Torn Apart





Read the first chapter of Torn Apart - the first book in the Hero series.









Prologue

Saskia Hartley knew she was the luckiest woman alive. She had a man who worshipped her and a son who told her daily she was the best mummy ever. After arriving at the school gates, she got out of the Range Rover to stretch her legs. She’d had a long day, and traffic had been annoyingly heavy for some reason. She couldn’t believe she’d made it before the school bell rang.
A couple of the other mums were chatting away and laughing outside the gates, but she wasn’t keen on joining them. They’d never really shown any interest in getting to know her anyway, which was fine by her. She had a hard time figuring out why that was, and she flipped between thinking they disapproved of her Russian background or the fact that she had married into English gentry. Either way, they could stick their friendship where the sun didn’t shine. Shallow people really pissed her off.
A petite blonde pulled her sports car to a stop beside Saskia. Jilly Soames waved as she got out of the car and came to meet her. “Hi, Saskia. Well, are you looking forward to the summer holidays?”
Shyly, Saskia smiled. “I love the holidays with Laurence. We have a full itinerary over the coming months. It’s our special time together.”
Jilly looked at her in disbelief. “Really? You mean you don’t farm Laurence out to your other relatives during the holidays?”
Shocked, she replied, “No! Why would I want to do that? What’s the point in having children if you don’t want to spend time with them?” The bell rang, and she started towards the gates.
Jilly broke into a trot to keep up with her. “Well, two weeks with my kids, and you’d soon understand my point of view.”
Saskia laughed softly. “You are funny, my friend.” She waved when she saw Laurence struggling across the playground with his school trunk. He burst through the gates, dropped the trunk, and flew into her arms. She clutched him tightly and whirled him around, much to the nine-year-old’s delight. “Darling, I’ve missed you so much.”
“Not as much as I’ve missed you, Mummy.”
Releasing him, she bent down to help him with his trunk, but her son, being the little gentleman that he was, refused to let her help carry it. “See you soon, Jilly. Have fun.”
Jilly waved and mumbled, “Fat chance of that happening. You two enjoy yourselves over the holidays.”
“We will,” Saskia called over her shoulder. She pressed the key fob to unlock the car, hoisted his trunk in the boot, then settled Laurence in the backseat before jumping behind the wheel and setting off.
“Mum?” Laurence asked hesitantly.
“Yes, love.” Saskia had an idea what was coming next.
“Can we stop off and get a McDonald’s?”
She smiled and gazed in the rear-view mirror at the large grin lighting up his adorable face. They went through the same ritual at the end of every term. After being cooped up in boarding school for weeks on end, every boy in the school craved a burger the second he was set free. Oh, how she had missed her Laurence.
“If we must. We’ll stop at the one up the road before we head for the motorway again.”
She heard Laurence rustling around in his bag for something, then watched as he plugged in his iPod. She was glad to have him back. Her heart felt lighter somehow. She’d been excited about seeing him for weeks, much to her husband’s amusement. Rupert teased her constantly about the way she doted on her son.
She pulled into the McDonald’s car park a few minutes later. Saskia preferred to eat on the premises rather than use the drive-through facilities after making that mistake once and having the smell linger in the car’s upholstery for weeks—even after she’d had it thoroughly valeted.
They left the vehicle, engrossed in idle chatter, they neglected to see the Astra speeding towards them.
“Watch out!” a man shouted at Saskia.
She yanked her son backwards just before the car flew past. Searching for safety, she rushed through the front door of the restaurant and immediately crouched down in front of her son. “My God, are you all right? The idiots could have killed us.”
The boy trembled, tears welled up in his terrified eyes. He tried to put on a brave face and gave her a small smile to reassure her. “I’m okay, thanks to my Supermummy.”
She hugged him, and they walked up to the counter to select their meals. The restaurant was quiet, but she had a feeling that wouldn’t last long when the other schools in the area finished for the day.
They ate their burgers and talked excitedly about what they would do when they got to the holiday villa on the Greek island of Kos she had booked for them. They were due to fly out, just the two of them, the following Friday. Rupert was planning to join them in a week or so, once his heavy workload became lighter. Saskia gazed at her son, amused that his eyes had grown wide with excitement during their conversation. Within a millisecond, his face had changed, and he gulped noisily. She glanced behind her and watched a group of rowdy teenagers enter the restaurant. She recognised one of them immediately as the one who had tried to run them over a few minutes earlier. She reached across the table and placed a reassuring hand over her son’s. “Don’t worry. Just ignore them, little one.”
