The roads in this part of the country were good for one thing: Stretching out straight and flat for miles on end. Chloe Sullivan fought to remain awake behind the wheel. She had driven for miles, and hours, beyond her limit, really. She knew she should have stopped and gotten a room but money was tight and she needed to save it for more important things like coffee until she could decide on a destination. So, until she found a place to call home she intended to sleep in the car, just as she’d done for the past three nights.
She pulled into a gas station somewhere in rural Kansas and filled the tank. The air was cold, bracing, and she breathed deep as she watched traffic trundle past. Mostly there were trucks hauling freight, driven by men and women who could stay up for days behind the wheel, or so she’d been told. Sometimes cars would pass, as well as a Greyhound bus.
She wondered if it wouldn’t have been cheaper to just take one of those Greyhounds but didn’t regret driving herself. Her own car would allow her to explore, to go where she pleased, when she pleased, and leave when she needed to.
A figure emerged from the darkness and she realized she’d seen him walking on the road not long before she’d pulled in. She didn’t pay him much attention now as she headed into the store, desperate for a bathroom break and to grab a drink that could help her keep going just a little longer. She could just hear her guardian now, the man she so desperately wanted away from, telling her how unprepared she still was to be away from home this young. After all, she’d just turned eighteen. What did she know about striking out on her own?
After she paid, and took too big a swallow of coffee that was boiling hot, Chloe came out and saw one very bad piece of luck waiting for her--the front passenger side tire was completely flat. Even worse it was her spare so she couldn’t have changed it even if she knew how. She stood staring at the tire and realized that the car had been handling funny, seeming to fight her on the road, but she’d been too tired to connect the dots. She was just lucky it hadn’t blown out in the middle of nowhere, or caused a wreck on some deserted road without cell phone service.
She looked around the area. It was almost midnight and there were wasn’t a garage in sight for her to wait on to open. Of course not. She couldn’t have that kind of luck.
“If I didn’t have bad luck...” she muttered.
“You wouldn’t have any luck at all?”
The old saying was completed by a young man her age. The hitchhiker who’d strolled into the light of the gas station as she ignored him. Now she gave him a good, close look. He was tall, made of muscle, had a mop of curly black hair, full lips so red it was almost like he’d put on a little lipstick, green eyes, and Chloe thought he was possibly the sexiest guy she’d ever seen in her life. He smiled and stuffed his hands deep in his pockets. He had a backpack over one shoulder, black with red lining. He looked kind enough but she knew looks could be deceiving.
“You wouldn’t happen to own a garage, would you?” she asked, and checked to make sure the attendant was within view.
“No, but I know how to change the tire if I can get the spare out,” he said.
Chloe tried not to let exhaustion and hunger keep her from crying in frustration right there in front of this stranger, or make her do something mean like take it out on this seemingly nice guy. After all, he didn’t tell her to run away from home as soon as she’d turned eighteen with $3000 to her name. Three grand didn’t buy what it used to and she worried about burning through it too quickly. Still, she should have taken time to have her tires checked, made sure she had a spare.
“That is the spare.”
“Ah, I see. Then we’ll just have to get you safely into a room until you can get it fixed.”
The handsome stranger, who couldn’t have been much older than her, nodded and said, “Yeah, we. I’m not leaving a girl alone at a gas station in the middle of the night. There’s a lot of bad men out here.”
She didn’t try to hide allowing her eyes to travel the length of him. “How do I know you’re not one of them?”
He leaned in and winked. “You don’t. Do you see that red and white glow? That’s a motel, Larsen’s. It’s cheap but clean. Tell the man at the desk Clark sent you.”
Chloe saw the glow he spoke of behind some buildings. She was going to have to get a room after all. She opened the door of her car and reached into the glove box, took the pistol she’d stolen from her guardian, and slipped it into her purse. Then she locked the passenger door.
“Will you help me move it over there? I’d rather not get towed.”
“Better. I’ll move it for you.”
“By yourself?” Chloe asked skeptically.
“It’s a VW Bug. You could probably carry this thing by yourself if you used your leg muscles.”
She watched him put the car in neutral after she gave him the keys and he easily pushed it into a parking space, locked up, and tossed the keys back to her.
“Thanks, Clark. My name’s--”
“You shouldn’t give your name to a stranger,” he cut her off.
The feminist in her tried not to bristle. “Because I’m a girl?”
“Yes,” he readily agreed, with the most unapologetic look she’d seen since starting this trip. Unapologetic was a look her guardian had mastered.
“I’m a girl with a gun so I’m not completely helpless,” she told him. “I’m Chloeand thanks for the help, Clark.”
She started to walk away, started to go get her room and get some sleep, but her belly was garbling with hunger and she could smell grease in the air. She turned from her place in the shadows to see Clark leaning against the wall of the gas station. Something in her gut told her he didn’t have money, a place to sleep or anyone to help him. He’d been so kind to her it didn’t seem right taking off and just leaving him there.
He looked her way and lifted his chin in acknowledgement.
“Wanna walk a girl with a gun over?”
Without hesitation he grabbed his bag and started her way, his easy smile on his lips.
The motel office was small and neatly kept, tended to by an old man with white hair and brown eyes. He recognized Clark at once and looked happy to see him.
“Clark, you’re passing through?”
“Hey, Mr. Larsen. Yeah, I’m passing through.”
“Room six is open.”
“Thanks but no money. This girl here had a flat and I wanted to make sure she got here safely.”
Mr. Larsen nodded. “You’re a fine young man, Clark. Like I always said, your parents raised you right. You can have the room in exchange for some painting work that needs doing, if you’re interested. The job is good for a week. Plus some cleaning. My niece went off to school and I haven’t replaced her yet.”
Clark nodded his agreement. “Sure, that’d be great.”
“I wouldn’t mind applying for the cleaning job,” Chloe said. “I could stand a paycheck, unless you need both jobs, Clark.”
“No, I can share the work,” Clark said, looking to Mr. Larsen.”
“Well, it’s not a well paying job...” the elderly man said. He was hesitant to take on two employees at once. Chloe suspected the lack of cars outside the rooms was partly responsible for that. She had no doubt that May was still slow for him and wouldn’t pick up until summer came and tourists hit the road for their vacations.
“Something tells me she’s a hard worker,” Clark said, vouching for her, trying to help her even if it meant money out of his own pocket.
He studied them both, rolled out over in his mind, and then nodded. “All right, it’s a deal. You’ll get free rent and a paycheck. You buy your own food.”
“Deal,” they said in unison.
He gave them their keys and they took rooms six and seven. She stopped after she opened her door, her weary body anxious to sleep in a real bed for a few days, and looked Clark’s way.
“Thanks for helping me get this job,” she said. “Wanna grab a late dinner from the vending machine? My treat.”
Clark looked uncomfortable taking any sort of charity but Chloe was willing to bet the growl in his stomach was gonna convince him to take her up on the offer. After a moment’s hesitation Clark agreed. Chloe reached in her purse and grabbed her wallet, took out eight one dollar bills and passed them to him. As big as he was he looked like he had an appetite.
“A bag of whatever is salty and a Mountain Dew for me. You use the rest for yourself.”
“Thanks. I owe you. He returned five minutes later and gave Chloe her snacks.
“Goodnight, Miss Lane,” he said, a playful smile on his lips.
“Goodnight, Mr. Kent.”
His brows raised and she shook her head at his surprise, that she’d gleaned his last name. “You’re not the only one who knows how to sneak a glance at the registration log.”
Chloe entered her room and switched on the light. She expected cheap motel room chic with ugly, thin, floral print comforters and worn, stained carpets. What she found instead was a clean carpet, dark blue, a single bed with a pretty white comforter and four soft pillows. The furniture was made of real wood, not the ugly but functional composite stuff. The lamps on the little beside tables looked like they’d cost more than ten dollars at a dollar store. Clark was right...it was clean as well as nice. Too nice for the price he was charging.
The bed looked so inviting but Chloe contented herself to throw her bag on the chair and grab a change of clothes. Everything in the bag had been worn at least once so they didn’t smell too badly. Still, she’d have to find a way to wash them. Maybe Mr. Larsen would let her use his laundry when she washed the sheets.
