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Series: Rose Canyon #1
New York Times bestselling author Corinne Michaels brings you a new small-town, brother’s best friend romance.
In one second, my life disappeared.
My past. My memories. My future.
The only certainty I have from the last three years is that my older brother is dead, and I am the only eyewitness.
In order to protect the case, the lawyers demand that no one give me any information about my life . . . I must remember on my own. My only help comes from my brother’s best friend and world-renowned investigative reporter, Spencer Cross.
He has no idea how many nights I’ve spent dreaming of his name—and his body—next to mine.
Now we’re a team and our goal is to recover my memories and retrace my past. But each day we spend together, he’s looking at me as more than his friend’s little sister and I find it harder to want my old life back. Instead I’m wishing for a new one–with him. His kiss feels like home. His arms make me feel safe, and I never want this to end.
As my memories return, forcing me to face my future, everything falls apart… especially when I find an engagement ring hidden in my apartment. I have no idea who gave it to me, or what it means about my past.
I may have asked Spencer to help me remember, but now I wish I could forget.
My eyes flutter open and then slam closed as the blinding light is too much. The ache in my head is so intense it steals my breath.
What the hell happened?
There’s a slight pressure on my arm, and then my mother’s soft voice fills the silence. “Brielle, honey. It’s okay. Open your eyes, my sweet girl.”
I inhale a few times before attempting it again. This time, I’m prepared for the brightness and the sterile white walls that reflect the sunlight. I hear someone rushing around a second before the blinds go down, casting shadows and making it a little easier for me to lift my lids.
“Where—” I try to speak, but my throat is raw. It’s as though I swallowed a thousand knives and haven’t had so much as a sip of water in years.
Mom is beside me, and my sister-in-law, Addison, is next to her. I turn my head to see who is on the other side, which is a big mistake as a new wave of pain shoots through my skull. I lift my hands to my head, trying to push the pressure down, but it doesn’t ebb that easily.
Who I assume is the doctor barks an order for medication before he lowers his voice to a whisper. “Brielle, it’s Holden. We’re going to get you some pain medication for your head.”
Holden? My brother’s best friend is here? I don’t understand. He left Rose Canyon years ago and only comes back once a year.
He speaks again. “Do you know where you are?”
I’m assuming I’m in the hospital, considering the monitors and bed I’m in, so I nod. “W-what h-ha-happened?” I choke on the words.
There are no sounds other than the beeping behind me. I will my eyelids to open and stay that way as if it will help me find the answer as to why I’m here. When they finally listen, I find myself looking directly at all three of my brother’s best friends. Holden, who is wearing his white coat, is in the middle. Next to him is Spencer Cross, the tall, dark, and sinful man I have dreamed of since I was thirteen but will never have. Behind him is Emmett Maxwell, who . . . is in the military on deployment . . . what the hell?
Why is he in a police uniform? Why is he even here? The emails he sends each week are all Isaac ever talks about because, of course, Emmett had to join the Special Forces. He couldn’t just do his time and come back—he needed to be heroic, which isn’t the least bit surprising.
“Do you know why you’re in the hospital?” Holden asks.
I shake my head, regretting it immediately.
He gives me a soft smile before asking, “What is your full name?”
“Brielle Angelina Davis.”
“What is your date of birth?”
“Where did you go to high school?”
I huff. “The same one we all went to. Rose Canyon High.”
Emmett steps forward, he is bigger than I remember, his chest is wide and arms filling out his uniform as though it’s ready to split the seams. He gives me his winning smile and rests his hand on Holden’s shoulder. “Brielle, do you think you’re up for answering a few questions for me? I know you’re probably in pain and exhausted, but it’s important.”
Questions? Wasn’t I already answering questions?
The pressure on my hand increases, reminding me that my mother is here, and I slowly turn to her. There are dark circles under her brown eyes and tears running down her cheek. Addy is next to her, and she also looks as if she hasn’t slept in a week. I glance around again, wondering where the hell my brother is. Isaac will tell me what’s wrong. He’s always honest with me.
“Isaac?” I call out, thinking maybe he’s in the hallway or something.
Addison’s hand flies to her mouth, and she looks away. My mother grips my hand tighter and then reaches for Addy.
“What about Isaac?” Holden asks, drawing my attention back to him.
“Where is he?”
Emmett speaks next. “What do you remember about the last time you were with Isaac?”
“I don’t . . . I don’t . . .” I look around, not understanding why I am in a hospital or what the hell is going on. “Help. I don’t . . .”
“Easy, Brie,” Holden says quickly. “You’re safe. Just tell us what happened.”
