#Wednesday Writers ~ Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie #mysteryThriller

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Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.
With nothing to live for, no family, just a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away when her lives run out.
Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her.  When people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.
Has she finally run out of lives? Will she find a reason to live before it is too late?

 

Chapter Twenty-six

The next morning, Kate tried to telephone the hospital, and because she was not related to Janet, all they would say was she was as comfortable as could be expected; which could mean just about anything.

She grabbed her coat and headed for the High Street. If she was lucky, she could grab a taxi to save herself a long walk.

Half an hour later, she was trying to find out what happened to Janet Goldman in the emergency department of the local hospital.

Eventually, she managed to discover where she was and approached the hospital bed with a great deal of trepidation.

The old woman was propped up on a pile of pillows, and her eyes were closed. The sides of the bed were raised and Kate assumed it was to stop Janet from falling out. Did that mean she was unconscious?

Unsure of hospital protocol, Kate went looking for whoever was in charge. It should be someone in a dark blue uniform if her memory served her right.

She found just such a person, a diminutive woman who didn’t look strong enough to blow her own nose, let alone reason with the old man in pyjamas who was desperately trying to pour the contents of his water jug all over his bed.

Kate waited until the Ward Sister had the situation under control and piled in with her questions.

The woman might not look strong, but the scrutiny Kate was subjected to would definitely sort out the men from the boys. When she had ascertained Kate was indeed harmless she proceeded to answer the only question she thought mattered.  ‘Mrs Goldman is barely stable and unconscious. A bump on the head is quite serious in one of her years.’

Not to be put off, Kate asked one of her questions again. ‘Will she be all right?’  Knowing as she asked, it was probably in God’s hands.

The ward sister smiled, and Kate had the distinct impression she had just passed a test of some kind.

‘All we can do is hope for the best, dear, does she have any family?’

‘No, I’m afraid not. It’s just me. Can I give you my telephone number, in case she needs anything when she wakes up?’

The Ward sister nodded and her lack of words said more than Kate could bear at that moment. Was she about to lose another friend, so soon after Dylan?

 

Sam arrived promptly at 1 o’clock, looking rather smart in a French navy trouser suit, her dark hair immaculate as always. Kate was putting the final touches to the lunch, so Sam went to inspect the canvases in the studio. She was so long in there Kate was getting worried. What if she didn’t like them?

Hearing a noise, Kate turned around to find Sam watching her as she assembled the food on the plates. Sam’s face gave no clue as to her reaction to the art and Kate felt awkward about asking.

Sam took one look at her face and laughed. ‘Oh Kate, you don’t have to look so worried. I love them all, they are absolutely brilliant. There is just one problem though.’

Kate stomach clenched and she suddenly had trouble breathing. She must have gone pale, for Sam rushed to her side and put her arm around her shoulders. ‘No, it’s nothing bad, you silly. It’s just that I’m going to need a lot more than I initially thought. The new gallery is huge.’

Relief flooded through Kate, then doubled back on itself.  ‘How much more, Sam?’

‘As many as you can get done in three weeks. We open at the end of September.  Is that a problem, Kate?’

Kate carried the plates to the table and offered Sam the corkscrew to open the wine.

‘Not a problem as such; and I’ll do the best I can of course. It’s just I am thinking of moving, that’s all.’

Sam stared at her. ‘Where did that idea come from? I thought you were happy here?’

Kate took a deep breath, knowing what would happen next.  ‘Michael turned up here last night,’ she said, waiting for the fireworks. She looked up at Sam and was dismayed to see her good friend was clearly upset.

‘It’s all right, I got rid of him. No harm was done.’

Sam put down her fork and blew her nose on a tissue.  Then she took a small sip of wine. Finally, she looked at Kate. ‘What’s going on, Kate?’

What was the matter with her, Michael wasn’t that much of a problem; was he?’

‘I ran into him in town, he’s been seconded to the local estate agents. I never expected him to turn up here. Turns out he knows his way around the electoral roll and thought he would come and visit. I chucked him out, of course.’

‘You did?’

‘Don’t look so surprised, I am well over him these days. What with everything else that has been going on, I need him turning up like a hole in my head.’

Sam’s face quickly changed from upset to worry. ‘What else has been going on, Kate?’

Suddenly, Kate didn’t want to be reminded about Dylan, not in the middle of lunch. ‘Should we eat first?’

‘That good, is it?’

Kate shrugged, and they ate the rest of the meal in silence.

 

Sam pushed her plate away from her and concern was written all over her face. ‘It’s no good, Kate. You have to tell me what’s been going on.’

Kate secretly agreed but was having trouble putting it into words. It would be as if her hands were covered in Dylan’s blood all over again.  Sam was insisting, so she would have to grit her teeth and get it over with.

Once she started, it became easier and before she knew it, she had told Sam all about the crying child, the dumped car, Janet’s accident, the death of Dylan and the meeting with Michael. How he seemed to know practically everything about her, despite not having seen her for years.

Sam listened in silence, glancing at her every few minutes, almost as though she was checking up on her.

When it looked as though Kate had finally spilt all the beans, Sam stood up and went to fill the kettle. ‘This calls for coffee, and a great deal of thinking,’ she said.

 

Kate wasn’t sure she agreed with her. Talking was not going to make any of it go away.  It did feel good to have company though; she didn’t feel so completely alone for once.

Sam plonked two mugs of strong coffee on the table and said, ‘Right. First things first. Are you sure Michael got the message?’

Kate nodded. ‘I think so. I tried to make it clear…’

‘That’s the reason you want to leave here, is it?’

‘Partly, but it’s everything really. The intruder started it and the rest… This place is just not mine anymore, it feels dirty, spoiled somehow.’

Sam looked sympathetic.  ‘I know what you mean. I don’t think I would want to stay here anymore either. We have to sort all this out and get organised.  What have you done so far?’

Kate had to admit she had done nothing. The visit to the estate agent didn’t count.

‘I wonder…’  Sam said slowly. Would you like to live with me for a while we sort everything out? You could catch up on the artwork and look for a special place without having to rush. You need to take things slowly Kate, you look tired. How are you feeling, by the way?’

