Taken For A Ride (PG-13)

Saunders tossed his sea bag into the back seat of the car and gladly sped out of the fleet parking lot across from the piers, happy to be on Leave and heading home for a much needed break. He just returned from a three month cruise and he hadn't been home since a year ago Christmas so he was looking forward to the homecoming.

He stopped at a mini-mart close to the highway to gas up and grab some munchies for the long trip but when he returned to the car he was shocked to see a young woman slumped down in the front seat, a baseball cap pulled down over her eyes.

"Excuse me, are you lost?" He asked as he stood at the open driver's door.

"Which way you goin'?" She mumbled.

"North," he said. "But…"

"Just drive then," she urged, desperation in her voice.

"I can't…"

"Please?" She begged.

Saunders glanced around to see if there were any suspicious characters lurking about. "Are you in trouble?" He asked.

"I just need a ride," she said quickly.

"Where?"

"Anywhere."

"Do you want me to call the cops for you?" He asked.

"No!" She exclaimed. "Just shut up, get in, and drive, for god sakes."

Saunders didn't know what to do. The appearance of the girl was so sudden and unexpected that it caught him totally off guard and unprepared.

"How old are you?" He asked with concern.

"Old enough to scream rape if you don't get in the damn car," she replied, glancing around nervously.

He frowned, not sure if he was offended or threatened. "Are the cops after you?" "No, I didn't do anything wrong," she insisted. "I just need to get out of here. Are you going to help me or not?"

Saunders gave his newfound dilemma a quick consideration but when she looked at him with those pleading frightened eyes he decided to throw caution into the wind. He slipped behind the driver's wheel, put the bag of munchies and soda down on the seat between them, started the car, sped out of the parking lot and zoomed onto the interstate ramp headed north.

She didn't say anything for miles and it wasn't until they crossed the state line into Georgia that Saunders decided to speak up.

"Are you from Mayport?" He asked.

She remained silent.

"Jacksonville?" He wondered.

Still no reply.

"Are you running away?"

She stared out the passenger window at the passing scenery.

"Are you from a Navy family?"

She refused to reply.

"Well, what's your name then?" He asked after a few more miles of silence.

"Dayna," she revealed quietly.

"I'm Joe Saunders," he let her know. "I'm in the Navy and I'm heading home on Leave."

"My father was in the Navy," she told him. "He still could be, I suppose."

"He's not around anymore?"

"Even when he was around he wasn't around," she replied.

"Sorry," Saunders said. "The Navy can be a tough way of life, especially on the family."

"I never really knew him," Dayna said with a shrug. "Barely remember him."

Saunders figured he'd take another chance. "So, you're running away?"

"I'm not seven," she said with annoyance. "It's not like I packed my Barbie bag and headed down the street to my friend's house."

"I know," Saunders said.

"You don't know shit," she snapped.

There wasn't any more conversation for nearly twenty miles.

"I've been on the move a lot," Dayna revealed when she couldn't take the silence anymore. "My mother doesn't care where I am or what I'm doing."

"What about school?"

"I dropped out."

"How old are you, exactly?" He dared to ask.

"Sixteen," she admitted.

Saunders knew he should have pulled the car into the emergency lane and dumped her out there and then – or at least pulled off the next exit ramp and brought her to the nearest cop station – but he kept on driving.

It wasn't everyday the lonely Sailor had a girl in the car no matter what age she happened to be. Debbie, his 'sweetheart' back home couldn't wait for him while he was in the Navy so that relationship went in the crapper a few months after he got out of boot camp. Since then, there really hadn't been anybody serious or meaningful - a few one night stands while out partying with shipmates, but he wasn't the most social guy and mostly he was just lonely and miserable.

"Why, how old are you?" Dayna asked after a few more miles.

"Twenty-one," he informed her.

"That's not so old," she determined.

'It is when you're with a sixteen year old!' He wanted to say but he let it go and kept his eyes focused on the road.

"How long you been in the Navy?" She asked

"A little more than three years," he revealed. "Joined right out of high school."