But ignoring them proved to be an impossible task when the group sat down at the table next to them.
“Aww… Mummy’s holding the little boy’s hand,” one of the youngsters mocked them, making the rest of the group laugh.
Not wishing to cause her son any further embarrassment, Saskia withdrew her hand from Laurence’s. Her heart sank when she saw fear radiate from his bright blue eyes.
Their heads down, Saskia and Laurence remained silent for the remainder of their meal, neither of them daring to look at each other as the gang’s taunts intensified.
“She don’t look old enough to have a sprog that age. I bet she bangs like a shithouse door in a force-nine gale,” one of the boys shouted across the room. The others laughed riotously.
Saskia’s stomach rejected her burger and chips, and she fought desperately to hang on to the meal she’d almost finished, but it was proving to be difficult. Why is my English so good? It would be so much easier if I didn’t understand what they are saying. Why doesn’t someone help us?
She heard a chair scrape before she felt the presence of someone standing behind her. She gulped noisily as her son scowled at the person.
“What’s that look for, twat features?”
Laurence’s gaze dropped to the plate in front of him, and Saskia shut her eyes as if she knew what was about to happen to her. A mantra began rattling around in her mind. Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me! She didn’t have the courage to speak the words. All she wanted was to leave this infernal place and get back to the safety of her car with her beloved son. She heard yet another chair scrape, then another, the unwelcome noise adding to the torture. Her eyes sprang open to see one of the gang members standing behind her son’s chair. The youth was grinning at her, a knowing glint in his eye.
Saskia swallowed hard. She desperately wanted to stretch out her hand for Laurence to hold, but she knew deep down how foolish that action would be for both of them. Suddenly, the youth flung his arms around Laurence, then grabbed his arms and forced them back around Laurence’s chair. Tears welled up in her son’s eyes, and Saskia’s heart broke in two.
“Don’t hurt him, I beg of you,” she pleaded, her usually slight accent thickening briefly.
“What’s that? Is that German I hear?” the youth behind her bent down and shouted in her ear.
She flinched and leaned away from him. “No! It is Russian. I’m Russian.” As if realising her mistake, she glanced at her son and sent a silent apology. Her son’s shoulders shook as he sobbed.
The teen behind her thrust a forearm under her chin. She froze, waiting for his next movement. Back in Russia, she’d come across his sort before, and she knew they got their kicks by degrading women. Her eyes closed again to block out her son’s face. Her angelic son had never been subjected to anything like this before in his young life because she’d protected him well over the years, but she felt powerless to keep him safe from these vile people. Saskia inhaled a sharp breath when the youth’s hand groped her breast. There was nothing gentle about his touch. He squeezed and pawed at her small breasts before ripping apart her blouse and seeking her nipple through her lacy bra.
“I’ve heard all about what Russian whores are like. Rough, that’s the name of the game with you lot, ain’t it? Well, is this rough enough for you, sweetheart?”
Tears of frustration and fear ran down her cheeks. In her mind’s eye, all she could see was Laurence and his father playing cricket on the back lawn at their mansion. She was sure that thinking happy thoughts would be the key to getting through this intrusion. She winced and bit down on her tongue, determined not to scream in pain as the teen pulled and stretched her nipple as far as he could.
Laurence cried out through his sobs. “Leave my mummy alone.”
Saskia’s eyes flew open at the sound of his shaking voice just as another youth joined them and punched her son in the mouth. “No! No more. Take what you want from me, but leave my son alone.” Why in God’s name isn’t someone coming to help us?
The group laughed again, and the youth who’d been torturing her came around in front of her and leaned down to snarl in her face. “Oh, don’t worry, bitch. I intend to take what I want from you. I don’t neeeeeed your permission. Got that?”
Saskia nodded and sent another silent plea for her son to keep his emotions in check.
The man behind the counter shouted, “Leave them alone, or I’ll call the police.”
The thug standing in front of her slowly straightened up and glanced over at the counter, then motioned with his head to one of the other gang members. Saskia heard feet running, shouting, and a couple of girls scream behind her. The youth returned and high-fived the boy who appeared to be the gang’s leader. The leader addressed the onlooking crowd of patrons and staff. “If anyone else has any bright ideas like that fucking one, they’ll be dealt with in the same way. Got it?”
