Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shameless Blog Stop and Excerpt

By: Mel Ballew
Expected Release Date: August 7

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Synopsis:

"If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. Soon, you’ll be able to stand. First, just crawl."

S’renaty James lives a privileged life most her age only dream of living. She is beautiful and popular with her entire life ahead of her. Life could not get any better.
Until her entire life shifts, crashing around her...
Bound by devastation, persecuted by the ones she used to call ‘friends’, haunted by disturbing nightmares, and filled with self-blame, she vows to overcome.
Stefan is everything S’renaty swears to avoid. He is carefree and charismatic. He is primitive, complicated and a total badass. He makes her melt like fine chocolate under a hot summer’s sun the first time their eyes meet. There is something about him, and she makes it her mission to find out.
When he meets S’renaty James, he is not prepared for what comes over him because for the first time ever, a girl leaves him breathless. Now, his primary responsibility is to keep her safe. He will do anything to protect her. Even lie...
Stefan is the one person she has trusted with her heart. After keeping an unforgivable secret, he could be the one to shatter it to pieces. In fact, he may even destroy her beyond repair. Will she overcome and forgive, letting go of the pain, guilt and shame? Or this time, will she be stronger than the hardest lesson of her life — and, become totally ShameLess?

About Mel:

Mel Ballew resides in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter, along with their two adorable cats. 
An avid reader, she has always had an equal passion for writing and has written her entire life, to date. Her mother initially birthed, inspired, and encouraged these loves. The two often discussed writing together but unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition.
Years later, this happened, that happened—life happened. 
She stepped away from writing to place more focus on being wife and a full-time mom. Today, she would not have changed a thing. The day her daughter was born became the first day she realized a significant rhythm to her heart was also born. Her daughter, now preparing to go off to college, has grown into a beautiful and responsible young adult.
A twisted turn of events in September 2009 left Mel unable to work outside of the home. Forced to consider other options, and while embracing a therapeutic approach of transcribing all of the challenges facing her, post-accident, she returned to journaling. Once again, the writer within her has been re-birthed—awakened from slumber.
Mel is a hopeless romantic. Blessed, she has her very own soul mate, which she calls husband, best friend, and lover. 
She is a simple country gal, with a profound love of true simplicity. She is just as hopeless in her love of nature and regards many of her writing aspirations to appreciating its beauty, although every single story is birthed from her dreams. Sometimes, in life, simply enjoying a chilled glass of sangria on a warm summer’s eve or indulging in her love of chocolate and peanut butter is an expression of enjoying such simplicity. For her, these moments are truly d’vine.

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“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.
Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”  Eckhart Tolle

