By: Lola Taylor

“Jesus!” he slurred. He staggered backward and gripped the doorframe of his apartment. The door hung open behind him. Loud music and voices drifted out, along with a stout breeze of beer and marijuana.

Great. This guy was clearly going to be the “asshole neighbor,” the one who partied at all hours and didn’t give a damn about the people around him.

She gritted her teeth, ready to chew him out. In no mood for bullshit, she opened her mouth when he spoke first.

“Hey,” he drawled. His eyes sort of zeroed in on her. “You’re that sexy-ass fox I saw mopping up the stairwell. The new maid.”

Maid? “I’m sorry, but one, this isn’t the Hilton; two, I’m not a maid; and three, you need to shut your party down before I call the cops. Some people are trying to sleep.”

He laughed. “Cops ain’t gonna do shit, girl. You’re tripping if you think they’re going to come to this side of town.”

She blinked. Leave it to her to believe everything she read on the Internet. The building’s high ratings were probably skewed by fake ones.

Whatever it takes to make a buck, she thought, not without irritation. They should advertise: “Move-in special! Free mugging within a week upon arrival, or your deposit back!”

His oily gaze slid down her body from head to toe; her skin crawled. A sleazy grin spread across his face. God, had he ever heard of a toothbrush? “You got a nice ass.” He grinned wider.

Amy snorted. “Wow, your girlfriend is a lucky woman.”

“Don’t have one of them bitches!” he said proudly.

Apparently, he didn’t get any exposure to sunlight, because his skin tone could rival Dracula’s. “Imagine that,” Amy grumbled under her breath. Giving him as wide a berth as she could manage, considering the tight hallway quarters, she tried to slip past him. McSleazy had other plans, however, and made that clear by grabbing her arm.

“Ow!” She tried to jerk her arm free. She could practically feel her bones grinding together. “Let go of me!”

“No way, doll. You’re too sweet to pass up. You’d be a big hit at my party. We like our women with a little extra meat on their bones.” Sure enough, a whole group of gangsters eyed her from within his smoke-filled apartment.

Cold sweat broke out over her skin. She’d seen that look, right before everything went to shit two years ago.

It was the look of a sociopath eyeing his next victim.

Demons from her past rose up to taunt her, making her feel about as small and strong as a dormouse. “I-I said no,” she said, her voice more feeble than it was before.

McSleazy yanked her toward the open door. “Come on, girl. Just come on in and have a beer to loosen up some.”

“I’ll loosen her up!” called one of his boys before he thrust his hips into the air several times. His friends busted out laughing, but Amy didn’t find it funny one bit. In fact, she felt nauseated.

“Please, let me go.” She fought to control her nerves. Her hand slipped into her purse and fished for her keys.

“Like to play hard to get, huh?” He reached around with his free hand and felt up her ass. “I like tough girls.”

That was it. The feeling of him touching her, violating her, made something inside her snap. Anger took over, years’ worth of being pissed off at living in the shadow of what happened to her.

Dammit, she was sick and tired of feeling threatened all the time.

She glared at McSleazy. “You like tough girls? Then you’re going to love me.”

She gripped her keys, yanked them out of her purse and squeezed the little metal bottle attached. Liquid shot out of the can and right into McSleazy’s eyes.

He screamed and immediately let her go as he clawed at his face. “You—you BITCH! What the fuck is this?”

Amy grinned. “Pepper spray.” She started up the stairs and then turned and smiled coldly at the creep. “Who’s the bitch now?”

She ran up the stairs, not wasting a minute of her getaway opportunity. McSleazy’s buddies raced out of the apartment as he howled.

“Get her!” he screeched. “I’m gonna beat her fucking ass!”

She raced up the stairs. Footsteps thundered after her, and her heart shot to her throat.

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