Persistence of Memory
Written February 2002
Synopsis: Madeline develops amnesia, and Paul releases her until her condition improves. However, a new terrorist organization is determined to make her re-integration into Section as difficult as possible.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
The party lasted longer than she thought it would, ending well after eleven o’clock. Madeline had hoped to be home sooner so she could talk to Paul, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. Cam squealed with delight the first moment that Madeline was alone, congratulating her on finding a man like Paul. Madeline was happier, the emotion evident in her face. Paul must have noticed it, too, because he had his arm around her for most of the night, and she felt relaxed in his embrace.
But he was leaving for a week! The timing was awful, not that there was anything she could do about it. It did, however, give her the perfect opportunity to tell him about her amnesia, so he would have a week to think about it. She just didn’t know how to bring it up or what to say or–worse–what to do if he walked out on her.
Her joyous mood faded as they returned to her house, her mind a tumult of emotions. Just thinking of his response shattered her. She didn’t think she’d be able to feel again if he left her. Listen to yourself! her conscience screamed. He’s not like that; he cares about you.
“I had a great time tonight,” Paul said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders as they crossed her lawn. “You have good taste in friends.”
She smiled but didn’t say anything, her stomach clenched into a knot. When they reached the door, she struggled to find the right key. Fortunately, she got it right on the first try, and she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Would you like to come in? I know you have to get up early tomorrow for your flight, but…well, I could make some coffee.”
“I’ll pass on the coffee, but not on the invitation. Besides, I need to collect my reading materials.” At her puzzled gaze, he continued, “Cam’s novels. When you were in the kitchen, she autographed a copy of ‘An Even Deeper Ecstasy’ for me, so you need to finish the book by the time I get back so we have something to talk about.”
“I’ll have plenty of free time, that’s for sure.” She opened the door and walked inside, heading straight for the living room.
“Don’t make me feel guilty,” he teased. “Besides, Cam says the best time to read a chapter is right before you go to bed so you can get a good night’s sleep. Her advice, not mine.”
Madeline slumped on the couch, trying to hide her emotions with a calm, amused façade. It didn’t work, and she heaved a great sigh. “Paul, the real reason I asked you in was not to talk about Cam’s novels or even drink coffee. I… There’s something I have to tell you, something that I probably should have told you a long time ago.”
“Not too long ago; you’ve only known me for two weeks.” She didn’t laugh, and he lowered himself beside her, turning serious. “Okay, Madeline. I’m listening.”
Her mind reeled, and she rubbed her temples as if it would quiet her disturbing thoughts. “Ten months ago, I woke up in a hospital after being in a coma for seventeen days. Something had happened to me, a car accident or some kind of fall… My brain was severely damaged, and it–” She paused to take a breath; her lungs felt like they were closing up. “I–” She swallowed the sob that rose in her throat, biting her lip to keep her tears from falling. “Paul, I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who I was. I can’t remember anything from my past. The moment I woke up, everything was gone. Everything I had, every thought, every experience…” She sniffled a little, twisting her fingers together in her lap, ignoring the teardrop that landed on her thigh. “And when I woke up, no one was there. No one knew who I was.” Another tear fell, and then another, until they were impossible to stop. “I was so scared…”
Gently, Paul put his hands over hers. She looked down, but the image of their entwined fingers was blurred and broken. “I’m sorry, Madeline,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.” He brushed her hair away from her tear-stained cheek. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Because I thought you– I thought you would abandon me, like my family and friends from before the accident.”
His voice was so soft and so caring. “No… I’m not going anywhere.”
She tried to keep going, to say everything she wanted to say, but her emotions consumed her, and she began to cry. Her shoulders hunched, she buried her face in her hands. Sobs shook her entire body as she mumbled unintelligible words and phrases. Eventually, she gave up, easing into Paul’s warm embrace.
He rocked her back and forth, stroking her hair. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, his voice deep with sorrow. “I wish I could have been there for you. I wanted to be there for you…”
She didn’t move or speak again for a long while, content to just lay in his arms and let his words soothe her. Her head fit perfectly between his neck and shoulder, and it was the most comfortable position she had ever been in. He, too, had grown silent, and she was afraid they both might fall asleep. Blinking the last tear out of her eye, she sat up and looked at him shyly. For a moment, she thought he might have been crying as well. “Thank you,” she whispered.
