Ryan POV from Remember Jamie Baker — Scene from the airplane when Ryan takes Jamie to meet up with the ACEs and they go to the Colorado base…
The following Content is from Remember Jamie Baker and is: SPOILERIFIC! READ AHEAD AT YOUR OWN RISK!
While Jamie went to take a long hot shower, I wandered through her house. Considering the damage to the living room, there must have been quite a standoff here. I had mixed feelings about that. Part of me was glad Visticorp found Teddy. Part of me hoped he was being tortured for all he was worth. But I knew, deep down, that was just the anger talking. If it came down to it, I wouldn’t really want that. I might hate him and hope we find him so that I could punch the daylights out of him, but I would never really wish true harm on a person. Jail sure, but a lifetime of torture and human lab testing? I didn’t know about that.
Not wanting to dwell on Teddy, I pulled out my phone. Major Wilks picked up on the first ring. “Status report?”
“We’re safe, she’s calmed down, and she’s agreed to come check out the base.”
Major Wilks let out an audible breath. “Good work, Romeo.”
“Thank you, sir.” I grinned, feeling ridiculously proud. The ACEs had let me join their team, but that was only because I knew Jamie so well, and Tyson and Abiodun had refused to join without me. I’m young and inexperienced, and don’t have much to bring to the table on such an elite military team. That was hard to swallow, but now that Jamie was back, I felt like I was genuinely needed. No one knew Jamie the way I did, and Jamie isn’t exactly a low maintenance girl. Major Wilks wouldn’t stand a chance of winning her over without my help. I grinned to myself, grateful for Jamie’s volatile, stubborn nature.
“We’re pulling into the Las Vegas base now. We’ll be ready to take off in ten minutes.”
“All right. Hold the plane for us, Major. Jamie’s soaking in a hot shower. We’ll meet you at the base as soon as she’s ready.”
“Try to hurry. I don’t like you two out there with no back-up.”
“Yes sir. We’ll be there soon.”
Slipping my phone in my pocket, I glanced down the hall. I could hear the water running in the shower. Normally that would drive me crazy, but it was hard to have those kinds of thoughts about her right now when she was so black and blue. She’d given worse than she got in that fight with the supersoldiers, but she still had to be really sore. The hot water and alone time was probably exactly what she needed. I wasn’t going to interrupt that or try to rush her.
With time to kill, I wandered into the front yard where her sofa was turned upside down on the desert floor. I flipped the couch back over and flopped down on my back. It had been a long day, and I could use some downtime myself.
The sky above my head had an orange, purple, and pink hue to it. The sun was setting. I gulped. The last time I’d watched the sun set in the desert had been the single best moment of my life. I’d stood there, with Jamie in my arms after she’d just whisked me away from my life. Two minutes later I proposed to her. We were so happy. It had been so perfect.
And then I lost her.
Memories of those dark times, especially those first couple of weeks when I wasn’t sure I had anything left to live for, flooded my mind. I quickly pushed them away in the same manner I always did when my dark and depressing thoughts tried to take over—by humming “You Are My Sunshine” to myself. Jamie would think it was so cheesy, but the song had become my anchor.
After a minute, I relaxed and even smiled at the scenery. Jamie was right about the desert sky. The sunsets here are beautiful. It’d been so long since I was able to watch a sunset at all. But now Jamie was back, and all was right in my world again.
I glanced toward the house and smiled again. I still couldn’t believe I’d found her. I couldn’t believe she was safe, and she was right here with me. She didn’t remember me, but that didn’t matter. She was still herself. She was still my Jamie. She’d realize that soon enough. Memory or not, she couldn’t resist me. As long as she got to know me, she’d fall for me again. I’d convinced her not to run for now, and that’s all I needed.
I’d just started to drift off when Jamie quietly cleared her throat behind me. As I climbed to my feet and smiled at her, I was hit with shock all over again. She was really here. I’d really found her. It all still felt like a dream. Part of me kept waiting to wake up, and the rest of me hoped I never did.
She was so beautiful, even just in jeans and a T-shirt with her wet hair pulled back in a ponytail. Though, the fact that it was a Punisher T-shirt was very, very sexy. She always did like the badass, darker, tortured superheroes best.
