It's complicated – is not only her relationship status, but the definition of Erika Bailey's life. She loves managing her drag queen club in Bangkok, Thailand, but her rock star boyfriend resides in North Carolina. And to top it off, her father threatens she stay away from Darien or lose the Pink Flamingo. Does she protect her club or her love?
Darien Scott, Grammy award winning, international superstar, wants nothing more than to wake up in the arms of Erika, the woman he loves, but contractual obligations force him to exotic video shoots and an isolated movie set with one of Hollywood's sexiest stars.
With the feeding frenzy of social media trending every aspect of Darien's life–real or not–it's hard for Erika to know the truth. Will she be able to see through the lies and trust Darien? Or will evidence from damaging Internet rumors condemn their relationship?
Why were they after her? And who the hell were they? And why her? And…
Questions dashed through Erika's mind as she sprinted down the side street. Her heart pounded against her ribs. The early morning downpour blinded her. She swiped at her face, stumbling on the slick pavement, and then crashed into the door of a parked car. The right side of her head and shoulder bounced against it. "Ow. Shit."
Her legs buckled. The cell phone slid out of her arm band and hit the ground with a crash. Gulping mouthfuls of damp morning air, she picked it up, stuffed it into her tank top kangaroo pouch and pressed upward to stand. She snapped her head right and left, scanning for her pursuers. Her stomach lurched as a loud footfall sounded behind her.
"Get back here, bitch." A hand grabbed her arm.
"No! Let go of me." Panic surged. The jolt of adrenaline gave her the strength to jerk her arm free of the man's grasp.
Go! Run. Go. Go. Go.
As she drove her legs forward, Erika shot her gaze about the area. Dark, closed shops. Parked cars. Not a person in sight. No police. Hell, not even a street walker. No one. No one who could help.
Keep it together. Keep calm. Think.
Footsteps thudded behind her. One set. Two footfalls.
Two footfalls? But weren't there–
She turned a corner. Her nose pressed against the solid chest of her missing pursuer. His vile breath puffed across her face as his arms encased her in a bear hug.
"Let me go." Her legs trembled as she squirmed and kicked. "Let me go. Help!"
"I said stop. Dammit." The second man raced to her, then bent low to catch his breath.
With the arrival of the second man, the one holding her eased his grip.
Inhaling a deep breath, Erika pulled in her focus and remembered her years of self-defense classes. Take out one, then worry about the other one.
She drilled her knee up into the thug's groin. Air whooshed out of his lungs as he stumbled back. His eyes were wide with surprise and pain.
Erika shifted her position, swinging an anger-fueled kick to his shin. He dropped to the ground, releasing a string of what she guessed were profanities in Thai. She turned to strike the other, but he was still bent low, gasping for air. Calmness eased her nerves. With her pursuers momentarily disabled, she could escape. A busy main street was one block to her right. Her runners smacked the sidewalk as she bolted to her escape.
Christ. All I wanted was an early morning run. Not this shit!
With her focus on escaping, she charged across the street. The blare of a bullhorn and screech of tires snapped her awareness back to reality. The driver of a delivery truck flipped her the bird. She careened onward.
Keep it together. Get to safety. And try not getting hit by a truck.
Her legs and lungs protested the intensity, but adrenaline surged and energized her when she realized she was two blocks from her favorite morning coffee shop. It would be busy, filled with zombies searching for their first fix of the day. A perfect safe haven. She tossed a glance over her shoulder. The two men had recovered and continued their pursuit, moving rapidly, closing the distance. She steeled her determination. She could make it to the coffee shop.
Dodging pedestrians, Erika zigzagged through the morning crowd. Bangkok was waking up and heading to work. At the end of the block, a bus stopped and a mass of people swarmed out. Erika slowed her pace to a walk, staying within the cover of the crowd.
Her heart thumped inside her chest, which heaved as she tried to control her breathing. Relief flooded through her. Ahead. Just there. The sign with the brilliant yellow flowers. A symbol of Thailand's national flower, and her sanctuary. She cut across a power-suit dressed couple, ripped the door open and stepped inside.
The lady sniffed and tossed a sideways glare as Erika passed her. Erika didn't care. She wanted to dance with joy. She'd made it. She moved from the throng of people entering and exiting, walked to the furthest back corner, and plopped onto a seat.
Breathe. Deep inhales. Slow exhales. The clink of a spoon on a mug caused a shudder to ripple through her. Try again. Deep inhale. Slow ex…oh, hell who am I kidding? I was being chased! They could've tried to rape me. Her stomach lurched. Breathe. Stay calm. Don't look scared. Erika settled back in her chair, set her cell phone on the table and rested her hand beside it. Her fingers trembled against the surface. The trembles grew as they spread throughout her body and down her legs.
For the fourth or fifth time - breathe!
She closed her eyes, inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of six. Repeating her inhale and exhale, she listened for unusual sounds. Something that would warn the men had found her.