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'I Want You More' by Swan Huntley: An Excerpt

A spicy psych thriller just in time for Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈
Swan Huntley •
May 22nd, 2024

Here at Tertulia, we review hundreds of books each month to decide what we want to feature to our avid reader audience. With Pride Month coming up, we're giving special attention to standout LGBTQ lit, and we've got a banger new release for you from Swan Huntley, author of Getting Clean with Stevie Green and The Goddesses. Her new book, the spicy, sapphic psychological thriller I Want You More (Zibby Books) was called “deliciously disquieting" by Publishers Weekly. The book "strikes a delicate tonal balance between seductive and serious…Readers who have ever wondered, ‘Do I want to be her or be with her?’ will feel a chill up their spines."

The set-up: A ghostwriting gig in the Hamptons becomes much more than just a job in this deliciously tense and spicy novel about love, fame, lies, and obsession. As aspiring author Zara Pines and celebrity chef Jane Bailey work on Jane’s memoir, an intense attachment forms and the line between them starts to blur. But an unforeseen incident shakes their bond, making even the most open-hearted reader ask: Who can you really trust? The novel, a LGTBQ War of the Roses meets Single White Female set at a Martha Stewart compound, would be the perfect addition to any Pride Month recommended reading you're planning for the summer!

Read on for an excerpt from the book.


I spent extra time getting dressed that day.

More accurately, I spent extra time playing dress-up before actually getting dressed.

I locked the closet door, and then I tried on pants and shirts I’d never seen off the hanger before, because they didn’t belong to the summer season. I swaddled myself in a wool coat, and then a down coat, and looked at my reflection from all angles in the expansive mirror.

I’d always been curious about what was in the drawers Jane never opened, so I opened every one of them. I found sweaters and scarves and socks made from cashmere. I found a collection of sunglasses and tried them all on. I tried on cropped slacks and army-green pants and silk blouses. I unzipped a hanging garment bag and found a sparkly silver gown inside. That was the last thing I tried on. I felt sexy wearing it, possibly sexier than I’d ever felt, and definitely more glamorous. I walked back and forth in front of the mirror for a while in the dress, mesmerized by its shimmer. Set delicately on the bridge of my nose were the largest pair of sunglasses from the collection, the ones that I equated with celebrity, the ones that said, Please notice me but don’t.

In my mind, I heard Jane say, You have to take about twenty shots to get one good one. So I took about sixty shots of myself. I was about to start trying on shoes when Bijou knocked. For a second, I was terrified that she’d see me in Jane’s clothes, but then I remembered that I’d locked the door.

“Your picnic is ready,” she said, and I responded cheerily, “Thanks, Bij!”

After that, I got dressed for the beach. I chose the black bikini, the green Birkenstocks, and the white linen dress with the vibrant floral embroidery that she usually wore. Then I surveyed the mess I’d made in the closet. I wondered how long it would take me to clean it up. Too long was the answer. So I started calculating how much it would matter if Bijou knew I’d tried on Jane’s clothes. Was it really that big of a deal? Why did I care what Bijou thought about me? Also, wasn’t she the housekeeper? Wasn’t it her job to clean up? I knew that if Jane were me in this situation, she would have unapologetically left the mess, so that’s what I decided to do.

On my way out of the closet, I had a last-second thought: I should take the celebrity sunglasses.

It wasn’t really a last-second thought, though.

The sunglasses said everything I’d been trying to say my entire life.

Please notice me but don’t.

*

At the beach, I spread my yellow towel out in a spot she would have liked, halfway between the dunes and the sand. I set the picnic basket on one corner and the Birks on the other and pulled my linen dress over my head with an ease that felt real. And then I followed the usual routine: sunscreen first. I lathered up my legs and arms, and when I got to my neck, I gave it a little massage, because that’s what I was used to.

Without Jane there, I was more aware of the people surrounding me on the beach. Fifteen feet to my right, an old man sat in a striped chair reading a book. To my left, a group of teenage girls, all wearing what appeared to be the same bikini, lay face up to the sun, their long, still bodies like carrots roasting in the oven. In front of me, two parents were building a sandcastle with their two toddlers.

The mother of the toddlers was the first person whose gaze lingered on me for a few beats too long. I thought I might have been imagining it at first, but as I walked by her on my way into the ocean, her gaze followed me.

I swam out far beyond the waves that day, almost as far as Jane liked to go, but not quite. When I looked back at the shoreline, all the people and their umbrellas were tiny, and the dunes were one long wavy line, and the massive homes didn’t seem that impressive to me anymore. I was operating from a mindset of abundance. If my dad was watching me now, then this was what I wanted him to see: me floating on my back in the water, my limbs outstretched in the shape of an X, taking up as much space as possible.

On the short walk back to the towel, and then while I was eating the salad Bijou had made, I felt more eyes on me. The old man put his book down and stared for a shameless amount of time. One of the teenage girls sat up, clocked me, and whispered something to her friend. The mother of the toddlers kept glancing.

I hid behind my giant sunglasses and pretended not to care.

Really, I was thrilled.

And I decided that tomorrow, I would definitely take that trip into town.

*

I spent the rest of the day writing in my journal.

At dusk, I moved from my office to the couch, and then I moved to the kitchen. I kept writing as I ate the simple dinner I’d prepared for myself: half a ham sandwich on rye. When I was done, I left the dishes in the sink for Bijou to wash the following morning and moved upstairs to the bedroom, where I wrote more.

I’m still trying to figure out if those people at the beach today thought I was Jane. So interesting to feel like you’re being watched.

One second after the alarm had beeped and the soft mechanical sound filled the silence of the house, Jane texted me.

Sorry, hon, busiest day. What are you doing?

Writing in my journal.

What are you writing about?

The feeling of being watched.

Jane started texting back, but then she stopped.

I waited.

I waited longer.

And then I finally wrote, Yes?

Did Bijou tell you? Or did you figure it out yourself?

What was she talking about?

Technically, she wrote, it’s legal to film whatever you want within the confines of your own home.

I stopped breathing.

Jane had cameras in her house. Why was this a revelation? It should have been obvious. My mind started racing through all the images of me she could have possibly seen since I’d arrived. Were there cameras in my old room? In my office? Was this why she’d always known the right time to come in and kiss me while I’d been writing the book? Had she seen me trying on her clothes?

I figured it out myself, I wrote, then casually lifted my eyes and searched the upper corners of the room, where the tiny black dot of a camera eye was totally visible.

Good girl, Jane wrote. Now spread your legs.

I didn’t hesitate. I just watched as my knees fall apart.

Now touch yourself.

Excerpted from I WANT YOU MORE by Swan Huntley. Copyright © 2024 by Swan Huntley. Reprinted with permission of Zibby Books. All rights reserved.


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