Two years after his brutal divorce, mystery writer Dale Petersen is ready to enter the dating game.
Chelsea Grable seems like the perfect person to ease him into his new single life.
She’s beautiful, shares his interests, and most importantly, is up for some casual dating and not at all interested in marriage.
But when what started out as casual turns obsessive, Dale is forced to end things.
His new dates don’t go much better, and he wonders if all women are so mentally unstable.
Maybe internet dating isn’t for him.
What follows is a series of terrifying threats and strange occurrences the police seem unconcerned with.
Who is behind the threats? A former lover? His angry ex? A jilted husband?
Whoever it is, they seem intent on one final goal…taking revenge.
A thrilling psychological thriller that you won't be able to put down!
Release date: July 28, 2020
Print pages: 500
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You turned into a such a bitch, Dale wanted to shout from the top of his lungs, his frustration was that great. Luckily, he managed to stop and bite his tongue at the last second. The situation was already out of control. He didn’t want to make it even worse, no matter how hard he had to try.
He couldn’t believe that a woman he loved more than anything in this world could turn on him and in such a manner. As it turned out, she knew just how to hurt him the most. And why? Because Dale made one little mistake. It wasn’t enough for her to simply divorce him and be done with him. Margaret had to punish him, hurt him beyond that by keeping their son away from him.
So here he was, in a conference room at his lawyer’s firm having another meeting with his ex and her bulldog of a lawyer, trying hard not to tell her everything that was on his mind for his son’s sake while trying to fight for what was right.
“This is pointless,” he blurted out instead.
“So why are we here, then?” Margaret replied, pushing his buttons further.
“Because you are being stubborn,” he snapped.
“Please control your client,” Margaret’s attorney protested.
Dale’s jaw clenched on its own.
She never had any comprehension of what he was going through and how much pressure he was under every single day. All she knew to do was demand everything from him without offering anything in return. I was never enough, he realized, and that was their true downfall. However, Dale wasn’t about to surrender. So he took a deep breath and reined in on his temper.
“Margaret, please be reasonable,” he pleaded.
She scowled at him in return.
“I just want my son. A boy needs his father,” he argued.
“If your client continues to shout, we will end this meeting,” Margaret’s lawyer snapped back.
Dale fisted his hands under the table. He’d barely raised his voice, but unfortunately, that man and his client were adamant to punish him for even the smallest of infractions and turn him into a bad guy.
Dale looked at his own lawyer, who preferred to impersonate a ficus so far, being completely useless, silently asking for help.
Mr. Ackles, Dale’s lawyer, cleared his throat. “I think both parties need to take a deep breath and start discussing things in a calmer manner.”
I’ve hired a therapist, not a lawyer, Dale thought without actual humor.
“We’ve been over this a hundred times,” Mr. Ackles continued. “My client, Mr. Petersen, has a right as a father to be in his son’s life.”
Dale felt thirsty beyond measure and this stupid room offered nothing in the form of refreshments. And why is it so hot? He was sweating bullets simply by breathing.
“Not if I can help it,” Margaret said under her breath.
Naturally, everybody heard her and instantly, Dale saw red. Before his mouth could get him in trouble, Margaret’s lawyer started to speak.
“I disagree. So far, Mr. Peterson has shown exactly what type of a person he is, being absent for two years, thus recanting any rights he had. Ms. Atwater has every right to want to save her son from such bad influence by keeping her ex-husband away,” he concluded.
Bad influence? His head started to bother him. This was nothing more than pure harassment on their part.
“And what type of person am I?” Dale had to ask. From this lawyer’s little speech, one could only conclude that Dale was some kind of a monster, which was preposterous. Dale couldn’t believe how far she was willing to go with this.
They all ignored his question.
“You all just love to portray me as a bad guy.”
Margaret’s eyes flashed with renewed anger. “Do you want to know what type of person you are, Dale?”
“The type that cheats on his wife then lies about it when confronted. And when presented with evidence, he still refuses to take any kind of responsibility for it.”
