Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four quirky and beautiful children. She loves coffee, Superman, rollercoasters, and has an addiction to chapstick.
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, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. She has won four literary awards.
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Breathe in, breathe out.
This mantra gets Tessa Benson through the day.
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, she’d scream.
Everything changes in one night, when she’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 doesn’t find the killer. Not until they strike again…in the place Tessa is least expecting, and where it hurts worst.
“That’s true and further proves my point,” Terin says. “It’s time you started sticking up for yourself. So, back to the Tom thing…you’re over him then? You’re doing okay?”
I bite my lip and stare at the ceiling fan overhead. Mostly shadows in the dark room, its blades are still and my clock light reflects off it oddly in the center so that it almost appears to have eyes. It looks like a starfish clinging to my roof.
Should I lie or tell her that I’m miserable and praying he’ll call me? I don’t even know why. Like she said, he’d told me he couldn’t see me anymore. Not that he didn’t want to see me. Just that he couldn’t. That thought makes me sick to my stomach. How could I want a man who no longer wants me? I bet Gerald would be more than happy if I called him tonight. Ugh, I’m such a stupid girl sometimes.
“Yeah, yeah, Terin, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I, uh…”
My phone buzzes as a text comes in. Without thinking, I pull the phone from my ear to take a peek. It’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.
That’s it. That’s all he has to say to me. Tears well up and I feel like I might choke on them. Swallow down the shame. Terin was right about him. I never meant anything to him. I’m probably one of many. Insignificant. I place the phone to my ear and listen to the last bit of whatever Terin prattles on about. I can’t focus. When she pauses, I take the chance to escape. “Hey, I hate to cut it short, but my stomach is killing me. I think I might have eaten something bad. Do you mind if we hang up for the night?”
“No, no, sure. Sorry you’re not feeling so good. Hope you’re not on the toilet all night long. Remember that time I ate the bad clam chowder and nearly died from projectile diarrhea?”
“Okay, I’ll let you go then, Tess. Just call me in the morning to let me know you’re alive.”
Hoping I still sound cheerful, I say goodnight, hang up, and toss the phone to the foot of the bed.
I’m not even going to try to breathe 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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