Text copyright © 2011 by S.C. Stephens
All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect is appreciated.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This was a story that popped into my head one day while I was listening to a woman talking to her friend on a cell phone at the bank (Pssst…be careful what you say in public, you never know if a writer might be sitting beside you, eavesdropping on your "loud" conversation, lol).
The plot and the characters were a nice distraction from Kellan & Kiera and the Adams clan, so I decided to play around with it…see where the story took me. It's not an epic work of art or anything, but it was a fun experiment, trying something new and a bit different for me, and I enjoyed writing it…even when it gave me headaches. I hope you find it mildly entertaining!
Please forgive the shortness of the prologue. I could have combined it with chapter 1, but I felt like it needed to stand alone. Note: I've heard a couple of times now about a movie that this sounds like. I can assure you that it's nothing like that movie. Okay, I haven't seen the movie, so I have zero idea if it's like it or not, lol. If it is, that was completely unintentional - and a sign - I'm moving to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, baby! =D
This story is rated M for strong language, semi-explicit sex, and violence…yay!
Not a Chance
Some places in the world have such gradual climate changes that they seem to spend the year in one perpetual season—it's always warm, it's always cold, it's always raining. Plymouth, New Hampshire is not one of those places. Each season is distinct, defined, and beautiful, in its own right. Summer, with its cool, bright blue days, drives families to spend their afternoons on lazy lakes or canoeing along the rising rivers. Autumn is truly a sight to behold with its fiery orange, bold yellow, and bursting red foliage that swathes the hillsides in an explosion of color. Winter coats the land in white, quieting the earth in its snow-filled peace. The icy insulation melts away as spring approaches, and the land, renewed and revived after its long slumber, once again begins to team with life…much like the poor girl dressed in a giant mattress costume across the street from where Makayla worked.
Makayla had been watching the girl for the past couple of months whenever work was slow. She'd been miserable and downtrodden when the weather outside had been near frigid. Now that it was May and the days were bearably warm, the woman, dressed in an outfit that Spongebob Squarepants would probably find appealing, seemed like the happiest gal on earth. The bright red lettering across the giant yellow rectangle of her costume let everyone know that her employer's prices were seventy-five percent less than everybody else's, and the girl seemed to take her message to heart, dancing and waving to anyone that would look at her.
While Makayla's job could be a little tedious at times, the costumed girl acted like she had the best gig in town. She acted like she wasn't strutting her stuff on an empty sidewalk, the people driving by only giving her cursory glances. No, she acted like she was front and center at a Mardi Gras parade.
Makayla momentarily envied the girl's exuberance. Maybe she could try and find a way to make her job more interesting, too. But how do you make being a bank teller more interesting? A smile crept across Makayla's lips as she considered one way. It would certainly liven things up if she made the customers retrieve their cash from her bra. Of course, it would then also be her last day on the job here at Bank of New England.
And Makayla liked working here, for the time being at least. It wasn't her dream job, by any stretch, but it paid the bills, and in tough times like these that was a good enough reason to stay in a career. And working where she did, Makayla saw the proof of that in almost every person that walked through the doors. Everyone seemed a little more…run down than they did a few years ago. Prices were skyrocketing, paychecks were getting smaller. The combination was aging the population. More and more Makayla spotted stress lines and gray hairs on clients that were way too young to have them. Just a few years older than her, really.
She worried about money, too, but working with it all of the time pushed it to the back of her mind when she left her job. Who wants to think about cash when you've been touching it all day long? But when she had to pass up on going on weekend getaways with her friends, or force herself to turn away from a thirty percent off sale at Coach, she felt the sting of recession. Makayla knew she was lucky though. She had a roof over her head, food on her table, and just enough spare change to fill her gas tank. She knew of several people that could no longer afford all three of those things.
A young man stepped to the edge of the rope line separating the customers from the tellers and Makayla warmly invited him to her section of the long counter. With a cute grin on his face, he slid over a paycheck that he wanted cashed before the weekend. Smiling as if he was the most important client the bank had, Makayla accessed his account, verified that he wasn't overdrawn, and opened her till to give him his money as he'd requested it—in three, one hundred dollar bills.
Shaking her head at the youth as she prepared his cash, Makayla hoped he didn't rush out and spend it all in one place. His bank account had been hovering in the two figure range. Honestly, if the boy were smart, he would have left it in his account.
As she started laying out the bills on the counter, counting them out for him and for the cameras recording every movement she made, Makayla noticed an elderly woman at the front of the rope line. She was stooped so low she was almost bent in half, and she was clutching a tin coffee can. Makayla suppressed a sigh. Ester was here to turn in her pot of bingo money. She showed up every couple of months with a container of coins and made the tellers help her count it out. That wasn't really what tellers did—the customer was supposed to have the coins rolled and ready for deposit—but the woman was sweet as pie and every person here obliged her habit.
