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Authors: Stephanie Weiford

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BOOK: Runaway
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Chapter Two

Outside the eleventh floor window the sky had darkened to a furious grey. Only flashes of lightning cut through the dreary sight. The few visible trees in the distance looked ready to be plucked from the ground as the wind whipped through their branches. I thought it all looked rather exciting, much more appealing than the uninspiring sight of the call room floor with its many cat themed posters. My eyes were forced from the storm as my computer pulled up an incoming call.

“Hi, this is Daphne with Meow Memory Makers, how can we help your furry friends today?”  I stifled a groan; this customer was a premium member, which meant she would be placing an order worth more than my entire months’ pay.

“Yes, my stupid cook dropped Tabatha’s custom food platter, the kind with the assorted *static* so she can nibble on different…” The line disconnected and everything on the floor went dark as the power cut off. Outside the downpour had begun. Inside people were quick to stand and talk to their cubicle neighbors, replacing the sound of clattering keyboards with friendly chatter.

I leaned back in my chair, more than happy to take advantage of the unexpected break. Carolyn’s head popped up over my wall and winked.

“Thank God!” she moaned, “One more minute with
Princess Tinkles
on the phone and I was going to scream.” I grinned. She referred to all of our generally elderly and definitely wealthy customers as Princess Tinkles.

“I don’t have much longer here today anyways,” I pulled out my phone to check the time. “Actually, I think I might as well go. I doubt Peter would even notice.”

“Ohhh Peter,” Carolyn rolled her eyes.

“Be jealous.” I grinned and drained down the last of the cold coffee in my mug.

“Jealous that Peter has a crush on you, no thanks,” she winked.

“You’ve lost it. Hey, how do I look? I’ve got that
Doctors
appointment and I want to look good,” I asked. I decided to go with a black, pencil skirt with a tucked in white, button up blouse and matching dark green scarf and heels. I also had on my birthday jacket and had ditched the worn purse for a silver clutch bag I normally reserved for fancy outings, which were rare.

“You look hot,” she said after a few moments evaluation, “but when you get there let your hair down. The wind out there is just going to mess up your neat bun making strands flyaway.” I nodded, Carolyn’s fashion sense was much more reliable then my own.

“Thanks, I was going for
hirable
,” I joked, fixing my jacket so it completely protected my outfit from the storm outside.

“Oh I would hire you in a heartbeat… to sit on my lap and call me Big Papa,” she giggled wickedly.

“Laugh it up now, it won’t be so funny when I’m outta this dump,” I turned and walked away leaving Carolyn with a little wave as I made for the exit.

 

Today was the kind
that called for the use of a taxi. I shelled out the few bucks for the driver and ducked inside the entrance to Optics Technology Cooperation. Everything in here screamed modern, from the hip bare light bulbs handing from the ceiling to the trendy redhead with thick black glasses behind the counter.

“Hello, I’m Daphne Tyler. I have an appointment for the personal assistant position,” I stood straight and tried to give her the impression that I fit in here.

“Sure thing hun, take the elevator to the top floor,” she said casually.

“Er, thanks,” I said flatly and made for the polished steel elevator. The Optics building was one of the tallest in the city and it made for a long ride to the top.

I used the time to take Carolyn’s advice and pulled my hair down and smoothed it out as best as I could. With a few floors left to go I reapplied my lip gloss and unbuttoned my jacket.
I can do this,
I thought desperately to myself like a mantra. The doors slide soundlessly open and I stepped across the threshold.

Inside was an equally modern waiting room. More bare bulbs hung from the ceiling and the floor was glossy concrete. Lively green plants spotted the room, along with chicly, mismatched furniture. I could smell the real lemons on a nearby tree and there was punk rock music playing quietly in the background.

I felt a stone drop in my stomach; the room was also full of stylish runway models. All of them were three times as hip as the girl downstairs and they were all dressed like they had just stepped from the pages of some fashionable magazine.
Carolyn would die,
I thought.              

The elevator gave an angry beep behind me. I had been standing in the threshold like a moron for too long. I quickly stepped away and made for a winter green, plush arm chair in the corner. Across the room was the only other door. I sat listening to the music and resisting the urge to chew my nails or run from the room, forgetting this whole mess. After what seemed like forever the door opened letting the recent interviewee escape.

“Next, Daphne Tyler” I stood and moved towards the entrance as smoothly as my shaky legs would allow. Inside, the office was more intimate. It had the stereotypical oversized windows that allowed the occupant to gaze down on their domain, the floor was more polished concrete that glinted from the bare blubs hung from above, and the walls were that raw brick that made the space seem smaller then it likely was. I felt suffocated, which didn’t help when my gaze settle at last on him, the CEO of Optics Technology Cooperation.

