Archer

By: Debra Kayn

Prologue

Mr. Anderson, Jane’s employer, waved over his shoulder and wished her a good night as he pushed through the front doors of the attorney’s office. She echoed her own good wishes and removed her purse out of the bottom drawer on her desk before the door stopped swinging. She thought he’d never leave.
Every minute past seven o’clock put her on edge. Scott hated when she came home late, no matter what day it was or how many messages she left on his voicemail informing him she was required to stay at work. She glanced at her watch. Maybe if she took the freeway instead of driving through downtown, her tardiness wouldn’t raise Scott’s suspicions.
The cool wind swept over her as she locked the door and stepped out from under the awning. She shivered, holding her keys in her hand and hurrying across the parking lot. Her red Duster, a Sweet Sixteen birthday present from her dad many years ago, parked at the end of the lot was the only remaining car left at the miniplex.
The bloodred paint with metallic flakes sparkled from the light of one of the security lamps dotting the area, filling her with warmth and a reminder of home. Her brother, Garrett, surprised her when she graduated college by painting her car and detailing it out. His friend Kage was responsible for the mag wheels that grabbed every man’s attention who drove by. She raked her teeth over her bottom lip. Scott hated those wheels. He’d become enraged when he found out Kage gave her a gift that cost over a thousand dollars and split her lip when he slapped her.
At least she got to keep the tires.
Her car reminded her of everyone she loved. Her dad, Garrett, Kage, and her old friends back in Bay City, Oregon. She’d give anything to return home. Now even that dream was lost to her. Scott had proven he’d find her anywhere she tried to run.
Tension crept over her shoulders. The man seemed to find fault in everything she did lately. The male gas company employee looked at her funny, and she missed two days of work because Scott locked her in the house. The wrong number on her cell phone caused him to drag her along on business in the middle of the night because he claimed she was untrustworthy.
It was during those night errands that she learned the truth about the man she lived with, had thought she’d fallen in love with while in college. He was secure, attentive, and paid her more attention than any college-age guy she knew. If only she’d been smart enough to see past his lies before everything changed.
A car alarm blared somewhere in the distance. She picked up her pace, jogging across the lot. The last time she’d arrived home late, Scott threatened to make her quit her job. It was important that she follow his rules, because her job was the only thing keeping her from being entirely dependent on him. Someday, maybe she’d work up the courage to ask one of the two attorneys she worked for to help her get away from him.
It was getting harder to ignore the fact that all her suspicions were true. Scott Carson was the main supplier for the heroin in the area. He also had a team of men who’d do anything he ordered, including killing her if she didn’t drive him to do it himself.
There was no way he’d allow her to leave. She knew too much, and she was afraid his threats would come true. She wasn’t ready to lie down and let him take her life.
An engine revved along the street, and she turned. The sight of the shiny metal emblem on the hood of the car as it turned into the parking lot paralyzed her with fear. Blinded from the headlights aimed at her and growing closer, her flight response kicked in and she sprinted the last thirty feet to her vehicle.
She plowed into the side of the Duster, scrambling around the front bumper to the driver’s door. Adrenaline shaking her body, she grasped the handle and yanked. She muffled her scream and looked around on the ground. Somewhere in the lot, she’d dropped her keys.
She lifted her gaze, hoping she had enough time to run back, but it was too late. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Scott rolled out of the backseat of the Mercedes, followed by two of the many men he had at his disposal. She slipped her hand into her purse, pushing her wallet, sunglasses, and makeup bag to the side, searching for her cell phone. If she could push 911, maybe there was a chance she could stall him until help arrived.
“Do you know what time it is?” Scott approached her.
The short brown hair she used to love to comb her fingers through made his sharp nose look even more angled. She ran her thumb over the keypad, counting the buttons on her cell. At one time, she found him striking and regal looking.
A head taller than she, he’d looked down that nose at her too many times for her to find him handsome anymore. She swallowed hard, knowing whatever she said or how many times she tried to explain that when her boss asked her to stay late, she was going to be later than normal getting home.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Scott’s hand shot out and grasped her neck, shoving her against the car. She dropped her purse and grabbed for his wrist, unable to breathe. Lifted off her feet, she kicked her legs trying to knock him off balance to take the excruciating pressure off her neck.
