The roar of the crowd made meaningful conversation impossible. As a result, most communication tended to be of the most primitive type–hand gestures, nods and head shakes. Those who attempted more complex communication did so only because they enjoyed the close proximity of lips to ears, breasts to arms, hips to thighs.
Neely’s body grazed that of a new man she’d met the week before. She’d thought he looked handsome in his uniform and on a dare from a girlfriend told him so. She knew he’d returned a week to the day to chat her up because she’d not so subtly hinted that she hoped he would. An accelerating flirtation was afoot. Problem was her friend Rowan wasn’t so appreciative of the soldier’s attentions. She thought she’d solved that problem by coming an hour earlier than usual on her regular pub night.
That turned out to be a bad assumption. She frowned as soon as she saw Rowan enter with three of his mates. He zeroed in on her with a hard glare and a rigid line where his mouth should have been. A few seconds later and he drew up to her side and leaned in to her ear.
“Come with me,” he said in his lilting English that betrayed his Irish upbringing.
“Can’t it wait? I’m still drinking my pint.”
Rowan encircled his arm around her waist and tugged her toward him. “No. It can’t.”
She stumbled and sloshed her beer onto her feet. “Let go! Damn, you’re bossy.”
“Let go of the lady, man. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to leave with you.” Her savior, Tom, looking dashingly handsome in his uniform, blocked Rowan’s path.
The two men squared off, almost identical in size but Rowan wild and rangy to Tom’s tightly controlled calm.
Rowan released Neely’s arm but moved into Tom’s space. Neely knew him well enough to recognize when his temper had been provoked. He’d been in that state from the moment he entered the pub. Neely knew a direct confrontation with a British soldier would shove him over the edge. Rowan had never professed much love for the British military, having lived in Belfast during the height of military occupation.
She’d have to broker the peace or world war three might break out at her beloved Lamb and Ram pub.
“It’s okay, Tom. Just give us a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Tom shot a malevolent warning at Rowan but nodded at Neely.
Outside the pub, the temperature had dropped enough to send a shiver through Neely but had the added welcome effect of cooling some of Rowan’s wrath.
“What kind of low life you hanging out with these days, Neely? That’s the same bloke who was hitting on you last week isn’t it?”
Neely rubbed her arms then hugged herself to keep warm. “What do you want, Rowan?”
“Aww, don’t be like that. Give us a kiss first?”
She sighed but leaned in and gave him a peck on the lips. They no longer dated but Rowan still seemed to think he had some sort of claim on her. She inwardly seethed but kept her mouth shut. Now that he was calmer, she didn’t want to create any more ripples.
He offered her a cigarette and as they smoked, they volleyed a round of idle banter to keep the tension at bay. When the mundane topics ran out of steam and they were both silent, Rowan moved a step closer to her and threw down his cigarette. He ran his hand through his hair and scanned the area before he spoke.
“Gotta go away for a bit of a holiday and thought you might like to come.”
“Jesus Christ, Rowan. I gotta job, a limited VISA and even more limited funds. I can’t take a vacation.”
A van turned the corner and came to a stop in front of them. Neely recognized the chug-chug-chug of its gamey engine. She knew she’d see Ian at the wheel and a quick dart of her eyes over Rowan’s shoulder proved her correct.
“Ian. All set?” Rowan spoke but never removed his eyes from Neely’s.”
“Yeah. Cat’s in the cradle and the cargo’s loaded and secured. We got two minutes.”
Rowan smiled at Neely. “Sure you won’t change your mind?”
She shook her head. “Nah, I can’t.” Thumbing over her shoulder, she added, “I need to get back.”
A slow shake of his head was her only response. Two iron grips seized her from behind by the elbows and shoved her toward the back of the van.
“Let go! Rowan! What is this?” She fought to break free but the hands that held her captive tensed and tightened, urging her forward with even greater force.
Rowan opened the back door of the van and shoved Neely inside then jumped in behind her. She landed hard on a large bulky object in the center of the floor and gasped when she realized Tom lay bound and gagged beneath her. His closed eyes and motionless body told her he’d been drugged into unconsciousness.
The van revved then tore away from the curb, tossing Neely into Rowan as it took a corner too sharply.
“Rowan. What have you done?”
“You bloody had to be at the Lamb and Ram early tonight didn’t you, sniffing around like a whore after this rutting bastard.” Rowan fisted his hand in Neely’s hair and pulled her to a sitting position. “Guess you were at the right place at the wrong bloody time. So you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride cause you’re in it for the duration, Neely-girl.” He pulled her to him and kissed her, then laughed when she jerked away and wiped her mouth.
The blast at the Lamb and Ram now several blocks away, shook her hard enough to force her teeth together, her tongue its painful casualty.
From the far reaches of her mind she dredged up the only solace available to her. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…
(to be continued)
And that was a warm up exercise / back story for my 2010 NaNo novel. It’s been edited from the version posted at AW to put a bit more meat into it.