A Novel

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Calia Read breaks the mold in this explosive novel that grabs hold and doesn’t let go until the shocking truth is revealed.

One kiss can change everything.
One month ago I was admitted to a psych ward. Yesterday, Lachlan told me I’m losing my mind. But I know what I saw. Will you believe me?
Behind the walls of a mental hospital, Naomi Carradine feels her world breaking to pieces. She’s starting to believe all the voices questioning her sanity. Only visitors from the outside world keep her tethered to reality. But deep in her thoughts, Naomi is haunted by memories of a golden summer that twisted into a waking nightmare of obsessive love and fractured truths.
Just home from college, Naomi moves in with her best friend, Lana, the daughter of a Virginia senator. At a lavish party thrown by Lana’s father, Naomi meets a sexy stockbroker named Max and finds herself unable to resist his charms. One fiery kiss and she’s going back for more, beginning a terrifying descent. Having witnessed the unspeakable, Naomi has only one hope of escape: unraveling the devastating secrets of her past.
Unravel is intended for mature audiences.

Praise for Unravel
“A sexy, mysterious, and enthralling story . . . Calia Read’s words are so captivating, they’ll hold you hostage and throw you into loops you’ll never see coming.”—Claire Contreras, author of There Is No Light in Darkness

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Unravel



I gaze out the window at thousands of snowflakes fluttering to the ground. I press my face against the pane, aching for freedom. But it isn’t a thin layer of glass that’s blocking me from the outside, it’s the truth.

Most people believe the truth is a delicate little bird. They think it’s harmless.

But I know something they don’t.

If they dare to move their hands away from their body, they’ll discover that the little bird is gone. It’s torn their skin apart and traveled to the core of their soul, right where it hurts the most.

And that’s why I’m here and they aren’t.

I press my forehead against the window and breathe on the glass. Mist forms and my tally appears. I put another mark on the glass. Thirty days.

Thirty days since I’d been involuntarily admitted to Fairfax Mental Health Institute.

Seven hundred and twenty hours of opening my eyes every morning to an unfamiliar room. Seven hundred and twenty hours of having nurses coming in and out of my room every hour. Seven hundred and twenty hours of being monitored around the clock like I’m a toddler and can’t be trusted.

I watch a fly moving across the window, frantically trying to find a way out into the world.

“I’ve already tried, dummy.” I tap my finger against the window. “They have these suckers bolted tight.”

The fly stops moving, as if it can hear me. Sooner or later, it’s going to find a way out. I feel envy, thick and powerful, flow throughout my body. I want to slam my palm against this insect, killing any chance of its escape.

This is what my life has been stripped down to. I’m envious of a fucking fly.

Loudly, someone knocks on my door.

One, two, three . . .

Three is the magic number for my nurse. It’s as if those few seconds will allow her to brace herself for what she’ll discover on the other side.

Mary stands in the doorway. I take in her short brown hair and colorful scrubs. “You have a visitor,” she says.

I move away from the window. My heart beats the same monotonous rhythm every day, but in seconds it speeds up. The tone sounds different. It isn’t dull. It’s interesting and new and exciting. It’s beautiful. And it can only mean one thing.

Lachlan Halstead.

Before I leave the room I look over my shoulder. The fly’s gone.

“Lucky,” I mumble under my breath as I walk out of my room.

Anyone who ever doubts whether madness exists need only look right here. It drifts throughout every room. It slides down the sterile hallways and attaches itself to every patient, stripping them of their hope and covering them with despair.

Some people don’t react. But the ones that do, scream. Their shouts echo throughout the building. The nurses run down the hallway and a few seconds later those screams turn into moans and then stop. When I first arrived, those screams sent a chill down my spine. But now I’m used to it.

As Mary and I walk down the hall, a nurse and a brunette patient pass by. My steps get slower. I stare at the brunette. Her hair is cut short. Her skin is pale, but underneath the fluorescent lighting its tone takes on a yellow hue. Her body is emaciated. There are track marks all over her arms, telling their own story. She meets my gaze. Her soul shines through her eyes, and asks, “How the hell am I still alive?”

I have no answer.

Mary stops at two locked doors. She enters a four-digit code and the doors slowly open. It’s like we’re entering hell. The rec room is the most depressing place in Fairfax Mental Health Institute. This is where everyone is shoved together.

Mary pushes me forward. The blinds are open, letting sunlight pour in and making the tan linoleum floors blindingly white. Tables are spread throughout the room. A few people are sitting down, playing board games or watching the television mounted on the wall. The news plays so softly the captions are on.

