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If You Fight

By:K.M. Scott

Chapter One

Serena


All around me I heard silence. Where was I? What happened? I slowly opened my eyes and saw through the haze stark white walls and a window with pale orange draperies pulled closed. Instantly, all that happened flooded into my brain. Fighting with Oliver. Hands pushing me down the stairs. Lying on the floor. Him standing over me kicking my stomach with the point of his shoe.

Emotions swirled inside me as I remembered it all. I looked beneath the white sheet covering me to see a bloody maxi-pad in my underwear, and my heart clenched, aching for what I'd lost.

For what Ryder and I had lost.

I remembered every hateful word that spewed from Oliver's mouth. Every terrible word he said to me before pushing me down those stairs and taking my child from me.

Before he tried to kill me.

Rolling over, I curled up into a ball and closed my eyes as the tears came and wouldn't stop. Not when the nurse asked me if I needed anything for pain. Not when she told me I'd be okay and I could have more children. Not when she placed her hand gently on my shoulder and said God knew about my pain.

What God? God hadn't kept his eye on me not a day of my entire life. If he had, my mother wouldn't have been sent away from me in the dark of night. If God had cared, my father wouldn't have auctioned me off to the highest bidder, a man who not a day earlier had threatened to kill me and then pushed me down a flight of stairs.

If God even knew I existed, I wouldn't have been shown happiness with Ryder only to have it yanked away from me at every turn.

No, God knew nothing of my pain, or if he did, he didn't give one damn. God wasn't going to save me from the world I was in. Only I could do that.

I will not die at the hands of my husband. I will not die because I'm merely a female. I won't let Oliver or my father do this to me.

Over and over, the words repeated in my mind until my lips began to move and the words met the air around me, each one feeling like it clawed its way out of my injured throat, still raw from Oliver's attempt to strangle me.

"I will not die at the hands of my husband. I will not die because I'm merely female. I won't let Oliver or my father do this to me."

I said those words until nothing else came to my mind. I wanted those words to be truth. Never before had I believed in myself enough to take that stand and refuse to be discarded for who I was.

But could I be that strong? I wanted nothing more than to be that woman who could face the monsters all around her and make them fear me like I feared them.

Ryder could. He scared them. He had enchanted my father in ways my sister and I never could, and from that first day, my father respected him. Needed him. Wanted him around. 

Watching him do it so effortlessly thrilled me nearly as much as being with him did. Strength exuded from him even as he stood silently staring straight ahead there in my father's office day after day.

And my husband knew it. He knew Ryder possessed a strength he never would, and it terrified him. I may not have, but Ryder did.

I stared at those ugly orange draperies and repeated my mantra, but slightly different now. I would not let them kill me. I would be strong. Or die trying to be that person.

And from that moment on I would do everything in my power to escape from that world that had trapped me for so long I wasn't sure I'd recognize life without the manipulation and heartache my father and husband force fed me. But deep down inside where only Ryder had seen, I craved that life away from all I'd ever known.

Drying my eyes, I set my mind to a singular thought. I would survive, and I'd get out. And I'd do whatever I had to.

Trapped in that bed as a captive audience, I watched as my husband entered my hospital room and noted the look of surprise in his beady eyes. Thought you got rid of me, did you? Not so quickly, Oliver. I'm tougher than I look.

Behind him, my father followed, along with Ryder. Overjoyed to see him, I didn't even attempt to hide how happy I was he'd come to be with me. I'd pretended long enough for a man who tried to kill me.

Oliver spun around to see who had made my eyes light up and brought a smile to my face. Pointing his finger at Ryder, he barked, "Get him out of here! He doesn't belong here!"

Ryder leveled his gaze on him and didn't waver, but my father spoke up to defend his presence there. "You should be thankful for him. He's the reason your wife is still alive. If he hadn't found Serena in time, we'd be meeting to discuss her funeral instead of seeing her lying there in that hospital bed."

Rage simmered beneath Oliver's façade of worry for me, but he said nothing in response to my father's dictate, even though I knew how much he chafed under his orders. He turned back to look at me and as if on cue, he played the loving husband act like a pro.

Taking my hand in his own far-too-soft hand, he held it just tightly enough that I couldn't pull away without causing a scene. "How do you feel, honey? Your father told me the horrible news, but don't worry. We'll have other children."

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