Contemporary Romance: Taking Chances by @loniflowers (excerpt)


Taking Chances

By Loni Flowers


At age twenty-three, Alex has had a hard life. His parents died when he was quite young, leaving his grandparents to raise him. Right before his high school graduation, his grandparents passed on too, leaving him all alone. After losing everyone he's ever loved, Alex turns to the streets in a self-destructive pattern until he finally ends up in Springhill, where he tries to make a new life for himself.

Clair’s childhood was normal until age thirteen, when her father left the family and she never heard from him again. Consequently, her mother went into a deep depression, forcing Clair to grow up quickly. After finishing high school, Clair’s heartache over her father’s absence as well as her unbearable mother drive her to strike out on her own. But having nowhere to go and no family to speak of, Clair wanders aimlessly from town to town, homeless, and without purpose. Looking for work wherever she goes and living hand to mouth on the streets is tough, Clair discovers, but living with her mother is worse.

Now twenty-one years old, Clair has found her way to the last place she and her family took their final vacation as a family--Springhill. While in town, she crosses paths with Alex and their ensuing relationship grows faster than expected. Soon Clair wonders if coming back to Springhill and meeting Alex was the best decision or the worst decision she ever made. Show More Show Less



Nostalgia seeped through Marie Clair Davidson’s mind as she stood on the street corner, trying to decide whether she should stay in Springhill or run to the next city. In the past six months, no other city in Virginia had given her the sense of dread that this town did. Her parents used to bring her downtown every year to window shop and play at the nearby amusement park before traveling east to the coast for a week at the family’s beach condo. She still remembered what it felt like to comb her fingers through the cool morning sand after she woke her parents at sunrise, begging to look for seashells. Her fondest memories of her family came from those summer vacations. But they stopped being a family nine years ago. After Clair’s father left her mother and her, there were no more family vacations.

If the town were as busy as she remembered, she might get lucky finding work. Smaller than its neighbor, Richmond, Springhill was nevertheless always buzzing with tourists who flocked to the area for the history. Large shopping outlets and several amusement parks created a major tourist district for those families who wanted to stay close to

everything. Her parents chose to stay in Springhill mainly out of convenience. Navigating Richmond traffic wasn’t worth the trouble and, if they ever wanted to do something special, they hopped on a bus for a day trip.

Hopefully, it wouldn’t take her long to get a quick job, make a few bucks and head to the next town. Clair knew one thing: wherever she went; it wouldn’t be back to Charleston, West Virginia. She had been fending for herself since her dad left, at the age of thirteen, and staying out on the streets wasn’t much different from trying to live with her divorced mother. Instead, Clair would do what she knew best; travel like a vagabond from city to city until the day finally came when she could find something worth staying for.

As she meandered down the sidewalk in search of some place to grab a bite to eat, she noticed how deserted the downtown area looked. There weren’t any shops open; most were boarded up with plywood over their windows. Some of the buildings looked weathered and shabby, making it difficult to even read their names anymore. The streets were empty. Clair could only guess that many of the old shops had abandoned this small town and opted for the more popular Richmond.

After she walked several blocks, she looked up at the sound of a bell and saw a man walking out of what looked like a small diner. As he crossed the street, a flashy, red Open sign caught her attention. Clair walked toward it, hoping it would lead her to a place she could eat. She intended on using the cash given to her by a family she hitched a ride with from North Carolina.

As Clair entered the diner, she noticed a group of guys sitting in the back booth, talking loudly. They looked up at her. Two of them nodded toward Clair, trying to get the attention of the other guys who had their backs to her. When they turned around, they whistled at her, giving her a wink. She rolled her eyes, turning up her lip in disgust. She contemplated looking for another place to eat, but the aroma of grilled food filled her nose, making her stomach rumble and her mouth water. Other than the creeps in the back corner, it looked like a good spot to grab a decent meal, rest her legs from walking and clean up in the bathroom.

She picked up a menu from the counter and looked over it. There were so many foods she hadn’t tasted in a long time, hamburgers and hot dogs, soups and salads, ice cream and pie. It all looked delicious. It didn’t seem to matter how many meals she skipped or how many times she told herself that she’d get used to not eating, eventually, she could not deny her hunger. After no meals for the past two days, Clair’s stomach ached at the thought of eating again.

