Authors: K Carr
Copyright © 2015 by K Carr
Published by K Carr
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission except in the case of brief quotations used in reviews.
This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service.
Cover design by Rebecca Sterling
Photo: Taria Reed
“GET OFF,” I yelled, hands flailing wildly as I fought my attackers off. I could smell them. Their sweat, the stink of their cheap body spray, the pungent odour of burgers and beer on their breath. I kicked out, glad my heel connected with flesh, glad I had hurt some part of the man trying to grab me around the waist. The blow across the back of my head from the other one dazed me for a moment. Long enough for him to capture one of my wrists. This was not happening. I would not let this happen. With a desperation borne of pure terror and rage, I screamed at the top of my voice. Someone had to hear me. Oh God, please.
“Shut up,” the bigger one said gruffly, punching me hard in the stomach. The force of it pushed the air out of me in one loud ‘oomph’. I began to fight back. Kicking, punching, biting like an animal backed into a corner. Their grunts of pain almost as loud as mine. The bigger one slapped me across the face, making my cheek burn and eyes water. And again, and again. Forefront in my mind was the thought I would rather die than be assaulted in a dark alleyway. With renewed efforts I tried to escape, but they were bigger and stronger. It wasn’t fair.
Why was this happening to me?
Matt was tired from his workout. It had been a long day at the office and he’d wanted nothing more than to go home and relax with a glass of whiskey and go over reports. But he was a creature of routine and Wednesdays were spent in the gym that he and his closest friend paid a pricey monthly fee to attend. He had a gym at his place, used it often, but Wednesdays were a different sort of workout. He’d parked a few blocks away from the gym. It had been the only parking space he could find in the area. Matt adjusted his gym bag over his shoulder and quickened his pace. It was late and the surrounding area was not the best. He wasn’t afraid, his towering six feet plus frame would put anyone off, but he was cautious. Bullets didn’t care how big you were.
The scream came from nowhere, startling Matt to a stop as he glanced around. He could hear loud scuffling, another scream cut off sharply. Matt headed in the direction of where he thought the sounds were coming from. It was a woman he’d heard. Matt broke into a run, the alleyway looming ahead and the noises getting louder the closer he came. His bag slipped from his shoulder to the ground when he rounded the corner, as the sight of two men trying their best to subdue a small form registered.
“Hey,” he yelled, racing towards them. “What the hell are you sods doing?”
They turned in surprise, attention diverted from the struggling woman to Matt, whose long, athletic strides had him almost upon them.
“Fuck off,” one snarled at him menacingly.
, Matt thought, right before he smashed his fist into the man’s face. The man fell back clutching his jaw and spewing curses. Matt swiped his legs out from under him and watched him go down before turning to the other assailant, ready to launch an attack on him. His mouth fell open as he watched the woman land a mean right hook on her attacker’s face before kneeing him in the groin. Matt grabbed him around the scruff and flung him away from her. She was yelling, frantically punching and kicking the air. Matt spun around, deflecting a blow from the first man and sucker-punched him in the stomach. They both descended on him. Matt had a moment of worry, wondering if they were armed, but his training took over and before long they were both fleeing down the alleyway.
“Are you hurt?” Matt asked tersely as he turned towards the woman, and got a small fist in his left eye. “Ow!” He grimaced and caught her wrists before she could land another lucky blow. She was shaking, violently, her dark skin almost ashen in the dim lights from the building behind the alley. His gaze wandered over her upturned tear-stained face. Her cheeks seemed swollen and there was a minor cut bleeding on her forehead. Her mouth trembled uncontrollably as she gulped air like a drowning person. Then she yanked her hands away from his gentle hold and backed up until she leaned against the wall. She was terrified and he held his hands up slowly, a gesture that he meant no harm. God, she was tiny, barely passing his shoulder in those heels. Her black dress, although showing the effects of being roughed up, complimented her figure. Her hair was a mass of wild, springy curls framing an almost oval face. Matt felt his gaze drawn again to her trembling lips. Poor thing was terrified.
