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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from BEYOND THE SEA by L.H. COSWAY

I opened my eyes when Noah slowed to a stop. We were a few miles outside of town, at a secluded spot on the coast. The familiar sea air hit my lungs as I hastily climbed off the bike.

“What is this place?” I asked, peering about. There wasn’t another person in sight, and I started to worry if being alone with Noah like this was a wise idea. I still knew next to nothing about him.

His eyes wandered over me as he approached. “You should wear your hair like this more often.”

He reached out to finger a strand, and I fought a flush, backing away a step. Noah frowned at my retreat, but he didn’t question it. I’d left my hair down today, and I suspected it was a mess after wearing the helmet. Why was he acting so nice? He’d gone out of his way to collect me from school just to make Sally jealous? It seemed like a lot of effort for a girl he barely knew.

“Come on. I want to show you something,” he said, taking my hand and leading me down a narrow walkway. We reached a clearing close to the cliff’s edge. Wind made the long grass ripple like waves, and it tickled my legs.

I felt guilty about how much I enjoyed holding Noah’s hand. I had no reason to feel that way, but guilt tended to creep into any emotional cracks it could find in me. I had to remind myself that being attracted to someone wasn’t a bad thing. Nobody was going to judge me for noticing the sexy, angular line of Noah’s jaw, or the way his T-shirt clung to his trim waist, how his leather jacket draped across his broad shoulders. Living a good life didn’t mean denying myself physical attraction.

I loved my father, and he’d instilled many fine traits in me, but the Catholic guilt was one I could do without. Just because every time he fell in love it ended in tragedy didn’t mean I was destined for the same. It was a constant struggle to uphold my faith without allowing certain rules and beliefs within it to malform me, to make me think that a natural thought about the attractiveness of a man was sinful.

Noah stopped walking, and we stood just a few feet away from a gaping chasm. The sudden appearance of it gave me a momentary fright.

I hadn’t come here in years, but I suddenly remembered I’d visited with my dad a few times as a kid. It was called Geary’s Hole, named after the person who used to own the land, I suspected. The phrase Ask me Geary’s Hole was in common parlance among the locals in town. It was a typical response if you asked someone to do something they didn’t particularly want to do.

If you looked down, you could see the water sploshing about fifty or more feet below. It was a windy day, so there were lots of waves. They moved up and down, crashing against the rock face. The spray would probably hit you if you got too close to the edge.

“Seems like the perfect place to jump, doesn’t it?” Noah said as he stared down at the water.

I eyeballed him, a chill coming over me as I tugged the collar of my jacket up around my ears to fend off the cold. “Is this something you’ve considered?” I whispered, unnerved. The way he stared down into the water, an almost haunted look in his eyes, made my throat constrict.

“Once,” he said in a low voice before bringing his gaze to mine. “I had far more reasons to jump than I had not to.”

A pang seized my chest. He’d considered suicide? “Why didn’t you?”

He thought about it a moment before answering simply, “Spite.”

I fell silent. Noah’s attention returned to the hole. “When I came to your room the other day you seemed very down,” he said, casting me a look that almost seemed concerned.

I blinked at him. “Are you worried I’d try to kill myself?”

“Would you?”

“No. Never.”

“Good,” he said, looking appeased by my answer. Despite the morbid topic of conversation, I was touched that he’d been worried about me. That he’d considered my mental state.

Ard na Mara is a tough place to grow up. It can feel like the walls are closing in on you sometimes,” he said, and my heart pounded because he’d expressed a sentiment I felt often.

I came to stand next to him, looking down. “Jumping from here wouldn’t necessarily kill a person.” The thought was in my head and out of my mouth within the space of a few seconds. I hadn’t meant to voice it.

Noah glanced at me. “You’re right. Killing a person is a lot harder than they make it look in the movies.” A pause as a thoughtful expression came over him. “And then sometimes it isn’t hard at all.”

I held his gaze. “Speaking from experience?”

He must’ve heard the uneasiness in my voice because he sought to reassure me. “I don’t mean you any harm, Estella. You’re safe with me.” He shot me a knowing glance. “Even if you are in the habit of spying on me.”

“I didn’t …” The protest died on my tongue when I saw his cynical expression. So, he had seen me in his room. I was oddly relieved to finally have it out in the open.

“If you want to know things about me, just ask. Though I can’t guarantee you’ll like my answers.”

I stared him down. “Okay, well, for a start I’d like to know what you were doing standing by the edge of the cliff the other day, staring at the house like a psychopath?”

