After serving a year and half of her prison term, Molly Saunders is on the verge of being set free. At least as free as a former drug addict, ex-con can be. She’s granted early release and sent to a half-way house to begin her reintegration into society, a prospect that both frightens and excites her. She’s determined to stay on the straight and narrow and make something of herself, but the reappearance of someone from her past threatens to drag her back to her old life.
Max Davidson takes pride in his successful career as a detective on the police force. There’s just one thing he regrets, and now he has a chance to make amends. Deep in his heart he knows that Molly’s bad life choices are all his fault, and now that she’s out of prison it’s his job to make sure she turns her life around – for good.
When Max sees the opportunity to keep Molly safe, he grabs it, knowing it’s the only way she’ll survive. Molly isn’t sure she can forgive Max for the way he treated her, but when he offers her a safe haven, she doesn’t have much choice. When he decides to enforce the terms of her parole with the threat of putting her over his knee, things quickly heat up between this unlikely pair.
Author’s Note: Although this brand new story is a standalone romance, it is best enjoyed after reading the prior books in the Chances of Discipline series, as events and people from those books appear in this one.
Publisher’s Note: This sweet love story contains scenes of domestic discipline as well as graphic love scenes between consenting adults.
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“Saunders! Miller!” The guard barked from the hall just outside their doorway, where she stood waiting, and watching, for a response.
The cell door swung shut after the guard confirmed both occupants were present and accounted for, the harsh clang of metal on metal bouncing off the cement walls. Molly flinched at the noise, like she had every night for the last seventeen and a half months. Seventy weeks. Almost five hundred days spent locked away, the first six months spent in the substance abuse treatment wing, and the last year here, in the general population. Ticking off the days, one by one, until she could go home.
Not that she had much waiting for her on the outside. Now that she was clean and sober, all her old friends were off limits. The only remaining family Molly had she’d almost killed in a car accident, which was the reason she’d ended up in prison. No husband or boyfriend eagerly anticipating her release. No children she could lay claim to anymore.
Even with all that, she still looked forward to tomorrow with equal amounts of nerves and excitement. Tomorrow she’d go before the parole board to see if they believed her ready to move to the work release program and gain some small measure of freedom. As much as Molly wanted that freedom, she feared it too. It was easy to battle your demons when you lived in a concrete cage, with guards and counselors overseeing every moment of your day. There was no temptation here. No opportunity to fall off the tracks or slip up. Sure, if you tried hard enough, an enterprising inmate could somehow obtain all sorts of illegal things, but the risks far outweighed the rewards in Molly’s opinion. It was far easier to obey the rules and stay on the straight and narrow.
As much as she hated the confinement and endless restrictions, in a dark and secret part of her mind that she’d never share with anyone else, ever, she knew that she needed the structure. Knowing that there were consequences, harsh consequences, for breaking a rule kept Molly focused. Talking across tables during lunch? You lost your evening free time. Getting into an argument over who had control over the station on the single television in the rec area? No new books from the library for you this week. Every action elicited a reaction, either good or bad. Completed your assigned jobs for the day? Maybe you get some extra free time, if the guards felt generous. Molly had no decisions to make, except whether or not to play by the rules. Rules, rules, rules.
Some of things she had to do made her skin crawl, like random strip searches. Nothing compared to the humiliation of having to take off all your clothes and spread your ass cheeks in front of strangers. If you refused, they’d do it anyway, then send you to solitary to contemplate your behavior. Molly had never refused. She wanted to, but the threat of losing even the limited human interaction inmates were allowed was enough to dissuade her from that course of action. It made her feel like an animal, but she reminded herself that she deserved every terrible, embarrassing injustice she had to endure. It could have been much worse. Only luck prevented her from being locked up for the rest of her life. Luck, and her cousin’s softhearted plea to the judge at sentencing to be lenient. Molly didn’t know how Sara had compassion for the person that almost killed her, but somehow, Sara managed to be a better person than Molly could ever hope to be. Sweet and loving, even in the face of Molly’s complete disregard for her life.
The only catch to Sara’s request was imposed by Keith, Sara’s husband and the father of Molly’s son.
No. Not her son anymore. Not ever really.
She’d signed her rights away immediately after his birth, before she even left the hospital, but Keith wanted a court order saying she could never change her mind. That was the catch. As much as it shamed her to admit it, Molly didn’t mind. She’d eagerly signed the papers, even when her court appointed lawyer warned her that she might change her mind in the future.
