He turns and glares at me, then stomps toward me and slaps me across the face again, on the opposite cheek this time. I move quickly, flailing out with the letter opener in my hand, doing my best to cut him, but he laughs as I stumble about and grips my wrist in his hand, wrenching the tool away from me.
“God, you’re so pathetic.” He shoves me back, then narrows his eyes on my laptop.
Dear God, he’s going to destroy my laptop.
I lunge for it, but he’s faster, scooping it up off the desk and throwing it with all his might against the wall. I stand, dumbfounded and numb, as I watch it shatter into about a dozen pieces.
Thank God I sent the book to the editor before he got here.
I laugh hysterically, finding it ironic that my first thought automatically goes straight to work. Jack could conceivably kill me this morning, and my biggest concern is losing my book. My ribs scream with the effort of the laughter, but I can’t seem to stop it.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Just remembering how tiny your dick is,” I rasp. If he’s going to hurt me, I’ll get my own hits in, even if they are verbal. My face is swelling as I search furiously for a way out of this room, but Jack is blocking my path to the door.
“You’re a fucking bitch.”
“So you’ve said,” I wheeze.
He advances and swings, intending to punch me, but I duck out of the way, infuriating him even further.
Suddenly, he pulls a long knife out of his back pocket and holds it in front of him.
“Oh my God,” I whisper. “You’re nuts.”
“You’re a whore. Get on the floor.”
“Just lie down and let you carve me up?”
My phone rings, distracting me, and he lunges, punching me with the handle of the knife in the temple. I fall to the floor, blinded, crying out. Jack lands three more kicks in my ribs and I throw up uncontrollably, propped on my side, as he continues to kick me in the ribs and down my back.
“Do you like it when I beat on you, you little whore?” Jack asks maliciously. His voice is pure evil. “I’m gonna fuck you before I kill you, Lo.” He pulls me onto my back and holds the knife to my neck with one hand while he unbuttons his jeans with the other. “My cock inside you is the last thing you’re ever going to feel, you stupid cunt.”
“Your cock is so small, I never could feel it anyway,” I growl.
He bares his teeth in fury and, throwing the knife aside, grips my hair in both of his fists, lifts my head, and smashes it against the hardwood floor of my office.
The only thought I have just before the darkness settles in around me is that I hope Ty doesn’t find me like this.
“Court is adjourned for lunch.”
I rise and leave the courtroom, fishing my phone out of my pocket. I tried to call Lo early this morning, unable to stand being away from her any longer, but I couldn’t reach her. She was probably either sleeping soundly or still working.
I should have said fuck it and gone over there to be with her, hold her. Make her breakfast.
Reassure both of us that we’re okay and remind her why she needs to be honest with me when it comes to her asshole of an ex-husband.
I turn my iPhone on and wait impatiently for it to wake up. When it finally does, I have twenty-two texts.
They’re all from Jill, Cara, and the guys. Nothing from Lauren, and my blood runs cold when I start from the beginning and begin to read them.
Jill: Lo didn’t come to coffee. Know where she is?
Cara: J and I are gonna go check on Lo. She’s 30 mins late.
Jill: We need you, Ty! Lo’s hurt. Going to hospital.
Josh: Man, check your phone. Come to the hospital ASAP.
I’m running toward my house now, cursing myself for walking to work today. I continue to check messages as I run, not paying attention to what’s happening around me.
It’s a wonder I don’t either get hit by a car or fall on my ass.
What the fuck has happened to Lo?
Jill: Call me! Now!
My phone rings in my hand. It’s Zack.
“What the fuck is going on?”
“Thank God you’re out of court.” Zack’s voice is low and tight. “You need to come to the hospital, man. Lauren’s been hurt.”
“How bad?” I unlock the Jeep and throw my shit in the backseat, start it up, and peel out of my driveway.
“Bad. The girls found her. They went to her place to check on her when she didn’t show up for coffee. Since we’ve been at the hospital, they won’t let us back to see her because we’re not her family.” Zack’s voice is filled with frustration.
“They’ll let me in.”
“I’ll lie and say she’s my fiancée.” It’s not much of a lie anyway, since I plan to make her exactly that as soon as she’ll say yes. “I’m almost there. Where are you?”
I hang up and shove my phone in my pocket as I find parking and run into the hospital. The ICU is easy to find. This hospital isn’t that big, and I find the whole gang sitting in the waiting room.
“Ty!” Jill jumps up and runs to me, throws her arms around me, and lets loose with a long sob.
“Hold on, sweetheart.” I pass her off to Zack, who wraps his arm around her and pats her back as she cries into his chest and I turn to the receptionist. “Lauren Cunningham, please.”
“Are you family?”
“I’m Ty Sullivan, her fiancé.”
“I’ll call back to the doctor. He’ll come out to you in a few moments.”
I nod and back away, and Jill throws herself back into my arms.
“Hey, princess, I need you to calm down and tell me what happened.”
“Jack almost killed her,” she cries, dabbing at the tears coming out of her eyes.
“What?” I jerk my gaze up to Zack and Josh, who both nod.
“They’ve already arrested him,” Josh confirms. “He bragged all about it to Misty, and she may be a bitch, but she had the brains to call the cops.”
“When we got to Lo’s house,” Cara begins, her own eyes red from shedding tears, “her door was standing wide-open. When we went inside, we found her in her office, beaten bloody. The room was torn apart.”
“It was so much worse than anything Dad ever pulled, Ty. A hundred times worse,” Jill whispers, and clenches her eyes shut against horrible memories from our childhood.