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Jonathan Dunsky

The Payback Girl - Ebook

The Payback Girl - Ebook

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Book Description:

How did she get here?

And why does she hurt so bad?

When Amber-May regains consciousness in the woods, she doesn't remember what happened to her. Once she discovers the truth, she makes a firm decision...

...she wants those who hurt her to pay for their crimes.

But they are rich and powerful. She is poor and all alone. The police won't help her. The media won't either. If she wants to see justice done, she'll have to deliver it herself.

Her mission will not be easy. Because someone is hunting her. It will take all of Amber-May's skills and strength to defeat her opponents.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1:

Amber-May hurt like hell.

The pain was everywhere. A stabbing sensation on the inside of her chest. A hammering in her skull. A nasty ache all over her face. And, worst of all, a jagged, burning pain that started in her genitals and radiated fire into her stomach.

She was drowning in blackness. Not like in sleep, but as if she'd been tightly wrapped in some thick material that blocked out all light.

She willed her eyes to open but felt no reaction. She strained her ears but picked up no sound. The silence was as deep as the blackness enveloping her. Am I dead? she wondered.

That most terrifying of questions was followed not by a thought of herself, but by one of her grandmother. If Amber-May were dead, who would care for Grandma Betsy?

She banished the thought from her mind. She couldn't be dead. There was no way death could hurt this much.
She tried to cry out, both to call for help and to simply hear the sound of her own voice. But either she was unable to make a sound, or her ears were not working.
Panic gripped her heart in an icy fist. She started to hyperventilate, which only made the pain in her chest worse. It was as if someone had worked a razor blade inside her and was scraping it against her ribs.

What's happening to me? Where am I? How did I get here?

A tsunami of questions flooded her mind. If they didn't stop, she would drown in them. Because she had no answer to any of them. And the pain made it impossible to think.

Amber-May imagined a dam blocking the flow of unanswerable questions. Then she pictured a sun burning brightly in a clear blue sky, drying out the questions that had already flooded her consciousness. It was a trick her mother had taught her when she was little. A visualization technique to control her thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.

This time it did.

As her mind began to clear, Amber-May focused on her breathing. Slow down, she told herself, and, gradually, her lungs obeyed, inflating and deflating at a normal pace. Now her chest hurt a little less, and she turned her attention to her ears. Work, damn it! Come on!

At first the utter silence persisted, but then she picked up something—a drumming sound, very close to her ears.

Her heart. She was hearing her heartbeat thudding against her eardrums. An unsteady, erratic rhythm, but music to her ears all the same. It meant her hearing was still functioning. Up to a point at least.

She diverted her attention to her other senses. At first there was nothing, no sensory input, but then she smelled something.

A coppery scent, like that of blood. And pine needles. She smelled pine needles. The smell was very faint, but unmistakable. Was she in a park? A forest? She couldn't remember any reason for her to be in either.

She couldn't remember other stuff, too. Like what day of the week it was or what had happened over the past few hours. Her memory was clear up to a time she was sure was some days ago—a week maybe—but fuzzy after that. Like an impenetrable fog.

Amber-May shivered. She was freezing. And something hard was pressed against her back, buttocks, head. She realized that she was lying on a hard surface. Hard and uneven. Like dirt or bare earth.

Then came another sensation—chilled air moving on her skin. Wind. A cold wind was caressing her legs, stomach, breasts. Wait—was she naked?

She had to be, because the wind touched her everywhere and she couldn't feel any clothes.

The panic surged back, a black wave of fear and anxiety, eager to consume her mind, to push her under and never let go.

Oh, my God. Why am I naked in the middle of nowhere? This is bad. This is really bad.

It was like a scream in her head, repeating itself over and over, louder and louder.

Amber-May gritted her teeth against the onslaught, grinding them hard into each other. They felt strange, misshapen. Her gums flared with sharp pain that radiated across her jaw. It helped her refocus her mind on what was positive. She was regaining control of her body, and her senses were coming back to life.

In her mind, she added height to the dam warding off the panic, strengthening it. She was still terrified of what was happening to her, but she was able to think; she was not lost.

Again she strove to open her eyes. The blackness held, heavy, dispiriting, but Amber-May did not give up. She might be blinded for good, for all she knew, but she was not willing to accept such a fate. Not yet, anyway. Not without giving it her all. She directed all her energy, everything she had, at her eyes, ordering them—begging and pleading—to open.