"Where you from?"

"A small New England town called Hillsboro," he told her. "That's where I'm headed."

"That's a long drive."

"Yep."

"I was born in Virginia," Dayna revealed. "I've lived in New Orleans, San Diego, and now Mayport."

"Florida's okay," Saunders said. "But I miss the seasons of New England."

"Never been there."

Saunders resisted the urge to say 'Do you want to go there now?' knowing his mother would think he was crazy if he walked into the house with a waif sixteen year old runaway.

"Where are you going?" He dared to ask instead.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Haven't really thought about it."

"You just climbed into my car on a whim?"

"No, I was watching and waiting for the right 'ride'," she explained. "I was staying with a guy a few miles from there but he was being an asshole so I decided to take off. I was afraid he was going to come looking for me – that's why I was in a hurry to get out of there."

"Why'd you pick me?" Saunders asked, glancing at her.

"I saw the base sticker on the windshield," she answered. "And the out of state plate. And you were alone. And you didn't look like a serial killer."

"What do serial killers look like?" Saunders wondered.

"I guess they could look like anybody," Dayna admitted after thinking about it for a minute. "Okay, but you didn't look drunk, drugged or crazy so I took a chance."

"It's a pretty dangerous way of life, Dayna," he warned.

"Tell me about it," she mumbled.

"So, who's the guy?"

"Just some jerk who picked me up a few weeks ago," she replied.

"How old?"

"I dunno," she grumbled. "Thirty?"

Saunders almost drove off the road. He glanced at her with disbelief. "How was he being an asshole?"

"You know, all possessive and creepy and controlling," she complained. "Wouldn't let me go anywhere. I had to wait until he passed out so I could sneak out today."

"He passed out in the middle of the day?" Saunders asked with surprise.

"He was always drunk," Dayna sighed. "Just like half the guys my mother ends up with." She took in a long sad sigh. "I guess all guys drink."

"I don't," Saunders told her.

She glanced at him with surprise. "You're in the Navy and you don't drink!?"

He shook his head no.

"What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing," he almost laughed. "I just don't want to wreck my career with a DWI or bad evaluation or something."

He wondered if his career would be wrecked if he was found with a sixteen year old runaway in the car.

"I was drinking by the time I was ten," Dayna admitted, glancing out the window at the passing scenery again. "Some of the guys my mother was with would try to get me drunk so….." Her voice trailed off.

"Your mother drinks too?" Saunders asked.

"Only all the time," Dayna groaned.

"I'm sorry," Saunders said with sincerity.

"Let me guess, you come from a nice New England family in a nice New England town and everything is peachy-keen honky-dory," she grumbled.

He didn't want to make her feel worse by saying yes. For as lonely and miserable as Saunders was now, he really couldn't complain about his upbringing and family. He lived a fairly normal and sheltered American life – an intact family, an older brother and younger sister, both working parents in the house, rules and expectations to follow, family vacations, a nice middle class home and existence.

He did okay in school although he was shy and had to follow in the wake of his more popular, successful and confident older brother. He played sports but was not a standout and he dated although not a whole lot. His sweetheart was Debbie and they had a storybook high school romance but by the time they graduated it was clear that she was focused on college and not interested in dating a far away Sailor and that was that.

It wasn't until Saunders left the All-American Home town of Hillsboro and his family and got a taste of the real world that he was able to truly appreciate what he enjoyed growing up. Listening to the life stories of some of his shipmates was an eye-opener and as strange as Dayna's unfolding story was he really wasn't all that surprised. He had seen poverty since leaving Hillsboro, he had learned of dysfunction, and he heard horror stories so he really shouldn't have been surprised by anything Dayna had to say but it was still depressing, shocking and weird to have a sixteen year old girl sitting next to him with a lot more life experience than he ever had.

Dayna took the ball cap off her head and a wad of long brown hair fell out, draping down over her shoulders. She shook it out and Saunders couldn't help but notice how sexy she looked, even at sixteen. Maybe that was part of her problem.

