RYDER (Antagonist to Lovers)

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C H A P T E R | 8

J U L I E
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Julie struggled with the revelation that Ryder was actually endearing, and she dreaded finding out how he felt about her now. It had only been nine hours since their encounter, and it still ate at her.

I can’t believe I did that...why didn’t I just move?

She decided to take herself out for dinner that night, even to a nicer restaurant. Perhaps that would take her mind off of her blunder. She had thought about asking Cody to join her, but that might seem too much like a date. She could only handle one embrassing encounter a day.

Julie didn’t mind going alone—at some point, one just had to treat themself to a nice dinner and some wine, with or without people.

After going back to her apartment and changing, she walked down three flights of stairs out of the eleven, freezing when she rounded a corner on the eighth floor,

A man looked up the stairwell. Just standing there. When she realized who it was, her heart raced with dread. He was a tan, tall guy with greasy black hair always pulled back into a ponytail. He’s told her before that he “had a thing for cute little brunettes.”

She’s also heard him say that about blondes, redheads, Asians, black women, Hispanics, nearly anything with a vagina, really.

Placing her thumb on the ignition of the mace inside her coat pocket, she braced herself and wished she wasn’t wearing booties with a two inch heel. It was a fat heel, but she’d be at a terrible disadvantage if she had to run for it.

Like always, the man looked up and then down the area, seeing if anyone was in the stairwell. Looking back up the flight of stairs at her, he smiled to reveal graying, yellow teeth.

Creepy George.

She didn’t know what his actual name was, but that’s what she named him in her head. Like the monster from underneath her bed personified.

He backed up into the corner of the landing so she’d have to pass him as she walked by, waiting patiently for her to make her move. All he had to do was grab both of her arms and she wouldn’t be able to fight.

She hated that.

“Go,” she commanded.

He said nothing and continued to watch her, hardly blinking.

“Go down the fucking stairs,” she said, her heart racing.

“We’re on fire today.” He grinned at her again.

She wanted to pull the card of ‘my brother is an MMA fighter and in the parking lot’. Instead, she clammed up. Fear absorbed her thought process, knowing Jeremy wasn’t really there, nor was anyone that she was close to. She was alone, just like Creepy George liked her.

Julie wanted to run back up the stairs and maybe cancel her dinner plans with herself, but she knew if she did that he’d probably follow. Men like him were shits like that. Plus she wasn’t outrunning him up the stairs in these shoes of hers.

Julie took out her mace and pointed it in his direction. “Give me any reason to use this, and I will,” she said as she took slow steps down the stairs. The sooner she was past him, the better. If she used her mace, she’d probably rip off her shoes and fly down the stairs as fast as she could.

The door behind her opened and she jolted but stood her ground, slowly standing sideways so she could glance up to see who it was without losing sight of Creepy George. Her heart pounded in her chest like it used to before gym meets back in her gymnast days.

Julie recognized the new stranger as someone she had never spoken to, but had seen plenty of. He was black with a sharp buzz cut and clear glasses.

“What the fuck,” he said, looking at the scene, yelling at the creeper. “Man, why you creepin’ on these girls again? Go watch some porn or some shit.”

Creepy George scowled and hurried down the stairs like the rat that he was.

Julie didn’t realize that her hand was slightly shaking and she looked up at her savior with gratitude. “Dude, I really owe you. I almost had to walk past him.”

He smiled, revealing clean, white teeth. “Nah, you good. We gotta get that motherfucker kicked out, though. I ain’t havin’ that shit in here. I hate how awful this place has become. Used to be nice. Been thinking of movin’ to the ’burbs lately.”

They headed down the stairs together, her racing heart calming as she slowly accepted that she was going to be alright. I’m gonna need a whole bottle of wine after this. Maybe I should just Uber. “I’d sign that petition.”

He ran his hand on the rail as they walked, her shoes clacking whenever she stepped on concrete. “I’ve seen you around. You work at that MMA gym, right?”

“Yeah, Rhino MMA. How’d you know?”

“My brother trains there. And girl, you gotta use some of them moves on that creepin’ asshole.”

She grinned. “I was considering it for a second, but I’ve never fought someone before. I just...I just kind of froze, I think...anyway, who is your brother at the gym?”

“Theo. Says they call him Lucky there.”

Her jaw slightly dropped and she nodded. “Oh I know Luck. What a small world!”

They went through the small talk and Creepy George was nowhere to be seen. By the time they reached the bottom level, she looked at her savior for the night. “What’s your name, by the way?”

“Terry,” he said.

She smiled. “Mine’s Julie.”

He held the door open, the sun starting to set outside, welcoming the calm of twilight. “Take care of yourself,” he said.

“The world needs more guys like you, Terry. I’ll be sure to tell your brother that. He’s always got an ego.”

Terry laughed. “Shit, you do know him.”

She gave him a grin and hurried to her Subaru, keeping an eye out for a Creeping George as she lightly jogged to her car in her heels, running with bent knees. She entered and locked it, looking out all the windows, terrified she’d see him.

Turning the car on and then the seat warmer, she gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, leaning her head on the wheel to decompress from what just happened to her. That was the closest call yet.

She needed to move.

She needed to pay her debt.

She needed Joey Ryder to win that damn Warlord tournament.

Or at least make it to a top position, so Jeremy’s gym picked up. The twenty guys on the roster paid the bills, but they needed more.

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