Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry – extract

Jessica Barry is the author of Look For Me (previously known as Freefall). Her latest novel, Don’t Turn Around, is published by Vintage on 15 April 2021.

Today I have an extract from the book.

Chapter 6

TWO AND A HALF YEARS EARLIER

Rebecca’s palms were slick with sweat, and she wiped them discreetly down the sides of her dress. She was glad she’d worn black, even if Patrick had worried it would look funereal.

“I’m going for Jackie O,” she told him as she fastened a strand of pearls around her neck.

Patrick winked at her. “You’re gorgeous, whoever you’re supposed to be.”

The campaign manager he’d had for a few weeks— Rich Cadogan, one of the best in the business, according to Patrick— strolled in and handed Patrick a few notecards. “Make sure you hit the beats,” he said, slapping him hard on the back.

Patrick ticked them off on his fingers. “Lower taxes for hardworking families. Better health care. Community outreach. Stricter penalties for repeat offenders. ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.’ ”

“You got it!” Rich beamed. He turned his attention to Rebecca. “Lose the pearls,” he said, shaking his head. “People will think you’re elitist, wearing them. Same with the shoes. Remember, people have to like you as much as they like Patrick. And the people love Patrick. Am I right, my man?”

Patrick grinned. “Only thanks to you.” He caught the look on Rebecca’s face and tempered his smile. “I think Rebecca looks great, though. Classy. Like Jackie O.”

“The Kennedy thing doesn’t play down here. We need to appeal to the suburban moms, and with you guys not having kids of your own, we’re already at a disadvantage. If she goes out there looking like that, they’re going to assume she’s a bitch.” Rich threw her a look. “No offense.”

Rebecca felt her cheeks grow hot. “This is the only dress I brought. I don’t have anything else to wear.”

“Let me see what I can do.” Rich slid out of the room, leaving a gust of Tom Ford in his wake.

Patrick watched as she unfastened the pearls. “He doesn’t mean anything by it,” he said, putting a tentative hand on her arm. “He’s just doing his job.”

“I know.” She felt hot tears swelling behind her eyes. “I just want to get it right.”

He turned her around and pressed her against his chest. “You will, sweetheart. You will.”

But not yet. That’s what he was saying, wasn’t it? She would get it right in the end, but she hadn’t gotten it right yet. The worst of it was that she knew he was right. The week before, Rich had arranged for a journalist to stop by the house to interview them as a couple, and as soon as the woman stepped over the threshold, Rebecca could feel her weighing up every inch of the place and finding it wanting. The kitchen was too sterile. The living room, with its open bookshelves and lack of television, was stuffy and try- hard. The cookies Rebecca offered her— bought specially from the nice bakery on Eighty-Second Street— were greeted with a polite grimace, and Rebecca knew instantly that it would have been better to have baked a batch of Betty Crocker chocolate chip from a boxed mix.

When the profile finally came out, Rebecca winced at the woman’s description of her. She was “poised” and “reserved,” and her blond hair was twice described as “sleek.” (Lazy copyediting, Rebecca had chided, before she could catch herself.) Much was made of the fact that she’d been born and raised on the West Coast and educated at Berkeley. “Rebecca McRae spent six years teaching English at a progressive high school in downtown San Francisco.” She could hear the eye rolls from ten miles away.

Patrick, on the other hand, had been painted as a returning hero, a local boy who’d fought off the demon coastal elites and returned triumphant to the Lone Star State. The writer described his eyes in elaborate detail and made particular mention of his strong forearms, visible thanks to his rolled- up shirtsleeves.

Rebecca had locked herself in the bathroom that night and stared at her reflection. Was this really who she was now: a stuck- up housewife with bad taste in baked goods? She should have pushed harder to find a teaching job in Lubbock, but transferring her credentials had been more difficult than she’d anticipated, and by the time she was certified, a new school year had begun and nobody was hiring. And then Patrick had been tapped to run for Congress, and he told her she’d be too busy helping him campaign to work.

“Once I’m elected, you’ll have a platform to talk about education,” he said. “You can use your brilliance to help thousands of kids in Lubbock, not just the thirty who are lucky enough to get you in the classroom.” He’d reached out and held her chin in his hand. “We’re going to make one helluva team, you and me. Texas won’t know what hit it.”

Now Rich flew back into the room and tossed a baby- blue cardigan and a pair of ballet flats toward her. “I stole them from the intern,” he said.

She slid the cardigan on— the intern wore Shalimar, which had always given her a headache— and squeezed her feet into the toosmall shoes. Patrick smiled. “You look perfect,” he said, kissing her on the cheek.

Rich gave her a thumbs- up from across the room. “It’ll work for today. I’ll get a wardrobe consultant on board for next time.”

Rebecca looked at herself in the full- length mirror. She didn’t recognize the woman staring back.

She heard Patrick’s name being announced and the swell of applause and felt his hand around hers as he tugged her out onto the stage. She stood behind him, chin tilted down, face carefully arranged to project pride and seriousness and approachability and family values and all the countless other attributes Rich had coached her on. She didn’t have to speak— in fact, they would prefer if she didn’t— just stand there and look at the back of Patrick’s head adoringly as she sweated quietly into the intern’s cardigan. Her feet already ached.

Patrick approached the lectern with a practiced wave and launched into the speech she’d heard him rehearsing in the shower that morning. “Good afternoon. My name is Patrick McRae, and I’m here with my beautiful wife, Rebecca, to ask that you elect me your next congressman for the great state of Texas!”

You can read the previous chapter over at My Reading Corner and chapter one at A Little Book Problem. Also visit Novel Deelights who has chapter seven.

About the Book

TWO STRANGERS. DANGEROUS SECRETS. THEIR ONLY CHANCE IS EACH OTHER.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who has lived and worked in London for the past fifteen years. Look for Me, previously published as Freefall, her debut thriller, has sold in more than twenty-two territories around the world and has also secured a major Hollywood film deal.

You can read my review of Freefall here.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I read this when the hardback was released and really liked it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it Meggy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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