Saskia could hear a man groaning in pain, and she swallowed the acid burning her throat as the youth turned his attention her way once more. “If you want to keep your pretty face intact, sweetheart, you better come with me nicely.”
“Where? Where are you taking me?” Saskia pleaded. Laurence began sobbing loudly again, and she shook her head at him as tears continued to flow down her cheeks.
The leader didn’t respond. Instead, he grabbed her arm and yanked her out of her chair, then pushed her through the restaurant. All she could think about was getting out of this situation alive. She would do anything she had to in order for that to happen. Her son’s screams followed her as the thug opened the door to the restaurant that led out to the toilets at the rear, where he thrust her in front of him, bent her over the sink, and searched under her skirt for her knickers. He ripped them in two and cast them aside. Saskia clenched her eyes shut as she heard the zipper on his jeans being pulled down. She felt a stabbing pain in her crotch. The youth pounded her from behind, hard and fast, so hard that her head hit the splashback and cracked the tiles behind the sink.
Much to Saskia’s relief, his thrusting didn’t last long before he emptied his load and collapsed against the wall. Fearful of his retribution if she moved, Saskia remained still, until he ordered her to move. Tears of shame escaped her eyes as she wondered how she could ever tell Rupert what had happened to her. Dread filled her when she realised there was little chance of Laurence keeping such awful events from his father. She had a feeling that the drive home would be spent searching for the right words to tell her husband about their ordeal. What her husband thought mattered more to her than ringing the police. In Russia, the police did little to combat gangs who raped women.
Will I ever be able to let Rupert near me again after today? The answer was yes. In her teens, she’d been through a similar ordeal back in her homeland, and it had taken her years to recover from the mental anguish, but recover she had. She would need time, but she knew deep down that she would be able to mend again.
“You’ve got a good figure for a Russian whore. I’ll give you that,” the youth said, breaking into her ruminations.
Saskia started to tremble as she watched his feet move towards her again. He roughly gripped her arm and swung her around to face him. Before she could turn her head away, his mouth captured hers in a violent kiss. She gagged and felt the bile rise in her throat, but she swallowed the burning liquid in spite of the urge to cover her attacker with it.
He bit into her lower lip, and an iron taste seeped into her mouth before he pulled away from her. “Good. I like my chicks to be compliant.”
Saskia bit back the sarcastic comment lingering on her tongue. She was surprised he would know the meaning of the word “compliant.”
He turned and walked out of the toilet. His action left her confused about whether he expected her to stay there, so that the others could come in and have their way with her, or if he expected her to follow him back to her terrified son in the restaurant. The thought of her son still in the clutches of the other thugs made her run to the door and open it. The leader was standing there with his arms crossed, waiting for her. “You took your time. Get back to your son, bitch. I’m done with you.”
Saskia rushed through the door and into the restaurant to see her son being pushed around between the youths. “Stop it, please.”
They laughed, and the ginger one thrust her son at her. She caught him and wrapped her arms around him.
The leader of the gang snapped his fingers, and the other gang members followed him out of the building. Saskia crouched and looked up at her son. “Are you all right, sweetie?”
Still sobbing on a harsh breath, he said, “I think so, Mummy. Are you?”
“Yes, darling. Come on, we should go now.”
She stood up and took him by the hand. However, Laurence dug his heels in firmly. “But… they’ll still be out there. Can’t we wait until they leave?”
He was right. They went back to their table to collect her handbag and to finish their drinks. Laurence tapped her hand and pointed out the window. “They’re leaving.”
Saskia stood and pulled him to his feet. “And so are we. Night will be setting in soon. We need to get back on the road. Your father will be home soon.”
She gave each of the staring people in the room a long, hard stare in return and mumbled under her breath, “Thanks for your help.” A few of the men had the decency to look away in shame.
Saskia didn’t care because she had done what was necessary to save herself and her son. They left the restaurant and crossed the car park to the Range Rover. Before they could reach the safety of their vehicle, a screech of tyres filled the air. Saskia threw protective arms around her son and turned to face the oncoming car. She had no time to react or shove her son out of the way. The car hit them at full speed. The last thing she heard was the tyres squealing again and the whine of the engine as it reversed.


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