Title: Fractured Steel
Author: T.J. Loveless
Hosted by: Book Worms/Book Written Love Affairs
Warning: Reading Fractured Steel may send reader on an emotional roller coaster. Filled with dark thoughts, extreme events, and the ability of humans to survive the worst life has to offer. Fractured Steel is filled with realistic consequences of decisions gone wrong, finding friendship in the face of adversity, and trying to live again.
Karen Barnes’s life is simple, just the way she likes it, surrounded by horses and the mountains of Laramie, Wyoming. She is well aware the longing for adventure can lead to blood and death, a hard lesson taught during her one, and only, tour in Iraq almost a decade ago.
A stranger approaches Karen about boarding a famous horse foaled in her stables, making her instincts go on high alert. She knows for a fact the stallion’s owner would never sell Five Alarm, the US Reining champion worth a hefty ten million dollars. In ten minutes the stranger confirms her worst fears, launching her into weeks of torment at the hands of her kidnappers.
Armed with a spine of steel, she escapes, but the ordeal is far from over. It was a cover up for espionage. Trusted contacts join the fray, and in the end, pay for their loyalty by dying for her safety. Others aren’t so trustworthy, and as the truth is brought to light, she is betrayed yet again.
Safety and freedom come with their own emotional shackles. She had the courage to fight the battle, but can she live with the aftermath of the carnage, or survive the fractures to her mind?
I knew what to do, what I had to do.
I threw myself into the void, into a place of pure static, a place I could survive. Where no emotion would get in the way. The place I went so many years ago to save the soldiers ambushed in a small hut, who needed someone able to kill without thought or worry. A place I’d kept close in case of emergency.
A place I wasn’t sure I could come back from, and remain intact.
It hit me, he’d saved the little boy, shot in the hindquarter, doing everything I demanded. My colt, my beautiful, beautiful colt, had grown into a horse filled with more courage than many people I’d met over the years.
I found, in the depths of my mind, the time when Dad taught me to ride, started teaching me to train a horse. When Ringing Alarm was at her peak, a beautiful mare with shining potential. Not mutilated, tortured, and bloated from death in a stall. I stayed in that happy place. I held onto it with an iron grip, refusing to leave.
I wasn’t strong enough, and I knew it.
I stared at the door, wondering what to do. It wasn’t really my instincts having a shit fit about handing over the paperwork, it was the memories, the feeling of constant betrayal, the thought it was happening all over again. My hip began to ache, sharp ghost pains from the internal injuries, and my arm throbbed. I rubbed the area, backing slowly into my closet. I pushed into the corner, sliding down the wall. Would it ever quit?
I knew it wouldn’t. When I returned from Iraq, it’d taken four years to do more than give blank stares wherever I went. Recent events were piled on top, and like right now, the memories layered over reality. In the darkness of the closet, the Spade Farm room shone bright, the attempt to get away from Johnny. When Beth helped to stitch wounds, only to be rewarded with death. The terror in her eyes as the light dimmed with each heartbeat arcing through the air.
Memories shifted, and I was in the two room hut, on my ass, trying to find the enemy. I covered my ears, trying to drown out the sound of gunfire, the thick thuds of bullets hitting flesh, the horrific sound of men hitting the ground, their life gone. The feel of the M16’s kick as I fired at what I hoped was the enemy, screaming in mental pain at what I had to do. Knowing, and wanting to forget, I’d killed the innocent in the same room as the guilty.
I rocked, shaking my head, whispering into the darkness, “It’s not real, it’s not real.”
A furry body huddled close, making grumbling sounds. I grabbed Doc around the chest, and held on for all I was worth.
Reality shifted to recent events, and I was trying to get out of my house, away from intruders. My arm hurt, waves of nausea making my stomach roil from the agony of a broken bone. Time moved again, and I could feel the damage of Johnny’s initial attack at Spade Farms.
The loop repeated itself, as my body shook, and I rocked. I whispered things, but couldn’t remember what I said.
A heavy knock on the door snatched me out of the memories, and I jumped, trying to find cover in the darkness of the hut.
“I’m in Laramie, I’m in Laramie, I’m in Laramie,” I chanted, face in my hands, taking deep breaths. I walked on wobbly legs out of the closet, Doc remaining close, grateful for reality.
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About the Author
TJ Loveless lives and writes in Wyoming, communes with dust bunnies, and while she likes to cook, home assembled is always on the menu rather than homemade. She can generally be found cursing at imaginary characters on the computer screen, and forgetting what day it is.
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