In love with the same face that haunts me….
The falling leaves of autumn are like the deceit in my family lineage. Closing the door on the infinite cold—winter blossoms into the spring of new beginnings. In the next season of my life, I’m mending the pieces back together. Opening myself up, I even begin to date, which is a big step for me.
After graduating from high school, a shocking development causes me to be on alert. When nothing comes of it, I move forward, wanting desperately to put the past behind me.
About to start college, I bump into someone from my complicated past, and my heart is torn. The dilemma I struggle with: Do I let other people’s opinion define who I am? I must decide if I’ll push through the ridicule and pave my own path. Could the face that’s scorned me be the key to my resolve? I’ll never know if I take the easy way out.
I’ve unlocked my darkest secret only to have it return to torment me. As the thorns of his obsession encompass me, I discover I’m part of a twisted ploy. If I don’t figure a way out of this predicament, then the life I’ve known may cease to exist.
Don’t miss the riveting sequel to Madison’s story that will have you dangling on the edge of your seat.
read an excerpt...
read an excerpt...
A thunderous rumble jolts me awake. I blink in the darkness, wondering what the awful noise is outside. Another blaring sound pierces the air, causing the hair on the back of my neck to rise.
Is that an ambulance?
I cover my ears, hoping to dampen the onslaught of sound. As I gather my bearings, I remember we’re in the middle of a hurricane. On the dirty side, to be exact, and the roaring is not a good sign. Justin slept in the game room with me. The ear-splitting howl snaps him awake.
“What are those sounds?” I ask, my voice elevating.
Justin’s eyes widen as he scurries from the sofa over to the window. I doubt he can see much with the blackout. The only light in the room is from the kerosene lamp.
“I can hardly make out anything.” Justin confirms what I thought. “But something seems to be coming towards us quickly. I … think it’s a tornado.”
“What?” I hop off the sofa, quick, fast, and in a hurry. “Please tell me you’re joking?” From the look on his face, he’s not. The wind is whipping so hard, I fear the windows will break at any second. The booming roar sounds like a freight train about to run straight through the house. That’s the best way to describe the hideous noise.
Jackson races down the hall with Tanya on his heels. “What the hell is that?” he asks.
“More than likely a tornado and the blaring noise is probably the warning alarms. We need to get to the half-bath downstairs!” Justin shouts.
It’s becoming difficult to hear anything but the roar as it moves closer.
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Jackson takes the stairs two at a time.
Tanya is right behind him. Justin pulls my arm to follow. He is going so fast it’s hard to keep up. Halfway down, my toe smacks a step wrong, and I trip, colliding into him. The force of me bumping into Justin causes him to lose his balance. We tumble the rest of the way down the stairs, landing with a thud.
Tanya halts on the end of the staircase. “You’re such a klutz.”
I’m too dazed for a comeback. Justin’s weight is crushing me.
He scrambles off. “You okay?”
“I’ll be fine.”
The power of the wind beating against the windows becomes too much—two of them shatter. Glass explodes everywhere. Justin uses his body as a shield, keeping the invading glass from hitting me. Tanya screams bloody murder.
Jackson shouts from down the hall. “Move your asses, people!”
Justin ushers me in that direction quickly. As I move, I notice putting weight on my right foot is painful. It gives out against my will, then I’m hobbling.
Tanya rushes into the half-bath. Justin stops and scoops me up, carrying me the rest of the way, making me feel like a helpless child. It’s more than humiliating. We huddle in the half-bath. The room doesn’t have windows, thank goodness. Since the house doesn’t have a basement, this makes the half-bath the safest spot.
A flashlight propped up on the counter is our only source of light. Jackson’s forehead is wrinkled. Tanya is sitting on the toilet with the lid closed with her arms wrapped around herself. Justin is near me as I crouch in the corner, shivering uncontrollably. The house feels like an earthquake has gotten a hold of it—shaking under the wrath of the cyclone.
