“I will find you. If I can’t have you, no one can.”
I was trying my ultimate best to concentrate on the financial report before me, but when I caught myself rereading the fifth line for the tenth time, I knew it was hopeless. My mind just wasn’t in it.
Sounding to my left, a loud thud jolted me out of my stupor. With my heart beating rapidly, my brows furrowed in confusion. It was nine in the evening, and last I’d checked, I was the last person still here on this floor.
I sat unmoving for a couple of seconds before the distinct sound of glass shattering floated throughout the office floor, only serving to put my heart into the highest gear – especially with the curse that followed shortly.
I scanned the room I was in for a suitable weapon, but the only things my eyes landed on were my umbrella stashed in the corner, and, well, the stapler. I had a million scenarios running through my mind, and I genuinely didn’t know how this would play out.
But I had to find out what was happening outside the room.
With my phone and the umbrella in hand, I had 911 ready to dial as I stalked towards the sound. My heart threatened to lodge itself in my throat at the realization that these sounds were coming from my boss’ office.
The same boss who hadn’t been in his office for almost four months.
Papers shuffling, things hitting the floor, the persistent cursing – it was all enough to have me wondering why I was heading towards the sound and not getting the hell out of the building.
Alas, my curiosity got the better of me.
I stood at the doorway, the door completely ajar, and that’s when true confusion settled on me. I’d seen him a couple of times before, but there was something off about the man standing in the middle of the room, visibly breathless.
He was in jeans, which I think was a first for my eyesight, together with a plain pair of sneakers. His one fist was clenched, while his other hand held onto the cane that was seemingly balancing him.
My eyes travelled to the veins on his arms. Sturdy muscles were covered by a tight t-shirt, while his usually short, dark hair hung all the way down to his shoulders in unruly waves. A rugged beard sat upon his face – yet another first for me where he’s concerned.
He looked nothing like the powerful man I know him to be.
He looked angry.
He looked puzzled.
He looked absolutely, and outrageously gorgeous.
My fear long forgotten, my mouth opened before my brain caught up. “Mr Radcliffe?”
Bloodshot eyes snapped up in my direction. I couldn’t for the life of me, decipher the look in his eyes. There was a fire there, but there was also an emptiness that seemed misplaced. He was unmoving, simply staring.
The silence was deafening, but I didn’t dare move. The staring was making me slightly uncomfortable, but there was something about the way the man was looking at me that had me rooted to the spot.
It wasn’t sexual, and neither was it creepy.
It was, for lack of a better word, inquisitive.
After a short breath, I ventured to speak again. “Sir, are you ok?”
The movement was slight as he shifted, lifting the weight off of his arm, only to replace it again. “Who are you?”
I couldn’t exactly fault him for his question. I’d only been working at Radcliffe and Associates for a little over a year, and as a lowly intern, I didn’t expect him to know who I was. The company has over five thousand employees, and the only people he speaks to are the different department managers.
“My name is Dawn Windsor. I’m an intern in the finance and accounting department,” I answered in what I hoped was a confident tone.
His slight nod of acknowledgement did nothing to confirm this.
He moved off, limping towards the couch, before slumping onto it. “I had no idea interns worked this late.”
“I have nothing else to do at home,” the words left my mouth before I could stop them.
Again, he didn’t show any movement that suggested that he’d registered my words, his gaze instead moving to the umbrella in my hand. “And I assume you’d come to beat me up with that?”
I don’t know if I imagined the humour in his tone or not, but I released a small, breathy laugh. “It seemed like the better option over the stapler.”
A ghost of a smile played at his lips but he said nothing else. His gaze shifted from me to the awards on the shelf against the wall. Mine found the shattered pieces on the floor. I recognized what remained of the Businessman of the Year trophy, and I looked back up to find him looking at me.
“I don’t remember any of this.”
“What do you mean?” my response was quick.
He sighed deeply, rubbing his face. “I don’t remember my entire life. I don’t remember getting any of those trophies. I remember nothing.”
To say that I was blindsided would be a gross understatement. “I’m confused.”
“That makes two of us. What do you know about my time away?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I replied.
He cocked his head to the side. “Not a single thing?”
I shook my head. “Nothing. We were just told that you’re away on a business tour to the other branches worldwide – though given your words, your limp, and the cane, I’m guessing that was a lie?”
He nodded. “I’m not even supposed to be here. I snuck out of the house.”
On any other day, I would’ve probably laughed at the insanity of the statement, but instead I walked over to sit next to him. “What happened?”
“You’re the first person aside from my family that I’m having any kind of communication with since it happened. I’ve been on lockdown, wondering what awaits me outside. They wouldn’t let me in on anything. Do you have any idea how strange it is to have to find out who you are from a computer? I have read endless articles and watched numerous videos of a man I see in the mirror – a man I don’t know.”