Biting her lip, Makayla hoped the youth grabbing his wad of cash would take just a little longer, so her co-worker would have to take Ester. Makayla didn't mind helping the brittle old lady, but she was already suffering from tedium on this Friday afternoon and was anxious to get home. Counting coins for an hour would only exacerbate the problem.
Makayla glanced at her co-worker, Neil, right as he glanced at her. Smiling to herself, Makayla had to suppress a giggle—his counter was clean, and he'd have to take coin-lady. Neil twisted his lip and shook his head once he realized that he was about to be coin counting. Leaning into the divider that blocked off their work stations, he mumbled a dirty word to her.
Makayla smiled and turned back to the young man that was lazily leaving her counter. She giggled and waved goodbye while Ester shuffled over to Neil's window. She heard Neil greet her, and smiled that Neil sounded like he'd just won the lottery.
"Mrs. Williams! You're back! We've missed you around here. You really should pop in more often."
The rope line empty for a moment, Makayla twisted to smile at Neil. He was cringing slightly as he took the heavy canister from a beaming Ester. Aside from being her co-worker, Neil was also Makayla's best friend—had been since college.
Neil was cute, by most girls' standards. With shaggy, dirty-blond hair and blue-gray eyes, he was what elderly women referred to as "adorable." He was slight for a guy, not much taller than Makayla, and he was pretty slim, too. He could eat anything and everything and not gain a pound on that trim body. Since Makayla struggled with keeping a slim waistline, it was incredibly frustrating to watch him pack away pizza slice after pizza slice.
But she didn't hold it against him that he had great genes. And aside from rocking a pair of fabulous dimples when he smiled, what had really drawn Makayla to him at first was his personality. Neil almost always had a smile on his face and a kind word on his lips. If Makayla was having guy issues, school issues, family issues, or just…issues, Neil was the one that would sit and listen to her for hours. And, asked for or not, Neil would always offer up whatever advice that he could. Whether Makayla had broken up with a boy on his birthday, called her aunt a scheming trollop, or ratted out her dorm mate for cheating, Neil always gave his honest opinion and stuck by her side.
Makayla adored him for his endless friendship and loyalty. But Neil could be a snarky, bitchy, whiny little girl, too. And Makayla adored him for that even more. He was more than her best friend, more than her personal shrink, and more than her sidekick; he was practically family.
Listening to Neil sigh as the sound of change dumping filled the air, Makayla watched a woman filling out a deposit slip. The middle-aged woman was strikingly similar to Makayla. Fingering a long strand of her honey-brown hair, Makayla couldn't help but note that not only did they both have the same shade of hair color, but they both wore it straight down their backs and nearly to their waists. Idly, she wondered if it took the woman as long with her flatiron to make it so silky straight as it did Makayla. She spent almost thirty minutes every day to tame the natural wave in her hair. But she preferred it board-straight, so she took the time.
The woman also had small feet like Makayla. Small hands too. Makayla had lamented all throughout her childhood that she'd never be a pianist, not with her short, stubby digits. Finally done with her deposit slip, the woman turned around and Makayla finally spotted a difference between them. The older version of herself had been blessed with a DD chest. Well, blessed or cursed, depending on how you looked at it. Makayla could wear a B cup…on a good day.
And they seemed real too as the woman jiggled her way to the rope line. Unfortunately, Makayla had an eye for detail, and sometimes bouncing breasts were a detail her brain noted and stored. It was annoying that her mind catalogued such things, but helpful too, at times. She kicked ass at the game Memory.
A jingle at the door signaled the arrival of more customers. As she was taught, Makayla glanced at the doors, to greet the new arrivals with a friendly smile. What she saw though, made her mouth drop open, made her skin pale, and made her heart drop to the floor.
Three men in non-descript clothes walked in together. That wouldn't normally strike fear into Makayla's heart, except for the fact that these men were wearing ski masks. As she dumbly gaped at them, Makayla wondered where they'd gotten ski masks in this day and age. Do stores even still sell those things? Aren't they sort of a neon sign to sales clerks? Or maybe there's a store that caters to thieves—Robbers 'R' Us.
Just as Makayla was wondering if one of the masked men knitted in his spare time, her attention fixated on the more important aspect of them—they were armed. Just as her shaking fingers started to reach for the alarm button under the counter, a gun swiveled to point at her.
"Don't be a hero," the gunmen growled. "Hands up."
