Mine To Hold

By: Cynthia Eden


Prologue


The gun pressed into the center of Claire Kramer’s forehead. She didn’t move, not an inch, too afraid to even breathe as she knelt in the middle of the old, rickety wooden dock.

It was her grandfather’s dock. Her grandfather’s fishing cabin. Her haven.

She should have been safe there. Instead, it seemed she was about to die there.

“Why did you leave me, Claire?” Ethan Harrison asked her as he held that gun to her head. “Why?”

Her gaze darted to the right. His bright, red sports car gleamed in the nearby parking lot, sticking out like a sore thumb.

Please, please, someone notice that car. You have to see it. But there just weren’t any people out then. No one was there to help her. If someone would just pull into the lot. If someone would just come—

“I love you, Claire,” Ethan whispered, his voice actually sounding sad as he stared down at her with his soulful green gaze. “You know that.”

Claire was sixteen, but she still knew that love didn’t involve a gun. It also didn’t involve hitting, punching, hurting. Her parents had wanted her away from Ethan. She’d wanted away from him.

But in Alabama, escaping from a Harrison wasn’t exactly easy. The cops hadn’t believed her story about Ethan’s attacks. His daddy was a state senator. Ethan was old money. Power.

And she…she was the girl kneeling on the dock, with a gun to her head.

My family believed me. She’d been trying to get her parents on the phone just moments before Ethan had surprised her. He shouldn’t have been able to find her. Only her parents, her sister, and her grandfather knew she was at the little cabin on the water.

“Why did you leave?” Not a whisper this time, but a bellow.

Claire flinched. Her hands were twisted behind her, her fingers fisted, and her nails sank deep into her own palms. “I-it was over, Ethan. You said you-you didn’t want me anymore.”

The sunlight glinted off his blond hair. “I will always want you, Claire.” Ethan never eased his grip on the gun. “You’re my one and only.”

My one and only.

“You shouldn’t have run. Never run again, understand? Because I can find you anywhere, Claire.”

A tear leaked down her cheek. “Don’t hurt me.” She was begging. She knew it. “Please, don’t. Please.”

He smiled. Once, that wide grin had made her heart melt in her chest. Now it just made her body ice with fear.

“I like it when you beg me, Claire.”

She knew he did.

She also knew that he liked to hurt her.

This isn’t the way love is supposed to be.

She’d seen her parents together. Her dad loved her mother so much. He would never hurt her mom. But Ethan wasn’t like Claire’s father.

Claire still had the bruises from Ethan’s last attack on her skin.

Ethan exhaled slowly. “Begging won’t work this time. You shouldn’t have left. You knew that you belonged to me.”

No, I don’t. Claire shook her head.

His handsome face twisted with fury. “You’re mine!”

And he pulled the trigger.

Claire screamed. The frantic cry burst from her throat as her eyes instinctively squeezed shut. She knew that she was dead. She’d never see her parents again. Never see her sister, Sara. She’d never do anything but—

He was laughing at her.

I’m still alive.

Her eyes opened. More tears coursed down her cheeks.

“Oh, Claire, I forgot to mention…I already used the bullets that were in this gun.”

The chill on her skin got worse. So much worse.

He glanced toward the phone that had fallen from her fingers when he’d surprised her before. The phone sat on the edge of the dock. “You were trying to call your parents, right? Sorry, sweetheart, but they’ll never be answering you again.”

I already used the bullets that were in this gun.

He pulled the gun away from her head. Numb, she could only kneel there and gaze helplessly up at him.

Ethan tucked the gun into the back of his jeans. Then his head tilted to the right as he studied her. His hair fell loosely over his forehead. The good-looking college boy. The heart breaker. “You have a choice,” he told her flatly as that good-looking veneer twisted with rage. “You can be mine, or you can be dead. Because I swear…you will never leave me for another.”

She hadn’t been leaving him for another boy. She’d been afraid of him, and she’d fled. For her own survival. “I-I didn’t—”

Claire couldn’t say any more. His hands were at her throat. Squeezing so tightly. “Mine or dead, Claire. Mine. Or. Dead.”

Her fingers flew up. Her nails clawed at his skin.

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