Beneath These Scars (Page 72)


“Hey, Jay. How’s it going? Glad you found a new friend while you were in prison.” Where the lady balls came from for me to toss those words out in that joking tone, I’ll never know.

His eyes snapped to Jennifer. “Jenny, what’s going on? What are you doing?”

She tucked the knife behind her back, and her words came out in a tone that was nothing like the one she’d used with me. “She came after me; you have no idea how scared I was. I had to protect myself.”

A bark of laughter escaped my lips. “That’s your story? That I came after you? Not that you’ve been stalking me, breaking into my apartment, leaving threatening notes on my mirror, and oh—blowing up my apartment and then luring me here to kill me? I’m sure he’s going to buy it.”

Jay looked just as confused as ever. “What is she talking about, Jenny? You’d never do anything to hurt Yvie. You know that she’s—”

“Your past! She’s your past, and I’m your future! She’s nothing. I’m the only one that matters!”

And the train had officially pulled into Crazy Town.

Jay came closer, and it was more than ironic that at this moment, I was looking at him as if he might save me, and at a tiny little blonde like she was the biggest threat in the room. But that would be a mistake.

“How’ve you been, Yvie?”

The fact that Jay could start a regular conversation with me while I was duct-taped to a chair was just one more sign that he wasn’t altogether there either.

I swallowed. I really didn’t want to have this conversation, but I didn’t want whatever the alternative was even more, because I doubted it involved me walking out the door unharmed.

He circled me before crouching near my feet. “You answer me when I ask you a question, Yvie. You can’t have forgotten our rules already.”

All the memories of pain and shame flooded me.

Jay’s fucking rules. There were so many. Always changing, so they were impossible to keep track of or get right. Toward the end, it was a rare day when I could make it through without tripping over some unknown rule I was supposed to be following.

Every old scar and injury seemed to light up in ghosting pains, as if they knew what was coming. My ribs, my collarbone, my left arm, the fingers of my right hand, and countless others. I straightened, locking it all down. I was no longer a victim. I would not cower in front of him like a dog.

“I’m great, Jay. Just great. And my boyfriend is going to kick your ass when he finds out that your fiancée tied me to a chair.”

It was the first time I’d ever referred to Lucas as . . . anything, really. But in that moment, thinking of him gave me strength.

It was the wrong move.

“Boyfriend? You’re still my goddamned wife. I don’t care what the goddamned papers say. You belong to me.” His hand swung out and caught me high on the cheekbone.

Shock—at being hit again for the first time in so long—radiated through me before the pain registered.

“What the hell?” Jennifer’s screeched words pierced my ears. “I’m going to be your wife. She means nothing!”

Jay swung around to face her, and I couldn’t help but watch. She was gesturing with the knife.

Oh hell.

“What do you think you’re going to do with that, Jenny? What did you think you were going to do with that?”

“I’m just doing what I had to do.”

Jay’s lungs heaved and he lost it. He charged the skinny little blonde and ripped the knife from her hand. It clattered to the floor and skidded within inches of my feet as his hand wrapped around her neck and he lifted her off the floor.

Oh shit. I was not here to die, and I certainly wasn’t here to witness a murder. Jay had caused enough damage.

I reached with the tip of my purple pump and slid the knife closer. How the hell do I get it off the floor? Then I slid my feet together and tried to lift, but the knife dropped to the floor again with another thump. This shit looks so much easier in the movies.

My ridiculous thought was interrupted by someone banging on the door.

Jay tossed Jenny onto the couch. “Don’t you dare move, Jen.”

The blonde looked shell-shocked, her face pale, her hair mussed, and her tears leaving mascara-blackened trails down her cheeks.

He really hadn’t hit her before. The first time was always the most shocking.

I eyed the knife on the floor again. The man was never going to hit anyone again.

GRAVEL FLEW, PINGING OFF THE panels of my car, but I didn’t give a fuck. I’d called and called, and Yve never answered. I’d tried to tell myself that it was a lack of reception out here, but my phone worked perfectly, so that excuse fell flat.

I roared up the driveway and pulled the car to a jerky stop, then jumped out and leaped up the front steps. I turned the door handle, but it was locked, so I hammered on the solid wood with my fist.

Footsteps thudded inside, and the door was ripped open.

A younger version of Johnson Haines stood before me. I didn’t think—I didn’t have to—I just swung, the moves from my boxing lesson coming into play, along with a few dirty ones of my own. Right hook to the jaw, uppercut, knee to the gut. He hit the hallway floor and instantly rolled onto his side in a protective ball.

I was on him again in seconds. Flipping him over, I dropped to my knees and wrapped my hands around his throat.

He would die.

A scream ripped my attention away from the man beneath me.

“If he dies, she dies.”

I glanced to my left to see a tiny blonde holding a knife to Yve’s throat where she sat taped to a chair in the middle of the parlor. Haines groaned below me, but I didn’t take my eyes off Yve. She opened her mouth to speak, but the blonde pressed the blade harder until a rivulet of blood ran down Yve’s neck.