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Scandal forced Lady Lily Melrose into an untenable decision: marry the man she wanted but who wanted someone else or leave her home for America. She gambled and stayed. Now, almost four years later, Lily is ready to gamble again—on a future that means leaving her neglectful, absent husband behind. But when a deadly adversary threatens them both, Lily realizes how little she understood about her husband—and her marriage. She’s faced with another impossible choice: leave the man she loved to face certain death or stay and fight to help him deliver on a promise he no longer remembers.
Robert Melrose was raised as the forgotten third-born son with no future—without even the label of black sheep to keep him respectable. Not content with obscurity, he cultivated his own path to power, aligning himself with London’s underworld, where betrayal is deadly. But when an accident wipes away his past, Robert can’t remember who he is or what he’s done. What he does know is that his wife, Lily, evokes a strong need inside—a need to prove he’s better than his past. But when his past becomes a present danger, Robert must choose: gain the trust and love of the woman intent on leaving or let her walk away from him and the danger that might cost both their lives.
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“Is anything familiar?” he asked after they’d turned more streets than he could count and nothing sparked his memory. How long had they been walking? Though the pounding in his head had subsided, exhaustion weighted his limbs and every step depleted reserves of energy he didn’t know he had.
She shook her head. “No. But something must soon, I imagine.”
They continued to walk, noting as they did that the crowds grew thicker, louder. A buzz in the air indicated a large crowd and though Robert’s instincts might have been to go away from the crowd, they needed to find something familiar.
He steered them in the direction that others flocked toward. The noise grew louder and louder, until they could separate the sounds of angry voices.
He paused. “Maybe we shouldn’t…”
“No, I think we’re near Old Bailey.”
It didn’t sound familiar. That sharp pang of disappointment was becoming familiar, however.
She must have seen something in his face, for she stopped. “The courthouse. The gallows. Is any of this familiar?”
“Should it be?” The wry humor came from nowhere, but the admonishment in her expression made it clear Lily did not find the humor.
“How could you?” Her voice was achingly small, and the plaintive tone shamed him. “How could you be involved with those people?”
“I don’t know.” He was starting to hate those words. He hated the disappointment that darkened her face, held her even farther away from him. His throat constricted. At the same time, he couldn’t imagine leaving her side.
Lily had said he was the same, with or without his memories. “Do you believe that?”
“Believe you were involved with them? It would be hard to deny at this point.”
“No. Earlier. You said my memory loss wouldn’t change who I am. Am I the same man as before?
Wariness narrowed her eyes. “This is hardly the time or place.”
“It’s exactly the time and place. I don’t know who I was. I am beginning to have an idea but I need to know, am I the same man? I can’t answer that, but you can.”
“No. I can’t.” Lily angled her body away from him, so he couldn’t see her face. “You brought them into our lives, and you kept all of this from me. You kept me from so much of your life. I am so angry, and I want to scream at you, but I can’t because you don’t recall any of it.” She crossed her arms. “It would be like yelling at a puppy.”
“Do you know how aggravating that is?”
“Not yelling at a puppy?”
She glared at him. “Not being able to be angry at you. Because what is the point? You’re as helpless as a babe.”
He bristled at that. “I am not helpless. I—”
She didn’t let him finish, just turned and walked down the street, shifting sideways around people.
He followed after her, sidestepping around people walking the other direction or stopping on the street.
The size of the crowd was growing, as they headed deeper into it. The streets buzzed with a tension that made him uneasy. For such a tiny thing, Lily moved with amazing ease, slipping through the crowd. He caught up to her and wrapped his hand around her wrist.
“Slow down a moment,” he yelled at her, to be heard over the loud din, like the buzzing of a thousand angry bees.
“We need…through…crowd. We’ll never…a cab here.” She ducked her head, never quite meeting his gaze, so he lost half of the words she said to the shouts around them.
The mood of the crowd was shifting, and Robert’s entire body felt at the ready. He might not know where the hell they were, but he knew how this crowd made him feel. “Fine. But I don’t want to lose you.” He captured her hand and gripped it. “This crowd could prove dangerous.”
Her gaze slid to their intertwined hands, and then moved downward. She crouched to the ground.
“Lily, what—” Before he could ask, she straightened back up, this time with a muddied, half torn sheet of paper in her free hand. Robert refused to let go of her other one.
“There was a hanging today,” she said.
Her words hung in the air with a sadness that pressed against his chest. He wanted her to never be sad. The fierce desire to see her smile, to take her out of all of this, floored him.
Where had these emotions come from? They were so fierce, so deep in his core.
How he must have loved her.
The desire to feel that love, as though it were a tangible piece he could hold, touch, smell…he wanted that desperately.
He wanted her desperately.
Every minute, he felt like a man drowning, until she stood by his side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. The journey toward destiny held a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.
Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life has always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her amazing husband (who cooks, cleans and edits!), their son and a lab named Cooper. She can be visited at www.jeannieruesch.com or found regularly on Twitter or Facebook.