Beyond Control by Kat Martin
by Kat Martin
When Victoria Bradford got engaged, she told herself to give love a chance. Six months later, she's on the run from her angry, abusive ex-fiancé with her four-year-old daughter and nowhere to go.
Seventy miles north of Dallas, the Iron River Ranch is pretty much nowhere. That’s what its new owner, Josh Cain, wanted when he came back from Afghanistan. Big skies, quiet nights, no trouble.
One look tells Josh the pretty redhead with the adorable little girl will give him trouble of the most personal kind. But he’s seen trouble before, and he doesn't scare easy. Not when “accidents” start happening around the ranch. Not when Tory’s best friend back in Phoenix is abducted and brutalized. Not even when it looks like their current problems are only the tip of the iceberg.
But if he gets too close to fierce, determined Tory, Josh knows his nights are going to be anything but quiet. And that’s one possibility no amount of training can prepare him for . . .
Dear God, he was supposed to be gone! The sound of the front door opening and closing, familiar heavy footfalls in the entry sent shock waves through her body. It was almost midnight. Damon should have been in Los Angeles attending a three-day business conference with his father.
Tory glanced wildly around the bedroom. She had nearly finished packing, just a couple more boxes to fill, then first thing in the morning she was leaving. She had rented an apartment on the other side of Phoenix, a fresh start for her and Ivy, her four year old daughter.
A noise, Damon bumping into the coffee table in the living room, pushed her nerves up another notch. Her heart set up a murderous clatter as a chair tipped over and crashed to the floor. Damon swore foully.
He was drunk. Again. Her heart jerked, speeded. Lord, what was he doing here? Why was he still in Phoenix?
She swallowed, tried to focus, think what do. He must have missed his flight, had probably gone out with his sycophant buddies, guys who enjoyed the free booze and the women, the expensive night clubs and strip joints, all paid for by Damon Bridger from the trust fund his father provided.
Four months ago, when she had first met him, he had been different. They had crossed paths at a nightclub called the Peacock, a loud music sort of place she rarely frequented, a place she had gone with her best friend, Lisa Shane, to celebrate Lisa’s birthday.
With his jet black hair and golden brown eyes, Damon had been amazingly handsome, like Johnnie Depp, Lisa had said. The attraction had been instant and amazing, or at least so it seemed.
He’d called the next day and immediately begun his pursuit. Back then, his gifts had been simple but expensive presents for her and Ivy. Presents chosen especially for the two of them, a tiny humming bird pendent because she loved birds. A small silver princess ring for Ivy with the little girl’s name engraved on it.
She’d thought he was special, that he would make the perfect father for her daughter, someone to end the last four lonely years after her husband had died.
She had lulled herself into believing the handsome man who was courting her would make her happy.
Tory glanced at the glowing red numbers on the clock on the nightstand. 12:01 A.M. Ivy was asleep in her room at the opposite end of the hall. Damon had changed so much that lately she had begun to worry he might hurt her little girl.
She swallowed. The tread of heavy, uneven footfalls coming down the hall sent a trickle of fear down her spine. Week after week, he’d grown more and more antagonistic, and more and more violent. He had pushed her, had slapped her once, but each time he had apologized and begged her forgiveness. Last week he had hit her with his fist.
It was the end, as far as Tory was concerned. She was moving out, the sooner the better. His trip to L.A. should have provided the perfect opportunity.
Tory closed her eyes as the door swung open and Damon staggered into the bedroom. A cold smile stretched over his handsome face. “Nice of you to wait up,” he said.
She forced herself to not to run, to keep her spine straight and not flinch. “I thought you were in L.A with your dad.”
Instead of answering, his gaze swept around the bedroom, taking in the open suitcases, the boxes she hadn’t yet loaded into the trunk of her car. “Where do you think you’re going?”
