Texas Two Step
by Jody Vitek
One phone call sends Chad Rogers back to the one place he's been avoiding—home. Being at his mother's side after she is shot, he faces the younger brother who tormented him during childhood and his ex-lover, Chloe Atwood.
Chloe is engaged to a family friend. Chad steps back into her world, spinning it off its axis. She sees him in a new light this time around, leaving her to question if they can have a future together.
Release Date: November 6, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Chloe Atwood parked her Mustang convertible in the designated lot. Visits to The Arms of Safety Women’s Shelter were a quarterly thing for her. With the upcoming fundraiser, the largest money maker for the shelter, her visits were now bi-weekly. The anonymity of the home’s location was important. It wasn’t something the shelter wanted known for the safety of the women and children. The area wasn’t the best Dallas had to offer, but the neighborhood was safe and what the organization could afford with the non-profit budget.
The old brick building had a business appearance with apartments upstairs. Curtains covered the front windows. The only marking was the house number above the door. No one would guess this to be a shelter, she thought.
The small fenced-in yard was empty. The early August Texas heat and humidity was at its worst today. Temps were in the high nineties with no breeze for relief. She sat in her car with the air-conditioning gently blowing and looked at the time on her phone. Four o’clock. She’d be here for maybe ten minutes and be home by five-thirty depending on the traffic. That’s if it was a good day with no accidents or unexpected road construction.
She hit speed dial and waited for her fiancé to answer.
“Atwood Foundation, Andrew Lockhart.”
“Hi, Honey. Thank you again for the beautiful flowers.” He’d sent her a dozen long-stemmed red roses that arrived at the office that morning.
“You make me happy, and you deserve them.”
“They made my day.” She smiled at the remembered rose scent that filled her office. “I was calling to let you know I’m at the shelter and then going home. I won’t be here long, just dropping off Linda’s tickets for the fundraiser.”
“Why couldn’t someone else from the office take care of that? You have people who work for you. Use them,” he stated irritably.
“Andrew, she’s a friend. I like to see her every once and awhile. It won’t kill me to be here for a few minutes. Plus, it’s good for the Director of Development to make an appearance once in a while. I’ll call when I get home. I love you.”
“Back at you. Bye.”
Chloe slid her cell phone in her purse, picked up the envelope containing the tickets for Linda and stepped from the car. She moseyed to the front and up the brick steps, pulled the heavy metal door open and came to a sitting room. Thank God for air conditioning, she thought. Through another door, she entered the confines of the shelter. Stairs to the right led to the living quarters on the upper floors and to the left a small office for staff and volunteers. A large space beyond, littered with toys and games, was the designated play area for the children. In the far back of the first floor were the shared kitchen and dining room, along with bathrooms.
“Hi, Linda.” Chloe raised her voice to be heard over the children playing and women talking in the kitchen.
She waved to Linda Morris, the center’s director. Her dark hair with heavy streaks of grey was pulled into a low bun. Once a victim herself, Linda had recovered at the same shelter. Now she worked miracles with the women and their children.
“Chloe, what brings you here?” Linda approached her from the kitchen where several women prepared their dinner.
The smell of chicken wafted through the large area, followed by sizzles and pops as it fried in a pan. Chloe’s stomach growled.
“I stopped by to deliver your tickets for Saturday evening’s fundraiser. You’ll be there, right?” Chloe handed over the envelope.
“Of course! My dress from last year is hanging in the closet. Hope the darn thing fits.” Linda’s hands ran over her tiny waist to rest on her hips.
“You haven’t gained an ounce of weight since last year.” Chloe shook her head with an indulgent smile. “I’m sure it will fit.”
“I don’t have anyone to bring. My daughters and sons are too busy with the grandkids and other activities. And one son still lives in Florida.” Linda wrapped her arm around Chloe’s waist.
“I know, but something could change.” She bent her head to rest on the top of Linda’s and squeezed her in an embrace. “I also stopped to let you know the Winlets lost a large donation from one of their lead sponsors. They wanted me to see if anyone had any connections that could possibly contribute an item for the auction or even multiple items to help make up the loss.”
“I’ll mention it to everyone working tonight and send an email. When does the committee need to know?” Together they navigated their way amid the children scattered about the play area.
“The sooner the better but even up to the day of the event will work.”
In the small office area, Linda grasped a slip of paper and scribbled notes. “I know this is the Winlets’ Fundraiser, but who should donors contact if they want to make a donation? The Winlets or the committee?” She sat on the desk chair.
“The committee. Do you have the contact information?” Chloe glanced around the tidy office. The flyer for the fundraiser was pinned on the information board. “Oh, you have it right here. Perfect.” After a brief moment of silence, she asked, “How are things here at the shelter? I know funds are getting a little tight, but I’m working on several grants. I’m hoping to hear on one within the month.”
“We’re fine, Chloe. The women and children are so grateful for what the organization can offer them.”
“You’re so understanding and supportive. Take care, and I’ll see you Saturday then.” Chloe walked into the sitting room and pulled sunglasses from inside her purse.
As she stepped into the bright sunlight, a man wearing a Dallas Cowboys leather jacket neared. A jacket in this heat? And the piercings. She’d never understand people who put gauges in their ears to leave a gaping hole. When he approached the bottom step, she stepped down into the center of the stairs to block his entrance. He didn’t belong there.
“Can I help you?” she asked politely, something instilled in her brain at a young age.
“Move, lady!” He spoke with defiance.
“I think you have the wrong building.” Although her tone was authoritative, a sudden stab of anxiety hit her gut.
Fingers spread wide, his hands grabbed her shoulders. “I said move!” He shoved Chloe down onto the step as he sprinted into the building.
A sickening wave of terror welled up from her belly. Her breath quickened as she sat where he forced her on the step. Her eyes darted around for help, but she saw no one. She frantically stood and rushed back inside. She passed through the second door into the play area. Children were lying on the floor crying with their mother’s trying to comfort them.
The guy’s nostrils flared as he stalked toward Chloe. He pulled a small woman by the arm in a tight grasp.
“No, no. Please, Tony, don’t do this!” The women wiggled in his hold.
“Bitch, I told ya you’d never get away from me. Quit your crying.” He yanked her arm, and she cried out in pain.
Chloe stood paralyzed.
He put his hand in his coat pocket. “Lady, I told ya to move.” He pulled a gun from the coat.
“Chloe, get out of his way!” Linda yelled from somewhere close by.
She couldn’t move. Her pulse roared in her ears, and her breathing came quickly. Caught in a nightmare, Chloe was tackled to the floor as gun shots rang out twice. Her breath rushed out of her lungs.