Page 26

Hours passed, and although I’d been walking the entire time, I don’t think I’d gone very far. I could still see the apartment complex in the distance behind me.

Not a single car had passed me all day. My stomach was again protesting its emptiness, twisting and groaning. My face and ears were hot to the touch. The soles of my feet were thick and swollen, thankfully becoming numb to the constant scraping.

I trudged on.

For every inch the sun sank into the horizon, my anxiety increased. A brutally sunny day was again about to be cloaked in the darkness of night.

I came upon an old, abandoned bank with boarded up windows just as thunder rolled in the distance. The sky flashed as lightning jumped from cloud to cloud. I smelt the rain before I felt the first drop splatter on the tip of my nose.

I hobbled toward the covered awning of the drive-through, but I didn’t make it. The sky poured itself over me before I could reach shelter. By the time I took cover, I was sopping wet from head to toe, the blacktop underneath me turning brown as the water rinsed off the mud from the night before. I settled against the out of order ATM machine and sat down on the curb, resting my forehead against my knees.

I felt defeated. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I wished for one of the bolts of lightning to jump from the clouds and reach under the awning to strike me dead. Dead was better than unwanted.

Dead had to be better than this.

“Why hello there.” A voice said from out of nowhere.

Chills spread from my spine to my neck. Goosebumps broke out on my forearms. I looked up to find a man with a dirty grey beard standing over me. The wrinkles around his eyes spread over to his cheeks. Some of his front teeth were missing, and his chin was covered in red sores.

“You lost or something?” He smelled of rotten milk, his clothes were torn and tattered.

“Or something,” I muttered.

“I’m Ed,” he said, extending a hand. His fingernails each about an inch long and yellowed.

Realizing I wasn’t going to take his hand, he kneeled down to me, and my heart sped. Ed reached out a filthy hand and attempted to run a knuckle down my cheek. I shuddered and pulled away, jumping to my feet. I swayed unsteadily. Spots danced in front of my eyes. I grabbed the ATM on the wall to steady myself.

“Now don’t be rude to ole Ed. What’s your name?” he asked, licking his lips and adjusting the stained crotch of his once khaki pants.

“Um…nice meeting you, Ed,” I said as confidently as I could. “But I gotta go.” I tried to sidestep him, but he stepped in front of me, blocking my only exit.

“Why don’t you stay here and dry off for a while.” His eyes roamed down my body. His toothless smile grew bolder. “Although I like a woman who’s all wet.” He clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

“Um, no thanks. I’m just waiting for my friend to pick me up,” I lied, wishing it were true. I made a move to side-step him again, but this time he grabbed my arm. I tried to shake him loose, but even a child was stronger than me at that point. “Get off me!”

“Now, you listen here. You came into my house. Now, you’re going to stay and see how hospitable I can be.”

Ed yanked my wrist, turning me around until my back was flush up against him. He held my hands captive in front of me. His cock twitched against my thigh, and I gagged. If I’d had anything in my stomach, it would have come up right there.

I stomped on Ed’s booted foot with my bare one, sharp pain exploding in from my foot to my hip, hurting me more than him, but it was just enough to momentarily stun him. I broke free from his grip.

I’d only made it a few steps when I was yanked backwards by my hair, sending me flying onto my back, smashing the back of my head into the concrete. For the second time in twenty-four hours, the wind was knocked out of me. My windpipe wouldn’t open. My lungs struggled inside of my body, painfully asking for air. My vision became hazier and hazier.

This was the very reason why I was seeking protection from a biker. At that moment I wished that Bear had just taken me to his place instead of sending me to King.

But then, I remembered my renewed promise to her.

I had to protect her. At all costs.

And I wasn’t going down without one hell of a fight.

When Ed tried to drag my legs down and pry them apart, I kicked out wildly until my foot connected with his face. Blood spurted from his nose, and the heel of my foot felt like it was on fire.

“You’re gonna pay for that, bitch!” Ed hissed.

Rearing back, he punched me square in the jaw. My head twisted to the side and fell onto the concrete with a thud. My mouth filled with warm coppery liquid.

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