Today I’d like to share an extract from You Belong to Me. The book is being published by Bloodhound Books on 4th February and will be available to pre order from 28th January.
Cassie usually walked home through town and along St George’s Road. It was a practice born of her mother’s frequent warnings not to go anywhere isolated on her own. But the track was familiar. The school used it as a route for cross-country runs, and it didn’t seem very threatening in daylight.
With the rain driving into her face and rendering her glasses useless, she didn’t notice the man standing under the back porch of the pub watching her. There was little point removing her spectacles because the world just existed in a series of fuzzy ill-defined blobs without them.
Cassie’s mind hopped from wanting to kill herself to wanting to kill Darren. How could he even consider going near a slag like Hailey Connor? And she was a year older than him. Not to mention ugly as sin beneath that barrier of war paint she always slapped on her face. Why were boys such weak pathetic creatures? One smile and they were anyone’s.
How could she have been stupid enough to think Darren loved her for who she was? Didn’t care about the bump in her nose, or the gap in her front teeth. Didn’t give a hoot she had a slight lisp when she talked too fast. Darren had seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to most boys. Now, it turned out he was worse than all of them. He’d taken her heart and thrown it in a muddy ditch.
So, you’re just going to throw your whole life away over one stupid boy? A voice whispered in her head. He’s the one who ought to jump off the water tower.
Cassie stared at her trainers. White Nikes with a pink trim. The muddy lane had turned them as black as her mood. She wasn’t aware of the man stepping out of the porch and onto the track. He was maybe twenty yards behind her, dressed in a dark-blue hoodie, combat trousers and black trainers. Hands thrust in his jacket pockets. Face like a slice of moon beneath the dark hood.
The track was about a mile long. It was a dried up brook, but heavy rainfall could rapidly restore it to its former glory. It ran from the river to the back of the park, and from there it was just a short walk along St George’s Road to her house.
The rain had slowed to little more than a light drizzle by the time she was halfway along the track. She stopped and swatted at something buzzing around her head. The man stopped and stood as still as the trees lining the trail.
Cassie checked her airspace for more invaders. Birds and butterflies aside, she hated anything that flew. A wasp had stung her in the garden when she was twelve, and the experience had left her with a pathological hatred of airborne invaders.
As her tears subsided to an occasional sniffle, she opened her bag and took out a packet of tissues. She plucked three from the plastic wrapper, blew her nose and wiped her face. She dropped the tissues back in her bag and snapped it shut. She threw the strap over her shoulder and started walking again.
Why did her mother have to choose this week of all weeks to take a holiday? Now, she would face a salvo of questions the minute she stepped through the door. And it was no good thinking she could make it upstairs without being spotted; her mother had an inbuilt radar fine-tuned to Cassie. Both emotional and physical.
What does it matter what she says if you’re going to kill yourself?
Cassie ignored the voice. She would have a shower and change her clothes before she did anything else–including leaping off the water tower.
The man gained a few yards on her. He kept his head down, as if fascinated by his trainers. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and then rubbed it on his trousers.
Cassie stopped to negotiate a fallen tree blocking her path. It wasn’t too big to clamber over, but awkward, greased with rainwater and moss. She noticed brambles had scrawled a bloody signature on her bare legs.
The man took his chance. He closed the gap in a matter of seconds like a lion moving in for the kill. Cassie had just got her leg over the trunk when he told her to keep still.
At first, she thought he was going to warn her that there was something dangerous lurking on the tree. A scorpion. Maybe even a rat. She turned her head round to see him standing a few feet away. She couldn’t make out his features beneath the hoodie. He was wearing mirrored sunglasses, and a beard obscured the bottom half of his face.
Cassie felt her stomach tighten. ‘What is it?’
He didn’t answer. He pulled a gun from the waistband of his combat trousers and pointed it at her chest. ‘I want you to come with me.’
Cassie legs lost all their strength. She thought about trying to scramble over the tree. Make a run for it. Only a few hundred yards to the park. If she wailed like a siren all the way, perhaps he would back off and give up.
Or shoot you.
‘Turn around slowly and face me.’
‘Just do as I say.’
Cassie turned around, barely able to stand. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye. ‘Please don’t hurt me.’
‘I won’t–as long as you do as you’re told.’
‘My mum’s expecting me home.’
‘If you tell me where she lives, I’ll go round later and pay her visit. Tell her you’ve been held up.’
Why was this happening to her? She’d already had the shittiest day imaginable. ‘Please, I just want to go home.’
The man shook his head. ‘You can’t always get what you want. They ought to teach that in school to stop all that disappointment later. Now, walk past me and head off back towards the river. And don’t think about legging it. I ain’t seen no one outrun a bullet yet.’
‘My feet hurt.’
‘And so does my head. Now move!’
Cassie took a wide berth around him, eyes trained on the gun. He wasn’t as tall as Darren, and thin enough to suggest she might have stood a small chance of fighting him off under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. The gun seemed to wink at her in a shaft of emerging sunlight.
Cassie shuffled forward. There was a nightclub just before the bridge. The Millhouse. It boasted a beautiful riverside terrace. Maybe she could get someone’s attention if she screamed loud enough.
You might as well run, a voice whispered in her head. You’ve got nothing to lose. Better to get shot than to end up somewhere with him.
She could hear him behind her, breathing heavy, sniffing.
‘Where are we going?’ She asked again. ‘Please tell me?’
‘I don’t understand.’
Cassie walked past her own footprints as she headed back towards the river. The ones made before the man had appeared out of nowhere and turned her heart to dust.
He told her to stop at a wooden gate leading to the pub garden.
Cassie glanced behind her. Stared at the gun.
‘Go through the gate.’
‘You ask me one more question, and you won’t see tomorrow. You’re mine now. That’s all you need to know.’
She could see huge banners on the wall outside the Millhouse declaring the latest offering from Sky Sports. Someone walking along the wooden terrace which wrapped itself around the building to the riverside view at the front.
Do it, Cassie’s mind screamed. Run. For Christ’s sake, run
But she could barely move. She stifled a sob as she walked into the overgrown garden. The place resembled a cross between a jungle and a tip. Overturned tables, two fridges and a sofa bleeding its stuffing nestled among the tall grass and brambles. Most of the fence surrounding the garden was leaning over and broken.
‘See that door over there?’
Cassie nodded. She felt as if she would throw up any minute.
He threw a bunch of keys at the door. ‘The silver one’s for the padlock. Open it.’
I hope you enjoyed reading the first part of the extract. The second will follow on from here next week. If you did enjoy it and would like to add the book to your Goodreads TBR list, you can find You Belong To Me here.
Thank you for your continued support.