Extract: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
  • An extract from Safe Haven

    Now a major film

    The eighth Nicholas Sparks mega-seller to be adapted for the big screen, Safe Haven is a thrilling tale of secrets, betrayals, heartbreaks, new beginnings and the redemptive power of love. An absolute must-read for those wanting to bring a little North Carolina sun into their lives, the gorgeous film tie-in edition of Safe Haven is available now.  
     
    When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet unassuming, Katie is determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships.

    Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community. But even as Katie starts to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts her . . .

    You can listen to an extract from Safe Haven online now (or read an extract by clicking on the arrows below).

    Chapter One

    As Katie wound her way among the tables, a breeze from the Atlantic rippled through her hair. Carrying three plates in her left hand and another in her right, she wore jeans and a T-shirt that read Ivan’s: Try Our Fish Just for the Halibut. She brought the plates to four men wearing polo shirts; the one closest to her caught her eye and smiled. Though he tried to act as though he was just a friendly guy, she knew he was watching her as she walked away. Melody had mentioned the men had come from Wilmington and were scouting locations for a movie.

    After retrieving a pitcher of sweet tea, she refilled their glasses before returning to the waitress station. She stole a glance at the view. It was late April, the temperature hovering just around perfect, and blue skies stretched to the horizon. Beyond her, the Intracoastal was calm despite the breeze and seemed to mirror the color of the sky. A dozen seagulls perched on the railing, waiting to dart beneath the tables if someone dropped a scrap of food.

    Ivan Smith, the owner, hated them. He called them rats withwings, and he’d already patrolled the railing twice wielding a wooden plunger, trying to scare them off. Melody had leaned toward Katie and confessed that she was more worried about where the plunger had been than she was about the seagulls. Katie said nothing.

    She started another pot of sweet tea, wiping down the station. A moment later, she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She turned to see Ivan’s daughter, Eileen. A pretty, ponytailed nineteen-year-old, she was working part-time as the restaurant hostess.

    “Katie—can you take another table?”

    Katie scanned her tables, running the rhythm in her head. “Sure.” She nodded.

    Eileen walked down the stairs. From nearby tables Katie could hear snippets of conversations—people talking about friends or family, the weather or fishing. At a table in the corner, she saw two people close their menus. She hustled over and took the order, but didn’t linger at the table trying to make small talk, like Melody did. She wasn’t good at small talk, but she was efficient and polite and none of the customers seemed to mind.

    She’d been working at the restaurant since early March. Ivan had hired her on a cold, sunny afternoon when the sky was the color of robins’ eggs. When he’d said she could start work the following Monday, it took everything she had not to cry in front of him. She’d waited until she was walking home before breaking down. At the time, she was broke and hadn’t eaten in two days.

    She refilled waters and sweet teas and headed to the kitchen. Ricky, one of the cooks, winked at her as he always did. Two days ago he’d asked her out, but she’d told him that she didn’t want to date anyone at the restaurant. She had the feeling he would try again and hoped her instincts were wrong.

    “I don’t think it’s going to slow down today,” Ricky commented. He was blond and lanky, perhaps a year or two younger than her, and still lived with his parents. “Every time we thinkwe’re getting caught up, we get slammed again.”

    “It’s a beautiful day.”

    “But why are people here? On a day like today, they should be at the beach or out fishing. Which is exactly what I’m doing when I finish up here.”

    “That sounds like a good idea.”

    “Can I drive you home later?”

    He offered to drive her at least twice a week. “Thank you, no. I don’t live that far.”

    “It’s no problem,” he persisted. “I’d be glad to do it.”

    “Walking’s good for me.”

    She handed him her ticket and Ricky pinned it up on the wheel and then located one of her orders. She carried the order back to her section and dropped it off at a table.

    Ivan’s was a local institution, a restaurant that had been in business for almost thirty years. In the time she’d been working there, she’d come to recognize the regulars, and as she crossed the restaurant floor her eyes traveled over them to the people she hadn’t seen before. Couples flirting, other couples ignoring each other. Families. No one seemed out of place and no one had come around asking for her, but there were still times when her hands began to shake, and even now she slept with a light on.

