Collateral Damage is Here! (Sneak Peek Included)

I worked on this until my eyes went crossed and the characters infiltrated my dreams. Now, after almost a year of hard work, it’s finally here! Collateral Damage went live last night and it’s on sale for just $2.99! This book is very special to me, not only because I love the story and the characters, but also because it marks my first release since I lost all of my work-in-progresses (including the original version of Collateral Damage) in a house fire. It took me awhile, but I’m back. And Collateral Damage is better than ever. See for yourself, you can buy it right here

Aren’t familiar with From the Damage books? It’s an emotional, eye-opening story about a group of teenagers who are brought together by a support group. Each one dealing with their own problems and situations, they aren’t exactly thrilled about therapy or letting each other in. Their ambitious young counselor goes above and beyond to prove they can trust her, in hopes they will let her help them. 

Not convinced you want to buy it? Here’s a sneak peek. Image

Kendall walked around the park, located only ten minutes from Clearwater Elementary. She hadn’t been there in years, and was surprised by how different things looked. In her memories, she saw it differently. Or maybe she imagined it differently. She wasn’t sure which.

Mulch cracked under her feet as she moved past the see-saw and continued to the slide, nursing on a large bottle of liquor, teetering around the half-way point and soon to be gone. She sat down at the foot of the slide, resting her elbows on her knees and tilting her head to look toward the swing set.

It was perfectly still, like a picture or a freeze frame and not something real. Even the leather seats dangling by chains didn’t sway in the cool breeze. The tall and thick wooden frame cast an elongated shadow across the ground, highlighted by the streetlight a few feet away. And behind the swing set, shrubs led the way to a thicket of trees, the trunks and branches forming impenetrable shadows in the dead of night.

She shivered as she looked into the darkness. Then, tilting her head back, she took another long gulp of alcohol and relaxed against the slide. Trying to stare up at the sky, she felt her attention being drawn toward the woods. It was really starting to creep her out, even before she heard the soft footsteps on the sidewalk.

She didn’t move a muscle, didn’t budge an inch, didn’t take a breath, like her sole purpose right now was to remain invisible, unseen. Protected. Soon, a shadow stretched out alongside the slide, stretching further and further as the footsteps came closer and closer, until she could make out a tall, slender man.

By now, she knew she’d been detected, but she still couldn’t move. Still stuck in panic-and-hide mode, she stayed perfectly still, but her mind raced with a million different paranoid questions about the man, his intentions in the park, and most importantly, would he hurt her?

Turning, Seth’s face came into the light and she released the breath she was holding, but didn’t get up. “Scare the hell outta someone why don’t you?”

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“Why are you here?”

He shrugged, looking around. “I come here all the time.”

Still laying on the slide, she sat up just enough to take a drink and then let her body slouch back down again. “That’s morbid,” she said, coughing against the bitter taste of alcohol.

“I know.” He reached down and took the bottle from her hands, taking a drink of it before he repeated softly, “I know.”

She looked toward the swing set now, watching as the swings swayed gently in the cool breeze, hearing the chains rattle. “I came back here for a reason,” she said, looking up at him. “To figure out what happened back then.”

“Kendall, what are you talking about?”

She sat up on the slide, reaching out to take her alcohol back. {EDITED FOR SPOILER}

He simply stared at her, like he didn’t understand at all, or he didn’t care. His voice was quiet and calm as he said, “It’s in the past. Just let it go.”

She stood up and crossed the mulch until she came to the balance beam. Taking a good long look at it, she passed the bottle of Jack over to Seth and pushed up her sleeves. Lifting herself on to the beam, she placed her feet heel-to-toe and stretched her arms out for balance. Taking her first step, she said, “I’m hoping that putting the pieces together will help me do that.”

“We swore we’d never talk about it.”

“Back then. But things are different now, Seth.” She looked down at the wooden plank as she steadily crossed it. “I need to know.”

“Trust me, you don’t.”

Reaching the end of the balance beam, she turned to face him and started back the other way, teetering a little from her buzz. “Why not?”

“You just don’t, okay?”

“I’ll decide that,” she said. “Just fill in the blanks for me, okay? Seth, please?”

“Kendall, I can’t,” he said. “I won’t.”

She stopped in front of him, staring down at him from her spot on the balance beam. She couldn’t believe he would deny her this, something she had every right to know. Something she desperately needed to know. Finally, she reached out, yanked the alcohol from his hands and brought it to her lips. Tilting her head back, she chugged until every drop was gone. It took at least a minute, but she drank without even coming up for air. Her head swam when she finished, and the world blurred in and out of focus. She coughed against the acrid taste, but soon the discomfort was gone, leaving her with that floating, intoxicated feeling she loved. The numbness she was always searching for.

