Life's looking bright and sunny again. It's finally happened - Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One) is up for sale at the Noble Romance Publishing website. Take a look, and allow me to share a little of the book right now.
Here's Chapter 1 (the whole of it!), to hopefully whet your appetite!
London. Oxford Street
Thursday, December 13, 1:24 p.m.
There's a man following me again.
She didn't know why she felt so certain. Selfridges teemed with shoppers in a Christmas buying frenzy, and bustling crowds swarmed around her.
Someone was watching her though. She knew. Maybe she tuned in to the hairs rising on her nape. Or to the little voice whispering in her mind, telling her there were eyes boring into her back and checking into her every move.
Was she going insane? The question snapped into her brain like a tightly pulled elastic band being released, stinging her when it hit home.
Come on, she told herself, I'm in a busy department store, and there's an idiot tagging my every step.
Her gaze darted to Nathaniel, the hulk of a guy who was her assigned chauffeur and man for all tasks, it seemed. Or, he could just be the watchdog her husband had set on her trail.
No, she wouldn't think of the big doggie and that other cold arsehole who waited for her at home. Peter Jamison was his name, the sad arse whom she didn't even know, whom she couldn't even recall, try as she might.
She toyed with the strap of a handbag on display in front of her, having no idea what brand it was or even what shop she was in. There were more important things to pay attention to right now, starting with the strange man who was a few paces away, across the corridor from where she stood. He seemed familiar. He was dressed in dark corduroy trousers and a heavy sweater; a baseball cap hid his hair and threw shadows upon his face. There wasn't anything specific to identify him. Yet she knew, deep down inside, that she had seen him before. Had it been just a day earlier, at an art gallery she'd visited in Soho, when she'd experienced the same heartbeat acceleration as now? She'd sensed eyes on her then too and had caught sight of a tall man in jeans, a blazer, and a fedora, standing outside the wide glass panes, looking into the gallery.
The two instances weren't the only times she'd felt the probing stare—that strange, unnerving perception had happened almost every day in the past week, whenever she went out.
And, somehow, she was pretty certain it was the same man every time. There was something about him, in the way he held his head, a slight thrust of the chin that permeated every encounter she recalled of the mysterious "stalker."
Who was he, and what did he want with her?
A soft gasp escaped her, and she realized she was twisting the handbag strap too hard, both hands locked onto the leather. She released the purse as if it were a hot potato fresh out of the steamer and took a step back.
Could that man know who she was?
Her gaze travelled up the clear glass of the pane that separated the shop from the main corridor that ran through the first level of Selfridges, her reflection staring back at her.
Her reflection or that of Amelia Jamison?
That's who she was, apparently. She had no recollection of her identity. She'd come out of a dramatic accident some seven months back with amnesia and with—as her medical record stated—a disfigured and burnt-beyond-recognition body.
Lord only knew how she had survived the explosion responsible for her condition. That's what all the doctors said, and what her "husband" had said too. He'd been there in the sunny hospital room of a private clinic in Switzerland, dark and with a countenance one could only describe as menacing, even when he lounged on a sofa, reading a financial magazine.
"You're awake," he'd said in a cold, detached voice. Not even the hint of a smile showed on his pale face. Despite her drug-befuddled mind, she was certain a real husband would greet his wife, whom he'd nearly lost, with more enthusiasm than what Peter had dished.
He went on to tell her he was Peter Jamison, and she was Amelia Brockhurst Jamison, a South African Afrikaner exchange student he had met at a London university and whom he had married when she'd finished her degree. At the time, she'd thought his story sounded rehearsed, and the feeling that their shared past was a fabricated lie struck her, enhanced by the indifference her "husband" expressed toward her. She didn't remember him or anything from her past and had simply listened to whatever the medical team and that man she was supposedly in love with had fed her about her life before everything was erased from her memory.
Yet, something was wrong with their story—a burn victim from the kind of accident she'd had would need more than a year to recover. But here she was, functioning normally and looking like a perfect, magazine cover girl a scant few months later.