Kate had to admit she felt dreadful and wasn’t looking forward to the hospital appointment the following day.

She thought about Sam’s proposal. Would that work, temporarily?  She wasn’t used to anyone making plans for her or trying to take care of her. It felt a bit odd, to say the least.

Kate desperately wanted to be somewhere safe, somewhere Michael didn’t know about, and she worried about her neighbour. Janet would need someone for a while until she recovered properly.

Was she being completely honest about Michael? She knew that a small part of her had responded to his presence, she still wasn’t sure if it was real or just loneliness that triggered it. She had loved him for so long, despite what he had done, making every excuse in the book for him but she knew she had been fooling herself all these years.

The voice was quick to agree with her and proceeded to pass the opinion that moving in with Sam couldn’t possibly be a good idea either.

What was that? What did he mean? Kate suddenly felt nauseous and the room began to spin, slowly at first, then faster. The pain was back in her chest and she was having trouble breathing. Oh no, not again.

‘Kate, what is it, what’s the matter?’

Sam’s voice seemed to be coming from a long way off as Kate felt herself slide of the chair to the floor.

Then someone turned all the lights off…


#WednesdayWriters ~ Nine Lives by Jaye Marie ~ Chapter 25 #MysteryThriller #Serialisation

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Chapter Twenty-five

 

Michael Barratt was having trouble believing just how stupid he had been. After all this time, after all his searching, what had possessed him to come on so strong and ruin whatever slim chance he had with Kate. He might have known time and distance would not mellow her in the slightest, that she would be as stubborn as ever.

It was always the way he was with her, never thinking before he spoke, always rushing headlong into stupidity. And the worst of it was he couldn’t think of a single way to improve matters between them. She was right to be angry after the way he had behaved. Again.

To this day, he still didn’t know why he had run away the minute he knew about the baby. Enough time had passed for him to try and figure out what he had obviously thought was wrong, and he was no smarter now than he was then, as only an idiot would have risked his one chance by behaving so stupidly.

Why did he think time might have changed things? It had probably made it more of a mess if anything.

There was a moment when the Kate he knew so well had surfaced. Not for long though, she had pulled back into her shell in a flash, but not before he glimpsed how she felt about him.

That tiny spark, that glimpse of what could be, gave him hope. More hope than I deserve, he thought wryly. He thought he had lost Kate forever when she had suddenly vanished from his father’s house all those years ago. He had the gall to ask him where she had gone, that’s how desperate he was. His father must have sensed it too, for he was uncharacteristically civil towards him, although he didn’t know where she had gone either.

The old boy had looked so lonely and sad, Michael almost felt sorry for him, but something kept the normal father and son relationship at bay, and he walked away without once looking back.

When he found out she had married Jack Holland he became badly depressed, feeling all hope was gone. He had hidden away believing there was no point in anything anymore. He couldn’t remember how long that state of mind had lasted and it seemed like a long lonely time, where all he could think of was losing the one good thing he had ever found.

Gradually, he remembered starting to worry about Kate. Was she happy? Did this Jack Holland treat her right? This made Michael feel worse, for if this man was hurting her there was nothing he could do about any of it, as he didn’t have a clue where she was.

Eventually, he managed to pull himself out of his depression and started to look for her. He had no other clue than the surname and this turned out to be no help at all. It was almost as though this Jack Holland didn’t exist and the fact he obviously did, meant he must have changed his name and at that realisation, the alarm bells started clanging.

His job as an estate agent came in handy, as he could move around to different areas quite easily. It also gave him access to property records, although they turned out to be no help either. He started systematically travelling around the south of England, giving himself six months in each location to check out every living soul in the neighbourhood.

He thought he caught glimpses of Kate as he made his rounds, but it was never her. He found himself looking at children, wondering if one of them was his son.

Sometimes women would mistake his interest for something more, and no matter how attractive they were, or how accommodating, he always politely declined their offers. Kate had become an obsession, one he would live with in the absence of the real thing.  The thought of what he had thrown away still cut deep like a knife.

The day she walked into the estate office in Guildford, his heart seemed to stop beating. It was all he could do to breathe and appear normal when he felt like shouting the place down with all the joy he felt at the sight of her. He never doubted it was she; it couldn’t possibly be anyone else. The proud way she held herself, the uncontrollable hair still wild although now streaked with silver. The way she looked at him, daring him to speak to her.

She gave herself away with all the hesitations and awkward pauses, could it be she had missed him? Against all hope, he wondered if she could possibly still love him?

Their meeting was short-lived and Kate ran away from him again. She said she would come back the next day but he had no intention of waiting that long. He found her address easily enough when he realised she was probably using her maiden name and when he later turned up at her flat, flowers in hand, he knew his suspicions were right. She was nervous, trying desperately to keep him at arm’s length, but the chemistry was still there. He could feel it crackling in the air like electricity between them…

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#Throwback Thursday Secrets… #FamilyDrama

 

SOME SECRETS WILL KILL YOU…
and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…

 

book promo post for Secrets

Excerpt from ‘Secrets’

She took a long hard look at herself in the mirror. Do any of us really know who we are, she asked herself. Are we the product of many lifetimes, like coloured plasticine all rolled together? All mixed up and confused, struggling with thoughts and feelings that might not belong to the here and now?

Maggie felt extremely sad but didn’t know why, there were tears in her eyes for no specific reason she could think of. It was a personal sadness, nothing to do with what Jack had done. Her life was pretty good, yet the feeling was there. She wondered if it could be an old sadness from another time that affected her, her mind not really thinking or remembering what it was.

When she thought about it, there had been many such days when she’d play a romantic record and the words would mean more than they should, perpetuating the sadness, the feeling of something lost. Did she have a secret, something bad that she had done, just waiting to be discovered?

