#Wednesday Writers: Serialisation of Nine Lives #Mystery Thriller

Despite the terrible pain in my back, I am trying to keep going. Doing what I love is really helping me cope and not get too depressed. Tests are on going, so might get some answers soon!

Hope you enjoy reading chapter eight of Nine Lives, and let me know what you think of it!

 

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Chapter Eight

The daylight was beginning to fade, although Jack hadn’t noticed. He wasn’t aware of anything, locked in his own private world of pain and anger. Not even the pain from his fingers as he chewed them unmercifully in his frustration.

Darkness was gathering in pools all around him as he sat at the kitchen table, Kate’s carton of cigarettes in front of him. He wasn’t seeing them anymore, her face occupied his mind again and no matter how he tried to distort her image with every ounce of hatred he possessed, he failed miserably as usual.

He had never understood the power she had over him, the way just looking at her made him feel unworthy. Kate was not beautiful in the classic sense, her nose was a little too big, her mouth lopsided, but a light seemed to glow inside her and the more you looked the more you were compelled to.

If he didn’t know any better, he would describe the aura that emanated from her as saint-like, for he could almost hear the soft chords of a church organ in her presence, he felt touched by something divine.

Anger sparked and flared again as he remembered the day she had vanished, throwing his love away and all he had given her. He reached out and grasped the box in front of him, gripping it so hard his fingers shook and began to bleed. She probably thought she had succeeded, even now.

He relaxed his grip and slowly stroked the packet, spreading a smear of blood and imagined her fingers touching the paper, fingers that should be touching him.

White-hot anger seared through his brain and he ripped the carton open, destroying the contents in a frenzied rage that seemed unending.

 

Sometime later, when the rage had abated, he stared at the rubbish in front of him. Of all the things to steal from her, he thought, why these? Because he knew she would miss them the most. She always seemed to need a cigarette much more than him and that had always infuriated him and driven him mad.

He ignored his own sarcasm, shaking his head as if to dislodge it, knowing as he did it was true. Had he been reduced to petty theft?

He had taken other things from her over the years; most went unnoticed to his constant annoyance. It would appear she went about in a dream most of the time, completely unaware of her surroundings.

The way she could remove herself from reality was what had attracted him in the beginning. He discovered quite early in their relationship she didn’t like the real world at all and wanted no part of it. Rejecting the pain and torment, the dirt and humiliation all living things had to endure and of which she had had her share. She had found a way to live, which reduced all the hostile friction to a minimum.

The fact he wasn’t included in her state of mind was what started to create his anger. Little by little, he resented her way of generating the calm she obviously needed more than him, until he found himself trying to destroy everything she held dear.

Most of his resentment was directed at Mr Perfect, his nickname for Michael Barratt, the so-called love of her life and father of her son David. She never mentioned it but he knew she still loved him and while that love existed, there was no room for him.

When Jack was trying desperately to find her all those years ago, he visited all the places he could think of, questioning anyone who might have a clue as to her whereabouts. He tried to talk to Mr Perfect’s father, John Barratt, something he didn’t enjoy for the man seemed hell-bent on keeping the fact he knew her a well-kept secret. It wasn’t until later when his temper had been satisfied he saw the old man’s stubbornness for what it was. He had loved her and was jealously guarding her memory from all comers.

Kate had run away from him too and the father seemed to blame his son with a barely concealed hatred that matched Jack’s own.

At least he wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore, he thought; remembering the way the old man’s eyes had gradually closed as he squeezed the life out of him. It was almost as though he welcomed death as the end of his suffering.

Did the suffering end when you died, he wondered? Or did you take it with you into the afterlife? He hoped it was the latter, for in a complicated way he enjoyed the pain. There were just so many ways you could enjoy it.

He would have killed Michael too if he knew where to find him, but the man proved to be more elusive than smoke and he had to content himself for the moment with the knowledge he was no longer in the picture. It wouldn’t remove him from her heart, and then, killing him probably wouldn’t either.

For some reason, all the hatred he felt for Michael Barratt transferred to the child, a pale and pathetically weak child. Constantly clinging to his mother and demanding her attention and the fact he seemed to cry at the slightest touch, drove Jack insane. Just looking at him monopolising Kate caused white-hot anger to flow through Jack’s body, an anger that had to be quenched.  Using the sedatives helped a lot but he still fantasied about smothering him with a pillow, but she always seemed to be in the way. He had to make do with vicious mental games and rough play, most of which frightened the child witless, forcing him to appear withdrawn and miserable. Eventually, the child stopped clinging to his mother, blaming her for not protecting him enough.

It was easy to plant cruel ideas in the child’s head and before too long he hated his mother; refusing to let her touch him, causing the kind of pain he found satisfying. He decided to postpone killing the child until his usefulness ran out.

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Cusp of Night by Mae Clair is Released today! Our 5* Review.#ParanormalMystery @MaeClair1

The truth hides in dark places . . .

 

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Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house—a woman whose ghost may still linger. Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, triggers Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

Visit us at www.kensingtonbooks.com

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Forli, Emilia Romagna, Italy: narrow dark alley in the old town – ancient Italian street at night with lampposts and cobbled pavement

Book Link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cusp-Night-Hodes-Hill-Novel-ebook/dp/B078LJX83X/

Our Review of Cusp of Night

“Equal parts monster and fallen angel…”

I knew when I read the blurb for CUSP OF NIGHT that I had to read the first book in Mae Clair’s new series, and I wasn’t disappointed.

It is an unusual story, beautifully written, dripping with a chilling mystery that draws you into the dark world of spiritualism and myth. Mae Clair skilfully blends and intertwines the chapters, connecting the reader to the 1900’s and the present day and the mysteries of both.

I especially loved the way the mysteries from the past begin to resonate with the present circumstances, leading the hero, Maya Sinclair into the paranormal discovery of an evil that somehow can live forever.

Why would an evil entity visit the present, dragging tragedy and horror with it?

This is the mystery that Maya needs to solve, as disaster begins to strike the people around her. Would she be able to solve the mystery and discover the truth behind the legend?

The tension had me chewing my nails, and then the unexpected sadness had me reaching for a box of tissues, but I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Already described as  “unique, addictive and creepy…” this new series promises to be a best seller and I can highly recommend Cusp of Night to anyone who loves a haunting and formidable story…


 

EXCERPT FROM CUSP OF NIGHT

She’d left her purse on the dresser, keys by her jewellery chest. A half dozen shoeboxes that had yet to find a place in the closet were stacked beside a white rocking chair. Made from distressed wood, the chair had come from Mrs.Bonnifer’s antique shop. Maya had bought it on the spot after hearing it dated from the 1880s. She’d placed it in the parlour initially, then moved it to the bedroom, where it fits perfectly in the corner by the fireplace. Almost as if it had been made for the spot.

