Home > Make You Beg

Make You Beg
Author: Shantel Tessier

 


PROLOGUE


HENLEY

“ALL RISE.”

Everyone in the courtroom stands. I let out a shaky breath and run my sweaty palms down the black pencil skirt and adjust the matching blazer as the judge makes his way to his chair. My heart beats rapidly in my chest with dread and doubt. I’ve told myself not to worry, but I can’t seem to stop. There’s this pit in my stomach that I can’t ignore. It’s had me nauseous for weeks, and I haven’t been able to keep anything down. Some would be happy about losing ten pounds, but not me. I didn’t have that kind of weight to lose in the first place. Anxiety is a bitch, and I can’t seem to beat her no matter what I do or tell myself. She’s like this imaginary friend dragging me farther out in the deep depths of an ocean, fully aware I can’t swim. I’m trying to keep my head above water, but it’s filling my mouth as I try to cry out for help. Knowing damn well that there’s nobody around to hear me.

I jump when my father rubs my back from where he stands on my right. He notices and gives me a reassuring smile. His blue eyes are soft, but I see the worry lines around them. He hasn’t said, but I know he’s terrified of what’s to come. If this doesn’t go the way it should …

Judge Mayes speaks, getting everyone’s attention. “Please, be seated.” The sound of everyone returning to their seats fills the room. “The court has brought the jury back into the courtroom having received a message that the jury has reached a verdict. Will the foreperson of the jury please stand?” he asks. The man gets to his feet, fixing his already straight tie. “Have you reached a verdict?”

That pit gets bigger, and my breathing more ragged. This is it. The jury’s answer will define the rest of two lives.

The foreperson nods once. “We have, Your Honor.”

“Can you please hand the charge and verdict form over to the bailiff, who will deliver it to the courts so I can ensure that it’s in proper form?” Once he has it in his hands, he continues. “The verdict is in proper form. Will the defendant please stand?”

At the front of the room, the boy gets to his feet along with his attorney. Well, he doesn’t look like a boy. He’s every bit of six foot three. His broad shoulders and muscular build intimidate men twice his age.

He has always had this air about him—like he was unbeatable. He’s a cocky son of a bitch who gets everything handed to him. His daddy buys it for him, or he beats it out of you. Either way, the outcome is always the same—he wants it, he gets it. That’s what makes this situation even worse. This is what fills me with dread.

Even right now, in a room full of people waiting to hear if he’s going to spend the rest of his life in a six-by-eight cell or will be free to walk, he looks unfazed. His head held high; I can’t see his face from where I sit, but I bet he’s having to fight back a smirk. I’m having trouble controlling my breathing, whereas he looks pretty confident for a man facing a life sentence. At the young age of seventeen, he’s being tried as an adult because of me.

His three best friends sit in the row behind him with their parents at their sides. Rellik and Law keep giving me threatening looks over their shoulders. Scout hasn’t even glanced my way. He hasn’t always hated me, but he does now. They all do. We were friends, best friends, until I turned on one of them. Now, I’ve been shunned, thrown away for my betrayal. If you can call doing the right thing betrayal.

“Breathe,” my father whispers in my ear. I drop my eyes to the black leather pumps I bought just for today. My entire outfit is new, actually. Hell, even my underwear and bra are. I wanted to be someone else. Someone who my friends had never seen. Or touched. It’s stupid now that I think of it. Something so minor.

Camera crews are present right outside the courtroom. I also saw some perched on the steps of the courthouse when we arrived. Waiting to inform the world of his outcome. It makes me physically ill to think he could walk right out of here.

This case has been a high-profile case since the moment I dialed 911. It’s sick and disturbing how our town has welcomed the media’s attention. They’ve pretty much laid the red carpet out for them. Most here are willing to pay any price for fame. They want their spot on the map. This is going to give it to them. No matter the outcome.

Lifting my eyes, I see the judge holding the verdict in his hands. He starts reading off the docket number. “The state of Texas against the defendant Dax Monroe, we, the jury, find the defendant … not guilty.”

No.

Most of the room lets out audible breaths of relief. Rellik, Scout, and Law slap their buddy Monroe on his back.

I’m frozen in place. This… this… no. My eyes fill with tears, and my bottom lip begins to tremble. “I saw him.” I look up at my dad. “I saw his face …” My throat closes up on me.

His jaw sharpens, and he looks away from me, unable to keep my gaze.

My teary eyes go back to him—the seventeen-year-old boy who should be spending the rest of his life in jail, but instead, he turns around and hugs his dad. Then his stepmother. She’s wiping happy tears from under her eyes. His dad shakes his attorneys’ hands while laughing like this was all a joke. As if they are out on the golf course hitting some balls around and sharing old college stories about the women they once passed around like a pack of cigarettes.

The courtroom grows smaller. The air thicker. Blood rushes in my ears, drowning out their victory. I think I’m going to pass out as I sway in my heels.

“Henley.” My brother grabs my hand, but I yank it away, not wanting the contact. “Henley, breathe,” he whispers.

“I … I can’t.” I grab at my chest. That water rises higher in the ocean I’m drowning in. It’s up past my mouth, cutting off any opportunity I had to call for help.

He starts talking to our father, but I’m not listening. This was an open-and-shut case. I gave them all the information they needed to put him away. What he did was unforgivable. Friend or not, he should be punished for his crimes.

But then again, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. It hasn’t even been a month. It moved too quickly. The town wanted the spotlight, but they wanted it over sooner rather than later. They were willing to extort a woman’s life in order to gain recognition. It’s as if the devil smiled upon the town of Westbrook, Texas, and said you may be seen but for a price—and they were willing to pay whatever it cost them.

Hands grasp my upper arms, and I’m dragged out of the courtroom and into the hallway, away from all the laughter and celebrations.

“Henley, calm the fuck down,” my brother orders, lowering his face to mine.

“He did it…” I choke out. I’m going to keep saying that until someone listens to me.

Jeremy’s jaw sharpens, and his dark eyes look away from mine. He runs his hand down his tired face, and his eyes land on mine once again. “I believe you.”

I blink, and tears sting my eyes. My throat feels restricted as if someone is choking me. I can’t take a breath. I claw at the top of my shirt once again.

“Did you hear me, Hen?” he snaps. Grabbing my wrists, he shoves them from my shirt and shakes my shoulders. “I believe you.”

“No one else did …” The door to the courtroom opens, cutting me off. My body stiffens on its own. Maybe if I stand as still as a statue, they won’t see me here. One at a time, my ex-best friends enter the hallway.

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