September 13, 2013

Don't Make Me Beautiful Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway


Welcome to my stop on the Don't Make Me Beautiful blog tour! Today I have an excerpt from the book to share with you and don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post to enter the tour wide giveaway!

Don't Make Me Beautiful
Author: Elle Casey
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: September 2013

Buy Link: Amazon 

**This story was inspired by true events. If you liked the movie "Sleeping With the Enemy", then you might like this story too. CONTENT WARNING: Violence, foul language, and adult situations. Not meant for younger readers.**

A ROMANTIC SUSPENSE NOVEL. No one knew a woman lived there or that she even existed. A monster, living in darkness...

At twenty-six, Nicole doesn't even look human anymore. The beast made sure of that. So she hides. A monster consigned to a life of fear and solitude. This is all she deserves, she is quite sure of that.
And then one day out of the blue, the autographed baseball caught by Brian Jensen at the latest Marlins game enters her prison and manages to turn her world completely upside down.
Temptation comes in the form of pity at first, and then perhaps something more.
Does she dare to believe the things she's told, that this is not the life she was meant to live? That being a monster is not her forever-fate? And will she be willing to risk everything, to reach out and accept the helping hands around her? She knows only too well that hands can hurt. Finding out whether they can also heal is a risky proposition, especially when the beast is still out there. Looking for her.
Chapter Fifteen 