The towels and washcloths fully lived up to expectations of an economy motel and she had no doubt he lost a lot of those from guests stealing them and couldn’t afford quality. They weren’t luxury but they were functional and Chloe was looking forward to a hot shower as well as sleeping in a real bed.
“Oh, God,” she said, when the spray hit her, drenching her. The heat sank into her muscles, muscles she hadn’t been aware were tense until they loosened under the hot water. She’d been washing up in gas station bathrooms for days, aware for the first time in her life what a luxury a hot shower could be.
The soda was cold and sweet, the Munchos were salty, and she stood at the window to eat them, watching two vehicles pull into the lot. The first was a tiny car that looked like a breeze could blow it off the road. A young man in a rumpled suit climbed out and went to the office.
The second car was a land boat from the seventies. If Chloe had a car like that she would have tried to live out of it, but she imagined the middle aged man who got out speed for the same reasons she had: real rest. He slammed the heavy door, which looked like it weighed as much as the little hybrid that had preceded him, it’s hinges squeaking and complaining. The man looked like a roadie for some 80s hair band. He rubbed his eyes wearily and trudged up to the office as well, pulling out his wallet as he went.
Chloe trashed her snack when she finished and made sure the chain was on the door before lying down.
Another “Oh, God,” moaned from her mouth when she climbed under the covers. The bed was soft. She’d expected something hard but it was wonderful, a welcome change from her car. With the light out the room was dark. She started at the ceiling and let her mind wander for a moment ago her thoughts wouldn’t keep her awake.
Everyone had a story and Chloe wondered what Clark Kent’s story was. He wasn’t new to the road, or didn’t seem to be, and he was smart enough to keep his name clean when he came through a town. She even bet he was using his real name. She kicked herself for using her real first name and her cousins last name. She was just begging to be found, making it easy. Clark, however, didn’t seem to her to be running from anyone He looked like he’d probably come from a good family. She doubted he’d ever been abused, at least not physically, and judging by his kindness he probably hadn’t been emotionally abused either. He had a powerful build on him. There was no way anyone pushed him around; at least not easily.
So why was he on the road? Did he just want to see the world? Was he looking for something? Or had something bad invaded his good, easy life, and in turn that had set him on the road? Regardless of his reasons she felt like she’d had a turn off luck in meeting him that would prove to be better than she’d imagined at first, or so she hoped.
She considered her own life, considered the luxury she’d abandoned for the unknown. She’d rather be on the road, alone, broke, hungry and in danger of strangers and predators rather than give in to the advances of the predator in the house of her guardian, Lionel Luthor, and that was his son, Lex.
Lex wasn’t the only one who expected things from her that she had no intentions of giving. Lionel, his father, expected Lex to marry and he wanted him to marry well. That didn’t mean a rich woman. No, that meant a woman of his choosing, a woman he’d molded, shaped, groomed. As the years passed, as Chloe’s intellect had sharpened, her genius worthy of a Luthor, as she developed emotionally with a strong will that the Luthor family patriarch had nurtured, Lex had warmed to the idea of wedding his father’s charge. As she’d blossomed, physically, he’d also warmed to the idea of bedding her, too.
In fact, he’d grown increasingly unwilling to wait for a wedding before he started trying to take her to his bed. When she told Daddy Luthor of his son’s attempts she’d realized she would have no protection, no ally in her so-called guardian. That, in Chloe’s mind, meant Lionel wasn’t a guardian so much as a warden, a jailer...a pimp.
Well, she was no man’s whore and she left with the cash she’d literally saved in a piggy bank she’d kept under her bed. She’d left in a car given to her by her cousin, Lois, who promised she wouldn’t tell a soul where Chloe had gone.
Three days later she was here, in this cheap, but clean and pleasant, little motel room. She didn’t miss the comfort and grandeur of the Luthor home. She didn’t miss Lex’s stares, or his seeking, hungry touches to her shoulders that conveyed exactly what he wanted, which had nothing to do with brotherly love.
Her eyes were too heavy to stay open. Chloe put her dollar store, prepaid, perfectly anonymous prepaid Android phone on to charge, set the alarm to five a.m., and snuggled deep into the comforter.
She had a job to start tomorrow.
Four hours of sleep wasn’t a lot to operate on but the promise of a cup of hot coffee woke Chloe up and motivated her to grab Clark and had over to grab some breakfast. She knocked on the door to room six and he answered right away, liking fully awake and spring a bright, cheerful smile.
“Oh no, this is awful,” she said, leading him across the street to a Waffle House.
“You’re a morning person. I had such hopes for you to be a normal guy that I could relate to.”
Clark had kind eyes, and though he was reserved he smiled easily. He gave her one of those beautiful smiles now. “Morning is the best part of the day.”
“God, what are you? A farmer or something?”
“Yeah, actually,” he said.
She made a sound of mock disgust and walked in when he opened the door. “I’ll bet you’ve got your own corn pipe and overalls just waiting for you at home.”
Chloe’s empty belly rumbled at the smell of bacon and other foods in the air. They sat at a table and looked at the menus.
“Order what you want. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
“My dad’s philosophy was the same,” Clark said. “I just...”
She knew he didn’t want her buying him breakfast, or anything, for that matter, and tapped at his menu.
“This isn’t charity, it’s credit. You’re paying me back, mister. Besides, I’ve got enough food money to last awhile.”
“What’ll you have?” their waitress asked. She readied her pad and stared at Clark. Chloe may as well have been invisible for all the attention this waitress gave her.
“I’ll have three fried eggs, a bowl of grits with extra butter, four slices of bacon, four sausage links, two waffles, and a large orange juice,” he told the waitress.
“You’re certainly built for a meal like that,” she said, and then winked at him, which annoyed Chloe. She wasn’t exactly jealous...Well, maybe a tiny bit, but for all that waitress knew she was Clark’s girlfriend, yet she was flirting with him right in front of her.
Then again, Chloe wasn’t surprised. She had a killer figure but face wise she’d never considered herself a raging beauty. She was far from ugly, pretty, even, but she’d never be a model and women would never fear their men would take one look at her face and dump them. Our so she believed. The waitress must have thought along the same lines because she’d clearly made no assumptions that Chloe could have landed a man as gorgeous as Clark Kent.
“Grits?” Chloe asked, pretending the waitresses snub, her utter refusal to so much as look at Chloe but stare at Clark.
“You’ve never had grits?” he asked, his face filled with genuine incredulity, despite his discomfort at the unnerving level of focus from their waitress, who hovered over them.
“I’ve never even heard of them.”
“I’ll share mine. They’re delicious.”
Chloe cleared her throat as they sat there waiting for the waitress to ask Chloe her order.
“I’m not here alone,” Clark finally said.
“Oh, of course,” she said with a fake, breathy chuckle, and turned to Chloe. “For you?”
“Scrambled egg, a slice of toast, a slice of bacon, and a small orange juice.”
“Would you care for a cup of coffee while you wait?” she asked Clark.
“Gee boy howdy would we,” Chloe said with false cheer. This earned her a scathing rake of the eyes from Chloe’s face down followed by the phoniest from Chloe had ever seen.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
“I’ll count the seconds until your return,” Chloe told her, which earned a chuckle from Clark.
Chloe watched the waitress leave. She had a pretty face, wasn’t much older than them, and her skirt hugged her somewhat passable bottom like a lover’s caress. Apparently it had grabbed Clark’s attention, too.
“That waitress was really rude,” he said.
“You think?” Chloe said, still annoyed.
“She flirted with me in front of you, acted like you didn’t exist.”
“Well, we’re not a couple, so...”
“She doesn’t know that,” Clark said, every bit as put off as Chloe.
Chloe found herself smiling. Clark Kent may have been a stranger but he thought along the same lines she did.
“I come in with a pretty girl she could at least act professional.”
“You think I’m pretty?”
“Well...yeah. Don’t you?”
“No,” she said honestly.
He seemed so genuinely curious, so confused as to how she couldn’t think herself to be beautiful, that she had a hard time explaining her insecurities. She shrugged and chalked it up to, “It’s a girl thing.”
