In my romantic thriller novel, the protagonist suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder which becomes more apparent as she attempts to escape from a psychopath. As this unfortunate reality unfolds, Annabelle also suffers through a series of nightmares which I used to build even more suspense throughout the novel. (Because anxiety and a psychopath aren’t enough, right?)
A Suspenseful Excerpt From Shadows of Deception:
Annabelle heard the alarming sound of heavy footsteps racing up behind her. When she spun around, she held her fists in a tight, defensive ball. The footsteps stopped, as if they had fallen into the pit of silence that now surrounded her entire estate. As she searched for an invisible assailant, Annabelle remained overwhelmed by a threatening presence. Every hair on her body stood in alarm when she observed a faint, shadowy figure lurking before her. It blackened, taking the form of a tall and sinister looking man. She scrambled backwards up the stairs, regained her footing, and raced along the porch that wrapped around her home, until she found a way inside. As she ran for her life, she tried to scream for help, but nothing came out. Her lungs tightened, struggling for air, as she fled through a strange house, which now, no longer appeared to be her own. Frightened and confused, Annabelle wondered how she ended up in this unfamiliar place.
As she made her way up a dark, winding stairway, the mysterious sound of footsteps returned. They grew louder and continued to close in on her with each passing second, until they reached a few short paces behind her. She felt a hot, heavy breath against the back of her neck. The shadowy figure folded around her; no matter which direction she fled, she could not escape. Annabelle’s chest grew tighter under the weight of fear, and each shallow breath forced everything around her to spin. Panic and terror prevailed, and she collapsed on the landing at the top of the stairs, still fighting for air. The footsteps stopped behind her, and as she turned to peer over her shoulder, she was met with the icy, blue eyes of the shadowy figure, which now stood over her. Now, there was no way to break free from the man who wanted her dead.
Annabelle woke from this terrible nightmare, unable to escape, as it lingered coldly in her mind. Lying petrified and trembling in bed, she realized it was only a nightmare this time, as she looked around the unfamiliar beach cottage to reassure herself of her own safety. For the first time in her life, she was relieved to be away from her own home, but she still missed its familiarity and comforts. A local realtor, and lifelong friend, selected this charming seaside cottage to serve as a retreat while Annabelle sought refuge from her ex-husband. She had decided to leave her home and hide out until her nerves calmed, and she was able to think clearly again. Re-examining the locks on every window and door, she found that everything was unassailable except for the insecurities of her own mind.
She stood motionless and watched through the cottage window as the thunder and lightning exploded, and the rain pounded down on a fragile garden. Gardening had always been her therapeutic outlet, and these days she found herself much more appreciative of nature’s benefits to the human soul. Planting flowers and growing fresh herbs, combined with ocean air and warm sunshine, were sure to give her a positive outlook on her otherwise shattered life. She looked forward to all of these things during her stay on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After the dramatic events of her life over the last few months, a positive mindset was preferred over her previous mental state, which was nothing short of combat neurosis.
The recent battle with her ex husband, Evan, became an inescapable nightmare from the depths of hell, and had she known he was so comparable to the Antichrist, she would have preferred setting him on fire to saying I do. Now Annabelle was left to cope with endless nightmares and paranoia, hiding out in her chic beach cottage to escape from someone who she once loved but now deeply feared. Annabelle realized that this was just the beginning of the battle against Evan, and as she began to recollect the previous months of her life, all of her insecurities flooded through her mind in a downpour of emotions.