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Authors: J.C. Valentine

Her Only Salvation

BOOK: Her Only Salvation
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HER ONLY SALVATION

 

by J.C. VALENTINE

HER ONLY SALVATION

By J.C. Valentine

 

All rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook is copyrighted material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any form without the prior permission of the publisher, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s rights, and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly. Thank you for respecting the work of this author.

HER ONLY SALVATION by J.C. Valentine

Copyright © 2016 by J.C. Valentine

Original Copyright © 2012 entitled “Spring Cleaning” by Brandi Salazar

Cover by Cover It! Designs

METTLE is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and events portrayed in this book either are from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, establishments, events, or location is purely coincidental and not intended by the author. Please do not take offence to the content, as it is FICTION.

Trademarks: This book identifies product names and services known to be trademarks, registered trademarks, or service marks of their respective holders. The author acknowledges the trademark status in this work of fiction. The publications and use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

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?

Acknowledgements

 

I originally wrote this book years ago, and I had a wonderful time doing it. At lot has changed since then. If you follow me on social media, then you know exactly what I am talking about. My life has changed significantly, and not all for the better. But, much like this story, I believe no matter how dark life can get at times, there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough for it. I hope that to be true for me, and if you are struggling too, then I hope the same holds true for you. Thank you to all my readers, friends, and family who have continued to stand by me through this tough time. You’re precious to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

The sixty gallon black trash bag sailed through the air, hitting the concrete drive with a thud. Yet another joined it moments later, splitting open and spilling its contents across the lawn. The screen door screeched shut, its metal framing clanging against the jamb. Spinning on her heel, Terri trudged back up the thirteen stairs, hit the landing and swung a right, marching up the remaining three. She stopped in the door of the master suite, hands on hips as she surveyed her handiwork. Yes, the place was finally starting to feel clean. She smiled momentarily, then spotted one remaining artifact that symbolized their tumultuous relationship:  The eight by ten, professionally framed photograph of the two of them dressed in 1800s attire reminiscent of the
Wild Wild West
.  It marked the first and last vacation they had ever taken.

Marching across the plush, beige carpet, Terri wrenched the photo from the nightstand, opened the window, and tossed it out, adding it to the pile of bags that littered the otherwise immaculate lawn. Mrs. Giles, who was walking her dog at the time, flinched when the glass shattered from the frame sending an explosion of tiny shards into the air. Terri leaned through the open window and offered a brilliant smile to the shocked woman.

“Well hello, Lucy! How are you this fine day? Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?” she called, inhaling the sweet aroma of tea roses that had just begun to reach full bloom in the garden below.

Lucy Giles, a petite woman in her early forties, had a body that rivaled a twenty-year-old’s.  Her hair was a shimmering golden blond that hung mid–shoulder, her eyes as clear and bright as the sky was blue.  Her frosted pink lips returned a half-hearted smile as she surveyed the damage. She looked up, meeting Terri’s exuberant smile with one that clearly said she thought Terri deranged.

“Uh, fine, dear.” She cast a nervous gaze at the split bags that spilled Randy’s rather sizeable and expensive collection of designer suits. “Spring cleaning?” she called up, struggling to keep Rocky, her massive Doberman, in line as he tugged mercilessly at his leash, bent on marking the next available tree along the curb.

Terri grinned at the fine mess she had created as if it were a priceless work of art. She sighed heavily, feeling absolutely elated. “Yes, Lucy. Today I am putting the past behind me. It’s a time for new beginnings. What better than a day like this?” The sun was shining. The wind carried a songbird’s melodious voice, as well as the scent of the lake, sending a series of pleasurable chills rippling down her spine. 

Lucy’s eyes roved over the lawn once more, then smiled. She looked back up at Terri and said, “Yes dear, what better.” The women waved to each other then went back to their previous tasks—Lucy walking her dog, Terri throwing out the trash once and for all.

Terri ducked back through the window, sliding it shut, locking it, and double checking to be sure it was secure. As she made her way down through her temporarily quiet abode, she couldn’t help but reflect on her life.

