By Diana Nixon
COMING OUT JUNE, 3rd
What would you do if all your memories were gone?
One day Kassie wakes up and realizes that her life is nothing but an endless emptiness…
One tragic incident takes away everything that she has ever cherished and loved: family, friends and all the best moments that she ever lived through.
Now everything seems unknown, including a beautiful stranger,
whose mere look makes her heart beat faster.
Who is that reckless and mysterious man? Is he just an old friend or an enemy? Sinking into the vortex of indescribable emotions, they will give in to the most irresistible temptation ever,
just to fall in love with each other, again and again...
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The hall of the emergency department was overcrowded. About five dozen people were taken to Lenox Hill Hospital after the explosion at one of the local cafes. The phones were ringing non-stop; reporters were everywhere, trying to take pictures and asking questions about the incident. It seemed as if the entire city was there, hoping to find out at least something about the tragedy that had happened an hour ago.
“What do we have here?” Dr. Robinson asked, running up to one of the gurneys.
“Caucasian, female, twenty-three years old,” one of the nurses said, holding the drop counter. “Head trauma, internal hemorrhaging; numerous shoulder and back injuries; at least two ribs are broken; has been unconscious for approximately thirty minutes.”
“Take her to surgery; now!” the doctor said. “Make sure her blood pressure stays stable.”
Today was the kind of day when the world around you seemed to be going crazy. But there was no time for panic; the lives of so many people were at stake.
Dr. Robinson examined the injured woman on the gurney. This was his second shift in a row, but he didn't have time to think about taking a break. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he hoped the woman's young age would help her live through the next couple of hours; it was important, considering the extent of her injuries.
Even with twenty years of experience under his belt, he was still nervous before every operation. It wasn’t that he doubted his ability to perform his job well; modern technology sometimes refused to cooperate with nature and fate. He witnessed death every day, but most of all, he hated it when young people died. After all, they had a whole eternity to live.
He took a deep breath, made the sign of the cross and entered the operating room.
“Ready?” he asked the nurses. They nodded wordlessly.
Dr. Robinson nodded to the anesthesiologist, who administered the dose of Sevoflurane that would keep the young woman unconscious for the surgery. Then he put on the gloves and looked at the girl on the operating table. “It’s going to be okay, doll. You want to live, don’t you?”
Every inch of my body hurt. My lungs refused to breath, my head was spinning like an out of control carousel, and even with my eyes closed I could feel how painfully bright the lights in the room were.
Someone was talking in a whisper, but I couldn’t make out what was being said. I tried to open my eyes, and groaned at the unpleasant feeling the small move caused.
“She’s waking up,” a male voice said. “Kassie, can you hear me?”
After my eyes adjusted to the overhead lights, I saw a man's face bent close to mine. He looked to be in his late fifties, with a tanned face that was handsome despite its deep wrinkles. He was wearing whites, with a badge that my blurred vision refused to read. He looked worried. Is he a doctor?
“What happened?” I asked quietly. I longed for a drink, and was eager to find out what was happening. I couldn’t make myself ask anything else, though.
“There was an explosion at Valeo,” he said. “You don't remember?”
I frowned, trying to make my brain work again, but the harder I tried, the less I succeeded. What the hell? There was nothing but an endless emptiness in my head.
The doctor looked at me with a furrowed brow. “What’s the last thing you remember about last night?” he asked, taking my hand in his. Then he looked at his watch, checking my heart rate.
I tried again to concentrate on my memories; still nothing.
“I don’t remember anything,” I said, a little nervous; my heart missed a beat. “What’s Valeo?”
The doctor’s frown deepened. He looked at someone I couldn’t see.
“Looks like I was right after all,” he said.
“How long do you think it may last?”
I looked for the source of the voice, and found it as another man approached my bed. He leaned forward and smiled down at me. His nearly black hair was tousled, as if he had just gotten up out of someone’s bed. He ran his fingers through it, and I almost forgot how to breathe; the move was damn sexy.
“From a few days to a few months,” the doctor replied, bringing me back to reality which, judging by my go-off-in-a-swoon reaction to the guy left much to be desired.
Not good, I thought.
The stranger’s smile faded. “Months?” he repeated, looking at me thoughtfully. His dark-blue eyes looked familiar, although I couldn’t remember his name. Slowly, his gaze moved over what I bet was an awful view of my bandaged body. Still, it made me feel sensations I hadn’t even known existed. My eyes slipped lower and stopped at the man's black open shirt which showed off a few bleeding scars that, to my surprise, didn’t ruin the view of his perfect chest.
