Clank! Clink! Clank!
A rental bike, with a basket strapped to the front, was speeding down Mossman Street. The young female rider was in a hurry.
"Rakiza, please beat the clock," she murmured.
In her brown cargo trousers, white shirt, black vest, and black cap concealing her long brown hair, she could be mistaken for a young boy. She needed to finish something and was running out of time.
"Diamond Street, Osmond Street," she whispered as she rounded each street, relieved when she finally turned right into Grace Mall. "We're almost there. One turn, and then... "she murmured.
Something had hit her and her bike, which turned her upside down. She flew like a ball and missed the ring. She closed her eyes, preparing for her body to smash onto the ground.
But strong hands snatched her, clasped her as she rolled over with a human body on the ground. And they stopped rolling in front of the Grace Mall signage. And she was on top of a man.
The man's sea green eyes were bright, staring at her closely, and said, "Are you willing to keep on top of me?"
"Are you nuts?" She yelled and yanked off of him and tried to stand but couldn’t balance and was back again on the man’s arms.
"Let go of me," Rakiza complained.
"I did nothing. You came back into my arms. " He smiled mockingly.
Rakiza rolled away from the man, crawled to the curb, and exhaled deeply.
Then the man was swift on his feet, and he immediately grabbed Rakiza's bike, which was mutilated badly. "Oh no. This needed to be in the repair shop. "
Rakiza rose to her feet and said, "Don't bother. I have a friend who could fix this. "
"Are you crazy?" The man was annoyed. "Look at your bike.”
Rakiza was astounded to see her bike become almost a folding bike.
"Don't talk to me like that; what happened to my bike was your entire fault." She was angry.
"It's partly your fault, not only mine; you're a reckless driver, and you should be thankful I caught you in time, or you'd have a shattered bone by now after thudding on the cemented ground," he remarked sharply.
"If you hadn't turned around from the blind curb carelessly, this would not have happened." She was enraged.
"What sparked your rage?" the man inquired; his gaze impassive.
She yelled, "It's you! You tagged me as "crazy" and "a reckless driver!"
"I'm just helping here, you know, since no one is around that could offer you a helping hand," He raised the bike for the second time and didn’t apologize.
Rakiza's fury flared up once more.
"I'll be right back in 30 minutes," the man added. "Maybe that'll give you enough time to gather some supplies and meet me here." He rapidly walked away with the slightly disfigured bike.
"What a..." she mumbled, shocked at his domineering actions towards her. Who the hell is that man?
She took a glimpse at her wrist watch and realized she was really late. So, she ran into the mall to complete a task. “I hate that man.”
A few blocks away, in a bike repair shop, the man handed the broken bike to the repair man, and then his phone rang.
"I found her." The handsome, athletic man answered.
"Keep an eye on her," a deep, harsh voice on the other end of the phone said. "You can't lose her again, Theodulf."
"I'm not going to lose her again."
"She needs to be kept in check, Theo," the voice said emphatically.
"Yes, as discussed, everything is in order."
"You must be cautious." The voice added, "There were reports from the council that the enemy had dispatched someone to track her down. Vampires are desperately looking for her. "
Theo remained silent for a few moments, thinking, "Do you have a name?"
"They were so discreet that no one knew who he or she was." The voice added, "Which is why you should be extra cautious, especially at night. Vampires are powerful in the dark."
"I will," he cleared his throat, "just make a report to the council on my behalf. And send my regards to your pack. "
"By the way, what’s her name?" The voice on the phone asked.
Theodulf said the name clearly: "Her name is Rakiza Zanier." An art student. "
Rakiza was still upset as she pushed a supermarket cart through the grocery section. There were a few shop goers at that time.
"I hate him." She muttered as she walked around with a shopping cart. She was staring at the list in her right hand, carrying the cart half-full of products. It took her about an hour and a half to finish her shopping. And she dashed outdoors after paying, holding the paper bags of purchased goods when she halted to see the man again, holding her already fixed bike.
Rakisa took a deep breath and confidently approached the bike and the man.