The fireplace had long ago been converted to gas, but the charm of the elaborate Victorian mantel had been one of the deciding factors prompting her to sign the lease.

A soft creak broke the stillness, and the rocker pitched slowly back and forth. The runners bobbled up and down as if someone sat in the chair, controlling the movement. A finger of cold traced Maya’s spine. Secondcrept into second as the deliberate rocking continued, the floorboards creaking in unison with the lurch of the runners.

 Barely breathing, Maya stood. Ever since those few seconds in the Aether, she’d grown sensitive to ripples on the fringe of normal. She didn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings but couldn’t deny the existence of vibrations that breached barriers between life and death. She was living proof of a “between” world. Ivy was the only person she’d ever told what she’d experienced while EMTs fought to revive her.

Shock. Trauma, they’d said. You were lucky.

Be careful here. Mrs Bonnifer’s warning echoed in her head. This place has a history.

Maya stepped to the foot of the bed, her gaze glued to the rocker. Its movement stopped abruptly as if an unseen hand had clamped down on the back…

 

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#WednesdayWriters Chapter 7 of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie #MysteryThriller

Struggling to do even the basics, I am trying to keep my schedule going…

As always, any feedback, especially the good kind as I’m trying not to get emotional about everything, is very welcome!

 

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Amazon Universal Link:  http://myBook.to/NewNineLives

Chapter Seven

Dylan was sitting on the arm of the couch, and she could swear he had a disapproving look on his face. She sat down beside him and rubbed gently behind his ears. ‘Did you miss me, or are we still sulking?’

He shrugged her hand away and jumped gracefully down to the floor, heading for the kitchen. She knew exactly what he was doing, he would go and sit by his food bowl and glare at her.

Why did she care about him so much, she thought, deciding not to play his game. She had never been sorry she found him one rainy night not long after she moved in, but sometimes he could try the patience of a saint!

She switched the kettle on and checked the letters Janet had put on the hall table. A quick glance told her there was nothing important; she could safely bin the lot.

She didn’t know why, but she almost convinced herself that Danny might have sent a card or something. He wasn’t supposed to know where she lived, so how did he know what happened to her? There was no logical answer to that question and tried to put it out of her mind. But the mysterious voice had other ideas. The thought he might come there, to her own private place, filled her with dread.

Thinking back to her childhood with Danny, she remembered how mysterious he liked to be, revelling in pulling the wool over her eyes at every opportunity. Like hiding from her, sometimes for hours on end, only to reappear from the first place you looked.

The oddest occasion was when Matron swore she had seen him in the village, and Kate knew he had not left the house.

Danny loved to play tricks, sometimes quite cruel tricks carefully orchestrated to make her cry even though she was the older than him by several years.

There was that time he lured her to his favourite hiding place in the woods. He tied her up and terrified her; she thought he wanted to kill her, but she couldn’t recall exactly why.

Knowing all these things about him never helped her to remember exactly what it was that made her dislike him.

She knew all his faults, that he could lie and cheat, be selfish and cruel, not to mention deliberately getting her into trouble, but despite all that, she was sure there must be something else.

The kettle boiled and she made a cup of coffee, determined to stop thinking about Danny. With a bit of luck, she wouldn’t see him again.

She found herself thinking about the time she had that bad influenza when she was a child. It was a nasty virus, killing hundreds of people old and young, and surprisingly she seemed to be the only one in the village to get it. She didn’t remember much about it, but Matron constantly moaned about how she sat up with her for three nights, desperately trying to keep her temperature down or she might have died.

The voice in her head mumbled something about a fourth life, and Kate groaned. Not that again, and what did it mean; fourth life? Did it think she was some kind of cat?

Her mind travelled back to the boarding school. Why was she the only one to get the flu, what was so special or different about her? The one thing she did seem to remember clearly was Danny coming into her dormitory and whispering to her she should have died and seemed angry she had not.

She remembered feeling sad, frightened and alone that day, and swore as soon as she grew up her life would be different.

She started to think back, forcing herself to try to count all the times she had nearly died. Her memory wasn’t what it was and she soon gave up. What did any of it matter anyway?

Kate was putting her medication in the bathroom cabinet when she suddenly remembered her cigarettes. There was an unopened carton in her bedside cupboard she should throw away. The fact she had no desire for one was surprising and unexpected. She wouldn’t push it though, a promise was a promise.

She had wanted to quit for a while now, along with the diet she never quite managed to start. It was time to turn over a new leaf, better late than never, or so they say.


Kate opened the cupboard door next to her bed, expecting to see the familiar royal blue carton inside, but it wasn’t there.

She stared into the cupboard, fully expecting them to materialise at any minute. When they didn’t, she slowly sat down on the bed, trying to remember exactly when she put them there. She brought them on her way back from having lunch with Sam. That was on Thursday and she remembered it clearly because she almost ran out and wanted to be sure there were enough for the weekend. Today was Saturday, so where were they?

Kate systematically checked every hiding place and came to the obvious conclusion they had gone, and where?

She noticed other things too; things had been moved as if someone was looking for something. She became aware of a faint trace of tobacco smoke laced with a flowery scent that seemed to be lingering in every room. Gradually a horribly creepy sensation began to seep into her mind and body. She felt sick; trying desperately to deny the fact someone had been in her flat and taken her stash of cigarettes. She couldn’t deny the fact the cigarettes had gone and somebody had taken them. Someone had touched her things and ruined the perfect peace and tranquillity of her private place, her sanctuary. It will probably never feel the same, she thought, sadly.

Who could have done it?

Her brother’s smiling face floated into her mind, chilling her to the bone. As far as she knew, he didn’t smoke. Could it have been him?

How did he get in? The lock wasn’t broken, so did he have a key?

She wandered around the flat and looking around her perfect living room, she shivered, realising she had always felt safe there, but not anymore. Someone had spoiled everything she worked so hard to achieve, and her first impulse was to run…


 

New Cover Release of Simple by Anita Dawes #FamilyHorror

Simple, the second book in Anita’s stable, has been re- edited and supplied with a brand new cover!  We would love to raise the profile of this book, finding new readers and hopefully new reviews.

To this end, free PDF copies are available! 

 

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SIMPLE’S LIFE is a painful nightmare.

A huge bear of a man, but with the heart and mind of an innocent child, he suffers terrible abuse from his vicious and uncaring backwoods family.

