Background and Intro to The Stealing Exclusive Book Extract
The Stealing (www.thestealing.com) by private investigator Sharon Sutila (S.A. Sutila) has been described as “Normal People meets Wuthering Heights set in 1980s Delaware”, and it’s a book that won’t be constrained into one genre.
The novel is a modern gothic incarnation of the classic gothic romance, featuring an independent young woman trapped in dreary and oppressive surroundings, a gentleman hero, storms at sea, a supernatural force, and a powerful, but conflicted love story. There are no vampires or werewolves in sight. But with its 1980s setting, this coming-of-age romance probes serious issues that resonate with modern readers including the harmful, isolating effects of male dominance on women, gender-role bias, and the struggle to harness inner strength and find joy in life.
She chose to die. Now she chooses to live. And love. But her spirit has been claimed by a terrifying presence.
In the final year of high school, Sarah Vise’s life is set to start and finish on a literal dead-end street on the coast of Delaware. Abandoned by her mother, Sarah works endless hours on her domineering father’s fishing boat in the shadow of a run-down lighthouse. However, with an offer to go to college and after an intriguing encounter with her blue-eyed neighbour Grant, a fire is sparked inside Sarah. She is filled with a passionate desire to break free and carve out her own future for herself.
Sarah’s hopes are dashed when her callous father refuses to let her leave, and in desperation, she surrenders herself to the crashing waves. Grant frantically saves her from certain death, but her weakened spirit is taken by a dark-if alluring-presence to the afterlife. Captivated and too beaten down by life to resist, Sarah at first allows herself to be overcome by the hunter-sage. But she learns that Max is demonic in his need to control her and she once again has to beg for her freedom. Striking a terrible deal, Sarah steps back into her life and embarks on a romantic relationship with love-struck Grant. But the clock is ticking loudly, and Sarah’s fate is as unpredictable as the winds that lash her prison
The Eye of a Storm
The plot is likened to a mounting hurricane. In the calm eye of the storm, it is a sweet romance, but when the wind picks up, the story changes direction and the ending flips multiple times, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat to find out what happens to Sarah.
In this exclusive extract, shared with Luminaries Magazine, we find protagonist Sarah escaping school and heading on a much-needed change of scenery and adventure with her new ‘boyfriend’ Grant.
A Desire to be Carried Away, if Only for Day
The farther they drove from the school, the lighter Sarah felt. She sang along with the radio and moved her shoulders to the beat. The weight of her burdens was lifted, if only for the moment, and she wanted him to keep driving forever.
Grant seemed to be feeding off the privilege of witnessing the joyous side of Sarah. His energy crackled; he looked ready for anything.
“Grant, do you—” Sarah said, then hesitated. “Yes, my dear?” he responded.
She laughed. “‘Dear’? Is that what you just said? Besides missing the bus this morning, did I miss a marriage proposal too?”
Grant said, “Do you want one?” He was making a joke, but a tiny part of him seemed to be testing the waters too. He did say he likes to move fast.
“Not today,” she said. “Today I only want to be carried away.” “It shall be done.”
Sarah closed her eyes and let the radio music fill her soul as they drove out of town.
Morning fog hovered above rivers, ponds, and bright-green marsh grass as they crossed several small bridges in this land of rivers and sand. Sulfur gas seeped from the ancient terrain like a pungent, unheeded warning.
Grant and Sarah continued undeterred, trespassing on marshland pregnant with the raw material of body and spirit. As for Sarah, she chose to see the fertile landscape only as an exit ramp from a ferocious, careless world. Without a destination agreed upon, Sarah pretended they were on a lifelong adventure. It was easy to put her life in the hands of the man who’d saved her, she was discovering.
When Grant suddenly drove into a lot and parked the truck, she was a little disappointed that they were less than an hour from home.
“Best I could think of on short notice,” he said.
They were at the port of Lewes. Sarah saw the ferry and most of the cars already loaded on it. She hopped out of the truck, causing a dozen seagulls to flap their wings and depart early.