He was shaking, and I reached out to put my hand over his. I was surprised to find it warm, and he seemed just as taken aback by my action. However, it did the trick and that’s all I cared about.
He had calmed down, except for a moment, I found myself lost in his eyes. While I’d been around him before, I’d never been this close to him. I’d heard many things about the beauty of his eyes, but the descriptions didn’t do the orbs justice.
The emeralds were swirling with unexpected rays of amber and a light blue. There was an intensity in them that had me locked in, and when his thumb drew one circle over my hand, I was suddenly aware of how close we were.
I have no idea who moved, and when they did.
What I can only assume was an unforeseen chuckle left him. “Are you always this blunt?”
“I can’t say I know, but I am sure of one thing – the man sitting before me isn’t the Radcliffe Prodigy that I’ve heard all about,” I replied.
“And that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t know who Hudson Radcliffe is,” he said frustratingly, letting go of my hand.
“Ok, start at the beginning. What do you remember?” I questioned.
He leaned back onto the couch, saying nothing for the longest time. I’d even forgotten about the time, or the fact that I was sitting with my clearly unhinged boss who before this encounter, I’d never spoken to.
“I woke up in the hospital and I was surrounded by the people I soon learnt were my family members, but I couldn’t remember a single one of them. Apparently, I was involved in an accident, and I suffered multiple injuries, a fractured femur and tibia, and a head injury included. They managed to operate successfully on everything, but it wasn’t long that we learnt that my memory is gone. While I believe my family members about who they are to me, nothing else makes sense.”
What does one even say to such news? I’m pretty sure I sat there like a fish, closing and opening my mouth a couple of times with no words actually coming out. I was looking for an opportunity, and I was granted one when he continued.
“I’ve learnt all about my family from online articles and profiles, which I’m assuming is the reason why no one has any idea where I’ve been. They’re clearly wealthy enough to have hidden the news of my accident. They’ve kept me locked up in that house with different doctors and therapists coming to see me since I was released two months ago from the hospital. Tonight, I managed to steal some money, get passed security, and catch a cab here.”
I didn’t mean to laugh, and it was obvious from the look on his face that the reaction was the last one he’d expected from me. “I’m sorry. I’m just imagining you limping and still managing to run away.”
A small smile graced his lips. “Yeah, that was not easy. I’m actually in a lot of pain right now, but I needed to get out of there. Everything was starting to close in on me.”
“I can only imagine. I don’t even know where to begin to dissect any of what you just told me,” I admitted.
He looked sheepish. “I’m sorry to just dump everything on you. Had we ever spoken before?”
I shook my head. “This is the first time we speak.”
“So, that makes me an even bigger asshole then. I just dumped my issues on you and you don’t even have any prior connection to me. Does this count as an HR reportable offence?” he asked, his tone low at the end.
Again, I shook my head. “Right now, you’re not my boss. Right now, you’re just a human who needs another human to hear him out.”
“Are you sure you don’t have anywhere else to be? It’s pretty late. I don’t know what kind of boss I am, but I do have the common sense to know that it’s surely not safe for you to be alone at the office, let alone at this hour,” he pointed out.
“Except I’m with my boss,” I cheekily countered.
This time a full on chuckle left him. “Touché.”
“Did you by any chance manage to eat before your breakout?” I taunted.
He shook his head, humour shining in his eyes. “I haven’t had anything to eat today, hence the pain since I didn’t take my meds as well. I just wanted out of the house.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to fly. Even if you were fine, not eating the whole day would be less than ideal,” I scolded.
“So, what do you suggest we do?” he asked.
“They still deliver here at this time, and don’t ask me how I know,” I quickly added.
“I won’t. It’s kind of obvious,” he teased.
“Yeah, yeah. Let me get to it. I’ll be right back.”
Ordering our food online was a relatively quick process, but it wasn’t until I put the phone down that the situation I was in truly settled on me. I was stuck in the office with my boss, who had no recollection of the man he used to be.
How the hell does one handle such a thing?
We were about to find out.
I went to the supply closet and managed to find a broom and dustpan before heading back to his office. He looked at me with curiosity, but I averted his gaze and got to sweeping up the shards from his award. There weren’t too many small pieces, but it didn’t look like something that could be put back together.
I headed back to my desk and discarded the pieces in a plastic bag, before going to the bathroom to wash my hands. I returned to my desk and grabbed the blanket hanging off my chair, together with my laptop and notebook, before heading back to his office. This time, he was staring off at the window, which offered a magnificent view of the New York skyline.
“Was I a douchebag? You know, before I lost my memory? I haven’t been able to figure that out yet from my research.”
