Adele Stoddard thought she would spend her life as a lonely spinster with her younger sister on an isolated prairie farm. Then she nearly stumbled over a naked man lying wounded and unconscious in the snow; a man who awoke not knowing who he was, where he came from or why he was there. The Stranger, armed with a temporary identity, had a lot to learn about hard work and true love. Could there be a future for a woman with few prospects and a man with no memory? And when an accident restores his past but eliminates his present, would Adele have the courage to follow him to the metropolis that was his home and make him fall in love with her all over again?
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Elise Dee Beraru can't recall a time since she learned to read that she hasn't been a writer. She chooses to write romance because she believes love stories featuring smart, strong women who find true love with the men of their dreams without sacrificing their core selves are the ultimate empowerment. Her books have won the EPPIE and the Windy City Choice Award and have finalled for the Holt Medallion, Notable New Author and Orange Rose Awards. A long time attorney in California, Elise recently relocated to Lynchburg, Virginia, where she is exploring a variety of opportunities. She is an award-winning quiltmaker and public speaker. She is a member of EPIC, Toastmasters International, the Society for Creative Anachronisms, Seven Hills Quilt Guild, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and the Advisory Committee of Opera on the James.
Although she has left California for eastern climes, she still has three cats and more fabric than any one woman has any business owning.
"Ms. Beraru has created a tightly woven tale set at a time when the west was wild and love was something of a novelty. If you love historicals and love the western half of the United States, then you'll definitely want to pick up Remember My Love."Just Views -- In the Cabinet Drawer
"The writing is smooth and flowing. Remember My Love was one of the best-written of the books this reviewer has read yet from the Hard Shell Word Factory. Ms. Beraru has used the action to move the plot along and not simply told us what is happening. The story is exciting and the characters lovable and believable. This story is one that can be read over and over and will become a favorite of many readers."Romance Communications
"The innovative double-amnesia plot allows Elise Dee Beraru to skillfully contrast two kinds of fathers and husbands within one man. Provocative, entertaining, and immeasurably romantic."Romantic Times Magazine
SUNLIGHT PEEKING in from a crack in the drapes assaulted Blair Carroll's senses like a knife to his flesh. His head splitting like he had been struck with an ax, he slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on his surroundings.
He was in his bedroom in San Francisco. He recognized the dark wood paneling, the dark blue wallpaper and curtains, the heavy oak furnishings. A fire blazed in the fireplace opposite him. How he got there he had no idea.
He glanced down. He was covered nearly to his shoulders with a fine percale sheet and silk counterpane of the same dark blue as the walls and drapes. His long arms at his sides were encased in the sleeves of a nightshirt on top of the coverlet. For a brief moment, it didn't seem right.
The blanket should be more colorful, not so smooth and dark. But that's ridiculous; I've had this same bedding for years.
At the bottom of the bed, a pair of stocking feet rested, crossed at the ankles. Blair followed their trail up to reveal the form of his brother, who sat in a chair beside him, dozing, an open book in his lap. Stephen was wearing his trousers and shirt, with his suit vest unbuttoned. A lock of his raven hair fell forward over his forehead. A couple of days' growth marred his usually clean-shaven face, yet he still managed to look boyish in slumber.
A sharp pain in his temple jolted Blair and instinctively he raised his palms to his forehead to find a padded bandage wrapped around his head. The pain subsided and Blair lowered his hands, seeing them in focus for the first time.
"My God!" he cried in anguish and anger, jarring Stephen awake so quickly that his book slid off his lap as he brought himself upright. So strained was Blair's cry that Stephen forgot to be glad that his brother was conscious for the first time in days.
"Blair, what's the matter?" Stephen blurted out.
"Look at my hands. What happened to my hands?"
Blair stared at his hands like they belonged to someone else. His right little finger was completely missing, both hands were tanned brown, rough calluses coated the palms and the pads of his remaining fingers, tiny scars from small nicks and cuts were evident. His fingernails were roughly pared and stained, as were his ragged cuticles. Small, black dye-filled needle pricks covered the tips of his left index and middle finger. On his left ring finger was a horseshoe nail forged into a ring.
"No, I mean the date."
"December sixteenth. You've been unconscious for nearly four days."
"I arrived home December twelfth?"
Blair frowned and held out his hands again. "How could I have done this much damage to my hands in a month?"
Stephen started. "A month? What do you mean a month?"
Blair looked at his brother. "I left you in Milwaukee on November eighth. I was trying to ride to some goddamned depot in Wyoming because the track was out. I was held up -- a couple of seedy bastards. They cold-cocked me. I'm sure it was November tenth or eleventh. Somehow it took me a month to get home. You just said I got home December twelfth. Unless I crawled home from Wyoming on my hands and knees, I couldn't have done this much damage to my hands in one month."