I resisted the urge to tell her exactly how hot she was. It was hard to do, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate it. The way she was standing there, I could tell she still felt very vulnerable. So far, she’d seemed to hold it together best when keeping things almost professional, so I swallowed the compliments and kept it simple.
“I called the major a few minutes ago. They just got to the base in Las Vegas and are holding the plane for us.”
She’d been assessing the damage to her house, but her eyes came back to me. “Plane?”
“Yeah. ACE headquarters is in Colorado, and Major Wilks wants you checked out by our doctor and no one else.”
I suddenly wished I had a medical degree.
When Jamie wrinkled her nose, I wondered if she guessed my thoughts. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure it out considering I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Luckily, her mind was focused elsewhere. “We have to fly? That’s so slow. Couldn’t we just meet them in Colorado?”
I laughed. Only Jamie would think flying was slow.
It probably would have been fine to meet the guys at HQ. In fact, Major Wilks would probably be happy to have Jamie to the doctor sooner. But I knew once we got there, Jamie would be snatched up by Dr. Haggerty and then she’d hole up in a room somewhere to sleep. And after that, I’d be hard pressed to steal any of her attention because Major Wilks would be dying to pounce on her. Knowing Jamie, she would use him, and the pressing matter of Donovan, to avoid me. I needed the time on the plane with her.
“It’s a short flight. Come on; you can sleep on the plane.”
She didn’t fight me, though she looked as though she considered it. “All right. To Las Vegas, then. You ready?”
She held out her hand to me. It took everything I had in me not to look surprised. She seemed awfully calm about having to kiss me. I must have looked confused, though, as I waited for her to scowl and say something snarky about frying me if I got too frisky, because she said, “You’ve done this with me before, I assume?”
It was also weird that she was just fine with sharing her powers. Even if I’d gotten past her reluctance to kiss me, she’d never been comfortable passing me her energy. “Only a couple of times. You used to worry pumping me full of mutant energy would hurt me. It took a long time to convince you it was okay.”
She frowned as if the thought had never occurred to her. “Huh. Weird. I never noticed any side effects with Tony.”
My stomach twisted. “You shared your energy with Teddy?”
“Of course. All the time. It was too convenient not to.”
Rage swept through me. I couldn’t stand the thought of that nerdy little punk touching Jamie, much less superkissing her. I take back what I said about not actually wanting real harm to come to him. I was going to find that traitor just so I could kill him myself.
After seeing the way Jamie frowned at me, I took a deep, cleansing breath. I had to get a grip on this. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t remember me. I couldn’t fly off the handle every time she reminded me of her relationship with Teddy. It would scare her or turn her off to me. No way was I going to let Teddy ruin my chances with my fiancée. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
She waited a second, kindly letting me regain my control, and then held out her hand to me again. “Okay, then. You ready?”
My anger melted away as I realized I was about to kiss Jamie. It wasn’t even the fact that I was dying to feel her again that had me so confident all of a sudden. It was the memory of what happened any time we kissed. Jamie and I had a connection. From the very first kiss, we’d both felt it. She wasn’t sure of me right now, but this was my chance to show her exactly what she’d been missing. I had no doubt, superkissing and all, that she’d never kissed geek boy the way she kissed me. This was my chance to show her how much I loved her, and I was not going to waste the opportunity.
I took her offered hand and used it to pull her close. The second she was in my arms, my head swam and my control snapped. She was mine, and I needed her now. I slipped my arms around her waist and crushed her against me so firmly that she gasped. She shivered, and I laughed. That was my girl. The one I could melt with a single touch. But she did the same thing to me, so I figured it was fair.
My gaze dropped to her mouth and I could hardly breathe. I’d missed those lips more than I can tell you. “I’ve been ready for this since the second I got you back.”
In my head we were already there, locked in the most intense, incredible superkiss we’d ever shared. But when I leaned in to claim what I needed so badly, Jamie startled and wrenched her head back. “What are you doing?”
Why did she always insist on playing so hard to get? I tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and whispered, “Kissing my fiancée.”
Apparently mentioning our relationship status was the wrong thing to do. I said the word fiancée and promptly got zapped. Her glare was so much like old times that it made me laugh. “I guess some things never change.”
