Defiant

Excerpt

Seconds, Kate had seconds. She took down the hall, her options limited, and then her eyes locked onto her purse. Davey’s manila envelope had emerged from the bottom of her handbag, its corner now visible and catching her eye when she rounded the banister of the steps.

She needed to get to it.

“Kate, get your ass back here,” he bellowed down the hall, his chair clattering to the floor.

Her detour took five seconds—precious time if she wanted to escape him. The teeth on the zipper of her handbag bit into her palm. The throw rug at the bottom of the steps slid, and she fell to her knees. On all fours, she climbed the steps and froze when his hand snagged her foot. She kicked hard, and his hand fell away. She pushed up off the tread and continued the climb to the second level. If he caught her, he’d go straight for her purse. The fact she snagged it right in front of him made it a bull’s-eye. The envelope had sunk back into her purse, but once he dumped it, the envelope and its contents would be his focal point. And then she would be his next target.

She slammed the thick pine door of the master bedroom, hit the switch to the overhead light, and then reached up with quivering fingers to turn the antique-style key sitting in the lock. Her heart fluttered like wings taking flight, except there was nowhere to fly, nowhere to hide. The room seemed to twirl, and all she could do was stare.

The pounding of his fists brought her out of her stupor. “Open the goddamn door, or I’ll level it. Do you hear me, Kate?”

She had to stall. “Not until you calm down. You’re scaring me. I didn’t mean to spill the bottle.”

He laughed derisively. “Like hell, you were aiming for my head.”

Kate winced. Damn.

She scanned the dresser. No good. The mattress . . . he’d look there. Closet—forget it. She eyed the frame. It sat neglected against the back wall under the window sill, the watercolor of Thomas Point lighthouse. She had picked it up in the art gallery on Main the other day and had every intention of hanging it. But she hadn’t gotten around to it. She laid it down on the bed and sighed with relief. The back hadn’t been enclosed in brown paper.

She tried to clear her mind. Ignoring his verbal tirade and the blows against the door, she reached inside her purse, searching for her nail file. Her fingers became agitated—there was so much crap in her purse. Heart pounding, she grabbed the envelope and tossed the bag across the room. She dug her fingernail under the first tong and gritted her teeth when the metal slipped under her nail. A drop of dark blood appeared in the underside curve of her French manicure. She sucked her finger and ignored the bitter taste. If she left a fresh trail of blood on the frame, he’d become suspicious. She continued to struggle with every stubborn piece of metal until she could clear the cardboard back. She positioned the envelope in one corner, replaced the cardboard, and pressed flat the tongs.

How long had he been in the house? An hour, possibly? Enough time to thoroughly search it. She turned the frame around, moved past her bed, and placed the picture back in its exact location beneath the window. A loud crack brought her attention around. The entire doorframe tore from the wall. The door itself hung like a piece of split skin, still attached, but barely.

She swallowed hard as he charged her.