Rob's right fist hurt more than she'd remembered. That was the first thing Anna thought as she tried to focus through the pain. Tried not to cry in front of hime.
But that didn't stop Anna from cupping her palm protectively over her cheek, just in case Rob decided to hit her again.
Rob was sitting across from her once more, his crisp Brooks Brothers dress shirt hardly wrinkled. He Scowled. "What Anna? Fro once you have nothing to say?"
With a force of will, she dropped her hand and clasped her palms together. Resolved to stay calm. Yet, one more time, her mind played back to what she'd seen in his office earlier that day. How he'd been cashing checks for personal use from his campaign funds. And, worst of all, the realization that he'd spent some of that money on her. "There isn't anything to say. Not anymore."
"That, my dear, is where you're wrong. I don't ever want to heat that disbelieving, sarcastic tone in your voice again. And once more, you will never even think of mentioning your opinions about my business when we're in public again. Do you hear me?"
He was yelling. Of course she could hear him.
But now she believed his threats. After she'd questioned the receipts she'd found in front of one of his closest staff, Rob had been livid. Less than an hour later he pulled her out of the party, saying they had things to discuss. He's barely spoken a word to her the whole way home. She had a feeling this was coming. And yet has hoped that his anger would subside, that it wouldn't come to this.
"Yes." Unable to help herself, she nodded. The movement swayed the diamond drop earrings. When she'd first received them, she'd loved the sweet tinkling noise they made. Now that she realized they'd been bought with money from Rob's supporters, their weight merely intensified her piercing headache.
Rob's eyes followed the flash of the diamond against the shadows of his living room wall. Anna knew the look that glinted in his eyes. It spoke of satisfaction. Ownership.
How has she been so very wrong about him?
Color returned to his cheeks as Rob leaned back against the cushions of the cream-colored couch. "Don't forget who you are talking to. We have a future together, Anna. We have plans."
She didn't even try to hide the bitterness in her voice. "I don't date men who hit me."
"That was an accident."
His voice hardened. "It was an accident, Anna."
She knew it hadn't been. Instinctively, she knew he'd planned to hit her from the moment she said too much at the party. "Are you sure?"
Almost smiling, he raised his brows. "Come on. We both know I'm not the type of man who would hit a woman. But I'm also not the type of man to let a woman walk all over him. You need to learn your place, Anna. Learn your place and not forget it."
Unfortunately, she was slowly learning her place. She was just sorry it had taken her so long.
And that was the problem, wasn't it? Rob Peterson was all polished veneer. He was smooth talking, gift-giving, perfectly handsome and extremely well-mannered. When he'd first asked her out, Anna had been foolishly excited that he'd even noticed her.
And though he'd seemed possessive and at times controlling, she'd pretended it was only natural that a man like him would want everything to be perfect.
After all, he was running for a seat in the House of Representatives. He was an important man. A lot of people thought so.
As weeks turned to months, she'd quit her job and took another one─a silly position at an insurance company where she didn't have to work full time. Rob has asked that she'd be available at a moment's notice. To attend fundraisers and social galas.
When he took her shopping and paid cash for a closetful of designer dresses, skirts, and shoes, she'd pushed aside her own feeling for the clothes, even thought she would have usually never worn skirts so form-fitting, necklines so low, or heels so high. After all, those things were important to Rob and the clothes were so much nicer than anything she'd ever owned.
But now Rob wasn't going to let her go. She knew it, and he knew it. Now her cheek knew it, too.
She was trapped.
As she sat across from him, felt his gaze on her, noticed that her cheek was swelling, Anna knew there was only one thing to do. She had to get away.
She tried to smile. Let him think she was just going to shrug this off as she had the other times. Standing up, she smoothed the jade green silk sheath around her hips. Stepped toward him on four inch heels. Close enough to smell his cologne.
Close enough for him to touch her again if he wanted to.
Tried to think of a lit he would believe. "I'm sorry about everything Rob. I had no business saying a word about your finances, especially since I love your gifts so much. The truth is, I…I've been nervous about our future."
His dark brown eyes turned languid. "What are you nervous about?"
She picked a reason he would completely accept. "I saw how your were talking with that girl at the party earlier this evening. She was flirting with you nonstop."
"Who?" Rob leaned forward. Ran a finger up the expanse of her bare arm.
"The redhead?" Anna pretended to almost forget the woman's name. "Sammy?"
"Oh. That was Samantha, not Sammy." Oh, so gently, Rob pulled her down next to him. "Don't give her another thought. She's a nobody. You have nothing to be nervous about, baby. No other girl is like you. I get compliments on those pretty green eyes of yours almost every day."
Anna looked down so he wouldn't see the emotion she was trying so hard to conceal. But just as firmly, Rob tilted her chin up, so they were almost eye to eye. Almost tenderly, he wiped away a stray tear from her cheek. "Don't cry, Anna," he murmured, frowning. "I'm just doing what I have to do."
Inside, her nerves were warring. Fear and regret churned together, making her feel faint and nauseous. Anna knew she couldn't continue the charade much longer. "I think I better go home."
"Already?" He glanced at his gold watch. "It's not even midnight."
She tried to smile. "You're forgetting that I'm a working girl. They're expecting me at nine a.m. sharp. "She pulled away and reached for her coat.
He followed her to the door. "As soon as we're engaged, you can quit," he murmured as he helped her slip on the black wool coat over her shoulders. After fastening the top button, he leaned closer and grazed his lips across her ear. "Then your time will be all mine."
Her heart was pounding. "I know it will. I'll see you tomorrow, Rob."
Just as he leaned close to kiss her, his cell phone rang. Looking at the screen, Rob grimaced. "I've got to get this, Anna. Sorry."
She slipped out.
There were twenty steps to the car. She just had to make it twenty steps. With every ounce of effort, Anna walked slowly, her back straight, her head high. Just as if Rob was watching her from the window.
Ten more feet.
Two more feet. She slid into her sedan, turned on the ignition. Placed the car in reverse. Slowly edged the car down the driveway. Switched to drive. The front curtain fluttered as Rob finally walked away.
As she drove down his street, Anna dared to lock the doors. Safe. She was almost safe. The tears came, fast and furious. There was no doubt anymore, she has to get away.
Everyone loved Rob Peterson They loved his smile, they loved his promises. Her parents thought his commanding manner was just what she needed. So far, no one had believed her when she tried to tell them he was dangerous. No one believed that he could hurt her, that he would hurt her. Especially not his brother-in-law, the sheriff.
Yes, as far as everyone was concerned, Anna Metzger already belonged to Rob Peterson.
With a ragged breath, Anna knew what she had to do. Before it was too late, she had to go someplace where no one could find her. She had to hide. By morning, she would have a plan. And then, to almost everyone who knew her…she would be gone.