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His to Protect: A Fireside Novel

By:Stacey Lynn



I left a week ago.

One week of constantly looking over my shoulder while I walked down the sidewalk.

One week of keeping one eye on the road and one on my rearview mirror while I drove away from Kentucky.

One week since I had been free, yet I still felt caged.



Yet in one week, I had learned things about myself I didn’t know before.

I was stronger than I thought.

I was braver.

I was done.

Done being his punching bag. Done being his perfect wife in our perfect home in our perfect neighborhood with our perfect friends.

I never wanted to be perfect again.

I wanted to figure out who I was now, without him. Without the chains that used to keep me in my elegant prisona home that was designed before I ever entered his perfect little picture, waiting for me to move into as soon as he slid a giant rock onto my finger.

I would never return.

I just had to make sure he never found me.

Because if he did, I knew I would not survive.

Chapter 1


The air was crisp, the lingering stickiness of summer’s humidity changing into the first hints that fall was just around the corner. With one hand on Boomer’s leash, I tugged him along the sidewalk, pretending we were out for a late-night stroll through the cobblestone streets of Latham Hills.

I hadn’t intended to stop so close to Kentucky. Detroit was only a day’s drive from the home I’d fled just last week. But as soon as I arrived there, intent on heading to Canada and leaving my past behind, something about the little area on the north side of Detroit spoke to me.

It was old and beautiful, rich with a history I wanted to understand and explore, and that’s what so much of this journey was about for me.

Figuring out who I was and what I loved.

So even though I was close to crossing the border into a new country, I felt drawn to stay awhile.


Wait for the bruises on my cheek to fade, and my ribs to cease aching when I moved too suddenly.

Then I’d move on to Canada, where, hopefully, Kevin wouldn’t be able to reach me.

“Come on, Boom.” I tugged on his leash again and led my boxer into the alley, where I’d been giving him food from the leftovers of restaurants for the last week. Leaving my old life with a small supply of cash forced me to stretch my budget in ways I never had before. Dog food wasn’t expensive in the grand scheme of things, but I only had a few hundred dollars left and I was trying to save every penny I could.

I’d make it up to Boomer with a bag of his favorite gourmet food as soon as we got settled somewhere. Besides, he didn’t seem to mind eating leftover burgers from the sports bar that we walked by on our first day.

I won’t lie. The delicious aromas that drifted into the air had called to me more than once, too. It’d been ages since I was “allowed” to sink my teeth into a juicy burger, but a good meal was just one more thing I couldn’t afford right now.

It had been gas station hot dogs and pizza slices for me, something else I hadn’t been allowed to eat before. Although now they were something I didn’t want to eat again.

With a cautious glance down the sidewalk, I ensured no one was watching before Boomer and I headed into the alley. There were lots of restaurants along this main stretch of road in Latham Hills, but few alleys where I could hide while I let Boomer nosh on grilled beef.

“Come on, pup,” I whispered, and gave another quick tug on the leash. He followed me eagerly, already licking his chops while his wild tail flopped back and forth.

My dog could understand basic commands; because of his size, I worked hard to train him properly. But even at six years old, he still acted like a puppy most days.

He began to whine with anticipation as I led him over to the dumpster, where I dropped his leash and told him to sit. He listened immediately, his tail thumping against the pavement, while I pulled myself up to the top of the dumpster.

Dumpster diving. If only my mother or Kevin could see me now. I almost snickered at the idea even as I was grunting.

My required Pilates and cardio routines had done little to build the muscle needed to lift the heavy metal lid.

With a final push, I used all my strength to shove the top open, cringing when the metal banged against the brick wall.

I dropped to my feet, waiting for any sign of life as the sound echoed in the dark, narrow alley.

Next to me, Boomer began to whine, his large, pink tongue drooping from his mouth.

“Hush,” I whispered, and gave him a quick, calming rub. “Just another minute, boy. Now, stay.”

His face rubbed against my thigh and I quickly pushed him away before I climbed back up on the dumpster and reached in for a bag of garbage.

