Chapter 1

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You know that fear in the pit of your stomach when something bad is about to happen? Multiply it by ten and you'll get what I'm feeling right now.

The bar where I work as a bartender was busier than usual today, so when my boss told me I was good to go, I rushed to get my tips and leave. My back has been killing me from working a double shift and I just wanted to get home.

But now...

"Damn, I should've waited for Annie," I murmur, a shiver running down my spine as I watch two men near my car. Looking around, I realize I'm alone. There was a group of people mingling in front of the bar just a few seconds ago, but the eerie silence of the night shows me that the street is now deserted.

Do I turn back to the bar or do I... Shit! They saw me! I pause, my entire body freezing.

Maybe they'll go on their way and leave me alone. Fumbling for the pepper spray inside my bag, I try to keep calm, but the blood in my veins is pounding in my ears and my heart is thudding in my chest.

"Hey beautiful." I hear one of them say at the same time I feel my hand touching the bottle.

I try to walk fast and simply not acknowledge the guys, but my feet are tingling and my footsteps too heavy, so I'm soon cornered by both of them.

"Leave me alone," I say, and when they both laugh, a sense of dread washes over me.

"Hey now, we just want to talk..." One of them raises his hands in mock surrender, but not before smirking at his friend.

My heart is about to jump out of my chest as I take another deep breath, and I can feel my whole body shaking. I need to focus on how to get out of this situation, but my lungs just can't seem to pull enough air in.

"Hey!" I hear another man shouting from behind me and quickly turn around to see what it is, which leaves me a little unsteady.

He's twice the guys' size, and when my eyes meet his, I can see he's furious. My stomach turns in fear when I realize I'm trapped, and it's like I can't feel the ground under my feet.

"Get the fuck out, man!" The guy in front of me shouts, but my eyes are locked with the man behind me.

"Are you okay?" He keeps his eyes on me as he walks closer, but my mouth is too dry to speak.

"I..." I whisper, and he nods before turning to the guys in front of me.

"You bastards have two seconds to get out of here!" he says, his eyes now locked on the two guys.

"Whatever..." I hear one of them murmur, along with the sound of them walking away.

I can't seem to take my eyes off the man who's apparently trying to help me, but when he looks at mine, I instinctively take a step back.

"I just left the bar and saw you walking alone here and then... Are you okay?" He takes a step back too, and I try to focus on how gentle he sounds.

"Yeah... Just... need... a moment." I look around, my hands clinging to the pepper spray inside my bag.

"Are you sure you're okay? You look like you're about to pass out." He studies my face, and I can't pull enough air in, no matter how hard I try.

"I'm..." I press my hands to my chest, my windpipe closing up.

"Right. Look at me. I'm not doing anything to you, okay? Keep your eyes on me and take a deep breath... now let it go slowly... deep breath again... and let go... That's it! One deep breath in... Another one out..."

He keeps going for a while and after what feels like ages, my heartbeat slows down and my lungs work properly again. It's then I take a good look at him and realize he was at the bar earlier, but in a booth.

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