Authors: Lisa M. Owens
Lisa M. Owens
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2012, Lisa M. Owens. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to go back and relive your greatest mistake?
Five years ago, Bree Sexton walked out on her fiancé and into the arms of a charming and handsome stranger. She has regretted her decision ever since. Instead of a fairy-tale marriage, her “prince” shattered her dreams and her spirit with physical violence and emotional cruelty she barely escaped.
She then mysteriously wakes up in bed with the fiancé she loved and left, the life she’d dreamed of now a reality, until her cruel ex-husband reappears to destroy her new life. But what is real, and what is make-believe? Is she really getting the chance she has always dreamed of? And when it is all said and done, will she finally end up with the man she has always regretted leaving? Or will she wake up to discover herself alone?
This book is dedicated to John and my children for their loving support. Thank you for believing in me when I failed to believe in myself. To all of the people who laughed at my dream of being a writer: who’s laughing now?
This book is also dedicated to all of the women who have ever been the victims of domestic violence. You know who you are.
You have the strength inside to overcome this. Trust me; I am speaking from personal experience. Don’t allow them to belittle you and control you. They are the weak ones, not you. They have no confidence in themselves, and they want you to feel the same way. I had the strength to escape and so do you.
Please call someone; seek the help that both you and your children deserve. Don’t be another fatality, just another statistic, another victim of domestic violence who waited too long to get help. You and your children don’t deserve to be punished; you have done nothing wrong. No matter what they may tell you, you are not fat, ugly, stupid, etc. Believe me, I have heard all this and more. Find the strength inside yourselves, and break free from this pattern of abuse. You deserve better than this; you deserve to find someone who will love you and cherish you for the woman that you are, and not punish you for the woman that you’re not. These men will never change. Don’t make the same mistake I did, thinking that your love could change him.
And to all of the survivors, I know how difficult it was for you to get out of that situation. It’s been almost fourteen years since I got out of my violent relationship, and I am still trying to recover on the inside. I am slowly regaining some self-confidence in myself, and I am still fighting an inner battle with myself each and every day, trying to prove both to myself and to everybody else that I am worth something.
The violent scenes in this book were extremely difficult for me to write; there were times when I was typing as tears streamed down my face. This has been a therapeutic experience for me, and I only hope that by sharing my experience with other people, I can spread awareness about domestic violence. You are not alone, and you will survive this and move on with your life.
I want to dedicate this book to all of you, and my prayers are with you. If this book can help one person, then I will feel as though I have made a valuable contribution. This is more than just a romance novel. To me, it has been a chapter of my life that I have been trying to get past for almost fourteen years. And now I feel like I can move on with my life and let it go. I can only hope that maybe some of you will begin to feel the same way, in time.
I want to thank John Hacker II for patiently explaining, numerous times, security procedures. Any mistakes made are mine.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation,
there are people who can help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Thank you to the counselors at DVIS, otherwise known as the Domestic Violence
Intervention Services, who spend countless hours helping people fill
out the paperwork for protective orders, waiting for the judges,
providing shelter for women who are in serious abusive
situations, and for providing these women with
free cell phones.
End the silence.
Save your life.
Don’t allow your life to be reduced to being just another statistic.
“You know what you need, don’t you? You need to get laid.”
Following the sound of a familiar shout, Bree Sexton turned to face one of her best friends with amusement. It was difficult to have a heart-to-heart conversation with the girls while there were hordes of half-naked men and women dancing and making out on the dance floor, and pulsating rock music blared in your ears. She couldn’t believe she had allowed herself to be dragged out by her two best friends to a bar to celebrate her divorce. She sighed, and then a small, secret smile flittered across her face. She was divorced. She was free to do what she wanted, when she wanted. After five years of pure hell, she was no longer married to the man who had controlled her life for too long. She was free of him once and for all. She had no one to answer to, no one to dictate to her what she should do. No one to hit her when she didn’t follow all his rules.
She had met Bryan Sexton when she was only twenty-five years old. He’d been a generous and considerate man who’d swept her off her feet. He had wined and dined her, making her feel like a fairy-tale princess. He had taken her out to all of the expensive restaurants and bought her jewelry. He had seemed to be in tune to her every thought, feeling, and wish. He had completely won her over.
She had never even suspected the evil that was lurking beneath the surface.
Bree shook her head in disbelief. She had been engaged at the time to her childhood sweetheart, Scott Weston. She had broken up with Scott shortly after meeting Bryan, and to this day, she regretted that decision.
Scott Weston had been the love of her life. They had been friends since elementary school and had dated since their freshman year in high school. The day Scott had proposed was one of the happiest days of her life. He had been everything Bryan wasn’t: he was a good listener, he loved children, and he made her feel like she was cherished and loved. To this day, she couldn’t believe she had been foolish enough to break his heart. A memory of their dating years flashed through her mind.
It was the night of their high school graduation and she had been nervous because she was valedictorian. She was standing at the podium, terrified about the speech she was getting ready to give. She looked around and discovered neither one of her parents had bothered to show up. Tears had filled her eyes, and in that instant, she was terribly and utterly alone. Then she heard her name being called out from the crowd. She looked out over the auditorium full of people, and she saw them. Scott’s family. They were all out there, cheering her on. His sister and brother, and both of his parents, who had given her all the love she had always longed for from her own parents.
Then her gaze found his. Scott. The one person who loved her no matter what. He was sitting with the other graduates in their class, and in front of all of his friends, he blew her a kiss. She blushed when she saw the teasing he was getting from their classmates, but he didn’t seem to care.
“That’s my baby!” he shouted, as loud as he could. “That’s my baby!”
She could still hear the sound of his voice in her mind.
Bree looked over at her friends. They were deep in conversation so she pulled her coat across her shoulders and headed for the exit. She had had enough fun for one night. Now all she wanted to do was to go home, change into her nightgown, and lie down with a good book, preferably a mystery. She wasn’t really in the mood for one of her romance novels tonight.
She tied the belt around her camel-colored coat and wrapped her red scarf around her neck.
She walked out the door at the same time as someone else, and her body pressed against a strange man’s. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she apologized.
“Bree? I can’t believe it’s really you! You look incredible!”
Her breath caught in her throat as she came face-to-face with the man who had been in her thoughts all night. “Hi, Scott,” she whispered. “How are you?”
A warm smile spread across his face as he looked at her. At six-feet-one, he had always towered over her. He was just as good-looking as she remembered, maybe even more. His dark brown hair was tousled, and his chocolate brown eyes gazed into hers. A familiar warmth spread through her body. He still affected her, just like he always had.
“I’m great. Did you hear that I got married?”
Bree’s heart dropped. “No, I hadn’t heard. Congratulations.” She tried to muster up some enthusiasm.
Scott ran a hand through his windblown hair and gave Bree a crooked smile. He held up his left hand for her inspection. “Yeah, been married two years in March. In fact, got a baby due next month.”
“Good. I’m happy for you.” She hoped she sounded convincing.
Apparently she did because he nodded. “Thank you.” He nodded his dark head toward the door. “I’m just on my way out. Do you remember my brother, Luke?” At Bree’s nod, he continued, “He’s getting married, so we all met for a drink after work. They’re having his bachelor party at a club later, but you know me, that’s really not my scene. What are you doing here?”
“Jade and Heather dragged me down here to celebrate my divorce being finalized today.”
Scott frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, Bree. I want you to know I was never bitter about what happened. I’ll admit I felt hurt and betrayed at first because I really and truly loved you. I had just always hoped you’d find happiness.”
Bree tried to swallow around the lump lodged in her throat. She felt like crying. “Thank you,” she murmured. “You’ll never know how much that means to me.”
He reached over and wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her against his muscled chest. She could smell the musky scent of his cologne, and she couldn’t help but grin. Even after all this time, he still used the same cologne he had used back then.
Her hands trembled as she nervously wound her arms around his neck. She was sixteen years old. A dozen thoughts ran through her mind. Should she close her eyes or leave them open? Should she have brushed her teeth again or at least used a breath mint? What if she wasn’t a good kisser? What if she was lousy at it? Would Scott dump her if this kiss didn’t meet his expectations?
Then it was too late for her worries and second thoughts. His fingers reached for a wayward lock of her auburn hair. He wound the errant curl around the delicate shell of her ear. She closed her eyes as the musky scent of his cologne reached her nostrils. His mouth came down to meet hers, and for the first time in her life, Bree Montgomery glimpsed a sliver of heaven.
Kissing her on the forehead, he whispered, “Keep your chin up, gorgeous.” He released her and then looked at his watch. “Oh, I need to get going. I promised Monica I’d pick up some things at the grocery store.” He gave Bree a lopsided grin. “One of those things is a half-gallon of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, and I’ve learned from experience not to keep a pregnant woman from her ice cream.” He gave her another grin as he waved good-bye and then turned and walked away.
Bree stood there for a minute, watching as he walked out of her life. She couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if she had married Scott instead of Bryan. How would her life have been different? Would she have had children by now? Would she and Scott still be together, after all this time? Those thoughts and more weighed heavily on her mind as she headed out of the bar. It had begun to snow, and she wrapped her coat even tighter around her slender frame. She looked around, but there was no one to be found. She couldn’t help herself; she stuck out her tongue, a childish impulse she couldn’t ignore, and then laughed out loud in spite of herself.
She looked both ways before attempting to cross the street. Not seeing any cars, she began to make her way across. Bree was walking cautiously when one of her high heels slipped on a patch of ice. She could feel herself falling, and her breathing quickened as she began to panic, wishing she had waited for her friends before venturing off on her own. One shoe flew off as she landed, her head striking the curb. A sharp pain racked through the back of her skull, causing her to cry out. The last thing she saw was Scott’s face swimming before her eyes, and then her world went black.