Read Chance Online

Authors: Christina Palmer


BOOK: Chance
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© 2015 Christina Palmer


All rights
reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or
other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of
the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

All characters
depicted in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living
or dead is purely coincidental.

Present Day:

The blonde haired woman
cautiously peered through the thin lace curtains of the second story window.
She knew from experience, from this height and angle, there was no possibility
of her husband seeing her as he got into his black Porsche and drove down their
tree-lined drive. Despite this knowledge, she was wary. Her thin, nervous
fingers pulled at a strand of her hair, curling it around and around repeatedly.

Even after the sports car
had disappeared through the iron gates and turned out onto the street, she
didn’t move an inch. She didn't even dare to open the curtains any wider. Her
lips moved silently, counting out five minutes in her head. She held her breath
for a good part of that time before finally taking a deep gasp of air and
continuing her count.

…four minutes fifty-six,
fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine…

At five minutes, she
exhaled and released the delicate lace curtain, letting it drop to close. She
paused, biting her lip, as she noticed the wrinkled damp mark her clammy hand
had left in the fabric. She chastised herself inwardly that it didn’t matter.
She moved away from the window, stopped in front of the mirror and sighed.
Looking at her reflection for a moment, she again asked herself silently if she
was ready to take the final step.

At thirty-one years old,
Charlotte Tyler nee Rankin was very attractive. She had a sophisticated and
elegant, rather than a conventional type of beauty. She had wavy, ash blonde
hair and a flawless olive complexion. That morning, she wore a plain white
shirt with faded blue jeans and a pair of white ladies' Nike sneakers.

She plucked at her shirt
in the mirror, pulling it away from her moist skin. Charlotte noticed the
perspiration marks under her arms. She contemplated changing, but knew a fresh
shirt would soon end up in the same condition. No, until she was free and
somewhere safe, it would do.

Turning from the mirror,
Charlotte looked around, possibly—hopefully—for the last time. She was in the bedroom
she'd shared with her husband, Logan. She took two steps towards the wardrobe
and froze, suddenly overcome with a sense of helplessness. Fear and helplessness
have been her constant companions for way too long, now. She needed to get out.

At that very moment, she
should've been rushing ahead with her plan. She should've been retrieving the
suitcase she'd carefully packed for herself that morning, and then dashing
through the door to start the new life she'd been fantasizing about for nearly
two years. However, she wasn't doing that.

Instead, she was simply
standing there, frozen in her tracks and wasting precious time. Time she
needed. Now, in her moment of truth, in the time that mattered most, doubt and
fear clouded her mind like a heavy fog.

Logan would find her. He
always found her. He'd found her every other time that she'd tried to get away.
What was the point in trying to run
? What would be different
time? Would she ever be able to get away from him? Would she ever escape from
the beautiful, luxurious house she'd grown to hate, once it had become her

She stood there unmoving,
looking but not seeing the elegantly furnished room in front of her. For the
millionth time, she inwardly cursed her chance meeting with Logan three years
earlier. What had started out as a fairy-tale romance and wedding had quickly turned
into a nightmare—one she couldn’t wake from, a terrible situation with no clear

Chance. She wondered if
people actually realized how much it shaped their lives.

Charlotte's father had once
read her a news story when she was in her teens. It was about a Russian pilot
who had ejected himself from his fighter jet in an emergency. The plane had continued
flying empty and pilotless across the entire continent of Europe.

It finally ran out of
fuel and crashed into a home on the Belgian/French border. The empty plane had killed
the sole occupant of the house that it struck. In the house was an unfortunate teenage
boy, who'd been waiting for his parents to return from an outing. He'd just
happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it ended his life. There
was no rhyme or reason for it, for the boy's death…it was all just chance.

That story had made a
deep impression on her. It had illustrated, in a powerful way, how a chance
occurrence could change the course of someone’s life in the most devastating
way. She'd pictured that boy. He wasn't much older than she'd been at the time.
She could see him sitting in front of the TV. He'd been totally unaware and unsuspecting,
as death literally, rained down upon him from the sky above.

It was clear to Charlotte
now, as she looked back at the past few years. Knowing now, everything that had
happened—her chance meeting with Logan, had changed the course of her life.

had been the metaphorical pilotless
jet, plummeting towards her on that dark night three years ago…

Chapter 1

Charlotte Rankin carefully
carried the tray of drinks through the bustling mass of dancers. It was her
turn to spring for and fetch this round of drinks for the girls and herself. She
hated when clubs were this loud, this crowded and this stuffy. However, she was
doing well, not spilling any…so far. She swayed slightly as she edged past a
group of loud, drunken young men. Luckily, she just managed to keep her

The manufactured smoke
and strobe lighting of the club was somewhat disorienting, especially when
added to the crowd that seemed to writhe and move, almost in unison. However,
she managed to emerge from the sweaty, pulsating crowd with the drinks she'd balanced,
remaining relatively unscathed. She was finally able to re-join her friends at
their table, have one of the drinks she'd brought there and relax. Charlotte
silently wondered if she was now qualified to walk a tightrope after her
magnificent physical feat.

