At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers — Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.
Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.
Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he’s sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.
To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?
With charm and heart, Stacey Kade takes readers on a journey of redemption and love.
Two years ago
Amanda. Wake up. Chase’s voice is urgent in my ear.
I don’t want to move. I know from experience that this hazy moment before full consciousness, before the pain kicks in, is the best it’s going to get. As it is, I can already feel the rawness between my legs returning, the distant throb in my cheekbone growing sharper, and the taste of stale blood is getting stronger in my mouth. He must have loosened another tooth last night. A molar, maybe; those are pretty much the only undamaged ones I have left.
Amanda, get up. Chase sounds commanding, but there’s also panic, which he’s trying to hide. This is it. Our chance. Listen.
The thump of heavy boots on the stairs to the basement makes my heart skitter in my chest, like an animal frantic to escape from behind my ribs. Just like usual. But something else is different this time.
I listen more closely.
Two sets of footsteps, and then . . . voices.
“It sounds like it might be a circuit board. That means parts. Or maybe it’s just a dirty sensor. I won’t really know until I get into the furnace.” This new voice is male as well, but it sounds older, out of breath, and vaguely annoyed.
Someone else is here. Someone besides Jakes.
The realization shoots electricity through my veins. In all the time I’ve been in this room— years, I think, but I’m not sure how many—no one has been in the house, let alone in the basement. The sole footfalls on the floor overhead have always been Jakes’s distinct drag/shuffle.
I open my eyes, realizing belatedly that my left eye isn’t cooperating. It’s swollen shut. But that doesn’t matter. Someone else is here.
“Furnace is this way,” Jakes says, his voice growing louder as he moves closer to the false wall that hides the entrance to my cell. His tone holds that sullen note I know too well, and everything in me recoils. He’s in a bad mood.
My heart sinks. That’s only going to make things so much worse later.
Not if you’re gone, Chase says stubbornly. He’s been here almost as long as I have, keeping me company, keeping me sane. He still believes that we’ll get out one day. I can’t afford to think like that. It hurts too much.
“You can fix it today, right?” Jakes demands.
“Don’t know. Won’t know until I have a look,” the repair guy says, his irritation clear. I can picture Jakes shifting from foot to foot, his rage contained, but barely, by the constant motion. He is a control freak—and a violent sicko freak on top of it—but the control thing is huge. Letting someone else into his little kingdom has to be just pissing him off beyond all measure. And I would be the one to pay for it.
Another reason to get out of here now, Chase reminds me from where he’s leaning against the opposite wall, the sole of his black motorcycle boot pressed flat against it. His posture is relaxed, but tension is thrumming through him. If he could shout for me, he would do it. But he can’t, so he’s stuck.
“Excuse me,” the repair guy says to Jakes pointedly. The furnace is right outside my room. I see it every time Jakes comes in. And I can easily imagine Jakes in the way, standing guard in front of the section of the wall that opens to where I am.
Actually, I don’t have to imagine it; the piece of drywall on hinges doesn’t quite reach all the way to the floor, so when I turn my head, I can see their shadows moving in the inch-wide gap as Jakes reluctantly cedes his position.
After a moment, the repairman settles with a sigh in front of the furnace. The tools hanging on the false wall jingle slightly when he bumps it. He is that close.
The temptation to call out rises up in my chest, but it dies before any sound can emerge. Jakes is down here somewhere, too. If I make noise, try to ask for help, and Jakes hears me . . .
I close my one good eye as terror dries out my throat.
Amanda, you have to let this guy know that you’re in here, Chase insists. I can feel his gaze boring into me, those dark blue eyes so familiar to me after months of staring at them. Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. You may not get another chance.
I can’t. Jakes might hear me, I say. Leaving this horrible place, this cell decorated to look like a twisted version of a girl’s room, feels like an impossible dream, one I gave up a long time ago. Focusing on survival takes all my effort. It seems so much safer in that moment to stay curled up on the mattress. He’ll kill me.
