Life in her new apartment consisted of sitting behind a screen most of the time. She edited books and articles by day and read romance novels by night. By now she should be looking for her own happily ever after, but dating required socialization. Since she rarely left her home, and wasn’t interested in social gatherings, she was shit out of luck. Internet dating didn’t interest her, even if she could hide behind her computer.
After she paid for her food, collected her bags, and walked to the exit, she hated herself more than ever. Why couldn’t she take a risk for once? She was too afraid of rejection and disappointment to the point she’d never find a man.
Her eyes adjusted to the minimal lighting outside as she lugged her four bags. She didn’t like to drive, and the walk wasn’t too far. There were two pickup trucks in the parking lot that weren’t there when she’d come earlier. The engines were running, the headlights highlighting a group of men. She hoped she’d be able to slip by on the path undetected.
“Hey, what you got there?”
Rebecca prayed they weren’t talking to her. She hoped she was hidden by shadows.
“Hey, sugar tits, come over here.”
She picked up the pace, her heart racing like a freight train. When an arm wrapped around her from behind before she could escape the parking lot, she screamed and dropped her bags. Another man took her bags to the bed of his pickup truck and started rooting through the contents.
“Nothing interesting here,” the man said. He tossed her asparagus, baby potatoes rolling out in several directions. Tears burned her eyes as she struggled against the man holding her.
“Stop it,” she shouted. “Leave me alone.”
“Why, baby? The night is young,” said the man holding her.
Is this actually happening to me? The townsfolk could be creepy, but they weren’t criminals. She’d never seen these men before and wasn’t sure what their plans were for her. Were they going to rape her? Would someone from inside the store hear her screams?
The arm pinned around her chest loosened slightly. It gave her enough room to struggle free. They turned to the voice at once. It was the stranger from the grocery store. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. She felt relieved and guilty because he’d never be able to protect her from six guys.
He had a German shepherd, and its fangs were bared. Maybe the dog would scare them off.
“We’re just having a little fun here. Why don’t you back off?” said one of the men. The guys from the truck closed in on them.
“You can have all the fucking fun you want, boys. But not with her.”
No one had ever stuck up for her, and her heart swelled watching her knight in shining armor risk life and limb for her. She didn’t even know his name, because she’d been too scared to ask.
“Give us your bags, hotshot. Then leave while you can.”
She stood frozen in place, unwilling to save herself and leave him to fend for himself. Rebecca hoped for a miracle.
“I won’t be giving you anything. Of course, you can always try to take my bags,” he said.
Why was he antagonizing them? She could smell the alcohol coming from the men, and they were big and burly bushmen.
“Yeah, that’s a real good idea.” The man who’d been holding her a minute ago, walked toward the stranger and his dog. The shepherd began barking and growling, but his owner told him to settle.
As soon as the guy reached for the grocery bag, her mystery man gave him a short, quick jab to the face with his free hand. The impact must have been intense because he fell over, unconscious, like a tree toppling in the forest.
“What the hell?” said one of the other men.
“Alphie, watch my bag, eh?” The stranger set his groceries down beside his dog, who was now sitting obediently, albeit not happy with the conflict.
She watched in horror, waiting for the remaining five men to beat the stranger senseless. Instead, he moved like a skilled mercenary, taking them out one by one. She swore he hadn’t even put effort into his attack, looking bored but pissed off.
Within seconds, all the men were on the ground in various states of injury. Some groaned and cried out; others were knocked out. Her stranger adjusted his jacket, then returned to collect his bag and his dog. She still hadn’t moved.
“Rebecca, are you okay?”
“H-how do you know my name?” Her anxiety was through the damn roof, and it didn’t help that she no longer took any medications to calm her down. She was determined to live a more natural, healthy life.
He smirked. “You told me in the grocery store, remember? My name’s Liam, by the way.” One of the men attempted to sit up, and Liam kicked him in the chest.