“You said you wanted to escape,” he said, pointing to the departure sign beyond the roped-off gangway: “Lewes to Cape May.”
Unable to contain her excitement, she leaned into Grant’s side in a playful way and said, “So we’re escaping to—”
Grant finished her sentence. “Jersey. Like I said, short notice.”
Pointing to a few people in line waiting to board, he said, “We better hurry, or we’ll be spending the day feeding gulls in the parking lot instead.”
“I really needed this. Thanks,” Sarah said, beaming a smile and grabbing his hand.
Grant squeezed her hand slowly, taking more from the gesture than Sarah perhaps intended.
Never having been on a ferry before, Sarah excitedly pulled Grant onto the ship and up the narrow stairs made of heavy steel grating. Their footsteps echoed as they ascended the vertical maze to the top platform.
The ferry engine rumbled, the great horn bellowed, and the seagulls squawked and circled as the crew made final preparations to leave port.
Passengers wandered about the decks. Plenty of benches, secured to the flooring with rusted metal bolts, were available, but Sarah leaned over the rail facing the bow. Grant took his place next to her. The ropes dropped, and the ferry left the dock. The velvet air caressed their lit-up faces as more than a hundred seagulls formed a military escort to follow them.
As the offshore wind dropped the temperature by six or seven degrees, Grant moved in close to her and draped his arm over her shoulders. For the second time in twenty-four hours, she was enjoying the warmth of his arm.
Sarah could not help but think she was taking advantage of Grant’s unyielding, doting affection. It was true—she liked his attention. But she simply did not feel as strongly or as seriously—or even as romantically—as he did. And the idea that it was expected of her to reciprocate felt like a sea anchor around her neck.
“Next time I’ll take you somewhere you really want to go,” he said as they passed the breakwater, heading into rougher seas.
Sarah shook her head, resisting the idea of a future, but assured him, “This is great. Are you kidding? I should be in English right now.” Starting an argument over a nonexistent future plan when leaving the Delaware shore—without one person knowing her whereabouts— seemed ill-advised. Besides, what harm was there in pretending for a day that he was more than a neighbour who’d spent the better part of his life bullying her?
She studied the shine of his indigo-blue eyes in the morning light.
She thought he wanted to say more but didn’t.
Sarah wanted to explore. Dragging Grant along with her, more as a bodyguard than anything else, she roamed the deck, letting her eyes drink in the details. She pulled him to the starboard side, where the angrier-looking waves marched in formation. The ferry was steadfast in levelling the rise and fall of the bay. When Sarah stopped short at her chosen spot at the rail, Grant stumbled into her, but her unassuming strength kept them from slipping. He apologized for being clumsy, and she said, “It’s all right. You’re a farmer—not a sailor.” Then she quickly amended, “But that’s a good thing.”
Grant replied, “In the early eighteen hundreds, my ancestors were sailors. They survived a shipwreck in a winter storm off the coast not far from here.”
Grant blocked the wind assailing them from the open ocean, and they turned to watch the shore disappear behind them.
“I’m surprised you’re chancing this,” Sarah said, leaning over the rail to look down.
“Chancing what?” he asked.
“Aren’t you worried I’ll … you know.”
His face reddened as he realized what she was implying: jump. She enjoyed watching his discomfort for a moment and then smiled. Her long hair seemed electrified by the wind, sticking out in all directions. Grant grabbed her waist and gently pulled her to him, away from the rail, without causing alarm to the people close by.
“I’m not worried about you … doing something stupid,” he said, “but why don’t we—”
“Let’s get a coffee,” she suggested, offering a good reason to depart the rail and free herself from his grip around her waist.
He leapt on the suggestion.
As they strolled to the snack bar, the ferry quietly passed over the sunken remains of hundreds of souls and centuries’ worth of ships taken by the treacherous shoals, storms, and ice of Delaware Bay. But Sarah and Grant were blissfully oblivious.
Copright Sharon Sutila. April 2022. All Rights Reserved.