Peter's explanation, delivered in a bored, why-am-I-bothering tone, was that she'd had experimental treatment at the clinic. Bollocks, she'd wanted to scream.
Some things didn't mesh, and darned if she wouldn't try to find out what parts of the puzzle didn't fit into the whole picture.
Her gaze, lost in the distance while she replayed the scenes of her waking up, focused again on her reflection, the woman staring back at her a stranger. The doctors said she'd had plastic surgery to bring her back to her former likeness; then why did she feel no kinship with the person she met every time she looked in a mirror?
Amelia Jamison, the woman who stared back at her, was a beauty. Delicate features that resembled the work of a master sculptor graced her face. Perfect cheekbones. Smooth, flawless skin. Crystal-clear blue eyes with extremely thick, dark lashes. Wide, full mouth. Dainty nose. Short, honey-toned hair.
Her hair had been long before, if she were to believe the pictures Peter so artfully placed in the Hampstead Heath home she'd come to live in two weeks ago, after leaving the Swiss clinic. Pictures of Amelia and Peter on their wedding day, on a trip to a winter ski station, on a tropical beach with a glowing sunset behind them, snuggled on a comfy-looking couch with a fire blazing in the background, and so on. And then there were photos of Amelia alone, smiling at the camera. Pictures in the same kind of elegant, gilt-edged frames that were arranged in tasteful, classy displays around the leather handbags and silk scarves sold in the shop.
Shaking off the weird, disturbing feeling that a trip down her nonexistent Memory Lane always brought on, she turned her attention back to the source of her unease. The man in the corduroy trousers.
There he was, a few yards away, intently perusing an artful party-table arrangement. Yet she was pretty sure a man like him—who appeared too much in control of a ruthless energy and vigilance, evident in his stiff back and the casual looks he sent her way—would not really have much to do with Disney princess decorations, the theme of the exhibition.
Unless he was watching her in the reflection of the big, Snow White, magical mirror on the table.
What did he want with her?
Suddenly, the corridor cleared, leaving no one between them.
A shadow fell over her, and she sighed when the imposing figure of Nathaniel settled in front of her.
"What?" she snapped, annoyed that he had intervened just before she made eye contact with the tall stranger.
"Time," Nathaniel growled. "Home."
Did the man ever talk in a full sentence? Sometimes she wondered if he even had a functioning brain inside that huge, shaved skull of his. Why had Peter saddled her with such a thick idiot?
Stepping around him, she tried to catch sight of the man in the corduroys, but he was nowhere in sight. Just her luck. "Let's go," she said to the gorilla beside her as she moved toward the exit.
Some way, somehow, she would figure out if there truly was someone following her. She could be going to Bedlam, yes, but something was on high alert inside her, and, though she had no idea what that something was, she would give it due consideration and follow through.
* * * * *
London. Hampstead Heath
Thursday, December 13, 2:15 p.m.
The minute she got home, she headed straight to her bedroom. Home. She snorted. More like a mausoleum, really. The humongous manor looked like an impersonal hotel or a perfect reproduction of a page torn from an interior decor magazine. It certainly didn't look like a home to her. She was ready to puke every time her gaze landed on the huge, crystal chandelier, massive moldings along the ceiling, the champagne-colored, silk-finish wallpaper, thick cream carpet, and ornate marble table with a disgustingly ostentatious arrangement of white lilies in the middle of the entrance hallway.
Peter said she'd handpicked the split-level mansion from all the outstanding offers in that posh area of North London. She'd wanted to reply that she'd needed to have her head checked a long time ago if that were the case, since no one in their right mind would desire such a dead shell of a house, however luxurious. But what did she know? Maybe the woman she'd been before had been a total snob who thrived on keeping up with the Abramoviches.
Though she heavily doubted she could've been such a stuck-up cow, if that were so, thank goodness she had amnesia.
