Let her go, Blatwell.” Tom’s firm command came from behind her captor.

Jared’s body stiffened against her back, and his hold on Charlise’s mouth slipped down around her neck and threatened to cut off her oxygen supply.

“Please Jared, take me with you.” Charlise hit at the arm around her. She’d do anything to distract him from Tom.

“Hear that, lover boy? She wants to go with me.” Jared laugh was evil. “I guess that shows you the moves you put on my wife out on the beach didn’t seem to work, huh? She’s made her choice.”

“I have a problem with that Blatwell. You see, I don’t believe the lady really wants to go with you.” Tom’s voice stayed level, low, and in control.

Without warning, Jared spun around, putting Charlise between them She struggled to get her feet under her to relieve the pressure on her neck. “Unless you want to hurt my wife, I’d think about putting that gun down and backing away.” Jared didn’t need a gun to fight Tom. Tom wouldn’t harm her to get to Jared. That’s what made him different from Jared.

Charlise understood the indecision that flashed over Tom’s face. She closed her eyes. She didn’t want her desperation to influence him in any way. She wanted Tom to live to see another day, and for that to happen he needed to let her go with Jared.

Tom blew out a breath and Jared jerked Charlise backward toward the front door. Charlise opened her eyes, and gazed at Tom. She ached at seeing the torment on his face. He’d shown her a part of herself she’d lost long ago. An important piece she desperately wanted to find, and for that, she thanked him. Tom made her feel special and that life should bring hope, love, and happiness. He’d given her more in the last twenty-four hours than Jared offered her their whole marriage. She better understood what a true friend could be. Thanks to Tom, she’d learned how much her life meant to her again.

Jared opened the back door of the black sedan. Charlise struggled anew. If she entered the car, everything she’d lose everything she’d fought for the last couple of months.

“No, Jared. Let me go.” She hit out with her fist. “You have to let me go. We’re not married anymore. You promised!”

The giant who worked for Jared moved to subdue Charlise. She held her breath and pushed against Jared’s arm. The blood rushed to her head, and she feared she’d lose consciousness.

Bang!

The arms around her neck fell away. She fell to the ground. Coughing, she labored to fill her lungs with air. Burnt rubber choked the little air she drew into her body, and she covered her head to escape the gravel that spit at her from Jared’s car.

On her hands and knees, she crawled toward the house. Tom! Oh God, Jared shot Tom…

“Charlise!” Relief flooded through her when Tom ran to her, keeping her body between himself and the street.

Charlise stayed behind him, crawling closer to his car. Once he stopped on the side closest to the house, her hands roamed over his body to check for wounds.

“Are you shot?” Charlise coughed, and doubled over.

“No, I did the shooting.” He gathered her in one arm, keeping his weapon raised with the other. “We need to get out of here.”

Tom led Charlise around the car and she climbed into the passenger seat. She wiped her mouth and her hand came away with a swipe of blood. She must’ve bitten her lip during the scuffle.

Tom started the car. Charlise gripped the edge of her seat as Tom squealed the tires getting out of the neighborhood. She kept her eyes straight ahead, afraid to look around and see a black sedan behind them.

“You okay?” Tom zigzagged the car up one side street and down another to cover their tracks.

“Yeah, I think so. I thought you were shot.” She scooted back in the seat. “I heard the shot, and it all happened so fast…”

“I know. I saw an opening when you started fighting to get away and took it. I only winged Jared, but it was enough for him to drop you.” Tom cut in front of another car on the entrance to the highway. “I doubt if the son of a bitch has more than a scratch on his arm.”

“Wh…where are w...we going?” The chills hit her hard and fast.

“Right now, we’re going to drive until I know we’re not being followed. When it’s safe, I’ll call into G.P.I.” Tom reached out and turned on the heater.

The blast from the fan blew hot on Charlise’s feet. She sobbed, and covered her face.

“What’s wrong?” Tom reached over and rubbed her leg.

A harsh bark of laughter came from deep inside her and the wetness from her tears stained her hands. She prided herself at how prepared she’d kept herself the last few months, and here she sat with no shoes on her feet.

Whether hiding or on the run, she always made sure she wore sneakers. She even wore them to bed in case she had to make a quick getaway in the middle of the night.

She might have to wear second hand clothes, but her shoes—she’d bought the pair she’d worn earlier back when name-brand clothes meant something in her life. She picked them out on a shopping trip with Julie. Now even her shoes remained lost to her forever.