Page 15 of Protective Player

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His laughter is harsh and grating. “A chickenshit. Just like your team, huh?”

I grit my teeth and look him in the eye. “Do you get off picking on girls half your size?” I snap. “Is that your thing? Do you think that makes you a big man or something?”

“I just don’t like mouthy little bitches.”

His friends are calling to him but the man steps forward, his round belly bumping into me as he looms over me, his face red, his eyes filled with anger. What he’s angry about, I have no idea. I’ve never had to deal with anybody who takes their sports as seriously as this guy does. But the way he’s staring at me makes me shudder as fear ripples through my heart.

I hate to admit it, but this guy is scary. He intimidates me. Mostly because I have no trouble believing he has no qualms about putting his hands on a woman.

“You hear me? I don’t like mouthy little bitches,” he repeats.

“Neither do I.”

The man takes a step back, a startled expression crossing his face. I turn and when I see Dawson walking up, his jaw set and a scowl on his face, the wave of relief that washes over me is profound. Dressed in blue slacks and a white button-down shirt with the collar open and the sleeves rolled up, he looks like he’s walking off a GQ photoshoot. But there’s no mistaking the look on his face. He means business.

Dawson steps between the man and me, glaring hard at him. The tunnel suddenly goes dead silent, and there’s a nervous energy crackling in the air around us. It feels like the atmosphere right before a storm breaks. The man who accosted me is about as tall as Dawson, but he’s heavyset and obviously out of shape. If it comes to blows, Dawson is going to kill this man without breaking a sweat.

“Dawson,” I say quietly, tugging on the back of his shirt. “Let’s just go.”

“I don’t like mouthy little bitches either,” Dawson repeats. “And from where I’m standing, you’re the only mouthy little bitch around here.”

“Dude, I wasn’t—”

“Shut the fuck up,” Dawson roars.

The man flinches but then casts a glance at his friends who are staring at him in stunned silence. He clenches his jaw and stiffens as he turns back to Dawson, caught between not wanting to get his ass beat and not wanting to look like a chump in front of his buddies. My hope is that common sense wins out and the guy backs off. But when testosterone and alcohol are mixed, I’ve learned that common sense rarely wins out.

“Dude, I was just messing with her,” the guy says. “No harm done.”

“And what the fuck made you think you could mess with her like that?”

Dawson’s voice was hard and cold, and the man licked his lips nervously. He keeps cutting glances at his friends, but he’s not getting any help from them. He sniffs loudly, and when he glares back at Dawson, I groan, knowing what’s coming.

“Yeah, well, what’s it to you? She your bitch or something? Because if she is, you should probably teach her some fucking manners—”

The man never gets to finish that statement because Dawson drives his fist into the man’s ample belly. His eyeballs almost bulge out of their sockets and his mouth falls open, a loud “oomph” bursting from his throat as he doubles over, clutching his belly. As the man gasps and wheezes, Dawson puts his hand on the man’s back and bends down so he’s at eye level with him.

“You need to learn some fucking respect, you piece of shit,” Dawson snarls. “And you need to learn that you don’t walk up on women that way. Especially my woman. Am I clear?”

The man gasps loudly and looks like he’s trying to speak but no words come out of his mouth. Nothing but that high-pitched wheezing sound so he just nods.

“I mean it. Learn some goddamn respect,” Dawson says. “If I ever see you in my building again, I’m not going to stop with a punch to the gut. I will beat you bloody. Am I clear?”

“Y—you’re clear.”

“Good boy.”

As Dawson stands back up, a half dozen men in red windbreakers with “Security” stenciled in yellow across the back come running up. Dawson chuckles.

“Johnny on the spot,” he mutters to me.

“Sorry, Mr. Davis,” says the first man to reach them. “We’ll take this from here.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Having somebody posted on the rope line so something like this doesn’t happen again would be another good idea.”

“Yes, sir. We’re sorry about that. We were dealing with another situation.”

“And in the meantime, letting this situation happen.”

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