She took a deep breath. No way to avoid a confrontation now. “I’m leaving, Damon. I’m taking Ivy and moving out. I told you it wasn’t working. I’ve got a place of my own.” There was no waiting till morning now. She had to leave before something bad happened. “I’ll come back and pick up the rest of my things over the weekend.”
The beautiful diamond engagement ring he’d bought her glittered in its blue velvet box on the dresser. She had planned to leave a note with the ring when she moved out of his condo.
She started for the door, praying he wouldn’t try to stop her, but Damon stepped in front of her, blocking her way. His mouth thinned into a hard, unforgiving line.
“You aren’t going anywhere. You’re staying right here where you belong. You’re mine, Tory. I keep what belongs to me. Surely you know that by now.”
She kept her chin high though she was trembling inside. “I’m going, Damon. I’m taking Ivy and leaving. Get out of my way.” She took a step forward, but he shoved her back, hard enough she stumbled.
“You’re my fiancée. You’re not leaving this house.” He gripped her wrist and dragged her over to the big kingsize bed. “Take off your clothes. You’re gonna put out. I gave you that fancy diamond now you’re gonna pay for it.”
Fury swamped her, making her reckless. With her red hair and fair complexion, there was no way to hide the angry color in her cheeks. “What, you didn’t get laid while you were out with your friends?”
Damon backhanded her across the face, splitting her lip, sending her sprawling onto the mattress. A spray of blood flew across the pillow and she bit back a moan.
“What I do or don’t do is none of your business. Not since you slept with that guy in your office--what was his name? Oh yeah, Clark.”
She wiped the blood from her mouth with a trembling hand. “I didn’t sleep with Clark. I told you, it was raining. My car wouldn’t start so he gave me a ride home. That’s all it was.” But his jealousy had grown along with his temper.
“You’re a slut, just like the rest of them. For a while you had me fooled but not anymore.”
“Fine, if that’s what you think, just let me leave and you’ll be rid of me.” She came up from the bed and started for the door, but Damon shoved her back against the wall.
“You’ll leave when I say, not before.” He caught her wrist and dragged her forward. She cried out as he slapped her again, hard enough to knock her to the floor. When he kicked her, Tory drew herself into a ball and put her arms over her head. She didn’t dare fight him, not with Ivy just down the hall.
“You little bitch.” Damon grabbed a handful of her T-shirt and hauled her to her feet. “You need a lesson on how to behave and I’m gonna give you one.”
Tory bit back a cry as he drew back his fist and punched her, her jaw exploding in pain as she hit the floor.
She put her hand up to protect herself. “Stop it, Damon! I’ll do whatever you want!”
“Oh, you’re gonna do what I want, all right, you little whore.” He dragged her up by the hair and slapped her, punched her again, knocking her into the dresser, banging her head so hard she saw stars and landed on the floor.
He was leaving her no choice, she had to fight back or he was going to kill her.
Tory shot to her feet and charged forward, punching him with her fists, kicking him, doing her best to hurt him. He was over six feet tall and muscular, an invincible wall of meanness and determination.
The last thing she remembered was trying to dodge the blow as his fist shot toward her, her body flying backward, slamming into the wall. His boot crashed into her ribs and pain shot through her. Then she felt nothing at all.
Victoria Bradford woke up the following morning in a Scottsdale Medical Center hospital bed, one of her eyes swollen shut, a concussion, four broken ribs, a punctured lung, her entire body black and blue and covered with cuts and abrasions.
Through her one good eye, she spotted a nurse walking into the room. “My...my daughter...” She moistened her lips. “Where’s...Ivy?”
The nurse looked at her with pity. “Your little girl is fine. She’s staying with your friend, Lisa.”
Relief filtered through her. Lisa. Thank God. Lisa would take care of Ivy. Tory didn’t ask about Damon. She didn’t want to know. She was simply grateful to be alive. At least she and Ivy were safe.
Then the unwanted thought occurred. They were safe. But for exactly how long?
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