Skip to main content

Excerpt - THE FAMILIAR STRANGER by Christina Berry

I'm a little late on this, but I wanted to post this excerpt of the debut novel of my friend Christina Berry! I've known Christina and her mom for a few years now, and they always have a warm hug for me. :) I love the story premise of Christina's novel and hope this excerpt tantalizes you enough to go order her book!


The Familiar Stranger
by
Christina Berry


Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

Excerpt of chapter one:

His

I wrapped a towel around my waist as Denise stalked into the bathroom. Avoiding her eyes, I wiped a clear spot on the steamy mirror and studied my reflection. A caged man, a Houdini, stared back at me. Bound inside a straitjacket, locked in chains, submerged in a tank, I could taste the metallic tang of the key hidden in my mouth. If I held my breath a little longer and waited for the right time to rip my shoulder from its socket, I would escape my stifling life.
“Did you wipe down the shower, Craig?”
What harm would happen if once, just once, I left droplets on the glass doors? I bit back my retort. “Of course, honey.”
“Good.” She peered into the brushed-silver mirror hanging above the white marble countertop—a bathroom that had cost me a month’s wages—and added another layer to her lipstick. “Need to hurry if we’re going to be on time.”
“I’m not going.” I said it as if I didn’t care one way or the other what she thought of my bombshell.
“What are you talking about?” Her shoulders tighten into unnatural stillness.
I rubbed the scruff of my neck and scrutinized my image. A few wrinkles around the eyes. Two slight recessions on either side of the hairline. Not bad for a guy of forty-six.
“Craig, the deacons’ meeting is right after the service and you’ve missed the last two. Are you trying to sabotage your position?” Her reflected hazel eyes drilled into me.
For a second I thought of giving it all up, going to church with her and the kids, acting as though that was all I had planned for the day. Then the image faded and a pair of deep brown eyes replaced hers. No, I wouldn’t be setting foot in a house of worship this Sunday, or ever again.
She wouldn’t turn away without some kind of explanation.
“Denise, every day of the week I’m looking into people’s mouths. Different teeth, different breath, same office, same chair. Same mindless, indecipherable banter. This is my one day off and I’m not going to waste it sitting in a pew with a bunch of pretenders.”
“Pretenders?” Her lipstick tube tumbled to the counter, leaving a blood-red slash against its starkness. “Sometimes I don’t understand you at all.” As she rubbed a tissue over the spot, the red smeared across the dead veins in the rock, veins that merged and parted, crossed and died, without purpose or pattern.
Had I pushed too hard? The last thing I needed this morning was an interrogation built on suspicion.
I’d planned this day for too long to blow it now.
I turned and put my arms around her. “I’m going crazy. Call it a midlife crisis if you will, but I can’t put on a tie and sing a happy little hymn. I’m going hiking.”
Relaxing into my embrace, she fingered my jaw line. “Hiking,huh? Along the trails in Washington Park?”
Why do you always have to make a suggestion so it still seems as if I’m still doing what you want? It was her fault I had to carry out my plan.
Yet I had to feign tenderness, feign caring. I tried to smile. “No, to Multnomah Falls. The weather’s supposed to be great in the gorge.”
Denise stiffened again and moved away from me, heading into the bedroom. “The Columbia Gorge is kind of a long drive for a spur-of-the-moment thing, don’t you think?”
Trailing after her, I recalled all the weekends I spent following her from one of the kids’ soccer games to her friends’ barbeques after work on Saturday. Waking the next day to the usual church service, out for lunch with another of her friends—the husband and I pretending camaraderie even though we knew nothing more about each other than our favorite football teams. Back to church for the evening meeting. Finally dropping into bed, dreading the idea of telling people to floss more, brush with softer bristles, lay off the self-whitening strips for a while, and all the other advice I dispensed only to have it ignored.
I slipped on a pair of loose jogging shorts and a T-shirt over my head. “Give me today, and I’ll do whatever you want next Sunday.”
“Fine.” She sighed. “Your mind’s made up anyway. I’ll figure out something to tell everyone.”
“Say a dental emergency came up. A root canal.”
She touched the edge of the dresser and balanced on one foot while she slid on a new shoe, a beaded red high heel. I’m sure it set me back a pretty penny. Dyed honey-blonde hair hung over her face as she leaned over to put the other shoe on, calf flexing. I was surprised at how young and attractive she looked. Apparently our physical connection still flowed deep, like the veins in the marble, but my heart sat cold and dense.


