To reveal thick, sculpted arms.
To reveal a ring of thorns tattooed around his bicep.
I averted my gaze, running my tongue over dry lips. My heart was racing –galloping– but I forced a calm demeanor, reaching casually for the long reach screwdriver I’d been using earlier.
Closing my palm around the grooved handled.
Taking a deep, steadying breath.
Looking at him to double-check my aim.
Returning the grin he gave me.
That was a mistake.
I launched the screwdriver anyway.
It stuck in the wall where his head had been because he was already out of his seat, moving toward me with terrifying determination. That didn’t mean I wasn’t ready for him – I easily dodged his first swing, catching him under the chin with a counter-blow that would’ve dropped a normal man to his knees.
Thorns weren’t “normal”, though.
My hit staggered him just enough for me to slide past, not letting myself get boxed into a corner of the garage. Instead of going around his car, I skirted over the hood, smacking the button on the wall that would raise the door for the back entry into the garage.
There was no shortage of creaking and grinding as the door let out a massive groan, then slowly started climbing open.
The angry Thorn I was trapped in here with wasn’t about to wait on that, though.
His heavy boots told me exactly where he was – not that it mattered much anymore, without the element of surprise working in my favor. I’d never been a slouch in hand-to-hand combat, but over the last year, I’d certainly been a slouch in my training.
He… had not.
It was clear he had no intention of making the same mistake of letting me dodge a blow – that was apparent from the brain-addling jab he landed on my jaw, followed quickly by a shot to the ribs. I dropped to the ground, gasping for the breath that hit had snatched from my lungs as he stepped back, presumably unwilling to go harder on me than necessary.
I used the leverage of the ground to launch myself at his legs, knocking him down. I kept my momentum, catching his wrist to twist behind his body and not bothering to make the mistake of hesitating before I dislocated it.
If it was me or him, it wasgoingto be me.
It wouldalwaysbe me.
I uncovered the blade I kept tucked in my waist, fully prepared to drive it right into his spine. However, he was barely fazed by the current uselessness of his wrist, easily tossing me from his back before he smacked the blade from my hold. With one hand, he snatched me by the throat, flipping me over to pin me there, with my back against the ground.
“Who the fuck are you?” he growled, his deep brown eyes darkening with molten anger. I curved my fingers into claws, trying to reach his face, but our size difference placed that target out of reach.
When I didn’t answer, he tightened his grip on my throat, crushing me with his weight. “Answer the goddamn question,” he demanded.
“You first,” I managed to gasp, as I planted one foot on the ground as a lever to drive my opposite shin into his – a move that resulted in searing pain for both of us. The difference was, I knew it was coming – a painful risk I took to get his hand off my neck, and disable him long enough for me to launch myself from the ground and jump over him, barely dodging his hold as he grabbed for me.
I easily maneuvered through the maze of parts that were stored in the back, while the unfamiliar setting slowed him down just enough for me to make it to my motorcycle in the back.
ThankGodI always left my keys in the switch.
My bike roared to life just as the familiar sound of the rolling door hit my ears, and I realized he was trying to close me in. I wasted no time gunning it, even as the opening between the bottom of the door and the ground started getting smaller.
I had to lean at a damn near ninety-degree angle to clear the opening, but that was fine – as long as I cleared it. I glanced behind me as the motorcycle kicked up dry dust, trying to see if I was being followed.
Not that it mattered.