There was a reason why she flew straight to the bedroom and its adjoining bathroom the minute she stepped into the cold dwelling. She wanted to get to the pills she had to take—pills scheduled like clockwork every six hours, and the reason why Nathaniel had said they needed to get back before Peter came home. That way, she could ditch them down the drain while Nathaniel struggled to get in with the mountain of shopping bags she'd piled on him back at Selfridges; thus, she could escape the drugs' heavy, losing-control-sedation.
As her hands closed on the vials in the medicine cabinet, she froze. The plastic tubes rolled with a clatter of shaking pills into the sunken marble sink.
Someone was there. Oh, no. Peter. Her breath hitched in her throat as she sensed more than heard his approach, his Italian loafers making no sound on the bedroom carpet, then on the polished floor tiles of the en-suite. The closer he got, the more she recoiled and cringed, dreading the feel of his cold fingers should they touch her.
He dipped his head so his mouth would be level with her ear, and the whisper of his breath maliciously teased her skin.
"Good girl," he said softly.
She heard the hint of mockery in his tone, a chilling reminder that he was the one who called the shots around the house. Gone was the distant, detached man who had been by her side at the hospital. In his place was a manipulating monster who took pleasure in making her jump out of her skin.
Against her will, her body shook with subtle tremors. The one vial of medicine still in her palm rattled with a nerve-wracking sound as the pills inside danced from the involuntary movement.
Peter brought his cold hand to settle onto hers and rubbed his long fingers along her wrist. She wanted to shrink back from the slime-like touch, but she couldn't move. He'd do to her what she didn't want him to do—he'd make her take the drugs.
She watched, misery threading an icy path down her spine and into her soul, as he reached for the small bottles.
"Seems like you need to rest, Millie," he said.
His voice was like a thousand shards of sharp crystal, stabbing into her gut and at her pounding heart. He carefully took one pill from each of the white vials, and two from the pink one, before he cradled her hand in his and placed the little spheres in her palm.
After putting the medicine bottles back in the cabinet, he swung the door closed. The mirror on the panel reflected their images. She stifled a gasp when the visual realization that he stood so close drove home. He was a devastatingly handsome man, tall, with pale skin as flawless as the most precious Italian marble. His eyes were deep green, and locks of his expertly cut dark hair—the shade as intense as gleaming mahogany—brushed his wide forehead, which tapered down to an otherwise lean face.
She glossed over his visual perfection to examine her own reflection. What she noticed was the fact that, for all the racing heartbeat and thundering blood pounding in her veins and at her temples, her face betrayed no hint of the fear and dread inside her. No, she appeared detached, regal, as if she didn't give a damn.
Peter filled a glass at the tap and placed it in her other hand. His stare caught hers in the mirror, and she shook inwardly at the empty hollowness of his soul that darkened his bottle-green irises.
Drink, they seemed to order, a barely concealed command obvious in the penetrating gaze.
No, she wanted to scream, but something else took over. Defiant, she threw the pills into her mouth and swallowed them with a big gulp of water.
Satisfied? Her blue eyes insolently asked as she stared back.
He smiled. Only the corners of his mouth stretched, his eyes remaining hard, emerald stones in the smooth, chiseled perfection of his otherwise expressionless face.
She shivered—at his calm, detached demeanor, or at the drugs hitting her bloodstream with no food as a buffer in her empty stomach? She didn't know anymore. The stuff he plied her with was potent, and it could knock her out in a matter of minutes. Already, she felt groggy, wisps of oblivion snaking through her consciousness and laying siege upon her mind, intent on numbing any functioning neuron in her system so that the abyss could consume her.
She felt Peter's hand on her elbow, the chill of his touch permeating the fabric of her cashmere cardigan. He made her turn around, his grasp firm as he led her, stumbling steps and all, into the adjoining room.
As her blurred vision made out the silhouette of the king-size canopy bed, the last thing she clearly recalled before darkness claimed her was someone pushing her forward with all their might.
* * * * *
His deep, bottle green gaze stared down at her. The hint of a gentle smile tickled the curve of his mouth and made small crinkles appear at the corners of his eyes.
