This story has been pulled and published. It's available on Amazon under the name In Love With A Stranger, by Rose Von Barnsley. It is free on Kindle unlimited.

Chapter 1 – Nightmares

BELLA

I looked down at myself, seeing I was in thin pajamas. He was going to leave without me knowing. I'd caught him sneaking out. I was barefoot, it was still dark and cold, as fall had come early here in New York. I jumped in his cab as it pulled away, not wanting him to leave. "You were going to leave without saying goodbye." I remembered my throat being scratchy and sore, like I'd been crying a lot.

"I said goodbye last night." He kissed my fingers, but my eyes stayed focused on his lap, ashamed. "You shouldn't have come. I told you I had to go, Bella, don't make this harder than it has to be."

I was suddenly on the sidewalk. "Get on now, you're going to freeze to death out here in this wind." He gripped my shoulders, turning me toward another cab. "I told you not to get out. You shouldn't have come along in the first place."

"But…"

"No buts," he passed money to the cab driver, "Take her home."

I woke up upset again. I'd had the dream a million times, but I could never look up and see his face. I knew I'd loved him, and he'd pushed me away. He didn't kiss me goodbye. I could only conclude he didn't love me in return. It hurt so deeply, every time I remembered it. The crushing pain in my chest held me captive in bed, until my daughter came in and dragged me out.

I hated that dream. It always came before a bad day. The other one was my favorite. He called me beautiful, with that rich British accent, though I couldn't recall where he was originally from, or what his name was. I'd woken up to him calling my name, only to find my daughter instead of him shaking my shoulder to wake me. I hated it, I hated him, and I hated myself for not remembering more and for never having had the guts to really try and find him. The pain in my chest from just the memory of him leaving me was so acute that I was terrified to endure more. I didn't think I could handle it without a complete mental and emotional breakdown.

"Mom," my daughter jumped on my bed and picked up on my solemn mood. "Bad dream?"

I never told her about them, I just pulled her into my arms and hugged her tightly. "I love you, Penny," I kissed her copper curls. "You make my bad dreams go away. Thank you for coming to wake me."

I gave her a quick tickle, cheering up when I heard my daughter laugh. I glanced at the clock and saw it was time to get her off to school. It was another day in New York, another day that I stayed somewhere I didn't belong. For some reason, I could never force myself to leave. I couldn't leave the last place I remembered him being, even if he never returned for me. I figured it was my subconscious holding me in place, because every time my mother suggested I leave, I became a crying hysterical mess. I couldn't go, I couldn't leave where he might have been, where he might be again someday. He could return and remember me, even if I couldn't remember him.

I knew my hope was in vain. It was now seven years later, and no one ever came to claim me, to find me and to step up as father to my daughter. I was scared that that was what had pushed him away. Had he not wanted children? Did he think I'd cheated? Did I cheat? I didn't think I would have done such a thing, but I'd never imagined running away with a man who was virtually a stranger.

I didn't know why, but I'd never let my friends or family meet him. My father told me that I'd said there wasn't time, I'd insisted that I was in love and left with him. When I completely disappeared for the six months I'd been in a coma, he was sure that "Foreign Bastard" had killed me. He called him Jack after Jack the Ripper when I started trying to look for him, and he finally discouraged me from pursuing it any further. The fear of rejection didn't help, either. Of what little I could remember right before my coma, that memory of him leaving me was the clearest of them all, and it hurt more than anything I had ever felt in my life.

I pushed open the door to my bookstore and flipped the sign to say open. I turned on the lights and heater then headed to the back to turn on the coffee machine and set out the trays of cookies and cupcakes I had baked the night before. After the air in the store was swirling with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, I moved to the back to open the new shipment of books that had arrived yesterday.

And so another day began.

My life was good. I loved my job, and I loved my daughter. I had good friends, and I liked to focus on the future, because when it came to the past, it hurt too much to think about it, or rather try to think about it.