He’s going to kill you anyway, Amanda, Chase roars. DO SOMETHING.
Hot tears roll silently down my bruised face and into my hair as I slide off the mattress onto the floor, taking all the pink and frilly, ridiculous and hateful bedding with me. I can’t scream; it’s too much. I just can’t. But maybe I can try something else.
The air out here is much colder, and the icy concrete beneath the thin pink polyester nightie that Jakes has given me to wear sends a shiver through me.
What if he just ignores me? What if he asks Jakes about me and he believes whatever Jakes tells him? I demand of Chase. That could happen.
But I’m moving, scooting across the floor. Chase nods encouragingly, his blond hair perfect as ever in the early morning light that seeps through the cracks in the boarded-up windows.
You have to try.
The chain wrapped around my left wrist moves with me, the faint clink muffled by blue plastic wrapped around the links. Just like what you’d use if you’d chained a dog in your yard and didn’t want to hear him moving around.
The chain is attached to a thick metal hook that’s set into the concrete wall to my left. Normally the chain is long enough for me to reach the bathroom on the other side of the room—a mold-infested shower without a curtain, a chipped and broken sink and a toilet that barely flushes.
But today my chain was barely long enough to let me turn over on the mattress.
Now I understand why Jakes shortened it so much last night and why last night’s “visit” was so much worse. He knew someone was coming to the house this morning. But he didn’t dare warn me and give me a chance to plan.
I inch closer to the door, staying fl at on my back, my heart fluttering in abject terror. I can’t stand, can’t walk; the noise of the movement might be enough to draw Jakes’s attention. He has to be listening for any hint of rebellion from me. I’m just hoping he won’t be looking for it.
Once I’ve reached as far as the chain will allow, I stretch out my right hand. The door and the gap beneath it are right there. So close. My fingers brush the rough, unfinished edge of drywall.
I can’t reach, I tell Chase.
You can, he says without hesitation.
Yeah? Whose arm is it? I snap at him.
But he doesn’t take offense, just watches me with that expectant look that won’t let me off the hook.
Ignoring the shooting pain in my left shoulder, I lean as far forward as I can, putting all my weight against the band of metal on my wrist.
My left shoulder gives an agonizing pop, and I bite down hard on my lip to keep quiet, the blood seeping between my teeth and into my mouth. Then, with one last herculean effort, I thrust my free hand toward the gap.
My fingers fit through, barely, sliding into the slightly warmer air of freedom on the other side.
I freeze. That’s it. All I can do. I’m terrified it won’t be enough. I’m equally terrified that it’ll be too much.
My whole body is quivering with fear, and I want nothing more than to pull my hand back and curl up in a defensive ball.
But I don’t.
Chase crouches next to me. You’re okay. You’re going to be okay. Just keep at it.
I listen, waiting for Jakes’s bellow of rage and the pounding footsteps toward my door. I’m ready to retreat and huddle into a protective position at an instant’s notice.
But there’s nothing. Just the off-tune humming from the repair guy and metal clinks and clanks as he opens up the furnace.
That’s when I realize there might be something worse than not trying to be rescued: trying and failing.
I risk moving my fingers, scratching what’s left of my dirty and bloodied nails against the paneling on the other side of the wall.
The quiet humming and metal clinking continue for a second, then there’s the sound of shifting fabric and a sharp inhale of breath. “What the—”
My lungs lock up, and I can’t draw in any air. He saw me. Dizziness spirals over me and white spots dance in my vision. If he calls to Jakes, I’m dead. He might be too.
But another beat of silence passes.
I take the risk of scratching harder, trying to communicate without words. Help me.
There’s a louder clank, then, and a small grunt of effort. Through the gap, I can see the repairman’s shadow shifting, moving. He’s standing up.
I snatch my hand back, clutching it to my chest, and my left shoulder throbs.