The carpet swallowed the sounds of my footsteps as I walked into the room. “I can’t say I know for sure.”
He looked away from the window. “But you must’ve at least heard something.”
I moved the chairs away before I lay the blanket on the floor, just in front of his desk. I was planning on sitting on the floor, but I didn’t think he’d join me. He stood up and threw the cushions that were on the couch onto the floor, and I assumed he was going to lean on them.
Hudson Radcliffe had never before struck me as a man who needed anyone’s help, but as his gaze lingered on the floor, I realized that he didn’t know how to ask. “Are you sure about sitting on the floor?”
He nodded. “I just need some help.”
I stood up and after some time and hissing, we managed to get him comfortably on the floor. His legs were laid out before him, and as I’d suspected, he was leaning on the cushions.
I headed over to the temperature controller in the room and raised the temperature. The room was annoyingly chilly, something I quickly learnt he was a fan of. He didn’t look the least bit fazed by my action as I joined him back down on the floor.
“Ok, so what do I know about you? I mean, aside from what’s in the news and online, there’s only so much I’ve heard about you. As you can probably guess, employees have different things to say based on their different encounters with you, but I guess it’s safe to say that you’re a strict boss. There are some who have referred to you as cold, aloof even, but like I said, different experiences,” I offered in explanation.
He released a deep sigh. “I guess that makes sense. It definitely adds up to the reputation I have out there.”
“Don’t you want to call your family? At least let them know that you’re safe?” I asked after a while.
He shook his head. “They’re my family and I know some part of me loves them, but right now, I can’t deal with their overbearingness. I just need to be away from them for a while.”
I couldn’t claim to understand what he was going through, but I could only imagine that his family would be in a frenzy over their missing family member – especially given the fact that they’d hidden him from the world.
As far as I knew, his direct family consisted of his parents, his older brother, and his two younger sisters. I couldn’t say for sure if anyone else was in the know, but I knew that his silence wasn’t fair.
I couldn’t force him to call them though.
And neither would I try.
“I brought my laptop with me so that we can try and figure out how to help you understand who Hudson Radcliffe is, and what the way forward is,” I stated, grabbing my laptop.
“How do you know I want to move forward?” he questioned.
“I can’t imagine you’d want to stay in the same place. Besides, you’re here. You came here because you already figured out that the company is a big part of who you are. You wanted to connect some piece of the puzzle, so I’m offering to help you figure out the rest,” I explained.
He was silent for a while before he spoke again. “And you’re not afraid of the repercussions?”
I shrugged. “Anyone who isn’t sympathetic to your situation is already someone I’m not willing to deal with. If that costs me my job, then so be it.”
“You’d be willing to lose your job over helping me? Why?” he asked, visibly confused.
“Because by some work of the cosmos, I’m the one who was here when you came, and I’m the first person you opened up to about this. I don’t know why you trusted me enough to, but I’m not too sure you’re going to be willing to just open up to a whole lot of people. Besides, what do I lose from helping you?” I argued.
“One could ask what you gain from it as well,” he countered.
I shifted, firing up my search engine. “True. I guess it’s up to you then. I’m here, offering my help. It’s up to you if you want it.”
More moments of silence passed, before warm fingers tilted my head in his direction. For that moment, I was at a loss for words, lost in his gaze. There was a familiarity about them that I couldn’t place. Butterflies swarmed my stomach when he sent me a genuine, heart stopping smile.
“It’s a good thing I’m the boss then. You’re not going anywhere, and I’d very much appreciate your help.”
My face probably resembled a fire hydrant as I looked back at my screen. I typed in his name, and unsurprisingly, the first thing to pop up was an article about a recent press conference the company had just the week before.
I clicked on it, and in the article, there was a video of our chief financial officer, Jackson Gold, at the press conference. I clicked on that and for the most part, the man droned on about the direction of some new projects in the company.
It wasn’t until someone in the press asked about Hudson that I paid attention.
“Hudson has been on an international tour with our international branches. He will be back soon.”
“It’s funny, you keep saying that, and yet no one seems to have seen him in the past few months. What are you people hiding?”
“If you have any questions to ask about the company, be sure to send them through to our PR department. If you have any questions about Hudson, then it’s not our place to comment if he wishes for his privacy to be respected beyond what we’ve shared with you.”
The cameras flash wildly as the management team stands to leave the room. Many more questions are flung their way, but they manage to exit thanks to the security team. The reporter makes their final comments before the video ends.
“Whoever came up with this idea did not think it through. Why would I be gone for that long, and why would I suddenly be a private person on such a level? Why couldn’t they just come out with the truth?” Hudson asked lowly beside me.
“I can only assume that they didn’t want to shake things up with our stocks. Announcing that you’re suffering from amnesia opens the company up to many vulnerabilities,” I predicted.
