Cruising Right Into Love – First Chapter

Cruising Right Into Love: Prologue

Victor

Our meal wasn’t going well—though I’d expected nothing else—when Davey’s strident tone announced to the whole restaurant his displeasure with me. “Do you really need to make such a show of me after I’ve gone to all this effort to treat you to an expensive meal?” 

I couldn’t see what I’d done. But then, nothing I did pleased him, so it didn’t really matter. So tonight, I just didn’t understand the point of taking me out for a fancy meal. Why would Davey insist on traveling so far out of his way to take me out for a valentine’s date? 

The place was beautiful. The food was delicious, but it was all fake. We had nothing to celebrate as far as I was concerned. If anything, it was more a commiseration prize, and that, unfortunately for him, was me. 

The beatings and threats were getting to the point I didn’t know if it was better to be homeless and penniless than suffer the constant anxiety of what would trigger Davey next. All my wages, which I earned working for Davey, were controlled by him and he just left me with pocket money. When I broached the subject of putting the money into my account, he’d laughed it off, saying I had him to look after me, so why would I need the money?

I should have listened to my gut and gone then, but I’d romanticized the idea that he wanted to take care of me. What I’d figured out too late was that it was all about control and had nothing to do with caring for me at all. No family to speak of, Davey’s threats to hurt them if I left were empty, yet his controlling behavior left me scared to leave with his constant promises of killing me if I tried. A part of me believed him, having taken the brunt of his rage. I had no friends to speak of either and no one to share what was happening to me. 

My life really sucked, and I had no power to change it.

At Davey’s loud reprimand, I felt every eye on me and sank further into the seat, desperate not to draw any more attention, which would only be my fault. 

Something ugly flashed over Davey’s face when he turned his gaze to an area surrounded by beautiful plants. Before I could figure out what had caught his attention, he was up and striding in that direction. 

Wide eyed, I dithered, unsure what the heck I should do. 

Were we leaving?

Only he wasn’t heading to the door. As I realized this, Davey’s angry voice carried over to me. “You ungrateful little shit. Thought you could throw me aside for something better, did you?” 

When I rose, unable to sit a moment longer, I registered Davey’s unhealthy color and the ugly sneer that never boded well. Only this time, it wasn’t aimed at me. Instead, it was aimed at the occupants of a table I couldn’t see.

If whoever he was speaking to answered, I didn’t hear it over the buzzing going in my ears when a tall man built with wide shoulders and dressed in an impeccable suit, rose so fast his chair clattered to the floor. He grabbed hold of Davey’s suit jacket and hauled him up into the air, leaving his feet dangling in mid-air. “Who are you and why do you think it’s okay to manhandle my boyfriend?”

Boyfriend? 

Oh gods, what was this?

“He was my boyfriend until he ran away in the middle of the night with all my money.”

The other man, who I assumed was Davey’s ex-boyfriend, said nothing to this accusation. One I’d heard from Davey a time or two when he got drunk and went on about a previous boyfriend. I’d weighed up how controlling Davey was and what he was capable of, and considered that he was lying about the reason their relationship ended and the stolen money. 

Unable to watch Davey ruin their night, I walked over, feeling sick to my stomach. The little bit of food I’d eaten was churning inside me faster than a washing machine on spin. Before I could think of something to say that might help, the guy who Davey accused of stealing took hold of my arm and I found myself dragged to the entrance of the restaurant. 

Blinking back tears of panic, I didn’t utter a word. The second we were outside, the guy dropped my arm and started speaking. “You need to get as far away from Davey as you can. If he hasn’t already laid into you, then it won’t be long before he does. Then he’ll start with the threats to your family. He’s the biggest bastard I know, and a leopard never changes its spots.” 

At the truth of my reality, sobs tore from my throat. “He says if I leave, he’ll find me and—”

“Yeah, I know the drill. Listen, he’s violent, and it only gets worse. Do you have a phone?”

