Unedited and subject to change.
You can run but you can’t hide,
I know what lies deep inside.
I lower my glasses and rush across the road, head down, hoodie covering my head and face. A small woman standing outside of the door, watches at me as I dart around behind the gas station, backpack tightly wrapped around my shoulders, clipped at the front. My sneakers are worn, and they squeak on the pavement as I scurry into the ladies toilets. I rush into the small, crappy room, kicking in the doors, and when I realize it’s empty, I lower my hood.
My long blonde hair tumbles out when I remove the cap from my head that was sitting firmly under my hoodie. It’s my usual look these days. Jeans, sneakers, singlet top, hoodie and a cap. It’s the easiest look to disguise who I am when I’m forced to get out in public. I lower my face, and turn on the tap, filling my hands with water and splashing it on my skin. I close my eyes, letting the cool feeling calm my nervous, frightened body.
They’ve found me.
It’s only the third time Axel Wraithe has managed to catch up with me in just over a year, which isn’t bad considering he’s got sources and I don’t.
He’s the President of the MC club Angel’s In Leather, and he’s been chasing me since the moment my father sent me running with a case containing information on USB Drives. I’ve never plugged the drives in to see what’s on them. Whatever is, though, I imagine is extremely important. They wouldn’t be chasing me like this, if it wasn’t important.
Axel wouldn’t have let his men kill my father if it wasn’t something he needed.
I still don’t know what went down that day, all I know is that whatever my father has in this case, Axel wants. Axel and my father used to be best friends, until my father started up his MC club Joker’s Runners, and they had a falling out. They became sworn enemies, and were constantly at war, but more often then not, it was kept at a certain limit. Then that one day, it went over.
I found out after I started running that the Angel’s In Leather took out the Joker’s Runners in a war that stopped the entire town just after my father died. They were looking for the case. The case I’ve been running with for just over a year. The case that’s clearly been more important than anything else that’s come up in that time, because Axel hasn’t stopped looking for me.
Which means I haven’t rested.
There have been times I’ve wanted to just give in and let him take it from me, but then I think of my father’s face the day he died in the front of our SUV, and the desperation when he made me promise to run, and deliver this case. If I let him down…I’ll never live happily. This is my mission, and sadly, it’s become my life. I don’t have anything else. Without this…I’m nothing. I have nothing…no one.
I am struggling to find this Raide fellow, without recoursces, it’s very hard to locate him, and until I do I can’t stop. So here I am, in a women’s bathroom, trying to calm myself down and figure out a way to escape Axel a third time around. He’s not an easy man to escape. He’s a god damned genius and he’s managing to get closer and closer to me no matter what I do. I have to think of something new. Maybe I’ll cut all my hair off and dye it red, or purple, something crazy.
I pat my face dry with my sleeve, and stare in the mirror at the empty blue eyes looking back at me. Most girls my age would be out partying, being in love, enjoying their life, their jobs, their friends….but me, I’m running, living a criminal life that I never chose. On the rare days I get where I manage to relax, I find myself imagining what it would be like to just be normal.
I shake my head. It’s never going to happen.
I hear the distinct rumble of Harley Davidson’s outside, and I know they’ve stopped. I feel my palms become clammy, and my heart speeds up. I have to get out of here and into the trees behind the gas station. They’re thick and lush, and I can run for miles through them. The problem is getting out. This was the closest place I could find to gather myself, and it took Axel a matter of minutes to locate me. It’s never a coincidence with him. Never.
I swallow, and lift my hair up onto the top of my head again, tucking it under my cap. I pull my hoodie back over and grip the straps that are sitting around my waist. My bag is strapped on as good as I can get it, because I don’t want it to be taken from me. If it gets taken, then all this has been a waste of time for me…and my father.
I pull my sunglasses down over my eyes, and I peer out the window. And there he is. I feel my body tingle with fear as I lay my eyes on Axel. He’s standing out the front of the gas station, speaking to the young woman, flashing a photo at her. I know it’s a photo of me. She nods, and points to the bathrooms. God dammit. Axel lifts his head, and his eyes turn in my direction.
