I Know It Was You
Wow! I’m thrilled to reveal the title and cover of my new book. The publication date, October 10th, is fast approaching, and I'm getting real nervous with thoughts like, what if everybody hates the book or - a writer's worst nightmare - nobody even reads it buzzing through my brain. But, having started down this path, I will keep going and learn from whatever happens next.
And here is the blurb for my new psychological suspense:
Lauren and Kane each harbor a dark secret. One of them believes their secret is safely buried, but the other is very much aware their skeletons share the same closet.
After Lauren experiences a traumatic assault, she returns to her small hometown of Lamington, Massachusetts. Finding a job in a local bookstore, she meets the charming Kane, a security consultant, and an immediate attraction sparks between the two. As their relationship develops, she puts her past behind her and looks forward to the future.
When Lauren finds a box of Kane’s hidden in the attic, long-buried memories are triggered. Faced with a discovery that makes her life a living nightmare and promises to destroy her hope of happiness, she takes matters into her own hands.
To, hopefully, entice all you lovely readers out there, I have included a sneak peek at the Prologue, and have my fingers crossed that you will enjoy and wish to know more of Lauren's story.
I Know It Was You©
Lauren stared, transfixed by the message on her cell phone as the frenetic Friday lunchtime shoppers in Louisville’s Central Mall swirled around her. She ignored the shiny shop windows, with their glaring displays that dared you to look away; the mishmash of voices from moms out shopping, office workers on lunch breaks and students from the local high school. A gaggle of teenage girls, their piercing giggles ricocheting off the white-tiled walls, separated and flowed around her without a break, as if they were a river in flow and she, a rock in their path, hindering their progress not the slightest.
The pressure in her chest increased, as did her heart rate, and the heat in her neck and cheeks intensified. She clenched her fists, knuckles whitening around the phone as she reread Tod’s text. ‘It’s not you, it’s me. We’ve had some great dates, Lauren, and you’re great, but I’m looking for something more exciting than the girl next door.’
What irritated her, apart from the lack of originality in his choice of words, was that he had beaten her to it. They hadn’t dated for long—a month, possibly a half-dozen dates—and while the scintillation of an initial attraction had drawn them together, any potential had soon withered. She’d prepared her own version of the it’s-me-not-you speech, but would have waited for their date tonight and delivered it to him with a soft expression, fingers touching his arm, her tone regretful. Having perfected the art of droning on about himself, once he got going, crevices in the wall of his discourse were rare. She bristled. What did he mean by someone more exciting than the girl next door?
A man darted past, knocked her arm, startling her. She almost dropped her phone and turned to yell something after him, but all she could spot was a bobbing head of fair hair that disappeared into the crowd.
“Hey, you!” Maria tapped her on the shoulder.
Since leaving college and settling in Louisville, her co-worker had become a close friend. Lauren thrust the phone at Maria. “Check this out.”
“It’d better be short or else we’ll have Humpty Dumpty on our asses.”
“Oh, it’s got that box ticked.” Lauren watched Maria’s mouth turn down at the corners as she scanned the message.
“Oh, babe. That’s not cool. Why don’t you come out with me and Ellie tonight? We’re gonna hit a few bars, perhaps a club or two. You can have a blowout and forget that sad sack. What do you say? We’ll turn Tod into a dot that you can lose in your rear-view mirror. Get it? Tod. Dot.”
A snorting giggle burst from Lauren’s mouth. “Yeah.” She clapped her hands. “Smush! Gone.”
“We’ll swing past yours around eight. Okay?”
“Sure.” She hugged Maria. “Thank you. You’re a real friend.”
“C’mon, let’s move it before we lose our jobs.”
Even after two months, Lauren was still high on the buzz of living in her own place in Louisville. In Stafford County’s capital, she had a spacious studio apartment on the first floor of a three-story brownstone with an east-facing bay window. The view boasted a patch of lawn with picnic benches and backed onto a pathway that ran alongside Central Canal. Tenants could sit out on warm summer evenings, enjoy a barbecue, and people-watch as joggers and cyclists raced by, lone dog walkers strolled and laughing families chatted.
“Very Scandinavian,” Maria had commented when she helped Lauren move in, her eyes approving as she scrutinized the white walls and baseboards in grey, the small kitchenette with a tiny cooker and fridge freezer, the reversible bookcase that housed a double Murphy bed. The wooden table, that seated two, served for eating, as well as a desk and her ironing board. Somehow, though, its pale wood surface attracted stray objects: bills and her current paperback. At the moment, it housed, a lit candle, her makeup, an opened bottle of wine and a half-empty glass of sparkling ruby liquid. She’d developed the habit of having a glass or two when applying her makeup, so her inhibitions were in neutral, if not deactivated by the time she left the apartment.