He had to be at least 10 years older than me, but wealth can buy youth, and he was as handsome as any Calvin Klein model. He was sitting but I could see the bulk of his arms under the rolled up sleeves of his button down. Instead of a traditional tie he wore a bowtie, and his hair was swept to one side. A tattoo peaked just above his collar and cool blue eyes, stared at me in silence. My prep work had told me a lot about the company, but little about its CEO. I knew his name, Christopher Schuler.

“Hello Mr. Schuler, I’m Daphne Tyler, thank you for this opportunity,” I reached out a hand but he just kept staring at me. I dropped it awkwardly and continued to stand. He picked up a printed out copy of what looked like my resume. The most impressive information he would find there is the degree in business science I had earned, along with my list of accomplishments as the chairwoman for my acting club.

“Tell me Miss Tyler, would you be willing to be seen on television and photographed for the company?” He leaned back in his chair and waited for me to respond, resume forgotten. Everything about him said he was really indifferent to how I would respond; this was just a formality before he dismissed me.

“Yes Sir,” I replied doing my part to hurry this along.

“What if you were asked to cut and dye your hair?”

“What?” That was not the question I had been expecting.

“Your appearance dear, it doesn’t match this company or this position. I have worked very hard to keep this company moving forward, showing everyone that this is where the future will be created, and you walk in here looking like a weather reporter straight out of 2001.”

“You’re a jack ass,” I replied coldly, “Who cares that this place
looks
modern? And you can hire all the YOLO dumb fucks you want, but unless you realize the value of real
talent
the only future this company has is becoming a dead-end wiki link.” I felt my face flaming and turned to leave.

“You’ve got a sharp tongue and quick wit, I can appreciate that, even if your hair is a flat color.” Against my better judgment I turned back to look at him. He was smirking.

When I walked in here I probably would have melted on the floor upon seeing those lips twitch, now I had to keep my hand clenched to keep from slapping the shit out of him.

“We have a customer service department now, the basement was redesigned to accommodate it, and I can offer you a position there. You would work the phones assisting customers.”

This is not happening
, I thought to myself. I was standing in the CEOs office of one of the most promising companies and had been called ugly and offered a position doing exactly what I was doing now. Time had stopped for a few heart pounding moments, but the rage dam broke.

“Fuck off,” was all I could get out, but as I stalked from the room I managed to slam the door hard enough to echo off the bare concrete and brick.

In the waiting room every eye turned to look at me. It was a virtual sea of hipster princesses, all what the dick behind the door was looking for. He didn’t want a talented assistant, he was looking for a trophy girl to hang off his arm for the press, and I had no doubts one of these moron woman would become just that.

Chapter Three

There is nothing better than waking up from a deep, relaxing sleep and realizing you don’t have to be anywhere. Saturday mornings were for sleep and cartoons after all. My bladder had decided it had other ideas and was currently attempting to escape. I crossed my legs tightly and buried my face a little deeper into the pillow. Last night’s bottle of wine was coming back to torment me.

I was fighting to go back to oblivion, wrapped up in my bed but my wine filled bladder was having none of it. With a sigh I stretched out my back, slipped into my fuzzy house shoes, and duck walked to the bathroom.

Relieved of my wine and now, tragically wide awake I headed to the kitchen in search of coffee. I didn’t have to go far; my one person apartment was pathetically small. I hit power on the already stocked coffee pot and pulled my phone off the charger.

It buzzed angrily at me, alerting that I had missed seven calls and four text messages... there was only one person who ever contacted me that much, Carolyn. Yawning I flipped through the messages,

Happy Birthday!! XOXO

So excited about tonight! What are you wearing?

NM ;) I totally got you covered!

Pick up the damn phone! OTW

Shit. That last message was sent nearly 15 minutes’ ago, she didn’t live far, if traffic was a mess I might get another 5 minutes of peace… the knock at my door, followed by her high pitched voice singing ‘happy birthday’ brought my peaceful morning to an end. Dragging my feet I got up to let her in. She flung her arms around me and finished the song with a grand flourish by heaping mall bags into my arms.

“What the hell is all this?” I dropped several unidentifiable items on the floor as I struggled to the couch to dump the load.

“Party clothes! Got a fun night planned for us girly!” she dropped her purse on the tiny kitchen table and helped herself to some of the fresh coffee. She poured another mug and passed it my way, which I thankfully took. I was going to need a truck load of caffeine to deal with Carolyn and her over the top birthday plans today.

“I have my own clothes Care Bear, I don’t need yours,” I said grumpily. She gave me a skeptical look over the rim of her mug.