Together with his half-sister Leanne, they are hunted like wild animals and suffer the terror of nearly being burned alive as they try to escape.

 

SHADES OF THE WALTON’S MEET DELIVERANCE!

Universal Amazon Link:  http://myBook.to/mySimple

Simple is the follow-up book to Bad Moon, Anita’s first book and is another story about the backwoods people of West Virginia. At the time of writing, some 25 years ago, it seemed as though Anita was channelling actual people, the stories so disturbingly real. Neither Simple or Bad Moon are pleasant stories by any means, being full of raw, powerful emotions and unbelievable cruelty.

This was long before the world of Indie publishing, so we approached traditional publishers with the help of a well-known literary agent. They all said the same thing, that they were impressed with the strong powerful writing, and that it was well written. But it wouldn’t fit with all the other books on their list. I can appreciate this now, as finding the right category has been hard. If only those publishers had the courage of their convictions and made room for Simple!

Simple is a nickname his cruel family have given him, due to him being mentally challenged and cursed with a terrible stutter. His real name is Ethan, and although a giant of a man, he has the heart and mind of a child. He spends his time in the woods, tending to wounded wild birds and animals.

His grandmother and brothers beat him for everything he forgets to do, and many things he shouldn’t have done. When his half-sister Leanne cannot bear to watch any more cruelty, they make a plan to escape. But when they try to run, they bring the wrath of their vicious family down on their heads, and the results are terrifying…

Extract from Simple

I couldn’t be sure I was heading in the right direction, I had no choice but to follow where my feet led me, hoping my instincts were right.

I walked for hours, and just when I thought I would never find them, I smelled wood burning and there was a hint of voices carried on the wind.  Why had no one grabbed me?  Jack would never have let an outsider close enough to smell our fires burning.  Closer, I could hear a fiddle and someone singing a song, not something I heard too often at Gran’s.

They let me walk right into their camp.  It had been built among the trees and the land hadn’t been cleared much at all.  The cabins were much the same as ours, made with logs cut from the forest. The only thing different was the moss growing on the outsides where not much light could reach. The cabins looked green, almost as though they were still growing.  It felt a lot colder up here, even though I knew the sun was still up. It should be setting soon, and Simple would be lying where I had left him, in the dark.

The sound of the fiddle stopped and a woman about Gran’s age stood up.  My feet suddenly felt about three sizes too big.  I stumbled, and then came to a standstill, unable to move.  What was I thinking of, coming here?  Going to town would have been better, would have changed my life, Simple’s too, possibly for the better.

The woman spoke, her voice deep yet softer than Gran’s.

‘What ye be wanting’ so far from home, young’un?’

I must have looked half beaten.  My dress was torn and bloody, filthy arms and legs, scratched and bleeding.  I hoped they didn’t think I was one of the crazy stories come to life. My thoughts finally slipped into my mouth and my words sounded like the damp dirt I stood upon.  The woman picked up a cup of water from the table, stepped forward and offered it to me.  She said, ‘They call me Belle Spiers hereabouts.’

The cool water tasted good.  Then all my words came out in a rush. 

‘I need help. Simple’s hurt, please you have to help me.’

‘Slow down girl, your words are running’ together like my boy’s heads when I need to put them in their place.’

I took another mouthful of water. ‘It’s Simple, his leg’s broke.  Uncle Jimmy left him back there in the caves.’

She interrupted me and called out for someone called Jimmy.  I felt my heart freeze, turn to ice, expecting Uncle Jimmy to appear.  The frozen waste where my heart sat, slowly melted when the older Man who had been playing the fiddle limped to her side, along with another Man who looked nothing like Uncle Jimmy.

‘Go see what this young’un has got herself into.’

Suddenly I had the strangest feeling she knew right off who I was and where I came from.  Even the name Simple didn’t move her any.  A few other faces came to see what all the fuss was about.  One of them was a boy called Zach with yellow hair like the sun, older than me but not by much. The one called Jimmy told him to come with them.

‘Gonna need more than old pa here to bring a log like Simple back up from the caves.’

It took a while, but his words sunk deep like the roots of a tree sucking at my brain.  He knew Simple!

Then the woman was speaking to me again. ‘Come in girl, we’ll get you cleaned up while waiting’ for the menfolk.  Hungry too, I’ll be thinking’.’

Orders slipped from her lips much the same as Gran; save no one seemed to mind.  Least of all the young woman called Jolene with a baby on her hip, who had been told to fetch food while I waited for a tub to be filled with water, warmed over an open fire.

Belle carried the last of the hot water in a much-used pot to her cabin, where she poured it into an old tin bath and told me to get in. ‘I ain’t carrying’ this water for you to let it grow cold.’

There wasn’t anyone in the cabin but Belle and me, so turning my back I took off my dress.  The hot water felt like a blanket, one I knew Simple could be doing with right about now.  I asked Belle, ‘How come you know Simple?’

‘He’s a soft soul, wanders up here sometimes.  I reckon he needs time away from your Gran.’

I was going to say she wasn’t my Gran but decided to let it lay.  I needed them to help make Simple well and I wanted to see the boy with yellow hair bringing him back. Something about him had made my heart skip a little, even though it was frozen at the time.

Jolene brought a clean dress along with the food, and Belle held out a large cloth I knew to be bought from town.  Must have been the way I looked at it made her say, ‘I don’t mind using’ what feels good, makes life pleasing’.

Jolene said, ‘Belle don’t usually let anyone use them.  Old pa traded his best fiddle for two the same last Christmas.  Good to see them out of the paper they came in.’

Seems Jolene belonged to Jimmy, and the baby was his too. It seemed funny to be able to hear that name without shrinking inside.  What would they do now, if they could see me here in the Spiers camp, with Simple being carried here for fixing? 

 

#WednesdayWriters Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie @jaydawes2

Today, we are posting Chapter Six of Kate’s story. She is to blame for my writing Nine Lives in the first place and I suspect she thinks she is my alter ego. Not sure about that, but she sure was bossy during the writing of her story. I am having a similar battle at the moment with two of the characters in my next book, PayBack.

No one ever told me that creating all these people would be so complicated. I always imagined it would be fun, but some of mine are managing to drive me to drink!

(I am secretly enjoying their antics, but for God’s sake, don’t tell them that!)

I hope you are all enjoying Nine Lives, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Chapter Six

On her way home in the taxi, Kate racked her brains to come up with a reason for Danny’s appearance. She hadn’t seen or thought of him for years and hadn’t missed him one little bit.

