Authors: Laurel Curtis
Tags: #Contemporary Romance
THE ONE PLACE
Laurel Ulen Curtis
Published by Laurel Ulen Curtis
© 2013, Laurel Ulen Curtis
A huge thanks to my mom and Caitlin for reading and giving me feedback during the process.
Thanks to my brother, John F. Ulen IV, for the use of his photography for the cover!
Also, thanks to Maryse’s Book Blog for keeping me interested in romance novels with her passion. Following your blog for years and reading countless novels you recommended inspired me into thinking that I could achieve the task of writing my own!
And of course, my biggest thanks of all, to my real life dream men, my husband and my son. Thanks for believing in me!
I had to find a way out.
I was not a person meant for this life. I was not the girl who let herself take shit over and over again. No way, not me. He may be bigger and stronger than me physically, but he was
stronger than me. Biding my time, that’s what I’d been doing. For years. He was always underestimating me, but as soon as I found a way, I was out of here.
I would go on with my job, my awful, boring job, for as long as I had to so that I could do this right. I wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting out from under his thumb. I had to make something for myself, a life- a
, with happiness, laughter, and love.
And in order to do that the way I wanted, I needed the perfect out.
Get out, get a life, get even.
I couldn’t believe I had put up with this for so long. I kept telling myself that it was a necessary evil. In order for this to go the way I wanted it to, it had to be this way. I had to stay with this monster until I found the best way out.
I looked over at my alarm clock to see the neon blue numbers shining 5:43.
Two minutes before my scheduled alarm, again. I had to get up and get ready to go the job I hated, again. I
to. Andrew had me working for his company, for
, so that he could keep an eye on me.
I want you to be my assistant so I can be close to you, darling. At least you don’t have to worry about me screwing my assistant, darling.
Yeah, because every night while he rapes me, him cheating on me is what I’m worried about. Fuck.
I rolled over and switched off my alarm, then threw the covers back.
Man it was cold. I hated leaving my warm cocoon every morning. Especially since this bed had turned out to be somewhat of a safe place here.
Luckily, if you can count anything as lucky from the situation that I was living every day, he “made” me sleep in a different bed after he was done with me at night. That was probably the only reason I got any sleep at all. He also left for work earlier than I did, so I got that time to myself every morning.
Why wouldn’t I just leave? I seem like a pretty strong person. Well, I am- when it comes to me. See, besides Jenny, I used to actually have a family. I had a decent relationship with my parents and a sister I loved. The problem with that is that they made me weak. He threatened me with torturing and killing those three people if I left.
Think about it darling Natalie. Don’t you love your sweet sister at all? I imagine I could have quite a bit of fun with her. For a long time.
And I know he would do it. I
. And the people I love are the most important things to me. Way more than myself. But I’m not an idiot. I was
staying here forever. Or until he decided it was over. I knew how it would likely end if he was the one to decide he was done with me. I just needed a good way out.
I planned for that day constantly. I added one or two dollars to my stash daily because that was all I could get away with. He watched all of the money extremely closely because, unfortunately, he’s not an idiot either. Evil, yes. Idiot, no. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stockpile enough money for a new life at my rate of one or two a day, so I was just hoping I would have enough to get somewhere when the time was right. I had a few hundred dollars that I started with- the money of mine that he never found- in addition to the money I hoarded from him. Like a squirrel saving up nuts for winter, I saved up my money for an opportunity.
I walked into the bathroom attached to my room and looked into the mirror hanging above the tan granite sink. My auburn hair fell just above my breasts and looked rumpled with sleep. My once bright blue eyes were marred by tired purple circles under them. I looked worn-down and tired. Beaten up and used. And that’s exactly what I was.
I finished going through my morning routine of brushing my teeth and taking a shower. I lotioned my entire body because my skin was the consistency of a crocodile and dried out to freakish proportions if I didn’t give my skin a healthy coating religiously. I took out my round brush and hair dryer and blew out my hair, followed by strategically applying my makeup.