My question surprised a chuckle out of him, and I realised he was quite handsome when he smiled. “I had to leave my bike at the mechanics in town,” he answered. “There was a problem with the engine. I decided to walk home along the beach, though now that you mention it, yeah, that was a bit creepy. Anything else you’d like to know?”

I sucked in a deep breath. “Why have you come to visit your mother and sister?”

“I have unfinished business.”

“What kind of unfinished business?”

“The family kind.”

I sighed and shook my head. “You’re being purposefully vague. Again.”

“I said you might not like my answers.”

I studied him a moment. “Why did you collect me from school today?”

Noah turned away, his shoulders stiffening slightly. “I don’t like bullies, and I felt you needed a little helping hand.”

“You have no obligation to help me. We aren’t family. Not really,” I whispered.

He turned back around, taking a step towards me and eliminating some of the distance between us. “We don’t need to be family for me to want to help you. I’ve always been a supporter of the underdog.”

“So that’s what you think I am, an underdog?”

He tilted his head. “Aren’t you?”

I worried my lip, thinking of all the trials and tribulations I’d been through in my short life. Maybe I was an underdog. Or maybe I was just unlucky. Or maybe … maybe my dad’s curse had somehow gotten attached to me when he died.

No. I refused to succumb to that kind of thinking. Dad had spent his entire life fearing the wrath of some higher power, and it was no way to live.

“What happened to your dad? How did he die?” Noah asked, as though he’d read my thoughts.

I frowned. “Vee didn’t tell you?”

“She refuses to talk about it. It’s still a sore subject. And Sylvia’s not exactly a Chatty Cathy these days.” He gave a wry smile.

My frown deepened. This man had a truly sick sense of humour. I still didn’t get his and Vee’s lack of empathy when it came to their mother. “He was in a car accident a little over two years ago. The paramedics said he died at the scene.”

“Ah, so that’s why my sister hates driving now,” Noah said then glanced at me, the tiniest hint of empathy in his eyes. “A quick death is always preferable.”

“I’d rather have my dad still alive, thanks. And I don’t remember Vee ever being fond of driving. She much preferred to have my dad chauffer her around.”

“Do you know how to drive?” he asked. I shook my head, and his eyes took on a certain gleam. “Want me to teach you?”

I was about to say no, but then when I thought about it, I really could stand to learn. If I wanted to go it alone after I graduated in June, then being able to drive a car would be useful. It was March, so that gave me a few months to learn. After the last two years living on Vee’s good graces, I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else ever again. Independence was so close I could almost taste it. The prospect of being completely and totally self-sufficient was a dream I clung to dearly.

“Okay, but in a car. I don’t have any aspirations to drive a motorbike.”

He smirked. “No? It’s quite the rush.”

“It’s also incredibly dangerous.”

“The two usually come hand in hand.”

I stared at him a beat, then asked, “Can we go home now? I really don’t know why you brought me here.”

“I just thought it might be nice for you to get away,” he said. “Didn’t you enjoy the ride?”

Yes. More than I care to admit. “It was okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Do you expect me to swoon because you let me on the back of your motorbike?” I challenged. I immediately regretted it when I saw his lips twitch in amusement.

“No. But now that you’ve mentioned it makes me think you did swoon.”

“Ha! You wish,” I scoffed, even as I hated how self-conscious I sounded.

His eyes glimmered. “Would you like me to wish it?”

“No.”

“Fine,” he said, moving past me. “I won’t.”

He continued walking back to where he’d parked his bike, and I stood there for a second, frustrated and berating myself for going with him in the first place. After all, it might’ve been satisfying to see the look on Sally’s face, but when Noah didn’t show up tomorrow, and the day after that, she’d be smirking and whispering to Claire that I’d been dumped by my mysterious older “boyfriend”.

Noah was sitting on his bike waiting when I caught up to him. He silently handed me the helmet, eyeing me a moment before he asked, “Who was that girl at the school with Sally O’Hare? The blonde one?”

I rolled my eyes. Of course, he’d noticed Claire calling him hot. Bloody typical. “Why?”

“She looks familiar.”

“Her name’s Claire McBride.”

Some sort of knowledge flashed in his eyes. “Mayor McBride’s daughter?”

“Yes,” I clipped, annoyed. Okay, so I could admit I was jealous he’d noticed Claire. Everyone talked about how pretty she was. It was too bad she was rotten on the inside. I busied myself putting on the helmet.

“Are you all right?” Noah asked, obviously sensing my annoyance.