Try as she might, she couldn’t think of a single way he could have known about what happened last night. The thought he might be up to something was making her uncomfortable and more than a little angry. She simply couldn’t have him sneaking into her life again.

She hadn’t thought to take anything with her when they carted her off last night, so she knocked on her neighbour’s door for her spare set of keys.

Janet was a small woman, wrinkled and ancient, almost embalmed, and most days she seemed to be a lot fitter than Kate. She always wore a lavender body spray Kate knew was her favourite and reminded Kate of the fairy godmother in Disney’s Cinderella, tiny, amusing and cuddly, the perfect grandmother. It was a shame she had no grandchildren.

Kate looked around the room; discreetly checking that the old woman was indeed managing. She usually declined all help, especially from the Welfare. She always said the day she needed help was the day they could slide her into a coffin.

Bright as a button, she seemed to sense good people from bad and instinctively knew in which category Danny belonged. One of the reasons Kate knew she wouldn’t have told Danny anything about her.

‘Hello Janet, how are you today?’

‘Oh, I’m fine. How are you would be more to the point? What did they say the problem was? You didn’t look too good when they took you off last night.’

Kate smiled at her. ‘Oh you know, a lot of fuss about nothing.’

The old woman looked up from the china ornaments she was dusting and frowned. She instantly looked about ten years older. ‘You didn’t check yourself out, did you? I know what you’re like.’

Kate laughed, knowing her reputation had gone before her. ‘No, I was a model patient, just wasted their time, is all.’

She could tell Janet didn’t believe her, she knew Kate too well. Changing the subject, she asked, ‘How has Dylan been? Did he miss me?’

Janet stopped frowning at the mention of the silver tabby. ‘I’m sure he didn’t know you’d gone, and you back so soon, no harm was done.’

Kate smiled. She was probably right. Dylan fussed her when she was around, and she knew where he went when she wasn’t. Sometimes she thought he was fonder of Janet than herself.

‘By the way, Janet, have you seen or heard from my brother at all?’

Janet turned her head sharply at the mention of his name. She looked intently at Kate, her shrewd blue eyes peering out of all the wrinkles. ‘No, I have not. Did someone say I had?’

‘He did, he said you called him and said I was in the hospital.’

Kate could see the indignation bristling from every fibre of the old woman’s demeanour.

‘I’d have a job, wouldn’t I? I don’t know where he’s at, or his number. And,’ she said pointedly, ‘I wouldn’t tell him if I did. You know that Kate.’

‘Yes, I know, just checking. He turned up last night at the hospital like the bad penny he always was’.

The voice commented on her lack of affection for her brother, and that she might miss him if anything happened to him. She pretended not to have heard. She wouldn’t miss Danny for a moment, and as common sense reared its ugly head she knew if anything did happen to her brother, the guilt would probably kill her.

Kate often wondered if she had a screw loose because of the voice in her head. When she was growing up the thought having something that talked to her was amusing, even a little exciting. She had a name for him back then and called him the Joker.  These days the novelty had worn off and most of the time she regarded him as a nuisance.

Kate remembered weird coincidences, like people seeming to vanish or dying when they annoyed her. In her childhood fantasies, she liked to think she had something to do with it; that she was psychic or something, but it was all rubbish, wasn’t it?

There must be something wrong with her. She never socialised, never seemed to get on with anybody. None of that was normal, was it?

More to the point, none of it seemed to bother her much either, and that wasn’t normal.

This voice or whatever it was, filled her sleep with nightmare visions of every death it could imagine, and Kate would wake up with horrifying images in her head of being stabbed, burnt and dying in ways she didn’t want to think about.

Although these dreams distressed her, she stubbornly refused to believe they were a message of any kind, from the voice or anything else. If she thought anything coherent at all, she supposed they could just be images from a previous life and promptly put them out of her mind.

The telephone was ringing as Kate approached her front door and she wondered idly who it could be; probably Samantha or possibly a customer. It didn’t matter; she would let the machine pick up. She was in no mood to talk to anyone.

As she opened the front door, the telephone switched off and the place was quiet.

She closed the door behind her and leaned on it, drinking in the peace and tranquillity of her own private place. She loved living in Guildford, Surrey. It was just far enough away from London to be reasonably quiet. It was quite a small flat, just three rooms and a kitchen and shower, but it suited her and she felt safe within its walls, probably for the first time in her life, even though it was draughty and hard to heat in the winter.

It had the added advantage of the extra space for Kate to use as a studio, and she could simply close the door and walk away from all her untidy painting clutter, removing the necessity of always having to clear up whenever she was finished for the day.

The voice questioned her conviction that she was safe, curious as to what she based it on.

What was it talking about now, she wondered. Some of what it said never made any sense and she didn’t usually lose any sleep worrying about it. Anyway, she did feel safe there, no matter what it said.

The flat was a wreck when she moved in, and she enjoyed making it her own. There wasn’t much furniture, and to Kate, the colours she used were more important. The walls were white, the perfect colour to hang her canvases on, and the woodwork was a delicate shade of turquoise, which perfectly complimented the carpets, which were the glorious colour of a tropical sea.

For such a small flat, the windows were quite tall which seemed to increase the sense of space. Kate used sheer white curtains to let as much light in as possible and sanded the floorboards back to the bare pale wood.

She moved to the living room doorway and her eyes found the painting hanging over the fireplace. It was her favourite and she would never sell it. A large seascape, it dominated the room with its vision of wild, seething water. Instead of coming across as a hostile image, it was at once uplifting and beautiful. You could almost hear the sound of the wind whipping the waves and sometimes Kate could swear she heard seagulls.

To Kate, the painting epitomised the raw and powerful beauty of Nature, the only thing ever to make her soul sing.

It was probably an antidote against her feelings for human nature, which had never been kind to her. It was a sad admittance, and in all her life, only one person stood out for being truly kind to her, and she didn’t know his name.

She was quite young, about six or seven years old, and her mother had taken her to Brighton for the day. There was usually an ulterior motive for any trip, probably to do with a man. It had been snowing and the weather was freezing cold and not the day for a trip to the seaside. Kate didn’t remember much about it, just that she was cold. So cold, she was trying hard not to cry with the misery of it.

She wasn’t dressed for the weather at all, just a thin coat, sandals and nylon socks which were soaked through. Her mother had dragged her onto a tram and she was sitting there trying desperately not to cry, a punishable offence, when this older man nodded at her mother and proceeded to take off her socks and sandals. What was he doing, she thought, watching through her tears as he wrapped her frozen feet in his big warm hands, mumbling something about her being a poor bedraggled kitten.

