Title: Damaged Doll
Series: Beth Series #2
Author: Jennifer Bene
Genre: Dark Gothic Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 12, 2022
After everything Beth has been through, all she wants is to feel normal.
To be normal.
But the weight of her past won’t let her go easily.
“Wanting her is wrong.”
All Jake wants is to be a hero.
To save as many as he can from the monsters of this world.
But when the monsters come for Beth Doherty…
he isn’t thinking like a hero.
Ripping her out of her life was bad enough.
Wanting her is worse.
But resisting her might just be impossible.
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She felt like she was underwater. Floating in emptiness, with no ground to stretch her toes out for, and no air to swim toward.
It was endless… but not in a peaceful way. Someone had told her once that drowning was peaceful, that the brain gave a sense of euphoria as the lungs filled up with water, but Beth had never felt anything like that.
No calm. No peace.
Just a flickering memory of panic, and an absolute fear of the surface.
Survival was supposed to be an instinct, and she knew she should want to reach the surface. To breathe air again, to stop suffocating in the dark… but all she ever did was dive deeper. The deeper she went, the easier it was to block out the flickering glimpses of the things happening above. All the sounds, the textures, the sensations. The things that were so much worse than drowning.
But it got exhausting to stay down when her body wanted to be buoyant, wanted air, wanted freedom. A constant fight, a battle for depth whenever the water got rough and the waves turned the distant surface into chaos.
It was happening again.
That steady rise to the surface that brought back the panic, heart pounding in her ears as she became aware of the world outside the water. She wanted to dive down, to hide from the pull, but she was so fucking tired — and then there were the voices.
Muffled, blurred by the water for a while… until she got closer. As the light grew brighter, and she started to feel, she could hear them. Too many.
His voice always stood out the strongest, even though it was always calm. Cold and calm. Just like the water farther down, where she was safer… but she wasn’t safe up here.
Surfacing was always bad. Always.
If she reacted, if she made a sound, then they’d know she could. Then the storm on the surface would just get worse, it would be harder to swim down with the water too rough. Harder to hide.
Despite her best efforts to avoid it, the light got stronger, the world coming toward her, and she clenched her teeth tight to stay silent, to avoid the urge to scream or fight.
And then she broke the surface, instinctively pulling at the cable around her wrist, tethering her to the bed — but it was better to be connected to the bed. Out of the bed was always worse. Out of the bed meant there might be someone new, somewhere new, which always meant pain.
Although the surface was always painful, and she did her best to brace for it as her mind joined her body, as her eyes focused on the light and she felt the texture of sheets against her back and thick plastic around her wrist and –
Curtains. Pale purple.
A poster of a boy band.
She was home.
She kept forgetting that she was home, that she didn’t have to stay under anymore, didn’t have to fight the surface or feel the panic. Of course, knowing it didn’t keep her heart from racing, or her nails from digging into her palms as she pulled at the zip-tie around her wrist.