Excerpt for Just Keep Running by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Just Keep Running



Dedicated to Dylan

My reason, my everything



By Nicolle Shield


Copyright 2017


Smashwords Edition



Smashwords Edition, License Notes


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Contents:


1: Of All The Gin Joints

2: Maybe I Am Completely Stupid

3: Helmet Hair Is Never Attractive

4: When He Needs To Know

5: The Idiot Is Oblivious

6: Did I Pull The Trigger?

7: I Always Felt Watched

8: Suck My Dick, Brian

9: You Promised

10: And Then I’m Falling

11: You Bloody Idiots


1: Of All The Gin Joints


Do you ever have those days where you wake up, and somehow you just know that something bad will happen today? It was one of those days for me today. As I was choosing my shoes this morning, something told me to wear flats for once. But me, being the genius that I am, ignored my gut instinct and chose the lace up knee high boots to go with my skinny jeans. 

So now, as I'm running down the dark streets – seriously, where are the damn streetlights?! – and listening to the two men's trainers slapping the ground not far behind me, I am seriously kicking myself. Now if I were wearing any of my other heels, I could have slipped them off and run shoe-less. But no, I chose the boots that take forever to lace up, let alone undo.

As I turn a corner onto yet another dark street lined with houses, I'm quite proud of myself for the amount of multitasking I'm doing right now. Not only am I running away from the two psychos, I'm also trying to remember how the hell to get back to a part of town that actually has some life in it. It's eleven at night, and so far I haven't seen a single light on in any of the houses. Apparently everyone in this area believes in a good old early night. I'm also listening to the steps behind me, and realising that the men may well be playing with me. I'm wearing four-inch heels and they haven't caught me yet. At the same time I'm giving myself a pat on the back for not being the girl in the horror film who keeps looking back and ends up skidding down the road on her face after tripping over absolutely nothing.

Another corner, onto another street, only this one has streetlights! I may finally be getting somewhere. I hear the rumble of a motorbike somewhere behind me, and on any other day I would've stopped and shamelessly ogled the beautiful machine as it passed, but my thoughts are elsewhere tonight. However, it catches my attention as it speeds past and the rider looks back at me before performing a U-turn and stopping just ahead. As I slow my pace I chance a look back and see the men behind me slow to a walk, looking between me and the biker, who has just motioned with his head for me to get on. I can't see his face, he wears a dark hood that casts a shadow over it.  

Two scenarios pass through my head in this second. Biker Guy could be a friend of the psychos, so if I get on the bike, I'm officially screwed. Or he could just be a passer-by who decided to help the random girl running for her life. Another look back shows the men less than twenty feet away, and in the faint light I can see the black eye on one of them – that I may or may not have given him – being emphasised by his scowl, as his friend continues flicking his focus between me and Biker Guy. That scowl makes my decision for me, and before I consciously know it, I find myself moving towards the bike and swinging my leg over the seat. Psycho number one's scowl deepens as Biker Guy revs the engine, which reassures me they aren't friends. As the bike moves off, I wrap an arm around the guy's waist and flick my middle finger up at my pursuers as we pass them, grinning as I feel Biker Guy's abs rippling as he chuckles.

Five minutes later and the bike slows down, before the guy starts walking it backwards. Looking around I see we're on the high street, pulling up outside a cafe, which is miraculously still open. I was honestly starting to believe that this tiny town only lived and breathed on daylight hours. I step off the bike and move to the side, trying to put my long brown hair back into its ponytail. Clarity suddenly hits me and I realise that I am standing on a street, with a biker who I have never met, after just taking a ride on his Harley. I clear my throat and start backing away slowly.

"So, um, thanks for the ride and everything," I say, looking around for a quick exit. "I'm just going to go now. So, uh, thanks again – "

I stop talking as he grabs my wrist and points to the cafe. His grip is gentle but I get the feeling that if I fight, he's not going to go so easy on me. I swallow loudly and nod.

"Right, ok. I guess I could use a coffee or something."

