Pretend You're Mine: A Small Town Love StoryBy: Lucy Score
To my parents, the ultimate bibliophiles, who let us read at the dinner table.
This was officially the worst day of Harper’s adult life.
What had she ever seen in that jackass? She yanked the sun visor down, squinting against the low spring sun. At least the setting sun meant this day from hell was almost over. Even if she still had no idea where she was going.
Which was just perfect.
She automatically reached for her bag before remembering that she had left it — and her wallet and phone — behind. Her phone with its GPS that could tell her if she was even heading in the right direction.
Hannah lived two hours southwest of the city. Harper wasn’t sure how her college roommate would feel about a short-term couch crasher, but she was her only hope at this point.
The dashboard’s orange low fuel light chose that moment to ding on. “Damn it.” She had forgotten to stop for gas on the way home and she certainly hadn’t been thinking about it after storming out.
She spotted the next exit — a town called Benevolence, Maryland — and signaled. She was going to have to find a payphone. Did they even have those anymore? Did she even have anyone’s number memorized? Harper groaned.
Maybe she could borrow someone’s phone, log on to Facebook, and beg nearby friends for a ride.
Just inside the town’s limits, she coasted into the gravel parking lot of what appeared to be a bar gearing up for a hopping Friday night. It was a rustic-looking, log cabin kind of place. No neon lights in the windows, just a simple hand-painted sign that hung from the eaves of the skinny front porch.
There was a patio on the side strung with lights and sail shades. A few patrons were clustered around heaters and an open fire pit.
It felt friendly. And she could use a friend right now.
Harper climbed out of her aging Volkswagen Beetle, and the hinges squealed as she shut the door. Leaning against the faded fender, she let her gaze wander, looking for a friendly stranger with a smartphone. “How do I get myself into these situations?” she sighed, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
“I warned you!”
The guttural shout came from between a pair of pickups, two rows back where a man towered over a tiny brunette. He had the woman by the shoulders and was shaking her hard enough to rattle teeth.
“I fucking told you, didn’t I?” He shook her again, even harder this time.
Harper hustled forward. “Hey!”
The screaming giant barely spared her a glance over his shoulder. “Mind your own business, nosy whore.” Harper could hear the slur in his words.
The brunette started to cry. “Glenn —”
“I’m sick of hearing it!” He closed a ham-sized fist around her neck and shoved her against the truck, lifting her off of her feet. The woman clawed helplessly at the hand squeezing her throat.
Seeing red, Harper launched herself at his back.
At impact, she wrapped her arms around his neck. He shrieked, too high-pitched for a man of his size, and released the woman. Arms flailing, he slammed back against the pickup trying to dislodge Harper.
She held on tighter as his weight crushed into her torso.
“Not so easy when we fight back is it, asshole?” she gritted out.
“You’re fucking dead, you bitch!” he squealed.
She briefly thought about biting his ear, but instead used her legs to shove them off of the truck and squeezed her arms tighter around his neck. His face was turning bright red from the pressure.
Glenn gripped her arms and lurched forward, tossing Harper to the ground in front of the crying woman. She landed hard on her side and came up swinging. He glanced a blow off her shoulder, making it sing, and she caught him on the side of the head.
“Glenn!” A deep voice full of authority snapped out from behind them.
Harper used the distraction and fired a shot to his face, catching him off-guard, but only for a moment. The drunken giant swung back at her, and the parking lot exploded into stars.
“Hey.” There was that voice again, this time floating towards her through the haze. Deep, and a little rough.
Harper was flat on her back in the gravel. The side of her face felt like it was on fire. But what held her attention was the man hovering over her. Buzzed short dark hair and a five o’clock shadow framed the deepest hazel eyes she had ever seen. A spectacular sunset was happening behind his head. It was a gorgeous picture.
“Wow,” she whispered. “Am I dead?”
He grinned and she saw a dimple appear next to his mouth. Holy hotness. She was definitely dead.
“You’re not dead, but you could’ve been, taking on a big son of a bitch like that.”
Harper groaned, remembering. “Where is the big son of a bitch? Is the girl okay?”