Molly wouldn’t, and didn’t even want to leave that option open. Carter deserved a mother who loved him unconditionally and would put him first, always. That person was Sara. Even now that Molly was clean and sober she didn’t feel any different. She couldn’t guarantee that she’d always make the best decisions, but Keith and Sara would absolutely do that for Carter.
It’s not like she’d have the opportunity to see Carter any time soon. Part of the deal was a permanent restraining order that prevented her from making contact with any of them, including her grandmother. She’d need a court order to remove it. That meant hiring a lawyer and going back in front of the judge. And that was not something Molly planned on doing.
They were gone from her life, probably forever. It hurt if she thought about it too much, knowing she couldn’t talk to the only person who actually gave a shit about her, but it was for the best.
Besides, maybe Sara didn’t care about her anymore. Although Molly knew that Sara was responsible for the light sentence, only two years, she may have reconsidered since then. Keith would have preferred that Molly rotted in prison for the rest of her life and that attitude might have rubbed off on Sara. If she looked at it from his point of view, Molly had to agree. She couldn’t imagine what Sara had to go through to get Keith to consent to the deal, but she’d done it for Molly. A last parting gift from her only family.
“Whatcha thinking about, chickie?” A soft voice interrupted her thoughts, pulling her out of the depressing downward spiral that would surely end in tears. Her cellmate always sensed when the demons of the past tortured her soul. “Are you nervous about tomorrow?”
“Thinking about the past and what’s going to happen if I get out of here,” Molly replied. “Trying not to get my hopes up too much.”
“Aww, don’t worry chickie. You’ll get out of here,” Dani assured her. “You’ve got perfect behavior and completed your job training with straight As. They’ll let you out.”
“That’s scary, too,” Molly admitted, torn between fear of being denied parole and staying in prison longer, and an equal fear of the outside world.
Would she be able to handle living without the constant supervision? She was terrified that at the first opportunity she’d make the wrong choice and end up living the same life as before. Partying all the time, always looking for the next high, the next good time. Never doing anything with her life except rushing towards an early grave.
“You’ll be fine. They won’t just throw you out there. You’ll go to the half-way house for at least six months before they even consider you for complete release.” Dani spoke with the voice of experience, even though she’d never been through it herself. She was the friendliest person Molly had ever met, and somehow managed to get every inmate in the place to tell her their life story, so she had loads of inside info on how the criminal justice system worked.
“I don’t know how you stay so positive, Dani,” Molly said. Dani should be pissed off and angry at the system after having spent three years locked up when she should have been out in half that. Somehow her release was always denied, and the last time her case went up for review, her sentence managed to be extended for an additional six months for getting in a fight. A fight that never even happened. Someone out there really didn’t want Dani to be on the outside. Molly suspected that Dani knew exactly who was behind it, but she refused to tell anyone. Even some of the nicer guards had tried to help her, but Dani wouldn’t budge. Whoever it was had power, and didn’t mind using it to keep a twenty-three-year-old woman locked behind bars.
“I can’t be any other way chickie,” was Dani’s quiet reply.
Molly didn’t bother to ask any questions, knowing they’d be met with silence. Instead she stripped down to her underwear and climbed into bed. The limited amount of modesty she used to possess was long gone, especially around Dani. Having to use the toilet in front of another person makes you get comfortable with all sorts of things you never imagined you’d be able to. In fact, shitting in front of Dani was the least of the humiliation she’d endured, and tomorrow it might almost be over. Success in front of the parole board was the first step on the road to freedom and hopefully, the rest of her life.
The next morning came quickly. Molly hadn’t expected to be able to sleep, but for some reason, she was out like a light minutes after her head hit the pillow. Probably from the stress she’d put herself under the past few days, anticipating this moment, sitting in front of the board. Her nerves jangled like she’d drunk an entire pot of coffee and the oatmeal she’d eaten three hours ago threatened to make another appearance, right on the table that separated her from the two women and one man who would decide her fate.
This was worse than her sentencing, a hundred times worse. Back then she’d been struggling with withdrawal and didn’t care what happened. Now she was perfectly sober and sickeningly aware of what she had to lose. But she’d worked hard, so that had to count for something. Right?
Molly sat towards the front of the small hearing room, facing the Board. A few chairs sat behind her, available for anyone who might want to come to support, or object, to the prisoner’s release. Nobody had come to do either for Molly. She hadn’t expected any support, but a small voice in the back of her head worried all week that Keith would appear and demand the Board deny her request. He hadn’t arrived yet and she’d already presented her case. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford an attorney so Molly represented herself, after a lot of coaching from Dani.