Seen like that, he appeared to be a different person, so far from the tense, cold man he was now. His dark, shiny hair was longer, long enough to tease the collar of his shirt. His jaw was surprisedly relaxed, and she marveled at the breathtaking picture he presented.
Then he sobered, a frown marring the smooth forehead.
"We shouldn't do this," he said.
She reached up and touched his cheek. "Why not?"
"It's not right."
A small laugh, more like a purr, escaped her lips. "Hmm, I knew you were hiding a wife in the closet."
"It's not that," he replied. "You know I'm unattached."
"Then what's the problem? Oh yes, I forgot. You're married to your job, aren't you?" She trailed delicate touches along his jaw. "Shut up, will you? Do I have to do everything around here? Will you for once just shut up and kiss me?"
He grinned, and she waited as his lips came down, ever so slowly, getting closer and closer to her, to finally kiss her. Gently, delicately.
There it was, the rush of expectation she knew she'd feel when he'd finally decide to make her his, the sizzle of longing, the promise of so much more waiting in his embrace.
She missed this, his embrace. As if he'd read her mind, he reached out with open arms and enclosed her in their strength. He drew her to him, molding her petite form against the hard length of his lean body.
She moved trembling hands up his chest to his shoulders and twined her arms around his neck, letting her fingers lose themselves in his silky locks. With a soft tug, she pulled him so he'd bend down and his face would be close to hers again. He stood much taller than she did, and she wore no heels that day, making her daintier and smaller before him.
He obliged her, his mouth settling on hers again. His warm lips were tender, brushing against hers softly, teasing, tempting, torturing. The tip of his tongue then traced the closed line of her lips. She parted them, inviting him into the warm recesses of her mouth.
Oh God, she moaned softly—what a first time. She was unprepared for the shock of emotion and the swirl of desire that flamed through her as he stroked her tongue with his and coaxed it into sensuous play. Licks of heat shot from low in her core, and as she leaned farther into him, the solid feel of his arousal pressed against the softness of her belly. Suddenly, she wanted him, craved him, and she knew she had to have him, right there, right then. It didn't matter if it was the first time he was even kissing her. She needed him.
Throwing as much passion as she could into the kiss, she clearly let him know of her desires as her grip grew tighter on his hair, her wrists flat against his head, keeping him where she wanted him to be.
He replied in kind, crushing her to him and being more forceful with his tongue. Yet the tenderness she sensed in him never let him hurt her or make her feel used.
Her lungs burned and she came up for air, breaking the kiss. She gulped oxygen, catching her breath before frantic words escaped her. "Make love to me now," she said, her voice hoarse with want and passion. "I need you . . . ."
* * * * *
London. Hampstead Heath
Thursday, December 13, 7:20 p.m.
She sat up with a start, heaving for air. She'd been dreaming, and the essence of the dream was slowly drifting away from her consciousness like wisps of smoke dissolving in the air. Trying as much as she could to hold on to the fading images, she closed her eyes tightly. But the vision had faded, and what made it worse was that she knew the gist of it hung right on the edge of her awareness.
The knowledge taunted her, and she let herself fall back on the bed, clutching hard at the bed sheets, turning her face into her pillow as she let out a keening wail of misery. The sound was muffled and lost. Only she heard it, and that was just as well. She didn't want anyone to know how much she suffered.
She opened her eyes and allowed her gaze to focus on the furniture in the room. Damn psychotropic drugs. They made her mind and her perception fuzzy; everything appeared to softly dance in the air around her when she was under their influence. Like the haze of heat-blurred things in the desert, except that waking up after such drug-induced inertia made her cold, and shivers racked her body.
Daintily swinging her legs to the side of the bed, she waited for the world to stop spinning before she stood. What time was it? A glance at the antique clock on the bedside table told her it was half past seven. The growl of her stomach confirmed that it was indeed dinnertime.
