Please enjoy this excerpt from my debut novel, Trust and Betrayal
The sound of her footsteps bounced off the crumbling brick walls and echoed loudly in the silence. She would not typically use the shortcut through the alley, but after the phone call she’d just received, she was frantic to get home. Though it was still daylight, the sun’s rays could not penetrate the depth of shadow cast by the decrepit buildings. The garbage-covered street lay bathed in darkness. The stench of rotting food, and who knew what else, assailed her nostrils threatening to choke her. At the sound of her approaching footsteps, the rats quickly scattered, carrying with them whatever treasures they had unearthed. The urge to vomit was almost unbearable.
She was a smart woman. Intelligent, as well as street smart. Had she not been so preoccupied, she would probably have realized her mistake sooner. As it was, she almost ran into him before she noticed he was blocking her path. He was close to seven feet tall and built like the proverbial brick shithouse. Her heart lurched as she felt the weight of the alley walls pressing in on her, the sense of claustrophobia suffocating. Her mouth went dry, and every breath she drew took tremendous effort. The sounds of the outside world faded to a distant roar, and her vision tunneled until he was the only thing that existed for her. His black clothing and predatory stillness had cloaked him in the shadows until he’d stepped forward. Now he simply stood, expressionless, waiting for some unknown cue.
She couldn’t fight him off should he decide to attack. He hadn’t made any move toward her, yet, but his preternatural silence had alarm bells screaming in her head. Although her every instinct told her to flee, her body refused to obey. Slowly, she began to back away, her racing heart urging her on. The sound of her feet crunching on the filth and gravel merged with the pounding of her heart to create a thunderous cacophony that drowned out everything else.
When the gap between them widened to a more comfortable distance, and still he stood motionless, a sentinel at the mouth of the alley, she was finally able to turn. She made her way back down the alley at a brisk pace, though not quite running. The man had not actually threatened her, after all, but something in his behavior was definitely menacing. At the midway point of the alley, she managed to draw her first full breath. She heard no sounds of pursuit. If she could just put a little more distance between them, she could probably outrun him, at least to the street where shops would be open and people would be milling about. Surely, help would be there if she could just make it that far.
She risked a glance back over her shoulder. He was moving toward her, slowly, his pace belying any sinister intent. Could she have been wrong about him? Her taut nerves wouldn’t allow her to feel the sense of relief she’d been hoping for.
When she turned back around to continue her retreat, whatever optimism had been trying to surface was washed away, as a tidal wave of sheer terror slammed full force into her chest, knocking the breath from her already straining lungs. A second man stood directly before her. He was a full foot shorter than the first, but no less menacing. She would never make it to the safety of the street.
Fear was alive and strangling her with its intensity. As they moved toward her, she looked around urgently for some bit of trash that could be used as a weapon. With no prospects and no way of circumventing the men, she made one last attempt.
“What do you want?” Her voice didn’t sound as strong or as defiant as she’d hoped. “I don’t have any money.”
Neither man said a word. With the pair closing in, she turned her back to the alley wall. She moved backward reluctantly until the crumbling bricks pressed sharply into her spine. She would have to fight the men to have any hope of leaving the alley alive.
She didn’t wait for the attack to come. Her first kick caught one man between the legs; her second caught his friend in the side of the knee. She tried to slip between them, but their surprise at the attack wore off. The first man fisted one of his tremendous hands into her long blond hair and pulled her head back. The second man was already lifting his fist as he stepped toward her. She felt the last of her hope shatter, with her cheekbone, as his fist crashed into her face. Then everything went black, and she didn’t feel anything.
She never even caught a glimpse of her savior.