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Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island, and she still calls the island home.When she’s not writing, she’s hiking with her husband and her dog in the local mountains. He was waiting at the beach — and he'd be counting every minute.I avoided looking at him, but then I made the mistake. My salad was still on the side table, the lettuce wilting in the heat. Andrew's burger and fries were gone, Sophie's half eaten. He was a strong swimmer, but Sophie was still learning, and tired easily. An older man a few feet away took his snorkel out of his mouth."You okay? My cover-up was clinging to my skin, wrapping around my thighs. The sun beat down on me, blinded my eyes as I stared out at the water. Andrew's hand held mine across our chairs, his thumb stroking lazy circles. One day I might be in the bathroom, or maybe I'd step outside for a moment, or go to the store, and they'd be gone. CHAPTER 2December 2016The house is quiet when I wake, the floorboards cold under my feet as I push myself out of bed. She likes to study the patterns in the snow and ice.
"Una cerveza, por favor," Andrew would say, while I sipped on a lime margarita, and tried to ignore the growing knot in my stomach. Her towel was spread on the other side, her lime-green plastic sandals kicked off. I took a few steps into the water, my hand covering my eyes. Then I saw her blow-up dolphin moving up and down in the waves — with no one on it. I waited for a yell, something, but the beach had gone curiously silent. I explained that she was with my husband, that he could be missing too. She has an overactive imagination." He smiled and made little circles by his head. He said we could get it later."Andrew was staring out at the water. "Thought we might never see it again." Then he grabbed Sophie's hand. Let's get out of the sun."* * *We were sitting under the umbrella. "You did that to yourself." He held his hand out for Sophie. I'll help you build another sand castle."I watched them walk away. Now I have four fulltime employees and nothing holding me back. Marcus teaches a self-defense class for my domestic violence support group and sometimes gives me private lessons. I sign in to Skype and wait for Jenny to answer my call. I tensed, but I couldn't smell any alcohol on his breath or taste it on his lips.Chevy Stevens is the author of Still Missing and Never Knowing. When she held open houses, she had a lot of time waiting by herself between potential buyers, and Stevens would spend this time scaring herself with all the things that could happen to her.The most terrifying scenario she thought up became the story behind Still Missing.Ever since she was a baby, she'd twirl her hair when she was tired or anxious."Why don't you go collect more shells, sweetie? I kept smiling."You must think I'm stupid," Andrew said when she was out of earshot."Of course not."He focused back on his book, turning each page with a jerk. I took a sip of my drink, but the lime was no longer refreshing, the acid curling in my stomach. He touched my hand by accident.""I saw the way you looked at him, Lindsey.""No, you didn't." This was when I should've been reassuring him, telling him he was my one and only, but the margarita had made me brave. I kept my head down and didn't look at anyone.* * *I threw my paper towel into the garbage, slid my sunglasses on. Sophie would want to swim again and I didn't want Andrew to let her when she'd just eaten. She was building an elaborate sand castle with turrets and a moat, and using a stick to draw designs in the side, where she carefully placed shells. I spun around and scanned the people on the beach, the throngs of resort guests, clusters of kids running and chasing waves. She's wearing a red bathing suit." A speedboat roared past and fresh waves sent us all bobbing up and down, salt splashing in my face. Someone from the resort on a Jet Ski radioed in her description. One of the resort boats was circling outside the roped-off swimming area. She was solid and real and standing in front of me."I was so scared," I told her. I wanted to ignore him, but I knew he was trying to get me to look at him. ""You were taking too long." He shrugged."You did it on purpose. Or did he think I was just a stupid blond woman who overreacted? He felt me watching, gave a small wave and a friendly smile. My mind drifts as I think about my plan for the upcoming week, which clients might need more help before Christmas, whether I should place an ad for another cleaner. Then maybe some Christmas shopping.""I thought Saturdays were your day off." (Continues...) Excerpted from Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens. The concrete floor of the bathroom was covered with sand and bits of paper that stuck to my flip-flops. I reached over and turned it on for her, then moved to the side, avoiding the curious look from her mother as she exited a stall. As though white sand and sparkling turquoise water could make up for everything.I rubbed at my breastbone, but it didn't ease the pressure. It made me stupid."You're imagining things," I said. Sophie ran up to us, sat beside me on the beach chair. She'd be seven in January, was already leaving the little girl behind, her limbs thinning out, her pale blond hair darkening to rich honey like her father's. "I'm hungry, Mommy."We flagged down the waiter, who'd been bringing Andrew Coronas all morning. I turned back and gazed out over the water again, looking for Sophie's small head, her red bathing suit. I was treading water, my torso supported by the dolphin. People were diving down, then rising to the surface with wet hair and foggy goggles. I kept sticking my head under the water, but all I saw now were pale thrashing legs that stirred up the sand and made the water murky. The staff in their white shirts and orange shorts, binoculars pressed to their eyes, searched the horizon. My teeth were chattering and I was frantic, confused by all the people speaking to me. The crowd was dispersing, but I could feel their judgment, the whispers. "I saw your dolphin in the water.""Daddy and I were playing and it floated away. You were trying to scare me.""Don't be silly," he said, rising to his feet. ""Yes, yes, it's fine." I didn't want him to linger. I remembered how I had thrashed around in the water, how desperate I'd felt. How had I turned into this woman who couldn't go to the bathroom without being afraid? Maybe I can expand and take on some janitorial work next year when Sophie goes away to school. In the beginning it was just me, a beat-up car, and a box of cleaning supplies. I make a second cup of coffee — the first is for sanity, the second is pure pleasure — and prop my phone up against the bowl of fruit on our kitchen table. They walked out hand in hand, the little girl chatting about Santa — would he find them at the resort? I had been careful to wear the pink one-piece when we went down to the beach that morning, layered with my tunic cover-up, the one with the high neckline and hem almost to my knees. As we left the room, he smiled his approval, drew me close for a kiss.
When I passed him my empty glass, his fingers lingered a moment against mine. He'd been distracted by some noise behind us, but I knew it wouldn't matter. The waiter set down a fresh margarita in front of me and walked away. "The scenery is gorgeous.""Yes, you looked like you were appreciating it.""It's so relaxing." I molded my face into a pleasant smile. As if we hadn't been down this road so many times before. Beside me the lifeguard urged me to drink water from a plastic bottle, then talked into his radio, Spanish phrases I couldn't understand. I felt something, an awareness that made me turn my head and look down the beach. Sophie in her red bathing suit with the white polka dots that we'd picked out together. A woman walked past and I caught her giving Andrew an admiring look. It worries me when she goes off into the woods by herself, but she wears hiking boots and carries a whistle, and trying to keep her home when she's feeling inspired is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. I pin the note onto the bulletin board, on top of the others I've saved, then check that she's locked the door and reset the alarm. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.