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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

the one that got away cover featuring vast open sea with a sailing boat

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

 

Hi there Crime Vaulters,

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely adore crime novels which are really smart in their depiction of toxic relationships, whether between friends, family or a romantic partner. I am morbidly fascinated by how an initially subtle power imbalance can fester and swell into something utterly poisonous.

That’s why I fell for THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Egan Hughes as soon as I read the first page. It’s a darkly twisty but ultimately empowering tale of three women connected by one heinous man – and what happens to them when that man is discovered murdered.

Set partly on a small boat sailing round the Mediterranean, partly in the UK a few years later, It’s claustrophobic, compelling and oh-so-addictive. It’s publishing this summer but we’re so excited that we wanted to share a sneak peek with you now. The book is available for review on Netgalley and to pre-order on Amazon.

Happy reading!

Rosanna

Editor,

Sphere Fiction

 

 

Prologue

My truth is a deep, dark truth with no escape. It’s a corrosive secret I can’t tell anyone. Your truth is something else entirely. You know too much and it adds up to trouble. What happened that night could ruin my life, and keeping it secret will ruin yours.

He said no one would love me the way he loved me. He had me believe I deserved a better life, but he bent reality to suit his purpose. His warped reality became my warped reality. That’s the thing with gaslighting, not that I’d heard of it back then. This person you love becomes your world and what should be right goes wrong. It creeps up by stealth until you’re so far gone you’ve lost your way. It’s called coercive control, now there’s a law against it.

He said I was unhinged, but he made me that way. It’s no wonder something terrible happened. Fear prickles on my skin. I breathe it in and out. We’re two of a kind, you and I, brought down by him. Everything rides on whose version of the truth they believe.

 

JESS

December 2014

His brilliant blue eyes. That’s what I notice most, glinting with interest as I walk towards him in the marina bar. I take in his lightly tanned face and glance away. I can’t help smiling when he keeps watching. That kind of scene plays out in bars everywhere, but it feels significant. Perhaps I’m giving it more meaning than it deserves. It’s two nights before New Year’s Eve and the promise of new beginnings.

Minutes earlier, conversations played around me and I’d checked the time. My friends weren’t boring, just samey in the post- Christmas slump. I’d tried to back out, but Becca wouldn’t let me. She said I’d enjoy it, in the soulless bar not properly on the waterfront, with not even a moonlit sea view to shake me from my disengaged state. At that time of night, there was only the occasional ferry churning through the dark to Portsmouth. Jonathan sat at our table of five and talked about his New Year’s resolution to increase his pension contributions. He was part of our group who met up now and then, and one reason for my reluctance to turn out on a cold night.

‘Thank God for alcohol, eh?’ Becca took a fortifying swig of her drink and ruffled her red head of curls. ‘I resolve to have more fun.’

My gaze drifted round the bar. A couple walked past in their own world, holding hands and laughing. Why didn’t I have that? I had friends, a home and a career, but I wanted more. I’d wanted more since Sachi from work got married last summer. I shared her infectious joy until the reading of ‘Today I Married My Best Friend’ and I choked up a little. Why does that kind of togetherness elude me?

Becca said I didn’t try hard enough, but I wore myself out trying. I gave up after dating Rick for three months. We’d booked a trip to Barcelona and I couldn’t wait, thinking it marked the start of something more serious. Then a friend told me he’d checked out her online dating profile and ‘liked’ it.

‘Show me,’ I said. She called up his profile. I’m single and honest it said, and his status was online now. My heart sank. When I’d asked him, he said, ‘Why would I limit myself?’ I cancelled the holiday, crushed that he thought so little of me.

Becca met her husband at uni, in simpler dating times. She says I should get on and find someone. But I don’t want someone, I want ‘Today I Married My Best Friend’. Is it wrong to hold out for a warm, funny, sexy man who feels the same about me?

Then I see him, the blue- eyed man. He’s looking right at me, taking me in. His smile speaks to my restlessness. He doesn’t look away, and I don’t mind because I like his interest, and his tousled hair, and those gorgeous eyes drawing me in.

There are enough of my friends not to miss me, and I need a break from Jonathan, who’s offering to cook me an omelette sometime. ‘I’m a very good cook’, he says. He’d probably claim to be a good lover too. I break away. Becca makes a thing of me abandoning them for some bloke, but I can’t even chat properly to her, not with Jonathan eager for a way into our conversation. I’ll make it up to her. The man goes to the bar, and so do I, as if I’ve been waiting for him all along. He smiles as I approach him, and something inside me comes alive.

‘Need a refill?’

‘Thank you.’

‘Your friends might seem more interesting after a couple more drinks.’

‘They’ll have a better time without me.’

‘I doubt that. Your admirer isn’t very happy.’

I glance over at Jonathan, who nurses a possessive look. ‘He’s just a friend.’

‘He likes you. I can see why he doesn’t want to lose you over here.’

He smiles an easy smile, and the barman pours our drinks. Up close, I admire the contours of his toned chest and strong arms, visible through his shirt. We make our introductions, clink glasses and then sit in a quiet corner and talk. I warm to his attentive chat and thoughtful little pauses, and the way he tilts his head when I speak.

‘I used to keep my boat in the marina here,’ he says.

‘Ah, so you sail.’

It suits his weathered good looks, the muscular arms from winching in sails. He looks at ease with taking on the elements. I picture him sailing into the wind on a sunny day.

‘Do you ever sail?’ he asks.

‘I’ve never tried. I like being near the sea, though.’

‘Would you like a go? You can come out on my boat when it warms up.’

‘Sounds good,’ I say, my voice all smudgy with alcohol.

He rests his elbows on the table and gazes intently at me. ‘What do you like to do?’

‘I like going to new places, weekends away. There are so many places I’d love to see. Where do you sail?’

‘The Greek islands are my favourite.’ His face lights up, eyes faraway. ‘The beaches are wonderful. You can sail to a little bay, have a sandy beach to yourself and swim in crystal clear water.’

‘Sounds amazing.’

He leans closer. I lean in too and catch a subtle drift of aftershave.

‘So, if your admirer’s just a friend,’ he says, ‘are you seeing anyone else?’

‘Not right now. Work keeps me busy. I haven’t put myself out there for a while.’

‘Well, if you fancy putting yourself out there’ – he looks down at his hands, less sure of himself – ‘I’d love to go out with you sometime.’

I have a sudden urge to touch him, this complete stranger who I pretend not to find intoxicating. His deep voice draws me in. He talks, and I look at his lips, thinking he’ll be a good kisser. Back home that night, I lie awake with a big grin on my face, though it strikes me I might not hear from him again. But he calls the next afternoon, and I like him even more for calling, not texting. It’s real. Not like dating apps.

‘Hello, is that Jess?’

‘Yeah . . . yes, it is. Hi.’ I attempt to sound cool, not letting on that my heart’s going a mile a minute.

‘It’s Rob. I really liked getting to know you last night.’

I grin down the phone.

‘I’d love to see you again,’ he says. ‘You’ll probably have plans on New Year’s Eve, but if not, I know a beautiful spot on the waterfront . . .’

I should say I have plans, try not to seem keen, but I am keen.

So I say yes.