Page 28 of What Lies Beneath

“You have no reason to trust me. And I have no reason to trust you. We’re strangers. But I want more. I want this to work out. And I don’t know of any other way to convince you of the truth.”

Will looked down to see Cynthia slip off her engagement ring. She held it up and watched it sparkle in the light for a moment. “This isn’t mine. You gave it to another woman. It’s a symbol of our past and everything that has gone wrong between us.”

Her fingers sought out one of his fists, uncurling it to place the ring in the palm of his hand.

“I know you’re worried that one day I’ll wake up and become her again. But you were right. I have a choice. Even if I recover my memory tomorrow, I’m promising you that I’m changing the person I was. I’d like to try making this work with you, with or without amnesia.”

Since day one, Will knew her memory coming back would be the relationship killer. His interest and attraction to her would no doubt be erased by the return of her old personality. It was the thing he clung to, the last barrier he used to keep from letting himself get too close. And she’d just taken it away, leaving him exposed to her and their new possibilities together.

“Let’s try to make a new relationship out of the wreckage of the one we destroyed. We can date, get to know each other as we are now. The world can continue to think we’re engaged, including my father. And if and when,” she said, her hand covering the one in which he held the ring, “you want to give that back to me…okay.”

* * *

Cynthia watched Will’s face for any sign that she wasn’t about to be single and homeless, dragging two hundred pairs of shoes behind her down the street, but he was so hard to read. It wasn’t until his other hand covered hers that she was able to take a breath.

“Okay,” he agreed, although his face was still lined with concern. She understood that. She’d obviously hurt him. Giving the ring back was evidence of her good-faith effort to make this work. In time, she hoped that they could make new memories to help mask the old ones. It would be a slow process, but she would take it one step at a time to be certain she did it right.

“I look forward to getting to know you,” she said with a crooked smile and an awkwardly adolescent bump to his shoulder. “I like what I’ve learned so far.”

His expression softened and he smiled, too. “It’s been a long time since I’ve dated,” he admitted. “I might be a little rusty.”

“That’s okay,” she said with a shrug, “I don’t remember ever going on a real date, so I’ll be easy to impress.”

At that, he laughed. It was the first real laugh she’d heard, and it was everything she hoped it would be. It was a deep, sexy rumble that vibrated in her chest and made her want to cling to him and bury her face in his neck.

“I’m glad your expectations are low,” he said, turning to place a soft kiss on her lips. He pulled away immediately and stood up. “Good night.”

She wanted him to stay, to pick up where they’d left off earlier, but she knew that wasn’t the best idea. But the kiss held promise, just like their new relationship, and that was enough for her. “Good night,” she said as he walked out of the room and then quietly pulled the door shut behind him.

Unfortunately, even as she switched off the lamp, she knew it was a lost cause. Sleep was no longer an option. She was as wired as if she’d chugged an entire pot of coffee. She’d gone to bed crying because she was certain she’d ruined everything. Now she had a world of new possibilities ahead of her. Her mind was spinning from their conversation, her thoughts bouncing around in her head. Cynthia lay there in the dark for nearly an hour, praying she would drift off to sleep, but it was no use.

She didn’t have to get up early in the morning; she had nowhere to go, so she decided to put her energy to better use. Slipping quietly out of the bedroom and down the hallway to her workroom, she decided to do some sketching. She wouldn’t run the sewing machine because the noise would wake up Will, but she could do everything else.

Her plan to make her own dress for her mother’s party loomed heavy on her mind. It was an ambitious project to say the least, and she needed to start on it as soon as possible. Any design worthy of the event would be infinitely more complicated to construct than the dress she’d already made. It also needed to be well designed and perfectly suited to her style aesthetic. If it was going to be in newspapers, it needed to be the evening look she would use to close her collection on the runway. The wow piece that everyone could look at and say, “That’s the latest Cynthia Dempsey design.”