Read the first two chapters at:
Five friends. Three days. One heart-stopping discovery.
Three years ago, Danny Morris left behind a gun, a tonne of questions and a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved him. What he didn’t leave was a suicide note.
On the anniversary of his death, his closest friends gather at his parents’ beach house in New Zealand's idyllic Marlborough Sounds. Danny’s girlfriend, Kate, holds fast to his memory by continuing to live in the house they shared. Struggling to move on with her life, her blossoming feelings for Danny’s best friend, Finn, only complicate matters. Withdrawing from his high-flying lifestyle, Max has carved out a much simpler life. Self-medicating with alcohol, fighting off nightmares he refuses to talk about, the memory of finding Danny’s body has him sailing dangerously close to the edge. While Finn is finally ready to address his feelings for Kate, trying to save Max from himself dredges up long-buried anger and frustration that threaten to overwhelm him. For Lacey and Gavin, a recent bereavement gives them a heart-wrenching insight of a different kind.
Instead of time easing the pain, the group find themselves stuck in limbo, awaiting the understanding and peace that has so far eluded them.
Three years ago, a single bullet ricocheted through all of them - and this year everything will change again.
She heard the uncertainty in his voice, plain as day. He needed answers. He deserved them. Afraid to turn around lest he see the fear in her eyes, she remained with her back to him. Her gaze fixed on the bay, she began to talk, mostly to organise the thoughts in her head.
“They say you never forget your first love,” she said. “Mine was Aaron Thompson. I was thirteen, it was my first year at high school. I followed him around for half the year before we even spoke to each other. Then one day, we passed in the hall between classes, and he said hi. I nearly died from the excitement of it.” She shook her head at the memory of her shy, thirteen-year-old self. “I remember it was a Friday afternoon and I had a sleepover at my best friend’s place that weekend. That was all we talked about. We dissected every single moment that led up to it, and he only said one word to me. I was completely in love with him and we’d never even so much as touched or held hands then – or ever. He probably has no idea, even to this day, how I felt about him.” She dragged herself mentally back to the present before continuing. “Then, a few boyfriends later, there was Danny. I thought he was the one. I’m not saying it was all roses, all the time, but I loved him and I thought he loved me. Turns out I may have over-estimated that doesn’t it? I wasn’t enough. When he really needed me, I couldn’t help him.”
She saw his reflection running a tired hand down his face.
“Don’t do that to yourself,” he said gently, his hand falling back into his lap as he stared at her back. “It wasn’t your fault.”
She exhaled, long and deep. She had been wanting to say that out loud for a very long time.
When he really needed me, I couldn’t help him.
Somehow, it felt as if saying it out loud would help her come to terms with it.
“Maybe not, but it doesn’t change the facts.” Her heart felt like it was going to jump into her throat. “I’ll never forget Aaron Thompson because he was the first boy I gave my heart to, whether he knew it or not. And I’ll never be able to forget Danny, because he was the last one to break it.”
This time the silence was deafening. Eager to fill it, she pushed on.
“I feel like I failed him,” she said, the words almost choking her as they came tumbling out. “I feel like we were in the middle of something important and he just bailed on me. I have all this stuff to say to him, to ask him, and he’s not here. I just miss him so much.”
Shocking herself into silence, she clammed up. She had no idea where that came from – it was a like a direct route from her heart to her mouth. Thinking it was bad enough, but hearing the words spoken aloud seemed to make it much worse.
“I miss him too.”
Hearing Finn say it didn’t help as much as she thought it would, either. They might be in the same sea, but they were paddling two different boats.
“Maybe you don’t have to stop missing him to move on,” he suggested gently. “Maybe there’s a way you can miss him and still get on with your life.”
“Yeah?” She stared at her reflection in the window, sniffing back tears. “Well, when you figure out how to do that, let me know because that’s a nifty trick I’d like to learn.”
“I know what you mean.” He frowned, scratching his chin. “Let me get back to you on that one.”
Her chin quivered and the tenuous control she had over her emotions began to unravel. She fought the stinging tears with everything she had left, but still they came. She told herself that she was done with crying and that it didn’t help, but still they came. She told herself that the very last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of Finn, but still they came.
Then he was turning her around and pulling her into his arms and there was no turning back. She craved it – the warmth, the tenderness, the contact. Too tired to fight it, she let him draw her closer. Almost immediately, to her absolute horror, she heard one heart-wrenching sob after another burst forth. Once she started, she couldn’t stop. She buried her face in his shoulder and gave in to it, oblivious to everything except the fact that he held her in his arms. She felt so safe there, as if she belonged there. It had been such a long time since anyone had held her like that. For once, she just wanted to let someone else take control of her life. She wanted someone to save her.
About the Author
Amanda Dick is a night-owl, coffee addict, movie buff and music lover. She also writes.
Born in Opotiki, New Zealand, she is rather partial to dark chocolate and believes in the power of a good vanilla latte. She has a passion for the colour green (particularly in clothes and gemstones) and insists there is nothing sexier than a man in a kilt.
She spent several months traveling around Europe in her late 20’s (there’s a story there – she’ll get around to writing it one day). After ridding herself of her wanderlust, she met the love of her life (while working to pay off said wanderlust) in Edinburgh, Scotland. They moved in together the week after their first date – so yes, she believes in love at first sight. She also believes in Women's Intuition and following your heart.
She writes on her trusty laptop, predominantly late at night, when it's quiet and interruptions are few. Most of all, she enjoys writing about human behaviour - love, loss, joy, grief, friendship and relationships in general. She loves to put normal, everyday people into situations that will test their boundaries. She is passionately curious about how we, as human beings, react when pushed to the edge.
After living in Scotland for five years, she has now settled back home in New Zealand, where she lives with her husband and two children.