Her life is turned upside down by the one man who should have protected her from it all.
Emma is a survivor. Her father, who has taken off to avoid paying his debts to a well known drug dealer, has kept her down her entire life and she’s learned enough from living in his world to take care of herself, because no one else will.
She finally gets her shot at love when she meets the handsome and protective Braden Holt, only to be forced to turn her back on him to protect him from her father’s enemies.
Tragedy strikes and Emma has to decide if she is going to do what she always does, build up walls to shut everyone out, or pick herself up with the help of her friends and the man who loves her.
I can feel myself coming to, and immediately the pain hits me throughout my entire body. My eyes blink at the brightness. As I slowly roll over, my stomach wretches and I vomit all over myself.
My body curls into a fetal position of its own accord, arms wrapping around my knees. I look at what I can see of myself, taking stock of my current situation. From what I can tell through my swollen eyes, my arms and legs are badly beaten, my shoulder is dislocated—which I can only tell because it happened to me a couple of times as a kid—my sweater is torn, and my pants are around my ankles.
I peel back the hair that is glued to the side of my face by a mixture of what must be dried blood and vomit. I wince when I feel the huge, painful lump growing on my right cheekbone.
I force myself to move. I rise up on all fours and crawl to the nearest wall. Putting my hands to the wall, I attempt to bring myself to my feet. My legs give out from under me and I collapse, throwing up again.
My head feels heavy, like I’m in a thick dark cloud. My memories are fuzzy. I look around the room, and my living room is trashed. Definitely signs of a struggle. What the hell? What’s going on?
That’s when it hits me with a jolt through my body. I begin to sob uncontrollably. My mind is finally catching on, and it all comes rushing back to me. I start to shake violently, so I curl back into a fetal position to try to stop it. The waves are massive, and the toll it takes on me is unbearable. I feel overwhelmed with emotion over these memories that keep hitting me. Like one devastating blow after another. I lack control over my body as shock takes its hold on me, dragging me deep into myself.
Oh my God!
The last thing I remember is entering my apartment, and before I could shut and lock the door, I was on the floor, flat on my stomach.
“You stupid bitch,” I heard a man say. If I thought hard enough, I was almost able to recognize that voice. “I told your father that I would get to you one way or another if I didn’t get my money.”
“Your father knows better than to try to play me, darlin’” he growled.
Yes, I knew that voice.
At that moment of revelation, I was being lifted off the floor by my hair. I screamed and flailed my arms and legs, trying to make contact with my attacker to no avail.
He was angry, and I really didn’t think this was going to end well for me. He reached around and turned me to face him, but it was dark and I could barely make out his face. But I knew him. I could make it out just enough to know what I was dealing with.
He backhanded me, my head snapped to the side, and then he punched me in the ribs.
Next thing I knew, his fist made contact with my cheek and I went down hard on all fours.
I had to get away, but I didn’t know where to go. I started to crawl to the door, my mind racing.
The man kicked me over and over in the ribs and the stomach, and then he made contact with my head.
I dropped to my stomach with a thud and tried to blink away the stars that were forming in front of my eyes.
“Since Joe decided not to pay up, you will.”
I rolled to my side, holding my injured ribs with one hand and my head with the other, and through clenched teeth, I told him that I didn’t have enough to cover my father’s debts.
As if on cue, I heard him undo his zipper. “Well then, I can find other ways for you to settle Daddy’s debt.”
Jen lives in Northern Virginia with her son. When she needs a break from the daily chaos of her life, you can most likely find her going out for a run, on her treadmill or with her beloved Kindle in hand.