Daughter of Deep Silence
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I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.
In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.
Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.
Excerpt from Daughter of Deep Silence
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2015 Daughter of Deep Silence
When they pull me onto the yacht, I can’t even stand I’ve been adrift in the ocean so long. A young crewman sits me on a teak bench while he calls out for someone to bring him blankets and water. He asks me my name but my tongue is too thick and my throat too raw from screaming and salt water to answer.
I’m alive, I think to myself. The words run on an endless loop through my head as if with repetition I’ll somehow believe it. I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.
And Libby isn’t.
I should be feeling something more. But it’s all too much too fast. Inside I’m awash with numbness that cocoons a brightly burning knot of rage and despair. Protecting me. For now.
A pair of crewmen pull Libby’s body from the life raft, rolling her onto her back on the yacht’s gleaming deck. I think about how birds have hollow bones and how easy it must be to break them.
That’s how she looks right now: hollow. Her cheeks sunken, her wrists twigs wrapped in tight skin that’s turned to leather from relentless heat and exposure.
A crewman presses his fingers against her neck, a palm in the center of her chest. His expression slides from desperate hope into a mask of efficient resignation. He looks up to where an older man with a ring of white hair around his otherwise bald head hovers, waiting. The crewman shakes his head.
The older man lets out a cry, his face crumpling as he falls to his knees by Libby’s side. He only says one word over and over again as he pushes a tangle of wet hair out of her face: no. His voice cracks and his shoulders slump, shaking, as he sobs.
If I had any tears left in me I’d be crying too, but I’m so dehydrated that all I can do is shake, my lungs spasming with hiccups. I try to talk, my mouth forming a wh– sound over and over again.
“Shh.” The crewman who rescued me drapes a blanket around my shoulders. “It’s okay, you’re safe now.”
I want to believe him. But all I can do is stare at Libby’s body. An hour earlier, and they’d have found her alive. She might have survived. Seven days adrift in the middle of the ocean, and she’d lost it in the last hour.
It doesn’t seem fair. We were supposed to make it together. We’d promised.
Her body is so light and brittle it takes only one person to carry her inside the ship. The older man does it, clutching her against his chest, his eyes red and lips pressed tight together.
“My baby,” he whispers against her temple. Understanding hits with a physical force: This is Libby’s father. He glances at me as he passes, his expression bewildered, and I know he’s wondering the same thing I’ve already been thinking: Why am I the one who survived? Why couldn’t it have been her pulled alive from the raft?
I want to apologize, but seeing him with Libby—a father cradling his broken daughter—I can’t. The unfairness of it is monstrous. I would give anything to have my father here now, to feel him holding me and protecting me the way Libby’s father does.
And he would give anything for his daughter to still be alive.
I close my eyes, unable to stand it. Because in this moment I truly understand just how alone I am. How no one will ever again hold me and care about me the way Libby’s father does her. My parents are dead. Libby is dead. I have no relatives— no other family waiting for me.
I am alone. Utterly and irrevocably alone.
Memories storm through me, fast and sharp, in an unrelenting strobe of sensations—sounds, smells, fragments of sentences. I feel my mother’s hand against my forehead checking for a fever some night, years ago. I hear the way she sneezes, big and loud, and my father laughing in response the way he always, always does.
There’s the smell of the car on the winter morning we go to pick out a Christmas tree, my father singing along to the carols on the radio with his voice always just slightly out of tune. I taste french fries—my fingers slick with fast-food grease—my mom’s treat to me as she drives me home from summer camp.
I lick my lips and gag at the taste of salt. The memories come faster, running over one another, drowning me. Panic claws its way up my throat. My nails are soft and cracked from so long in the water and they split past the quick as I try to dig them into the skin along my thighs, wishing I could gouge it all out of me. The memories. The loss. The pain. The refrain that’s been unspooling in my head for days: gone, gone, they’re all gone, your life is gone.
And inevitably, images from the attack come next: the gun pressed to my father’s head. The blood drenching my mother’s shirt. She’d begged, but it hadn’t mattered. It didn’t matter for anyone on that cruise ship. They’d all been massacred.
Three hundred twenty-seven. That was the total number of passengers and crew on the Persephone. It was one of the things we’d learned during the safety drill before leaving port. In the end, it never mattered how many people a life raft could hold. It never mattered where each cabin’s muster station was.
