Lindy was a Siren, damn it. That made her a Grade A survivor, and she wasn’t going down without a fight. Lack of oxygen made her weak. Determined to get out from under the people pile, she groped one-handed behind her. A drunk threw a bar stool. It shattered beside her and sent splinters flying everywhere. She ignored the one in her arm and concentrated on staying alert.
Vision fading, lungs screaming, she grabbed a broken stool leg and flailed at the bodies grinding her face-first into the floor. A masculine bellow told her she’d hit something. Good
. A wake-up call might make them stop using her as their personal mattress. These people had rushed in to rescue her, and now she hurt them to survive. She hated herself for it, but her life was on the line here. Finally she clawed herself free, dragged Bill under the table, and glanced across at the fire exit.
Just ten yards. Just like making a first down. An easy run for a super-fit Siren like me
. Just as she reached the bar, one of the bouncers backed into her. This time as she fell, her wrist bent back almost 180 degrees. Damn it, I just heard the bones snap
. An inferno blazed through her nerve endings, and she prayed she didn’t throw up. She wasn’t crying...really. Who am I kidding?
Pain made her eyes water. Hello. Siren. Tears. Not a good mix. Time to toughen up and get out of here.
She heaved herself up and leaned against the bar, panting heavily. Her broken ribs ached right along with her shattered wrist, and her head throbbed. Lethargy spread through her like a warm, comforting hug. Unconsciousness beckoned, but to come out of this unscathed, she had to stay sharp and run.
If she passed out, someone would ship her off to the nearest hospital. Joe, probably. Only, if they discovered she wasn’t human, she’d end up in some government facility. Maybe the British equivalent of Area 51, if there was such a thing. If that happened, she might never see daylight again.
She called on her Siren training to help ignore the pain. So not working. Maybe I should have paid more attention in school
. She felt as though lightning speared her wrist. Just a few more yards, and she’d be home free. She just needed to rest a moment first. She slid back to the floor, her back against the bar. When she gulped in a lungful of air, the pain from her ribs made her gasp. Dizzy and nauseated, she slowly lifted her head.
Two biker boots--solid, black leather with thick soles and long laces--filled her gaze. She followed them upward, licking her lips as she stared at her rescuer’s muscular thighs. Injured arm cradled against her chest, she threw back her head to clear the hair from her face. She’d almost suffocated. Relief made her shaky, and it didn’t help that Tall, Dark, and Handsome towered over her, his expression half sympathetic, half fierce.
Breathtaking male. Damn, but he’s even more stunning close up.
Then the unfeeling jerk dragged her upright and dumped her behind the bar. “Stay there and be quiet.”
Neptune’s balls, it hurt when he pulled her about like that, especially when that people pile had cracked her ribs and shattered her wrist. And who did he think he was, giving her orders? Sirens weren’t the shut-up-and-do-as-I-say type. Once she caught her breath, she’d hit that shrill note that would shatter the mermen’s eardrums; then she’d leave.
Lindy’s rescuer dived back into the fight, clearly intending to keep the merwarriors at bay. Apparently deciding to deal with him first, a huddle of mermen swamped him like American footballers falling on a ball at the end of a play.
A Siren’s lullaby rose up in Lindy’s throat, but she’d never be able to hold the long, low notes, not with broken ribs. Tall, Dark, and Domineering had saved her, and she owed him. Sirens weren’t known for their common sense, and broken bones notwithstanding, her personal code demanded she help him.
Before she moved, Tall, Dark, and Deliciously Sexy threw off the mermen as though they weighed nothing. He hauled his surfer friend from the battle and towed him toward the bar. His intense gaze fastened on Lindy.
Almost as threatened by him as she was by Neptune’s minions, she felt her heart hammer and pound. And where was Joe? Then she spotted him through the open door that led to the back room. He was talking on his cell phone. Probably ringing the police. Except for her driving license, she lacked the layers of ID that human society demanded. So that was her cue to leave.
She edged away from the battle, but Tall, Dark, and Do-As-I-Say shot Lindy a furious look. “I said stay there.”
Her glare would curdle milk. Sirens are fierce predators. He should back down and apologize, not ignore me and concentrate on his friend.