"After my father left – or maybe my mother left him – I don't know, things got pretty bad," Dayna revealed. "There was no more base housing for us so we moved around. Mom couldn't keep a job because she was always missing work because of the drinking. She usually ended up with some loser guy. We were in a homeless shelter a couple of times too."

"Wow!" Saunders said.

"I was pretty scared the first time we were in a shelter," Dayna admitted. "It was dark and crowded with families. It was weird. I remember my mother carrying all our stuff in a couple of trash bags. She had sold or lost everything else. I had a doll that I clung too. It was pretty sad. Sitting around on cots all day doing nothing. Wait in long lines to take a shower. I really hated the ladies' room. It had one mirror, a sink and two door-less stalls, so there was no privacy! I felt like a beggar when it came time to eat. If you missed meal time, you didn't eat. There was no TV so we listened to mostly religious radio. I was ashamed and depressed. My mother hated it too because they'd kick us out if they caught her drinking so we bounced around a lot. Sometimes she'd meet some new jerk guy and we'd go with him but usually something would happen to wreck that. He'd be an abusive drunk or a mental case or he'd be hitting on me and the whole cycle would start all over again. I'd get so angry sometimes but I knew there was nothing I could do about it."

Saunders looked at her but didn't say anything.

"I never really had any friends," Dayna continued. "We were always moving. I'd be in a school for a couple of weeks or a couple of months and then – wham – we were moving somewhere again. I hated going to school when we were in a shelter because I didn't want anybody to know where I lived. I learned to never trust anyone and to lie to survive and to always avoid trouble or confrontation. One time a kid knew I was living in a shelter and he told everybody so I beat him up for it. I never felt like a normal kid."

"Sounds like you've had a tough life," Saunders remarked.

"You think?" She said sarcastically. "I never hung out with friends, joined clubs, played sports or became a cheerleader because of the life I lived. I hated my mother for being a drunk who couldn't keep down a job and depended on losers for help. I had already missed so much school and was so far behind that there was no point trying to catch up so I dropped out as soon as I could legally."

"Maybe you could get your GED," Saunders suggested.

"What for?" She grumbled. "Let's face it, I'm going to end up just like my mother."

That was sadness thing she had said yet.

"Not if you decide not to," Saunders beseeched her. "Look, I'm not saying it's going to be easy or you're going to be Cinderella with the glass slipper, but if you work hard and seek out opportunities and find help, you could be okay," he urged. "Some of the best leaders I've met in the Navy came from shit themselves."

"I think my destiny has pretty much been spelled out for me," Dayna responded with defeat in her voice.

"What's your mother doing now?" Saunders asked.

"Same thing she always does," Dayna sighed. "Right now, she's living in some trailer park with some drunk that beats the shit out of her. I couldn't stay because he was always stalking me and voyeurisming me and I didn't feel safe. My mother told me I knew where the door was so I left."

"Geez, Dayna," Saunders sighed.

"Please don't pity me," she said angrily. "I hate that more than anything. Sure, it's tough and being homeless has made me understand how much life sucks but I don't need know-it-alls like you feeling sorry for me. I wasn't lucky enough to have a good family so here I am. I'm dealing with it."

"By taking a ride from a stranger even though you don't know where you're going?"

She crossed her arms across her chest while sulking and staring out the window without saying anything more .

Maybe Saunders should take her back to Hillsboro with him. She could stay in his old room and maybe go back to school or get her GED. His parents could help her and she could get her life in order. Of course, he realized that was just a pipe dream. Dayna sounded bitter, resentful, and defeated and he doubted she'd be interested in his family's 'pity'.

"Where do you think you'll go?" He asked gently after a few quiet miles.

"I don't know," she admitted.

He swallowed hard before he brought himself to say it. "You could come to Hillsboro with me if you wanted."

She glanced at him with a frown. "And do what?"

"What would you want to do?" He asked back.

"I don't know," she admitted.