He lets go of my wrist and opens the door, motioning for me to go ahead. He takes his hood down as I get close, and in the light from the cafe I finally get a good look at him. And wow! This guy, he's gorgeous! He's at least six foot two, towering over me even with the added height from my heels. His black hair is short on the sides and slightly longer on the top, and his eyes are a bright blue that doesn't look natural. His shoulders are broad and as he pushes the door further I see his muscles strain against his hoody sleeve. This guy is big. And now my filthy mind is picturing him naked and wondering what else is big about him. Oh, lord, save me. He raises an eyebrow and I suddenly realise that I've been stood there for a while blatantly checking him out. Oops. I clear my throat again and walk past him through the doorway, trying my hardest not to brush up against him and encourage my filthy mind any more. I can't help but get a lungful of his scent as I pass though, and the guy smells like heaven. It's a mixture of leather, cigarettes and aftershave, and it makes my knees weak.

The cafe is empty, but I can hear the clatter of dishes in the kitchen at the back. I take a seat at the counter, noticing that Biker Guy is leaning on the wall near the door. He watches the street like some kind of sentry, not taking his eyes off the outside world for even a second. I rest my forearms on the counter in front of me and lean my forehead down against them. The adrenaline from the chase has worn off, and exhaustion hits me like a steam train. As I struggle to keep my eyes open, I hear the rumble of more bikes approaching, and my body tenses. Maybe if I keep my head on my arms, no one will notice me and I can get out of this place alive. Of course, that depends on Biker Guy forgetting about the girl he just saved, so it doesn't seem likely.

The bell on the door jingles, announcing my doom, and the laughter of several men reaches my ears. Okay, they're in a good mood. This might go well. My head snaps up as I hear a voice I never thought I'd hear again.

"That was fucking beautiful, boys!" His Irish accent hasn't faded over the years, and I can't help but spin my head round to look, because surely he isn't here, in this tiny town in a completely different country. But as I get a look at him, I realise he is. His dark hair has more grey in it now, and the laughter lines around his eyes are more pronounced, but it's him. I stand slowly from the stool and turn to look at him properly.

"Of all the gin joints..." I say quietly. Obviously not quietly enough, because all five men fall silent and turn to look at me, looking at him.

"Do I know you, love?" he asks, looking me up and down. I can tell I look familiar to him, as I watch his mouth twist while he tries to work out where he knows me from. I feel like I should be offended, but I can't bring myself to be.

I grin. "You should do, Skids! You've seen me naked often enough!" My English accent gives me away and I watch his face closely. 

His eyebrows shoot up to his hairline, which has receded slightly over time. "Lenni?" he asks, eyes wide as saucers.

I spread my arms out and wink. "The one and only."

In two steps he reaches me, wrapping his arms around my waist and spinning me around. I'm vaguely aware of the others stepping back to avoid my legs as they swing about. I wrap my arms around his neck and squeeze him tight, burying my face into his neck. He puts me down and holds me at arms length, looking me up and down.

"You're all grown up!" he says, like he hasn't realised that's what happens.

"Well, yeah," I say, with that 'duh' tone of voice that I know he hates. "That happens after six years."

He frowns, and I can't help but grin at the predicted reaction. "Last time I saw you, you were a scrawny sixteen year old. Now you're a full grown woman."

Now it's my turn to frown, and I'm about to protest the 'scrawny' comment when I'm reminded that we're not alone in the room. A deep voice comes from behind Skids and I look up to see Biker Guy with a raised eyebrow.

"You've seen her naked?" he asks, and I roll my eyes. Of course that's the part of the conversation that these men picked up on. I can't help the gasp that escapes my mouth as realisation hits me, and everyone turns to stare at me.

"He talks!" I say, gesturing towards him with a flick of my hand. I'd honestly begun to wonder if the guy was mute. They laugh but don't look surprised by my reaction, so I'm guessing they're used to his silent ways. I notice that all eyes are on me, looking me up and down with looks that can only be called predatory.

Skids looks at the others and frowns again. "I used to change her nappies, ya dirty bastards! Girl's like a daughter to me!" He puts his hands on my shoulders and moves me to stand in front of him. "This is Jay," he points to the man directly in front of me. He's an inch or two taller than me in my heels, and I can tell he's well built under his leather jacket. His brown hair reaches his chin, and he brushes it back before reaching a hand out for me to shake. "Philly," he says, gesturing to the man next to Jay. He's shorter than the others, with an obvious beer belly and a grey beard that reaches to his chest, while his head is completely bald. I shake his hand too, before turning to the man who stands on his other side. "Pest," Skids introduces him, and I'm about to ask why when the tall, skinny man reaches for my hand and brings it to his lips, kissing my knuckles and sending me a wink. It makes more sense now, and I pull my hand away slowly, looking between my knuckles and him, barely resisting the urge to wipe my hand on my jeans. Jay reaches behind Philly to slap the back of his head and I laugh. "I'm guessing you've already met Smiler," Skids says, nodding at Biker Guy. I can't help it. I laugh, before covering my mouth, blushing as the huge man raises an eyebrow and nods. Can you blame me? The guy is silent and his only facial expression is a raised eyebrow. How ironic.