The Board retreated into another room to discuss her case, leaving Molly alone, except for the ever-present guard standing sentry by the door. Her mind raced, wondering what they were discussing and which way they would decide. Had she done enough? Expressed enough remorse? Showed her desire to become a stable part of the community? Her future was completely out of her hands now and the waiting was killing her.
To make matters worse, the door behind her squeaked open and someone entered. Just one person from the sound of the footsteps. Molly froze, terrified that it was Keith, come to make sure she didn’t breathe fresh air for as long as possible. If he opposed her early release, the Board would definitely side with him. She’d almost taken everything from him and received a ridiculously light sentence. If he insisted she serve all of her time in prison, they wouldn’t be likely to say no.
A few more minutes passed before Molly gathered up the strength to turn and see who’d come in. She prepared herself for the worst, schooling her face into a neutral mask to hide any reaction to the visitor. It had to be Keith. She couldn’t imagine who else would have shown up to her parole hearing. There wasn’t anyone else in the world who cared about what happened here today.
Just as she was about to turn and confirm her fears the Board returned, directing her attention back to the front of the room. They filed back in, taking their seats before they greeted the new person in the room.
“Detective Davidson, have you come to be heard by the Board on this matter?” The man asked, shocking Molly to the point where her mouth actually dropped open before she caught herself and closed it. “We’ve already discussed Ms. Saunders case, but if you would like to say something we will take it into consideration.”
Both women shot him a dirty look that said neither one of them wanted to take anything else into consideration and he was an ass for suggesting it, but neither said a word.
Molly still couldn’t get over the fact that Max showed up. It was bad enough he had to be the one who arrested her, and that he attended her sentencing and watched her get sent to prison. Now he wanted to watch her be denied parole too! Unless Keith had sent Max to speak for him? That would make sense if Keith didn’t want Sara to know he was opposing Molly’s release. That sneaky bastard.
Molly heard him rise behind her and again braced for impact. Coming from him it would hurt, much more than if Keith listed all the reasons why she shouldn’t be set free. If Max opened his mouth and explained why he thought she wasn’t fit to live among regular people… it would gut her.
She expected him to approach the podium set up to her right for just that purpose, but he didn’t, and then the surprises just kept coming.
“No sir, I have don’t have anything to say,” Max said, his deep voice somehow managing to soothe and terrify Molly at the same time. If he didn’t want to oppose, what was he there for? Was it possible, after all this time, that he was going to support her? Even if he didn’t speak on her behalf his presence alone made her feel better. Someone had cared enough about what happened to her that they’d shown up. “I apologize for being late. I just want to observe so I can report the outcome to the victim.”
Her meager hopes crashed to the ground at his last words. Of course. Keith couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with her, so Max had been the good guy and come to spy for him.
“The victim isn’t taking a position on Ms. Saunder’s petition for release?” the man asked, clearly surprised.
“No, she simply wants to know the outcome,” Max responded. Molly heard him sit back down and she relaxed slightly. It was too much to hope that he’d come to support her, but at least he wasn’t speaking against her either.
The man at the table shuffled some papers around while the women looked on, obviously annoyed at him for dragging the proceeding out. Molly started getting annoyed too, both at the man in front of her for intentionally stalling from announcing their decision, and the one behind her staring at her back so hard she felt an itch between her shoulder blades. She wanted to turn around and give him a good glare, but she dared not. Knowing her luck, the board would see that as a sign of disrespect and send her back to prison for another six months.
“Well Ms. Saunders, we’re ready to rule on your petition,” the man drawled in the most pretentious tone she’d ever heard in her life. Even the Judge hadn’t been this bad. Molly stood and kept her chin up as she awaited her fate “My colleagues feel that you’ve demonstrated enough good decision making and worked hard enough to be granted release into a re-entry program.” His delivery clearly indicated he hadn’t agreed with them one bit, and wouldn’t be letting her out if it was up to him. Luckily it wasn’t; the board ruled by majority.
Molly fought the urge to jump up and squeal, knowing the guard would be at her side in a second. Instead she smiled and remembered the manners her grandmother had tried so hard to instill in her. “Thank you for the opportunity, sir. You won’t see me back here again.”
The women gave her smiles of encouragement before they all exited back into the little room behind their table. Molly wondered how they managed to work together with all that animosity between them, but it didn’t matter now. She would be out of this disgusting place soon!
Before she could talk herself out of it, she turned to look at Max and see his reaction to the ruling, but the chairs behind her sat empty. Somehow, he’d snuck out without her hearing, and it was probably for the best. She didn’t need to know what he thought, because it didn’t matter. Molly planned on never seeing him again. He was a cop, and she would never get into trouble again.
