Copyright © 2014 by Martha Kennerson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted with permission from the author. (format of excerpt may have been modified for this website)
Don’t pass out. Do not pass out. Kristine didn’t want to be that girl—the one who gets so tanked that she loses consciousness. Luckily, Eric and Samantha appeared suddenly, like guardian angels, and offered to get her home safely. This was a level of embarrassment that Kristine never wanted to experience again, and she was so profoundly grateful that her friends were going to look out for her. They picked her up off her seat, removed the beer bottle from her hand, and placed one of her arms over one of each of their shoulders. They folded her limp form into the back seat of their car.
Kristine’s eyes blinked rapidly. Her drunkenness was finally starting to dissipate. She tried forcing her eyes to focus, but at the moment, that seemed like wishful thinking. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but her ears clued her in to her surrounding faster than her eyes. Kristine knew those kinds of sounds—the heavy panting, the cries of spiking pleasure, the grunts of physical effort. She thought her ears had to be deceiving her until her eyes finally hit on a clear target. Were Eric and Samantha just having sex right in front of me? No way. But…she could see the evidence—the dripping sweat, the heaving naked bodies. Then their hands left each other to reach out to Kristine—to her clothes.
Aloud, ominous ripping of fabric echoed in the sex-musky air around her. “Samantha, what are you doing? Why are you holding down my arms? Let go of me!” Kristine’s eyes tracked the naked male body squirming and forcing its way between her thighs. This can’t be happening! “No. Eric, no! Don’t do this.” Kristine’s arms were useless in the vise grip of her friend. “Samantha, please … make him stop!” Frantically she beseeched both of them with her cries—with her eyes! “What are you doing? No, please … dear God, help me.”
The sound of a screaming alarm clock jerked Kristine out of an all-too-familiar nightmare. She jackknifed forward, breathing hard, trying to pull as much air as possible into her thunderous lungs. The sheets were wet again. Sweat poured down her sensitive flesh as the endless shaking of her limbs rattled the headboard of the bed against the wall.
Kristine’s inhaler was the only thing that would help her now. Her fingers closed around the device, which was resting on her nightstand in the darkened room. With two quick puffs, the fog lifted from her mind and allowed her to acknowledge the still blaring alarm. Carefully, she returned the inhaler back to its cradle and shut off the alarm. The inhaler was working, but she needed to call upon other techniques to calm herself fully.
With her eyes closed and her head anchored against the headboard, Kristine willed her breathing to level out. You’re not there anymore. You lived through that night. You’re in control of what happens next. Sheer will could only transport her so far. Eventually she had to think of things that made her smile—vacations with her family, shopping with her mother and sister, hanging out and sharing secrets with her best friend, and all the fun times that she shared with her father—to distance herself from those horrific memories that had caused the nightmares in the first place.
Finally, Kristine began to relax as her breathing returned to normal. Battling post-traumatic stress disorder and all it entails—attending therapy with Dr. D., learning special breathing techniques, and writing in journals—wasn’t something she ever thought she’d have to deal with, especially at such a young age. Kristine was from a disciplined military family that believed in self-sufficiency; they believed in fixing their own problems.
Kristine’s parents taught her and her sister to be strong and independent, and they encouraged them to live life to its fullest. They molded them into well-educated intellectuals who had caring spirits and were capable of making smart choices. Kristine’s father used to say, “If you believe, you can achieve. So go make your dreams come true.” He did everything in his power to ensure that his words were not hollow. Their parents provided Kristine and her sister with the tools to achieve their own goals. But sometimes, life has a way of interfering with one’s plans, no matter how well you’ve prepared.
The summer before Kristine Alexander left for college, she met and fell madly in love with an amazing man. His name was Dennis Langford. He was a brilliant, extremely handsome, a caring soul, and a member of one of the wealthiest oil families in the country. Unfortunately, that notably prestigious family had plans for his future that didn’t include allowing him to choose the person he would eventually marry.
Despite the fact that Dennis and Kristine were hopelessly in love—not to mention the fact that they were living in the twenty-first century—Dennis relented to his family’s desires and agreed to an arranged marriage to a beautiful and clever socialite named Colby McGill. Colby’s family’s pedigree, sizeable influence, and financial strength equaled the Langford’s. The McGills were another oil family, with the majority of their immense holdings in Latin America and several Middle Eastern countries. A marriage between the two families would create the most dominant privately-owned oil and gas company in the world, guaranteeing that generations of Langford-McGills would be zillionaires.
Dennis crushed Kristine when he chose to honor the commitment he had made to his family and to the McGills. Every girl wants the fairy tale, wants love to conquer all. But Kristine’s fairy tale was not meant to be, the greed of the families was too strong; the creation of an oil dynasty was too enticing. Not even love could compete with that reality. Kristine wanted to believe her sweet Dennis would fight for them. He didn’t, and that choice nearly destroyed her.
Losing Dennis sent Kristine into a tailspin of
mounting bad decisions that left her in an unpalatable situation, which
forced her to make far-reaching and life-altering choices. The only option
left for her…to deal with the consequences.