Watch Me: A Gripping Psychological Thriller

Watch Me: A Gripping Psychological Thriller

by Jody Gehrman

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Overview

"Riveting, chilling, and page-turning. Be prepared to stay up all night." — New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

For fans of dark and twisty psychological thrillers, Watch Me is a riveting novel of suspense about how far obsession can go.

Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood college, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except one.

Sam Grist is Kate’s most promising student. An unflinching writer with razor-sharp clarity who gravitates towards dark themes and twisted plots, his raw talent is something Kate wants to nurture into literary success. But he’s not there solely to be the best writer. He’s been watching her. Wanting her. Working his way to her for years.

As Sam slowly makes his way into Kate’s life, they enter a deadly web of dangerous lies and forbidden desire. But how far will his fixation go? And how far will she allow it?

A gripping novel exploring intense obsession and illicit attraction, Jody Gehrman introduces a world where what you desire most may be the most dangerous thing of all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250144027
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 646,743
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jody Gehrman has authored several novels and numerous plays for stage and screen. Her young-adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. Her full-length, Tribal Life in America, won the Ebell Playwrights Prize and received a staged reading at the historic Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She holds a Masters Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

SAM

After five years waiting for this moment, watching you for the first time still catches me off guard. I recognize you from your book jacket, but the reality of you — a three-dimensional object moving through space, flesh and blood and golden hair — makes my pulse race. You don't know me — not yet — but nothing spikes my pulse. I am ice. I ooze cool, unruffled detachment. It's the thing people find unnerving about me, the thing I try to hide. I know how to smile and raise my eyebrows and frown in all the right places, just to show I'm human, to communicate to the other hairless apes that I'm part of the tribe. If I don't control my face, it defaults to blank detachment, and that gives people the creeps. Watching you, though, I don't have to fake it. I can feel my lips stretching into an amazed smile of their own accord, the smile explorers must have worn when they first stumbled on the New World.

You're walking across campus framed by two rows of flame-red maples. Your boots kick bright mounds of leaves strewn across your path. I can see from the slight bounce in your gait you're enjoying the flurry of each step. Though you're bundled against the cold, a bright green scarf wrapped around your throat, it takes no effort at all to imagine you in bed, the long sinewy lines of your body a feast of light and shadow as you stretch, catlike, back arching.

God, you're perfect.

I've never allowed myself to consider what I'd do if you turned out to be ordinary. If I started school at Blackwood, the place I've worked and schemed to enter, only to discover you're not the woman I thought you were. I didn't allow myself to consider the possibility because I knew, deep down, it would kill me. By the time I'd read the first page of your book, you were in my blood, in my bones. To live without you was unthinkable.

Of course, you write fiction, and you're private, so the number of facts I've managed to scrape together about your life could fit on a postcard. I love that about you — your mystery. In a world packed with blogs and Facebook updates and tweets and Instagrams, a world crowded with so much white noise from self-absorbed assholes who share every bowel movement in tedious detail, you are enigmatic. Like Shakespeare, it is much easier to find theory and speculation about your life than solid facts.

You are an onion I intend to peel, layer by layer. I will love every second of it. Your mystery will yield to me, your dark cocoon penetrated by my patient, steady hands.

Though I have little solid evidence about who you are and how you fill your hours, I still feel close to you. I watch your jaunty green scarf flutter in the breeze, your hair trailing behind you in a golden swirl. We are connected. It's undeniable. And it's not just the tie that binds a fan to his idol. Yes, it's impossible to read a great writer's work and not experience their essence. I don't see you the way I see Nabokov, though, or the Brontës, or Melville. I see you for what you are: the only person on earth who will ever understand me.

You stop to examine a woodpecker. From my position on a nearby bench, I have a perfect view of your motionless body. Your throat is white and exposed as you tilt your face to study the industrious little fucker. He pecks harder than ever at the trunk of a tall, elegant birch, as if urged on by his audience. I see you smile.

Without trying, I smile, too.

