A Chance Encounter
2 years ago.
“Bye, Lauren!” Tilda shrieked as her boyfriend pulled her on top of him in the taxi. They both laughed and tried to situate themselves in their seats, a task made harder by the amount of alcohol they had consumed. “Bye,” I giggled, stepping forward to close the door for them. I waved as I watched the taxi drive away, well aware that the light of the night left with Tilda. Now that I was alone, the weight of the week rested squarely on my shoulders.
Turning around, I spared a glance at the bustling bar before I started walking in the direction of my apartment. Almost tripping over an abandoned cup on the sidewalk, I stopped to steady myself. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I’m only 10 steps from the bar and I’m already tripping.’ A little less than a block later I knew that I wasn’t ready to sit at home alone with my thoughts. Why should my night end because Tilda left?
I couldn’t rely on her to have a life. I needed one of my own. Deciding I would stay out, I started scanning the street for a bar. Flashing lights and music spilled out of the open door to a small club up ahead. This was my chance.
A line had formed to the right of the door, and the bouncer was selecting who he wanted to let in. Taking off my blazer, I stood in line hoping that my white sleeveless top and black skirt were enough to get me in. The women in line in front of me were all wearing body-tight dresses, stilettos, and bold lipstick. Each looked fierce and insanely confident in their ability to gain admittance.
I nervously smoothed my hands over my skirt. It flowed out softly and fell just above the knee. I looked more like a rouge travel agent or a librarian trying to let loose than a young lady ready for the club. When my turn in line came, the doorman looked me over. Showing him my I.D., I tried not to fidget under his judgmental gaze. Finally, he gave me a stiff smile, moved aside, and let me through.
Entering the club, I had to walk through a small dark hallway to make it to the dance floor. Techno music pulsed through the space, and the appearance of the strobe lights and the people dancing almost made it look like the club was bouncing along with all the sweaty bodies on the floor. A bar ran across the back wall of the room and a few people leaned against it, drinking and talking. I decided to sit down and observe for a moment. I’d never been to a club by myself, and although the music was a welcome distraction, I was already wondering what I was doing there.
It wasn’t long after I leaned against the bar when a lean man in jeans and a tight black shirt came to stand next to me. He had spiked blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He moved closer and lowered his head to my ear. “Can I get you a drink?” he asked, his lips so close to my ear that I could feel his breath against my neck. Normally, I would have said no.
I usually only accepted drinks from men I had been talking to for a while, but tonight I didn’t want to be shy and overly cautious. Channeling Tilda, I flipped my hair over my shoulder and whispered my drink order into his ear. Feeling like I’d successfully accomplished something daring and sexy I bit my lip as it spread into a slow smile and lowered my eyes to the bar. When I looked up, I realized the man was watching me intently. Something about his gaze put me on edge.
He smiled too and knocked on the bar to get the bartender’s attention. Ordering our drinks, he leaned back into me. “I’m Dane.” Reaching out his hand, I timidly took it. “Lauren,” I responded.
The bartender finished making our drinks, and Dane gestured to the far end of the bar, the spot farthest from the speakers. I followed him, grateful for a little relief from the thumping music. Once settled into our seats and after a few gulps of our drinks Dane asked, “Is it your first time here?” Swallowing my drink, I smiled. “Yeah, how about you?”
“I’ve been here a few times; the place is small but I consider it a hidden gem,” he smiled. “A gem huh?” I looked around trying to see what Dane saw in the place. “It doesn’t look like much from out here, but in the back, there are private rooms. Sometimes the managers use the rooms to host contests and themed parties,” he explained.
“That sounds really cool!” I answered. He motioned to the small door on the wall beside us. “It would probably be easier to talk in one of the rooms, maybe you can grab your friends and we can hang out in there for a while,” he suggested. Looking down at my drink, I stirred it with my straw. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea, and I was a bit uncomfortable telling him I was alone.