BRIAN SITS AT THE SIDE of her bed, staring at her face.   He’s never seen anything like it in all his twenty-eight years of life.   Now he knows why his son called her a monster.   His heart breaks for her, and for the life of him, he can’t let go of her hand.   He has this idea that his touch is what’s keeping her alive. “Brian?”   A nurse is standing in the doorway to the ICU room. “Yeah?”   He looks at her only briefly before going back to staring at his pretend-sister.   Briana. “The doctor would like to speak with you.   Do you have a moment?   I’m going to clean her up a little while you’re in the consultation room.” Brian stands, loathe to let go of Briana’s hand.   “Can’t he come in here?” “He said he’d rather talk outside the room.   He’ll explain when you talk to him.”   Her voice is soft.   Caring.   Brian can’t refuse her.   He wants to know what the doctor has to say, anyway, and Briana hasn’t woken up yet from whatever drugs they’ve given her. “Okay.” He very carefully slides his hand away from Briana’s.   He watches as she frowns.   The slightest whimper comes from her lips and it breaks his heart all over again.   “I’ll be back in just a few minutes,” he says.   He takes her hand without thinking and kisses the back of it.   Her expression smooths out, like she’s just fallen back to sleep. Leaving the room, his head is swimming with all the horrible things he’s experienced in the last several hours.   He hasn’t had time to process any of it, and it’s just sitting there like a nightmare he’s trapped in and can’t get out of.   He pushes open the door the nurse pointed him to. “Brian Jensen?”   A man wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants holds out his hand.   “I’m Doctor Bruce.” “Hi, Doctor Bruce, nice to meet you.” “Have a seat.” The doctor gestures to one of the chairs around a small, round table.   He takes the one on the opposite side.   “I’d like to talk to you about your sister.” As Brian’s sitting, the door opens and a woman walks in carrying a stack of folders.   She’s wearing a black and yellow pantsuit, reminding Brian of a giant bumblebee.   The doctor looks up and nods at her. “Mr. Jensen?”   The bumblebee holds out her hand.   “I’m Betty-Lou Grimble with the Family Outreach Domestic Violence Center.   I’m a liaison here at the hospital for patients who come in as victims of domestic violence.” Brian stands and shakes her hand, pulling out a chair next to him for her to take. “Thank you, that’s very kind,” she says, putting her folders down and sitting.   She slides the top one over to Doctor Bruce and he puts it with the one he already has in front of him. Brian sits and waits for them to speak.   He’s playing this by ear, knowing that it’s probably a really bad thing to lie to the hospital about who he is and who the girl is, but in too deep now to stop.   And he doesn’t want to stop.   He knows if they find out he’s not related to her, they’ll kick him out.   Something about her makes him take this risk.   Maybe it’s because of his son’s interaction with her or just because she’s a broken human being needing a friend, but he can’t just walk away.   Now that he’s seen her face and heard her cry, he could never just leave her behind.   Not until he knows she’s safe. “We understand you’re the one who called the ambulance,” says the doctor. Brian nods.   “That’s right.   I went over to her house and saw her through the window.   She was lying on the floor.” “She’s your sister, right?” asks Betty-Lou. One of her eyebrows is up and she’s definitely using a tone that says she’s not quite sure she believes his story.   She looks down at his hands. Brian follows her gaze and sees the cut on his knuckle.   He puts his palms flat on the table.   “I restore furniture for a living.   I don’t hit women.” The doctor and Betty-Lou exchange glances. “Where’d you cut yourself?” asks the doctor. “On the window.   That’s how I found her.   There was a hole in the front window of the house and I put my hand through it to pull the curtains out of the way and I cut my hand on the glass.” Doctor Bruce takes Brian’s hand and pulls it closer, examining it.   “It isn’t from hitting anyone.   The edges are too clean.   And with the injuries to her face, I’d expect him to have more injuries on his knuckles.” “Seriously? You guys think I did that to her?   You’re nuts.”   Brian pulls his hands away and sits back.   “I have a son.   I’m a father to an eight-year-old boy I’ve never even spanked.   I would no sooner hit a woman than I’d hit … the Pope.” Betty-Lou’s eyes widen.   “Are you catholic?” “Yes. I was raised to be, anyway.   Not that I’m the best catholic out there, but I still wouldn’t hit the Pope.” She purses her lips before responding, looking like she’s just bitten into a slice of lemon.   “Good to know.   I guess.” “Why did you call me in here?   To accuse me of hurting her?   Because if that’s the case, you’re wasting your time.”   Brian stands, but he’s halted by the doctor waving his hands in a calming gesture. “Sit, sit … no one’s accusing you of anything.   The police were already out at the house and they say the place is owned by a guy named John Arnold.   That’s not you, I assume?” “No. I already told all the nurses and the guys in the ambulance.   I’m Brian Jensen.”   He reaches behind him and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket, putting it down on the table open so they can see his driver’s license inside the plastic sleeve.   “See?   Brian Jensen.” “And our patient is your … sister?” asks Doctor Bruce. Brian looks from the social worker to the doctor, weighing his options. “Because if you’re not her brother, we can’t share information with you,” says the woman. 