Chapter One

“Asshole! You fucking asshole!” Ella screams directly at Derek, as she shoves past him, storming off, staggering in a drunken state. Tears streaming from her eyes are the last thing I see as I take to staring after her, shocked, humiliated and past the point of being embarrassed. Tears now appear in my own eyes as I call after her, “Ell! It is not what you think. Wait!”
Without hesitation, I grab my black form-fitted prom dress by its edge and pull it up enough to make my legs more mobile. Derek attempts to stop me, begging me to let her go. I push him away with a force and race after her. Her turquoise sequins shimmering in the dark of the night proves my only clue I am almost catching up to her.
As I exit the row of trees, lining the area where our circle of friends gathered for our after-prom party, I see Ella climbing into her red BMW. “NO! Elle wait! Don’t drive. You’ve been drinking – WAIT!” I shout into the blackness. The only thing my ears hear as she squeals her tires on the damp macadam is, “Fuck you, Ren!” Burnt rubber wafts amid the air.
Thankful I still have my clutch, I dig for the keys to my black BMW, matching Elle’s red one. The instant memory of how lucky we both felt when our parents allowed us to get matching cars for our sweet sixteen’s purges more tears from my ducts. “NO!” I release a piercing shrill of total shock while I seize the key in my hand. Jagged edges cut into my palm, leaving a valid reflection of the anxiety in my heart. Quickly, I snap my clutch closed and head to my car, slipping inside. Without thinking, I dash off after my best friend. She knows I love Tuck. I am with him. I would never do anything to hurt her. She has to know me better than this.
I have to talk to her. I have to explain I only went to get Tuck a beer and Derek cornered me. He forced himself. She HAS to understand I would never do this to her! I. Did. Not. Do. This. To. Her.
Finally! After several minutes on route 5, I see her taillights ahead of me. I flash my headlights, trying to get her attention. I can see her swerving from the centerline over to the right berm. I flash her again. Slow down, Ell; slow down. I allow this sudden concern to process without further delay.
“Shit! No, no, no!” My voice penetrates inside the car bouncing off its interior. I push on the accelerator. I have to get closer. If she knows I am trailing her, she may slow down, maybe even stop. I have to get her to pull over. 
The alcohol swirls around in my head, mixing with the depth of the misery curdling there. I literally feel sick, as if I could throw up at any minute. My eyes are blurring. I blink. No! I shake my head, slightly, forcing myself into the reality of the here and now. Once more, I flash my headlights, only this time frantically blinking them over and over again. 
At first, I did not notice the sudden rainfall beating against my windshield. It's drops strike down forcibly snapping my dropping eyes wide open. Instinctively, I run the wipers onto fast setting and suddenly notice Ell is slowing down as she approaches the first curve on Waggoner’s Bend, otherwise known as ‘Dead Man’s Bend’ because so many accidents happened here over the years. She is still several feet from entering the curve, so if I can reach her in time, I might make her pull over at the park-n-ride. I hit the gas, increasing speed. Reckless rain pelts against my windshield as my cell phone vibrates from inside my purse. I ignore it and continue pressing forward. 
Ell is literally almost at a standstill now. Curiosity immediately alarms me. The hair on the back of my neck stands at attention as goose bumps instantly appear on my arms. Then, through a combination of powerful raindrops and thick fog forming on the mountain, I see her put on her right turn signal. Thank God.  
Relieved she is definitively pulling over, I start to slow down as well and start edging off to the side of the road. She parks but remains inside the car. I pull in beside her. Again, my cell phone vibrates. I quickly reach inside my clutch and, upon pulling it out, note that it is my dad. I mute it and let it ring straight to voicemail. I’ll call him back after I talk to Ell. 
As I raise my head and dart my eyes back to Ell’s car, a curdling scream releases! ”Noooo!” Large, bright white headlights are coming right at us. Within seconds, a speeding semi slams into both of us, pushing us directly over the edge of the steep mountainside.
It is a devastating moment of intense shrieking of metal meeting metal as heavy rain continues to explode against the night. Descending at accelerating speeds both of our cars move downward, smashing into the embankment – side over side, thrashing into various trees along the way.
Coming to a complete rest at the bottom, I cannot feel much of anything. I can barely focus at all. I fight against the pain trying to hold me, wanting to stop me, and struggle to find my cell. Thankfully, it remains in my purse that has not moved.   
Somehow, despite being blood soaked and dazed, I am able to call 9-1-1. I do not remember. I do not remember saying or doing anything at all after that. I only remember hearing Ella screaming before everything goes black.

I awake some days later in the hospital. My eyes will not cooperate or open fully. They are swollen and bloodshot from damaged vessels; therefore, remain half-open, instead. Hooked up to IV’s, writhing in utter pain, I cannot even speak because my mouth is so dry.  
Emotionally wrecked, with tears flowing freely from her eyes, my mother says, “Ren. Sweetie, it’s mom. Thank God. Oh, thank God you’re okay.” Her shaky voice confirms for me the reality of my situation. Inside, I want to move, but I cannot. I try to open my mouth to talk to her but fight against the feel of cotton in my throat. Mom has already pushed the call button for the nurse but reaches for the water on my bedside table and adjusts the straw for it to bend downward as she slides it between my lips. 
“Here. Easy, S’renaty,” she nudges with a very calm, soothing voice as I start drinking.  
I breathe out a whispered inquiry, “Ella?”
My mother’s face goes tens shades of white, and she immediately drops her eyes away from mine. Fighting the tubes, I reach for her hand. Again, I pump her–“Ella?”–in a more demanding tone with numerous gasped breaths.
“Honey, don’t worry about that right now. You need to get better. Let’s talk about that later, okay?” Tears still flow down her cheeks. Instantly, I can feel her distraction. Instinctively, I know I am not going to like what I am about to learn. I want to know. 
“Mom. Tell me.” I pressure her through a raspy voice as I gently clasp her hand into my own. Full strength eludes me. My point remains clear.
At first, she does not make direct eye contact. Immediately, I know she certainly would rather we wait. My dad enters the room at this exact moment. “Hey, there’s my girl.” His voice firm but loving does not reveal his emotions. My dad, an FBI profiler, always has a strong presence, despite his gentleness with me. I have always been a daddy’s girl. Right now, though, I feel more like his case, than his ‘girl’. His eyes catch my mom’s before they move to meet mine.  
“What’s all this seriousness about?” He asks while leaning down to place a kiss on my forehead. He swipes a few tangled strands of my dark hair out of the way. 
“Ella?” I dryly mouth motioning to my mom for more water.
“Oh Ren, Ella didn’t make it.” His strong hand holds mine but do not help relieve the constricted wind in my lungs as I start gasping for breaths, nor does it require any additional support for my weakened state. Tears flow from my misty eyes while I wrestle with the truth of his words, stinging my heart. I do not remember much after this except for the sound of my monitor casting its powerful beeps across the room. 

