Sucker Punched (Resilient Hearts Series Book One 1)

BOOK: Sucker Punched (Resilient Hearts Series Book One 1)
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Sucker

Punched

 

 

LK OWEN

 

Copyright © 2015 LK Owen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

ISBN: 151863608X

ISBN-13: 978-1518636080

 

 

DEDICATION

 

 

For Katie. This is our story, without you I would never have written it. Thank you for talking me into it and for the many hours of brainstorming.

 

For Mum. You’re such a strong woman, one I’m proud to look up to and have in my life. Thank you for everything.

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

When I began writing this I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Several times I was so close to giving up after negative comments and bad advice. Someone said, “It’s not your book; you just don’t have the right team yet.” That person was right. I have met some amazing people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Without them
Sucker Punched
would never have happened.

Thanks to
Yummy By Design
for my fabulous cover, I truly love it.

Donette, thank you for making this editing experience an enjoyable one.

Eli, Tami, Natasha, Heather, Louise, Katie, Clair, Tesrin, and Jen for beta reading. Your thoughts and options were valued and made my book so much better.

Jen, you’ve been amazing, not only as a beta, but also getting the word out about my release. Your advice has been great. I couldn’t have gotten the word out without you.

Tesrin, I will start by saying thank you. You pushed me to continue when I lost belief in myself,  and made me smile when I was down. Although I’m still unsure about that nickname! I’m so happy you’ve been with me for this journey.

Tami, I am so glad I answered your ad for a beta. It’s great we could help each other, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve also become friends.

Rhonda, thank God I read your book and messaged you to tell you how amazing it was. Thank you for taking a chance on me. You’ve become my mentor. I have learned so much from you, and now I have the privilege of calling you my friend.

My husband, Jay, I know you have felt second best to my laptop, but I promise I love you more.

And finally a huge thank you to all reading this. I hope you enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ProLogue

 

 

England

Six months ago

I’m standing outside of my best friend’s house for the first time in over a year. I try to take a few steadying breaths. My nerves sky rocket with the worry she may turn me away. I can’t blame her if she does; after all, I let my boyfriend alienate me from her and anyone I held dear.

Lifting my hand, I try to hold it still but fail miserably. My knuckles rap on Beth’s door while my gut twists and my heart races. Her silhouette shows through the glass, and the closer she comes, the more I fight the urge to vomit. Hearing the knob turn, I look down at my feet, shame and exhaustion making it impossible to look her in the eye.  

Tremors wrack my body, but how can I be surprised? After everything that happened last night, I can’t continue on like this anymore. My whole body is bruised and battered, but my shaking is due more to the fact I’m about to finally admit, not only to my friend but to myself, what I have been made to endure at the hands of Stephen, the man who I believed loved me.

Some might say I’ve not had a choice, but I did. I could have left him before this. My Nan died a few months ago, but she had made it clear she would have helped me get out. The only reason I can give as to why I’ve stayed is because I loved him. I know I sound pathetic, but right now it’s all I’ve got. A few moments have passed, and there’s been no response, so I glance up.

The shock on her face roots me to my spot. I swallow hard when a gasp leaves her lips once she gets a clear view of my swollen and battered face. Finally, I get the nerve to ask, “I know it’s been a while, but can I come in?” I struggle to fight the tears as my voice cracks with the effort to keep calm. Beth shakes her head as if to clear it.

“Of course, Caitlin,” she says, lifting her hand for me to take. As soon as my hand touches hers, she pulls me into her safe embrace. I wince but can’t move away as I hear her sniffle. I need this hug as much as I need her right now, so I cling closer for a moment. After a few minutes, we walk into her kitchen, her arms still wrapped tightly around me.

“Let me make us some tea. Take a seat.” She gestures to her modern glass-topped dining table. We remain silent as Beth busies herself making the tea, and I try to gather my thoughts. The silence is deafening; Beth is not someone to hold back her opinion. It’s worrying she’s being so quiet.

Once she places the steaming mug of tea on the table, she takes a seat beside me, again taking my hand. Her voice is steady, and her eyes race across my face as they take in the brutal damage Stephen has done.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?”