But most people do nothing. They stare straight ahead, their eyes vacant.

There are so many minds around me that are wasting away. But I have someone that keeps me coasting above insanity, and he’s only a few steps away from me.

My body relaxes as I watch Lachlan. He’s sitting at a table next to the windows. His thick brows slant low as he scans the outdoors. His tan hand reaches up and loosens his dark blue silk tie. His brown hair is still cut short, with a few strands brushing his forehead.

If I blink, he’s just a boy with a cocky smile that comes from a child’s naivety. Wiry frame. The best friend that stole my heart. When I open my eyes that image disappears, and in front of me is a man. His cockiness has evaporated into experience. His body has filled out. And now, not only does he own my heart, he possesses my soul.

He’s always been an extension of me, and you cannot be that close to someone and expect your pain not to spread. I know that my sadness is his sadness.

I move across the room. Lachlan is still looking outside. I squint my eyes and follow his gaze to the naked tree closest to the window. It’s the same tree I always look at. Its branches have been stripped of their leaves and bow from the cold wind. For the last week, I’ve watched a frozen water drop on one of the lower branches. It hangs there, looking ready to fall.

The weak branch sways in the air, but the water drop remains. If the ice drop can hold on, then perhaps I can hang on to my small bit of sanity.

I pull out the chair across from Lachlan.

His eyes meet mine. It’s a shock to my nerves. My blood rushes straight to my head.

“How are you?” he asks.

My feet rest on the edge of the seat. I place my chin on my knees, refusing to look away from him. He visits frequently. But those visits seems to stretch farther and farther apart.

“I’m the same as two days ago,” I say.

Lachlan stares at me levelly. His eyes are sharp. They miss nothing. “Have you been talking to your doctor?”

I look out the window, away from his gaze.

An exhausted sigh escapes him. Lachlan drags his hands through his hair. “I miss you, Naomi.”

“I miss you too.” My voice cracks.

“You know you don’t belong here, right?”

I nod.

“Then you need to try and get better.” Lachlan looks around the room like he’s watching a circus. His jaw hardens. “It fucking kills me to leave you here.”

I reach across the table and place my hand on top of Lachlan’s. His eyes become hooded as he looks at it. He turns his hand over and his fingers move across my wrist, making my skin burn. With his palm faceup, he swallows my hand in his own. “You love me?”

I look Lachlan dead in the eye. “You know I do.” My words should have given him hope, but now he just looks deflated. “If you love me, then you need to get better.”

“I’m trying,” I insist. I try to move my hand.

Lachlan’s grip tightens. “No, you’re not.”

“I can’t ignore everything that’s happened,” I say in an intense whisper.

He leans in, his face inches from mine. “I told you I wouldn’t stop fighting. I told you that you weren’t in this alone, and you crumbled.”

I jerk my hand back. He lets go. I can handle a lot of things, but hearing those words come out of his mouth feels like someone has cut a piece of my heart off.

He stares down at the table, where our hands were once intertwined. “This is destroying you,” he murmurs. “The Naomi I know would have never just given up so quickly. She would have fought to stay in the present.”

“I am fighting. Look around you, Lach,” I say. “How do you think I’ve lasted this long here?”

“You know why you’re here?” he asks sharply.

I don’t say a word.

“You’re here because you fell apart.”

I flinch because, true or not, I can’t go up against Lachlan’s words. He’s going to come out as the sane one. His words will make sense before mine ever will.

My heart thunders in my ears, and my vision blurs. I see a woman with sad eyes, staring at herself in the mirror. And I see Max lying beside me in bed. In one quick move I’m above him, and he smiles up at me, his hands gripping my waist.

And then the image disappears. I groan and press the heel of my hands into my eyes.

“Naomi, look at me.”

I lower my hands. Lachlan sits across from me, staring at me intensely.

His hand is around my neck. His thumb brushes across my skin and my body jolts.

“Are you with me right now?” he asks.

Yes . . . no . . . maybe. Every day is an unknown for me. Every day I wake up feeling like I’m surrounded by a heavy fog and I know I’m missing a piece of myself, and I don’t know where it is.

I answer Lachlan honestly. “For now I am.”

There’s a two-second pause as he looks me in the eye. A pause that makes my stomach twist and my blood roar through my veins. His mouth opens, but nothing comes out. He looks like he’s battling his feelings, but I watch as he loses. His eyes lock with mine and then he kisses me hard on the mouth.