I shake my head because I don’t understand why he’s asking me that, which sends a shooting pain through my head. I squeeze my eyes shut until it passes enough to speak. “No, I don’t know. Why am I here? What’s happening? Where is Isaac? Why are you all crying? What’s wrong with me?”
Holden moves closer, holding my gaze. “Nothing is wrong with you, but I do need you to try to take a few calm breaths, okay?” He exaggerates the gesture, breathing in deeply, holding it for a second, and then slowly breathing out. After a few tries, I manage to mimic him, but the panic is still there, still clawing at my insides. He turns to Emmett. “She isn’t ready for this. Why don’t you guys give us a few minutes while I assess her and let her get her bearings. She needs a few moments.”
My mother stands but doesn’t relinquish her hold on my hand. “I’m not leaving her.”
“Mrs. Davis, I need to examine her, and it would be best if we can do it with no distractions.”
If it’ll give me some answers, I’ll do anything. Knowing my mother, she’ll never go without a fight. “Mom, it’s okay. I just . . . I need a minute.” My smile is brittle, but she nods and lets my hand slip from hers.
As Spencer, Emmett, Addison, and my mother leave, a nurse enters, and she and Holden flank the bed.
Holden moves in, flicking a light in my eyes before sitting on the side of the bed. “I know that waking up like this can be confusing and overwhelming. I’d like to check your vitals and talk, okay?”
I point to my throat, and the nurse hands me a cup with a straw. “Start with small sips. You have an empty stomach, and we want to go slow.”
I swallow the ice-cold liquid, letting it soothe some of the ache. I want to keep going so the sensation never stops, but she pulls the cup away much too fast.
Then he shows me photos of three objects. “In a few minutes, I’m going to ask you about those objects and you need to remember them and answer the questions I ask. Do you need to see them again?”
It’s a cup, a key, and a bird. It’s not rocket science. “I’m good.”
“All right. Can you lift your hands and push against mine?” I do as he asks, and when he seems satisfied, he moves on to a few other minor tests. Then he listens to my pulse and rattles off numbers. As he does that, my mind races, but I’m too tired to try to chase the thoughts around.
Holden speaks to the nurse. “Patient has started to present bruising around her face so we’ll need to take updated photos prior to discharge. I’d also like to order another MRI just to verify the swelling from both injuries is abating.”
“How bad are the bruises?” I ask.
“Nothing too bad. They should be healed in a week or two.”
I nod. “Okay. What about the head injury?”
“We’ll know more after the tests and the second MRI. We can go over the results after, okay?”
“Can you tell me why I’m here or what’s going on?”
“As I said, we’ll go over all our findings once we finish the exam part.”
We go through a ton of questions, all the while my mind is swimming. I keep waiting for my brother to come through the door and tell Holden where to shove his medical assessments.
Once I’m done answering those, he puts down his tablet. “What was the first image I showed you?”
I take a deep breath, and then my mind blanks. “I . . . it was a . . .” I lean my head back and try to think. I know it. “A cup!” I say triumphantly.
“Good. Do you remember the second image?”
“Yes, it was keys.”
He smiles, and the nurse nods.
“Excellent, Brielle. Now, do you remember the last image?”
I do. I . . . know it. I try to recall him showing me the pictures, but my thoughts are slow and muddled. “I do, but I’m so tired.”
His hand moves to my arm. “You’re doing great.”
I don’t feel so great.
“Why don’t you tell me about the last thing you remember?”
I stare down at my hands, twisting the ring my father gave me as I try to think. I start with my childhood, remembering holidays, birthdays, and vacations. My brother and I were always causing mischief, but poor Isaac was always the one who got in trouble. My father could never punish me, and I took full advantage of that.
I recall my high school graduation, the lavender dress I wore under my gown, and how my father died two days later.
The funeral is a haze of tears and sadness, but I clearly remember Isaac being the rock that held my mother up as she fell apart.
Then I remember meeting Henry. I was a sophomore in college, and he was in my math class. God, he was so cute and funny. At the end of our first date, he kissed me outside my dorm, and I swore my lips tingled for an hour after.
It was magical.
More dates. More memories of us falling in love and us graduating with our undergrads. We’d been so excited as we opened our acceptance letters to the same grad school in Oregon. I recall the apartment we moved into, ready to start our lives as we pursued our career paths. Two years and another graduation later, we were no longer so excited because we were no longer kids in school and were forced to make adult choices.
Like when I chose to move back to Rose Canyon while Henry stayed in Portland, working for his family to take over the business. That was a few months ago.
When I pull my eyes away from my ring, I find Holden watching me, waiting for my answer.