"You could get a job," he suggested. "Go back to school, maybe."

She rolled her eyes and stared straight ahead. "What kind of house do you have there?" She asked after a while.

"It's a nice house," Saunders told her. "Modern Colonial. Two stories. Four bedrooms. Two baths. A nice yard. Garage. Flower beds."

"What do your parents do?"

"My father's an engineer and my mother is a florist."

Dayna burst out laughing. "You're kidding."

Saunders shook his head no. "My kid sister still lives at home. She's starting at Blue County Community College in the fall."

"Is she nice?" Dayna asked.

"Yeah, she's nice," Saunders replied. "We have a dog too."

"Sounds…" But then Dayna seemed to snap out of whatever she was going to say. "Yeah, right, as if your parents would take in some homeless girl."

"They might," Saunders said positively.

He was going to tell Dayna of the time his parents let him keep a stray dog but he didn't think she'd take that the right way.

"I could call them right now if you wanted," he offered instead, figuring he might as well dare and challenge her to at least consider her options.

"So," she sighed after a few minutes of thoughts. "I'm supposed to be like the guy from The Blind Side. Taken in by some nice family to have my life turned around?"

"There's no guarantees in life, Dayna," Saunders replied. "But you won't know unless you take a chance."

"Let me think about it for a while," she said unconvincingly and Saunders was pretty sure she was blowing him off.

"We have plenty of time," he replied. "There's still about 800 miles to go!"

"Are you driving straight through?" She asked.

"I was going to," he said, glancing at his watch. "But I got a late start because I had to wait for the car to be serviced so now I'm not so sure. Especially with you in the car. I wouldn't want to fall asleep and get you killed or something!"

She laughed. "Yes, that would be tragic."

She dug through her pocketbook bag. "I'm just like my mother," she sighed. "I left everything behind except what I had in here."

Saunders didn't say anything as he let her dig for what she was looking for, which turned out to be a pack of gum. She offered him a piece but he declined.

"Can we listen to the radio?" She asked.

"Sure," he agreed. "Whatever you want."

She spent the next 100 miles seeking channels and she'd change the station whenever a song came on she didn't like. Saunders hated rap but he didn't say anything when she left it on that station for a few songs or miles. Eventually the signal would get weak and she'd flip it to something else.

"God, all there is country and gospel stations," she complained.

"We are in the south," he reasoned.

South Carolina, to be exact as he pulled off the highway for the first time to gas up. It was nearly dinner time now and he asked Dayna if she was hungry.

"I don't have a lot of money," she sighed.

"We wouldn't go to a four star restaurant," he laughed. "I think there's a Burger King over there. It's on me."

"Okay," she agreed.

They went through the drive through and ate on the road as the sun set in the west and Dayna continued to play with the radio stations. She didn't like talk radio or sports radio or oldies stations (Saunders' preferences) and she'd have nothing to do with country stations or religious stations (Saunders was fine with that) but he hated the modern rock stuff and rap that she tended to find and was relieved when she'd stay on easy listening or top 40 stuff for a while.

It was getting dark as they crossed into North Carolina (avoiding the South of the Border tourist trap on the two state lines) and Saunders began debating with himself as to how far he should drive. Maybe Virginia by midnight? Should he really stop and get a room with a sixteen year old girl? Two rooms was a lot of money and that seemed kind of stupid but it was probably more stupid to share a room with a minor.

He was also wondering what his parents would say if he called with the idea of maybe having a homeless dysfunctional girl with a storied past stay with them! He felt like they had a responsibility to do whatever they could for this wayward girl but was any of them really in the position to take on such a burden?

"My parents go to bed by eleven," he said after kicking around the thought in his head for nearly a hundred miles. "Do you want me to call them?"

"We're still a long way off, right?" She asked.

"Of course," he answered. "Especially if we stop for the night."

"We can call them tomorrow then," Dayna replied and Saunders shook his head in agreement.