“Don’t call me that. And what
you
have are body wrappings, what
I
have causes a magical transformation,” she chided and I stuck my tongue out at her.  

“Whatever, why are you here so early though? Surely you don’t think it’s going to take
this
long to make me presentable?” I laughed, but knowing her she probably did think that.

“I figured we would get some dinner and maybe a few drinks first, make a whole evening of it,” her eyes glittered dangerously.

“Ok, but it still seems like overkill to be at it this early.”

“Daphne, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon,” she laughed.

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed and picked up my phone, which showed me the same thing, three fifteen to be exact. I couldn’t believe I had slept in that long, no wonder my bladder had been bursting. “Stop laughing you jackal, I remember when you lost a whole day sleeping, then woke up freaked out that you’d missed a whole day of work.”

“Oh my gosh! I remember that!” she roared with laughter.

“You better, you still owe me for covering your ass,” I laughed along with her, nearly spilling the coffee I was pouring.

“Well I’m making it up to you now! Just LOOK at this dress I found! It will go perfect with your strawberry blonde hair and big, blue eyes!” she exclaimed.

“You’re blonde too buddy,” I pointed out.

“I’m a bottle blonde, not like you, lucky,” she rolled her eyes.

“Yeah well that CEO didn’t think so, he actually asked me to dye my hair for him!” Honestly though, I would have rather had something exciting, like a fiery red. I tried to dye it once but Carolyn had stopped me at the last second like I was committing murder.

“Screw him, that male chauvinist pig!” Carolyn exclaimed angrily.

“Nice word usage,” I winked making her smile. No reason to relive the over-the-phone-bitch-fest we’d had the night before while I pounded black cherry wine in the bath.

“Yeah well this guy was hitting me up online and I wanted something really witty to respond with. Google is a girl’s best friend.”

 

A few hours later
she had me dressed; make up applied, and hair tamed. I tried several of the dresses she had brought but settled for the lesser of all the evils. It was a little black number, the top was a heart shaped corset, the skirt was cut short, there would be no bending over in this, and I added my own heels and the birthday jacket.

I softened a bit after looking in the mirror; she really was a beauty wonder woman. My skin looked flawless, my eyes looked smoky, she had pinned my hair into seductive little curls, and my now ruby lips popped with color. It bought a lot of focus to my mouth and I tried on a coy little half smile, enjoying the effect of it on my reflection. I looked like a whole different girl.

“Hot mama!” Carolyn cat called me and I did a little spin to show off the effects of her labor. She looked even sexier, if that was possible. She had gone bright to my dark, wearing a pink dress similar in style to mine, except her skirt had small slits up each side and she choose to let her hair be wild and free.

“Back at ya foxy,” I winked. I felt rather free in these clothes, like how a performer transforms into a character when they get ready for a show and steps into a costume. Tonight, I was going to be a character and pretend I was this confident, sexy woman who led an exciting life with a string of lovers, instead of the girl who sold cat products to old woman and spends her weekends with wine in a lonely tub.

“You ready for this birthday girl?” Carolyn asked with a wink.

“Ready,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster, and followed her out the door.

             

We arrived at the fairgrounds
, located just outside of the city in a normally huge, empty field. However, they had transformed the muddy wasteland into a city of twinkling lights. The main gate was a huge archway covered in little yellow blubs like fireflies. A man in a purple top hat took our tickets and directed us to the center, massive tent. Being late this was the only one open and people were streaming inside to find seats.

Carolyn pulled me towards the front; we were off to the side a little but settled into two seats a fairly near the staging ring.

Normally, in a circus the staging ring would be a hard dirt floor; this one was a sort of polished wood platform. It was slightly raised off the ground and completely bare of any sets or prop pieces. I don’t know what I had been expecting but found this to be slightly anticlimactic. The place was still filling up; it would be packed in no time. I hoped the show would deliver what was promised. At first I had wrestled with the idea of even coming, it seemed sort of
dirty
to be going to such a risqué show. The thrill of it won out in the end and here I was.

The lights flashed and people stopped talking and settled into their seats. The lights went out and we were sitting in the dark. I could feel my heart beating in my chest and nearly fell out of my seat when the single spot light flared to life. Center stage stood a bare chested man, a silver ring in each nipple glinted in the light. He had the hardest six pack I had ever seen outside of a museum statue, his dark hair was swept back and he was wearing a mask. It looked like it was cut metal and only went across his eyes, which were covered in dark, smoky makeup. It matched with the dark pants, and did nothing to hide a rather large bulge.

“Oooh, would you look at him!” Carolyn whispered in my ear. I just nodded, not able to tear my eyes away from the stage.

“Welcome everyone.” His voice was low and husky. Normally, a circus ringmaster would call out in a cheery, booming voice, but not this one. He made me want to lean forward and let him whisper in my ear.

