Emily is devastated when she receives an anonymous note proving her long-term boyfriend has been cheating on her.
Determined to confront him, she tracks him to a seedy bar far off the highway and they have a massive row. As she storms out the door, she rejects a stranger named Daniel who tries to pick her up.
When she returns to her car, it won’t start. Even worse, her phone has no signal, and no way is she going back into the bar to ask her boyfriend for help.
Emily has no choice but to walk. As she trudges down the desolate highway, Daniel drives by and offers her a ride. She’s scared by his sudden reappearance and refuses him again.
But Daniel won’t take no for an answer. As Emily walks on, he keeps coming back and each time he is more threatening, more menacing. As this terrifying game of cat and mouse steadily escalates, Emily begins to wonder if she’ll ever get off this lonely road alive.
But who is Daniel really? And what does he know about Emily?
I Won’t Let You Go – the terrifying psychological thriller perfect for fans of Freida McFadden, Daniel Hurst, K L Slater.
Release date: September 14, 2022
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Print pages: 259
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I Won't Let You Go: a gripping psychological thriller with a shocking twist
Sometimes, it’s just better not to feel anything, Emily thought.
It wasn’t a mantra that she wanted to live her life by, but at a time like now, it was hard to deny its efficacy and appeal. Emily was devastated, and she felt like her heart was going to bleed out of her chest. Her eyes felt dry and painful, despite being unable to stop crying.
It was, quite frankly, a bit of a day.
It had started off well enough, as far as her days went. The night before, she’d finished an evening shift that bled into the late shift at her waitressing job. It had been the seventh night in a row that she had worked, and she was grateful that she was finally going to have a night off. Frankly, most of the people who came to dine at the upper class restaurant where she worked were fine. They spoke politely and tipped well. They rarely brought along loud children or a failing date. When she was working the floor and serving her patrons, everything was pretty good.
The problem largely stemmed from management. Her overworked boss just wanted his restaurant to survive during hard times and wasn’t interested in making friends with his employees. And as such, he didn’t care if his serving staff were tired, needed sick days, or needed a night off to study for their exams.
She spent most of her nights tired, fed up, and frankly, somewhat desperate for cash, so she was very willing to put up with all of it.
In her day life, Emily occasionally made a little side money working as a virtual assistant. Effectively, she worked as a secretary for no particular company. She didn’t have a desk or an office to travel to. She simply serviced the administrative work of anybody willing to hire her online, and she performed her duties using her laptop in her apartment.
Emily wasn’t particularly surprised when she realized that being a virtual assistant—and a self-employed, self-marketing virtual assistant, at that—wasn’t going to pay the bills. Which was why she spent her days collating and assembling paperwork and her nights working as a waitress in an upscale restaurant for meager pay, which was justified by the fact that she worked in a job where she earned tips . . . but management forced her to distribute said tips in a pool. She worked hard, but she scraped by.
She was astounded that she even had a boyfriend, considering all the time she spent away from him.
Which, in a roundabout way, brought her back to all the crying.
She started dating Jeremy in college. They lived together, pooling their resources so they would be able to afford an apartment in Edmonton. He worked in an auto dealership, largely off a biweekly paycheck but occasionally—in all honesty, very rarely—on commission. He was a pretty cool guy when they started dating and remained a pretty cool guy throughout the few years they’d been together. Lately, though, he’d been growing somewhat distant, his words becoming very habitual, his actions somewhat repetitive. It always seemed as if he only said the least that he had to, and then he was off, going to work or staying late for work.
Emily blamed herself.
In a wider sense, Emily also blamed the economy due to the fact that she had to work all these jobs just to be able to buy groceries and pay her half of the rent. But those arguments could only go so far. At the end of the day, regardless of who was to blame, Emily thought that she was choosing to use up all her time at work and provide none for her boyfriend. They saw each other in the mornings, of course. She would sometimes send him texts, and they would usually be able to meet up at the apartment in the evening. Assuming one of them wasn’t already asleep by the time the other one got home.
