Because You’re Mine – Marin Montgomery

I’m leaving today, but I should’ve left yesterday. My bags are packed and loaded haphazardly in the backseat and trunk of my rental car which is parked down the street. I’m sitting on my bed wringing my hands in nervous anticipation as the shower spews water from the bathroom, then slows to a trickle as it shuts off. My plan to leave him is complicated, not unlike my fiancé. He isn’t good at letting people go. The diamond on my ring finger feels heavy—almost as weighted as his proposal. The reason for leaving is decidedly divergent from why most people leave their significant other. There’s no cheating that I know about. He didn’t physically hit me. Yet, his abuse is the worst form—slow and painful. It crept up on me little by little—snide comments that got under my skin or a suggestion here and there that wasn’t a suggestion but a loaded recommendation. According to him, my ass could be rounder or my stomach could be flatter. He doesn’t call me ‘fat,’ he just plants the seed that I can use improvement. So, he hired me a personal trainer. He wants my hair longer.

It’s not growing fast enough. He insists on extensions. The copper-colored, chin-length hair is now past my shoulders. The Target and Old Navy brand clothing I used to wear, he throws out. For the masses, he says I need to be ‘unique.’ My clothes are selected by him. He says my wardrobe is a reflection of him. Boobs? He wants them bigger. He’s always pointing out women who have boobs he considers the ‘perfect’ size. I put my foot down and refuse to get plastic surgery.

He pushes but finally recants… because now he wants a baby. That isn’t the worst part. All of this is superficial. I discovered he was involved in my best friend’s murder. Each minute with Alec is torture. My nights are a restless combination of tossing and turning and staring at the clock, the red numbers a reminder of each passing minute I’m under his thumb. When he looks at me, my heart palpitations seem to boom like a loudspeaker announcing my intentions to leave. Does he know I know? How much longer can I pretend before this secret eats me alive, and I put my own life at risk? Eric’s will had put me in a tailspin. He cut Alec out entirely. I’m the sole beneficiary, only my spouse and children will have access to the money.

It’s made me question if Alec loves me or is looking for deep pockets. I’m impatient as I wait for him to get out of the shower and finish grooming his body. If you asked him, he would tell you in no uncertain terms that he’s a work of art with a gorgeous topography. Alec’s jet-black hair matches his eyes, and some would argue his soul. I was scared to live with him, yet more terrified to leave him. Until today. All I could think about was Eric McGrath, my childhood best friend and Alec’s business partner, who suddenly passed a year ago. The police said suicide. Eric was found hanging in his bedroom closet, his belt wrapped around his neck. That story hadn’t seemed plausible.

Eric hadn’t seemed depressed when I had spoken to him a few days before his death. It wasn’t until Eric’s death that I met Alec in person at his funeral. If you ask me, a great place to meet your soulmate! Eric and Alec had been business partners in a real estate development company. I shake my head in disgust as I think back to the funeral, and the way Alec had sat and stared at the closed casket, a look of pretend disbelief on his face. The pure evil of him as he sat with Eric’s parents and looked devastated, thick tears sliding down his cheeks. Eric’s parents introduced me to Alec, crumpled tissues in hand. Alec and I had crossed paths once or twice via FaceTime or when I called Eric’s office to chat, but I had moved overseas to Europe to do some backpacking and soul-searching and had been a virtual stranger for the year before his death. But now, the only stranger in the house is Alec Durant, my fiancé. CHAPTERTWO Alec If I’m late for my 8:00 a.m.

appointment with Tad Johnson, an investor from Utah, I’m blaming Levin. She had tossed and turned last night, and it had kept me awake. She must be anxious, as she’s only restless when she has something on her mind. Whatever the issue, it would have to wait. I would ask her later after I took care of business. With my morning shower and shave complete, I exit the bathroom and find Levin perched on the bed wringing her hands. I glance at my Breitling and then at her. Weird. It’s after 7:00 a.m.

