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We round the corner, and I spot my black SUV. “That’s me up ahead.” I parked beneath a street light.
The rectangle sputters and dies, plunging the street into shadows as the sun gives up its control and night emerges. I’m suddenly glad he insisted on walking me back to my car. The scuff off shoes on concrete make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“Did you hear that?” I whisper. I glance at Ollie who steps in front of me.
“Yeah, I did.” He turns to face the alley a few feet away from where we stand.
Three men emerge from the alleyway dressed from head-to-toe in all black with hoods that partially obscure their faces. With my height, I’m peering up and have a ringside view. I pray to God they don’t realize that. I grip the handle of my case. The street is deserted, and my car offers no shelter, despite its proximity. They’d catch us before we could clamber inside and drive off.
I grip the pepper spray on my keychain. Doesn’t fucking help when there’s a group.
“Hey, man. We don’t want any trouble,” Ollie says.
“Give us your wallets, and we won’t have any,” the large, bulky figure in the middle growls.
“All right, man, just take it easy,” Ollie says, holding up his hands. He reaches into his back pocket and slowly pulls out a wallet.
“And hers, too.”
I fumble with the messenger bag looped across my body and dig out my black wallet. Ollie takes it from me and hands it to the thief with his fingertips.
“Keep your asses here until we’re gone, and no one will be hurt. Try to play hero, and we’ll take ourselves a prize.” His lecherous gaze turns my stomach.
Over my dead body. I’ll take a bullet to the head before I go anywhere with them.
“You won’t have any problems for us.” Ollie steps back until my front brushes his back. He reaches his hand around and grabs my hip.
Leaning into him, I clutch his plaid shirt like a lifeline as I rub the tip of my nose over the soft material, filling my nostrils with his crisp, clean scent. Right now this cologne is my favorite smell in the world.
The thugs begin to blend back into the blackness one by one. The ring leader keeps the barrel of the gun aimed at Ollie as he retreats into the alley. He stops. My knees shake and nearly give as I suck air into my desperate lungs. When did I hold my breath?
“I changed my mind. I think we’ll take a little something for the road.”
My blood pressure sky rockets as my vision blackens around the edges and my heart tries to burst from my chest. Adrenaline begins pumping through my veins. My muscles tense. Fight or flight slams into me like a two-ton wild beast.
“We don’t have anything else to give,” Ollie says coolly.
“But you do,” he replies, fixing me with a lewd gaze as he licks his chapped lips.
I scan the area, seeking out a place to run. I’d never make it into my car and get inside before they caught up to me. I clutch my pepper spray and lift it, ready to fight.
“Like I said, we have nothing else.” Ollie stands to his full height, and I brace myself.
“Take her,” the man sneers.
Ollie surges forward, wrestling for the gun, and I let the pepper spray fly. Time blurs as my brain is overloaded with fear, cries of pain, and movement. I fight against the hands grabbing at me, keeping my eyes sealed shut as I spray blindly and pray I don’t hit Ollie who I try to keep in front of me. My throat is on fire. I cough as the spray penetrates my nostrils by force. A loud pop stills all movement as if someone screamed, “Red,” in a game of red light, yellow light. The meaty sound of a bullet ripping through flesh that follows pries my eyelids open. Water obscures my vision, and it’s like looking through frosted glass.
Feet pound over the pavement. They’re leaving. I swipe at my eyes, desperate to restore more of my vision. My stomach roils as I recognize Ollie’s prone figure. A dark stain blossoms on his plaid shirt. I kneel beside him.
“O-Ollie?” My voice and my hands shake as I reach for my cell phone. His skin is pale, and an ominous hiss like a slow leaking bike tire hits my ear.
He grimaces. “I’m here. It’s hard to breathe.”
Red flags wave as I punch in 911 and place a hand on his shoulder.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“Yes, I-I need help. W-we were just robbed, and my friend was sh-shot in the chest.”
“Where are you?”
“I-I’m here on King street.”
“Are the people still around?”
“Do you know what they looked like?”
The question threw me. “I … Tall, unkempt, dark hair. Late twenties to mid-thirties. I don’t know. It was dark, and they were all in black. Please send someone. I hear an odd sound like a deflating balloon or a tire. He’s pale.”
“Help is on their way. What’s your name?”
“Me? I-I’m Quinn Fleming.”
“And the gentleman’s?”
“Ollie … what’s your real name.”
He gives a bark of laughter that ends with a wet cough. “Finally got your name. Oliver Hemingway.”
I repeat his name to the operator. Her steady voice is a lifeline keeping me from panicking.
Shyla Colt is the sassy international bestseller of the popular series Kings of Chaos and Dueling Devils M.C. This genre-hoppers stories feature three of her favorite things: strong females, pop culture, and alternate routes to happy ever after. Listening to her Romani soul, she pens from the heart, allowing the dynamic characters, eccentric interests, and travels as a former flight attendant to take her down untraveled roads. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, this mid-west girl is proud of her roots. She used her hometown and the surrounding areas as a backdrop for a number of books. So, if you’re a Buckeye, keep an eye out for familiar places. As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there's never a dull moment in her household. She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company. You can interact with Shyla Colt online via her website www.shylacolt.net Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorshyla.colt and Twitter: @shylacolt Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shylacolt/