When their coffee arrived she poured for Clark first, then Chloe.
“I wonder if she expects a tip?” Chloe said. The fry cook caught her eye. He glanced between Chloe and the waitress, looking seen. He was an older man with a clean shaven face and black hair beginning to gray.
“You’ve been this way a few times, haven’t you?”
“No, this is my second pass through.”
“Really? You made such an impression on Mr. Larsen. I thought maybe you came through frequently.”
“I was here last year, heading home from a trip to Nebraska. Had my dad’s truck that time. His office was on fire and he’d passed out from smoke inhalation. I saved him, put the fire out, and stayed for a few days to help him rebuild.”
“So, you’re a hero.”
He looked embarrassed. “Hardly. I just like to help when I can.”
“Humble, too. So, let me evaluate my list of things I’ve learned about Clark Kent: Humble? Check. Hot? Check. Hero? Check.”
He sat shaking his head, looking thoroughly embarrassed. They drank their coffee simply to have something to do with their hands and something to look at other than one another’s eyes. At least Chloe did. Clark could somehow gaze into her eyes without making her feel awkward. Chloe was afraid to return the look for two long because she felt as though he was reading her, peeling her apart and seeing every layer without judging.
It wasn’t that Chloe didn’t want to make the sexy farmer a friend. She just didn’t like how easy it was to want to open up to him. Her life was a closed book and she wanted him to know her, to open herself to him so he could read through the pages of her book and not skip a single story.
She wanted to do the same with him and they’d meet less than twelve hours ago. Was this connection she wanted to make because of something to do with Clark? Or was it simply that she’d been alone too long in this world, starved for affection that wasn’t freely given out of love but doled out as a reward for obeying a command like she was a particularly clever dog? Clark was the first nice person she’d met who wasn’t tied to Lionel or Lex Luthor.
Even if that was the case, Chloe thought, sipping her coffee, would it matter? Making new friends, of her own choosing, was what she wanted, part of her reasons for leaving Metropolis and striking out on her own.
The cook, who’d been watching them earlier, now had their food in hand, balanced on a tray. Chloe looked for their waitress and saw she was behind the counter with a sulky pout on her face, watching someone else serve.
“I take it this monster is yours?” he joked, handing Chloe Clark’s mega breakfast before sliding it to the man in question.
“Let me know if you need anything else. I’m Bill. Just wave at me.”
“Thanks, Bill,” Chloe said.
As soon as he was gone Clark put salt and pepper on his buttered grits and offered Chloe the first bite.
“Oh, wow. Those are good,” she said.
“Grab your spoon. We’ll share.”
After breakfast they left the Waffle House, Clark with the waitress’s number written on the back of the receipt that had been handed to Chloe, and that he promptly threw away, and went back to the motel. Chloe was a little excited, she had to admit. This was her first real job and she even had to remind herself how silly she was for being exited that she was going to have a uniform being when she learned she wouldn’t have a uniform.
She was also relieved she wouldn’t have to clean in her clothes. It wasn’t like she had a lot. She only had a few pairs of jeans and a few shirts, all she’d been able to sneak out when she left Metropolis, and she hadn’t been exited at the idea of ruining them her first day on the job.
Mr. Larsen welcomed her to the office and she realized it looked to have been recently decorated. She wondered how badly the fire had damaged the office before Clark managed to put it out.
“I won’t be able to go with you on your first room, I’m sorry. I have to watch the front desk until Ben comes in for the ten-to-ten shift.”
“You have to work twelve hour shifts?”
He nodded. “Seven days a week until I get more employees.”
“I’m only staying a week,” Chloe said, feeling guilty at the idea of leaving the old man without housekeeping when she left. “I’ll be moving on when Clark does.”
He patted her arm. “I had a feeling you would. Don’t you worry, young lady. You seem like the kind of girl out chasing a dream and I want you to do that. Here’s your uniform. You go and change and I’ll show you how to put your cart together. This belonged to my niece but I think you can fit it.”
The uniform didn’t exactly fit. His niece had an entirely different body than Chloe. Chloe must have been a lot taller, for one, because the uniform was a bit short on Chloe. It was also tighter, especially around the bosom. She looked like she was in a Halloween costume when she checked her reflection in the mirror. The gray dress was a button down that strained at her breasts and the white collar and tips of the arms hugged her tightly.
The idea of showing up at Clark’s room in this outfit, and what kind of reaction he’d have when he saw her, amused Chloe. Would he ask her to change the wastebaskets and watch the skirt ride up when she bent over to change out the little bags? Would he possibly come up behind her and place his hands on her hips and possibly press himself--
She cut off those thoughts when she felt her pulse quicken and her center moisten, ever so softly.
Chloe came into the office and Mr. Larsen’s eyes widened. “Oh, no,” he said. “That simply won’t due, will it? Sandy is a very slight girl. I just didn’t think you’d…fill it out…quite that much.”
“I can clean in my own clothes.”
“That may be best. I’ll pay to replace them should you damage them in any way. In the meantime, I’ll show you where everything is and give you a checklist of what needs done in each room.”
Chloe was given a cart, showed which supplies she should have on it, and a checklist. She was shown where the linens were stored, which was on a row of long shelves in the laundry, along with towels and washcloths, and little courtesy bars of soap, shampoo, and conditioner, as well as cups to sit on the sinks. Once she was fully stocked she was given the keys to the rooms and a list of which rooms were currently in need of turning over.”
She pushed her cart outside. She’d go to her room and change into a pair of jeans and one of her tee-shirts before she started work. The air was chilly and a brisk wind had picked up. She almost immediately ran into Clark who was carrying some painting supplies to a room and his eyes widened.
“Wow…Sandy never looked like that in her uniform,” he said.
She tried not to blush and waved him away. “Keep moving, mister. Nothing to see here.”
“Ma’am,” he replied, and disappeared into the room he was working on.
“Excuse me, Miss.”
The man renting room eight, next to Chloe’s, was in the doorway, his eyes raking over her body. He seemed embarrassed when she caught him staring, especially at her chest since the cool air had stiffened her nipples, and cleared his throat.
“I, uh, I made something of a mess in the bathroom. Didn’t realize the shower curtain wasn’t closed all the way. You wouldn’t happen to have a mop I could borrow?”
“I’ll get it,” she offered, and grabbed the mop off her cart and headed into the room. She mopped up the small puddle, something he could have easily cleaned up with a towel, and started to leave but he blocked the door.
“I’m Devon,” he said, offering a hand.
She shook it. “Chloe. Excuse me.”
Devon stepped to the side, still blocking her path. He pulled out a fifty dollar bill and waved it in her face. “So…what other things do you take care of? Any messes you’re willing to make?”
“If you mean rolling around in the sheets with you then the answers no. Now move, please.”
She finally got around him and reached for the door. It was only opened a few inches before he braced his hand against it and shoved it shut with enough force to yank the doorknob from her hand. His other hand came to rest on her hip.
“Get off me right now and let go of the door.”
“I don’t think I will,” he answered.
“You don’t want me to fight back.”
“You don’t want me telling your boss you tried to rob me, either.”
She tried the door again but he held it shut and he flicked the lock shut with a smooth motion that looked practiced, like he’d done this before to the housekeeping staff of other motels. A moment later his hand came around to rub low on her belly, before inching further down, right on her womanhood.
“Be a good girl,” he whispered in her ear.
A moment later she brought her foot down, hard, on his bare foot and he cried out in pain. She elbowed him in the chin, turned and brought her knee up and into his groin but missed. It still made him cry out again. Rather than going down, like she’d hoped he would, he gripped her by the throat and threw her to the floor, coming after her with rage in this eyes.
“Get off me!” she shouted, scared but ready to fight, ready to scream.
The door to his room all but exploded open. Clark was there, framed in the doorway, the bright sunlight haloed his head as he stood there with fists clenched.
Devon turned with his face full of rage. “Get out, kid. This is none of your business.”
“Actually, it is.”