CHAPTER 2

KATE

Sam Grist sits across from me, staring. His eyes are so piercing that for a moment I'm paralyzed.

I'm not oblivious. I've noticed him watching me in class. I've observed the way his gaze follows me, tracing the lines of my body like he's committing them to memory. Sometimes he wears a vaguely drunk expression, like someone two martinis into the evening watching you from across the bar — when you know you're caught in a glimmering vodka filter that makes everything luminous.

This is the first time I've been alone with him. The air in my small office feels thick, dense. His eyes lock on mine with such unapologetic intensity, for a second I can't remember how to breathe. When one of my students uses the term "piercing" to describe someone's bright blue eyes, I usually scribble "cliché" in the margin. Now, I'm forced to acknowledge just how apt the phrase can be. His stare pins me to my seat.

With effort, I look away. That's hardly better. My eyes sink as low as his throat. The skin there is that delicate peach color only youth can manage. So dewy. So tender. If I put my lips there — goddamn it. Stop, Kate. Just stop.

"Nabokov's my favorite. Lolita. What a fucking beautiful book — sorry." He blushes, his pale cheeks turning pink.

"It's okay." I adjust my glasses. "I'm a professor, not a preacher. I'm more offended by comma splices than 'fuck.'" The word lingers in the air between us. It's there, like the traces a sparkler leaves behind, glimmering in the muted light of my office.

I glance at the floor lamp behind him. Its pale linen shade casts a soft glow. When I bought the lamp last week I told myself I needed it so I could kill the fluorescents in my tiny office; they were giving me a headache. I've never liked the cold, clinical mood they radiate. Now, though, I wonder if the vibe is too 'candlelit lounge.' It's something I do way too often, swing from one extreme to another — in this case, from morgue to topless bar.

His smile is slow and knowing as he watches me. Now his eyes dip to my cleavage, and I worry I've gone too far. Low lights, "fuck," Lolita. This is not the professorial persona my tenure team needs to see.

I clear my throat, and his smile vanishes.

"So, you have a question about class?"

He leans back. The glow from the lamp catches in his dark black hair. I try to look at him coolly. I try to channel all the bloodless, sexless professors I've ever had. The incredibly well-shaped muscles beneath his black T-shirt beckon from my peripheral vision, but I refuse to give in. It's the divorce, I tell myself. You're hungry for distraction. Go easy on yourself.

"I do." He nods. "Is it a good time?"

"Shoot." I glance quickly at my computer, then back at him. We don't have all day, but I can carve out some time from my frantic online shoe shopping to deal with his needs. It's important to prioritize.

"It's about the workshop." He rests his arms on my desk, waiting for me to meet his gaze directly before he goes on. "There's some really god-awful shit in there, you know?"

I watch him as he catches himself swearing again, see him decide against apologizing. He's young, but not as young as some of my students. Twenty, maybe? Twenty-one? It's nearly impossible to guess at age anymore. I've given up, especially during that breathless time between eighteen and twenty-five, seven years that feel like they'll last forever, when you wear the face and body of an adult but still have the blank, unmarked dewiness of a child.

"It's Sam, right?" I take off my glasses and clean them with the hem of my sweater.

"Yeah. Sam." There's a subtle reproach in his voice, like he's disappointed I had to ask.

I didn't have to. I just need him to know I don't think about him. I haven't singled him out. The fact that this is a lie makes it even more important.

"Are you asking if I think my students' work is shit?"

"I know you think it's shit." He tilts his head to the side. He's peering past my façade, into me. "I'm asking why you don't call them on it."

I pull my cardigan tighter and put my glasses back on. "'Shit' is a relative term."

"Either it sucks or it doesn't."

"Nabokov had a hell of a time getting published," I point out.

"Not because publishers thought his work was shit. Because he terrified them."

I nod, conceding his point, and change tack. "Workshop is all about getting better. New writers need to experiment."

"You and I both know those spoiled brats are never going to write a single word worth reading." His cynical smile makes me uneasy.

