Read Amy Bensen 01 Escaping Reality Online

Authors: Lisa Renee Jones

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Mystery, #Adult, #Suspense

Amy Bensen 01 Escaping Reality

BOOK: Amy Bensen 01 Escaping Reality
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The Secret Life Of Amy Bensen

Escaping Reality

Lisa Renee Jones

Infinite possibilities....

Infinite passion.....

Infinite danger....

His touch spirals through me, warm and sweet, wicked and hot. I shouldn't

trust

him. I shouldn't tell him my secrets. But how do I not when he is the reason I

breathe? He is what I need.

Chapter One

Amy…

My name is all that is written on the plain white envelope taped to

the mirror.

I step out of the stall inside the bathroom of Manhattan’s

Metropolitan Museum, and the laughter and joy of the evening’s charity

event I’ve been enjoying fades away. Fear and dread slam into me, shooting

adrenaline through my body. No. No. No. This cannot be happening and yet

it is. It is, and I know what it means. Suddenly, the room begins to shift and

everything goes gray. I fight the flashback I haven’t had in years, but I am

already right there in it, in the middle of a nightmare. The scent of smoke

burns my nose. The sound of blistering screams shreds my nerves. There is

pain and heartache, and the loss of all I once had and will never know

again.

Fighting a certain meltdown, I swallow hard and shove away the

gut-wrenching memories. I can’t let this happen. Not here, not in a public

place. Not when I’m quite certain danger is knocking on my door.

On wobbly knees and four-inch black strappy heels that had made

me feel sexy only minutes before and clumsy now, I step forward and press

my palms to the counter. I can’t seem to make myself reach for the

envelope and my gaze goes to my image in the mirror, to my long

white-blond hair I’ve worn draped around my shoulders tonight rather than

tied at my nape, and done so as a proud reflection of the heritage of my

Swedish mother I’m tired of denying. Gone too are the dark-rimmed glasses

I’ve often used to hide the pale blue eyes both of my parents had shared,

making it too easy for me to see the empty shell of a person I’ve become. If

this is what I am at twenty-four years old, what I will be like at thirty-four?

Voices sound outside the doorway and I yank the envelope from the

mirror and rush into the stall, sealing myself inside. Still chatting, two

females enter the bathroom, and I tune out their gossip about some man

they’d admired at the party. I suddenly need to confirm my fate. Leaning

against the wall, I open the sealed envelope to remove a plain white note

card and a key drops to the floor that looks like it goes to a locker. Cursing

my shaking hand, I bend down and scoop it up. For a moment, I can’t seem

to stand up. I want to be strong. I shove to my feet and blink away the

burning sensation in my eyes to read the few short sentences typed on the

card.

I’ve found you and so can they. Go to JFK Airport directly. Do not go

home. Do not
linger. Locker 111 will have everything you need.

My heart thunders in my chest as I take in the signature that is

nothing more than a triangle with some writing inside of it. It’s the tattoo

that had been worn on the arm of the stranger who I’d met only once

before. He’d saved my life and helped me restart a new one, and he’d

made sure I knew that symbol meant that I am in danger and I have to run.

I squeeze my eyes shut, fighting a wave of emotions. Once again, my

life is about to be turned upside down. Once again I will lose everything,

and while everything is so much less than before, it’s all I have. I crumble

the note in my hand, desperate to make it, and this hell that is my reality,

go away. After six years of hiding, I’d dared to believe I could find “normal”,

but that was a mistake. Deep down, I’ve known that since two months ago

when I’d left my job at the central library as a research assistant, to work at

the museum. Being here is treading water too close to the bridge.

Straightening, I listen as the women’s voices fade before the room

goes silent. Anger erupts inside me at the idea that my life is about to be

stolen from me again and I tear the note in tiny pieces, flush them down

the toilet and shove the envelope into the trash. I want to throw away the

key too, but some part of me won’t let that happen. Probably the smart,

unemotional part of me that I hate right now.

Unzipping the small black purse I have strapped across my chest and

over my pale blue blazer, that despite my tight budget, I’d splurged on for

this new job; I drop the key inside, sealing it away. I’m going to finish my

party. Maybe I’m going to finish my life right here in New York City. The

note didn’t say I’d been found. It only warned me that I
could
be found. I

don’t want to run again. I don’t. I need time to think, to process, and that is

going to have to wait until after the party.

Decision made, I exit the stall, cutting my eyes away from the mirror

and heading for the door. I do not want anyone to see me right now when I

have no idea who “me” is or will be tomorrow. In a zone, that numb place

I’ve used as a survival tool almost as many times as I’ve tried to find the

meaning of that symbol on the note, I follow the soft hum of orchestra

music from well-placed speakers, entering a room with a high oval ceiling

decorated with magnificent artwork. I tell myself to get lost in the crush of

patrons in business attire, while waiters toting trays offer champagne and

finger foods, but I don’t. I simply stand there, mourning the new life I’ve

just begun, and I know is now gone. My “zone” has failed me.

