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.
Today was the day.
Madeline circled the date on her calendar with a fat red marker. One year had passed since she had awakened from her coma. When the anniversary of a traumatic event rolled around, she often advised her patients to do something memorable, something to counter the sadness. This time, she intended to take her own advice.
The last month had been both difficult and rewarding. Many of her childhood memories had returned, and they weren’t exactly happy. She had come from a single parent home, and after Sarah’s death, it became a single child home as well. Her mother had blamed her for Sarah’s death, and Madeline spent her youth hiding in her room, secluded and unloved. As each painful recollection surfaced, she would pick up the phone and call Paul.
He had been her strength through her whole ordeal, listening to her and offering advice and rocking her to sleep. Even though he had spent two weeks back in Europe, he had returned her calls in less than an hour and stayed on the line as long as she needed him. Sometimes she felt it was unfair for him to have to listen to her cry when she remembered harsh words her mother had spoken. But she truly didn’t know what she would have done without him.
To celebrate her anniversary, Paul said he had planned a surprise. “Dress comfortably” were his only instructions. Cam had taken her shopping, trying to select something sensible, but found herself shocked when Madeline picked out a short, floral print A-line dress with a low-cut front. Now that she was wearing it at home, she hoped it wasn’t too revealing for what he had in mind.
She had also bought him a gift, a token of her appreciation for all she had put him through. It was a pocket military compass, made of stainless steel with a brass trim. She wanted to have it engraved with his initials, but she didn’t know what they were. Instead, she chose a quotation: ‘May you always find your way home.’ She hoped he understood the implications; she was his home, or at least she wanted to be.
Their relationship had cooled considerably since her first memory surfaced. Although he still kissed her, it was never as passionate as she wanted it to be. “He probably doesn’t want to rush you,” Cam suggested. “You have to let him know that you’re ready to move to the next stage in your relationship.” Madeline begrudgingly agreed; she just wasn’t sure she could do it.
By the time Paul arrived, her face was flush from thoughts of trying to seduce him. There was no way she could do it now with her imagination running as wild as it was. She took a deep breath before opening the door, willing her cheeks to return to their natural color.
He grinned, leaning to kiss her forehead in greeting. “I’m not late, am I?”
“No, you’re right on time.”
Paul’s gaze dropped to admire her outfit, and she noticed him staring a little longer at her than usual. “You look beautiful, Madeline.” He paused. “Slight change in plans.”
She knew it. The dress was too much. “Are you sure? I could just change clothes or–”
“No!” he answered quickly, giving her another sidelong glance. “I just…” He ran a hand through his hair and chuckled slightly. “Call me crazy, but I think I’d be very jealous if anyone else saw you in that dress.”
It was impossible to hide the blush that appeared at his compliment. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Well, my original plan was another picnic, but–”
“Say no more. I know just the place. Can we bring Rufus?” She regretted the question as soon as she asked it. Her dog would be a distraction, and if she was bold enough to try to seduce him, she didn’t want to be interrupted. Otherwise, she’d lose her nerve. “Or–”
“Of course we can bring Rufus.” He rubbed the bullmastiff’s ears roughly, and Rufus wagged his tail in approval. “So where are we going?”
“The end of the street is a cul-de-sac, but if you cut through the last lot and go down the hill, there’s a nice secluded lake. You could hide me under the shade trees.”
Paul laughed. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
They walked cheerfully to the lake, Rufus leading the way. Madeline decided to leave his leash at home since he would have no trouble coming to her side when she called for him. Then maybe we can be alone, she thought. Paul swung the wicker basket in one hand, using the other to twist his fingers with Madeline’s. Her heart started to pound in time with their quick pace.
They chose a spot beneath a large magnolia tree and spread the woolen blanket on the ground. Then he finally revealed what kind of food he had brought. Madeline saw numerous Tupperware containers stuffed with fruit, one filled with sandwiches, and another with baby carrots. In a thermos, he had brought iced tea, which he poured into two long-stemmed glasses.
She leaned against the tree trunk, watching Rufus chase some birds, and enjoyed his company. He told her some stories about his time in the military, and she wondered why he had never told her before. Well, if he’s with global security, knowing anything about him could be in violation of policy, her logic reminded her. In the back of her mind, Madeline wondered if he could ever marry her.
The thought sent currents down her spine, and she tipped over the bowl of cherries. They rolled across the blanket. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she apologized, crawling on her hands and knees to retrieve them. “I suppose you’ve already determined that I’m clumsy.”
“One of your endearing qualities,” he replied from behind her.
She could hear the smile in his voice, and, like normal, she couldn’t help but laugh. Rocking back on her heels, she put the cherries back in their bowl, except for one. She plucked it from the stem and ate it, ignoring Paul’s amused gaze.
“What’s your favorite fruit?” he asked after a moment.
“Pears, of course.”
