He needed a woman. Not just any woman would do, but a petite woman who was fiercely independent and thought she was tough. Well, that is what he wanted, anyway, to make the chase that much more fun. He loved it when a little woman realized just how small she truly was under his demanding and brutal tutelage. He leaned back in the chair that he occupied in a street side cafe, watching the people walk past him, oblivious to the havoc he could wreak upon their lives if he so chose. A smirk briefly crossed his lips, quickly dissipating at the approach of one of the servers of the café.
“Would you like any more coffee, sir?” the server asked.
The man studied the server. She was new to the café; tall and blonde, she had a distinctly Scandinavian cast to her features. He turned on his charm, changing his body language subtly so that he seemed to show an interest in her. He maintained just the right amount of eye contact, put a smile in his eyes, and simply focused on her. She was not what he wanted, but it never hurt to charm everyone around him. Not only did it keep him above suspicion, but it also amused him to toy with people’s emotions and attractions.
“Thank you, no. But, if you could be a dear, and get me a water with lemon?” He responded with a warm smile.
The server nodded, cheeks tinged slightly pink at the perusal he had given her, and hurried off to get the water. The man’s attention returned to the pedestrians, finally seeing the particular woman he was watching for. He enjoyed the hunt, and this hunt held such promise. He had been sifting through his options, but this woman drew him the strongest. He had been following her for the past month and he liked what he saw.
Her name was Eve. She did not make the 5’5” mark and was quite slender. With dark blue eyes and curling auburn hair, she managed to attract a fair amount of attention. What amused him was that she seemed completely oblivious to the glances thrown her way. She was a student of muay thai, and from what he had witnessed in the free class he had taken in her gym, not a bad fighter. Eve would be a challenge. She was friendly enough, but kept a distance from people. If what he had learned from following her for the week was accurate, she was an introvert, enjoying her time alone and not inclined to bring many people into her circle. He had only witnessed her interact socially once, and that was drinking a beer with one of the employees at a bar that she frequented alone on a weekly basis. She just might do.
Eve walked her usual route home after work. She was ready to curl up with a brandy and a good book, hidden away from the rest of the world. Work had been more draining than usual. Eve sometimes wondered what made her apply for a job that required such a high level of interaction with people. Sometimes she just wished she could become a hermit and escape the masses. At least Eve was able to get her alone time, even if it was just her walk to and from work. As she walked, she scanned the people around her and the familiar buildings.
Eve’s gaze went past the bookstore and the pharmacy, studied the people sitting at the café patio, and noticed the new dresses in the dress shop. This stretch of street was beginning to make her feel unsettled, though she could not quite pinpoint why. It used to be one of her favorite areas to walk through, with a number of shops that she enjoyed frequenting, as well as the bar that she frequented to write in. Eve’s gaze returned to the café patio. He was there again.
Eve supposed that most women would have found him attractive, though she was not really one to say. She tended not to notice, much to her mom’s frustration. The man was tall and muscled, with longish black hair and a perpetual five o’clock shadow. What Eve had noticed was that he was at the café every time she walked by on her way home from work. That was not anything unusual, people had their habits after all, but there was something about him and the way he watched people that made her feel uneasy. She watched him turn on his charm when the blonde waitress diverted his attention for a moment before he resumed his people watching. Eve picked up her pace when she noticed that his gaze had landed on her. The urge to get home increased dramatically.
Jared looked down at his ruined shirt and sighed. That was the last time he was going to help his sister with Kids’ Books and Crafts time in her bookstore. Somehow the little imps had managed to not only cover the fabric of his shirt with glue and rainbow glitter, but one especially mischievous devil had decided it needed ventilation. How the kid managed to get his hands on a pair of scissors, Jared could not fathom. Jared stripped off his shirt and chucked it into the trashcan, thankful that it was warm out. He would be attracting stares no matter what, but he preferred that it be because of his size and tattoos, not because he was a giant victim of a glitter bomb.
“Bye, Janet! You owe me big for this.”
Janet’s muffled voice sounded from the back, “Thanks big brother! You are a lifesaver!”
Jared grinned and waved, even though Janet could not see him, and walked out into the street. He blinked in the bright sunshine, trying to see after the relative dimness of the bookstore. Jared’s stomach growled. He should get some food from the café down the street to take home for dinner. Jared noticed a slight female with curly hair walking in front of him as he walked to the cafe. There was something about her that drew his attention.
Her posture seemed to declare a discomfort and a hyperawareness. Her steps hitched when her gaze locked on something or someone in the café, and then sped up. Jared frowned. He looked over to the café to see what might have discomforted her. All he saw were a variety of customers sitting at the outside tables, though one man seemed to be watching the woman as she walked away. As she was attractive, a man watching as she walked by was something Jared would expect, but the look in the man’s eyes seemed off. Jared watched as the man put money on the table and left the café, going in the same direction the woman was walking. Jared narrowed his eyes and followed. Something was not right.
The man put down a generous amount of cash to cover his bill and left the café to follow the woman. His decision was made; she was the one for him. Eve was already nervous, subconsciously aware that a predator was watching her. It was time to hunt.
He followed the woman down the street, past shops and through the milling crowd. He noticed how the sun glinted off of her hair as she turned her head to look behind her. The man lengthened his stride slightly to lessen the distance between them, subtly increasing her feeling of being stalked. He knew she was aware of his presence, her body language shouted it for his eyes alone. Eve took a sudden turn, down a road that she did not normally take on her way home. The man grinned.
When he turned the corner, he spotted the woman just up ahead. He could tell she was struggling not to show her growing fear. Her head was up, her posture erect, but her pace kept fighting to increase its speed. He caught up to her as they neared an ally and grabbed her, one arm around the waist, the other over her mouth. He pulled her into the ally before anyone noticed what was happening.
The woman struggled in his arms, fighting to break free. Muffled screams escaped from her mouth, but went unheard by anyone except him. Her screams were his alone. She suddenly went limp, her full weight dragging on his arms. Instead of loosening his hold, the man tightened his grip and pulled her further into the ally. Eve resumed struggling, trying to throw elbows, kick his knees, or trip him, but was unable to break free. The man could feel his excitement growing.
His victim fought for all she was worth and he could feel her strength. Definitely a challenge, just what he needed. The man could not keep the grin from his face; that is until the woman managed to hit his nose with the back of her head. He blinked his watering eyes and struggled to keep his grip tight. She broke free, but he quickly caught her again, putting her in a chokehold. He tightened his grip and held the choke until she fought no more.
Suddenly the man found himself flung against a wall, his head ringing. He felt warmth seeping from his mouth and tasted blood. He shook his head and looked up. A tall, tattooed man stood over Eve’s crumpled, unconscious body, his gaze locked on him, the threat clear in his eyes.
“If you value your life, little man, you had better run,” the tattooed man growled.