Clark walked toward them and Devon surged forward to shove him back. It was like hitting a brick wall. Clark didn’t budge the slightest bit. He didn’t even move when Devon punched him square on the jaw and Devon grunted in pain as though he’d just punched a cinderblock wall. He cradled his hand just before Clark punched him and sent him crumbling to the floor.
“Chloe, are you okay?” he asked as he knelt beside her.
She’d never been so damned angry in her life but she nodded. “Yeah. Just…I thought I could handle him. I’ve been give self-defense lessons. Guess it didn’t work so well in the real world.”
“You would have got him,” Clark assured her, before gently brushing an errant lock of hair away from her forehead. He offered her hand pulled her to her feet. “Come on. We’ll tell Mr. Larsen about this guy.”
“Man, these jeans cost two hundred bucks,” Chloe said. She looked at the jeans and shirt that were spotted with bleach stains and permanently ruined.
After the police took her statement and arrested Devon for attempted rape, a weighty charge she planned to see through to the end, she’d finished her first day of work in her jeans and tee-shirt. She’d changed into them before the cops got there. She didn’t want them to see her in that uniform and she didn’t want him to be able to use her clothing as an excuse to say she invited the man to rape her. She watched him try to talk his way out of it, say she was dressed like a slut, that it wasn’t his fault. She also wondered how many women he’d raped in his time but had managed to get away with it.
That wasn’t the only thing she wondered. How in the hell had Clark burst into a locked room with such ease? Sure, he was strong, but that door had been locked with a deadbolt. The room would have to be closed down until the lock could be repaired, a job Clark offered to do without payment.
“You spent two hundred dollars on a pair of jeans?” Clark asked. There were twenty rooms and so far only three were occupied. It looked like sweet Mr. Larsen didn’t see a lot of business even though he was on the highway, and probably wouldn’t until tourist season hit in the upcoming summer vacation.
“Well, I didn’t but my guardian did.”
They were now sitting on the curb beside her car, which had a set of new tires on it, eating cheeseburgers and French fries and sipping sodas. She’d never been allowed to eat junk food with the Luthors. Lionel wanted her in shape for his boy. Just knowing he’d be livid that she was eating fried food made her relish every single bite of her burger with petty satisfaction.
“May I ask a personal question?” Clark asked.
“Shoot,” she said, savoring the cheese and the meat, and hoped he wasn’t going to ask, for the millionth time, if she was okay.
“You look like you come from money.”
She raised her brows at him. “Do I?”
“Yeah. Expensive clothes, manicured hands, perfect skin, coifed hair; I’ll bet you’ve got perfectly pedicured feet, too. So…why you out here on the road, alone?”
“Wow,” she said, smiling. “That is personal.”
“I wasn’t happy at home,” she said.
When she didn’t volunteer more he left it at that and she was grateful.
“What about you? What are you running from?”
“I’m not. I’m searching for something.”
“What, were you adopted and you’re looking for your birth parents or something?”
He eyed her with something dangerously close to suspicion. “That’s twice you’ve hit the nail on the head with me. You some kinda spy or something, Miss Lane?”
She burst into laughter. “Oh my God, I was kidding! Lucky guesses.”
“That’s a lot of luck.”
“I’m good at reading people,” she said, balling her paper up and stuffing it into the bag. “I’m very perceptive and have a high IQ and you’re not that hard to read.”
He snorted and finished his final bite before grabbing their bags and putting the trash into a nearby receptacle. She watched him move, watched the muscles in his back, watched how they sloped to his narrow waist and rounded ass. He was a fine piece of man, that was for sure, built for hard labor but he wasn’t all brawn and no brains. Chloe could sense that. So, he was a teen out on the road looking for his birth parents. She found that kind of sad. At least she knew her father was dead and her mother was insane and institutionalized. Clark didn’t know anything about his birth parents.
“You had any luck with finding them?”
He shook his head. “None, which is why I’m heading home at the end of this job. Mom’s worried about me.”
“You haven’t called her?”
“I call every day. She still worries.”
“Must be nice to have parents to worry for you,” she said softly.
Clark studied her for a long while, probably wondering what had happened to her parents but knowing it was too soon to ask.
“My dad’s dead. He had a heart attack last year. Mom understands why I need to look, though.”
“I’m sorry you lost your father. My dad died in a car accident when I was ten. I know what it’s like to lose your father.”
He held out a hand and pulled Chloe to her feet. They stood looking at one another, their eyes darting around one another until briefly they made shy eye contact over this shared bit of news.
“I’m gonna squeeze in a few hours of work. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He started to walk away but Chloe tapped his arm. “Listen, if it’s not too late when you finish up, and you’re not too tired, I thought maybe you’d like to watch a movie in my room?”
His eyebrows lifted and she felt her face and neck heat with embarrassment.
“I just want to see a movie, that’s all. I’m not trying to seduce you or anything.”
He let his eyebrows fall and put on an exaggerated air of disappointment that made her want to giggle. Giggling just wasn’t Chloe’s thing, normally at least, but she thought perhaps Clark was the kind of guy who wouldn’t mind. “That’s too bad. We farm boys like big city girls with beautiful eyes trying to seduce them.”
“Oh, my God,” she said, turning away before he could see how bright her face had gotten. “Get back to work, mister.”
“Yes, Miss Lane.”
He was back two hours later, freshly scrubbed and wearing clean clothes. He even brought snacks, candy bars and potato chips and soda.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t rob the vending machine. I got a small advance on my pay so I’m treating you. What movie we watching?”
“Terminator: Judgment Day. This trip is going to make me fat,” Chloe said, eyeballing the snacks Clark had tossed onto the bed.
“I love that movie,” he said, and settled his huge frame into the chair beside the bed before he tore into a candy bar. Chloe lay on her belly and turned the TV on. It was an old set with a crummy display, static ringing the edges, but it didn’t bother them. They were soon they were lost in the movie and eating their snacks and just enjoying each other’s company.
That became their routine. She’d go to his room, or he’d come to hers, and they’d watch whatever movie they could find until one night Chloe felt like going for a drive. She only had two days left on the job, two days before she and Clark parted company and she wanted to do something fun, something out in the air. Only she didn’t want to be the one behind the wheel. She just wanted to get out, get some fresh air since they were having a nice warm evening. She threw Clark the keys and they pulled out of the parking lot to hit the road, heading in the same direction Chloe had been driving the night she met Clark.
“You know any pretty places around here?” she asked, the warm air blowing through her hair.
“I do, yeah. It’s about twenty minutes from here.”
They pulled up to what amounted to a mountain in Kansas but was really just a hill. It was high enough to show them a sweeping vista of open, flat land. Not too far from that was a pond that was deserted.
“Wanna dive in?” he asked, smiling at her.
“I don’t have a swimsuit.”
“Swim in your clothes.”
“No! Then I’d drench the car.”
He nodded. “Then swim in your undies.”
He was staring at her with such a playful smile, tinged with a little challenge, that she felt daring enough to pull her top off while looking him in the eye. He didn’t maintain contact. Rather, he allowed his eyes to roam lower. He stood there, watching, as she reached to unfasten her jeans but her sudden burst of courage failed her.
“I’ll turn away, give you some privacy,” he said, and went to the edge of the water to wait. She kicked off her socks and shoes and laid her jeans and shirt over them.
“All done,” she said, and came to stand beside him. “Your turn.”
“You showed me yours so now I have to show you mine?” he teased.
“Unless the water’s too cold,” she said. “Then we won’t be seeing much of anything.”
“I have a feeling it’ll be just right,” he answered, and pulled off his shirt.
Chloe stood frozen, looking at Clark’s body. He was insanely developed, his muscles large but well defined.
“You could be a model,” she told him.
“Nah. I hate getting my picture taken.”
She decided to pay him the same courtesy of looking away while he undressed even though he didn’t look at all uncomfortable with taking his clothes off in front of her. It was an honest chore pulling her eyes away from him as he unzipped his pants. He had that beautiful trail of dark hair that went from his navel and disappeared into his boxers.
Chloe approached the water and stuck a toe in. The water was cold but not icy like she’d expected. She was going to wade slowly in when suddenly Clark scooped her off her feet.
“What are you doing?”
