Authors: Shiloh Walker
You Own Me
Copyright 2014 Shiloh Walker
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people.
Please note that if you purchased this from an auction site or blog, it’s stolen property. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. Your support is what makes it possible for authors to continue to provide the stories you enjoy.
“…a sentence of no less than seven years…”
No. No. No. Elizabeth heard the word in her head, but she couldn’t say it. Couldn’t force it out.
Then she was screaming it, lunging forward and shouting at the man sitting behind the bench while everybody in there turned to stare. “No! You can’t do that to him! He—”
A hand closed around her waist, jerking her back. “Enough! Enough, Elizabeth.”
“Let me go!”
She drove her elbow back, hit hard.
But she couldn’t get to him.
He turned, though, and looked at her. Smiled, and the smile was completely and totally Decker. Calm and in control, while his blue eyes held her mesmerized. “Lizzie…Lizzie…calm down. Breathe. It’s going to be okay.”
Somebody was dragging her away. Away from him. They went to shut the doors. But they weren’t doors—they were bars. Bars slammed in front of her—separating them.
Elizabeth Waters bolted upright in bed, sweating. The tank top and panties she’d worn to sleep in sticking to her, her heart slamming against her ribs while her mouth was so dry, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.
It was an old one.
Turning her head, she stared at the clock, the digits glowing in the darkness. With a groan, she dropped back onto the bed and curled up on her side, drawing one fist to her chest and closing her eyes.
It wasn’t a surprise that the nightmare had come today.
Ten years ago—they’d locked him away ten years ago.
That thing she never let herself think about. And not just because it had caused her nightmares on its own, but because of everything that happened after.
How it had torn her family apart, how it had nearly cost her the friendship she held most dear—not to mention how it had nearly destroyed that friend.
The memories swarmed too close and she shoved the sheets and blanket away. She wasn’t going to sleep.
Climbing out of bed, she made a half-hearted attempt to straighten the sheets before giving up. Padding into the bathroom, she hit the lights and started to strip. If she couldn’t sleep, she’d just go into work. It was better than lying around thinking and brooding anyway. Besides, the sooner day ended, the sooner the night would be here.
And while she dreaded this day every time it rolled around, for the past three years, she’d had a reason to almost look forward to it, as well.
This day might have marked the day her world had come to a crashing, screeching halt, but it also marked the day she’d gone out on her first date with Noel.
If the blood stained his nightmares, Decker Calhoun could live with it.
The worst of his nightmares were the echoes of terrified, muffled screams that he’d barely been able to hear.
And then the way she’d looked at him.
He’d never forget the way Lizzie had looked at him in the end, pale and scared.
Nor would he forget that it had been his fault she’d ended up there to begin with.
Yeah, couldn’t forget that.
So while the nightmares chased him, they weren’t any worse that day than at any other time when they crept up on him. Right then, while the sun started to edge up in the sky and the majority of Williamsburg was still climbing out of their beds, he ran down the quiet streets while memories chased him.
They weren’t all nightmares.
They weren’t even all bad memories.
It was just
She pretty much dominated his life and had from the time he’d met her.
It wasn’t even a surprise for him to turn onto Duke of Gloucester Street and see the lights gleaming in the back of Blues and Brews, the coffee shop Lizzie had opened a few years back. It was nestled in between a candy shop and a general store—the general store wasn’t exactly that. It sold souvenirs and the like, just like so many other places here in Colonial Williamsburg.
His favorite spot here was Blues and Brews but most of that was probably because of Lizzie. He knew intimate details about the place. How much it had cost to start up. That she’d used the money left to her in her father’s will—how shocked she’d been to even be
in the will—and he knew all of the names she’d tossed around before she finally settled on one that played off her love of both coffee and music.
He knew how nervous she’d been the first few years…even though he hadn’t been there.
He’d been sitting in a cage a couple of hours away and the closest connection he had to her were the letters she wrote every week like clockwork, and the visits she paid him, twice a month. Visits that he’d depended on far more than he’d ever let her know.
The first thing he’d done when they’d let him out—after he’d hugged her, because she’d been the one to pick him up—was come here. She’d shown him the place she’d built from the ground up and he’d known nothing but pride for her.
Well, pride and the love that had all but choked him from the beginning.
He’d told her how proud he was of her.
And he’d kept quiet about everything else, because what else could he do?
He was a year too late.
She was with somebody, and he knew about that, too. Knew all about the rich, slick banker boy she’d been seeing for the past three years.
She’d accepted the date because she couldn’t bear to be alone on that day and he didn’t blame her. He just wished he could have been the one she turned to.
He’d never thought the thing with Noel would last, but it had.
Slowing to a halt, he stood on the sidewalk in front of the shop, staring inside.
Three years, they’d been together.
Lizzie, with a man who made Decker’s lip curl. With a man who didn’t love her, but Lizzie couldn’t see that.
