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Escape: A Romance Novel by Madison Diaz (1)

Chapter One

Nick

Green eyes. The beautiful woman who sang in my dreams has green eyes. She blinks, staring down at me with a frightened look. Soft freckles are spread across her rosy cheeks, and her blonde hair falls over her face. Those big pink lips part in surprise as she realizes I’m awake. I’m alive. She surprisingly makes me feel more alive than I've ever known. Who is she? Why am I here?

The beautiful woman backs away. No. Come back. I want to speak, but my throat is dry. Too dry for words as I try to reach out and grab her, but my body is too weak. She walks away from me and out into the hall, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I scan the room around me, taking in the fact that I’m in the hospital. Everything’s painfully white as the open window causes bright sunlight to pour in. The loud beeping of the machines blends with the birds chirping outside. It’s odd, unsettling.

Letting out a sigh, I sit up on the bed as best I can since my leg is elevated in a cast and lean my cloudy head back against the frumpy pillow. My eyes blink slowly, sweeping across the rest of the room until the hint of blonde hair returns. Standing near the wall, she makes eye contact with me for a moment, but only for a moment before her focus goes to the floor. An older nurse comes into the room after her.

The nurse gives me a timid smile before approaching my bedside with a glass of water. "Morning, Mr. Sharp. You're at the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. You came in late last night. How are you feeling?"

I take a second to blink before accepting the glass from her and taking a big sip through the little straw. I clear my throat with a cough before answering, "Okay… I guess."

Her head tilts to the side, her lips lifting into a small smile. "What do you remember?"

I shrug. My head pounds as I groan, rubbing my temples as I try to think back. "Riding my bike."

"That's all?"

"Yeah." My gaze shifts from her to the beautiful girl in the corner. Her arms are crossed over her chest as she stares at the floor. "What happened?"

"You were hit by a car,” she says seriously. “You got bruised pretty bad, and your leg is broken in three places."

My head nudges in the direction of my guest, ignoring the terrifying information as I attempt to piece everything together. "Who's she?"

The nurse, looking about as confused as I feel, glances back at the woman, who now appears panicked. "She said she was your girlfriend. You don't know her?" Shit. I wish she were my girlfriend. I shake my head. The nurse's eyes darkened before she turns on the girl. "You lied?"

The mystery woman from my dreams shrugs, her voice sounding like honey as she speaks. "I had to know if he was okay, and you wouldn't let me inside."

"Why'd you need to know I was okay?" I ask, my voice hoarse. "Did you see the accident?"

Slowly, she nods. "Couldn't just leave you there," she whispers, looking away.

The nurse lets out a huff, turning her body away from mine and stalking over to the woman. "You need to leave. What you did is completely illegal and inappropriate. I'll call security—"

"Don't," I hear myself say. The nurse stops and turns back to me, confused. "She can stay."

The nurse glances back and forth between us before she laughs and shakes her head. "Okay." She returns to my side then hands me a clipboard with paperwork to fill out. "Your mom has been notified on where you are. She said she'll try to get here as soon as she can, but she's—"

"In Korea, I know."

She nods. "Your sister hasn’t gotten back to us yet, but we'll keep trying, or a call from your phone might reach her."

My head moves up and down. "Thank you."

She gives me a kind smile. "Your doctor will be with you in a few minutes. He'll explain what happened and what we were able to do with limited consent from you."

I nod again. "Thank you." She pats my forearm before turning away and giving Corner Girl a look as she stalks past her and out the door.

Mystery's eyes connect with mine again, and I feel a surge of energy rush through my body. I could write a million songs about those beautiful forest-green eyes. "What's your name?"

She looks down, messing with the hem of her ratty, old white shirt. Her delicate hands and small fingers are magical, putting me under her spell. The way she tugs at the fabric is mesmerizing. It’s possible everything about her is mesmerizing. I’m not sure yet. She finally breathes out a name—"Leah."

Leah. Leah. Leah. Such a beautiful name. Beautiful Leah with dark green eyes and sexy pink lips. Leah with natural platinum-blonde hair and dark eyebrows. Leah, whose freckles flutter across her beautiful creamy skin. I want to know more about Leah.

"Nick."

She nods. "Wish I could say it was nice to meet you, but…you know."

"What happened? Did you see?"

She shrugs, still looking away. "Hit and run." She blinks as a tear falls from her eye. Wow. This woman doesn’t even know me, and she’s crying over what she saw. Did I look that bad when she rescued me? "I thought you were dead," she says quietly, sending a surge of fear down my spine.

"Well, I'm not," I assure her—and myself—attempting to sound confident. Her eyes flit back up to mine. They’re still a little watery. "I'm okay now. Because of you. Thank you."

She gives a single nod, her bottom lip disappearing behind her straight white teeth. I motion for her to come closer. Hesitating before taking a few tentative steps in my direction, she stops once she gets to the foot of my bed. "I'm glad you're okay," she says with a forced smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. "I'm sure your sister's coming soon. I should go."

No. "Please don't go. Not until you promise to let me repay you."

She’s quick to shake her head, claiming it isn’t necessary and anyone would have done it.

"No, really. Please, let me make it up to you. You stayed by my side and even lied to the hospital staff just to make sure I was okay. The least I could do would be to buy you dinner."

Her body freezes. Am I coming on too strong? It’s an ordinary gesture, right? Not too much. People pay for each other’s dinner all the time.

She glances around the room again, letting out a long sigh. "Okay. Give me your number. I'll call you."

✵ ✵ ✵

"I told you not to ride around in the middle of the night, dumbass." My sister had replaced Leah in the chair at my bedside. I was able to keep the goddess in my room another ten minutes or so, but once my sister finally got a hold of me, Leah made her exit—even after I'd given her pleading eyes to stay.

Carrie lectured me over the phone for a good while before I finally told her to just tell me the rest in person. I’m exhausted. Fifteen minutes later, and she's in my hospital room chastising me like I’m the younger one here. "Who knows if they were drunk? They probably didn't even see you, and now you're the one paying for it. We're gonna look pretty fucking sorry with you sitting front stage."

I roll my eyes, remembering our gig next weekend in Dallas. My sister and I are in a band together. We formed our group when we were in high school. Back then, it was me, my sister, her best friend Katie, and my best friends, Sean and Eric. Since then, some of our members have changed—Katie left us for another band and Eric left us for his real career. Now it’s just me, my sister, Sean, and a younger kid named Michael, who Carrie met in one of her classes. He’s a broody son of a bitch, but he knows how to play guitar.

"Oh, fuck off,” I finally say. “One or two shows sitting on a stool isn't that big of a deal."

Her almond-shaped eyes narrow. "Yes, it is. You won't be able to groove to the music, so how will the audience feel it?"

I shrug. "I'll bob my head."

She laughs sarcastically, annoying me to a further degree. I love my sister more than anything, but she’s not being helpful right now. "Yeah, not the same."

Her arms cross over her chest as she sighs. Carrie looks like hell with her dark hair thrown up into a messy bun and the dark marks under her eyes. It’s as if she fell asleep without washing the makeup off her face. She’s still wearing sweats, a big t-shirt, and no bra. I assume she woke up, heard what happened, then rushed right over. She loves me, at least.

"There was a girl here when I first woke up," I finally could say. Her eyebrow shoots to her hairline. "Not a girl. A woman. She saved me." I let out a dreamy sigh, leaning my head back against the pillow. "Carrie, she was beautiful. Has to be the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life."

"Beautiful how?"

"Blonde. Green eyes. Freckles."

She snorts, rolling her eyes. "Typical. Always going for the princess type."

I roll my eyes. "She’s not a princess, but you’re right, she’s out of my league. Oh, my god." I run my fingers through my hair in frustration. "She asked for my number, though. I’m gonna take her out to dinner."

"Wow. Think she’ll take pity on you and you can finally get laid?"

I roll my eyes again. Of course, my sister doesn’t get it. Carrie likes girls, but she treats them like shit. It’s unbelievable to me that a woman has no problem using and degrading other women, but what the hell do I know? I'd only had one serious girlfriend in high school, Katie, and hadn’t really messed around since. Sure, there have been hookups here and there, but I never enjoyed the awkwardness of it, especially the next day. Call me a pussy all you want. It isn't my thing.

I’m not saying I want a relationship either. I'd rather dream about beautiful women like Leah and write endless songs about what could have been. I'd rather jerk off and imagine what I'd to do to her, because fantasies are often better than reality when all the emotions and bullshit come into play.

"I'm not gonna fuck her, period."

She scoffs as if she doesn’t believe me. Honestly, I’m not sure if I believe me either, but I'll stick to my guns until death when it comes to my sister. "A date, though, Nick? Come on."

I shrug. "I owe her."

Her head tilts to the side as she laughs, anxiously swinging her legs in the chair. "You also said she was the most beautiful girl you'd ever seen. If that isn’t something someone says before trying to fuck, then I don't know what is."

I roll my eyes again. "Whatever." She just doesn’t get it.

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