“Are you sure you don’t remember this place?” He gave her an anxious smile. “We came out here a couple of years ago. You were so enthralled with the scenery, I always swore I’d bring you back.”
“It’s beautiful, but I don’t think—” Lea Westin broke off in mid-sentence as she raked her gaze across the rugged landscape. Whispering Springs Ranch remained a mystery to her, but she knew she’d been to the Texas Hill Country before. She had vague memories of long, lazy days floating down the bottle green Guadalupe and of hot, summer nights gazing up at the stars. However, she had no memories at all of the man beside her. The man who claimed to be her husband.
Until two days ago, she hadn’t even known her own name and then a handsome stranger had turned up at the small rehab center where she’d been recovering from a head injury sustained in a brutal attack. Passersby had found her unconscious in an alley and called the police. She’d been rushed to the nearest trauma hospital where she remained unconscious for nearly forty-eight hours. When she finally awakened, she couldn’t remember her name, where she lived or how she’d been injured. Or why she’d been walking alone in downtown Houston after midnight. She had no recall at all beyond those distant, distorted images from her childhood.
Folding her hands in her lap, she cast a sidelong glance at her husband. Andrew Westin. Tall, slender, sharply dressed. Lea had been taken aback by his good looks when he first appeared in the garden where she sat watching the sunset. She couldn’t take her eyes off him, but he hadn’t minded. Her curiosity was only natural, he’d said.
Since that first meeting, her scrutiny had grown more furtive. She found his perfection intimidating, and she was too self-conscious of her own battered appearance, too overly aware of the forgotten intimacy between them. Not that he seemed to expect anything in the way of affection. Except for a peck on the cheek, he hadn’t kissed or embraced her. The doctor said you need your space, he had explained. So we’ll take things nice and slow. One day at a time.
Lea supposed she should be relieved that she’d married such a kind and solicitous man, but she couldn’t help wondering about his distance or why she had been out alone so late at night. He’d brushed off her inquiries. Now was not the time to get into all that. She needed to concentrate on her recovery. Nothing else mattered.
But, of course, everything mattered to Lea. How else was she to piece together her shattered life? Their marriage had obviously been in trouble. She suspected a separation, which would explain why she’d spent ten days in the hospital and then rehab before her husband had come to claim her. It would also explain why she hadn’t been wearing a wedding ring when the police found her, although the attacker could have yanked the band from her finger before fleeing back into the shadows.
Andrew had scoffed at her suggestion. We were taking a break, that’s all. Nothing official. You wanted some time alone and I respected your wishes. We had problems as all couples do, but we were working things out. And anyway, it all seems so trivial now.
Perhaps to him, but Lea couldn’t help wondering about an affair. She’d seen the reaction he stirred at the rehab center. He was extraordinarily handsome—dark-haired, dark-eyed, clean-shaven—and very charming. Charismatic was the word that came to mind. Wealthy was another. He wore a Rolex and his cologne smelled of cedar and vanilla. Funny how she could recognize the base notes of his fragrance, but she couldn’t remember his personal scent. Not the taste of him, either, or the feel of his hands on her body in the dark.
She shivered and turned to stare out the window. He’d pulled off the main road onto a long drive lined with live oaks and cedars. To the right, easy hiking trails led back into the woods and to the left, a series of jagged arroyos and canyons had been carved from limestone cliffs, all silhouetted against the dramatic backdrop of a four-hundred-foot granite slab.
“Bishop’s Rock,” Andrew said beside her. “Impressive, isn’t it?”
“I would have said imposing,” Lea murmured.
“You didn’t used to think so. We once climbed all the way to the summit just to watch the sunset.”
She fastened her gaze on the peak. “Hard to believe, considering I get winded just walking up stairs.”
“You’re still recovering. Your body is healing and, in time, your memories will come back. You’ll see. But you don’t need to worry about any of that right now. All you need do on this trip is rest and recuperate.”
“I couldn’t do that at home?”
“You could. But after everything you’ve been through…after everything we’ve been through…” His gaze flitted over her fading bruises, lingering on the stitched cut at her left temple, which she tried to hide with the sweep of her hair. He turned back to the road. “Anyway, I thought a getaway might be for the best. At home, there would be people coming over, friends wanting to see you. They all mean well, but it’s too soon to put you under that kind of microscope.”
“What about my family?”
He gave her a patient look. “We’ve been through that. There’s no one.”
She closed her eyes on a sigh. “It’s just so hard to believe. No parents, no siblings, no one at all?”
“You have me.”
“And I’m grateful for that. Truly. You’ve no idea how terrifying it was waking up in that hospital, not knowing who I was or how I’d gotten there. I felt so alone and helpless—”
He cut her off. “Why even go there? I’m here now and I’m not leaving. Try to relax, okay? This place will be good for us. It’s quiet and secluded and no one knows us here. We’ll have a chance to get reacquainted before people start poking their noses in our business.”
She gave him a doubtful glance. “Isn’t that just putting off the inevitable? I’ll have to face them sooner or later.”
“But not today.” He slid his hand over hers and squeezed her fingers. Another smile flashed, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Trust me, Lea. This is all for the best.”