He’s hiding a dark secret … But so is she
A stunning new thriller about the burden of shame from blockbuster author Sara Foster
Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished, and Noah Carruso has never forgotten her. She was his first crush, his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.
Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared under a darkening cloud of suspicion, and now he’s back for the inquest into Lizzie’s disappearanceintent on telling his side of the story.
As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce on holiday. They fall for each other fast and hard, but Noah can’t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally strickenshe carries a terrible secret of her own.
Is the truth worth telling if it will destroy everything?
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)|
About the Author
Sara Foster was born and raised in England and moved to Australia in 2004. She has published five other novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath, All That Is Lost between Us, and The Hidden Hours. She lives near Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and two young daughters, and is a doctoral candidate with Curtin University.
Read an Excerpt
Twelve years later
The morning is hot and humid, but the instant he sees her, Noah goes cold. She is standing on the deck of a packed river taxi in a bright, flowing dress, facing away from him as she stares out across the murky water of the Chao Phraya River.
His breath catches and his heart stills, the next belated beat slamming hard against his ribs. There's an orange flag on the roof of the ferry, and Noah realizes it's the boat he's been waiting for, but he's stuck behind the crowds on the jetty. Undeterred, he begins pushing past people, suddenly desperate to get on board. He leaps from the wooden platform only seconds before the vessel leaves the dock, earning himself a stern rebuke in rapid Thai from the wiry man gathering the mooring ropes, whose glowing cigarette is tucked temporarily behind his ear.
Noah mumbles an apology over his shoulder, looking for a spot by the railing, moving closer to the woman. The shock of her appearance resonates, shaking him harder than the rocking boat as it begins to negotiate the heavy river traffic. Her long red hair has brought Lizzie to life again, letting him briefly imagine he has found her, thousands of miles from home. Then his senses kick in. This woman's face has a different shape: her eyes more oval than almond, her lips fuller, and her skin freckled.
Nevertheless, his heart is still pounding.
Twelve years ago, Noah had thought that Lizzie Burdett was the most glorious thing to ever happen to his family, but she'd proved to be a wrecking ball. She had been in their lives for six short months, and then, without warning, she wasn't — at least not in the same way. Her face still smiled out from the missing person posters, and sometimes made it onto the evening news. Her name was whispered along school corridors on a continual loop, or so it seemed to Noah, because he was the boyfriend's younger brother and therefore immediately connected to Lizzie's disappearance. Since then, Lizzie had become the nightmare Noah couldn't fully explain to anyone, and the pull of his memories has intensified lately now that her name is in the news again.
He turns his attention back to the woman on the boat. Her hands lightly grip the rail, as her gaze falls on the semiclothed kids playing at the edge of the muddy riverbank. He'd guess she's a few years younger than him — early to midtwenties, maybe — but there's a rare air of self-containment about her. Even when passengers jostle her, they capture her attention for only a moment before she settles back into daydreamy stillness, as though she nurtures a secret that's hers alone. The din of hectic conversations coalesces into a background hum as Noah studies her, drawn to her poise, curious as to where her mind might be traveling. But then, as though sensing his gaze, she turns.
There is no chance to pretend to look elsewhere. He stills. She stares. Then her lips curve into a small smile, and there's a flash of curiosity in her eyes. It only lasts a second before she turns away, and Noah lets out a slow breath.
She is stunning.
He forces himself to focus elsewhere — anywhere. He studies a row of seated monks cloistered in mustard robes, and eavesdrops on the bickering Canadian couple behind him, allowing himself the occasional sidelong glance at the mysterious redhead. She is looking across the river now, and his gaze follows hers to the golden temple stupas that gleam in sharp contrast to dirty white office blocks. Then the boat knocks against the pier of Tha Tien, his stop, and he turns away, still reeling, pressing into the swaying throng to get onto the boardwalk.
Once on land, Noah moves to one side to study the map in his guidebook. When he looks up and begins to walk in what he hopes is the right direction, the woman is there again, striding confidently some distance ahead of him. He's buoyed by the idea they might be heading to the same place, but only has a moment to admire the shape of her, the swing of her hips, before he loses sight of her at the entrance to Wat Pho as the crowds deepen.
He joins the back of one of the lines for tickets. The queue edges forward, and he waits patiently, until a polite voice interrupts.
"Excuse me, mister, what's your name?"
He turns to find a young Thai man with a wispy mustache beaming at him. "Noah."
"I am David," the man says with a small bow of his head. "I am guide at this temple, I can show you best places, very private tour just for you. I will tell you about history of temple, reclining Buddha, symbols of Buddhism ..."
"That's okay, I'm not —"
"Only two hundred baht, includes entrance, very cheap, special tour for you. You want massage too? Massage three hundred baht. Pay at the end. Come with me."
David propels him by the elbow, hustling past the queue for the entrance, answering in hurried Thai as people complain. They are waved on after a brief exchange at the ticket desk.
"Reclining Buddha first," David beckons Noah forward, "this way, this way."
Noah follows him across the flagstone courtyard, weaving between tourists as he tries to focus on David's monologue. Once inside the long, intricately decorated room, David begins to point out scenes from the Ramakien.