“What are you doing? Why did you try to kiss me?”
What? Why was she so mad? This was what we were supposed to be doing right now. She was the one who asked me if I was ready. “Um…because that’s how you pass your energy.”
Understanding sparked in her eyes and then a series of emotions washed over her—mostly embarrassment and annoyance. Without word, she took my hand and pushed her power into me. I recognized the feeling, the tingly warm energy that made all of my senses come alive. When Jamie juiced me up, I always felt as if I normally experience the world like an old silent movie in black and white, and Jamie’s powers bright me into Wonderland.
It’d been so long since I’d experienced this that it nearly brought me to my knees. Having her pump it into me this way was also more intense than when we kissed. Well, intense in a different way. The kisses were still unlike anything I’d ever felt. The kisses, along with the power they gave me, were magnetic. Hypnotic. This was just an extreme rush of power. Very cool, but not nearly as fun or pleasant. Or hot.
When Jamie let go, I caught my breath and blinked at her. “When’d you learn how to do that? You mostly just used to zap people when you tried that before.”
“Practice.” She shrugged and her face fell flat. “I had a lot of motivation.”
At my questioning look, she rolled her eyes. “Tony kept finding reasons he needed to use my powers, and I was tired of kissing him.”
She was forgiven for not letting me kiss her just now. That had to be the best news I’d heard all day. “Well, that’s comforting,” I teased. “You promised me once that the superkisses were only for me.”
She smirked as if she hadn’t ever heard the term before. I was glad Teddy never told her our name for those kisses. It made me feel like they were still ours. Like he hadn’t stolen those from me.
My mood lifted a little more and I couldn’t help teasing her. “You know…just because you have the control now doesn’t mean you can’t still do things the fun way.” I laughed at the dry look she shot me and sent her a wink in return. “Just something to think about.”
Personally, it was all I could think about. I was going to get that girl to kiss me soon. I’d find a way. I had to or I was going to explode. She didn’t seem to have the same trouble as me, though. She rolled her eyes, grabbed my hand, and we took off for Las Vegas.
I made her stop and let me wait out the nausea caused by the superrun. Jamie might have had no problem running at warp speed, but it was killer on my equilibrium. I managed not to throw up but I was green and shaky and didn’t need to show the team that I had a hard time handling Jamie’s powers. I’d never hear the end of it.
Surprisingly, Jamie didn’t tease me. She even went as far as to tell me that I handled it better than Teddy did the first time, and told me it would get easier. I found that encouraging because that meant she assumed there would be a next time.
Once I was ready, we came to the gate of the Air Force base and the soldiers drove us out to the tarmac where the plane was waiting for us. She stiffened up again when Major Wilks met us at the door. I couldn’t blame her. He came on way too strong, and looked way too excited to have her here. I’d have to talk to him about that later. Jamie was beyond paranoid and had no love for the government or authority of any kind before evil mad scientists captured her and she lost her memory. Spending the last six months in total seclusion with someone even more paranoid than her couldn’t have helped, either. If Major Wilks wanted her to stick around, he was really going to have to tone it down.
“Glad you decided to join us, Angel.”
She accepted his eager handshake but met his smile with a flinty glare. “I haven’t decided anything yet.”
Major shrugged off her hostility. “Well, hopefully we can change your mind about that after a good night’s rest and a tour of the base in the morning. For now, just buckle in and take it easy. The men will leave you alone until you’re feeling better. Right, men?”
I grinned at all the crestfallen pouts of the guys as they nodded. They were dying to get to know Jamie. I couldn’t blame them. Not only had I talked her up so much, but thanks to her time as Chelsea’s Angel, she really was an honest-to-goodness real-life superhero. For them, this was like finding Wonder Woman.
I was anxious to show her off to them and let them all meet her because they were going to love her as much as I did, but considering the small sigh of relief that came from her at the Major’s order, it would have to wait. Jamie when she’s in a good mood is someone you have to love. Jamie when she’s grumpy or feeling threatened, well, that’s hot, but it’s also dangerous.
