Powerful & angsty - A story about having the courage to move forward after the unthinkable and claim the life you deserve.
My heart pounds like a song with a quick melody, each beat causing a sharp pain in my tight chest. Needing some relief, I draw oxygen into my lungs until they’re fully expanded and hold it for several seconds before it rushes out again. But the thick air only allows me a brief reprieve.
“Julianna, there’s no reason for you to be nervous. You’ll never be judged or pressured here. It’s my job to help you work through anything that may be troubling you, but that does require talking. Okay?”
Swallowing the bile burning my throat, I lift my eyes from my lap, gazing over her before focusing on our surroundings. Talking, I can do that. It’s the whole point in being here, after all. But I don’t know what to say. I’ve spent so long holding everything in, it’s buried deep.
Her birds begin to chirp, drawing my attention to the large cage sitting in front of the only window in the small room. The white and gray feathered cockatiels dance and stretch their wings in the sunlight streaming through the glass, and my body relaxes as I watch the beautiful creatures.
With another deep breath, I force my eyes back to the woman still waiting for me to say something—anything. She’s so different from what I expected, which helps with the unease. I figured she’d be some stiff woman in a suit, but she’s the opposite. The long silver hair hanging loose around her shoulders compliments her ripped jeans and t-shirt as she sits crisscross in her leather arm chair, her bare feet tucked underneath her.
She’s still a total stranger, however, and I have a hard time opening up to people I love. I never thought I’d do something like this—see a therapist. I’m not this person. I’m a brush-it-off-and-sweep-it-under-the-rug type of girl.
But Dr. Gentry helped Lizzy in her darkest hour, and I’m so tired of living this way—of feeling this way. The weight is so heavy, I can’t bear it much longer.
My eyes begin to roam around her office again as I focus on my breathing to calm my racing heart. Admiring her impressive collection of Beatles memorabilia, I wonder if she took some of the photographs herself. Photography is a topic I could handle talking about.
“Why don’t you start with what brought you here today?” the good doctor hedges.
Crossing my legs, I sit up straighter, feeling like her overstuffed loveseat is trying to swallow me. My stare moves to my lap as my head drops, allowing my hair to fall like a curtain around my face. Shrugging, I sigh.
“So much has happened recently, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing.”
Lie. I know exactly why I’m here. Sure, my whole life has changed in the span of four months, but that’s merely the result from years of ignoring the real issue.
“Okay. Is there a particular event that started everything?”
“I left my husband and moved back to Tennessee,” I answer, lifting my gaze to meet hers.
“May I ask why you left?”
“He cheated on me,” I mutter, my jaw clenching. “I caught him, actually. He was in our bed with another woman.”
Her face remains impassive and unreadable even after my admission, but I still break eye contact. His transgression tends to make me feel ashamed, like I was the one who did something wrong. I suppose a part of me feels responsible.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I shake my head to rid myself of the awful memory flashing through my mind. The fact that Christopher was cheating on me hadn’t been all that surprising, but I never expected to find him screwing some young woman in our bed.
The room is eerily silent by the time I open my eyes again, making the sound of her pen scratching on paper seem overly loud.
“I see, and how are you feeling?”
Her gaze lands back on me as I scoff, narrowing my eyes. Her question is absurd. How does she think I feel? Betrayed, hurt, angry—the same way anyone would.
Except…I don’t. Not really.
A big part of me was relieved when I found him. I’d never been happy in my marriage, but I’d never been miserable enough to leave either. It was a mediocre existence, and I felt stuck. I didn’t want to start over, and I loathed the idea of being back in Tennessee. Catching him in the act gave me the push I needed to make a change.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t love him—at least, I was never in love with him. Being with Christopher was another way for me to avoid coping with the moment that changed me forever. I couldn’t handle the reality of what happened to me, and I was already broken by the time I met Chris. When I shut down to stop the pain, it locked away my ability to feel and connect.
Not that it would have mattered. I’d given my heart to someone else long before we met. My choice to be with Christopher was bred from fear. I had been running.
I thought I could outrun my demons, that I could escape my past by starting a new life in a new place, but those ghosts only followed me, and they still haunt me today.
So, how am I feeling? The same way I’ve felt for the past ten years.
“It’s not the moment that defines you, it’s the choices you make in reaction to it.”
One smile. One bus ride. One conversation. The beginning of everything.
Julianna has never wanted anyone more than she’s wanted Eric, but sometimes, life doesn’t pan out quite how you expect. The past ten years have been defined by the worst night of her life. Blinded by the weight of her pain, she dropped out of college to marry the wrong guy and moved hundreds of miles away from her hometown. But her unsuccessful attempt to run away from her demons only lands her right back on the starting line.
Feeling lost and alone, Julianna must face the ghosts that haunt her and the people she left behind.
One crush. One wrong move. One bad decision. The end of the beginning.
For Eric, it’s always been Julianna, even though she’s never been his. She’s owned his heart and broken it all in the same breath. After a series of poor choices caused him to hit rock bottom, Eric’s life is finally on the right track—until Julianna walks back into town. He hasn’t spoken to her since she left, thinking he’d never see her again, and his resolve is crumbling.
He knows he should keep his distance—she could shatter his world—but he can’t walk away from her.
Will Julianna and Eric finally get their happily ever after, or will the secrets they keep and the shadows of their past leave them Crushed?
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When Amber isn’t focusing on her family or the written word she enjoys traveling, crafts, and music.
She is a Tennessee native with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin. This is where she discovered her passion for writing and met her husband.
Authors like Tarryn Fisher, Colleen Hoover, Kim Holden, and Jamie McGuire inspired Amber to follow her heart and venture out into the world of self-publishing. She is beyond excited about getting the chance to see her dream come to life.
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