Romantic thriller?

posted in: Book Excerpts | 0

You might have seen my post a couple of days ago about an upcoming new release I’m really excited to share with you. It should be coming out next month sometime very soon.

It’s not straight romance, not at all. I’d say it’s thriller-ish, perhaps romantic suspense? After you read it, you’ll have to tell me the best way to categorize it. 🙂

For now, I’m going to give you the blurb and the first chapter. The new working title for this book is Hazy.

What if waking up was like being reborn?

That’s what has happened to me. I wake up, and I can’t remember anything.

I’m in a mental health facility, but I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know who I am, and I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

After a while, I begin to suspect that they kept me in that haze intentionally…and now I’m awake.

My only salvation is the handsome man named Joe, a man who seems determined to protect me at all costs. As my life slowly unfolds before me, I begin to fall for him just as I realize I might not be able to trust him or anyone else around me. There is an ugly truth somewhere underneath all this.

But will I be able to maintain a sane frame of mind until I can discover what it is?

Or will they once more bury me again in a haze?

FIRST CHAPTER

You know how sometimes you’ll wake up slowly, the edges of a dream persisting in the corners of your mind?  Not the actual complete dream, but the fuzzy edges, like the wisps of a cloud?  It’s a feeling, an emotion, and sometimes that damn dream will hang on well until you’re halfway through a pot of coffee.

That happened to me this morning.

You might be thinking, big deal.  Happens to everyone.  Sure, it does, but I don’t remember the last time it happened to me.

I literally cannot remember.

And, before I even open my eyes, the dream is gone, merely poking at my consciousness now.  It wasn’t a good dream overall, but there was a little girl in it.  Shiny dark brown hair cut in the cutest bob, doe-brown eyes, dimples in those chubby little cheeks.

The dream was a fucking nightmare, but that little girl—she was like a beacon shining in the darkness.

As I force my eyes open, though, even her face begins to fade.

But that feeling—that feeling won’t let go.  It’s a bag of mixed emotions—warmth for that sweet little girl but something sinister behind it, something I can’t shake.

Getting up will help.

As I sit fully up, I glance around the room.  It’s pretty plain.  And small.  Off-white walls, no artwork.  I’m in a twin bed—and there’s nothing else in this room.  Not a chair, a desk, nothing.  Behind me are some windows and in front of me is a door with a small window.  I can tell from here that it has that crisscross wire in it.  You know, the kind that stays in place, even if you break the glass?

I pause now, feeling really out of sorts.  Groggy.  I search my brain, scour it.  Why the hell can I remember the function of that wire, but I can’t remember my name?

I can’t even remember yesterday—or the day before.  I feel like I should panic but something I do know about myself is that I don’t panic.  I’m calm, a port in a storm.  Someone told me that once.  As I sit in bed, my arms wrapped around my knees that I’ve brought up to my chest, I try again really hard to make my brain work the way it’s supposed to, fire up those memory centers.  But nothing.  About the only thing I can touch—and it’s elusive, mind you—is a shaky memory of fishing with my dad by the banks of a creek.  I can see the glint of the sunlight on the trickling water.  I can hear the gurgle it makes as it winds down the rocks.  I can feel the cool air on my bare arms, my dad’s warm hand on my shoulder.  I can feel that slippery trout as I finally give up and let my dad take it off the hook, and I can smell its fishiness.  I can even feel the palpable relief as my dad tells me it’s not big enough to keep and releases it back into the water.

But that’s it.  That’s my whole damn life.  One paragraph.

And where is this?  I decide that, small room or not, I need to adjust, figure it all out.  All that’s on this bed is a set of crisp white sheets and a thin rust-colored blanket that wouldn’t keep me warm if it were cold inside.  For a fleeting instant, I think about the thread count of the sheets, and then I shake my head.  Rounding my shoulders to stretch a bit, I finally swing my legs off the bed.  My feet touch the cool floor, shiny plain off-white tiles, nothing fancy.  Finally, standing, I marvel at—at something, I don’t know what, but suddenly I’m almost happy to be alive.

First, I decide to look out the window.  It’s so strange.  I don’t have to think about walking, breathing, stretching, and still I don’t know my name.  So weird.

What is this place and why am I here?  I should know this.

When I look out the window, I see that I’m up a ways.  This window won’t open but, even if it did, I couldn’t just walk out.  I’d guess I’m three or four stories up.

How do I know that?

Below me is a busy street, crowded with cars, three lanes both ways.  Morning commute.  Across that street is a lovely park.  That is my whole world right now.  All I know.  All I can see.  And my memory is short.

Somehow, I feel reborn.

A few minutes later (again, how do I know this?), a lovely black woman with super short hair and coal eyes opens the door.  “Anna.  Look at you, up at this hour.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you out of bed before I got here.  How are you this morning?”

Suddenly, my tongue’s tied.  This woman seems to know me, but I definitely don’t know her.  My mouth gears up before I can even think it through.  “I feel pretty out of sorts.”

“I know, honey.  That’s just part of the whole experience.  How do you feel otherwise?”