Typically, she works out with her trainer at 7:30 before heading to the animal shelter to save one more underprivileged beast from their demise. The outfit was also off. She wasn’t wearing workout clothes today. Her clothing choice is suspect—no sign of Lululemon athleisure wear. The new tan Burberry handbag and flowered Alice + Olivia dress were much too dressy for even a casual day at the office. Levin didn’t work outside the home, so this was odd. “What’re you doing?” I ask. Levin isn’t paying attention to me. She’s lost in her thoughts. “Levin?” I snap my fingers.

She glances up shocked to see me standing in front of her. She swallows hard. “What?” Her voice sounds small and far away even though I’m standing three inches from her face. “I asked what you were doing.” I give her a hard stare exhaling through my nose. “You’re dressed like you’re skipping the gym today.” I reach down and grab her chin, “And I hope that isn’t the case. I know how irritable you get when you miss a day of Barre.” Levin knows my strict requirements for any woman I date—especially my future bride. I require that she have a personal trainer and a nutritionist to prepare our meals.

Manicures, pedicures, and facials were a part of the lifestyle, and she never balked at the amount of time it took for her to learn how to apply her makeup just perfectly or have her hair blown out to my specifications. The fact of the matter is I love spoiling and dressing her up like a doll. She has a desirable figure—B-cup tits and a small waist with long legs. I have no problem taking credit for the woman she’s become. I also have no issue with improving upon her physique. She’s my trophy, my most prized possession. Due to my line of work, it’s paramount that the woman on my arm reflects class and poise, and a certain, shall we say, richness. Exclusivity. Exclusively mine, to be specific. Her appearance must be custom-tailored to match my custom-made lifestyle.

“No gym this morning.” She fakes a yawn. “I didn’t sleep well last night.” “I could tell.” I smooth down her long, shiny, brunette hair. “You kept me up in the process.” “Sorry,” she mumbles, half-hearted, crossing and uncrossing her legs. “Still doesn’t explain why you’re overdressed on a Monday.” “I’m going to go have breakfast with a potential client.” Her voice is stilted.

“I thought we already discussed you working outside the house.” I pinch her cheek. “We decided no.” “You decided that.” She rolls her eyes at me. “It doesn’t matter, it’s just a meeting.” I didn’t like her tone, but I had to let it go. I gave her a warning look and stepped back. My meeting with some potential clients had me sidetracked, and that’s my priority this morning. I couldn’t wait for the kill.

“The thrill of the kill” had been my tagline since my earliest days in real estate. There was nothing that got me off more than closing deals. And the right woman. Levin’s lying to me. I know it. When someone lies to me, I love the art of catching them—the amusement as they trip over their words to try to find a new direction to take their dishonesty. It isn’t as fun with my fiancée, especially when it involves her lying to me. However, this would have to wait until later. I switch topics since the conversation of her having a job outside the home is ridiculous. There’s no point in arguing it.

I said no. My mind isn’t changing. I decide on a new tactic. “Baby?” I change the tone in my voice. “Hmm?” She looks bothered. “I have a thing tonight, a dinner. Bradshaw’s, 8:00 p.m. I need you there.” “Tonight?” She frowns.

“But you know I volunteer at the animal shelter on Mondays.” Her and the damn animals of the world and her plans to save them all. “You can’t.” It comes out brusque, more so than intended. “I’ll have a driver pick you up at seven. If you have to volunteer, do it this morning, but change your outfit.” “Client names?” She sighs. “Tone.” I prod her. “This is what pays the bills and makes you look like a million bucks.

” Her face softens. She stands up from the bed. I cup her neck and kiss her—once on the cheek and once on the mouth. She recoils. What the fuck is going on? This moping around the house has got to stop. She’s got too much time on her hands. Time for the next progression in life. “Yes, Al, I’ll be there.” She knows calling me ‘Al’ is akin to calling me Alvin, my real name. Levin is trying to annoy me, but I don’t have the time or energy to engage, though the thought of rough sex crosses my mind.