I pressed myself against the wall, out of breath and shaking like a leaf, as I stared at my rescuer. The light from overhead was too dim to make out his features clearly, but I knew he was white and tall with dark hair. And kicked those guys’ asses.
“Thank you,” I managed to force out past my dry throat. “I mean it—thank you so much.”
“Think nothing of it,” he said. His words were proper, almost clipped at the end. My rescuer glanced around, spotted my purse and retrieved it, while I stayed pressed against the dirty wall thanking the Divine that I’d been saved.
“Would you like me to call an ambulance?” he asked in that proper English voice of his. “Or the police?”
I shook my head, my heart was racing in my chest. Had that just happened?
“Is this real?” I asked in a shaky voice, arms wrapping tightly around my waist. “Am I dreaming?”
He peered at me, then closed the distance between us. I stiffened and he froze, once again holding his hands up. I giggled, my clutch looked weird in his large hand. He narrowed his eyes at me in concern as my giggles grew into hysterical laughs. I pointed at his hand and his gaze followed mine before returning to my face with increasing worry on his.
“I’m calling an ambulance,” he said, before reaching out to take my arm gently and leading me back out that horrible alley. My legs were shaking, so much so he had to physically help me walk. I clung to him tightly, chuckling away like a madwoman at the sight of my purse in his hand.
“Delayed shock,” he muttered as we got to the top of the alley and he bent down to grab a gym bag. The movement made my head tilt, then the buildings were spinning and I was puking all over myself, and my rescuer.
“Sorry,” I gasped once the heaving stopped. The man looked down at his clothes in disgust and swore softly.
“It’s okay,” he replied as he unzipped his bag and pulled out a sleek phone. He didn’t look okay. He looked pissed.
“Please don’t call an ambulance,” I said after seeing him press nine twice on the touch screen. “I’ll be fine. Really. I need to go home. The station’s not far from here.”
The man looked at me as if I was unhinged. I peered at his face. His features were set in a stern mask, a handsome mask with either pale blue or grey eyes staring down at me.
“You were attacked back there,” he said softly, though his face looked stern. “I think it’s best to call an ambulance and get you to a hospital.”
I shook my head, then stopped as my vision swam again. “Honestly. I’m fine. Thank you for saving me. Sorry about, umm, the whole puking thing. Can I have my purse back please?”
The man stared at me for a moment. Clinical eyes travelled over my dishevelled state and he shook his head slowly. “If you won’t let me call an ambulance, then I’ll take you to the hospital myself. Come, my car’s not parked far from here.”
It must’ve been delayed shock like he said, because I let him lead me down a few blocks to his car. I didn’t know this stranger, but he’d saved me from those psychos.
He wouldn’t then turn around and kill me, would he?
“You’re not some crazy person are you?” I asked as he held the door open for me.
He arched an eyebrow at me. “Which part of the States are you from? Your accent is quite prominent.”
I blinked, leaning against the car. “New York. Why? You got something against Americans?”
He gestured to the open car door. “Not at all. What are you doing in London? Besides getting attacked in alleyways, that is.”
I peered at him, the beginnings of a frown curling my bruised mouth downward. “Stuff.” My face ached, my whole body ached. I wanted to go home to have a shower before calling my best friend.
“Stuff?” he queried, gently pushing me into the car. He closed the door and hurried around to the driver’s side as I took in the sleek interior of the car.
“I’m Matt, by the way,” he said, once he’d gotten in and buckled up. His gym bag and my purse had been tossed on the backseat and he waited to start the engine. I caught him staring pointedly at the seatbelt. I buckled up. The engine purred into life.
“I’m Madison, but everyone calls me Madi.” I shifted uncomfortably in the seat. My back ached something fierce and I was shaking. “Look, Matt, I don’t want to go to the hospital. Can you take me to London Bridge station and I can make my way home from there?”