Stephen stared at his brother's face. The older man's gray eyes were dark with confusion and anger. The younger one's similar eyes were filled with dismay. He quietly asked, "Blair, what date do you think it is?"
"You just told me, December sixteenth."
"No, I mean the year?"
"Are you crazy?" Blair spit out angrily, "December sixteenth, 1873."
"Eighteen seventy-five," came the clear, quiet response. "You've been missing and presumed dead for over two years."
"It's not possible."
Stephen reached beside him to the floor where he had dropped the morning paper after reading it while sitting at the bedside. He handed it to Blair, saying, "Today's Chronicle."
Blair looked. There was no doubt. The numbers 1875 were clearly printed on the masthead. If he suspected a gag, the look on Stephen's face quickly relieved him of that notion.
"Blair, where have you been for the last two years?"
Blair leaned back on the pillows and closed his eyes. "I have no idea...." He squeezed his eyes tighter shut and put his palms to his aching head. "God damn it, I can't remember."
A long, silent, painful moment passed. Then suddenly Blair yanked the covers off and lurched to get out of bed. Stephen rose to aid his brother, but Blair pushed him off and walked over to the window, yanking the drape aside. The afternoon sunlight streamed into the bedroom, stabbing at his throbbing head. He then lurched over to the full-length mirror that stood beside the closet door. He pulled off the bandage on his head and looked in at his silvered reflection.
A stranger stared back. The face belonged to the hands, but neither belonged to Blair Carroll. His eyes and nose were the same, but there the resemblance ended. The stranger's hair was black, but below shoulder length and thickly wavy. He had two weeks' growth of black beard and his mustache was bushy and long, the ends covering his closed mouth. The skin was bronzed from hours in a hot sun, although there were dark circles beneath the eyes. A yellowing purple bruise and some scabbed-over lacerations decorated his left temple, but there was also an older scar running across his forehead from above his left eyebrow and into his scalp. In the bright sunlight, he could detect the evidence of tiny stitches on the older scar.
None of this was familiar. Blair never allowed himself to become shaggy or tanned. Except for a well-trimmed mustache, he was normally as shorthaired and clean-shaven as his brother.
For a minute he looked at his right hand. The same tiny stitch scars were present where his little finger had been. Whoever had stitched him up had done a really careful job.
The silence of his exploration was punctuated only by the steady breathing of both brothers. Ignoring his brother's presence, and feeling his nightshirt binding him across the shoulders and chest, he reached down and pulled it over his head to stand naked before the mirror.
If his face was a stranger's, his body shocked him even more. He was massive; previously broad shoulders made even larger by well-defined musculature. The bulging muscles of his forearms, biceps and pectorals were defined as if sculpted. His stomach was ridged like a washboard, covered with a pelt of familiar black hair; perhaps the only familiar sight he recognized on this stranger in the mirror. From the waist up his skin was nearly as tanned as his face. From the waist down his flesh was white, but his thighs and calves were thickly muscled and his buttocks firm and hard. There was not an ounce of fat on him; not that there had been before, but he had been slender, impressive physically only in height, bearing and demeanor. He stared at himself for long minutes, analyzing, not admiring, turning slightly to get a full picture of his metamorphosis.
"I look like a stevedore. Wherever I was, I must have been working like one."
Stephen nodded. Since he had bathed Blair and dressed him in the nightshirt, he had already seen the radical physical changes to his brother's body.
Blair strode back to the bed and sat down heavily, pulling the nightshirt back on for privacy sake, even though it clung to his massive form like an uncomfortable second skin.
"You must have been looking for me all this time. The last thing I remember is one of those fucking bandits aiming the handle of his gun at my head. What did you discover?"
"About a month after you disappeared, your ring and watch were discovered at two different locations in the Wyoming and Colorado Territories. I've got them now. Did you have them on when you were robbed?"
"My watch was in my vest pocket, but I had already given it to the bandits. My ring was under my gloves when the leader cold-cocked me."
"You always had trouble getting that ring off, didn't you?"
"Yeah," Blair affirmed.
"Well, when I put you to bed, I noticed that the scar on your hand and the one on your head had been stitched up."
"Yeah, I just noticed that myself... I'll bet those bastards couldn't get the damned ring off and cut off my finger to get it."
"And probably left you for dead. Only someone found you and stitched up the two wounds. Can you remember who found you?"
"Not at all. I haven't any clue."