I couldn’t believe I was still able to think like that, considering my injuries, and that my head was still spinning.
I let out the breath that I hadn't even noticed I was holding, and felt my heart pounding in my chest.
“Do I know you?” I asked the guy, hoping he didn’t notice my awe-struck stare.
The two men shared a glance. “I’m Daniel Farrell, an old friend of yours,” he answered. “And, this is Dr. Robinson. He’s your surgeon.”
I smirked mentally. Who would have thought that I had such a provocative, bad-boy-looking friend?
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Pain stabbed me. Even though I couldn’t remember anything, I was sure I had never felt so much pain before.
“Can I have a glass of water, please?”
“Here,” Daniel said, as he put the glass to my lips.
I took a few sips of the most delicious water I had ever tasted, and leaned back against the pillow.
“Thanks.” Unintentionally, my eyes followed Daniel, whom I suddenly didn’t want out of my sight. I took a moment to drink him in: tall, broad-shouldered, with a face and torso to die for; and a voice that would make any woman forget her own name.
Uh, that won’t do, Sweetie, my inner voice said. Time to get a damn grip on yourself!
“So,” I said, hoping I wouldn’t start coughing, “you said there was an explosion at-”
“Valeo. It’s a cafe you were working at last night,” Daniel said.
“I work there?”
“Yes. Don’t you remember that?”
I shook my head.
“You're a confectioner at The Sweets. It’s a bakery not far from here. The owner of Valeo asked you to make the cake for a wedding he had been hired to cater. According to the police, there was a gas leak in the kitchen. Thank God, you were already leaving when the explosion occurred. You were thrown out into the street by the explosive wave. Your head hit the pavement, and you got a few ribs and an arm broken. That’s why you needed an operation.”
“Oh, my Goodness… What about the rest of the personnel and the visitors?”
“About ten of them were badly injured,” the doctor said. “Some are still in a critical condition. We also lost two people, including the café’s owner and his sister.”
I felt my palms shaking as a few tears ran down my cheek. “What about my family? Do they know about the incident?” I swallowed hard, trying to wrap my mind around the shocking news.
Daniel took a spare chair and moved it closer to my bed, saying to the doctor, “Would you mind leaving us alone for a while?”
“I’ll come back later. Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay.” Daniel nodded and waited for the doctor to leave.
Then he turned to me and took my hand in his, caressing it lightly. “I think you need to know a few things before you start asking any more questions,” he said uneasily. “Do you remember anything about your family?”
“My parents are divorced. My Dad lives in California, my Mom lives here in New York. And, I also have a brother; Adrian, right?”
Daniel nodded. “Your mom left a few hours ago. She had been here all night. She didn’t want to go home, but I insisted. She was exhausted and needed sleep. I also tried to call your dad, but no one answered. I will try again later.”
“Thanks.” I smiled briefly, pulling my hand out of Daniel’s. I felt a little uncomfortable. Even though he said we were friends, and I truly enjoyed the light tingling on my palm that his touch caused, something still felt wrong.
“How did you know about the explosion?” I asked after a short pause.
“I was on my way to Valeo, when a friend of mine called and told me the news. When I got there, it looked like a bloody battlefield. I hoped to find you safe and sound, but you were not there. Later, someone told me that you were taken to the hospital.”
“What about your scratches?” I asked, nodding toward his injuries.
“Oh, there was a woman whose kid got trapped in between the shutters. I helped her release him, and well, ruined my shirt.” Daniel smiled slightly, even though that smile never reached his eyes. They remained unreadable, as if he couldn’t let himself lose control and show his true emotions.
“How did you know I was at Valeo?”
“I was supposed to pick up the cake you were making for the wedding. I’m the groom’s best man.”
“Oh, I see.” I blinked hard, trying to look at anything but Daniel. He had a dangerous gleam in his eyes, which only made everything about him even more intoxicating. “You should probably ask the doctor to tend your wounds.” I don’t know what worried me more: the wounds or the view of his bare chest that I seemed to be unable to stop staring at.
“I’ll be fine,” he shrugged. “A few scratches won’t kill me.”
“What about my brother? Does he know I’m here?” Somehow, Adrian was one of a few people I still remembered and wanted to see now, even though my memories about him were vague.
Daniel’s expression darkened which I took as a bad sign. He cleared his throat and said, avoiding looking at me, “Adrian, he… died two years ago in a car crash.”
I gasped, staring at him in disbelief.
“That’s impossible,” I whispered, stunned.
Finally, Daniel’s eyes met mine and I could swear he knew exactly what I was feeling at the moment. There was so much pain and compassion in his look, which was the only sign of his emotions breaking through the unreadable mask.
