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Authors: Stephanie Weiford

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BOOK: Runaway
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Chapter Twelve

“Daphne… we have to go,” Luke said quietly in my ear. I opened my eyes slowly. I had regained my top and underwear, but I couldn’t remember putting them on. I felt heavy with dreamy bliss. Luke came into focus beside me, and I wanted to pull him back down to me all over again. He chuckled.

“We have to go, the other performers will be waking up.” That got my attention. I wanted Luke to see me naked all over again, but I could pass on all the other circus members from sharing the sight.

He helped me to my feet and handed me my jeans. I slipped them on along with my shoes. He was already dressed in the same clothes from the night before. Above us I could see the hoop and ribbon had been lifted away to the catwalk and the spot light had been shut off. There was light starting to stream in from the tent seams. The sun must be coming up.

“Shit! I have to work!” I exclaimed and he put a finger to his lips to quiet me. We crept to the tent flap and he peeked outside first. After a moment he waved me forward and together we did the walk of shame back towards his RV.

We had almost made it too.

“Well, look what the dog drug into camp.” It was the last voice I ever wanted to hear again. Priscilla came out from around the back side of Luke’s camper. She was dressed in a cute sundress that showed off her long, perfectly shaped legs. There was a bandage around her snake bitten ankle. Somehow she even pulled that off, as if ‘damaged’ was a new fashion statement.

“Priscilla, you look well,” Luke said curtly and placed one hand firmly on my shoulder. He was politely showing her that we were a ‘we’ now. It was petty, but I felt a triumphant grin spreading across my lips while hers was curling back in more of a snarled.

“Yeah, but nothing like the afterglow this bitch has. He’s good isn’t he? You like fucking that cock girl? I know I sure did,” she winked.

“YOU FUCKING…” Luke started, but I was quick on the uptake.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact I do. AND I think I’ll keep doing it too. You know, since you’re all worn out now,” I returned her wink.

“Wow, got yourself a feisty townie this time, huh Luke?” She didn’t look at him, her eyes were fixed on mine and she took a quick, but wobbly, step towards me. “You’re gonna be old news in a week sweetheart, enjoy it while you can.” With that she laughed and headed towards another large tent offset from the one we had just left.

Luke lead me quickly to his RV like we were playing a game of tag and it was home base and therefore safe. But it wasn’t safe. This round went to Priscilla. Was sleeping with Luke one point or two? Who was winning?

We were inside now and I slumped over on the couch. My head was starting to hurt, I said as much to Luke and he disappeared a moment just to reappear again with some aspirin and a cold water.

“Coffee?” he offered but I just shook my head no.

“She has a point, you know,” I said quietly.

“No, she’s a bitch. Don’t listen to her Daphne,” he sounded pissed and the screwed up way his brows knotted over his eyes confirmed it for me. I felt myself getting mad at him.

“Don’t listen to her? Remember Luke,
ONE WEEK
,” My words made him winch.

“Alright, but Daphne, you have to understand… I would
never
be with her,” he said earnestly. I didn’t feel like letting my anger go.

“Don’t you mean to say, you would
never
be with her
again,
” I spat. That struck a nerve.

“Damn it! You don’t get to condemn me for what’s in my past!” he yelled. I got to my feet and we were nearly face to face.

“She’s NOT in your PAST! She’s walking around outside getting bitten by snakes and reminding me that in seven more days I’LL BE IN YOUR PAST!” I screamed. The words stung the back of my throat. Anyone close by outside would have heard me, but I didn’t care.

“Shit! Shit! FUCKING DAMN IT!” he bellowed right back and then turned and punched the backside of his front door.

“YOU FUCKING HOT HEADED…” I started, but he was quick. Before I could finish my cursing he was on me, mouth to mine in an angry growl. He forced me to respond to his kiss. This wasn’t lightening, this was fire. Burning as hot as my anger and demanded I give it over to him. So I did.

“What are we going to do Luke?” I asked when we parted in need of air to clear away the smoke. He gathered me up in his arms and just held me to him.

“I don’t know… but we have the week. Let’s just start there,” he said sadly. 

 

Work was the
last place I wanted to be. Carolyn had been giving me the cold shoulder all morning, even coffee wasn’t warming her up to me today. I knew I just had to wait it out for lunch, which was rapidly approaching, and then I could spill the beans to her about what had happened.

When I had finally had the chance to look at my phone last night, I saw she had absolutely blown it up. Before I could reply even once though it died and there had been no time to charge it while I rushed to work. Luke drove me to my apartment and waited outside to take me to work. I was 10 minutes late, but at least it saved me from any awkward encounters with Peter.

I had completely forgotten all about him and his proffered date this approaching weekend. I probably wouldn’t have remembered either, what with Luke taking up all my free brain function, except that he kept leering at me since I arrived. Just a few more moments and I would get to escape to lunch with Carolyn.

