Today we have an extract for you to read from Haylen Beck’s new novel Lost You. You may be familiar with Northern Ireland’s Haylen Beck (pen name name for Stuart Neville) from Bloody Scotland where he will appear again this year. The page turning story, which is published today, goes like this:
Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after all they’ve been through, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret.
Just days into their holiday, when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone.
Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him.
Who will find him first?
The following is an extract from Chapter 4:
“Oh my god, you’re a writer?”
Charles’s reaction made her blush. Libby had never described herself as such before.
“Well, I’m not full-time. Not yet, anyway. I still have a day job.”
Charles floated on his back, his outstretched arms on the tiled edge, his legs kicking lazy circles. Libby crouched so the water lapped at her chin, Ethan within her arm’s reach.
“Even so, I’m impressed. And can I tell you something? Fair warning, this might make you want to avoid me for the rest of your vacation.”
“Go on,” she said.
“I’m an aspiring writer too,” he said. “At least, I used to be. I haven’t written anything in a year, but I sold a few short stories, wrote a couple of novels that haven’t seen the light of day. I could never get an agent. I got as far as one reading a full manuscript once, but he didn’t bite in the end. God, I was crushed. How did you get your agent?”
“The old-fashioned way,” she said. “Through the slush pile.” “I hate you,” he said, his smile crooked. Gerry came to the pool’s edge and hunkered down. “Hey, it’s getting late. You want to go get ready for dinner?” “I guess,” Charles said. He looked back to Libby. “You’ll join us, right?” She felt herself blush again. “Oh, no, I couldn’t.”
“Sure you could.”
She reached for Ethan’s hands, guided him back toward her. “Honestly, I wouldn’t impose dinner with a tired three-year-old on anyone.”
“Nonsense. Please, I want to pick your brains.” He looked up at Gerry. “She’s a writer. Her debut comes out in the fall.”
Gerry raised his eyebrows at Libby. “For real? Congratulations.”
That heat in her cheeks again. She chided herself for it, even as she smiled.
“No way he’s going to let you not eat with us,” Gerry said. “Save yourself some trouble, just say yes.”
“Okay.” She hoisted Ethan up, and he wrapped his arms around her neck. “But I warn you, this boy’s going to get cranky.”
But he didn’t.
After Libby had showered and dressed them both, she let Ethan lead her down the hall to the elevator bank. Too late, she saw that one stood open, and had to dash after him. This time, she reached the elevator before he had a chance to press anything.
“We talked about this, remember?” she said, taking his hand. He looked up at her, suppressing a grin. “It’s not funny,” she said, “so don’t you dare smile at me. It’s too dangerous. You’re not allowed into an elevator on your own. Got it?”
“Got it,” he said, but the look on his face suggested otherwise.
They met Charles and Gerry outside one of the resort’s two buffet restaurants, and as soon as they had a table, Charles ordered cocktails.
“You’re a bad influence,” Libby said.
“God, tell me about it,” Gerry said. “I just look forty, I’m actually twenty-three and have been weathered away by the lifestyle he inflicts upon me. I had a full head of hair when we met. And he wasn’t gray.”
“I’m not gray,” Charles said.“Three words,” Gerry said, leaning in close to Libby. “Just. For. Men. H-35, medium brown. He thinks I don’t notice the Amazon orders.”
Libby had become tipsy enough over dinner that she had to take care with her words, sharpening her consonants as she spoke. Ethan ate well, thankfully, not even complaining when she insisted he eat the green beans. He seemed enraptured at sharing a table with men, watching them talk, enjoying when they fussed over him.
She knew the question had to arise at some point but was no less disappointed when it did.
“So, where’s Ethan’s dad?” Charles asked.
It was a friendly inquiry, no discernible judgment or challenge behind it. Even so, it scratched at her, like grit on her skin.
“Mason,” she said. “His name’s Mason. He moved to Seattle when Ethan was six months old. We’re divorced now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Charles said. “Do you still see him? I mean, when he visits with Ethan.”
“He visits Ethan twice a year. We don’t have any contact other than that.”
“Really? Why did you split?” He leaned in, lowered his voice. “Was he violent?”
“No, nothing like that. He just . . . couldn’t handle it.”
Charles placed his hand on her forearm, warm and gentle. “Was the responsibility too much for him?”
“Something like that. We went through a lot to have Ethan. It was difficult, emotionally, physically. I tell myself now, after all we had to deal with, it maybe took the will to be a parent out of him. Maybe he just didn’t want it as badly as I did.”
She watched her son from across the table, giggling as Gerry pulled faces.
“Listen,” she said, “can we not talk about it? I don’t want to be a downer.”
Charles squeezed her arm. “Of course. Now tell me about your book.”
By the time they’d finished dessert, Ethan had fallen asleep in his chair. Gerry offered to carry him up to her room for her, but she declined, insisting she could manage. They agreed to meet up again the following day, and Libby went to bed with a warm glow inside, perhaps encouraged by the two mojitos and two glasses of Rioja she had enjoyed with dinner.
There were two beds in the room, but she slipped in beside Ethan, gathered him in close. She rested her head on the pillow beside his, felt his rib cage rise and fall against her chest, his soft snores like a cat purring. Somewhere outside, she heard a band playing, a maddeningly familiar song, but rearranged as easy lounge music. Along with the music, the hint of chatter and laughter.
Before sleep took her, Libby kissed her son’s cheek and wondered how she could ever survive without him to tether her to this world.
This blog post is part of a book tour. If you want to read more about Lost You check out the blogs below: