Keira Jones pushed the hair out of her eyes with both hands and stared in incomprehension at the man who’d just dragged her kicking and clawing all the way from the other room into this one. His hold had been brutal, crushing her bones as he’d thrown her on to the filthy bed in the corner of this room before moving to shut the door behind them and lock it.
And then nothing. Nothing except that one word uttered in a harsh undertone—scream.
“What?” she gasped.
He held one finger to his lips, pressing his ear against the wooden door. He cast a sharp glance around the room, grabbed a rickety chair and propped it under the door handle. Then he moved purposefully toward Keira.
She scrambled off the bed and backed away from him, away from what she thought was coming. If she was going to be raped, she wasn’t going to make it easy for him. She looked frantically around the room for something, anything to use as a weapon, but he was on her before she had a chance.
“I said scream, damn it!” His angry voice was pitched to carry no farther than a foot away as he plastered her body against the wall with his muscular frame.
But she couldn’t. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and her breath was coming in rapid pants, but no sound emerged from a throat dry with terror she refused to betray.
He made a sound of frustration deep in his throat. He held her squirming body captive with his, while his powerful hands gripped the lapels of her cotton blouse and ripped it open from top to bottom. Then she screamed. And screamed again when one hand groped her breast through and beneath the fabric of her bra while the other moved to the juncture of her thighs.
She clawed at his face. He ducked, but she had the savage satisfaction of seeing her fingernails make contact with his skin and leave four red welts before he captured her flailing hands and pinned them both to the wall over her head with one iron hand.
“Damn it, I’m not going to hurt you,” he whispered in that same deep undertone.
Blood was oozing from two of the scratches on his face, but he ignored it. And to Keira’s shocked amazement he didn’t follow up on her physical helplessness. In fact, he turned away from her, listening intently to the sounds emanating from the other room.
Now Keira could hear it, too, over the rasping sound of her own breathing; coarse male laughter and guttural catcalls, as if Keira’s screams were entertainment for the men in the other room.
“What—” she began, but he covered her mouth with his free hand.
“Sshh.” He pressed his lips to her ear, but not in a mockery of a kiss. “We have maybe five minutes to get out of here,” he breathed. “Unless you want me to leave you behind to be gang-raped by them,” he said, tilting his head in the direction of the other room, “or worse, promise me you’ll do exactly what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. You got that?”
She swallowed as her panicked brain assimilated what he was saying as well as what he was not doing. Then she nodded. His hand came off her mouth but hovered close, as if he didn’t trust her not to ask questions in a voice that could be heard from the next room. But Keira wasn’t stupid. She knew in a flash that instead of trying to rape her he was trying to rescue her.
She didn’t know why he was risking his life this way, but she didn’t care. Going with him was infinitely preferable to the fate in store for her if she stayed here. And if she was going to die, as she had feared from the moment she’d been kidnapped from beside her car, she’d rather die running, fighting, anything except submitting meekly to being raped and murdered.
“Okay,” he whispered. His lean, muscular body was suddenly gone, and Keira sagged for a moment, her own muscles barely able to hold her up. Then she got control of herself and watched him move across the room.
For a big man he moved with incredible stealth. He had seemed to tower over her earlier, but now she saw that, while he was well above six feet, he wasn’t a giant of a man; his strength had fooled her into envisioning him as bigger than he actually was.
He was clean shaven, and while his angular features weren’t pretty-boy handsome, they were attractive in a masculine way. His sun-streaked blond hair was close cropped, though not in military fashion. And the snug jeans he wore left no doubt that he was in perfect physical shape. The kind of man, in fact, she thought with hysterical abstraction, most women would give a second—and third—glance at if you passed him on the street.
He was trying to open the single window in the room, but it resisted his efforts, and Keira could tell he wasn’t using his full strength because he was trying to get it open without anyone in the next room hearing, and if he pushed too hard the glass might shatter.
She started toward him to help, but before she got there he reached down into his boot and came up with a wicked-looking six inch steel blade knife. He grimaced, as if he hated to sacrifice his knife in this way, then inserted the blade between the window and the frame and exerted downward pressure.
With a slight creak of warped wood, a crack opened up, then widened enough for him to get his fingers underneath. Then Keira was there, and together they got the window open far enough for them to climb through.
“Tie up your shirt,” he breathed next to her ear, and all at once Keira realized it was gaping open, all the buttons gone from when he had tried to make her scream. And her bra was awry, too, from when he’d mauled her. She quickly adjusted her bra and pulled the ends of her blouse together, knotting them beneath her breasts. It wasn’t neat, but at least she was decently covered.
“You go first,” he said in a whisper. “I’ll let you down nice and easy. Try not to make any noise when you move away from the window.”
She nodded, not trusting her voice. He put his hands on her waist and lifted her effortlessly, high enough for her to slide her feet through the window embrasure. He balanced her on the window sill for a moment, while she ducked her head under the window, then his hands slid beneath her armpits and he lowered her to the ground.
Keira carefully backed away to allow him room to clamber out, trying not to brush up against anything that would rustle. Then he took her hand in his and looked down at her. There was barely enough moonlight to see a few feet in any direction, but there was enough light to see his determined expression as he whispered urgently, “Trust me.”
“I will,” she said. She knew it was crazy; they were still in imminent danger. At any minute someone might try to enter the room they’d just left and discover they were gone, and a murderous chase would be on. And she knew absolutely nothing about this man other than the fact he hadn’t raped her when he’d had the chance. But that one fact was enough, and she knew instinctively she could trust him with her life.
“Good,” he said, an unexpected smile slashing across his face. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
CODY WALKER’S WOMAN, Copyright © 2014 by Amelia Autin Lam
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