Nothing we learned during the safety drill mattered.
The attack had come swift and hard in the middle of the night. One minute life on the Persephone was normal, the next the ship was rocked with explosions. They blocked the exits while armed men went room to room, systematic in their assault. Faces passive, expressions detached from their actions, they’d pulled triggers and reloaded magazines with sickening efficiency.
Killing them all.
The bodies. Oh God, the bodies. And the blood and the screams and the smell of it all, like overripe peaches stuffed with pennies.
I gasp and shudder. It was only luck that allowed Libby and me to escape. We talked about it relentlessly during those next seven days adrift, the impossibility that we’d somehow survived.
All of that and she’d ended up dead anyway. It’s so brutally unfair.
The young crewman pushes a plastic bottle of water into my hand, forcing me back into the present. My throat clenches. The bottle’s cold—freezing against my palm—and there’s condensation dripping along the outside. I fumble to open it, my fingers useless, my muscles too weak to even lift it. Finally he takes mercy and twists the cap free.
“Drink slow,” he says, but in my world there’s no such thing and I press that bottle hard to my lips. If I’d died the instant that water rushed across my tongue I wouldn’t have cared. I’m sharply aware of each drop as it cascades down my throat and into my hollow belly. Nothing exists then but that taste—that sensation.
“Easy now,” the man says, gently prying the bottle from my lips. “You don’t want to make yourself sick.” He’s too late; already my stomach revolts in painful cramps. I turn and vomit.
The man rubs my back as I heave, telling me again that I’ll be okay. That I’m safe. “What’s your name?” he asks when I’ve recovered enough to sit up again.
I press the back of my hand to my mouth. My skin tastes like salt, making me retch. “Frances,” I try to tell him, the sound nothing more than a tattered thread.
The storm that had been threatening at the edge of the sky all day finally breaks, sending fat drops of water crashing to the deck. “Let’s get you inside,” the crewman says as he slides his arms gently around my shoulders, lifting me as easily as Libby’s father lifted her. As he carries me, I tilt my head back, letting the rain wash across my sun-cured skin.
If it had come a few hours sooner, this rain would have saved her.
I barely pay attention as the man maneuvers me through a large salon, down a flight of stairs, and along a hallway to a stateroom. He sets me carefully on the bed.
“I’m a medic,” he explains. He pulls over a large red bag emblazoned with a white cross and slides on gloves. “Is it okay if I examine you?”
I nod and he’s ginger as he probes at the sores covering my legs and back, unable to hide his horror at what’s become of my body. “You’ll be okay,” he tells me again, but I get the impression it’s more to convince himself than me. He unzips his bag and begins pulling out various medical supplies.
“You’re severely dehydrated,” he explains as he runs an alcohol-soaked swab across my inner arm and presses a needle against the flesh. “So the first priority is to start getting fluids in you.” It takes him several tries, his forehead creased in frustrated concentration as he searches for a vein. I feel none of it.
Eventually he’s satisfied and drapes an IV bag from a hook on the wall. “For now, just rest.” He starts for the door but I force the sound up my throat.
“How many survived the attack?”
He looks at me, not understanding the question. “Attack?”
“The attack on the Persephone,” I croak in a salt-crusted voice. “How many others survived?”
Frowning, he opens his mouth, reconsiders, and closes it. Finally he says, “Two others: Senator Wells and his son.”
I don’t even dare to breathe. “Grey? ” I whisper.
He nods and I slump back into the nest of pillows, pressing the heels of my hands against my eyes. Grey’s alive. Grey’s alive! It seems so impossible, that after losing everything else, this one small part survived. Like suddenly there’s a bright spark of hope in the cavernous blackness my life has become.
“Hey, I’m Grey,” he says, standing next to my deck chair, casting me in shadow. I have to squint when I look up at him and though I’ve been ogling him all afternoon I still can’t stop my eyes from dropping to his chest, skimming down to the strip of bare skin just above the waistband of his swim trunks.
They skim low on his hips, almost like a promise.
I’m fairly certain he notices and my cheeks heat. But I know the reason he’s here—what he’s really after. He’s made that abundantly clear.