Pulse racing at the reason he was asking, I nodded, and the guy held out his hand to me. “Give it me. I’ll put my number in it. Call me when you know it’s safe and I’ll help you.”

He wants to help me. 

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I did as he asked. Tears drenched my eyes as confusion, panic, and hope warred inside me at this man offering something I was desperate to accept. Despite that, a part of me was still concerned as to his reasoning, when he didn’t know me. “Why are you doing this? You don’t even know me.”

“I was you,” he muttered, his gaze never lifting from the screen he was clicking at, adding more than one number to my contacts list.

 Quickly returning the phone to me, I noticed he monitored the restaurant door when I tucked the phone back into my pocket, feeling… panic, but also a lightness that I hadn’t felt in the last year. Could he help set me free? 

“Wipe your face. You know he’ll get madder than a hornet’s nest if he sees you crying.” 

A shudder ran through me at the truth and I scrubbed at my face, desperate to rid any evidence of my tears. 

The guy offered me a friendly smile. “I’m Leeson by the way.”

For the first time since we’d met—and though my lips trembled—I offered him a small smile. “I’m Vic. Thank you for being nice to me. I don’t know many people—”

As the door opened, the wide-shouldered guy appeared with Davey hot on his heels. I pressed my trembling lips together, fear closing up my throat at Davey’s furious expression. 

“I’m pressing charges. There are witnesses to the fact you manhandled me.”

“Fuck off! You laid your hands on my boyfriend. Do it again and it won’t be him that ends up with a broken arm,” the guy growled menacingly, giving Davey a dose of his own medicine with a stare that could have boiled water.

Leeson looked to ignore Davey and smiled sweetly at his date. “Let’s go.”

“You owe me,” Davey shouted as they retreated. His anger sent tremors down my spine and froze my innards.

Leeson swung around and I caught the sympathetic look he gave me before he mocked Davey. “Listen here, dickweed, what I owe you is a broken arm and more bruises than you can count. I never took a fucking dime from you. All that I took was control over my life back.” 

On that, Leeson strolled away, leaving Davey with a look that left me breathless with fright.

~/~/~/~

Three weeks later

A sob tore from my throat as I ran, trying to evade the devil chasing me. My foot caught on the last stair as I scrambled to escape the next swing of Davey’s fist. I landed on my knees, pain running through my side and working its way up through me to spike at my brain. It stole my breath as I attempted to regain my footing. My vision blurred from the tears flowing down my cheeks. 

I staggered up and stupidly looked back. His hair wild and his clothes smeared with my blood, the man who I’d once thought loved me leapt down the last few stairs, crazed eyes filled with what I’d come to consider was a rage as black as his soul. This kind of fury made Davey blind to everything other than inflicting pain on me. My heart slammed into my throat and prevented me from taking another breath, leaving me at his mercy. 

The fight had started in the bedroom when he’d found me packing my few, meager belongings. He’d come back having forgotten his wallet, which I’d not noticed on the side in my haste to escape. For three weeks, I’d carefully planned my route to escape but now it was ruined. The money I’d squirreled away, hidden in my underwear, was no defense against what was coming. 

Davey curled his fingers into the collar of my T-shirt, twisting tightly. Glazed, hungry eyes watched as he choked me. 

Alarm took hold and I scratched at Davey’s clenched fist. My gaze wheeled around, looking for something, anything, to grab to stop him.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Hot breath touched my ear as he growled threateningly. “I wasn’t finished showing you who you belong to.”

Pain exploded through my brain at the punch he landed on my temple, my head snapping at an awkward angle. It left my legs feeling like rubber and black spots swimming in my vision.

Don’t pass out! 

Don’t pass out! 

Please!

 I frantically flailed my arms, sucking in greedy breaths when the tight grip on my T-shirt lessened enough for me to breathe. All the parts of me he’d kicked and punched sang in a painful harmony no one wanted to hear. The world spun in incomprehensible agony with me at the center of the tornado, and Davey there ripping apart my world. 