“Tonight, we will dare you to face not the beasts of the jungle, but those inside of you… Come with me now, let me help you release your desires.” A fog started to rise and swirl around him, it darken and he was gone, in his place was a tall dancer.

She stood center stage, as rigid as any ballerina. Blonde hair tied up in a tight bun, a pretty face with soft colors over eyes and cheeks that made her look young. Off to the side just behind her in the shadows, was a silhouette of a man.

Unlike the normal pompous ballerinas in their soft pinks and tutus, this woman wore a deep red corset. It was low cut nearly exposing her full breasts and fitted tightly against the curve of her body, ending in a slight V that was cut high to give the illusion to much larger hips then the girl actually had. She wore a practically shear ruby tutu skirt that didn’t leave much room for modesty. Knee high black stockings and red ballerina shoes completed her scandalous ensemble. 

The music started to play softly and she moved with all the grace of a swan in flight. She stretched and stood on point, teasing the audience with her curves.

Slowly, he stocked her, back and forth in the dark shadows. Slowly he moved forward, coming more and more into focus as the music began to build. The music gave a shrill cascading chime, giving a gut wrenching warning of danger. She paused straight as a freighted stork.

Cautiously, she twisted at the waist and looked over her shoulder. The chiming grew louder and she turned. Then it dropped off, she hadn’t seen him. Her shoulders relaxed and the music returned to normal. She continued with her solo dance, bending and stretching, never going more than a few small steps from center stage.

He was closer now. No longer a silhouette in the dark recesses, he was very tall with dark hair that was rucked up all over his head, which gave the strong impression that he had been out doing villainy somewhere nearby. His shirt was just barely too small, it billowed on the arms like a pirates and was cut deeply showing the hard expanse of his chest. His breek’s were actually tights that molded like second skin to his powerful legs. He wore no shoes, and moved with the air of one about to forcefully take what he wanted. She continued her soft, sweet movements, unaware of the beast that was close at hand. 

The music paused again. The chime rang out louder this time, and again she stood as still as stone and looked over her shoulder, this time she saw him and gave a great leap in alarm. Her perfect ballerina legs stretched out in a great leap. He dashed at her and she gracefully slipped away just a hair’s distance from his grasp. 

In the audience there was collective intake of breath as everyone watched, enchanted by the scene playing out in front of them. My heart hammered wildly in my chest.

They continued their dance-struggle. He gave chase to her, each time he came close she would narrowly miss his attack. The music reached an all-time pitch and then crashed like thunder, the lights cut on and off, giving glimpses of moments. 

Flash! He reached!

Crash! She dodged!

Flash! He made a powerful lunge!

Crash! She trips!

Flash! He has her at last! The room goes dark, and silence rings out, the crowd makes no sound, no one moves, and I’m frozen in place with the last flash fading my sight like a fog. The spot light came back up slowly and she was pinned beneath him.

The music rings out, a soft, shy sound. He stands bringing her with him. She is in front of him with her back to his front and his arms hold each of hers in vice like grips. She looks distraught.

The music rings out a crash, but it’s barely an echo of the sound that had boomed moments ago. She makes a feeble attempt to break free. Again, and she pulls, but he holds her tight. He leans in and kisses her on the shoulder, leaving a lusty trail up the curve of her neck, the side of her cheek, and stops to nibble on her ear. She wilts at his touch, going limp in his arms. He makes to pick her up and in the moment he lets her go she leaps, toes pointed in a graceful arch. Her arms go out behind her, he is quick, and he catches both of her wrists again as she lands. The music pauses.

They are standing in parallel to where I am sitting. He takes a step forward, pulling harshly on her arms like the reins on a horse. He moves his hands from her wrists to her waist, just where the corset ends. The music starts to build again. The lights flash brightly and he lifts her, she spreads her legs out wide in the air facing the audience, eyes wide in surprise as he guides her body down, connecting her to his waist.

Her eyes flutter dramatically and the music slows, with a creeping sound. She moves as if in slow motion as well, reaching out an arm as if in escape. They continue the dance picking up speed, she reaches for escape and he yanks her back to him with a great thumping force. After several moments of this she can take no more and in one last attempt for freedom she wilts under his powerful thrusting.

He grins wildly in triumph of his conquest. He shakes her and with her long dancers legs she obediently swings one out and in front of him until it forms a single line with the other braced against him, pointed toe still planted on the ground. He shakes her again and she comes full circle to him. Both legs are now gripped around his waist and she is off the ground, face to face with him.

Crash! The lights flash red and she clamps her hands to his throat. He tries to pry her free of him.

BOOK: Runaway
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