I decide against it. There’s nothing like mixing passion and anger for heated and carnal desire, but money calls. “Baby, get to the gym.” My hands circle her waist. “You need to release some tension…” I kiss her neck, “And don’t worry, I’ll release some for you later.” I slap her tight ass and walk out of the bedroom. Still, something is off. It’s not just her behavior that’s alarming—she can be moody at times like all women. I realize as I grab an apple from the fridge that there are hardly any groceries left. Most of yesterday was spent at work, but grocery shopping was done by Levin for our week ahead on Sundays.

Clearly, she didn’t make it to the store. Our cook usually told her ahead of time what was needed for meal prep, and she would bring home the items for them to put together today. That was odd. I swipe my keys off the counter on my way out. Heading into the garage, I notice a piece of our Louis Vuitton luggage is missing. Weird. Her Range Rover is unlocked. I check the backseat and trunk. Nothing. I didn’t have any idea why she would put luggage in my vehicle, but I open the trunk of my A7 for confirmation.

Still nothing. I start to turn around and head back inside when my cell phone shrills, my 8:00 a.m. client’s name flashing across the screen. Shit. I have to take this. The man is flying in from Utah to look at building a hospital on some prime real estate, and I stand to make a pretty penny if all goes well. My pulse is pounding in my ear. I hit the ‘accept’ button my phone, take a deep breath, and answer, a tension headache starting to build at the base of my neck. Levin is up to something, and it’s no good.

If she wanted a head start, she’s going to get it. CHAPTERTHREE Levin I smooth my dress and hair as Alec walks out of the bedroom, my hands shaking. The garage door motor creaks as he and his silver Audi pull out into the street. A month ago, he’d purchased me a candy-apple red Range Rover that was sitting on the other side of the garage. It would continue to sit there, just a reminder of me. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t trust it didn’t have a tracking device on it. Alec would inadvertently mention details concerning my day that I hadn’t shared with him. A pattern would start to materialize after I would talk on the phone with the few friends I stayed in touch with. The guilty look would creep onto his face after he gave himself away, his lips pressed down hard as if he could keep the words from spewing out of his mouth.

Cameras had started to appear in various locations around the house. Video surveillance can be necessary in some places—not in our bathroom or office. Privacy shrouded Alec’s personal life, but my life with him is examined under a microscope aka his watchful eyes. My Chevy Impala rental was parked two houses down in front of the Miller’s, rented under the name of a close friend I’d met at the gym—one hell-bent on helping me escape Alec’s clutches. Lucky for me, Alec had never met her, never even heard of her. She didn’t travel in our circle. She didn’t have fake tits, drive a Benz, or fashion herself an accessory on a rich man’s arm. She was just a fellow gym-going mom with an approachable smile and a heart of gold—the kind of woman Alec would walk past and not think twice about. Yesterday, I had filled the trunk of the Impala with necessities that Alec wouldn’t notice—mainly toiletries and groceries. As soon as I saw his vehicle drive past the house, I knew it was time to go.

My legs wobble. I need to get ahold of myself. I reach out and balance myself on the closet door. I have to get away from my past and do so in record time. I need as much distance as possible between us. There was one perplexing question—did I leave the ring or take it? It was a gorgeous, handcrafted diamond he had designed with his jeweler, but I also knew it cost a small fortune, and I might need the money. The ring was as easy to part with as Alec, but it could buy me more time. I decide that I will leave it lying in the crib. He had insisted on the crib. In the nursery he demanded.

The room was tastefully decorated in gender-neutral colors, and every detail down to the handmade bassinet and the striped linens considered. A tan stuffed bear that weighs as much as me is propped in the corner, its beady eyes staring at me with regret, and more importantly, a potential video recording device. I yank the bear around, paranoid this is another one of Alec’s sly attempts to watch me. There wasn’t time to go back down memory lane, but it all came crashing back to me as I twist off the ring, the brilliant four carats sparkling in the light from the window in the nursery. The proposal had happened in Fiji when we were on vacation four months ago. Usually, I can foresee the turn of events in relationships, but this was a new one, even for me. It was unexpected to say the least. We had only been dating for about a year, and he proposed on the anniversary of Eric’s death, which Alec planned on purpose as a tribute to our dear friend. Something good to come out of the bad. I believed him at the time—thought it was sweet.

