Chance of a Lifetime (Anderson Brothers)

By: Marissa Clarke

The guy grabbed a towel and wiped the area Genny and her friend had just vacated and gestured for him to sit.

Chance slid onto the stool, fighting the urge to glance over his left shoulder at the door. She was getting farther away by the second. His only shot at talking to her was to catch her on the street.

“So, what’s your story?” the bartender asked.

“I don’t have one.”

His eyes narrowed. “I’m not good with letting you follow her.”

The guy’s tenacious overprotectiveness was a pain in the ass, but Chance had to admire his loyalty to Genny. He acted as if he had an interest in her more than that of customer, which shouldn’t be a surprise. She was a smart, beautiful woman. Of course she’d have guys after her. He tamped down the unexpected jealousy accompanied by hot prickles up his neck.

“You clearly know her. At least you know her name,” the bartender continued, pitching the rag aside and crossing his arms over his chest. When Chance didn’t respond, the guy pushed harder. “Who is Gen to you?”

“Who is she to you?” His voice came out louder and harsher than intended. It was like his limbic system had totally overridden reason and control. Like the old days…

The guy met his eyes directly. “She’s a friend.”

“Same here…well, we used to be friends.”

The bartender arched an eyebrow. After a moment, he grabbed a glass, filled it with ice, then popped the top on a can of Dr Pepper and poured it. “There’s a long story here, isn’t there? One that will explain why you’ve been hanging out here on Tuesday nights for a couple of months.”

“Yeah, a very long story. Too long.”

He slid the glass in front of Chance and placed his hands wide on the bar. Not threatening, per se, but definitely making it clear he was ready to make threats if need be. “You’re not going to follow her. I have all night. Settle in and tell me a story, Doc. I’m a great listener.”

But Genny’s big brother, Walter, wasn’t a great listener. He never had been. And if she got to him before Chance cleared the air with her, it would be bad. Really bad. Just like a decade ago. “I met Genny around twenty years back, when I was in second-grade Little League with her brother.”

The guy relaxed and placed a fresh basket of pretzels in front of him.

“The boys on the team were teasing Walter about his little sister.” Chance closed his eyes and could see it as if it were yesterday. Her mom had been watching practice from the bleachers, but got up to go do something. The boys were calling Genny “weirdo” and worse. Walter, a good head shorter than the other boys, did nothing to stand up for his little sister, who was sitting alone on the bench with a ratty doll rocking back and forth singing to it. Chance’s heart broke when she stopped singing and turned her head to listen to the boys’ taunts. She continued to rock, but he knew she’d heard because a tear slid down her face and landed on the doll. She brushed it away from the doll’s face and told it to not listen to the mean boys. That she was a beautiful, smart doll and should never cry.

At five, she’d had more wisdom and strength than the little shits who had mocked her. Sometimes, even now, he’d see that moment in his sleep and wake up in a cold sweat, wanting to kick the world’s ass for being so heartless.

Taking a deep breath, he loosened his grip on his glass and set it gently on the bar.

A waitress dropped off a ticket and the bartender drew a draft beer and handed it to her, then turned his attention back to him. “And so you defended him, put the bullies in their places, and the two of you bonded and became fast friends.”

“No. I defended her and got the shit beaten out of me.” He took a sip of his soda. “We bonded in the ER waiting room when his mom took me to get the stitches over my right eye.”

The guy winced and extended his hand. “I’m Andy, by the way.”

“Chance Anderson.” After a quick shake, he glanced at the door. He’d never catch her now. Walter was going to be royally pissed off—and for good reason.

“Why do you need to talk to her so bad?”

“To warn her off telling her brother about the…what just happened. I promised him that I wouldn’t interfere with her life.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I was simply making sure she was okay. She never even knew I was here.” Neither had Walter, and he hoped to keep it that way.

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