Instantly, I come alive. And that’s what a good kiss should do. It should speak to you the second your lips connect.

You don’t think.

You react.

You feel.

For Lachlan and me, it’s always been this way. All I can hear from this kiss is, “Remember me. I’m real.”

I respond the only way I know how, the way Lachlan showed me in the past. His hands hold my face in place. The pressure of his lips declines when I move my mouth against his. He makes a noise and grips my face tighter. It triggers memories of who I used to be. Behind my eyes, memories start to play on a projector. Each one has Lachlan. The two of us in a field, lighting rockets. Staring at the stars and talking until the sun comes up. I see myself smiling and carefree and so happy.

For a brief moment, I feel at peace. Lachlan’s tongue slips between my lips. A shudder moves through me as I open my mouth wider. My fingers move up his arms, toward his neck. Just when hope starts to flicker in me, Mary clears her throat.

Lachlan pulls away first. His pupils are dilated; his lips are swollen from our kiss. I lick my lips, trying to get a piece of that kiss back. Mary clears her throat louder this time. I glance up.

“Mr. Halstead,” she says, “I think it’s time for you to leave.”

He removes his hand from the back of my neck. My skin instantly feels cold. My arms drop heavily onto the table as I watch Lachlan stand up.

He looks at Mary. “Give me just a minute,” he says.

Mary’s eyes move between the two of us. She sighs. “One minute,” she warns, and walks away.

Lachlan leans close to me. I keep my gaze on the table, but the smooth surface starts to blur as tears pool in my eyes. Something terrible is brewing. I can feel it.

“I can’t keep doing this,” he says.

I look at him. I see the pain in his eyes. “I need you to visit me,” my voice cracks. “It’s the only thing keeping me going.”

Lachlan looks out the window. My fingers reach out and I grip the collar of his shirt, forcing him to look directly at me.

“You can’t leave me.”

A tense silence wraps around us. He looks at me through his eyelashes, his expression grim. One by one, his fingers wrap around my wrists. Firmly, he pulls my fingers off his shirt.

“I’m not leaving you. That’s the last thing I want. But I don’t think I’m helping you. I think I just make everything worse,” he says slowly.

“You help me,” I insist. “Whenever you visit things are better.”

Lachlan says nothing.

“You’re just having a bad day. I’m having a bad day. Tomorrow things will be better, and—”

His head turns. I see the look in his eyes. It doesn’t matter what I say. He isn’t going to change his mind.

Everything around me has been a chaotic mess, yet he has stood firm. And now he’s shredding my world.

This must be what hell feels like. It has to be. My lungs are constricting. I can’t breathe. I rub my eyes with my palms, moving my head back and forth in denial. If Lachlan stops coming, I’m afraid of what will happen. My sanity is being held together by a threadbare string. I’ll break before that frozen water drop does.

Feeling his hand on my shoulder makes me shake. He squeezes once. I force my hands to stay on the table.

His hand drifts away. There Lachlan goes, walking out of my life.

I turn in my chair. “Wait!”

Lachlan turns around.

At this point, I’m desperate. I know I’m losing him. “Do you remember what you said to me a year ago?” I ask.

His jaw tightens. He looks away and I know he’s trying not to respond to my question, but he can’t help himself. Even when you’re angry, love tugs at your soul in the most painful way. It makes you care—makes you feel—when that’s the last thing you want.

He nods stiffly.

“Then, please, don’t do this,” I say.

He steps forward.

“Lachlan,” Mary calls out behind him.

He stops.

I plead with my eyes. Seconds pass and I think he’s going to tell Mary to fuck off. I think he’s going to say he didn’t mean what he said. But he slowly backs away.

The world rips out from under my feet. I’m in a free fall, frantically trying to grab onto anything that will save me.

Lachlan’s figure starts to become hazy. My skull feels like it’s been cracked in half. I grip the table and slump forward. Tables and chairs disappear into thin air. The walls crack and shatter to the floor. New walls, the rich shade of brown, burst from the ground. The tan linoleum floors fade into plush, white carpet.

The windows shatter around me. A cold gust of air bursts into the room. I curl my fingers around my head and moan. Shards of glass rotate through the air. They miss my body by inches before they disintegrate. A large window fits into the wall with a loud suction noise. Sunlight fades away, replaced by the soft glow of moonlight.

Then everything stops.

- About the author -

Calia Read is the author of Unhinge, Unravel, Breaking the Wrong, and Every Which Way. She lives in Germany with her husband and their four children.

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A Novel



— Published by Ballantine Books —