*Blog Tour* Gaining Ground by Jenny A. Hayut
As the story of Holt and Niki continues, the two are once again torn apart. Secrets shall be revealed as to what lies beneath the words Holt has never spoken, taking Niki on a journey she never thought she’d be traveling. One where she will soon discover the inner strength she possesses and will be forced to use. But will it end with Holt by her side?
Truths will be revealed.
Hearts will be shattered.
Lives will change.
I open my eyes, but to darkness. I struggle to raise a hand to my neck, but it’s jolted back with a loud clack.
I sob, slouched up against the frigid tile wall that smells of mildew.
How long has it been now? One day? Two, maybe? God, a week? I can’t remember. My mind is numb. The thought of never escaping overpowers me. Handcuffed to a sink, unable to move really, I kick my feet around to try to get the circulation going in my heavy legs. The floor is like ice, with shards of broken tile digging into my skin.
I remember. They’d left Jason bleeding or…or dead on the floor of the clinic. They’d kidnapped me. Vinnie Calhoun and his goon. The image of Vinnie’s tattooed arm flashes across my mind. The same tattoo worn by the man who’d nearly raped me after Holt left me with no explanation.
I shiver. Each passing hour increases the chance that he’ll remember me. That he’ll see the scar his blade left across my lower back as I escaped. A reminder of my stupidity, my misery, my weakness. One I’ll carry with me forever.
He can’t have forgotten how I kicked him in the balls—so viciously that I likely left him incapable of fathering children. Or so I’ve always liked to imagine. After what he did to me, he doesn’t deserve kids.
I jump as the door handle rattles. I stiffen, and the nausea returns as I curl up, utterly defenseless. The door swings open quickly, and the light flips on, searing my eyes. I squeeze them shut.
“Wake up, sweetheart. Somebody wants to talk to you.” Vinnie’s voice.
I try to lift my head, but it’s too heavy. And the pain…the pain owns me.
“Wake up, girl. Got your boyfriend on the phone. Ain’t gonna come running till he knows you’re really here. So wake your ass up. And don’t even think about telling him shit. You say hello. Tell him how scared you are. Beg him to rescue you. Whatever it takes for him to understand you’re mine until he gives me what I want.”
Did he say Holt?
Holt is on the phone?
Dig. Dig deep.
I have to get on that phone. It’s my only chance.
Painfully, I raise my head in the direction of his voice. I squint until I see Vinnie silhouetted in front of me, bending down with his hand held out.
Before I can reach for his phone, Vinnie yanks at my free arm and shoves it into my hand. My breath is short as I try to form the words I know I need to say.
Think fast, Niki.
The guttural sound of Holt’s voice fills my ears.
“Baby, I’m coming. Gonna look under every fucking rock until I find you. That piece of shit is dead. Has he hurt you? If that fucker has laid one hand on you... Fuck. Are you okay? Baby, talk to me. I need to hear your voice. It’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay. I promise you. Nicolette? Baby, talk to me.”
I try my best to take in the questions coming at me so quickly. My head is spinning. I have to tilt it to rest on my shoulder but manage to keep the phone to my ear. Vinnie’s scuffed brown oxfords in front of me give me the determination I need.
Do it, Niki. Now.
From the pit of my stomach, I find the voice to say, “Campbell’s.” As much effort as it took for me to get it out, it ends up barely a whisper. I pray he heard me as it’s all I get the chance to say. Vinnie snatches the phone from me and backhands me across the cheek with it. I wince as my head jerks in the other direction.
His blow has me near unconsciousness again, and his lumbering footsteps grow distant as the darkness returns and the door slams shut.
His voice is muffled by the door, and I struggle to make out what he’s saying.
“You see? I got your girl, tied up and waiting for you. Gotta say she was worth the wait. Best get her quick. She might decide she likes this dick better than yours.”
I shiver at the thought of Vinnie forcing himself on me.
Please, Holt. Please hurry.
I hope like hell he understood what I meant. If he even heard me. If he meant what he said about coming for me… And that’s another problem. Can I still trust him?
What Vinnie said about Holt has been festering in my mind. That he was using me. That I was his pawn to get to Doc C. That the two of them were competing to get Doc C first.
The man I’ve known and loved since I was a child. The man who inspired me to become a vet. The man whose position I’d filled at the hospital when he made the sudden decision to retire and leave town. The man no one had been able to find until Holt woke me in the middle of the night to tell me he was safe and out of Vinnie’s reach.
I haven’t forgotten any of that. Nor have I forgotten that Vinnie said it was all just a game. Like it’s always been between him and Holt. A sick, twisted game, manipulating people. Playing on their emotions.
Vinnie couldn’t have known just how potent his words were. How they shattered me. Killed me inside. The knife in my heart. Twisting. Over and over again.
I don’t know what to believe. Who to trust.
But none of that is important right now. I can’t think about it. Can’t let it control me. I gotta think about me. And Doc C. I gotta think about getting the hell away from Vinnie before he figures out who I am. Can’t let him get Doc C either. Can’t let that happen.
So Holt is my only hope. My only chance of escaping. He’s the only one who knows where I am. And I have to believe that he’ll find me. I just hope like hell he doesn’t give Vinnie what he wants: Doc C.
* * *
Minutes feel like hours. Hours feel like days. I wake again to the faucet dripping. The smell of mildew hangs in the air, and I’m certain it’s coming from the crumpled up, sagging shower curtain dangling from the bathtub. This bathroom, and the room on the other side of it, is somewhere to get high. Somewhere to fuck. Clearly not a good choice to lay your head to rest after a long drive. Not a place to take your family on their way to Disneyworld.
My body is growing numb. All I can feel now is the iciness of the floor again my skin. The damp in the air. The sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know why I’m so cold. I can’t escape it. I’ve lost too much blood.
Holt needs to hurry.
I was born and raised in Virginia, in a military town. I know you're thinking it....yes...lots of hot men...in uniform...sweet...I know.
I am married and have two beautiful children. They along with our extremely spoiled beagle mix Georgia that we rescued from a local shelter, keep me busy. It's really like four kids and me. Ya'll know what I'm saying.
When I'm not working, or writing, or eating or sleeping (wait what's that) I love to be outdoors. I'm on the coast so I love the beach. The Outer Banks is the shiz. Hiking and getting my hands dirty in my flower beds is another favorite.
Any given time you might find me reading a book, watching a race, signing up for a ghost tour, watching a vampire or a motorcycle gang on TV (yeah that one) or making plans to travel further south (it's where my heart is). Oh and if you have heard...it's true I don't share my baklava...that stuff is sacred.
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