That said, the times that they found themselves in the apartment, awake, and at the same time, were getting fewer and further between. And the texts never seemed to be replied to anymore.
Emily was starting to worry that Jeremy was going to break up with her. It seemed very possible, given the little amount of time they had for each other. She never could actually find the time to make something special just for the two of them. And by all accounts, Jeremy seemed to have given up trying to find that kind of time between them. There was always so much work, always so much exhaustion these days.
But she had to try. She had to try to keep it a stable relationship, if for no other reason than simply to be able to feel like she’d accomplished something in her life. If she didn’t have a boyfriend, if she wasn’t heading toward a long-term relationship, then really, what was she doing? She graduated from college and what, ended up being a waitress? With a barely existent side gig? And she was going to do that for the rest of her life, just scrape by in jobs she hated to earn enough money to pay off her rent every month along the way until eventually, she grew so old that she was forced to retire with nothing to show for it except forty to fifty years of rent payments? What was the point? What was the point of any of it?
Emily needed to believe that there was some kind of partner in her life, somebody who trusted and loved her. She needed to have something to show for constantly struggling every day, trying to achieve something.
Despite the difficulties, she needed to make this relationship work.
Today, of all days, she finally had a night off from her waitressing job. She was going to stay in, catch up on some virtual administrative work, and have a lovely evening with Jeremy. She would talk to him, see how he’s doing, maybe even apologize to him for not being so readily available all the time like she used to be, like in the earlier days.
And then . . .
Earlier, she had gotten up from the tedious data entry filing she’d been doing—it seemed like a lifetime ago now, barely even important—and went off to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Along the way, she glanced over at the front door to the apartment.
There was a sheet of paper on the floor. Somebody had slipped it underneath the door.
She picked it up and noticed it was handwritten. Somebody had scrawled on the page, He’s been seeing some blonde woman behind your back.
Okay, creepy enough on its own.
Then she flipped the page over.
It was a photo, probably taken with a smart phone. It was printed out on paper, so it wasn’t printed professionally onto photo quality glossy sheets. Somebody just ran it through a standard printer. The quality looked slapdash.
But more important were the contents of the photo.
There was Jeremy, his hand around the waist of some blonde woman. He was smiling at her. With desire in his eyes.
And she, looking back at him equally amorously, had her hands on his shoulders. The photo seemed to have been taken a moment before they were about to kiss. Happily. Right out in public, in the middle of the street.
Like a young couple in love.
Her first thought was that this was some kind of sick joke. That somebody was just trying to hurt her or hurt her relationship. Except she couldn’t think of anybody who would do this to her. She barely knew anybody in the building, and it wouldn’t be easy for anybody who wasn’t a resident to break in. Also, she and Jeremy weren’t social, so it wasn’t like a lot of people knew about their relationship. And on top of that, if Emily was being completely honest with herself, she didn’t really have that many friends to begin with. She didn’t socialize with anybody at the restaurant, and her virtual assistant job had turned her into a bit of a loner.
So, who would even know to do this?
At first glance, the photo appeared to be legitimate. No sign of Photoshopping.
And she recognized the shirt he was wearing from their closet. He very rarely wore it. It was a little on the flashy side, cute, but not really appropriate for his job.
In fact, the only time she could remember his wearing it to work was that day when he didn’t come back at all. He said he had to work late and that he was spending the night at a friend’s house.
This was legit.
Her imagination ran wild. There were a lot of late nights, a lot of nights when Jeremy would show up and go straight to bed so she wouldn’t even see him until they woke up together.
All the time they’d been living together, she’d never invaded his privacy. Never looked through his things. She felt it was the least she could do to honor the spirit of their relationship. Especially considering she didn’t live up to the actions of it and never could be a good girlfriend.
But this photo . . .
