A message flashed up on my screen and made my tummy flip.
It was from Billy Jones, a man who'd randomly added me on Facebook a few days earlier saying: I love your profile picture, you have great teeth.
I was flattered, and we'd been messaging each other since then.
I'd been through a tough time recently. I'd lost my beloved mum and nan within months of each other.
Weighed down by grief, my relationship had taken strain and my partner and I had split up.
Billy's compliments were giving me a much-needed boost.
I clicked on his message.
Even though we haven't met, it's love at first sight, he'd written.
We met for a coffee and Billy was just as charming in person.
"Tell me about your kids," he said, smiling. So I did and he proudly showed me pictures of his.
We were soon dating and I felt happier than I had in ages.
Billy was between jobs but he seemed to have a lot of cash.
He was constantly buying me flowers, perfumes and clothes. He even ordered bunk beds for his unit so my kids could stay over.
He was generous to a fault and I got completely swept up in it.
When we'd been together for a month he took me to a jewellery shop, knelt down and said, "Will you marry me?"
It was too much, too soon.
But I didn't want him to think I was using him so I reluctantly said yes.
He turned to the jeweller and said: "Get Baby what she wants."
It was overwhelming.
But before we could start making wedding plans my youngest daughter Hallie, six, was admitted to hospital with sepsis.
Doctors told me she might not make it and over the next several days, I camped by her bedside, willing her to pull through.
I thought Billy would understand that's where I needed to be but every time I spoke to him he moaned about me neglecting him.
"What about me, Baby?" he whined.
How could a grown man be jealous of me spending time with my sick daughter?
One day, he got nasty.
"It's your fault she's ill," he snapped. "You should look after her better."
I was shocked. It was a side to Billy I hadn't seen before. And I didn't like it.
Thankfully, Hallie responded to treatment and was soon well enough to leave hospital.
Back home, I texted Billy.
It's not working out, I wrote.
I knew he wouldn't be happy but his reply shocked me.
You'll have to pay back everything I've spent on you, he wrote.
Although I'd never asked him to, he'd splashed out loads on me.
I didn't have that kind of money.
In the end, I decided he was just trying in his awkward way to save our relationship, so I told him I'd give it another try.
Days later, we were heading back to his place in a taxi when he stopped in a car park.
"Back in a moment," he said, then disappeared.
When he came back he was carrying something wrapped in a black bin liner.
"What's that?" I asked but he wouldn't tell me. I assumed it was another surprise gift.
Later that evening, we went out for dinner and Billy started guzzling one beer after another.
Back at his unit later, I went to put my pyjamas on while Billy stumbled into the kitchen.
When I went in to say I was off to bed he was snorting something off the kitchen counter.
"Are you on drugs?" I asked, horrified.
But he just looked up and said, "Baby, where are my knives?"
I frowned, not sure what he meant.
He went into the bedroom and started rooting under the bed.
Then I remembered the black bin liner.
That wasn't a surprise gift!
I watched in horror as he pulled out a machete and a long, terrifying-looking knife.
"What shall I cut off first?" he asked, looking at me with empty eyes.
He flew at me brandishing the weapons and I fled to the bathroom and locked myself in.
He's going to kill me, I thought, trembling and crying.
I prayed to Mum and Nan to protect me.
"Come out of there!" he screamed. "You're going to bleed."
I heard a thud as he threw a machete at the door.
I realised he was going to hack his way in there like Jack Nicolson in the film The Shining.
It was like he was possessed!
To catch him off guard, I quickly opened the door.
He stumbled in and I ran into the bedroom and barricaded the door.
His flat was three floors up but hearing him crashing around, I knew I had to escape.
I opened a window and eased myself onto the narrow ledge.
Suddenly Billy appeared.
He looked like a deranged monster as he leant out of the window and swung the machete at my neck.
I tried to duck, but as I did, I lost my footing and fell forward.
My children's faces flashed before my eyes as I plunged 8 metres and hit the ground with a sickening thud.
Pain ripped through me and I started to scream.
Terrified he'd come at me again, I tried to crawl away.
Neighbours ran out and one called for help.
When police arrived, I gripped on to one officer.
"Have you got him yet?" I screamed. "Don't let him near me."
I was taken to hospital where doctors told me I'd broken my back and wrist.
But lying there in a brace with a halo around my head, I knew it could have been much worse.
The next day, police told me Billy had barricaded himself in his flat.
Armed with a knife, a rolling pin and a baseball bat, he'd threatened officers.
They'd deployed a negotiator, three firearms officers and the force helicopter before he finally emerged three hours later and gave himself up.
A week later I was discharged.
In time, Billy was sent to prison for 11 years for wounding, affray and damaging property.
He was imposed a life-long restraining order.
I'm still struggling to walk unaided and am in constant pain.
I suffer with anxiety and depression.
It took just weeks for Billy's Mr Charming act to fall away and reveal the violent, dangerous bully beneath.
Still, I know I'm lucky to be alive.
I think Mum and Nan were protecting me that night.
I wish I'd never returned to him and want to warn other women: don't get sucked in by fancy gifts.
If your new bloke seems too good to be true, he probably is.
- BooksThe best, beach-ready motivational books on the shelves right now
Now To LoveDec 05, 2019