Jake Kincaid is haunted by the memories of his mother’s violent death and his inability, as a young boy, to save her.
Destiny Pierce is facing a final showdown with her violent husband that could cost the ultimate price—her life.
With her estranged husband hell-bent on torture, Destiny battles fear and distrust to enlist Jake’s help in preparing her to go fist to fist with the monster she married, to save her own life. Tortured by the one woman Jake was powerless to save, he agrees to the impossible. He’ll teach Destiny to fight, and he’ll honor her wishes to not interfere despite everything screaming inside him to do just that.
With every passing hour witnessing Destiny’s strength and determination, the fractured puzzle pieces of their lives intertwine, creating a bond to stand the test of time. Their very future hangs in the balance, leaving him to hope and pray that although he can’t save her, he’s trained her well enough to save herself.
“You were welcome to join us,” Jake said, grabbing a towel from the stack of clean, folded towels on the wall next to the water cooler.
“I’m not looking for your average self-defense class,” she said.
The towel he’d scrubbed over his sweaty hair froze. His eyes wide, he watched her.
Really freaking watched her.
“Okay, well, you’ve got my attention. What can I help you with?”
She yanked her cap off and shoved a hand through her hair. “I need someone to teach me to fight.”
Tossing his towel off to the side, he stood, his height making him tower over her. He kept his distance, but his shrewd gaze ran over her as if he were testing her to see how she would react. As if he expected her to back away. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
Little did he know, she’d been trained not to shrink away, from the very man who used her as his own personal punching bag. It had taken her three years to finally learn. “That’s okay. I don’t like the sound of it either. We’ll both get over it. I have money.” She dug a thick manila envelope from her purse and thrust it at him before she lost her nerve. “Enough to make it worth your while.”
His gaze never left hers despite the stack of cash she held between them. “I don’t need your money, but I’m going to need to know a little bit more before I can tell you if I can help.”
Her hand fell to her side, and the air whooshed from her lungs. She expected him to be driven by money. The whole word operated from greed. If he didn’t care about the cash, how the hell was she going to get him to help her? “Like what?”
“Like, does he know where you are right now?” he asked as he crossed his arms. His thick biceps flexed; shadows and valleys dipped along the muscles jumping under his skin.
She cleared her throat and tore her gaze from his arms. “How did you know—”
His eyes softened. Not with pity, but understanding. Like a confidant who wouldn’t judge. “I’ve seen it before.”
Yeah, well, they would see about that. “No, he doesn’t know where I am right now.”
“Good, because being here could have serious consequences if he found out,” he said.
She ran her hands up and down her arms to ward off the sudden chill. “I won’t make problems for you.”
“I’m not worried about me. I’m talking about for you,” he said quietly, a note of concern in his voice that told her he understood just what this all was costing her and what it could cost her still.
“Oh,” she whispered for lack of anything better to say. He put her well-being first. She didn’t know what to do with that.
“How long has he been hurting you?” he asked, ducking his head to look her in the eye.
Just thinking about it made shame fill her. “Too fucking long.”
He raised an eyebrow and tapped his foot, waiting out a more specific answer.
“Six years,” she said.
“Son of a bitch,” Jake whispered. “How long do you have to learn?”
“Thirty days if I’m lucky. Probably less.”
“I feel like I have to tell you, this is a horrible idea. Self-defense is one thing, but this, what you’re asking me…this is a line in the sand moment with him. You know that, right?”
She nodded, the weight of all that was to come trying to hold her back. “I’d have to be an idiot to not know. I’ve never been gone this long, and he’s been patient so far.” She shrugged and took a resolved breath. With her shoulders back, she met his gaze, her jaw tight. “But one day, he’ll come for me. Maybe I’ll even tell him how to find me. And it will be the last day. Maybe I’ll go down, but I won’t go down alone. Not this time. If I fall, I’m taking that bastard with me straight to hell.”