‘Into The Shadows’ is a romantic suspense, woven with mystery and family drama. It is one woman’s journey to take a brave step to change herself and her situation, literally going into the very shadows of herself, and by doing so drawing others own shadows out as they are intricately pulled into her story.
Lily Crossways, 29 years old, from Brighton. A woman who doubts herself and never known real love, yet takes a remarkable step to follow her gut instinct and by doing so embarks on a powerful journey of self discovery as she strives to find Natalie.
David Carson, 32, cafe owner in Dingle. Puts on a carefree persona but behind this facade is a troubled man who has never got over the disappearance of his sister, Natalie. Short fused but passionate.
Lily Crossways lives a controlled life where she ensures she never experiences hurt or disappointment. Until, that is, she returns from a short holiday in Dingle, where she discovers an eerie image of a desperate woman on one of her photographs. Lily knows she was alone that day on the beach. Who is she, is she even real, and why has she appeared to Lily? The woman seems to be calling to her, if only Lily can find and rescue her. Lily returns to Dingle and her search leads her to cafe owner David Carson, this missing woman’s brother, and the man who will turn Lily’s life upside down in every way. Lily must now convince him to trust in her, taking bold steps to prove herself to him, and together track down his sister before it’s too late. But nothing can prepare Lily for the secrets she uncovers about herself, her own family and how their lives are intertwined from a distant childhood visit.
When their search takes them to Cork, they eventually discover a shocking secret – Natalie, David’s sister has a 5 year old daughter, Lottie. When Natalie finally appears in Dingle, she refuses to tell David and Lily who Lottie’s father is, but is clear that is the reason she has remained hidden for these last few years. Natalie coming back causes new anguish and heartache, but can there be a way forward for all. And will Lily’s growing love for David just a holiday romance … or so much more? Can she leave her heart behind in Dingle?
You would think in a small fishing town like Dingle it wouldn’t take long to ask around at the local pubs … but no…
Ciara, it seemed, had been all too accurate in her prediction. I swear there were more pubs then houses here!
And each seemed to bear their own unique character and flavour, bursting with odd matched chairs and sticky tables, and too many people to be comfortably quiet. If I hadn’t been so fraught with tension, I would have enjoyed taking in their different surroundings, delighted in taking pictures of the bizarre items I kept seeing adorning the walls, particularly the farming tools I spotted hanging precariously by nothing more than a very large and very rusty nail.
Dutifully I went around all of the locals and tourists lazily drinking as they idled the time away, their responses swinging from the barest shake of their heads before turning their attention back to their pints, to wanting to detain me in a “chat”, their curiosity piqued. I inwardly sighed as once more I shoved my laptop away, once more drawing a very clear ‘no’ from the too busy and impatient pub owner. I had long ago cursed my stupidity for not printing out the darn photo after what felt like hours of my life wasted in waiting for the blasted laptop to boot up.
My enthusiasm, by now, had ebbed away as surely as my rubber soled shoes. Once outside, I reluctantly stared up the street. There was one pub left at the very end of the corner, proudly displaying the name “Smugglers”. It seemed more modern and ‘uncluttered’ than the others.
Did I have the energy, desire or even the voice to ask the question, show her face once more? Or shall I just bail out until tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. Or the day after that. My throat was parched, my feet were sore, my head was starting to pound from lack of food and drink, and quite frankly all I could fantasise right now was laying on that beautiful, beautiful bed waiting for me at Ciara’s, clutching a restoring glass of anything. I didn’t care what as long as it was cold.
I half turned to head back towards Ciara’s. My feet had even been determinedly taking a step that way in anticipation.
Yet something propelled me to turn back once more and gaze at the “Smugglers”. And then turn my whole reluctant self completely around and painfully walk towards it … until I found myself standing in surprise outside its glazed wooden door.
And then I was inside, taking in, in almost a daze, its cool freshness and a smiling young man behind the bar encouraging me to approach. I let out a quick puff of breath and walked up to him, finding myself repeating my now familiar, ‘I wonder if you could help me by taking a look at a photo of a woman I’m searching for?’
