I had so much fun writing this book and I was inspired while sitting on a beach in Vietnam, talking to my friend Dacey about what it must be like to be stranded there, with no pho… no phone… no nothing. Gasp. Imagine. If you’re a fan of the TV show Survivor – and others like it – mark this one up to read when it’s released next month, because I wrote it for you 🙂
Before He Was Gone is the crazy journey of two contestants in a gameshow called Deserted, struggling on a tropical island, battling it out to win a million dollars. As well as the elements and all those crazy challenges (set by America’s most-loved host, Ed Bernstein), they must also fight their mounting emotions as they threaten to send things even further out of control. Here’s an exclusive excerpt through the eyes of our hot male lead, Joshua… a man with a secret he doesn’t want anyone to find out:
‘I’m telling you, it has to be here, I’ve looked everywhere else,’ Shan huffs at Alyssa, sticking his hand into the tree hole and pulling out nothing but sand. He’s wearing just his G-A-Y-fronts. It’s still uncomfortable for everyone but him, especially when they’re wet, but he and the others who lost the last challenge still don’t have swimsuits so it’s not all his fault.
‘You can’t have looked everywhere,’ Alyssa says, flashing me a look of despair, ‘else you would’ve found it. Someone else must have it already.’
I lower my eyes. I feel like a total dick watching them search, knowing Jaxx already has the immunity charm, but what can I do? I turn to the palm tree next to us, but as I’m about to climb I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around. ‘Teach me?’ Alyssa says, eyes shining.
‘Don’t you dare climb that tree,’ Shan tells her, running his hand along another branch, feeling for the charm that won’t be there. ‘I don’t want to have to scrape your broken body up in pieces.’
‘You won’t have to,’ Alyssa says, still looking at me. ‘I’ll be OK. You can put me on your back like Edward Cullen if you like, call me Bella?’
I laugh. I have no clue who Edward Cullen is, or Bella, but for a second I picture Harri in her place – that first day at the climbing center, all rosy cheeked and English. I didn’t need to teach her anything. She was pretending not to know how to climb. I acted like I didn’t know she was pretending.
I bite my cheeks. Alyssa’s presence throws me off balance, even on solid ground. The more we talk, the more I know I have to start keeping away from her. I can hear Evan’s voice in my head, reminding me how much rests on me winning this. But for the past three nights now, we’ve sat out on those rocks watching sunset turn to night, just talking. Other people come and go, but at the end it’s always us. There’s always something else to say; some worldly issue we have to dissect and debate, some memory she jogs in me from things I thought I forgot and her eyes light up when I tell her my stories. Alyssa’s seen and done some equally crazy stuff, though:
‘So you’re saying you never paid for a restaurant meal, the whole time you were with him?’ I asked her last night.
‘HotFlush picked up the check; whatever we did. Or, the hosts covered us. Those guys get free stuff just for being famous. One time, this hotel on an island in Dubai gave us a whole floor, and they set up a chocolate fountain. Oh, and they gave Chloe and I designer purses. We found out they were worth two thousand dollars each.’
‘Holy shit! Every girl’s dream.’
‘Not really, I sold mine on eBay. I’ve been saving for the culinary course. All designer purses look like fakes anyway; I got the same one from Chinatown for twenty bucks. No one ever knew.’
‘You’re from another planet, Double G,’ I told her.
‘Well so are you,’ she said, laughing. ‘I can score a free hotel suite in the Maldives just by name-dropping, but that won’t save me in the apocalypse. I’d still need you for that.’
Damn. I look at her now, eyes still begging me to teach her how to climb. ‘Please,’ she says again. She shoots me the look she says the magazines all think is from her best side, bats her long, dark eyelashes over-dramatically and I sigh at her.
‘OK. Fine. You win. You might scuff up your hands though,’
‘I’m a big girl.’
I step behind her, so she’s facing the tree. ‘Oh, Christ,’ Shan says, ‘here we go!’
‘Shut up,’ she tells him.
‘Concentrate,’ I say. ‘OK, put one hand around the tree, chest level. The other goes at the same height but to the side.’
‘Like this?’ she says, and I reach around her, shifting her hands. My entire torso is up against her back and she falls silent, holding the tree. She’s hot, like I am. My face brushes her hair for a moment. Focus.
‘When you’re ready, jump up, put your feet each side of the tree and grip,’ I say. ‘Keep your knees perpendicular to your body. Don’t think too much, just do it.’
‘This is going to go wrong,’ Shan says.
‘Quiet,’ she tells him again. ‘OK, step back, both of you.’ She takes a deep breath as I move away an inch. Her shoulder blades tense as she grips on tighter.
‘Hop like a frog,’ I say. ‘Use your hands at the same time.’
She leaps up in front of me. I watch her feet curl with every muscle around the bark and she hops, clinging to the tree again at the top of her jump. Her ass cheeks are showing beneath her tailor made hot pants and I watch as the camera guy with us runs in for the money shot.
‘You’ve got it,’ I yell, ‘keep going, up, up…’
‘Christ, Lord save her,’ Shan says, gripping my arm as she takes another leap, but Alyssa lets out a shriek and loses her grip with her feet. She starts to slide straight down the trunk and I dart forwards as Shan gasps. I catch her round the waist before she can twist and fall. She’s laughing in my arms, back flat against me, catching her breath and balling her fists.
‘Are your palms burning?’ I say, spinning her round and taking her hands. I hold them flat. They’re red but she’s OK. She didn’t fall far.
‘I did it!’ she says in elation, looking up at me.
‘No you didn’t, you almost broke yourself, woman!’ Shan snaps. ‘Don’t do that again.’
‘I’m gonna do it again,’ she says, but Stephanie’s voice makes us all turn around.
‘Guys! Come quick! You gotta see this!’