Lullabies for Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror
Monsters by Caroline Kepnes
You are a virgin. You are eighteen years old and you’ve never done anything remotely criminal. Yes, you ate too many Devil Dogs, you played alone, and you got fat. But you lost five pounds before starting college. You’ve been there for your mother. You’re there for her right now, in line with her at TJ Maxx. She likes to shop every time she comes home from rehab. You say you believe it when she says, “this time it sticks.” You aren’t lying to her. You aren’t faking it. Every time feels like the time that it will stick and this time is no different. She pays for a bigger bathing suit—detox makes her thighs rub together—and she laughs with the woman at the register. The laughter is a good sign, a sign that it will stick. You pick at pink bubblegum that someone pressed under the counter. It sticks. Gum is sticky. There is no such thing as gum that doesn’t stick.
Your mom swings her bag of new bathing suits in the air. “Come on!” she says. “Let’s get outta here!”
Outside, it’s summer, your first summer as a college student. You walk with your mother like you never left, like you’re the same old kid. She picks up a penny and you never do things like that. You wish you were more like her, that she was more like you. Her sobriety never sticks and your virginity always sticks and she elbows you.
“Why so quiet?”
“You want to get ice cream?”
You don’t want ice cream but you want her to stay home so you say that you do. She drives the car. You ride shotgun, the virgin and the cokehead. You have never even smoked a cigarette and your mother has had so much sex. When she’s clean the men are tidy and cold. They come from the Internet and they don’t stay long. When she’s using, the men are filthy and relaxed, like henchmen in a movie. There was that guy in the wife-beater who pissed on the deck. There was that married guy who wore suits and didn’t take off his wedding ring when he sat on the sofa and hogged your TV.
“Soft or hard?” your mother wants to know.
She giggles like a kid at school. That’s always her joke when you come to this place where they have ice cream that needs scooping and ice cream that comes from a machine.
“Hard,” you say because no matter what you say she’s gonna elbow you and embarrass you in front of the younger girl who’s making your ice cream, blushing. There is no indoor seating area and you are jealous of the girl inside, roofed in. You bet her mother isn’t a cokehead and then you turn red because what a mean thing to think you fucking virgin, you fucking loser.
Your mother’s cone arrives first and your mind is full of dirty words, a car wash in reverse where the vehicles emerge covered in shit, in mud. Your mother licks her cone—vanilla—and if you weren’t a virgin, you wouldn’t notice the tip of her tongue. She wants to sit at a picnic table and she gets everything she wants when she’s clean, when she can’t have the one thing she actually wants: Coke. Blow. A bump.
Your cone isn’t dripping and her cone is dripping and you sit across from each other like two people on a date except this isn’t a date.
“Hey,” she says. “Maybe we should get one of those Slip ‘N Slides.”
A couple of nasty boys who can’t be older than twelve laugh at you, what a loser, he’s here with his mom. You wish you were twelve. When you were twelve you didn’t worry about being a virgin because twelve-year-olds can be virgins.
Your mother crumples up her napkin and hurls it at the boys and they leave.
You shouldn’t disagree with her. Not when she just got home and the sky is hot and she has a brand new bathing suit and rehab is sticking. But those boys got to you, those kids who get to be the kid that you never were, free and mean. You bark at your mother because you didn’t have the balls to bark at them. “I’m too old for a Slip ‘N Slide.”
“Don’t be like that,” she says. “Don’t care so much about what other people think.”
“I don’t care.”
“Yeah, you do and what a waste. What do you care if the neighbors see us having some fun? They’ll probably wanna come over.”
You used to stay with the Pyles who live up the street when your mom went away. You picture Mrs. Pyle in a one-suit, wet, in your back yard. “No they won’t.”
Your mother shrugs. You’re right. No one in the neighborhood wants to come over. They’ve seen too many random cars in the driveway, sometimes black and whites with the red lights blasting shadows into the other homes. It’s too quiet now. Your mother is bored of her ice cream, but she eats it anyway. You can’t think of anything to say to her and you worked so hard to lose all that pudding on your belly this year. You don’t want the ice cream but you eat the ice cream because you’re a bad son. You don’t believe it will stick. Not anymore. Not with her wanting to slide on a plastic tarp in the back yard. That’s who she is, isn’t it? She wants to slide, she doesn’t want to stick. She pulls at her bra strap.