On the bright side, I wasn’t included in the major’s order to leave her alone. He’d put me on Jamie duty earlier, and I planned to take my assignment very seriously. I grabbed her hand and laced our fingers together as I dragged her to a couple of empty seats. I wasn’t sure how handholding was a necessary action for Jamie duty at the moment, but I was sure I could come up with some kind of reason if needed. I didn’t have to defend my actions, though, because Jamie didn’t protest when I took her hand. That worried me. Jamie always protested. “How’s your head?” I asked as we buckled our seatbelts. As I took a better look at her, I realized she was paler and more exhausted than I thought. “The superrun didn’t make it worse, did it?”
She closed her eyes and shook her head as she massaged her temples. “It’s better than it was, but it’s still pounding like crazy. I’m sorry if it’s been making me such a grouch today.”
I was as surprised by the apology as I was that she thought she was being grouchy. Compared to back when she was the Ice Queen of Rocklin High, and considering the fact that she was almost killed by supersoldiers and was worried that the military had discovered her, she’d been an angel today. Besides, she wasn’t the only one who’d been grumpy today. “I should be the one apologizing,” I said quickly. “I completely freaked out on you earlier and you didn’t need that. It won’t happen again. I promise.” That was the truth. I still couldn’t believe it happened in the first place. I’d just been so shocked. “I’m pretty sure I got it all out of my system.”
Jamie slid me a glance and the side of her mouth turned up into that cool smirk she’d given me the day I asked her to kiss me so I could win a bet. “It was a rather impressive temper tantrum,” she teased. “I thought I held the title on those, but now I’m not so sure.”
I laughed. Even if I’d completely lost my head and nearly broke my knuckles punching the truck, my loss of temper was nothing like hers. Not even close. “Oh no, babe, you definitely have me beat in the drama department. It’s just, if I have one weak spot in my otherwise unshakable calm, it’s Teddy.” And with good reason.
My comment made Jamie blush, though I wasn’t sure why. She distracted me with a question before I could ask her about it. “Why do you call him Teddy?”
I knew the distraction was intentional, to change the topic from whatever had embarrassed her, but I let it slide and answered her. “His real name is Teodoro Vivenzio.”
If she was going to start talking to me and ask questions about our past, even if it was on the subject of Teddy, I wanted to go there. I wanted her to be so curious about us that she couldn’t stay away from me even if she was desperate to do just that.
Jamie had always fought her feelings and attraction to me. She wouldn’t be any different now. But I’d always managed to keep her coming back. Thanks to her memory loss, it would almost be too easy to make myself irresistible to her. Winning her over this time was going to be a piece of cake.
I almost laughed. Without her memory, she was still reacting to everything the same way she had the first time around. It gave me the advantage in a major way. She was still the exact same girl. She might not know me, but I knew everything about her. Yes, this was going to be beyond easy. “Exactly. You never could say it right, so you started calling him Teddy and it stuck.”
She considered this and then nodded slowly. “I guess I could see it. Teddy…”
She thought about it a moment longer and then sighed. “I have to get him back.”
The confession was a slap in the face. Could she really care about Teddy? She sounded like she cared very much. In all of my plotting since I found her, I hadn’t even considered the possibility that she liked Teddy. She hadn’t when she met him before. But back then she’d already been in love with me. This time she hadn’t had an awesome boyfriend to compare him to. She’d had no one to compare him to. She’d been alone with him for six months. And I’m sure the slimy little weasel doted on her. Could it be possible that she loved him? She said they’d broken up, but that didn’t mean she didn’t care about him. “You want him back?”
I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer to that, but I had to know at the same time. Thankfully, she shook her head. “Not like that. I’m so mad at him I could kill him.”
She wasn’t the only one.
“But it’s my fault he was captured. You said they could trace my phone, and that’s how they found me. Well, I’m assuming they could trace whomever I called, too. Tony, I mean Teddy, was always so paranoid. He warned me a million times that I couldn’t break the rules or Visticorp would find us. But I went to the doctor anyway, and now he’s gone.”
She glanced at the back of the seat in front of us and chewed on her bottom lip. She was so worried. “They’ve taken him to do who knows what to him. He lied to me, but no one deserves to be caged up and experimented on.”
