Title: Lapses of Memory
Author: M. S. Spencer
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Sydney Bellek first meets Elian Davies in the 1950s on a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser when she is five and he is seven. They run into each other every few years after that, but while he knows from the start that she is his true love, she does not. Later, as rival journalists, they vie for scoops on international crises from the Iranian revolution to the Lebanese civil war. The handsome and intrepid Elian beats her out at every turn, even while keeping his love for her secret.
Only after years of separation does she finally realize they are meant to be together, but this time, in a twist of fate, it is Elian whose memory of her is gone. Will he remember her before she loses heart or will their new love be enough to replace the old one?
Sydney pulled out her crossword puzzle, mints, pen, glasses, embroidery, and tissues and set them on the other seat before stealthily slipping the miniature bottle of Jack Daniels into the magazine pocket. She checked her ticket once again. They’d be in Rome tomorrow morning and from there the flight to Beirut should be less than five hours. As she searched for her seat belt, a husky voice behind her ear said, “Excuse me. I believe I have the window seat?”
The scent of licorice filled her nostrils. She looked up into a pair of deep indigo eyes, half-obscured by a tangle of hair the color of cordovan. He used his angular chin, cloaked in reddish brown stubble, to indicate his seat. She looked him up and down without moving and pronounced, “Elian Davies.”
He drew back, an expression of mock surprise on his face. “Sydney Bellek? Could it be you after all these years? My, how you’ve aged…I mean matured.”
Whatever joy she’d felt at seeing him faded. “You.”
He scooted around her knees, grabbed her stuff, dropped it in her lap, and sat down. “Me.”
She opened her crossword puzzle and pretended to work on it. He pointed a tanned finger at a spot on the page. “Eleven down is Oslo.”
The stewardess came by. “Please buckle your seat belt, sir. We’ll be taking off in five minutes.”
“Oh, Miss…” He peered at her name plate. “Petula? What a lovely old-fashioned name!” He beamed at her. “Would you mind bringing me a glass of ice before we begin to taxi?”
The stewardess opened her mouth, then opened her eyes wide. “Why, you’re Elian Davies, the famous photojournalist, aren’t you?”
“At your service, Petula.” He bent in a graceful half bow.
“Right away, sir. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She tore down the aisle, knocking into passengers’ elbows and knees along the way. Holding a glass high, she ran back like a bartender in a Bastille Day race, and proudly plunked it and a packet of peanuts on Elian’s knee.
When she’d gone, he took a furtive look around and pulled a miniature bottle from his pocket. Sydney’s annoyance dissolved in giggles. “You too?” She pulled her own small whiskey out.
“Oh good, we’ll share this first one, shall we?”
She couldn’t say no, and besides, sipping kept her busy. Elian. She’d spent the last four years trying to hate him. It should have been easy. His reputation as an ace reporter and first-class scoop jockey had only grown since Tehran. Too many of her colleagues told stories of him racing across the tarmac just ahead of them to catch the final words of an escaping dictator, or jumping into a helicopter for a one-on-one interview with said dictator upon his triumphant return. Along with his derring-do came the even more infamous reputation as an inveterate ladies’ man, which the recent episode with Petula only confirmed.
She studied his left hand as it popped a peanut in his mouth—steady, strong, tanned. It looked familiar. Oh yes, I watched it unbutton my blouse in a supply room in Tehran. She turned away to hide the blush. When her cheeks had sufficiently cooled, she turned back only to have him glance away quickly.
Staring out the window, he inquired in a casual voice, “So how’s your boyfriend holding up while you’re off on these wasted efforts to follow in my footsteps?”
Her momentary affection melted away. Old Blue-Pencil Davies at it again. Prick. “They’re all moping of course, poor babies. And yours?”
“Me? I don’t hold with leading women on.”
“That’s not what your adoring public thinks.”
He swung around on her, the customary smirk on his lips gone. “They’re wrong, Sydney.”
The remark—and his deadly serious face—threw her. To cover her confusion, she sipped her drink. After a minute, he turned back to the window. As she watched his shoulders gradually relax, she reviewed the stories about him. From what she’d heard, women who crossed paths with him considered a one-night stand the standard reward. Could he be telling the truth? Just then Petula passed, slowing as she neared their row and heaving a soulful sigh. Sydney remembered the lovelorn look on her secretary’s face. He may not lead women on, but he sure draws them in.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lapses-of-memory-ms-spencer/1115291373
What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
Usually a story starts with a kernel of memory, or an anecdote, or even an image flashing across the inside of your eyes. Lots of things can trigger it—a news headline or a paragraph tucked away in the obituaries, a throw-away line from a conversation, or even a publisher’s idea. In the case of my new release, Lapses of Memory, it was the latter. A former publisher tossed out the idea of a series based on “love in the air.” Unfortunately, the high-pitched squeal I emitted sounded enough like “yes” to commit me to the project.
Now, rather than starting with a plot of my own devising, I had to come up with one related to someone else’s theme. Here’s the part where an image flashing across your brain comes in. Sitting quietly in what I euphemistically call my lotus position, I mulled. “Planes,” I said to myself. “Love in the air…snakes on a plane (nah, overdone)…old planes…my first trip on a plane…” Eureka (or aha, whichever you prefer)! I saw before me an enormous, bulbous silver bird with EASTERN written in red across the side. I’d recently seen it at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and remembered because seeing it there made me feel old, since the plane was, in fact, the very first plane I’d flown on at age four. A Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, one of the first to make the transatlantic voyage a regular event, it allowed—with its sleeping berths and formal dining—for luxurious air travel in the 1950s.
My heroine, Sydney, would take that plane. And so would the hero Elian.
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Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
Ms. Spencer has published eleven romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
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