Many days later, I awake once more. Intense pain no longer present in my physical body, its existence now claims my emotional self. I am numb as I open my eyes and look around the room. No longer in the hospital, I am now lying in my own bedroom and I cannot even remember how I got here. I just know I am glad I am. Well, for the most part. Instantly, as my eyes scan the room, I detect every single picture of Ella and I removed. Every. Single. One.
I find a shiny silver bell on my nightstand and reach for it without further thought. I ring it – loudly! My mom rushes in as if she had actually been waiting and likely knowing her, she probably was. “Ren…everything okay? Do you need something?” Her panicky sound alarms me as she approaches me, but I reject it in exchange for the anger boiling inside.
“Where are they? What did you do with them?” My voice, still weak, demands a response. I am shaking with pure emotion as I scuffle within the covers to free myself of their constraints. Trying to sit upright in bed, I lean back against the headboard. Reality and memories flood my mind as tears flow from my eyes. I try to swallow. I try to breathe. I try to accept the words that last fell from the lips of my father, the last real memory I have, but all I can do is reveal the emotions purging from my soul. I meet their release. 
Instantly, my mom is cradling me in her arms. She says nothing but her love proves everything. It speaks volumes as she rocks me like a baby, back and forth, placing kiss upon loving kiss on my head. She runs her fingers softly through the long dark strands of my hair, soothing me, quieting me but allowing my heart to grieve.
Eventually, she pulls away. She takes a sharp breath before speaking, “S’renaty, I am sorry. I did not think you would like to see all of them around. I did not do it to hurt you, sweetie. I was only trying to help you. I’ll put them back – if you want...” Her words trail off, in deep tender serenity. I say nothing but let my body talk as I keep my head upon her shoulder, sobbing into her upper chest. “Ssh…it’s alright. It’ll be alright.” 
As the rest of that morning unfolds, my mother spends the whole time comforting me, holding me and explaining everything. I missed Ell’s memorial services since I was recovering and kept heavily sedated. Apparently, from what she shared, it was a closed casket. She and my dad had gone while I was still in the hospital, along with the majority of the people of this small town. I do not pry for more. These words provide enough detail for me. Actually, it is more than I am able to take. 
With my head propped against my mother’s warmth and my body wrapped in her love, I open my eyes and see the reflection of my half of the ‘best friends forever’ necklace shimmering in the beams of sunlight coming through my bedroom drapes. It is hanging where it always has, over the photo of her and me at my eleventh birthday party at the beach. Both of us wearing party hats, balloons with their curled spiraled strings hang around us, providing the perfect backdrop. I cannot take my eyes off them. 
My mother missed this one photo. She missed the necklace, too. It may only be half of one heart illuminated by the sunlight, but in this particular moment, it illustrates the clarity and depth of my pain. Ironically, it is exactly how my heart is now without her. It is only half of what it used to be. It is only half of what it should be, still. My heart will never be whole again. Best friends forever, Ella. I love you. Always have; always will. My mind projects the words to her without verbally announcing it aloud. Agonizingly, I clench my eyes shut, holding tightly onto my mother. I cannot bring her back. I cannot go back in time and change the outcome. The present moment is all I have now. 
My heart bleeds as my eyes overflow with the pain pouring from the depths of my soul. I will never be the same. I am the reason Ella sped off that night. This is all my fault. It should have been one of the happiest moments of our lives together and of our senior year. It turned out to be the worst. I killed my best friend.

Giveaway: 2 $10 Amazon gift cards

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