Andrew Highland’s fiance does not look like trash, Talie. Put on enough makeup to look like a goddamn woman!
I had always looked a little young for my age and it annoyed Andrew. I was 27, but most of the time, I came off looking like I wasn’t of legal drinking age. Thank God, one positively shining star in a sea of dark sky, he hadn’t made me marry him yet. He was worried about how it would look so soon after Jenny. After all, being portrayed publicly as a doting husband and now fiance was all important.
I went to my closet and slipped on my panties and bra. I was short (5’3”) and relatively skinny, but I had hips, ass, and decent breasts. As I looked back to my clothes, frustration set in. I hated these clothes. It’s not that they were all that bad or didn’t make me look good, they just weren’t me. My favorite thing to wear was a pair of tight jeans with some bling on them and a t-shirt or tank top. Andrew took all of my clothes when I first moved in and replaced them with ones that he deemed acceptable. They were what I would call ‘overly-sexed business attire’. Tailored pants and shirts that acted as a second skin and exposed way too much cleavage for a day at the office. The only thing I could get behind were the shoes. Kick-ass stilettos in every color and style you can imagine. Every girl’s dream. Too bad the rest of my dream was shit.
I picked out the most basic outfit I could find: black pants and a tight white shirt with a pair of black Mary Jane pumps. I turned out of the closet, flicked out the lights in there, the bathroom and the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. I needed a Coke to start the day. Most people needed coffee, but I got my caffeine jollies from a different source. It was something my sister Kayla said she always loved about me. She said it was such a testament to the type of person that I was because so many people had tried to convert my ways and I pretty much told them to take a flying leap. After pouring my Coke for the day, I walked over and took my phone off charge and slipped it into the outside pocket on my big black bag of goodies. I kept everything in there. My wallet, kindle, pens, paper, my phone, touch up makeup, lotion, hand sanitizer, and my ipod. I’d even been known on occasion to pull a random pair of socks, shoes, or tank top out of there while searching for my wallet. Slipping my big black bag on my shoulder, picking up my Coke and keys, and giving one last look to my appearance in the mirror above the entryway table, I headed to the door. I grabbed the door handle and only paused to look back at the foot of the stairs for a few seconds before continuing out the door. I was getting better.
I turned right and headed for the mirror-front elevators at the end of the hall. Hitting the down call button, I stood back and waited for the car to come. I looked at the reflection staring back at me from the elevator and shook my head in disgust. I
this version of myself. The bell dinged to indicate the elevator had arrived and I prepared to face the day as who I was expected to be. The doors opened and I stepped into a car full of neighbors that I knew nothing about. That was the way Andrew wanted it. He wanted me to feel isolated. Didn’t they always?
The other passengers tried to smile and greet me with warmth, something they did ceaselessly, but I ducked my head and retreated into myself. Shy, hesitant,
Talie. The real me was too outgoing and would make connections to people, and that definitely wasn’t allowed. We finally reached the bottom, dispersed into the entry of our building, and filed out onto the street. I was immediately swallowed up by people of all walks of life. That was one of the few highlights of living in New York. Anonymity. At least, it was a highlight for the life that I was living, not for the one that I wanted. I walked the four blocks to work, stopping briefly at my hiding spot to make sure my emergency bag was still there. It contained my new IDs and my stash of cash. I got the new IDs as soon as I knew my life was heading this direction, and I never brought my emergency bag into the apartment with Andrew. It stayed securely in my hiding place, waiting for me. After confirming everything was as it should be, I continued to work. Andrew would be expecting me to be prompt. If I didn’t want extra persecution and all that that entailed, punctuality was part of my job.
I walked into Highland Enterprises, headed for the bank of elevators and flashed my badge to security. As soon as I was in, I hit the button for the top floor. As the elevator ascended, I basked in the twist of irony that hell can be 24 floors
My day went as usual. That is to say, the same as it had for the last three-hundred and sixty-one days. Servicing Andrew by getting coffee, papers, phone numbers, and pretty much anything else he needed to conduct business, and then being forced to
Andrew on my knees while he fucked my face. You would think I would learn my lesson eventually but turns out I’m a glutton for punishment because as I strolled into his office during an important meeting, I held a look of open disdain on my face. He expected me to play the part of a loving fiance and I wasn’t always a great actress. Andrew spoke to his business associate, Jim Williams, as I rounded his desk, “Jim, this is my assistant and fiance, my darling Natalie. She’s a beauty isn’t she?”