She came out of the back and for that brief moment before she saw him, he let himself stare, taking in the woman who’d stolen his heart almost from the first.
She was beautiful, although she didn’t see it. The lush, round body that she tried to control with diet and the sort of exercise she detested was the body that could still make him break out in a sweat. Sweet, round curves, hips that would cradle his and breasts that would fill even his big hands to overflowing. Her waist nipped in at the corners and as she bent to pick up something she’d dropped, his gaze fell to the round curve of her ass. Right on cue, his dick stood up and saluted. She straightened, stretching her arms overhead, obviously tired.
Her golden-blonde curls were secured in a high ponytail at the crown of her head. He had dreamed about those curls, about wrapping them around his fist as he kissed her. About seeing them spread across a pillow as she slept, curled up against his chest.
She tensed, and he clenched his jaw, watching the flicker of fear roll across her face only to be hidden as she straightened her shoulders and steeled herself.
Then she recognized him and a smile broke across her face.
He felt that smile inside him, spreading all through him. She always did this to him, warmed pieces of him, and then he had to hide that from her. He could only let her see so much, because she only wanted to see so much.
When she came toward the door, he wished he’d turned the other way.
“So tonight’s a big deal.” Decker studied her, eyes intent.
They were in the alley out back. By herself, Elizabeth wouldn’t have lingered out there, not until more people were around. But with Decker around, she didn’t worry about it.
Some people looked at Decker and wanted to cross the road to get away from him. He was big, rough-looking, and tattoos covered much of his bare skin. Five o’clock shadow almost always darkened his cheeks and his red hair was almost always in need of a trim.
But it wasn’t the solid, muscled build that warned people away.
It wasn’t the tattoos or even the slightly menacing air he could exude the way some people oozed charm.
It was the look in his eyes.
It didn’t bother Lizzie, because she knew what lay behind his dark blue eyes, and she knew what had caused the grim cast to his features. She knew what lay below that rough exterior. He was her best friend, her savior. The one solid thing in her world, and he had been for the longest time.
No, being out in the pre-dawn morning didn’t bother her, as long as she was with him.
His comment, however,
With a shrug, she looked away, buying time by taking a drink of her café au lait. It was perfection—she’d nailed the exact right way to make a great one, and it wasn’t a bad thing to linger over the sip. She really did make a great café au lait.
Feeling a heavy gaze on her, she bit back a grimace. He knew what she was doing.
Decker didn’t like Noel.
For that matter, hardly
of her friends liked her boyfriend.
And the feeling was mutual.
Lizzie figured the only thing that mattered was that
They’d been together for three years. And while her friends didn’t turn cartwheels over the relationship, they didn’t try to chase him away, either.
“Yeah,” she said finally. “Big night. Three years together.”
Neither of them mentioned the other anniversary.
But Decker knew it was on her mind. She could tell by the way he reached out, curved a hand around her neck and then leaned in, resting his chin on her brow.
“Anything crazy planned?” he murmured after a minute. “You two eloping to Las Vegas? Taking off for parts unknown for a long weekend?”
She laughed. “Yeah, right. Like Noel would ever go for that.” Then she shrugged, tried not to think about how nice it would be for Noel to plan something crazy, something romantic…something
. “No. We’re going to dinner. He…ah…he mentioned he had something important he wanted to talk about.”
Decker tensed. She eased back and looked up at him.
“Really.” He reached out to brush her hair back from her face. “Sugar, if there’s a wedding coming up, do me a favor…don’t ask me to be a part of it. I can’t stand monkey suits.”
She made a face at him. “Don’t even think that way. A wedding?”
Leaning back against him, she tried to figure out why even the
left her so unsettled. Why it made her feeling like she wanted to back away, hard and fast. And hide. Preferably behind Decker.
Three years was a long time, right?
Long enough to prove they had something together…right? Why should marriage be so terrifying?
Maybe she shouldn’t have been so hasty.
Hours later, that was the one thought in her mind.
She shouldn’t have been so hasty. Marriage wasn’t a bad thing, right?
This was so, so much worse.
Come on…why are you surprised? You always knew he’d never stay
, a quiet voice jeered from the back of her mind.
But he’s not breaking up
She silenced both of those voices and concentrated on breathing.
Or so she’d thought.
But what did Elizabeth know? She’d only had one serious boyfriend—Noel.
Other than Noel, the only
experience she could claim was one serious crush, and she wasn’t going to talk about that.
And then one serious mistake—and even thinking about that made her feel slightly ill, so yeah, not going there either.
Or so she’d thought.
So yeah, maybe the idea of
had creeped her out earlier when Decker had mentioned it, but…this?
She hadn’t seen this coming.
Swallowing, she studied the man across the table for a long, tense moment. She’d met Noel Harris when he’d come into her coffee shop and although she’d noticed him right away, she’d never expected him to notice her.