As usual, Sarah held
court; she was Bethany’s bridesmaid, and was usually the center of attention.
Both the bride to be and their other friend Louise leaned in close, listening
to and hanging on to every shouted word that spilled from Sarah's mouth. The
cacophony of the dance music, as well as her distance from Sarah, meant
Charlotte couldn’t hear a word.

It might be somewhat strange,
however, unlike her other friends who were seated at her table, Charlotte's not
being able to hear Sarah didn't particularly bother her. She had no interest in
even trying to struggle to join in and hear what was being said. She preferred
the idea of sitting as comfortably as the overly warm and overly stimulating
club allowed, drinking and relaxing.

Once again, Charlotte was
unable to escape the nagging feeling she'd outgrown her college friends. She simply
went through the motions. She feigned hearing Sarah as well as pretending to care
about what was said. She occasionally nodded and smiled at what seemed like appropriate
times, which she determined by the other girls' reactions.

However, from the enthusiastic
gestures and flirtatious looks of her friends directed towards a group of four
young men seated a few tables away, it didn't take a lip reader or a rocket
scientist to understand what they were talking about. Apparently, the girls
liked what they saw when they looked over at the table of guys.

She glanced over at the
group, remaining unimpressed. They were certainly good looking enough, but
definitely not her type. Charlotte preferred men who were more 'manly.' These
guys, although they looked to be around her age, were what she'd classify as 'boys.'
At twenty-eight years old, she was a strong, independent woman who was attracted
to strength, maturity and control in men. She didn't exactly catch any of those
vibes from the table of guys her friends were gawking at.

Charlotte wouldn't
consider herself an ageist, since it wasn’t totally an age thing. It was more
of a look and a feeling she got from guys. However, she'd take a George Clooney
type over a Justin Timberlake type anytime. It just so happened, the qualities
she looked for and found so attractive in the opposite sex, seemed to be more commonly
found in older men.

Whatever it was, because
of her high—and some would say 'picky'—standards, she'd only had one serious
boyfriend in her life. He was a professor at her college. Although he wasn’t
professor and he was only six years older than she was, it had still caused
a minor scandal. Her father, in particular, who'd been a city councilman back
then, had been most unimpressed and unhappy.

The romance wound up not
lasting very long, but that had nothing to do with his age or vocation. It was
because of him being an unfaithful jerk. Charlotte grew tired of his ever-roving
eye and ended the relationship. On top of his unwillingness to be faithful to
her, she felt she wasn't ready for a long-term relationship, especially with

Since then, she'd been on
many dates and even had the occasional one night stand. However, she wasn't
looking for any long-term relationship. She was generally content being single.
She couldn't understand women who reeled from one long-term relationship to
another in search of their 'Mr. Right.' It seemed to her, those women didn't
feel complete, they believed they needed a man to be whole.

In Charlotte's eyes, it
was as if those women viewed marriage in an unhealthy way. Instead of meeting
somebody they truly loved and wanted to spend their life with, it was as if
they simply wanted to get married. As though they were casting for a play. They
had an open role in their lives that they wanted to fill. Rather than date, each
man they met was auditioning for the part of husband. That way of living seemed
pathetic in Charlotte's eyes.

She had a successful
career in fashion to nurture and was in no hurry to shed her single status.
This was especially true if it meant she'd need to devote time to hunt for a
man. In her eyes, her time was better spent securing her future. Her mother had
always said she got her drive and ambition from her father. Charlotte thought she
wasn't too far off the mark with her statement. She was driven and ambitious.

The four guys at the
table kept exchanging flirtatious glances, seemingly impressed by Charlotte and
her three friends. She couldn’t help but groan when they appeared to come to a
consensus between them. They all stood up from their table with their drinks in
hand, practically in unison, and began to weave their way towards the bridal
party. Charlotte, acting quickly, leaned over and put her mouth close to
Bethany’s ear.

“I need some fresh air."

Bethany looked
disappointed, but took in the determined look on her friend's face, nodded and
mouthed, “Okay.”

Charlotte snatched her
clutch and was about to breeze past the boys just as they reached her table.
She giggled to herself as one of the guys; the cutest one, in fact, opened his
arms in a beseeching manner before attempting to grab her. She deftly avoided
his drunken grasp and shrugged, mouthing 'sorry' to him as she made a beeline
for the exit.

The doorman opened one of
the double doors for her and she stepped out onto the landing of the marble
staircase that led upstairs towards the fresh outside air, away from the
underground dance club. The noise seemed to follow her up the stairs as she
made her exit. She was quite relieved when she finally walked out the door at street
level. The noise was reduced to a vague thumping sound.

The pavement was wet. A recent
change in the weather had occurred while they'd been busy drinking and dancing.
However, whatever rain there'd been was gone now, leaving a clear and pleasant
evening for her to enjoy. The cool night air felt so good to her after being uncomfortably
overheated and cooped up underground. She set off, walking carefully in her
heels, so not to slip on the damp and uneven, pavement.

Initially, she'd intended
to return to her friends. However, after being so warm and overstimulated in
the club for so long with too much noise and movement, she changed her mind. Once
she was out in the fresh air with only the sound of the nighttime traffic in
her ears, Charlotte decided she simply wanted to go home.

