Tammy-Jo Hawthorne limped down the side of the highway, broken shoe in hand, and cursed everything from the gravel cutting into her bare foot, to the drizzling rain making her mascara run. But most of all, she cursed fate for ever introducing her to her no-good, dirty, rotten scumbag of an ex-husband—Timothy Hawthorne the third, and don’t you forget it.
Her cheeks flamed again even as goosebumps of embarrassed anger chased themselves over her flesh. They’d escorted her out; she still couldn’t believe it. Not one person had stood to defend her either. Ten years she’d belonged to that stupid high-falutin club, and no one had supported her in her time of need. Well, screw them.
A semi-trailer flew past, and a sheet of water drenched her to the bone.
“Ooh.” She raised her shoe in the air and shook it at the fading taillights. “Thanks for nothing.”
Disheartened, she dropped her Louboutin in the grass, careful to keep it off the scratchy gravel, and wrung out the hem of her shirt. Tim had a lot to answer for; not least of which was the fact her Jaguar had been towed away while she’d been inside the country club. It was becoming clear that this had been a well-choreographed plan on his part. He’d thought of everything too. When she’d tried to call for a cab, she found her phone had been cut off. She’d stomped over to a nearby gas station to use the payphone, and found her bank and credit cards had been cancelled as well. He’d taken her love and stomped it beneath his wingtips and now he wanted her pride too.
Well, he couldn’t have it, damn him.
If she had to walk the entire twenty miles to home, she would.
And then she was going to sue that bastard for every red cent he owned.
The traffic snaked by in a never-ending ribbon of color, the noise a match to the static in her head. She thought about doing like she’d seen on television and lift her thumb to catch a ride, but fear held her back. Those were the same shows where the unlucky traveler was never seen again. She didn’t plan on giving her soon-to-be ex that easy of an out.
The rain was falling harder now, coating everything in sight with a silvery glow. If she wasn’t so cold—a combination of nerves and early spring weather—it would be pretty. Okay, maybe that was a stretch. There was nothing remotely pretty about being stranded in the middle of nowheresville thanks to the man you’d promised to love and honor until death did you part. The last of which was looking tempting right now.
If only she knew a hitman.
A throaty engine gearing down set her heart to leap-frogging in her chest—he’d changed his mind and returned her car. She swung around, a relieved smile tipping her scowl upside down, but instead of her beautiful silver Jag, a black-as-sin Mustang idled behind her in the parking lane, its driving lights blinding her with their brightness.
Now her heart pounded for an entirely different reason. She glanced into the ditch, but the forest seemed impossibly far away and the traffic never even hesitated, unaware and uncaring that her life could be in danger.
T.J. shaded her eyes, but she couldn’t see the driver. She clutched her handbag. It wasn’t much, but the soft lambskin purse held the keys to her house and her car—once she got it back—her identification, all the odds and ends a woman deemed necessary, and the proof that her husband was the reason she was in this predicament. She wouldn’t give it up without a fight.
She picked up the only weapon at her disposal, her shoe, and inched backward, dismayed when the car stalked after her. Panic overrode decorum and she turned to run, but the ditch was slippery with the mud and rain and she lost her footing, careening down the steep embankment with a little screech. She landed hard on her butt and sat there for a minute, stunned. How the mighty had fallen. The Hawthorne couple were the envy of Magnolia, South Carolina. Everyone wanted to be them, have the same kind of loving relationship they had. What a joke.
And it was all on her.
A car door opened and a few ominous seconds later, T.J. heard footsteps on the gravel meridian. Even through the rain and early evening light, her white shirt practically glowed a neon here I am signal to anyone looking. And of course, someone was. She hunched over, doing her best to become one with the mud, and prayed like she’d never prayed before. Not hard, since she’d never followed any religious beliefs, but she promised anyone who was listening that she’d change. Just don’t let her die.
“Tammy-Jo Hawthorne?” scary stranger dude called down the hill, his voice filled with amused aggravation.
What did he have to be aggravated about? She was the one sitting in a cold, wet ditch while a stalker… well, stalked her.
“Go away,” she yelled, fed up with men and life in general. She swiped at a clump of ooey-gooey crap clinging to her leg below the silk pencil skirt she’d no doubt have to throw in the trash after this episode. Just one more reason to shoot Tim.
“I was at the club today,” he said, and the sympathy in his voice made her squirm. “I heard about your car, thought you could use a lift.”
She threw back her head and let the rain wash over her face. The humiliations just kept coming. The moment he’d mentioned the club she’d known who her dubious savior was; her evil step-brother.