“Well, we have to do something. The weather guy says it’s only gonna get hotter tomorrow and we can’t get the AC fixed. I have to pay the electric, the gas bill, too.”
Your house isn’t yours, not really. Your grandmother gave it to your mom when she died, when you were in pull-ups. It still smells like a grandmother, like the house doesn’t want to belong to you, to your mom who can’t take good care of it. The words plop out of your mouth like upchuck. “I’m sorry.”
Your mother stares at you. Her hair is wiry and her eyes are clear. They’re so much scarier when she’s clean, when she sees you, when she’s not looking at you through a hazy veil of bloodshot eyes with her nose dripping and her skin sweaty. “Sorry for what?” she wants to know.
You can’t think of anything smart to say and you don’t want to say anything stupid and when she decides to go out later that night, it is your fault. All you had to do was say you wanted a Slip‘N Slide. When she comes home loud and not alone—he’s filthy, he wears boots in summer—she is high and you know she’s high by the sound of her giggles. She’s a toilet that won’t stop running and there’s nothing you can do to slow the pace of her speech, to stop the chop, chop, chopping of her credit card. You hear him next, whoever he is, kicking off his boots and snorting your mother’s stash. So you stay in your room. You don’t play music to block out the sound of them fucking. You deserve to listen to it. You are a criminal, the worst son on planet earth. You are a virgin and everything bad in this world, in this house, in your dirty mind, in your mother’s bloodstream, it’s all your fault because she was clean until you turned your back on her at that picnic table, until you refused to get on her side. When the filthy guy sticks his dick in her, when he grunts and you hear the headboard slam into the wall, you get hard and you put your hands on your body and those boys were right to laugh at you today. They’re normal. You’re the freak.
Lizard by Mark Matthews
“Do you know what I am going to do to you?” Agent Baker asked in a voice that had sunk seven layers deep.
Baker stepped forward. Amy had no room to retreat. She was fully cornered, exposed, and sat helpless as Baker took hold of her trembling hand. With a fingertip, she traced Amy’s vein, inching slowly from her wrist toward the sweet spot of the needle mark. She reached the syringe, grasped it inside her fist, then plucked it out.
“Do you know what I am going to do to you?” Baker repeated.
Amy shook her head, because she didn’t know.
“I am going to help you. You will never be sick again. Never.”
Never sick again. Never sick again—the phrase somehow made Amy’s fear bleed out of her body, and she looked up at Baker like a starving baby waiting to be fed. Baker was an infinite mother, a sexless lover, knowing her in ways never before possible. The feel of Baker’s fingertips had been surprisingly soft, warm, tender. It brought back memories of Joshua as an infant, his flesh pressed against hers when he was minutes old, fresh from her womb, moist with the miracle of life. The breastfeeding that followed was abandoned too early when dehydration hit.
But it was okay.
Joshua was going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay.
Baker held the needle with the tip sticking out between her fingers, and plunged the syringe towards Amy’s eye. Her eyelid snapped shut, but the needle poked right through the tiny film of skin. Pluck. She could hear it penetrating into her moist eyeball, the pain piercing as if she’d been stabbed in the heart. Baker tugged it out, just a touch, and then pushed it in deeper, right through her eye socket, again and again, until she finally pulled the needle out entirely. The syringe dripped with moisture.
“You’ve had your chance.” Baker attacked again.
Amy raised a hand but was too slow to defend her other eye when the syringe stabbed inside. A milky-white liquid mixed with crimson blood leaked out her eye, dripped down her cheek, then streamed into her mouth which had opened to scream. With each new stab, a new pitch out of her mouth, screaming Joshua’s name to help her, pleading apologies, rattling the bathroom walls with howls, sure that the gods would hear her pain and save her, but instead the snake bites of the needle came in rapid fire to all parts of her body. Baker pulled the needle out each time and found new, fresh skin to puncture.
Amy collapsed to the ground a ripped-open ragdoll. Her veins had been sliced apart, her flesh speckled in bloody red holes, her arms held out in front of her as if in offering. Her face was stuck in silent peace, a permanent sleep, the fluid of her life running in tiny red streams and puddling on the white tile. She’d been blinded and unable to see the bathroom door swing open and her son standing in the doorway, looking at her one last time before she died.
