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From Chapter 2
Hallie couldn’t believe she’d been stupid enough to forget to check the gas before she’d pulled out of the driveway, but it wasn’t like she’d ever planned a 2 AM getaway before. She knew she was an idiot to pull into a truck stop alone in the middle of the night, but what choice did she have? Just get in and get out, girl, she told herself.
She didn’t even consider taking off her helmet or her father’s oversized leather jacket as she swung her bike into a bay facing the exit. When she’d left the house, she’d carefully tucked her unruly, waist-length red curls into a bandanna before slipping on her helmet.
Now, at the worst possible moment, the scarf betrayed her.
Under the pressure of her thick mass of curls, it had unknotted, and several strands had escaped down her back. In the seconds it took to pump her gas, she realized her attempts to look like another guy on a bike were in the Dumpster. Still, she had enough sense not to add a drive-off to her list of Crimes of the day.
She dashed into the truck stop and slapped ten bucks on the abandoned counter, but as she wheeled to leave, she saw she wasn’t alone. Her path was blocked by a wiry man not much taller than she was, in worn jeans and an orange T-shirt, with a faded blue dragon tattoo covering his right forearm.
“Well what do we have here? A little red-headed biker chick out cruisin’ in the middle of the night. And it looks to me like you’re all by yourself. Now isn’t that just a dirty shame.”
Even through the face shield, Hallie caught a whiff of alcohol.
If any cashiers were present in the building, they weren’t making an appearance. Behind Hallie, in the truckers’ lounge at the end of a long hall, a television blared. She took a small step backward as panic began to rise in her chest.
Don’t got that way, something whispered inside her. Go for the door.
She slipped her hand beneath her chaps, into her jeans pocket, and wrapped her fingers around the small canister of mace she’d taken from a kitchen drawer before she’d left. She prayed it would work.
She eased to the right and calculated the shortest route to the door, between the racks of sunflower seeds, beef jerky, and assorted chips. She figured if she hadn’t already used up all her luck for the night, Mr. Blue Dragon Tattoo would be too drunk to stop her.
Instead, the man mirrored her movements and took a step toward her.
“No need to be hurrin’ off, little lady. What you got hidin’ under all that leather?”
He grabbed at her arm, and Hallie jerked it away as she shifted the mace into position deep within her pocket, nozzle pointing downward. Her ignition key was still clutched in her right hand.
“Touch me again and you’ll regret it, you creep.”
The man edged closer, and Hallie saw his eye flicker across the store. No cashier. No customers pulling in. Truckers in the back either watching TV or asleep. His eyes darted back.
In one fluid move, he grabbed Hallie, spun her into a headlock, and dragged her toward the door.
His strength shocked her. In a moment, they’d be in the parking lot, and the doors of the truck stop would swing closed behind them.
Hallie writhed and tried to scream, but the man’s grip on her neck tightened cutting off her air. He paused for a split-second to swing open one side of the double glass doors to the parking lot and she took her chance, slamming the heel of her black boot onto the toes of filthy tennis shoes. With her right hand she plunged her motorcycle key into the faded tattoo and twisted.
The man grunted and loosened his hold for one fleeting instant. Hallie whirled and delivered a stream of mace into his contorted face, sending a blast directly into his gaping mouth. Then she turned and ran for her life.
His screams and curses followed her as she tore across the parking lot, jumped on her Fat Boy, and hit the starter button. “Thank God for electronic ignition,” she whispered to herself.
Throwing a final, panicked glance over her shoulder, she gripped the throttle so tightly that she sprayed a cloud of gravel behind the Harley like a stuntwoman in a biker movie. Careening out of the parking lot at a speed that would have made her parents collapse in horror, her dirt-riding experience paid off as she sped across an open field, onto the entrance ramp, and back onto I-96, heading northwest away from Grand Rapids.
For the next half hour, Hallie checked her rearview mirror every few seconds, expecting to see a semi barreling after her. Her hands were cramping and her shoulders knotting. She pulled her left hand away from the clutch, slapped it on her black leather chaps, and flexed her fingers until pinpricks swelled in her palm.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
Her words were drowned out by the pummeling gusts that whipped around the windshield as she tore through the night.
Excerpted from HALLIE’S HEART © Copyright 2017 by Shelly Beach. Reprinted with permission by Kregel Publications. All rights reserved.
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