Hammering sounds came from somewhere, but I couldn’t say where with the pounding happening in my skull. 

Dropped to the floor like a sack of shit, Davey disappeared toward the front of the house. Some part of me registered that I needed to move, that this would be my last chance if I wanted to live—to escape. 

Biting my lip hard enough to taste blood, I staggered to my feet once more, swaying while trying to get my eyes to focus on where I had to go. Breathing hurt as I took a second to register which way to go. The side entrance of the house went into the garage. If I could reach it then I would have a chance to slip out into the back alley. 

Taking a painful breath, I clamped my lips together to stop the whimpers and weaved away from the voices having a heated discussion. Holding my breath, I crept down the hallway, not caring that I was leaving everything behind except my phone and cash tucked into my underwear. 

I rasped out a labored breath, sweat slicking my skin. I forced myself not to look back as I opened the door, fear of the unknown forming in a ball of dread. What if Leeson didn’t answer my call. 

Don’t think like that, it’s not helping!

Soundlessly, I closed the door and locked it with trembling fingers. Would it buy me time when Davey figured I wasn’t in the house? God, I hoped so as I tossed the keys away. 

Despite every step bringing pain, the reality of what lay behind me pushed me on. Weak sunlight bathed my clammy skin as I wrapped my arms around my body, hoping to prevent things inside me from moving and to stop some of the pain from what felt like broken ribs. 

I couldn’t say how long it took me to reach the bus depot as I kept my head down, so as not to scare folks. The restroom at the depot was empty when I caught sight of my reflection. Fresh tears tracked down the bruised, swollen skin streaked with blood from my split cheek and lip. 

Lifeless eyes stared at the marks around my neck. Davey’s finger marks were clear above the bruised ligature marks from where he’d used my T-shirt as a garrote.

Unable to bear looking at myself any longer, I dug out my phone in slow, painful movements to text Leeson. I didn’t send up a prayer as I wasn’t religious, but I sent out a wish to the universe that this time, someone would be there to help me as I messaged. 

Hi this is Vic. Did you mean what you said about helping me? I’m in pretty bad shape and really need somewhere safe to hide out. Please help. I’ve got no one else to turn to. 

Long seconds ticked by after hitting send and I struggled not to lose the miniscule piece of hope I held.

“Shit,” I cried out with a jerk when my phone rang. My teeth chatted together as I accepted the call. “Hello, Lee? Is that you?” 

“Yes, it is. Where are you? Do you need me to come and get you?” 

Hearing his offer, a shuddery intake of breath made me wince once more and tighten my grip on the phone as my eyes blurred. 

“Where are you?” I asked instead, not wanting to hang around with Davey hunting for me. Because hunt, he would.

“I’m in Sweet Haven. Do you know where that is?”

“Yeah. I went through the town once with a friend. I’m about a hundred or so miles from there. I can get a bus. Will you be able to meet me when I arrive? I’m not sure I can walk far.” My voice broke on a sob while I rushed to talk, which my lungs hated me for.

“Are you all right to travel? I can come to you if you need me to.” 

 “I’m already at the bus depot as I’ve just got off the bus that left town.” The lie rolled off my tongue at not wanting to put him at risk when I recalled how Davey had acted after that meal. I was positive I remembered that there was a bus headed directly to Sweet Haven. 

Whether that would be far enough away from Davey, I wasn’t about to guess, but Leeson had a boyfriend who’d protect him. Could he protect me, too? 

“No, it’s best if I get the bus. I don’t want to hang around here any longer than I have to… you know, just in case he’s following me.” That was the truth.

“Ring me when you get close and I’ll make sure I’m where I need to be.”

Agreeing, I ended the call and stared at myself in the mirror for a few more seconds. A resolve I’d thought I’d lost until Leeson had answered the call and offered me help, resurfaced. 

“You can do this. You can trust Leeson.” I had to start somewhere and for now, this was what I had. It had to be enough.