After about ten minutes, I figured the coast was clear and slipped back outside. The girls were indeed gone, and I let out a sigh of relief. I had half a mind to remove my shoes, which, let’s face it, were meant more for looks than comfort, but refrained. They crunched against the gravel as I weaved through the parking lot and back towards the entrance where I had parked my car.
There was a chill in the air, and I crossed my arms to glean what warmth I could from a pair of spaghetti straps. Drunken patrons were shouting to each other all around me, some yelling out lewd comments to me as I passed. Only when one dared to make a comment on the cold air’s affect on a certain part of my anatomy did I turn to give them a one-finger salute.
Hey, I’m impulsive.
Too late, I realized it was one of the guys from earlier—the one who had tried to suction cup his groin to my ass.
“Hey, Mommy,” he said, blowing me a kiss. His friends—all of the baggy-pant, greasy haired variety—leaned against a pair of low-rider cars that shook with heavy bass. They looked damned disreputable, not to mention very scary now that I didn’t have any back-up. There were at least five of them—that I could see. No telling how many more lurked behind the tinted windows.
I put my head down and kept walking. I didn’t get more than a few feet before the leader—the one who thought we were related—scurried past to block my way.
“Where you goin’, Mommy?”
I jerked away from him. He had a row of gold teeth that glinted when he grinned. I hadn’t noticed them before. Attractive. And, might I add, not exactly a selling point.
“I’m not your mommy,” I snapped. “If I were, I’d tell you to wash your hair and pull up your damn pants.”
Okay, quite possibly the worst time and place to make such an observation.
His eyes hardened and his grin faded. “You got a real smart mouth, bitch.”
“Turrets,” I said with an aww-shucks grin and tried to maneuver around him. He stepped in front of me, and I heard the distinct sound of approaching footfalls.
Sh-t, sh-t, sh-t.
His friends came up behind us, circling the spot and blocking all possible escape routes. I didn’t really think they would try anything—not within sight of so many witnesses, but then, what the hell did I know? I’m the idiot who had gotten them all riled up to begin with.
A hand shot out and made a grab for my ass. I smacked it away, my heart trip-hammering in my chest. “I don’t want any trouble,” I said, quelling the squeal rising in my throat.
“Too late, Mommy,” Goldtooth said.
Hands were everywhere—pinching and trying to catch a feel beneath my scant clothing. I shied away from them only to be met with someone else as soon as I attempted to retreat in a different direction. I felt like a goddamn pinball.
No sooner had it all begun than someone appeared behind Goldtooth. A thick arm came around his neck, cutting off his air supply with a sharp squeak.
“Leave her alone.” To punctuate his words, Gabe tightened his grip around Goldtooth’s windpipe, making the hoodlum’s eyes bug out.
Hands dropped away, and I met Gabe’s eyes. Stunned and speechless. With a jerk of his head, he motioned for me to move behind him. I quickly obeyed, the gratitude I felt toward him in that moment almost stealing my breath away. My hands shook as I straightened my clothing. By some miracle, everything was still intact.
“Back off,” Gabe said to the remaining circle of men. They hesitated, torn. Gabe was far-outnumbered, but their leader was being threatened.
Goldtooth tried to croak out a few words. When that failed to work, he simply flapped his arms at them. They backed up a few paces, still tensed to jump into battle should the word be given.
When the group had retreated a good distance, Gabe released Goldtooth and shoved him towards his car.
Everything happened fast then.
I saw a flash of metal appear in Goldtooth’s hand. Before a scream could travel from my brain to my mouth, Gabe moved in. Next thing I knew, Gabe had wrenched the gun away.
“Didn’t your Mommy teach you not to play with guns?” Gabe said, plunking Goldtooth upside the head with his own weapon.
Holy sh-t. I nearly laughed at the surprise on the hoodlum’s face.
Distracted, I didn’t see his friends rush forward. Gabe, however, anticipated the move and turned the weapon on them in warning. They froze mid-stride. I said a quick prayer that none of them were armed.
I scanned the area. Several club-goers were transfixed by the spectacle before them. Should any of them come to the group’s aid, we would be in serious trouble.
Gabe seemed to have similar thoughts.
“Get in your cars,” he said, his forearms bulging as he aimed the weapon at the nearest man. “Get in and we’ll all walk away from this without any more trouble.”
By some miracle, they listened and began a slow retreat to the open doors behind them.
“Go. Quick,” Gabe said. He kept his focus on the men, but I knew he was addressing me. We both backed away.
Goldtooth was the first one out of the vehicle.
“You’re probably a lousy f-ck anyway, Puta,” he spat out.
I stopped dead.
I could take a lot of things. Being threatened. Being called a bitch. I’m pretty even-keeled like that.
What I wouldn’t tolerate, however, was having my womanhood called into question. Especially by some greasy gangster with bad teeth.
A half-full beer bottle lay discarded between two darkened cars, and before I gave it much conscious thought, I scooped it up and chucked it at the a--hole’s head.
Frankly, it was a sissy throw—not to mention way off base. It soared through the air like some slow motion Hail Mary and smashed into one of the pimp-mobile’s windows. Beer sprayed everywhere—all over the car and all over Goldtooth.
There was a moment of stunned silence.
I swallowed hard. Oops.
Goldtooth turned slowly to face me, his eyes flashing every shade of red. Beer dripped from the bling around his neck.
“Oh sh-t,” Gabe said.
Truer words and all that.
Gabe grabbed my hand and yanked me behind him. “Run!” he yelled, turning to give me a firm nudge. “Run!”
He didn’t need to tell me twice. I turned on my heel and took off towards my car. I could hear him behind me, and even further behind him, the echo of many angry voices. It didn’t matter who had the gun. If they caught us, we were both f-cked.
I didn’t stop until I spotted my Eclipse. I scrambled inside and attempted to close the door only to have a large hand pluck the key ring from my fingers. Before I could protest, I found myself being shuttled over to the passenger side. The door slammed behind me, and I heard the power locks engage.
“Hey!” I yelled, trying to stop myself before I smashed into the opposite window. My ass was in the air, and my hair was in my face. I let loose a slew of expletives that would’ve made my mother ashamed.
The engine roared to life.
“Hold on,” Gabe said. The car lurched backward and the sudden momentum sent me tumbling into the foot well. I lay there, my skirt hiked up to my crotch and my legs tangled around the gear shift.
“Are you trying to kill me?” I said, swatting the hair out of my face.
Gabe glared down at me, shifted, and returned his eyes to the road. In the distance, I heard an angry mob of men screaming in our wake. I held on for dear life, one hand clutching the dash above me, the other digging into the fabric of the passenger seat. I desperately wanted to pull my skirt down, but I didn’t dare try with the car pitching back and forth as he tried to maneuver out of the parking lot.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the car hit smooth road. My heart rate slowed to a full canter, and I found my voice again.
“Stop the car. You drive like a goddamned maniac.”
“You know, most people might be grateful.” The corner of his mouth tipped up despite the heat in his voice. “Hell, they might even thank me for getting them out of that mess.”
He had a point, but it was damn hard to be judicious with my underpants winking at him.
I bit my tongue, and looked at him. Really looked at him.
A most unladylike snort escaped me. A good foot taller than me, and having had no time to adjust the seat, Gabe had been forced to stuff himself inside my small car. His knees were practically touching his earlobes, and the wheel was pressed tight against his groin. He looked like a circus clown driving a toy car.
I giggled. I couldn’t help myself.
He grimaced. “You realize I may never father children after this?”