Like a bad western movie, Makayla complied and raised her hands. It was at this point that everyone else in the place seemed to realize what was going on. Neil paled and raised his hands too as one of the other gunmen pointed a weapon his way. Poor Ester looked like she might have a coronary. Patrons screamed and tried to run, including Makayla's doppelganger. The third man blocked the exit, though, and a raised shotgun stopped the bunch.
As employees and customers huddled and cowered, anger shot up Makayla's spine. How dare they! Who did these self-righteous, self-serving bastards think they were? Yes, times were hard. That was why Makayla stayed at a job she didn't overly love, and worked as many hours as she could. The idea of someone coming in and simply taking other people's hard-earned cash inflamed her.
While the gunman at the door started collecting purses and cell phones, the robber by Neil and Ester ran off down the hall quick as lightening. The guard on duty was down that hall. Somehow, the thief must have known that…the general public didn't. As the last gunman approached her booth, Makayla took in every detail that she could. It wasn't much: basic blue jeans that could have been purchased anywhere, black work boots that were way too clean to be anything other than brand new, and plain, white shirts under plain, black jackets. Aside from the masks and guns, there wasn't anything that special about the three of them. But there were details that their masks couldn't hide.
Height for example. The one blocking the doors was tall, well over six foot, more like six five. The other two were average, their heights clocking in at just around the six foot mark, thanks to the chart subtly marked beside the front door. Race. The one closest to her and the one that had darted down the hall were Caucasian. The last was so deeply tanned that he could have been any number of things from white, to Latin to Islander. Eye color. The big guy at the door was too hard to read, and the one that had run away had moved too fast for her to see, but the set of eyes holding a gun in Makayla's face were brown. A particularly warm shade of brown.
Those eyes stepped closer to her as he lifted the muzzle of his gun so she was staring down it and not at him. "Money, in a bag, now!"
Makayla's momentary courage dwindled at the thought of a bullet streaking from that metal to lodge into her skull. She was pretty certain that she wouldn't survive that. She suddenly felt the urge to pee and minutely crossed her legs.
With shaking fingers she hurried to obey his orders. All of the employees were taught to not fight back. All of them were warned to not risk their lives and the lives of the customers over money. Makayla hoped that if she could do this fast enough, the men would leave satisfied, and without killing anyone. Makayla didn't want anyone's blood on her hands.
Yanking open the drawer, she stuffed all of the big bills she had into a bag that the robber pulled from his jacket pocket. The gunman that had disappeared down the hall soon reappeared with Ricky, the security guard keeping an eye on things in the surveillance room. So much for their protection. Makayla wondered if he'd been quick enough to call for help. Of course, Makayla also wondered how many books he read in a day.
Ricky was hustled into the lobby with the rest of the hostages. He was disarmed, a bruise blossoming on his face, and the robber made him kneel on the floor next to poor old Ester.
The criminal at Makayla's station calmly looked over at Ricky, then around at the other cashiers while Makayla shoved all of the hundreds that she had left into the bag. There was a few thousand in her drawer, in everyone's drawers. It wasn't going to give these robbers a chance to retire in the lap of luxury, but it would be a nice payday for an afternoon's work. Oddly, Makayla was glad for a moment that the young man who'd cashed his paycheck earlier had gotten out of here safe and sound. He had no idea how lucky he was.
When her drawer was empty, she tossed the bag at the robber. As the thief was staring at Neil, the bag hit him in the chest. He startled at the unexpected move and Makayla flinched, sure she was about to get a bullet in her heart. She hadn't meant to fling it. She'd just wanted it away from her. Surprisingly, the man only narrowed his eyes and shook his head, like he was exasperated with her. It was such an oddly familiar move that Makayla blinked.
As the man's hand reached down to grab the bag of cash on the counter, his sleeve slid up his arm. The dark fabric didn't move much, but Makayla could see the very edge of a tattoo peeking out underneath it. On the inside of the man's wrist was a very small and very green four-leaf clover.
Makayla's eyes snapped up to the robber's. Their gazes locked as Makayla narrowed hers in anger. She knew that tattoo, and she knew the person it was attached to. Knew him intimately. He preferred to be called Chance, although that wasn't his God-given name. He'd been a fixture in her life for the past few weeks. Against her better logic, she'd started dating him, then even more stupidly she'd started falling for him. And he'd promised…promised…that he'd given up this life. He'd told her time and again that he wanted to change, wanted to be a better person, wanted to live on the straight and narrow…for her. But yet, here he was, calmly pointing a gun directly into her face and robbing her place of employment.
He was so dead when she got home.