Without A Trace
Today I am pleased to be able to participate in the blog tour for Without A Trace by Carissa Ann Lynch. My thanks go to Ann Cater at Random Things Tours.
About the Book
From the USA Today bestselling author of My Sister Is Missing
Someone took her.
Unless she was she never there…
Someone took her.
Unless she was she never there…
A little girl has gone missing.
Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.
Has Nova’s abusive ex stolen his “little bunny” back for good?
At first, Officer Ellie James assumes this is a clear custody battle. Until she discovers that there are no pictures of the girl and her drawers are full of unused toys and brand new clothes that have never been worn…
Is Ellie searching for a missing child who doesn’t actually exist?
Today on my blog, I have an extract from Without a Trace by Carissa Ann Lynch. If the cover above is anything to go by, this looks like a fabulous book. Mind you I am a sucker for a good cover and this one certainly pips my interest.
I don’t believe in ghosts. But standing here now, with the tips of my toes tingling with heat, and my eyes stinging, not from the fire but from me, forcing myself to keep them open, never blinking, I can’t help wondering if she’ll come back and haunt me for this. Her limbs twist at uneasy angles. Her skin splits apart and dissolves. Her hair and clothes fall away like feathers caught in a dust storm. And her face…it almost looks plastic, quivering and bending in the amber glow of the flames. It’s as though she never breathed life in the first place. This is not how I imagined it—I thought it would be quicker. I thought she would scream more. Fight more. But it’s almost like she’s resolute, like she’s telling me it’s okay…that she forgives me for what I must do.
I shivered as I stepped off the front porch and followed the well-beaten path down to the shady tree line. It was early, the sun playing peek-a-boo through the trees, and little wet kisses of dew were sprinkled around the yard like watery pockets of glitter. Such a peaceful morning, like the promise of a brand-new day. A beautiful day, in fact.
It was a rental property, but still, it felt like mine. Like the perfect place to raise my daughter.
Suddenly, the wind whipped through the trees, shocking the breath from my chest. It reminded me of what I already knew—looks can be deceiving.
Clouds bubbled up in the sky, the morning sun dissolving away like a figment of my imagination. As a flurry of cold air rushed around me and through me, I pulled my jacket tight against my chest and glanced back at our new house. It was a small log cabin, like something you’d see at a state park or campground. But the size was perfect for the two of us, and unlike my husband, I liked the coziness and simplicity of a single-family home.
Lily would be waking up any second now, and I didn’t want her to be afraid in our empty, new house.
How can I raise a daughter who is strong and brave when I’m so damn scared all the time?
I took one last look at the trees, at the once-soothing sunrise. Branches morphed into bony claws. They reached for me, gnarly and twisted, eager to pierce through my ragged flesh like broken bones…
Whipping around, I raced back toward the house. A low moan escaped from between my teeth as the house swayed from side to side, like one of those carnival mirrors. The distance between the front door and the tree line suddenly stretched, for what looked like miles…
My sneakers were squishy on the cool, wet grass, and as I slipped and slid across the yard, I imagined the mud was quicksand, sucking me deep down into the earth, consuming me whole…
Once inside, I locked the door and pressed my back against it, sucking in long, craggy breaths until they evened out. It only took a few minutes to still my thumping heart.
That’s better. Well done, Nova, I commended myself. Each time I panicked, it was taking fewer and fewer minutes to calm back down.
Hell, maybe after a few weeks of being here, I won’t have panic attacks at all.
Fumbling for a light switch in the kitchen, I stubbed my toe on Lily’s tiny Cars suitcase. It was still lying in the middle of the kitchen floor, next to my duffel bag, where we’d tossed our luggage last night.
In the light of day, our new kitchen looked different than it did last night. White paint on the cupboards looked yellowish and worn. The sink was rusty, and a slow drip of water ping ping pinged in the basin below. Looking around, I tried to imagine this kitchen as our own—baking cookies for Lily while she sat on the edge of the counter, kicking the backs of her heels against the cupboards below. Normally, I would make her get down because Martin didn’t like that.
But now Lily and I can do whatever we want.
And a rundown, drippy kitchen was better than any sort of kitchen we might share with Martin.
A scarred wooden table with four chairs was set in the kitchen. There were other modest furnishings, too—a chair in the living room, beds and dressers in both bedrooms—which was one reason I chose this place. It was the perfect getaway spot, out in the middle of nowhere, and we didn’t need to bring much to get started.