Rose had called last night, asking if she could pick up Elizabeth from school and take her shopping, and I knew by now that protesting was pointless and agreed to it. After I got Elizabeth to bed, I spent the evening reading a good book between swapping sheets of cookies around in the oven, not thinking once of what had happened to me seven years ago, when I woke up one day in a hospital, six months of my life having passed, as I lay comatose and roundly pregnant, with a very worried blonde beauty sitting by my side.

Seven years ago…

Rosalie Hale was a stranger who had found me slumped in an alley with a severe head injury. She'd run and gotten help, lying about being my sister so she could stay with me. She was new to the city and didn't have any friends. She wasn't big on being friendly with other women as it was; being Rosalie Hale and so beautiful, it was hard to keep true female friends. So, being lonely, she would sit and talk with me. Being comatose couldn't have made me very good company, but Rose was somehow okay with that.

I was surprised when I awoke to the Amazon beauty painting her toenails, talking casually about her brother moving into town. Rose was so focused on her pedicure that she didn't realize I was awake, until I yawned and commented that it must have been nice to have a brother. She jumped, spilling polish all over and grabbed her chest to try and contain her beating heart. I giggled at the sight of this crazy woman freaking out.

"Oh, my God, you're awake! Oh, thank God! I'll get a nurse. Yes, a nurse. Oh, wait, um, I didn't know your name, so I told them you were my sister, Mary Hale," she said in a rush, "Nurse, got to find a nurse!"

I didn't say anything as the frantic woman ran out the door screaming, "She's awake! She's awake!" The nurses walked in and smiled, and one of them slipped off to get the doctor.

"How are you feeling this morning, Ms. Hale? You've had your sister worried. She's visited you every day since you've been with us," the nurse said looking at me carefully.

"I'm fine, just groggy and achy." I stretched and sat up slowly, and that was when I suddenly noticed my distended stomach. "Oh, my God, what's wrong with me?"

I tentatively put my hand on my rounded stomach, and the nurse just smiled tightly. "The doctor will be here in a moment, Ms. Hale. Why don't you lie back and relax until he gets here."

Lie back and relax? She had to be kidding, right?

Dr. Newton walked in a few moments later holding my file and smiled. "Hale, Mary," he read the name and looked up at me with his baby blues smiling. "I'll bet you got a lot of football jokes as a kid with that name," he laughed. "I'm Dr. Michael Newton. Welcome back to the waking world. You've been out for quite a while."

"Ah, could you tell me what's going on?" I asked. I was in no mood for humor at the moment. I wanted some answers.

"Certainly, I know this is a bit of a surprise to you, Ms. Hale, but you've been in a coma for six months. It was determined when your sister brought you in that you were pregnant. Were you aware of this fact?"

I couldn't believe what he was saying. There was no way I could have been pregnant. I was a virgin for heaven sakes!

I shook my head no. "That's impossible."

"What's the last thing you remember, Ms. Hale?"

I tried desperately to remember what had happened. "It was after graduation; I'd just finished my literary degree. I went and had dinner at the café, I paid and was getting ready to leave, and…that's it, that's the last thing I remember."

"Is there someone you'd like to contact? Your sister said she didn't know who your boyfriend was."

"I don't have a boyfriend."

Dr. Newton flashed a knowing smile at me, and I snapped at him. "I don't, and I can't be pregnant, I'm a virgin. I've never even…" I couldn't finish that thought. He didn't need to know exactly how inexperienced I was.

His face twisted into a pout. "Well, I'm afraid you've had some memory loss, but it should come back gradually once you get back into your routine. Your OB/GYN will be in soon to check up on you. So will your physical therapist. They'll set up future appointments, we'll do a few more tests, and then you'll be free to go home, okay?"

I just nodded my head, not really sure what it all meant.