‘Thank you. I just need to boot the laptop up.’
I sensed him taking in my rosy cheeks, my not so discreet easing off of my shoes as I fell down onto the bar stool and the weariness clouding my eyes as I dragged my reluctant laptop out of its case.
‘How about I pour you a nice cold one while you wait for that to boot up? You look like you might need it.’
I closed my eyes for a blissful moment and sighed out. ‘Oh yes please. But better make it of the non alcoholic variety or I’ll crash out asleep right here on your bar.’ I reluctantly added.
He grinned, held out his hand. ‘The name’s Greg. New to these parts, aren’t you? That I know because no-one round here ever plumps for the soft kind of drink!’
I found myself smiling back as I reached out my hand to accept his. ‘Its Lily. Yes, kind of. Did a fleeting visit a month or so back. Now I’m back to … kind of solve a mystery.’
Greg nodded towards my laptop as it made its painful process of powering up, as if it too was exhausted by its efforts. ‘So there’s a picture of a lady you want to show me?’
‘Uh .. yes. I know, I know its sounds crazy, you don’t need to tell me.’ I rushed on.
He merely shrugged, smiled again as he expertly opened up a lemonade bottle for me, then poured it into a frosted glass. ‘Well you are in Ireland. You have to be a little crazy, it helps, trust me on that.’ He put the drink down in front of me, giving the bar counter a quick flick of his cloth as he did so.
I found myself relaxing as I nearly drowned half the glass, discreetly quieting a burp from erupting. I could see Greg biting back a laugh, and avoided looking up for a moment.
‘Okay… I’ve got the picture up.’
‘Let’s be having a look then.’
I turned the laptop round and Greg closed in to have a look. A small frown appeared almost immediately. I found myself catching my breath in anticipation.
‘She does look familiar.’
‘She does?!’ I cut in excitedly, before straining to rein it back in. He continued to stare at the grainy photo. You could see his mind trying to shift through a catalogue of faces filed away.
‘Yeah, she really looks like an old mate of mine. But I don’t know, its hard to see her face clearly and anyway my mate had short, blond hair, skinny as anything and wore scary gothic make-up…’ His voice trailed off.
Please, please please… I began to feverishly pray, have a name for me.
‘Ah…your computer’s seems to have closed the program down.’ Greg spun my laptop round to show me. There was only the desktop icon page blinking slowly at me. I groaned, very loudly, and uttered an unladylike oath.
‘Sorry, sorry.’ I rushed out, ‘just let me-‘
‘Oh listen, leave it for a minute, give your computer a well deserved break. To be honest, I might be leading you up a false path. Anyways, I moved away after finishing college, and only found my way back here a couple of years ago, so not sure I can help any further. I’m pretty crap at recognising people standing right in front of me.’
I tried to smile, though feared it was more of a grimace. ‘I think you’re just saying that to be kind. But okay, I’ll give in for now. Thanks anyway for looking.’ I made to move, shutting the stubborn laptop down as I did.
‘You know, it might be worth asking David. He runs “Cafe Peak”, just up the road. He’s lived here forever and a good mate of mine. Tell him I sent you.’
Greg was giving me an encouraging smile, perhaps sensing my sudden reluctance to ask another stranger who no doubt would look at me oddly then send me on my way with my tail between my legs, my posture stooped ever downwards.
‘Really? You really think so?’
‘Yes, I do! Don’t give up yet, not yet.’
Something about him; whether it was the earnestness of his voice, or the determination in his eyes as they looked at mine, jolted me enough to find myself nodding in agreement. I would do this last call, even though every fibre in my body wanted to crawl back to the safe haven of Ciara’s, and sleep and sleep before flying my way back home under the blissful cover of darkness…
‘Hey, make sure you come back now for a drink. Don’t go disappearing without saying goodbye.’
Was he a mindreader?!! I spun round from the doorway and found myself giving a short laugh and a nod, my smile widened while thinking were you sent to stop me giving up on this? Then I gave myself a big mental shake, stop getting so fanciful, for goodness sake.
