She lived alone, shopped alone, and spent most of her non-working time alone.
“Wow. Great time to get all maudlin,” Harper muttered as she walked across the dark parking lot. Her flashlight provided a small triangle of light, guiding her path.
“Dammit,” she whispered as she reached the car. It would have also been smarter to take the keys out before she arrived at the dark car in the deserted parking lot. “Idiot.”
A shiver of awareness ran down her spine as she fished in her purse, attempting to hold the phone and ice cream while rummaging.
She froze. The hair on the back of her neck rose.
Someone was behind her.
Hot breath hit her ear. “Which one of those animals are you fucking?”
Harper screamed and dropped everything she’d been holding as she whipped around, slamming her hip into the side mirror. It’d leave a bruise for sure, but the pain barely registered above the terror.
“Get the fuck away from me.” Could he hear the command? Or only the sound of her pounding heart? It hammered so loud it sounded like the drum section of a marching band.
“I just wanna talk.” He reached toward her face.
Harper jerked her head away and tried to back up, but the car behind her kept her from escaping.
He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. His touch made her shudder in fear.
She couldn’t make out his features in the dark, especially since he wore all black, including a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head. But she could tell he had a short beard, dark in color. His nails were also painted black, and he wore multiple rings on his fingers.
She was too afraid to look away from his face to try and discover more.
“I’ll scream,” she warned. “Loud.”
He chuckled as he made a show of looking around the empty parking lot. “Knock yourself out. You think the guy working in there will help you?” He leaned in. “He won’t. So, tell me, which one are you fucking? Whose ol’ lady are you?” He said the word in a mocking tone.
The MC. This had to do with the MC.
“N-none of them.”
He tsked. “Don’t lie. Makes a pretty girl like you so ugly.” He trailed a finger along her jaw, making her shudder. “I know you were with the rest of those bitches today. I just wanna know which biker you’re letting dick you down. Maybe he’s willing to share.”
She sucked in a breath.
A bead of sweat rolled down her back.
His finger continued its journey, coasting across her lips.
Harper was fit as fuck. She’d started working out in prison to pass the time and help control her anxiety. Now lifting was as necessary as breathing. Maybe she couldn’t take this man, but she’d rather die than go down without a fight.
Quick as a snake striking, she opened her mouth and bit his finger.
“You fucking bitch.” The crack of his palm across her cheek stunned her immobile.
Until he grabbed her shoulders and slammed her against the car.
“No,” she cried as he tried to wrench her legs apart with his knee. With a grunt of effort, she slammed her head forward into his nose.
A harsh cry of pain immediately followed a sickening crunch of bone, and his hands disappeared from her body. Harper didn’t have time to think. She reacted on pure instinct. She rammed a knee into his junk as hard as she could—thanks to a daily kickboxing class in the prison’s gym, she had a wicked knee kick—then shoved him away. He crumpled to the ground with a pained groan.
Harper didn’t wait around to assess the damage or find out if he could chase her.
She grabbed her phone off the ground and ran.
Fast and hard as she could.
And she kept running.
Past the abandoned gas station next to the convenience store. Through the parking lot of an adjacent shopping center where all the stores were closed. Only when her legs wobbled and her lungs burned did she search for a place to hide.
She rounded the corner at the far end of a strip mall and saw three large dumpsters. She wedged between two of them and didn’t stop moving until she hit brick. She was far enough in and shadowed enough that the guy wouldn’t be able to see her if he’d followed.
Though he might hear her heavy panting. And the screaming in her head.
Harper focused on quieting her breath and slowing her heart rate for the next few minutes. Her entire body trembled, and she realized she was crying. Big, fat, terrified tears. How long should she wait before going back to her car? What would she do if he found her? Should she call the cops?
Harper wasn’t a fan of the police.
If only she knew someone who could help.
Slow your breathing. Feel the air around you. Listen to the quiet night. Smell the stench of the garbage. Ground yourself.