Jim responded how so many of the assholes in Andrew’s life would by raking his eyes up and down my body with open hunger and stating, “I sure as hell wouldn’t turn her away, Drew. Do you like to share?”
I rolled my eyes with obvious distaste and Andrew dismissed me, letting his controlled facade slip. “Get the fuck out of here, Natalie!”
One thing Andrew did not like was sharing. He was as dangerously possessive as they come. My experiences with him definitely made me leery of men with any kind of possessive streak. I turned and moved out of the room quickly. I was sure Andrew was going to have some kind of altercation with Jim that I didn’t want to have any part in. As I made it out of his office and to my desk, I heard shouting and sounds of a scuffle coming from Andrew’s office followed by security sprinting over from the stairwell entrance. I guess business with Jim Williams was officially done. Security dragged him out past me and he gave me a look of contempt so malicious I was sure it could melt paint. Great. Just what I needed- another enemy.
Andrew called me into his office, and I knew this would not be good. As I approached his desk, he rounded it and charged me, “You think you can disrespect me, Natalie? You think you can come in here with that look on your face and practically offer yourself up to another man and not earn punishment?” He paused as if he actually wanted an answer from me. I was pretty sure, he did
. Silence. “Well, you are going to fucking learn, you bitch!” He grabbed my arm viciously and wrenched me to the ground and then landed a solid kick to my ribs.
Fucking hell that hurt. He was practiced. He knew better than to lay a finger on my face. Pretty bruises all over your fiance’s face tend to ruin the illusion. But, why wouldn’t he be? He’d been playing this role for years, and not just with me.
Crouching beside me and breathing directly into my ear he whispered, “Act like that again and I will fuck you on this desk so hard that you fucking bleed.”
He straightened to full height, backed away, straightened his green and white designer label tie, and smoothed a hand through his dark blond hair. Brown eyes with a devil so deep inside that you felt it in your bones bored into me, and then he turned and went back to work like nothing had happened.
Thank God the day had come to an end. I had left the office without any more incidents and walked down to my favorite coffee shop. Much like the mornings, I had the afternoons to myself. Andrew always stayed later at the office, so I always came here to unwind and relax. I didn’t drink coffee, but I loved the atmosphere. There were big, comfy, velvety couches in jewel tones of emerald and aubrigene on both sides of the open room with tables and chairs with velvety seat pads of like colors in the middle. I normally liked to curl up on one of the couches but they were all full, so I opted for a table near and facing the door instead. I set down my bag and took out my hand sanitizer. I liked to clean Andrew off of my hands when I left the office everyday. A little pointless, I know, since he was all over far more intimate places of mine, but it was part of my routine. I was getting ready to take out my kindle and settle in with my book when I looked up and out the window. I saw a girl with dark brown hair and angel like features in a black sundress across the street.
Without giving it any thought, I jumped up and ran, leaving all of my stuff behind. I struggled to get across the street with New York traffic getting in the way. I tried to keep my eyes on her but I was losing her in the crowd. I was practically shoving people out of my way to move faster, but when I got across the street, she was gone.
Of course she was gone. She was fucking
What was wrong with me? I was seriously losing my mind.
I turned around, feeling defeated, to head back to my stuff and hoped someone hadn’t stolen everything when the building with my coffee shop exploded. That’s right,
Immediately, pandemonium broke out. The shop and building it was in were obliterated and the neighboring buildings had significant damage. Bodies were everywhere on the sidewalk and in the street, and screams and blood filled my senses. I was okay, just knocked down from the force of the blow, and it only took me a few seconds to get my shit together. This is what I had been waiting for. I turned and ran, headed for my emergency bag.