EXCERPT: DELIVER ME BY KAREN COLE
QUERCUS PUBLISHING, November 1, 2018
Welcome to my stop on the blog blast tour for DELIVER ME by Karen Cole! When the awesome folks over at Quercus Publishing reached out to me about being a stop on the tour for this book, I jumped at the chance. Keep reading for an excerpt that will send you straight to purchasing this ebook, which is out today!
ABOUT DELIVER ME:
THE NIGHT SHE DOESN’T REMEMBER WILL BE THE ONE SHE CAN’T FORGET
When Abby’s doctor tells her she’s two months pregnant she doesn’t believe him. She can’t be – she hasn’t had sex for over a year. But to her astonishment and dismay, multiple tests confirm it’s true.
Desperately searching for an explanation, Abby recalls New Year’s Day – the terrible hangover, the hole in her memory where the night before should have been and the inexplicable sense of unease – and realises that this baby must have been conceived at her best friend Danny’s NYE party.
Horrified that someone would have taken advantage of her intoxicated state, Abby enlists the help of Danny to find out which of the party guests assaulted her. But when she starts to receive anonymous messages it seems that while she has been looking into the father of her baby, someone has been watching her…
A gripping psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Teresa Driscoll’s I Am Watching You and C.L. Taylor’s The Fear.
Synopsis via Goodreads
They’ve been there all night. Fingers of grey daylight are already creeping through the trees, banishing the shadows, exposing roots, leaves and the shape of Abby’s captor hunched over his phone.
The pain has subsided for a moment and tears of terror roll down Abby’s cheeks as she realizes the full extent of the danger she’s in.
She looks around, frantically trying to work out an escape route. In the distance she can hear the faint hum of traffic on the main road. If she could get there maybe she could flag down a car. Could she make a run for it? He’s distracted at the moment, absorbed in whatever’s on his phone. But she knows in her heart that it’s not possible. There’s no way she could run. Right now, she could no more run than fly.
There’s another wave of intense pain and Abby’s no longer thinking about escape. Something primal surges over her and she cries out in agony, but the sound is merely a muffled grunt through the tape over her mouth.
‘Shut up,’ he snarls, striding over and yanking her hair. ‘Can’t you be quiet for even a minute?!’
She hates this man so much. How could she ever have trusted him? She would kill him with her bare hands if she could. But, as she makes a last desperate attempt to wrench her arms free, searing pain, even worse than before, washes over her and he crouches between her legs, giving a low whistle.
‘About time too,’ he says. ‘Your baby’s coming.’
Your baby is about the size of a peanut. There are tiny depressions where the eyes will be. The jaws and teeth are beginning to form, and a sense of smell is starting to develop. You might notice your waistline thickening, but it won’t be obvious to anyone else.
‘Does this hurt?’ The doctor presses down sharply on her belly, so sharply that Abby Brooke gasps in shock.
‘Not really,’ she says through gritted teeth. She looks out of the window at treetops clawing the cold, grey sky. A gust of wind shakes the branches, and the new leaves shiver. She wishes she hadn’t come. There’s something very wrong with her, that’s for sure, but whatever it is, she doesn’t really want to know.
Cancer, she thinks. But she had that biopsy done just before Christmas and it came back clear, so it can’t be cancer. Abby pulls down her top and sits up, swinging her legs round so they are dangling off the edge of the couch.
‘Maybe it’s stress?’ she suggests. ‘This is only my first year teaching and it’s been . . .
Well, some of the kids are quite challenging.’
That’s an understatement. Just halfway through the school year, Abby feels exhausted and disillusioned. She’s spent the past few months trying to develop the natural authority that the other teachers seem to have, and failing miserably. It doesn’t help that she teaches Art, a subject many of the children don’t take seriously, or that she’s only twenty-four and looks even younger, so small and fresh-faced that she’s often mistaken for a student herself.
