Alison Fairmont Villard wakes in a hospital bed with a face she doesn't recognize and a husband she doesn't know. Andrew Villard, a self-made millionaire, has a bright future but a shadowy past. When he tells Alison the details of their life together, she has no choice but to believe him--and to accept the shocking proposal he offers.
It isn't just the partial amnesia that Alison suffers. She has her own terrifying secrets that can't be entrusted to anyone, even Andrew. Even the police suspect he was behind Alison's near fatal accident aboard his yacht and were ready to charge him with murder before her body was found, battered on the razor-sharp coral reefs.
When the veil of amnesia lifts, it's too late. Alison is caught in a web of her own making. And now an FBI agent with a personal vendetta is about to blow the lid off her deadly marriage of convenience.
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April 30, 2007
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Excerpt from The Arrangement by Suzanne Forster
Alison Fairmont Villard opened her eyes reluctantly. She was in her own bedroom, but the first moments of consciousness still brought bewilderment. Andrew had insisted she recuperate at his home on Oyster Bay in Long Island, but it wasn't being on the east coast that confused her. Each day since the accident had started with a realization that felt almost physical, as if she had to grasp her mind and wrench it to this new time and place, to a world she actually knew very little about. And yet more about than she wanted to.
Her amnesia wasn't as total as the doctors had thought. She remembered nothing about being battered against the reefs and nearly drowning, nothing about the plunge into the raging ocean, but she could remember just enough of what had happened before that to be terrified by it.
Those flashes of memory acted like a spotlight that could blind you to everything except its beam. What she recalled now were the harrowing moments. Everything else was hidden in the surrounding ring of darkness.
Maybe it was the pills. She took them to sleep and to keep the dreams at bay. Whether night or day, when she swallowed a tiny blue pill, she was transported to a cool, safe place, a shaded tropical lagoon, her mind free of clutter and turmoil. She slept in innocence, like Eve before the apple.
Her fingers clasped the small battered loop of copper attached to her charm bracelet. It was an ugly stepsister compared to the other delicate gold charms, but she was relieved to find it still there. She'd reached for it so often it had become a reflex. An embarrassing tic. But the brush with death had made her superstitious, and the old copper penny ring had literally saved her life when it snagged on a piece of driftwood. Its protective powers had been tested.
She rolled to her side and sat up, not bothering to cover her nakedness. There was no one to see her, anyway. She and Andrew didn't share this beautiful suite where she slept her life away, and as far as she knew they never had. Before the "accident," which was how they now referred to it, they'd lived in his Manhattan apartment. Here, in his much larger estate on Oyster Bay, their rooms were in different wings. Different rooms. Different lives.
She had almost no interaction with her husband these days, except occasionally to discuss a social or business event that he wanted her to attend with him, and there had been very few of those. In the first weeks after the accident, he'd spent hours with her, filling in the blanks of her life with him, as well as her life before him. He'd shared as much as he knew of her past, but it was what he'd told her about their relationship that made her realize they'd been on the brink of a divorce before the accident--and Andrew didn't seem to have any desire to reconcile now.
He didn't even seem to like her, which made her feel strangely empty and resentful, even though she wasn't entirely sure how she'd felt about him before. He'd refused to go into the intimate details of their relationship, which had left her both curious and suspicious, but mostly, lost. How was she supposed to pick up pieces she didn't have?
They were together now only because of the agreement they'd made--and that was strictly business. Once she'd recovered enough to lead her own life, such as it was, he'd left her to it. That was how he wanted it. What she wanted didn't seem to enter into anything, though to be fair, he had asked her about that once.
What do you want to do with your second chance? Her answer had surprised him. She told him she didn't remember asking for one.