I glanced at him. “I know this is a lot to ask, but can you not go out with Claire? I know she’s gorgeous and all, but she’s a complete bitch to me at school. And if she started dating you, I’m not sure I could handle the overdose of smugness.” I finished my plea, refusing to look him in the eye as I moved to walk around his bike. His hand shot out, wrapping around my upper arm and stopping me in my tracks.

“Estella.”

“Yes?” I said, cheeks heating as I kept my gaze firmly on the ground. His hand was like a hot brand against my skin.

“I’d rather cut off my own dick than go anywhere near that girl. I asked you who she was for other reasons. Okay?”

I scrunched my brow at his mention of cutting off dicks, because gross, then lifted my gaze. “What other reasons?”

His eyes dimmed. “Nothing to concern yourself with.”

I was relieved he wasn’t interested in Claire, but I was curious about why he wanted to know who she was. I climbed onto the bike and gripped the back of the seat as he moved off, determined not to wrap my arms around him this time. It was too strange and intimate. I was rarely this physically close to anyone and having my arms around Noah gave me way too many swarming, tingly feelings in the pit of my stomach. Feelings that overcomplicated everything.

Meet the author

L.H. Cosway lives in Dublin, Ireland. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favourite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books.

She thinks that imperfect people are the most interesting kind. They tell the best stories.

Connect with L.H. Cosway
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Our Review

‘There was a heavy, pressing sense of darkness and misery that made me want to flee. That same darkness permeated the entire house…’

Beyond The Sea by LH Cosway was a dark, eerie and haunting journey. It had an overwhelmingly sombre undertone with depictions of tragic and horrific pasts, sins of the father, invisible chains of superstitions and grief. It reflected on religion and the ghostly supernatural. But above all, it was a story of love and forgiveness. So well written and enticingly slow in its pacing, it kept us captivated. Mystery aplenty and a retribution of family sins, this is the love story of Estella and Noah; who have both been through a cataclysmic series of events.

“I don’t mean you any harm, Estella. You’re safe with me.”
“Why me?”
“Because I planned for everything, but I didn’t plan for you.”

Beyond The Sea is told entirely in Estella’s voice so the mystery and unpredictability of Noah and the sinister actions of Vee were thrilling. For us, the main character was the house by the sea though, it’s menacing front, the whispers of secrets it told and the vivid shape it took in our imagination, we got chills! At times we thought we’d cracked Noah’s secrets only to be knocked sideways by a twist we did not see coming. We had copious theories along the way, it was like a puzzle shaped by behaviours and hearsay. By secrets, lies and violence. The intense depictions of everyone’s inner struggle with their individual demons and curses all added up to one hell of a unique story from LH Cosway, it was certainly unlike any we’ve previously read by this Author.

“I’m a lost cause, Estella. Your God can’t save me. Nor anyone else’s.”

What a refreshingly dark and also beautiful slow-burn romance set under an excruciatingly sinister roof on a cliff in Ireland. We really had no idea what to expect from Beyond The Sea, but this definitely wasn’t it! Going in blind is definitely the way to go in this Gothic romance, hence why our review is completely spoiler-free as usual. The way in which LH Cosway invites the reader to truly experience the complex world of eighteen year old Estella was breath-taking at times. The vivid imagery astounding, and her writing causing goosebumps and chills. In only the darkest of nights can the true healing light be seen.

“If I pit my demons against yours, will they obliterate each other so we can both finally be free?”

We were obsessed with Noah and his secrets and we felt an overwhelming need to protect Estella and help her escape a fate she didn’t deserve. All whilst dying to unravel the thrilling mystery of what actually happened in the house by the sea, Ard Na Mara. LH Cosway wowed us with the scenery, the atmosphere, the characters and the storyline. She wowed us with her writing. We could not put this book down!

‘Noah had captured a part of me I didn’t know existed, rendering my carefully crafted plans into a slowly crumbling relic.’

Synopsis

On a lonely cliff beside the vast blue sea there is a house.

In the house there lives a girl, and in the girl there lives a dream.

Soon she’ll be as free as the fishes that swim beneath the water. But until then she bides her time and lives quietly, her every move ruled over by an uncaring, heartless stepmother.

The hope for freedom is all she has to hold onto. So close she can almost taste it. But when her stepmother’s estranged younger brother comes to stay, he presents a mystery that lures her in.

The girl doesn’t understand that beneath the allure of the unknown sometimes all we find are horrors. And in searching for the truth, her heart is in danger of falling like a rock to the bottom of the deep dark sea.

Beyond the Sea is a Gothic Romance set in modern times. 

 

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