With small steps, hanging on to the doorway and the furniture as she went along, she headed downstairs toward the study, where she was certain she would find Peter. He was always in that room, with a laptop in front of him. He'd close it whenever she came in, along with any files lying on the desk. During the day, no paper graced that table—he always took it all back with him in his briefcase.
Why the secrecy, she'd often wondered in the two weeks since she'd been there. She knew if she asked him, he'd brush her off or give a cursory answer. Such was Peter. Civil to a fault, even when it was obvious he wanted to tell her to mind her own business. What would it take to provoke him out of that cold shell?
On the way to his sanctuary, she passed by the small room Nathaniel occupied during the day, except when he went to bed in the basement studio flat. The drone of the television attracted her to the cubicle, something in the reporter's voice enacting a strange pull on her. The story was about something happening in a place called Marseille, and the sound of that city's name made a strange sort of imprint to materialize inside her mind.
Had she been there before? The name sounded familiar, and she said it aloud, allowing the word to roll off her tongue. It struck her as strange that she pronounced the appellation of the old French city without any hint of an English accent. No, "Marseille" came out of her mouth with all its crisp, French intonation.
She was suddenly sure she'd been there, as the sound echoed inside her brain, weaving itself with flitting bits and pieces of phrases she had pronounced in the past that held that word.
Definitely an avenue to look into. Grasping the information close to her heart, she walked toward the study, passing by the front room in the process.
The hushed sound of Peter's voice in the large, L-shaped front room drifted to her, and she paused. Was there someone with him? She listened closer, and hearing no reply to his words, gathered he had to be on the phone. With whom, though, and why the whispering?
She made out some of the words he was saying. Why had she never noticed she had such acute hearing before? Catching a glimpse of him from the dead corner she stood in, where Peter couldn't see her, she watched him and had to blink twice when she realized that, though she may still not be hearing all his conversation, she easily read his lips.
Since when could she do that? Pushing the startling realization away, she focused her concentration on figuring out what her "husband" was saying to the person on the other end of his mobile phone line.
* * * * *
"I know I shouldn't have called," Peter said.
"Do you know what could happen if anyone found out you and I even know each other?" the woman said.
Oh, he knew, all right, but he couldn't help himself. He needed to hear her voice. He needed her to tell him everything would be fine. That he had to hang on in his current predicament. That the end reward would be well worth it.
"Wait," she said.
He heard her excusing herself, pretending she was on a call from work, then a door closed, and she came back on the line.
"What is it?"
"Nothing," he replied. He knew he'd rile her. Her dark eyes would be sparkling with anger, and her cheeks would be flushed. Passion also did that to her, and she had a lot of that to spare.
She cursed. "Since you called, what did the doctor say? She met him today, didn't she?"
"Yes, and it went as expected."
"Good. We simply need to let him do the work for us."
That wasn't what he wanted to hear. He was already tired of playing a part. A few visits to the hospital were fine, but living with his "wife" put a terrible strain on him. He wanted out, but he knew she'd never agree. It was her plan, and she was determined to see it come to fruition.
"I want to see you," he said. He needed release, the kind only she could bring him.
"Are you out of your fucking mind? We cannot compromise anything now that we're so close to the goal."
He was tired of her bringing that up. "And that would be?"
"To bring her to see our side of the story. The accident precipitated things, but ultimately, we would've needed to do what we're doing now. The drugs will slowly but surely get her to where we want her to be."
He closed his eyes briefly and brought his hand to his neck. A sigh escaped him, and she probably heard it.
Her voice mellowed, and she said, "It's only for a little more time. Come on, baby. You know we can do it."
He smiled. He liked it when she called him "baby." Her use of the endearment meant she was now in a better mood, one that would allow him to get away with murder. "I miss you," he said before he cut the call, stifling a chuckle at the fury he felt certain boiled inside her right now.