I hated that she was stressed over him. He didn’t deserve her worry. But I understood her guilt. Guilt was often irrational. I’d felt guilty for losing Jamie since the day she and Teddy took off together. Guilty that I couldn’t do more for her. That he was more prepared to help her than I was. That I couldn’t stop the men trying to take her. That I wasn’t strong enough, powerful enough… I never measured up when it came to Jamie. And after she disappeared, I’d felt so helpless. I still didn’t measure up. I wasn’t good enough for her in so many ways, but I was just selfish enough to claim her anyway. I always felt guilty about that, too.
But for all the ways she was stronger than me, and all the ways I couldn’t measure up, there were some things I brought to the relationship. She may have been stronger than me, but she still needed me. She needed my emotional strength. She needed my support mentally.
Chelsea’s Angel might not need me that much, but Jamie Baker did. Thanks to my stepdad Gene, and a lot of my own easygoing nature, I was exactly the type of guy Jamie needed to calm her crazy life. She needed a little steadiness. She needed unfailing support. And she definitely needed some optimism. Those were things I could give her. So, as much as I wished I could knock Teddy into a deep abyss never to be seen again, I forced a smile on my face and said, “We’ll find him, and we’ll get him back.” Thinking of Betty and Natalia I added, “We’ll get them all back.”
Supporting her was the right move. At first she seemed shocked, and then she got all choked up. It was as if she’d never felt support from anyone before. But how was that possible? Teddy was so infatuated with her; he had to have given her everything she ever wanted.
Just as I was trying to find a way to ask her about her life the last six months, the plane took off and Jamie freaked. She jumped, sucked in a huge breath and clenched the armrests of her seat with white knuckles. I’d have thought it was adorable if she didn’t lose control of her power too and blitz the electronics in the plane. We did not need her to fry this thing now that we were airborne. “Whoa, Jamie, relax. Babe, I’m not sure frying the plane would be the best thing to do.”
“Sorry.” She sucked in another breath. “I just lose control when I’m freaked out.”
Yeah, no kidding. It was the reason she was freaked out that surprised me. Of all the dangerous situations she’d thrown herself into without blinking an eye, this scared her? “You’re a nervous flyer?”
She shrugged but never released her death grip on the armrests of her seat. “I guess so. I’ve never done it before.”
I hadn’t thought about that.
When the plane lifted higher into the air, she let out a tiny squeak of fear and started trembling. The lights in the cabin flickered again. All the guys were now staring our direction. I could see fear on their faces. Actual fear. If we didn’t do something, she was going to crash this plane, and everyone was looking at me to fix the problem. I’d been wishing to feel like I deserved my place on this team since the moment I showed up. Looks like I got my wish. Great. So…since it was up to me to calm her down, what could I do…
I needed to distract her. I wondered if a kiss would… I shook off the thought before I got too tempted. As much as I loved that distraction, kissing her always got her flustered. And she released lots of energy when she kissed me. Way more than she was giving off right now. I might not mind crashing to my fiery death if I was locked in a superkiss at the time, but I didn’t think the rest of the team would appreciate that.
The only other thing I could think of was distracting her with memories. She seemed to want those badly, and I was pretty much an expert in that department, so I quickly said, “Hey, did you know that your favorite place in the whole world is the Grand Canyon?”
The question worked. She flinched at my voice, but once she’d processed my statement she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and managed a small smile. She even relaxed her grip on the chair. Score one for me. Eat your hearts out elite military squad of ACEs. Ryan Miller has the situation under control.
“I actually did know that,” she admitted, letting her body relax even further. “I used to go out there whenever I needed to get away from Teddy or our situation, or just whatever. The sunsets there are the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
My mind automatically went back to one particular Grand Canyon sunset—the only one I’ve ever seen. She was right about it being amazing. Though, I could be biased considering that moment was so much more than a simple sunset.
This was exactly the type of conversation I’d been hoping to have with her on this plane ride, so I took a chance and got personal. “Did you know that’s where we were the last time I saw you? It’s where I asked you to marry me.” I remembered the moment and laughed. “Well, I guess, technically, you asked me first. You asked me to spend the rest of my life with you. But I was the first one to actually say ‘marry me.’ And I already had the ring, so I think I still win.”