The whole neighborhood had been a party to the craziness that had been their marriage. Each and every one of them had had their share of calling the police when things between her and Randy got a little overheated. Randy was a hothead with a drinking problem. And Terri seemed only to add fuel to the fire. They hadn’t been happy in a long while, and she was fed up. She’d done all she could and last night she’d made a decision:  Randy had to leave. 

 

***

 

 

The sun was set low on the horizon when Randy’s blue 4x4 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 i
n
as she listened for his response to seeing his belongingsstrewn 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. 

Almost.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

The tray wobbled precariously on Terri’s upturned palm as she maneuvered through the throng of gyrating bodies. Using her free hand to grab hold of the edge, she steadied it just as the brown glass bottles slid and tinkled together.  Cursing under her breath, she weaved through a rowdy group of frats tipping back their fifth round of shots. Whoops and hollers surged up, groupies with make-up that looked like it had been applied with a trowel attached themselves like clinging vines, and Terri felt what she was absolutely positive was a hand palming her ass. 

“Hey, sweetheart, what’s your name?” A young male voice cut through the din, entirely too close to her.

Count to ten, count to ten
. Terri repeated the mantra to herself as she cut hastily through the thick of the group and into a calmer area of the club. The music pulsed in her head relentlessly as she climbed the single step and entered the VIP area. Even through the loud music and hiss of laughter and conversations merging around her, Terri could hear the distinctive clicking of her red, toe-pinching six-inch heels as they hit against the polished stone floor. This was so not where she had seen her life headed. 

A year ago tonight, Randy was hauled off to jail. The judge had taken one look at his lengthy record of abuse and threw him in an eight by eight for a solid three to six for her attempted murder. Breaking it down, her lawyer explained how Randy would be out in less than a year if he managed to behave himself. The way she looked at it, she was on borrowed time. 

Hoping to get lost in the crowd, Terri sold the house, taking a major loss, and relocated into the heart of downtown in the next city over where the streets were teaming with activity. The city was a veritable cesspool of bars, clubs, prostitutes; you name it. She had taken the job at
Sunset Black
because she needed the money and liked the anonymity the position provided. Luke ran a tight ship, answered to no one, including the IRS, and looked after the ladies who worked for him like they were his little sisters. Respect was the number-one thing he demanded from his patrons. Anything else, he could not care less—which meant prolific drug use abounded along with what Cathie, the head of the waitressing staff, called “escort services,” which, if you knew what to look for, could be seen in just about every corner, booth and available chair throughout the joint. It was an excellent way to get the money needed to make ends meet, which is why they did it, but Terri couldn’t bring herself to take part. 

Sidling up to the table, Terri lowered the tray to chest level and began doling out beers to the leather-clad men with sly smiles on their bearded faces. She could feel their collective gaze focus on her chest as she leaned across the table, and it made her skin crawl. The uniform she was forced to wear offered about as much coverage as a well-placed Band-Aid. A strip of black leather hugged her hips like a second skin and landed just below the curve of her well-rounded rear. The red cotton tank left little to the imagination, cut high enough to leave her middle bare and low enough to leave the swell of her breasts exposed for all to see.
Sunset Black
in bold black letters was written across the center of her chest like a neon sign. She could complain for days, but the fact was, the tips were good and the pay was fair.

And it was the last place Randy would think to look for her.

“Will there be anything else, gentlemen?” Terri offered a pleasant smile as the four sets of eyes simultaneously rose from her cleavage to her face.

Shifting in his seat, the man to her right ran a calloused finger down her thigh. “I can think of something,” he said in a gruff voice.

Casually brushing his hand away, Terri stepped back. “Sorry, not a service I provide. You might ask Cathie.” She didn’t wait to hear his answer.  Pivoting away, she marched back the way she came, using the tray to guard her backside as she crossed through the mass of college boys once again.

“Hey!” The voice sliced through the noise. Terri ignored him, determined to get back to the bar for her next order. A harsh hand gripped her arm, jerking her back against a firm male chest. “I asked your name.” Hot breath reeking of stale beer permeated her sinuses, making her stomach turn, as the tenor of his voice burrowed into her ear.

Fear gripped her. Memories of the way Randy would grab her, and where it always ended, slammed into her, making her head spin. Shaking it off, Terri narrowed her eyes and jabbed a red-lacquered nail into his powder-blue polo. “Back off,” she warned, snatching her arm back.

