“Give me the necklace or you’ll regret it,” the mugger said, jerking me back to the imminently dangerous here and now.
“My husband’s is on his way,” I lied, grasping for straws.
He laughed cruelly. “You’re a shitty liar,” he scoffed. His hand closed around the pendant and yanked, the chain of the necklace biting painfully into my skin before it broke. He stepped back, admiring his prize.
“No!” I leapt forward and grabbed his fist, clenched tightly around the pendant. I had to get it back. Surprised, he turned sharply to avoid my lunge, the movement causing the knife to bite into the skin of my arm. I ignored the sharp burn. “Give that back!”
“Get off me,” he growled, shoving me away. Furious, I came back at him again, grabbing the hand holding my necklace and sinking my teeth into it. He yelled in pain. Unable to get any leverage between us, his arm came down hard and he slammed a fist into my back. I was forced to release him, the painful blow knocking the wind from my lungs and leaving me unprepared for his punch to my stomach. I doubled over, the pain excruciating.
His hand closed around my neck and he pulled me upright before carelessly tossing me away. I hit the ground hard, my hands taking the brunt of it, but still smacked the side of my face on the ground. I couldn’t move. My face ached and my thigh burned from where it had scraped the asphalt, and I struggled to breathe properly through the pain in my back and stomach.
“Fucking bitch,” I heard him mutter angrily. His shoe scraped behind me and I made myself turn over, not wanting to have my back to him. I saw the kick coming too late to protect myself and I cried out when it connected. I curled into myself, trying to become as small a target as possible. He hauled back to kick me again.
A shape came hurtling out of the darkness, tackling the mugger to the ground. I watched them grapple. The knife glinted briefly in the light before it was kicked out of the thug’s hand. The sound of grunts and flesh hitting bone filled the alley.
I struggled to sit up, sucking in a breath at the aches and pains, and saw my rescuer had gotten the upper hand as he straddled the attacker. His fists continued to pummel the man, though I thought for sure he was unconscious by now, as still as he was.
I stumbled to my feet, tottering forward carefully on my ill-used heels. He still wasn’t stopping, his blows landing punishingly hard as I winced, afraid he was going to kill him. I moved as close as I dared.
“Stop,” I implored, grabbing onto one of the man’s arms with both my hands. “You’re going to kill him!”
The man easily jerked his arm out of my grip, turning his head sharply to face me, and I froze in shock.
It was Blane. I didn’t know where he’d come from or how he’d found me, but he had. His face was a mask of rage as he took in my appearance and I took a shaky step back, afraid of what he might do. I watched as the anger drained away from his face. He spared one last glance for the unconscious mugger and I heard him snarl, “Fucking piece of shit,” then he stood and was at my side in an instant.
“Are you all right?” he asked, turning me toward the light. He sucked in a breath and I knew I must look awful, blood trailing in a thin stream down my arm from the shallow cut the knife had made. I could feel my cheek swelling from where I’d hit the concrete. Blane’s finger gently brushed my cheekbone, coming away with blood. Quickly removing his jacket, he placed it around my shoulders, pulling it tightly closed. Shock started to set in and I began to shake.
“Shh, Kat,” he whispered, pulling me into his arms. “You’re safe now. I’ve got you.”
Tears spilled over my eyes as I leaned into him and basked in the comfort he offered, deeply breathing in cologne mixed with the musky scent of his sweat.
“Thank you,” I mumbled against his shirt. In response, he pressed his lips lightly to my forehead.
“Let’s get you someplace warm,” he said, turning us toward the mouth of the alley.
“Wait!” I scrambled out of Blane’s arms and ran back to the mugger. Prying open his fist, I grabbed my necklace. The man groaned but didn’t open his eyes. I was glad Blane hadn’t killed him, though I wondered briefly what would have happened if I hadn’t stopped him.
As I returned back to Blane, he looked questioningly at me. I shrugged. “He took the necklace you gave me.”
Blane didn’t move. “You fought him over the necklace?” he asked, his tone chilling.
Grimacing, I muttered, “You gave it to me. I didn’t want him to have it.”
“Christ, Kat!” Blane exploded. “I would have bought you another one! It wasn’t worth your life! He could have killed you!”
I bit my lip, knowing he was right but not wanting to admit it. I had acted irrationally, but hadn’t been able to stop myself. I’d just been overcome with anger that he would dare to take something precious to me. It wasn’t even that it was an expensive necklace, it was just that Blane had given it to me. I said none of this, just looked up at Blane and hoped he would drop it. Huffing with exasperation, he pulled me to him, wrapping me tightly in his arms and resting his chin on top of my head.
“Never a dull moment, Kat,” he said with a sigh.
We emerged from the mouth of the alley to find two police cars pulling up, sirens blaring. A blinding light flashed at me and I realized there a few photographers there, too. A quick glance at Blane showed me that he looked like he’d obviously been in a fight. His hair was tousled and a bit of blood marred the corner of his mouth. His once white shirt was stained and torn, the cuffs open from where the buttons had come off. I saw his knuckles were raw, scraped and bloody from the fight. The veneer of gentility he’d worn earlier was gone. He looked altogether masculine and dangerous.
A cop stepped up to us, blocking the photographers. “Mr. Kirk, is that you?” he asked. At Blane’s nod, he turned his attention to me. “You must be the victim. Someone heard you scream and called 911. You all right, miss?”
“I’m fine,” I said, my voice a little too weak for my liking. The cop nodded and stepped past us toward the prone and now groaning mugger lying on the ground.
“Hey! That’s Blane Kirk!” The words came from one of the photographers and seemed to ignite a frenzy of flashbulbs.
Turning me gently towards his chest, Blane hid my face from the cameras as we moved forward through the photographers and small crowd of onlookers that had gathered. Flashes continued to go off and I didn’t know how Blane wasn’t blinded by them. When we reached the street, he let out a piercing whistle and a passing taxi pulled to a stop.
He opened the door, eased me inside, and carefully shut it. Leaning into the open driver’s window, he spoke to the cabbie.
“Take her home and help her inside.” I saw him give the driver several bills before he turned to speak to me.
“I’ll handle the cops and press,” he said. “I’ll come by when I’m through.”
I nodded silently, grateful to be going home. The adrenaline was wearing off and my body was forcefully reminding me of the abuse I’d just endured.
With one last searching gaze, Blane backed away. The driver pulled into the street and I turned in my seat to look out the back window. Blane stood watching until I was out of sight. Flashbulbs brightly illuminated his torn white shirt and body every few seconds, the silence of the scene from the confines of the cab making it appear eerie as they bathed Blane with their cold glare.