“I graduated grad school about six months ago. I have been living with Addison and Isaac while I was interviewing for a job.”
Holden writes something down. “Good. Anything else?”
“I . . . I know that Isaac and Addy got married. I came home for it. Henry and I were—” I pause as I struggle to think about what we were. I don’t know that’s right, but I think it is. “We fought. It was so stupid because he kept asking me to move to Portland when he knew I didn’t want to. Oh! I got the job I was interviewing for, and I am going to be moving out of my brother’s house.” My eyes widen as I remember that I just got a job here. In Rose Canyon.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a social worker, but I’m working at a new youth center. I started there a few weeks ago.” I smile, feeling like I can breathe a little. I remembered.
Holden doesn’t share my enthusiasm though. “You seem excited about it.”
“Yeah, I really am. It’s a great place, and . . . Jenna was there . . .”
He writes that down. “Can you tell me anything else? Maybe about your coworkers or some of the kids you’ve met?”
I frown. “Not really. I mean, it’s still really new, and I’m getting to know people.” Even as I say it, the words don’t seem wholly truthful.
“Being new is hard.” Holden smiles. “What about why you’re in the hospital? Do you recall anything or anyone who should be here with your family?”
I go over the people who were here when I woke up. It’s clear he isn’t looking for me to say my brother’s name since he’s probably at the school anyway. So, I run my hand over my face before asking, “Henry?”
“What about Henry?”
My heart starts to race, and I lean forward, confused as to why every muscle in my body aches when Holden only mentioned a head injury. “He should be here but he isn’t. Is he okay? Has anyone called him?”
“As far as I know, he’s fine, and I’m sure your mother has called him.”
Thank God he’s okay and isn’t in a room next to me. “He should be here soon. I’m sure he’ll be here. Maybe he just got tied up at work.”
“What do you mean?”
I sigh. “Henry . . . if he isn’t here, he will be. That’s all. We’re working on things.” At least, we’re trying to work on them. Things have been difficult the last few months for us. He doesn’t want to move to Rose Canyon, and I don’t want to live in the city. I love this town, and I want to be close to my brother and sister-in-law. Addy wants kids, and I am going to be the best aunt who ever existed.
“Brielle, why are you in the hospital?”
I close my eyes, pushing through the blackness in my mind. I can’t see anything.
There’s nothing but a heavy fog, preventing me from remembering anything.
I’m lost. I can’t see.
My heart is racing, and I try so hard to see anything around me, but everything is dark and something is squeezing my chest.
The panic threatens to overwhelm me.
Immediately, my lids open, and I turn frantic eyes to my brother’s best friend as I struggle to draw in air.
Oh God. Something is wrong with me.
“Take a deep breath, in your nose and out your mouth,” he says, the calm voice trying to soothe me, but I can’t.
“Wh-what don’t I know? Why am I here?”
Holden’s jaw clenches as though he’s trying to keep from saying something. The sound of the beeping behind me quickens. “Was I in an accident?”
“Not an accident, but something did happen. I need you to calm down, Brielle. Focus on my voice and breathing.”
A new anxiety swirls in my stomach. If it wasn’t an accident, then what? I can’t calm down. I can’t stop this intense panic that is building with each second. “What happened?”
“Brie, stop,” Holden tries to say again. “You have to relax or I am going to have to give you something.”
“No, no, because . . . I don’t remember why I am.” That leaves me with more questions and possibilities. If it wasn’t an accident, then someone did this to me. Someone hurt me. I just want to know who and why. I start to shake, knowing that the tears I saw on my mother and sister-in-law’s faces are an answer to a question I don’t want to ask. Addy loves me, I know she does, but her reaction when I . . . when I said my brother’s name—
The machines monitoring me start to beep even faster. I know Holden is talking to me, but his words are swept away by the sound of my ragged breathing and the thunder of my pulse in my ears.
I said his name, and Addy shattered.
Something is really wrong.
I can’t. I need to know. I look to Holden again, my heart pounding in my chest as I force out the single word. “Isaac?”
“Brielle”—Holden grips both arms, staring at me—“try to focus on me and take a slow breath. It’s okay.”
It’s not okay. I can’t remember why I’m here. I don’t know what happened, and the harder I try to remember, the more frantic that beeping gets. My vision starts to fade a little, and Holden barks something at the nurse.
I’m too caught up in the spiral of thoughts and desperate need to fill lungs that refuse to work to pay attention to what he’s shouting.
Then, after a minute, calmness floods my veins and I close my eyes, drifting off to sleep.
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amnesia, blood, violence, death (not of any main characters)