from the 15th Kate Shugak novel

She’d had to spell the word “weary” in a spelling bee in grade school.  She’d spelled it correctly, but she’d never really understood what it meant, until now.  It sounded like what it meant — there was a word for that, too, but she couldn’t remember it — and she was weary, weary from the marrow of her bones out.  If he would just let her sleep one night all the way through, if he would just let the old bruises heal before he gave her new ones, if she could just have one single moment in the day to think, to be, to rest.

At first his roughness had been exciting, from the very first time when his hands shackled her wrists over her head, his knees forcing hers wide, the foreign invasion so shocking, his eyes narrowed and intent, and then the rush of feeling that spread out and up in a searing flush that seemed to melt down the base of her brain.  He enjoyed making her body rise to his, she could see it in the triumph in his face.  In those early days — how many months was it now? — when she had said no, he had always been able to seduce her into a yes, always.

Now he didn’t even seem to hear the no.

She wondered when Ekaterina would come out to visit again.  In spite of the old woman’s obvious disapproval of her marriage, of her husband, which always provoked retaliation after she left, her visits offered a respite.  He couldn’t hit her when Ekaterina was there.  

She’d been coming out more often lately.  Maybe she’d come tomorrow.

Next to her the bed heaved and feet hit the floor.  She lay unmoving, willing herself to disappear beneath the covers.

Maybe Ekaterina would come today.

He stripped them back.  “You aren’t asleep.  Get up and get down to the creek.”

When she didn’t move as fast as he thought she ought to, he kicked her off the bed.

She thumped onto the floor and scrambled to her feet and scurried to the door.  She reached for her parka.

“You don’t need that,” he said, handing her a bucket.  “Get going.  I want my coffee.”

She slid into boots barefoot and opened the door of the cabin.  She gasped when the bitter February air hit her lungs, shivering in her nightgown.

A hard hand shoved her off the step.  “Get a move on, you lazy bitch!”

She stumbled down the path to the creek.  It was frozen over.  She took the axe leaning against a nearby spruce and chopped a hole.  She squatted over it, dipping the bucket into the clear, cold water beneath.

A sound made her look up but she wasn’t quick enough.  Something hit the back of her head.  In the seconds she had left she felt a starburst of pain, and knew only an astonished relief that it was finally over.  It was with gratitude that she fell forward into a welcoming, black eternity.

A quick hand moved the bucket out of the way so that her head dropped through the hole she had chopped in the ice.

The soft splash when her face hit the water was the gentlest kiss she ever received.

Another not so fun fact: The abuse scenes in A Deeper Sleep were among the hardest to write in my career. I can deal out all manner of bloody murder but when it comes to someone beating up on a woman or a kid…I left writing these scenes until I had finished the rest of the book. And then I sent it off to my editor and put my cross country skis in the car and hit the trails at Kincaid. That might have been the day that I skied Big Hurricane for the first and only time. I sidestepped halfway down, but still.

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the 23rd Kate Shugak novel
coming April 11, 2023
order your signed hardcover here
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5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Yours are the only books I can read with any kind of abuse in them. I think it is because you write the scene simply, then move on. Still upsetting, but I can look at the bigger plot and know that in the end Kate will get them justice.

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