t you going to join us, dear?” Winnie Palmer asked when she saw Geneva fixing up a tray.
“I thought I’d take some dessert to Elliot,” she answered.
“Oh, how sweet of you, Geneva,” Winnie replied. “He’s such a lovely man. It’s so sad about his amnesia.”
Perry gave his granddaughter an approving look as she headed to the front porch.
“Stay home, Russell,” Geneva ordered as she passed the dog, curled up on his bed. The evening was dark, but the yard lights helped guide her.
Elliot was sitting outside his cabin on a lawn chair. Geneva got all bubbly inside at the sight of him. As she neared, he stood and walked toward her with a lopsided grin. It complimented his tousled hair.
“I brought you some dessert with cold milk,” she answered in a cheerful voice.
“That’s mighty neighborly of you,” he joked, taking the tray from her. He carried it to a small picnic table on the patio where they sat down side by side. Geneva uncovered everything and handed Elliot his plate with a fork and napkin. An umbrella of porch light circled over them. Elliot gawked at the man-sized portion of cheesecake.
“This looks delicious, Geneva.” He cut a bite with the edge of his fork and stuck it in his mouth. “Mmm—” he moaned. Poking his fork in the air, he said, “This is dangerous stuff.”
“I’m glad you like it.” Geneva cut into her smaller slice. “I get carried away with desserts. They’re my favorite things to make. I have to be careful not to pig out on them. As you can tell, I’ve added a few pounds since I worked for your company.”
Elliot washed down his bite with some milk then noted out loud. “You’re very attractive, Geneva.” He meant it. Her weight was well distributed. It was obvious she took care of herself without going overboard. She had a healthy glow that went from her tumbling red hair to her coral-painted toenails. He liked everything about her. She was so feminine and strong at the same time.
“I wasn’t fishing for a compliment, Elliot,” Geneva snickered daintily with her gaze tucked under a fine set of feathery lashes. “But, thanks anyway.”
“Pardon me if I sound forward, but I’m just trying to remember.” Elliot balanced a fork full of cheesecake over his plate. “Did you like me at all when you worked for me? I mean before I fired you? In my memory, you seemed more hurt and disappointed than angry on that day. That’s why I’m asking. You don’t have to answer if it makes you uncomfortable, but I really would like to know how you felt about me before the firing.” He popped the forkful in his mouth and chewed leisurely while Geneva considered his question.
She put her fork down. She knew it was important for Elliot to regain his memory, but she had to choose her words carefully. As far as she knew, he had not been aware of her crush on him. At least she didn’t remember giving out signals whenever she was around him. Maybe he had picked up on it somehow on his own. Elliot Starling was a very astute, observant man. Scarily so. He could finish a person’s sentence like a mind reader.
“I liked you for a boss.” That was true at least. “You were enthusiastic and smart. You pushed the sales force and kept us on our toes. I liked your energy and discipline.”
Elliot chuckled lightly. “I was talking about outside the work place. Apart from considering me a super boss, did you have any feelings for me? We’re we close?”
“No!” Geneva replied too quickly. “We weren’t close. We didn’t socialize outside the office. You frowned on that kind of behavior. We didn’t secretly date or anything like that. We saw each other at company parties and picnics.”
“You would tell me if there had been something between us, wouldn’t you, Geneva?”
“Of course.” Geneva blinked. “Why would I keep that from you?”
“Because it was a bad experience for you, and you wouldn’t want to relive any of it.”
“There was nothing between us, Elliot. Honestly.”
“Then why do I feel such a strong connection to you? Why do I remember you and not my fiancée?”
Geneva gasped. “Y—your what? Y—you’re engaged?” An imaginary time bomb exploded in the center of her chest.
Elliot nodded. “Apparently so, but I have no recollection of her. I don’t feel anything when I’m around her except disdain and unease. She’s not a very likeable person, and she makes me feel very uncomfortable.”
“Wh—who is she?” Geneva was afraid to ask. Within seconds, her whole world had flipped over. She’d assumed Elliot was a single man without anyone in his life. She’d been foolish not to have asked earlier.
The name hit Geneva like a rock to the forehead. Her flabbergasted expression wasn’t hard to read.
“You don’t like her?” Elliot asked, intrigued by Geneva’s flustered state.
Geneva smoothed her disappointment out with a shrug. “Olivia and I started at the same time. We had different work styles.” Geneva was vague. She couldn’t prove it, but she always felt it was Olivia’s fault she was fired. The girl had been relentless. Getting Elliot Starling was priority one to Olivia. She’d do anything to snag him.
“You must have relaxed the rules about employees and management dating,” Geneva said in a calm voice meant to hide the sudden jealousy.
“I think we got around that issue with Olivia leaving the company.” Elliot’s tone sounded bored as he explained. “She has her own marketing company.”