“Good evening, hon, what can I get you tonight?” the waitress asked cheerfully. Clair ordered a burger, large fries and a Coke. As a treat to herself, she also ordered a slice of apple pie. Usually, she didn’t splurge on that kind of food, but she was going all out with this meal.

The waitress tilted her head and looked Clair over. “Are you going to be eating here or would you like it to go?”

Clair smiled sheepishly and looked down at herself. She had the feeling that this lady was assessing her appearance, like people usually did. But Clair looked back at her, her head held high and grinned. “I’ll be eating here.”

“Okay, hon. Just grab a seat and I’ll bring it out shortly.”

After cleaning up in the bathroom, Clair hoped the idiots that occupied the back booth would be gone. To her disappointment, they remained. She picked a booth as far away from their voices as she could get. After a few minutes of sitting alone, Clair heard the squeak of the kitchen door open and the waitress approached her carrying several plates in one hand, while holding a drink in the other. How the woman managed to hold everything, she had no idea. All of it would end up on the floor if she had to do it. She wasn’t very coordinated when it came to stuff like that.

“Here you go, hon,” the waitress said, placing the plates in front of her. “You sure someone your size can eat all that?”

Clair‘s mouth watered as she looked at the food, “I’m not sure I can eat it all, but I’m definitely going to give it a try.”

After the waitress left, Clair dove into her dinner. She watched the obnoxious guys through her hair as she bent forward over her plate. She couldn’t wait for them to leave, hoping it would be before she was ready to go. She didn’t have to look at them to know they were watching her. It felt like they were boring holes into her with their eyes. Goose bumps chilled her skin, making her sick with apprehension. Clair laughed at the thought of their faces if she gave them the finger, but she knew she didn’t have the nerve to do it. She decided if they hadn’t left by the time she finished her pie, she wasn’t sticking around.

Finally, after a few more minutes, they ambled to the counter to pay for their food. After a few whistles and kissy faces later, they were gone and Clair released a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. She had a bad feeling about them. Clair watched them through the window as they crossed the street, but it wasn’t until they were in the shadows, away from the diner before Clair felt more comfortable.

Stuffed from dinner, Clair gathered her things and noticed the clock on the diner’s wall. Eleven. She knew she needed to find a place to sleep for the night and decide where she wanted to go from here. From the looks of the empty shops, Clair wasn’t sure she’d have much luck finding work. She wasn’t looking for your normal eight-to-five. Clair needed a more stable living situation then she presently had, to work those kinds of hours. She learned from past attempts that she could fool people for a while about her living arrangements, but eventually, someone always found out. And that was always her cue to move on to the next town. After getting caught a few times, side jobs were her best bet. She walked for several blocks before noticing just how deserted the streets were. An orange glow cast dark shadows between each lamppost, and not a soul walked the streets. She didn’t remember it being that way. Even for the late hour, tourists were always milling around in this town.

As Clair strolled down the sidewalk, she stopped suddenly when she heard laughter behind her. Turning, two people walked behind her on the opposite side of the street. One whistled and called out to her and she sensed it was one of the same guys from the diner. Panic overtook her. The hair on her arms stood up as she wondered what they might do, if anything. Adrenaline pumping, Clair turned and walked faster. She hoped to put more distance between them and her, but she could hear their laughter getting louder. Directly behind her now, her heart raced, anticipating their confrontation. She tried to cross to the other side of the street, but her legs trembled and she felt weak as her body panicked.

“Hey! Don’t you hear us talking to you?” One of the guys half-yelled to her, grabbing her arm. ”We just want to talk.”

Clair snatched her arm away, giving the guy a disgusted look. She looked him over. He wore an orange, collared shirt, and pressed khaki pants. His hair was combed down, not a strand out of place. He didn’t look like a creep, but Clair knew guys like him came wrapped in all different packages.

“Don’t touch me,” she seethed, “I heard you just fine. If I wanted to talk, I would have acknowledged you. Leave me alone.”

“Oh c’mon, baby, don’t be like that. You’re not lost, are you? Girls out this late and all alone are only looking for one thing… I’m sure we can help you find what you’re looking for.”

Clair kept walking, ignoring his comments, but then she felt him run his hand down the back of her hair. She spun around and pushed him in the chest. “I told you to leave me alone!”