Rob thinks she would command more respect if she changed the way she dressed. But he doesn’t understand that the vintage clothes she wears, and the over-the-top jewellery are part of her armour against the world. With them, she’s funky, artistic Abby Brooke. Without them, she’s just a shy young girl with mousy brown hair and grey eyes.
‘And don’t get me started on the paperwork.’ She rolls her eyes and smiles. ‘Hmm.’ Dr Rowe doesn’t seem interested in her teaching woes.
‘Are there any other symptoms?’ he asks, glancing up at Abby. ‘Apart from the nausea?’
‘Only that I feel tired all the time.’ Lately when she gets home from work it’s all she can do to wolf down her food and drag herself up to bed for a marathon twelve-hour sleep.
‘I’m afraid I haven’t finished yet. Could you lie back down please and lift your top up?’ He smiles apologetically at Abby.
Dr Rowe begins kneading and prodding again. He’s about thirty-five, with blond hair and an eager, friendly manner like a golden retriever. Right now, he seems puzzled, like a retriever that’s lost its bone. He frowns and takes out something like a stethoscope, placing it against her stomach.
‘You can sit up now, Abigail.’ He pulls off his gloves and propels his chair over to the desk, where he taps something into the computer.
On his desk, next to the computer, is a framed photo of him on a mountainside with his arms round a sporty-looking blonde woman and two children, a pale wisp of a girl about six years old and a boy who looks about ten. Abby recognizes the boy. He’s a few years older now than he is in the photograph but she’s fairly sure it’s Aaron, a quiet, studious boy from one of her classes. She wonders if Dr Rowe knows that she teaches his son. If he does he hasn’t mentioned it, and she’s glad. The last thing she wants to do now is to get into a conversation about school. She looks away quickly and her eyes rest on a bronze bust of a man with a curly beard and a bald head.
‘Hippocrates.’ Dr Rowe notices her looking at it. ‘The father of Western medicine.’ Abby nods. Her sister is a doctor, so she knows all about Hippocrates. She thinks about
Ellie’s graduation, her mum, still very much alive, sitting next to her in the audience, how she squeezed Abby’s hand as Ellie walked up to the podium, how she was so proud to have a doctor in their working-class family. By the time Abby graduated ten years later her mum was unable to attend, already in the grip of the cancer that killed her. To her dismay, Abby feels tears welling up in her eyes. She blinks them away and looks at Dr Rowe to see if he’s noticed.
He’s giving her an oddly intense stare. He clears his throat. ‘Are you sexually active, Abigail?’ he asks.
‘No, not lately,’ she says, taken aback by the sudden switch in topic. ‘And your periods? Are they regular?’
‘Not really.’ Come to think of it, they have been erratic lately, if not non-existent, but she’s put that down to stress.
‘When was your last period?’
She strains to remember. She’s been so busy lately she’s barely noticed. ‘Maybe at the start of December sometime.’
‘Well, Abigail,’ he says. ‘It looks like you’re pregnant. About two months I would say.’
Abby stares at him, astonished. ‘That’s impossible.’ She laughs nervously. ‘Unless it’s the virgin birth.’
‘Oh?’ Dr Rowe raises an eyebrow.
She flushes. ‘I mean . . . I haven’t had sex for over a year, so I can’t be, can I?’ Since breaking up with Ben she hasn’t really wanted to get involved with anyone else. She’s been on a couple of dates, had a couple of awkward snogs and fumbles, but that’s about it.
The doctor shrugs. ‘You can take a test if you want to make certain.’
She opens her mouth to argue, but then closes it again. What’s the point? Dr Rowe clearly thinks she’s some flighty young girl who can’t keep track of her own sex life.
‘We’ll need a urine sample,’ he says, scribbling her name on a plastic beaker and handing it to her. ‘Give it in at reception when you’ve finished.’
In the hallway Abby pauses, fighting off a wave of nausea. She stares down at the pattern of hexagonal tiles on the floor. The sickness comes on suddenly and she doesn’t always have time to reach the toilet. Yesterday she threw up in a plant pot at work, which is why Danny insisted on driving her to the doctor’s today.