My heart is slamming against my ribcage. The sound blends in with the rumbling of the foundation. With the expressions on the others’ faces, I’m not imagining it. The tornado is right on top of us, and I’m certain the house is inside of it. For a couple of seconds, all sound seems to cease. The vroom of the monster is muted.
“Is it gone?” Tanya wonders.
My senses are waving red flags. The cyclone is nowhere near done. It’s only getting started. My intuition is confirmed when the roaring picks up again and, to my disbelief, is even louder. The theory about the eye is wrong. The center of the storm is not peaceful, only a momentary calm before the beast unleashes its full wrath. The wind is so ferocious, it takes everything in me not to cry.
Tanya lets out her fear. “Why is the house shaking? Why is it so loud?”
A moment later, it becomes clear why the house is trembling. It has been defeated and can no longer stay rooted. The roof cracks open. The cracks spread quickly, like worker ants determined to snag a meal, and then the roof rips off completely.
“Ah, hell!” Jackson yells.
Tanya is screaming at the top of her lungs. I move closer to Justin, and he hugs me tightly. Did I think the wind was strong before? It was nothing compared to how mighty it is with the roof gone. All I can do is stare into the blackness of the torrent above us. I assume it’s similar to glimpsing into a black hole. The darkness whirls rapidly with specks of dark gray within its mass. The horrific rumbling emerging from the cyclone lets us know that it wants us to be terrified of its presence. It’s hard not to submit to the terror that’s threatening to consume me. The force of the wind causes us to lose our footing. My eyes grow large. This monster is going to suck us up whole.
“Grab onto something!” Justin shouts.
Jackson has the counter in a death grip, and Tanya is holding the toilet for dear life. Justin and I grab onto the towel rack—the only other bolted thing in the room. It’s nowhere near as sturdy as the counter or toilet, proving this by tearing from the wall. Both of us begin to lift from the ground.
This can’t be happening!
Using his strength, Justin pushes me toward Jackson. I can’t figure out his intentions until Jackson is holding me against him and Justin continues to lift in the air. Jackson is able to keep us grounded by clutching the counter. Poor Justin must suffer the consequences.
Reaching out, I grab hold of Justin’s arms. His body is literally dangling in the air—feet first. “Don’t let go!” I shout.
The strength of the wind yanks me and Jackson forward. I’m gripping Justin’s arms and Jackson is holding onto me. My grasp on Justin is slipping, and he grunts.
“Hang on, bro!” Jackson yells.
There’s not much Jackson can do. He’s holding onto the counter with one hand—me with the other. I wish Tanya would help us. Her entire body is curled over the toilet with her eyes squeezed shut. If she would only grab his other hand, we might have a chance.
“Tanya, take Justin’s hand!” I urge.
She refuses to move or even acknowledge us—totally useless. The pressure from the fierce wind seems to be sucking the life from us. My hair is whipping all around my face. The toilet paper dispenser is ripped from the wall, then up, up, up, and away it goes. The doors to the cabinet come unhinged. All the items inside follow the same path—sucked up by the cyclone.
My grip on Justin falters. Panic sets in when I think of his fate. “I’m losing him!”
“Madison, it’s no use. Let me go before you’re taken with me.” Justin somehow manages to sound calm.
“I’m not letting you go. You’re too important to me. Don’t give up!”
Jackson manages to give me some leeway and I get a better grip of his hand. The beast howls—almost as if it is playing with us. What happens next is straight out of a horror flick. An eldritch black hand, appearing to be made of smoke, reaches down from the spinning mass above. It assails Justin, wrapping around his waist. At first, I think I’m hallucinating, and then the others validate what I’m seeing. Justin’s eyes dilate, staring at the black cloud that has him in its grasp.
“What the hell is that thing?” Jackson’s voice raises an octave.
I haven’t the slightest clue. This shouldn’t be possible. Tornadoes are known for sucking up things even as big as an eighteen-wheeler. But they can’t actually reach down like a person and capture their victim. Yet, that’s exactly what’s occurring. We have a tug of war for a moment, then it’s evident the monster was only toying with us before. With a strength ten times as strong, the eldritch hand yanks Justin away so forcefully, we never stood a chance.