The story did not have the effect on her that I was hoping for. Pain so deep it seemed to drown her, etched across her face. She closed her eyes and smashed her hand against her chest as if trying to clutch her heart to make it stop hurting. After a hard swallow, she started rummaging through her purse and found her engagement ring. I was relieved to see it. I’d wondered where it was, but hadn’t figured out if it was okay to ask about it yet.
“I think this belongs to you.”
She was trying to give it back? I don’t think so. She was so not getting away with that. Giving her my best smile I said, “Actually, it doesn’t. It’s yours.”
She thrust it at me again, more insistent this time. “Please take it.”
I pushed her hand back to her lap without taking the ring from her. She didn’t have to wear it right now since she couldn’t remember me, but I wasn’t going to encourage breaking up. Not a chance. And besides, it was hers. I picked it especially for her. I had it engraved for her. Even if we never actually got married, I’d still want her to have it. “We don’t have to be engaged, but I still want you to keep it.”
“I don’t want it!” she snapped, suddenly, meeting my gaze with a spark of malice. “I hate it!”
She wasn’t yelling at me. It was more of a desperate outburst, but the force of it stunned me. She absolutely, one hundred percent, without a doubt meant what she said. She didn’t want my ring. She hated it. Hated what it stood for, and wanted nothing to do with it. There was both fear and loathing in the way she looked at it as she waited for me to take it.
The anger wasn’t necessarily directed at me, but the rejection was real, and it was impossible not to take it personally. It speared me through the heart and left a gaping hole in my chest. For a moment I couldn’t breathe. My stomach churned and I worried I might throw up.
Since the moment we suspected Dr. Rajeet’s amnesia patient was Jamie, and I figured out she wouldn’t remember me, I’d imagined a thousand scenarios of how our meeting could go. I’d anticipated all kinds of reactions from her when she learned about me. But I never dreamed I’d be met with contempt, or bitter resentment. Ice Queen or not, she’d never treated me that way. That wasn’t Jamie. It couldn’t be. This wasn’t happening.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered when she realized I was freaking out. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but this ring means something entirely different to you than it does to me.”
She paused, and I hoped she planned on explaining, but I couldn’t ask. I couldn’t even look at her. I was still struggling to regain control of myself. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my emotions off my face, and I didn’t want her to know how scared I was that I was going to lose her.
“This ring is a manacle for me,” she said. “A prison. It’s the thing that’s kept me so miserable for the last six months, which, since that’s all I can remember, is basically my entire life. Now, it’s also a reminder of how betrayed I was. When I look at it, all I see is a lie. All I feel is anger and heartbreak. Please take it back. I need to be rid of it. I need to be free.”
So this was about Teddy. Why did that scrawny jerk have to keep ruining my life? Things had been perfect until the day he showed up. He’d come to Sacramento with the intent of stealing Jamie from me, and now, it seemed, that by doing whatever he’d done to her since the explosion, he’d finally succeeded.
My disappointment was replaced with fear. Jamie was the strongest woman in the world in some ways. She’d never let a guy push her around or destroy her self-confidence. And she definitely wouldn’t let him lock her up in a prison—even a metaphorical one, which is what I suspected Jamie meant. I’d seen her distraught before, broken before. But she’d long since been healed. How could Teddy break her again so thoroughly in just six months? What had he done to her?
Setting my disappointment aside, I took a few breaths to calm myself. Jamie needed me. I had to be strong for her. We’d been in similar positions before. When I’d discovered her powers, she’d been so vulnerable and scared. This was no different. I’d been what she needed then, and I could be that now.
When I was sure I could speak calmly, I met her wary gaze and said, “Will you tell me about it?”
I didn’t think she would. She’d always been hesitant to open up, and we weren’t alone on this plane, but I must have looked a little desperate because guilt bled from her expression and she forced herself to talk. “When Teddy found me after the explosion, I didn’t know who he was, but he knew me. He told me that I was his fiancée.”
“And you believed him?” I sucked in a deep breath. I’d known this already, but just the thought of that scrawny little arrogant jerk lying to her like that… Ugh. He was just so… How could she fall for it? Memory or not, she didn’t find him attractive. She’d never been interested. He was just not enough man for her on so many different levels.