Seth filled most of her vision as he looked at her with that knowing, slightly disappointed but compassionate expression, and it made her hate him.

Who was he to act like he understood her, when he didn’t? If he did, he’d give her the information she needed, so she wouldn’t always have to wonder what was real and what wasn’t. The not knowing was killing her, driving her to choices like the one she’d just made. A choice she was beginning to regret as the liquid swirled in her stomach, burning like it might come right back up.

Acting on her hate toward him, she hurled the bottle at him, missing wildly. The glass hit the mulch with a soft thud.

“You have…half…haveta…” her tongue was heavy and her voice slurred. She swayed on her feet as her head started to spin faster. And suddenly, the scene was shifting, the mulch filling her vision as she tumbled forward, the ground rushing toward her. Jutting out his arms, Seth caught her, one hand behind her knees, the other behind her back. Before she even realized she was in danger, she was safe in his arms. Wrapping an arm instinctively around his neck, she leaned into his ear, but couldn’t quite lower her voice to a whisper as she said, “Tell me.”

Locking his gaze on hers, he studied her, gaze raking over her in an expression hinting at a bond that was much deeper than they were supposed to share.

Like an expert, she detected the lust in his eyes and used it. Biting her lip, she raised an eyebrow suggestively. “I’ll do…anything.”

He narrowed his eyes, looking shocked and a little disgusted. But the second the words were out, she felt sick. She felt the liquor burning her stomach and her throat as it rose higher and higher…

Just in time, Seth dropped her to her feet and turned her to face the balance beam. She dashed over to it, grabbing on to the wood as she leaned over and puked on the other side. Seth reached up to hold her hair back and out of the way. Her head spinning, whirring with dizziness and fatigue, she puked for what felt like hours. When her stomach was finally empty, she wiped her mouth and sat up, leaning her elbows on the beam. Letting her hair fall, Seth stepped back, looking at her sympathetically.

“I have to know the truth,” she whispered. 

He was quiet for a minute. Finally, shaking his head, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a package of gum and handed her a piece. After she took it, he crossed his arms and looked at her, choosing his words carefully. “The truth is a tricky thing. It’s complicated. It hurts people. And I think you’ve been hurt enough.”

“My hero,” she spat, standing up. She turned, aiming herself toward the sidewalk and took a step. Though she was stumbling and swaying, she headed toward the park exit.

“Kendall, wait. Come on,” he called, still over by the balance beam. “Where are you going?”

She reached out, placing her hand on the swing set frame for balance. Looking over at the swings, she remembered the first time she’d met Seth. They were ten or twelve, and she’d been playing here by herself while her mom was ‘at the store’ which was code for meeting her drug dealer. He came out of nowhere and offered to push her swing. Charming and playful, he’d made her crush on him almost instantly. She’d never stood a chance.

Pressing a hand against her stomach, she felt like she was going to throw up again. Seth came up behind her, grabbing her shoulders, making her heart leap into her throat. Stifling a scream of surprise, she jumped, spinning around to face him and pulling back at the same time.

Alcohol amplified the motions, making her dizzy. She lost her balance, stumbling back, and grabbed onto the swing’s chain. Wrapping her fingers around it, she held tight, like if she let go she might lose herself completely. Her heart pounding wildly, she glared at him. “Don’t do that!

He just stared at her, a pitying gaze scorching her skin. Finally, he said, “You’re a mess.”

“And you’re so perfect, aren’t you?” Her glare deepened, filling with resentment. “With your stupid football games and your perfect little girlfriend and all those people, willing to do whatever you say. It’s almost like you’re trying too hard to seem normal. No one would ever guess that you’re exactly like me.”

“You’re drunk,” he said, stepping forward. “You need to let me take you home.”

“Home?” she repeated, laughing. “Yes, please take me home so my dad can yell at me about how irresponsible I am, so Kelly can act like she’s better than me and her mom can sit there and watch. Please, by all means, twist the knife because I’m still breathing!”

He didn’t flinch at her outburst, he just came a little closer. “Is it that bad?”

She knew she was drunk and emotional and rambling, but she couldn’t stop herself. Tears clouded her eyes as she uncontrollably over-shared. “I don’t belong,” she whispered. “Not with my mom, not with dad and his new family. And I definitely don’t fit into your world. So where does that leave me?”

He stepped back. “I guess that’s something you’re gonna have to figure out.”

She watched, waiting for him to say the magic words that she did belong with him. That he cared about her, or something. But he just turned, shoving his hands into his pockets and walked away, leaving her alone in that shadowy park haunted by the ghosts of their past. 

 

Again, you can buy the book here.

For more information on From the Damage, visit the series website

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