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Copyright ©2018 Harley Wylde
While I’d been locked up my Nikes had mysteriously vanished. I’d been given prison issued flip-flops to wear home instead. Not only were they hideous, but I could feel every damn pebble in the road as I walked toward what I hoped was the nearest town.
The prison I’d been sentenced to wasn’t near my home area, and I honestly didn’t have a fucking clue how to get back without someone picking me up. My money wouldn’t buy me a bus ticket, or much else for that matter. I seriously doubted that motel rooms had dropped in price enough for me to get one, which meant I would be sleeping outside if I couldn’t find a way to reach one of my bonehead brothers, and hope the jackass actually came to get me. Unlike Dopey.
The sun beat down on me and sweat trickled down my spine. I could feel my hair sticking to my neck and wished I had a way to pull it up. I hadn’t gotten it cut while I was locked up and it was now nearly down to my waist. As I looked off in the distance, the road looked a little hazy and I wondered just how fucking hot it was today. Summer in Florida was no fucking joke. I paused when I heard a rustle off to my right and my gut clenched. Please don’t be a hungry gator.
A rabbit bounded out of the brush and darted across the road, making me sigh in relief that it wasn’t something about to make a snack out of me. I kept walking, but it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the prison in the distance and figured I’d probably walked two or three miles. Nowhere near far enough, since I still didn’t see any sign of a town on the horizon.
The longer I walked, the drier my throat became. My legs felt like they would give out at any moment, but I trudged onward. It wasn’t like I had much of a choice. If I was lucky, Dopey would finally show up at the prison and someone would tell him which direction I took. I wasn’t entirely sure he’d come after me though. My brothers acted like it was entirely my fault I’d been in prison. And maybe I did need to control my temper better, but I’d been defending my family! That should have counted for something, right?
I could feel my body swaying and dots were swimming across my vision. Had it gotten even hotter? My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton, and my limbs were getting heavier. The next step I took, I went down hard on the pavement. As much as I fought to get up, I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I fell forward and just lay there, panting and wondering if I was about to die after having survived a year in hell.
A roar filled my ears and made my eardrums vibrate. I wondered if it was a common sound to hear when you were dying. The sound came closer, got louder, then shut off. I heard someone say a string of bad words that would have a made a sailor proud, then heavy steps came toward me.
“Miss? Hey, you all right?”
Whoever he was, his voice was deep and rich. I struggled to open my eyes, but everything was a big blur. I got the impression of a rather massive man dressed in black, and that was about it. Before I could say or do anything, I could feel myself slipping away again. The man cursed once more, then I was lifted into his arms. I heard more bikes and what sounded like a loud truck or SUV. I tried to focus on the voices, but I couldn’t keep up with the conversation.
Something cool and wet was placed against my lips and I eagerly slurped the water.
“Easy,” someone said. “Don’t want to get sick.”
They took the bottle of water away and I whined, wanting more.
“Let’s get her into the truck. The AC has been running and we need to lower her body temp. She’s burning up,” said another voice.
“I didn’t see a vehicle broken down anywhere. You think some asshole kicked her out of their car?”
Now that voice I recognized. The man who had first stopped to help me. My savior. Well, I hoped that’s what he would be. If they had something nefarious planned for me, I honestly didn’t have the strength to fight them.
The icy air coasted over my skin as someone laid me across the seat of the truck. Eventually, I was able to open my eyes and focus a bit more. A group of big bikers were staring into the vehicle. One of them helped me sit up and drink some more water.
“How long you been out here, sweetheart?” a giant with red hair asked. It was the man who had stopped to help. The one with the voice I could listen to all day and never grow tired of.
“Don’t know. Since ten o’clock?” I said, my voice croaking a bit.
“Ten?” an Asian man asked, his eyebrows shooting upward. “Damn. That was five hours ago. Where the hell were you going on foot?”
“Sweetheart, town is another ten miles down the road,” the redhead said. “Why are you on the side of the road? Some asshole kick you out of the car?”
“My brother was supposed to give me a ride. He never showed.”
The men shared a look then the redhead’s gaze sharpened on me. “A ride? From where?”
I licked my lips and looked away, but he reached out and forced me to look him in the eye. Something about his gaze made me want to answer his question, like I needed to obey.
“The prison,” I said. “They released me today and my brother was supposed to pick me up.”
“Shit.” One of them stalked off then came back. “How long were you inside?”
“A year.” Which was the truth. It just hadn’t been the full sentence I was supposed to serve. I wasn’t about to volunteer that information, though. I hoped they didn’t ask why I’d been locked up. All I wanted was a ride to town, and maybe a way to call my brothers and see if one of them would come get me.
“Just a year?” the Asian man asked. “Drugs?”
“No. I’ve never taken or sold drugs.”
“Prostitution?” the redhead asked.
I stared at him. “Really? I look like a whore? Thanks.”
He shrugged then his gaze landed on my bare legs. I felt my cheeks warm, but my face was probably so red from the sun it wasn’t noticeable. Even if he wasn’t painting me in a flattering light, he was probably the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. Not in that pretty boy kind of way, but in a rough, rugged, and manly type of way. His red hair gleamed in the sunlight and the full beard along his jaw made me wonder if it was as soft as it looked. When he lifted his blue gaze from my legs, I knew I’d remember that heated look of his for a long-ass time.
“What’s your name, darlin’?”