It was such a kind thing to do; she was in danger of having a good cry and managed to smile her thanks. For the first time in her life, she felt truly cared for by someone who was a stranger, someone who knew nothing about her. It was a beautiful moment in time never to be repeated. Kate didn’t remember what happened next, but she never forgot his kindness.


 

I forgot to mention that if you would prefer a digital copy of Nine Lives, so you can read it in one go, free copies are available. Just mention this in the comments!

#The Yak Guy Project : Our review #OriginalFiction #Distopian @Virgilante

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Imagine waking up in the desert with no idea what happened to you. You have clear memories of situations and places, but a complete loss in personal matters… like your own name. This situation is bad, and you have no idea how to get home.

When you’re rescued by a talking yak, the situation gets exponentially worse. You have obviously lost your mind. The immediate needs of a ride off the salt pan and searing heat, along with a drink of water, outweigh the concerns about your mental state.

This is exactly what happened to the Yak Guy. In fact, he’s been placed in an alternate world and given a chance to start over in life.

Can this selfish, almost parasitic, young man learn to start over in a world where charity is hard to find? Life is brutal and short here, but he’s going to have to adapt or perish.

The Yak Guy project is loosely based around The Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Those with experience in Tarot will spot people and situations from the Major Arcana.

Our Review:

Near to death, with no idea of where he is or why he is there, a hapless survivor meets a yak in the desert.

The opening chapter is a corker!

I loved the yak from the get-go, with his sensible advice, observations and his sense of humour. With the help (and patience) of this yak, the survivor will learn the difference between need and want, beginning a massive learning curve for him.

In many ways, this story reminded me of The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, in which a traveller encounters many challenges on his journey through life. Another story about destiny and fulfilment leading to wisdom.

Elements of the Major Arcana from the Tarot appear in the people and situations our survivor finds, creating a thoroughly fascinating insight as we travel the road with him.

The Yak Guy Project is a highly unusual and entertaining story, just what we have come to expect from the author, Craig Boyack.

I loved every person the survivor meets and every lesson he learns, and I can highly recommend The Yak Guy Project to everyone.

If I haven’t managed to convince you to read this book, here is an excerpt…

I stepped up to the edge, and below us, in a natural cavity, was a pool of water. There was about ten feet of cliff to get to it.

 “This is a known water hole. Take the bag, tie it to the rope, and fill it. Then pour it into the trough so I can drink.” The yak nosed a rock that looked like it had been carved into a trough by cavemen.

I grabbed the waterskin. “Get your own damned water. I’m thirsty.”

“I’ve helped you. Now you need to help me.”

“Fine. I’ll do it, but I’m drinking first.”

The yak approached the ledge again. He swung a horn into the small of my back and flicked me off the ledge. I dropped the bag and yelled. Water smacked me like the concrete at a skate park. It wasn’t cold, but it was a shock.

When I clawed my way back to the surface, I gasped for air. Blood ran from my nostrils. “You fucker. When I get up there I’m going to kick your ass.” I reached for the edge, but couldn’t find a hand-hold. I circled the pool, but the cliff walls were nearly vertical all the way around. “I’m trapped, asshole.”

“So it appears. Do you have a plan? Perhaps you can get your drink while you’re down there.”

 “You’ve got to get me out of here. You climb like a goat. Come get me.”

“I will not. Some terrain is too steep even for me.”

“You can’t just leave me here.”

 “Actually, I can.”

“Please!” The yak backed away from the ledge. The sound of gravel crunching lasted long enough to tell me he hadn’t left. A rope unfurled toward the pool, and the yak peered over the edge. “Wrap it around your waist.”

 I floundered over to the rope, and wrapped it around my middle. “Okay, pull me up.”

 “You forgot my water.”

The yak won the argument.

Amazon Link:  https://amazon.com/Yak-Guy-Project-C-Boyack-ebook/dp/B07D1QY9Y7/

 

 

 

 

 

The Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie Chapter Five #WednesdayWriter #MysteryThriller

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Before I post the next chapter of Nine Lives, I would like to thank everyone for the support and helpful suggestions I have been receiving. All of which will help me make Nine Lives a much better book!

 

Chapter Five

Danny watched his sister walk defiantly away. She was carrying extra weight but still agile. She didn’t look as if she was getting old, and by rights, she should have done. With all the crap she had stuffed into her life, she was lucky to be breathing.

He hadn’t expected her to make it through the night. They said some of her arteries were completely blocked and the surgeon had to work hard to restore the circulation to her heart.

And yet here she was, striding down the road, looking for a taxi. They must have been wrong or talking about someone else. He shouldn’t  be surprised, after all that was Kate all over. Nothing fazed her for long and was just as well. Some of what life had thrown at her would have a lesser mortal reaching for the razor blades.

He watched her get smaller and smaller as she left the car park, wondering if she was all right. With Kate, it was hard to tell, one way or the other. She wouldn’t tell him, that’s for sure.

He tried to remember the last medical incident. Was it the gallstones or the hysterectomy? Neither was life-threatening and she sailed through with hardly a backward glance. Danny wasn’t there, of course, he kept a low profile when she was married to Jack, but he had his own way of keeping an eye on her.

He remembered the time she was rushed to the hospital when they were kids. She must have been about eleven years old. Kate nearly died that day when her appendix ruptured; it was touch and go there for a while. He also remembered how much he hated Matron for dragging Kate out of her bed that morning, thinking she just didn’t want to go to school.

He played up for weeks afterwards, trying to get some kind of childish revenge on the stupid woman, and ended up being thrashed with a coat hanger for his trouble. He often wondered if Kate ever loved him. She always said she never loved anyone. She certainly didn’t now and barely bothered to hide it.

 

As he slid behind the wheel of his car, he saw the state of it through Kate’s eyes. Christ, he was such a slob. He looked up in frustration and saw his reflection in the rearview mirror. Bloody hell, he looked like a slob. If he cleaned up his car (and his life too) he might stand a better chance with Kate. There was so much about his life that didn’t bear close inspection.

He sometimes thought Kate must be a sociopath, someone who couldn’t stand people, for she was never close to anyone. There were relationships in the past and none of them worked or lasted. There was her agent Samantha, and he would dearly love to know that story.

He tried over the years to forget the time when he was supposed to have hurt Kate when they were kids, but he couldn’t remember what happened. It was as if something had stolen all memory of that day. Did she remember? Was that why she didn’t like him? He did wonder if she just didn’t like him as a person, but weren’t you supposed to love your brother, warts and all?

Danny often wondered why he couldn’t remember what happened, was it that bad? He’d never been able to get Kate to tell him either so he always imagined it must have been dreadful. He felt guilty about something so there must be a reason.

