The Sweetest Memory
Series: Alaskan Hearts, Book 4

Can she emerge from the wreckage of her past to discover who she’s truly meant to be?

Ellie was lucky to survive what should have been a fatal accident. Unfortunately, she woke up with no memories of her past or what her life was before.

Recovery is slow, but each night she dreams of the same nameless, faceless man. It’s clear she loved him once, but she has no idea who he was or why he abandoned her in her hour of need. And as Ellie’s memories slowly continue resurface, she is horrified by the type of person she was before and questions how anyone could have ever loved her as she was.

Will she treat the accident as a second chance to right the mistakes of her past while forging a new future? Or will she risk everything that’s left in an attempt to reunite with the man that only her heart remembers?

Join Ellie and Liz at this healing Anchorage horse ranch in an unforgettable tale of new beginnings, second chances, and finding where you belong from a New York Times bestselling author.

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Ellie could smell the wine on her date’s breath as he leaned closer, bringing his mouth toward hers. Polishing off a full bottle of California Zinfandel on his own had taken this guy from slightly irritating to downright obnoxious, and now he had the gall to try to kiss her.

Thrusting her hand out to him in a clearly platonic gesture, she turned to the side and murmured, “I had a nice time, thank you.”

Now please let me leave without either of us making a scene, she mentally finished.

Ellie allowed him to place his hand at the small of her back as they exited the restaurant, but jumped in her waiting car so quickly she almost snagged her skirt in the door.

Her date laughed and pried the door back open, smiling at her the way she imagined a shark might smile at its prey before taking a big, bloody bite. “Oh, c’mon, Ellie.” He frowned and shook his head as if she was the one who had done something ridiculous. “Not even a little kiss after I paid for your dinner?”

Unwilling to take her eyes off him for even a second, she blind-groped for her purse, pulled it onto her lap, and pulled out a fifty dollar bill. She shoved it into his hand, shivering as their skin briefly made contact. “There, that should cover my share. Goodnight.”

Luckily, the suddenness of her gesture caused him to stumble back in surprise, which gave her the perfect chance to slam her door, press down hard on the locks, and speed away.

The nerve of that man!

Why did all her dates go like this now? Despite getting asked out by countless suitors, not one engaged her in fun conversation or really seemed to like any of the same things she did. Not one made her voice catch or her heart skip a beat. Not one felt compelling enough for Ellie to agree to their offers of second dates.

At least none of them had tried to force themselves on her though… well, until tonight. Ugh, he’d been the worst one yet, giving her little hope that she would ever find—and managed to hold onto—the one.

She sighed loudly and leaned back in her seat as she navigated her car back onto the freeway. The rain that poured outside matched her suddenly dark mood.

Why does dating have to be so hard? Ellie Hawkins knew she was a catch by anyone’s standards. In fact, she’d been named as one of the hottest celebs under thirty by a major industry magazine earlier that month. Yes, her star was on the rise, and soon she’d have more money than she knew what to do with. People often referred to her as this generation’s Brooke Shields, which made it easy to book one job after the next, made it easy to succeed in the cutthroat world of modeling.

Yes, Ellie had everything going for her…

Everything except someone to love her.

Her heart somersaulted as she thought about him, the one man she’d let herself love and who she’d once believed actually loved her in return. But her fairytale wasn’t meant to have a happy ending after all. That once upon a time love hadn’t been willing to be the man she needed—and so they’d ended their relationship a couple months back with broken dreams, broken promises, and two very broken hearts.

But two months felt like an eternity ago now. Ellie was determined she didn’t need him, and she was going to prove it to herself by finding a man who would fit in her life. She’d find someone who could love her just as she was and just as she deserved.

Until then, unfortunately, it would just be Ellie and her mom.

Yes, Ellie loved her mother, but she honestly couldn’t be sure the feeling was mutual. Ever since Ellie was a little girl, her mom had been enrolling her in pageants and traipsing her all over the world for opportunities she had missed for herself and would make darn sure Ellie didn’t miss, too.

At first, little Ellie had hated the pageants. She remembered crying and wanting to go home, but her mom never let her give up. She’d spent thousands of dollars on dresses and other accessories Ellie would need to win the top prizes. Her room was now filled with tiaras, crowns, ribbons, and trophies from her years on the pageant circuit. And she’d slowly grown accustomed to the pageants—even if she’d never truly enjoyed them.

Sometimes Ellie still felt like she was racking up Grand Supreme titles as part of her grown-up pageantry. Impress the designer, land the gig, smile, smile, smile, smile. Her mom was still by her side, of course. She’d become the kind of “momager” that could even put Kris Jenner to shame. After all, she only had one child to dote on instead of a whole clan.

But at least she was devoted. Obsessively devoted.

As she transitioned her wipers to high speed, Ellie tried to convince herself that she had everything she needed in her life, that she’d be better off without the man who’d broke her heart. Still, she felt her patience wearing thin. Just how many more miserable dates would she have to go on before she could find someone to help her forget him?

Tears started to blur her vision, so she reached up to wipe at her eyes.

He’s not worth it. I already have everything I need.

As Ellie ran through these affirmations in her head, she closed her eyes for the briefest of moments. When she opened them again, she noticed a wet blur streaking across the curved road in front of her.

She noticed, but she barely had the time she needed to react.

The foolish doe had frozen in fear, and if Ellie didn’t at least try to do something—and fast—they’d both be goners.

She jerked her steering wheel hard, sending her tires skidding across the flash flood that had begun to pool on the lonely road. The sudden motion startled the deer, sending it running back into the trees at the edge of the road.

Ellie continued to hold her breath as she swung the wheel back around, trying to straighten her vehicle as she’d learned so many years ago in drivers ed. Her tires locked in a hydroplane, letting out a ghastly shriek as machine fought nature…

And lost.

Everything moved in slow motion, and just like that darned deer, Ellie froze. She watched in horror as her trusted car betrayed her, spinning across the road and careening down, down, down.

The giant hunk of metal flipped and twisted around her as they both went over the edge of the road where no guardrail had been placed to prevent their fall.

Clenching her eyes shut, Ellie tightened every muscle in her body as she waited for the impact.

Please, God. Don’t let this be the end. She didn’t know whether she had spoken her prayer aloud, but either way, she hoped God heard it—and hoped He wasn’t too angry with her to intervene and save her from this living nightmare.

The first roll sent Ellie even faster down the edge. Her body slammed against the driver’s side door before being hurled back to the other side like a rag doll. Her hands came off the steering wheel and frantically tried to grab onto something to hold as she spun over and over down the ditch.

Suddenly, the vehicle hit a rock, hurling it into the air again before landing with a hard crash onto the roof. Her head slammed into the corner of the window which was now crushed inside, then bounced back to hit the steering wheel in front.

Excruciating pain shot through her body, and a moment of clarity stopped the world around her for the briefest of interludes.

In that moment, she realized that instead of worrying about whether she’d ever work again, or if she’d suffer some kind of injury that would destroy her modeling career, or even what her mother would think, the only thoughts Ellie had were of him, the one who’d gotten away.

The pain taking over her body was nothing compared to the agony crushing her heart.

She already knew she’d never feel his arms around her again or see his whole face light up when he laughed—and, without the promise of a future together, perhaps it wouldn’t be worth surviving this crash anyway.