“It’s best to just get the shock over with,” he said, walking into the water as though it was a warm bath. He didn’t even get gooseflesh like she did when he tossed her in.
Chloe came up gasping for air. “Clark!”
Her expression only made him laugh, which in turn made her want to splash him in the face, which she did. Then he ducked under and she saw him moving through the water like a merman who was made to be there. He was good at holding his breath, too, because he was under for a long time. So long, in fact, she’d just begun to worry when he popped up about a hundred feet from her.
“Can’t swim?” he asked.
“Oh, I can swim,” she said, but she took a moment to just gaze at him, watched the water dripping from his face, and basked in the beauty of that damned smile of his. God, he was beautiful.
Chloe went under and swam toward him. Her lungs were burning by the time she reached him and when she came up he gripped her arms, holding her up until she caught her breath.
“You’re so warm,” she said, shivering a little in the cold. In fact, as he touched her she felt warmer, as though he was imparting his body heat to her.
“Then stay close. If you get too cold we’ll get out.”
Stay close she did, with them circling one another, moving closer toward the center of the pond.
“Where do you plan to go from here?” he asked.
Chloe shrugged. “I don’t know. Haven’t given it a lot of thought, really. You’re going home and I guess I’m looking for a new one.”
“You’ll go exactly where you should,” he said, speaking with such confidence she couldn’t help but believe him. The sad part was that she knew he wouldn’t be there.
“So, you’re going to be a farmer like your parents?”
He nodded. “Probably. I’ll work the fields and…I don’t know.”
“I want to be a reporter. My dream is to work for the Daily Planet.”
“I’ll see your name in print someday,” he said.
“Maybe. I’m probably not good enough for the Planet.”
“Or is the Planet good enough for you?” he asked.
“You know, you’re awesome for a girl’s self esteem,” she said. “It’s getting dark, the water is getting colder, and I’m ready to go back for a hot shower and some din-din. What do you say?”
“I say it’s a date. Hop on. I’ll swim us back.”
“You sure? We’re pretty far out here.”
He simply nodded for her to climb on so she did, wrapping her arms around his neck while he started forward. She was amazed at the feel of his muscles working beneath her. She was amazed at how powerful a swimmer he was. He moved through the water like he was simply walking down the street, pulling them along without so much as working up his breath. He gripped her legs and walked them from the pond before setting her down.
She moved to her clothes and heard him make an odd sound, something between a gasp and a moan. She turned to him and noticed two things. One, she could practically see through the thin cotton of his boxers, which clung to him like a second skin and leaving nothing to the imagination. Second, his eyes looked red in the faded evening light. She knew it was impossible for his eyes to actually glow with inner red light but that’s what it looked like. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed at them as though they’d started itching.
Then she realized that if she could see through his underwear, he most certainly could see through hers. Had that been the source of that undeniably wanton sound that had escaped him or was she simply wishing it? She glanced down and realized her simple cotton bra was doing nothing to hide her erect nipples, or the patch of blond curls between her legs. He was looking back at her now, dragging his eyes over her body, and the red gleam she imagined she’d seen was now gone.
“This is why it’s not a good idea to swim in your panties, I guess,” she joked, trying to break the tension. He nodded but from the way he stared at her he thought her swimming in her panties had been a damn fine idea. She pulled on her clothes, stole another glance at the impressive member encased in the material of his boxers, ignored how the only really warm spot on her body was between her legs, and tied her shoes, ready to get back to the motel, and their ritual of a movie and snacks.
Clark loved junk food. She did too but she’d had to swear it off just keep from exploding out of her clothes. On their last night of work they went to a grocery store and got a salad from the deli for her while he contented himself with his usual candy bars and soda. Clark ate like he’d never have to gain a single unwanted pound and judging by his body that just may be true. Chloe cursed his fast metabolism and grabbed a bottle of water.
He liked action movies and rom-coms, and anything with Melissa McCarthy. In fact, Chloe was beginning to wonder if he didn’t have a secret crush on good ole Melissa which told Chloe that Clark wasn’t shallow despite being young. They rented Tammy and settled down to watch. Unlike most comedies she watched, Chloe actually thought this one was funny, and laughed aloud several times with Clark.
“My job’s done,” he said, after the movie ended and it was just them, in the softly lit and silent room. “You staying here to work?”
“Nah, I’ve already told him I’m moving on. He’s got a guy for the housekeeping job so he doesn’t need me.”
Clark was nodding off. Chloe’s eyes felt heavy. She yawned and rubbed at her eyes.
“I should go,” he said, seeing she was as tired as he was.
“You don’t have to,” she said, and patted the bed behind her. “Come on. I don’t bite.”
He waited so long to move she was sure he wasn’t going to join her, but then she heard his shoes clunk heavily to the floor and the bed dipped and protested under his weight.
“You’re heavier than you look,” she said sleepily.
“I’m a man made of steel,” he said, and she chuckled lightly. Though in all honesty he was so strong, felt so solid, he wasn’t too far off the mark on that comment.
Clark wrapped an arm around Chloe and settled in behind her. She was amazed by how warm he was, despite the chill in the air.
She yawned again and felt herself begin to slip into sleep. “You’re so warm.”
“Go to sleep,” he whispered. “You’re safe. I’ll behave myself.”
She thought about how she didn’t want him to behave, not on their last night, but she didn’t have the courage to try for more. She was still afraid of rejection, especially after he’d hesitated so long before climbing into bed behind her. For all his flirting she had it in her mind that friendship was all he wanted. Just as well, since they were parting ways in the morning.
He flipped the light out and pulled her against him. He was like a wall of muscle that smelled of soap and fresh air, and it was those scents that followed her into dreams of standing in a field of high, golden grass. Clark was some distance away and moving toward her with his hands outstretched. When she reached him he picked her up and held her close.
“You’re safe with me, Chloe.
There was a heaviness in Chloe’s chest when Mr. Larsen paid Chloe. He gave her four hundred dollars in cash, much more than she felt she deserved since all she’d done was clean rooms and wash a bit of laundry. At least business had begun to pick up and now he was at three quarters capacity. He’d make a few dollars, at least.
“Job well done, Miss Lane,” he said. “If you’re ever on hard times and in this area, and you need work, look me up. I’ll find something for you to do. Same goes for Clark, but he knows that.”
“I will Mr. Larsen. Thank you.”
She started to leave but her curiosity got the better of her. “Mr. Larsen, Clark said your office caught fire last year?”
He nodded. “Yes, during a robbery. It was so strange…”
“Well, the place was deserted. A man had a gun pointed at my chest. He was a drug addict, you know, in need of a ‘fix’ as they say. He was desperate. Business was slow since it was the off season and I only had fifty dollars in the register. The thief was sure there was more, that I was holding out. He left, then came back in and started dousing the room with gasoline. I tried calling the cops but realized he’d cut the phone line before he even came inside.”
He was so lost in thought that he stopped, remembering that night with haunted eyes.
“Then what happened?”
“He lit the room on fire. I remember he was trembling with rage, slobbering, just…angrier and more desperate than I’d ever seen anyone in my sixty-four years of life. He pointed the gun at me and I know I heard the gunshot but…I woke up on the floor. I was perfectly fine except a little smoke inhalation and there was Clark, standing over me. He’d tied the man up and the fire was out. He carried me outside to get some fresh air, brought the thief out, and waited while the police came. I’m telling you, Miss Lane. I’d be a dead man right now if it wasn’t for Clark Kent.”
“He’s a hero,” she said.
Mr. Larsen nodded in agreement and said, enthusiastically, with a sort of reverence, “That he is.”
Chloe went to her car, smiling at the thought of what Clark had done, at how good of a man he was. Clark was waiting with money to hand over to pay her back for his food.
“I don’t want it,” she said, refusing to take it. They had a silly argument but Chloe brow beat Clark into keeping his cash.
“You’ll need that when you go back out on the road, so save it.”
“What about you? You’ll have to eat while you’re out there,” he reminded her.
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “Would you be creeped out if I said I’m really gonna miss you?”
“No because I was trying to figure out how to say it to you.”
Chloe bit her lower lip before she said, “We could be in one of those rom-coms you like so much, right now.”
“Farmer boy meets worldly rich girl on the run. They get close...not as close as he wanted...then part when their job at the cheap motel ends,” he summarized.
Chloe bit her lip again. He’d wanted to get closer. She had, too, but the time had come and gone and now she regretted not pushing for more the night before, when they could have shared something besides sleep.
“I’m heading west,” she said.
“Drive carefully and beware of strangers. I put my number in your phone. Call if you ever want someone to talk to. If you ever need me, I’ll find a way to get to you.”
“I guess this is goodbye, Mr. Kent.”
“See you again someday, I hope, Miss Lane.”
“Sullivan. My real last name is Sullivan. I just used my cousin’s last name as an alias.”
“Miss Sullivan,” he said, without questioning why she’d used an alias. He’d just accepted it and she was grateful for that. It was strange how good it was to hear her real name spoken in his voice, from his lips. He spoke it with such familiarity it was as though he’d been saying her name all his life. It was as though he was meant to say it for years to come.
She was hoping, when he leaned forward, that they’d have that big kiss that couples always had at the end of those romance flicks. Suddenly those movies didn’t seem so silly anymore to Chloe. He didn’t attempt anything deep. Like the man himself it was a simple kiss, very close to the corner of her mouth, and she wondered, if she turned her head just so, would he close the gap and cover her lips with his? Would he seek more?
Chloe’s courage failed her and the moment had passed. That seemed to be the story of her life; missing opportunities because she didn’t have the courage to seize the day. Carpe diem had always frightened her.
He held the door to her car open and then shut it behind her. It was a warm day and she decided to ride with the top down. Once she was buckled in she gave him a lingering glance and then pulled intothe gas station across the way to top off the tank and grab some java. When she pulled onto the road she looked into her rearview mirror and saw Clark was walking in the opposite direction.
She watched until he disappeared from sight.
Forty minutes dragged by like forty days. The further Chloe got from Clark the harder it became to keep her foot on the gas pedal. It felt wrong to leave him, felt like she was giving up something vital, like there was some invisible cord that had formed between them and every single inch that passed beneath the tires of her car was stretching it thinner. It refused to break, that bond, but it stretched and caused pain and misery and it would always do so, she just knew it, as long as she was apart from Clark. She wondered, as she drove, if he felt the same way, if he’d felt that same connection and wanted to draw closer to her rather than far away. She prayed she wasn’t being creepy, latching onto the first nice guy to come along simply because she’d spent too many years longing for love but never receiving it.
Seize the day, she told herself. Just once, do something right. Be brave.
Traffic was sparse so it was easy for Chloe to turn the tiny car around without worrying about causing a wreck or angry horns blasting at her. She did a quick U turn and floored it, pushing the vehicle twenty miles per hour past the speed limit. She kept an eye out for the cops and thanked the stars when she returned to the motel without getting caught.
“Please still be on the road,” Chloe said quietly.
She knew the likelihood of someone picking him up was pretty damn good. He was a young, clean cut guy with a friendly face. If some trucker didn’t pick him up some woman probably would take the chance he wouldn’t turn out to be some sicko. Knowing Chloe’s luck it would be that thirsty waitress from the Waffle House.
She drove on, moving past the exit to the little motel she’d called home the past week, kept going until she spotted that black backpack bouncing against the bright red shirt he favored. When he turned to stick out a thumb and saw her pull onto the shoulder he grinned with the brilliance of a thousand suns.
“Need a lift?” she asked, feeling like that invisible cord that she’d stretched too far had snapped back into place, and her sorrow at being away from Clark had turned to joy.
He faked skepticism. “I don’t know. There’s a lot of bad women out there. How do I know you’re not one of them?”
She leaned his way and winked at him. “You don’t.”
“I’m gonna take a chance on you not being dangerous.”
Seize the day...
This was her chance to finally answer the question of what would happen if she and Clark were to ever close that distance and meet at the lips so she took it. She leaned over and pressed her lips to his and was so relieved when he didn’t freeze up, but, instead, leaned into it. She kept it simple, not trying to slip him the tongue, but that kiss got her point across nicely.
“I wanted to be closer, too. So, tell me, where’s the place you call home?”
“Smallville. A hundred fifty miles straight ahead.”
Chloe lowered her sunglasses and pulled back onto the road. Clark took her hand in his and they drove on.
The name didn’t do it justice at all. It was a huge place but the many farms meant there was a lot of open space with few people.
It was close to dark when they pulled up to the yellow farmhouse with the red barn and the high silver grain silo. The porch light clicked on and a woman in her mid-to-late fifties emerged from the house. Her hair was long and red but it had as much gray in it now as not. She was beautiful, and she hugged her son with so much love that Chloe wondered what it would be like to be hugged, and loved, that much by her mother, who was lost so deeply on her own mind that she wasn’t aware of anyone around her anymore.
“Mom, this is Chloe Sullivan. We met on the road and worked at Larsen’s Motel this week. Chloe, my mom, Martha Kent.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Kent.”
“Call me Martha. It’s a pleasure to meet you, too. Clark talked about you every night.”
“Is that roast beef?” Clark asked, clearing his throat. Martha realized she’d given too much away but she still winked at Chloe.
“Your favorite. Chloe, please join us.”
“Thanks, I’d love to.”
The house was absolutely precious, a monument to hearth and home, to family and the American dream. It was made up of cream colored walls, hardwood floors, antique decorations that liked like they’d been handed down no less than three generations. The kitchen was cozy, homey, and Chloe washed up at the sink while Clark and Martha got the food on the table.
“Mom food. Man, I’ve missed it,” Clark said, and started to reach into the oven to grab the roast with his bare hand.
“Clark!” Chloe shouted, seeing he was about to touch the glass roasting pan and reached for him. He froze while Chloe rushed to his side, touching his arm in concern.
“You okay? You could have seriously hurt yourself.”
“I wasn’t thinking. Guess I’m just kind of off from being on the road,” he said.
Chloe didn’t miss the look of worry on Martha’s face when she ushered him to sit down at the table. “I’ll get the roast. You two rest. You’re young but even young people get tired after a long trip.”
“Maybe you should go on to sleep after dinner,” Chloe suggested.
“I’m fine. That was just a really stupid mistake,” he said quietly. “Really stupid.”
Dinner was fairly quiet. Like her son, Martha possessed a healthy dose of respect for people’s privacy. When Clark explained that Chloe didn’t like discussing her family, Martha spoke about their own family instead, letting Chloe off the hook but still making her feel welcome.
“Isn’t Smallville where that meteor shower happened like, fourteen years ago?” Chloe asked.
“The fourteenth anniversary is coming up in a few months,” Martha said. “It happened the day we brought Clark home.”
“I was here,” Chloe said, surprising both Clark and Martha. “I mean, I was in the area. I usually don’t like to think about it. Mom was exposed to a bunch of those rocks and she got sick not long after. She uh...She became catatonic. Two years later Dad died and...”
“I’m sorry,” Clark said.
He looked so stricken Chloe almost laughed. “Chill, Clark, you’re not personally responsible for what happened to her.”
Martha kept glancing at her son, like she knew something, and Chloe wondered what it was. “How about desert?” She asked with a touch too much cheer, trying to pull her son from the sudden funk he’d fallen into. “Apple pie a la mode.”
He drew in a deep breath and put a smile in place. “Sound good.”
“After dessert I need to get into town, find a room for a few nights,” Chloe said.
“You could stay here,” Martha said. “Clark is a very good judge of character. He wouldn’t have brought you home if you weren’t trustworthy.”
“You can have my room,” he offered.
“I don’t know, Clark, I couldn’t take your room.”
“You fed me three meals a day for a week and wouldn’t let me pay you back. At least let me give you a place to stay.”
She found the offer hard to resist. She’d get a better feel of who Clark was and she’d save money.
“Only for two nights until I decide where I’m going next.”
“Fair enough,” he agreed.
He led her upstairs to his room, which was clean and tidy. She’d have thought Martha had cleaned up for him had she not seen how neat he’d kept his room at the motel. The sheets and pillow cases were fresh and he opened a window to let some fresh air in.