Pocketing the mobile, he stepped out of the front room and stopped in his tracks. She, the woman he shared the house with, stood in the dead alcove in the corridor. From the way she fixed her keen glare on him, he knew she'd heard his side of the conversation and had seen him as he talked to the other woman in his life. Thank goodness, he hadn't said more. He'd thought she was asleep, knocked out from the drugs. Careless. He'd been careless.
But he could recoup the situation. Might even be able to make it work in his favor, make her indebted to him.
"How are you feeling?' he asked.
* * * * *
Amelia blinked at the easy way he fell back into his cold, detached persona. His face betrayed nothing, she noted. His eyes narrowed into a glare when he caught sight of her, then went back to the hard stones she'd grown accustomed to seeing.
Had she heard right? It sounded like he had been speaking to a woman. To his mistress . . . . No wonder he was so icy and harsh with her—someone else received his love, his attention, his tenderness. He, who could be capable of such gentleness—hadn't she remembered their first encounter together in her dream?—now showered his affection and care on someone else, leaving the hard and brittle ways of a distant and frosty monster to deal with her. Her, the person he had loved enough to marry. Unless he'd married her for other reasons . . . . Money, maybe?
No, it couldn't be. He had genuinely cared for her. Reliving the dream once again in staggered but vivid flashes, she swayed. The effects of the drugs were still present, the medication lingering in her bloodstream and making her feel she tread on an uneven surface that shifted and morphed under her feet.
"Who was that?" she croaked, her throat still dry from the unnatural sleep.
"I beg your pardon?" A frown marred his forehead, and he blinked, as if with worry. "Millie, are you okay?"
"You were talking to someone." She grabbed the molding on the alcove wall, sending sparks of pain along her fingers when she gripped the wood too tightly, but she hardly noticed.
He took a few steps toward her, then came to a standstill a yard away. "Millie, what are you talking about?"
The patience in his tone grated on her already-frayed nerves, and she gulped, trying hard to moisten her mouth and throat so she could at make herself be heard.
When she remained silent, trying to regroup her thoughts into a coherent whole, he moved forward, until only a few inches separated them. He was warm, she noted, the heat from his body permeating through his thin, hand-tailored Savile Row cotton shirt. She wasn't dealing with the cold blood of the serpent, she realized, but with the man inside him. The same man who had been talking to another woman just minutes before.
"Let me take you back up," he said.
"No." She shrugged his hand off when he touched her arm. "Who was that?" Closing her eyes, she fought a losing battle against her spinning surroundings. The awareness that the man she was married to cheated on her added further momentum to the vortex taking hold of her. She felt herself sway, but held tightly to the molding and managed to keep herself upright.
"What are you talking about?"
Again, there lay a hint of patience in his words. Did he really not understand what she was asking? His patronizing attitude annoyed her beyond the pale, and still under the sway of the medication, she lashed out at him when he again tried to catch hold of her arm. The flat of her hand hit his face, hard, and time suddenly stood still.
He lowered his gaze, and when he lifted his face again to her, she saw the glint of cold in his irises, the bottomless void of the beast in him.
"You need to rest."
Frost dripped from the words, and she inwardly flinched. However, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of thinking she'd yield under his icy treatment.
"Don't take me for an idiot," she said. "You were talking to a woman on the phone."
He sighed, clenching his fists. "Millie, that's enough."
Silence stretched, and then he cursed softly. "I wasn't talking to anyone back there. Hell, I wasn't even on the phone."
"You heard me?" he asked. "Are you sure you heard right?"
She blinked. Had she? She was so certain he was talking to a woman . . . . I saw you, she wanted to toss at him, I saw you mouthing the words. Yet, again the insight rattled her—how did she know how to lip-read? Her teeth dug into her lower lip, and she forced herself to keep her mouth shut, stopping the flow of questions she wanted to ask him.
Peter reached out and clutched her shoulders. His grip was neither soft nor gentle. With a push, he made her sit on the velvet-upholstered ottoman inside the alcove, then squatted in front of her.
"The doctor said this could happen once you came home." He paused. "Millie, I wasn't talking to anyone. I wasn't even in the front room. I was on my way to the study from the kitchen when I saw you standing here."