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him, “What do ya think, Chris? Are you feeling adventurous tonight?”

“I don’t know, Paul. I mean, last time it was fun, but what if we get caught? I’m not down for doing jail time again. I just got out, and I don’t need to piss my parole officer off again. I’m not going back in, I can’t risk it. Plus, you said last time was the last time.”

Clair tried to pull away from Paul, but he only tightened his grasp. Panic filled her. Her heart pounded in her chest. The sound thrummed loudly in her ears, and she knew she was in trouble. They had done this before. Clair looked around, but couldn’t spot anyone who could help her.

“Come on, man… don’t be such a downer. We always get away with it. Plus, just look at her.” Paul reached around and grabbed her butt. “You should feel how tight her ass is; you know you want some.”

They were talking about her as if she weren’t there and, the more they talked, the more her skin crawled. She had to get away. With her free hand, she swung fast and slapped Paul across the cheek. He didn’t even flinch, but his eyes grew wide with surprise before they turned to an angry glare.

“Oh, I see you like to play rough, huh?”

With his other hand, he gripped her throat and forced her up against the brick wall of a boarded-up shop. Clair grabbed his hand, gasping for breath as she tried to pry his fingers off her neck. She tried to scream, but her voice trailed off when he clamped down.

Paul released his hold on her neck and brushed her cheek with the back of his other hand. “Now, if you promise to be quiet, I can make this much more enjoyable for you.” His touch made her feel sick. She turned her head and bit his hand, her teeth sinking deep. He tried to pull away, but she could taste his blood and it filled her with crazed anger. She tore at him savagely, but suddenly, her head was thrown back and a sharp pain shot through it.

“Fuck! You bit me. It’s going to be fun fucking you,” he said with a menacing grin as he released the hold on her neck and grabbed her wrists.

Clair swung her arms frantically, squirming between the wall and his weight against her. She managed to evade his grasp and attempted to run, but he was too fast. He snatched her back with a handful of her hair.

“HELP!” she screamed.

Her cry was cut off when Paul backhanded her across the mouth. She stumbled to the side, lost her balance, and fell forward, stopping herself from doing a faceplant with her hands. Paul knelt in front of her and pushed her shoulders back, forcing her to lie on the sidewalk. Straddling her waist, he held her wrists above her head and she could feel his hardness pressing against her hips. Clair retched. As he pressed his finger to her cracked lip, she winced. The taste of her own blood ran across her tongue.

Smiling at her pain, he slid his finger down her neck. “If you scream and try to run again, you’ll have a lot more to worry about than me fucking you. Do you understand me?”

Clair nodded.

“Good girl,” he said, smiling.

His hands mauled her breasts and she could feel his heavy breathing hot on her neck. Clair wanted to fight, but she was no match for him, and she didn’t want to add “dead” to his list of felonies. There was a tearing sound and she felt a cool draft of air across her exposed chest. She turned her head to the side and saw the other guy leaning against the wall, watching them. She caught his eye and detected no trace of compassion on his face. He smiled at her and Clair realized then, if she stopped resisting, it would be over soon. She tried not to think about what he was doing, but his touch was rough and hungry as he ripped her bra away, mashing each breast in the palm of his hand. He squeezed them hard, groaning with pleasure.

The other guy prodded Paul with the toe of his boot. “What the fuck, man? Hurry up!” “What? Can’t you see I’m having my moment? Back the fuck up or watch. I don’t give a shit. Just shut up and keep a look out.”

“Whatever, man. Remember this isn’t a love session. Hurry up and do her so I can get my turn.”

“Please, don’t do this,” Clair cried. “Get off me.” She wiggled her body, trying to escape, but her hands were pinned beneath his legs.

“I told you to hold still!” he yelled slapping her across the face. The force whipped her head to the side and the taste of blood filled her mouth once more.

Clair gritted her teeth, waiting for it to be over. He pulled at the zipper of her pants in an attempt to pull her pants down from around her hips. Clair closed her eyes, refusing to look at his face. She swallowed a scream, forcing back the pain of his weight against her body, her back aching against the concrete. Her eyes shot open when a deep voice boomed behind her in the dark.

“Hey! Get your hands off her.”