The years…they’ve been kind to him. The last few times he got close to me, it wasn’t close enough for me to get a good look at him. To see how the years have changed his face.
Axel Wraithe is a gorgeous man, he always has been, but he’s got a heart of steel. I remember as a little girl, in the years before he and my father had a falling out, I used to think he was one of the most handsome men I’d ever met. He was just a young man back then, but he had the kind of face that women would drool over. Now…now he’s older, and more defined, and even more breathtaking.
He has this thick black hair that sits messily on his head. His body is huge, tall and well built, yet unlike most bikers, not covered in tattoos. He has a few, but not many. His shoulder’s put most body builders to shame. His eyes are the color of turquoise water, and are the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s got a few days growth of stubble on his face, and his ears are filled with silver hoops.
His body is covered in all black clothes. Large, chunky black boots. Black jeans. A black shirt covered with his black jacket, with, what I know, has a large angel surrounded in fire on the back. Their club’s patch. He wears chains around his neck and leather bands around his wrists, hanging off his jeans, he has silver chains, topping off his look.
Axel is about forty years old, and while he was my father’s best friend, he was ten years younger than him. They met a few years after my parents had me. I know my father helped him out of some bad things, and felt a connection to him. Things went well right up until I was about ten, and that’s when my father created his club and he and Axel had a massive falling out.
I never saw Axel again…until the night he saved my life.
Now, he’s standing, staring at the bathroom’s, a small, deadly smirk on his face. Sweat trickles down my face as I turn, peering around the bathroom for an escape. There’s a small, narrow window above the far toilet. It’s not locked, and I could squeeze out of it with enough effort. I glance back out the window and see Axel still staring at the bathroom, nodding to the lady as she speaks.
I have minutes.
My adrenalin spikes as I rush towards the toilet. I peer up at the window, and use the toilet and basin to launch myself upwards. I take hold of the window sill and use my free hand to rattle the window. It’s rusty, but it dislodges itself easily enough. I shove it out, and it lands with a crash on the ground. My heart begins to hammer.
I unclip my backpack, there’s no way I can get through with it on my back. I peer out the window, and when I see it’s clear, I shove the bag through and let it drop down onto the ground. That’s when I hear the rattling on the toilet’s main door. My heart lurches and I feel my jaw begin to tremble.
“Meadow, you didn’t honestly think you could hide in a toilet, did you?”
Axel’s voice has me freezing, but only for a split second. I’ve been running long enough now to know how to keep myself from freezing for long enough to cause a problem. I lift my leg up and try to be as quiet as possible as I jump three times, and shove my body through the small gap. I lose my balance when I push through too hard, and land on the dirt the other side with a thump. I roll, gripping my bag and throwing it on quickly, before leaping to my feet.
And there he is.
I scream and leap backwards as he appears around the side of the building. Up close, he’s powerful, huge and dominating. He has a tattoo of a bird on his neck, and it seems to be staring at me, taunting me. I lift my eyes to meet his, and I gasp softly. Beauty, it just doesn’t cover what he is. He can’t be classed as beautiful. There is only one word I could ever use to describe him, and that is…devastating.
“Hello Cricket,” he purrs, using a nickname for me that he used to use when I was a little girl. “Long time, no see.”
I swallow, and grip my backpack. “Axel.”
He smiles, showing me a row of perfect, white teeth. Two dimples appear in his cheeks. “And here I was thinking you’d forgotten about me, I mean, you’ve been running for me now for…what has it been, Cricket? Over a year?”
“One year, three months and six days,” I whisper, shuffling backwards.
He chuckles. “And you know I was going to catch up to you eventually, so we could have avoided all this if you had just given me what I wanted back then.”