My question embarrassed her. She looked away from me, and with pink cheeks muttered, “I was wearing his ring.” I wanted to correct her, but I knew what she meant. “He brought me home to a house filled with clothes that fit me. He had my ID. He knew about all my different abilities—he was the one who explained them all to me and helped me regain my control of them. I had to believe him.”
I could picture it so clearly. I’d seen the crater in Las Vegas. I could picture Jamie waking up after the explosion in the bottom of that hole, not knowing what happened, where she was, or even who she was. I couldn’t imagine the fear she must have felt. She must have been completely panicked. And then along came this guy who had all the right answers. Of course she believed him. How could she not?
“My heart never bought it, but my brain had no choice.”
I pulled myself out of my internal Teddy-is-a-dead-man rant. “What do you mean by that?”
Jamie shrugged. “I never loved him.”
HELL. YES. There was the light at the end of the tunnel I needed.
“I tried to,” she continued, not noticing the way I perked up. “I tried so hard to make myself want him the way he wanted me.”
Well, that was less exciting, but okay. I could deal with that. In fact, it was good news for me. The harder she’d tried and failed to love him, the more she’d see how special our relationship really was. Because soon, she’d be trying so hard to make herself not want me. And she’d fail at that too.
“At first, he was so patient and sweet.” I resisted the urge to scoff. I’m sure he was. He must have known that was his only chance with her. He had to have been thrilled with the situation. “He was kind and sympathetic. He really helped me through the whole terrifying ordeal of knowing nothing.”
Okay, maybe he didn’t have to die. Maybe he just deserved a good beating. Yeah, he’d lied to her, but he’d kept her safe from Visticorp, and he was there for her when she really needed someone. I wish that could have been me, but at least she didn’t have to wake up and deal with all of this alone.
“He was all I had—all I knew—and he wanted me so much.” Her voice quieted again and became haunted. “He loved me, and I just kept disappointing him.”
Jamie’s eyes misted over and I finally understood why she was so upset. She was tough, but in some ways she was so sensitive, too. For all her hard exterior, she’s got a huge heart. It’s why she can be so vulnerable. She’s selfless and giving and altruistic.
She felt indebted and grateful to Teddy for everything he’d done for her, and then she felt guilty for letting him down. She probably drove herself crazy over it. As if to prove my thoughts correct, she said, “I tried to be the girl he told me I was, but I just couldn’t.” Because she wasn’t the girl he told her she was. “He was my best friend, my family, but I could only ever love him like a brother.”
It took everything I had in me not to let out a giant breath of relief, or punch the air with a celebratory fist, or say something really rude about Teddy. But I resisted because Jamie was getting really upset. She didn’t need me making this worse for her.
“I let him down over and over again, until he started to resent me. I couldn’t understand why things had changed so much, but I refused to give up because I was wearing that stupid ring, and I thought that meant I’d loved him once.”
My anger was starting to come back, but I didn’t have time to let it simmer because Jamie collapsed against me in a heartbreaking heap.
My anger vanished. The second she leaned against me, crying and needing comfort and support, Teddy no longer mattered. He was in the past. He was gone, and I was here for her now. I couldn’t change what he’d done, but I could reverse the effects he’d had on her. I could take away her pain. End her suffering. I wrapped her in my arms, donning a mental pair of blinders. No more thoughts of Teddy. He no longer mattered. The only thing that mattered was Jamie.
“I wasted so much time trying to be who he wanted me to be—who I thought I was supposed to be—and now I find out that it was all a lie from the start.” She pulled back, breaking from my embrace, and looked at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. “He let me torture myself over his feelings. He let me force myself to be in a relationship with him. He lied to me about everything, and then he got mad at me when I didn’t love him back. How could he do that to me?”
Because he’s a selfish bastard. I closed my eyes and took a few more breaths. Teddy didn’t matter anymore. He didn’t. There was no use being angry. No reason to let hate grow in me. I didn’t need to focus on him. Only Jamie matters. Only Jamie. Only Jamie. I repeated it like a mantra, but I couldn’t calm down. He just made me so angry… the thought of him…
I grabbed Jamie’s hand, needing her comfort as much as she had needed mine a moment before. Without thinking, I brought her hand to my lips and then placed it against my cheek. Jamie. This is about Jamie. She needs me to be calm. Confident. Her hand in mine, soothed me enough that I could squash my rage again. At least for now. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, Jamie, but you won’t have to anymore. It won’t be like that with us.” I tried to sound as reassuring as possible. She may not know yet, but I knew it. “I promise you it won’t. You never loved him, but you did love me.”