I could see he wasn’t happy with that suggestion. His side profile tightened as we pulled away from the curb. I felt sick to the stomach as the reality of what had almost happened to me started to sink in. Oh, God. My head fell forward, chin resting on my chest and a warm line of moisture snaked down my cheek.
“Okay, Madi,” Matt said softly, gaze jumping between me and the road. “If you’re certain that’s what you want. Although I think you should—”
“It is.” I cut him off quickly. “Thank you.”
He fell silent. I closed my eyes and tried not to dwell on how close I’d come to a serious assault, or worse, tonight. I was seriously starting to hate this country. I wriggled about until it felt comfortable and felt myself slipping into sleep. I would rest my eyes until we got into Central London, then I would get the next tube home and forget this night had happened.
A tired groan left my lips, reluctant alertness seeping in while I opened my eyes to encounter an intense stare. A frightened yelp left my mouth as I flung myself back against the car door.
“Madi,” he said soothingly. “I’m Matt. Remember?”
I inhaled and exhaled loudly a few times and nodded while glancing outside the car. This was not Central London.
“Where are we?” I asked in alarm, unbuckling myself and reaching back for my purse. Oh, God. He was a psycho.
Have to stay calm…get out his car…and run like hell.
Matt eyed me for a second, seeing the way I clutched my purse to my chest and my free hand searching frantically for the damned door handle.
“Outside my home—” he managed to get out before I opened the door. Matt grabbed my right wrist, and I swung back to punch him in the eye, purse and all. He winced and swore under his breath.
“That’s the second time you’ve done that tonight,” he ground out, then tried to calm me down as I pulled against his hold. “You fell asleep. I couldn’t wake you. I couldn’t dump you out of the car, and I have no idea where you live. You refused to go to the hospital, and I’m covered in dried vomit. What was I to do?”
“Not bring me back to your home,” I almost yelled at him, then burst into tears. It was the darned shock. I didn’t cry. I was tough, not a snivelling girl crying over being roughed up in that stupid alley. Nothing really bad had happened besides me getting beaten up. They hadn’t even tried to steal my purse. And Matt had appeared like some knight, he’d chased them off. Yet, here I was acting crazy when all he’d done was save my bacon.
Way to go representing my people. Blubbering like an inane idiot in front of the white man.
“Sorry,” I said, in between my sobs. “It’s been a long night.”
Matt let go off my wrist, but only to lift my chin up so he could observe my face solemnly. “I promise I won’t hurt you, Madi. I’ll take you home, but I need to get changed. You can wait in the car if you want.”
I swallowed nervously and shook my head. “No. I trust you. You saved me from those jerks. I trust you, Matt.”
He smiled at me, and I swear he looked like an angel. A dark angel in a vomit and perspiration-stained sweatshirt, with either blue or grey eyes, and tender hands.
“Good, let’s go inside.” He reached for his door. We both got out and I looked up at his place. Oh, crap. It looked fancy.
“Where are we?” I asked, while he grabbed his gym bag from the back.
“Kensington,” he replied, motioning me forward. I gripped my purse and walked over to him. He helped me up the steps and opened the door before herding me in. I stood in a wide foyer as he turned on the lights, turned off the alarm and dropped his bag on the floor.
“This is nice,” I mumbled, a bit taken aback at the expensive décor, and we were only in the foyer.
“Mmm,” he muttered, distracted as he kicked off his sneakers and plucked at his shirt with that semi-disgusted look on his face.
“Umm…” I glanced around, not sure what to do now. “You live on the ground floor. That sucks. I hope the people upstairs aren’t too noisy.”
Matt shot me a perplexed look, then shook his head. “No one but me lives here. Well, there is a member of staff residing here also, but that’s by the by.”
“Oh,” I said.
I’d been rescued by a rich white guy. This was Kensington, a moneyed area from what I’d seen outside. Matt was oblivious to my fidgeting, walking further into his home. I stood by the door, clutching my purse to my chest like a defence barrier.