The darkness broke. A sliver of yellow light appeared off center, to the right. Amber-May realized only her right eye had opened. This could mean that she was half-blind, but she was not going to think about that now. Right now, she was going to be positive. She was going to hold onto that sliver of light, hold onto it for dear life.

As if it felt her need, the sliver of light widened, brightened, dazzling her right eye so it filled with tears. But she didn't clamp her eyelids shut. She was so grateful to have sight; she wasn't about to give it up, not even for a fraction of a second.

As she grew acclimated to the light, she caught sight of lofty treetops swaying gently against a backdrop of a cloudless blue sky. A bird flitted across her field of vision, chased playfully by another. It was beautiful, tranquil. But how did she get here? And why was she hurting so bad?

Then she heard them—two voices, chattering, approaching fast. Female voices.

Amber-May struggled to call out. Silence. Her mouth felt as dry as old paper, her tongue as heavy as a bowling ball. The two voices drew nearer, accompanied by the sound of rapidly pounding feet on tarmac.

She knew that sound. Five times a week, in the early morning hours, she would strap on sneakers and a running outfit, slip on her earphones, turn up the volume on her music player, and produce the exact same sound for three miles, sometimes more.

Jogging. The two women were jogging. Very close now.
Couldn't they see her?

The way her head lay, she was staring straight up. The two women, however, were somewhere to her left. She tried angling her head, but the sharp stab of pain in her neck made her stop. Her breath caught in her throat, her vision spun, and for a second she was sure she was going to pass out. Then the pain subsided, her vision cleared, and she was able to breathe normally again.

Okay, let's try again.

Slowly, gradually, she swiveled her head to the left. Her neck hurt this time as well, but she was ready for the pain and didn't stop until she was peering sideways.
Through a jumble of foot-high bushes, she caught glimpses of tarmac—a path cutting through the woods, ten, maybe twelve feet away.

The two women were almost upon her. She could make out their words. One was telling the other about a bad date she'd had.

Amber-May opened her mouth, commanded her lips and tongue to vocalize the word Help!

Nothing came out.

She tried again, and this time a moan, high-pitched and pitiful, unrecognizable as her own voice, emerged from her lips.

The running footsteps pattered to a stop. First one pair and then the other.

"What is it, Mary?" one of the women asked.

"Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

A pause. Amber-May could see their legs through the bushes. She had to get their attention. She could not let them get away.

Again she moaned.

"That," Mary said. "I think it's coming from here."

Mary came closer, feet off the tarmac and now crunching on grass. Amber-May could see her. Tall, Caucasian, medium build, mid-thirties, long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Mary saw her, too. She stared at her, aghast.

"Oh my God, Susan. It's a girl."

The two women—Mary and Susan—came toward her. Susan had her hand pressed to her mouth, looking close to fainting.

"What—what happened to her?"

Mary crouched down beside Amber-May, reached for her hand, and held it in both of hers. To her friend, she said, "Don't lose it now, Susan. Get your phone and call for help." She turned to Amber-May, tried on a smile, but it kept slipping off her lips. "It's okay, honey. Hold on now. Help is coming. You're going to be fine. You hear me? You're going to be fine."

Mary's distressed expression told Amber-May that she was lying. She wanted to tell her to stop bullshitting, but the darkness was once again closing in at the edges of her vision. Her strength ebbed. She felt herself drifting, falling, plummeting into a black well of nothingness.

"Thank you," she tried to mutter, but had no idea whether she'd succeeded before she passed out. 

--- End of Chapter 1 ---

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Editorial Reviews

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Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
Mixed feelings

1. I purchased a large print edition, not an ebook, and was favorably impressed with its construction: good paper, sturdy binding, print layout correct on every page and no over printing errors. As I get older, I appreciate large print editions more and more. Yes, I've purchased ebooks and while they do have some virtues, generally I find them less than equal to the thing that sits on my shelf.
2. This is not at all an easy book to read, especially for women, so that's intended as a safety warning, and I wish there had been a clearer warning available for me.That said, I was impressed with the contrast between the mid-South as a static region of sameness and Boston in all its variety and liveliness. This building of contrast in setting is one of our author's much-appreciated skills especially when it provides the structure for plot and character twists and turns.

Virginia M Shear
Post Payback Girl

I read this quite quickly. A difficult read, for all that happened to the protagonist. But it kept me going rooting for her. Considering the emotions it got going in me I would say it was quite well written.