He just knew she would mention that. “It was only one time, Margaret, and I—”
“You are the type of person who doesn’t try to repair a broken marriage or go to counseling and simply finds excuses for everything,” she added, ignoring his reply.
“You are putting all the blame on me, Margaret, when you know—”
“The type,” she continued to speak over him. “That failed to even try to see his own son for the last two years, let alone make any kind of attempt to support him,” she threw in his face.
The pair of lawyers completely stopped trying to prevent the former spouses from going at each other.
Margaret had a point. It was true that he’d kept his distance after the divorce. She was pregnant with Ben then, and Dale walked away only because she made it clear that she didn’t want to see him ever again. And that meant she didn’t want anything from him as well. That was not the only reason, if he were completely honest. He needed some time for himself after the divorce was finalized to try and regain his equilibrium because separation from Margaret had utterly destroyed him.
Overall, her words confounded him and irked him to no end. All of this is my fault? Dale had simply honored her wishes.
Once again, she was only seeing things from her own perspective and had zero understanding for all the pain he’d endured during all this.
“Fine, Margaret, I’m to blame for everything. There, I said it, now please stop punishing Ben just because you’re angry with me.”
She recoiled hearing him say that and replied to him with less heat in her words. “No matter what you think, Dale, I’m not doing this to punish you. I don’t want anything from you anymore.”
It was his turn to scowl at her. She is so full of shit.
He leaned back in his chair, waving his hand in a dismissive manner. “This is nothing more than a revenge act, plain and simple.” And nobody could convince him otherwise.
She shook her head as though his behavior disappointed her. “I’m doing this for my son,” Margaret insisted. “Now that you’ve finally remembered you have one after two years,” she practically shouted, “I’m not about to let you use or hurt him in any way.”
His lawyer tried to object. Dale was faster. “Hurt him? I would never hurt my son!”
“That is the problem, Dale. You never intend to do anything, but you do.”
“You can’t keep him away from me forever. I’m his father.”
“Father? And what fatherly thing have you done for your son in the last two years?”
That was a low blow, and she continued, “Look at yourself.” She waved in his general direction.
He frowned, not understanding her meaning.
“You are clearly hungover and it’s only a Tuesday. You’re so not suitable to be anybody’s father.”
That hurt a great deal, yet Dale did not give Margaret the satisfaction of showing her how much.
“Yes, Margaret, I had a few drinks last night. It was my friend’s birthday and we celebrated a little,” he lied.
“It must be somebody’s birthday every day, then,” she commented, yet he ignored her.
“Am I not allowed to have a life? Or go out with my friends?” he defended, trying to ridicule her words at the same time.
His ex-wife deeply sighed as though all the heat suddenly left her body. She looked sad, which surprised him, and a great deal older than her actual age.
Dale remembered how she’d looked when they first met. Margaret was petite, curvy in all the right places, with bouncy blonde curls and the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen in his life. It was an instant attraction.
He could barely see that person in the woman sitting across from him now. The change was eerie.
Did I do that to her? It was a fleeting thought that he banished immediately. He didn’t like the feelings that invoked in him.
“Dale,” she said in a calm manner. “You’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as you stay away from me and my son.”
She looked at her lawyer. “I’m done.”
The man nodded.
“This meeting is over.”
Dale looked at the two of them, and the finality in their voices filled him with an unexpected sense of panic. He turned toward his own lawyer.
“We will file a complaint,” his lawyer said, but that did not reassure Dale one bit.
“See you when you do, then,” the other man replied.
Margaret stood up, and without sparing him another glance, started walking toward the exit.
“I’m not giving up, Margaret,” he shouted after her.
She pretended not to hear him. Dale couldn’t help revisiting his previous thoughts about her. How could he not see this side of her before? I was blind. I was in love.
