Good morning and welcome to my stop on the Aria Fiction blog tour for If You Only Knew by Cynthia Clark!
I am thrilled to be able to kick off this tour with an extract from the novel, but, first, let’s take a look at the synopsis!
A wife, a mother, a killer.
One wrong decision, one terrifying night, leaves student Elizabeth with a stark choice – kill or be killed. And the consequences of that choice will shape her whole life.
Now a wife, a mother, and a lawyer, she must find a way to out run her past, protect her family and live with her secret. But is it really possible to live a happy life with such a huge shadow cast by the past? And as it becomes clear that someone else knows her secret and is hunting her down, time is running out for Elizabeth to keep her family safe.
In the bestselling tradition of Clare Mackintosh and Jenny Blackhurst, Cynthia Clark has written a heart-stopping story about the choices we make and how far we’d go to protect our families. Even if it means deceiving the people we love most…
Anything that runs a comparison to Clare Mackintosh instantly has my attention! Keep reading to check out an extract from If You Only Knew!
Hello, I’m Elizabeth and I’m a killer.
I’ve dreamed about saying those words. I’ve always thought that it would be a relief to finally say them out loud, to stop suppressing the one secret that haunts me every single night. Every single day. Every single second of my existence.
You see, secrets have a way of repressing your being, making you feel stifled, as if you’re not yourself any more. And the longer you keep a secret, the more it crushes your soul, making you want to scream, scratch at your skin, tear your hair out. It’s the desperation of being alone, of knowing that nobody else can be told, that you can’t share your secret with anyone, allow them to help you carry the burden. Because, after all, who would understand? You know that instead they would just see you as a monster. I know that’s what people would think about me if I ever dared to tell them.
Because it doesn’t matter why I did what I did. The bottom line is that I took a life. That was someone’s child, someone’s neighbour, someone’s friend.
I’ve thought about being able to tell at least one person what I’ve done. Test the waters and hope that they would understand. I’ve come close on a couple of occasions. But in the end, fear has always taken over and I’ve backtracked, my resolve to share my deepest, darkest confession shaken to the core. I’m too scared that the life I’ve built for myself will be shattered. I’m terrified of having to face the consequences of my actions, carried out in the heat of the moment.
No, I cannot tell anyone. I need to remain the sole custodian of the truth. My scary reality. Nobody can know that I’m Elizabeth and I’m a killer.
I’m clearing the remnants of this morning’s breakfast from the kitchen when my work phone rings, stopping me in my tracks. I see my assistant’s name flashing on the screen.
“Hi Jennifer, what’s up?”
“There’s this girl.” Her voice is coming in rapid pants. “She’s going to be slaughtered by the prosecution unless you take over her case.”
Cradling my phone between my ear and shoulder, I rinse Coco Pops from a cereal bowl. There’s no time to waste; I’m already running late. “Ok, I’m listening.”
“I got in early to file the Preston paperwork. I was waiting for the clerk to come in and heard Sarah, from the public defender’s office, talking about this case.”
Jennifer pauses for breath.
“So, what is it about?” I urge.
“There’s this girl, Chloe. She’s fifteen and is being charged with attempted murder.”
“What did she do?” Moving my phone to the other ear, I carry on clearing the kitchen, mentally urging her to give me the whole story rather than scraps of information.
“She ran over this guy and fled the scene.” Her voice is tinged with excitement.
“Hold on, how come she was driving? You said she’s only fifteen?”
“Yes, she is. She got into his car and reversed over him.”
“How did she get the keys? Did she steal them?”
“I’m not sure…” Jennifer’s voice trails off.
“Ok, we can find out later. Is he injured?”
“Oh yes.” She is suddenly animated. “He’s still in hospital. Both of his legs are broken, he has a couple of fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and severe internal haemorrhage. Doctors aren’t sure if he’ll ever walk again.”
“Ouch,” I wince; shuddering as I try to freeze out images of the unknown man’s wounded body.
“Sarah suggested running the case by you, to see if you have time to take it on,” Jennifer continues.
Taking a deep breath, I mentally run through my current workload. “I don’t know. You know how busy I am right now.”
“Yes, but you’re always looking to help young women, girls who don’t have anywhere else to turn. And you haven’t taken a pro-bono case in a few months.”
Jennifer’s right. Cases where the accused has a tough story, where others would have run a mile, always get to me and make me work my hardest.
“Are you still there?”
“Yes, yes,” I quickly answer, jolted back to reality. “I don’t know. It’s a hit-and-run. Is it worth the effort?”
“Well, it’s not like the usual cases you tend to take on. But just because she’s not the victim of abuse doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve a solid defence.”
“And you know how busy the public defenders are,” she presses. “Sarah is juggling eighteen other cases. She has no time to provide a proper defence. This girl is doomed.”
Something about Jennifer’s description of the case doesn’t tally. There’s a small voice inside me warning against wasting time, telling me to move on. “Can’t her parents find a good barrister?”
“I don’t know, but if she’s been referred to a public defendant, that’s probably her only choice. Just guessing.”
Despite my reservations, I’m intrigued. “Can you ask Sarah for the case file?”
“I got you a copy already. It’ll be on your desk when you get in.” A smile creeps onto my face. Jennifer’s extraordinary organisational skills allow me to focus on what really matters – defending clients.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the If You Only Knew blog tour!