Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four quirky and
beautiful children. She loves coffee, Superman, rollercoasters, and has anÂ addiction to chapstick.Â
She works as a registered nurse and in her spare time writes novels. As a
multi-genre author, she has written in the categories of romance suspense,
young adult, womenâ€™s fiction, and literary fiction. She has won four literary
Connect with the Author here:Â
Breathe in, breathe out.Â
This mantra gets Tessa Benson through the day.Â
The man she loves walks all over her, and she just wants to get by without her
heart shattering to pieces. If she could find her voice, sheâ€™d scream.
Everything changes in one night, when sheâ€™s snatched from the streets and tied
to a bed, a camera set up to capture her dying moment. And the person who paid
to watch her die…is still out there somewhere.
Tessa prowls dark neighborhoods in a quest for justice, but she doesnâ€™t findÂ the killer. Not until they strike againâ€¦in the place Tessa is least expecting,Â and where it hurts worst.
â€œThatâ€™s true and further proves myÂ point,â€ Terin says. â€œItâ€™s time you started sticking up for yourself. So, backÂ to the Tom thingâ€¦youâ€™re over him then? Youâ€™re doing okay?â€
I bite my lip and stare at theÂ ceiling fan overhead. Mostly shadows in the dark room, its blades are still andÂ my clock light reflects off it oddly in the center so that it almost appears toÂ have eyes. It looks like a starfish clinging to my roof.
Should I lie or tell her that Iâ€™mÂ miserable and praying heâ€™ll call me? I donâ€™t even know why. Like she said, heâ€™dÂ told me heÂ couldnâ€™tÂ see me anymore. Not that he didnâ€™t want toÂ see me. Just that he couldnâ€™t. That thought makes me sick to my stomach. HowÂ could I want a man who no longer wants me? I bet Gerald would be more thanÂ happy if I called him tonight. Ugh, Iâ€™m such a stupid girl sometimes.
â€œYeah, yeah, Terin, donâ€™t worry aboutÂ me. Iâ€™ll be fine. I, uhâ€¦â€
My phone buzzes as a text comes in.
Without thinking, I pull the phone from my ear to take a peek. Itâ€™s Tom. My
heart thuds against my ribcage. Hit the text. Read it silently, holding my
breath while my friend rambles on.
Tom: Stop. Texting. Me.
Thatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s all he has to sayÂ to me. Tears well up and I feel like I might choke on them. Swallow down theÂ shame. Terin was right about him. I never meant anything to him. Iâ€™m probablyÂ one of many. Insignificant. I place the phone to my ear and listen to the lastÂ bit of whatever Terin prattles on about. I canâ€™t focus. When she pauses, I takeÂ the chance to escape. â€œHey, I hate to cut it short, but my stomach is killingÂ me. I think I might have eaten something bad. Do you mind if we hang up for theÂ night?â€
â€œNo, no, sure. Sorry youâ€™re notÂ feeling so good. Hope youâ€™re not on the toilet all night long. Remember thatÂ time I ate the bad clam chowder and nearly died from projectile diarrhea?â€
â€œOkay, Iâ€™ll let you go then, Tess.Â Just call me in the morning to let me know youâ€™re alive.â€Â
Hoping I still sound cheerful, I sayÂ goodnight, hang up, and toss the phone to the foot of the bed.
Iâ€™m not even going to try to breatheÂ through this. I stare up at the ceiling and let the tears run down my cheeks,
into my hair, and onto my pillow. The starfish on the ceiling stares back at
the sad, pathetic girl and laughs.
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