He sounded so honest and sincere. How could she not believe him? Maybe she had not heard properly . . . . Maybe it was nothing more than a horrible delusion. Nothing made sense anymore, not when those psychotropes played with her mind and imagination like that. Hadn't she just dreamed of a different Peter, of the man who had loved and cared for her? The memory of that vision materialized at the forefront of her mind, painting itself over the image of his face before her. Dejection and a sudden feeling of utter loss invaded her, making her sag into her seat.
She reached out and absentmindedly touched his hair. Her gaze raked across his handsome face, still the same from what she recalled, yet so different too. He was older than he'd been in her dream, hardened. "Longer hair suited you better," she said softly.
His swift intake of breath startled her, and she dropped her hand, staring at his face. A grim expression touched his features, making his lips look pinched, but then the cold mask settled back as quickly as it had left.
"You should go back to bed," he said. He stood, his hand again on her upper arm, and made her stand with a none-too-gentle tug.
He pulled her to the staircase, and she stumbled up in his wake. Hand wrapped around her wrist in a steely grip, he dragged along. He was hurting her, but she wouldn't tell him that. The complaint wouldn't breach his cold façade; of that, she was certain.
He abruptly released her on the threshold of her bedroom and turned to leave. The violence in his moves was like a splash of cold water on her senses, and she knew she couldn't trust him. Something told her he lied as naturally as he breathed. And he had a mistress . . . .
"She made you her bitch, didn't she?" The question hurtled from her mouth before she could think it out. Too late, though—she'd have to see it through. It was also high time he came clean with her.
He didn't turn. "You're out of your mind."
"Am I? No wonder, since you ply me with so many drugs!" Now she knew she was adding oil to the fire, but she had a feeling restraint wasn't something that featured high on her list of priorities when she was riled up.
He whirled around, and she saw him move as if someone had pushed a slow-motion button. Somehow, she knew she should be afraid, but she wasn't. He didn't faze her, not his erect stance, or the fury that was evident on his face. What a change from the usual detachment. Had she hit a sensitive nerve?
"No one made me her bitch, Millie. It's been a long time since we've been husband and wife in the carnal sense, you and I."
Her gut told her there was some truth in that statement. Hallelujah, she wanted to sing. She needed more, though. Why the sham of marriage then?
He gave a bitter snort and laughed. "You don't want to know."
She did. "What happened?"
"I don't want to go there," he replied, and turned to leave.
But she couldn't let him go, not now that he'd started to open up, if only a little. She ran to him, as fast as her still-sluggish body could, and caught up with him in the doorway of his bedroom, clasping his wrist to force him to stop.
"What happened?" She again questioned him.
"If you want a new start for us, you wouldn't ask that."
He didn't shrug off her hand, so she stood her ground. "Tell me."
At her insistence, he did throw her hand off, and she jerked from the sudden movement. Her insides shook when he hit his clenched fists against the wall. The reverberation along the panel rocked the glass vase on the nearby demi-console, propped against the silk-lined wall, and it tumbled to shatter on the parquet.
"You want the truth? I'll give it to you."
A sliver of unease slid into her heart, and for once, she questioned her judgment. Was it a good thing, to know? Wasn't ignorance better?
"The bloody truth, Amelia, is that you were on the Côte d'Azur while I was here. I thought you went to the film festival in Cannes, but you were miles away from there."
He paused, as if for emphasis, and her unease snowballed into dread.
"You were on a yacht off the coast of Nice. A yacht that exploded because of a bomb, leaving you for dead, while the intended target escaped." He let a few seconds elapse in silence. "Will you ask why you were on board that yacht in the first place?"
She wanted to shake her head no, but she couldn't. She needed to hear this, however unsettling it would prove to be.
"You were there because someone invited you to have a good time on board their friend's yacht."
He took a step forward, backing her against the wall.
"That someone, Millie, was your lover."
That couldn't be true. She wasn't someone who cheated. She couldn't be. "Fuck you, Peter."