Looking up, I found his eyes on me once more. I shivered, feeling bare under his gaze. His eyes met mine and I was momentarily lost. Suddenly feeling a lot more comfortable I said, “It’s just me tonight.” Dane finished his drink, so I downed the rest of mine.
He smiled, offering me his hand as he stood up. “It’s just US tonight,” he corrected. Tucking my hair behind my ear, I looked at his hand hesitantly. Looking back up at his face, he smiled reassuringly, and something in the way his eyes sparkled melted my fear away. Taking his hand, I followed him through the door and into a dimly lit hallway.
Dane led me down the hall and to a door on the left, his hand possessively wrapped over mine. He opened the door, released my hand, and gestured for me to walk in first. Was it too late to leave? I was having second thoughts about being here alone with him. He placed his hand on the small of my back and gently guided me into the room.
The room was sparse with its cement floors, light gray walls, and beige furniture. “You look nervous,” Dane said as his hand wrapped around my elbow, making me jump. “I’ve just met you,” I stated, turning to look at him. “How will you get to know me better if we can’t talk?” he asked, leading me to the couch. His hand slid from my elbow to my wrist as he sat down.
“Come sit,” his eyes met mine and I automatically plopped down beside him. That was odd. “I would’ve never known this was back here,” I said, looking towards the door. The comfort I felt earlier had been replaced with an eerie feeling. Now that I was thinking more clearly, I couldn’t understand why I’d agreed to come here.
“The rooms are closed off most of the time unless there is an event. Regulars know that this room is usually kept unlocked though,” he answered. “Hmmmmmm,” I replied, knowing the conversation was going nowhere. If Tilda was here, she would know exactly what to say to keep the conversation going. If Tilda was here, I wouldn’t be because she would’ve already said something by now. I wished I could be as outspoken as she was.
With her gone, I was reminded of what I really was. Cautious, insecure, and always overthinking.
Looking back up at Dane I made my best attempt at a conversation. “So what do you do for wo- . . .” Smirking, he pulled me in for a kiss. Stunned, I pushed myself away from him. He laughed, as he placed a hand behind my head and forced me to look up at him.
His eyes locked on mine, and I raised my hand to slap him but I froze. My hand stopped in mid-air. Chuckling, he stroked my cheek and with a voice that was both comforting and seductive said, “You don’t want to do that, you want to be here with me. Tonight, you’re brave and you don’t have to be afraid to let yourself have what you want.” My hand slowly made its way back to my side.
I did want this right? I didn’t want to be alone tonight, and when Dane first asked me if I wanted a drink, I’d wanted to be confident and brave like Tilda. “There you go,” he whispered in my ear. He pulled back just far enough to claim my lips. He kissed me softly at first as if he was testing me. When he saw that I was compliant his touch became rough and hungry.
Soon I was breathless, and my entire being was being consumed by need. His need. I stopped the kiss and started pulling away.
“Lauren,” the command stopped me. His piercing blue eyes were burning a hole through me. “This is what you want, and I am going to make you feel better than you can imagine. Stop fighting me and let yourself have this.”
My eyes drooped shut as he came closer and kissed me again. Soon his lips traveled from my jawbone to my ear. His kisses felt like everything I’d ever wanted. This is where I should be. ‘No,’ a little voice sang, somehow free from the cage she had been trapped in.
Alarm bells blared through my skull. I was in danger.
‘I don’t want this, I need to leave, NOW.’ His lips moved from my ear to my neck. His hands started caressing the top of my collarbone and shoulder. ‘Please,’ the still quiet voice pleaded with me. ‘I need to move; I have to get away.’
I tried to stop but my body wasn’t responding. My heart was about to beat out of my chest and I wasn’t sure if it was his kisses or my newfound fear that was driving it faster as his lips found the nape of my neck. His lips found a sensitive spot and I gasped as something sharp nipped me. That little nip was enough to break the trance I was under.
Finally, my eyes opened.
