My turn on the blog tour for Sheryl brownes new book, I have the priviledge of sharing with you an excerpt from her novel:
Matthew woke abruptly, hurtled from sleep by a nightmare he thought would never end. Sweat saturating his face, pooling in the hollow of his neck, he pulled himself upright and squinted against the thin trickle of sunlight filtering through the slatted blinds at the window. His first thought was that he had a hangover the size of an airdrome. His second, that they had no blinds at their bedroom window.
Easing his legs over the edge of the bed, a wheeze rattling his chest and nausea gripping his stomach as the room revolved in sick-making revolutions around him, his gaze went instinctively to the bedside table. His inhaler was there, the blue curative he carried with him, lined up neatly alongside his phone. Disorientated, Matthew blinked hard. His vision was blurred. His memory? Where the bloody hell was he?
A hotel room. Functional, he registered. Scanning his surroundings, he noted the fire instructions pinned to the door, the ancient fire extinguisher on the wall, the dusty circa nineteen eighties carpet. A shithole. Matthew closed his eyes and swallowed against the acrid taste in the back of his throat, then almost had a heart attack as his phone rang, loud and shrill, screeching through his brain like an express train. Scrambling around his mind for some recollection of what had happened the night before, he came up with nothing that was tangible, his tenuous thoughts seeming to slip away, like sea filtering ineffectually through sand. He had a few grainy, grey memories: Jasmine, the apartment, tastefully decorated. The painting, abstract colours intermingling. Coffee. Dripping. Shoes, clacking, like the ominous slow tick of a clock. One shoe. A stiletto. Connor …? Had he been there? Here? Matthew squeezed his eyes shut, tried desperately to remember. Natalie? Christ, no.
His phone rang again, sharp, insistent. Becky, it had to be, and Matthew had no clue what to say to her. Attempting to control his escalating panic, to regulate his breathing, he let it ring and reached for his inhaler instead … and then stopped dead.
Seeing the crimson stains on his hand, Matthew’s heart somersaulted in his chest.
Dried blood, he registered, trying hard not to let the panic, now gripping his gut like a vice, cancel out logical thought. Old blood. His? How old?
Bringing both palms shakily to his face, he examined them. They were ingrained with the stuff. He flipped them over. His knuckles were bruised. Right hand. Sweet Jesus, what had he done? Disentangling himself from the duvet, Matthew scrambled to his feet, then quelling the nausea now clawing its way up his windpipe, he checked himself over. Deep wheals ran vertically down his chest. Four. Matthew swallowed hard. Checked his limbs. Found scratches on his arms. His neck, too. He could feel those, raw and sore.
His pulse rate ratcheting up, he yanked the duvet back. More blood. Too much. Stark against the grey-white of the sheets. Trying desperately to keep a lid on his emotions, he turned, stumbling towards the bathroom, where he leaned over the toilet and vomited the sparse contents of his stomach.
Standing unsteadily, Matthew clutched the sink hard for support. Deep gouges on his cheek, he noted through the mirror, then flinched as a flashback hit him head on: Jasmine, smiling, her eyes, flat and emotionless. Her fingernails trailing down his face, his torso. Her touch had been light. She’d inflicted no damage. So how? Who? Natalie? A fresh image assaulted him, Natalie lying next to him. On top of him. Had he? No! His gaze straying to the wall behind him, Matthew’s legs almost gave way. There were blood spatters on the tiles. Perspiring profusely, he dragged an arm over his forehead. Irregular, splattered all over the walls. Christ, this couldn’t be happening.
A terrifying scenario unfurling in his head, Matthew willed himself to turn to the bath. His hand visibly shaking, cold trepidation snaking the length of his spine, he steeled himself to reach for the mould-stained shower curtain, hesitated, and drew it back.
A tap dripped, slowly, steadily. Each drip echoing distortedly around the room, sounding like a nail being driven into his coffin. He registered the watery trickle of blood washing over the carcass of a spider wedged in the plughole.
Wilting with relief, Matthew turned away. Taking several slow breaths, he grabbed a towel from the rail, whilst simultaneously reaching for the sink tap, and then stopped, his head screaming, his instincts colliding. If he cleaned himself up, he’d be destroying evidence. If he ran … Matthew stared hard at himself in the mirror. More images assailed him, disjointed memories. Surreal, foggy recollections. He’d been here with two women. Jasmine and Natalie. Matthew knew that much. Thought he did. And every indication was that one of those women had been badly injured, or worse, possibly by him. If he was going to call this in, and terrified though he was, his conscience told him he had to, he couldn’t wash. He needed to. The smell in the room was cloying. A woman’s scent. It was all over him.
He had to call Becky. Trying to keep calm, to not give into his urge to run from the room and keep running, Matthew headed back to the bedroom, where his phone had been ringing constantly. Whatever had happened, she needed to hear it from him first. He needed to tell her … Tell her what? Something’s happened, but I don’t know what? I think I’ve been set-up but I have no idea why? I might have had sex with someone but it wasn’t intentional?
No! Disbelieving, Matthew gulped back an immediate deep sense of shame.