Chapter One

When Taylor McCall dropped everything in her life and fled to Atlanta, Georgia, she had one goal in mind.

Survival.

Hers.

She changed her hair color, suffered with colored contact lenses, and since she couldn’t afford a tanning salon, she’d gritted her teeth, slathered on some sunscreen and exposed her lily-white skin to the sun until she was golden brown all over. Well, mostly all over.

It would be, as John Lennon sang, just like starting over.

The one thing she couldn’t bear to do was change her name. Not this time. Everything else had been lost, or given up, or been taken away from her. Her name was all she had left, and changing it hadn’t kept her safe before. The risk she took keeping her name frightened her, but she’d learned as she’d worked her way to Atlanta that there were jobs for people like her who didn’t want to leave a traceable trail.

And now, she had a place to live, thanks to Rue Addison, owner of 2003 Hardin Way. An eight-hundred-square-foot studio apartment with an efficiency kitchen along the wall that separated the bathroom from the rest of the space.

“Haven.” Taylor stood in the center of the room and turned in a slow circle. Her walls. Her space. Her haven. “An empty one at that.”

She’d managed to save nearly a thousand dollars during her cross-country run, mainly because she’d opted to stay in homeless shelters whenever she stopped to work a job. Most of that had gone to procure this studio, but she had enough to purchase an air mattress to sleep upon, bedding and some food. More, and better, would come once she had a job.

Since busses cost fare money and hers was limited, Taylor opted to walk the few blocks to the discount store she’d seen earlier. It didn’t take long, and seeing it was November, she didn’t cause herself heat stroke. Thankfully.

The first thing she noticed was the police car parked before the store. The duck reflex was automatic at this point. Get in, make her purchases, get out and back to her new safe haven. Taylor laughed at herself when she saw the vehicle was empty.

She stopped laughing when she walked right through the stuck-open doors into a robbery in progress.

(C) 2013 by Laura Hamby

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