“And we’d have to ask you to leave her room as well,” says the doctor. They’re staring at him intently.   Everyone seems to be holding their breath. Brian lets out a long sigh.   “Then I guess it’s a good thing I am her brother, huh?” Both the doctor and the social worker smile. “Good. That’s good news,” says Betty-Lou.   “Because she’s going to need someone to stand by her.   Things are about to get ugly.” “Looks to me like they already are,” Brian says, his heart squeezing a little at the memory of her face.   He sits down, ready to listen again, now that he knows they’re not accusing him of being the Devil incarnate. “Let’s discuss her injuries,” says Doctor Bruce, flipping open a folder in front of him. He scratches his head absently as his eyes scan the page.   “She has multiple contusions on her face, neck, back and hands.   Bruising on … well, almost every square inch of her body.”   He shakes his head, marking something on the page with a pen he takes from the table.   “We haven’t done a full body CT scan, but I’m willing to bet from what I’ve already seen that she has a history of broken bones from ankle to neck.   We won’t be doing any more tests until she’s awake, but for now, let’s just say that she’s in really, really bad shape.” “Is she … is she going to live?” Brian asks, his voice barely coming out. “Yes.   She had some swelling of her brain, but we’ve gotten that under control.   But we need to keep a close eye on her until she’s out of the woods, so that’s why she’s here in ICU.   I think if all goes well, we’ll be able to move her downstairs in a couple days.” “What about her face?” Brian asks.   He knows his ex-wife would worry about that most of all.   Women tie up so much of their self-worth into their looks. He’s hoping Briana, or whoever she is, is the exception to this rule; otherwise, she won’t want to live when she wakes up and looks in the mirror. “The swelling around her eyes should go down in a couple days and the bruising will fade out after a couple weeks.   But her nose, her jaw, her orbital bones … those aren’t going to change.   Those are permanent.”
Brian swallows with difficulty.   “Permanent?   What do you mean by permanent?” The doctor looks at the social worker as she takes over the conversation. “What you’re looking at when you see Briana is the result of years of physical abuse.   She’s been someone’s punching bag for a long time.   The human face can only take so much.   Maybe if she’d had medical treatment after her injuries it would be a different story, but my guess is, she’s been kept inside that house without any doctor ever taking care of her.” “Betty-Lou is correct,” says the doctor.   “Her ears show signs of repeated blows to the side of the head, the same kind of injuries you’d see on a professional fighter who works without ear protection.   Her nasal passages and sinuses are crushed.   Her jaw has been broken and set itself in a misaligned fashion.   Same with the orbital bone under her left eye.” “The hair will grow in, but her teeth? She’s going to need dentures or some other kind of work, I don’t know,” says Betty-Lou.   Her expression mirrors the sadness clouding Brian’s heart. “How could anyone do this to another person?” Brian says, the sorrow making his throat tight and his words come out rough.   “Why didn’t she just leave him?” Betty-Lou frowns and shakes her head. Her voice belies her anger at the man who caused all this pain.   “He’s sick.   That’s the only explanation.   We see it every day, but it doesn’t make it any easier and it never makes sense to people like you and me.   And why she didn’t leave? It’s a classic case of battered person syndrome.   Fear.   Helplessness.   Maybe a type of hostage response.   Ultimately, she got brainwashed.   Men like whoever did this … they’re masters at it.   They somehow convince women over time that the abuse is their fault, that they deserve it or bring it on themselves, that it’s hopeless to try and leave because the batterer is like God almost - always able to find her, to know what she’s doing, there to control her life.   She gave up somewhere along the way out of a sense of survival.   Maybe she tried to escape once and was returned, which would only prove to her that there was no escape. After a violent episode, the abusers apologize, they promise to change.   These women fall in love with the men they want them to be, not the one they really are.   They’re hope-junkies.   It could be all those reasons, just some of them, or others I haven’t mentioned.   No one knows the full explanation. Maybe someday she’ll tell you herself.” “So you’re saying she has to live like this?   Look like this … monster for the rest of her life?   Always feel like she needs to be with him?”   Tears spring to Brian’s eyes out of pity for her.   No woman should have to look at herself in the mirror and see that horror, the physical proof bringing back memories of all she’s suffered.   “Is she ever going to be able to have a normal life?” The doctor frowns, thinking.   “Psychologically speaking, she’ll need counseling.   Lots of it.   And support from her family.   As far as the physical aspects, she might have some luck with plastic surgery.   It’ll be extensive … and expensive for sure. But I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be a candidate.   I can give you a couple of referrals if you’d like.” “I’d appreciate that,” says Brian, knowing that he’s taking on a giant responsibility, maybe even on par with becoming a father, but unable to stop himself.   He has no idea how he’s going to keep up the charade of being her brother and take care of her beyond staying by her side while she’s here in the hospital, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to walk away and leave her to the demon who tried to destroy her, body and soul.

New York Times Best-Selling author Elle Casey is an American girl living in southern France with her husband, three children, and several furry creatures. She writes in a variety of genre including YA Fantasy, YA Action/Adventure, New Adult Romance, and Adult Contemporary Romance. She's a little on the wild side, usually busy making people laugh, and always in the mood for adventure. There's not much in this world that she loves more than reader interaction, so feel free to drop her a line.

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