“This is definitely the bedroom of a teenage boy. Football an obsession of yours?”
“You could say that,” he agreed. He did have a lot of posters and his jersey hung on the wall. “I’m taking all of this down.”
“Moving on from your glory days?”
“Yeah. I’m not in high school anymore.”
They fell into silence and she had a feeling, as he gazed at her, that he was thinking about that kiss they’d shared earlier and wasn’t in the mood for chitchat.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Maybe,” she said, coy.
Clark knelt in front of her and rested his hands on the bed, either side of her. Now they were face to face with her only slightly higher up than him.
“You’re something of a mind reader,” he said. “According to you I’m easy to read. So tell me what I’m thinking about right now.”
Chloe draped her arms around his shoulders. “You’re thinking about when I kissed you.”
“Miss Sullivan, you’re three for three.”
His eyes were hooded now and those beautiful green irises were directed at her lips.
“Does that mean I’ve scored a homerun, Clark?”
“Second base for sure.”
He closed the space between them, forgoing a press of the lips to slip his tongue into her mouth. She tried not to moan at how good it felt, tried not to even breathe to hard, lest Mrs. Kent hear them. She tangled her hands in his hair and returned the kiss. It was slow, gentle, a caressing of tongues and pressing of lips, a mingling of breath that smelled like ice cream and apple pie, the way a happy home smelled.
When he pulled away he left Chloe with an ache deep in her body, and an ache deep in her soul. Her body longed for his touch while her soul longed for his love, and she chastised herself for wanting too much of him too soon.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“Four a.m., or some insanely early hour like that?”
“No, six a.m. sharp.”
He smoothed her hair back from her forehead. “Sweet dreams, Chloe.”
“You too, Clark.”
Morning came in clear and cool. Chloe donned a jacket that Clark loaned her until the afternoon warmed up and joined him on the porch for a cup of coffee. She held the mug to keep her fingers warm while she looked out over the fields. Corn had been sewn and it would grow high before it was harvested.
“Anything you want to do today?”
“Nothing I can say out loud,” she answered, bringing a smile to his face.
“I was thinking we could spend the evening at Crater Lake after I work on Dad’s old truck.”
“While you do that I thought I could tour the town, maybe look for a job.”
“This job going to last a week or maybe a little longer?”
Definitely longer, she thought. The idea of leaving Clark felt absurd now.
“Remember when I said I’d know when I got to where I’m going? Well...I’m here.”
He was kissing her again. Not as deeply as last night but he was kissing her and squeezing her close.
“Want me to come into town with you?” he said breathlessly.
“I should go alone. I’m afraid you and your rosy red lips will just distract me.”
After a breakfast that didn’t taste like it had been cooked in grease that was ten years old Chloe drove into town and grabbed a paper. She went to a coffee shop called The Talon and sat in a corner booth where she started marking jobs. One in particular stood out to her.
Copy editor at the local paper.
Chloe looked up from the paper to a stunningly attractive Chinese girl with long black hair and a cheerful smile.
“Yes, I am. I got into town last night. Chloe.”
The girl took the hand she offered and gave it a firm shake. “Lana Lang. Good to meet you. Are you staying long?”
She poured Chloe a refill, on the house.
“Yeah, I’m actually looking for a job and a place of my own. A friend is putting me up for a few days but I’d like to have my own place to hang my hat.”
“I don’t know of anything yet but if I hear of something I can call you.”
Chloe gave Lana her number and then headed out to buy a smart suit to throw on before heading out to apply for that job at the local paper.
Prospects looked good for that job. Chloe aced the tests and, she was sure, the interview. Now all she had to do was wait to see if she was chosen from the pool of candidates that had also tried for the job.
It was later than intended when she pulled up to the Kent farm. Clark greeted her covered in dirt and grease. The only thing lacking was sweat, which she chalked up to a high tolerance for heat, though the evening was cooling down and he may have simply dried up. Despite the filth, or perhaps because if it, she wanted to jump him now more than ever.
“I’ll go shower and we’ll take our dinner up to the lake.”
“Or we can go up now and you can jump in wearing just your undies,” she suggested with a naughty wink. He grinned slyly at her.
“Hoping to see a little something, Chloe?”
“I’ve seen quite a bit of it already and it’s not little,” she replied and was rewarded with his smile brightening even more. “Don’t use all the hot water.”
“I don’t use any hot water. Good for circulation and cuts down on the heating bill.”
“So you’re a morning person and you like cold showers? Clark, I’m starting to think you’re some kind of freak and I don’t mean the good way.”
He winked at her. “Don’t write me off just yet.”
She let herself enjoy the shiver that passed through her while her imagination ran away with her as to what kind of freak he was in the bedroom.
She didn’t have time to ponder it too much longer. She went to the kitchen and found a picnic basket loaded with roasted chicken and veggies, some rolls, and a few cans of her favorite soda waiting for them to go. Martha sat in the living room doing a crossword and listening to country music on the radio. Clark surprised her by coming downstairs after only ten minutes. She felt bad for taking three times that long when she had her own shower.
“Mom, we’re going up to the lake,” Clark said.
“Okay, have fun,” she said, and then looked her son directly in the eye and added, “and be careful.”
Chloe’s neck was still burning with embarrassment when they got into the old truck Clark had repaired and started out. Crater Lake turned out to be absolutely beautiful. It stretched out further than she could see. They sat by the water, alone, now that most people had called it a night. Clark had built a fire to dispel the chill in the air after they’d finished eating and they lounged beneath the trees by the water with Clark sitting behind Chloe and wrapping her in his arms. The sun was down now and the sky above was clear and dusted with stars.
“You can’t see the stars in Metropolis,” Chloe said, leaning against him. “Too much artificial light.”
The fire was warm at her front, Clark was almost as warm to her back. He was so solid and strong that it was easy to believe he could protect her but that was a false sense of security. His muscles were no match for Lionel Luthor’s money and influence should he ever learn her whereabouts. It wouldn’t be hard. She didn’t have fake credentials and had to apply for jobs using her real name.
“I think you’ll really like it here in Smallville, Chloe. You’d see starry skies at night, meet good people, have a simple life...”
“I’d have you?”
“Good, because you’re what I want more than anything else.”
That kind of honesty was hard for her to admit but the gentle squeeze from Clark told her that not only was he glad to hear it, he returned the sentiment. She was eager to see how far her relationship with Clark could go. She was going to stand up to Luthor when the day inevitably came that he found her. She was willing to live broke and in a ditch rather than go back to her luxury prison in Metropolis to marry Lex and let them rob her of her identity until all that was left was of their creation.
The feel of Clark’s hand on her belly was good, the way he gently ran his fingertips over her skin. Before she let him go too far, however, she wanted to open up to him.
“Before we go any further I need to open up to you. I need you to understand who I am.”
“Okay,” he said, still caressing her tummy.
“The guardian I told you about is Lionel Luthor.”
His fingers stilled. “You really do come from money,” he said, trying to joke. “Are you worried that’s all I’ll want you for? Money?”
“If it is you’ll be sorely disappointed. I left with a few grand and that’s all I have. I became his ward when I was ten. He raised me in Metropolis, outside of the public eye as much as possible. He’s been...grooming...me.”
“To marry his son, Lex. Last year he started coming onto me, started touching me. Two days before my eighteenth birthday he came into my room and tried to have sex with me.”
Clark was shaking and Chloe knew it had nothing to do with the cold. “Tried to or forced you?” he asked.
“Tried to. I got away but Lionel made it clear he wanted me to live up to my “responsibilities” with regards to my relationship with Lex. He wasn’t going to stop his son so I took what little bit of cash I had saved and hit the road in my cousin Lois’s car. He’s going to find me someday, Clark, if he doesn’t already know where I am. He’ll try to force me back by intimidating everyone I try to get a job with. No school will take me.”
“Mom and I will take you in,” Clark said, his voice fierce.
“Clark, you don’t know Lionel. If you and Martha try to come between him and what he wants he’ll destroy you financially. I can’t do that to you. I can’t do it to Martha.”
