Take My Hand Chapter 1

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            She wrapped her coat more closely around her as she walked, and ducked her head against the cold November breeze. She walked as quickly as possible as she neared The Devil's Playground. As she neared the open alleyway, the sound of scuffling and a groan drew her attention. She glanced up to find the unsurprising sight of a man sitting in the shadows of the alleyway, obviously drunk and on the verge of puking or passing out. Maybe both. As she was about to turn, the man looked up at her. Something in his eyes stopped her. There was such sadness. Such misery. And emptiness the likes of which she had never seen. But there was more: hatred, pain, betrayal, and pleading. Before she realized what she was doing she had turned to walk towards him.

            "Keep walking, little innocent," the man said softly, pain evident in his voice.

            Jo paused. As he turned his head away from her, she saw the blood that covered his face and clothes. She covered the distance between them in a couple steps and kneeled beside him cautiously. "You're hurt," she gasped.

            "I am fine," he muttered.

            "You obviously are not fine. Let me help."

            "I do not need your help, nor anyone else's. Leave me be, little innocent."

            "Please. I can help you. Can you walk?" She asked, ignoring his protests.

            "Why do you insist upon helping a stranger in a dark alleyway? It cannot be a habit that is beneficial to your personal health," he muttered sarcastically. "I am more danger to you than you could possibly know."

            "Perhaps. But I cannot leave you here. Call it stupidity if you wish." She reached for him again to help him stand. "Can you walk?" She asked again.

            "Aye, I can walk," he relented.

            "Good. Come, and I will help you," Jo said softly, helping him to his feet. He groaned, but stood with little effort from her. "My apartment is less than a block away."

            "How convenient," he muttered.

            "For you I suppose it is," Jo replied, keeping a steady hand along his back and one along his shoulder lest he fall as she led him to her apartment, wondering all the while what had possessed her to help this man and praying that he would not take advantage of the vulnerable position she was placing herself in for his benefit.

            Jo unlocked the door to her one bedroom, loft apartment on the top floor of an old apartment building in downtown Chattanooga. It wasn't much, but it worked for a college student struggling to make ends meet. At least there was plenty of space, and no one was likely to break in with her on the twenty-second floor. Thank God for whoever invented elevators, though.

            Jo led the injured man to her spacious bathroom, where he leaned against the door frame. She turned to look at him for the first time since she had seen his captivating eyes in the alley. He was gripping his side and held his weight off of one leg. He was covered in blood, his face bruised and bloodied, his side oozing blood as he breathed laboriously. Obviously he was hurt worse than she had imagined. How had he walked?

            "Oh my," she breathed. "You need to go to the emergency room. Now."

            She tried to ease past him to grab her cell phone to call an ambulance.

            "No," he said succinctly, grabbing her arm as she passed.

            "But you're injured badly. You've lost so much blood. And--"       

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