Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

That's a Relief is LIVE!!!

That's a Relief is LIVE!!

The wait is finally OVER!

It was supposed to be our happily-ever-after. We were supposed to look into the future and not worry about our past dragging us down anymore. I was supposed to marry the man of my dreams in a month, and now… Now, everything has changed. 

So when my nightmares become reality—when the world starts crashing down around me—what do I do? How do I save the one person who never gave up on me? 

Because, Seth? He is everything. 

"He loved me when I was a pile of broken pieces and refused to let me go when I never felt worthy of him. He never gave up and helped me to grow strong-- strong enough to be the one to help him now."

Everything was perfect. She said yes, she had the ring. Best of all, I had her heart. We were so close… so close to that future I had been dreaming about for years. Until suddenly it was ripped away from me.

I will stop at nothing to protect her. But how do I do that when I feel my sanity slipping with every blow sent our way? How do I save a girl who doesn’t want to be saved anymore?

Because Josie? She is everything.


Chapter 2

Every shot that rings out ricochets off the walls in the building, making the haunting clamor louder and more potent than it would be if it had been shot out in the open. Chambers click, bullets fly, and shells clack onto the floor, creating a symphony of noises that could provoke a racing heart or a sense of security. For me, it’s the latter. Every shot makes me more comfortable.
“Does Josie know you’re doing this?” Brandon asks as he leans against the wall in my booth, shaggy brown hair covering half his face.
“That’s a dumb question. Of course she doesn’t. She’d fucking kill me if she found out.”
I finish loading the last bullet into the magazine and click it into the Glock 22. Brandon puts on his noise cancelling headphones with a shrug. My body assumes the proper shooting stance, and I fire fifteen shots aimed at the target at the end of the range. Once the last shot fires, confidence surges in the pit of my stomach.
I place the gun down on the table and take off my headphones. Brandon steps up next to me and pushes the button to pull up the target.
“Damn. You’re getting good,” Brandon whistles when he looks at it. All fifteen shots are scattered across the chest of the person printed on the paper.
“It’s been a while, so I was rusty at first. You wanna try?”
He looks at the gun and cocks his head to the side, still unsure on how he feels about guns. Eventually, he shakes his head. “Not really my thing.”
 “Don’t say anything to Brooke. She’ll go blab her big mouth to Josie,” I grumble, packing up the bullets and gun into my bag.
Brandon places his safety glasses and headphones in the bin at the front, giving me an appalled look. “Glad you think so highly of me. I can keep a secret from my wife, you know.”
“No, I don’t know, actually,” I say, looking at him pointedly. “Josie knew about her surprise birthday party because of you and your wife.” We walk back out into the shop and I wave to the owner. “Thanks, Mr. Seymour.”
“Glad to see you back, Seth. Tell your dad to stop by soon.”
“Will do,” I lie.
Mom would kill me if I convinced my dad to go back to the shooting range with all his heart problems. Ever since Josie and I moved out, I haven’t been able to help out as much on the farm, and I worry what kind of extra work Dad’s doing to compensate for me not being there anymore. He swears he’s not taking on more work than he should, but let’s face it, he would lie about working hard if it meant keeping Mom’s and my mind at ease.
“You’ll never let me live that down, will you?” Brandon muses, hopping into the front seat of my blue Toyota Tundra.
“Nope.” I start the truck and head toward my photography warehouse to pick up a memory card that I left behind. Work has been steadily busy lately, so I’ve been needing to bring my work home with me on the weekends.
“Why are you into this all of a sudden?”
The answer is harder to get out than I thought it would be. This is Brandon, my best friend, but also someone who may not understand my reasons for brushing up on my shooting skills. I swallow the anger and keep my eyes straight ahead.
“It’s not all of a sudden,” I say eventually. “I used to come all the time with my dad.”
Josie has always hated guns. She hates the idea of someone being allowed to carry them, which I can because I have a permit. She also hates the violence they can bring, which I understand, but I also understand how it could be useful. Which is why I renewed my permit.
“Is it because my dad was released from prison?” Brandon asks, looking out the window. I whip my head in his direction and try again to figure out how to approach this subject with him.
“You know?” I shake my head. “Of course you know. He’s your dad.” There’s bitterness in my tone that wasn’t there earlier, and I feel bad that I’m directing it at Brandon when it’s not his fault.
He shoots me a sympathetic look. “Yeah. The bitch step-mom called last week and told us the news. You can tell me, you know. If that’s why.”
Brandon has never liked talking about his dad, but when he does, it’s always with a disgusted and angry edge in his voice. Despite this, I still feel a little guilty that I want to kill my best friend’s dad.
“I just want to make sure Josie is safe,” I explain. “Self-defense classes can only go so far, and let’s face it, Josie makes some stupid-ass decisions when she’s caught up in the moment.”
I worry so much that she’ll forget to bring her purse containing Taser and pepper spray or she’ll get so overwhelmed with fear that she’ll forget how to punch and kick her way out of a hold. I can’t risk it. It terrifies me—I’m talking sheet-clenching nightmares that wake me up with a racing heart, needing to reach out and frantically search for her in our bed.