She means my body maybe?  “Okay, I guess.”

“Are you ready for breakfast?”

See, that’s one of those weird things.  I know what breakfast is.  Why?  How do I know that and yet when she called me Anna, it felt foreign?  I want to ask her all kinds of questions but something inside tells me not to trust her.  “Yes.  I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”

“Rose.”

“Named after your grandma.”

“That’s right.  You remember.”

I didn’t even know I remembered until it popped out of my mouth.

We enter the hallway, not quite bustling with activity like the street outside, but there are a few people moving around.  It’s then that I notice we’re divided.  Some of the people are dressed like me—white t-shirts, gray sweatpants—and the rest are dressed like Rose in powder blue scrubs.

As we make our way down the hallway, I take in the repetitiveness of it.  All the doors, like mine, are metal with rectangular wired windows, the walls that same shade of off-white, the floors all shiny tile, appearing to be the newest part of this building.  As we make our way down farther, I notice places in the walls where the paint has peeled—come off, rather, like something was scraped along it.

We begin to pass an older woman in a wheelchair.  She’s overweight, her hair turning into a salt-and-pepper mix, her blue eyes looking as if they’re covered in feathery clouds.  My emotions around her (because that’s all I have right now—feelings without words) are encased not in fear but in apprehension.  Again, I have no idea why.  And, as we pass by her, she lifts her head and her eyes take me in.  I see the slightest hint of recognition and then she says, her voice frog-like, “Rep.”

This is one of those things I know somewhere deep down.  As we continue down the hall, both Rose and I ignoring her, I know she’s going to say “resent.”  She says the part of the word represent as if they’re two words—rep and resent—follow by some mumbling.  And she’s only ever said them to me.  I don’t know why or what she means.  I only know she freaks me out.  Gives me the creeps.

At the end of the hall, we enter a big room.  There are bathroom stalls and, just beyond, a large area with tiny blue tiles of various hues and showerheads.  Rose says, “Go ahead and do your business, honey,” and I understand she’s letting me have a little privacy in the bathroom stall.  Already, I’m consumed by a sensation of humiliation, somehow recalling deep down having to be watched while I had to urinate and defecate, and while I showered.  Deeper, though, I know that somehow those are preferable to bedpans and sponge baths.  Somehow, I know I’ve experienced it all.

Soon, I’m under the warm water of a showerhead, wishing the pressure was better, wishing the water could wash away the blanket on my brain.  That’s what it feels like—as if all the answers are there, buried, almost under lock and key, and I can’t get to them.  I can almost taste them but they’re out of reach.

The husky woman who’d been showering near the corner moves closer to me, taking the showerhead next to me.  Once more, I have an emotion associated with her.  Like the woman in the hallway, I don’t want to associate with this female, either.  Both have left me with negative emotions but this woman here makes the fear run deeper.  “Ah, my favorite friend Anna with the creamy skin and perky little titties.”

My eyes dart over to her as I swallow hard.  Another memory prods me with images of this woman pressing me up against the wall, trying to shove her hands down my sweatpants.  My skin crawls as that tiny glimpse floods my brain and I huddle under the water, no longer interested in shampooing my hair.

It’s then that I realize it’s short, like the woman I’m standing next to, and I also think my hair should be much, much longer.

“Bobbi, back off.”

“I was just saying good morning to my favorite friend.”

“I said back off, Sanders.  You want detention?”

“No.”  She scowls and stops leaning over me, but she otherwise stays where she is.  I shut off the faucet and walk across the tiles, the bottom of my foot digging into the round drain in the middle, until I get to the bench where Rose has already set a towel and fresh clothing.

No underwear.

I think I miss underwear, but I don’t know that for sure.  I dry off quickly, wrapping the towel around my head, and then put on the shirt and sweats, struggling as my damp skin refuses to let them slide on.  And we move through my morning routine as other people come and go throughout the space.  I brush my teeth and comb out my hair while Rose stands nearby and it’s then that I realize she’s an ally of some sort.  Maybe not an ally so much as a neutral party, someone perhaps looking out for my best interests.

As I wash my face, I pause.  It’s familiar, this visage looking back at me, but also foreign.  I’d expected something a little different.  My face looks so plain.  My skin is pale, and the deep emerald of my eyes contrasts with it.  My hair, light brown, should have been longer, but it’s as short as that person Bobbi’s was, almost like a crew cut.  And there are lines in the corners of my eyes that shouldn’t be there.

How long have I been here?

And, if I were to leave, where would I go?

Soon, we’ve shuffled to the dining hall and it’s then that I tell myself I have some of my strength back.  How do I know that?

What the hell does that mean?

And why, when I see the man with dark blond hair and royal blue eyes, does my heart start pumping like it never had before?  I’d swear, even without remembering anything else, that he is the most gorgeous man I have ever seen.  When he begins walking toward me, my heart starts thudding so hard, I can hear it in my ears.  As he gets within a few feet of me, my breath catches in my throat and my knees grow weak.

Whether that is from fear or desire, I don’t know.  I have no context.

~*~*~ Coming soon…and I cannot wait for you to read it!

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