His to Protect - Stacey Lynn Page 0,1

as I lifted it over the edge and fell to the ground.

“Crap,” I muttered, looking at the mess of spilled garbage at my feet, and felt my cheeks heat with fear at the small infraction.

I was so tired of jumping at every mistake I made, quickly looking over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed. If he noticed.

I also didn’t swear. It’d been ingrained in me that a lady cursing was completely unacceptable, even if I used to curse all the time when Kevin and I first began dating.

He quickly cured me of the horrid habit once we married with a backhand to my cheek when I yelled “Shit” one night after dropping a vase.

I only dropped it because he’d yelled at me for not having the dinner table properly set by the time he came home.

It was the first night he hit me.

It most definitely wasn’t the last.

Boomer growled and I quickly squatted down to tear open the bag.

Another shiver of shame rippled through me as I realized what I was doing, what I’d become.

Dirt was visible under my chipped fingernails. I tried not to think about it as I dug through the bag until I found a plastic container filled with what I assumed was a patron’s forgotten leftovers.

I opened it to find exactly what I was looking for.

I reached out to hand it to Boomer when a bright flash of light caught my attention right before a loud clanging sound reverberated through the alley.

“What in the hell is going on out here?”

I jumped backward, falling to my backside, and quickly scrambled behind Boomer.

In front of me, a monstrous shadow filled the doorway just down from the dumpster.

I couldn’t see anything except the black outline of a large figure, but it was clear he had his hands on his hips.

In front of me, Boomer looked up at the stranger and let out a loose growl before he dropped his head and went back to eating.

Some guard dog.

I’d have scolded him for it if I hadn’t been so terrified about the stranger, who reached down and picked up something that looked like a brick.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered, and began searching for Boomer’s leash, but he must have been sitting on it.

Typical dog. He wouldn’t leave until he was good and ready.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again and scrambled to my feet. At five six, I wasn’t exactly short, but I had nothing on the man in front of me. “We’ll go…it’s just…he needs to eat, but that’s no excuse, I understand…”

My voice trailed off as the man dropped the brick in the doorway, propping open the door to the restaurant, and stepped into the alley.

“You’re the one who’s been digging through the crap in my dumpster?”

He took another step out of the doorway. With the light off to his side, I could just make out his features. Shaved head, tanned skin, sharp jawline. Big as a truck.

Nothing about this said it was safe for me to be here. I wrapped my fingers around Boomer’s collar, fruitlessly trying to pull him away from his food.

He whined and jerked forward. I stumbled from his sudden movement and hissed in pain.

My other hand wrapped around my ribs as I flinched.

“You hurt?” the man asked and stepped closer.

“Stop.” I thrust out my hand and looked away from him and down at my darn dog who wouldn’t stop slurping up french fries. “We’ll go, I swear, and we won’t come back. I just…”

Darn it. This was horrifically embarrassing. I never actually planned what I would do or say if I got caught digging through trash.

Tears welled in my eyes and I shook my head.

If I turned now and walked away, I doubted this mountain of a man would follow me. Or he would, but if I let Boomer go, he’d slow the man down.

Not with his teeth and a vicious bite. He’d probably lick the man to death. Or tackle him, wanting to play.

My stomach rumbled, practically vibrating off the brick walls, and I pressed my hand over my stomach to silence it.

“Sounds like you need a meal.”

“No, thank you,” I said brusquely, and took a step toward the street. “We should be going.”

The man took several steps forward before I could blink. He might have been big, but he was darn quick, and he was now directly in front of me with one hand outstretched.

I flinched back immediately, throwing my hand in front of my face before he cursed.

“Fuck.”

I cringed again and peeked