I nod but no words come out. Looking down at our joined hands, I know she will help; I know she won’t judge. But, this is still one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Admitting I am weak to my best friend is not going to be easy.

“It’s Stephen,” I whisper these two simple words as my breath hitches. I can’t bear to go into the gruesome details. I mean, how am I supposed to tell my best friend since pre-school that I just lay there on the floor while my boyfriend kicked and punched me until I blacked out? How do I admit I allowed that to happen when I’m a trained kickboxer who knows how to defend herself? How can I tell her that when I woke up cold and alone on the floor, I didn’t run out the door? That I picked myself up like I always do and went to bed doing nothing as he climbed on top of me. I smother a gasp at the thought of last night, swallowing several times to settle my stomach that’s ready to revolt.

Beth remains silent, so I look up at her. When she still doesn’t say a word I continue.

“I went out yesterday without his permission. His work colleague saw me and told him. When he came home, he did this,” I say gesturing to my face.

When she realizes the seriousness of the situation, her gentle expression vanishes, fury replacing it, but she doesn’t utter a word. We sit in silence, and I feel awkward beginning to think I shouldn’t have come.

“Beth I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be involving you in my problems. This was a mistake.” As I get up to leave, there’s an iron clad grip on my hand that prevents me from moving.

“Don’t you dare leave!” Her voice is as hard as her face, and I can’t help but flinch. She notices my reaction and her face softens once again. “I’m so sorry, but I’m really trying to control myself here. All I want to do right now is kick Stephen in the bloody nuts, then rip them off, and a few other choice things that there’s no point getting into right now.” This declaration makes me smile, and I wrap my arms around her.

I whisper to her softly, “I have missed you so much. I’m so sorry.” Then I become choked up again.

Beth suddenly pulls back. “What the hell do YOU have to be sorry about?”

Crashing back into the chair, I begin to rub at my eyes then flinch as I accidentally poke a bruise. “So many things,” I mutter. “For letting Stephen dictate what I should do. For his making me pull away from you. For my not standing up for myself, just to name a few,” I say as a humorless laugh escapes me.

“Well, I think you need to stop being so bloody hard on yourself. And as for us not seeing each other, it’s ok.  You’re here now. There’s no way you can go back to him. Let’s go get your stuff while he’s at work, and you can stay here; there’s plenty of room.”

I jump, panic spreading through me. “No!” I shout, shaking my head. “I can’t stay here. I have to go back. If he finds out I told anyone, it wouldn’t be good for either of us. I can’t let him hurt you, too.”

“There’s no way in hell I can let you go back to him, not now that I know what he’s been doing all this time. No bloody way, Caitlin.”

“My Nan left me a small inheritance, so I could escape. She made me promise her, and that’s why I’m here.” Beth’s tense expression clears. I feel bad remembering how I promised my Nan I would leave Stephen, but at the time I had no intention of following through with that promise. Last night changed that. “That’s why I was seen out yesterday. I met with the lawyers. They have been trying to get me to claim the money, and I finally signed the documents.”

“So you were going to leave him?”

I shake my head dejectedly at my own stupidity and naivety. “No, I wasn’t, but now I am. I need your help, Beth, please.” I admit.

“Of course Caitlin, I’d do anything for you. What’s your plan?”

“If I stay here, he will find me. I need to leave to country.”

“What!” she shrieks.

I take her hand. “It’s the only way. I need to get as far away from him as I can, and you have to make the arrangements so he doesn’t find out. I have no other choice but to go back because he can’t suspect anything.” I hope she understands.

“I don’t like it, Caitlin,” she says, as she rapidly shakes her head. “That being said, I get it, and it goes without question I will help you. Where are you going to move?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to go to America, but I don’t know where exactly.” I shrug.

“Ok, hold on,” she says as she moves across the room. I watch as she rummages in the cupboard. “Ah ha! I knew I had this world map.” She flicks over the pages finally coming to a stop. “Right here is America. Shut your eyes and pick a spot.”

I scrunch my face up at her ridiculous idea. “Really? This is how you want me to pick where I’m going to live?”

She raises her eyebrows. “Do you have a better idea?”

