Dawson's Stand (Welcome to Covendale Book 4)

BOOK: Dawson's Stand (Welcome to Covendale Book 4)
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Dawson’s Stand

 

Welcome to Covendale: Book 4

 

Morgan Blaze

 

 

She’s running from the past. He’s hiding from the future.

“And we’re here.” Gage pulled in and put the car in park. “Can I walk you to your door, ma’am?”

Kyla laughed. “I’d like that.”

They got out, and he came around to her side. “You know, we never did settle that bet,” he said. “Who won?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, I think it was a tie,” he said as they started walking slowly toward the cottage. “So does that mean nobody wins, or we both do?”

“Good question,” she said. “I have to tell you, I’m a pretty sore loser.”

“Me, too.” He grinned. “So how about it? Double win?”

“All right, but that means you have to tell me what you did to borrow Luka’s car.”

“Oh, yeah. Guess I do.” They reached the front door, and he made a face. “Okay, here goes. She made me try her garters on, and timed how long it took to get them off.”

She tried to keep a straight face, but laughter got the better of her. “Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have any sisters.”

“She’s a pest, and she knows it,” he said with a smile.

“I think it’s sweet,” she said. “And…well, you won too.”

His expression sobered. “Yeah, but you don’t have to out with me because of a bet,” he said. “It was mostly a joke.”

“What if I want to?”

His breath caught sharply. “Do you?”

“Yes.” Her own lack of hesitation surprised her. “I’d love to go on a real date with you.”

“Same here.” He moved closer, and her pulse raced to warp speed. His eyes were so intense. “Kyla,” he rasped. “I think…I should go.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to kiss you. And if I don’t leave now, I’m going to.”

She laid a hand on his arm, and a delicious shudder went through her. “So kiss me,” she whispered.

He groaned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

* * * *

Read on for more!

 

 

Prologue

an affluent suburb – one year ago

 

With shaking hands, Kyla pushed the front door open a few inches and then sprinted for the kitchen. The pounding and shouting continued upstairs—but now it was punctuated with splintering cracks as Mike forced his way through the door she’d locked. She didn’t have much time.

She grabbed a steak knife, squeezed herself into the space beneath the sink, and pulled the cabinet door closed just as a tremendous bang sounded above her. The breaking door was loud as a shotgun.

Her husband screamed her name, a primal cry of rage that chilled her to the core.

Gripping the knife tighter, she clamped her free hand across her mouth and tried to slow her breathing down. Warm blood dripped from her nose, pattering on her fingers and smearing across her lips.
Please, please go outside.
If he didn’t take the bait, believe she’d gone out and took off down the street, this would never work.

She wasn’t sure she could bring herself to stab him. Even though she truly believed he’d kill her this time.

Footsteps thudded down the stairs and stopped abruptly. “Kyla?” Mike Finley’s voice carried, even when he wasn’t shouting. She could hear the false note in his tone that promised it was over, the one she’d fallen for so many times. “I’m sorry, baby. Please come out, so we can talk.”

Oh, God, she was so dizzy. And tired. She wanted to close her eyes, rest her throbbing head and her aching body. But she had to stay alert. This was her absolute last chance.

“Come on, Kyla.” The anger was creeping back in already. “You locked me in the bedroom. I had to break the door. I think you owe me—” He cut off with a sharp breath. “You little
bitch
,” he snarled.

She shivered.
Get out. Please…

More heavy footsteps. The front door banged all the way open. “Kyla?
Kyla, where are you!

He went outside.

She tensed and held her breath for what felt like a very long time. Her mind’s eye conjured a picture of him standing on the porch, surrounded by the night—his handsome features set as stone, his eyes cold and focused as a hawk seeking its prey.

Finally, she heard him descend the porch steps. Heard the hum of the garage door opening. The snick of the car door, the angry howl of the engine. Tires rolling down the asphalt driveway.

When the sound of the car engine faded, she counted silently to ten and hitched a deep breath, and then scrambled out of the cabinet. Twenty steps to the back door vestibule seemed like twenty miles with all of her senses on hyper-alert for any sign that Mike had figured out her ruse and circled back to catch her. Again.

Last time, she’d made the mistake of trying to sneak out while he was in another room. He’d caught her halfway across the back yard, and broken her wrist dragging her into the house. It had only gotten worse from there.

She grabbed a hoodie and zipped it on. At least it covered the blood on her shirt. If anyone tried to stop her on the street and help, it would be over. They’d take her to a hospital—and that wasn’t nearly far enough away. Mike had found her there before. He’d found her at the police station, too. She wasn’t sure there was any place he couldn’t get to her. If he didn’t already have connections wherever she went, his money would make them.

But Ralph Lorriman had sworn he could get her to safety without involving any authorities, or anyone whose tongue could be loosened with cash. And her choices had come down to that or being murdered by her husband.

She hesitated just an instant before opening the back door and sprinting across the yard. Climbing the fence was an exercise in agony, but she made it over and collapsed in a heap on the other side, pausing for a moment to catch her breath. She suspected he’d broken a rib or two, and her right shoulder was a fiery mass that didn’t want to move the way it should. He’d probably dislocated it.

Though every ounce of her being wanted to curl up right here in this false safety, she forced herself to get up and keep moving. She wasn’t anywhere close to out of the storm yet. Ralph’s place was four blocks away—opposite the direction Mike had headed, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t circle around at some point in the near future.

It took her nearly half an hour to make those four blocks. She stopped frequently to gather her strength, to hide behind anything and everything she could. Her blood froze every time headlights made an appearance in the vicinity. More than once, she fought the urge to just lie down wherever she was and wait for Mike to find her. To get the inevitable over with.

