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Karen Cole grew up in the Cotswolds and got a degree in psychology at Newcastle University. She spent several years teaching English around the world before settling in Cyprus with her husband and two sons, where she works as an English teacher at a local school. She recently completed the Curtis Brown writing course where she found her love of writing psychological thrillers.

Also by Karen Cole

Deliver Me

Deceive Me

Deny Me

This ebook published in 2021 by

Quercus Editions Ltd

Carmelite House

50 Victoria Embankment

London EC4Y 0DZ

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © 2021 Karen Cole

The moral right of Karen Cole to be

identified as the author of this work has been

asserted in accordance with the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication

may be reproduced or transmitted in any form

or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

including photocopy, recording, or any

information storage and retrieval system,

without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available

from the British Library

PB ISBN 978 1 52941 361 8

EB ISBN 978 1 52940 382 4

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,

businesses, organizations, places and events are

either the product of the author’s imagination

or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to

actual persons, living or dead, events or

locales is entirely coincidental.

Ebook by CC Book Production


To Pippa and Robin


Destroy Me

About the Author

Also By













































Clouds sail past my window, shape-shifting as they go, and I pass the time by trying to work out what they resemble. That one, with the hint of grey at the edge, looks like a crab claw; another is like an embryo or a mermaid – I can’t decide which. I wish I could defy gravity and float up there with them. It seems blissful, the idea of resting my head on a cloud. But I know that in reality a cloud would just be damp and cold, like fog.

I notice things like clouds now. I notice a lot that I never noticed before – for example, the way the leaves on the bush outside my window shiver in the wind and the spider’s web that’s tangled in its branches. There’s no sign of the spider, but I can see a fly caught in the deceptively delicate thread. It isn’t moving but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s dead.

I know how that fly feels. I know what it feels like to be trapped – how quickly anger and frustration can turn to despair, and despair to resignation. I know that prisoners try to find ways to keep their sanity – that they jealously store memories and feed off them slowly, rationing them so there will be enough to last. And that when they run out of memories their imaginations expand to fill the void. My mind often leaves my body behind and journeys to places I’ve never been. It soars into the sky and it plunges to the depths of the ocean with giant squid and treasure-laden shipwrecks. On good days I can appreciate the magical power of my mind.

But on bad days – and I have to admit they are more frequent than the good days lately – my mind shrinks into bitterness and recrimination, and then I start to plot and plan and think about all I have lost and who is to blame.


I’m in the kitchen slicing onions for tonight’s spaghetti Bolognese, when I hear Dylan yelling.

‘Mummy, you’re on TV! Come quickly!’

The knife slips, slicing into the tip of my forefinger and I curse under my breath as blood oozes out, dribbling on to the chopping board and staining the onion pink. Tearing off a strip of paper towel, I press it into the wound. Then I scurry into the living room where I find Dylan cross-legged on the carpet, his mouth smeared with chocolate, surrounded by the debris of his Lego castle. Delilah is lying next to him, licking the chocolate wrapper. My first instinct is to snap at him. He knows that Delilah mustn’t eat chocolate – that it’s bad for dogs. But I pick up the wrapper, take a deep, angry breath and bite back my annoyance. He’s only five years old and he’s had a tough time lately. I need to remember that.

‘You’re too late, Mummy,’ he says reproachfully. ‘You were on TV. But you’re gone now.’

I rub my stinging eyes, making them smart even more, and blink at the screen. The news is on; something about a climate-change protest. People are marching and chanting, holding up banners. A grey-haired woman in a tie-dyed shirt is being interviewed, proclaiming earnestly, jabbing her finger at the reporter. Maybe Dylan saw someone that looked like me in the crowd, or perhaps he simply made it up. Lately, he’ll do almost anything to get my attention. Since Theo moved in with Harper, I think he’s worried that if he doesn’t keep tabs on me, I’ll leave too. If I’m out of his sight for more than a few minutes, he panics. And several times in the last few weeks I’ve woken up to find that he’s crawled into bed with me, his little arm clamped on to me like a limpet. I don’t make him go back to his bed. If I’m honest, I like the company – I like the feel of his warm, little body breathing next to mine.

‘You don’t want to watch the news, do you?’ I say, switching to another channel. I don’t want him to see something that will distress him. He had nightmares after an episode of Scooby Doo, so God only knows what trauma-­inducing effect a news piece about knife crime in London or war in Syria might have.

But he’s lost interest in the television anyway. He’s busily ripping the heads off his Lego people and stacking them one on top of the other. ‘Look what I made,’ he announces proudly. ‘He’s got one, two, three, four . . . ten heads!’

I examine

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