The sting of his palm striking her cheek forced the breath out of her lungs as she reeled from the violence. How dare he hit her? Reflexively, she struck back and connected with his face, the back of her hand a hard blow to his mouth, her diamond ring splitting his lip.
He brought one hand up and used his thumb to wipe the blood that trickled down the side of his chin. Without another word, he turned on his heels and went into his bedroom.
But she wasn't done with him, not yet, not by a long shot. "Why did you stay with me then, if I'd taken another man to my bed? Why the whole make-believe setup now?"
Amelia followed him, but one step inside the bedroom and her instincts rose to the highest alert. Something very bad was about to happen—she knew it. She froze with the sudden insight, even as sounds of a cabinet door closing in the bathroom reached her ears. She knew she should turn tail and run, back to her room where she'd slide the bolt and turn the key so Peter couldn't get to her.
But she wasn't fast enough. She was still where she stood when he re-entered the bedroom, something in his hand. She didn't know what it was, but it would spell her doom.
She turned and rushed to the corridor. His footsteps accelerated behind her. Two feet from the door that would mean her deliverance, his arm wrapped tightly around her neck, and he pulled her roughly to him.
Her first instinct was to fight, yet the more she squirmed, the tighter his stranglehold became.
Take a few steps forward, gather momentum, and hit the wall, feet flat. In the same move, twist the torso to the side and hit hard with the elbow.
She had no time to ponder where the certainty of that thought came from or how the sound of the deep, male voice addressing her crystallized in her mind. Amelia tried to do as the voice inside her head told her to, but she wasn't fast enough. The sharp prick of a needle in her neck made her cry out; she howled with misery when the stinging release of the drug Peter was injecting into her burnt into her muscles.
Her body went progressively limp, but she heard the words he chillingly whispered in her ear.
"Because you were always meant to be mine," he said in a low growl that thrummed with possession and spite.
Then the darkness claimed her, and she sagged as its clawing fingers ripped at her consciousness.
* * * * *
Peter felt her body slouch into an inert mass against his torso. "That's it, you little bitch. Nothing more than you deserve."
He let her go, watched as she slumped to the floor, then took a step back and pressed his body against the wall. The syringe was cold and empty in his hand, and he flung it with all his might to the other end of the corridor.
Damn, what had he done? That wasn't supposed to happen. But the cunning vixen knew how to rattle his cage. She knew exactly what button to push at just the right moment.
A tiny shot of victory burst inside him when he recalled the shock on her features when he'd told her she'd been the first one to stray. He had seriously unsettled her with that little bit of information. With some luck, their conversation would work its desired effect on her, sapping at her backbone. He hadn't expected her to be so tenacious.
What to do now, though? The dynamics had changed, and none of them had anticipated the situation would get so complicated. He reached down, lifted her small body from the floor, and took her into her bedroom, where he dumped her on the bed. Not sparing her another glanced, he left her room, closing the door behind him. He scurried down the hall to find the empty syringe and dispose of it.
He had to get out of there. He hadn't planned on any of that, and he simply couldn't breathe anymore. The situation was quickly catching up with him, and what he most dreaded to face was possibility he had taken on too much with Amelia.
He also had to effect damage control. Damn it.
As he headed down the steps leading to the ground floor, the complexity of the situation hit him full in his gut. He'd crossed a line that would change all the set-up.
He whipped his mobile out of his pocket, grabbed his trench coat out of the wardrobe near the front door, and slid it on before he exited the house. A few safe steps away, he dialed her number.
"We have a problem," he said as soon as she picked up. "I had to change the direction of the plan."
"But why?" she asked. "Everything was going fine—"
"Everything was not going fine," he said. "She mentioned me having long hair."
There was a pause at the other end. "I see what you mean."
"We need to meet," he said. "The safe house. Now."
**** End of Chapter 1 ****
Hope you enjoyed that little bit. The book is available here, at the bargain price of $1.99. :)
From Mauritius with love,