Published by Mira Books on March 6th 2018
Joanna Guthrie was free. She had been for eleven years--or so she needed everyone to believe. What really happened during the longest eighteen days of her life, when she and two other women were held captive by a dangerous serial killer, wasn't something she could talk about. Not with him watching. Not unless she wanted to end up like the ones who didn't make it out.
But when more women go missing in an eerily similar manner, Jo knows her prolonged silence will only seal their fates. She's finally ready to talk; she just needs someone to listen. FBI special agent Tony LeDoux can't deny he finds Jo compelling--he's just not sure he believes her story. But with the clock ticking, Jo will do anything to convince him, even if it means unearthing long-buried secrets that will land them squarely in the crosshairs of the killer...
Welcome to my stop of the excerpt tour for The Longest Silence! Without further ado, here it is:
Wednesday, April 11, 7:50 a.m.
Jo reached for her coffee but curled her shaking hand into a fist rather than risk picking
up the mug.
She wasn’t supposed to come back here. Ever. In fact, she hadn’t set foot in the state
of Georgia since she left eighteen years ago. Never coming back. Never, never coming
back. She shouldn’t be here now. Deep breath. No choice.
Keep your head on straight, Jo.
From what she could see last night not that much had changed other than the old
asylum had closed down. She’d read about the closure a few years ago.
Not soon enough.
Images flickered through her brain. She pushed them away. Don’t look. Don’t look.
Have to look.
They should burn the whole place down. Every decaying building.
A complete contrast to the old asylum, Milledgeville was a quaint place that exuded
small town charm and promised parents of potential students that it was a safe and
wholesome setting. In truth, it was, for the most part, despite the college campus and
endless assortment of official and unofficial sorority and frat houses. Bars, clubs,
restaurants, boutiques. All the things every college student needed handy for the launch
Jo went for her coffee again. This time she managed to lift the mug without the risk of
spilling the hot brew. She downed a couple of swallows as she stared out the window
toward Hancock Street. The first day of her freshman year she’d been so excited. No
one in her family had ever gone to college. She was the first. Her parents had been so
proud. Even her brother—a man who was far more contented with his head under a
hood than in a book—seemed genuinely happy for her.
She’d arrived with big dreams and fully determined to prove she deserved the
opportunity. She hadn’t bothered with friends the first semester. Her academic work had
been her singular focus. Christmas had arrived and she’d stayed on campus to
volunteer with local Christmas charities and to earn some extra cash. She’d gotten a job
through the holiday season so she could afford a couple of new outfits and presents to
send back home.
Every day had been a new adventure. She was so happy. Then winter started to fade
and the promise of spring in the air had her hoping for more.
Her first mistake.
Ray had come to Milledgeville to help with the search on the ninth of March eighteen
years ago. Her mother hadn’t been able to come. Their father had been too ill to travel.
Cancer. He’d died a year later. She doubted her brother or her mother would ever
forgive her for not coming to the funeral.
They didn’t understand.
How could they? She had never told anyone what really happened. She and Ellen
had made a pact never to tell. Would it have changed anything if they had told the truth?
Would Ellen and the others be alive? Probably not.
Jo shouldn’t have come back here. Had to. Two weeks, one day and six hours had
been required for her to work up her nerve to begin the journey from Texas to Georgia.
She’d rolled into town in the middle of the night last night. Slept in her twelve-year- old
Celica. Nothing like traveling in style.
She was here. That alone was a freaking miracle. Eighteen years. Seventeen years,
ten months and twenty-five days to be exact since she left this place.
Jo watched the cars on Hancock Street cruise by. This time of year prospective
students were visiting the campus with their parents. Two young girls sat on the bench
outside the Blackbird right now. Faces all smiles. Hearts full of excitement. Probably
freshmen with that first awkward year nearly behind them or high school seniors hoping
to start in the fall. Their futures were just beginning. Others rushed along the sidewalk.
Most of the students lived on campus or in one of the sorority or frat houses and used
bicycles to get around. Milledgeville was that sort of town. She’d had a bike eighteen
years ago. But then she’d sold it when she decided to leave. A single backpack with a
couple of changes of clothes was all she’d carried with her when she boarded that bus
to anywhere but here.
At the front of the café the door opened and new voices filled the coffee shop. Jo
scrutinized the group. So young. They had no idea how important the decisions they
made today would be to their futures.
She’d made the wrong decisions and she’d paid the price. Every single night of her
life she woke up at least once with her heart racing and her skin clammy with fear that
someone was coming for her—that someone knew what she had done, that they would
show up at her door.
No one ever came. After nearly eighteen years it was obvious that the only evil she or
Ellen or any of the others had to face was their own reflections—the fear, the secrets.
The truth. And the years of silence.
Jo started to push the memories away but stopped. She had come back to this place
to confront the past. No more pushing it away. No more running. She picked up her cell
phone and studied the screen. On the drive here she’d considered calling her mom.
She’d only spoken to her once or twice since she left, but she did send her a card on
her birthday every year. Disappearing without letting her mother know from time to time
that she was okay had been something she couldn’t do.
What do you think?
I think it sounds great! I want to know why she’s come home and I want to hear all about her past mistakes.