Catherine Garrett hid in the closet, her heart beating so fast she feared he would hear it. Squeezing her eyes shut, she knew it was childish to think that he wouldn’t find her as she balled herself up behind clothing and an oversized suitcase. But it was the only place she thought to go, the only place left that he hadn’t checked.
Her swollen lips and bruised cheek throbbed. Never had Bryan been so enraged. Never had he come this close to killing her. Swallowing the dryness that settled at the back of her throat, she wiped away the tears that trailed down her cheeks.
Suddenly, her brother’s face flashed in her mind and she wished, more than anything, that Clay would knock down the apartment door and rescue her from her living nightmare. But he wasn’t coming. She knew that.
Catherine hadn’t spoken to Clay in over a year. Not that she had a choice. Even if she wanted to, Bryan never would’ve allowed her to pick up the phone. She chastised herself for being so fearful, so weak that she didn’t have the courage to reach out and tell her brother how much she missed him. That she was okay.
Mocking laughter filled her thoughts.
She was far from okay.
Somehow Catherine had been sucked into Bryan’s controllable world of torment, and along the way she lost herself. He had easily manipulated her with empty promises and heartfelt lies. Living in the seclusion of their apartment for nearly a year, she hadn’t even had a moment to inhale a fresh gulp of air. The door to their apartment was to remain locked at all times and he went as far as nailing the windows shut. Bathed in anxiety, she’d been anchored to Hell, and sheer terror had given Bryan all the power he needed to imprison her.
“Come out here, you stupid bitch,” Bryan shouted, tossing something else against the wall. The shattering sound forced a wild shiver to race up her spine.
Her hands were sweaty as she pulled her legs closer and placed her cheek on her bent knee. Her mind raced back to the first time he’d ever struck her, the first time she’d ever really felt agonizing pain. That was the worst day of her life, a day she wished could be wiped from her memory forever.
Bryan’s fist had repeatedly slammed into her midsection until she could hardly stand. All because she had told him her joyous news, she was carrying his child. But the last thing Bryan wanted was a baby and he had accused her of trying to trap him, trying to make him marry her. He’d called her a whore and accused her of cheating. He demanded a name, but she only kept repeating his.
Stunned by his reaction, Catherine had no time to react. The furious gaze flickered in his eyes as he grabbed her and started beating her. He’d broken furniture over her body, threw phones and lamps at her. She couldn’t move for weeks, her body so badly beaten. It hurt to breath, her muscles and ribs screaming each time she tried.
Whenever she was alone and the tension between them ran high, she’d close her eyes and relive the terror of that night. It wasn’t just the pounding of his fists or the breaking of items over her head. It was the vile words he shouted at her as he destroyed pieces of her soul, pieces that might never heal.
With everything he had done to her, she had forgiven him. Bryan was a gifted liar and manipulator, and her ridiculous notions of true love had clouded her mind. The moment he begged her to come back to him, expressed his regret over the loss of their baby, she’d melted, unable to resist his charms.
What a joke…
The memory was too overwhelming and Catherine sobbed, covering her mouth as she fought to conceal her horrified whimper. As she feared, her cry had drawn him into the bedroom where she hid. His footsteps thundered on the ground, tauntingly pacing in front of the closet doors. He slowed his pace, dragging his fingers over the beveled ridges of the door slats.
“You can’t hide from me,” Bryan muttered, a villainous growl laced within his words. “I will always find you.” She didn’t have to see him to hear the taunting smile that curled his lips.
Fear consumed her, rattling her bones. She shuddered as he slammed his hands against the closet doors. Wild shouts exploded from him. She pressed herself as far back as she could, practically climbing inside the wall behind her.
He was going to kill her and this was not how she wanted to die. She was about to celebrate her birthday. Thirty-two was supposed to be a great year for her. She’d always felt something special was in store for her.
Silly as it was, she believed that her life was meant for something more than just mediocre living. She was hoping her future had meaning, fulfillment, and a purpose. But as the doors she hid behind were yanked open and her fragile body hauled up off the floor, she knew it was all but a dream.