He shook his buddy and yelled, “Feel better now, Saul? Or do you want to beat on a few more mermen? We’ve got the girl, so let’s leave.”
“Fire exit,” Lindy panted and pointed over her shoulder.
As the hotties flanked Lindy and scanned the room, the smell of rotting fish alerted Lindy to the merman creeping up on her from behind the bar. She tried to poke her fingers in his eyes, but it was too much of a stretch for a pocket-size Siren like her.
“Accept your fate, and come with me,” he hissed.
Lindy grimaced. “You’d think mermen would bathe occasionally. Has anyone ever told you that you stink? And do you think up cheesy lines when you’ve nothing better to do than hurt women? Or is that what counts as an original thought for you? Get lost, mermaid.”
He raised his fist. “Merman. I’m a freaking merman.”
She kicked him in the balls; then Tall, Dark, and Bad-Tempered vaulted the bar and shoved her aside. His fist pulped the merman’s face. “Funny. You scream like a girl.”
The blond one, Saul, slid over the bar, smiled at Lindy, and smirked at his friend. “Seems you’ve caught a feisty one there, Jase.”
Her rescuer rolled his eyes. “Trust a Siren to start a fight. Okay, where’s the back door again?”
Jase? What sort of name was Jase? And why was he angry with her? She hadn’t started this fight, and she definitely hadn’t meant for anyone to get hurt because of her. And thanks to her broken ribs, every breath she took was torture. The last thing she wanted was to advertise her imminent departure to Neptune’s fail-at-the-first-hurdle posse.
Jase snarled again. “You’re a sodding Siren. They usually never shut up. Where’s the bloody back door?”
No one spoke to her like that. Ever. She might look like the weakest female in the room, but Sirens were as tough as they were beautiful. Right now she didn’t feel either. Her red-brown hair had escaped its usual ponytail, and it fell in lank hunks around her shoulders. Fringing hung off her denim blouse like miniature lassos. Her suede skirt was trampled and ripped. The heel of one boot was broken, and she could feel her mascara running down her cheeks. Even so, she’d done nothing to deserve his scorn. And, oh great, some idiot’s poured a pint of beer on my clothes. I stink like last night’s party leftovers.
No way would Jase want to fuck her. Not that she’d let him unless he apologized first. Her ribs were already healing, but the compound fracture of her wrist would take a little longer. She tossed her usually perfect locks, but they were a tangled mess. She’d have stalked ahead, but the broken heel on her boot made walking difficult. She stopped to kick them off, but her bad-tempered rescuer snapped, “No time for that.”
At least he hadn’t sworn at her again. If she didn’t owe him, she’d pour out a scale of sharp notes to set his teeth on edge. She held up her foot to show him the broken heel, but he scooped her up and hung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She gasped as a spasm of pain hit her ribs and thumped hard but one-handed at his back. He didn’t even seem to feel it. How useless can one Siren be? I feel like a fly attacking the swatter.
He smelled of oranges, pine needles, and freshly baked bread. If she was hungry, he’d make a damn good meal. Even upside down, she appreciated his muscular butt. Jase was as objectionable as he was sexy, but she’d definitely give up her virginity for all that male gorgeousness.
When he opened the back door, she couldn’t resist taunting, “See? That wasn’t so hard. Oh, maybe the neon sign over the exit gave you a clue. And guess what, you just have to push it, and it opens. Joe’s phoned the police, so a bit of urgency wouldn’t go amiss.”
His quick jog down the stairs did nothing to help her broken ribs. Every step knocked air back out of her lungs, but at least she was finally getting the hell out of Dodge. When they reached the car park, surfer guy jumped on a lean, mean, chrome-plated motorbike while her rescuer set her down next to a 1950s classic bike.
“Get on,” he snapped.
“Get stuffed.” She kicked off her boots and tossed them at his head. He ducked.
Then the door swung back open again. Neptune’s posse poured out. Lindy smirked and leaped astride the surfer guy’s chrome-plated beauty. Jase ignored her and roared off down the street.
Surfer guy, Saul, revved the engine and followed. She yelled her address in his ear, but either he ignored her or he didn’t hear. She hit his shoulder to get his attention, but he opened the throttle and threw out a wheelie. With a furious squeal, she ignored the pain in her wrist and clung on like iron filings kissing a magnet.
