De Lancey looked around in confusion. He was clearly in some kind of hospital room but something was not right. The room was not decorated in the style to which he was accustomed and there was a distinct chill in the air.
A group of men stood a few paces away deep in discussion and they turned to look as he cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”
As they surrounded the bed, De Lancey was relieved to see that one of them was his friend Arthur Wellesley, although he was dressed quite oddly in a long blue coat and there was something about his face that did not sit right. He did not recognise the others at all.
Wellesley smiled. “Ah, De Lancey. You are back with us.”
The fair haired man in the major’s uniform started to lean towards him with a broad smile on his face but pulled up short when De Lancey flinched at his approach.
He frowned at the familiarity in the man’s tone. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, sir.”
“It’s me, Grant.” The major bit his lip, a puzzled furrow appearing on his brow. “Do you not know me?”
“I do not.”
Grant staggered back as if he had been shot, his expression stunned and his hand flying to his face as if to hide a reaction he could not disguise.
De Lancey looked to the one man he did know for an explanation.
“Arthur, what is going on? This is not Calcutta. Where am I? What are you doing here, wherever here is?”
Wellesley raised an eyebrow and turned to the man on his right, who De Lancey took to be a surgeon, but the medical man just shrugged. “I can find nothing wrong with him physically. However, it appears he is suffering some form of memory loss, my lord.”
My lord? De Lancey realised what was troubling him about Wellesley’s appearance - the other man looked a good deal older than he had the last time they saw each other, as if more than a few years had passed.
“Indeed.” Wellesley put a comforting hand on De Lancey’s shoulder. “I’m afraid you seem to have lost at least ten years somewhere, my friend.” His attempt at a reassuring smile was less than convincing. “Not to worry. You took quite a blow to the head out there. I am sure the memories will return in time.”
When the surgeon insisted they clear the room to let him rest, the major paused and looked back as if he wanted to say something but simply shook his head and followed the others out the door.
After a week or so, the surgeon decided there was no reason De Lancey should not resume his duties if he was capable of doing so. He discovered that they were in a small town in northern Spain, where Arthur - Lord Wellington, he corrected himself - had set up his headquarters. He also realised that he had skills he did not remember acquiring and was perfectly able to fulfil the demands of his position, which he found to his surprise was quite high up in the Quartermaster General’s Department.
Although Wellington filled him in on the army’s position and offered pragmatic advice to help him come to terms with the situation, De Lancey still felt there was something important missing, something more than the memories he should have of campaigns in various parts of the world, long sea voyages between postings, hard battles fought and sieges endured. What’s more, he was almost certain it was something to do with Grant, who looked at him with a most peculiar expression whenever they met but mostly seemed to be trying to avoid him altogether.
He did his best to join in as the regiments celebrated Christmas and attended the festive meal with the other officers but it all seemed shallow and he left early, preferring to his own company to that of men he was only pretending to know.
So he found himself alone on the last night of the year, wandering through the narrow streets and watching the crowds gather for the festivities with a sense of detachment and ennui. How can one look forward to the future, he thought, if one does not remember the past?
Distracted by his musings, he failed to react when a hand grabbed his arm and he was pulled roughly into an alley and disarmed with alarming speed and skill. He felt the point of a knife jabbing into his back and and a low voice growled in Spanish, “Do not look around if you value your life.”
Stunned almost as much by the realisation that he understood what the man was saying as he was by the ambush itself, he complied without question when his attacker pressed a strip of cloth into his hands and grunted, “Cover your eyes,” and did not struggle when he was instructed to put his hands behind his back. A noose tightened around his wrists and his assailant gave a jerk on the rope, pressing the blade into the side of his neck, “Move,” he ordered, pushing his captive through a door and up a flight of stairs.
It was not until he was shoved into a room at the top of the stairs and heard the door being closed and locked that De Lancey regained enough composure to try and assert some control over the situation. He stood up straight and addressed the unseen villain in the most confident tone he could muster.
“I don’t know what you want with me but I do not intend to make it easy for you.”
The man gave a harsh laugh. “You have no choice if you wish to live to see the dawn. You will tell me everything you know about the spy, Grant. The French have offered good money for information that could lead to his capture and I have been told you are a friend of his.”
Despite the danger, De Lancey could not suppress an ironic smirk as he realised this was a no-win situation.
“I fear your intelligence may be somewhat out of date,” he said, “I am the last person Major Grant is likely to confide in. Besides, even if I did know of his plans, I would not tell you a thing, whether he were a particular friend of mine or not.”