Jay laughs and motions to a table pulling out a chair for me. They all sit down and I take a good look at all of them before turning to Skids. "I should've known you'd end up in a biker gang," I say, amused.

"We're not a gang. We're a club of motorcycle lovers," Jay says with a grin.

I lean forward and rest my elbows on the table, clasping my hands under my chin and returning his grin. "Sure. And the piece in your jacket and the knife in your sock are just to protect your beloved motorcycle, right?"

He laughs and sits back. "And how would you know about that?"

I stand and reach my hand into my own jacket, pulling the pistol from the inside pocket. Smiler tenses and reaches his hand to the back of his jeans. I know his own gun is there from where it pushed into my stomach as I rode behind him. I raise an eyebrow at him. "Easy, tiger," I say, producing my pistol and handing it to Jay, making sure the barrel stays pointing to me. I put my right foot on my chair and pull the knife from inside my boot, holding the blade and handing it to Jay, who puts it on the table, looking at me with obvious questions in his eyes. I shrug. "I grew up in a town with two rival bike clubs," I emphasise the last word, winking at him. "I learnt a thing or two." I don't mention that the gun is a recent addition, and it's to protect me, not my motorcycle.

Smiler relaxes slightly but keeps his gaze on me. "If you're packing, why were you running?" he asks.

"Well, I'm not stupid enough to just shoot someone in the middle of a street. I don't need the hassle and it would have to be a last resort," I say. It's at this point that I see Skids tense beside me and I know I'm in trouble. I turn slowly to look at him, and boy does he look pissed. I smile innocently at him. It doesn't work, it never has.

"I think you need to do some explaining. Starting with why you're not in England, and finishing with tonight. The weapons should be somewhere in the middle."

I pick my weapons up off the table and shrug again. "England is cold and wet, these are for protection and tonight was a misunderstanding." I move towards the door but as I pull it open, Smiler's hand shoots out and slams it shut again. I turn around and gulp. I should've known that they wouldn't let me get away so easily, but a girl can hope, right?



2: Maybe I Am Completely Stupid


I should probably explain how I know Skids. I've known him since I was born – he was my dad's best friend. I grew up in England, in a town that was pretty average and boring. Even the bike gangs – sorry, clubs! – that I mentioned before were pretty low key. They tended to keep their business out of town; you know, not shitting on your own front doorstep and all that. My mum died when I was ten, from lung cancer. She'd smoked twenty a day for as long as I can remember and still didn't quit even after her diagnosis. You'd think this would be enough to put me off smoking, but it didn't. I started at fifteen, and quit last year. When my mum died, my dad started drinking. A lot. He wasn't a mean drunk or a violent drunk. He just used to drink until he passed out, sitting quietly in the corner of a pub until he was kicked out to stagger home, or I was called to come and collect him. Then he'd pass out on the sofa, wake up the next morning and do it all again. 

While my dad was drowning himself in alcohol, Skids pretty much brought me up. He made sure I had everything I needed for school (when I bothered going) and kept the fridge stocked with food. When I was fifteen he and his wife divorced after he found her cheating on him, and a couple of months after my sixteenth birthday, he moved to America to get a fresh start. I couldn't blame him. He'd spent years bringing up a kid that wasn't his, and then his wife had shattered his world.

When he says I'm like a daughter to him, he's not exaggerating. Whenever he took me anywhere and people mistook him for my dad, neither of us corrected them. He pretty much was, if you ignored the DNA. He was a protective bastard, putting more than one guy on their arse for messing me around. So you might understand why I tried to play things down around him.

After Smiler had so kindly blocked the door to stop me escaping, I'd planted my arse back on my seat and tried my hardest not to sulk and pout. I might be a dippy cow sometimes, but I'm not completely stupid. It was perfectly clear that I wasn't going anywhere until Skids was satisfied with my explanation. So here I am, sitting at a table surrounded by bikers, trying really hard to disappear into my chair. You know when you're a kid, and you truly believe that if you cover your eyes, people can't see you? I was tempted to try that now. Instead I held my coffee – lots of milk, three sugars – in both hands, concentrating on the ripples I make when I blow it gently. Skids clears his throat next to me, making me jump and spill the hot coffee on my hands.