Barely thirty minutes later, she had searched through all his stuff in their mutual bedroom. Many of his pants had notes in them that he had left in there from when this other girl gave them to him. Mostly insipid love notes, some with a phone number or directions to get to a certain bar. Some of them were just little suggestive things, like lipstick kisses.
Looking through his shirts, she saw there were some lipstick stains on the collars. They didn’t match any color that she normally wore.
He’d obviously been seeing somebody.
Then it all made sense. Why he’d been distant. Why he couldn’t care less.
Because he had already moved on. He just didn’t want to move out in the process. He didn’t have the guts to actually end the current relationship with Emily.
He had destroyed everything.
And Emily certainly felt destroyed.
Her computer kept dinging in the background somewhere. Evidently, some of her clients wanted responses to their emails and didn’t understand why she wasn’t as prompt as she usually was. She half-heartedly approached the computer in the hopes of being able to work through it.
But just the thought of it . . . She was going to be working at the computer the rest of her life. This was all she had left. She wasn’t good enough to be able to hold onto a relationship.
She didn’t matter, she thought. She didn’t matter.
And so, the crying. The screaming. The frustration about all those years of work that amounted to nothing.
Now she called Chandra, her old college roommate, whom she still called her friend, even though they barely had time to socialize. Thankfully, Chandra wasn’t going to act as if distance was a deciding factor between them. She’d always been Emily’s friend.
That was something Emily believed in.
Emily told her friend about the note.
“It’s pretty damning,” Chandra said. “I guess it all comes down to whether it’s true or not.”
Emily understood why Chandra was being careful with her words. But she wasn’t necessarily happy about it. She wasn’t sure of exactly what she wanted right now. She was too distraught. Given what she was going through, it was far easier to determine what it was that she didn’t want. And she didn’t want to be consoled and told that everything was going to be all right. She didn’t want to believe it, either.
She didn’t want a lot of things right now. She didn’t really want anything.
Sometimes, it’s just better not to feel anything, she thought again.
“If it’s not true,” Emily managed to say between sobs, “then who the fuck would do this? Who would Photoshop this? And why Jeremy? Why would they send it to me?”
“I really can’t think of anything,” Chandra said. “I’m sorry.”
She was sorry, Emily thought while covering her eyes with her hand. Everybody was going to be sorry for her. Thank God she didn’t have to go to work tonight. She couldn’t imagine being able to handle it. She was a pathetic wreck, somebody who deserved pity.
“I’ve got to go see him,” Emily said.
“Go?” asked Chandra. “Go where?”
“We share a phone account,” Emily replied. “I’m able to detect where his phone signal is coming from.”
“Oh! You, uh, never used it before to, well, check on him or—”
“I never felt I had to, Chandra.”
“Right, right. But what’s the point? Can’t you just wait for him to get home?”
“And do what, ask him to leave? This is our place. He shouldn’t leave. I shouldn’t leave. But I don’t wanna stay here with him.”
“You can come to my parents’ place. I don’t know how they’ll feel about it, but I don’t want you to be homeless tonight if you can’t stay in your own place.”
Emily smiled a little through the tears. Chandra, after graduating college, moved back in with her parents. She wasn’t doing financially well herself. She had nothing to offer, and despite that, she offered everything she could. She was glad she had somebody like Chandra in her life.
“Thank you,” Emily replied. “I might have to do that. But also, I want to confirm that it’s true. I mean, he’s out late again. He’s probably with her.”
“Yeah,” Chandra replied weakly. She sounded like she wanted to add something else before just repeating, “Yeah.”
After disconnecting, Emily grabbed her keys, jacket, and the photo, then checked her phone. Evidently, Jeremy had gone to a bar in Legal, a small town about thirty miles away. His job had no reason to send him there. And he said he’d be working late tonight, as he usually did.
There really wasn’t anything in Legal other than a small suburban community which also had a fairly decent bar. A good way to get drunk and meet up discreetly.
The less she thought about it, the better.
The less she felt, the better.
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