Buy from Christianbook.com
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Books a Million

Popular Posts

Michael’s Scarf knitting pattern

Michael’s Gray and Brown Scarf I had just written a scene in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 5: Prisoner where my character Michael gives the heroine a very significant scarf. When looking for a stitch pattern, I found the one used in “#31 Comfort either for a Lady or Gentleman” in The Lady's Assistant , volume 2 , published in 1842 by Mrs. Jane Gaugain, pages 125-126 (click on the link to view and/or download the free PDF of the digitally scanned book). When I did test swatches, it turned out to be a pretty eyelet pattern that looks like branches or vines winding upward. I tried the pattern as a parallelogram scarf and discovered that the pattern has a changeable orientation, looking vertical or diagonal depending on how you looked at it. So I decided to use this pattern, knitted as a parallelogram, as Michael’s scarf. I decided to use a smaller needle and add a slip stitch in the pattern to make the eyelets a bit more close and less lacy. When paired with a brown an

September and October Christian Fiction new releases

The Lone Rice Ball releases next month in a Christian Contemporary Romance multi-author box set, Once Upon a Starry Night: A Very Merry Christmas Romance Collection . It's included in this promo with other Christian Fiction new releases for September and October. You can preorder it for only $2.99, and the price will go up on the release date in October. If you prefer to read it on Kindle Unlimited, sign up for my newsletter so you can hear when it’s available to read in KU. Check out the Sept/Oct Christian Fiction new releases

CWO – Girly girls

Captain’s Log, Stardate 09.12.2006 Blog book giveaway: My Thursday book giveaway is A FAMILY FOREVER by Brenda Coulter . My Monday book giveaway is JADE by Marilynn Griffith . You can still enter both giveaways. Just post a comment on each of those blog posts. On Thursday, I'll draw the winner for A FAMILY FOREVER and post the title for another book I'm giving away. Check out Christian Women Online (click on the button above) to see what other women are blogging about this quote. "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one!'" ~ C.S. Lewis ~ I am NOT a girly-girl. I prefer jeans and pants over skirts (a remnant of having my skirt lifted in middle school—traumatic, I tell you). I rarely wear makeup. I prefer sports bras over the lacy ones, or the underwire ones, or even the “boost your bust a cup size” wonder ones. I was also never a jock in school (think pudgy and slow). I was a brainiac, with

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

Fall Into Sweet Clean Christian Romance Bookfunnel promo

Volumes 1, 2, and 3 in my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series are in this promo featuring Christian romance novels! Check out the promo and all the great Christian romance ebooks! You might find a new favorite author!

Keriah's Narrow Crescent Scarf

In my series Lady Wynwood’s Spies, my character Keriah is more emotional than her friend Phoebe, and so when writing about her in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 6: Martyr , naturally I described her scarf as having more lively colors than the greens and blues that Phoebe favors. I didn’t really have a particular yarn colorway in mind when I wrote the scene, but when looking through my stash to knit her scarf, I found the Carnival colorway in Knit Picks Chroma Twist Fingering, and it was absolutely perfect for her. Chroma Twist Fingering is discontinued, but you could knit this in Chroma Fingering or any other color-transitional yarn. In the Regency era, a tri-color 3-ply yarn like Chroma Twist Fingering would probably not have been sold in shops, but it also may not have been completely unheard of. It is made by simply dying the wool rather than the finished yarn, and then the dyed wool would be split into 3 parts and each part spun into a single ply, before all three plies

Marketing Information Form, part two

Captain’s Log, Stardate 05.26.2006 Blog book giveaway: My Monday book giveaway is A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND by Kristin Billerbeck . My Thursday book giveaway is LIFE INTERRUPTED by Tricia Goyer . You can still enter both giveaways. Just post a comment on each of those blog posts. On Monday, I'll draw the winner for A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND and post the title for another book I'm giving away. Stay tuned. Continued from Marketing Information Form, part one : More stuff they want to know about my book: Other covers: What styles, fonts, colors? This is one area I didn’t really think about, but I listed the few covers that I thought conveyed the sort of atmosphere I wanted for my book: WHAT A GIRL WANTS by Kristin Billerbeck . The cartoon design is fresh, cute, clean. SASSY CINDERELLA AND THE VALIANT VIGILANTE by Sharon Dunn . This book, more than the other Ruby Taylor books, conveyed Ruby’s character—her vibrant red hair, bohemian dress, sassy post-modern attitude. THE TROUBLE WITH LACY B

Grace Livingston Hill romances free on Google Books

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

Merry Christmas! Enjoy The Spinster's Christmas

As a Merry Christmas gift to all my blog readers, I’m going to be posting my Christian Regency romantic suspense, The Spinster’s Christmas , for free on my blog! I’ll be posting the book in 1000-1500 word segments every Tuesday and Friday. (When I do the calculations, it’ll finish around the end of May.) Why am I posting a Christmas story when it won’t be Christmas in a week? Because I can! :) The Spinster’s Christmas is the prequel volume to my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series . Right now I’m editing volume 1 of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, and it’s on track to release in 2020. (If you’re on my Camille Elliot newsletter , you’ll be sure to hear when it’s available for preorder.) I anticipate that the Lady Wynwood’s Spies series to be about ten volumes. I think the series story will be a lot of fun to tell, and I’m looking forward to writing up a storm! Below, I’ll be listing the links to the parts of The Spinster’s Christmas as I post them. (I created the html links by hand so please