“Her name’s Libby,” I tell him, gesturing to where Libby’s hanging out over by the towel stand. She has her elbows propped on the counter and is leaning forward slightly, hoping to catch the hot attendant’s attention. “I’d move quick if I were you,” I add.
“Oh, um.” He shifts from one foot to the other, and I assume he’s nervous because he can’t figure out how to politely ditch me to go after my friend. But I’m already expecting it—I’ve noticed him looking our way for a while now.
“Do you mind if I join you?” He points at Libby’s empty chaise next to mine. It’s so unexpected, I stare at him perhaps a beat too long. Finally I realize he’s waiting for my response and I shrug.
He’s barely settled before I ask, “So, what do you want to know about her?”
He smiles and ducks his head. “Actually,” he says, “I was hoping to learn more about you.”
While on the raft, I’d daydreamed of Grey rescuing me, even though I knew it was impossible—that he must have been killed with everyone else on board. Over and over as we drifted toward death on the empty ocean, I’d imagined him coming for me.
It didn’t matter than I’d known him barely a week, it had been long enough to fall for him with an intensity I’d never experienced before.
He was my first love. And he’d told me I was his.
In the black horror of what my life has become, that single point of light now shines. I’ve lost my parents. I’ve lost Libby. Nothing will ever be the same again. I have no other family, no long-lost relatives to take me in. There is nothing left.
But Grey. I still have Grey.
I cling to the thought as though it is a life raft, knowing that if I hold on tight enough and don’t give up, I’ll somehow be able to survive.
I drift asleep imagining our reunion. Already feeling his arms around my shoulders, his hands pressing against my back, holding me tight against him. He’ll brush his lips against my temple and whisper over and over that it’s okay, he’ll keep me safe, and I’ll believe him.
Because he also saw the horror. He also survived it. He also understands. In the protection of his arms finally, finally, my tears will come again.
The same four words cycle endlessly through me, giving me comfort for the first time since that opening shot was fired on the Persephone: I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not alone.
I wake in darkness, raw and confused. There’s this moment of lightness as I roll over, the soft bed beneath me and the sheets sliding along my skin. For a fraction of a heartbeat it feels right.
And then I remember. It comes as a physical sensation first, a crushing on my chest as my mind struggles to bend and stretch to take it all in.
The gun pressed so hard against Dad’s head that it caused the skin around the barrel to wrinkle and pucker. All down the hallway, shots firing, one after another after another. Systematic. My dad’s top teeth scraping against his bottom lip, starting to say my name.
Gasping, I bolt upright, pressing my palms over my ears as though that could somehow stop me from hearing. But of course it doesn’t.
The gunshot, shattering bone.
It never will.
Beneath me, the yacht rocks softly, the thrum of its engine a low vibration through my bones. The stateroom is empty, the windows dark. It’s too quiet. I’m too alone. Memories of the attack circle around like hungry sharks and I reach for the television remote, hoping that sound and distraction will keep them at bay.
When it flickers on, the TV hanging on the far wall is glaringly bright and colorful, stinging my eyes. But it’s something other than silence and that’s what I crave. I flip through channels absently until a familiar name stops me. Persephone.
My hand falls limp to the bed. Heart pounding, I watch as a news anchor shuffles papers while an image of the cruise ship floats behind her. “Breaking news on last week’s Persephone disaster,” she announces. “Sources are confirming that another survivor from the ship may have been located. As of now, authorities haven’t released any information about the potential survivor or survivors. While we wait for more information to trickle in, let’s take a look at the dramatic footage of Senator Wells and his son taken shortly after their own rescue.”
The scene on the TV shifts to a sprawling marina bustling with activity. The camera zooms in on the gangplank of a large US Coast Guard ship, focusing on a small group making its way toward the pier.
Senator Wells leads the pack. Even with a sunburned face he manages to appear debonair in an almost-dangerous way, the salt-and-pepper scruff of his unshaven face emphasizing the sharpness of his cheekbones. The camera pans past him and my breath catches.
It’s Grey. Alive.
It’s one thing to be told he survived, yet another to see it as truth. That same surge of relief washes through me, the sudden realization that I’m not alone. Someone else out there understands.