I felt like I was waking up. I didn’t want to be there. Danes’ hands moved from where they had been tangled in my hair, and at that moment, I jumped up and backed away from the couch. Dane stared at my empty seat dumbfounded, before looking up at me. His eyes had taken on a slightly red tinge, and his face looked feral and almost inhuman to me.
His eyes followed my every movement like a hunter stalking its prey, and the moment he smiled I ran. Pushing open the door and running down the hall I could hear him behind me, laughing. Laughing? I couldn’t believe it. “Run fast little rabbit. Run!” He shouted down the hall at me.
Slamming into the door, I jumped into the main room of the club, not caring that the people at the bar were looking at me as if I were crazy. As I ran through the dance floor, the strobe lights made me dizzy, and I crashed into people as I fought to escape. Finally, I could see the main entrance. Maneuvering around a couple, I sprinted down the short hallway and leaped for the exit. I ran out the door and down the street, only slowing to collect my reward; a lungful of the fresh night air.
Looking over my shoulder, all I saw was a dark and empty street. I hadn’t seen Dane pursue me so maybe he’d let me go. A sudden breeze left me shivering and with a backward glance towards the club, I realized I’d left my blazer behind on the couch. Figuring this little break was enough to catch my breath, I picked up speed and began jogging for home.
A block later I realized I was wrong. My lungs were burning and it became apparent that I wasn’t in the shape I thought I was in. My stomach was churning, and the world was slightly off balance. My feet were dying in the high heels I’d worn, and I briefly thought about taking them off. I shrugged off the idea, but after taking a few steps, I realized these heels HAD to come off.
Bending down to take off my right heel, I almost lost my balance. I laughed at myself. If this night had proved anything, it was that I was clearly filled with grace and good decisions. I continued to laugh at my own sarcastic thought. My laugh was cut short, however, by a low growl that came from the street behind me.
The sound scared me and this time I DID lose my balance. I fell sideways onto the cement. Whipping my head and body around to pinpoint the origin of the noise, I felt my lungs constrict when my eyes landed on Dane, waiting under a streetlight. He gave me a wicked smile and continued down the sidewalk towards me. What was this guy’s deal?
“Hello again little rabbit,” he smiled, clearly reveling in the sight of my terror. His smile pissed me off. If ever there was a time for me to stand up for myself it was now. Pushing myself off the cement, my hands balled into fists at my side. “Little rabbit?” I rolled my eyes. “What are we five?”
Dane stopped; eyes narrowed as he saw the change in my demeanor. “I’m sorry if you feel like I’ve led you on, but this isn’t right. I’m not into it, okay? Leave me alone.” Dane moved closer. “Or what?” he sneered. “I’ll call the cops,” I threatened.
Pulling out my phone from my purse, I unlocked it and started punching in the numbers. Dane laughed hysterically, and my brows pulled together in confusion. I failed to see how me calling the cops on his creepy ass was funny. “Lauren,” he gasped my name like he had been starved for air.
“We both know you aren’t going to do that. I’m enjoying this new side of you though,” he said, moving closer. “When I saw you in the club by yourself, you looked so unsure. You practically jumped out of your skin when I talked to you,” he continued. Jumped out of my skin? I felt like that was an exaggeration.
Taking a step backward I ignored his jibe. “What makes you think I won’t call the cops?” I asked. “Because,” he smiled, taking another small step. “You won’t have time.” Suddenly he sprinted towards me, closing the gap between us in seconds.
He knocked the phone out of my hand, and I screamed and backed myself closer to the brick building behind me. My phone hit the ground, and Dane kicked it down the sidewalk. He stepped closer and all I could think to do was back up, my bare shoulders scraping against the bricks. I wanted to be as far from him as I could be.
This guy was obviously unstable. “Well now little rabbit, any other bright ideas?” he laughed. I racked my brain, but he already knew I would come up with nothing. As he got closer, I silently promised myself that I would scream and fight as loud and as hard as I could.
