In the vein of Allison Brennan, Michelle Adams's Between the Lies is an addictive psychological thriller with twists that keep the reader guessing until the last page, in which a woman who's lost her memory is back home with a family she doesn't knowwho are keeping secrets of their own.
The truth is hiding between the lies.
What would you do if you woke up and didn't know who you were?
Chloe Daniels regains consciousness in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She doesn't recognise the strangers who call themselves family. She can't even remember her own name.
What if your past remained a mystery?
As she slowly recovers, her parents and sister begin to share details of her life.
The successful career. The seaside home. The near-fatal car crash.
But Chloe senses they're keeping dark secretsand her determination to uncover the truth will have devastating consequences.
What if the people you should be able to trust are lying to you?
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
MICHELLE ADAMS is a British writer living abroad in Cyprus for the last four years. She is a part-time scientist and has published science fiction novels under a pseudonym, including a YA dystopian series. She is also the author of If You Knew My Sister and Between the Lies.
Read an Excerpt
In those first few moments there is nothing. No pain, no fear. My eyes flicker open and in the grey light of a distant moon I see my surroundings, dark leather and the curved edge of a steering wheel. I see a shiny splatter of something oily, the deep burgundy of blood slick on my skin. What happened? How did I get here? Where am I?
I raise my head and look around. Is that rain falling, splashing cold against my face? I listen as my breath drifts in and out, glance towards the empty passenger seat just a few inches away. I try to look up, my neck in agony, see the shattered remains of the windscreen. The edges of the broken glass are red as if punctured with fire. I fumble a shaky hand down towards my seat belt, fiddle at the button. I don't have the strength to press it. My eyes are glazing over and I can't see clearly. I slip forward against the strap, my weight dead, but I think, just probably, I'm still alive.
How much time passes, slumped like that on my own, fading in, fading out, travelling in some strange and lonely place? The cool chill of the rain wakes me, lashing against the window, driven by the power of the wind. A night of violence is descending here. Pain in my chest, through the length of my arms, down into my muscles and broken bones. An ice-blue light flashes in the distance, reflecting in the cracked glass. It winks at me through swaying trees. Eyes open, eyes closed, tossed between life and death like a piece of ratty seaweed caught in the swell of the waves.
A voice calls out as rain drums the rooftop. 'Can you hear me, love?' A hand slaps against the wet glass. I feel the pull of fingers as they grapple against my skin, my bare arms slippery, my hair stuck to my face in matted red clumps. I turn my head towards the figure at my side. A yellow jacket, and a black hat hiding the man's face. He shouts something into the night. Are there more people here? Water runs from his shoulders, the spray cold, sharp as it hits me. I hear the crunch of broken glass beneath me as I move.
'Just hang in there. Try not to move too much.' I think he opens the door. I can feel the heat of his body close to mine. 'Can you tell me your name?'
Somebody slips a collar around my neck. It's colder now, quieter. I can't feel my hands. My eyes are getting tired. Then I hear somebody yell, and they drag me from the car, their movements desperate and rushed. Their voices carry on the wind. 'We're losing her!' they shout.
* * *
Eyes open, wide. It is not a subtle waking, no gentle lull between dream and reality. It's quick, the pull of a Band-Aid, the sharp slice of a knife. I am out of breath and sweaty. Memories of the dream recede as I glance around the room, a conscious effort to remind myself of where I am. That I am safe. That I am alive.
I turn over, pulling my face from the pillow, and sit up in bed, the only sound a gentle rain pattering against the window. I rub my eyes, listen as a door opens then closes. Footsteps on the stairs, the hush of voices as they chatter in the kitchen.
They tell me my name is Chloe. When I woke in the hospital, my voice scratchy and coarse, my throat almost too sore to speak, I didn't know who I was. I couldn't remember anything about my life. Who I was, what I did. How I lived. I asked one of the nurses, a plump woman called Helen, whose small-framed glasses balanced on the tip of her nose. She placed a chubby hand on her hip. 'Don't you remember?' she asked me.
I shook my head. It throbbed, felt swollen. I tried to think back, and I thought that maybe I had a vague memory of an accident, the same memory that I now dream of each night. But I wasn't certain. I looked out of the window, knew there was something familiar about the rain, the distant sound of waves crashing against the shore. But what?
'Your name is Chloe. You had an accident. You were in a coma for over a month,' she said. 'But you're doing well, so try not to worry.'
Helen went back to the business of making notes, recording various measurements: pulse rate, blood pressure, my temperature from the inside of my ear. I looked at the card balanced on the bedside table: Get well soon, Chloe, it read. All our love, Mum, Dad, and Jess. My family, apparently.
I couldn't remember them either.
Now I push the heavy embroidered blankets away and pick up a glass of water from the bedside table. My mouth is so dry and has been ever since I arrived here. It's the dust, the whole place full of it. My family's home is old and vast, some parts of it untouched for decades. I reach for the lamp, little dangly tassels hanging from the shade. I turn it on but it does little to brighten the room, the corners remaining dark, cast in permanent shadow.