He leant his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes, memories of when they were kids flooding back, like the incoming tide on a sandy beach. There were some good times, and those memories faded quickly along with the rest of their childhood.

It was a shame that other things didn’t, he thought sadly as he fought to stop himself drowning in the flood of recent pain and heartbreak. Why couldn’t he make himself forget it all?

The drug-ravaged face of the only other person he ever loved was never far away in his mind, haunting him and driving him insane with unspoken questions. Questions he tried hard to answer since that awful time when he lost both Angela, his wife and their baby son, and he never quite managed to come up with anything approaching a good enough reason.

He thought he must be to blame, or maybe there was something he should have done? More like something he hadn’t done, if the truth be known, that was usually the way of things. He had a complete catalogue of situations where he could either have salvaged something or simply avoided it if he thought to do something at the time.

He opened his eyes in a vain attempt to stop the images that were cramming themselves into his brain and making him giddy, but Angela’s face refused to move. Her face captured his soul that first day, a face both beautiful and incredibly sad, a face that pleaded with you to love her and save her from herself.

In seconds, the desire to rescue her from whatever bothered her outweighed caution of any kind. Angela was a slightly chubby, bubbly girl with a wild mane of multi-coloured hair and incredible eyes and being with her was like having a party every day. The signs were there, desperately waving red flags at him, and he chose to take no notice, confident he could carry her through anything even though he was far too busy trying to keep up with her.

The first time he found her collapsed on the floor of his bathroom, he should have realised she wasn’t just drunk but with one look at her mascara-streaked face and haunted eyes, all he wanted to do was take care of her and keep her safe. It never occurred to him until it was much too late she might have needed serious medical help.

So he dedicated himself to taking care of her, oblivious to the harm he was helping to hide and most of the time they were happy. He managed to keep his ‘angel’ as he called her, on the straight and narrow for long periods and didn’t condemn or accuse whenever she slipped from his care. He never knew why she needed the drugs or where she found them, despite following her everywhere.

For long periods, he completely forgot about his sister and this was probably a good thing, although he simply swapped one obsession for another. It didn’t matter, he found the one thing he always wanted, someone who needed him and wasn’t afraid to show it and for that alone, he would have forgiven her anything.

He smiled as he switched on the ignition, remembering how much he loved her. When it ended badly he never blamed her, not for a minute.

As he drove out of the car park, he tried again to think of a way he could establish a better relationship with Kate and knew he was wasting his time. She was the most stubborn person he ever met and today served to remind him of that fact.

He would keep an eye on her from a distance, as he always did, just in case she should ever need him. He could hope, couldn’t he?


 

Don’t forget, we value your opinions!

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author #PsychologicalSuspense

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Abigail Osborne’s unmissable The Puppet Master, a stunning thriller full of twists and turns.

Billie is hiding from the world in fear of a man who nearly destroyed her. But a chance meeting with a budding journalist, Adam, sparks a relationship that could free her from her life of isolation and fear.

Unbeknownst to Billie, Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives he believes she has ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him. As an unwanted attraction blossoms between them, Adam comes to realise that all is not as it seems. 

Who is really pulling the strings? And are Adam and Billie both being played? 

One thing is for sure, The Master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them

Our Review

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Puppet Master, despite the sometimes-harrowing content that made it an emotional roller coaster!

Right from the beginning, I empathised with Billie, the sad and traumatised leading lady. I wanted to know why she was so terrified of being found, and who by.

When Adam, the newspaper reporter enters the story, determined to expose Billie for something she was supposed to have done, the tension as he tries to break down her defences is heart-breaking. Gradually, he peels back her protective layers, exposing the raw emotions that hid underneath her fear.

I kept hoping Adam would change his mind when his feelings for her began to grow, and take pity on someone who has already suffered enough, but his need for justice seemed too strong.

There is an unpleasant element to this story, but it is handled with great care by the author. By the time I had finished reading the second part of the book, I was desperate for some happiness for Billie. All the signs were there, but I knew it couldn’t happen, not yet.

Watching Adam when he finally learns the truth about Billie was almost as painful as the lie he originally believed.

The last part of this book piled on the tension yet again, and I geared myself up for a gripping ending. But the ending totally caught me by surprise.  It made my blood run cold!

A very absorbing well-written plot, the evil winds its way throughout everything, strangling and contaminating everything in its path…

 

Extract

He took her silence as an agreement and moved over to her; kneeling in front of her. She didn’t stop him as he slowly lifted her top until he got to the large, nasty looking red mark that the bike wheel had left on her side. Already it was beginning to swell and bruise. Trickles of blood leaked out of a few cuts where the wheel had twisted her skin. As she looked at him, she saw a fury burning in his eyes that brought a tear to her eye. He barely knew her but he had shown more care for her than any of her family ever had.

She knew more than anyone that men could make you feel like the centre of their universe then throw you away once they had got what they wanted. The logical part of her brain was insisting that this was Adam’s agenda, that he was no different, but at that moment she simply couldn’t believe it. “I don’t think you’ve broken anything.” He got up to go to the bathroom and came back with a wet flannel. He gently washed her side with a tenderness that she didn’t know men were capable of. Once finished, he lowered her top and sat back on his knees. “Can I get you some painkillers or something?” “I can’t have any.” He shot her a surprised look and she added, “I’ll be okay.” “Why can’t you? Allergies?” He had answered his own question so she just agreed and then lay back on the bed. It was tiring trying to mask the extent of the pain she felt. She knew that she would need to clean up her legs too, but there was no way that she was doing that in front of him.

Adam took his phone out of his pocket and passed it to her. “You need to call the police.” She couldn’t face sitting up so she reached out to take the phone—even though she had no intention of using it. While she weighed up what she could say to convince him, she couldn’t help but notice how the locks of unruly blonde hair that had fallen on to his forehead augmented his handsome features. Why did someone like him even care what happened to someone like her? She was a nobody…

 

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Abigail is originally from the Lake District but moved to the West Midlands for University where she completed an English Literature & History degree and also met her husband. She is a passionate reader and has an unsustainable collection of books. This obsession with books has led to her creating her own Dewey decimal system and she has been known to issue fines to family and friends if her book is not returned on time. Writing The Puppet Master has unleashed a love of writing and Abigail hopes to put her scarily crazy imagination to good use. She is currently working on book 2 and 3 and looks​ forward to publishing these soon.
You can follow me on @Abigail_Author
Website: http://www.abigailosborne.co.uk

Amazon Link:   https://amazon.co.uk/Puppet-Master-gripping-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B076Z2T246/

 

#WritersWednesday: Nine Lives #MurderMystery Chapter Four

Another chapter from Nine Lives for your critical eyes, and I am very pleased with everyone’s response so far! Be aware that you are helping a very grateful author with some of the finer points! And I love you all for this…

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Chapter Four

Kate awoke on Saturday morning and found herself in the hospital, practically chained to the bed by a mass of wires. She had the feeling she had come closer than ever to dying and was unimpressed to find herself still breathing.