But Noah isn't listening because there is the redhead again, walking slowly beside the reclining golden Buddha, her hand trailing along the wooden railing that separates the statue from the masses. As the aroma of incense hits him in a heady, perfumed wave, he's gripped by a compulsion to speak to her. The feeling is ill-formed and potentially disastrous, and yet he finds himself taking a few steps forward, trying to decide on an opening line. He's almost reached her when David taps him on the shoulder, beginning a well-rehearsed speech about the 108 auspicious signs of Buddhism inlaid into the mother of pearl on the Buddha's feet. The woman turns, startled by the sound of David's voice so close, and meets Noah's eye again. She arches one eyebrow and her smile broadens. He grins back like an idiot, but before he can speak there is a meaty hand on his forearm and an iPhone shoved into his face.
"Hey, buddy," says a man with a strident drawl, "can you take a picture of me and my wife?"
"Sure," Noah replies, taking the phone. He has to wait while they fuss about where to stand, determined to get the best view of the Buddha in the background. But by the time he hands the phone back, the woman has disappeared again.
He hurries outside, barely registering the resurgence of warm air, dismayed to discover he can't see her anywhere. David appears beside him. "Now I will show you Bodhi tree that is descended from the very tree under which Buddha sat to attain enlightenment."
Noah quickly finds his wallet. "Here," he says, handing over two hundred baht. "I have to go now but thank you." And he strides away before David can reply.
The trickle of tourists in the temple complex is rapidly becoming a stream. Noah gets lost among them for a while, his mind adrift from his surroundings, until he realizes he's heading for the exit gates. Not yet ready to leave, he turns abruptly, and crashes straight into the person behind him.
His reflexes are quick, but he's too late. The impact sends an expensive-looking camera crashing to the ground, lens first, with a sickening crunch.
Horrified, he squats down to pick up the broken pieces, aware of another person doing the same. As he looks up to apologise, he sees it's her.
Their eyes lock, and he puts a hand to the ground to steady himself. Her face is just inches from his, her cheeks rising in color. Those green eyes with their tiny golden flecks are mesmerizing — but now they are the colour of questions, the shape of dismay. Oh god, what has he done?
Noah's face burns. "Here, let me help you. I'm really sorry."
She stands up and he does the same. A few witnesses to the incident have slowed to watch them.
"It's okay. I should look where I'm going." Her voice is quiet and thoughtful, but she glances away as she speaks.
"No, it was my fault," he insists. "I should replace it for you." "You don't have to do that. It's an expensive lens."
"Is it insured?"
Her expression is all the answer he needs.
"Then I should fix it."
She considers him. The pause stretches.
He tries again. "If you let me take the lens, I promise I'll get it replaced for you today. I can bring it to your hotel, if you like, or you can come to mine?"
She shakes her head. "I don't live in a hotel. I could come to yours, though — if you're really sure ... I mean, I know it was just an accident ..."
"It's all right, leave it with me." He smiles in encouragement. "Can you meet me tonight at the Royal Orchid? It's right on the river — do you know it? About eight o'clock?"
She nods, and then her face finally breaks into a radiant smile. "All right, then. Thank you! You were on the river taxi, weren't you?"
Noah's heart soars. "I was." He holds out his hand. "So, can I take the lens?"
"Okay — well, if you're sure." She turns her attention to unscrewing the lens from the camera body, and hands it over. As their fingers touch, a rush of heat surges through Noah.
"Thank you," she says again, as she tucks the body of the camera into her bag. "I'm Alice, by the way."
"Noah." He straightens, offers his hand, and she takes it. Once again, he is ambushed by a fierce heat that threatens to reach his face and embarrass him. "Nice to meet you, Alice. See you later."
He turns away and heads out of the gates without looking back, marching up to the first tuk tuk driver he sees. "I need to find a camera shop." He points at the lens in his hand in case the man doesn't speak English. The driver gives a thumbs-up, gesturing for Noah to climb inside the little motorcar. As the little vehicle edges into traffic, Noah clutches the damaged equipment tightly, trying not to notice that his hands are shaking.
A few hours later, as the setting sun burns fiery gold on the buildings and river, Noah turns away from the expansive view and stares at himself in the mirror. He's decided to dress up, in the hopes he can persuade Alice to have dinner with him. He can't stop thinking about her, and each time he remembers her face, so close to his own, his body responds, wanting more.
He solemnly regards his own dark, troubled eyes. Are you sure about this, Noah?
No, he isn't. The timing sucks. Perhaps the less he overthinks this, the better. He showers quickly, and as he pulls on his jeans, he catches sight of the silvery scar that runs down the top of his right thigh, ending in a point like an icicle. He dares to wonder if Alice will ever see it — and how he will explain it if she does. Will he pass it off as a biking accident, as he had done with other lovers? Or will he admit it's a permanent reminder of his recklessness? That he can never look at it without thinking of another girl — one whose face still haunts him.