I don’t say anything, I just grip my backpack straps tighter, and let my eyes dart around behind my sunglasses to look for a way out. I see a thick mass of trees behind him, probably about fifty meters. If I could get to them, I could hide myself…I also see a pile of rusty metal poles in the corner, leaning against the wall. I turn my body slightly toward them, and begin very slowly backing up. Axel steps forward, suddenly gripping the side of my face. His other hand grips my backpack. I snarl and shove, pushing hard enough to get him to let go. He stands back with a smirk.
“Don’t touch me!” I hiss.
His smirk widens. “Nice disguise you have there, but you know, when you live in a disguise, people start looking for it. Should have changed it, Cricket.”
“Don’t call me that,” I growl, gripping the straps on my backpack even tighter.
“Take off your hoodie, Meadow,” he rasps. “Let me see you. Let me see the girl who has fucked my life up for the past year. It’s been so long, hasn’t it? Last time I saw those baby blue eyes, you were jumpin’ off a bridge tryin’ to end your life.”
I flinch and anger builds in my chest.
I let go of my backpack and grip my sunglasses and I pull them off, then I lower my hoodie and rip my cap off. I want him to see me. I want him to look into my eyes and see the determination there. He won’t beat me, it doesn’t matter how hard he tries – I’ll try harder. I lift my face and I stare him right in the eyes. And it’s because of that, I notice his reaction.
His body flinches, only just barely, and his eyes widen. He hasn’t seen me since that awful night. Our interaction after that, was done with me being fully covered. I stand on trembling legs as he takes me in, letting his eyes move over my body. I notice when he narrows his eyes, that he has small lines beside his eyes, the only indication of his age.
“Well fuck me, Cricket. You grew up and became a knock out, and here you are, wastin’ it by runnin’ when all you have to do, is give me what I want and you can go on your way. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a normal girl?”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” I say, trying to stop my voice from trembling.
He glares at me. “You are fuckin’ stupid, because you’ve been wastin’ your time running for me for the past year.”
“And I’ll continue running from you, Axel. I won’t stop. And if you think I’m going to fall for your promises of freedom for me if I hand over the goods, then you know nothing about me. I’ve lived with bikers before, remember? I’ve seen the promises made. You’ll not get your hands on me…”
His eyes harden and he takes a step forward. I brace myself to run.
“Is that so? Funny, because you’re the one trapped against a toilet wall with no where to go.”
“Again,” I whisper, reaching around behind me and gripping the long metal poles I’ve been edging closer to. “You don’t know me, if you knew me, you’d know that I know what I’m doing by now, and no one traps me against a wall.”
I swing the pole. His body moves to block it, but it hits his hands so hard he goes reeling back with a roar. I swing it again, connecting with his kneecaps. When he drops to the ground, I run. It’s one thing I do know how to do. I put my head down, my arms by my side and I run as fast as I can move.
I hear Axel’s bellow, and I know he’s calling for his men. I have seconds. I hit the trees just as I hear the shouts beginning to grow louder behind me. I skid to my left, running through a narrow set of tall trees, in an attempt to get into the thicker shrubs. My sneakers crunch, and I know there’s no way I can pull this off quietly, but I will pull it off.
I hear the sounds of boots crunching in the distance, and I have no doubt Axel has his entire group of men spreading out to chase me. My adrenalin spikes, and I pick up my face, ignoring the sweat pouring down my face, or the branches scratching into my skin. I won’t let him beat me now, not after everything I’ve fought for.
I pick up my pace when I come to a clearing, running hard and fast. It’s never good to be caught in a clearing, I’ve learned that. I put my head down, and run as hard as I can. I can hardly breathe through my panting, it’s so intense. The sweat begins to fill my eyes and it burns. I blink rapidly, lifting my hand to swipe it quickly across, trying to remove some of it. It only makes it worse.
“Stop, Meadow, do yourself a favor!” Axel bellows.
I look over my shoulder to see him and six other men running towards me. My adrenalin spikes and I focus my attention in front of me. The only thing I can see is a large river off what looks like a small ledge. My heart skitters. Can I jump off that?
“Stop now and I’ll make it easier for you.”
I don’t have a choice.
I have to jump.
