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Does what she hides make her innocent? What she reveals makes her guilty? When the truth lies somewhere in between, it can get us both killed.

As a Texas ranger, it is my obligation to uphold the law, but the day I laid eyes on her, I knew that she’d be trouble. Savin’ her from drowning awakened somethin’ inside that I haven’t felt since the day my wife died. I want to love again, but this frustrating, gorgeous little submissive is hidin’ something. It’s my duty to find out what. And pray I don’t have to choose between following the law or following my heart.

Book 1 of the Seducing Series.

*This novel contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable. Not intended for those under the age of 18.

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EXCERPT

It was one of the rare moments that he had let me out from the cell that he kept me in. This time to keep up appearances that I was still alive. He’d taken me to the local market with a list of groceries that I was to buy. I had to collect the items and wait on the corner of the parking lot once finished.

As I enter the market, I collect the first few items from his list, rounding the corner into the next aisle at the rear of the store he stood watching. Just the sight over him made the hairs on my neck bristle, my heart race in fear. 

With dark shaggy hair and face sheltered by his faded trucker’s cap, Sean was over six feet tall. Wearing his usual wife-beater and flannel shirt hanging open and sleeves rolled, showing his ex-forces tattoos. 

He’d been dedicated to serving Uncle Sam as a snipper and had been the most loving and caring fiancé prior to serving in Afghanistan. When he returned, he was a shell of the man he use to be. It had begun with night terrors that when he woke, he came up swinging, and too often than not, he’d think that he’d been fighting in Afganistan; instead, I was the enemy, and he’d left me beaten and cowering on the floor. 

The beatings progressed when the VET hospital had given him prescription drugs to help him sleep through. He’d taken the drugs and sold them for hits of heroin. Heroin he’d use to inject me and control me so that I’d need him for her next fix. He’d said that he need me to suffer like he had. Suffer I did. The pain that wracked my body was living proof that I was his to use in any way he saw fit.

I stood only a few feet from Sean in the market.

“Is there anything else, Sir?” He stepped forward, leaned in close, and hissed into my face.  

“You don’t get to talk to me here. You don’t get to know me here. This is my real life, and you are a whore who I screw when I feel like it. If you ever approach me in public again, I will end you, and there isn’t a soul in this world who would even know you were gone. No one misses a slut like you.” He tugged again at my hair to make sure I understood, and I nodded through the pain.

“Don’t try anything bitch, I’ll know.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Returning to his rusted-out pickup truck, Gabrielle knew that my behavior in the market would have consequences when I return to the house. He’d kept me in the basement where he’d created a makeshift cell, a metal bed with restrains that he’d tied to before punishing me. The mattress smelt of foul, which I knew was a mix of my blood and his seed.

Reaching the house, Sean dragged me inside, throwing me down the stairs on the basement before following step by step down then picking me up to carry me to the bed once more. He leaned over me, clasping the wrist into the restraint. 

‘Hold still bitch.’ I bit him. He screamed a feminine shriek and dropped her to clutch at his wound, bending over with the pain. Without thinking, I kicked as hard as she could, my foot connecting with his face. His nose exploded, blood spraying across the concrete, and his head snapped up. He twisted as he tried to keep his balance but slipped on his own blood and went down face first, banging his head on the hard floor. 

Now was the time. I had to escape. I tugged at my restrain tearing the skin, twisting and turning until my wrist came free. Sean still lay in a pool of his own blood when I reached the top of the stairs; my legs shook in fear as I took each step through the house. I heard a bang. It sounded like the basement door closing. Had Sean caught up to me? I got up into a crouching position behind the closet door and pushed the door open a crack to listen. 

Immediately, I smelled smoke. I pushed the door open another couple of inches and sniffed. It wasn’t the familiar scent of cigarette smoke. This smell was thicker, more acrid. I pushed the closet door fully open and emerged into the make-shift study. The smell was growing stronger, and a part of my brain was screaming at me to get out, to run. Tentatively, she poked her head out of the room. 

Flames rushed towards me along the carpet.

Acting on pure instinct, I stepped back into the study and slammed the door, trying to make sense of what I’d seen. Smoke was pouring from the open doorways of the master bedroom and living room, gathering like an evil cloud at the ceiling, and the floor was on fire. That was the strangest thing, the way the flames had rushed along the carpet towards me as if following a trail. 

The toxic smell I’d detected when I was in the closet, that was so much stronger now I was standing in the study, wasn’t a cleaning product. It must be some kind of fuel: kerosene or turpentine. And Sean had splashed it in here too, and not just on the floor. The desk and computer were shining where the liquid had been thrown over them. 

Thankfully, Sean had neglected to leave a trail from the hallway into the study. The fire had rushed past the closed door, presumably into the kitchen. But I knew it wouldn’t be long before the flames reached beneath the door and ignited the liquid around my feet. 

My head was telling me to do two things at once. Find a way out. Call the fire brigade. The fire brigade would have to wait. I might only have seconds. 

There was a large sash window behind the desk. I pushed the desk aside and unlocked the window, then tried to push it upwards. It was stuck. I tried again. Smoke had entered the room, and my eyes watered, blurring my vision. Panicking, I grabbed the computer and threw it at the window. 

