Protecting His Forever

By: LeAnn Ashers

Chapter One

Looking around the clothing store, I can’t shake the feeling of someone watching me. Shrugging my bag up higher on my shoulder, I walk around the rack of clothes just as a loud bang comes from behind me. Startled, I jump and turn around. A man stands a few feet away from me. I give him a kind smile then make my way over to the next rack. I look through the shirts trying to find my size when I see movement in my peripheral and notice the man is lurking close by. I scan the area nearby, taking notice of the tattoo that covers half of his face. It’s a gang symbol, one I recognize from the graffiti that marks up half of the buildings on the West side of town. The look in his eyes is angry, hateful as he stares. Acknowledging his presence, I pass him an uneasy smile as I dip my head to my chest and set the shirt I was eyeing back on the rack. My senses are escalating, shouting DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

I make my way toward the exit, taking casual strides as not to draw attention to myself. But once my feet pass the threshold of the store, I pick up the pace, hurrying to my car. Reaching into my purse, I clutch my phone in my hand then glance over my shoulder quickly. Shit! He’s stepping off the sidewalk and heading in my direction.

Don’t panic, Sydney. Calmly, I dial my brother’s number.

“Hello?” My brother picks up on the third ring.

“Ethan, I’m being followed.” I sound panicked even to my own ears.

“What? Where are you?” he shouts.

“Downtown at the new clothing store.” I peek over my shoulder cautiously and see that the tattooed man is still following. Sucking in a sharp breath, I walk around my car and head back toward the store, knowing that stopping to get in my car isn’t a good idea.

“What do I do, Ethan?” I whisper.

Three rough taps peck at my shoulder. My body stiffens. Gripping my phone tighter, I slowly turn around to face the man. “Gotcha!” He chuckles and makes a move toward me. His hands claw at me but I jump back and take off running. His heavy boots slap the ground behind me.

“Sydney!” Ethan yells into the phone just as fingers thread into my hair, and with a hard yank my head hits the concrete with a smack. My phone slips out of my hand from the impact and slides across the ground. Digging my heels into the asphalt, I attempt to push myself up to a standing position. He tightens his grip on my hair, dragging me across the ground between two cars.

I dig my nails into his large hands, tearing at his flesh as I squirm and pull with all my might. He grunts and loosens his hold on me for a split second before I rip my hair from his grip. Despite how painful it is, I’m loose. Tattered strands of hair fall to the ground.

Grabbing the handle of the car behind me, I lift myself up to my feet. Everything is a blur and dark spots cloud my vision. Chuckling brings me out of my stupor. My gaze shoots over to the man as he closes the distance between us.

“Feisty. I like it.” His voice is husky and dark.

Fear rattles my chest and I try to take a step back, but his heavy fist lands across my face. Pain shoots up my jaw and through my mouth. My body sways. Stumbling, I fall to the ground, landing hard on my tail bone. His body lands on top of mine and pushes me down on my back. His legs go on either side of my waist, pinning me beneath him. His unforgiving knuckles pound at my chest, neck, and face. I pull my forearms up to protect myself instinctively, but it’s no use, I’m a fragile doll compared to his strength. His assault is brutal and feels endless. Disoriented and helpless, I feel a deep lull from the blows to my head. He brings his fist back to deliver another ruthless blow, and bright crimson catches my eye. That’s when I feel it—the sensation of blood trailing down my cheek.

Snap out of it, Sydney! Fight back!! My inner strength shouts at me, gaining my attention. My fight or flight instinct kicks in, and I inhale a painful breath and begin to kick, scratch, and punch anyway I can. I drill my fist into his junk then with all my might, I kick my knees up into his back. He falls to the side and shouts a slew of obscenities as he clutches himself, writhing in pain. His legs are still locked around my waist, but I’m free enough to lean forward. I jab my elbow into the side of his face then buck him off my body.

Quickly, I grip the hood of the car beside me and pull myself up off the ground, trying to catch my breath to call for help. How the hell has nobody heard my attack? My body aches with every inhale of breath, each stretch of a limb. His iron like hand clamps onto my calf, and in a panic I blindly kick my foot out. A loud crack followed by a husky scream pulls my attention down to my attacker. He releases my leg and cups his nose as blood flows freely between his knuckles. My escape within reach, I turn and run back towards the store.

My adrenaline courses through me at lightning speed. I don’t watch for passing cars or bystanders as I approach safety. Rushing up to the sidewalk I take a backward glance to make sure my attacker isn’t behind me when I stumble forward and my face smashes against something hard. Strong hands grip my shoulders and pull me up to my feet. I thrash my small fists forward, hoping to connect with my attacker. How did he close in on me so quickly? My breathing is labored, and I dart my head around wildly looking for the man. He pops around the side of the car and starts toward me. Jerking back, I try to dislodge the hands from my arms.

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