“Except how long did they think they could keep this up for? It’s been four months and I still have no memories. What if my memories never come back?” he asked.
I turned on my side so that I was facing him. “When you say you have no memories, what exactly are you referring to?”
“You mean what do I actually remember?” he asked, to which I nodded.
“I mean, I remember the basics. I remember everything I learnt in school, and basic society rules and the likes. I know how to function as a human being – I just don’t know how to function as Hudson Radcliffe. When I woke up, the doctor asked me if I knew what my name was, and I had no clue. My sister Joelle is the one who told me. At the time, they were sure that my memory would return within the week, but it didn’t. I don’t remember anything about my life. I don’t remember my childhood, my family and friends, or how I got this far. I don’t know anything about the man I was before the accident, save for everything I’ve read up on, though as I’m sure you’d guess, is just not the same,” he elaborated.
The very thought was daunting.
To wake up in a body that belongs to you, but a life that feels foreign to you – the whole thing was just downright unnerving. I don’t think I would know where to begin to try and put the pieces together.
“This is the part that annoys me the most,” he murmured.
“The sympathy,” I said knowingly.
He nodded. “In a way, I’m glad my family hasn’t said anything about this simply because I don’t know how I’m going to be able to deal with all the sympathetic looks. I’m used to them from my family because I understand that they’re just trying to help me, but it sucks.”
“I’m not going to lie to you and say that the sympathy will stop, or that everyone will react the same to your situation. You can’t predict such things. Even I, knowing that it annoys you, won’t always remember. The reality is that the situation you’re in isn’t one people deal with regularly. Hell, most people won’t encounter someone who loses their memory for their whole lives. I’m not saying that you have no right to be annoyed, but they also have a right to react in whichever human way they do,” I argued.
He sighed, turning his body to face forward again. I didn’t say anything, allowing him to take in my words. While this was foreign territory for him, it was just the same for everyone else around him.
You’re not exactly trained on how to deal with someone who has lost their memory.
The quiet engulfed us again, with the distant humming of the servers down the passage being the only other sound. I looked back to my laptop and decided to continue with my searching. From what he’d told me earlier, he’d probably already seen everything I was going through.
For me however, it was a new learning experience.
Coming to New York, I didn’t really know what the plan was for me. I landed a job interview here by chance, having bumped into one of the HR people who happened to be a college mate of mine in a restaurant. After a short conversation, she’d managed to pull some strings and I was hired a week after my interview.
I came to New York to start over, and I had no issues with the pay. I lived in a cute, modern apartment, and I drove a slightly expensive car. I’d managed to maintain a fabulous wardrobe, as well as a decent social life.
I’d pretty much say that my life was going great.
But as I sat in the significantly warmer office with my boss, my mind travelled back to when I first heard about him. Where he’s related, I’d honestly done the bare minimum research for the job interview, so I only knew his name and nothing else.
I was in the elevator when two women walked in, each gushing to each other about the notorious Hudson Radcliffe. He’d apparently greeted one of them, and the woman was on the brink of a seizure.
I kept to myself that day, but I started to pick up more conversations where my boss was the topic. For the most part, I’d gathered that he’s an attractive man, a strict boss, and someone who doesn’t say much around the office.
As the grandson of the founder of Radcliffe and Associates, some argued that the man was an enigma – something his personal assistant, Imogen, had no trouble disputing. I don’t know if he was ever aware that she’s the greatest blabbermouth in the company.
And someone I knew for sure I had to avoid.
The woman just spells drama and that’s the one thing I swore to avoid in this place. I somewhat liked my job, and I wanted to keep things that way. Some may argue that I kept people at arm’s length, but that’s bound to happen when you’ve been burned too many times.
Having this much knowledge about my boss was something very new, and definitely very interesting. He definitely is an enigma for the most part, but his professional profile is impressive.
There’s not much to be said for his social life.
It was said that he never dated, and aside from some appearances at galas, conferences, and parties, the only other times he was seen out was with his best friends. I wondered why he hadn’t mentioned them yet.
Surely, they would’ve wanted to know what happened to him, right?
I didn’t realize that I’d drifted into space, until two fingers smoothened the crease at my brows. I looked up at his inquisitive gaze, and I had to catch my breath at the magnificence of his eyes. I don’t think it’s something I’ll get over soon.
The lightest stroke of a finger passed on my cheek, and I was sure I’d stop breathing altogether. “What are you so deep in thought about Miss Windsor?”
I was dumbstruck, and luckily for me, my phone beeped, notifying me that our food had arrived. “That’s our food. I’ll be right back.”
I needed to use the lucky break to clear my thoughts from the man whose rumoured enchanting looks I was starting to fall trap to.