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Teaser Scene from BIG SKY:
“I hope you like BBQ,” he said. “I didn’t know what kind to get. You were asleep.”
She did like BBQ, but if he was starting to feel guilty for the situation, she wasn’t about to assuage his guilt with a show of gratitude. Somehow in her mind, everything that had happened was her fault. If she’d managed her money better, she wouldn’t have been so stressed and lost her job. She would have been living in the penthouse still, and she would have made a nice breakfast in her big kitchen with the island oven before work that day. Her path and psycho-cowboy’s path never would have crossed. He would have gone back to Vermont without her ever meeting him, and she’d have a raise, and the coveted corner office with the giant windows and spectacular view.
As they drove and she ate, her mind went down other weird paths to Sandy. She wondered how Sandy would have taken this situation if she’d been in Veronica’s place. Sandy would have stupidly taken the job, eager for the cowboy to take her off to his cattle ranch and ride her. Veronica shuddered.
“Are you cold? I can turn on some heat.”
“No, I’m fine.” Though she could admit in a sort of detached way that he was attractive, it was hard to see him that way when he’d taken her like he had. All she wanted was to escape and then punish him for demeaning her like this. Tying her up, treating her like part of his herd of cattle. It made her seethe with rage.
To her surprise, fifteen minutes later he pulled into a rest stop—not the side of the road. She was almost willing to be more agreeable given that he wasn’t going to make her squat in a ditch to pee while he watched.
“This stretch of road is usually pretty dead this time of night. We are going in, and you will not waste time. As you’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of committing a felony. I have no illusions you’d protect me if someone stopped us. I’m taking a risk so you don’t have to suffer. Remember that.”
He untied her and rubbed the soreness out of her ankles and wrists. It felt like a prelude to how he planned to touch her later. He helped her out of the truck and followed her into the restroom, then leaned against the wall outside one of the stalls.
“Don’t think about running. You have even less chance of surviving out here than you do in the city.”
She wanted to kill him.
“Are you just going to stand out there and… listen?”
“That’s the plan. Hop to it, princess.”
“Just go ahead and kill me here. It’ll save us both time and embarrassment.”
“Did you just make a joke?” he asked.
“So you trust I’m not going to hurt you?”
“What? No, I don’t trust that. Do you think I’m that stupid?” She shut herself into one of the stalls and locked the door, hoping he wouldn’t crawl under after her.
“I thought you were stupid for isolating yourself, not asking for help, and refusing help that was offered.”
Veronica tried to relax, not believing she was in this situation to begin with. The fear had taken a brief backseat to the embarrassment.
When she stepped out of the stall, he said “That was all? Squirt squirt? And you’re done?”
“I have a tiny bladder.”
She looked at him in the mirror behind her while she washed her hands. He seemed momentarily distracted so she broke off in a run, glad she’d worn tennis shoes and jeans so she could move. Her heart beat erratically as she ran over a couple of hills and into the woods, more scared of the man at her back than the uncertain forest in front of her.
He yelled behind her, but she kept running. Trees came to life, their snarled branches grabbing at her, scratching at her arms, pulling at her shirt in an attempt to rip it. The trees might assault her before Luke ever got the chance. After a minute or so, the patch of trees thinned into a meadow littered with wildflowers—an unexpectedly beautiful sight in the middle of so much ugliness. She couldn’t help looking up for just a moment. The sky opened out before her, vast and fathomless. The night was cold and clear, and the stars and full moon illuminated everything. For a surreal split second she felt more free than she’d ever felt.
Then she was on the ground, and he was on top of her, and she came back to herself.
“Get off me!” She struggled and wedged her knee between his legs, driving hard into his groin.
He cursed and eased off her for a second. It was enough for her to roll onto her stomach and scramble out from under him. Her hands dug into the grass for purchase as she crawled from between his legs. But she wasn’t fast enough.
She let out a shriek when he pulled her hair and threw her back down to the ground, this time straddling her hard enough that she couldn’t get away.
Her shoulder felt bruised from where she’d hit the ground, and his knees dug hard into her hips, pinning her with little effort.
“Please…” The word came out of her in a broken sob. It was the first time she’d begged him, and she hated herself for thinking it might not be the last. “Don’t hurt me.” The words were so soft she wasn’t sure if he’d heard her.
He breathed hard. “Why did you stop running?”
She hadn’t expected that question. At least he understood that she had to attempt escape.
He looked up, and if he hadn’t had her arms held down, she might have tried to punch him, but the odds weren’t in her favor this time. Don’t escalate the situation anymore. Get away if you can, but don’t escalate. Wait for the next opportunity.
But she feared she’d only get the one opportunity. And now it was gone, lost because she couldn’t help being swept away by the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. No city lights. No city noise. No dark buildings threatening to crush her. Just the sky and the stars and a million brilliant tiny white flowers glowing in the moonlight.
“You’ll love the ranch. This is our sky.”
She didn’t say anything to that because anyone who would do something like this had to be so mad she couldn’t trust anything he said.
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