Shame slithered through me as I grabbed the first black bag I could get my fingers on.

A week ago, I was coming home from a manicure appointment and running twenty minutes late for dinner, and I knew exactly what was in store for me.

Now, my chipped nails were clinging to plastic bags of garbage. I had no idea what the future held.

Even with the shame, this life felt better.

The bag slipped from my grip just as I lifted it over the edge and fell to the ground.

“Crap,” I muttered, looking at the mess of spilled garbage at my feet, and felt my cheeks heat with fear at the small infraction.

I was so tired of jumping at every mistake I made, quickly looking over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed. If he noticed.

I also didn’t swear. It’d been ingrained in me that a lady cursing was completely unacceptable, even if I used to curse all the time when Kevin and I first began dating.

He quickly cured me of the horrid habit once we married with a backhand to my cheek when I yelled “Shit” one night after dropping a vase.

I only dropped it because he’d yelled at me for not having the dinner table properly set by the time he came home.

It was the first night he hit me.

It most definitely wasn’t the last.

Boomer growled and I quickly squatted down to tear open the bag.

Another shiver of shame rippled through me as I realized what I was doing, what I’d become.

Dirt was visible under my chipped fingernails. I tried not to think about it as I dug through the bag until I found a plastic container filled with what I assumed was a patron’s forgotten leftovers.

I opened it to find exactly what I was looking for.

I reached out to hand it to Boomer when a bright flash of light caught my attention right before a loud clanging sound reverberated through the alley.

“What in the hell is going on out here?”

I jumped backward, falling to my backside, and quickly scrambled behind Boomer.

In front of me, a monstrous shadow filled the doorway just down from the dumpster.

I couldn’t see anything except the black outline of a large figure, but it was clear he had his hands on his hips.

In front of me, Boomer looked up at the stranger and let out a loose growl before he dropped his head and went back to eating.

Some guard dog.

I’d have scolded him for it if I hadn’t been so terrified about the stranger, who reached down and picked up something that looked like a brick.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered, and began searching for Boomer’s leash, but he must have been sitting on it.

Typical dog. He wouldn’t leave until he was good and ready.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again and scrambled to my feet. At five six, I wasn’t exactly short, but I had nothing on the man in front of me. “We’ll go…it’s just…he needs to eat, but that’s no excuse, I understand…”

My voice trailed off as the man dropped the brick in the doorway, propping open the door to the restaurant, and stepped into the alley.

“You’re the one who’s been digging through the crap in my dumpster?”

He took another step out of the doorway. With the light off to his side, I could just make out his features. Shaved head, tanned skin, sharp jawline. Big as a truck.

Nothing about this said it was safe for me to be here. I wrapped my fingers around Boomer’s collar, fruitlessly trying to pull him away from his food.

He whined and jerked forward. I stumbled from his sudden movement and hissed in pain.

My other hand wrapped around my ribs as I flinched.

“You hurt?” the man asked and stepped closer.

“Stop.” I thrust out my hand and looked away from him and down at my darn dog who wouldn’t stop slurping up french fries. “We’ll go, I swear, and we won’t come back. I just…”

Darn it. This was horrifically embarrassing. I never actually planned what I would do or say if I got caught digging through trash.

Tears welled in my eyes and I shook my head.

If I turned now and walked away, I doubted this mountain of a man would follow me. Or he would, but if I let Boomer go, he’d slow the man down.

Not with his teeth and a vicious bite. He’d probably lick the man to death. Or tackle him, wanting to play.

My stomach rumbled, practically vibrating off the brick walls, and I pressed my hand over my stomach to silence it.

“Sounds like you need a meal.”

“No, thank you,” I said brusquely, and took a step toward the street. “We should be going.”

The man took several steps forward before I could blink. He might have been big, but he was darn quick, and he was now directly in front of me with one hand outstretched.

I flinched back immediately, throwing my hand in front of my face before he cursed.