Love Lost and Found
A Love on Deck Novel by Michele de Winton
Felicity Williams can’t remember the last five years thanks to an accident that wiped out her memory. She fled her old life in hopes of starting fresh and found refuge working on a cruise ship. But her past is coming for her…
Rick McCarthy awakens after a climbing accident to discover that his business partner and fiancée has quit her job and disappeared. He’s trying to accept that she’s run out on him, but now he needs her signature to close a deal that could literally be life or death. He’ll go to any extreme to get what he needs…even if that means becoming someone else to win her back.
But a little lie becomes a large mess when they’re stranded on a deserted island together, and old misunderstandings might ruin their chance at new love…
Title: Love Lost and Found (A Love on Deck Novel)
Author: Michele de Winton
Genre: : Contemporary Series Romance
Length: 180 pages
Release Date: September 2013
© 2013 Michele de Winton
“Surely there must be a proviso for something like this? What if we never find her?” Rick McCarthy looked up as a cloud passed over the sun and frowned. “No, of course I don’t want… Yes, I’ve tried. And they definitely won’t budge?”
He pressed the phone closer to his ear. Another cloud floated in, thicker and darker, and the office dimmed. “Keep trying.” Rick hung up and resisted the urge to throw the phone against the wall.
Scanning the contracts laid out on his desk, he looked, again, at the clause that had come back to bite him on the ass. Hard. “Where the hell are you?” he asked as he stared at the name “Felicity Williams.” Felicity, his CFO, coauthor of an important patent, and the woman he was supposedly engaged to. Without her, his investors weren’t going to sign over the millions the company needed to take the next step. They were getting a 49 percent stake in the patent as part of their investment deal, and with Felicity named as coassignee and co-inventor, plus a clause requiring joint consent for sale, her signature was absolutely essential. The deal wouldn’t go through without her, plain and simple.
Not to mention the fact that she was supposed to be walking down the aisle with him pronto.
Rick gnawed on a fingernail, then caught himself doing it and made a fist. “Shit.” Slumping in his chair, he swiveled to look out the window at the weeds and tarmac of his company car park. “So much for an inspirational workplace,” he muttered.
The sun gave up altogether, and a light drizzle spat at the window. “Bloody perfect.”
The tap on the door was sharp and light: a woman’s knock. Rick sat up and, just for a moment, he let himself believe the five weeks he’d spent in a coma and the following three months with no sight or sign from Felicity might have been a figment of his imagination, that she was on the other side of that door. “Come.”
“Crap day. I thought it was supposed to be spring.”
Nope. Rick motioned for his private investigator, Anna Beard, to take a seat.
“You’re the CEO of a major biotech conglomerate—aren’t you supposed to have an office with a view of the ocean or something?” she said, glancing out the window.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he said. “Please tell me you’ve got better news than my lawyers. I’m up shit creek without a paddle-patent at the moment.”
“Well then, you’ll be wanting to change out of your boating gear and buy me a drink. I’ve found her.”
For a moment Rick didn’t register the words because of Anna’s flippant tone, but as her smile grew broader he shook his head and narrowed his eyes at her. “Don’t mess with me today. The building might not have a good view, but the boys downstairs have enough acid in the lab to dispose of a body in about ten minutes.”
“Charming.” Anna pulled her bag off her shoulder and passed him a file at the same time.
Not wanting to touch it in case his bad luck turned it into another false lead, Rick stood and paced behind his desk.
“Fine.” Anna recited as if from memory. “It’s taken a while because not only is she out of the country, she’s not in any country. After she came back here for a week while you were still out cold, your crazy lady quit and took a job on a cruise ship. The Pacific Empress to be exact. Spends her days shuffling financial paperwork as head purser and her nights…I dunno, sipping cocktails by the pool, I guess.”
“A cruise ship?” Rick’s eyebrows felt as if they might almost take flight.
“Not exactly the first place you’d look for an ex-science geek turned bean counter. Smart lady.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice. Anyway, everything’s in the file.” Anna paused, then gave an exaggerated sigh as Rick sat, ripped open the file, and started poring over its contents. “Gee, thanks Anna, great job.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “You’re like, the best PI I’ve ever known. How about that drink now?”
