Annie faced forward again and waved at Noah as if she hadn’t just been flirting across the room at some stranger. “I’ll just tell him I was signaling him for you.”
“Liar,” I snapped.
“It’d be good for you. Never thought I’d have to say this, but you need to loosen up.”
A shadow fell over our table and a deep voice that sounded like it smoked a carton a day asked, “Looks like you girls need a refill on that pitcher.”
Looking up, I felt a stab of both disappointment and relief. It wasn’t hot Biker Boy. No, this guy could be his grandfather in a not so kind future.
Annie brought her cup to her lips, her hushed “eww” for my ears alone. She stared straight ahead at the stage, clearly leaving me to deal with this on my own.
“No, thanks, we’re g-good.” I cringed at the slight slur of my words and set my cup down. I let having a designated driver lull me into a sense of safety. My mistake.
He pulled a chair out at our table and flipped it around. Straddling it, he sank down, his bulging belly pushing against his stained shirt that peeked out from his patch-emblazoned vest. “Well, I can see you’re good.” He leered back and forth between me and Annie and I wondered if he honestly thought himself even remotely appealing. Annie continued to act like he wasn’t even there, staring straight ahead at the stage, bobbing her head to the music. “Real good,” he added.
“Look, we’re just here to—”
“Name is Walt.” He leaned forward, rocking on the front legs of the chair.
I fixed a tight smile on my face. “Walt.” Deep breath. “We’re really just here to listen to our friends.” I motioned to the stage. “We’re not looking for company.”
He buried his fingers in his thick beard, scratching deep. “Sure you are. A girl that looks as good as you is always looking for company.”
I winced, wondering how to explain that I wasn’t looking for his company.
He brought his chair closer, the four legs hopping over the wood floor with sharp whacks. Now I could smell his breath, rancid as rotting eggs. This close I could even detect bits of food in his beard. And what really sucked is that he just kept coming closer. The man had no concept of personal space.
“Really, Walt, we’re not here for—”
He dropped his hand on my thigh. I gasped and jumped a little as his big, meaty paw squeezed me through my jeans. Peeling his hand off, I dropped it on the tabletop. His friends at the table beside us hooted with laughter.
Even Walt chuckled. “That’s okay, sugar tits. You’ll warm up to me.” He brushed a hand along my short hair. “Never had complaints before.”
This guy was all charm. I wanted to ask if these uncomplaining females had been conscious but bit back my reply. “No, really.” I slapped at his hand and shook my head, starting to get angry. The skin at the back of my neck pulled tight. I hated that feeling. It reminded me of when I was fifteen and stupid—someone who ignored all the signs and warning bells, dismissing them with the naiveté that nothing wrong could ever happen.
Well, I wasn’t fifteen anymore, and I didn’t ignore warning bells anymore either. And I was hearing them with old Walt right now.
But no more. I grabbed the pitcher and dumped what was left of it in Walt’s lap.
He lurched from his seat with a curse, sending the chair clattering on its side.
Annie laughed, her hands flying to her mouth—not that that did much to cover up her hyena hoot.
I scooted away in my chair, still wary, especially at the sudden rush of red to Walt’s face. His gaze jerked from his soaking-wet crotch to the table full of his friends and the color in his cheeks deepened. They were laughing harder now. He huffed like an enraged bull, his chest swelling like he was about to erupt.
The music ground to a halt. Noah hopped down from the stage. “Annie?” He looked from her to me in concern. “What’s going on?”
Walt’s gaze sharpened and narrowed on Noah. The biker’s beady blue eyes brightened as if he was about to devour an especially tasty snack. He stepped up to Noah, bumping his bigger barrel chest into Noah’s slight torso and sending him staggering back a step. “These bitches belong to you?”
Annie gasped. Noah’s wide eyes shot to me and Annie before looking back at the biker who outweighed him by at least one hundred pounds. Before he could react, Walt swung.
I winced at the hard smack of bone on bone. Noah fell back on the table, sliding along the surface and hitting the floor with a crash of flailing limbs.
Annie screamed. The other three members of Noah’s band surrounded him and tugged him to his feet. Instantly Walt’s friends shot to their feet and closed ranks.
“What did you do?” Annie snarled at me as the shadow of a half dozen bikers fell over us.
I shook my head helplessly. My stomach pitched and bile surged in my throat.
“Picked the wrong bar,” Walt declared, focusing all his attention on Noah. What little was visible of his lips amid his scraggly beard curved wide. He reached out and gathered two fistfuls of Noah’s nice button-down. “Now I’m gonna f**k you up, boy.”
NO SOONER HAD THE words left Walt’s mouth and it was on.
Shouts erupted and the place broke into chaos. Walt and his crew swarmed Noah and his hapless friends. Annie’s screams rocked my ears. Glass shattered and chairs and tables flew. I staggered, getting jostled in the sudden press of bodies. An elbow caught me in the eye. I cried out at the sharp jab and went down, dark spots dancing in my vision as feet stomped all around me. I clenched my teeth against the pain and curved into a small ball, clutching my face.
A hand clamped around my arm and yanked me up. Suddenly I was off my feet and being carried. Blinking, I focused on the guy who was carrying me. Hot Biker Boy.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“Getting you out of there before you get trampled.” I shivered at the first sound of his voice. It was deep and throaty and matched him perfectly. Goose bumps broke out over my skin.
I twisted my head around to assess the chaos. What about Annie? And the others? “My friends!”
He shook his head, his mouth pressed in a grim line.
The image of Annie getting crushed beneath biker boots flashed through my panicked mind. Desperate, I hit his impossibly hard chest. “You have to help—”