She lay on the bed waiting for Jack and wondered if the strange world she’d been thrown into was more real than her mind would let her believe. It was hard to keep on denying it, what with Jack’s behaviour and poor Danny, tormented by this invisible world that seemed to have the power to inflict real pain and suffering. It was useless to even think about running from something you couldn’t see. She was remembering a passage from the Bible, when she heard Jack say good night to Danny. That the Good Lord sends no more than a body can bear…

She wondered if that was true, that the worst was over…

 

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#Wednesday Writer #MysteryThriller

MysteryThriller Book Cover

Promo Post for Out of Time

I found myself nearly at the end of my tether a few years ago. Depression had taken a few days off, but it was back with a vengeance.
My back seemed to have finally forgiven me and my knee still had an axe to grind, but that should not account for my frequent impersonation of a blubbering wreck. I had the unshakeable feeling that just one more disaster would break someone’s back, probably mine.

Then, just as I was doing my best to pull myself together, the worst flu in history struck and the depression found a few more notches to climb…

Didn’t think the week could get any worse and wasn’t expecting it to get any better, but the following day it did. I was woken up at four o’clock in the morning by the characters from my recently finished (soon to be launched) book banging on and on in my head about needing another chance to sort their lives out. To be fair, they were coming up with some good ideas as to how this could be managed. Significantly, the only one who wasn’t nagging me, was the annoying voice that only Kate (from Nine Lives) can hear. And before you could blink, I was building the storyline and plotting my head off.
Apparently, they wanted a new playmate and were being very insistent. I couldn’t argue with them, as they have more than proved their worth. And they should get the credit, for most of the time all I did was follow their orders!
I had never realised how much fun writing a book could be, and was more than delighted that the next one seems to be waiting in the wings.

I still don’t understand why is it that some mornings you wake up feeling as though you spent the night with Doom and Gloom, and others have you springing out of bed full of optimism?
All I can say is that I am grateful for it, as life is proving to be so very short without it…

 

Book Blurb

Kate Devereau wakes up in a hospital, unable to speak or move. Her brain has shut down, refusing to acknowledge her dark and disturbing past, concealing a web of painful secrets.

Michael Barratt brought her to the hospital, insisting that her ex-husband had tried to kill her. And from the state of him, had tried to kill him too. He had been searching for Kate for years, ever since their doomed love affair, only to discover someone else had been hunting her too.

With the help of the DI David Snow, Kate will gradually piece her life back together, only to discover the nightmare is far from over.
Her first instinct is to run, but David Snow convinces her to stay and help him put an end to the nightmare. A nightmare that will get progressively worse before it gets better.

Haunted by his own demons, will the Snowman manage to catch the twisted killer?

Evil lurks in this story and people die, but amidst the tears and heartache, a lost love struggles to survive…

Excerpt from  Out of Time…

Detective Inspector David Snow looked down at the unconscious woman on the hospital bed in front of him, remembering the state of her when she had arrived, a few hours ago. They had done a good job of cleaning her up. She lay still, like a religious statue in a church, her pale skin the colour of finest marble. The gentle rise and fall of her breasts the only indication life still clung to her body.
So different to the wrinkled, dirt-ingrained body he had looked at earlier, of an old tramp found dead in the hospital car park, bundled into a moth-eaten army coat and wedged under a car. What was originally thought to be a simple case of neglect, had taken on a more sinister tone when they discovered the tramps head had been cut off and shoved down the back of the old boy’s trousers.
Snow wondered what an old tramp could possibly have done to warrant such treatment, being well known around the hospital and described as a harmless old soul. The tenuous link to the woman in front of him indicated she might not be safe and would need his protection.
They knew very little about her, and he wondered again what kind of woman she was. Now the dirt had been removed, she looked healthy and well cared for, which ruled out homelessness. A reasonably attractive, middle-aged woman, bordering on the ordinary, apart from her curly hair which would appear to have a life of its own, as even now it crept across the pillow like the roots of a willow.

Alone with the unconscious woman, Snow had an excellent opportunity to study her without feeling self-conscious about doing it. In all the years since his wife’s death, he missed looking intimately at a woman. He usually tried to do it surreptitiously to avoid the risk of being branded a pervert, or worse. He liked to imagine what kind of person they were, if they were kind or cruel, bossy or timid, but for once, there were no clues on this woman’s face. A slight determination in the set of her jaw gave him pause for thought.
According to Michael Barratt, the man who brought her here, her name was Kate Devereau, an artist, none of which gave him any clues as to her character. In the beginning, Snow had instinctively thought she might be the murderer in this case, due to the amount of blood found in the cottage. Michael Barratt had found her unconscious in this cottage on the outskirts of Guildford. He said he knew her, but had no idea why she had found it necessary to be there. As an estate agent, he had been arranging to have the cottage ready for Miss Devereau to rent.
It was all a little mysterious, compounded by the fact Michael Barratt looked as if he had been barbecued. His clothes were burned black in places, apart from his jacket, which was clean and several sizes too small and obviously didn’t belong to him. The back of his head and hands were raw and blistered, suggesting there were probably more extensive burns to his body.
The estate agent had offered no explanation for his own condition, but stubbornly kept asking after Kate, which might possibly indicate an emotional involvement. He had no answer for what had happened to her, except to say her health had not been good for a while. If it hadn’t been for all the blood, it would have seemed innocent enough.
So why didn’t Snow believe him?

Given the state of him, Michael Barratt was in no position to convince David Snow of anything. Naturally suspicious of everyone involved in any of his cases, Snow couldn’t help but suspect Michael Barratt. The man was obviously hiding something, for despite his obvious devotion to the unconscious woman, something didn’t feel right. He must know more than he said.
There had to be more to this case than these two people. The macabre and similar death of Miss Devereau’s brother Danny had opened this case several weeks ago, a clear indication someone they all knew had an axe to grind. Someone cruel and malicious, hell bent on exacting some kind of revenge?