He was grinning, while she was frowning.
"How much do I owe you for the repair?" She inquired dryly.
Theo remained stationary against the wall, gazing at her.
"Tell me so I can go home now," she said, feeling naked in his gaze once more. "How much money do I owe? Are you deafeningly deaf? "
"Of course, I'm not deaf. I heard you clearly, but you can't pay me. " He smiled.
She snorted, "How do you know I can't afford to pay you?"
"I just know," he smirked, "how about allowing me to accompany you home and giving me a glass of water?"
"I don't have a house here," Rakiza grumbled, as she loaded her purchases onto the bike’s basket and left Theo like a snob.
A few minutes later, Rakiza was entering the dormitory’s lobby, carrying her purchases. The Assissi Dorm for Girls was in the heart of the forest, connecting to the Assissi School of Arts on the west side of the woodland, where Rakiza was studying arts.
Rakiza walked inside the dorm to the kitchen wearing a poker face. She couldn't keep her mind off what happened in the mall. "I despise him," she grumbled as she tossed the cabbage into the fridge.
"What happened, Rakiza?" Muriel asked. She was dressed in micro shorts and a huge white top, with a cup of coffee in her right hand. She caught Raki smashing her purchased items into the fridge.
"I had a run-in with the rudest man I'd ever seen, and how do you take it when he refers to me as a "foolish girl?" She had no idea she was yelling, adding, "He called me names, as if I were crazy, a reckless driver, and foolish!"
"Calm down, Raki, don't let that stranger ruin your day."
"So many headaches that have happened lately," Raki grumbled as she poured a glass of water and immediately emptied it. And all the other girls were staring at her, perplexed.
Susan inquired, "Did you get me a tampon?"
"It's in the paper bag, Susan," Rakiza replied.
"I want my pao cai, girl," Chin rummaged in the paper bag, which was still full of groceries.
"I put your kimchi in the fridge, Chin."
Muriel, who was enjoying her coffee, inquired. "Don't be bothered by a man, Rakiza."
Rakiza growled. "In his demeanor, he's not a man; he's a beast."
"Is he attractive, Raki?" Susan inquired. "I like beast-looking men." She giggled, adding, "They're hot."
"How many men do you want to acquire, Susan?" Muriel asked.
Susan answered, "I'm not a collector; I'm simply picky when it comes to boys."
"Boys always get you wrong, Susie," Chin said as he opened the kimchi jar, and everyone shielded their noses.
"What's that smell?" Susan asked, covering her nose. She bolted from the kitchen.
"Chin, will you eat that alone and away from us?" Muriel screamed.
"OK, okay," Chin said as she took her kimchi out of the kitchen.
"And you, Raki?" Muriel pointed out to Rakiza, "Take a shower to freshen up your boiled up mind."
"That’s a good idea." She agreed, "I need to finish my first chapter today."
Later that night, Rakiza didn't stop writing until ten p.m. When her back started hurting and her pupils were getting heavier, she shut off her laptop and got up to stretch. Until that moment, she could still remember the mocking face of the man. "What a rude man. Very rude." She went to the kitchen to get a glass of water when she glanced at the garbage bag she forgot to throw away. She hauled it outside to the bigger bin.
"What a small world." A man’s voice comes from her back.
When Rakiza turned around, she frowned, "You, again?"
"So, you’re staying in the girl's dormitory," he said, smiling at her.
"What are you doing here in the middle of the night?" She glared, "Men are not permitted to enter this location!" she exclaimed.
"I know, but this is the shortest route to where I'm going." He said calmly.
"What are you doing out this late at night?" He inquired.
"And who are you to ask me such a question?" She grumbled.
He grinned and said, "You look stupid when you're furious, so heed my advice and smile whenever you encounter strangers."
"You're not a stranger; you're an intruder, and I despise you!"
"Get inside the house before something bad happens to you," he hissed and ordered.
Rakiza froze in the dark as she stared into his sea green, brilliant sharp eyes. And she felt danger in his gaze.