How would you feel when the man you have known and loved for the last five years is not who he said he was? That everything he ever told you was all a lie.
An accident changed our lives forever and now I have to bring him back to us because he doesn’t remember our life, our family or us. One minute, I was just a regular girl from India married to a man she loved, and the next, my life has changed completely because I’m married to an English Duke, who doesn’t remember me.
My name is Aaliya Singh Talbot and I will do whatever it takes to bring my husband back from the darkness and into the light.
Someone is screaming!
In a heartbeat, I know it’s me. I jerk awake and sit upright on my bed, my heart roaring against my ribcage. My hand trembles as I push my long hair back from my damp forehead. He can’t be dead; this was just a dream! I chant that thought while taking huge calming breaths. This is the third time this week I’ve woken up like this, feeling like he’s gone. The fact that I’ve lost all touch with him screams inside me that something is drastically wrong else he’d never be silent for this long; his phone would never be switched off like it has been this last week. I shut my eyes, anxiety weighing me down. How long should I convince myself there is a reason for his silence?
I grab the photo frame from my bedside table. It is a picture of Damien and I from our honeymoon. His arm is around me and both of us are smiling into the camera, the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing behind us.
I run a finger along his face, tracing that bearded jaw, visualizing him in my mind’s eye. Those striking grey-green eyes that sparkle whenever they rest on me, that heart-stopping smile that almost always makes me melt. I miss him! I miss being tucked under his chin when he hugs me. I miss his scent and I miss how his strong arms and tall frame wrap around me when we sleep, making me feel protected and cherished. This is the first time we’ve been separated for so long and perhaps that’s what is making me anxious. I shake my head. No, something is wrong. I can sense it.
God! Please let him be safe, I pray.
Love is a strange yet powerful emotion that hit me when I least expected it and swept me off my feet without me even knowing it. And now, five years later, it is the faith I have in that love that makes me believe he would never leave me without contact—unless he was in trouble.
Fear for him slithers like a poisonous snake across my veins but I have to tamper it down because I have one more reason to remain sane, to stay anchored to the belief that Damien will be fine, no matter what. I breathe in deep, letting the familiar hum of the air conditioner soothe my nerves before I slide off the bed. My feet hit the cold marble floor and I head to the other bedroom where I tip toe inside.
My darling little boy—an angel with his mouth open and a tiny hand clutching his rather overlong hair—is sleeping in his cot. A small smile skates across my lips and my heart warms as I stare at him for a moment before lifting him carefully and putting him on my shoulder. He wriggles for a moment but soon relaxes in my arms, his nose digging into the side of my neck. I inhale his soft, sweet fragrance, and shut my eyes for a few seconds. Rian is ten months old and the love of our lives. Reluctant to let go of him, I hold him for a second longer before I gently tuck him back in his cot and caress his beloved face, so similar to his father.
My cell phone rings and I run to my room, glancing at the clock that shows that it’s three in the morning. I pray fervently that it’s finally him calling. Please God, let that be my husband!
I lift the cell, scanning the caller id and my shoulders slump.
“Gabriel!” I breathe into the phone. “Where is Damien? It’s been a week since I heard from him. One whole week with his phone switched off and you giving me a different excuse each time I call. I’m scared, Gabe. You can’t even begin to imagine the thoughts running through my mind.”
His silence only fuels my fear.
“Gabe, please,” I plead. “Where is he?”
“Aaliya, he…he’s been in a car accident!”
“No! God, no!” I shudder. “Is he-”
I swallow against the pain in my throat and try again, because I need to know. “Is he fine? Please tell me he’s alive!”
“Aaliya, he’s fine. He was in a coma for a week. He’s just woken up now.”
“One week!” I gasp out. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tears burn my eyes, threatening to spill over. “His trip to London was planned for two days not ten, Gabe. I’ve lived in terror this last week ever since I lost contact with him. You knew how worried I was and yet you fed me with one excuse after the other. How could you keep his accident from me? I deserved to know, Gabe.”
“Don’t you dare try and placate me!” I yell, unable to hold it back any longer. “You should’ve called me the minute he was admitted to the hospital.”
“Aaliya, I’m sorry. I truly am!” His voice comes out broken. “This is hard for me too. I didn’t tell you because he told me to look after you and Rian first if anything happened to him. I never imagined that he’d meet with an accident so soon after. You may not understand this now, Aaliya, but I did this to protect you both.”
“Protect us from what?”
Gabe sighs. “How much do you know of the English aristocracy?”
My fist squeezes tighter around my phone. “I don’t care about the damn English aristocracy. Tell me about Damien. How is he?”
“Like I said, he’s fine now. He woke up a few hours ago. He’s injured his head, but he will be fine. There’s a lot to tell you, Aaliya. Damien hasn’t told you entirely who he was…is.”
“What do you mean, Gabe? Don’t talk to me in riddles. Besides, I know who he was…” I shake my head. “…he is. I know about his life in England. So, stop trying to tell me something else.”
I’ve known Gabriel Westcott for as long as I’ve known Damien, which is five years now. He is Damien’s best friend, his business partner and was his best man at our wedding. Since Damien was an orphan, Gabe was also the only person to attend from Damien’s side. This last week he’s given me one excuse after the other regarding the silence from Damien and now he’s feeding me some nonsense about my husband that I refuse to believe.
“Damn it, Aaliya. You need to listen to me!” Gabe shouts. “Damien is the second son of the Duke of Kittridge. He returned here to England ten days ago not on a business trip, like he told you, but because his father and brother died in a car crash. He came for their funeral and because of his new responsibility. Damien is now the Duke of Kittridge.”
“No!” I whisper, dropping down on the bed. “That can’t be true. He would have told me. No! I don’t believe you.”
“Google it. Now! It’s K I T T R I D G E.”
He spells the word as I grab my laptop and open Google and type the letters. My eyes widen in shock. Oh my God! The cords in my neck strain as I stare at the images on the screen. There are dozens of pictures of Damien. He’s at a funeral. He’s with an older woman. Another picture shows him with his arm around a younger blonde woman, comforting her. Who are these women? What in the hell is going on? I read tweets on him.
“The new Duke of Kittridge”
“Missing son returns after five years”
“The Devil Lord is now the Devil Duke”
The Internet has the whole history of Damien; it knows things I’ve never known. My Damien is not Damien Alexander, as I’ve always known him; he is Damien Alexander Talbot, now the Duke of Kittridge.
“How…how is this possible?” My voice trembles. “How could I have not known?”
“I will explain it all to you, Aaliya. But first, you need to come to London as soon as you can. Can you organize to leave Rian with someone for a few days?”
“I’ll bring him with me. Damien will want to see him.”
“Aaliya,” Gabe lowers his tone and my heartbeat accelerates yet again, “he doesn’t remember you. He has no memory of the last five years of his life, which includes Rian and you.”
Did he just say that? No! It can’t be true. But I know to the core of my being that it is true. This is why my instincts have been roaring at me since the last few days. My stomach plummets, the hollowness spreading through every inch of my body. A whimper escapes my mouth and I press a hand on my lips to stop myself from screaming.