Snow walked over to the window, more for a change of scenery than to escape from the body of Kate Devereau. It was getting dark outside, and the lights in the car park were coming on, one by one. With visiting time approaching, more cars were arriving and he prayed nothing else would happen. He was tired, but not looking forward to his retirement next year. His life seemed empty now, what would it be like then? He didn’t want to retire, he liked his job. It gave him a reason to get up every morning.
He found the idea that this woman may never regain consciousness unsettling, as he wanted this case solved and put away as soon as possible. The doctors could find no medical reason for the coma, or so they said. They had found sedatives in her system, but they should have worn off by now. Her heart was fine and no sign of a stroke. Either she didn’t want to wake up, or she was faking.
Maybe if he pinched or touched her, took her by surprise, would she open her eyes? For whatever reason, and he couldn’t think of one, he couldn’t do it. He could hardly blame her for faking. Why weren’t there more people in her life?
He remembered one of his earlier cases, involving one Gillian Anderton. How she had completely fooled them into believing her story. If it hadn’t been for his sergeant, Jim Harris, she would still be free. Snow tended to suspect women a lot more these days, just in case.

An agent, Samantha Cameron, managed all of Miss Devereau’s art, but was probably only a business contact. Judging by the barbecued boyfriend, someone thought well of her, but how did she feel about him? So many questions which would never be answered if she didn’t wake up.
He looked back to the bed, hoping to see her open her eyes, but nothing had changed, she hadn’t moved at all.

What kind of woman are you, Kate Devereau?

Our Review for Don’t Touch by Barb Taub #ScienceFiction/Fantasy @barbtaub

 

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Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.
Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.” Every day whatever she touches converts into something new: bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between.
Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.

 

Our Review

Lette wakes up on her thirteenth birthday and inherits a terrible problem.

A problem she neither wants nor needs.

Despite the seriousness of her plight, I was impressed by her sense of humour and the way she gets to grip with her often distressing problem.

Don’t Touch is, without doubt, a fascinating, delightful read. Extremely well written, I read it in one sitting. I followed Lette eagerly as she sought a solution, surprised by her ingenuity. Such an unusual story had me laughing at times, sad at others and I loved the romantic entanglements too.

I must confess, I loved George, the cat! Such a character, he tried his best to put a normal slant on Lette’s far from normal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Don’t Touch and can heartily recommend it.

 

Excerpt

“I was having a terrific dream that Rag was carrying me into my bedroom. The bed dipped as he lay down next to me, and I could smell cinnamon and lemon. More, I wanted more, so I scooted closer and stuck my nose into his neck. I felt his hands move down my back and realized… Not a dream.

My eyes flew open, and my head shot up.“Ow!”

He was holding his hands over his bleeding nose and yelling and laughing at the same time.

“Raguel?” I asked cautiously. When he nodded, I ran for a wet washcloth. The bleeding had stopped by the time I got back, but he eyed me warily.

“Are you still mad at me, Lette?”

“I was asleep, you stupid ex-angel.”

 “Um… Is this one of those boundary things?”

I gently wiped the blood from his face. “That depends.”

He took the cloth and wiped his hands. “On what?”

 I sat down on the bed and said in the most serious voice I’d ever used with him, “On why you left. And why you came back.”

He sat next to me and took both of my gloved hands. “I left because I saw what you were willing to go through to save Stefan. And then I heard you tell him you loved him. There were so many times I wanted to call you and argue like we used to but I kept remembering you telling Stefan you loved him.”

I started to protest but he put a finger over my mouth and continued. “Oh, and there might have been some cellphone smashing. I couldn’t stand the thought of riding on the Metro, so when a friend in France needed my help for several weeks I went without a phone or laptop. I only came back because Stefan sent a message through Poppy. He said that you were just friends. And that I was a shit for making you cry.”

“I don’t cry.”

He wiped the tears from my cheeks. “I know. And I am a shit. But that’s not the amazing part.” He kissed me, and in about a nanosecond I completely forgot what we were talking about. I might have also forgotten my name. I’m pretty sure I moaned a complaint when he pulled back to continue talking. It wasn’t fair. How come he could still talk?”

 

Biography

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

 

Best Review

Georgia Rose

5.0 out of 5 stars

Perceptive and witty, I can’t begin to tell you how entertaining this book is…

Until now I had viewed the Null City books from a bit of a distance thinking that I don’t really do fantasy, let along urban fantasy – whatever that may mean – and I’m certainly not YA so these can’t be for me. Right? Wrong…how wrong could I be? I was hooked from the moment I read this:-

‘Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.’

Lette (short for Roulette, fabulous name!) is our heroine here and she has a pretty tough time from the moment she hits 13 and inherits the family ‘gift’ where whatever she touches each day changes form. Some days this is great, diamond rings and opals appear alongside cup cakes for example, on other days life becomes precarious when her touch causes things to levitate or explode. Lette learns to cope. She wears vinyl gloves all the time to protect others and isolates herself to live alone. Stefan arrives in her life one day encouraging her to come with him to Null City where they can live a normal life. Stefan, you see, has his own family legacy he is trying to escape from and for a brief time Lette is able to experience the blossoming of a romance. The ‘cure’ of Null City doesn’t go to plan for Lette and she has to move on making another contact with Rag, an ex-angel with boundary issues, along the way.

I can’t begin to tell you how entertaining this book is. I’ve loved Taub’s writing on her blog for a while now, it’s perceptive and witty and this book is no different. A strong, beautiful heroine (who doesn’t see herself as that) with a superpower that is both humorous and heart-breaking, an original story, handsome hero’s with their own tragic pasts, a hopeful but ultimately doomed romance and plenty of action…oh and there’s an evil cat, George, …what more could you want in a book!

 

 

Voices in Your Head?

 

 

My first book, Nine Lives came into being mainly because I became intrigued by the notion that most of us hear voices in our heads at one time or another.

From Pinocchio to Joan of Arc, people have been hearing things and sometimes a little voice can change history, and not always for the best.

Kate Devereau, the ageing artist in my book, has been hearing a voice all her life. Never sure if this is good or evil, she makes a point of ignoring everything it says. Would her life have turned out differently if she hadn’t?

Some people call this the voice of our conscience, a bit like Jiminy Cricket, but how many of us really listen or even obey its commands?

I personally don’t hear any voices, but sometimes I just know I should have done things differently, and have suffered the consequences…

When I researched this topic, I was amazed by just how many famous people have heard voices, going back as far as Moses. Some of these people were convinced they were hearing the voice of God; some thought a heavenly host had visited them. Whereas, on the other side of the scale, if a voice talked you into committing a crime, they usually lock you up and throw away the key.