I devour his appearance. Grey looks much worse than his father. He clutches a thick blanket around his shoulders, his steps slow as he trails after the group. His hair sticks up from his head at odd angles and his eyes look bruised above the shadowy scraps of stubble strewn across his cheeks and chin.
Reporters rush the two en masse, shouting questions and Grey rears back, alarmed by the sudden onslaught. I press my fingers against my lips, feel them trembling. One of the coast guard men tries to push the camera away, but the Senator stops him. “We’ll answer,” he says. Grey winces and his eyes squeeze shut.
“The world deserves to know the truth of what happened to the Persephone,” the Senator explains, pulling Grey toward the reporter’s microphone. “It happened fast,” the Senator begins. I find myself nodding even though at the time it had seemed like hours. Days of gunfire. Years of blood.
“It was late and I was out on deck with my son, helping him look for his phone he’d forgotten by the pool that afternoon. There was a terrible storm and we were just about to give up and go inside.” He pauses, shakes his head. “The wave came out of nowhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. It just . . . took the whole ship out.”
Wave? I find that I can’t breathe, his words grinding my thoughts to a halt. That’s not what happened. There was no wave.
Senator Wells steps aside, leaving his son facing the microphone. Every heartbeat echoes through my water-slogged veins, causing my entire body to throb and rock as I wait to hear what he has to say. Grey blanches, but doesn’t retreat. The familiarity of his gestures is jarring. The way he holds himself with his weight slightly on his right leg, the furrow between his eyebrows as he sorts through his thoughts before speaking.
The way he unconsciously rubs his skull, just behind his ear, whenever he’s about to lie.
It’s amazing the little things you can pick up about someone in such a short amount of time when you’re falling in love. Every nuance, every sound and movement a code to understanding them.
“Like Dad said, it happened fast,” he starts, and then he clears his throat, choked up. In my head I see it all. I hear it all and taste it all. Again.
Grey pulls me against him and threads a strand of hair behind my ear. When he brings his mouth closer, I stop caring about the rain. All I care about is devouring this moment as though to imprint it into my memory forever.
Rivulets of water wash down his face, dripping from his chin and coursing along his neck. The way his shirt plasters to his chest allows me to see the outline of every muscle. I press my fingers against them, tracing the edges.
I laugh, a bubble of euphoria too large to keep contained. He kisses me right then, like he could take my laughter into himself and make it a part of him. And still, all around us the rain crashes but we don’t care.
The reporters huddling around Grey barely breathe as they wait for him to continue. “The rain was awful, and as Dad mentioned, we were . . . uh . . . out on deck by the pool.” He glances toward his father before continuing. “It was unlike . . . anything. It came out of nowhere—this massive wave. And it just was there—a wall of water. It rose higher than even the top of the ship—much higher.” He pauses as if reliving the moment, eyes haunted.
I’m trembling now. I don’t understand. Why isn’t he talking about the attack? Why isn’t he mentioning the guns?
Grey inhales slowly, his shirt lifting just enough to lay bare the strip of pale skin along the edge of his shorts. He begins to rub that spot behind his ear again.
“And then . . .” His voice breaks.
And then the guns. Men slamming through the corridors, cutting off the emergency exits, and locking the ship down. Panicked passengers in robes and nightgowns run, screaming. Making it no more than a few steps before bullets tear them apart.
Water drips down my back, my hair still wet from kissing Grey in the rain. I press myself against the cold metal wall of the dumbwaiter, watching through the mirrored window as a tall, narrow man makes his way efficiently down the hallway. He kicks a broken body aside. Forces his way into a room. It takes seconds—a loud spattering of gunfire—and then he’s in the hallway again, moving on to the next.
Moving on to my family’s room directly across from where I’m hiding.
A high-pitched whine climbs its way up the back of my throat, coated in acid. I clamp my hands over my mouth, knowing without question that if they hear me, I am dead.
I’m dead either way.
As Grey speaks, the reporters hang on his every nuance and gesture. They’re enraptured by him. I wait for him to mention the armed men. The gunshots. The murder.
But he never does. “It’s like what Dad said. The wave just swallowed her whole. Like a toy in a tub. And then . . . the Persephone was gone.” He shakes his head, as though he himself couldn’t believe it. “Just gone.”