And so that’s how I found myself standing outside a equally tastefully looking ‘Cafe Peak’. It boasted nice large wooden windows that could be opened out to allow the freshness in when the weather was warm, as it was today with the summer scented air gently blowing around us. A few table and chairs were carefully positioned to maximise the views of the harbour below from where the cafe stood at the top of a rocky path. At one of them, a young couple, who looked like they had stepped out of a magazine, sat drinking their steaming chocolate sprinkled grande coffees, holding hands and chatting easily. I felt a strange, unfamiliar feeling as I quietly passed them by, and slowly realised, to my shock, that it must be envy. I shook my head, totally flummoxed by my irrational reaction. But still unsettling thoughts persisted in jolting me. What must it feel like to be so comfortable and at ease with another, where they intimately know your innermost longings, and desires, your fear and insecurities? Is it so powerful you can’t fight it, or even want to? Or does it fill you with deep deep fear to know they could so easily, if they chose to, destroy your trust and faith in them? I forced the thoughts away, giving myself a ticking off.
The cafe was alive with chatter, laughter and whistling steam coffee as I pushed open the door, despite the lateness of the hour. The deco was as tasteful inside, with the same warm tones of brown and cream, the walls spared from being empty by photos of the local areas, mostly done in sepia. I found my eyes drawn to them as soon as I had stepped in.
I approached the counter where two people stood serving. One was a young girl, her blond hair boldly streaked with pink, no older then twenty, smiling as she served a customer. The other, who must be David, stood at the coffee machine coaxing it into producing great froths of steam.
He looked up over the steam, as if he sensed my intensive eyes on him. Blue grey eyes met mine and as they did, I felt something odd happen within me, like my heart had taken a sudden faster beat. Surprised at my reaction, I took a step back, then tried to cover this as he gave me a friendly but polite smile.
‘Afternoon, what can I get you?’ His warm Irish tones enquired.
I gave myself a mental shake, trying to get back some sense of normal behaviour. Yet something about that voice and eyes.. it was if they were familiar to my alert senses. Which was frankly just impossible.
Aware he was beginning to look at me oddly, I cleared my voice and tried to speak up over the din of the machine. ‘Oh um, just a latte please.’
As he nodded, starting to crank the machine up again, I spoke again while my nerve held.
‘Your friend, Greg, sent me to you-‘
He paused, grinned properly for the first time. ‘Did he now? Well, he knows his limits, and between you and me,’ He leaned a little closer, nearly scalding himself in the process, ‘coffee at his bar is .. wait for this you may be shocked …instant! Instant – imagine the shame of that!’
‘Imagine.’ I faintly repeated. As he went back to the machine, chuckling to himself, I tried again, ‘Anyway, the thing is-‘
‘Do you want skimmed or semi with that? I know what you ladies are like always watching the waistline. Not that I’m suggesting you need to, of course.’
I stared at him as he smiled blandly again, flummoxed as to whether he was being polite, charming or downright rude.
‘Semi is fine. As I was saying-‘
‘Double or single espresso? Need a little muffin with that? Baked this morning by my own fair hands.’
‘Ah, no, no thanks. And just a single.’ I rushed on before he could ask me any more inane questions, though couldn’t help admiring his polished selling technique. ‘The thing is, I’m looking for someone and I wondered if I could show you her photo. Greg thought you might know her.’
He looked up, a little surprised by my request. ‘Well, sure now I can have a look.’
As I went to get my laptop out, his hand reached out to stop me. The unexpected touch against mine felt a little too intimate, confusing … but did make me pause.
‘Why don’t you go take a seat over there?’ He pointed to a nearby empty table. ‘I’ll bring your coffee over, then you can show me.’
I found myself obediently doing his bidding. I felt oddly warm inside, flushed, and still couldn’t shake that deja vu feeling we had met before.
Several minutes passed, giving me time to power up the tired old laptop, gaze around and try to compose my somewhat turbulent thoughts.
‘Sorry about the wait. No rest for the coffee makers of this world.’