I've got no idea why Sam affects me the way he does. It's not like he's the first smug, talented student ever to sit in that seat lobbing overly confident truisms about workshop at me. And yet ... and yet ... there's something about this one. The way his eyes probe my face, the restless motion of his body. He keeps leaning back, like an actor trying to telegraph "relaxed." Within seconds, though, his sculpted torso tips forward again, his naked forearms on my desk, his body straining toward me.

"I don't know that." I can hear the crispness in my tone, the prim, professorial inflection. "Nobody knows what anyone else is capable of."

"Now that I believe." He points at me, like he's the teacher and I'm the student finally stumbling on the right answer.

I kind of hate him. I kind of want him.

His big, beautiful hands land on my desk again; for just a second, his palms lie face-up between us. I see the jagged scars carved into his wrists, red, angry lightning bolts zigzagging his blue veins. My gaze flies to his face. He knows I've noticed. His eyes hold mine. In that moment, I'm certain he wanted me to see. But then he pulls his hands back, presses them against his thighs, and stands.

"I won't take up any more of your valuable time." His gaze flicks to my computer screen. I must have accidentally jiggled the mouse because Zappos is now perfectly visible.

It's my turn to blush. Goddamn him.

"Don't be so harsh on your fellow writers." I try to sound sage, like someone who lives profoundly, someone who has actual wisdom to pass on. "If you're right, and they're all hacks, that's good news, right? Less competition."

He raises an eyebrow. I've always wanted to master that move but could never seem to manage it. When I try, it comes off strained and frightened. He pulls it off so naturally, like he came out of his mother's womb and fixed her with that sardonic stare.

"I'm not worried about competition." He twists the doorknob.

My eyes dart to his wrist, seeking out the pink, puckered wound. I force myself to dismiss him with a nod, like someone who knows what the hell she's doing.

CHAPTER 3

SAM

I watch your gaze slide around the room. You've just asked us a question, no doubt something probing and insightful, but I haven't heard a word. I can't stop staring at the place where your delicate gold chain disappears into your white blouse. I see myself fishing it out, tugging you toward me with one firm yank. The look of surprise on your face just before our mouths collide. The way you'll taste — lipstick and cinnamon. The texture of your silk blouse under my fingers as I tear —

Your gaze lands on me, wrenching me back to the present. For two seconds, I am whole.

When you move on, I feel a chill.

"What do we know about first-person POV?"

This time I hear the question, loud and clear. In a desperate plea to feel your eyes on me again, I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "It's intimate."

Your gaze locks on me. "That's right. Tell us more."

"It's getting inside the mind of the character," I say, gaining volume as I speak. "You're in them, inhabiting their psyche. The advantage is the reader feels close to the narrator."

"And the disadvantage?" Your graceful neck tilts forward half an inch.

"The reader feels close to the narrator."

This gets a chuckle; I look around, surprised. I never try to make people laugh. As a result, they're amused by half of what I say. I've learned not to take offense. Making people laugh is a good thing, though I've never figured out why.

"That's right. It's a double-edged sword." You reward me with the faintest of grins. There it is again. That look. Shrewd. Knowing. It's not a toothy, game-show-hostess affirmation. It doesn't say, You're good. It says, We'll see about you. I passed the very first pop quiz, and I'm allowed to stick around until further notice.

You're mercurial. You've been known to drop a student for consulting a cell phone in class. Your standards are so high you're legendary. Some people hate you for it. Even those who call you names, though, want into your workshop. We had to submit a portfolio and be interviewed by your TAs just to be considered.

"Now," you say, letting your gaze slide around the room again, "what about omniscient POV? What are the advantages of seeing everything?"

Nothing, I think. Who wants to see into every mind? Because let's face it, most people's thoughts are limp and useless. God, if I could see into the brain of that anemic girl in the corner with the facial piercings and the Raggedy Ann hair, I'd kill myself. Or the twitchy guy across from me who seems to be fighting a bad case of Tourette's? The girl at the head of the table who keeps flipping her highlighted hair in my direction? I don't want inside those psyches.