Rick looked up. “Yeah, sorry. Thanks. Maybe a rain check on that drink, okay?”
This time the sigh was wistful, heartfelt, and Rick looked up in time to catch a plaintive frown on Anna’s face before she snapped her smile back on. “I really am sorry,” he said gently. “Felicity is all I can concentrate on at the moment. I need to get her back. Now.”
“Ahem. Yes.” Anna’s smile dimmed. “That’s where it might get a little more complicated. Seems she might not want to come back. Or rather, she might be a bit confused about what she’s supposed to come back to.”
“You got busted up in the accident. Lucky you didn’t die, by the sounds of it. Turns out she didn’t get off all that lightly either.”
“But when I woke up—they said she’d been discharged weeks ago. That she was fine. She came back to work before she disappeared, didn’t she? There can’t be anything wrong with her, surely.”
“Physically, sure. But she got a good knock to the head. Her medical records were tough to hack, but looks like she ended up with retrograde amnesia.”
Rick paused. “That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s ideal. Certainly not if you’re the CFO of some big biotech corporation and your boss wants you for your brains as much as your body.”
“I don’t think—”
“Sorry. That was out of line.” Anna’s blush stained her cheeks instantly. “Anyway, she was only out for a couple of days, but her bang to the head was worse than yours. Or different, at least. Despite the fact that she popped back into the office for a week or so, seems she doesn’t remember much of the last five years. Actually, she doesn’t remember any of it.”
“Yep. It happens more than you’d think. Huge chunks of life gone. Poof, just like that. Not just the three months she’s been AWOL, five years.” Anna shook her head. “She likely won’t have a clue who you are. She probably won’t even recognize you.”
Rick started gnawing on another nail. Five years ago, Felicity Williams stalked into his office and talked him into hiring her. Four years ago, they worked on a process that was now at the heart of one of his company’s technologies. Three years ago, the two of them coauthored the patent that his backers needed to finalize their investment.
He should have listed Biogena as the assignee of the patent and just kept Felicity as co-inventor as he did with all staff patents now. He should have realized any investor fronting with such a big wad of cash would want a solid piece of collateral to cement the deal—in this case, the 49 percent of the patent process itself. But then again, he should have Felicity by his side right now, cheering him on as Biogena raised the money to take their work to the next level. Instead, all he had was a big question mark over where she was and what the hell she was thinking.
“I knew rock climbing was bad for you. I’d never do it. I look like crap in Lycra and those shoes are just ridiculous,” Anna said.
“Quite,” Rick said coldly. The rock climbing upstate had been his idea, but only because he knew Felicity loved it. As they’d climbed, all he could think about was the lump in his pocket he hoped would complete the best partnership he’d ever known. When they’d reached the summit and he’d pulled out the emerald-cut diamond ring, she’d smiled and her “Of course, what a great idea” had been exactly what he’d hoped for. He didn’t need yelps of joy, screams, or, God forbid, tears at his proposal. Her cool, calm, and confident reply proved once again that he was doing the right thing by making their partnership permanent in every way. They really were going to be the golden couple of the biotech world. With her by his side, it was only a matter of time before Biogena Industries was so far ahead of his competitors that he was untouchable.
The ring had looked perfect on her finger, but she’d taken it off for the climb down so it didn’t interfere with the ropes. She needn’t have bothered. The ropes seemed set on interfering with themselves. On the climb down all he’d heard was the whiz of line through his carabiner and the scream of wind stealing his breath, his sight, and his consciousness as their equipment failed, leaving him and Felicity at the mercy of gravity and the fifteen-meter drop below. The short, terrifying free fall flashed over him every day for the first month after he woke from his coma, but he’d learned to breathe it away, and a sense of vertigo when he thought about the accident was all that remained.
“Sure. I’ll see myself out. Look forward to your big, grateful check.” Anna’s voice cut through his memory.
“Right. Yeah, sure.” Rick had to blink to refocus on his PI. “Thanks again.”
Once she shut the door, Rick spread the papers over his desk. The picture of the cruise ship was impressive; it was one of those massive things with thousands of passengers and hundreds of crew members. Nice for a holiday if you liked that sort of thing, but working on it? “Felicity, what the hell were you thinking?”
