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Authors: Chloe Cox

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Taken by Chance

BOOK: Taken by Chance
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Taken by Chance

A Club Volare Novel

 

By

Chloe Cox

Copyright 2013 Chloe Cox

 

 

 

 

Just a quick note…

 

Hi you guys! Ok,
I’m just going to say this up front: I love Chance. He is, of course, based on people
I’ve known in real life (though I’m not saying more than that!), and I am a
total sucker for the combination of dominating and playful. I don’t know
exactly why that is, but I do feel like Chance is a guy I would love to spend
time with.

Ahem.

I hope you guys
will love Lena, too—she’s got her own issues, but she’s a good person,
trying to do her best, and not always succeeding. I feel for her, there. And it
made me so, so happy to get these two to their own HEA.

Chapter 23
included. ;)

 

xoxo
Chloe

 

 

 

chapter
1

 

Chance Dalton
counted the men gathered below the unnamed woman’s apartment, pacing in circles
outside her gate, sometimes yelling up at her window. Waiting with the patience
of scavengers. Hunting her.

Fucking animals.

He counted to keep
his mind orderly, rational. His body was already tense, his pulse providing a
thick rhythm for his anger. He had to keep it rational.

He just hated men
who bullied women.

There were four of
them. All of them carried cameras, their stock in trade. Three of them were
sweating uncomfortably in the eighty-degree heat, had guts protruding over
their belts in various degrees of ill health. Chance guessed it was hard to
keep in shape when your job required you to stake out celebrities for days at a
time, living on fast food and candy bars, sleeping in the back of your car. The
fourth was different. Skinny, wiry, jumpy, wearing a pretentious fucking blue
fedora: the only one who seemed really with it. The one who kept his eye up on
her window, waiting for the curtain to flick back, waiting to get a glimpse of
her
face.

He was the one who
kept shouting up at her.

What the hell was
with these people? Chance was usually the last guy to knock a paying job,
considering some of the shit he’d been paid to do overseas, but this was
something else. This was professional stalking. This was being paid to make
someone’s life miserable for a freaking photograph.

He wouldn’t have
noticed, probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, except this time
they were after
her
.

He hadn’t known
she was famous, though she was certainly beautiful enough, and he definitely
couldn’t imagine what she’d done to merit interest from these vultures. She
lived on the top floor of that modest California craftsman across the street
from the walled compound that Chance had helped turn into Volare L.A. Hers was
just a normal house set back from a narrow side street off Abbot Kinney
Boulevard, looking peaceful and bucolic behind a high wooden fence,
sun-splattered below a few shade trees. Someone had split it into a duplex
sometime in the past decade—probably the gray-haired woman who lived on
the first floor. The house probably sold for peanuts back in the seventies, and
now it was a million-dollar house, just because Venice Beach was booming.

Somehow, even with
all that dark-haired, honey-skinned beauty,
she
didn’t strike him as the kind of woman who lived in a million-dollar house.

Best goddamn part
of his day, every day, just watching her walk down the block to get breakfast.
Always at the same time, always laughing with the older woman at her side, the
two of them friends, maybe family? Always she bought breakfast for the busker
on the corner, too.

Always, she had a
smile for Chance.

He hadn’t realized
how dull his world had been until he’d gotten that smile. Sleeping around L.A.
had gotten old, L.A. itself had started to feel old, and he’d had to admit that
no matter where he went he was stuck with the memories of the things he’d done

and then he’d seen her.

Smiling at him.
Shy at first, but so expressive.
Like they had their own
private joke about breakfast or coffee or whatever, even though they’d never
exchanged a word. Chance had resisted the temptation to go after her the way he
knew he could, had looked back on his track record in L.A. and decided he
didn’t want to risk that a no-strings fling with her would backfire in the way
it had with so many others, leaving her bitter and disappointed. No matter how
honest he was up front, women always seemed to develop feelings and want more
from him, and he didn’t want to see that smile disappear. But then these pricks
with cameras had shown up, and now this was the second morning in a row that
she hadn’t left her house, and the smile was just a fucking memory anyway.

Christ, he
couldn’t get her out of his head. Couldn’t get the things he wanted to do to
her out of his head. The memories of other women just turned to ash when he
thought about her.
Thought about how she’d feel under him.
About what she’d sound like.

He didn’t even
know her name.

They had her
trapped up there, like an animal.
Laughing together, making
jokes.
Like it was funny.

Just thinking
about it made him angry all over again. He ground his teeth and decided the
bullshit stopped here. This was his goddamn neighborhood now, his city, and
that woman across the street was something special. He wouldn’t ask anything of
her, and he wasn’t going to take advantage of her, the way he knew he could,
but he sure as hell wasn’t going to let these idiots hurt her, either.

“Hey.” Chance
heard the fedora call out. The skinny, hat-wearing pap lifted his camera to his
face and Chance followed his line of sight.

Her window, the
curtain held back.
Just a sliver of her face flashing in the
light.

She looked
frightened.

Chance felt the
familiar lurch in his gut, the fire crawling up his spine, down his arms, looking
for a way out. What he really wanted to do—what every synapse in the
primitive part of his caveman brain was telling him to do—was to go kick
some ass. Show that skinny asshole what it felt like to be hunted. Cornered.

“Heel, Chance,” he
seethed to himself.

He was right. A
minute later, he saw the door to the craftsman open. From his vantage point on
one of the decks on the second floor of Volare L.A., he could see the shock of
silvery hair: the older woman.

Alone.

In a minute Chance
was down the stairs and running across the path to the back door. He burst
through onto the street just in time to see the older woman swat at the skinny
asshole in the hat and drive all the
paps
back from
the gate.

She was kind of a
badass. And older, but not old
;
up close, she was one
of those women who aged flawlessly, better looking than most women half her
age.