“Where have you been?”

The question comes as Chloe Monroe, the only person I’ve let myself

consider a friend in years, steps in front of me, a frown on her heart-shaped

face. From her dark brown curls bouncing around her shoulders to her

outgoing personality and fun, flirty attitude, she is my polar opposite and I

love that about her. She is everything I am not but hoped I would become.

Now I will lose her. Now I will lose me again.

“Well,” she prods when I don’t reply quickly enough, shoving her

hands onto her hips.

“Where have you been?”

“Bathroom,” I say. “There was a line.” I sound awkward. I feel

awkward. I hate how easily the lie comes to me, how it defines me. A lie is

all that I am.

Chloe’s brow puckers. “Hmmm. There wasn’t one when I was there. I

guess I got lucky.”

She waves off the thought. “Sabrina is freaking out over some

donation paperwork she can’t find and says she needs you.” Her brow

furrows. “I thought you were doing research? When did you start handling

donor paperwork?”

“Last week, when she got overwhelmed,” I say, and perk up at the

idea that my new boss needs me. I don’t need to leave. I need to be needed

even if it’s just for tonight. “Where is she?”

“By the front desk.” She laces her arm through mine. “And I’m

tagging along with you. I have a sixty-year-old admirer who’s bordering on

stalker. I need to hide before he hunts me down.”

She tugs me forward, and I let her, too distracted by her words to

stop her. She’s worried about being hunted but I am the one being hunted.

I thought I wasn’t anymore. I thought I was safe, but I am never safe, and

neither is anyone around me. I’ve lived that first-hand. I felt that heartache

of loss, and while being alone sucks, losing someone you care about is far

worse.

My selfishness overwhelms me and I stop dead in my tracks to pull

Chloe around to face me. “Tell Sabrina I’m grabbing the forms and will be

right there.”

“Oh. Yes. Okay.” Chloe lets go of my arm, and for a moment I fight

the urge to hug her, but that would make her seem important to me, and

someone could be watching. I turn away from her and rush for a door, and I

feel sick to my stomach knowing that I will never see her again.

I finally exit the side of the building into the muggy August evening,

and head for a line of cabs, but I do not rush or look around me. I’ve

learned ways to avoid attention, and going to work for a place that has a

direct link to the world I’d left behind hadn’t been one of them. It had

simply been a luxury I’m now paying for.

“JFK Airport,” I pant as I slide into the back of a cab, and rub the back

of my neck at a familiar prickling sensation. A feeling I’d had often my first

year on my own, when I’d been certain danger waited for me around every

corner. Hunted. I’m being hunted. All the denial I own won’t change my

reality.

***

The ride to the airport is thirty minutes and it takes me another

fifteen to figure out what terminal locker 111 is in once I’m inside the

building. I pull it open and there is a carry-on-sized roller suitcase and a

smaller brown leather shoulder bag with a large yellow envelope sticking

up from inside the open zipper. I have no desire to be watched while I

explore what’s been left for me. I remove the locker’s contents, and follow

a sign that indicates a bathroom.

Once again in a stall, I pull down the baby changer and check the

contents of the envelope on top. There is a file folder, a bank card, a cell

phone, a passport, a note card, and another small sealed envelope. I reach

for the note first.

There is cash in the bank account and the code is 1850. I’ll add more

as you need it until
you get fully settled. You’ll find a new social security

card, driver’s license, and passport as well.

You have a complete history to memorize and a résumé and job

history that will check out if
looked into. Throw out your cell phone. The new

one is registered under your new name and
address. There’s a plane ticket

and the keys to an apartment along with a location. Toss all
identification

and don’t use your bank account or credit cards. Be smart. Don’t link

yourself to
your past. Stay away from museums this time.

A new name. That’s what stands out to me. I’m getting another new

name. No. No. No.

My heart races at the idea. I don’t want another new name. Even

more than I don’t want to be back on the run, I don’t want another new

name. I feel like a girl having her hair chopped off.

I’m losing part of myself. After living a lie for years, I’m losing the

only part of my fake identity I’d ever really accepted as me.

I grab the passport and flip it open and my hand trembles at the sight

of a photo that is a present-day me. How did this stranger I met only one

time in my life get a picture of me this recent? It doesn’t matter that I’d

once considered him my guardian angel. I’m freaked out by this. Has he

been watching me all this time? I shiver at the idea, and my only comfort is

my new name. I’m now Amy Bensen rather than Amy Reynolds. I’m still

Amy. It is the one piece of good news in all of this and I cling to it, using it to

stave off the meltdown I feel coming. I just have to hold it together until I

get on the plane. Then I can sink into my seat and think myself into

my “zone” that I can’t seem to fully find.

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