It isn’t a memory I like to conjure up because it reminds me of happier times before I knew he had the potential to be a cold-blooded killer. Our waiter at the resort restaurant had come up to our table at the end of the meal to check on us. He had asked me to grab the check off of his tray which I thought was weird. There, lying on the bill for our seafood and cocktails, was a blue box with a white ribbon that could mean only one thing. The waiter smiled as my stomach did somersaults, and my head got fuzzy. Alec nodded at me to go ahead and remove it from the tray. I gingerly took the Tiffany’s box and formed the biggest smile I have ever composed in my life. As I looked to my right where Alec was seated, I saw him get down on one knee. I started to gag and had to force myself not to throw up the expensive sea bass that was now lodged in my throat. I wasn’t prepared for this.

Internally, I knew I had to get my nerves together, or I would mess up this proposal. I needed to keep mine intact. This was overwhelming to me but not unwelcome. “Levin,” Alec took my hands in his, “I know this has been a rough year, but in the toughest time of my life, you came along. You have been the best thing that could ever happen to me.” He searches my face and continues, “You are smart, sexy, and have made a one-woman man out of me. I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. Will you marry me?” He took the box from my lap and proceeded to pull out one of the largest and brightest diamonds I have ever seen. Tears shone in his eyes as he slid a Marquis-cut sparkler on my ring finger attached to my shaking hand. I started to cry knowing we had bonded over a tragedy that had blossomed into love.

I whispered the word ‘yes’ before saying it over and over with more conviction each time. There was unease, though. For every ‘yes’ coming from my lips, my stomach twisted threatening to release the contents of my queasy stomach. “I love you so much.” I grabbed him by the neck and kissed him with all the passion I could muster in front of a group of excited patrons and wait staff at the restaurant. He had secured us the best view of the South Pacific Ocean and had made sure that the Maitre’d was recording the momentous event. He was detail-oriented and had spared no expense in making sure the proposal was charming and thoughtful. “Baby,” I cried into his arms. “I’m so excited to be your wife.” He held me close as pictures were snapped, and a smile played across his lips.

“Thank you.” He grabbed my chin kissing me hard on the mouth. “For what?” I wiped a tear from my eye. At least in pictures and on video, it would look like I genuinely cared about being his wife. “For making an honest man out of me. I know I didn’t always make it easy. I’m just glad you stuck with me as I sorted through my shit and got over…” His voice trailed off. That was the one point he had made which I understood. How hard Eric’s death had been to get through—I would never be over it. Alec’s head tilted, his gaze trained on me.

“I just wish Eric was here with us to see how happy we are. How he brought us together.” Alec looked glum, a quiet sadness in his eyes, and at that moment, I started to cry real tears of unhappiness, and I covered them by burying my head in Alec’s shoulder. I tried to get ahold of my feelings. “I miss him more than you’ll ever know. He meant so much to both of us.” I covered Alec’s hand with my own, now sparkling with the diamond reflecting off the candlelight. “I know he’s here looking down on us, so happy.” In Fiji after his proposal, the topic of children came screeching to a halt in front of me. He confided in me the last day that he wanted to be a father soon, and that our marriage was icing on the cake to seal the deal.

We were lying in bed the next morning after the surprise proposal. Alec had never professed he wanted kids. In fact, he was adamant when going out to dinner that we choose adult-only restaurants, and when I offered a night off to a new mom next door, Alec flat out refused to help babysit. It was suspect. I snap back to reality when I hear my phone ring. It is a burner phone, one I acquired at a local cell phone provider. It has a limited number of minutes and isn’t as high-tech as my current model. There’s no Facebook. No Instagram. No email.

It is a simple flip phone reminiscent of my teenage years when a cell phone was a novelty. With this, I’m virtually untraceable. I know it’s Maddy, my new friend. The one who is helping me out of this mess. I flin g t h e rin g in t o t h e c rib. He can have it.


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