Her Only Salvation
by J.C. Valentine
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Sweet / Clean Romance, Thriller
Amazon (99c or #FREE with #KindleUnlimited): http://amz
Synopsis: Sometimes, relationships can be deadly.
*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.”
EXCERPTShe wasn’t on the floor for more than five minutes when Cathie called her behind the bar.
“You have a phone call, doll.” Passing off the receiver, she flashed a quick grin over her shoulder and said, “It’s a guy.”
Not knowing anyone who would possibly be calling her, let alone a man, not to mention at work, puzzled Terri. With a dark frown, she lifted the receiver and pressed it to her ear.
At first she didn’t hear a thing, the noise in the bar drowning everything out. Turning her back to the room, she cupped her hand over the phone and repeated the greeting.
At first, she didn’t trust what her ears were hearing. The voice was too distinct, too familiar to be real. Her first inclination was to throw out the most obvious explanation and come up with something that she was better equipped to handle mentally.
However, when his voice came down the line again, rough and laced with menace, reality slammed into her like a freight train.
“Hi there, sweets,” Randy said smoothly. “Miss me?”
Terri’s voice seemed to be caught in her throat, a lump that she had difficulty even getting her short breaths past.
“Judging by your silence, I’ll take that as a yes. Don’t try to deny it,” he snapped, then quickly reigned in his temper.
Terri didn’t realize she had been shaking her head. In that instant, she knew he was watching her. Immediately, she spun on her heel and scanned the crowd. There were so many people tonight, she could barely make out their faces, let alone single one out. As he continued to talk, she slowed her visual inspection, breaking the room down into square foot sections, taking in every face methodically. Randy had distinct, pale blonde hair, and anyone who didn't fit that description, she tossed out of the equation, and those with similarly blonde hair she subjected to intense scrutiny.
“You’re looking good, sweets,” he complimented her from his hidden vantage point. “Always knew you would live up to your full potential one day.”
She could almost feel him moving through the room, his eyes pinned to her every step of the way. It made her skin crawl.
“From housewife to barmaid,” he continued. “Wouldn’t your mother be proud.”
“My mother was always proud of me,” she sneered into the phone. Bringing up her deceased mother had always been a sore spot for her, and he well knew it. She would not allow him to sully her memory any longer.
Randy snickered, loving that he had managed a reaction out of her. “You always were easy to rile up, sweets.”
“Don’t call me that,” she nearly shouted in return, but managed to lower her voice at the last minute to avoid attracting any unnecessary attention.
“Not so fond of that nickname anymore?” He clicked his tongue thoughtfully. “How about love bug? Does that suit you better?”
“I hate it,” Terri growled, hoping to sound as angry as she felt.
“Good, love bug it is. Now,” he went on, uncaring of her growing temper. “I must be going, but before you beg me to stay, I want to assure you that I won’t be far.” Suddenly it was as if the sound coming through the other end of the phone had entered a vacuum.
Eyes darting frantically across the sea of dancers, Terri honed in on a set of familiar wide shoulders set against a tall frame and a head of pale blonde hair cut short in an almost military fashion, exiting the club. It had to be Randy, she thought, but he was gone from view so quickly, she couldn’t be sure.
Except that she would know him anywhere.
With shaking hands, Terri replaced the phone on its station, and without saying where she was going, walked mindlessly down the narrow passage leading to the locker rooms. She needed to be alone. She couldn’t think. Her mind was too clouded with visions of her murder, of Randy strangling the life out of her once and for all.
With panic setting in, Terri burst through the locker room doors and ran for the washroom where she proceeded to vomit her dinner into the toilet.
Luke found her soon thereafter, worry and annoyance warring for dominance on his broad face.
“The girls are wondering where you disappeared to,” he informed her, crossing his arms over his chest as if she were a child in need of reprimand. “You know you can’t just take off without telling someone where you’re going.”
“I know,” Terri muttered, keeping her head low. She lacked the strength to hold it up, too weakened from the turmoil eating at her insides to do much else than sit there and ponder her fate. “I’m sorry. Tell them I’m sorry.”
Luke was suddenly sitting beside her. She hadn’t even heard him move. Lifting her chin, he narrowed his deeply blue eyes on her and tilted his head. “Are you sick or something?”
“I’m fine,” she managed, trying to find some strength to lie effectively and failing miserably.
Tucking a chunk of hair that had escaped her ponytail behind her ear, he shook his head.
“Talk to me, Terri. I know everything isn’t fine. I know there is something going on with you, and I want to know what it is.”
“It’s nothing,” she insisted, forcing herself to meet his gaze.
Dropping his hand, Luke’s expression changed from soft and understanding to a mix of anger and annoyance like a switch had been thrown.
“That’s bull and we both know it. Now this…whatever this is,” he waved a hand through the air encompassing her, “is starting to affect your performance here. This is a business, Terri, and if you want me to be understanding, then you’re going to have to level with me.”
Terri narrowed her eyes on him. “Are you saying you’ll fire me if I don’t confide in you?”
Luke sighed deeply, pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation. “No, I’m not going to fire you, Terri. I just need you to help me understand. I can’t help you if you don’t.”
The pained expression he turned on her, one of utter defeat, somehow compelled Terri to open her mouth and admit this one person into her shrunken world.
“My husband,” she began, and swallowed hard to tamp down the tremor in her voice, “he’s been released from prison.”
Luke looked at her in a way that told her he was trying to be sympathetic but still didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation.
She went on. “He was here tonight, and I think he was here last night too.” She grimaced, knowing in her heart of hearts that what she was about to say next was the truth. “I think he was the one who hit that boy in the parking lot.”
Luke’s eyes widened, understanding mixed with equal parts anger and worry twisting through them until the blue seemed to swirl with his anger.
“I’ll kill that asshole,” he seethed, his fingers curling to form tight fists against the bench they sat on.
Terri shook her head. “You can’t. They would lock you up, and then who would watch out for me?”
She didn’t want Luke to get himself into trouble. It was obvious he was a fighter, willing to go up to bat for any cause he deemed worthy, but she didn’t want to see him get caught up in the drama of her life. Not if she could help it.
She hadn’t meant to, but she started to shake a little, almost as if the cold outside hadn’t fully left her. Seeing this, Luke wrapped her in his arms and squeezed her to him. “Hush,” he murmured. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Promise?” she asked, then sniffed back the start of a runny nose. Had she started crying too? Jesus, she really was a mess.
“Promise. It will be a cold day in hell before I let that creep get anywhere close to you again.” He petted her hair absently. “Don’t you worry about a thing, I’ll work something out.”
Closing her eyes, she leaned into his embrace. For the second time in her life, Terri decided to put her trust into a man. This time, she only hoped she wouldn’t get burned.