To celebrate the launch of my fiction thriller, Stolen, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book every day until it goes live on Tuesday, when it’s available on Amazon. I can’t post anything toward the end of the book, or I’ll give away the twists and the ending, but I hope you enjoy these excerpts as a small taste of what’s to come. Check it out!
Launch Day -1 (Monday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
She lay on the floor as he loomed over her. It was amazing to her how many thoughts she had in the short time she was staring death in the face. A flood of memories assaulted her, like waves crashing on the shore. They were momentary flashes of precious times tucked away in her subconscious, programed to emerge upon critical failure.
How odd, she thought, how the mind works. She wondered how it decided which memories deserved center stage during the final act. Pictures passed through her mind and stopped abruptly on her dad. The last known image of him in her brain. The one from television. The one of him crying. She too, closed her eyes and cried, not wanting to see the final act of her attacker’s rage.
Tomorrow is Launch Day! Click here to go to Amazon
and order your copy now. It will be shipped or delivered electronically tomorrow!
Launch Day -2 (Sunday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
The brilliant lights seemed to dance in the background of her memories, as she lay replaying better times in her head. When Star finally opened her eyes again, there were no more brilliant lights. Her prison was dark and quiet. The man was gone. She wondered what time it was, and if it were day or night. She no longer had the shackle on, so she could get up and turn the light on if she wanted. As funny as it sounded in her own mind, a part of her was afraid to turn the light on. She was afraid to get a good look at her prison. And her isolation.
Star sunk into the mattress. There was really only one spot to comfortably sleep, which was right in the middle where the mattress sunk in to form to a person-like mold. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling, feeling grateful that her stomach was settling. It was enough to allow her what felt like one of the first moments of clarity since she’d been in there.
She lay there thinking. You’re going to get out of here and then what? What’s your plan? Maybe this is your second chance. So what are you going to do with it? I’m going to stay sober. No more drugs. I’ll get a job. A real job. I’ll get a place of my own too. Maybe Lacey and I could get a new place together. Maybe we could even go to school.
She found herself grinning, thinking of what it would be like for her and Lace to be traipsing across some college campus with backpacks, notebooks, and iced coffees. It would be just like they see on TV. She smiled again, imagining how proud her dad would be of her. She only floated on that idea for a moment before her smile faded, and her heart hurt again. What would he think of her if he knew what she had become? Would he ever feel the same about her? She closed her eyes and tried to push away the intrusive thoughts which filled her now overly crowded mind.
Hope. It was all she had. She would either die in this prison, or she would live. A few days ago, she wanted to die. Now, she felt differently. She wanted a chance. She closed her eyes and made a silent promise to herself that she would accept wherever this prison brought her – good or bad. She had to accept the consequences – life or death. But she wanted life.
Launch Day -3 (Saturday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
Whether he realized it or not, Teddy was good at flirting. He made an art out of displaying his boyish grins at just the right time. She never used to look at Teddy that way but, once they got to high school, she found herself feeling jealous of the attention he got from the other girls. It made her realize she saw something in him that was more than just a friend. She wanted to tell him, but never found the right time. That’s what she told herself, anyway.
Headlights caught her attention as the large bus rounded the corner a few blocks down. Seeing the bus in sight made it feel colder, and she bounced up and down trying to warm herself. The sound of the air brakes on the bus silenced the eerie quietness of the morning, and Sarah made the four steps into the bus two, as she escaped from the cold. She looked across the empty seats as she dropped her change into the meter, then selected a seat in the middle. The rest of the stops were empty, so the bus made a straight mile and a half run to the school. She smiled politely at the bus driver and bounced down the steps and onto the pavement. The wind whipped up her skirt once more, and she tightened her grip on her backpack as she ran across the courtyard to the front doors.
Relieved to reach them, anticipating a rush of warmth, Sarah pulled on the handle only to find it locked. Pressing her forehead against the glass door, she peered inside, hoping for signs of life to open the door. Nothing. No one. Sarah sighed, and decided she would need to run around to the other side of the school and try the side doors. Those were closer to the gym and weight room where they typically practiced, so she was hopeful someone would be there. She reached the doors and gave them a tug, but they were locked too. She grimaced at the thought of having to stand out here for another thirty minutes. Resigned to her wait, she looked around for any kind of shelter.
There, along the wall of the school she saw a girl. She was sitting inside one of the window wells, so Sarah walked toward her. As she got closer, she thought better of herself, but it was too late. The girl had already seen her and was waving for her to come over. Sarah couldn’t ignore her now, so she continued over. Sarah stood, looking down into the window well at the girl in a skirt and heels. She wasn’t in any school uniform, so Sarah guessed her uniform was, well, professional. She had heard some teachers talking about the prostitution problem happening not far from the school, worried the teenage boys would get enticed by it.
“Hi!” the girl said with a smile. “You can come in here with me if you want.”
Sarah looked at her, confused.
“It’s warm in here. See the vent?” The girl pointed to the air vent by her feet. She made Sarah slightly uncomfortable, but the idea of standing in the cold for any longer made her even more uncomfortable, so she stepped inside and sat on the ground. She was right. The vent was pumping out gloriously warm air. Pleasant goosebumps ran up and down Sarah’s body as she moved her hands and feet closer to the vent. The two girls sat without speaking.