"Fuck!" I shout, flinching when his hand clips me around the back of my head. He always had hated me swearing, not that it ever stopped me. "Sorry."

"We're waiting," he says. I look around and see he's right. Every single one of them has their eyes on me, even Smiler, although his eyes still flick to the road outside every few seconds.

I take a deep breath and give him the simplest version I can think of. "I broke up with my boyfriend a few months ago. Figured I'd do what you did and get a fresh start. I moved just outside of town a few weeks ago," I tell him. Of course I haven't mentioned that my ex was an arsehole, and I'd had to wait until he got sent down for assault to sneak out of the country. I'm pretty sure he's already got people looking for me, so I haven't stayed in one place for long since I got here. I'm probably paranoid, but I have good reason to be.

"And tonight?" Jay asks. Dammit, I was hoping they'd forgotten. I honestly thought I'd get more questions about being in the good old US of A but maybe I played it down just enough.

"Well, it really wasn't that big a deal," I start, sighing when Smiler grunts and turns to look outside again. "This guy grabbed my arse. I objected. Then he objected to my objection, I ran and Smiler picked me up."

"Lenni," Skids warns, and I roll my eyes.

"Okay, so I objected by punching him in the face. Apparently he doesn't like it when a girl hits him. Hence the chase." I look down at the table, and jump when I hear them all laugh. I look up and can't help the grin that eases it's way onto my face.

"Good girl," Skids says, clapping me on the shoulder.

"You taught me well, old man." I wink, moving before he can smack my head again. The man gets more violent the older he gets, I swear. A thought springs to my head, and I can't believe I haven't thought of it before now. "I've got something of yours, by the way," I tell him. "It's in storage right now, but I'll show you when you've got a day free." He raises his eyebrows in question but I shake my head, making it clear he'd have to wait and see. I finish my coffee and stand, stretching as I do. Now I'm not an arrogant girl, but I can't help but notice Smiler's eyes on the skin that was exposed as my top rode up. I cringe and hope that my jacket stayed in place and covered up my ink. I have no idea how Skids would react, and I've had enough of the inquisition for tonight.

"Where are you going?" Skids asks.

"Home. I'm tired. Where can I get a cab around here?" I ask, looking between the men still sitting at the table.

Jay laughs. "Nowhere at this time of night. We'll take you." He stands, followed by the others and I wince.

"Uh, no, that's okay. I'll find a way." Okay, so maybe I am completely stupid because I should've known that wouldn't work. I hate the thought of people knowing where I live, my paranoia kicking in again. I trust Skids with my life, but I'd known the others for an hour at most. Plus, let's be honest, my place is a shit hole. The landlord's a creep and I'm pretty sure the building needs to be demolished. But it's all I can afford right now. Plus I got a short-term lease on it so I can get out quick if I need to. "Fine," I sigh, knowing to not even bother trying to argue when I see Skids' face set in determination. I tell him my address and even I'm not oblivious enough to miss the look they all share as I walk out of the door. I follow Skids to his bike, rolling my eyes when he hands me his helmet. I pull my hair out of its band, running my fingers through it before putting the helmet on. Again I notice Smiler watching my hands, and I try to fight a smug grin that wants to appear. Who can blame me? The guy is HOT and every girl likes an ego boost every now and then. We pull out onto the road with Jay in the lead. Skids rides just behind him, followed by Philly and Pest, with Smiler bringing up the rear.

When we pull up outside my building, I cringe again when I see them looking at it with disgust clear on their faces. I lead the way inside, through the hallway with its flickering light and unlock my door. Two good thumps with my shoulder and it finally opens. I turn to thank them and say goodbye but Jay pushes past me into the flat, looking around. It's a dump, with the living area and tiny kitchen in one room. I think the carpet used to be cream, but is now a dingy brown colour. The walls glisten with damp and the whole place smells musty. Jay goes to turn off the dripping tap in the kitchen but I stop him.

"Don't bother. I've tried," I tell him. He raises an eyebrow and walks down the narrow hall to the other two rooms. The bathroom only has a toilet, sink and a tiny shower cubicle. The mirror over the sink is smashed and covered with limescale. I'd tried to scrub it clean but just ended up with glass splinters in my hand so had given up. He opens the door to the bedroom and turns back to me with a raised eyebrow.

