Excerpt from The Chains That Bind

"I still can't believe I let you talk me into this."

Joseph glanced over at me from the driver's seat. "You needed a break," he said. "The online business, two kids, your mother. And you never really got a chance to recover from that crap last year."

I shrugged. "It all worked out."

Joseph snorted. "You need a vacay, so that's what you are getting."

"Yeah, but hiking?" I smirked. "I like nature and all, but I also like room service, massages and central air."

"The Appalacian Trail is one of the greatest nature excursions in the world. A few days hiking through Maine to Vermont will give us the opportunity to camp in the most gorgeous forests on the planet."

The grin froze on my face. "Wait. Camping? You didn't say anything about camping. At night. Outside."

Cold, numbness began to creep along my cheeks and I struggled to keep my breathing even.

Joseph patted my hand, his eyes on the road. "It's August. Even this far north it only gets down to the upper 50s." He shot a glance at my face. "We won't freeze to death."

And just like that the world ended.

Featureless faces swam in my vision, covering Joseph's concerned expression as the Hands held me under the water. My breath came in gasps and ice flooded my veins like waves in the arctic. My legs, back and arms tensed, every muscle clenching.

I felt a sharp pain in my toes, toes that were no longer there. I reached for the lava-rage deep inside, but the cold was too strong. Tears leaked from my eyes and my head felt full and empty at the same time, making me dizzy. My stomach heaved weakly and I struggled not to vomit, thrash, scream, run...

"Nicola!"

Strong hands grasped my shoulders, shaking me gently. My head began to clear. I clutched at Joseph's arms and let him pull me into a firm hug, the pressure doing something to my autonomic nervous system that shorted out the panic response. At least a little bit.

My new therapist said I had PTSD, and I was being triggered. I'd heard of triggers before, and I'd been half sympathetic, half-frustrated by many of them. I'd had no idea.

It was literally as simple as Joseph saying "freeze to death", and the world was no longer safe, fun, exciting, or even just comfortable. It was the terror. It was the panic. It was the helplessness and the need for adreniline-giving rage that just wouldn't come.

As the tension broke, I bawled in Joseph's arms.

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