Still, maybe she
wouldn’t mind an escort.

“Ma’am?” Chance
said as he jogged up alongside her, careful to get between her and the asshole
in the hat. He gave all four of them a once over. “Can I help with anything?”

She gave him a
frankly appraising look, the kind of thing that might have made him blush if he’d
possessed the capacity for it. Then she smiled.

“I’m just fine,
but you might wait around while I go to get my breakfast to make sure these
idiots don’t do something stupid, like trespass on my property, or violate the
privacy of my tenant.”

Chance grinned for
the first time all morning. “I’d be happy to, ma’am.”

“Call me
Thea
.” She winced. “I’m not that old.”

“All right, Thea,”
he said. “Nice to meet one of the neighbors finally. Don’t you want to know my
name?”

“Chance Dalton,
I’m very aware of who you are, and of what you’ve brought into my
neighborhood,” the woman called Thea said, a little too gleefully. “And let me
tell you, I approve.”

Chance laughed.
“Well, all right, then. Good to know I’m welcome.”

“Don’t you want to
know why these monsters are bothering Lena?”

Lena
. So that was her
name. It sounded good.

“Honestly, Thea, it
doesn’t seem like any of my business. But I will be happy to remove them for
her.”

Thea raised an
eyebrow. “You know she hasn’t left the house in two days? Just crying all the
damn time. If I were younger I’d kick his ass myself.” Thea glared at the man
in the hat, who kept his eyes on the window.

Chance balled his
hands into fists, opening and closing them like he was pumping a safety valve.
He didn’t need any encouragement to want to get physical with these assholes.
“You mean that photographer?” he asked.

“Yeah, him, too,”
Thea sighed. Something in her tone made Chance look back at her—for a
moment she seemed so sad, the kind of expression he’d seen on a mother’s face
when her child got hurt.

That didn’t help.

“I’ll only be a
few minutes,” Thea said, walking away.

Chance barely heard
her. His attention was now focused on the four men crowded around
Thea’s
gate. He moved toward them and they moved back. He
stood between them and the gate, his arms crossed to keep him from feeling the
itch too bad, feeling Lena’s eyes on his back as he took his post and feeling
weirdly proud of it. Which was ridiculous; he didn’t know her. He knew why he
was doing what he was doing, and it had everything as much to do with his own
baggage as it did with wanting to protect a woman he didn’t properly know.

Well, so what?
he
thought to himself. Sometimes it just felt good to do the
right thing.

The four
paps
backed off a few more feet, one of them cursing,
heading back to a car parked down the street. Three remained, the skinny one
looking right at him. What Chance
wanted
to do was smash their cameras, the weapons they used to harass a woman from a
cowardly distance, see if any of them were man enough to fight. Hoping one of
them was that dumb.

But Chance also
knew that that was technically kind of insane. He knew that would only scare
the woman watching from the window behind him, and rightly so.

“Goddamn common
sense,” he muttered to himself.

One of the
paps
looked at him with even more alarm. Chance smiled.
There had to be a way that he could help Lena get out of here without
committing a felony or scaring the shit out of her. No matter what the story
was, no matter what she’d done—if she’d even done anything at all—she
didn’t deserve this. There had to be something he could do, something that
would work in a place like this…

By the time Thea
came back with her breakfast burritos, Chance was grinning to himself, freaking
out the
paps
even more. Maybe he could have some fun
with this. Maybe he had a plan.

 

~ * ~ * ~

 

Lena made a deal
with herself: if she let herself peek through the curtain again and
he
was still there, she’d…

Nope. She couldn’t
think of anything. There were no household chores left to do. She’d done them
all. She’d done all of Thea’s, too—anything to keep her busy and inside
the house. She had nothing to bargain with.

Nothing
to hide behind.

Lena felt the
tears coming again and cursed. She was so damn tired of crying.
Of being a victim.
Of letting Richie do
this to her, of allowing those jerks outside to get to her.
Her
frustration would build until she’d almost reached her limit, where her anger
at what they’d done to her would begin to outweigh the anxiety and humiliation,
and she’d be on the verge of storming outside to curse them out and find her
car, when she’d remember. She’d remember that Thea, who was taking care of her
so kindly, who was like a best friend and a fun aunt all wrapped into one, that
even Thea must have seen the photos that Richie leaked online. Thea, who read
her trashy magazines religiously, had probably opened one and gotten the
surprise of a lifetime.

So she’d remember
that Thea had most likely seen those pictures, and then she’d remember that
everyone she knew had probably seen those pictures, and the shame would come
back with such intensity that it actually paralyzed her. As though if she were
to stop moving, stop even breathing, she might be able to will herself to
disappear, to obliterate the whole thing even from memory…

Lena didn’t even
feel right complaining. She’d had just enough success as an actress that people
might recognize her if she jogged their memory, that people assumed she must be
rich because she’d been on TV. She wasn’t. And she was just hot enough and just
recognizable enough that a narcissistic ex-boyfriend might decide to leak some
explicit photos to rejuvenate his own career.

But Richie had
done worse than that. He’d convinced her to do things she hadn’t ever been
brave enough to do before. He’d fucking
groomed
her. And then he’d secretly taken photos.

Lena shook her
head. The worst part was that this reaction, this hiding away from it, the
freaking crying? None of it felt like her. She’d always been tough as nails,
hard and suspicious after a lifetime of watching people use each other, and now
it was like something was broken. Maybe it was just one transgression, one
disappointment too many. Maybe L.A. had just used up all she had left. She was
trying not to think about it, but she was trapped in the freaking house with
nothing to do, not letting herself go online, not watching TV, and with those
photographers waiting outside.
Hard not to be reminded pretty
much constantly.

BOOK: Taken by Chance
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