“Yes, the catnip is all natural,” I replied to the customer on the line.
How could any catnip be un-natural? It’s a plant!
I thought. I wasn’t about to waste time looking it up. She was just another crazy cat lady, although she sounded a bit younger than our normal clientele. If I had to guess I would say she was in her late fifties and owned no less than three cats. 

“Not a problem. That’s one case of Kit’s Nips Catnip added to your monthly delivery.” One case was nearly a hundred dollars and weighed about a pound. Her cats were going to be stoned out of their minds. At least she had the good manners to conclude our call quickly.

“Have a wonderful day and thank you for calling Meow Memory Makers,” I was already bringing up my time clock before the ended call tone came across the line. Across from me Carolyn was getting to her feet.

“Hey!” I called before she could walk off in fake protest. I knew she wasn’t
mad
at me for ignoring her texts, but I still wanted to apologize. I caught up to her just inside the break room. “I’m sorry Care Bear, my phone died before I could get back to you, and man, do I have to fill you in!” she quirked one perfectly plucked eyebrow in my direction, but a smile was already starting to take shape on her face.

It took nearly our entire break for me to fill her in on everything. I started with Peter asking me out, to nearly getting run over, to spending the night with Luke, although I saved the better details for myself. She was speechless during the whole thing. At the end, she just shook her head slowly. Neither one of us had touched our food.

“What are you going to do Daphne?” she asked.

“Hell if I know! Why do think I just spent all this time telling you?! Help!” We laughed but it was short, this shit was real and I needed my best friend to take it seriously. I really didn’t have any idea what to do.

“You
really
hung in the air with him?” she asked awed. It was hard to believe that had been me too, and I had been there.

“Yeah.”

“And you
really
cussed that girl out?” she sounded impressed.

“Yes, Carolyn!”

“AND you
really
said you would go out with
Peter
?” she whispered this time so our nosey co-workers couldn’t over hear this part.

I nodded.

“Huh. What happened to my depressed best friend that preferred wine and bath tub books to adventure?” She meant to sound funny, but it came out as more serious. Like she was thinking that I had been abducted by aliens and replaced with some kind of thrill seeking other world creature.

“I ran out of wine,” I laughed. “So, my Peter problem?” I prompted.

“Oh, right. I have no idea. It’s an odd spot you’ve put yourself in this time. I told you he had the hots for you, but do you listen to me, no,” she looked smug.

“Ok you were right. But what can I do now except go?” I didn’t like the idea of it at all. For one thing, I didn’t want to go out with Peter, for another I wasn’t interested in an art show. I loved art in all its forms, but these kinds of events were more about rich snobs flaunting their money than they were about being creative. The last, and most important reason, was the show was on Saturday evening, which was the last night Luke would be in town and I had no interest in not spending it with him.

“I don’t know, let me think on it,” she said. I nodded. Our break was over, and while it was good to have unloaded all this on her, it was still worrying me. At least Luke had promised to pick me up after work. A few more hours and at least I would be back in his arms.

Chapter Thirteen

Tuesday

It was one minute to clock out time and my phone was ringing. If I didn’t pick it up I would be reprimanded for neglecting a call. I decided to bet Peter wouldn’t even mention it to me, since I was both a good employee and a date. The first of those wasn’t even close to the truth and the second I was trying to get out of, but I decided to take my chances and let the call bounce to another representative anyways.

Time clock up and punched out. Bag in hand and I was making a dash for the elevator. I should have waited a moment for Carolyn but I wasn’t going to risk getting stopped by Peter. I had managed to avoid him for the most part of the day with the exception of some awkwardly exchanged smiles. I jammed my finger into the elevator call button and willed it to arrive quickly. I could hear him coming; he was on the phone with someone.

As he got closer I was able to make out what he was saying. ‘Yes, thank you’ and ‘I really need to go…’ he was trying to hang up in time to catch me. The indicator above the doors showed my get away ride was two floors down… just a few more moments and I could escape!

One more floor…

“Hey Daphne!” He called.

Damn it! Busted!
I turned slowly. The elevator was just stopping; the doors would be sliding open in two more seconds… Peter was too close! I wasn’t going to make it!

“Excuse me! Mr. Kelly!” It was Carolyn to the rescue!

“Tomorrow then,” he said with a mock sad smile and turned to face her as she caught up with him. The doors slid open and I caught her eye over one of his shoulders.

‘Thank you!’ I mouthed silently and ducked inside and pressed the first floor and close doors buttons in rapid succession. I had no idea what she was intending to say to him, and right now I didn’t care. There was a handsome carnie waiting for me outside on the curb. Correction, a drop dead gorgeous,
traveling thespian,
was waiting on me outside with his nice shiny black car.

