What if the real you was the one person your husband couldn't ever meet?
Jane Johansen has carefully crafted a seemingly-perfect life. She's blessed with an adoring husband, Edward, two unwavering best friends, a powerful corporate job, and a high-security penthouse.
Then one day, Jane is unceremoniously fired, Edward's father abruptly dies, and Jane's painstakingly-built world starts crashing down around her.
Edward decides that they should move to his North Carolina hometown, to settle into suburbia surrounded by his large, extended brood. Although Jane is fascinated by the world of happy families and movie set-perfect homes, she knows that she can never fit in there. The problem is that she has never explained the facts of her life to Edward.
Jane hopes moving south will allow her to escape the shadows of her past: her time-warped mother, the trauma of her college years that has left her scarred, and her terrifying ex-boyfriend, who has been recently paroled. Most haunting is Jane's oldest and worst friend, who has been trying to track her down with the determination of a bloodhound.
Weaving the defining moments of a woman's past into the suspenseful unraveling of her present, Rachel Michael Arends pens a thought-provoking novel that will have readers enthralled from start to finish.
Jane ordered delivery food for the crew’s lunch and dinner. There isn’t anything to drink in the house except tap water, which runs tepid from the cold tap because the Southern reservoirs heat up in summer along with everything else. Remembering the gift basket Larry brought this morning, Jane goes to the kitchen and rifles through. It’s filled with North Carolina fare, including a six-pack of beer from a local microbrewery, warm, but twist-off.
She sits on the kitchen floor with her back against the pantry door, drinking room-temperature beer with all the lights on. Jane is bone tired, creaky, aching, and deadened from a week of hard labor. She finishes a beer and sets it next to her, hearing a faraway clang, as her heavy hand must have knocked the bottle over.
Her eyelids betray her for longer and longer periods before she manages to force them open again with a jolt and an involuntary jump. She’s fading fast. But she knows it’s dangerous to fall asleep when her thoughts aren’t on her side.
She’s thinking of those damn dusty footprints.
Jane wakes to the sound of her own scream. Realizing where she is, she laughs in a punch-drunk, half-eyed way, but it dries to a dusty whisper. The air conditioner was cranked earlier in hopes of some relief. Now she shivers violently.
But she can’t get up. Not to climb the stairs and fall into one of the beds, not to turn off the lights, not to use one of the bathrooms. There are too many empty doorways to pass, too many blind corners to turn.
Jane stares out to gleam and granite, stainless steel and cardboard. She feels upended, not even sure which direction she’s facing. Everything is so unfamiliar.
Nearby is a moving blanket that protected a tabletop on its journey. Jane reaches out with her foot and inches it closer. That’s as much movement as she’s willing to make. Her back against the wall, a large dish crate to lean on, and the hard wooden floors beneath, Jane makes her bed.
Sitting up higher, she tells herself to focus, but it’s like trying to stay awake behind the wheel. Then she might invite the roaring wind inside, or slap her face, or pinch her leg. She wonders if Amy fell asleep, or got giggling, or if a deer ran into her path.
Jane is tuning out, she’s going under. As her weariness wins the fight against her will, the bumps and lurches of sleep seduce her and she goes off the road. The last thing she’s consciously aware of is a single thought, played over and over in her mind like a hellish mantra:
Whose footprints were they, and where will they lead?
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About Rachel Michael Arends
Rachel's debut novel, AS IS, was published by Diversion Books in May, 2014. Her second novel, HELP YOURSELF, followed in March, 2015, and her third, SETTLING, was published in September. Rachel has been a public library director, a corporate consultant, and she silently co-owns a successful software firm. Rachel and her family live in Traverse City, Michigan.