A guy with Justin Bieber bangs launches into an explanation of omniscient POV. You cut him off after three sentences.

"Let me hear from someone else."

Bieber-head wilts like a deflated balloon.

The girl with the cleavage and the highlights gives it a try.

You listen with a bored expression. "Not exactly. Anyone else?"

God, I love you. I have never been as happy as I am right now, watching you shoot these pretentious fucktards down with your laser-like intelligence, your uncompromising standards. So far, I'm the only one who's said anything of value. Of course I'm keeping score. How can I not?

"Omniscient POV is powerful when you want the big picture." I turn and notice, for the first time, the older guy with the shaved head sitting near the wall. He's in his thirties, looks like a vet. The tattoo peeking from the collar of his white T-shirt gives him an air of danger. It looks like an octopus, though it could be a squid or even a kraken. Hell, for all I know it's a clump of seaweed.

"Go on," you prompt.

"It's like film. You can move freely from one mind to another, unbound by time and space. It's the closest you can get to playing God."

Your smile is slow and sly. "Precisely why it's always freaked me out."

I hate Tattoo Man. He's lounging in your gaze, drinking in the smile you denied me, the look that says, You're okay, kid.

I scribble in my notebook, PLAYING GOD. Then I draw a line through it, pressing so hard my pen tears the page.

* * *

Here's the thing about Highlights and Cleavage: She has no idea how much I loathe her.

It's nothing personal. She probably has brothers and sisters, a prom anecdote, a story about her parents' divorce that will break your heart. She's struggled with bulimia, and once, in total despair, she carved an S into the tender flesh of her inner thigh just to make sure she could still feel something. She has a friend who died in a drunk-driving accident or overdosed on OxyContin. She has another who left everyone to become a model in Milan. She might even have an ex-boyfriend who got injured in Iraq.

Whatever. Looking at her, it's clear she's got a story.

I'm just not interested.

I know this isn't normal. She's wearing a push-up bra and low-slung skinny jeans that reveal the neon-pink of her thong. The blond highlights in her caramel hair are expensive and understated. She is money and sex, all the things I'm supposed to want. Yet, looking at her, I feel nothing except an arctic wind blowing through my chest cavity.

She sidles over, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm Jess. In case you didn't catch that."

It's the second week of class. She is marking her turf. Her blinding smile makes me wince.

"Nice to meet you." I'm polite, distant.

"So formal." She laughs, her cleavage jiggling. How does her mother sleep at night, knowing her eighteen-year-old daughter's wearing a push-up bra and a visible thong, spending the family's hard-earned money getting an "education"? They must know she's reading more pregnancy tests than books, consuming more alcohol than ideas. I shudder. I'm only a few years older, but I feel a paternal concern for old Cleavage.

"You an English major?" I ask.

"Communications." She nods. "I want to go into PR."

"So why take a fiction workshop?"

"I might write a book." She shrugs, like writing a book is something you may or may not squeeze into your spare time, akin to yoga or French cooking.

"Nice to meet you." I turn away and head for the door.

"Hold on!" She says it with an air of authority that surprises me, her tone going from sugar to steel. "Come have a drink with us."

I look around. "Who's us?"

"I'm meeting a couple friends at McCallahan's."

McCallahan's is a pub a block from campus, a stale, seedy place where the smell of vomit's always at war with the sharp perfume of bleach. Its chief attraction is their willingness to take fake IDs without a second glance. I went there once. They won't welcome me back. Anyway, I'd rather carve my own eyeballs out with a rusty spoon than drink tepid beer with Cleavage and her circle of thong-flashing friends.

"Can't," I say. "Maybe next time."

"Who knows if I'll ask you next time?"

"I'll try to live with the suspense," I deadpan.

Across the room, you gather a stack of manuscripts and shove them into your oversized leather tote. Jess follows my gaze. When she swivels toward me again, there's a new expression there. Her jaw's tight, and her eyes glint with suspicion.

"Sad, really." She dangles the words before me.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Watch Me"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jody Gehrman.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Acknowledgments,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
Sam,
Kate,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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