Sierra Malone trusted the wrong man and now he's trying to kill her.
After narrowly escaping Kevin Eason's brutal attack, Sierra leaves her home, her family, and everything familiar. She finds temporary shelter, but it provides little relief from her constant fear. Desperate and alone, she considers an offer of protection from a stranger--but she soon learns he's harboring a potentially deadly secret.
Chase Price wants Eason behind bars, and he's willing to do anything to get him there, even if it means waiting for Eason to strike again. With an innocent life on the line, Chase sets out to finish this battle once and for all--but he soon learns guarding Eason's beautiful victim leaves him wanting much more than he anticipated.
Awards & Other Kudos
Third Place in the Faith, Hope & Love Chapter's Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, Romantic Suspense Category
Stark terror brought Sierra Malone fully awake as a heavy body pressed her deep into the mattress. Darkness cloaked the room, but she didn’t need vision to know who had invaded the privacy of her home. His sickening, familiar scent washed over her, confirming Kevin Eason’s reign of terror continued.
His sweaty palm clamped over her mouth and powerful fingers closed around her throat, constricting her airway. She clawed his skin and thrashed her legs. Sheets tore from the bed, wrapping her in a shroud of tangled cotton. His bruising strength outmatched hers, dooming her attempts at freedom. Pinpricks of light danced before her eyes. Just when she feared she’d pass out, Kevin removed his hand from her mouth and eased the ironclad hold on her throat. Sierra filled famished lungs to capacity and opened her mouth to scream, but managed only a strangled sound.
He shifted and switched on the lamp. As light flooded the room, Kevin’s face—contorted with fury—came into focus. Revulsion turned her stomach. How could she ever have thought him charming and handsome? Blood beaded along his jaw where her fingernails had penetrated, and a heavy drop fell onto Sierra’s bare shoulder.
“If you kill me, they’ll put you in prison for the rest of your life.” She forced the words through her raw throat.
“They didn’t catch me before. They won’t this time.”
“What do you mean?” Sierra rasped the question as panic squeezed her chest.
“You’re about to find out.” Heated breath, tinged with peppermint, scorched her skin. “Did you really think I would let you walk away from me? Did you think a flimsy piece of paper could protect you?”
“I have a right to live my own life.”
Molasses-colored eyes, which once regarded her with adoration, now projected contempt. “I thought I made myself clear, bien-aimée. You have no life apart from me.” Rage saturated his words. He straddled her waist and backhanded her.
White hot pain flashed across Sierra’s face as her head whipped to the side. She tasted blood, and nausea rolled her stomach again. She braced her arms across her face, knowing another forceful blow could knock her unconscious.
“Now look what you made me do.” Perspiration rolled down his temples to land on mangled sheets. He wiped his brow as his breaths came in ragged gasps. “If you had obeyed me, none of this would’ve happened.”
If she had obeyed him, she would’ve been his prisoner. A life with Kevin would be no life at all. Physically no match, Sierra searched for an escape. “I’ll try harder. W-we can work things out. We can talk about what I’ve done wrong. We’ll be together just like you’ve always wanted.”
“No, Kevin. I never should’ve left you. I should have accepted your gifts and returned your calls. I…I made mistakes. I’m sorry I pressed assault charges against you and filed for the restraining order. Let me make it up to you.”
Confusion flickered in his expression. He climbed off the bed and paced the room. Fisting his hands, he pressed them against his forehead as if fighting an inner battle only his twisted mind could comprehend.
Sierra ignored her throbbing cheek and seized the moment. She wedged her hand between the mattress and box springs, and grabbed hold of the pepper spray she’d recently purchased. She took aim. When Kevin lowered his hands, she took a deep breath and pressed the lever. A stream shot forward, bathing his face in debilitating fluid.
High-pitched wails tore from his lips, and he stumbled, crashing about the room. Coughing spasms wracked his body as he spun, hands splayed wide, long fingers aiming for her slender neck. Blinded and off balance, he swept his palm across her dresser. Perfume, hair brushes and make-up clattered in disarray. The restraining order, which had instigated his brutal attack, fluttered uselessly to the floor.
Sierra tossed aside the canister and unwound her legs from the sheets. Residual particles of the spray hung in the air, choking her and stinging her eyes. She gasped for breath and dashed toward the hallway. Her bare feet slapped against cool hardwood, but she took no time to slip on shoes. In the foyer, she grabbed her purse and yanked open the front door. Freezing air blasted through her thin nightgown, frosting exposed skin. She stumbled across the threshold, alone and vulnerable, praying God would lead her to safety.
“You…can run, but…you can’t hide. I’ll find you.” Kevin’s malicious words cut through fitful coughs. “And then I’ll kill you.”
Two weeks later…
A silver sedan careened past Sierra leaving behind exhaust fumes and wet tire tracks. She thought she’d left the rainy weather behind when she had arrived in Shenandoah Valley. Apparently April rain flowed in Virginia as often as it did in Seattle.
Her skin prickled with warning as if someone lurked in the darkening alleyways, waiting to strike. As cool, wet drizzle dampened her face, anxiety mounted, and she cast a series of nervous glances over her shoulder. If she hadn’t promised to deliver the leftover pastries from her friend’s bakery to the homeless shelter tonight, she would’ve turned around and headed back to the apartment she temporarily called home. Not that she felt safe in the tiny, one-bedroom place, but at least it had four walls and locks on the door.
Sierra crossed the intersection of Chapel Street and Second Avenue, and then dared to glance behind her again. The silhouette of a tall, broad-shouldered man emerged from the alley about a hundred yards behind. His long, dark overcoat swayed in the breeze as he ambled along.
Sierra’s heart rammed against her ribcage, and blood rushed through her ears, drowning out all other sounds. She swallowed the fear rising in her throat, assuring herself this man couldn’t be the same one who’d robbed her of everything she’d once held dear. Kevin Eason never ambled. He strode through life with a clear purpose in mind, as if taking anything slow wasted his precious time. Born a hunter, he hid behind the guise of a highly respected profession. As a prosecuting attorney, he’d learned to set his sights on a target and then claim it with ruthless efficiency.
Shivers wracked Sierra’s body, and she banished the invading memories, but fear wasn’t as easy to relinquish. She faced forward as long as she dared and then took a quick look behind again. The man continued walking, but his long-legged strides outmatched her shorter ones, and the distance between them dwindled.
He probably meant her no harm, but unwilling to take any chances, Sierra lunged off the sidewalk onto Third Avenue. Her tennis shoes splashed through puddles, and cold, grimy water coated her pant legs. She ignored the discomfort and sprinted across the street. The Hope Center offered security, and she focused on its distant glowing lights.
A horn blared and headlights speared her in the waning light. Tires squealed on wet asphalt, and a large SUV swerved as if out of control. Sierra darted to the side, unsure which direction led to safety. The headlights were aimed straight at her—she’d chosen wrong.
Paralyzed, she squeezed her eyes shut and braced for impact.
Lord help me.