“Well, I don’t suppose I do.” Closing my eyes I drop my finger onto the page. “There!”

We both look down as Beth exclaims, “Philadelphia it is!”

 

 

 

 

 

One

 

 

Caitlin

Present day

 

The sunlight blazing through the crack in my threadbare curtains awakens me much earlier than I’d have liked. Shutting my eyes tightly, I bury my head under a soft pillow, but it’s too late now. I’m awake, and it’ll take nothing short of a sedative to knock me back out. I don’t seem to have any drugs close at hand, so I give in and my feet drop to the floor with a thud. My back clicks as I begrudgingly rise from under the warmth of my covers.

I’ve lived in Philadelphia for nearly five months now, and today is the first day at my new job. I needed time to concentrate on getting my head right before finding work, and thanks to the money Nan left me, it wasn’t anything to worry about. Technically, I don’t need to worry now because there’s still some left, but for my own sanity I need something other than meeting with my counselor or looking at the four walls of my badly decorated apartment.

Beth picked my new home for me. She’s an interior designer, so I thought maybe she’d have an eye for detail. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case. My home-sweet-home looks like a granny vomited flowers and doilies; they are everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean
everywhere
. Who puts doilies on a bathroom sink? Not me! So, now all the doilies have been banished to the cabinet where I hope they’ll never see the light of day again.

My ill-fitting door makes a loud bang as I slam it shut, which in turn alerts my neighbor to my presence. Grace is the kind-hearted lady who lives opposite me. She must be in her seventies, but I don’t know for sure. She’s been really welcoming since I have lived here, much like an adoptive grandmother. She introduced herself with a mug of tea in one hand and a sandwich in the other the day I moved in. She decided I must’ve been hungry with the big move, and she was correct. We’ve been friends ever since. She seems really lonely and doesn’t appear to have any family who visits her. I try to check on her most days, sometimes simply having a cup of tea, and if I’m lucky, one of her homemade cookies, too.

“Hello dear, how are you today?” she asks through the small crack in her door.

I stop and smile back when I notice her trademark floral dress teamed with an apron. “Hi, Grace,” I say. “I’m good thanks, but I’m a little nervous. It’s my first day at my new job. I haven’t worked in a couple of years, so I hope I’m not too rusty.”

Her door opens a little wider. “Nonsense,” she scolds. “They’re lucky to have you. Now, I don’t want to make you late on your first day, so off you go,” she says as she shoos me from her doorway. “And remember to have fun.”

She always has a way of calming me. A moment ago my stomach was tied up in knots, but now I can’t help smiling from ear to ear as I walk out onto the street. A few weeks after settling in, I happened to pass Grace in the lobby of our apartment building when a car backfired. I let out a high-pitched squeal which frightened Grace worse than the car! The embarrassment faded, but the shaking I couldn’t seem to get under control. Grace decided against shopping, and instead took me up to her apartment and plied me with more tea and cookies than I could manage. It was Grace who finally gave me the push and encouragement I needed to go to counseling. I’m finally beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to that counseling, and life doesn’t appear to be so much of a struggle.

After relocating to Philly, it was hard to cope with life in general. I know it sounds crazy, but I carried a lot of guilt around about how I left things with Stephen. I didn’t even leave a note. He would’ve come home that day to find me gone, no explanation. I sometimes think if I’d worked harder to be better for him, things could’ve changed. I still battle with those thoughts until I remember his screaming and the feeling of his fingers wrapped around my throat. I used to hate it when every memory played on a continuous loop, but now I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a good thing to remember the pain. It helps the guilt to lessen, and I begin to feel angry at Stephen instead. 

After a short walk, the brightly lit sign of Betty’s comes into view. It’s a quaint, little coffee house that is now my place of employment. The building stands out like a sore thumb on a street where the other buildings are the large warehouse-style variety. Betty’s is a small, single story building, and from the outside one can clearly see the red and white checkered curtains. Betty’s is exactly how I would’ve pictured an American coffee house after watching far too many American TV shows.

