Desperate and on the run, Tricia is forced to seek protection from a man who betrayed her years earlier.
After escaping an abusive relationship Tricia Stephens returns to the hometown she left years ago. But when her ex-boyfriend follows her, she needs help in a big way to stay one step ahead of him. Fearful of police involvement and flat broke, she's still reluctant to accept help from Clint Owens, a man she had a disastrous and humiliating relationship with almost a decade prior. His white-knight-in-shining-armor act doesn't impress her, even if he does have the full support of her friends.
The sight of bruises on Tricia's face is all Clint needs to feel justified in doing whatever is necessary to keep her safe. Although she balks at accepting his help, it doesn't deter him from his mission. He's determined to protect her, even if she fights him every step of the way.
With each passing day Clint's supportive and caring attitude slowly weakens Tricia's resolve to keep him at a distance. Still, it's imperative she remembers that he's already proven himself to be untrustworthy and capable of betrayal. And she mustn't forget that domineering side of him that showed itself recently—a side she'd never known existed. It certainly hadn't been in her plan to trade in one controlling man for another.
Content Warning: contains sensual sex scenes
"Hello, Tricia," Clint said calmly.
She gaped in astonishment. This man had betrayed her, humiliated her in front of the entire town. Now he actually had the audacity to stand there and speak to her as if none of it had happened.
"Get your stuff together," Clint ordered. "You're coming with me."
Confusion swirling in her brain, Tricia looked at Neil in question.
"I'm sorry. This was the best plan I could come up with. Just go with Clint until Matt leaves town. Once he's gone, you can come back here."
"Go with him where?"
"To my house," Clint interjected.
Tricia's gaze shot back to Clint. "You can't be serious."
"I'm very serious."
"Absolutely not." Tricia spoke slowly, emphasizing each syllable.
"You don't have a choice," Jenny said, taking AJ from Tricia's arms. "If you stay in town, Matt's sure to find you."
"I know," Tricia said, more sharply than she'd intended. Standing, she rubbed a hand over her forehead and took a deep breath. "I know," she repeated calmly.
Matt could show up at any minute. If he was in Lexington, it was for one reason—he suspected Tricia had returned home, turning to Jenny for help. She had to leave, for her own safety as well as that of Jenny's family. She refused to put them in danger.
"I'm leaving, but not with him."
"Honey, I know how you feel about Clint," Jenny said. "But I also know he would never let anything happen to you."
"The man has already proven himself untrustworthy and capable of betrayal."
Jenny shot a glare at Clint and then returned her gaze to Tricia. "Despite that, he'd never let anyone hurt you. Put your feelings aside and be reasonable. You need help and—"
"I don't need his help."
True, she had nowhere to go, no family to turn to, less than half a tank of gas in her car, and a grand total of three dollars and seventeen cents in her purse, but she'd figure something out. She had to because she had no other choice.
Actually, she did have another choice, as unappealing as it was. But she'd have to be extremely desperate to agree to this plan. She refused to believe she was that desperate. At least, not yet. There had to be another alternative.
Clint heaved an impatient breath, and she shifted her gaze to him. His arms were crossed over his chest, and his eyes were filled with determination.
"We don't have time for this, Tricia. We need to get out of here. Now."
A war raged inside her between the rational part of her and the part that detested the man standing in front of her.
Her options were limited, and, given the situation, she'd be foolish not to accept Clint's help. At this point, she'd do anything, even join forces with Clint, in order to stay one step ahead of Matt, because if he got his hands on her… She shuddered at the thought.
As much as she hated to do it, she’d go with Clint. Propping her hands on her hips, Tricia sighed and shook her head in defeat. "I don’t want to go anywhere with you. I don’t even want to be in the same state as you, but…"
The rest of the sentence stuck in her throat when Clint's eyes narrowed into a hard glare, and he advanced toward her.
In three quick, powerful strides, Clint crossed the room, grabbed Tricia, and threw her over his shoulder. In an instant, the air whooshed out of her lungs, the world turned upside down, and she had a perfect view of Clint's jean-covered butt. Instinctively, she grabbed his waist to steady herself.
Her muscles tensed at the feel of his hands on her body. One hand gripped her waist and the other clamped her thigh below the hem of her shorts.
"I need her car keys," Clint announced as he turned toward the back door.
Too stunned to react, she simply lay over his shoulder as he began to move. By the time she emerged from her stupefied daze, mere seconds later, Clint had already exited the house and was marching across the yard.
Outraged at the indignity of being tossed around like a sack of feed, Tricia squirmed and wiggled, trying to escape his grasp. Pausing, he readjusted his hold, tightened his grip, and then continued toward his destination.
"Put me down!" She beat her fists against his back, but it was like pounding an armored tank.
He halted, metal screeched, and she was tossed inside the cab of a pickup truck.
"Get out of my way," she demanded, struggling to get past the enormous, solid wall of masculinity blocking the door. Since pushing and shoving against him had little effect, she balled up her fist and aimed for his jaw.
He caught her wrist just before she made contact with her target. "Damn it, Tricia, stop fighting me. I'm not going to let you act stupid and get yourself killed. You're coming with me whether you want to or not."
She took a deep breath and silently ordered herself to calm down. There was no point in fighting this battle since she'd already decided to leave with him anyway. However, there was a huge difference between leaving with him of her own free will and being forced to go.
Clint's gaze held hers. "I didn't want to have to make you come with me, but you're not giving me a choice." He spoke quietly, his tone similar to that one might use when trying to calm a frightened child. "This is for your own good."
The words sounded eerily like something Matt might have uttered. The thought turned her stomach and infuriated her at the same time. Her anger renewed, she tried to yank her hands away, but he held tight.
"Stop it. We can do this the easy way or the hard way, the choice is yours. If you continue fighting me, I don't have a problem restraining you."
"Restraining me?" She looked pointedly at her wrists bound by his hands. "Aren't you already doing that?"
"I'll tie you up if I have to."
"You wouldn't," she gasped.