Once upon a time, Dale was so in love with that woman that he’d failed to see the truth, that she was one spiteful woman, without a shred of compassion, prepared to do anything to have things her way. But now, the veil was lifted, and he saw everything with crystal clarity. It was a good thing he divorced her, yet he still needed Ben in his life.
“I will call you when the court schedules a hearing,” Mr. Ackles informed him.
“You were completely useless,” Dale snapped at his lawyer, needing to focus all his frustrations on somebody, and the other man was the only one there.
The impassive look Dale received in return spoke volumes, which was rather ironic, come to think of it, and did not help one bit.
“Why didn’t you fight harder?” You are paid for it, after all was implied.
“There’s only so much I can do, Mr. Petersen,” Mr. Ackles replied with a small shrug, collecting his papers and putting them in a file.
“Is there really no hope?” Dale asked.
“I will be frank with you, Mr. Petersen.”
“In cases like these, the court is usually sympathetic toward the mother.”
So Dale was right, there was no hope. The battle was lost before it even started. That’s not fair! I’m Ben’s father. I have rights! Every part of his being rebelled.
“My best advice is for you to try and remedy your relationship with your ex-wife, persuade her to give you joint custody.”
Dale almost snorted. “You saw her, right? Margaret is too stubborn to relent.” He received no response in return. Dale stood up. “You’re right. I can’t leave things like this.” Dale started jogging toward the exit.
“We’ll be in touch, Mr. Petersen,” the layer called out after him.
Dale simply waved in return, not wanting to lose any more time. He had to catch up with Margaret.
She can’t be too far, he tried to reassure himself.
Getting onto the street, he looked left then right. He spotted her blonde curls immediately.
“Margaret!” he called after her, speeding up. “Margaret, wait.”
“Leave me alone, Dale. I have nothing more to say to you,” she threw over her shoulder, clearly not wanting to slow down and face him.
He was having none of that. Being almost twice her size, with a longer stride, he easily caught up with her and jumped in front of her, preventing further advancement.
It struck him as tragic that two people who were once so close now acted like bitter enemies. The shared love was gone. Feels like it all happened to someone else in some other lifetime.
Clearly annoyed, she crossed her arms over her chest and looked at him expectantly as he continued to just look at her. Dale tried to swallow, clear his throat, yet it felt completely dry. He really needed a drink.
“What do you want, Dale?” she snapped, getting impatient with him.
It was ridiculous that considering his occupation, he felt such a lack of words, but her attitude spiked his temper and that pushed him into action.
“When will this stop?” he snapped. “You hurt me, I hurt you, and when does it all stop, Margaret?”
“When you grow up, Dale,” she replied in the same manner.
“Oh, very mature reply,” he said bitterly. He was so fed up with people telling him how immature or incapable he was.
Despite his lawyer’s advice, Dale was apparently unable to speak with her rationally. The comforting thought was that he was not the only one. Margaret matched his sentiments every step of the way.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“Because Ben needs a father in his life.”
“You have no idea what he needs. Do you know I had to move back in with my mother?”
“So? It’s good that you have another set of hands to help with a toddler, but I want to help too.”
She started shaking her head as though he’d completely missed the point of her words.
“What did I say that’s so wrong?” Dale added a bit defensively.
She looked at him straight in the eyes before answering. “You know, I’m quite amazed that your complete lack of maturity and refusal to take responsibility for anything bad that is happening in your life got you this far.”
Her words stunned him. He didn’t see that coming. “What do you mean by that?”
“Just that it’s a true miracle your lifestyle hasn’t gotten you into more trouble besides losing your family.” She threw that in his face before resuming her walk. This time, he let her.
She was highly exaggerating, of course, as always.
Dale looked after her as she crossed the street and got into her car. Margaret’s words echoed inside his head as she drove away. She really knew how to throw a punch.
Instantly, he straightened up, refusing to feel bad. Margaret only had one tune of late. And that was to blame him for everything. He could never do anything right by her.
Looking back, it was hard to live with someone who always found fault in everything you said or did.
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