“Justin!” I scream. “Oh, God, it took him!”
I want to close my eyes because the image is too horrifying to watch—Justin being swept into the dark vortex above. An unknown force is keeping my eyes pried open. Justin’s body gets smaller and smaller until his figure perishes completely. My chest contracts. Unable to stomach the reality that Justin was taken away from me, I close my eyes. When I do, I jounce awake.
It takes me a moment to realize I had a horrible nightmare. My heart is pounding. Taking deep breaths, I try to calm my erratic heartbeat. This night terror is different from the ones I’d endured over the summer. Once I’d let my darkest secret come to light, they had eased up. Looks like my truce with night horrors is up, transitioning into another form of terror. I don’t know which one is worse. I understand where this nightmare stemmed from—it’s a representation of my emotions. Experiencing Hurricane Harvey had been traumatic enough. I’m not surprised my brain used the experience, turning it much worse by preying on the new torment that haunts me.
Saying goodbye to Justin a month before had been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The dream is a reminder of the pain I feel. Inside my heart is a dull ache—one which I’m not sure will go away. Sighing, I attempt to take comfort in the fact that Justin will still be in my life. Our parents planning to get married assures we will. Unfortunately, their marriage only complicates the situation. Justin will be my stepbrother, and I shouldn’t feel this way about a stepsibling.
Even if we weren’t going to be stepsiblings, the other dilemma is that Justin wears his face. The source from which my problems arise. When I look into Justin’s eyes, I see two people—the boy I love and the one I despise. Talk about a dung-show. It doesn’t get more complicated than this.
If I could only get over Justin. My heart wants a break from the constant struggle of lost love. I sound like a sad song. It’s time I write my own lyrics. Only, I have no clue of how to make these feelings disappear. Some people’s advice would be to date someone else. Isn’t the saying, the second will make you forget the first? It’s just my luck that dating someone else presents another dilemma I’m dealing with.
What happened to me that night has messed up my mind. The thought of being intimate makes me cringe. Maybe if it were with someone who didn’t wear the same face as my tormenter, I could make progress.
My cell buzzing stirs me from my reverie. Glancing at the time I see it’s 9 am. The screen reads, Ms. Jamilah Driver, the lawyer who has helped me unlock the door to my darkest secret.
“Good morning, Ms. Driver.”
“Morning, Madison. Sorry to wake you.”
“It’s okay. I was having a bad dream anyway.”
“I’m your legal advisor, but I’m also the church counselor. I talk to people your age all the time about whatever problems they have. I’d be more than happy to lend you an ear.”
“You think discussing it will help my nightmares?”
“I do. I assume your bad dreams revolve around the predicament you’ve been in. I believe talking helps to work through the issues. The end goal is to get to a peaceful place.”
“My grandma has advised for me to speak with a professional.”
“Sounds like great advice. I’m hear if you want to unload.”
Ms. Driver has helped me so much. Maybe going more in depth will stop my night terrors. There must be other underlining issues if my dreams have festered from harassment to Justin being torn away from me. One torment into another—something has to give. I don’t want to burden her with my dilemma now, though. She must have called this early for a reason.
Ms. Driver reads my mind. “Just think about it, but I called to tell you that your DNA tests have come back. We now have proof of who the father of your child is.”
About B. Truly...
B. Truly has wanted to be an author since she was fifteen years old. She is grateful to have accomplished this dream. B. Truly has very vivid dreams and a wild imagination. She likes to read, watch tons of TV shows, and movies. She’s addicted to romance and gets a thrill out of suspense and sci-fi. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, sci-fi, dystopian, and paranormal genres.
B. Truly likes to explore conflicted plots of romance with thrilling twists. She also loves creating impossible situations for her characters to grow from and try to overcome.
B. Truly has three wonderful children, and a husband who defines the person that she is today. She works full-time as an Ultrasound technologist in Houston, Texas.
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