Excerpt

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Chapter 1

"Funny thing about changes happening in one's life is you never know if it's going to be good or bad until it happens. Can't say, at the age of 23, that I've had any good changes lately, not that there's much I can do about it. Once given, the changes can't be returned like an unwanted gift, there will always be losses and/or revelations accompanying those changes. All one can do is the best with what one is dealt with." - Sarah.

"Changes. One may not have a choice in receiving them, but they can be anything one makes of them and this particular one was certainly interesting. It may not have started out that way during those first few moments, and I may have fought against it, but it certainly became interesting." - Kaelan.

~*~

It was a sunny and brisk winter's day and it was a perfect day to play now that he and his men were on leave. While the kiosk was playing some music which barely registered to him, he was leaning against the Jeep waiting for the rest of his players to turn up. He surveyed the area, sizing up the various people who came to play: the wannabes - more danger to themselves than to anyone else, the possible threats who obviously knew enough to hit only their intended targets and not everything else in sight, and the kids wanting to have fun. However, pretty much all of them ignorable. Until...

He first saw her at the paintball range as she hobbled from the ladies rest room and everything else around him was momentarily forgotten. He watched her walk towards him, her head down with the occasional glance up as if to make sure she was on track to her destination.

A slightly overweight young woman, standing 156cm tall, in her mid to late teens - early twenties maybe - leant heavily on her darkly painted metal adjustable walking stick. Then she slowly veered to her right towards the picnic tables. She was dressed in a navy blue simple heavy cotton dress with little purple and red flowers and black open toed slip on shoes.

'Her feet must be freezing.' The trivial thought caught him by surprise. Deciding to ignore the thought, he continued his inspection of her.

Her dull dark brown hair was tied back away from her face with a thin layer acting as a wispy fringe partially covering her forehead. Even though her hair was tied back he could see it was long, past her shoulder blades. Despite its length there didn't seem to be much of it, as in not thick. The one thing which saved her hair from being bland, in his opinion, was the faint red highlights that shimmered occasionally in the sunlight as she walked.

Regardless of her weight and dull looking hair, her face was cute in a plain sort of way even though it was etched with pain at that point in time. She wore no makeup as if, maybe, she didn't care about how people perceived her and, strangely for him, it added a level of attractiveness to her. Until that moment, he hadn't realised that could attract his attention.

Letting his eyes travel slowly down her body, he noted her left hand clenched, emphasising the pain he was seeing in her face. Although he could see she was over-weight, the dress fitted her well and showed off the potential for a reasonable figure. Then, he continued down her legs to her feet.

'There's the problem. She's obviously been in an accident of some sort, maybe recently. Her feet don't sit flat anymore.' He thought.

However, while she was wearing shoes, he realised one would have to really look at her feet to notice the problem with them. He noted the weight seemed to be on her heels and on the outer side edges of her feet, and that they turned in slightly. A few of the toes on her right foot were partially clawed and it looked to be permanent.

'With some nerve damage perhaps, in some way.' He speculated.

He continued watching. Observing the way she walked with the walking stick, suggested her left ankle was worse than her right. Her right leg carried most of her weight as she walked even though she tried adjusting her weight distribution every now and then. Her knee bending and foot lifting were exaggerated as she walked. Her feet barely moved in relation to her legs compared to the average person.

'It would seem she has lost some flexion, mobility, to her ankles.'

In checking her over, he realised she was no threat. She was out of condition - the effort of walking from the ladies to her destination left her sweating despite being winter. Disabled and definitely feminine in her ways, she looked like she didn't know how to fight back. The young woman was a victim, not a predator.

With that assessment he had every intention of dismissing her from mind and sight, but...

Watching her, she joined five other people at one of the tables nearby. He had just started to look away when their eyes locked briefly. Her hand paused in mid motion of taking her drink to her lips. Her lips, minutely parted, were a little pale but looked rather nice with a noticeable cupid's bow on her upper lip. Now she was close enough he could see them better. Then he noticed the flush creeping across her cheeks.

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The six of them were sitting at a table near the kiosk, just an open shed serving basic food and drink with a few picnic tables and bench seats, when she saw him and held her breath. She couldn't stop staring at him.

As far as she was concerned the clear cool June winter's day had just become a little warmer for her. As if it was planned, to her way of thinking, out of the speakers of the kiosk played the song 'Breathless' by The Corrs, and that was the effect he had on her when she caught sight of him.

Judging his height against the white Jeep Grand Cherokee at his back, which he was leaning against, she guessed he was over 185cm tall, give or take a centimetre or more. Unfortunately, judging height and distance weren't her strong points. His skin seemed like it could be naturally fair, but appeared to be lightly tanned. His sandy brown hair, with gingery highlights, was short cropped with it slightly longer over the forehead, but not too long as to get into his eyes.

KC Riley-Gyer 2013