A live band played, although not very well and no tunes he recognized. People danced on the miniscule dance floor, although the aimless swaying and gyrations he witnessed hardly fell under the description of dancing. He took a final swallow of the beer, finished off the last of a serving of surprisingly excellent french fries that had accompanied an excellent hamburger. Ah, a night on the town in rural America.
He raised his index finger. The bartender nodded in acknowledgement as he finished waiting on another customer. In short order, a tall, frosty mug of beer replaced the empty mug.
With the awareness and instinct of his kind, he felt a shift in the air, the tingle of portent. Too late. In looking for danger, he did not see the petite woman who wrapped her arm around his and murmured, “Help me, please.”
Against the roar of motorcycle engines outside, he glanced at her face. Although some women used the maneuver to force an introduction rather than deter unwanted attention, the fear on this woman’s face indicated she needed a hero, not a bedmate for the night. Reacting to that fear and something else that had his animal nature screaming, he wrapped his arm around her and snugged her close to his body.
“I’ll protect you,” he murmured. “What’s your name?”
“Rachel, Rachel Svoboda. Yours?”
She relaxed under his arm and whispered, “Thank you.”
“Hey, babe, we got unfinished business,” grunted the rough voice of the man from whom she obviously needed protection.
Diego felt her tremble. He turned slowly, pushing the woman behind him, and took in the dirty jeans, the heavy boots, the faded tee shirt, the soiled bandana tied around his head, and the leather cut with “Vice President” emblazoned over the right breast. Although shorter than the bearded hulk who pursued Rachel, he looked down his raptor’s beak of a nose with all the haughty superiority of a Spanish grandee, a rank he’d once claimed. “My woman has no business with you.”
The hulk’s beady eyes narrowed. “You ain’t from around here.”
Diego raised an eyebrow and noticed the three big men who came up behind the one chasing after Rachel. The marked resemblance proclaimed them as relatives, brothers or first cousins. The leader of the group reached out to grab the woman cowering behind him. Diego countered it, a move of blurred speed that locked his hand around the man’s forearm.
“You do not touch what is mine,” he warned in a low voice reeking of menace.