The refrigerator and cabinets were still empty and in need of a good scrubbing. We’d grabbed some fast food on the way to West Virginia, but I hadn’t wanted to stop at the grocery store yet.
All I wanted to do was get us here.
But now that we were, I’d have to spend the weekend making it as homey and comfortable as possible for Lily.
We’re doing this. We’re starting over. This is our home now.
For months, years, I’d imagined this moment. But then, it had just been a fantasy, a twisted version of hyper-reality. I never really thought I would leave. Even the night before we left, I’d expected myself to back out. To freeze. To panic and collapse in the middle of the street after loading our cases. But I didn’t. And it wasn’t until we were almost a hundred miles outside of Granton that I knew it was really happening…that we were leaving Martin for good.
My duffel bag lay sprawled open on the floor beside the table, from where I’d taken out my pajamas last night. We were so tired when we got here, to the point of delirium. It had taken nearly ten hours to reach Northfolk, the rising hills and winding curves of West Virginia making me skittery and afraid. I couldn’t stop checking the rearview mirror and my heart was thrumming in my ears the entire drive. During the daytime, it hadn’t been so bad. But at night, I’d imagined every pair of headlights were the angry, glowing orbs of Martin’s truck, chasing us up the wild, mountain roads…
Lily had handled the move so well, believing me when I told her that we were going on an adventure. With her mousy brown hair and cornflower blue eyes, she looked just like Martin. But, luckily, she hadn’t inherited his meanness, or his wild mood swings.
Lily was, by all accounts, a normal four-year-old girl. But that wouldn’t have lasted long, not while living with Martin. Eventually, his violence would have moved onto her, seeping into her pores and saturating her life with his poison.
She was innocent, so seemingly unaware, yet she’d already learned to fear her father and his unpredictable ways. And the way Martin looked at her…his eyes searching, evaluating her every move, it made me uneasy.
I’m taking her away from her dad. What kind of mother does that?
Emotions played tug-of-war inside me—I felt guilty for stripping her of her fatherly influence, but I was relieved—exuberant, even—to give her a fresh, safe start in life. During the drive to Northfolk, I’d been so focused on getting away, that the guilt hadn’t had time to settle in yet. And last night, I’d been too tired to stay up worrying. But now…now all those worries came rushing back at once.
What will I tell her when she’s older? Surely, she will remember Martin. Will I tell her why we left? How much memory can a four-year-old retain?
“I m-made the right decision,” I told myself, firmly, for the hundredth time this morning.
Pressing my face against the window pane, my eyes scanned the backyard. From behind a layer of murky glass, the branches no longer seemed murderous or threatening. Even the clouds were wimpy, less dark. It was ironic, really. After years of feeling claustrophobic, shut inside the house with Martin, now it was the outdoors that overwhelmed me.
Everything overwhelms me.
Again, my thought from earlier came crawling back: how can I raise my daughter to be a stronger, better version of me when I’m so scared of the world and the men that live in it?
Clutching the necklace at my throat, my fingers curled around the dainty silver cross that Martin had given me on our anniversary. The holy symbol should have brought me comfort, but all I could think about were his hands pressed against my throat, the crossbars digging sharply into my flesh as I struggled for a tiny bit of air…
Tenderly, I reached back and unclasped it. It seemed wrong to throw it away, but then again, I couldn’t keep it. It hadn’t protected me when I’d needed it to, and expelling Martin’s memory from our lives was my top priority now. Before I could change my mind, I carried the lightweight pendant over to the waste basket and tossed it inside.
I didn’t put on makeup this morning. There was no rushing around to make Martin’s breakfast, or to see him off to work.
No slamming doors or missing shoes or screaming.
No angry fists pummelling my body.
Most mornings, the air felt suffocating and dense. I’d wake up panting, a surge of panic hammering through my bloodstream and lifting me from bed. I was always afraid I’d oversleep, and sometimes I did. If Martin was late for work or didn’t have the things he needed in the mornings, he blamed it on me. And worst of all, he seemed to enjoy punishing me for my mistakes.
He must have been so angry when he realized we were gone. We didn’t take much when we left, just Lily’s suitcase and my bag. But he must have known immediately.
The first thing he probably did was call my cell phone, and from there, it wouldn’t have taken him long to find where I’d left it—on the nightstand next to our bed.
He can’t reach us here.
There was no note. No paper trails. I’d saved up small amounts of cash over the past year, so there wouldn’t be any need for ATM withdrawals. I had enough money to last us for a while, until I could figure out how to get some more.