Lauren had enjoyed college; the learning and intellectual stimulation, making friends, the parties, the sense of emerging from the chrysalis of adolescence to a world where, as a young adult, she made important choices for herself. She’d mulled over the idea of doing a master’s degree and later maybe a Ph.D. but chose to work for a year and gain some life experience before deciding which career path to follow. She had two favorites: teaching—early childhood was a preference—or entering the publishing industry, because she loved books and, though not a writer, knew she would enjoy bringing a book to life.
She’d landed a retail sales position in a bookshop. Not a mom and pop store like in Lamington, her hometown, but at a sleek Morton’s. The second biggest bookstore chain in the States had a large shop in Louisville with gleaming floors, wide aisles, artistic book displays, a Starbucks, and regular author signings with best-selling writers. Not her ideal situation, but it had advantages: a space to breathe out and think before she decided which future she wanted to pursue.
Lamington was a hundred and fifty miles away, a couple of hours drive, and she liked that it was close enough to visit but too far for her mom or dad to drop in unannounced. She wasn’t, after all, a teenager needing supervision by uptight parents.
She studied herself in the full-length mirror, tucking a few stray hairs into the elaborate bun she’d spent an hour studying how to do on a YouTube video. Her ash blonde hair contrasted with the dark red lipstick, accentuating the Cupid’s-bow curve of her upper lip, and the kohl on her eyelids bestowed a sultry sensuality she didn’t possess. Thinking about where her girl-next-door appearance had gotten her, she was trying a more daring look. It’s not makeup, Maria said, it’s war paint.
Lauren wore a dress she’d bought on a whim from a thrift store. Black, with a short tulle skirt, fitted bodice and long sleeves of sheer, black lace, it reminded her of an outfit she’d worn as a child during her brief infatuation with ballet. She raised her arms above her head and twirled, admiring the fan-like flare of the dress. Mm…that move would look good on the dance floor. Hand on hip, chin tilted upward, she struck a pose and decided, yes, she liked this bolder, more confident self. Tonight, she would dance and have fun.
Her mobile rang. Maria and Ellie were outside in a cab. Glancing around the room, she smiled. She had already reversed the bookcase, and the bed was ready to fall into when she came home. The first time she tried opening it after coming home intoxicated, she had nearly knocked herself unconscious. Another time she’d tried the couch—a useless substitute—as sleeping there gave her a cricked neck. She blew out the vanilla-scented candle, picked up the glass of rosé and toasted her reflection.
They dropped into several bars before deciding on Manny’s nightclub. Friday night, the place was crammed by the time they gained entrance. With hair primped and slicked, faces and bodies primed, and expectations jacked up, serious celebrants started the weekend the second they stepped outside the office. Loud conversations punctuated with raucous laughter bombarded Lauren as soon as they entered. She inhaled the commercial air freshener that overlaid, but didn’t quite disguise the odor of sweating bodies, deodorant and perfume, listened to the pulsating beat and laughed as it drove everything else out of her mind.
Maria and Lauren nabbed a booth near the dance floor as Ellie pushed through the gyrating throng toward the bar.
“Get some shots,” Lauren shouted after her.
Ellie returned with three small glasses, followed by a waiter who placed a plate with limes and salt and three tumblers of tomato juice in front of them.
“What’s with the red stuff?” Lauren asked.
“That’s sangria. Mexicans drink it as a chaser after tequila.”
“Okay.” Lauren licked the length of her forefinger, dipped it in the salt and raised her glass. “Here’s to tequila and sangria!”
“Tequila and sangria!” Ellie and Maria chanted, then licked the salt, giggling as they eyed each other. Together, they tossed down the shots, sucked the limes, grimacing, mouths pinched with the burn of liquor and the sourness of the limes.
“I’ll get this round.” Maria slid off her stool and dived into the mass of heaving flesh.
The couple in the next booth untangled themselves from each other and left. Three guys coasted in, claiming the space and throwing glances their way.
Ellie leaned forward and whispered. “The testosterone is stronger than the after-shave, but I’ll have a piece of the tall, dark and handsome one. See anything you fancy, Lauren?”
“Well, seeing as I don’t have a boyfriend anymore, I’ll have the one on the end. A blond Taylor Kitsch lookalike appeals. At least for a night.”
Maria returned, carrying refills.
The glasses emptied amongst more laughter and flirtatious giggles aimed at attracting attention from the young men.
Lauren closed her eyes, enjoying the dizzying rush of alcohol flooding into her bloodstream. “I’m feeling good. Another, ladies? It’s my turn.”
“You know, Lauren,” Maria said, “you don’t just lose your inhibitions when you drink, you turn into a whole other person.”
“Something else to thank Tod the dot for.” At the bar, Lauren waved wildly, failing to attract the bartender’s attention, and turned as a body squeezed in beside her. She hid a smile as she saw the guy she’d picked out from the booth next to theirs.
“Hi, I’m Dario.” He held out a hand.