    Her short hair was chestnut brown; she’d been dyeing it in the kitchen sink of the tiny cottage she rented. She wore no makeup and knew her face would pick up a bit of color, maybe too much. She reminded herself to buy sunscreen, but after paying rent and utilities on the cottage, there wasn’t much left for luxuries. Even sunscreen was a stretch. Ivan’s was a good job and she was glad to have it, but the food was inexpensive, which meant the tips weren’t great. On her steady diet of rice and beans, pasta and oatmeal, she’d lost weight in the past four months. She could feel her ribs beneath her shirt, and until a few weeks ago, she’d had dark circles under her eyes that she thought would never go away.

    “I think those guys are checking you out,” Melody said, nodding toward the table with the four men from the movie studio. “Especially the brown-haired one. The cute one.”

    “Oh,” Katie said. She started another pot of coffee. Anything she said to Melody was sure to get passed around, so Katie usually said very little to her.

    “What? You don’t think he’s cute?”

    “I didn’t really notice.”

    “How can you not notice when a guy is cute?” Melody stared at her in disbelief.

    “I don’t know,” Katie answered.

    Like Ricky, Melody was a couple of years younger than Katie, maybe twenty-five or so. An auburn-haired, green-eyed minx, she dated a guy named Steve who made deliveries for the home improvement store on the other side of town. Like everyone else in the restaurant, she’d grown up in Southport, which she described as being a paradise for children, families, and the elderly, but the most dismal place on earth for single people. At least once a week, she told Katie that she was planning to move to Wilmington, which had bars and clubs and a lot more shopping. She seemed to know everything about everybody. Gossip, Katie sometimes thought, was Melody’s real profession.

    “I heard Ricky asked you out,” she said, changing the subject, “but you said no.”

    “I don’t like to date people at work.” Katie pretended to be absorbed in organizing the silverware trays.

    “We could double-date. Ricky and Steve go fishing together.”

    Katie wondered if Ricky had put her up to it or whether it was Melody’s idea. Maybe both. In the evenings, after the restaurant closed, most of the staff stayed around for a while, visiting over a couple of beers. Aside from Katie, everyone had worked at Ivan’s for years.

    “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Katie demurred.

    “Why not?”

    “I had a bad experience once,” Katie said. “Dating a guy from work, I mean. Since then, I’ve kind of made it a rule not to do it again.”

    Melody rolled her eyes before hurrying off to one of her tables. Katie dropped off two checks and cleared empty plates. She kept busy, as she always did, trying to be efficient and invisible. She kept her head down and made sure the waitress station was spotless. It made the day go by faster. She didn’t flirt with the guy from the studio, and when he left he didn’t look back.

    Katie worked both the lunch and dinner shift. As day faded into night, she loved watching the sky turning from blue to gray to orange and yellow at the western rim of the world. At sunset, the water sparkled and sailboats heeled in the breeze. The needles on the pine trees seemed to shimmer. As soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, Ivan turned on the propane gas heaters and the coils began to glow like jack-o’-lanterns. Katie’s face had gotten slightly sunburned, and the waves of radiant heat made her skin sting.

    Abby and Big Dave replaced Melody and Ricky in the evening. Abby was a high school senior who giggled a lot, and Big Dave had been cooking dinners at Ivan’s for nearly twenty years. He was married with two kids and had a tattoo of a scorpion on his right forearm. He weighed close to three hundred pounds and in the kitchen his face was always shiny. He had nicknames for everyone and called her Katie Kat.

    The dinner rush lasted until nine. When it began to clear out, Katie cleaned and closed up the wait station. She helped the busboys carry plates to the dishwasher while her final tables finished up. At one of them was a young couple and she’d seen the rings on their fingers as they held hands across the table. They were attractive and happy, and she felt a sense of déjà vu. She had been like them once, a long time ago, for just a moment. Or so she thought, because she learned the moment was only an illusion. Katie turned away from the blissful couple, wishing that she could erase her memories forever and never have that feeling again.