Hero is part of the Impossible Series, but it can be read as a standalone romance novel.
An ugly mix of resentment and fear swirled in my gut when the front door creaked open. I quickly switched off the bedside lamp, set my book aside, and drew the duvet over my head. I hated myself for hiding under the covers like a frightened child, but I couldn’t face Neil.
His footsteps were uneven, scuffing across the floorboards as he made his way to our bedroom. I did my best to draw deep, even breaths, feigning sleep.
I should have gone to Beth’s, I lamented, but it was too late. I’d decided against seeking refuge at my sister’s house hours ago.
I was too ashamed. For years, she’d told me I was too good for Neil, that my husband was holding me back from realizing my full potential. But I’d been stubborn; I’d committed to Neil when I said my vows at the age of twenty. As I child of divorce, I believed in sticking by my spouse, for better or worse. My marriage couldn’t fail. If it did, my entire self-identity would fall apart with it.
I was Neil’s devoted wife. It was my most important role. More important than my career aspirations.
Or so he said.
For the last four years, I’d been working as a journalist for the local paper. Just small stories and fluff pieces. But lately, I wanted more. I wanted to freelance, to tackle more meaningful material. I could establish a career that allowed me to work from home, so I could have a baby and an income, when the time was right.
Neil wanted the baby, but he didn’t want me to have a job. He said he’d make enough money for both of us, once he finished vet school. He’d made his disapproval of my plans for a career abundantly clear a few hours ago.
My cheek still throbbed where he’d struck me. After repeating the same argument we’d been having for months, he’d lost his temper along with his patience.
It was just one time, I reassured myself. He’ll apologize in the morning, and everything will be okay.
Still, I couldn’t stop myself from tensing up when he entered the bedroom. I heard the rustle of fabric as he pulled off his shirt and jeans.
Suddenly, the covers were jerked off my body, and cool air hit my skin.
“Neil?” I gasped. “What are you doing?”
His silhouette moved toward me, a darker shape among the shifting shadows.
“You want a baby,” he slurred. “You’re going to stay at home and take care of our child.”
Fear thrummed through my veins before my mind fully processed his implications. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I said shakily. “Not tonight. You’re drunk.”
He stumbled forward, falling onto me. The air whooshed out of my lungs as his weight bore down on me. I squirmed beneath him, trying to push him off. The scent of whiskey hit me hard, confirming my suspicions that he was intoxicated.
“You’re my wife,” he declared, his breath hot on my face. I turned my head away and pushed harder at his chest. He didn’t budge. “You promised to honor and obey me. You will obey me, Chloe.”
“Neil, you’re scaring me,” I forced out on a shallow breath. “We shouldn’t talk about this any more tonight. We can discuss it tomorrow, when you’re sober.”
“I’m done talking,” he hissed.
The feel of his growing erection pressing into my thigh was horribly familiar. What would usually arouse me now sent terror spiking through my system. My fingers curled, my nails digging into his muscled chest.
“Get off me,” I barely managed to force a whisper past the lump in my throat. “I don’t want to have sex right now.”
His big hands closed around my wrists, wrenching my arms above my head and pinning them against the mattress.
“You’re going to have my baby and be a good wife.”
Shifting his grip on my wrists into one hand, his other reached between us, groping until he found the hem of my nightgown. He grasped the silky material and roughly shoved it up my thighs. His dick lined up with my opening. I was far from aroused. If he drove into me, it would hurt.
But the pain was more than physical. He thrust forward, and I screamed as my heart tore along with my flesh.
“Neil,” I sobbed out his name. “Stop. Please, stop.”
“You’re my wife, Chloe,” he snarled, increasing his agonizing pace. “You’re mine.”
A terrible eternity seemed to pass before his hot seed finally lashed into me. My insides burned, raw with pain and shame.
He rolled off me, and I curled up on my side. Despite my tears, he quickly fell into drunken sleep, his snores clashing with my wracking sobs. I wept my agony until it seeped out of me along with all my tears, leaving me hollow and mercifully numb.
I managed to get up and get dressed before dawn began to drift through the curtains, unable to face the sight of my husband in the light of day.
No. The man in our bed wasn’t my husband; he was a monster.
Limping out of the place that had been my home, I made my way to my car and drove away, leaving Mrs. Chloe Hollins behind forever.
Three Years Later
“You want to go out in the field to investigate the Latin Kings,” Kennedy Carver drawled, his dry tone even more dangerous than my request. “I don’t think so.” The FBI director’s hazel eyes bore down on me. Even though he sat behind his desk and I stood before him, he seemed to loom over me. My mouth went dry, and I shifted on my feet.
Swallowing hard, I lifted my chin in defiance of his powerful aura. “Yes,” I said clearly. “That’s what I want. What I’m asking for,” I amended quickly when his jaw firmed. “I just want to shadow someone on your team, ask a few questions. I’ll be perfectly safe.”
He folded his hands on his desk. “That’s for me to decide, and I say you won’t be perfectly safe. We might have rounded up most of the Latin Kings in New York, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still dangerous out there. Ask your questions if you want, but you’re not shadowing anyone.”
“Kennedy, you’re being completely unreasonable,” Carina insisted hotly.