I wasn’t aware, nor did I care, that I was naked astride a crazy woman who’d broken into my house again, this time while we were sleeping. Who’d violated my body, who’d violated Ian…

Time froze…and then slipped away as hands roughly pulled me off of Victoria.

There were voices shouting, lights were flashing, and chaos was reigning.

And all I could do was stare silently down at my hands; one was bloody and bruised…the other held a hank of black strands I’d ripped from Victoria’s head.

My vision blurred as tears filled my eyes. I sat, blinking them away, as the last thing Ian had said reverberated in my head.

He was on the phone. To who, I don’t know.

But all he said…no, yelled, was, “Leah’s being arrested!”

Chapter 20

I heard whispering as I laid on the couch, curled into a ball, staring off into space as I tried to get a little bit of sleep.

I’d managed to doze off for a little bit, but couldn’t stay asleep because the phones were ringing off the hook and people were in and out to check on us. Sleeping on the couch in practically the middle of the day isn’t very conducive to peaceful rest, but that’s how it was going to be until I decided if I was going to burn my bed or not.

I knew what the whisperers were saying—I could hear them, even though they tried to keep their words from reaching my ears.

‘She’s never been like that before, that I know of. I can only imagine she just snapped.’

‘I know…she was the captain of the cheerleading squad, perky as all get out, and everyone loved her in school. She’d never lift a finger to anyone!’

‘Personally, I’m glad she did. I’d have probably killed the bitch…but damn, Leah tried…’

I couldn’t discern who was saying what because they were whispering, but I was definitely not going to be getting any sleep with them all sitting around talking about me. I huffed and got up, stomping into the kitchen to stand in front of them, tapping my foot and glaring.

“I can hear you,” I said, unnecessarily.

A couple of them had the decency to look ashamed, but most of them just grinned unabashedly.

“We thought you were sleeping,” my sister, Emma said.

“Clearly, I’m not,” I replied, being a total smart ass. It’s kind of required in my family.

I glanced around to see where Ian was, finding him leaning against the counter. Emma was sitting at the table with Chloe, Brandon, and Calland, and Allie was perched on my countertop by the stove.

“Why aren’t any of you at work?” I asked, sounding surly.

“Damn, being arrested made you mean,” Allie quipped, jokingly.

Chloe’s eyes got huge as she gave Allie an ‘I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that’ look and rushed to say, “Because we’re all off today and wanted to check on you rather than braving the craziness of Black Friday. Are you okay?” Chloe asked, her voice sincere.

I walked to Ian and wrapped my arms around his waist, nodding to Chloe in reply. “Yeah, I’m good. Just…I mean, did that really happen last night?”

I felt Ian sigh, his arms tightening around me reflexively. “I wish it didn’t. Goddamn, I wish it didn’t.”

I shook my head, not even wanting to think about it, but the memory, still fresh, swam to the forefront.

Ian had grabbed the phone last night as soon as I lunged at Victoria. He’d called the cops, so that’s who had pulled me off of her, but when they’d walked in, everything had been so crazy that I’d ended up handcuffed and in the back of the cruiser. The cop wouldn’t listen to Ian at first, so Ian had called my brother-in-law, Noah, who’s a detective.

Noah had rushed over and helped to calm the situation down enough that I was let out and the cuffs were taken off, and instead, Victoria had been loaded up in the ambulance to go treat her injuries, but she was being charged with burglary and sexual battery.

When we’d gone to bed in such a hurry, neither one of us had set the alarm. The door was locked, but that didn’t matter. She’d broken out the window in the spare bedroom like she did before and crawled into bed with us.

It made chills crawl over my skin when I thought about that bitch skulking through my house, and the fact that we didn’t hear a thing.

We’d found out that she was drunk, and it only fueled her delusions. Now she was laid up the hospital under lockdown with a dislocated jaw, broken nose, and two black eyes. Not to mention a nice little bald spot where I’d ripped out her hair.

And me? I was the proud new owner of a restraining order and a prescription for nerve pills. I hated the fact that she’d be back on the street in no time, out on bond, and probably out for blood and a piece of paper wouldn’t stop her.

Ian had called Victoria’s parents to let them know where they could find their daughter. They weren’t happy, and when they kept denying that she would do something like that, Ian put the cop on the phone with them. Needless to say, they believed then.

I burrowed a little closer into Ian for just a brief moment before I moved away from him, heading for my Keurig. I had a feeling that I’d be putting a serious dent in my coffee supply before the day was out.

I drank two cups of coffee after I hoisted myself up on the counter beside where Ian was leaning as we all talked about what had happened, but then my stomach growled loudly, causing everyone to stare at me.

“Was that you?” Emma asked.

I shrugged. “I’m hungry.”

With the declaration, Ian told me to go get dressed so we could go get some food, and everyone else took their leave, finally, leaving us alone for what seemed like the first time in forever. I ran back to the bedroom and threw on a pair of jeans with my hoodie and shoved my feet into my tennis shoes and we were out the door and on our way to IHOP.

When we were seated and had ordered, I glanced up to see Ian watching me, concern etched into his handsome features.

“Ian,” I said, softly. “It’s okay, baby. I’m fine. Are you okay, though?”

He nodded sharply. “Yeah, I’m good, but I just can’t believe…” he cut off on a bark of disbelieving laughter. “You think you know someone. She’s been around practically my whole life. A nuisance, but…she’s so fucking unbalanced and I had no clue.”

I reached across the table and took his hand in mine. “Ian, you can’t beat yourself up about this. She’ll get what’s coming to her.”

He sighed, but the conversation waned as the waitress came with our food, turning to more mundane items.

“Are you excited about the wedding?” Ian asked, cutting another bite of his pancakes.

“Ours or Chloe and Brandon’s?” I smiled and winked at him.

“Ours, silly girl.”

“Yeah, I am. I’ve seriously been thinking about eloping, though. Do you think my parents would kill us?” I joked.

Ian’s eyes widened. “Elope? What, like Vegas or something?”

I shrugged one shoulder as I forked a whip-cream covered bite of blueberry pancake to my mouth. I chewed thoughtfully, then swallowed before answering. “Sure. Or Niagara Falls, or Gatlinburg. I just don’t want to be married by Elvis.”

Ian let out a heavy breath. “So, are we really discussing this, like you really want to run away and get married?”

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