The more he thought about it, the more hopeful and positive he became about Dayna's presence and the idea of helping her out. Maybe this would be his family's opportunity to pay it forward and to give back for all the good they had experienced in their lives. Maybe helping out a homeless abandoned high school dropout would be the one thing Dayna needed to turn her life around, earn acceptance, return to school, and learn that life could be good if she had the opportunities and people who care about her.

Saunders knew that if only Dayna made the decision that she wasn't going to end up like her mother then she could break her bad habits and learn new positive behaviors. Hillsboro was a pretty good place to make that happen and his family was a pretty good safe place to start. He was pretty sure his parents would be willing to go along with that idea once they met Dayna and heard her story. And he knew Dayna would fall in love with Hillsboro once she saw it.

Saunders stifled a yawn as he drove through the dark. They had just passed Raleigh North Carolina, some 450 miles from Mayport and they had been on the road for more than nine hours. It was after eleven o'clock and Saunders realized he was exhausted but he still wasn't sure if stopping was a good idea.

Dayna had lost interest in flipping through the radio stations and was slumped back in the seat mindlessly staring out at the passing lights in the window. Traffic had been heavy for most of the drive but in the last few hours it thinned out except for the all- night truckers.

"Maybe we should stop for the night," Saunders suggested as he felt his eyelids getting heavier.

"If you want," Dayna said quietly.

Saunders knew he shouldn't. It was not a good idea. He was a lonely, sex-starved Sailor and she was a vulnerable sixteen year old jail bait with who he could easily take advantage of no matter how disciplined he thought he might be. He was still a man with needs and she was a victim who could be easily manipulated. Maybe he should just keep driving until he couldn't drive anymore. Of course, if he fell asleep at the wheel and killed them both driving into a bridge pillar then everybody would be asking what a sixteen year old runaway was doing with him. He didn't want to be considered a child molester or kidnapper in death.

Saunders pulled the car off the next ramp that had indicated lodging and he saw a cheaper non-descript but reasonably presentable motel which he pulled into. He told Dayna to wait in the car, not wanting to be seen publically with the young girl. He got a room with double beds, explaining to the desk clerk that he and his kid sister were driving back from their grandfather's funeral. He had no idea why he made up the lie – it was obvious that the clerk didn't care or believe him – and he nervously waited for the guy to hand him the room key once he ran his credit card. What would he say or do if the clerk asked him how old his 'sister' was?

Saunders returned to the car and drove down the lot to their room at the end of the wing, a first floor accommodation. He grabbed his sea bag from the back seat and Dayna – who didn't have any luggage – followed him into the room.

"If we leave by eight, we should be in Hillsboro in time for dinner," he said as he tossed his sea bag on the bed nearest the window.

"Okay," Dayna agreed. "Can I take a shower?"

"Sure," Saunders said. "Just give me a minute."

He used the facilities and when he came out of the bathroom Dayna was sitting on the other bed watching television. The sink and vanity was in the room so Saunders put his shaving kit there while Dayna excused herself, went into the bathroom, and closed the door behind her.

Once he heard the shower water running, Saunders changed into a tee shirt and some jogging shorts and lay down on his bed to relax and watch a few minutes of television. He was still nervous and jumpy, convinced that this had been a bad idea. What in the hell was he doing in a motel room out in the middle of nowhere with a sixteen year old runaway? Was he crazy? Perverted? Foolish? Stupid? Insane?

The bathroom door opened and Dayna stepped out wrapped in a towel.

'Oh God,' Saunders thought to himself. 'Here we go'.

She stood with her back to him using his comb to brush her long wet hair out. She was being so physical in the process that she managed (or was it purposefully?) to shake and loosen the towel enough so that it unwrapped and fell to the floor. Saunders pretended not to notice but when Dayna made no effort to re-cover herself, standing in front of the mirror brushing her hair out in a suddenly sexy fashion, the Sailor had to look. Her small backside was white and her small breasts in the mirror perkily stood out.

Dayna must have sensed him looking at her because she smiled into the mirror as she noticed him checking her out.

"Do you like what you see?" She teased.