He advanced on her, his large frame towering over her. “Just wanna know your name, sweetheart,” he said with a sleazy smile. “No need to get testy.”

“You haven’t seen me testy.”

As she turned her back on him and continued on her way, he called out to her.

“Yet.”

A warm hand skimmed her back as she waited for the drink order to be filled. “Anything I should be worried about?”

Glancing over her shoulder, Terri smiled warmly. Cerulean eyes smiled back. “Nothing I can’t handle, Luke.” He gave her a speculative look. “Really, no problem.”

With a tight nod, Luke disappeared through a door leading to his office as well as the locker rooms.

Balancing a tray weighted down with an array of shots and beers, Terri slipped back into the fray.

 

***

 

Terri was unaware of the set of angry eyes that watched her from a shadowy corner.  Randy noted sourly that she had changed her hair. Where pale blonde had once reigned supreme, jet black now resided, washing out her milky white skin, making her look like some Goth goddess. Watching her prance around in that ridiculous getup, seeing every male eye in the place skirting over the miles of exposed skin, pissed him off.  He should have known that as soon as he turned his back, she would turn into the two-bit whore he always knew she was. 

He switched his gaze to the child barely out of puberty that had his hands all over her moments before. The kid grinned ear to ear, flashing a set of perfectly straight pearly whites while girls with stars in their eyes fawned over him and his fool friends. Grabbing another beer, the boy tipped his head back and downed it like it was Kool-Aid. 

Randy’s heart stuttered in his chest when he caught sight of Terri reentering the crowd. His eyes traced the long lines of toned legs to the flat planes of her stomach before settling on her chest then following up to her lovely pale green eyes, just as they narrowed on something within the crowd. 

Following her stare, he clenched his fist around his beer. That pretty-boy asshole was back, shouldering his way toward her with a cheesy grin plastering his drunken face. He studied her, watching every minute movement and expression she made as she cut a path through the bodies. To her credit, she was trying to avoid contact, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to pluck those jade lovelies right out of their sockets for daring to look.

His jaw clenched tight when the boy gripped the length of Terri’s raven black ponytail and tugged her back to his side. She complied, returning to him with a coy smile playing on her cherry-glossed lips. Their lips moved in a conversation he couldn’t make out from his place in the darkened corner. He watched the boy brush his fingertips over her collarbone. A sudden, searing pain ripped through Randy’s hand as his beer bottle exploded in his grip.

“Damn it!” Sliding his chair back, he stood up and brushed the shards of glass from his worn jeans. A string of expletives rolled from his mouth as he took in the damage. Blood ran down his fingers, pooling into his palm and dripping from the back of his hand to mix with the golden lager spilled across the table.

“Oh my gawd, are you okay?” a high-pitched voice squealed. He looked up in annoyance as a slim blond hustled over to him with a wad of paper towels. “You poor baby,” she cooed, pressing them into his hand to stanch the bleeding. 

“It’s nothing, just a cut.” He mumbled gruffly, pulling his hand away while closing his fist around the paper.

“That’s way more than a cut, sugar.” She bent over, quickly wiping the mess from the table while giving him an eyeful of her ample cleavage.

Randy cleared his throat and scanned the crowd. Not finding his object of obsession, he felt the immediate stirrings of rage build up inside his gut like a ball of fire threatening to consume him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he could hear the blond prattling on about blood and stitches, but he wasn’t listening. He was more concerned with where his little vixen had disappeared to. But he wasn’t quite ready for a reunion. No, not yet.

Pulling the wallet from his back pocket, he snatched a bill and slapped it on the table, then disappeared out the side door. He jabbed his hands into his jacket pockets and trekked into the parking lot. The blue 4x4 gleamed under the glare of lights. Slipping behind the wheel, he twisted the keys in the ignition and felt the truck roar to life. He cranked up the heat, then settled back and peeled the bloody towels from his injured hand. His palm was riddled with cuts oozing blood. Crumpling the paper in his fist, he flipped on the radio with a huff. That woman was a pain in his ever loving ass.  One thing he could always count on, there was never a dull moment when she was around. Resting his head on the back of the seat, he focused on the back of the building where she would be appearing shortly. 

BOOK: Her Only Salvation
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