“I need a part from my truck,” he says in a louder voice. To me? To Jakes? “I’ll be right back.”
No, no, no! Don’t leave, I beg him silently. You saw me! I’m here!
He’s going to come back. He’s not going to leave you here, Chase promises. He saw you.
But suddenly, Chase’s absolute certainty enrages me. I tear my gaze away from the gap beneath the door/wall to glare at him. How do you know? You’re not out there. You’re not even real!
I regret the words as soon as I think them because, in that instant, my hard-won illusion pops like a bubble, and Chase is gone.
I’m alone again, with nothing but the tattered and torn poster of Chase Henry, the same one my sister Liza had in her room, hanging on the opposite wall. He’s giving his best brooding smirk to one and all from the page, a single white feather drifting through the background behind him as a nod to the angelic character he plays. But it’s flat, two- dimensional. He’s not here.
As soon as the repairman’s footsteps retreat up the stairs, Jakes comes to my door.
“Are you awake in there, Mandy?” he asks softly in that quiet slippery tone that makes my stomach turn. “He left so quickly. Did you say something? I hope not. If he finds you, our special time will be over, and I don’t want that. Do you?”
His nails scrape against the false wall outside like it’s my skin, and trembling, I retch quietly, the bile bitter in my mouth.
It feels like forever, years, decades, centuries, but it’s probably only about ten minutes before the doorbell rings, and Jakes curses under his breath and limps toward the stairs to let the repairman in again.
I curl into myself, shaking with quiet sobs. I don’t have the strength to try again. And Chase isn’t here to push me.
I’m done. It’s over.
Except it’s really not—the repair guy will eventually leave and Jakes will come back—and I want to die at the thought.
Above my head, a commotion suddenly breaks out: shouting, and running feet that pound the floor so hard that my ceiling shakes, raining bits of dirt on me.
The noise jerks me out of my misery and into panic. Anything unexpected is probably bad. My time here has taught me that too well. Instinct has me scrambling away from the door to huddle in the corner, near where my chain is attached.
I cover my ears with my hands as the chaos above continues, climaxing with a loud bang that I realize must be a gunshot.
Jakes killed the repairman.
I feel a flash of grief, but it’s surmounted almost immediately by sheer panic. I’m next, no question.
I don’t know how much time passes. It feels like seconds and hours, both. My first clue that someone is in the basement again is the jingle of the tools hanging on the false wall and the loud scrape of the door as it opens.
A scream is trapped in my throat, as always, and I’m pressing myself against the wall before I realize that it’s not Jakes at the threshold.
Blond hair scraped back into a ponytail, a short snub nose, deep grooves inscribed between her brows, her mouth drawn into a tight line. It takes a moment for her features to arrange themselves into a face, one I don’t recognize. I haven’t seen anyone else in so long.
She’s wearing a dark blue uniform with a heavy black vest.Police is printed in big white block letters across the front of the vest. The letters dance in front of my eyes, refusing to stay put.
“My name is Officer Beckstrom. We’re here to help you,” the woman says slowly. “Can you tell me your name?”
I shake my head violently. Jakes will be furious if I talk to her. A dim part of my brain registers that something unusual must have happened upstairs, if she’s here and he’s not. But I don’t trust it.
Her brows draw together, pity written across her features, and for the first time in months, I wonder what I must look like.
“He’s dead,” she says gently. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”
I just stare at her. Those words . . . that’s impossible.
“The HVAC guy called 9-1-1 when he saw you,” she says, when she sees my doubt. “Jakes ran when he saw us. He was going for a loaded shotgun in the back bedroom.”
To kill me. He threatened it often enough. I shudder. Or maybe he thought he could hold them off.
I don’t know which is right, and somehow that makes it harder to believe what she’s saying. But clearly something has happened.
“He has the key,” I manage to say eventually, my voice rusty with disuse. I lift my arm, showing her the chain and the padlock holding the metal band around my wrist. Thanks to my efforts to signal the repairman, fresh blood coats the dull surface, where the edges cut into my skin.
