Strike (Completion #2) by Holly S. Roberts

Chapter One

The dirty, cracked vinyl on the bus seat rubbed uncomfortably against the back of my bare thighs. My short shorts offered little protection for my ass, but the irritation kept my mind off the next two hours.

I refused to dwell on what made me desperate enough to continue on my premeditated unlawful activity, because I’d spent the past three days talking myself into it.

The city bus finally made its last stop of the night, the squeaky brakes adding to my tension. I walked down the steps without looking at the driver. I was sure he’d seen it all and my plans to commit a felony wouldn’t cause him to blink an eye but I still didn’t want him seeing my face. I pulled my dark hoodie lower over my face, bunched the ends of my sleeves in my fists, and began the second leg of my journey. The early spring night was chilly, but my legs warmed up quickly as I walked.

Several miles later, the uneven sidewalks gave way to wide paths and the small, sporadic bushes changed to large swooping trees. The area slowly transformed from compact neighborhoods to large showy mansions. I stopped under streetlights to check my penciled map on a wrinkled scrap of paper before continuing to my crazily planned destination.

Do not get caught. Do not get caught.

The litany ran through my mind. I had so much to lose, but this is what happened when someone was desperate. That someone was me, and I refused to allow my usually good judgment to change my chosen path.

Do. Not. Get. Caught.

After turning down the final street, I looked around and spotted the address. A low brick decorative wall surrounded the property with a large circular driveway leading to the front of the dark two-story house. I left the bus around eleven, so I figured it was now after midnight. I placed the directions in my hoodie pocket, clasped my trembling fingers tightly together, and inhaled quickly.

I can do this. I wouldn’t back down now.

Taking another deep breath, I forced my feet to carry me forward. I stepped onto the perfectly manicured lawn, moving swiftly to the side of the house. There was no gate to keep people out, but a sign in the yard read, “Protected by Bullet Plus Security.” The “Plus” was overkill. This was Texas—bullets protected everything.

I pulled a small flashlight out of my pocket and began looking into the windows. I avoided touching the glass, knowing it might trigger the alarm. I finally located a room on the side of the house with an enclosed glass cabinet against the back wall. If I was lucky, it held what I’d come for.

Finesse wasn’t part of my dash-and-grab strategy, so I pulled the medium-sized rock from my pocket. One hit was all I had time for, so I made sure I smashed hard against the glass. The window shattered noisily, but there was no going back now, and I quickly managed to squeeze through the broken pane. Time was not on my side and I needed to be long gone before the police arrived. I ran around two large chairs straight toward the cabinet. Unfortunately, I ran into a brick wall before I reached it.

The jarring pain to my midsection took the air from my lungs as a low grunt holding the last of my oxygen huffed from my chest. I landed on my back, hitting my head on the floor. Panic from lack of air had me scrambling to get up. Before I could roll over, a large body landed on my chest.

Being caught and the all-too-real-possibility of going to prison were superseded by my need to breathe. My hood flew from my head then a firm pull on my hair had my eyes watering as strong arms dragged me across the room. No sound escaped my throat…sound required oxygen. My feet bumped along limp-noodle style.

The light flipped on and I slammed my eyes shut against the brightness.

“What the fuck are you doing?” the rough voice demanded.

My eyes popped open.

My hair was clenched in one of his hands, the front of my sweatshirt in the other. My teeth rattled as he shook me with each tightly controlled word.

“Fucking. Answer. Me.”

My body flopped around like dead weight. I wanted to say something—scream, cry, anything, but I had no air in my lungs and was close to passing out.

I barely registered the grumbled, “Fuck,” that came from my attacker.

Using my hair, he pulled my head down so I leaned forward slightly. A few seconds later, the air rushed back into my chest and I gasped. I tried to stand up, but a solid push to the front of my shoulders sent me falling backward. I landed in one of the large cushioned chairs. By now, my eyes were adjusting to the light and I could see nothing but bare skin looming over me.

The man was completely naked—every amazing muscled inch on full display. My gaze traveled upward. Even in my current predicament, his spectacular body had my mouth watering. Holy jeeze, this guy was underwear-model gorgeous.