It bounced off the frame. Screaming with frustration and fear, I climbed onto the desk and tried to push the window down from the top. It wouldn’t budge. I yelled at it, calling it every foul word I could think of it, and it moved. Just half an inch, but it gave me hope. I worked my fingers into the gap and pushed down with all my strength.

The window slid down like it was greased with butter. Now the top half of the window gaped open. I stuck my head through the gap and sucking in as much fresh air into my lungs as possible. Convinced the flames were going to burst into the room and kill me at any moment. There were terrible noises coming from outside the study, crackling and rushing, the sound of items collapsing, and the sound of Sean swearing.

“Come here bitch, time to die.” 

I peered down at the garden below. It was too far to jump, even if I could get out of the window. There was no way I could maneuver myself through the top half of the window with any hope of doing anything beyond plummeting headfirst to the garden below. 

I looked around desperately. An old-fashioned stereo system with a record player and two bulky speakers sat on a table next to the desk. I jumped down from the desk, grabbed a speaker, yanking the lead from the back of the stereo, and smashed it against the window. The lower half of the window had four panes, the heavy wooden inner frame creating a cross. 

The pane I’d struck shattered, and glass rained onto the garden below. I rammed the speaker into the second pane, then the remaining two. Now, most of the glass was gone, but the stout wooden cross still barred my exit. It was growing hotter in the room, the fire pressing against the outside of the door. Smoke poured into the room, blinding me, burning my eyes. With a scream of fury, I swung the speaker at the frame. 

It cracked, giving me hope. I slammed the speaker into it again, and the wood splintered. One more heave, one more scream, and the wood broke apart, revealing a large enough gap for me to squeeze through onto the window ledge. 

I climbed out, clinging to the edge of the window, till I found myself on my knees on the ledge. Carefully holding on to what remained of the frame, I pushed myself into a standing position. At that moment, the study door blew open, and flames and a great cloud of black smoke rushed into the room. 

Pushed back by the wall of heat, I almost toppled backward but managed to cling on, trying not to look at the burning carnage inside the study. I needed to focus on the drain pipe. It had appeared so close to the window from the inside, but now I saw that I’d need to leap to the left, twist in the air, and seize the railing. There was nothing for it, though. Broken bones, disfiguring burns – all I wanted was to survive. 

I wanted to live for myself. I wasn’t prepared to die. Not now. Not here. I inched along the windowsill to the left as far as I could, aware of the Sean voice closing in as he shouted at me. I bent my knees as much as I dared, glanced to the left, twisted my body, and leaped to escape the fire and Sean.

Bloodied and bruised, I hobbled towards the rugged tree line. A menacing laugh echoed in the wilderness. Eyes wide, I glanced over my shoulder and spotted Sean. He flashed his teeth in a grin and sprinted toward me. My stomach lurched. I raced forward. 

“No!” 

I gaze scanned for someplace to hide, some way to escape this Sean’s clutches. There was nowhere to go. Even if I climbed a tree, I was sure he’d follow—or simply knock it over. The man was built like a bull. Knowing my luck, he’d probably throw his shoulder against a tree trunk and uproot it with little effort. The fine hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood on edge. I gritted my teeth as panic started to take hold. Adrenaline saturated my bloodstream. I had to get away. I had to— 

Oof! 

Two burly arms wrapped around my waist and lifted me from the ground. I screamed and kicked, refusing to be taken quietly. My violent thrashing knocked Sean off balance. He started to fall forward, and I flinched, certain I was about to be smashed between his huge body and the hard ground. 

Instead, he spun and bore the brunt of their impact. They bounced twice and skidded a few inches on the grass. Something primal ignited in my brain. He’d gone down. I was on top. I had to escape. I slammed both elbows into his chest and scrambled free from his grasp. I slipped and barely evaded his clutching fingers. In an instant, he was on his feet and chasing after me again.

I realized how close I was to freedom. It spurred me onward. My entire body ached, but I pushed through the pain. Better to endure one night of discomfort than a lifetime of misery with that monstrous man. I burst through the tree line and spied a house off in the distance. Hope exploded in my chest. I was going to make it! 

In the next instant, all that hope was dashed. Somehow, Sean had caught up with me. He grabbed me again, this time taking me to the ground with finesse. His soaking-wet clothing hadn’t slowed him down much. Now the cold wetness seeped through my thin shirt and shorts. I fought him every inch of the way to the grass. 

Even when he pinned my smaller body beneath his, those muscular thighs clamped on either side of my waist, I twisted and snarled. I tried to slap him, but he was too quick. He snatched my wrist and yanked my arm above her head. He hastily secured my other wrist in the same big hand. When he leaned forward, I held her breath, certain he was going to hit me. Eyes closed, I waited for that first strike, certain the pain would be unlike any she’d ever felt from him before. But it never came. Instead, the most shocking and unexpected thing happened. 

He laughed.

“Let me go,” I begged. 

“Never bitch, you’re mine forever.”

A gunshot rang through the air.