The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North is a dark and tense psychological thriller that asks: who can you trust in your darkest moment?
After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.
When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world. But when questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?
Read on for an extract from The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North!
The Perfect Betrayal
Monday, 9 April – 1 day after Jamie’s birthday
There is a snippet of time, oh so short, when the morphine in my system begins to fade, but the pain is still fuzzy. Fuzzy enough for me to be certain of four things:
ONE – I’m in hospital.
TWO – I’ve been stabbed.
THREE – You’re alive.
FOUR – Jamie is missing.
Five minutes, is my guess. Five minutes where my heart is pounding with a force that makes my entire body jolt along with it. Five minutes where I know I have to do something. Our son is missing and I’m not sure anyone realizes this, I’m not sure anyone is looking for him. Five minutes before I become a prisoner to the pain that tears through my stomach like I’m being carved up from the inside out, and I have to clamp my mouth shut not to scream out for you and the drugs.
It is in these five minutes that I realize Shelley is beside me. Her hand is clammy on my skin and I wonder how long she’s been sitting in the plastic chair by my bed. I pull my hand away as my eyes shoot open and lock with hers.
‘Tess. How are you?’ She leans forward an inch and I catch the scent of her Chanel perfume. The smell triggers a memory of the last time I saw her, standing in our kit chen beside Ian, the knife from Jamie’s birthday cake gripped in her hand. The only sound the splitsplat of blood dripping from the knife to the floor.
The inside of my mouth feels furry. Cotton wool in my cheeks. I can’t find my voice.
‘Do you want some water?’ she asks, reading my thoughts the way she always does, the same way you do. There’s a jug beside her and she pours water into a plas tic cup and holds it up to me, but I shake my head, causing the pale blue walls of the hospital ward to spin before my eyes.
‘Where’s Jamie?’ The words are shards of glass in my throat but I force them out.
Shelley’s head jerks around, a furtive glance to the three nurses at the desk by the far wall. ‘I’m sorry, Tess. Please, just concentrate on getting yourself better. You’re safe here.’
I’m safe? Safe from what? From who? Where’s Jamie?
A bead of sweat forms on my forehead and tickles my skin as it rolls into my tangle of curls. The pain is waking up in the pit of my belly. My breath is shallow – in and out, in and out – as the searing hurt rises up to my chest.
‘You did this,’ I whisper. ‘You and Ian.’
Shelley shakes her head, swishing her smooth blonde hair from side to side. ‘I only wanted to help you.’
‘Mark has been here. He’ll fix this.’
‘Mark?’ Something in her face changes. A splitsecond shift where her pupils dilate then shrink again. I’ve scared her.
‘Mark is dead,’ she says, slowing down her words. ‘He died in January.’
That’s not true. Mark has been here. He has sat where you are sitting. His fingers have stroked the back of my hand, I’m sure of it.
She doesn’t reply and it takes me a moment to realize I’ve not actually spoken.
‘Mark is… he’s—’ The pain is growing like a beast inside me, and all of a sudden I can’t find the words or the certainty. You’ve been here, haven’t you, Mark?
‘Get some rest.’ She reaches out and squeezes my hand. ‘You’ll feel better once you’ve had some rest and seen the doctor.’
‘I want to see Jamie.’ I try to move my hand away but I can’t. ‘Bring him to me, please.’ My voice is pleading and desperate but I don’t care.
‘I can’t do that,’ she says with another swish of hair. She smiles but I see the fear lurking in her pretty green eyes. What are you afraid of?
‘He’s my son. You can’t keep him from me.’
Shelley squeezes my hand a final time before stepping away from the bed. ‘This was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry, Tess.’
I watch her talk to the nurse with the cherryred dyed hair at the end of the ward. They both turn to stare and then Shelley is gone. Don’t let her go, I want to scream. Jamie isn’t missing. Shelley has him. I’m not sure which is worse.
Where are you, Mark? Jamie needs us.
The nurse bustles towards me. A voice from another bed calls out and she tells them, ‘Just a minute,’ before reaching me and unhooking my chart from the end of the bed. She makes a note. About what? What did Shelley tell her? What is she writing down? I want to ask but the pain is crippling me and I can feel the scream building.
A machine is beeping somewhere. Each piercing screech of noise is a screwdriver jamming into my skull.
‘That’s a good friend you’ve got there,’ she says in a strong Dublin accent. She isn’t my friend. She never was.
‘My son—’ I can’t speak the final words.
‘I’ll get your next dose of pain medication,’ the nurse says, slotting my chart back into place. I desperately want to snatch it up and read her comments, but I don’t. I can’t. Everything hurts.
Only after the next dose has been pumped into my body and I’m sliding down down down into the murky depths of unconsciousness do I hear Shelley’s voice.
‘You’re safe here.’
Am I? Safe from whom? Where’s Jamie?
My thoughts, like the pain now, are fuzzy and I cling to what I know.
ONE – I’m in hospital.
I try to remember the rest, but it’s gone.
How did I get here?
How did it come to this?
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