Her Only Salvation
by J.C. Valentine
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Sweet / Clean Romance, Thriller
Synopsis: Sometimes, relationships can be deadly.
Terri thought she was marrying a strong, loving man, only to find that beneath that handsome face lies something cold, brutal, and dangerous. After years of abuse, her husband takes things a little too far, and Terri finally summons the courage to take matters into her own hands and make her escape.
But freedom comes at a price.
Forging a new life, Terri moves to a new town and tries to forget her past, but she can’t help looking over her shoulder at every turn. When prison bars can no longer hold her husband, and her past comes knocking, Terri finds that the strength to trust again may be her only salvation. When her attractive new boss steps up to the plate and vows to protect her at all cost, she’s inclined to accept…but can she ever allow herself to trust her instincts again?
*Author Note* Her Only Salvation is a bold and enticing storyline with a hint of romance (sensual but not explicit). This book was originally released under J.C. Valentine’s given name and was entitled “Spring Cleaning.”
The sun was set low on the horizon when Randy’s blue 4×4 rumbled up the drive. Terri sat among the growing shadows brought on by the failing light, perched on the edge of the black leather sofa she and Randy picked out in celebration of their first apartment together. Her stomach was a bundle of nerves. She stared absently into the mug of lukewarm coffee, trying to talk herself out of running in search of a hiding place. The brown liquid trembled beneath her fingers, miniature shockwaves radiating from the outside in as she listened for his response to seeing his belongings strewn about the lawn. She squeezed her eyes shut as she listened to the wild roar of his voice as he bounded up the walkway, his heavy boots thundering against the aged wooden planks with each raging step.
Terri placed her mug carefully down on the table, and stood on shaky legs. This was the part she had been anticipating since she rolled out of bed this morning. She’d given Randy his ritual parting kiss as he headed out to work, and then set about clearing the house of all his belongings. Now that he was furiously trying to work his keys in the new locks, she had a moment to reflect on her actions and almost felt guilty that she had gone about things the way she had.
What was she supposed to do, though? Given the situation, she could hardly be expected to tell it to him straight. It was too late now to change her mind anyway, she thought, cringing at the threatening baritone that seemed to fill the otherwise quiet neighborhood.
His gruff voice belted out a string of profanities when he realized that, after five years, his keys no longer worked, courtesy of Bob’s Locksmith Service. A thunderous boom against the door gave Terri a start. He’d kicked it. She wrapped her arms around her trembling body, instantly feeling sick to her stomach, listening as he made his way around the perimeter of the house, trying every door and window for a way in. A lone tear rolled down her cheek as she thought about the way things used to be, the way things should be. In the early days, she would have greeted him at the door. Then, after a shower, they would have had a nice dinner together and curled up on the couch to watch the drama unfold on some ridiculous reality show, wrapped in each other’s arms.
Angrily, she swiped it away.
Things would never be the same again. The Randy she knew was gone, replaced by some tyrant bent on her destruction. The only thing that haunted her now were the lingering questions;
Why did he do this? What had she done to deserve it? Why wasn’t she enough for him? Had she ever been? They were all questions she had asked herself a million times, and questions that she knew she would never get the answers to. The fact was he was sick, and he needed help that was beyond her expertise.
She barely flinched when the glass from the dining-room window shattered across the pale gray tile. Her favorite potted fern, the last memory she had of her mother, along with bits of terracotta and soil mixed with shards of glass, blanketed the floor. Surprising even herself, she calmly picked up the phone and dialed 911. She spoke in an eerily steady voice, relaying her name and address to the operator, and hung up, ignoring her requests for more information. In her experience, they would get there faster if she cut to the chase. She wouldn’t run. Not this time.
Terri rose to her feet, prepared to face her attacker…her husband.
Luke stomped across the floor and poured himself a glass of water. Gulping it down, he placed the empty cup in the small sink basin and turned to survey the room.
Terri didn’t try to make small talk this time, not after what happened the last time. Instead, she cleaned around the human pillar parked in front of the taps. He would have to move sometime, but she wasn’t about to tell him that.
She could feel his eyes on her as she moved about the confined area.
“The police said it was a hit and run.” Luke’s voice was gruff, tortured.
Sensing his need to unburden himself, she put the glass she was cleaning down and met his eyes. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” He broke eye contact, staring at the shelves of liquor above her head as if deep in thought. Eventually, his gaze shifted back to hers.
“They said since it was on my property, I might be facing a lawsuit.”
Terri rose up straight. “How is that possible? You weren’t the one that ran someone over.” Anger for Luke’s situation had her fisting her hands against her sides.
A shoulder lifted and fell. Luke sighed deeply, as if he were exhausted by the whole ordeal. “It all depends on whether the guy lives or not and how much he can tell the detective about what happened tonight.”