Well, there’s no way she’s pregnant. Dr Rowe is clearly mistaken. She knows Ellie thinks he’s great, and she should know, but Abby’s beginning to doubt he’s as good as she thinks. She hesitates outside Ellie’s door, looking at the brass plaque with the words ‘Dr Elizabeth Campbell MRCGP’ etched in it. She’s tempted to tell Ellie about Dr Rowe’s mistake. She usually shares most things with her older sister. She raises a fist to knock on the door, then lets it drop by her side. She can’t talk to Ellie about this. Anything to do with babies or pregnancy is taboo with Ellie. Anyway, she shouldn’t disturb her now. The door’s closed, so she’s probably in there with a patient.
Abby tosses the empty beaker into a bin and pushes open the door to the waiting room.
Danny looks uncomfortable, a thin, dark presence, squashed between an old man with a hacking cough and a mother with a snotty baby. He puts down the magazine he’s reading as Abby comes in.
‘You look pensive, sweetie. How was it?’ he asks, giving her a searching look. ‘I’ll tell you once we’re out of here,’ she says, tugging his arm.
It’s a relief to get outside. A brisk wind whips through her thin coat clearing her head. Clouds scud by over the rooftops. She’s glad Danny came with her. He has a way of making her see the funny side of a situation and already the incident is transforming into an amusing anecdote in her head.
‘You’ll never guess what the doctor said,’ she says as they turn and walk towards town. Nothing bad I hope?’
‘Not exactly bad . . . no.’
Danny groans in frustration. ‘Just tell me.’
Abby pauses for extra drama. ‘He thinks I’m pregnant.’
She waits for Danny to laugh, give that infectious chuckle of his, and put this ridiculous idea in its place.
He doesn’t laugh. Instead he stops and claps his hand to his mouth. ‘I had no idea you were even seeing anyone!’
Abby frowns. ‘That’s just the point. I’m not. I’m not pregnant. I can’t be.’ ‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course I’m sure,’ Abby snaps. She walks on quickly, feeling annoyed. He’s supposed to be making her laugh about this.
Danny runs to catch up. ‘Okay, I get it, you live like a nun. It’s just a strange mistake for a doctor to make, that’s all. Did you take a test?’
‘No.’ She uses her slow, talking-to-idiots voice. ‘There would be no point. I’m not pregnant. I haven’t had sex for over a year.’
They stop at the corner by the Red Cross shop near where Danny’s car is parked. ‘Do you want a lift home?’ he asks.
‘No thanks, I’d like to walk.’
‘You sure you’re okay?’ he asks, his hand resting lightly on her arm.
‘I’m fine’ she says tetchily. ‘I’m feeling much better now. It was probably nothing.’ ‘Well, I’ll see you tomorrow,’ he leans forward and kisses her on the cheek. ‘You take care.’
‘You too.’ Abby softens. ‘And thanks for coming with me. I appreciate it.’
‘What are friends for?’ he says. Then he turns and saunters away towards the car. She watches him for a minute, taking in his thin shoulders, his light springy step, and she feels a lurch of unease.
‘Danny?’ she calls out.
He turns, his hand on the car door. ‘Yes?’ ‘Don’t tell anyone about this, okay?’
‘Course not,’ he says, grinning impishly. ‘Would I?’
She makes her way through the pedestrianized town centre past the smug little tea shops, the antique shops and the gallery with its four-figure price tags, feeling the usual claustrophobia. This sleepy Gloucestershire town is just too small and too twee. You can’t so much as sneeze without everyone knowing. Can she trust Danny not to tell anyone? Danny’s a good friend, but he isn’t exactly the most discreet person in the world.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter. She’s not pregnant. She can’t be.
Nevertheless, she finds herself, a few minutes later, in the chemist’s, staring at a display of pregnancy tests. She puts a couple in her basket and shoves deodorant and a bottle of conditioner on top in case she meets someone she knows. Then she heads for the checkout.
