One Night to Wedding Vows (Wedlocked!)(10)

By: Kim Lawrence

One laughed and she pounced on him with the verbal punch of a spitting cat. ‘Big man, aren’t you, with your friends around you?’ she jeered, swinging her stabbing finger around the group. ‘Alone would you or any of your friends here be so brave? You’re a bunch of pathetic losers who should be ashamed of themselves...’ She focused on the ringleader and pointed the finger at him. ‘If I was your mother I’d be ashamed!’

Under the battering tirade, several of the boys started to back away and one even lifted his hand and said, ‘Sorry, beautiful lady.’

Raoul agreed with the description but would have added gutsy to the description. He couldn’t think of another woman he knew who would have handled the situation in the same way. It had been a risky move, but you couldn’t help admire her bloody-minded bravery.

Who was she, this brave, slightly crazy redhead? She bent to rub her ankle, causing the red dress to pull tight across her hips and behind.

He thought that must be the trigger, her lovely bottom, and raging teenage hormones. Whatever the cause, the effect was an immediate and complete change of atmosphere. One second it looked as though the situation had been defused, but then one boy—that was all it ever took—who clearly wanted to show off in front of his friends, took a swaggering step forward. He yelled out a mocking taunt at his retreating comrades and advanced towards the redhead with leering intent.

As he watched, Raoul’s jaw tightened, though he could tell the girl didn’t understand a word of the filth the kid flung at her, but his attitude needed no translation. She stood poised in a flight-or-fight mode, watching him like a lamb watching a fox.

The situation, he decided, had gone on long enough. Raoul stepped out of the shadows, fists clenched. He found there was a smile on his face, now he finally had a legitimate target for the anger that still swirled around inside him.

* * *

Lara’s energising burst of angry adrenaline had exploded like a courageous firework, but now that it had smouldered and faded away she felt scared and terrifyingly vulnerable as the boy moved towards her.

She wanted to run but her feet seemed nailed to the ground. In the periphery of her vision she was aware that the others had stopped walking away, a couple had turned back and they were all watching...waiting...?

Weirdly her brain carried on functioning regardless of the paralysing dread. Then as the paralysis lifted instinct took over and she moved towards one of the street lights. An illusion of safety was better than nothing.

She lifted her hand to her ear and began to speak, her clear voice floating across to the young men, confusing them for a moment. But then one noticed that she had no phone in her hand and the yells began again.

Do not show fear.

A bit late for that, Lara thought. The group had slowly moved until she was surrounded. You should have run when you had the chance, said the voice in her head. Too late now! One tormentor might not have been so bad. She could have dealt with one, talked her way out perhaps, but with several, all egging each other on...?

Aware that her options had been reduced to calling for help and hoping someone would come to her aid, Lara opened her mouth to shout. Only a strangled squeak emerged, but it was drowned out by a new voice, a voice that held an edge of bored irritation.

‘Where have you been? I said outside the casino!’

The youths stopped and swivelled towards him. Raoul raised a sardonic brow and allowed his disdainful glance to drift over them, satisfied they were not going to present a problem. He ignored the flicker of something close to regret—now was not the time to get his knuckles bloody—and instead turned his scrutiny to the luscious redhead. As their glances connected he saw comprehension supplant the shock in her wide-spaced eyes—could that colour possibly be real?—and she didn’t miss a beat before replying, ‘Casino...?’ She shook her head. ‘No, you said we’d go on there afterwards.’

And that smile...!

He’d never understood dedicated enthusiasts who waited for hours in often uncomfortable positions to catch a glimpse of a rare bird. But he would wait for ever to see that smile again, especially as it deepened, revealing a dimple in her smooth cheek. Raoul couldn’t think of a reason in the world not to respond to the challenge in her emerald eyes.

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