In the silence that follows, the Senator squeezes his son’s shoulder. One of the reporters shouts, “How were you able to survive?”
Grey’s eyes widen, his expression one of bewilderment. The Senator steps in. “Had to be luck, plain and simple. It was late and because of the rain everyone else was inside, probably asleep in their cabins. I was so angry at Grey for losing his phone, but if he hadn’t . . .” He inhales sharply. Grey stares at his feet. “We wouldn’t have been up on deck and thrown free when the wave hit.”
“No!” I shout, the sound raw in my throat. “That’s not how it happened!”
“Once we got to the surface and saw the wreckage . . .” Here the Senator pauses and takes a water bottle one of the rescuers holds out to him. “We tried to find other survivors, but . . .” He shakes his head and a shudder passes through Grey. “The only choice we had was to try to stay alive. We found a life raft that must have broken free and just prayed that someone would find us.”
I’m gasping for air. “But . . .” I close my eyes remembering. Libby and I dragging our arms through the water, trying to put distance between us and the burning Persephone. Flames choking out her windows, undaunted by the rain. It wasn’t until dawn that we saw the extent of it: nothing.
Not a scrap of the ship remained. No hint of other survivors. No other life rafts anywhere in sight. How had Grey and his father survived without either of us seeing them?
On TV the tenor of the reporters changes as the camera pans and zooms in on a middle-aged woman running down the pier, her perfectly coiffed blond hair loosening in the breeze. She’s wearing a skirt that hits just above her knees and she pauses briefly to kick off her heels so that she can run faster. “Alastair! Grey!” she cries, the sound primal.
The cameraman knows how to do his job and he instantly focuses in on Grey’s face, capturing the moment it crumples and he mouths the word, Mom? And then they’re hugging, sobbing, reunited. His father’s arm around them both.
The video pauses on this perfect image. The intimate snapshot of an all-American family newly reunited, their heavy grief finally lifted. A miracle. The Senator with his sunburned face and lightly tousled hair. His wife barefoot, tendrils of hair pulled loose around her tear-stained face. And their beloved only son between them.
My chest tightens as though it were collapsing in on itself. Father. Mother. Child. All together. All safe.
It becomes impossible to breathe.
I’ll never hug my parents again. My mother will never come running toward me. My father will never place his hand on my head and tell me he loves me. I’ll never feel safe ever again.
I’ve lost everything. And somehow, Grey hasn’t.
The anchorwoman’s voice cuts into my thoughts, and I listen with a mounting sense of incredulity as she continues. “News of another survivor certainly comes as a surprise. As you may recall, the coast guard called off the search for survivors last week after interviewing Senator Wells and his son and concluding that a rogue wave capsized the Persephone, sinking it before those belowdecks could escape.”
The camera switches angles and the anchor swivels, continuing. “Though they’re considered a rare occurrence, this isn’t the first time a rogue wave has been suspected in the disappearance of a ship. In fact, it’s widely believed that it was a rogue wave that took the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, and just as with the Persephone, there was no wreckage found in that case either.”
It takes a moment for this information to take shape in my mind. For the implications of it to settle in. The coast guard called off the search days ago. When Libby and I were still out there. When we both still had a chance to be rescued alive.
All because of Senator Wells and Grey. Because they lied.
I don’t even realize that I’m screaming until firm hands pull me from the TV. My fists flail at it and smears of red mar the screen, blood from where I’d ripped out my IV in my scramble from the bed.
“They’re lying,” I shout, still flailing. “The ship was attacked. There was no wave. It was men with guns—they killed everyone!”
A crewman holds me steady as the medic slips a needle into my arm. “Shh,” he murmurs. “It’s okay.”
“No,” I whimper, shaking my head. But everything feels so much heavier now. My protests, fuzzy and indistinct. “You don’t understand.” He carries me to the bed, and when he tries to leave, I fumble for his wrist, holding him. “You have to believe me. They’re lying. Please.” A tear leaks from my eye, the first since I’ve been rescued.
He gently frees himself. “It’s okay,” he says softly, pulling another blanket over me. “You’re safe now.”
But I know that’s not true. May never be true again. “They killed them all and sank the ship,” I whisper, my voice weakening. “They killed my parents.” It comes out slurred. “Please believe me.”