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Book excerpt: "The Guest" by Emma Cline

Random House

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Emma Cline, author of the New York Times bestselling "The Girls" (about the Manson Family murders), returns with a smoldering thriller about a young escort's search for a new sugar daddy.

In "The Guest" (Random House), a woman desperate to get away from New York flees to the Hamptons, hoping to con someone into taking care of her, before a very determined man from her past can track her down. 

Read an excerpt below. 

"The Guest" by Emma Cline

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This was August. The ocean was warm, and warmer every day.

Alex waited for a set to finish before making her way into the water, slogging through until it was deep enough to dive. A bout of strong swimming and she was out, be­yond the break. The surface was calm.

From here, the sand was immaculate. The light—the fa­mous light—made it all look honeyed and mild: the dark European green of the scrub trees, the dune grasses that moved in whispery unison. The cars in the parking lot. Even the seagulls swarming a trash can.

On the shore, the towels were occupied by placid beach­goers. A man tanned to the color of expensive luggage let out a yawn, a young mother watched her children run back and forth to the waterline.

What would they see if they looked at Alex?

In the water, she was just like everyone else. Nothing strange about a young woman, swimming alone. No way to tell whether she belonged here or didn't.

When Simon had first taken her to the beach, he'd kicked off his shoes at the entrance. Everyone did, appar­ently: there were shoes and sandals piled up by the low wood railing. No one takes them? Alex asked. Simon raised his eyebrows. Who would take someone's shoes?

But that had been Alex's immediate thought—how easy it would be to take things, out here. All sorts of things. The bikes leaning against the fence. The bags unattended on towels. The cars left unlocked, no one wanting to carry their keys on the beach. A system that existed only because ev­eryone believed they were among people like themselves.

Before Alex left for the beach, she had swallowed one of Simon's painkillers, a leftover from a long-ago back surgery, and already the familiar mental gauze had de­scended, the surrounding salt water another narcotic. Her heart beat pleasantly, noticeably, in her chest. Why did being in the ocean make you feel like such a good human? She floated on her back, her body moving a little in the push and pull, her eyes closed against the sun.

There was a party tonight, hosted by one of Simon's friends. Or a business friend—all his friends were business friends. Until then, hours to waste. Simon would be work­ing the rest of the day, Alex left to her own devices, as she had been ever since they'd come out here—almost two weeks now. She hadn't minded. She'd gone to the beach nearly every day. Worked through Simon's painkiller stash at a steady but undetectable pace, or so she hoped. And ignored Dom's increasingly unhinged texts, which was easy enough to do. He had no idea where she was. She tried blocking his number, but he got through with new ones. She would change her number as soon as she got the chance. Dom had sent another jag that morning:

Answer me

Even if the texts still caused a lurch in her stomach, she had only to look up from the phone and it all seemed man­ageable. She was in Simon's house, the windows open onto pure green. Dom was in another sphere, one she could pre­tend no longer quite existed.

From the book "The Guest" by Emma Cline. Copyright © 2023 by Emma Cline. Published by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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"The Guest" by Emma Cline

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