Personally, I like the idea of a wise voice, advising and helping us with life’s problems. Pointing out the error of our ways would be very handy in our house.

But how many of us would dare to trust it?

 

Excerpt from  Nine Lives

… as the pain rolled on and on, Kate just wanted to die. She knew no one was going to rescue her, they never had before and it was a little late to start believing they would now. For some reason, she knew it was her lot in life to suffer, to be alone and be miserable, no matter how hard she tried to make her life any different. Surely, it was time for the curse on her life to stop? The voice in her head had said otherwise, apparently, there was much worse to come. But what could be worse than this, she thought.

Once the pain started to make her want to push, it all became a little more bearable. At least she felt more in control of the situation, not just lying there helplessly, being tortured.

The baby, a boy, was born that evening and nobody could have been more pleased it was over than Kate herself.

Throughout the ordeal, the voice had kept up a running commentary about her life being ruined. How she had wasted every opportunity and how sorry it was. The last bit surprised her, for she had always thought it disliked her. It had never said anything with any hint of kindness in it before. If it was simply trying to depress her even more than she was already, it had succeeded…

 

#Tuesday Book Blog: Secrets by A.Dawes #LiteraryFiction

 

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SOME SECRETS WILL KILL YOU…
and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…

Excerpt

Maggie heaped three spoonsful of brown sugar into the frothy coffee, and Scott gave a gentle tut-tut as she watched it slowly slip through the bubbles.

Watching her stir the coffee for longer than was necessary, he asked, ‘Shall I fire questions at you or will you volunteer your troubles to old Scottie?’

The softening of his name was only for those he considered his true friends and he listened without interruption while she told him all about the nightmares, the mess in the kitchen, Danny’s destructiveness, burying Jack’s stuff in the garden and all the things that Danny attributed to his imaginary friend, Toby.

Scott pondered awhile, and then said, ‘You of all people shouldn’t think it so strange, where would you be without imagination, Maggie?  Pulling groceries on a check-out? Not that it’s a disgrace; someone has to do it… Danny is developing his mind, maybe he’ll be a great artist like his beautiful mother, or  write the books Jack couldn’t… then he’ll need all the power of his inner mind, much the way you do.’

She looked deep into her empty coffee cup as if it were a crystal ball. ‘Maybe I could believe all that if he were happy, Scott, but he’s not. He’s so moody and goes days without saying a word to anyone.’

She related Cathy’s story about hearing a dog in the car, and Scott looked puzzled.

‘From what you’ve told me about her, I’d say she’s prone to flights of fancy and you shouldn’t take any of it too seriously. It could have been anything, like that wretched noise when you speed past those wooden poles along the road. Maybe there was something stuck to the wheel of her car. Noises you would normally recognise have a way of sounding strange when you’re cooped up inside a tin-can on wheels.’

She didn’t believe Scott’s explanation, but it was enough to put a little doubt in her mind, she realised that she hadn’t thought the situation through as thoroughly as she might.

She didn’t tell him about the bite-marks and scratches that appeared on Danny during the nightmares until last. It wasn’t really all that bad, not enough to draw blood but marks none the less.

‘Could he have done it himself?’ asked Scott.

‘Yes, but he denied it.’

‘Someone at school, a fight? Boys get into them all the time.’

‘I don’t think so. Danny told the doctor that this Toby did it. When we asked him why he hadn’t said anything to us, he just shrugged his shoulders and clammed up. We’ve been advised not to push him too hard.’

Scott could see how worried she was, but he couldn’t really think of anything to allay her fears, real or imagined. It was high time to lighten the mood. Catching Kelly’s eye, he ordered two more coffees with hand gestures.

‘God knows what you’ve been letting your mind get up to, Maggie darling, but as far as I can tell, there are only two explanations. He either did it himself or he got into a fight and didn’t know how to tell you. There are times, darling when a young man can’t run to his mama. Losing a fight would be worse than telling you he had been in one in the first place…