I gaze about to remind myself of where I am. This place is home now, yet even after several weeks it feels unfamiliar. The walls are lined with a textured wallpaper, a heavy rose-print pattern in a sickly salmon pink. The corners are peeling away in two separate places. The ceiling is white, but appears grey and dirty on account of the heavy fog outside. It hasn't lifted in days. The surround of the ceiling light is flaking too, everything falling apart. I take in the details each morning in the hope that it will help me to feel like I know this place. But nothing in this house is mine. I belong somewhere else. I belong to another life that I can't remember. A life that doesn't exist any more.
I stand up and move to the window, push aside the threadbare curtain. It is impossible to appreciate the vastness of my family's estate from the first-floor window of the old rectory where they tell me I grew up. Acres of wet farmland surround the house, the grounds stretching all the way to a rolling perimeter of forest. Somewhere in the distance there's a village. I would like to walk there, get out of this house, but my father says it's too soon. I am a grown woman, yet I'm kept inside like a small child who needs protection. They tell me they want the best for me. So I stay here as they ask. But it's hard to trust people when you're not even sure you know them.
The muted colours of the hallway press in on me as I walk downstairs. The light outside is low, a winter's light, silvery and soft. It's a reminder of just how much time I've lost, the passing of a season I didn't witness. What is the last thing I remember? I'm not sure. I can't recall the life I had in the summer before the accident. So for now I have to make do with this place, these people. This version of myself.
Chloe. Whoever that is.
My father is already sitting at the table as I arrive in the kitchen, my mother busy at the worktop. Jess, my sister, pulls out a chair for me to sit. I watch as my mother takes anxious steps in my direction, a pot of tea in one hand, a plate of muffins in the other. She fusses about me as if it's still my first day here. She prompts me to take a chocolate one, then I watch as she sets the plate down on the long kitchen table.
'Would you like some toast?' she asks. 'We got some nice jam in.' I smile and nod. She looks to my father, who signals his approval. An atmosphere of expectation hangs in the air, has done ever since the day I arrived. It's desperation, I think, a need for me to feel at home. They want me to be comfortable, relaxed, for this situation to work.
'Chloe, I'm afraid I have to go into the hospital this morning,' my father says as I nibble the muffin, the edges dry and stale. 'I have a number of commitments that I'm afraid I simply can't put off. Your mother and sister are going out too.'
'OK,' I tell him. 'I'll be all right here on my own.'
'Well, you won't be entirely alone. Ben will be here.' Ben is the groundsman, works at keeping the massive gardens under control. I see him each day, appearing and disappearing through the lingering fog. He stares at me a lot, the spectacle that I have become.
My father stands up and drains his coffee cup before kissing my mother's soft cheek. He moves towards Jess, attempts toruffle her hair. She tuts, moves to avoid it just in time. Then he leans over and places a cold, dry kiss on my cheek. A shiver runs down my spine. 'I don't want you to worry about anything,' he says. 'Everything is going well. But I think it would be a good idea if we sat down together a little later on, eh? It's been a couple of days since we last had a session.'
A session. His part in helping me rebuild my life. These began when I first returned to this house. As a psychiatrist, my father appears to have taken on the responsibility of accelerating my recovery, determined to help me remember the past I have forgotten. But after several weeks, that past still eludes me. I would have expected my family to have told me more about my life by now. Where I used to live. Who my friends were. How I spent my time. But nobody seems to want to tell me anything, and I'm unable to remember for myself. All in good time, they say. I will help you, my father tells me. He wants me to remember. But it's only ever on his terms.
He picks up a copy of The Times and folds it under his arm. 'We will have you feeling back to normal soon, Chloe. We're making excellent progress. But please, make sure you don't go outside. You're not quite ready for that. Oh, and I almost forgot.' He produces a small ceramic dish with three tablets inside. 'Make sure you take these.'
I place the tablets on my tongue, a concoction of analgesics and anti-seizure medication, washing them down with a sip of water. From the frosty window in my father's study I watch as he gets into his car; Jess climbs into my mother's, and they both, one after the other, drive away. To lives I know nothing about. My gaze follows the cars until their lights are swallowed up in the thick wall of fog. And as I stand there in clothes that are not really mine, in a household to which I don't belong, I think about his instruction not to go out. I have the same thought I have every day: if I did go out, somewhere other than here, where would I go? But I can't answer that question. Because beyond this house, and these three virtual strangers, I know nothing else about my life.
My father tells me that once we have finished the therapy sessions everything will be as it once was, nothing more than a faint, well-healed scar left behind to connect my past to my present. But no matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries, I'm not going to be able to slip back into my old life. The person I used to be is dead, taken away from us in the crash. And even though I'm confused about most things, there is one thing I do know: you can't bring the dead back to life. The old Chloe is gone, and I'm afraid I might never get her back.
I'm more afraid that my family don't want me to.CHAPTER 2
In the moments after they leave, the silence is suffocating. Every day is the same: the quietness of a strange house, the emptiness I feel inside. In those first few moments alone I feel a deep-rooted sensation of panic, worrying about what I am going to do until they come back and provide me with a purpose, a place in the world. Because despite my fears, they're all I have. Until they come back it's just me, and I have no idea who that is.