I run to the edge, and skid to a stop as I look down at the flowing water. My entire body stiffens and my breath hitches. Memories of that night on the bridge flash through my mind. My skin begins to prickle, and it becomes even harder to breathe. It’s not the same, you can swim now and the water is nice, clear and safe. You won’t die. You just have to get over the other side.
“She won’t jump,” I hear Axel yell.
“Hurry it up!” someone else bellows.
I hear the sound of boots crunching coming closer. God, if they get hold of me now, all this has been for nothing. I stare down at the water, and goosebumps break out over my skin. I can’t breathe, I can hardly concentrate. I know they’ll get me any moment. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath.
“Promise me, Meadow…”
My father’s words spring back into my mind and I know I have to do this. So, without opening my eyes, I jump. It happens in what feels like slow motion, my entire body plummets to the water below. I hit it flat on my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I sink quickly, even though I can swim now, the panic has my body stiffening in fear.
I begin to struggle.
My backpack is too heavy.
I shake my head from side to side, keeping my mouth clamped shut, kicking my legs as hard as I can. I feel a set of hard arms go around me, and I sieze. I’m slowly being pulled to the surface, on that surface I’ll be taken somewhere I don’t want to go. At the realization of that, I start kicking harder, until I hit the person holding me.
When I surface, I gasp a breath of air in, and I kick hard towards the other side. I hear Axel’s crackled voice sound out behind me. “Stop fuckin’ running Cricket, we’re not going to keep doing this.”
Oh yes we are.
I kick harder, using everything inside me to get to the other side. I reach the bank and launch myself up, gripping the sides with my hands. I’m about to pull my body up, when those arms go around me again and yank me back down. With a scream, I go crashing back into the water. Axel has me, and he spins my body around so I’m facing him. Up close I can see his eyes, and I hate that he makes my heart flutter.
I’m supposed to hate him.
“Quit this fuckin’ bullshit and just give in.”
“No,” I growl, shoving at his chest.
“I won’t play this game with you any longer, Cricket. If I have to, I will hurt you.”
I lean in close. “Does it look like I care?”
He growls and pins me tighter against his body. When I’m this close to him, and my body is pressing against his, I can feel every part of him. His powerful form is twice the size of mine, and a good solid foot taller. His arms tighten around me, and I know I have to think quickly. I stare up at him, meeting those devastating eyes.
“Please,” I whisper. “Don’t do this to me.”
His eyes soften a touch, but only a touch. “Then give me what I want.”
I’m playing, only he doesn’t know it.
“I cared about you Axel, can’t you just remember that and let me go. Remember how once, you cared for me too.”
He shakes his head. “Nice try, Cricket. It ain’t gonna work.”
I let my eyes fill with fake tears. “He was all I had left and you took him from me, now you’re going to take the last of him and leave me with what?”
He narrows his gaze. “You’ll find a way, that’s what strong people do.”
“No, Axel, that’s what you would do. I’m not you.”
“Girl I knew wouldn’t have a problem being that strong.”
“I’m not the girl you once knew, I grew up, Axel. Or hadn’t you noticed?”
I press myself harder against him and he growls. I want to lean up and kiss him, I can smell his masculine scent and it’s killing me that it’s affecting my control. I realize I’m staring at his lips, and I quickly turn away, biting mine.
“Stop fuckin’ doin’ that,” he murmurs.
I look back up at him, and slowly I lean up so my lips just graze his ear. I’m having him on, I need to escape, but my body is betraying me, because it’s enjoying the feeling of being in his arms. “Doing what?” I murmur.
“Fuckin’ hell, stop,” he growls.
I let a warm puff of air tickle his neck, and then I lean down, and I bite him so hard I draw blood. His bellow of pain as he reels backwards is enough to let me know it fucking hurt. I spin quickly, not looking back. I launch up onto the bank, and without stopping, I run into the line of trees.
“I’ll fuckin’ find you, Willow,” Axel roars. “Mark my fuckin’ words.”
I have no doubt he will.
But like always, I’ll find a way to escape him.
I always do.