"You haven't unpacked?" he asks, obviously noticing the suitcase on the floor with the lid open. There is a box next to it with my many pairs of shoes and another that holds my make up and toiletries. I shrug and am about to answer when he suddenly jumps out of the room. Sammy, my dog, crouches in front of him, growling with his teeth bared. I laugh at the big bad biker being scared of a dog.

"Sammy. Quit it." Instantly the dog is at my side, leaning gently against my leg and watching the intruders carefully.

"It's a bloody wolf!" Pest says, backing up against the wall. I laugh and scratch Sammy's head. He did look like a wolf. His dad was a husky, and his mum was a white Alsatian.

Everybody jumps as a door slams in the flat opposite, followed by the screaming and shouting I'd become used to in my short time here. Skids and Jay share a look before the former turns to me.

"Yeah, no. You're not staying here!"

I tut and roll my eyes. "It's fine. It's only short term until I can afford somewhere better. Plus it's close to work."

As soon as the words are out, I regret them. 

"Where do you work?" Jay asks.

"Um, a bar just down the road." I don't fancy explaining to my surrogate father that I dance in what could only be called underwear, in a cage hanging from the ceiling. I'm not a stripper, I am a cage dancer, but I doubt he'd see the difference. It's good money, and the bouncers are brilliant at making sure no one tries to touch anything they shouldn't. He seem satisfied with the bar explanation so I figure he just assumed I served the drinks.

"You can stay at a room in the clubhouse. It's not far, so you can get to work easily," Jay says.

Nope, that is not happening. There is no way I could run from there if I need to without someone noticing.

"No, it's fine. I like having my own space," I start. I see the look on Skids' face and try again. "I can't take Sammy and all my stuff on a bike. Be realistic," I try. Skids nods, and for a second I'm relieved. Until he opens his bloody Irish mouth that is.

"Good point. I'll stay here with you tonight, and in the morning one of the guys can bring the van. We'll get you moved then."

"You don't have a car?" Jay asks.

"I do, but it's at the garage. The brakes needed fixing. That's why I was in town tonight," I explain.

"That's sorted, then," Skids says, nodding and clapping his hands together. For a moment it makes me think of a judge, banging his gavel as he sentences me.

Shit. I nod and slump my shoulders. Okay, I can work with this. I'll take extra shifts and save to find a place of my own that's more suitable, and that they'll be happy with. They all seem unaware of my internal plotting as they share satisfied looks. The others say their goodbyes and leave me and Skids standing in the room, looking around at my disgusting accommodation. Maybe this move will be a good thing, I think, as the sound of smashing glass greets my ears from the opposite flat.


***


The next morning I am awoken bright and early by the sound of bikes pulling up, followed by my front door being slammed open. I jump up with a start, before hearing Skids welcoming the others. I put a hand to my heart, willing it to slow down as memories of last night flood back. I am not a morning person by any standards, so when I look at my alarm clock and see it's only eight, I am pissed. I see Sammy standing on alert, looking between me and the bedroom door that was open a few inches. I grin.

"Get 'em Sammy!" I tell him, pulling my trackies on with a chuckle as he bolts out of the room. A girly shriek sounds an instant later and I laugh, pulling my hood up and exiting my room. I pad into the kitchen on bare feet, cringing as they touch the manky carpet.

"One of you arseholes better have coffee," I grumble, nodding in appreciation as a cup was shoved under my nose.

"Call him off!" Pest squeals. I'm glad I haven't taken a sip of my drink yet, as it would have just been sprayed everywhere. I never knew a man's voice could go that high. I look to where he's leaning against the front door, with Sammy snarling in front of him.

"Sam," I say, pointing to the sofa. He jumps up and sits there staring at Pest as he inches away from the door.

"Still so happy in the mornings, I see," Skids laughs.

I pull my hood to cover more of my face as I stick a finger up at him and walk to sit next to Sammy. I ignore the men as they laugh, concentrating on trying to keep my eyes open as I gulp the coffee. I mean, come on! They're bikers. They should be in bed until at least midday. I should've had a lie in!

I finish my coffee and put the cup on the floor in front of the sofa, before curling up and closing my eyes. I sit up with a jolt as something landed on my head. Pulling it off I see it's the only towel I'd brought with me. I scowl at Skids who's pointing towards the bathroom


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