"I shouldn't be seeing," Saunders replied, finally looking away. "Could you please cover yourself up?"

Dayna laughed. "Come on, Navy boy, isn't this your ultimate fantasy?"

"You're sixteen," he reminded her.

"I've been having sex since I was twelve," she said with a shrug. "That's when I was first raped."

"Jesus, Dayna," Saunders sighed. "Maybe you shouldn't be telling me this."

"I'm just saying I'm not sweet sixteen or nothin' like that," she pointed out as she continued to brush out her hair, naked.

Saunder's heart was beating through his chest. He half expected the door to fly open with twenty-five cops bulging in to arrest him for illegal perversion.

"Well?" She teased some more when Saunders didn't say anything.

"You're still just a kid," he finally sighed, knowing how lonely and alone he felt.

Her face reddened with anger. "I'm sixteen, you bastard," she yelled. "I've seen more than you ever will, god damn it, so don't patronize me."

"I wasn't patronizing you," Saunders said calmly. "I'm just saying I'm not going to jail."

"None of those sick a-holes who raped me ever went to jail," Dayna said bitterly. "They should have," Saunders replied.

"Look, I'm not a kid," she insisted.

"You are in the eyes of the law," He replied.

She turned to face him finally and he got a view of her frontal nudity, a neatly trimmed bush barely covering her young womanhood.

"I'm not going to tell anybody," she said.

"Could you please put the towel back on?" Saunders asked.

"What's the matter, don't you like these?" She pointed to her breasts.

"Aren't you in the least bit embarrassed?" Saunders asked, although he couldn't not look at her.

"Nope," she laughed. "But I can see you are!"

"I am," he admitted.

"Why?" She asked with interest.

"Because…."

"You want me," she guessed.

"But I can't have you," he replied.

"Why not?" She pouted.

"Your age."

"Pretend I'm eighteen."

"Still to young," he sighed.

"Then twenty then," she groaned.

"I can't."

"Are you gay or something?" She frowned.

"No, I'm not gay," he said with annoyance.

"Then prove it then," she challenged.

"Dayna, you're being childish."

"I don't like being rejected," she complained.

"I'm not rejecting you."

"Nobody will ever know, Navy guy," she whispered.

"You're going to meet my family tomorrow."

"Don't worry, I won't tell them," she smirked.

"Why are you so interested?" He asked.

She rolled her eyes and finally picked up the towel, wrapping it around herself. "Do you know how awful it is being with losers and drunks and abusers and creeps?" She sighed. "Rapists and molesters and perverts who are trying to do me when they're sleeping with my mother?"

"You don't need to be with one more guy," Saunders told her.

"I want to be with a normal guy," she practically sobbed. "A guy from a good family who lives in a nice house in a pretty town. Who doesn't take advantage of girls and respects them. I want to feel wanted and loved and hugged and normal for a change."

The tears rolled down her cheeks and Saunders stood from the bed and slowly approached her. He leaned in and kissed her gently. "Thanks," he said with sincerity. "But I'm not the guy for you."

He started to pull back but she grabbed him and kissed him, refusing to let him go. She wrapped her arms around his waist and stuck her tongue down his throat.

"You got me all wet down there," she giggled. "And I can feel your bulge so don't be telling me I'm just some kid now."

"This is so wrong," Saunders said, pulling away from her.

"I've done plenty of wrong in my life," Dayna told him.

"I haven't," Saunders confessed.

"Maybe it's time you started," she said, pulling the towel off to reveal her

body again.

She leaned in and kissed him then took him by the hand and led him to the bed. She fell on it and then pulled him down beside her. "You're still dressed," she giggled. "You haven't done anything wrong…yet!"

"It's wrong to be on a bed with a naked sixteen year old girl," he groaned.

"Who says?" She challenged.

"Society," he replied.

"You think too much," she said, taking his hand and placing it on her small but round and firm breast. "Does this really feel wrong?"

