EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER-MIDNIGHT RIDER
I breathed a sigh of relief and pushed through the branches—taking in the beauty of the dawn. Dew spattered my legs, and then I fell flat on my face in the slick grass. Gravel and sticks cut up into my knees and I laid there wonderin’—if a girl falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear, does she still make a sound?
As I answered my own question by hollering at the world—“Fuck my life! I can’t believe I got into this mess!”—I felt the vibrations on the asphalt. I looked up and saw it comin’. The lights and the rumble of the pipes came closer. So much for bein’ alone—now I’m mortified, and there’s a witness.
“Fuck me and my miserable life!” I prayed he was a ghost.
It didn’t take long for that vibration to be replaced with a screeching sound as the bike came to a quick stop. Dirt and dust blew up in a cloud around us.
“Holy shit—are you alright?”
The rugged guy climbed off the motorcycle—he had a frantic sound to his deep voice. I could tell he was tryin’ to figure me like I’d been figurin’ him.
“I’m fine!” I didn’t intend to come off as sharply as I did—but I was just this side of a nervous breakdown and ready to climb over soon. One look at me and a blind man would know I may’ve been a lot of things, but fine was not one of ‘em.
“Then you must be fuckin’ crazy! What in Hell would possess you to be walkin’ around in the dark and fog?”
I watched his black eyes lookin’ me over. He had to notice the bruises coverin’ me. Some were already yellow, others an ugly purple—they were everywhere. How could he miss ‘em?
I was too wiped out to engage this man in any sorta conversation and turned on my heels and started walkin’ into the mist of the morning. Better to put some distance between me and yet another person I’d have to run from. This one didn’t look like he’d be easy to get away from either.
My skin was wet with sweat and dew—my hair matted and hangin’ heavy down my back like a noose. Maybe he’d think I was an apparition and leave it be.
“Hey, don’t walk away from me!”
Or maybe not.
“I coulda killed you, ya know?”
I didn’t even turn to look, but his words had a strange kinda nonchalance I’d never heard before.
“Well, you wouldn’t be the first man to say that to me, and you surely won’t be the last.” My own composure was unsettling—like I was speakin’ the God’s honest truth, without question.
I felt his ebony eyes through my back. I wanted to turn around, but didn’t even glance over my shoulder. I kept walkin’, hoping to disappear into the fog, before he noticed my poise was nothin’ but a façade.
“I can see that. You’re covered in bruises—some of ‘em ain’t new.”
So maybe the man could see—or maybe he was blind. Why else would he still be talking at my back while I walked away?
“And I didn’t try to kill you—I coulda. It was you who tried to kill us. What the fuck? Why were you layin’ on the side of the road?”
I was only tryin’ to get away—he just happened into my path.
“You’re obviously still alive so…unless you were trying your best road-kill impression…”
He trailed off and hadn’t moved from his spot, but for some reason, my achin’ feet had stopped me flat.
“Do I look like I’m in the mood to talk?” I spun around to face him. “Usually, when a lady walks away from a man, he’ll do one of two things.” My façade was close to crumblin’ so I tried to make it quick.
He leaned against the bike, laughin’ at me. “Oh, and what two things do men do? Maybe I’ve been doin’ it all wrong.”
I was so tired ya could’ve knocked me over with a feather, but I still caught his tone right between the eyes. Maybe that’s where the invisible target is painted.
“You either come after her, to bring her back where she belongs, or ya shine it on and leave her be—in peace.” I started walking again.
“Well, ya homicidal priss—you might be interested to know there is another option here.”
Now he had me curious. Ain’t that always the one that bites ya in the ass?
“Do tell, oh wise mirage of North Bumfuck. What is the other way?” I heard him movin’ around, but the fog was still thick enough I couldn’t see.
“Shoes—I’ve got ‘em, you need‘em. I see the way you’re limpin’. How far do you expect to get with bare feet? This road’ll be scalding soon. I don’t think you’ll get very far.”
He had to go and offer shoes—my weakness and right now an absolute must-have.
“So, are you a shoe salesman or somethin’? Or do you just look for homicidal women and offer them footwear?” I found myself wandering slowly back in his direction. If he’d had food, I wouldn’t turn so fast, but my sore feet were another thing entirely.
“Do you want ‘em or not?”
I could see as I neared, he held a dusty pair of boots in his hand. They weren’t perfect, but perfectly alright by me.
Once I was close enough to see—I noticed the rugged beauty of him and the boots.
“So, as I said, there’s another way. You get them…to come to you.”
I woulda felt tricked, if he didn’t have something so damned important.
“By the way, I’m Colt. You gonna let me help you out or what?”
His eyes darted across my skin—checkin’ every mark like Santa checkin’ off a damn list. I couldn’t even try to lie and say I didn’t need his help. I needed it now more than I’d needed anything in a long time.
“What kinda help are you offerin’? Don’t you think coverin’ my feet is help enough? Or are you an altar boy in disguise…maybe Saint Colt of the Dusty Boots?”
“I’m no altar boy—and I sure as hell ain’t no saint—just a man who sees a chick in need of help—nothin’ more.”
There was that calm again—just standing there on the side of the road—no pretense, no bullshit. I hadn’t come across one of them before. Maybe it was the Yankee accent or somethin’.
“Well, in case you’re Prince Charming, I don’t fit into those slippers, and I left my ball gown in a heap years ago.”
“Do I look royal or charming to you?” He folded his big tattooed arms across his chest and smirked.
His look did have appeal—depending on how you like your princes.