Read the first chapter from C.L. Taylor's gripping new thriller Strangers
Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.
Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life. Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards. And Alice is being stalked.
None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.
Read the first chapter from C.L. Taylor's gripping new thriller Strangers below.
Alice Fletcher has never seen a dead body before. She always imagined they’d look peaceful: their skin slackened, their muscles softened and their mouths settled, not into a smile exactly, but a loose, contented line. Alice Fletcher was wrong. The body lying motionless at her feet looks nothing like the soothing mental image she’s been carrying around with her for the last forty-six years; the mouth is open, the jaw is hinged into a silent scream and the glassy, lifeless eyes are staring into the distance, some- wherebeyond the toes of her sensible court shoes.
Alice isn’t aware of the frantic pounding of her heart, the heavy-duty lino beneath her feet or the steel-grey shutter that separates her from the rest of the world. Nor is she conscious of the people around her. She doesn’t notice when the tall hulking woman to her left takes a step closer. She doesn’t see the sweat patches under the armpits of Ursula’s pale blue sweatshirt or the way her hands are shaking, one fingernail torn away leaving behind a raggedy nail bed, tinged with blood. She isn’t aware of Gareth’s laboured breathing or the bruise blooming on his jaw.
An anguished scream from across the shop snaps Alice back into herself. There are other sounds too: whispering, sobbing and ‘Oh God, oh God’ repeated over and over again. And then there’s the pain, the deep, nauseating ache that radiates up her arm and across her shoulder to her neck. Alice clutches at her arm, her fingers sliding over the warm, wet polyester sleeve of her blouse. But it’s not the blood that makes her stomach lurch and her legs weaken. There’s a dead body at her feet and her nightmare isn’t over yet.
‘I need my phone,’ she mutters. ‘I have to find my phone.’
‘Where are you going?’ Ursula shouts as Alice stumbles away and the frantic wail of a siren drifts through the open window. ‘The police are coming. What do we tell them when they get here?’
Alice turns slowly, her gaze returning to the corpse. She looks at it for a second, two, three, then draws an exhausted, raggedy breath and raises her eyes.
‘We say it was self-defence.’
- Strangers by C.L. Taylor, published by Avon, is available now.