Wewe!” Nicholas shouted as he got out of his car. “Do you have a death wish?”

The woman in the rain didn’t speak. Her face was bruised, and there was blood on her pink blouse. Nicholas frowned, peering into the dark trees on each side of the road.

Had she been mugged? Lord, was she a decoy? He had heard stories of hijackers making similar plots to deceive unsuspecting drivers.

“Help me,” she whispered, before his paranoia could take root.

Nicholas cursed as soon as she started to fall and he had to reach out to catch her before she hit the muddy ground.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Nicholas asked ten minutes later as he drove through the rain.

His clothes were soaked and muddy thanks to the passed out woman in the passenger seat. Instead of driving back to the main road, and a hospital, he was headed to the villa, against his better judgment.

Shaking his head, Nicholas concluded that it must have been the rain, the thunder, the mud, the fucking non-visibility that had made him act like he’d damn near lost his mind. He had never been happier to see the silouhette of his house when he saw the looming dark gate ahead.

Nicholas stopped his car, run out in the pouring rain and opened the gate. He cursed under his breath when his Italian loafers slid on the grass as he ran back to the car, double soaked. This night was turning into a shit fest.

Thirty minutes later, Nicholas sat on an old armchair, watching the strange woman he had just saved. He had found an old faded red blanket in a closet and covered her with it. She was beautiful, in a rustic sort of way. He was used to women who valued looks: high-end, down to those fake eyelashes. It was interesting to have saved a woman who looked clueless about matte lip gloss. He noticed her shiver under the blanket, and give a soft sigh. The bruise on her left cheek shone in the light.

His phone buzzed, and he reached for it like a lifeline.

“What with your text-banters?” his best friend asked. “You have a woman in that old creaky house? How is that a bad thing?”

“She jumped out of nowhere, in the rain,” Nicholas said. “She looks beat up. She has a bruise on her cheek.”

“Why didn’t you drive to the hospital?” Eli asked.

“It’s raining.” Nicholas thought that excuse sounded hollow, but it was the truth. He didn’t want to drive in that mess outside. “You’re a doctor, advise me what to do.”

“Ah ha,” Eli said with a chuckle. “You’ve always been impulsive. This falls under ‘shit-Nick-would-do.”

“Stop making fun of me. What do I do now? It’s almost ten o’clock at night.”

Eli sighed on the other end.

“I guess you keep her overnight. I’ll drive out there in the morning and check on her, if you like.”

“Would you really?” Nicholas asked. “You’re the best, Eli.”

“You’ll owe me.”

“Yeah, add it to my tab.” Nicholas sighed. “What do I need to do? She’s shivering.”

“Keep her dry and warm.” Eli laughed. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”

Nicholas ended the call and dropped his cell phone on the table. He hoped Eli was right about keeping the woman warm.

That was all he could do for her, he thought.

Getting up, Nicholas stretched his arms above his head, his shoulder muscles protesting. He was tired. The day was too long already. He dropped his hands and looked around the old house. The electricity was on, thank goodness for that. Despite the complication on the couch, he had managed to purchase a damn good looking house.

Nicholas decided everything would be fine after a shower and a good night’s sleep.

***

Nalia woke with a start.

It was the chirping birds. The last time she had heard chirping birds, she’d been in her mother’s house in the countryside. Nostalgia filled her, and she lay still staring at the unfamiliar ceiling.

Clutching the thin blanket over her, Nalia winced at the familiar sting on her left cheek. Malik’s gift last night when she tried to explain why there was no meat in his plate. The bastard was obsessed with meat. He didn’t taste anything else but meat.

Nalia sat up to escape her anger.

She’d lost her mind last night.

Crazy, she thought.

She had taken the stew she had been cooking and flung it at Malik in anger. When he screamed in shock, she dashed outside in the pouring rain and started running. She kept going, running right into the angry man with the black pickup truck. She swung her feet to the ground.

Nalia rubbed her eyes, a sigh escaping, she got up, looking around the elegant living room.

It looked straight out of the movies, nice neat chairs, wide windows, everything seemed so… expensive. Straight out of her dreams.

Her gaze dropped to her stained pink shirt, her muddy jeans and bare feet. She was seriously out of place. Her insanity had taken her down a rabbit hole she didn’t quite understand.

Smelling her shirt, she decided to wander, and find out if the elegant house had a place to clean up before she met her rescuer.

***

The sweet scent of fresh cake woke Nicholas. His stomach rumbled, reminding him he had skipped dinner in lieu of travel. He had eaten one sandwich before he got on the road. He threw off the sweater he had used as a blanket and got out of bed.

His clothes were dry and wrinkled. He needed to get his suitcase from the car.

Remembering the woman he rescued in the pouring rain, Nicholas left the bedroom and followed the scent of baking. His stomach felt empty, it was humbling, the need to run into the kitchen and get a bite of whatever smelled that good.

He paused in the entrance to the kitchen at the sight that greeted him. Chocolate cupcakes on the counter were the source of the scent. They looked welcoming. Nicholas grinned and walked to the counter, reaching for a cupcake. He stopped when the woman he saved last night straightened, closing the electric oven, she was holding a fresh batch of chocolate cupcakes.

She held back a gasp, and he stared at her clean, freshly scrubbed face. A slow smile curved her lips and she held out the cupcakes on the baking tray.

“Morning,” she said. “I’m Nalia. I hope you like chocolate.”

***

To be continued…

 

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