These jokers had saved her from Neptune’s goons, but they as good as kidnapped her themselves. Dumping them would be easy if they were humans, not that she’d anywhere special to go. If those fish heads knew where she worked, they sure as hell knew where she lived. Besides, she’d seen this pair in action. No human moved with their speed, precision, or strength. Her rescuers were nothing like any preternatural species she’d rubbed up against before, so what the hell were they?
Once they’d left the streetlights and houses behind, Saul pulled up and practically shoved her off his shiny chrome bike. “Here, Jase, you take her.”
Lindy felt rooted to the spot, but the drop-dead sexy one, Jase, lifted her bodily and dumped her on his pillion. “Saul, you asshole. She’s frozen. Couldn’t you spare the power to warm her?”
He stripped off his leather jacket and draped it around her shoulders. She ignored the stabbing pain in her ribs, but her injuries were already healing. The wrist would take longer, a day and a half maybe, since it wasn’t a clean break. Careful not to bump her broken bones, she shrugged the jacket on carefully. His body heat lingered in the lining along with his lemon-and-fresh-pine essence.
Saul just stared at her, shrugged, and said, “She’s not mine.”
“She’s sure as hell not mine,” Jase snapped back. “A bloody Siren? Really? Come on, Saul, anything but that.”
Lindy fumed in Jase’s arms. And what sort of name was Jase? Short for Jason, perhaps. Whatever he called himself, he didn’t care overly much for her. Not that she should worry about that. Mostly she liked herself, and that was all that mattered. As singers went, she’d never make the Siren’s top ten. That still made her a million times better than any human. Tougher too, unless bodies piled on top of her like an American football at the end of a play. Once she’d gotten back to her feet, those mermaid guys would have been toast...probably.
Jase kept looking back over his shoulder, so he saw them first. A hand gesture, and Saul glanced behind. Neptune’s goons had bikes too. The race was on.
Lindy’s wrist throbbed. Her vision blurred. She struggled to stay alert. Bile rose in her throat, but this bad-tempered biker might bar her from his bed if she threw up on his back. You think? Okay, time I did some deep-breathing exercises
. She inhaled as deeply as her cracked ribs allowed and clung harder. His back was broad and warm, so she rested her face and her breasts against it.
Her world lost focus. All she saw were dark shapes--probably trees and hedges--and endless road. She glanced back, and just when she felt certain those merfolk would catch them, her rescuers turned into a forest. Every bounce of the bike over the rutted tracks was agony for her. The trees came at them thick and fast, but Jase never took his hand off the throttle. Wind rustled the leaves. Ahead, a river splashed against rocks. Then they came to the ancient packhorse bridge.
Just as Jase pulled onto it, she recognized her surroundings. Last summer, she’d picnicked near here with Joe and his lover. Even on a summer’s day, the packhorse bridge had terrified her.
“I’ll take the long detour down the valley and wade across the river!” she yelled as he pulled onto the bridge. Not that he took any notice.
A slender pathway of stone stretched out into the night. Narrow, without parapets, it was barely wide enough to take a laden pony or motorbike. Surely he isn’t going to... Oh hell, he is
. Lindy’s heart raced as Jase revved his engine, raced up the low slope, and started across it. Sirens feared nothing, except darkness and heights. As an added bonus, this bridge stretched high above a dark valley.
“No!” she yelled.
The roar of the engine drowned out her voice. Terrified, she squeezed her eyes shut. Not that it helped. When she sneaked a look, the ground had dropped away on either side. Almost, this felt like flying. Don’t faint. Don’t panic. Just pray
. One move, one shuffle that put them off-balance, and they’d tumble to the rocks below. They’d crash and burn just like the night the Sirens fell from the heavens.
Don’t think about that. Don’t look. Don’t move. Don’t scream. Don’t disturb his concentration
. She pretended she was back in the club, curled up with a white wine spritzer after her first performance. A blip of the throttle. A tiny wobble of the back wheel, and she wanted to throw up. Only, terrified as she was, every vibration of the engine sent tiny hits of pleasure through her cunt.