“What do you mean, if he lives? How serious was it?”
Luke smirked humorlessly. “Every hit and run is serious, Terri.”
She raised an eyebrow at that. “Duh. What I meant was…” She shook her head. “Yeah, I don’t know what I meant.” She huffed at her own stupid remark.
Retrieving his cup, Luke poured himself another glass of water. He sipped it slowly, thinking. “The guy was only twenty-one,” he stated, as if that should clarify everything. The look she gave him said it didn’t. “He left my club falling-down drunk, intending to drive home.”
Terri winced. The dram laws said that bartenders, and anyone else who served alcoholic drinks, were supposed to monitor how much was too much for any one customer. If they looked like they weren’t handling it so well, they weren’t allowed to leave unless it was by cab or some other designated driver. It was a good rule that kept a lot of heat off of the Sunset Black.
“Okay, but how can this be held over your head? He never drove away, and they can’t prove the guy who hit him was drunk,” she pointed out “Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some responsibility to make sure my customers make it home safely.” Pushing off the bar, Luke returned his glass to the sink without finishing it. “If he wakes up, he might decide I didn’t hold up my end. If I’m sued, I’ll probably lose this place in legal fees alone.”
“Well what about this driver? Didn’t anyone see who it was? What kind of car they were driving? Anything?” Terri felt desperate for answers. It wasn’t even her business to save, but she felt a kinship with Luke, and that made her concerned with what happened to him in his life.
He had offered her a job when no one else would. She was uneducated and hadn’t worked since the day she married. To top it off, he treated her kindly, something she hadn’t experienced in years, and he was her friend. Those she called a friend she stood behind fully. His fight was now her fight, as far as she was concerned, and anything she could do to keep him from losing his livelihood—his dream—she would do.
“One of the witnesses said they saw a late model blue pickup speeding away. They didn’t get the plates or see who was driving, though. So they probably won’t catch the guy, which leaves just me, unless that boy recovers and gives us something good to go on.” Reaching out, Luke placed a gentle hand against Terri’s cheek. “Hey, you’re all pale. What’s wrong?”
She didn’t know how she could’ve missed it, but her eyes were wide open now. The guy at the club earlier with the broken beer bottle and the driver of the truck in the parking lot responsible for running down one of their patrons…
Shaking now, Terri peered up at Luke hoping he wouldn’t confirm her worst fears. “Who was the victim? The guy they took to the hospital.”
“Terri, I don’t see how—”
“Please,” she pleaded, “I have to know.”
“It was that guy who hassled you tonight. The college kid.”
Terri’s legs crumbled beneath her. Luke’s quick reflexes made sure she didn’t fall. Scooping her into his arms, Luke carried her quickly to his office before anyone noticed what had happened.
Luke place Terri on a very smart-looking sofa in his office. He left her long enough to close the door, then returned, pulling up his desk chair and sitting down to face her.
“Want to tell me what just happened out there?”
Terri shook her head. Words failed her. They were all locked up in her throat. Blood pounded through her veins, making her pulse thunder inside her ears.
Rubbing two fingers across his chin, Luke studied her. “Okay. Do you want to go home, Terri?”
She thought about it. The idea of going back behind that counter, walking around the dark club floors where someone could be watching her, and she’d never know it, terrified her.
“Yes” was all she could say.
“Okay then.” Luke stood and rounded the desk. He slid open a drawer and drew out a set of keys. “I’ll drive you home.”
Terri’s attention snapped back to him. “What about my car?”
Luke held up a hand. “Leave it. I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon on my way in. Your car will be fine until you get back.”
Terri didn’t argue. She stood up and let Luke lead her from the office, thoughts of Randy racing through her mind. Had he finally been released from jail? Was he free to come after her now? If he was, would he really do it after all this time? But she already knew the answer to that. Of course he would.
The question now was, would he be waiting for her, ready to run her down the moment she stepped across the protective barrier of the club provided her like he did to that boy?
She could only hope that having Luke by her side would be enough to keep her safe.
ABOUT J.C. VALENTINE
J.C. Valentine is the USA Today and International bestselling author of the Night Calls and Wayward Fighters Series and the Forbidden Series. Her vivid imagination and love of words and romance had her penning her own romance stories from an early age, which, despite being poorly edited and written longhand, she forced friends and family members to read. No, she isn’t sorry.
J.C. earned her own happily ever after when she married her high school sweetheart. Living in the Northwest, they have three amazing children and far too many pets and spend much of their free time together enjoying movies or the outdoors. Among the many hats she wears, J.C. is an entrepreneur. Having graduated with honors, she holds a Bachelor’s in English and when she isn’t writing, you can find her editing for fellow authors.
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