He gently wiped away her tears. “Madeline, I don’t care what you did before I met you. You’re not the same person you were before your accident, and it’s the person you are now that I want to be with.”
She was speechless and locked in his tender gaze. They were so close that his breath fanned her face, and his blue eyes seemed to grow darker the longer he stared at her. Her heartbeat quickened as he reached out to trace a path down the side of her face, stopping at her lips. She kissed each of his fingers in turn before looking at him again, overwhelmed by his nearness. “Paul…” she whispered, and he covered her mouth with his. Her own eager response surprised her as she slid her arms around his neck and pressed her body closer to his.
Her fantasies had not prepared her for the intimate caress of his lips. The feather-light touches turned into deep, passionate searches as she opened her mouth to taste him completely. He explored the ridges of her teeth before tangling his tongue with hers, circling the tip, stroking the top and bottom with gentle movements. Madeline moaned, feeling weak and dizzy, her whole body trembling with desire. They parted reluctantly, gasping and panting in unison.
Foolishly afraid he would leave, she clutched his jacket lapels and pulled him to her again. Her tongue teased his lips, memorizing them, and Paul released a husky groan. She responded with a purr that made him chuckle. “What?” she asked, bringing her hands up to stroke his cheeks.
He shook his head. “You know I’m going to have to leave.”
“I know,” came her quiet reply.
“I’ll miss you, Madeline.” He kissed her forehead almost sadly.
“I’ll miss you, too, Paul.” She watched him as he rose to his feet and accepted his offer of assistance. “Don’t forget your books.”
He collected them from the coffee table and started for the front door, his pace sluggish. Her heart was aching; if there had been some way to make him stay, she would have done it. He patted Rufus on the head and spun toward Madeline. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a thin rectangular box. “A going-away gift.”
She chuckled. “Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to give the gift?” With a small frown, she lifted the lid and read the manufacturer’s description of the item. “‘Extremely durable double layer nylon dog leash.” Looking up, she studied his face for an explanation, a glint of humor in her eyes. “You got me a dog leash?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want Rufus breaking free and introducing you to any other men while I’m away.”
Her gaze softened, and she put an arm around his neck, murmuring against his lips, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” She sealed her promise with a kiss, intending to break away after a moment, but he brought her closer to him and deepened the contact. Madeline didn’t know that knees could actually give out, but if Paul hadn’t been holding her up, she would have fallen. Her desire for him grew with each touch of his hands, his lips, his tongue. She had half a mind to lead him upstairs and…
The thought shocked her, and she pulled back more quickly than she would have liked. Paul raised an eyebrow. “Are you all right?” She colored fiercely; she couldn’t repeat that to him! As if he could read her mind, he drew his thumb along her cheekbone. “I know. I feel it, too.”
Her gaze darted to his face, seeing the longing in his eyes, and she reached out for another kiss, this time ending it before they got carried away. “You know, Paul,” she began, opening the door, “the day in the park, when we first met, when Rufus jumped on you? That’s never happened before. Rufus is very wary of strangers. He doesn’t even like Cam, and she lives next door and feeds him when I’m away.”
He chuckled, stepping onto the porch. “Well, I’m glad he jumped on me.”
The corners of her mouth twitched, and she looked down shyly. “Me, too.”
His lips brushed against her once more, twice, a third time, before he straightened again. “I’ll see you in a week.”
Leaning against the door, she watched him leave, lost in a dreamy state of mind. Her first kiss. Well, maybe not her first, but she couldn’t remember any of the others so it may as well have been. And it felt…amazing. Just as Cam had said, just as her dreams had promised. Emotions, wild emotions, spun through her body, and she felt chilled and warm at the same time. Her skin tingled, as if he was still touching her with gentle persuasion. He could have asked her anything, and she would have done it. Her self-control had shattered, and she didn’t care.
Dazed, Madeline went to the nearest phone and dialed Cam’s number. She answered immediately with a bubbly, “Hello.”
“Hi,” she greeted drowsily.
“Mads, is that you? I thought you’d be with Paul.”
“No, he’s gone.”
“Gone?” She sounded almost frantic. “What do you mean, gone? Did you tell him about your amnesia?”
“Did he walk out on you?”
“No, he was very understanding.”
“Mads, you sound funny, like you’re not all there. Tell me what happened!”
“Do you think you could come over?”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Madeline smiled, a tear sliding down her cheek. “I’m in love with him.”
End of part four