Her apartment was less
than a mile away, which was an easy walk for her, even in her heels. Charlotte
didn't want to disappoint her friends, but felt as if she couldn't force
herself to return to the club. Plus, her friends were probably having a great
time flirting with those cute guys anyway. She doubted if her presence would be
missed. After she sent Bethany a text saying her headache had gotten the better
of her, she started walking home.

She took her time as she
walked, taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago, late on a warm Saturday
night. It was pretty quiet since it was so late. She usually only got to see
the area during the crowded hustle and bustle of the daytime. It was a nice
change that she appreciated.

As she walked, since she
was in heels, she opted to take a shortcut down a busy road that was an
entertainment strip. The street was lined with bars and clubs. By the time
she'd walked approximately one block, Charlotte regretted her decision. This
shortcut was not quiet, peaceful and charming as the other road had been.

As she walked, she passed
various doors with people, mostly drunk, spilling out onto the pavement. She
studiously ignored all of the shouts and catcalls of rowdy patrons that
occasionally came her way. She hated when people acted like that. It was so
disrespectful and irritating. Luckily, she didn't have much farther to go on
this street.

Charlotte also quickly
regretted not bringing a jacket with her. The lovely, flattering and short black
cocktail dress she wore, suddenly seemed inadequate. She felt as though the
dress was sending out the wrong messages. She believed it made her appear as
though she was looking for male attention and as if she were trying to stand
out. She wanted neither of those things. She felt vulnerable in the
dress—exposed. She wanted to cover herself up.

In the distance, she was
able to see the intersection she'd been looking for. She breathed a sigh of
relief, knowing she'd be on a calm, quiet road very shortly. She'd be thrilled
to escape the street that had been increasingly stressing her out. Hurrying her
steps the last couple hundred feet towards it, she passed the last bar on the

The bar was marked by a
glossy red door with a black awning and red trim that announced it to be the not
so imaginatively titled; '
Red Door Bar
.' No doorman was present in the
pool of welcoming light that illuminated the few feet around the entry. She
failed to notice the tall, dark figure standing in the shadows beside the door.

Charlotte's attention had
been snagged by a small group of what looked to be three teenage boys. They
were standing around smoking by the mouth of the narrow alley, which was located
twenty or so feet beyond the red door.

When the teenagers
spotted her, their seemingly good-natured horsing around suddenly ceased, and
she got a sinking feeling in her gut. The busier clubs were now far behind her
on the more popular section of the strip. She nervously glanced around and quickly
realized it was quite isolated where she was. In fact, other than a drunk man across
the street who seemed too busy throwing up to notice anything else, it was only
the teenagers and herself.

Charlotte thought to herself. She
could sense the boys would give her a hard time. She just wanted to go home—to

Other than the somewhat
distant light traffic and the muted music from the Red Door Bar, the only sound
she could hear, was the regular click, click, click of her heels as she walked.
Charlotte stood up straight, trying to portray confidence. She did her best to
ignore the group of youths. She picked up her pace a bit more, keeping her eyes
trained on the intersection ahead, while maintaining an awareness of her

Her destination was
agonizingly close to her now. She thought she might just make it, that her gut
and senses were wrong and she'd be able to pass unscathed. Then, almost as if
it was predestined, one of the young men from the group stepped out in front of
her, blocking her way. She was forced to stop abruptly or bump into him.

While it had been
expected, at least to some degree, one of the teens would make a move to harass
her, Charlotte still felt a jolt of adrenalin, quickly followed by anger at the
interruption of her night. All she wanted to do was to get past them on a
public street. Why did they have to bother her? She made the quick decision she
wouldn't be bullied by this group of teens, who were probably about ten years younger
than she was.

The boy, who'd stepped in
front of her, looked as if he was about nineteen. He was wearing ripped jeans,
a bandana, a sleeveless jacket and an ugly sneer on his face. She suddenly had
a stray thought of being in some 'B' movie. Maybe some after school special
about safety—how people, especially women in short dresses, should never walk
alone on the street at night.

The kid blocking her way
was such a cliché, Charlotte couldn't help herself. She actually giggled, mostly
out of nerves. Of course, that wasn't the best thing for her to do in her
current situation. It certainly didn’t go down too well with the young bully.
It seemed to throw fuel on the flame.

“What you laughing at,
he asked, as his two friends edged closer and waited on either side of him. The
three of them stared at Charlotte menacingly.

“Nothing,” she answered
quickly, deciding it was best to be polite and just attempt to get out of the
situation as fast as possible.

“May I please pass?” Although
she said please and did ask, her voice was quite firm. It was more of a demand
than a request.

Charlotte was tired,
stressed and not in the mood for messing around. She wanted them to know she
wasn’t frightened of them. After a moment, she looked past his shoulder towards
the main road ahead and attempted to take a step forward. She immediately felt
his hand on her chest, pushing her backwards. His two friends sniggered as they

?” he
challenged her. Then he slowly looked her up and down in a lewd manner. The way
he leered at her, made her feel as if she was naked.

BOOK: Chance
9.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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