I was ten when I watched my cousin die. Granted, at the time I didn’t know the kid I’d seen through a light blue haze was a member of my family. To me, he was just a stranger, like all the rest. A specter sent from the depths of my brain to wake me up in the middle of the night. I still remember like it was yesterday.
The dream sent our household into a sleep deprived frenzy. Me, screaming for my parents to turn on the lights, tears running in rivers down flushed cheeks. My dad, sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbed his hand in circles across my shoulders, consoling me. It took a long distance phone call the following morning for my mom and dad to understand that the dream had been more than a figment of my overactive imagination.
“How did it happen?” My mother’s voice was tight, wobbly as she spoke into the kitchen telephone receiver. It was the only one in the house that was still corded. I watched from the living room couch as she twisted the stretched curlicues of cord around her index finger.
When she slid into a chair at the kitchen table with her hand planted firmly over her lips, heaviness descended on the room, blanketing the air with cold finality. To this day I remember the lead weight in my chest, the struggle for breath. Maybe that’s what he’d felt in his last moments. My mother was still holding the phone in one hand when she turned to stare at me. Eyes wide with some emotion I couldn’t yet interpret. Now, sixteen years later, I can tell you for certain it was terror.
My sixteen-year-old cousin, Curt, had been killed racing home from a party to make curfew. I’d seen it all. Told my parents every detail. The skid on the damp roadway. The slam into a poorly placed telephone pole. Even the good Samaritans who’d stopped in the dead of night to try to dig him out of the twisted wreckage. Smoke filtered up from the heap of metal before I saw him, standing on the other side of the car, smiling at me.
“Tell Mom, I’m sorry,” he’d said. His voice cut short by the wail of a siren.
It’s funny. I can still picture that dream in lifelike detail. But now, instead of terror, there’s a peaceful comfort attached to the memory. I think that’s how it works for me. The visions can’t hold any power over me once I work them out–figure out how to help.
In those early days, I’d been scared senseless. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, flailing to turn a light on, to familiarize myself with reality again. For a while I slept with the bedside lamp on, hoping the luminescence would create some kind of barrier between this world and the next. It was my grandmother who helped me realize it was useless, of course. The dreams were a part of reality–my reality, anyway.
But that awareness of what my dreams were–what that made me–changed everything. The energy in our household sparked with frustration. My mother and father argued. Family outings trickled to a rare occurrence. My life consisted of school, home, homework, and bed, praying to whatever god would listen to let me sleep through the night. Every once in a while some deity would listen, most times, not. I learned to keep what I saw to myself. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Within two years, my mother had run through all the psychiatrists and magic pills she could find to make me normal again. By the time I was twelve, I was spending the majority of my time at my grandparents’ farm, away from the family I’d disgraced and the marriage I’d destroyed. At least, that’s how it seemed to twelve-year-old me.
“I will not allow my daughter to be a freak.” My mother’s words after a particularly heated exchange with my father regarding my condition are what drove me to become the Liv Sullivan I am today.
The “f” word, as I’d taken to calling it, hummed in my skull now, just as it had when I was a girl. Hunkered down on the steps of my parents’ home, eavesdropping through tears, the people I loved arguing about an affliction I didn’t fully understand and over which I had no control.
Of course, if it wasn’t for all of that, I might never have learned I had two choices in life–remain the small-town freak or reinvent myself as a big city fraud. I chose the latter, finding out pretty quick that the best place to hide was in plain sight.
Title: Twisted Lies 1 (Dirty Secrets)
Author: Sedona Venez
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
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USA TODAY Bestselling Author Sedona Venez lives in New York City with her hot ex-military hubby--hooah--and their fur babies. She loves writing sizzling, sexy intricate stories about strong but broken characters who push limits, overcome their fears, and risk it all for love.
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Hung Up on You
Todd frees himself from the jumble in the hall and comes forward to kiss Dee’s cheek, then mine. Kai follows suit, giving Dee a peck on the lips before stopping in front of me. He grips my shoulders lightly, the way he always does when we see each other, and bends to kiss both my cheeks. “I’m happy to see you, Jules,” he says in his deep, measured voice. “I’m glad you could come for the weekend.” He leans forward and whispers, “Don’t be too mad at her. You know her heart is always in the right place, even if she tends to overstep.”