She wasn’t thinking. Wasn’t that what Anna had just said? Rick pulled up Google on his laptop, tapped out “retrograde amnesia,” and was lost in medical trivia for the next ten minutes.
Closing the browser window, he sat back in his chair. Poor Felicity. He scrolled through the last five years in his mind and tried to wipe them clean with an imaginary sponge. Impossible. Frightening. Damn terrifying, if he was honest. But also damn convenient. Flicking open the diary beside him, he looked again at the entry and shook his head. Even with the words staring him straight in the face he couldn’t believe it. If someone had brought him the diary he wouldn’t have believed it. Novotech, Noon. Two innocent little words. But written in Felicity’s handwriting, in her diary, two weeks before he got out of the hospital, they were two of the most potent, duplicitous words he’d ever seen. He’d been lying unconscious and instead of visiting him, her first thought had been getting the hell away from him, his company, and everything he hoped they’d build? He couldn’t believe it. But the diary lay in front of him, its neat entry in capitals screaming out Felicity’s disloyalty.
At least it had been him who found it when he finally got back to work. No one else knew that Felicity must have had a meeting with Biogena’s biggest competitor. And no one was going to know. Not until he was sure. And now, after months of searching, he had a chance to ask her what the hell she’d been thinking. “Did you really play me all this time?” he wanted—needed—to ask her.
Let it go. There was no point pushing his heart through a sieve until he knew what the hell she’d been up to. Right now, his search for Felicity needed to be about business, and that meant keeping his emotions out of it. But this… He shut the diary and closed his eyes with a groan. There must be a mistake. Even if she’d planned to, Felicity hadn’t taken a job with Novotech; he’d checked that months ago. His competitors weren’t crowing about any new developments they’d miraculously come up with, so she hadn’t sold him out. Not yet anyway. He still had time to repair any damage that might just be waiting to bite him in the ass.
A few minutes later, he’d made up his mind. He needed to find Felicity, make her explain, and sign over the shares in the patent, like yesterday. It wasn’t as if he was trying to steal anything from her. She stood to make some serious money out of the investment as CFO of Biogena. Once he’d sorted her signature, he could concentrate on them. Then, if she couldn’t remember why he needed her back, or even who he was, he would show her. Personally.
Turning over another photograph, Felicity’s primrose-blue eyes gazed back up at him. Her curly blond hair was scraped back off her face, and a touch of sun had sprinkled her nose with freckles. She looked happy. Carefree, even. It seemed impossible that she’d betray him so completely while he was lying comatose in a hospital bed. “We were good together,” he said. “Great, even.”
No one at work knew about the wedding; no one knew they were even together except his PI. Felicity had insisted they keep their relationship a secret out of simple professionalism. In the bedroom, however, she’d been anything but prim and proper. If he was honest, some of the tension that filled every atom of his body was because of the self-enforced celibacy Felicity’s disappearance had instigated. But after his proposal, she’d agreed to announce their partnership to everyone, and he’d been looking forward to having her in his bed far more often. And then… He looked back down at the documents spread on his desk. Then this.
He shook his head. Any thought of a wedding, of their relationship, needed to take a backseat at the moment. His investors wouldn’t hang around forever and, while he had other companies to run in his corporation, the one he’d started with Felicity was the linchpin of Biogena Industries. He couldn’t afford to let this deal crash and burn, and he definitely couldn’t afford the time it would take to rework a new patent with the company as sole assignee. His competitors would overtake him if he gave them even a glimmer of a chance. That couldn’t happen. Not when he was so close to realizing the dream his brother had begun before leukemia cut his life short. Rick dialed his travel agent and started the process of both tracking down the cruise ship and working out a reason to be on board that would make sure Felicity had to spend plenty of time with him. There were no pictures of him on the Internet—biotech wasn’t exactly the most popular of industries and he liked to keep a low profile because of that. If she really didn’t know who he was, he could go in incognito until he was sure what he was dealing with.
It was time to get some answers. He picked up the photograph again as if she might hear him if he spoke to it. “You can run, Ms. Williams, but you can’t hide.”