The cashier is overly friendly and chatty. She’s seen Abby around. Doesn’t she work at the school? Her son is in Year Seven. What does Abby think of the new head teacher? Abby answers her questions as politely as possible, all the time willing her to hurry up. Every extra minute makes it more likely a student or parent or someone she knows will walk in.
‘The conditioner is two for the price of one,’ the cashier says. ‘Do you want to get another one?’
‘No thanks,’ says Abby impatiently, and the woman frowns as if not getting two when it’s for the price of one is a sure sign of insanity.
A black cloud rolls over and Abby makes it home just as the rain starts pelting down. Rob’s new Vauxhall is parked in the driveway, gleaming silver in the lashing rain. Abby sighs as she makes her way up the pathway. She’d hoped to have the house to herself. Rob usually has a management meeting on Thursday after school, but it must have been cancelled today.
She slips her key in the lock, wishing, not for the first time, that she could afford a place of her own. But it’s impossible on her salary. She reminds herself how lucky she is that Rob and Ellie have let her live with them rent free. She should be grateful, and she is. It’s just she wishes she didn’t feel so suffocated all the time. Living and working with her brother-in- law is not exactly ideal.
Rob is in the kitchen, chopping chicken and humming along with the radio. He’s wearing the apron Ellie had bought him last Christmas with the picture of a gladiator’s body on it, a bit of a cruel joke on Rob’s paunchy body but he doesn’t seem to care. Hector, Ellie’s dog, is watching him intently, waiting for some meat to drop. He wags his tail politely at Abby.
‘Where the hell did you get to?’ Rob switches off the radio and waves the knife at Abby. ‘I would’ve given you a lift, but I couldn’t find you.’
‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t think to tell you. I walked with Danny.’ Abby clutches the bag with the test kits inside behind her back.
‘Danny, eh? . . . “Oh, Danny boy”,’ Rob starts singing, ‘“the pipes, the pipes are calling” . . .’ He puts the knife down, brushes a greasy hand through his thick brown beard and stretches out his arm like an opera singer. He sings that every time Danny’s name is mentioned. The joke’s wearing a bit thin.
‘You’ve been seeing a lot of that young man lately. I haven’t given my seal of approval yet.’ He grins, his brown eyes glinting with amusement.
Abby rolls her eyes. ‘You do know he’s gay, don’t you?’
Rob stares at her. ‘Really? Danny? No way! I thought you two were . . . Well, you know . . . friends with benefits.’
‘Yeah, well, a lot of people think that but it’s not true.’ In fact, Abby has encouraged the idea. Her friendship with Danny is a useful buffer against the attention of other men.
Since Ben she’s been in no rush to get into another relationship.
‘Gay? Really?’ Rob shakes his head again. ‘It’s always the good-looking ones, isn’t it?’
The microwave pings and when Rob turns to open it Abby takes the opportunity to escape. ‘See you later,’ she calls, and she runs upstairs, locking herself in the bathroom.
The test is simple, though it feels undignified squatting over the toilet and peeing on a small, plastic stick. Abby doesn’t have to wait long for the results. Just two minutes. While she’s waiting, she slumps against the bath, staring at the tangle of spiders’ webs and dead flies under the sink. Ellie refuses to let Rob or Abby kill spiders.
‘They have as much right as we do to be here,’ she said a couple of months ago, during an argument with Rob.
‘Well, not really,’ Rob said. ‘They don’t pay the mortgage, do they?’
Abby had been unable to shake the feeling that they were really arguing about her.
She sighs and picks up the stick. A small but definite blue line has appeared in the control window.
And a plus sign in the result window. A positive result.
It must be a mistake. She reads the instructions through again, trying not to panic. But she’s done everything right.
‘Shit. Shit. Shit,’ she says, fumbling with a second test packet, and she repeats the test, warm wee splashing on her hand. After another two minutes, the results are back.
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