Excerpt Chapter 1
The man’s fist smashed into her face again. Lyra collapsed to the floor and moaned in pain. A boot connected with her ribs and sent a jolt of agony through her body. She wailed and clutched her side.
Beaten and bloodied, she tried to crawl away from her attacker with one arm as she held her battered ribs with her other.
“Get back here, you bitch. You aren’t going anywhere,” her attacker growled.
Lyra screamed as he grabbed a fistful of her auburn tresses and yanked her to her feet by her hair. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she sobbed. She only wanted it to end. He shoved her, and she crashed over the back of a couch, onto the cushions. Her chest and elbows scraped over the firm couch backing, which sent more waves of pain through her frame and added to the bruises.
“Please stop, please, please, please,” she begged.
“Shut up. You’re dispensable. As long as Jade thinks you’re alive, she’ll come out of hiding to look for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re alive or not, as long as she thinks you are. So shut up or I’ll kill you.”
Jade… Lyra’s best friend and bandmate. Jade was hiding from a stalker. This attacker must work with Jade’s stalker.
She sobbed when she heard the ripping sound of duct tape being pulled from a roll.
Lyra! Lyra, babe! she heard shouted, but it sounded muffled.
The attacker leaned over her. “I don’t want to hear anymore,” he growled. He fisted her hair and yanked her head backward with one hand, then slapped a strip of duct tape over lips with the other.
Lyra! Can you hear me? More muffled words. Where were they coming from?
The attacker pulled a pistol and pushed it in Lyra’s face. She whimpered.
Lyra, wake up!
Lyra jerked awake in her bed. A cold sweat covered her body, and her heart thudded like it was trying to beat out of her chest. Her best friend, Jade’s, arms were wrapped around her. Jade stroked Lyra’s hair and whispered soothing words. “It’s okay, babe. You’re okay.”
Lyra breathed a sigh of relief. A nightmare. Only a nightmare.
Weeks ago, the nightmare had unfortunately been reality. Lovely Oblivion’s record label brought in a specialized security team when they found out that their drummer Jade had a stalker, who had become increasingly more aggressive. Since Lovely Oblivion had a short break from touring, Jade went on vacation in a remote spot, disappearing from the public (and the stalker’s) eye. To force her out of hiding, Jade’s stalker abducted Lyra and took her hostage.
The band’s security team rescued Lyra, but not before the kidnappers beat and abused her. Physically, her bruises were almost healed, but mentally the wounds were fresh — she’d had nightmares ever since. She’d started seeing a therapist, but it hadn’t helped the nightmares. Every time she closed her eyes, the image played before her eyes of the man who attacked her, shooting a bullet through the brain of her bodyguard.
Jade had stayed at Lyra’s apartment since the attack to keep Lyra from being alone when the nightmares hit. While it was comforting to have her best friend around, the nightmares still came. She knew that soon she’d have to learn to deal with them on her own. Before long, Jade’s current boyfriend and former bodyguard, Ryker, would return to town from his latest bodyguard job, and Jade would leave to be with him. Lyra couldn’t blame Jade, but it meant Lyra would have some tough nights ahead.
She hugged Jade in return and stroked her fingers through her friend’s rainbow hair. “I’m okay,” she said.
Jade buried her face against Lyra’s neck. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice muffled. “I never imagined that anyone would get hurt because of my stalker. If anything, maybe me but not anyone else.
Hearing Jade so distraught broke Lyra’s heart.
Lyra kissed Jade’s head. “It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. Let’s try to get some sleep, okay? We have to record some tracks at the studio tomorrow,” Lyra said.
“Okay. I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about. Get some sleep.”
“Good night, Lyr.”
Lyra snuggled with Jade and they both fell into, mercifully, dreamless sleeps.
* * *
Seated behind her desk the next day, Dr. Lopez said, “Unfortunately, my relocation means I have to move my practice.” The gray-haired, spectacled psychiatrist sipped calmly from a mug of tea.
Lyra stared at her in shock. What does that mean for me, her patient?
The doctor set her drink down on her desk. “I’m sorry about the inconvenience. My husband and I are moving to Greece, and I have to go through getting my certifications there. I’m referring all my current patients to local doctors. I have a great referral for you. Do you have any concerns about the transition or questions you’d like to ask?” Dr. Lopez smiled at Lyra, who sat across from her in a wingback chair.
Lyra felt double-crossed, like someone had stabbed her.
Is it wrong to feel betrayed that after weeks of trusting this doctor, the woman was handing her off to someone else — with seemingly no second thoughts about doing so?
Lyra cleared her throat and kept her thoughts to herself. She needed to get out of there. She shook her head no.
Someone had highly recommended this psychiatrist to Lyra. They’d built a nice rapport in their multiple weekly sessions. They were making progress. What if she opened up to another doctor and then this happened again? Maybe she shouldn’t talk to anyone, after all. Maybe she should deal with this on her own.
Dr. Lopez said, “I’m very sorry about this. The move is unexpected — my husband got an offer at his work that he couldn’t refuse. But I’m referring my patients to the best psychiatrist I know. He completed his residency under me, so I’ve worked with him and I know he’ll be wonderful. I trust him.” Dr. Lopez slid a card across her desk to Lyra.
Lyra picked up the card and stared at it. Dr. Hudson Reese, psychiatrist.
Seeing the new doctor’s name on the card made her queasy. She didn’t like it.
Lyra sighed and looked at Dr. Lopez. “Can you and I do virtual sessions or something? I’m not comfortable rehashing what happened with someone else. It’s like living through it all over again.”
Dr. Lopez frowned. “I’m sorry, Lyra. Really, I am. Unfortunately, virtual sessions aren’t an option. You agreed to allow recorded appointments, though. If you sign an authorization, I can share the recordings with Dr. Reese, so you don’t have to describe what happened again.”
Nope. Lyra had already decided. She folded the business card in half and shoved it into her pocket. She wouldn’t follow up with the referral; Lyra would get through this herself.
She stood. “It was nice working with you, Dr. Lopez. I won’t waste any more of your time.”
The doctor looked at her, surprised. “Lyra –”
Lyra turned her back to the doctor and walked away. She shoved the office door open and strode into the hallway. The door thudded closed behind her.
She immediately collided with what felt like a brick wall, but in reality was a person. The sandy-haired man she’d crashed into made a surprised noise, and the impact made him drop the folder he carried, which scattered papers on the floor.
“Oh no, I’m sorry,” Lyra gasped.
“No problem.” The man bent down to pick up the mess. He scooped the paperwork up, stood, and said, “Are you okay?” His gaze trailed up her body.
Was she okay? There was the question of the year.
The man frowned when he noticed Lyra’s fading facial injuries, and his hand shot forward to cup her jaw. His thumb traced the yellowed bruises on her cheek.
“What happened?” he asked softly.
His touch felt nice. Tender. Her eyes drifted closed. Something about him made her feel calm. Peaceful.
No. She couldn’t bring anyone into her mess. She had to sort her life out before she could even think about bringing anyone new into her world.
Lyra’s eyes flew open and met his concerned gray gaze. She sucked in a breath and shook her head. She stepped away from his touch. “I’m fine. Sorry. I have to go.”
Surprise crossed his face. “Wait –”
She had to leave. Lyra walked away. Quickly, she moved down the hallway, past the receptionist, and out the front door.
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