Saved by the Rancher - By Jennifer Ryan

Prologue

* * *

DAVID SAT BEHIND his massive desk, his hand wrapped around a tumbler of whiskey instead of his high-priced, highly educated, but still incompetent lawyer’s neck.

“She outmaneuvered us, Mr. Merrick. If we’d known about—”

“You should have known!” he bellowed, barely able to contain his temper. “I lost half of everything to that bitch!”

“At least it didn’t go public.”

“Get out.” Voice low, it resonated with his inner rage.

Alone, David stared out the windows of his thirty-sixth-floor office at Merrick International. His company, and now she’d taken part of it. The fire of fury from that single thought shot through his veins, enraging him more. He tipped the drink to his mouth and swallowed a deep gulp, welcoming the familiar sting down his throat. Three men entered. He tracked their progress toward his desk with their reflection in the window. He’d used his elite security team to investigate many corporate deals, but now he needed them for something much more personal.

His back to them, he ordered, “Whatever it takes. Find her.”

They marched out eager to do his bidding.

David turned his focus from the city lights inside to the anger eating away at him. How could she do this? He’d make her regret winning today in court. She’d pay for besting him. No one got away with taking anything from him. No woman left him, especially not his wife.

He held his drink aloft and toasted the San Francisco skyline. “The game is on.”

Chapter One

* * *

Two years later . . .

IS HE STILL here? Lurking, waiting.

Jenna opened her heavy eyelids a mere slit. She lay sprawled on the cold wood floor, shivering, snow falling everywhere. Inside? She squeezed her eyes closed and opened them again, trying to focus on the things around her. Her sight adjusted, the double images coalescing into a morbid scene she didn’t want to see. Feathers from the pillows on the bed floated on the air and rained down, creating a white blanket over the devastation in the room.

The ringing in her ears quieted, allowing her to better focus on the bedroom of her rented cottage. Shards of glass from the smashed antique dressing mirror lay scattered around her. Some of the pulled-out dresser drawers landed on the floor, others hung open crookedly. Her clothes, though few, lay slashed and strewn everywhere. The overwhelming sweet scent of jasmine perfume mixed with the metallic scent of her blood made her stomach clench and pitch until bile rose and stung the back of her throat, leaving a sour taste on her tongue.

She took a few shallow breaths to stave off the inevitable, at least until she got to the bathroom.

His worst rage yet. Mind-sharpening memories of the last hour flipped through her brain like a morbid slide show.

Him, grabbing her from behind on the front porch when she returned from running. He clamped his gloved hand over her mouth, grabbed her around the waist, and hauled her through the door. Him, spinning her around and with a backhanded slap sending her reeling backward and crashing into the dining room table. Pain radiated from her hip and down her leg. He grabbed her wrist, pulled her forward, and squeezed her so tight to his chest she couldn’t breathe. Pain along her jaw, she opened her mouth to scream in terror, but he clamped his hand over her mouth, cutting off her air, and the scream rising out of her disappeared in the back of her throat. Him, shoving her away. She hit her head against the wall and stars exploded on the inside of her eyelids. Pain in the back of her head, a large throbbing bump swelled under her skin.

Nothing but him and pain. And, oh God, more to come.

Forcing her into the bedroom, he held her in his tight grip, grinding his hips and hard arousal against her bottom, inciting even more fear.

He liked her scared.

She stood helplessly frozen. Tried to get her mind to work, think, tell her body to flee, but her limbs didn’t heed the wild thoughts in her head.

Him, snatching her belt off the dresser, pushing her onto the bed. She landed on her stomach and his fingers dug into her skin, bruising. She curled up, tried to make herself as small a target as possible. The belt lashed across her back and buttocks, her screams disregarded, her thin tank top and nylon shorts no protection against the bite of the leather whip and metal buckle.

The dressing mirror smashed to the floor with a loud crack.