They have told me a few things about my life, but it's like having a jigsaw with most of the pieces missing. The knowledge I have about myself is so limited and vague. I know that my name is Chloe and that I'm thirty-two years old. That before the accident I worked as a lawyer. I had a house of my own, not too far away from here. But I don't have any details that would give life and colour to these facts. I was happy, they tell me. My life was good. But it all feels flat and fake, like a Band-Aid over wounded skin. I need to pull it off, look at the scar that runs across the left side of my scalp where Dr Gleeson excavated an epidural haematoma. It's sensitive to the slightest thing. I've taken to wearing a woolly hat at all times, but I'm not so detached from reality that I can't appreciate how ridiculous I must look to the people with whom I share this house.
At first I refused to come home with them. My parents. My family. It seemed odd, I thought, to go to a house with people I didn't know. When we were alone, I confessed to Dr Gleeson, the neurosurgeon who stopped the bleed in my brain, that I thought they might be imposters, that perhaps they were there to take advantage of my amnesia. They smelt funny to me, and still do; apparently a heightened sense of smell is a side effect of the surgery. A scalpel in the brain can really affect the senses. He just laughed, rested a slender hand on mine and told me not to worry, and now here I sit, in the kitchen of the house in which they tell me I was raised.
I hear the handle of the back door, turn to see Ben, the man who cares for the estate kicking off his boots as he enters the house. I smile, and he just about manages to return the gesture. He seems nervous around me, can only really look at me when there's a distance.
'Looks cold out today,' I say as he moves from the kitchen to a small utility room at the side. I hear him clattering about, searching for something maybe. He appears moments later with a set of keys. 'There's been a frost, hasn't there?'
I often try to speak to him this way, meaningless chatter, passing the time. He's polite, but I can tell he doesn't feel comfortable around me. He glances at my head a lot, thinking about the damage underneath my hat.
'Ground's frozen solid,' he says, slipping his feet back into the muddy boots.
'Are you heading to the stables?' I ask, eyeing up the keys.
'Yes.' He motions to the door. 'They need mucking out.' Seconds later he is gone.
After Ben leaves I move to the fridge and glance at the list that my father made for me in the earliest days after leaving the hospital. I was like a zombie then, narcotised and unused to the medication. I am still taking corticosteroids, antibiotics and antiepileptics: reduce the swelling, prevent infection, minimise the risk of seizures. But I can't concentrate long enough to work out my new regimen, so the list tells me the tasks I have to do daily.
Number one is a reminder to perform my exercises. They are simple enough: arm raises and leg movements designed to restore my muscles and strength. We also have a huge inflatable ball that I sit on and rock about. Apparently it's good for core strength. Next on the list is medication. Just like in the hospital, my tablets are laid out for me in a small pot on the side, but I know I'm not supposed to take the next set until my mother gets home. They like to make sure I'm getting it right. The third item is food. I open the fridge door, and find a plate of sandwiches wrapped tight under cling film.
I pull one out and take a bite, but despite my steroid medication, which is supposed to increase my appetite, I never really feel hungry. The only craving I have is to get out of the house, rediscover my own life. Stuck inside this place, with its high ceilings and draughty doorways, makes me feel like I am still in a coma. So after I finish my sandwich, I do what I do every day: I slip my arms into the sleeves of one of my mother's overcoats, and slide my feet into her shoes. I take the keys and open the front door, and with the aid of the walking stick that the physiotherapist made me bring home I walk to the end of the driveway. It's tiring and difficult, and each time I do it I have to return to bed afterwards, to sleep for an hour. But I make myself do it while Ben is at the rear of the house, to feel the damp air cold against my skin, the wet atmosphere as it wraps around my body. I do it because it's all I have.
I've been walking up to the gate every day for a week now, ever since the day my father first refused to take me back to my own home. The one I used to live in in my previous life. I don't know where it is yet, or what it's like, but I'm sure just seeing it would help other details return to me. He told me I wasn't ready. He told me I was too ill. I asked him to show me a picture of it, to tell me something about it, but still he wouldn't talk. I looked at my mother, begged for her to relent. She stared down at the floor, quiet under his watchful eye.
'You're not ready yet, Chloe. I will let you know when you are. This is what I do for a living. I know best when it comes to these things.' That was all he said.
So I decided to leave, my mind made up. That was when I found the gate locked. That was when I realised I couldn't leave even if I wanted to. So here I am again at the edge of my parents' land, my hands gripping the damp wood of the gate. This is as far as I can go thanks to an unbroken perimeter fence. I glance up the road into the thick white air. I can't see anything, but I know there is a village out there; a hairdresser's, a garage, houses full of people and lives. Surely there has to be. I rattle the gate, test it as I do each day. But it is locked with a code. Something else I don't know. Something else they won't tell me.
Standing here unable to leave, I feel as if they are trying to keep me prisoner.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Between the Lies"
Copyright © 2018 Michelle Lisa Theodorou.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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