Pinching my eyes closed, I couldn’t shake the image of his seething blue eyes, the angry caterpillar brows furrowing in anger.
He’s probably mad enough to kill me right now. To kill us both.
I could almost taste his rage from six hundred miles away. It tickled the back of my throat and burned the edges of my tongue.
Fear. I can taste that, too.
The fear I’d felt earlier was rushing back. My old friend Panic seized my chest, like a boulder pressing down on my belly, making every breath tight and controlled.
He might find us. What will I do if he does?
As I passed through the hallway, fingertips grazing the unfamiliar walls of the cabin, I thought I heard a muffled grunt coming from behind Lily’s closed bedroom door.
Nonono. He’s not in there. I’m only imagining he is.
I’d imagined his voice last night, too, before I fell asleep. The angry, breathy snores that he made while he slept. My body so accustomed to sleeping next to his, I’d lain against the edge of the mattress, curled into a tight little ball, despite all the extra space.
“One, t-two, th-three…” I counted out loud.
I read somewhere that counting helps alleviate anxiety. My lips silently formed the words, but the clenching in my chest remained. Suddenly, I was hurtling back to our house in Tennessee. Fear slithered in through the logs. Martin’s anger dissolving and sinking down through the rafters…
“F-four, f-five, six…” My skin tickled and crawled, my stutter rearing its head again, becoming worse, the way it always did when I sensed a confrontation coming. As I moved through the hallway, I fought the urge to look back over my shoulder.
Martin is not standing behind me. He’s not! I chastised myself.
The hallway tilted and swayed, then slowly, the buttery yellow paint dissolved. I wasn’t back home in Tennessee; I was in our new house, faraway from Martin.
“A-are you a-awake yet, Bunny?” My stumbled words a mere whisper through the heavy door.
Bunny. It was a nickname given to her by Martin, and I’d have to remember to stop using it. It would only serve as a reminder of him, and Lily wouldn’t need any of those, now that he was out of our lives for good.
Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I nudged the bedroom door open. Soft sunlight streamed in through motheaten curtains above the bed. There was no Martin.
See? Nothing to be afraid of.
Lily, so tiny, was curled up beneath the blankets in a ball, unmoving. Like me, she was always trying to make herself smaller and unseen…
Lily had never been a good sleeper. She was prone to nightmares, but last night, she’d slept all the way through. Reaching across the bed, I slid the curtains back, welcoming more light into the room. The bright white heat was soothing, like a warm cloth across my face. I released a long stream of breath, relieved.
“Rise and shine, B—” I stopped myself from using the nickname again, squeezing my lips together. There were so many bad habits to break, and this was only just one of them…
I prodded the soft little lump in the middle of the bed. But Lily didn’t move a muscle.
Finally, I rolled the covers back, imagining her sweet morning smile and sleepy doe-like eyes.
I know they say you should always love your children no matter what, and I do, but for some reason, my heart just soars when I see her doughy cheeks every morning. She is always at her sweetest when she first wakes up.
A strange wisp of gray-white hair poked out from beneath the blanket. I stared at it, my mind not comprehending the strange bit of fur.
Tentatively, I rolled the covers down. Button-eyes stared back at me, black and menacing.
It was a toy rabbit, but not like the ones Lily used to keep on her bed in Tennessee. This bunny looked ugly and old, its limp arms and legs adorned with black, plastic claws.
I poked at the strange stuffed toy, shaken.
“B-bunny? Where are you?” I grasped the corner of the blanket in one hand, then yanked it the rest of the way off.
Lily wasn’t in her bed.
A deep guttural scream pierced the morning air.
What an opening and my heart was in my mouth reading this. What happens next I wonder. If like me you are curious then you will want to buy the book. Links are below to assist you.
About the Author
Carissa Ann Lynch is the USA Today bestselling author of My Sister is Missing, Flocksdales Files trilogy, Horror High series, Searching for Sullivan, Shades and Shadows, Midnight Moss, This Is Not About Love, 13 anthology, Twisted anthology and Without A Trace.
She resides in Floyds Knobs, Indiana with her family and collection of books. With a background in psychology and corrections, she’s always been a little obsessed with the darker areas of the human mind.
Social Media LinksWebsite
· Paperback: 380 pages
· Publisher: Killer Reads; Digital original edition (13 Jun. 2019)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0008324514
· ISBN-13: 978-0008324513
Check out the rest of the blog tour with these fabulous blogs: