Valiant Page 17

Tammy snorted. ’’No. She\s still a bitch but she\s convinced this idiot it\s somehow cute to listen to her rant about everything. That or she uses that big mouth of hers to give him amazing head.’’

She walked toward the door, waved, and blew him a kiss. She heard Tim choke on his beer over her parting comment and laughed as she left the bar.

Summers in northern California could be weird. It had been hot during the day but the sun had gone down, bringing a chilly breeze that stirred around Tammy as she headed for her car. She glanced around, enjoying the quiet night. Growing up in a small town had always been great. She knew almost everyone and she\d had a lot of freedom since her grandmother had been half senile. Tammy had moved in with her just after her eighth birthday but she still remembered living in a big city before that. She loved the rural area more.

’’Hey,’’ a man called out. ’’Are you Tammy Shasta?’’

She\d already withdrawn her keys for her car. She turned to stare at the tall stranger who wore jeans with a green, long-sleeve, cotton, button-down shirt. He had finished his outfit with a pair of faded brown cowboy boots. He was definitely not someone who lived in her small town. He had short brown hair and appeared to be in his midthirties. She instantly became more alert. She had been taught to never trust strangers, especially men.

’’Who wants to know?’’

The man paused and hooked his thumbs through the loops of his jeans. ’’I\m Terry Briggs. I heard there was an incident with you at that New Species place they just opened up near here.’’

Her heart began to race. What has he heard? Who is this guy? ’’I don\ know what you\ e talking about,’’ she lied. ’’You have a nice night.’’ She unlocked her car door but kept her gaze on him. Scary scenarios began to play inside her head and she wanted to groan. A shrink would have a field day with her love of overthinking everything.

’’Don\ be that way,’’ he demanded as he took a step closer. ’’We heard you had a run-in with one of those animal experiments out there and he put his paws on you.’’

Tammy tensed and fear inched down her spine. He had moved within a few feet of her now. He stood tall at about six feet but that wasn\ saying much. Everyone was usually taller than her but he was a stranger and she felt threatened. She glared up at him and didn\ like that he invaded her personal space. She couldn\ open her car door unless she inched closer to him, which she wasn\ about to do.

’’Look,’’ she glanced down at his boots and then back up to his face, ’’cowboy. I don\ know what you\ e talking about. Whatever you heard, that rumor was wrong. Now you need to back up because I want to leave.’’

A look of disgust crossed his face. It made his features ugly and harsh. ’’They brainwashed you, didn\ they? Those animal things do that to some people. It\s all right, lady. They\ve done it before and you aren\ alone. You need to come with us and we\ll help you think straight again. We want you to hold a news conference to tell everyone what those sick animal bastards did to you. That will show the world they aren\ something us decent folks should be living with. They all need to be put down.’’

She heard everything he said. His blatant hatred for New Species stunned her a little but the most alarming part of his little speech had been the ’’us’’ part. She turned her head and sure enough, spotted three more men edging toward her from the shadows of the building where they\d hidden. Not good. Shit. She peered at the taller man as her heart accelerated from fear. Think. Don\ panic.

’’Fine. You got it. Why don\ you follow me to my house and we\ll discuss it there?’’ She could drive to the Sheriff\s station if she could just get inside her car or get her hands on her cell phone to dial for help. She had no intention of allowing them to follow her home.

He blinked and appeared a little surprised but his mouth tightened. ’’We\ll take my truck.’’

She nodded, quickly assessing she needed to keep him off guard. It would be easier to surprise him if he thought she was a complete idiot. ’’Okay. What about my car? I can\ just leave it here. Sam, the owner, will have it towed first thing in the morning if it\s left in the parking lot. I\ll drive and you can follow me.’’

A hand shot out and gripped Tammy\s arm. ’’Your car is the least of our concerns. You\ e going to help us turn everyone against those animals.’’

Tammy fisted her keys to force a few of them to slip between her fingers. Four men against her weren\ good odds. She silently prayed someone would walk out of the bar to help her but it didn\ happen. Her other hand grabbed the handle of her car door.

’’I can\ just leave my car here. I\m willing to listen to what you have to say but I can\ afford to pay the tow yard to get it back.’’

The jerk suddenly tried to yank her away from her vehicle. She clung to the car handle, he pulled on her hard enough to open the door slightly, and the interior lights inside her car came on. He yanked harder and the metal she gripped slipped from her fingers. She spun and knew she needed to attack to break free.

She punched the guy hard in the gut with the pointed keys sticking out between her fisted fingers as her foot came down on his. Her hand hurt from the keys when she struck him and her other hand clawed at his face. Her fingernails dug into his flesh just under his eye. He bellowed and released her just as Tammy let out a piercing scream to try to draw attention to her predicament.

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