Rose came back in and smiled weakly. "Um, hi, I'm Rosalie Hale, but you can call me Rose. I found you in the alley not far from my store and brought you in. Apparently, you hit your head pretty bad or something, because you had a really nasty head wound. I was worried about you, but they wouldn't tell me anything about you, so I told them I was your sister."

"Was…was I raped?" I asked with a weak voice.

"No, they said you weren't attacked like that. Thank God." Rose put her hand on my tummy. "So, you don't know who then?" Rose looked up at me with sad eyes.

"No, this is impossible. I'm a virgin. I've never…I didn't…" I was getting upset, and Rose grabbed my hand, holding it comfortingly.

"Hey, it's okay, I believe you."

"How can you believe me with this in front of you?" I gestured to my stomach.

"Well, I believe you don't remember, and that, my dear, is a little girl," Rose said with a smile.

"A girl?" I asked worried. "You're not kidding? So I'm really pregnant? This isn't some horrible joke? God, that would be just like Jake."

"Jake?"

"He's my best friend. Has anyone come to see me?"

"Well, no."

"Where's my phone?"

"Um, I don't know, you didn't have it on you, or a purse or any identification, nothing, hence the name Mary Hale. Sorry about that, I totally didn't realize it would come out as some sort of football move. What's your real name? Do you remember it?"

"Yes, it's Isabella, Bella Swan. So, no phone?"

"Unfortunately, no. Would you like to use mine?" Rose offered.

"Please?" I dialed my dad's number, sure he'd be worried about me. It rang a few times, and I was surprised when Jake answered the phone, not my dad. "Jake, where's my dad? I need to talk to him. I'm in the hospital and-"

He started right in on me. "What did that bastard do to you? I'll kill him. What happened, Bells? Why are you in the hospital?"

I started crying. "I don't know, Jake. I don't know what happened. I've been in a coma for six months, and oh, God, Jake, I'm pregnant; how can I be pregnant?" I was full-on panicking now.

"Bella, calm down, I'm on my way. You just need to tell me what hospital you're in."

"Where's my dad, Jake? Why did you answer his phone? I want my dad."

"He was working late and wanted someone to be around to answer the phone in case you finally called. It's a good thing he did. Now tell me where you are, and we'll get there as soon as possible."

"What the name of the hospital I'm at?" I asked Rose.

"St. Joseph's West in New York."

"I'm in St. Joseph's West in…NEW YORK! What the hell am I doing in New York?"

"Your name, tell him you're going by Mary Hale," she reminded me.

"I'm buying the tickets now. We'll be there by five o'clock this evening, okay? We're coming. Is he still around?"

"Who, Jake? Who the hell are you talking about?"

"That guy, the foreign guy you ran off with! You didn't tell me his name. Fuck, Bella, don't you remember? You met him at the café a couple of weeks after graduation. That's all you told me." I could hear Jake frantically packing in the background.

"I don't remember anything, Jake. I only remember graduation and taking pictures with my dad, that's it. That's where my memory stops."

"Bella, you're missing a whole seven months of time. You met him on your last day in Seattle at the café, and you were totally gone over him. You said you were dropping off your stuff at your dad's in Forks, and you told him you'd send for it when you'd found a place, that you'd met someone and were heading off to be with him. Your dad was so pissed. How can you not remember any of this?"

"I don't, okay! I don't remember anything after walking into the café."

"It's going to be fine, just calm down and take a few deep breaths. I'm on my way out the door. The flight gets in just before five o'clock. I'm on my way, Bells. Charlie's going to jump out of his skin when he hears we found you. I've got to go if we're gonna make the flight."

I let out one more sob and let him go. At least I'd be seeing my dad soon.

When my dad and Jake arrived, they almost squished the guts out of me, hugging me in relief. Jake hadn't told my dad that I was pregnant, and he really flipped when he found out. I think the fact that I didn't remember conceiving her got me off the hook. There was no angry response or disappointed looks, just the occasional worried glance, and I was sure all daddies felt that way when their daughters were expecting.