I hadn’t even realized I was holding her hand so intimately until she yanked it away from me as if startled. “There is no us,” she said. She tried to smile as if to soften the blow of her rejection, but she could only manage a grimace. “I’m sorry. You seem like a nice person, but I can’t do that to myself again. I can’t live like that anymore. I can’t be the girl that you want me to be.”
Before I could tell her that she didn’t need to be anything but herself, she shook her head and said, “I can see how much you love me every time you look at me, and it makes me sick to my stomach with anxiety.”
I willed myself not to react. Not that I knew how to react to that statement. But it certainly didn’t feel good.
“My amnesia is permanent,” she continued, determined to get her point across. “I’m never going to remember you. I will just end up hurting you over and over again, like I did Teddy.”
The rejection didn’t hurt like it had the first time. She was only doing it to protect me. She knew I cared about her and she was afraid of hurting me. I could work with that. “I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. You’ve never disappointed me. We were strangers once before and it turned out okay. We’ll be fine again.”
She shook her head, frustration creeping into her expression. “We can’t go back to the way things were. That’s impossible. Please don’t ask me to try. Don’t pressure me to feel the way you do. I know from experience that it will never work. Try to remember that you are a stranger to me. You might love me, but I only just met you today.”
She was right. As impossible as it was to wrap my head around the situation, I was a stranger to her. She’d met me for the first time no more than a few hours ago. I needed to remember that.
It was too easy to think of her as my fiancée because she was still so much the same woman I fell in love with years ago. But at the same time, she wasn’t that woman anymore. Not exactly. Now that she had me thinking about it, there were some subtle differences.
She was right that we would never be able to go back to the relationship we used to have. Not when she couldn’t remember it. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t still have a new one. I’d be perfectly fine with that, if she was up for it. Time to figure out if she was wary of dating in general, or just wary of dating her fiancée. “Okay. Lets say—hypothetically—that some random guy on the street asked you out tomorrow.”
I stumped her. She hadn’t expected the topic change, but it was distracting her from any more tears, so two points for me. “Okay…?” she said, stretching the word out as if she was afraid to ask it.
I tried not to laugh at her skepticism. She was sure she was walking into some kind of trap. I forced innocence into my voice. I wasn’t trying to snare her. Necessarily. “Would you go out with him?”
“What do you mean?”
“Would you go on a date if someone asked you out?” I glanced around the plane and pointed to Eyes. He was the closest to our age and was somewhat of a ladies’ man. “Eyes, for example. Eyes has never met you before. If you’d sat next to him instead of me, and over the course of the flight you got to talking and he asked you to get a cup of coffee together when we reach Colorado, would you go out with him?”
Jamie glanced at my Hawaiian comrade and really considered it. It was promising that she didn’t just shut the idea down.
“Yeah, I think I might,” she finally said. “It would be nice to get to know someone who didn’t know the old me and had no preset expectations. You don’t understand what the pressure is like to have to try and act like myself when I don’t know who that is.”
I’ll admit her answer surprised me. This was one of those differences I mentioned. The old Jamie would have said no. This new Jamie seemed less afraid of living. She seemed more comfortable with her powers, and she had a lightness about her that was different. Maybe because she didn’t have all her bad memories tainting her attitude, she’d be less pessimistic now. Hopefully her guilt over killing her first boyfriend, and feeling like a burden to her parents would be gone now. A Jamie Baker without the wariness and sadness that always plagued her would be amazing.
The idea of a new Jamie was intriguing, and I found myself excited to get to know all of the changes in her. I was just as excited for her to get to know me, too. I wasn’t the same guy I was before she disappeared, either. The last six months had changed me. I’d grown up. I’d always known what I wanted, but now that I knew what it was like to lose it after I had it, there was no way I was going to let it slip through my fingers again.
Game on, Jamie Baker 2.0. I’m ready for round two. You’re still mine. You just don’t know it yet.