She hadn’t slept well, despite all the morphine. Hospitals were noisy places and on top of everything else, she could swear she saw her brother Danny’s face last night or was it her imagination?

Kate needed to go to the bathroom and the machine bleeping alarmingly every time she moved made her feel like a prisoner. At least the uncomfortably tight clamp-like contraption was gone from her wrist.  She didn’t feel any different at all and she wondered why she thought she might, after all, she had been here before. Waking up when she shouldn’t have, continuing to breathe against the odds. Defeating nature seemed to be one of the things she did best, or was this just some melodramatic notion planted in her head by the annoying voice, or was it from all those spooky films she loved to watch?

She was beginning to think it was some kind of conspiracy but it wasn’t funny anymore.

In her youth, the idea she might be somehow invincible was a little exciting, a kind of payback for all the misery.

All her life, something had tried to kill all her hopes of happiness, replacing them with the awful knowledge that nothing would ever change – except to get worse. Little by little, it left her an empty shell and now she was getting older, she knew she would welcome death with open arms.  Something this voice didn’t seem to grasp.

She never connected the voice to any of this until recently, when she began to realise that whatever was talking to her seemed to know an awful lot about her, almost as if it was part of it.

Just how long had it been tormenting her? How many more times would she almost die before it left her alone because what kept happening to her was not of her doing, at least she didn’t think it was.

The hospital room had its own private bathroom, something Kate appreciated as she was in no hurry to socialise with anyone.  She would have loved a shower, but that would have to wait and made do with finger combing her hair and splashing her face with water. She was forced to dress in yesterday’s dirty clothes, so one way or another couldn’t wait to get home.

Studying her wet face in the mirror, she didn’t look any different; last night’s ordeal left no trace. She looked tired, but that was how she always looked these days.

Kate had been called attractive in the past, but there hadn’t been many suitors beating a path to her door. She had never loved anyone but came close once. The image of a young man materialised in her mind and she smiled, unable to help herself.


His name was Michael and he was special. She often wondered how he was now, and if he was happy. Kate was seventeen and on her own when they met. Her mother had died the year before and she was working as a part-time usherette in the local cinema to make ends meet. Michael was the trainee projectionist.

He had come down to the foyer to speak to the manager about a problem in the projectionist’s booth. Kate couldn’t hear what the problem was, and he smiled at her over the manager’s shoulder and in that moment she was smitten.

He looked like a Greek God and he had smiled at her!

His problem reported, Michael followed Kate into the storeroom where she was filling the tray with ice-cream tubs and lollies, ready for the intermission. He leaned against the doorframe, watching her. ‘What’s your name then?’ he asked, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth.

‘Kate.’ The word came out of nowhere as she realised she could speak after all.

He offered to walk her home after work and their relationship was born. He was the perfect gentleman, kind and considerate and once carried her in his arms over the mud when they were out walking. He was everything Kate ever wanted.

It was the classic love story. He was gorgeous to look at, tall with dark curly hair and incredibly blue eyes. For the first time in her life, Kate was so happy, but within a few short weeks, she was pregnant.

Kate couldn’t believe it, how could it have happened? They were so careful.

She seemed to know instinctively that the baby would ruin everything and tried to avoid telling him. He could tell something was wrong and put two and two together.

‘Is the baby mine?’ he said, suddenly interested in something outside the window. And in that moment Kate’s world collapsed completely.

She found out later his father had been sowing the seeds of suspicion right from the start. That she was ‘unsuitable’, working in a cinema. How many men had she already slept with… and where were her parents? What sort of person was she?

She didn’t understand his attitude towards her at all. She knew that father and son didn’t  get on and despite Michael’s warnings about his father being a stubborn old goat, he seemed a pleasant enough middle-aged man with greying hair and faded blue eyes. He appeared to like her when they met and liked her doing things for him. Why had it all gone so horribly wrong?

When Michael walked out of her life, Kate was devastated. What was she supposed to do? Despite her upbringing, or because of it, Kate knew nothing about the world she lived in, apart from the sure and certain knowledge it wasn’t a pleasant place to live in. She had no idea what a young, penniless and pregnant girl should do, and there wasn’t  anyone she could ask.

She tried to remember how her mother coped, but all she could recall was that food seemed to appear as if by magic. She knew her mother never paid the rent, simply looked for another room every time they were evicted.

Some man or other always seemed to be involved with her mother’s activities, was that how Kate was supposed to manage?

She needed time to get over the brutal pain of Michaels’s rejection; time to figure out what to do and where she could go. And time was not an option. A life was growing inside her, a life that would need her full attention in no time at all.


The young doctor who battled to save her life knocked on the open door; pushing all the old memories back into their box and bringing Kate back into the present. He seemed pleased to see her.  Did that mean he hadn’t expected to?

He shook her hand and said if she took the medication regularly and stopped smoking she would probably live considerably longer.

Longer than what, she thought, suddenly amazed she wasn’t desperate for a cigarette yet. She hadn’t given them a thought, what was that all about?

She vaguely remembered promising to stop when in her morphine delirium last night. After all the work they put in on her behalf, it seemed fair.  She thanked him and collected her medication from the Ward Sister. Kate found herself walking towards her brother who was waiting for her just outside the ward doors. So he was here last night. How did he know?

She hadn’t seen him in ages and didn’t  want to see him now. He seemed a lot older than she remembered, his face beginning to look creased and grey hair was appearing at his temples. He also looked as if he spent the night in a chair. Again, she wondered what he was doing there as he didn’t usually care whether she lived or died, and she had enough proof of that.

As they walked down the corridor leading to the main doors of the hospital, two nurses pushing a trolley rushed past them. Kate tried not to look at the person lying under the sheet, but it was too late. She saw the grey face of an old man who seemed already dead, reminding her of just where she was. A shiver ran down her spine and she started to walk faster, desperate to get out of there.

Her brother took her arm as they walked down the entrance steps. ‘You look great, Kate; a bit of a false alarm was it?’

She looked at him and shrugged, unwilling to share what happened to her, wondering how quickly she could get rid of him. ‘Why are you here Danny?’