Her mouth tightens at the sight, but she nods and speaks into a radio attached to the shoulder of her vest.
Then she takes a few steps into the room, her gaze searching the corners before she turns her back on them and faces me.
“You’re okay, you’re okay,” she says, approaching me with her hands out, like I’m an animal that might bolt.
She sounds so much like Chase that I look to his poster. But he’s still just paper. And I miss him.
“Can you tell me your name?” she asks again when she’s closer. She moves to kneel in front of me, and instinctively, I scoot away.
But this time, I answer her. “Amanda Grace.”
Her eyes widen slightly. “Amanda Grace,” she repeats slowly and with reverence, as if I’ve said something holy or wise. “We’ve been looking for you for a long time. We didn’t think you were—” She cuts herself off with a grimace.
But I know what she was about to say—they didn’t think I was still alive. I’m not upset. It’s a reasonable assumption, and one that would have been proven correct, eventually. Even now, I’m not 100 percent sure that they were wrong. I don’t feel alive. I don’t feel . . . anything. Maybe I am dead, and this whole thing is just a hallucination, my afterlife.
My mouth wobbles on the verge of a hysterical laugh. My version of heaven is simply being rescued from this hellhole. It does make a certain kind of sense.
Another officer appears at the door to my room, which has now been open longer than any time since I’ve been here. He is younger than Officer Beckstrom. His gaze skates over me, the bruises on my face and the horrible stained and see-through nightgown, before skittering away, two bright spots of color rising on his already flushed face.
Steadfastly avoiding looking at me, he moves into the room just far enough to hand Officer Beckstrom a small, familiar brass key. Then he retreats, but not before I notice that his blue latex gloves are stained red on the fingertips.
Jakes is really dead. That’s the only way he would have given up that key. The only way he would have given me up. The revelation snaps through me like lightning, and suddenly, I’m crying without any memory of the tears starting.
Officer Beckstrom murmurs soothing words as she removes the padlock quickly and efficiently and then the band around my wrist.
The chain drops to the floor with a definitive slap, and it is the single best sound I’ve ever heard.
In a matter of moments, Officer Beckstrom has a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and she’s leading me to the door. Away from the room. Out of hell.
At the threshold, I glance back just once, looking to the poster on the wall, my only company, my only reminder of home for so long, and I send Chase one last message. You were right. Today was the day. Thank you.
But he remains silent and still, just ink and hope pressed into paper.
Another excerpt is coming soon! Stay tuned.
Want to read more? This is an excerpt from my published book 738 DAYS, now online and in stores.
Available in audio, paperback, and e-book.
“Readers will long remember the love story between these two complex characters.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Mesmerizing and addictive with layers of depth. I couldn’t turn the page fast enough…Compelling and emotional and sizzling, I NEVER wanted it to end.”
— Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author
“Amanda’s story of survival and Chase’s search for redemption pull you in and don’t let go…Kade weaves a perfect mix of hope, second chances, and steam.”
— Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Brimming with light and love and off-the-charts chemistry…I was in awe as I read it. Easily one of the best novels I’ve ever read.”
— Cora Carmack, New York Times bestselling author
“738 DAYS grabbed me from the first page and refused to let me go. Sweet, sad, compelling, terrifying, sexy…I felt every single emotion like I was living it. I LOVED this book!”
— Monica Murphy, New York Times bestselling author
“Totally compelling, heart-wrenching at times, yet, in the end, utterly romantic. I couldn’t put this book down!”
— Mari Madison, author of JUST THIS NIGHT
“Movie stars, secrets, sizzling chemistry, and psychological twists…what’s not to love in this book? Stacey Kade has created a world I wasn’t ready to leave by the time I hit the final page. A read you won’t want to put down, with characters you will fall for.”
— Alessandra Torre, New York Times bestselling author