Grabbing my shoulders, he shoved me back into the brick, my head cracking into the wall on impact. His body crashed down on mine and I was smashed between him and the wall. My attempts at fighting him off were pathetic and he laughed as I tried to squirm out of his hold. “Well, it’s been fun little rabbit,” he whispered in my ear. “Thank you for an interesting night,” he continued, shoving my head to one side and forcing my shoulder down, leaving my neck exposed to him.
What did he want from me? I closed my eyes as he bent down, his lips brushing against my neck. He grunted and his weight was suddenly lifted off of me as he was pulled backward. A vicious growl cut through the now silent night, and I cowered against the wall, too scared to move. Opening my eyes, I noticed that a man, standing with his back to me was speaking to Dane, who was now in the gutter five feet away from me.
“Leave,” I heard him say firmly. Dane stood up, spitting on the ground in front of him. He looked pissed as he stared at me and began walking away. “See you later,” he spat at me, making goosebumps form on my arms. I watched Dane leave, not fully believing that he was actually going and that someone had saved me.
Pushing myself off the wall, I stared at my saviors back. What should I say? How do I thank him? The man turned and looked at me. My mind went blank when his eyes met mine.
He had soft brown hair that was tousled from the fight and his eyes were a light green. He was gorgeous, athletically built without being too muscular, he was also glaring. At me. ‘I’m staring’, I realized as I looked down towards my shoes embarrassed.
He was looking at me as if I was some dumb, drunk hussy that had gotten herself into a situation that she couldn’t handle. Like I had followed Dane out of that bar. The power of his glare left me feeling scolded, like some silly schoolgirl who had erred in front of the class. “Be more careful next time, okay?” he said, sounding like the words themselves exhausted him. My hands balled into fists, and my head shot up.
I returned his glare with a stare of my own. He slowly raised an eyebrow at me, trying to figure out what I was going to do. I didn’t even know. I had no idea how I had gotten so angry so quickly. Was I merely projecting my anger at myself at him?
“Next time? Do you think I left with him? Do you think I go out bar hopping and pick up random, douchey guys?” His eyes widened slightly with what was either surprise or amusement. “I don’t know what to think, how could I? I don’t know you. All I know is that I turned the corner and that guy was all over you and you were fighting him. He was talking with you like he knew you so I thought maybe it was a date gone south,” he explained.
He didn’t know me. I felt so stupid, I should’ve just thanked him. “It was more like a drink gone south,” I muttered. “I’m sorry, I really am grateful that you helped me. I left him back at the club and I never thought he would follow me. I should’ve been more careful,” I said.
He nodded and his expression softened a little. “Have you been drinking?” he asked. “I can get you a cab.” I rubbed the sore spot on the back of my head, as I answered, “No need. Thanks for everything, but I’m going to walk home from here.”
I stomped off in the direction of home, well aware that he was behind me, staring at me as I bent down to pick up my phone. Ugh. What was wrong with me? No wonder he thought I was drunk. Standing up, I took a deep breath and turned around.
“I’m sorry, can I get you a cup of coffee or something?” I asked. The guy laughed and shook his head as he turned to leave. “Wait! Please!” I yelled calling him back as I ran after him. I had closed the gap between us quickly, and I’m not sure why, but something in me didn’t want to see him go. Maybe I was in shock? Maybe I was too scared to be by myself after the attack?
Whatever it was, it had control of me now. I reached out and grabbed his hand. His body visibly stiffened and he slowly turned towards me. Looking him in the eye I said “I’m sorry that I yelled at you. Please let me do something to thank you. A drink, a meal, something. I promise you will never see me again after that. Just give me the chance to repay you for what you’ve done for me.”
My words seemed to shock him. When he looked at me now, his green eyes seemed to be appraising me. He really was handsome when he wasn’t so judgmental-looking. “Fine, one cup of coffee. I’m Mathias by the way.”
“Lauren.” I introduced myself with a smile while awkwardly shaking the hand I WAS STILL HOLDING. I looked at our hands for a moment before I let his hand drop, a slow blush creeping over my cheeks. One cup of coffee, I told myself. One cup and I never have to see him again.