“I know it sounds horrible, considering the problems with your memory and the rest… But all you need to think about now is getting better.”
I nodded absently, still unable to believe his words.
“Adrian was a great man,” he said almost in a whisper, “a true friend and a wonderful big brother. Losing him was a tragedy for all of us.”
“How did the accident happen?”
“I don’t know the details. All I know is that doctors found alcohol in Adrian’s blood.”
“What? He would never get behind the wheel drunk.”
“This is what we all thought, but the tests proved different.”
I closed my eyes, feeling tears running down my cheeks. Adrian and I were very close. No explosion could make me forget that. He wasn’t just my older brother. No matter what happened, I knew he would always be there to cover up my tricks, or simply to hear me out.
Daniel rose to his feet and went to the window, staring absently outside. “He was one of the most generous people I’d ever known. I will owe him one forever for everything he has done for me. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for Adrian’s help.”
“Why?” I wiped my tears with the back of one palm, and looked at Daniel again, whose tension I could feel even from the distance. His every move and word were carefully chosen.
“My sister and I grew up in an orphanage,” he said, leaning against the window sill with his arms crossed on his chest. “I ran away when I was fifteen, promising to come back in a few weeks and take her out of there. But, everything went wrong from the very beginning. I foolishly thought that robbery was the best way to get money.”
Daniel smirked at his own words. “When Adrian and I met, I was hiding from the police. I was starving and dying to get at least a glass of water. He found me sleeping on the street and took me home. He didn’t ask any questions, and the only thing I told him was that I needed my sister out of the orphanage. Since that day, my life changed tremendously. Adrian was four years older than me. He helped me find a job, and together we found a family who agreed to adopt Emily and me. Tabitha and Jonas are wonderful people. They always treated us as if we were their own children. They also liked you and Adrian a lot.”
“Looks like I have a lot to remember,” I said, sighing. Somewhere deep down in my heart I knew that the pain of losing my brother would never go away, but I was sure that now it was much easier to stand than two years ago.
Daniel went back to his chair near my bed and said, “You will remember everything. Dr. Robinson says your memory will come back as soon as your mind is ready to deal with the consequences of the incident.”
“I don’t even know what my last name is.”
“So, I am Kassie Benson. I guess I’m not married.”
“Last I checked you were not.” I could see Daniel’s chest rising and falling; he took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes for a moment, and after a short pause he said, “You can’t even imagine what I felt the moment I found out about the explosion. I knew you were supposed to be at that cafe, and I when I got there and no one knew where you were, I thought I would have a heart attack. Later, when I came here, the nurse said you were in surgery. Of course, she wouldn’t let me in. The four hours your mom and I had to wait for the operation to end felt like forever.”
Daniel’s words sounded so desperate. Suddenly I wanted to hug him to make him feel at least a little better, but my shoulder hurt like hell, and I grimaced at the pain I could feel all over my body. “Do you know how long they are going to keep me here?”
“About a week or so.”
“I need to call someone from my work. Do you know how to contact any of my co-workers?”
“I’ve already taken care of that. Your manager is a very nice woman. She’s here, by the way; waiting outside. Do you want me to call her?”
Daniel nodded and headed for the door.
“Thank you,” I said after him.
He stopped, staring back at me with a look that I couldn’t decipher. “I’m the last person you should thank,” he said, and left before I could say anything else.
I frowned. What did he mean by that? I could feel that being here now wasn’t easy for Daniel, and I wondered why.
“Miss Benson, may I come in?”
The woman nodded, smiling. “This is for you,” she said, giving me a bouquet of white roses.
“My favorite,” I said, only later realizing that the thought came out of nowhere. It was good to know that my mind remembered at least something.
“I know,” Leslie said, as she put the flowers into a vase on my bedside table. “We were so worried about you. How are you feeling?”
“Like a vegetable, if not worse,” I said, grimacing. I tried to sit, but then I changed my mind, as the bandages on my breast and belly were too tight to let me move.
“Thank God, you made it out of there alive. We heard about the victims. This is horrible, and so unfair. Poor Ms. Daisy and Mr. Patrick.”
“Those are the names of the café’s owner and his sister, right?”
“Yes. They were the regular visitors of our confectionery.”
“I think I need to call their families and offer my condolences.”
“They know about your condition. I’m sure they will understand if you do it later.”
“I can’t even imagine how bad they must be feeling now.”
“Yeah, the explosion was a shock for the entire city. Who would have thought that such a thing would happen at one of the most popular New York cafes? They could afford the best equipment in the world!”