Somehow, miraculously, she reached Ralph’s neat, single-floor ranch house. It was almost midnight by then, and all the lights were off. Still, she rang the doorbell and waited with her back to the street, sending up a silent prayer that she’d be safe for just a few minutes longer.

After what felt like an eternity but probably wasn’t, the door opened. Ralph Lorriman—her lawyer, her friend—took one look at her and hustled her inside without a word. His features blanched as she drew the hood down and revealed what was probably a horrific sight.

“Ralph.” Her voice was a hoarse, hollow whisper. She tried to smile, even as a tear slipped down his kind face and threatened to undo her completely. “Think I’m ready for that divorce now.”

“Divorce?” Ralph let out a shaking laugh. “Kyla, if I wasn’t a man of the law, I’d divorce him for you with a shotgun. I think I might anyway. Are you…”

“I’ll live.” She swallowed carefully. Now that the immediate danger was over, her strength was draining rapidly. The adrenaline that carried her this far had vanished and left her shivering, weak. “Please…if you really have somewhere safe for me, I have to get there. Right now.” She crossed her arms as a violent shudder gripped her. “He’s out there looking for me.”

Ralph’s mouth formed a flat line. “All right,” he said. “I can make some calls on the way. Let’s go.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

On legs that wanted to buckle with every step, she followed him out to the garage. Ralph helped her gently into the back seat and covered her with a blanket. “Try to rest,” he said, his voice trembling slightly. “It’s going to be a long drive.”

“Good,” she slurred. The further from Mike Finley she could get, the better she’d feel. At least for a little while. “Ralph…”

“Yes?”

“If he finds me, he’ll kill me.”

“He won’t find you.” The steel conviction in the man’s voice comforted her, and her body relaxed a little more. “You’re safe now, Kyra.”

Safe.
How long had it been since she’d felt that way? She couldn’t remember the last time. In the beginning, maybe, when she thought he loved her. She’d been so desperate to be loved, so caught up in the fairy tale.

Never again.

Dimly, she heard Ralph climb in and the car start. She was asleep before they pulled out of the garage.

 

 

Chapter 1

Covendale – present day

 

Kyla stood in the doorway leading to the three rooms that had been home for the past year. The pickup truck parked outside held everything she owned, with room for more, but the cottage was already furnished. And all hers.

She still couldn’t believe this was really happening. Not that she didn’t love Miss Stella. The woman had taken her in as a boarder without hesitation when Ralph brought her all the way here after that night. The last night of the life she’d thought would last forever. Covendale was so far from everything she’d ever known, and she’d been utterly alone and terrified.

Miss Stella had made her feel instantly safe. The older woman had become a friend—her only friend, really. She’d kept to herself all this time, trying to heal the damage that lingered long after the bones mended and the cuts and bruises faded.

Sometimes she still had nightmares, where Mike only pretended to go outside. And he was waiting when she came out of the cabinet with murder in his eyes.

But now, it was time to live again. The cottage was the first step—a place of her own, one she could call home. After she was settled, she’d start looking for a better job in earnest. The part-time job she had at the moment wasn’t going to cut it.

“It’s going to be so quiet here now.”

Kyla turned with a warm smile. Miss Stella must’ve come down the hall while she was woolgathering. “Oh, yes,” she said. “All those wild parties I throw.”

“It’ll be a relief when you’re gone. I can finally relax.”

She embraced the woman. “I’ll miss you, too.”

When they drew back, Miss Stella wiped a few tears from her eyes. “Honestly, I’m so happy for you,” she said. “It’s not easy to build a new life. Lord knows I’ve done it, after I lost my Harold. I just couldn’t be prouder of you, honey.”

“Thank you,” Kyla said, and meant it. She patted Miss Stella’s arm. “Well, I guess I’d better—”

A cheerful tone from her pocket startled her. The only calls she ever got were from the post office, when they had an extra shift for her to take. But they usually called a lot earlier than this. Frowning, she pulled her phone out and glanced at the screen.

It was Ralph.

“I’m sorry,” she said to Miss Stella. “I have to take this.” Her hands wanted to shake as she walked a few steps away and tapped answer. Much as she loved Ralph, he’d rarely called with good news in the past year. “Hello?”

“Kyla. How are you doing?”

“Fine, thank you.” Her frown deepened. Ralph actually sounded happy, or at least not like he was trying to find a way to break something to her gently. “And how are you?”

“Relieved,” he said. “Just like you’re about to be.”

Her heart thudded painfully. There was only one thing she could think of that might be a relief—but she didn’t dare hope for it. “Don’t tease me, Ralph,” she said faintly. “What is it?”

“You should probably sit down.”

“Ralph, please.”

“All right.” Now she could hear the smile in his voice. “You’re a free woman, Miss Harding. Your divorce is officially final.”

“Oh, God.” She closed her eyes, and one hand flew to her throat. “You’re sure?” she said. “I mean…”

“He signed the papers yesterday, and I’ve got the order from the judge right here,” Ralph said. “There’s a copy headed to you in the mail.”

For a long moment she couldn’t speak. She’d been sure Mike would keep dragging it out indefinitely, that she’d have to spend the rest of her life fighting and hiding from him. The man never lost anything—and he never let go. “What changed his mind?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes.”

Ralph sighed. “No one knows, except him,” he said. “His lawyer seemed pretty irritated when he dropped the papers off, so I’d guess the decision wasn’t made on any legal advice. Seems like he just gave up.”

A ripple of unease threatened to shake her tentative relief apart.
Give up
was not in Mike Finley’s vocabulary. But whatever his reasons…he’d signed. The protective order was in effect for life, and even if he decided to violate it, he’d have a hard time finding her here. Maybe even an impossible time.

BOOK: Dawson's Stand (Welcome to Covendale Book 4)
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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