With an irrepressible grin, Paul removed something from the basket, a previously hidden bowl of sliced red pears. Madeline’s eyes lit up with delight. “Did you think I had forgotten?”
“You’re too good to me.” She waited impatiently for him to lift the lid then reached for the fruit. He pushed her hand away, and she raised an eyebrow in curious anticipation.
“Close your eyes.” Situating the bowl in his lap, he removed one of the thick slices. She was still staring at him, captivated, and he chuckled. “Close your eyes, Madeline.”
After a moment, she followed his orders, her heart pounding anxiously in her chest. What did he have in store for her? The waiting was driving her mad. Finally, she felt something cool and wet brushing against her lips. She shivered despite the growing warmth in her body. Her tongue slid out to capture it, but it was gone, leaving the unmistakable taste of pear. Madeline opened her eyes, her breath coming much more quickly.
Slowly, he brought the slice to her again, drawing it across her mouth, teasing her with the scent and the taste. He would dangle it inches from her, only to pull it away when she leaned forward to grab it. All afternoon she had been thinking about seducing him; she hadn’t considered the possibility of him seducing her.
A frustrated moan accompanied her movements as she snapped a bite of the fruit, savoring the tangy juices as they slid down her throat. Chuckling, Paul ate the other half with a satisfied smile. It’s now or never. On impulse, she leaned toward him and captured his mouth with hers, tasting the pear on his lips, his tongue. She didn’t want to open her eyes, afraid the world would be spinning around her. Paul’s hands tangled in her hair, as he returned the kiss with equal force. For a moment, she thought their hearts were beating in a syncopated rhythm.
Gently, he eased her back on the blanket, and Madeline felt a rumbling through her body. Their embrace was hungry, fiery. His lips left hers to nibble on her ear and trace a path to the hollow of her neck. She moaned at the painful tenderness of his kisses. After making a circle around her face, he reclaimed her mouth, more demanding this time, pressing deeply against her.
Something wet began to trickle on her cheeks, and Madeline looked up just in time for a raindrop to land right in her eye. She jerked her head as the steady sprinkle turned into a heavier downpour. The rumbling she felt before hadn’t been a result of her arousal; it had been thunder, warning her of an upcoming storm.
“What–” Paul glared at the sky and nearly jumped to his feet. “The weather report didn’t say rain!”
Laughing, they collected their things and called for Rufus, who was also annoyed by the sudden rainstorm, pawing at his eyes to protect them. They hurried back to her house, and Paul went to his car to deposit the basket and retrieve a small shoulder bag. Madeline had the door unlocked by the time he was finished, and they all rushed inside.
“That came out of nowhere,” he mentioned, untying his shoes on the rug.
“Pretty typical this time of year.” Her wet dress clung to her, and she pulled it away from her skin with a sigh. “I’ve got to change clothes. Do you have anything?”
He held up the bag. “I always keep something in my car for emergencies.”
“Good. You can use the bathroom on this floor, then just put your clothes in the dryer in the next room. I’ll be back in a minute.” She hurried up the stairs and closed her bedroom door, finally finding a moment to catch her breath. Running home had only been partially responsible for her inability to breathe. If the storm hadn’t interrupted them, how far would they have gone?
Madeline found a pair of black stretch pants and grabbed her lime green button-down acrylic sweater. During one of her and Cam’s bargain hunting days, she spotted the shirt and bought it immediately. It had been her only purchase that day, but it had since been her favorite.
She abandoned socks but rummaged through her dresser drawer for her undergarments. After a frustrating search, she came to an unnerving conclusion: all of her bras were in the laundry room. Her face clouded with uneasiness. She couldn’t go downstairs and retrieve one, since it was likely that Paul was already waiting for her. Not wearing one made her nervous; in the past, it wouldn’t have bothered her because men never looked at her in that way. But now…
Swallowing her insecurity, she buttoned up the sweater and sighed. Just don’t draw attention to yourself. She ran a hand through her wet, tangled hair and stole a look at herself in the full-length mirror, trying to determine if going bra-less was too noticeable. Satisfied with her appearance, she returned to the living room, careful to take the stairs slowly.
Paul sat on the couch, flipping through a magazine containing abstracts of psychiatry articles. His ’emergency clothing’ was different than anything she’d ever seen him in, and he looked even more handsome now. The jeans revealed a casual side she hadn’t seen before, and the black turtleneck…well, her thready pulse was evidence enough of its appeal.
As if he sensed her presence (or maybe he heard her amorous sigh), he looked up and grinned. “I was just reading Doctor Taylor’s omega-3 fat research. Do you believe it?”
She sat next to him, folding one leg beneath her. “That omega-3s help fight depression? Well, it’s been proven that they help prevent heart attacks and lower triglyceride levels. I don’t know; it certainly can’t hurt anything.” Her nerves were momentarily calmed by the topic change. Of course when he put the magazine back on the coffee table, she could feel herself tremble.