I don’t get a chance to ask what he’s talking about before he steps to the side, giving me my first look at the mystery stranger in the hall. His glasses have fogged up after coming in from the cold, but as the mist clears, I get a better look at his dark-blue eyes. The uncertainty on his face likely matches my own as he looks between the two couples. His eyes land on me next, and the crease in his forehead eases slightly, his frown morphing into a tiny, shy smile. He takes off his hat, revealing thick brown hair that stands in every direction, even after he attempts to smooth it down.
My stomach does a little flip. I get it now: this is a setup. I should probably be irritated, and that’s clearly what Dee expects, but this guy is cute. Really cute. He has a bit of a nerdy vibe, which isn’t my usual type, but there’s something about his shy, almost boyish smile that piques my curiosity. I usually resist Dee’s attempts to fix me up, but maybe I’ll cut her some slack this time. I’m single, I’m young, and there’s nothing wrong with a weekend hookup every now and then, right?
Dee steps forward and gives the guy a quick hug. “I’m so glad you decided to take Kai up on his offer to come. We’re going to have so much fun!” I’m vaguely aware of butterflies taking flight in my stomach as Dee turns to me. “This is Julia Coleman, my best friend. Jules, this is Zack Clayton. He and Kai work at the same insurance company.”
Zack steps forward, pulling off his right glove to shake my hand. Warm skin, good grip. His smile gives me a girl-in-a-romance-novel reaction: weak knees, heart fluttering, skin buzzing with awareness. Up close, I can see the crinkles around his eyes and the shallow dimple in his right cheek. I’ve always been a sucker for a cute smile.
“Nice to meet you, Julia.”
Oh god, and his deep, sexy voice. It’s the perfect complement to those beautiful eyes and adorable smile. I’m a goner.
Little White Lies
Truth or Lies Series Book 1
by Jude Ouvrard
Genre: New Adult Romance
Publication Date: January 6, 2020
When Hunter Reed’s longtime plans go awry following her college graduation, she has two choices. She can wallow in her grief, or she can get away from Utah, and the people who broke her. Determined to escape the shadow of her parents and make it on her own terms, she lands her dream job at an up-and-coming graphic design company in Portland, packs her bags, and hits the road.
No sooner has Hunter arrived, than the adventures begin. With a new apartment, and learning her job comes with a private office—and a handsome boss who is her age—she settles in straight away, befriending neighbors and co-workers alike. Welcomed into the fold, the transition is smooth and easy.
Almost too easy.
Just when she gets comfortable with how perfect her life is going, an unforgettable Elvis at a costume party will make Hunter forget everything she was taught about propriety, leading to a night of drunken abandonment and dangerous encounters that will set in motion a web of little white lies which could undo everything she has worked so hard for.
Although Hunter finds herself facing two choices again, this time, her heart is on the line.
Jude Ouvrard is a mom, a girlfriend, a sister, and a daughter... well, you get the idea.
She's also an avid reader and writer. Ouvrard loves books--the words in them, and the worlds of fantasy they create. Basically, she's a sucker for any type of romance book. That's her thing.
Born and raised in a small village in the Canadian countryside, it's been nearly two decades since she moved out of the family home to go explore and enjoy the city life. Living with her longtime boyfriend, their son, and their fur babies in Montreal, her days are labored away at a law firm while she lives her dream job by night. Writing. Creating. Giving shape and form to the characters who whisper their stories in her head.
Ouvrard writes new adult, military, and contemporary romance tales filled with drama, love, and everything in between.
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What Are Friends For?
There were times between us that felt totally normal—like, almost the entire time we’d been cutting out snowflakes, things had felt normal. I hadn’t been staring at his mouth or imagining his body heat enveloping me into a hug. We joked like normal, laughed like normal. But the quiet moments between us had my heart aching, wanting.
“See you tomorrow,” Elijah said, and I saw from the corner of my eye the shadow of him rising to his feet. He pressed his hand once against the spot between my shoulder blades before walking off, his socks silent on the wooden floors. I counted each of my breaths as I waited for the sound of the door to open.
It took seven slow inhales and exhales and then Elijah was gone, leaving me with a torrent of thoughts and a hurting heart.
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