Zach sat in the center of the couch.
“About time you got back,” he said pleasantly, arms crossed over his chest. “Let me guess, you’re drunk? Some mother you’ve turned out to be, Sophie. You’re nothing but a f**king slut, you know that?”
Seeing him hit me like a physical blow.
I mean that—if someone had punched me in the stomach, it couldn’t have hurt worse. I couldn’t breathe, and I had to grab the wall to stay upright. That’s the thing that nobody tells you as a girl, when they warn you about guys like Zach. You hear about women getting “abused,” but that’s such a sterile word for what Zach did to me. He didn’t “abuse” me. He hurt me, owned me, trained me …
It’s like hitting a dog with a rolled-up newspaper. You do it enough times, the dog will cringe whenever it sees the roll. Obedience becomes instinct, and in that second I felt it all come back to me.
Zach’s bitch. That’s all I was.
“You can’t be here,” I said feebly, wondering how just seeing him could make me feel so weak. “The restraining order says you can’t be here. You’re supposed to be hundreds of miles away. How did you get in?”
“I picked the lock, you stupid cunt,” he replied. “Ruger taught me when we were kids. That and how to hotwire a car. Only f**kin’ thing he ever did for me …”
He stood and walked over to me, a nasty gleam in his eye. He’d gotten bigger, I realized. Not taller, of course, and not fat, either. Zach must’ve started lifting weights, because those were some serious muscles. Steroid-sized muscles. He flexed them as he walked toward me, grinning as he read the fear in my face. He’d always had little-man syndrome.
My brain screamed at me to run, but my body wouldn’t obey. I was strong during the kidnapping. I’d run from Skid, but then I turned around and fought him.
Why didn’t I do that now?
I couldn’t. My body wouldn’t move.
Instead I just watched Zach, terrified, as he came up and cupped my face in his hands, fingers holding me just a little too tight.
“You’re looking good,” he said, licking his lips. He leaned forward and kissed me. Not a nice kiss—no, this one was meant to punish. I locked my jaw and kept my lips closed until he reached up and grabbed my hair, pulling it back sharply. “Open your f**king mouth, bitch.”
I obeyed, because I knew pulling hair was the least of what he could do. He kissed me for an eternity, tongue stabbing into mine painfully. His mouth tasted stale and nasty, like he hadn’t brushed his teeth in a year. I couldn’t get any air and tears built up in my eyes.
Finally, he pulled away.
“Cunt still sweet as that mouth?” he asked. I didn’t respond and he yanked my hair again. “Answer me, bitch!”
“I don’t know,” I whimpered. I should try to knee him. I should fight or kick or bite or something, but seeing Zach made me feel like a helpless little girl. He knew it, too. I could tell by the gleam of satisfaction in his eyes. Zach was a bully. How I hadn’t recognized it from the start I’ll never know, but I could sure as shit see it now.
“I hear you’re f**king Ruger again,” Zach whispered, face turning ugly. “I hear you’re sucking his c**k all over town, and that you’re f**king his whole club, too. Is that true, slut?”
“No,” I whimpered. “No, it’s not true.”
“What’s not true?” he asked, mouth twisting into a smile. “Not true you’re f**king Ruger, or not true that you’re f**king his club? Because they don’t just steal a man’s inheritance for shits and giggles, babe. They don’t do anything for free. You gotta tell me just how big a whore you are. Otherwise I won’t know how much punishment you need.”
“I’m not f**king anyone,” I said. Zach burst out laughing. Seriously laughing, so hard he actually let me go and used the heel of one hand to press against his eyes, wiping away the tears.
“Let’s try this again,” he said when he finally stopped. “Who are you f**king? You belong to me, bitch. If you don’t tell me the truth, I’ll start breaking fingers.”
He reached down and caught my hand between his, gripping my right index finger, bending it sharply backward.
I panicked, wishing I could get myself to think. My mind was numb, old survival instincts taking over.
Get it over with.
Do what he says.
Maybe he’ll show mercy if you’re a good girl …
“I had sex with Ruger,” I said quickly. Then I closed my eyes, bracing for whatever might happen next. There’s no preparing for something like that, though. Not really. I waited for my bone to snap, so it came as a complete surprise when he punched me in the stomach instead. I doubled over, gasping for breath. Holy shit that hurt.
Zach burst out laughing.
“You’re too f**kin’ easy.”
Silly of me, I realized, clutching my stomach and praying he’d stop at just one hit. Zach never did what I expected him to do. You couldn’t plan, couldn’t get ready, nothing like that. He was like a tornado—suddenly there, spewing evil without warning.
Zach’s laughter died.
“Hell of long drive to get here. I’m tired and hungry,” he said. “So you’re gonna make me something to eat. Then we’ll talk some more about who you’re sleeping with. Don’t want to leave out any juicy details, do we?”
I dug through the fridge, trying to figure out what to cook him. My stomach ached, although I didn’t feel like he’d broken any ribs. Yet. We didn’t have a lot of food, but I could fix some eggs and toast. Zach had always loved breakfast for dinner.
“It was f**king stupid of you to come back to Coeur d’Alene,” Zach said conversationally. He sat at the small table between the living room and kitchen, watching me and picking at his fingernails. “You couldn’t just keep your legs shut, could you? I’ll never let him have you. Never. Thought I’d made that clear?”
I didn’t answer. No matter what I said, it would set him off. I remembered that much from before. Zach had always liked lecturing me during punishments, and if I didn’t listen, the punishment got much, much worse. I just had to hunker down and push through. Sooner or later he’d get tired or bored and then it would stop.
At least for a while.
I’d never be truly free from him, though. I’d thought I could change my life.