He pressed his lips against the side of her head. “What did I tell you I would do if you fuck around on me?”
She tried to shake her head, but his grip tightened. The outer corners of her vision darkened, and she struggled to draw air into her closed throat. Her gaze darted to the two men standing yards away, securing the area, and silently pleaded for their help.
They ignored her. She was only their boss’s girlfriend, the troublemaker. She’d overheard Scott threaten to kill them on many occasions if they looked, spoke, or thought about her, and going by their reaction, she believed he’d do it too.
Welcoming the darkness that followed, she stopped struggling, because she knew she’d pass out at any second, and she’d be able to ignore what was happening to her. Pain shot up her knees and elbows, and the solid ground gave no cushion to her tender body. She blinked, rolling to her side. Scott’s oxfords landed in front of her face, and she realized he’d dropped her to the asphalt in front of him. She coughed, gasping in air. Her throat burned and her whole body screamed from the abuse.
Scott’s foot lifted. She squeezed her eyes closed, steeling herself. Blunt force knocked her sideways at the same time her breath escaped and a piercing pain shot through her midsection. She drew her knees to her chest to block any more kicks but wasn’t fast enough. He stomped on her ribs, rolling her over under the force of his blow.
Scott squatted down, grabbing her hair, and shoved a pistol in her cheek. “Open your mouth, bitch. You know the rules. The only person you answer to is me.”
She clamped her lips together and shook her head but grew light-headed and had to breathe. She gasped, sucking in air. Scott shoved the barrel of the gun into her opened mouth. She moaned as the steel clanked against her teeth. Hyperventilating, she stilled, afraid she’d finally pissed him off and he was going to kill her.
He’d threatened it many times over the last two years. At first, she talked him out of his anger, asking him to forgive her for whatever he imagined she did wrong. Then she’d retreated when the demands reached a level that was untenable. The most she could do was grovel and beg his forgiveness, promising she’d try harder.
“As of right now, you no longer have a job. You won’t take a piss without asking me for permission first.” Scott pulled back the cocking mechanism without removing the gun from her mouth. “And if you even think about telling anyone or asking one of those fucking attorneys for help, you’re dead. Do you hear me?”
He jabbed the pistol in farther, knocking against her molars, causing her jaw to clamp down in reflex. She squeezed her eyes shut against the agony at the same time her upper body went in a different direction, and an intense piercing pain took the air from her lungs.
She mumbled around the gun, pleading for her life. Scott spit on her face. “Let’s see how bad you want to live. If you make it home on your own, I won’t kill you...this time. But if for some reason you don’t show up in an hour, I’ll make a phone call to one of my men who’ll be following you. And then…well, you know what happens next, don’t you?”
Then the gun was gone and someone tossed her keys on her chest. A few seconds later, a car engine roared to life and drove away, leaving her alone. She lay on the ground, unable to draw enough air into her lungs. Something was seriously wrong this time. She cried out as she moved her arm to feel her side, positive her hand would come away bloody. But there was no wound, only the worst pain she’d ever experienced.
She prayed for what seemed like hours, but no one came to her rescue. Her body soon shook from cold, which hurt but motivated her to try to get into her car. Hunched over, she held her ribs, sure that they were broken. It was impossible to inhale or exhale in more than short puffs. She clung to the side of her Duster to keep on her feet.
A police cruiser sped by with lights and sirens blaring. She slid into the driver’s seat. Exhausted, aching everywhere, and light-headed, she sat there with her eyes closed. Scott had too much power and too many men working for him to think she could get away tonight.
He’d often bragged about having connections in the police force, to eliminate her places to run. She dug her fingers into her purse, pulling out the few receipts she’d folded perfectly and kept in the side pouch. Carefully, she unfolded them all until she found what she was looking for.
Hidden among the old grocery receipts was a small piece of paper with a phone number on it. Tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked as she folded her lifeline back up and hid it in her purse. She’d never found the courage to call, but having that piece of paper gave her hope that someday she wouldn’t be living the life that she’d made for herself.
She wasn’t stupid, no matter what Scott thought.
She had to get away, but that wasn’t happening tonight. No, she’d wait until her ribs healed and she had enough strength to plan her escape better. This time she’d succeed.
She started the car and backed out of the parking spot. Once she made it home, she’d grow stronger and prepare for Scott to come after her again. If she had to kill him, then so be it.