“How’s Josie handling it?”
My jaw clenches and I keep my eyes trained on the road. My Josie, finally happy and gaining confidence—I just can’t bring myself to tell her. To explain that I was stupid enough not to switch her mail over to the new house so we could have been informed in time to stop him from getting out of prison. When Tony called me last week with the news, I knew everything in our life was about to change.
“Is Josie with you?” Tony asked when I answered the phone. I looked over to my right and smiled. Josie had her feet on the dashboard, singing at the top of her lungs to a crappy popular song on the radio. No matter how many times I tell her she sucks, she still sings loud and proud around me.
“Yeah … What’s up?” I answered, returning my attention back to the road. We were on our way to my parents’ house for dinner and a night at the lake, but Tony had declined the offer to join us.
“You can’t let Josie know something is wrong. I need you to come here as soon as you get a chance.”
I tensed, a burning sensation tightening inside my chest. Something was wrong.
I hung up without waiting for another word. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath, reaching across the console to take Josie’s hand in mine. I rubbed my thumb against her soft skin as I waited for her to finish her song.
“I’m surprised a record label hasn’t picked you up yet, Pussycat.”
She grinned, oblivious to my unease, flicked her hair over her shoulder, and fluttered her eyelashes dramatically. “Little did you know, I have been picked up. I’m running off in a week to become a star.”
“You would run off without me?”
“Already promised Brody I’d run off with him,” she quipped.
I laughed loudly and squeezed her hand. “You and Brody are getting on my last nerve with that shit.”
She laughed and started singing again.
“So, I need to run back to the warehouse and grab a lens for the camera. I wanted to take some pictures tonight at the lake, but I need a special lens to get a good picture in the dark. I’ll drop you off at Mom and Dad’s and then I’ll be right back.”
The lie made me feel dirty—especially when we promised not to keep things from each other anymore.
“That’s fine. I think your mom wanted to teach me how to make fish the way she does, anyway. She said something about how no daughter-in-law of hers will marry her son without knowing how to fry fish.” She rolled her eyes, and I laughed.
“Well, I did warn you before you agreed to marry me.”
“That your mom is crazy?” she asked, shooting me a smile that both warmed my insides and made me feel guilty.
“That you better know how to cook trout.” I winked at her and she laughed.
I dropped her off and drove to Tony’s house with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was going to change everything.
I walked through the front door and leaned against the couch as Tony walked into the living room. The sickening feeling only got worse when I saw the look on his face. Shit.
“What’s going on?”
Instead of answering, he handed me a piece of paper. I was amazed how something that didn’t even weigh an ounce could feel so heavy in my hand. I took a shuddering breath in and looked at the letter, falling heavily onto the couch as I read the words.
It was worse than all the fears I thought up on my way over. Michael Kasey could be getting out of jail.
“No,” I breathed out. I stood up and shook the paper in front of Tony. “We have to do something. How the fuck could they release a rapist? We can fight it, right? It says we can bring Josie in to testify again before they grant it.”
“Look at the date, son.” I didn’t like his tone, and I was even more reluctant to look at the date.
It felt like a punch in the gut when I saw how much time had passed. “July?” I could barely breathe. “Are you fucking kidding me? How did we miss this?”
“Josie’s old landlord called and told me the new tenant was getting mail for Josie for the past few months, and this was in the pile I got when I went to pick it up for her. She never forwarded her mail, and the lawyer didn’t have the new address or her new phone number to contact her in time.”
This was my fault. How could have I been so careless? I didn’t push her to forward her mail, and because I threw her phone in the lake, she was forced to get a new number. I messed with her safety and now she’s in a position I swore she would never have to worry about ever again. “Did the hearing already happen?”
“I called as soon as I read the letter. Ms. Carmichael said the trial happened a couple weeks ago. He’s out, Seth. He’s been out for a little less than a week.”
The paper fell to the floor. Ice poured over me. “Fuck. Fuck! He almost killed her!” I wanted to hit something—someone. A part of me wanted to scream, and the other part wanted to cry. Cry for the girl I was madly in love with who would be devastated and terrified when she heard about her rapist’s newfound freedom.
“How are we going to get through this?” I asked, crestfallen. “Josie’s been doing so well, Tony. I can’t take away the little bit of happiness she’s had. How am I supposed to tell her about this?”
“I don’t have a good enough answer for you, Seth, but she needs to know. She needs to be alert.”
“Do you think he’ll come looking for her?” Waves of terror crashed into me.
Tony’s face remained solemn. “I’ve known guys like him. He’ll want to come after the person who put him in prison for the last seven years.”
“What do I do?” I asked hoarsely.
 “Do everything you can to keep her safe. Take her to more self-defense classes. Teach her how to shoot a gun. I don’t care. Keep her safe.
In that moment, I let the anger and fear take root. I made a promise to myself that I would do anything to keep Josie safe.
If that included killing her rapist, then I’d do it.
Because if I failed, I would rather be dead. 

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