The sun warmed Catherine’s skin as she lay in the plush green field that smelled of fresh-cut flowers. Peaceful. That was how she felt as she listened closely, hearing the sound of cascading water. Instantly, she knew it was coming from her favorite spring. The place he had seen her naked.
Catherine opened her eyes and smiled as she caught sight of Cooper’s gentle blue eyes gazing down at her. His strong masculine body hovered over her and she knew he was hesitant to let the weight of his body crush down upon her. She couldn’t fight the yearning that played with her heart, consumed her mind. She was starting to thoroughly enjoy her time with her sexy cowboy and prayed they would have more afternoons like the one they shared now.
Cooper cupped her face, his fingers dipping into her unbound hair. With a moan, she closed her eyes, the warmth of his touch seeping into her skin. Then, she felt the tender press of his lips against hers. She gasped, momentarily startled by the delicious feel of his mouth. Within a heartbeat, she relaxed and enjoyed the sensual caress of his kiss, the gentle exploration of his wondering and tantalizingly wicked tongue.
Another moan parted from her throat as he moved over her lips with exquisite care, loving her mouth in a way that had her toes curling and her eyes rolling back in her head. When he placed tender kisses to her chin and cheeks, she rolled her hips in appreciation. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling the heavy weight of his body down upon her. He supported the weight of his body on his elbows, keeping his mouth busy with hers.
She was lost in passions she never realized she craved, a need that was almost blinding. Her heart pounded like a chugging train, her body hot and hungry. She explored his body, finding the edge of his shirt. She slipped her fingers up under the fabric and shivered as the warmth of his skin on hers began turning her blood to molten lava.
His alluring mouth slid along the column of her neck, collarbone, and breasts. His greedy kisses had her writhing in his arms, begging and pleading he’d never stop. She didn’t care about the outside world, where they were, or who could see them. All she cared about was Cooper and the passions they were discovering together. Nothing else mattered.
Cooper positioned himself between her legs, opening the buttons of her blouse, shoving the shirt from her body. He unfastened her bra, slipping the material up over her breasts. The crisp, warm air sent a wild shiver along the flesh of her body as he nibbled on the sensitive skin and hardened peaks. She squirmed under the suction of his mouth, the pressure almost too much. Her hands came up to grip his head, holding him in place. The seductive way he licked and sucked her had the air fleeing from her lungs in a hurried frenzy.
He rose up to kiss her lips once more, before rising above her to slide her jeans and panties from her legs. She shimmied out of the material in one, gentle tug. Moisture, warm and silky, pooled between her legs. Then, before she could take another breath, Cooper was positioned between her legs, his own body bare for her greedy, heat-seeking hands. She gripped the firm globes of his ass, massaging up past his waist and back. The firmness of his body was a reflection of his strength. An innocent sigh escaped her as she realized how close she was to finally having him, all of him. Never had she wanted something more.
Cooper’s uncompromising hands glided over her skin, starting at her outer thighs, caressing up to her hips and waist. He held her close and with the power of his own legs spread her legs wider. He teased his length up and down, stroking her clit in wicked, teasing pulses. A fluttering gasp rushed from her lungs as his cock penetrated her pussy. The tight fit had her moaning, writhing, and greedy for more.
Cooper felt perfect as he pumped his hips slowly, rocking forward and back, driving deeper and deeper. She locked gazes with him as he surged his hips forward. She drank in his desire-filled gaze, loving the way he touched her, teased her. He was driving her insane and she couldn’t get enough.
He lowered himself so that his warm breath dipped into her ear, his whiskered cheek pressed against her smooth, delicate skin. She felt passions unlike anything she ever dreamed bloom out from within her. She couldn’t stop the desire to touch him, squeeze his body against hers.
Cooper had captured her from the moment she’d first met him. Even if she hadn’t been able to admit it until now, she would never be able to break the bond that so naturally formed between them. As he held her, kissed her, loved her, she was becoming whole again.