Sarah tried not to stare in the girl’s direction but couldn’t help noticing her shiny necklace. It was a silver chain with a shiny, silver dolphin. After a few minutes, Sarah asked, “What are you doing in here?”
“Probably the same thing you’re doing in here. It’s warmer in here than it is out there.”
Sarah smiled. “Yeah, but I mean, what are you doing out here?” she said, trying to clarify. “Do you go to school here?”
“I used to, but I dropped out a few years ago. I’d ask you the same thing, but I can see from your cheerleading outfit you go here.”
“Dance team,” Sarah clarified. “I’m part of the dance team. The cheerleaders are too stuck up.” The girls exchanged a giggle and let the silence resume for a while.
“Are you a hooker?” Sarah asked, and then regretted her question.
Still staring down at the vent, the girl replied, “Yes. But we don’t call it that. People call us ladies of the night. Sounds more, well, like it’s something it’s not.”
Sarah’s cheeks flushed at the girl’s candor, and she immediately tried to change the subject. “I’m a freshman. It’s my first year here.”
The girl ignored Sarah’s comment and continued. “I don’t do this because I want to. It’s because I have to. It’s not glamorous or nothing, but it’s a way to pay for food and get a place to crash at sometimes.”
Sarah was now feeling increasingly uncomfortable and was elated to hear one of her teammates yelling to her from an open door. “Come on! Coach is here!”
Sarah gave the girl an apologetic look and excused herself from the warming well. She trotted quickly to the door, giving one look back at the girl who was watching her run away. Sarah wasn’t sure what she thought of all of that but couldn’t imagine making that kind of choice.
Launch Day -4 (Friday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
Star wouldn’t cry. Not now. She had to be strong. She had to press past the hopelessness she felt and try again to fight. Not today, but soon. In order to do that, she had to get past this addiction. Other people went into rehab. She figured this was her rehab. It just wouldn’t come with medication and a therapist. She would have to do this the hard way. It had been at least a week. Maybe longer. How much longer would she really have to feel this way? Star tried to focus on the pain in her ankle as a way to distract herself from the other physical symptoms she was feeling.
“No,” Star said quietly.
At this point, Jack was already reaching into the bag for the drugs. He stopped, his hand still in the bag, and looked up.
“What did you say?” Jack looked surprised.
Star adjusted her position on the bed, fighting the pain from her ankle and hand, bringing herself to a more upright position.
“I said no,” Star repeated, a little louder this time. “I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to need it anymore.”
Jack dropped whatever was in his hand and pulled his arm slowly from the bag, and stood to an upright position.
Star sat as tall as she could, while Jack stood looking at her. In those few moments, Star noted a shift in Jack’s face. Almost a softening.
“I think you’re going to make it,” Jack said with a smile.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not like the other girls. You’re stronger. You’re going to make it. Those other girls just weren’t strong enough. I tried to help them, but they didn’t want to be saved.”
Star’s mind reeled. “Other girls?”
Jack ignored her question and returned to the bags on the floor.
“What happened to the other girls?”
Pre-order your paperback or eBook copy of Stolen today, and it will be shipped or delivered electronically on Tuesday, May 14. Click here to go to Amazon.
Launch Day -5 (Thursday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
Part of her wanted to go talk to Teddy. He always knew what to say to make her feel better, but a small part of her resented him for that. His words of hope. She knew he meant well, but hope had eluded her over this last year, and the last thing she wanted to hear was any more religious rhetoric. He would tell her that everything happens for a reason and would make her a better person.
Sarah snorted angrily and wondered what exactly a better person was, anyway. Better than who? Didn’t we all have our mud? Mud can come in various shades but, at the end of the day, it’s all the same. Sarah drew in a deep breath and tried not to think about the funeral. She tried not to think about walking up to the casket. That cold, dark box containing a dead body on display. She shook her head in disgust at whoever originally thought that would be a good idea.
The counselor had assured her it was for closure. She assured him she already knew her mom was dead. He didn’t think that was funny, but neither did she.
She had to stop thinking about it. She couldn’t let that level of pain in. It was too much. It was all too much. The thought that had been circling around in her mind for the last month was coming to rest hard on her now. She stared ahead, lost in thought. With a single tear running down her cheek, she got up, opened the closet door, and pulled out her backpack. She spent the next hour carefully selecting only things she thought she would really need, then sat at her desk to write her dad a note. It felt like an impossible task. What would she say? What could she say?
Sarah laid the jersey on top of her backpack and walked over to his window. “Do you ever wonder where you’d be right now if your dad was still alive?”
The question seemed to catch Teddy by surprise. He stood silently, trying to process the intent of her question. Even though Teddy was a good-sized kid who was often mistaken for being tough and intimidating, he was really quite sensitive when it came to people’s emotions and needs. Sarah understood the sensitivity of her question, and she also knew she was one of the only people who could ask him that without him feeling attacked or offended. Sarah continued to stare out the window, not making any eye contact with him, giving him the space he needed to think.