“Lauren.” Shaking hands was awkward with elbows squished against their bodies, but they managed, their eyes meeting as they laughed. The Taylor Kitsch clone was even better looking up close. Bambi eyes and luscious lips. Mmm… She’d never done the nightclub scene, picking up guys and having one-night stands. She’d always been her mother’s golden girl, doing what people expected of her—working hard, gaining a place at a prestigious college and achieving excellent grades. Withdrawing her hand from Dario’s hot grasp, she asked, “You’re Italian? How come you have blond hair?”
“And you’re beautiful. But to answer your question, my great-grandfather came from Sicily, but my great-grandmother came from Milan. Lots of Italians with lighter hair in the north.”
“Wow! Mafioso, huh?” Lauren giggled.
Dario raised an eyebrow. “No. My family are bakers. You’ve never heard of the Alfieri Brothers Bakeries?”
“Small-town girl here. There are places in Louisville I’ve never even heard of, let alone visited.”
“I’d love to remedy that.”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?”
As they made their way back, Dario carrying a full tray of drinks, they found his friends had moved booths and were squeezed in with Ellie and Maria.
“Meet Tom and Fabio.” Ellie waved at the newcomers.
“And this is Dario.” Lauren smiled up at him.
Lauren continued to drink, Dario’s arm around her shoulder, as she leaned against him. He smelled of expensive aftershave, and she fancied giving his sensuous lips a test run.
“You wanna dance?” Dario’s warm breath tickled her ear.
She nodded and he led her onto the dance floor. Within seconds, the thumping bass transported her. Nothing mattered but dancing with arms in the air, head thrown back, eyes closed and surrendering to the all-consuming rhythm. She was one cell in a body; the crowd a beast of many parts, each aligned with the others as they jerked and writhed to the omnipotent, insistent beat.
Dario tugged her to him, mouthing, “I need some fresh air.” Towing her behind him, he elbowed his way through the crowded nightclub, leading her outside and around the corner into an alley. “That’s better.” He leaned in, his palm resting on the nape of her neck, his lips on hers, his tongue pushing into her mouth as his hands slid up her leg.
Her body surrendered, soft and pliant, as her arms went up around his neck, drawing him closer.
“Hey, get off her.”
“Maria,” Lauren slurred. “I’m gonna throw up.” She leaned forward, and a gush of red liquid spewed onto the ground, spattering Dario’s pants and shoes.
“She’s drunk and you’re trying to have sex with her in an alleyway a few yards from the main street. What kind of dickwad are you?” The thwack of Maria’s purse smacking Dario’s shoulder was loud in the alleyway. “You’re aware that sex without consent is rape, aren’t you?”
Dario backed away, hands raised, talking as he moved. “Don’t you accuse me of something I didn’t do. She didn’t say stop, and she was hot for it too, believe me.”
“Does she look like she knows what she’s doing?” Ellie cleaned the vomit around Lauren’s mouth with a tissue. “C’mon, sweetie, the night’s over. We’re taking you home.”
Steering a ragdoll, drunk-out-of-her-skull Lauren up the front steps of her building required ingenuity; silence was impossible, and they giggled and stumbled along the hallway.
“A good night’s sleep is what you need, honey.” Ellie unzipped her dress, sat her on the bed and took off her shoes. “Lie down. There’s a sweetie.”
Lauren flopped back on the bed, her gaze unfocused. “Love you guys,” she murmured as Ellie lifted her feet, covered her with the duvet, and settled a pillow under her head.
“We love you, too, sweetie.” Ellie looked at her. “You’re not going to choke on your vomit, are you?”
Lauren grunted and rolled over onto her stomach.
“Listen, Lauren, I’ve put a basin on the floor in case you need it.” Maria bent down and eased the hairpins and ponytail band off Lauren’s bun, ran her fingers through the tangled ends and tucked a wayward strand behind her ear. She turned to Ellie. “I’d bet hard cash she’ll wake up in the same position. I need to get home myself. Let’s call another Uber.”
“Night night, sweetie.” Ellie bent and kissed Lauren on the cheek.
“ I’ll call in on you in the morning. Okay?” Maria called as she closed the door.
After her friends left, Lauren lay in a drunken haze, inhaling the faint scent of vanilla, dozing as the world spun behind her eyelids. She caught the distant growl of a car, and her mind drifted. Sleep was a great ocean, and she stood at the edge, knowing that when she dived in, darkness would claim her. Enfolded in the safekeeping of the room’s silence, she slid into unconsciousness.
Sometime later, the click of her front door opening roused her. She still lay on her stomach and raised her head, but the room tilted and swirled like a Catherine wheel. Her eyes closed and she flopped back onto the pillow.
So, next Tuesday, check out your favorite digital store for copies of I Know It Was You, and I hope you like the Prologue enough to want to follow Lauren's journey.
Stay safe and well,