Ellie Coudrey’s past three years are a total blank and the answers to her questions lie in Jackson Harbor and with Levi Jackson. Lexi Ryan’s latest deliciously angsty and gripping story is out now, and I have an excerpt for you.
“I can’t tell you how badly I want to kiss you.” I should back up, put some distance between me and temptation. “But I don’t even know if you’d want me to. Or if you’d let me.”
“Kiss me?” she says, and I can’t tell if it’s a question or permission.
I slowly lower my head, leaning my forehead against hers, and she stills. “I wish you would come home.”
“I can’t.” She puts her palms against my chest. I hold my breath, waiting for her to push me away. She doesn’t.
Burying my nose in her hair, I breathe her in, desperate to get as close to her as possible after a long night of trying to convince myself to let go. “Your family took you away. I thought I’d lost you, and they wouldn’t let me see you.” Slowly, I sweep my mouth down the side of her neck, then follow the trail across her jaw and toward the kiss I shouldn’t take but can’t resist.
Her lips are as soft as I remember, and I match that softness with my mouth—a tentative touch that doesn’t ask for permission as much as beg for it. If kisses were words, this one would be please. Please let me touch you. Please let me hold you.
Please come home.
I don’t let the kiss go deeper, afraid I might lose my composure. I’m crossing lines and breaking unspoken promises as it is. Instead, I pull away and cup her face in my hands to study her. She keeps her eyes closed, as if she’s waiting for me to put my mouth on hers again.
Yesterday, she swore she wanted nothing to do with anyone from Jackson Harbor, and today she came here looking for Ava and me. Today, she let me kiss her and for all the world looks like she wants me to do it again. I won’t. Because I can taste goodbye on her lips.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
She opens her eyes. “Then why did you?”
I back away from her. My kryptonite. My undoing. My every exception.“That’s a loaded question, but also a ridiculous one, since you already know the answer.”
She shakes her head. “But that’s just it. I . . . don’t remember.”
My stomach knots. Is she trying to hurt me? “Don’t remember what exactly?”
“The last three years.” She bites her bottom lip and shrugs. “I have retrograde amnesia. For me, it’s like my life in Jackson Harbor didn’t even happen.”
I blink at her, half expecting this to be a bad joke, but she’s serious, and suddenly the way she looked at me in the bar yesterday makes sense. The way she didn’t understand my connection to Ava. The way she just let me kiss her . . .
I bow my head and surprise myself by laughing. “Christ. That’s actually a relief.”
“I didn’t understand how you could just cut us out like that. It was so easy. Like we were nothing to you.” I take her left hand in mine, and my throat goes thick as I study her bare ring finger. “I never expected you to pick me. I never assumed you would. But I also never thought I’d lose you completely. Then I almost did.” My chest is tight when I add, “Twice. Once when you were in the hospital, and again when you shut us out.”
“I didn’t remember Jackson Harbor at all until I talked to you yesterday. Now, I only remember a little. And even that . . . just pieces I don’t really understand.”
“And you don’t think that would have been nice to tell me?”
“My mom told me I was mixed up with bad people. She believes the worst about my life there, so I believed the worst too. I was scared.”
“No. Not you specifically. Of the life I can’t remember.” She drops her gaze to the ground. “We were . . . having an affair? Was I cheating on my fiancé?”
“Hell no.” Shit. I just kissed her, and she doesn’t remember enough to understand why I’d do that. So why the hell did she let me? “You two were broken up when you and I . . . You don’t remember me?”
“Only enough to know you were important.” She glances toward the house where Ava disappeared before meeting my eyes again. She presses her hand to her chest. “It’s not a memory so much as something I feel. Does that make sense?”
I swallow hard. “Yeah. It does.” The draw I’ve felt toward Ellie has been there since the night we met. It’s elemental. But before this moment, I never had a reason to suspect it might be the same for her, but I can’t even enjoy the revelation that it was because it doesn’t change that she doesn’t want anything to do with us. With me.
“What was I to you?” she asks.
“We were friends.” I draw in a ragged breath. “And then, for a few days, we were something more. It was over pretty quickly.”
“But yesterday you said you never stopped loving me.”
“Also true,” I whisper. “Come home. I’ll answer any questions you have. I’ll help you remember. If you’re scared, I’ll protect you.”
She shakes her head. “I only came to say goodbye.”
The words are a blade coming right at my heart, but I dodge them. “You’re out of luck.”
“I can’t say goodbye to you. I won’t do it.”
“Levi . . .”
I pull her into my arms and hold her tightly. Everything’s so fucked up. I’m not sure it would be fair to ask anything of her even if she did remember. She’s been through too much. But amnesia? That complicates things even more. “I’ll give you anything else you want. But you can’t have my goodbye.”