Second Chance

By: Natalie Ann
Prologue



Eighteen tomorrow. Her eighteenth birthday. Freedom. Or so she’d always thought…even hoped. Only it wasn’t to be.

She needed to get away.

Away from this house and this godforsaken city. Away from everything that was holding her back, suffocating her…threatening her.

Dreams of going away to college were gone. She was smart, but not smart enough for a full scholarship, which was the only way she could leave.

Her mother wouldn’t co-sign any loans for her. No, that was wrong; her mother couldn’t co-sign any loans for her.

Mallory could only go where her stepfather was willing to send her. And that meant the community college close to home. Still living at home.

She was stuck.

Sitting down on the bench in the backyard, she looked up at the moon, pondering her next move. She couldn’t stay here after tomorrow. If she did, she knew what would happen and she’d rather die than go through that.

How could she leave, though? Where would she go? She didn’t have any money, so she didn’t have a way out. Desperation was a horrible feeling.

She heard a rustling to the right and turned her head, but didn’t see anyone.

Her nose was running now. She hadn’t even been aware she was crying, but she was. There was no holding back the tears anymore. She had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go.

“Mallory?” she heard whispered, and looked back to the right, recognizing the voice. “Go pack your bags.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I can help you, but time is limited. I can get you away. I can take you from here and you’ll be safe. I promise.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

No one knew what was going on in her life. No one. She’d never uttered a word.

“We can stand here and argue, or you can run to your room and take everything you can stuff in a bag. I’ll provide the rest. Your choice.”

Mallory gulped. There was no choice, she knew that. Run or stay. Staying was a worse fate than running, so she had nothing to lose. “When?”

“Tonight. Go to your room, pack what you think you need, and meet me back here at midnight.”

“Midnight?”

“You know why it has to be midnight. For your protection and mine.”

She did know why. She’d be eighteen, not a minor anymore. Nodding her head, she said, “I’ll be here.”

She had to be. It was her only way out.





I’ll Try





Twelve years later



Nick pulled out his suitcase and started to throw clothes at random into it, ignoring his younger sister sitting on his bed. “You don’t need to do this, Nick.”

“I do. It’s best for everyone if I just leave town for a while.”

“How long is a while?” Rene asked, reaching into his suitcase and folding the clothes he was tossing in.

“I don’t know—does it matter?”

He opened another drawer and grabbed some shorts without looking, then tossed them toward the bed, where they half landed in the suitcase, half on the floor.

Rene pushed her glasses up on her nose, then reached over and picked up his shorts. “I guess not. Where are you going?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“You don’t need to leave, Nick,” she said, trying to convince him not to, but it wasn’t going to work.

His mind was made up and his sister of all people should know when Nick had his mind made up, nothing would ever change it. Stubborn was a word she’d often used when describing him.

“You know better than that. A few weeks, maybe a month and things will settle down. It’s better for me to not be seen.”

“No one hates you.”

“Again, you know better than that,” he said softly.

He walked into his bathroom and started grabbing products haphazardly in there, too. He’d buy the rest of what he needed. It didn’t matter at this point.

“It’s not like you left her at the altar.”

“Close enough.”

Calling the wedding off a week before was just as bad—he knew that. But he couldn’t go through with it…he couldn’t force himself to marry Kendra. She deserved better than what he could give her.

“Nick,” Rene said, standing up and marching toward him, then stopping. She barely reached his shoulders but still gripped them tight with her small hands. She’d gotten her tiny build from their grandmother. “You can’t run from this.”

“I’m not running. I’m giving Kendra time to adjust without having to see me. It’s the least I can do.”

“So you’re leaving for Kendra’s sake?”

For both of us, but he didn’t say that. Instead he just shrugged and took a step away. “I appreciate the concern, but I need to do this.”

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