But his captor was not to be deterred. Switching to heavily accented but surprisingly fluent English, he continued, “Then we shall focus on his appearance to start with. There are conflicting reports and it will be a lot easier for the French to find him if they know exactly what they are looking for. The colour of his eyes, for example?”
De Lancey snorted. As if that was the type of thing he would notice. He was about to say as much when he was suddenly beset by a vision of deep brown eyes looking up at him from beneath golden lashes, the corners marked by fine lines from a smile that could light up the darkest room.
He shook his head to get rid of the unexpected image and his captor seemed to take this as a refusal to answer.
“His general appearance, then?” he persisted, pressing on the knife hard enough for De Lancey to feel the edge biting into his skin. “The tales differ and it is hard to separate fact from fiction. Is he tall or short? Slim or well built? You can save yourself if you just tell me something.”
De Lancey bit the inside of his cheek, willing himself not to react as recent memories of the major in his uniform were interspersed with images of naked flesh, hands grasping at strong shoulders and muscular arms, pressing against a firm stomach and a broad chest covered in fine golden curls.
His silence served only to exacerbate his captor’s impatience and he felt his coat being unbuttoned and cold steel sliding against his skin as the knife cut through the material of his shirt and his breast was laid bare. He held his breath, expecting to feel the sharp edge of the blade at any moment and totally unprepared for what came next.
“What about his hands?” The man’s tone softened noticeably as he stroked De Lancey’s chest with the tips of his fingers. “Are they rough or smooth?” the fingers traced a line down over his stomach and curled round his waist to caress the small of his back, slipping under the top of his breeches to cup the curve of his arse. “What does it feel like when he touches you?”
“Desist sir!” De Lancey cried, trying in vain to disguise the tremor of excitement in his voice. “I do not know why you are doing this or what you think it will accomplish but whatever you have planned for me, I can assure you it will do nothing to loosen my tongue.”
He tried to convince himself that he must have been drugged somehow, that this surreal interrogation was a figment of his crazed imagination or that he had in fact never woken at all and was lost in a bizarre hallucination caused by the head injury he had sustained.
But the touches sent shivers of pleasure down his spine and the images and sensations filling his mind were so real they could not just be fevered imaginings. His mind was still shrouded in the fog of amnesia but his sensory memory told a story of stolen glances, long passionate kisses, nights of pleasure so intense it was almost painful and limbs entwined in exhausted embraces and he could do nothing to stop the effect it was having on his body. He felt his cock swelling in his breeches, growing harder still when his tormentor leaned in closer and he caught a faint but somehow familiar scent that made his head reel.
The hand on his back pulled his hips forward and he gasped as he felt the other man’s hard, throbbing prick pressing against his own erection. There was a sigh of warm breath on his neck and the light touch of moist lips caressing his ear with a breathless whisper, “And his mouth? What does that feel like?”
De Lancey heard the knife clatter to the floor and drew in a sharp breath of anticipation in spite of himself as he felt fingers tugging open the fall of his breeches, letting out an involuntary whimper when a strong hand closed around the base of his cock and an eager tongue began to caress the shaft.
He knew he should act now. Take advantage of the man’s vulnerable position. Kick out and try to flee. But something about it felt so right, so good, he could think of nothing but his desire to be touched and licked and kissed. To feel soft lips wrapped around him, to find what he so desperately needed to fill the aching void that had been gnawing at the centre of his being since he awoke.
He groaned as the hot, wet mouth enveloped his straining cock and took him in so deep that he could feel the swollen lips against his balls, threw his head back in ecstasy as fingers moved up and down his length in a slow twisting motion that drew a deep moan from his throat. He tried to fight the urge to abandon himself to the heat of the moment but it was as if a dam had broken and he could not hold back any longer. Memories and emotions came rushing back in an unstoppable torrent and an anguished cry escaped his lips as he spent so hard it took his breath away.
“Oh God! Oh Grant! Oh Yes!”
Fire raced through his veins, completing the missing connections and filling the emptiness in his heart with an overwhelming memory of loving and being loved. He drew in deep shuddering breaths, repeating over and over, “I remember...Oh God… I remember...” until the blindfold was pushed up and he was rendered speechless by the sight that he beheld.
Grant’s eyes burned with desire and hope as he reached around to loosen the rope, and the single word he uttered held a hundred unspoken questions. “Everything?”
With his hands now free, De Lancey pulled him into a deep kiss, knowing beyond a doubt that the answer to all those questions was the same. “Everything.”
Grant took his hand and led him towards the bed as the church bells began to ring and cheers rose up from the streets below. He smiled to himself as he heard the faint strains of bagpipes and the familiar words of Auld Lang Syne floating over from the camp outside the town.
“I have a feeling this is going to be a Happy New Year after all.”