Date Published: April 2019
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
The line between passion and obsession runs through us all.
Levi Combs never planned to rocket to stardom.
Eva Florez knew he would the moment she saw him.
Gabe Adams didn’t want anything to do with celebrities.
But after Gabe’s sister sells his photos of Levi with a young starlet to a tabloid website, their lives become intertwined forever, bound by rage and retribution.
Blending the nuance and insight of literary fiction with the big-screen magic of a Hollywood thriller, Focus Lost whisks readers into a world of temptation, indulgence, and revenge, daring them to take a bite of the forbidden fruit.
The road twists and turns away from Los Angeles. A man and girl ride inside an open Jeep. The vehicle slows and bends onto a grassy lane. Trees line both sides, connecting above, cloistering the path. Branches smack against the grill and windshield, raining leaves on the passengers, actor Levi Combs and young starlet Emily James.
A blonde ponytail sprouts from Emily’s head. She rubs the debris from her bare, milky shoulders and legs and swats at the swarm of gnats swirling through the cab. “How did you ever find this place?”
“Driving late at night.” Levi downshifts into first gear to navigate the uneven terrain. Strands of his black curly hair bounce against the red bandana wrapped around his head. He nudges up the black Ferragamo sunglasses resting on the tip of his nose. “You’ll see, you need places like this to escape the cameras.”
Even at only seventeen, Emily already knows that. She had been a working actor since she was three. Levi didn’t get his break until he was twenty. “But what do you do out here?” Emily says, leaning toward the middle to avoid more of the invasive underbrush. She latches onto Levi’s forearm as he continues to work the gearshift.
“Just roam,” Levi says, powering the Jeep through the brush. A dilapidated farmhouse and barn appear ahead. He drives past the buildings into an overgrown orchard. Wild plants and grass extend up through the decaying branches spotted with leaves but bearing no fruit. “Solitude is your only friend in our business. Everyone either wants a share of what you have or to keep you from getting theirs.” He increases speed, swerving between the dying trees. The thick weeds and fallen branches scrape against the undercarriage.
Emily clutches the safety bar. “Shouldn’t you slow down?”
Levi accelerates, passing the last row of trees. “Hang on.”
The weeded field drops off into a canyon fifty yards ahead. Panic seizes Emily. “Come on. What are you doing? Just stop.” The space between the Jeep and the canyon decreases. Shrieking, Emily closes her eyes and curls up into a ball on the seat.
Levi stomps the breaks. The Jeep skids to a halt. Levi and Emily thrust forward. The seatbelts tighten and yank them back into the seats. The edge of the canyon appears just beyond the hood. A cloud of dust passes over them. Levi kills the Jeep. The sound of the engine fades into the fog blanketing the bottom of the canyon. Nearby rocky peaks poke through the mist like islands in a white sea. Unbuckling his seatbelt, Levi stands and looks out above the windshield. “Great view, huh?”
Emily uncoils and opens her eyes to the tranquil, majestic setting. She rips off the seatbelt and launches from the Jeep. “You’re an asshole.” She stomps to the edge of the canyon and stares into the emptiness.
Levi trails after her. “Relax. You weren’t in danger. I told you, I come here all the time.”
“But what if we had rolled over?” Emily asks, the fear revealing the young girl she never allows herself to be.
Stepping up next to her, Levi bumps his hip playfully into hers. “But we didn’t.”
“Still,” Emily says, accentuating her pouting with a little girl’s voice. “Why do you have to push everything?”
“That’s funny, coming from the queen of the fast lane. You know I wouldn’t let anything happen to myself. The world would be such a far drearier place without me.” Levi wraps his arm around her, wiggling it to loosen her up. “There’s a waterfall a short hike from here.” He spins her toward him. “What do you say we go for a swim?”
“I suppose.” A restrained smile creeps out through her dissipating anger. “But I’m still mad at you.”
About the Author
Doug Cooper is the author of the award-winning novels Outside In and The Investment Club and 2019 thriller Focus Lost. Always searching, he has traveled to over twenty-five countries on five continents, exploring the contradictions between what we believe and how we act in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and love.