‘Maybe that’s all he’s hiding from you, and as for the rest of it, it’s plain old-fashioned mischief born out of the sheer frustration of keeping things locked inside…’

~~~~~

 

Secrets

Danny’s secret goes back in time

How is this known to a child of nine?

No one believes him when he speaks

Of buried treasure the earth still keeps.

Yet stranger words are said in sleep.

His mother hears his sleeping moans

Afraid now, how can he know

Of secrets buried so long ago?

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#WednesdayWriters ~ Nine Lives ~ Chapter 24 #MysteryThriller #Fiction

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Kate has welcomed death from an early age. With no family to speak of and a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away.

It speaks to her. Teases her, yet will not come for her.

Death takes those around her, making her desire for it greater than ever.

She wonders how much longer it will take for her time to run out…

Chapter Twenty-four

On the way home, Kate picked up some lamb chops and some white wine for her lunch with Sam, inwardly still trying not to be angry with Michael. Who did he think he was? Regardless of the fact him turning up was something she had dreamed of for years, he still had the cheek of the devil.

There was an ambulance outside Janet’s house and Kate’s heartbeat accelerated as she walked towards it, wondering who it was for. As she drew closer, she saw Janet’s door was open and as she watched, a paramedic in a reflective yellow striped jacket was wheeling Janet out of her house in a wheelchair. She appeared to be asleep, her face pale and peaceful. What had happened?

She approached the ambulance. ‘Hello, how is Mrs Goldman? I’m her neighbour.’

The paramedic stopped for a second and looked at her. ‘The old dear took a tumble and we’re just taking her in to be checked over.’

‘How did she tumble, she has no stairs?’ Kate asked.

‘She must have been up on a chair, there was one overturned when we turned up.’  He grinned at her and climbed into the back of the ambulance. ‘She’ll be fine, see if she’s not.’

Kate had the strangest feeling Janet wouldn’t be ‘fine’.  She was far too old to be taking a tumble.

She decided to spend the rest of the day in her studio after she had something to eat and if Janet wasn’t home by tomorrow morning, she would go and see how she was.

The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing the next canvas. This one was going to be a night scene, with the moonlight like a pathway across the water. That was the plan anyway, and that sometimes changed as her paintbrush often had a mind of its own.

As the afternoon faded into early evening, Kate found herself thinking about Michael a little more fondly than she had that morning. She had almost seemed rude, hadn’t she?  God knows what he made of it.

She was in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil when there was a knock at the front door. Who could have that be, she thought, wondering if it was something to do with Janet.

Kate’s heart was in her mouth as she opened the door to find Michael standing there with a small bunch of carnations clutched to his chest. She almost choked, and her first instinct was to slam the door, but for some strange reason, she couldn’t.

‘I’ve come to apologise, Kate. I shouldn’t have carried on as though nothing was wrong between us. No wonder you had nothing to say. Please let me in, so we can start again and talk properly.’

She glared at him. ‘How do you know where I live?’

‘I felt so bad after you left, I had to find you so I could apologise in person. I had no way of knowing if you would turn up tomorrow.’

‘But how did you know where I live?’

He had the grace to look sheepish. ‘I looked you up on the electoral roll. Lucky you still use your old name, or I would never have found you.’

Kate still hesitated, unsure whether to let him in or not. This was her private space; did she want him touching everything?

She already knew she would let him in, the effect he had on her was the same as ever, regardless of the history between them. ‘You had better come in then,’ she said, standing aside so he could pass. ‘And don’t think I have forgiven you because I haven’t.’

He turned and offered her the flowers. ‘They’re not a peace offering Kate; I just thought you would like them.’

She tried to accept them gracefully, knowing she would prefer to wrap them around his neck, and made her way to the kitchen to put them in water.

He stood in the doorway watching her, and it all seemed the most natural thing in the world as if he had done exactly that dozens of times before.

It suddenly occurred to her just how much she resented him showing up on her doorstep.

‘Nice place you have here, Kate. Been here long?’

Why did she automatically think he already knew the answer to that?

‘Not long ‘, she said, non-committedly. ‘And I will soon be moving on, anyway’.

He smiled, and there was just a hint of nervousness in his smile. Was it possible he was a little unsure of his reception?

He nodded at the back door. ‘What happened to the cat?’

The hair on the back of her neck twitched and it was all she could do not to march up to him and slap his face hard. ‘Why assume something happened to my cat? He could be sleeping in another room.’

His smile vanished, and she could see he was trying to think of a suitable answer. Whatever he said, she wouldn’t believe a word.  It was as if he knew what had happened to Dylan, and how could he, unless… The possibilities that presented themselves didn’t bear thinking about, and she knew something was wrong. Nobody would say a thing like that by chance.

‘Come on Michael, say something to convince me you meant nothing sinister.’

‘I don’t know why I said that, Kate. The way you’re carrying on, something did happen to the cat. What was it?

The cheek of the man took her breath away, which was just as well for she had no intention of telling him anything.

‘It doesn’t matter, come and sit down and tell me the real reason you showed up here tonight.’

He followed her out of the kitchen and paused outside her studio. ‘Can I have a look?’

The door was open, so he already had a good look in her opinion. She leaned past him and closed the door. ‘I would rather you didn’t if you don’t mind,’ she said, not caring she came across as more than a little angry.

He looked surprised, but what did he expect? Had he forgotten how badly he had let her down, not to mention walking out on the child they had made together?

Her temper finally snapped and she turned on him angrily. ‘Don’t bother getting comfortable, Michael. I want you to leave, now.’

‘And…’

‘No buts, did you think I would fall into your arms again? You must be more stupid than I thought.  Please, just go.’

For a moment, he managed to look sad, but if that was supposed to mean anything to her, he was badly mistaken. Although a small part of her still loved him, a bigger part resented him for turning up like this, assuming she would forgive and forget.  She hadn’t been able to do it then and certainly wasn’t about to do it now.

Kate went to open the front door, desperate to get him out of her flat.  Just as well I’m leaving, she thought, as knowing he knew where to find her was annoying her a lot more than she thought it would.

‘Can’t we just talk about this, Kate,’ he said, trying to look sheepish.

She came up to him and shoved him not too gently towards the door. ‘Go away Michael, I don’t want you here.’

As he walked away, she waited for him to turn around, to appeal to her one more time. He didn’t, he kept on walking and for a split second it was all so sad she felt like crying.

He didn’t appear to have come by car. If he had, it must be parked somewhere else. Why would he do that?

As Kate stood on the doorstep, she noticed there were no lights showing at Janet’s house. Did that mean she was still in the hospital?  She would have to ring them in the morning and find out what was going on.

She didn’t feel in the least like painting, and went to the studio and stared at the canvas. She should work on it a bit more, after all, Sam was coming for lunch tomorrow and the more progress she could see, the better. It might help to get all thoughts of Michael out of her head, so she would have no trouble sleeping tonight.