The temptation was too great for Saunders. He spent his entire Navy enlistment avoiding trouble, doing the right thing, following rules and regulations, good order and discipline, avoiding drink and scandal but now, lying next to a naked Dayna and feeling her lovely soft breast he couldn't stop himself from caressing both of them. He pinched and tugged on both her nipples and Dayna smiled in reply, tilting her head back and purring.

Saunders knew he should stop but he found himself placing his mouth on her breasts, sucking and tasting until he slowly moved down to her stomach. It was only when Dayna tried to slide his shorts and underpants down that he realized he was in the danger zone.

He dropped his hand down to stop her but it was to late. His penis had flapped out and Dayna giggled at its sight. Now Saunders was really nervous knowing he was going to jail. He started to roll away from her but Dayna wrapped her arms around his back and pulled him back into her.

"It's okay," she insisted. "I want this."

But as desperate and lonely as he was, Saunders knew he couldn't do this. He forcefully broke from her clutch and started to get off the bed but she reached out and grabbed him by the back of his shorts that were already half way down his ass and she pulled him back onto the bed with all her might.

He fell flat on his back on the bed with his penis standing straight up like a telephone pole. Dayna leaned over him, putting one arm across his chest/neck as if in a neck hold while she touched his penis with her free hand, exploring it for just a moment before he used all his might to break free from her.

"This is really wrong," Saunders groaned.

"I don't care," she said bluntly.

"I'm going to jail," he stated.

"Don't be stupid," she frowned.

Saunders leapt from the bed and pulling his shorts back up.

"You worry too much," she protested as she fell back on the bed and purposefully spread her legs for him to see. "Can't you just enjoy yourself?"

"I feel too guilty," he admitted, stepping further away from the bed.

"You're the first guy I've ever met with any morals," she said, sounding impressed. "Please let me help you forget them for just one night. You'll really feel better."

"But it's wrong," he told her.

"So what?" She asked with a shrug. "I've done this a lot." It sounded like she was bragging. "I know guys like it."

"Not like this," Saunders groaned.

"Like what?" She frowned.

"I'm taking advantage of you."

"No you're not. I think it's pretty obvious I'm taking advantage of you!"

"You're underage."

"I'm consenting. I'm sober. I have all my wits. I want to do this for Christ sakes."

"I'm breaking the law," he told her. "Statutory rape."

"I'm fine with it," she insisted.

"You're not the one going to jail."

"Oh, hush," she said with annoyance.

Saunders knew that he had crossed the line. Even if he didn't go to jail he was certainly going to hell. He was the older person in the room and he needed to take charge and prevent anything illegal, immoral, and just plain wrong from happening. The fact that Dayna was lying prone stark naked in front of him was not a good situation. "Oh God, I'm such a bastard," he groaned.

"There hasn't been any penetration," Dayna pointed out. "So, technically, you haven't violated me…yet." She laughed, amused by the situation.

"This isn't funny at all, you know," he protested.

"I think its hilarious how paranoid and uptight you are," Dayna replied. "I've never been with any guy who's acted like this before."

"Maybe you've been with the wrong guys," Saunders muttered.

"Without a doubt," she agreed. "But can't we have some fun?"

He knew he couldn't give up resisting her (and himself). He couldn't remember the last time he had actual sex – a year ago, with some girl outside a Puerto Rico bar during a port visit maybe, so he was certainly ready to have sex again and it was torture standing at the end of the bed looking at a naked Dayna who was ready, able, and willing, but he knew he couldn't.

"Well?" Dayna wanted to know as she lay on her back, her legs spread.

"I can't," Saunders sighed as he turned away.

"You son of a bitch rat bastard," she screamed, jumping from the bed and running naked into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Saunders sighed with defeat, feeling terrible for hurting her feelings but knowing he had done the right thing.

"Dayna," he said calmly, stepping to the door. "Please come out. I'm sorry about all of this."

"Just leave me alone!" She screamed.

"I'm such a terrible person," he sighed.

"You got that right!" She seethed. "Loser!"