When I passed the front door it was just as I had imagined. He was standing there, as cool as ice water, waiting for me. I strolled up to him. It was a new feeling, that this man was all mine, and I liked the way it sounded in my head. I had to forcefully stomp down the reminder sneaking around in my mind that there was a time limit on how long I got to say that.

I kissed him and he pulled me close. I could have been imaging it, but it felt like people slowed down to look at us.

That’s right people, eat your hearts out!

 

Wednesday

We had spent the night in his RV. Since the night shows were only held on the weekends, he had some free time in the evenings during the week. I had stayed in the camper alone for a while so he could see to some business. I heard him mumble something about someone named Lionel eating better than he does on his way out.

I didn’t mean to be nosey, but I was left all alone after all.

I got the same impression I had before in his car, everything about Luke was very clean. He seemed to not own anything that was wasteful. He had all the basic necessities. There was plenty of toilet paper and shaving cream in the bathroom, which was normal guy stuff, the heavy duty makeup remover, not so much. He got a pass for that since he wore makeup in some of his acts.

There was only one picture framed in the entire place and I didn’t see any signs of a photo album. It was him, his brother, and a woman in a top hat that could be his mother. The same tent was erected behind them in the image. Other than that and the contents of his shelf above the couch, which was mostly movies, there were no personal items in the camper.

When he came back we spent the night curled up in bed together. He had more pizza and had scored a cheap bottle of wine from somewhere. It wasn’t black cherry, but it was enough to let me relax and stop obsessing over our dead line.

 

Thursday

Work had become a new kind of hell for me. I spent the whole time thinking about how I would rather be with Luke and how to avoid Peter. My luck ran out after lunch however, when he caught me off guard because I was preoccupied texting Luke. He asked me for my phone number, and not knowing how to respond I just gave it to him, which made him beam. So, I knew that had been the wrong move.

Luke was between shows. The week days were normally slow he said, but today they had a bunch of school children on a field trip. He was playing the part of a magician whose tricks kept getting foiled by a bunch of mischievous clowns. 

I would have given anything to be in the audience with those lucky, lucky kids. Instead I had to deal with the sale Meow Memory Makers had decided to put on. Nothing could ruin a day faster than offering a mass discount to the crazy cat lady crowd of cheap asses, who spent money like it grew one trees anyways, but offer them a discount and it was like a virtual stampede.

When it was time to clock out, I had devised the perfect plan for escape. I skipped down a flight of stairs and grabbed the elevator on the next floor. Luke was waiting for me again outside and my heart automatically lighten just seeing him.

Tonight he stayed with me and we ate Chinese food.  We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. The idea had been to take a bubble bath together since I had an actual bathtub and all he had was a narrow camper shower. We got in but it wasn’t long before I was bent over the side so he could take me outside the soapy water from behind.

Afterwards, I leaned back on his chest and he tried to explain circus business to me. We dried off and he took me twice more again in my room, before I drifted off to sleep in his arms.

 

Friday

Peter caught me as soon as I came through the door at work. He was talking quickly, like he didn’t want the other employees hearing him discussing our date plans. I still didn’t know how I was going to get out of it; I just knew there was no way I was going to that art show with him. I felt bad. I tried not to lead him on anymore, by not saying much and not smiling. There wasn’t much else I could do, the damage was done. Carolyn hadn’t come up with anything other than to fake being sick.

“That’s pretty lame,” I told her but she just shrugged. Luke had given me tickets for me and her to go to the Saturday night ‘Circus of Desires’ show. He promised me Priscilla wouldn’t be in it because her doctor hadn’t cleared her yet for aerial acts. Carolyn seemed pretty excited to see Noah again.

I hadn’t seen much of Luke’s brother since we started spending all our free time together. He had popped his head in once while I was alone and Luke was off doing errands. He hadn’t said much and only smiled knowingly at me when he left.

I was
almost
dreading seeing Luke outside after I clocked out. I was going to have to tell him about the forced date with Peter, it seemed only right.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to tell you,” I said when we were back in his camper. His face was slowly turning red from suppressed mirth. I was so sleepy I didn’t even hear what he said next or feel the kiss he planted on my forehead before he left.

Since it was Friday, he had been a part of the Circus of Desires show. The pirate act had been traded out for some kind of sword dance he did with his brother that I would get the see tomorrow night. When he came to bed he smelled of sweat and popcorn. It filled the tiny space and roused me from my sleep.

He came to me hot and needy this time. There was no taking this slow, he was more ready than I was and I felt myself near ripping with the effort. I called out, feeding the frenzy that followed.

Before I knew what happened the sun was coming up outside and it was Saturday morning. Peter was expecting me to meet him tonight and Luke would be breaking camp tomorrow and leaving town, and me, behind.

BOOK: Runaway
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