Chapter One

August 27, 2004

Albany Memorial Hospital

"Sir, she is fine. But she has fallen into a coma." the doctor said, holding a medical board.

"What do you mean a coma?" a handsome, muscular man asked.

"A deep sleep, from the shock I suppose. We don't know the exact cause." the doctor replied.

"Sir, you may see Ms. Ricks now." a nurse said stepping up beside the man and doctor.

The man rushed through the hospital door and into the room.

A beautiful, small, young woman lay motionless on the bed. "Asleigh." he said quietly and rushed to her side.

He couldn't believe this. His Ashleigh. In a coma! He would hurt the person responsible for this.

"Clay! Oh thank God! Ashleigh!" a woman's voice screeched from the doorway.

Clay looked up and saw a brown curly0haired woman running into the room, her husband at her heels.

"Mrs. Ricks, Ashleigh is gonig to be fine but..." he began.

"But waht?" Mrs. Ricks replied.

"She is in a coma." he finished.

"A coma?!" She yelped and began to waver.

Mr. Ricks grabbed her gently and sat her down in a chair. He rested a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.

"I am sure that Ashleigh will be fine. It is from the trama. Just be thankful it wasnt anything worse." he said calmly.

Clay turned his sad, baby-blue eyes back to Ashleigh and tucked a peice of auburn hair behind her ear.

The doctor cleared his throat and gained the attention of the room. "I am sorry. We will keep her as comfortable as possible. If anything changes in her status, we will contact you immediately." he said and made his way out.

Mr. and Mrs. Ricks looked back at their only daughter. Her dark chocolate eyes were closed and her tanned skin was as pale as the moon and covered with scrapes and dark purple bruises.

Mrs. Ricks turned her eyes to Clay. His hard, chisled features had softened and worry had wrinkled his forehead. He was still one of the most handsome men she had ever met. He was like a son to her. His lips were in a frown, not like the smile that could win any girl. His big hand held her small one. He was so much bigger than Ashleigh but he was so gentle. All the muscle from playing professional football somehow dissapeared.

"Clay, she'll be fine." she said with a small smile.

"I know, but...the night before our wedding? Why did it have to happen on the night before our wedding?" he asked.

"I don't know, but just keep your head up." she replied.

"Do you know what happened? Have the police come to take statements or anythin?" Mr. Ricks asked coming to the other side of the bed.

"No, but appearantly she was awake when she was hit. She called my phone and told me that she was in an accident and to come to the hospital."Clay replied. "I heard ambulances in the background and a man talking to her, then the line went dead."

Mrs. Ricks looked down and her daughter and began to cry soflty.

They heard yelling coming down the hallway and it grew louder by the second. "Who hit her? Ill beat the crap out of whoever di...Oh, hello Mr. and Mrs. Ricks, Clay." a beautiful blonde said walking into the room.

"Hello Maggie." Clay said.

Maggie saw her best friend lying in the hospital bed and her eyes grew wide. "Leigh? What is wrong with her?" she asked, taking small steps forward.

"She is in a coma, but other than that she is fine." Mr. Ricks replied.

Maggie covered her mouth with her hand and was for the first time in her life speechless.

"Excuxe me, are you all kin to Ashleigh Ricks?" a police officer asked stepping into the room.

"Yes sir. I am her father. May I help you." Mr. Ricks asked stepping towards him.

"I need a word with you sir. Outside if we may." he replied and went outside of the room.

Mr. Ricks followed and reached him. "Yes?" he asked.

"Sir, I am here to do a follow-up on your daughter's accident. Now I understand that she is in a coma, but she wasnt at the scene." he said.

"Correct." Mr. Ricks said.

"Sir do you know a Ryan Lawrence?" he asked.

"Yes sir I do, why?" Mr. Ricks replied, thinking about Ryan. He was a great guy, like a son, and Ashleigh's best friend back home.

"Well sir, he is the person that she had an accident with. Appaerently they were stopped at light together and were communicating and when the light turned green they both took off and her left frint tire blew. He was the person that pulled her out. Both of the cars are totaled." the officer said.

"Mr. Ricks," a man said from behind him.

Mr. Ricks turned and saw Ryan Lawrence standing there, a butterfly stitch above his right eyes, and a bandage on his left fore-arm. "Ryan, what happened?" he asked.

Ryan took a deep breath. He looked straight into Mr. Ricks eyes and felt guilt, fear, and sadness all combined into one.

Mr. Ricks looked at him. His green eyes were full of emotion and he looked tired. His dark hair was shaggy and his breath was quickening.

"Ryan!" Mrs. Ricks shouted from the door. "Oh I am so glad...why are you cut up?" she stopped.

"I was the one that Ashleigh ahd a collision with. Her tire blew. I have to see her." he siad and walked passed Mr. and Mrs. Ricks into the room. He stopped when he saw Ashleigh.

He looked down and saw Clay looking back at him with a look that could kill. He shot a look back and walked around to the other side of the bed. He sat on the side of the bed and took her othr hand.

"I'm so sorry Ash, it is all my fault." he said sadly.

Just then Ashleigh her eyes fluttered open and she saw Ryan, and then Clay. She tried to speak but couldnt then fell back into the darkness.

~15 Years Ago~

Sunset Valley, Texas

Ricks Ranch

Asheligh Ricks rubbed her eyes and looked around. She was at her house in Texas. She saw a little girl stomp out of the house and stop. Her hair was light auburn and in barrol curls. She was in a cute frilly dress and looked absolutely adorable.

"Mom! I dont want to wear this dress! It's all frilly and crap!" the little girl in a white cotton dress said walking outside.

"Asleigh Marie Ricks! What have I told you about using that word! Im going to wash your mouth out with soap if I hear that one more time!" an older curly haired woman yelled from a few feet away.

Ashleigh looked at the little girl. What was going on?