"I don't want to go to jail, Dayna," he told her. "Can't you understand that?"

"No, you faggot," she barked.

"Listen, I think you're wonderful and beautiful and desirable and believe me I want you but this just isn't right."

"Drop dead, cocksucker," she bellowed through the locked bathroom door.

"You know, some day you'll thank me for this," he said with resignation, giving up on his attempt to sooth her.

"Yeah, right," she grumbled.

"You don't have to sleep with every guy you like just to get their approval," Saunders said.

"Just shut up and leave me alone, creep."

Saunders left the door went to the bed, turned out the lights, climbed under the covers and tried to go to sleep. He knew Dayna wouldn't stay in the bathroom all night. He didn't know how much time went by – he was dozing when the bathroom door finally opened and she stepped into the room. Saunders assumed she was going to go to the other bed so he was surprised when she slipped into the bed with him, although she kept her back to him. Her ass cheeks rubbed against his butt and he could tell she was naked, thus further torturing and tempting him.

"Good night," he whispered.

"I hate your guts," she said bitterly.

"That's okay," he told her. "I still like you."

He wasn't sure but it sounded light she was softly crying.

"You're going to really like Hillsboro," he told her.

"I am?" She whispered.

"It's a nice place," he smiled. "And my family are good people. They'll take care of you."

"Can't I come back to Mayport with you?" She asked.

"I'm on a ship, Dayna," he told her. "But if you wait for me I'll come back," he promised.

"To Hillsboro?"

"Yes," he said. "Home. It's less than a year now."

"You'd really come back for me?" She asked with disbelief.

"Of course," he replied.

She sighed. "It sounds wonderful," she said quietly. "Like a dream come true."

"It does, doesn't it?" Saunders smiled.

"Thank you for giving it to me," she whispered. "It really sounds…nice."

"You're welcome," he said.

Could it really be? Did she really have a chance? Did they really have a chance? Had Saunders found a new romance in the form of a sixteen year old runaway? Instead of going to jail and hell, was he going to find love? Saunders smiled at the possibilities as he drifted off to sleep.

### ### ###

Dayna wasn't in the bed when Saunders woke in the morning and he assumed she was in the bathroom. He lay in the bed with a smile on his face. It had been a long time since he felt this hopeful – since the days with his high school sweetheart Debbie, to be honest.

Several minutes passed but Saunders didn't hear any noise or activity from the bathroom. No flush of the toilet or running of the shower.

"Dayna?" He called.

No answer.

He slipped from the bed and went around the corner of the wall. The bathroom door was open and the room was empty.

"Dayna?"

Saunders glanced around the room and noticed his wallet on the bedside table but no car keys. He opened the wallet and saw that over three hundred dollars in cash was gone, but his credit cards were still there. He sighed and went to the window, glancing out to see that his car was not where he had parked it the night before.

Maybe she went for breakfast!?

Saunders nervously dressed wondering what in the hell he was going to do – what he should do. He had to call the cops and tell them the car was stolen but how could he tell them who stole it? Would she accuse him of statutory rape if they caught her with the car and she was still in it?

He sat on the edge of the bed and ran his hand through his hair, feeling more hurt than betrayed. How long ago did she leave? How far could she have gone? Would she dump the car when she felt she was a safe distance away? Why did she take off? Was Hillsboro that scary for her? Did she really hate him because of what didn't happen last night? Didn't his example and message mean anything to her?

God, what a fool he had been. Getting involved with a sixteen year old runaway!? He tried to do the right thing and help her out and now he was abandoned in a nameless motel outside of Raleigh North Carolina with no money or car. He had given her a ride but it looked like she had taken him for a ride.

Saunder's eye caught sight of something sitting on the dresser that housed the television. It was Dayna's ball cap. Saunders got up and went to it, picking it up and smelling it, smelling her.

"Goodbye, Dayna," he sighed, shoving the ball cap into his sea bag before picking up the room phone and dialing the front desk.

"Could you call the Police for me?" He asked with a sigh. "I think my car's been stolen."