He knows he's getting way ahead of himself. First things first: he needs to hope she turns up. If she doesn't, it's going to be tough to find a woman called Alice with long red hair, who resides somewhere other than a hotel in Bangkok. Because that's all he knows about her.
He heads for the lobby at ten to eight, palms sweating, the bag containing the prized lens dangling from his fingers. As he counts down to the hour, he convinces himself she won't come, but she walks in right on time, dressed so differently that he almost doesn't recognize her: lips ruby red, her hair pulled back in a loose braid. A fitted black shirt and cropped jeans skim her curves all the way down to a pair of sequinned sandals with low heels. As she glances around, searching for him, he's unbalanced again by the overpowering pull of her.
As soon as she sees him, her face lights up, and her eyes drift to the bag in his hands. "I can't believe you did this for me," she says as he offers it to her.
"It's no problem." He fleetingly thinks of the rapid increase on his credit card that afternoon. Every cent was worth it to see her looking at him like this.
He hesitates, but Alice is beginning to glance around. He must speak now, or he might never get another chance.
"Do you — are you doing anything tonight?"
Shit, he can barely get the words out. He's a stuttering fool. "Would you like to grab some dinner?"
She looks uneasy. "Actually, I have plans —"
He makes sure his smile stays firm, but inwardly he resigns himself, bracing for rejection.
"Although ... I don't think my friends would mind if I brought you with me. Do you want to come to a house party?"
"Okay." He tries his best to sound nonchalant, even though he would have dressed up in a tutu and gone ballet dancing if it meant more time with her.
"It's not too far to walk — are you ready now?"
He smiles. "Sure — let's go."
He's a step behind her as they exit the grand lobby of the Royal Orchid and set off along the busy night streets of Bangkok, among the throngs of people that meander between steaming food stalls and the haphazard lights of restaurants. Stray cats with docked tails doze on the boxes and mats beside shopfronts, and cockroaches skitter along the pavement beneath stalls selling fried insects. Smells come in alternating waves of barbecued meat and raw sewage. Alice isn't distracted by any of this, and he notices her confident sense of direction.
"Do you live here?" he ventures. "You don't seem like you're on vacation." Though her accent told him she was Australian too.
"Yes, I teach English," she replies, eyes on the road as they hurry across it and into a narrow alley, skirting around motorcyclists and pedestrians. A few stray dogs hide along the recesses of the walls, diving out to collect food scraps discarded by the street vendors. Noah quickens his pace to keep up.
"Really? Have you been here long?"
"It's a six-month stint. I'm halfway through. So, what about you? Are you here with anyone?"
"No — I was supposed to come with my mate, Jez, but he broke his leg the day before our flight. I went up north for a week, to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, saw the hill tribes, then got the train to Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi. I've only been in Bangkok for a couple of days, so I'm still finding my way around."
"Do you miss your friend?"
"Yeah, a bit, but I'm used to it now. It's been good having time on my own."
He stops short of mentioning his other reasons for coming. In truth, he'd been about to cancel the vacation, when he'd received news that his brother was about to make his first visit home in eleven years. Whenever Noah thought of Tom, he thought of Lizzie, and the world darkened. So the prospect of being on another continent while he was home, thereby avoiding a run-in, had been irresistible.
Alice interrupts his thoughts. "So, whereabouts in Oz are you from?"
"Sydney — the Northern Beaches. And you?"
"A little place on the Central Coast."
His spirits lift as he realizes their homes are only a few hours apart. As their arms brush against one another, the feeling intensifies. He's aware of people watching them: the admiring glances thrown Alice's way, the envious looks at Noah. He briefly imagines them as a couple; thinks of holding her hand, pulling her close. Feels a charge of excitement. Tells himself to get a grip.
The conversation falters. Discomfort hovers in the silence.
Noah is searching desperately for something interesting to say when a soccer ball comes flying towards them out of nowhere, heading straight for Alice. He moves in front of her at the last moment but too late to catch it, so it smacks into his shoulder. Alice almost trips over him, clutching his arm to stop herself from falling.
"Bloody hell," she says, "I didn't see that at all. Are you okay?"
"Fine." He rubs at the sore spot, laughing it off.
She doesn't let go of his arm. Her touch burns through his shirt, and without thinking, he stops laughing, putting his hand over hers.
"Sorry, mister!" A worried Thai boy comes running over, hands held aloft.
The moment breaks.
Alice blinks, and steps back.
Noah grabs the ball and kicks it, inserting himself into the soccer game so he can pretend this is the reason his heart's racing. Soon he's laughing again, caught up in the joy of messing around with a ball. He hasn't played in years. Why hasn't he, when he loves this game?
He shrugs off the uneasy question. Luckily, he still knows a few fancy tricks and manages to show most of them off in about ninety seconds, much to the delight of the kids. And of course, he knows Alice is watching too.
Afterwards he waves at the boys then walks back over to Alice, beaming.
"Impressive!" She raises an eyebrow, smiling back at him. "You play at home?"
"I used to," Noah says, rubbing his chest as he catches his breath.
"Come on then." She gestures in front of them. "It's this way."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "You Don't Know Me"
Copyright © 2019 TK.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
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.