The guard motioned for her to stand and follow him out the door. Molly wanted to skip down the long hallway that led back to the cellblock, yelling so loud they’d hear her coming a mile away. Of course, that would lead to some sort of discipline, and she definitely couldn’t risk losing her new-found freedom. Somehow, she managed not to let her excitement burst out of her shaking body, but barely. Stopping to go through the double locked doors that separated the administrative wing from the prisoners took forever as the guard stationed at the doors unlocked, then relocked it behind them. Then unlocked the next one.
Even though it was a minimum-security prison, they still made sure to follow all protocols to the letter. That fact prevented Molly from chatting with her escort even though she felt about ready to burst at the seams. Some guards were friendly and didn’t mind talking to the prisoners, but others would write you up in an instant for attempted fraternization. And sometimes the nice ones just had a bad day and would do the same. They held all the power and Molly made sure to remind herself of that daily.
But it was so hard to keep all her happiness to herself. She just had to keep it under control for a little while longer, until during free time when she saw Dani and the few other ladies she considered friends. They’d be happy for her, even though the news meant Molly would be leaving soon.
“So, that was pretty exciting for you.” The guard’s unexpected comment broke into Molly’s whirling thoughts. She glanced up and found his name across the left side of his chest. Fisher. She’d seen him escorting other prisoners back and forth to their hearings, but never had any contact with him herself since this was her first, and last, hearing.
“Yes sir, it was,” Molly replied. “I can’t wait to get out of here and start my life over.”
“It’s good that you didn’t say you wanted to get back to your old life.” He paused in front of another set of double doors, waiting for the guard on duty to let them through into the cell block wing. “Whenever I hear that I know the person will be back here sooner rather than later.”
“Not me,” Molly said a little too loudly. “I’m never coming back here. I don’t care if I have to be a saint who never leaves their house to stay out of trouble.”
Fisher chuckled as he ushered her through the final set of doors that led back to her current home. “I hope it all works out for you and you get out of here soon.”
“Do you know how long it takes to get a placement?” Molly had heard stories that it would be at least a few weeks, but you couldn’t always trust jailhouse rumors. Maybe he had some inside information. Maybe he’d tell her she’d be released in a few days!
“Usually about a month or so to find a placement, do all the paperwork and get you out.” Fisher replied, dashing Molly’s hopes. “But you might be in luck. I know a couple ladies found themselves in hot water and were kicked out of a house a few days ago.”
“How do you know that?” Molly asked, afraid to take what he said at face value. He didn’t seem mean, but some of the guards liked to taunt the women with promises and stories that never, ever came true.
He glanced down at her before answering. “Because I processed them back in here yesterday.”
Wow, that was lucky for Molly. Though not so good for the women who lost their spots and were now back in prison. “How did they get kicked out?” Molly wondered aloud, not really expecting an answer. But Fisher surprised her by giving her the scoop once they were out of earshot of the last guard.
“They broke curfew.”
“You get sent back to prison if you break curfew?” Molly asked. That seemed extremely harsh for such a small crime.
“You can get sent back if you break curfew enough times,” Fisher confirmed, with a harsh warning note in his voice. Molly made a mental note to always, always, schedule enough time to get back to the house, wherever it was. “But it was more the reason they broke curfew that earned them a straight ticket back here.”
He fell silent when they passed another inmate and her escort heading in the opposite direction. The guards nodded at each other, but neither woman spoke. Molly gave the terrified looking woman a smile, hoping to pass along a little of her own luck.
When the hall was empty again, Fisher continued. “They got into a fight in a bar and were arrested. They had to call their supervisory counselor to come bail them out.”
Molly bit back a laugh at the stupidity of those women, though she could hardly throw stones considering the bad choices that littered her past. But having been in prison, Molly vowed she would never risk coming back.
“I didn’t think you were allowed to go to bars on supervised release?” she asked, turning to face Fisher when they stopped in front of her cell.
“You’re not,” he answered. “Good luck, Saunders. Keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble.”
“Thanks,” Molly replied. “And thank you for the information.”
He didn’t answer, just nodded his head and walked away.
Molly sank onto her cot, exhausted from the emotional morning. Soon she’d be out of here, free to get a job using her newly acquired skills, able to start over and make the most of her second chance. The cellblock was quiet with all the inmates away at their daytime duties or classes. Molly had the whole day off for her hearing, so she closed her eyes and let her hopes and dreams for her new life carry her into sleep.