Clark was silent for a long time before he said. “We’ll talk to Mom in the morning, see what she says. In the meantime I need to share something with you, too. I’m different from other guys our age. I want to come here with you, make love to you, but I can’t. It’s only fair that you know we can’t have a normal sex life.”
“No...I just can’t risk it.”
He chuckled and sniffed her hair. “No. I can’t go into it, not yet. Let’s just say I might lose control and hurt you. I’m not bragging about my virility, either. It’s a real danger. That’s why I can’t.”
She turned just enough to face him and stroked his face with a gentle touch. “Does it have something to do with the meteor shower?”
Chloe didn’t know everything about Clark but she wanted to, and she wanted to do it on his terms rather than push so hard he walked away. She nodded and was content to rest against him, wrapped in his warm, strong embrace. A guy’s manhood was a touchy subject and she knew that it could be heavily tied to his self esteem.
“Share what you’re ready to share when you’re ready. I’m not gonna push. I just want to be close to you, Clark.”
“We can’t have sex but there’s other things we can do,” he said, and pressed his lips to hers. “Let show you...I can still please you.”
His tongue slipping into her mouth was almost enough to distract her from his nimble fingers unbuttoning her jeans. He leaned back against the tree, giving her room to recline a little more. The kiss was deep, slow, tongues caressing and breath mingling as they tasted one another.
The kiss drew to a close when Clark began to massage her center, rubbing her with slow strokes that were almost torture. She looked up at him as his hand continued moving.
This is what running had led her to: a pristine lake under the moonlight and a hitchhiker’s hand down her panties.
Chloe couldn’t believe she’d ever contemplated walking away from this beautiful boy. What if her tire hadn’t gone flat? She would have kept going and wouldn’t have spent a week as a maid to his handyman, eating snacks and watching movies and swimming in ponds and falling in love.
She let a moan escape her. The few fumbles she’d had in her life had been enjoyable but even her best orgasms couldn’t compare to the ripples of need building inside of her now. Clark’s fingers moved with ease through her slick folds, seemingly too big to be so graceful. He gently tugged at her lips, making her wetter, building the ache inside.
She needed more. She needed him inside but she refused to rush the moment. She leaned into him, her head falling back until she had a view of the stars. Not that she really saw them. All she could do was concentrate on how his fingertips circled her clit, slow but with ever increasing speed.
She reached down and encouraged him to penetrate her. If she couldn’t have his cock inside her she would settle for his thick, long, fingers.
He was so slick with her juices that he slid easily inside her wet warmth, his teeth grazing her ear lightly and drawing a long, low moan as he pushes further inside, going deeper before holding still. The stillness of his finger as his thumb continues pressing her clit drives her crazy and she lifts her hips, a silent plea for him to move, to drive her over the edge.
His free hand lifts her shirt and she knows what he needs. She pulled the shirt up, along with her bra, exposing her tits which were tipped with hardened nipples.
“Fuck, Chloe,” he sighed, and began to move, starting off slow as he feels her juices dribbling over his finger.
Clark set up a steady rhythm, moving in deep, pulling out and moving in again as he presses his lips to her neck. Chloe can feel him hardening against her back. That’s what she really wants but she knows he’s not ready, or able right now, to share himself with her so completely. He was right when he said he could still please her. He’s pleasing her now, making her wetter than she’s ever been in her life, arousing a kind of pleasurable pressure inside her on a scale she’s never felt before.
The pressure doubled when he slipped his index finger inside and curved them just right, rubbing that spot that he knew he’d found when she gasped and bit her bottom lip almost hard enough to draw blood. Her fingers dug into his steel hard legs, one on either side of her, as the sweat beaded not only on her skin but on his. She dared a glance up at Clark, saw his fringe was moist and clinging to his sweat-glistened forehead. Clark, his face bathed in firelight, was like an angel fallen from the heavens, and she pulled his head down for another deep kiss.
“Come here,” he said, pulling away and withdrawing from her dripping depths.
He turned her, lifting her as though she weighed nothing, and she straddled his lap while he pushed her jeans down even further. He kissed her lightly but held eye contact when his fingers found her again. One hand rubbed her ass, cupping her and squeezing her, pulling her against his hard length which twitched inside his jeans made tight by his arousal. She grinded against him while he resumed fingering her, going deeper this time than he had before, putting pressure in her cunt with each thrust.
Chloe was moaning now, feeling her release near. His fingers sped up, moving with speed she’d never imagined was humanly possible. She was so sensitive that it was like he was vibrating inside of her.
“Clark…” she moaned, still grinding her clit hard against his jeans which were sopping wet with her juices.
He drew his tongue up the length of her neck, licking her sweat before kissing her neck, grazing her with his teeth. She came explosively, her eyes locked on his, her pussy clenching around his fingers tightly as the ripples of her orgasm rolled through her body. When it was over she collapsed in his powerful embrace, spent, satiated.
The shower was warm and Chloe hated washing Clark’s scent from her skin but she needed to get clean. It was past midnight when they got home but she doubted Mrs. Kent would care. It was a Friday night, after all, and they were young and in love.
She came downstairs and found Clark laid out on the couch, his big feet pointing toward her, clad in blue socks. She didn’t need to ask to join him. He simply held out his arms and she moved to him, coming to rest on his chest.
“Can you sleep like this, with me on top of you?”
“Sure. I’ll carry you upstairs after you’ve fallen asleep.”
“If I find a way to stay here I’ll have my own place. You won’t have to leave. You can stay some nights with me. Not sure how your mom will feel about it.”
“She’s old fashioned but she’s not a prude. She’ll understand. She’ll just…have to…I guess.”
He kissed her forehead and Chloe listened to Clark’s heart thudding solidly under her hear. She wanted to say the words already, those big three words, but she feared she was pushing for too much too soon. She contented herself with feeling the satisfaction in her body, how relaxed she felt after the most intense orgasm of her life, and her eyelids grew heavy. Moments later she was sound asleep.
She came downstairs the next morning, unaware of Clark having put her in his bed. The house smelled of coffee, her favorite scent, and she poured a cup while Martha and Clark sat talking at the kitchen table where cream of wheat and toast was ready.
“Clark told me about your situation with Lionel Luthor,” Martha said, touching her hand. “I’m so sorry, Honey.”
“I’ll be okay,” she said. “I’ll just hit the road again and--”
Martha smiled and shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. I’m not kicking you out. I’m just sorry he’s made such a mess of your life, taking you in not out of kindness and love but instead to use you like he must use everyone in his life. That kind of man is dangerous but our doors are always open. You have a place here, Chloe. You don’t need to run anywhere. Clark and I will do whatever we can to help you.”
Chloe had never had such a kind woman in her life. Lionel had kept her isolated, had tried to brainwash her into becoming what he wanted her to be, and never allowed her to know the kindness of someone like Martha Kent.
“I won’t stay if he starts meddling in your lives. I can’t do that to you.”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. For now keep looking for work and don’t worry about where you’ll stay,” Martha said.
An hour or so later she and Clark were sitting in the living room watching old game show reruns on TV.
“Clark, do you think I have what it takes to be out here, to make it on my own, to stand up against people like Lionel and Lex Luthor?”
“Yes. I have no doubt,” he said, kissing her softly on her temple. He slid a hand up and under her shirt and rested his warm palm against her belly. “You’re not alone. Even if they find you--”
“When they find me,” she corrected.”
“Even when they find you Mom and I are going to stick by you. Don’t be afraid, Chloe. You’re free of them. You’re now your own woman. Nobody’s gonna take that from you, I promise.”
He said that now but Chloe wondered how long even good people like the Kents could withstand pressure from a man like Lionel Luthor before they caved. She wouldn’t blame them when that moment inevitably came but for now she was going to live the life she wanted. She was going to live it with Clark.
When the time came, and she knew it would, she may find she’d have to hit the road again if for nothing else than to take heat off of Clark and Martha. She’d make her own way. After all, Lionel Luthor had given her one thing he could never take away: a drive to succeed. She was a survivor, a fighter, stubborn as hell, and she’d sink or swim on her own.
Something told her, though, as she leaned against Clark and felt him gently stroking her tummy, she’d turn out to be a very good swimmer.