The Lost Tycoon (Baby for the Billionaire #5) by Melody Anne

Chapter One

“I swear I didn’t see anything.”

Her heartbeat thrashed in her ears as Misty Elton backed away.

“What in the hell were you snooping around for?” His eyes bulged and his fists balled tightly together.

“I was just looking for a sweatshirt because the apartment was cold. I swear. I didn’t see anything.” Misty was almost sobbing. Her eyes darted toward the door, and she inched toward it, away from his deadly fists, trying to lock her shaking knees together in her flight-or-fight response to what she saw in his face.

Hatred. Loathing. The very devil resided inside him — she was sure of it.

She had no doubt about the way this was going to end. When his voice rose like that, to an almost squealing pitch, when the corners of his mouth tightened and when his fingers firmed, turning his hands into brutal, merciless weapons, it meant she was going to get hurt.

The evidence stood out, practically glowing like a neon light. She’d never before had such a great wish to turn back the clock, to undo one mistake. She’d only been searching for a sweatshirt in the trunk in the room — that was all — and instead she’d found his stash. And that was the moment he’d found her. If he’d come in only a minute later, she’d have closed the lid and rushed from the room, and he never would have known.

As he took a step closer, her stomach turned over. This was worse than usual — this wouldn’t be a typical punishment. She knew his intentions from the cold fury of his gaze.

“I promise I won’t slip up, won’t tell another soul what I saw,” she pleaded. “I swear. It was only a sweatshirt I was looking for!”

“Come here, Misty!” he growled, ignoring her plea as she took another step back. “Now!”

In the past, such words from him stopped any trace of resistance. She knew that if she ran, it could only end one way: he’d pursue her and give her at least one broken bone. If she screamed or cowered, she’d see his eyes light with pleasure as he continued to pummel her.

She’d been with this man for a whole year. In the beginning, she’d thought he was so impressive, a good-looking cop who wanted her. He’d actually wanted her! It hadn’t taken long for her to see his true colors, but from the moment he’d set his sights on her, it was too late.

Once Jesse wanted something, he either got it or that something disappeared forever. She’d discovered that the hard way — the painful way. She was trapped. No one and nowhere to turn to. Her only escape from him ever was when she worked part time at a local diner, and even then, he would show up at random intervals to check in on her. If he saw the smallest indication of flirting — and just talking to another man usually counted as flirting to him — Misty would feel Jesse’s fists when she got home.

The one time she’d tried to leave him… A shudder passed through her. She didn’t have time to think about that — she needed to stay focused on this moment, on this situation. If she lost concentration for even a second, he would pounce, and she knew that this time she wouldn’t see daylight ever again.

He kept his eye on her as he sat on the edge of the bed and untied his work boots, looking as if he had all the time in the world. In his mind he did. Still, the faster he got out of his clothes, the more ready he would be to torture her in the most sadistic ways possible.

She thought about running while he was tugging first one boot off and then the other, but it wouldn’t give her enough of a head start. No. She had to plan this just right.

Lately the beatings had been worse than ever before — bad enough, in fact, that she couldn’t take it anymore, even if she died trying to escape. And she might. She’d saved some money — money he’d be furious about if he knew what she was doing — and she’d been planning on leaving in two days. That was when he had the long shift. She’d be several hundred miles away before he ever knew.

Even with his resources, he wouldn’t find her — not this time. She shuddered when she thought back to the last time she’d tried to leave. She was trying to concentrate on the here and now, but her mind had other ideas. That attempted escape had landed her in the hospital for two weeks in intensive care. She’d even tried pressing charges, but somehow the paperwork had been buried. He’d warned her that if she tried that again, she wouldn’t wake up.

She believed him.

So now they were in a face-off. She was so close to freedom, so close…

“Are you listening to me, bitch?”

Misty froze. He’d stood back up and drawn a couple of steps closer to her.

“I swear, Jesse, I didn’t see anything. I won’t tell a soul. I was just looking for a sweatshirt.”

“Yeah. That’s what my last ex said, too. Then the whore ran to the cops — my buddies. They were good enough to tell me about the lying little tramp. Do you see her around, Misty?”

“No,” she practically sobbed.

“Yeah, no one will see her around again,” he said, with a glint in his eyes that increased her terror. “And no one will ever run to my buddies spilling lies about me again, either.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” she said. What was the fastest escape? If she could get away, she’d be fine. But she couldn’t let her eyes dart around, or he’d see it. And he was still in his police uniform, and she was very aware of the gun on his hip. What would he tell the cops, the brotherhood who would vouch for him?

Probably that she’d brought in the drugs, he’d seen them and confronted her, and then she went crazy. She was sure he’d plant a gun on her, make it look convincing. They’d pat him on the back, tell him he was one lucky bastard to have gotten out alive.

She’d become nothing but some paperwork, her body cremated because there was no one to pay for a casket and bury her, and because he wouldn’t want even her body to remain on this earth. She’d go up in smoke and never be thought of again.

Maybe that was for the best. Her life was one long nightmare. Wait! She was thinking of giving up? The hell she would. Everyone deserved a chance to survive — to really live. She was no different.

Her spine stiffened. There was no way she’d just roll over. This man might very well get away with killing her, and he might do it all too easily — it might be a short-lived battle — but at least she’d go down fighting.

“Stay here!” And Jesse had no doubt she’d do exactly that. Why would she try to escape? She’d tried that once and it had only made her punishment worse.

He moved toward his private room across the short hallway, and she heard the drawer open. Oh, shit! He was planning to handcuff her to the bar he had attached to the solid kitchen table he’d had specially reinforced for one purpose: to inflict unimaginable pain. He’d done this before. He’d ripped off her shirt and beat her — immobilized, with her arms and legs in shackles — until she was unconscious and bloody.

To this day, she couldn’t look at her back in the mirror; she was too afraid to see the tangle of scars there. With her eyes filled with tears, she made a silent dash to the living room, grabbed her purse off the small table, and swung open the front door.

She ran down the hallway, fleeing toward the stairs of their apartment building as soundlessly as a fawn bouncing through a meadow. Her feet moved full speed ahead as if the hounds of hell were after her. At least one was — that was for sure.

She slipped into the stairwell, the fire door making a loud click behind her as she barreled down, making it two levels before she heard the fire door open again.

“Get back here now!”

She didn’t take the time to lean over the railing and look up the winding staircase. She was still two flights ahead of him, but with three to go. The elevator was slow. If he turned back and took that, she’d make it out way ahead of him. But no such luck. She heard the door shut and she knew he was coming after her. At least he was barefoot. That would slow him down.

Almost flying, one hand barely on the banister to keep her from taking a headlong plunge, she made it to the bottom floor, pushed through the door, and then ran down the last hall to the wide front doors of the building. She thrust down the bar, yanked open the door, and rushed into the parking area. It was early morning, the light just beginning to displace the shadows of night, and there would be witnesses. He wouldn’t care, though. Nothing would stop him if he got his hands on her.

Once she was scrambling through the huge parking lot, she didn’t slow down as she pulled her car keys from her purse and looked up to see her car, a car he didn’t know about. It seemed miles away. So far! Too far!

Time stood still and her lungs burned as she attempted her frantic escape.

“The longer you drag this out, Misty, the worse it’s going to be for you.”

Damn! He’d made it through the doors. How far ahead was she?

She knew she shouldn’t, but she looked back. He was walking, thinking he had plenty of time, but he was too close still for her comfort. Thank goodness for the extra weight he’d put on, making it more difficult for him to run.

Her heart thundered in her chest, and she stumbled, but she caught herself at the last second before she crashed onto the broken asphalt.

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