He had the gall to look offended. ‘Your neighbour called me, the nosy one who always stinks of mothballs…’

She didn’t believe it for a second, and it was good to be out in the fresh air after the stuffy sterile atmosphere of the hospital. The day looked promising, weak sunshine was struggling to make itself known, but it was better than no sunshine at all.

As she followed Danny to his car, an ambulance sped past, its siren blaring a warning that some other poor soul needed to get to the hospital in a hurry. She wondered if they used the siren for her last night, but she couldn’t remember.

The old green Vauxhall was parked haphazardly and looked exactly how she expected it would. Bashed about, rusty and badly dented. A bit like herself, she thought, trying not to smile.

She didn’t  want to get inside, for she could see he’d been using it as a dustbin amongst other things. He was probably sleeping in it too if his circumstances had not improved in the years since she saw him last. He certainly smelled as though a change of clothes and a shower would be a good idea. His dark hair was filthy and he needed a shave, not too far removed from looking like a tramp.

She glanced around the car park, hoping to see a departing taxi. She didn’t care about hurting his feelings for he never considered hers. What was it about men?

Was it in their DNA, or didn’t they care?

No taxi was forthcoming, so it looked as though she would have to accept a lift home, but right then she would prefer to stick pins in her eyes.

‘Come on sis, get in,’ he said, opening the door, letting an obnoxiously stale odour drift past her nostrils.

‘My God Danny, do I have to? It stinks in there!’

‘Suit yourself, but it’s a long walk.’

He looked at her, hoping the little boy lost look would work on her once again.

Kate was not impressed and avoided looking into his eyes. He wasn’t her baby brother anymore; did he think his charm would work on her after all this time?

It was a long time since he’d been anywhere near charming. Now he was just a middle-aged old man with disgusting habits. The thought of being anywhere near him was making her feel slightly sick and a small sliver of shame crept in uninvited. Should you feel this way about your own brother?

She needed him to go away, and at that precise moment she realised for the first time since her promise to quit, she desperately wanted a cigarette. Oh to hell with him, she thought. And on the spur of the moment, she decided she would walk to the high street and find a taxi, despite the fact she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. She must be weaker than she realised and felt drained, all her old energy missing.  But she would find a cab if it killed her.

Kate started to walk away, trying not to laugh at the expression on his face.

‘Don’t be like that Kate; you must let me take you home.’

He looked upset by her rejection, and she didn’t care. She would do things her way or no way and that was that.

She was also going to find out exactly how he found her, for she knew for sure her neighbour had not told him.


 

Spruced up and updated, Not My Life, by Anita Dawes #Fiction,YA

We have just finished renovating Anita’s book, Not My Life. It has a new cover, title and been freshly edited. As the black sheep in our book pile, hopefully this will help to find some interest out there!

SOMEONE HAUNTS Sarah’s dreams, someone who looks just like her.

Her name is Kelly and her life is a nightmare.

Are these dreams a message for Sarah’s future, or a glimpse of Kelly’s past?

Or are they both trapped in a world that isn’t their own?


Excerpt from ‘Not My Life’

Their house seemed like any other house, without them in it.  As I walked around to the back door, I couldn’t believe my luck at finding the small side window in the hall was open a crack.  You had to get close to notice it.  The question was, could I climb in?  Did I still remember how?  It had been so long since I had climbed anything.  Looking around, there was no one in sight.  I found a milk crate, one big enough to give me the boost I needed.

Climbing through the small opening, which in a few more months would be impossible, I thought of Jimmy.  He would kill me if he found out, because of the baby.  Mother would simply kill me before dying of embarrassment.  Dad would probably hang his head in a dark corner of the pub and wonder where they had gone wrong.

Once inside, I looked around.  Curious as to what they thought was a normal home.  Mother had mentioned that Sally Woodford would be giving up work soon, as he didn’t want her continuing in the Bank, carrying heavy money bags around. I was surprised he hadn’t thought of a way for her to carry them home, judging by the video collection I was standing in front of. 

There were many old gangster movies; I recognised some of the titles.  I also found several ‘video nasty’s’.  There was ‘Spit on your grave’, ‘Silence of the lambs’ and ‘The Devils’, amongst others. No romance or comedy, nothing light-hearted.  I wondered if Sally watched them with him.  Did they sit here late at night, imagining themselves in the lead roles?

I would have liked to find the place covered in dust and cobwebs, but the house was clean and tidy. Downstairs, there was a faint odour, which gave me a funny taste in my mouth, but I put it down to what I felt about the house.

There was little in the way of ornaments, two cookbooks, an A-Z, and one large, heavy book on old English tortures. Complete with horrible pictures of the rack and other devices.  With details of exactly what happened to those unfortunate enough to fall foul of them.  Horrible things done with hot coals and pokers; it turned my stomach.  I knew I shouldn’t be looking at this disgusting stuff.  A history book or not, it should be burnt.

Making sure to leave everything as it was, I tried the front door and found it hadn’t been dead-bolted.  I couldn’t believe he had been so slap-dash, after telling my mother she was far too trusting.  Open windows and unlocked doors were an invitation to those less desirable.  That was me; I was undesirable.  I was in their home, their sanctuary, a place I shouldn’t be unless invited.

 

On the way back to my house, I felt decidedly odd and my legs were shaking. People passing by had me jumping out of my skin.  My heart was racing, adrenaline rushing, terrifying and exciting me all at the same time.  Do burglars feel this way, I wondered; when they sneak out with their ill-gotten gains?  Is that what makes them do it again?  For the feeling of excitement, as well as the family silver?

Hoping no one had seen me leave, I crept into my own house.  I couldn’t be sure, but I thought the neat curtains of the house opposite had twitched.  I could always say I had absent-mindedly walked through the wrong gate.

Our front door was unlocked as usual; something that had me wondering if my mother could ever change the habits of a lifetime.  I found her in the living room knitting baby things, all pale yellow and white. I could have told her to go ahead and buy blue wool.

I sat in the room with her, flicking through a magazine to the sound of clicking knitting needles, my mind unable to shake the images I had seen in his book.  One, in particular, stuck fast in my mind. It was a picture of a merry-go-round, a high wooden platform with cruel metal spikes.  How it was meant to be ridden was left to the reader’s imagination, but the poles protruding from the side of the platform allowed the men to rotate the device.  Several images of how it worked flashed through my mind. The caption underneath the picture read, ‘Round and round she goes, where she stops, no one knows.’

The magazine was open on my lap, but I had no idea how long I had been staring into space when mother said, ‘Penny for them, Sarah?’

As if I could tell her what I had done, what I had seen in that book?