She tried to empty her mind of him as she spent the next few hours pushing paint onto the canvas, and one question kept rattling around in her head. Why had he assumed something happened to her cat?  It might have just been a coincidence; after all, there was a cat flap in the back door. It could have been for the previous tenant’s cat. It was almost as if he knew something bad had happened, but how could he have done?

She decided to call it a night when her arm was so stiff she could hardly hold the paintbrush. Canvas number three was almost finished and Kate liked the way this one was turning out. Probably because it was such a peaceful, serene scene, it had gone a long way to soothing the savage beast Michael had awakened with his impromptu visit…

What does Michael want?

Did he kill her cat?

 

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Tallis Steelyard: Six Men in a Boat #ScienceFiction&Fantasy @JimWebster6

Joining us here today, is everyone’s favourite story teller, Jim Webster.

The famous Tallis Steelyard has a new adventure that we all want to read!

Over to you, Jim…

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Instead of his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with a gripping adventure.

Why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians?

Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger?

Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.

Amazing what you learn as you grow older.

Meirdre, the oldest daughter of Garrat and Taffetia Drane was, by common agreement, a precocious child. After all, at the age of six, she was a full partner in ‘Peepers and Narks’, investigators of choice to the leading Port Naain legal partnership of Thallawell, Thallawell, and Thallawell.

Now, this might have been regarded by most as something of a formality, and to be fair, for the first three or four months it probably was. But her parents didn’t want to see their child cheated by older partners, and so they looked for ways in which their daughter could become more ‘hands on.’ Inspiration came when Garrat was reading a report written by one of the many peepers who worked for the partnership on a casual basis. He commented to his lady wife that a child of six would be expected to have better grammar and spelling. Taffetia, who was in point of fact quite proud of the education she had been giving her children, agreed entirely with her husband’s sentiments.

(I will pause here to discuss in brief the fact that some cynics have intimated that this entire agreement on the behalf of a wife to her husband’s comments is surely exclusive enough on its own to make this story worthy of recording. I merely state that it is not a unique occasion, several times my own wife has agreed entirely with something I’ve said. Admittedly, a number of these occasions will be when I restricted myself to ‘Yes Dear’ but by no means all.)

Still, parental agreement within the Drane household meant that before the age of seven, Meirdre was reading every report made to ‘Peepers and Narks’ by their operatives, and was correcting grammar and spelling. A couple of years later she started to do the same to those reports that the partnership sent on to their clients. In the course of this, she discovered that because she had read and scrutinised every statement coming in, she often had a better grasp of the situation than the other two partners. Thus, she started writing the final reports rather than merely editing them for grammar and spelling.

If this seems a lot for a girl of her age, remember that at this point she was also working as a wailer. This role she fulfilled entirely competently but was beginning to get in the way of her new profession. With little hesitation, she turned her back on it and concentrated entirely on office management. To be fair her partners were perfectly happy to leave the paperwork to her. They moved to supervising the fieldwork whilst Meirdre ran the office. This worked well; Dagly Ween had been considered one of the best peepers in the business. At the same time the other partner, Mirabelle Sobent, was the leading female ‘arm and a leg’ man in Port Naain. Whilst it’s unlikely that anybody actually boasted that they’d taken a punishment beating from Mirabelle Sobent, she was known for dispassionate efficiency. Word got round the business community, if you want somebody beaten up for asking difficult questions, poaching your staff, or stealing your ideas (or complaining when you steal theirs) then Thallawell, Thallawell, and Thallawell know the best people.

Yet a note Meirdre might get from a nark would often need action to be taken immediately. So inevitably, she drifted into management. By the time she was fourteen, she was regularly sending out instructions to peepers or arm and leg men, stating what action she wanted taken. Still, ever courteous, she made sure her partners would get a copy of the note to keep them in the picture. As her partners grew older, more and more of the work fell upon her shoulders until finally, she bought them out. Now in sole charge at last, she could run the business as she felt it ought to be run. She expanded the organisation’s operations into Partann searching for both economic and political information which could be sold to better paying markets than a lawyer’s practice. Closer to home, her long familiarity with the Port Naain criminal classes gave her a lot of information on the city’s politics and politicians. Slowly she began to gather more evidence and built up her files. By the time she was thirty-five she quietly dominated the city’s politics. Politicians relied upon her for information about what was happening both inside and outside the city.

Indeed she was being actively courted by four Sinecurists and it was widely expected that when she married she would become the richest and most influential lady in the city. Fate took a hand as her carriage, taking her to a ball, collided with a cart loaded with mott carcasses. She got out and fell into conversation with the driver of the cart. He was firm but courteous; her coachman had been too free with the whip which had left the horses jittery. Thus when they’d come round the corner and met his cart they’d panicked. She could see the correctness of his analysis and instructed her coachmen and postilion to load the contents of the cart into her coach. Meirdre and the driver of the cart, (now revealed to be the farmer who had fattened the mott whose carcasses were being transhipped,) then left the postilion to ensure that the cart and ponies were looked after whilst the coach made its way down the ropewalk to Bolidad and Offspring, butchers to the gentry. As the coach was unloaded, Meirdre and the mott farmer were in deep conversation, so deep that she dismissed the coach and the two of them sat drinking coffee in Slybooks. Two weeks later, to the surprise of the city in general, Meirdre married her mott farmer and went north to live with him on a pleasant enough holding perhaps thirty miles from the city. They live in a house with three books, and two of them are about mott husbandry. The height of their social calendar is the day they provide the young mott for the village fete’s ‘catch the greasy mott’ competition. And now the hard sell!

OK so perhaps the not so hard sell. It’s just that this is part of a blog tour which is peering into the lives of Garrat Drane, and his lady wife Taffetia Drane. Now we are meeting their various offspring, delightful people and pillars of the community. Or perhaps not. But still now is your chance to meet them and inadvertently you may discover their importance to our hero, Tallis Steelyard.

But actually, the purpose of this blog is to draw your attention to the fact that a new book has been published. ‘Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tallis-Steelyard-Six-men-boat-ebook/dp/B07JPKYJJN

Rather than a collection of his anecdotes, this is indeed an ‘adventure’ as Tallis ventures forth from the city of Port Naain. Questions are asked that may even be answered, why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.

Treat yourself; you know you’re worth it…

#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives ~ chapter 23 #MysteryFiction

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Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.
With nothing to live for, no family, just a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away when her lives run out.
Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her. When people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.
Has she finally run out of lives? Will she find a reason to live after all, before it is too late?