I turned from looking at an aerial photo of the peaks; capturing beautifully the rawness of the mountain, to find myself with company. There before me sat my frothy chocolate coated latte, complete with an accompanying miniature biscuit and a bowl of sugar. It looked almost too perfect to drink.
‘So I’m David, but I’m guessing you know that already.’ David smiled at me, leaning back on his chair. His black hair was a little wild, as if he spent the whole time raking it off his forehead.
‘Yes. I’m Lily. I’m staying at Ciara’s. Do you know her?’ I knew I was gabbling, stalling him when he probably needed to go back to serving, but I found I couldn’t stop the words from spurting out. I know I’m going to be feel embarrassed about this later, I can just feel it.
‘I do. Best breakfast in town.’
‘That’s what I tell her!’
We shared a smile. All at once he was looking at me intently, as if I was a riddle to be solved. I felt my betraying flush seeping in. ‘Excuse me for asking, but have you stayed round here before?’
‘I did recently, but only for a couple of days. I think I came here as a kid with my mum.’ Why am I telling you all this?
I became aware that a little queue was forming at the counter and his assistant was trying to catch David’s eye. David motioned to her ‘one minute!’. I sensed I was losing his concentration, as his fingers started tapping the table and he slightly raised himself off the chair in preparation to fly back to the counter.
‘Sorry, I have to get back before Dora resigns on me.’
‘Of course, sorry! Let me show you quickly.’
He resat down and our heads came close together as I quickly spun the laptop around so he could take a look.
David eyes moved down to look at the photo, no doubt to humour me. I already started imagining in the next moment he would look up, shake his head apologetically as so many had before him, smile as he stood up, encourage me to have a muffin after all, before returning to what appeared to be a nice, safe and easy life in this cafe he probably had built up from nothing… And most certainly forgetting me in the next breath.
But life doesn’t always follow what it should. It doesn’t always give you the easy route. Sometimes we have to go down the difficult winding path, covered in sharp stones, to find the answers to our searching. We can’t shut ourselves off forever, believing if we don’t think or feel or love or discover the truth, we can just carry on existing. Just like I had been, until I stepped onto that plane yesterday.
And unbeknown to me, David carried pain and heartache so acutely and deeply inside him he had learned to live with it, creating instead this carefree persona I was witnessing today. In this moment, in this suspended moment, I didn’t know any of this, didn’t know what I was about to inflict on him. If I had, would I still have done this; begun this spiralling chain of events?
As we sat now at his cafe table, a slow dawning realisation came over me that all was not right. This was quickly followed by complete horror as I saw his face drain away, the smile slip off, his whole body freeze as he stared and stared at the photo. It was like his very essence had been pulled out of him, leaving behind only a barely breathing man.
‘What is it?’ I finally dared to whisper.
His eyes slowly lifted and I found myself gasping as they clashed with mine. They were dark with pain and distress and I found my hand reaching out to his, aghast I had done this; triggered something so terrible within him.
As I did though, it was like a ball of fury took over him. He slammed the laptop shut, narrowly missing my fingers, causing a couple of people to turn round. His hand then grabbed mine in a vicelike grip that nearly made me cry out.
‘What kind of sick joke is this?! Why do you have this photo?!’
‘I , I ‘m sorry I don’t-‘
‘Tell me, who are you?! Tell me!’
I tried to break in, stutter something but he was relentless in his anger. Everyone had stilled around us, staring openly now.
From over at the counter, Dora was trying to act normal. But obvious shock was spilling out of her at witnessing this complete out of character reaction from her boss.
David abruptly flung my hand away, rising. As he did the chair fell back, banging loudly as it hit the floor, charging the air around it. I could only stupidly stare, shaking my head in bewilderment, naively unprepared to salvage this. Oh God please tell me, what have I done?!
He leaned closer again, closing his eyes, his breath heavy and laboured as he fought hard to control himself. When his eyes did fly open, the sparks still flew at me though his voice held an unnatural controlled tone that somehow unnerved me more. The words were forced out from between his clenched jaw.
‘Why the hell are you looking for my sister?’