The
Help Wanted
sign that alerted me to the position of waitress is no longer in the window as I make my way through the wooden door. A tinkle of the bell makes Len, my new boss, aware I’ve arrived with an impressive five minutes to spare. I spot Len in a booth on the far side of the shop. He’s reading a paper, and without looking up, he waves his hand towards me. Len is a real character, and my interview had been short and sweet, leaving me wondering if I had in fact had an interview.

“Hi, I’m just inquiring about the sign in the window.”              

Len gives a quick glance towards me and asks, “Ok, have you done this kind of work before?”

“Yes, but to be honest, it was a few years ago.” I was going to say that I’m a hard worker and fast learner, but he interrupts me.

“When can you start?”

That was yesterday.

I stand there feeling a little awkward as Len continues to read and ignore me. The nerves begin to grow, and I start to fidget. I hate having to start anew, and I tried telling myself this would be exciting, but now I just feel uneasy. I haven’t worked in two years, and Stephen had successfully knocked all my confidence from me, emotionally and physically.

Something catches my eye through the window—a guy getting out of a shiny black truck. All thoughts of Stephen and the new job disappear, while the nervous churning of my stomach suddenly turns into butterflies. I’m taken by complete surprise. Men are the last thing I’ve taken any notice of in a while. This guy is so incredibly hot. Hot with a capital
H
. His dark hair is a little long on top while sexy stubble covers his chin. The way his t-shirt pulls across his pecs has me wanting to peel it from his body to get a better look. It wouldn’t surprise me to find some dribble trailing from the corner of my mouth. I can’t seem to pry my eyes from him, not that I want to; the view is pretty damn good.

I continue to watch as he presses the button on his key fob to lock his truck. He glances towards Betty’s, and his eyes connect with mine. I have no idea what has come over me, but I can’t look away. His lips pull to one side in a playful smirk. I could look at this man all day. 

“Hi!” an overly enthusiastic voice says from behind me. Turning to face the voice, I see a small woman, a little younger than me. Her long auburn hair is tied back. She’s wearing a black skirt and simple red t-shirt, the same uniform as I’m about to don. “I’m Kiaya.” She offers me her hand.

Shaking it, I say, “Umm, hi. I’m Caitlin, and I’m supposed to start today.”

Suddenly, I’m wrapped in her arms and choking on her ponytail. Luckily, she pulls away so I can once again fill my lungs.

“I’m soooo excited,” she squeals like a kid on a sugar rush, and even bounces from foot to foot. “The last girl walked out two weeks ago, and I’ve been doing all the work myself.” She draws in close again then in a hushed tone whispers, “Len is a great boss, but he’s more interested in horse racing than waiting tables.” She snorts in my ear. “Come on, I’ll show you where you can get changed.”

It’s all so surreal, but I don’t get much time to let it all soak in because my arm is nearly pulled out of socket by the overenthusiastic Kiaya. I’m dragged away but manage one last glance out of the window. I’m disappointed to find Mr. Hottie is nowhere to be seen.

Kiaya shows me to a small room in the back where I get changed, and then I once again join her out front. She seems to have calmed down a little as she begins to show me the ropes.

The day runs smoothly enough, and I find myself relaxing and enjoying my newfound independence. We’ve been run off our feet, so as I near the end of the day, all I can think about is a nice long soak in the bath and a much needed early night.

My shift wraps up for the day, and I step out onto the pavement, but my legs swiftly carry me back inside where I seek safety behind the closed door. Mr. Hottie is crossing the street and making his way back to his truck! Hearing the slam of Betty’s door, he turns to investigate the sound. There’s no way he didn’t notice me run and hide behind the door, and if I’m honest, I’m not really sure why I did it. My counselor is going to love dissecting this new bizarre behavior. As I peer back out the window to check if he’s gone, I realize a little too late he hasn’t. This time I KNOW he saw me.

An embarrassed and semi-hysterical giggle bubbles up my throat as I hide again. What the hell am I doing? He’s going to think I’m a freaking loon.
Get it together, Caitlin
! I smooth down the clothes that have become crumpled in my locker, then finger tease my hair a little. With a deep breath I step back outside and send a small thank you prayer to God when I see the tail lights on his truck disappearing down the street.

BOOK: Sucker Punched (Resilient Hearts Series Book One 1)
4.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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