Chapter 23

Saturday morning arrived and Kate felt better than she had for quite a while. The pain in her chest had gone and she was more like her old self. A little optimism was creeping in which she found most welcome. She had never been a miserable person, despite her turbulent life and the thought she might have nothing else to look forward to was depressing in itself.

Today was more like it. She felt in control for the first time in ages. Her first cup of tea tasted wonderful and she enjoyed every drop as she ran through what options she could think of to take full advantage of the day.  Shopping was high on the list for the cupboards were empty. She should telephone Sam with a progress report and possibly make a start on canvas number three. She idly wondered if the library was open on a Saturday and mentally decided to check when she was in town.

After an invigorating shower, Kate started to make a shopping list and wrote down cat food without thinking. As she looked at the words, the sharp pain sliced through her chest and she had to sit down. ‘Oh Dylan, I miss you so much,’ she said, her eyes filling with tears. She sat, waiting until the pain had gone, leaving an ache behind. She blew her nose and went back to the shopping list.

It suddenly occurred to her that the voice had been quiet for days, hopefully, it was a good sign.

 

The weather was trying desperately to match her mood.  It was early in September, and the trees showed no sign of the approaching autumn. Gentle sunlight and a light breeze made the walk to town a pleasant one. The library wasn’t open, so it would have to wait until next week. As she went past the estate agent, one of the men inside looked up at her from his desk, and for a split second looked so familiar. He had dark curly hair, greying at the temples, but she couldn’t see his eyes properly as he was wearing glasses. She walked on, deep in thought to the supermarket.

Later that morning, after getting back home with several bags of shopping, the image of Michael slipped into her mind and she found herself imagining what he would look like now. She stopped, with a packet of frozen peas in her hand, and realised it might have been him. ‘Don’t be daft, why on earth would it be?’  She shook her head as if to dislodge the notion and carried on putting away the groceries.

Kate expected the voice would have something to say about it. It never usually missed an opportunity to snipe at her but it remained quiet.

She rang Sam and made arrangements for lunch on Sunday for a preview. She should get a bottle of wine, or something nice for lunch.

 

When Kate crossed the street on her way to see if Janet was in, she noticed that the old green car was still there. Was that one more thing to worry about, she thought?

Although she waited patiently at Janet’s door, the old woman did not appear. She must be out or having a nap. As Kate drew nearer to the estate agent, her stomach was churning and she desperately wanted to walk the other way. What was she thinking? It couldn’t possibly be Michael, not here in Guildford. She always imagined him happily married and living the high life in London. After all, he was a good-looking man; women should fall over themselves to grab him.

She suddenly realised she was standing outside the estate agents and the picture of a picturesque cottage was right in front of her.  It’s too expensive, she thought, buying anything like that was out of the question, she had never had that kind of money and wasn’t about to end up in debt at her time of life. She wondered if they had rental properties too.

Her eyes began to focus past the pictures in the window and she studied the staff, but Michael wasn’t one of them, at least she couldn’t see him.

Her feet moved to walk inside and she went with them, safe in the knowledge there would be no embarrassing moment. Not if she was quick. She walked near the empty desk, looking for a nameplate or other identifying piece of evidence, but there was nothing. Then a soft female voice behind her asked if there was something she could help with, and Kate turned around, fully intending to ask about rental properties.

The woman who had spoken was quite short so Kate had a clear view of the man who had come up behind her.

‘It’s okay, Juliet. This lady is here to see me. Hello Kate. Long time no see.’

Kate’s knees had turned to jelly, how was she still standing up? It was definitely Michael, older, a lot older, but still attractive. He wasn’t wearing his glasses today and the familiar blue eyes had the effect they always had. She instantly felt she was the most important part of his life. How could he still do that, after all this time?

He took her by the elbow and steered her towards a chair.

‘I’ve just been seconded down here as they were short staffed. Funny how fate intervenes, don’t you think? You must tell me all about yourself. How are you and what are you doing these days?’

She stared at him, her mind a complete blank. Think of something to say, she thought, or he will think you’re senile. What were you supposed to say to someone who had broken your heart so many years ago?

He was looking at her the way he always did, and the magic had not died. Not in the slightest. She knew she was lost, so why try to go through the motions of being offended, or hateful. What would be the point? He probably wasn’t free anyway, so there was no harm in talking to him, was there?

‘Somehow, you look the same, Michael. How are you ?’

‘Oh, I’m fine. Getting older but nothing I can’t handle. Was there something you need, or did you know I was here? His eyes twinkled, reducing her nether regions into a pile of jelly babies.

‘I was contemplating finding somewhere to rent. Is that something you do here? She said, trying to hold on to her sanity.

He glanced at his watch. ‘Look, why don’t we discuss things over lunch; less formal than sitting here like any other customer.’

She remembered nodding slowly, but nothing else, and before she knew it, they were sitting in a quiet public house and there was a glass of white wine in front of her. Michael was looking at her as if waiting for the answer to a question.

‘I’m sorry, did you say something?’

‘I asked if you were well Kate, you look amazing, so I suppose the answer is yes.’

Kate picked up the glass of wine and took a sip, contemplating what to tell him, if anything at all. Something was telling her not to say anything and surprisingly it was her own idea. As she sat there looking at him, a frisson of annoyance nagged at her. How could he calmly sit there, looking gorgeous, as if they had no traumatic history between them? Had he forgotten he hurt her so badly it took years to heal? Added to that, the trouble with her ex-husband had turned Kate off any romantic encounters for life and there had been no one in her life since.

He is being patient, she thought. He must think she was too old to think straight, and maybe she shouldn’t enlighten him.

She declined any food, intending to keep the meeting short. He kept studying her and asking questions, obviously hoping one of them would make her talk.

She had fantasised about meeting him again, how they would be as wonderful together as they had been before, but somehow it didn’t feel right. He had no right to think she was still his for the taking.

He was talking again. ‘… must be something you can tell me about your life, is Jack still in the picture?’

So, he knew about Jack, what else did he know about her? ‘No, I divorced him and there is no one else.’ Why had she said that?

He smiled at her, his whole face lighting up like a little boy on firework night. ‘So, what have you been doing with the rest of your life, Kate?’

How can he just sit there as if they were old friends? She should hate him, and part of her probably did. She suddenly realised this meeting was not a good idea, and it was time to go home. ‘I paint’, she said and went to stand up. ‘I have to go now, I have things to do.’

He stood up and moved behind her chair, his hands brushing gently over the back of her coat as she stood up. She had to use all of her willpower to keep moving.

‘I might pop in tomorrow, to look at some properties. It was nice to see you again, Michael. Goodbye.’

His face was a picture. So many thoughts and emotions were flitting across his features, but he said nothing, just smiled forlornly at her. ‘See you tomorrow, then Kate.’

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