“Um…” Teddy stalled. “I… I don’t know. I guess maybe I’d still be here, playing football and stuff.”
“What about the God stuff?” Sarah said, her back still to him.
“What’s wrong?” Teddy asked. “You seem off. Are you okay?”
“I haven’t been okay for a long time now.” Sarah could feel the emotion welling in her throat but pushed it down. “But that doesn’t matter. I was just curious.” She turned to face him. “You’re in such a good place right now. All that bad stuff that happened to you… is the God stuff the reason you’re doing good now, or not?”
Teddy stood searching her face, looking for anything to help him with his answer.
“I’m not sure how to answer that but, I guess so. Yeah.”
Sarah smiled at him, seemingly happy with his answer, but struggling to figure out the mess going on inside of her. She wanted Teddy’s answer to be her answer, but she didn’t think it could be that simple.
“Seriously, are you okay? What can I do to help you?”
“I have to go. I just wanted to say hi.” Sarah pushed her way past him toward the door, then stopped and turned to him again. “And Teddy, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate our friendship. You’ve been there for me when no one else was. With you, I could always just be myself. You’re really a great guy, and I’m so glad you’re happy now.” Sarah moved toward him and threw her arms around his shoulders, giving him a tight hug. Then she let go and hurried out the door and down the stairs.
“Wait!” Teddy called after her. “I feel like something’s wrong. What’s wrong? Talk to me.”
“Sorry, I have to go. I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.” Sarah couldn’t bring herself to look back. She hurried through the kitchen and out the side door. She made it look like she was heading back to her house, in case he was watching. She assumed he would be. Once she knew she was out of sight, she walked around the other side of her house and headed down the street toward the bus station. She still had Teddy’s jersey in her hand. She pulled it up to her nose and drew in the smell. Tears ran down her cheeks and wet the jersey. The wind picked up, and she shivered as she tightened her coat around her.
Launch Day -6 (Wednesday): Excerpt from Caroline Klug’s fiction thriller, Stolen…
Star had no idea if her screams were audible or only locked away in her head. Her vision was blurred from his punch, and she fought to clear her head as she pulled herself up and onto her hands and knees.
The man grabbed her forcefully by her long, black hair, pulling a chunk out from the roots. With one hand clutching her hair and the other under her arm, he dragged her to the open side door of the van.
Star kicked her feet and screamed, working desperately to pry his fingers from her hair. When they got to the van, she grabbed the doorframe, trying to resist his push. Fighting to get past the searing pain on her scalp, she struggled to keep her grip as he shoved her inside.
The back of the van was completely empty and stripped to the metal. Star grabbed on to the front passenger seat, pulling herself up and away from him. As the man reached for her again, she kicked back with all her might, sending her 3-inch stiletto into his upper thigh.
The man shrieked. Enraged, he grabbed her ankle, pulled her back onto the floor, and delivered another swift punch to the side of her face.
Star couldn’t open her eyes, but could feel the man tightening something around her wrists and ankles. When he was done securing her, he slammed the door shut, got into the van, and took off.
The fight for consciousness clouded her sense of reality and regret painted her thoughts – for which particular thing, she wasn’t even sure where to start. Which was the first of her awful decisions that made all the others follow behind, forcing her down this fast-paced highway of remorse? How did this seventeen-year-old Midwest-friendly girl end up a nineteen-year-old prostitute, hooked on heroin? In her altered state, the audacity of it almost made her laugh out loud. It certainly wasn’t funny. It was the kind of laughter you experience when all the other emotions fail you.
Two years on the streets had taught her how to appear hard on the outside, but that never really caught up on the inside.
Star lay on the cold van floor trying to shake off the memories. She wasn’t sure what was more painful – her present circumstances or how she got here. Despite the heroin pulsing through her veins, the pain still made her head throb. She opened her eyes long enough for the blur of the lights going by to nauseate her stomach. Maybe it was better not to fight. She closed her eyes, feeling herself fade into the blackness.
Star came to again and could no longer feel the motion under her. They had stopped. She opened her eyes to a blurred view of the ceiling, and tried to make sense of where she was. It wasn’t the van. It was dark, and a strong, musty smell filled her nose. As she rolled onto her side, she was quickly reminded of her raw scalp. She lifted her hand to run her fingers tenderly over the wound. She could feel the blood, but it was dried. How long had she been lying there? Star let out a quiet moan as she tried to sit up. Pain shot up her right leg as the sharp edge of the metal clamp around her ankle dug deep into her skin. She reached down and surveyed the cold metal with her hands, feeling chain links extending to the wall beside the bed. Star slid her hands around, feeling a tattered box spring and metal frame beneath her. There was a blanket on the bed and one small pillow. All of it smelled like a damp cellar.
Her mind felt clearer, but her physical body was struggling to catch up. She tried to come out of her fog, blinking to clear her vision and see through the blackness. As she did, both terror and adrenaline brought her to attention when she realized she wasn’t alone.
Paperback and eBook will be available for purchase on Tuesday, May 14. eBooks are available for pre-order, and are on sale until the launch date. To take advantage of this sale and pre-order your eBook now, go to Amazon.