“I’m sorry that our picnic got rained out,” he said softly. “I was having a good time.”
Her cheeks burned in remembrance, and she looked down to hide her blush. Paul touched her face gently then began to rub her neck. “So was I.” His hand slid across her shoulder, down her arm, to her thigh. Her heartbeat was as loud as the thunder outside as she struggled to keep her breathing even. When he began to place gentle kisses on her cheek, she moaned in response, leaning into him. He pressed his open mouth to hers, coaxing her into a deeper state of arousal. His desire was unmistakable; even with her limited experience, she knew he wanted her. She wanted him, too, and there was only one way to express her yearning. The time to be bold was long overdue.
Madeline pushed herself upward with the leg she had been sitting on and straddled his lap. Paul glanced at her with a small smile, and she kissed it. He pressed his hands flatly against her back, holding her close to him. Their playful kisses suddenly turned more serious. Every inch of her body was electric, and her senses were heightened to acute levels. She could smell his cologne and taste the rainwater on his skin. But his sounds, the moans coupled with the sighs, affected her more than anything else.
His shaky hands roamed over her breasts, and she rocked her head back, her hips thrusting against him. For a moment, she had no conscious thoughts; she was only vaguely aware of whispering his name. He kissed the flesh exposed by the V of her sweater, making all of the muscles in her abdomen contract simultaneously. With expert caresses, he roused her nipples to hard points with his thumbs. She could only imagine what he could do if her shirt was off. The mere thought of it made her groan, and she wiggled deeper into his lap. His erection rubbed her in the most erotic of places, and her spine tingled.
She leaned back and looked at him, panting softly. His lips curled into a smile as his hands reached for the buttons of her sweater, undoing them so slowly that Madeline thought she would go crazy. She wanted to tell him to hurry up or she’d do it herself, but somehow the waiting made the situation all the more romantic. He was taking his time. He didn’t want to rush her. He wanted to make her feel at ease, that she could still say no–as if she wanted to. She couldn’t help but return his gaze.
The sweater gracefully slid down her shoulder and onto the floor. For a while, Paul simply stared at her, seemingly in disbelief. His fingertips skimmed across her bare skin, and she shuddered deliciously. Finally, he whispered her name, his voice laden with passion. “You’re beautiful.”
Beautiful? Tears pooled in her eyes as she bent to kiss him, and their lips met with a surprising intensity. His tongue wrestled for control, and she let him have it, knowing that she would gladly surrender anything to him, including her heart.
He traced a path down her neck, circling her breast with his tongue. Madeline guided his mouth to her nipple, and he submitted to her request, taunting and teasing her until she whimpered in ecstasy. She didn’t protest as his teeth grazed the sensitive skin–she could barely breathe! Her body’s reaction was impossible to disguise as she arched her back, holding his head firmly in place. If she had known it would be this good, she would have abandoned her nervousness long ago in exchange for this sweet delirium.
Off in the distance, there was a ringing. “Take me to the bedroom,” she begged hoarsely, running her hands through his hair. He lifted his head, and she could see anger begin to blaze in his eyes. She blinked in confusion. What was happening? Then she heard it again. This time, the ringing was unmistakable: the muffled sound of a telephone.
“Madeline…” His nostrils were almost flaring. “I have to answer that.”
She hesitated as the phone rang again. Surely he wasn’t serious! He wouldn’t interrupt their intimacy for a phone call, would he? He suddenly looked impatient, and her eyes flashed with pain. He would. With a shaky sigh, Madeline stood up, covering her chest modestly. Her lower lip trembled as she reached for her sweater, fumbling to hide her nudity as quickly as possible.
Paul lowered his eyes, crossing the room and retrieving his cellular phone from a coat pocket. “Yes?” Madeline could only hear his side of the conversation. He sounded harsh, furious; she had never heard those tones before. “Can it wait?” He finally grunted with contempt. “I’ll call you back in a moment.” Hanging up the phone, he looked at her. “Madeline, I’m sorry, I have to–”
“It’s okay,” she lied, her voice low and quivering. “We’ve been interrupted twice; I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
“No, Madeline, don’t say that!” He reached out to touch her face, but she turned away from him, struggling to keep from crying. “It’s not like that, I–”
“Don’t you have a phone call to return?” Her own coldness surprised her, and she gasped. “I… It would be better if you just left.” A small sob accompanied her final word, and it took all of her strength not to break down in front of him. She walked to the door and pulled it open. The rain had stopped, and cool, damp air rushed into the house.
He followed her but didn’t exit. “I’m sorry.” The sound of his voice, the shock and the hurt, nearly echoed her own. “I am so sorry.” He tried to touch her again, but she shuddered when his hand brushed against her cheek. Without another word, he stepped outside the door, and she closed it behind him.
End of part seven