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THIS SPRING: 'The Company You Keep' Lainey Abbott Book 3

Book Excerpt: 'The Company You Keep' Lainey Abbott Book 3

*this excerpt is unedited, and may change at final publication.

When she thought about it—which was all the time—the afternoon when she hurt Stephanie seemed like a distant and unpleasant dream. She rarely allowed herself to think the word ‘killed’. That part felt almost ludicrous. Like someone trying to convince her that after a night drinking she had taken her clothes off and went running naked through a suburban neighborhood. That, just like this, was out of character. Unthinkable.

Occasionally, in those first weeks after the thing with Stephanie happened, she managed to tell herself it was just that—a dream. She couldn’t even recall what she had done afterward. She had to have washed her hands. Probably in the river. But she didn’t remember doing it. There would have been blood on them. Perhaps not a lot, but some. Because when she did what she did with the rock, Stephanie’s face had crumpled inward, as unresisting as a cardboard box that you’re breaking down for recycling day. There had been a spurt of blood, some of which caught the sleeves of her jacket the shirt beneath, and her fingers, curled around the rock.

One moment, Stephanie’s face was there and seconds later it was not.

The noises Stephanie made—she remembered those with frightening clarity—were awful. And the smell. She remembered the smell more than almost anything. The blood pungent and coppery, its acrid scent filling her nostrils and mouth in an instant. It was the smell more than anything that made her shove Stephanie into the rapids, the instinct to distance herself from something horrid. Regardless of how it might seem, that part wasn’t calculated. None of it was. It had all happened so fast, she hadn’t the presence of mind to make any effort at concealing what she had done. Not then.

A little more than two hours later, she found herself back in her room with no clear recollection of taking the steps necessary to have gotten there. By then, she had already begun to convince herself that it could not have happened. Stephanie was not dead. There had just been a disagreement, an ... altercation.

She remembered her limbs feeling heavy and leaden, shedding her clothes, and going to bed though it wasn’t yet dark. And that she had stayed there until it was. She woke around eleven-ish that evening to the sound of animated voices down the hall. She considered what to do with her clothes.

In the end, unable to face the task of leaving her room, walking past all those people, and then navigating the stairs to the basement laundry rooms, she rolled everything in a clump and wrapped it in a plastic bag. The bag she shoved in a back corner of her closet, and afterward seldom thought about it, though it was also there, always crouching in the darkest corners of her mind.

And as for Stephanie, she thought about her only occasionally and yet, paradoxically, she was there all the time. As the weeks and months rolled by, she was surprised no one came to ask her anything at all. No one. Not even Stephanie’s family, such as it was.

Eventually, through their network of shared friends and acquaintances, she heard that Stephanie was missing. Missing. Not dead. She relaxed—if it could be called that—into the knowledge that she had gotten away with it.

But gotten away with what, really? It had been a blip, a moment, a brief fit of madness. Should it ruin her entire life? Absolutely not. Not when, in the course of that life, there would be endless opportunities to atone. Acts of service she could do, and kindnesses she could extend. She was being offered grace, and so she would make the most of it.

On her days of almost magical thinking, she nursed and nurtured the idea that Stephanie was not dead at all. Because no one had come looking. That had to mean something. She told herself that it did.

And then someone did come looking, and she knew it was over.

It was only a matter of time now.

COMING THIS SPRING, the finale of the three-book series.

In the meantime, get caught up with Jane Doe Black (Lainey Abbott Book 1) and Reversible Error (Lainey Abbott Book 2). Available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

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Yes!!!! I have been waiting and I know it will be very good


Tara L
Tara L
Feb 17

maddness. I cannot wait.

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