Claiming Felicity (Ace Security #4)

Claiming Felicity (Ace Security #4)

Susan Stoker


Ten years ago, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois

Megan Parkins put her pillow over her head to try to drown out the voices coming from the other side of the wall . . . but it was no use. She could hear her roommate, Colleen Murphy, and Colleen’s boyfriend, Joseph, as easily as if they were standing right next to her.

“You’re an embarrassment, Colleen. A complete and utter embarrassment. What’d I tell you before we left?”

“Th-That I should stay by your side.”

“And what did you do?”

“I went to the bathroom.”

“Did I tell you you could go to the bathroom?”

“No, but, Joseph, I really had to go.”

Megan flinched at the sound of Colleen being struck. She squeezed her eyes together and clenched her teeth. She hated Joseph. With every fiber of her being. She’d told her friend over and over that he was bad news. That she should break up with him. But Colleen didn’t listen. Defended Joseph, in fact, saying that his father had been really strict with him, and he’d learned discipline as a result. And now he was just teaching it to her. Besides, she claimed, he didn’t mean it when he yelled at her . . . or when he hit her.

“I don’t give a shit,” Joseph went on. “If you have to piss your pants, you do it. The only thing I asked of you was that you stay by my side, and you couldn’t even do that one simple thing.”

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“Damn straight it won’t happen again,” Joseph told her.

Megan heard him hit Colleen again. Then again. And a third time. Before she thought about what she was doing, Megan was on the move. She couldn’t sit there and let Joe beat Colleen up again. Not after the concussion he’d given her the last time. If Colleen wouldn’t help herself, Megan would.

She picked up the phone and quickly dialed 911. Whispering, Megan told the dispatcher what was going on and where they were.

The ten minutes it took for the cops to show up were excruciating. Joe continued to berate Colleen, punctuating his words with his fists. Megan wanted to scream at Colleen to stand up for herself, or to get the hell out of there, but she kept quiet. When Megan heard the sirens, she quietly left her bedroom and tiptoed past her roommate’s room, down the hall, and to the front door. She was waiting for the pair of policemen when they arrived at the apartment and pointed toward Colleen’s door.

Within moments, Joe was being interviewed off to one side by one of the cops, while the other tried to talk to Colleen.

Ignoring Joseph’s intense gaze, Megan went over to her roommate.

“Can you tell me what’s going on?” the police officer asked.

“N-Nothing. We were just having an argument,” Colleen said meekly.

“How’d you get the mark on your face?”

“I fell the other morning in the bathroom. Knocked my head on the counter.”

“You know that’s not true,” Megan interjected. “Last week Joseph hit you when you were ten minutes late getting to his apartment because of traffic.”

Colleen was shaking her head before Megan had finished speaking. “No, I fell.”

The officer looked between Megan and the battered, scared-out-of-her-mind woman in front of him. “Did your boyfriend hit you tonight?”


Megan ground her teeth together and shook her head. “Colleen, you need to get away from him. He’s going to really hurt you one of these days.”

The other woman stubbornly shook her head. “He loves me. We’re fine. You need to keep your nose out of our business.” She looked up at Megan for the first time since she’d entered the room. “You don’t understand. He loves me. And I love him. We were just arguing tonight. That’s it. All couples do it.”

Megan cocked her head and looked at her friend. Other than the small mark near her temple from the week before, Colleen didn’t have any other obvious marks to show that she’d been hit by her boyfriend. Any new marks anyway. But she wasn’t putting weight on one of her legs and was holding one arm close to her stomach. Obviously Joseph had wised up and learned not to hit his girlfriend anywhere that would show.

“Don’t do this,” Megan pleaded in a soft tone so Joseph couldn’t overhear her. “I heard him hitting you, Colleen. Please. Press charges. Get him out of your life.”

It was as if Colleen didn’t even hear her. “Officer, nothing is going on. My roommate misheard. We were simply arguing. That’s it.”

The cop sighed. “Do you want to press charges, Ms. Murphy?”

Colleen shook her head.

“Can I press charges?” Megan asked. “For trespassing, or assault, or something?”

“Do you have a restraining order against him?”

Megan sighed. “No.”

“Unfortunately, if he didn’t strike you, and you aren’t the victim, then no. Stay here, I need to talk to my partner for a moment.”

Megan nodded, and as soon as he turned away from them, she looked at Colleen. “Why are you protecting him? He treats you like shit.”

“He loves me,” Colleen insisted.

“He doesn’t. That isn’t love. Not a normal, healthy kind, at least.”

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