“Nothing is perfect in this world, Leslie. Especially modern technologies.”
“You are absolutely right, Miss. That’s why I asked our engineers to check all the gas stoves we have.”
“It was the right thing to do. Daniel says you are a good manager, and now I can see that he’s right.”
“Mr. Farrell is too kind.”
“Is he a regular visitor of our cafe?
“No, though he used to be. When Adrian and… Oh, I-”
“It’s okay. I know about Adrian.”
She smiled sympathetically. “Well, after your brother’s death, you took control of the café. Even though you were too young to do that, you didn’t want anyone else to own it. Your mother wanted to sell The Sweets, but you said that Adrian would never forgive you for letting some strangers ruin everything he had been working for ages to build.”
“Yes, cooking was his passion. He could spend hours working on a new recipe. I guess I inherited that habit from him.”
“True. But, I’m sure you would never be able to handle everything on your own. Mr. Farrell helped you a lot.”
“Did he? Daniel doesn’t look like a man who likes cooking,” I said, thinking about his badass appearance.
Leslie giggled under her breath. “He definitely doesn’t.”
“What does he do for living?”
“He owns a company that manufactures motorcycles. He has about thirty people working for him. But, I doubt he ever lets them do anything without his approval.”
I raised my eyebrows, amazed. “Why would someone like him be helping me with the confectionary?” Maybe it wasn’t fair to gossip about Daniel behind his back, but I couldn’t help myself.
“He and Adrian were like brothers. I guess he wanted to do at least something to ease your suffering.”
I nodded wordlessly in response. I didn’t know what to say actually. It was still hard to believe that my brother was gone, let alone to get used to the idea of living without him.
“Thanks for coming here, Leslie,” I said finally. “I hope I will be able to get back to my work soon.”
“There’s no need to rush things, Miss. We have the best team in the world, so be assured your cafe is in good hands.”
“I hope so.”
“Let me know if you need anything. Like Martin’s lemon pie, or Jull’s chocolate truffles with your favorite cream.”
“I’m not even sure if I remember their taste, but thanks anyway.”
“Get well soon,” Leslie said, before she left, closing the door quietly behind her.
A new wave of pain and sorrow overwhelmed my body and mind. So many thoughts crashed through my mind. I snapped my eyes shut, hoping I wouldn’t start crying again.
How was I supposed to live now? I remembered only a few things about myself, not to mention the two years after Adrian’s death that were totally lost. I was sure that losing him was one hell of a trial to go through. No physical pain could be compared to what was a million times worse. And, now it looked like I had to go through it all over again.
I reached for my cell phone, lying on the bedside table, when someone knocked.
“Come in,” I said, hoping my voice sounded loud enough to be heard by my visitor.
“Hey, Kas,” a dark-haired girl said, entering the ward. “I know you don’t remember a damn thing, but I still wanted to see you.”
“Um, hey. Sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“God, it sucks to be you now. I’m Emily, Daniel’s sister and your best friend ever.”
“Oh… Shall I say ‘nice to meet you’?” I said, smiling at her.
She laughed in response. “I prefer ‘nice to see you, again’.”
“Since you are not the first person I don’t remember, I hope you won’t get angry over my stupid questions and slow reaction to everything you are going to say next.”
“Of course, not! Actually, I’m here to make your memories come back, because there’s no way I will let you ruin our plans for the Christmas holidays!”
“Em’s, I told you not to bother her so soon!” Daniel said irritably, standing at the threshold of my ward. “Sorry about that, Kassie, but sometimes my sister can be a real pain in the neck.” He followed my advice and let the doctors bandage his wounds. He still needed to get changed, but the torn jeans and shirt, combined with a long silver chain glistening in the light only made him look even more attractive. Such a tempting present wrapped in a gorgeous package, I thought to myself. Jeez, where did that thought come from?
“No worries,” I smiled, switching my attention back to Emily, who still looked a little guilty. “Let her stay.”
“You sure you don’t want to get some rest?”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to fall asleep any time soon.”
“Okay.” Daniel nodded, trying to fasten his shirt. Of course, it was impossible to do with the only button available. “Shit,” he swore under his breath. “I need to leave you for a while. Call me if you need anything,” he said to me. “Or, if she tries to make you dance.” He looked warningly at his sister. “I know she can do that.”
“And, here I thought you needed to get back to your work, big brother.”
“I’ll be back in a few hours. Don’t make me regret leaving you two alone.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “Get out, Daniel!”
He shook his head, smiled briefly and left.
“Now, we are going to have an all-girl party,” Emily said, gathering her dark-brown hair into a ponytail.