In honour of the June 6 release of WINDS OF CHANGE, the final book in the Island Girls Trilogy, I will be running sneak peeks from the first 2 chapters of the book starting today until Thursday, June 5.
So sit back with a cuppa and get to meet Neha and Logan, the protagonists in this story.
Neha is the middle sister of the Hemant family, the one who's always done "the right thing". But this has led her nowhere, as you'll see in this prologue.
Addendum: You can grab the book at these outlets! Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Decadent Publishing ~ Barnes & Noble (Nook) ~ AllRomance Ebooks ~ Smashwords
Cape Town, South Africa
The calm before the storm…
Neha Hemant sighed. In a few short moments, all hell would break loose. The children would wake up and another day would start, bringing its load of tantrums, sulks, and whatever other madness her kids would cook up.
But the early morning belonged to her. As she stood on the terrace of her Blaauwberg residence, staring out at the bay, the cold wind of daybreak whipped across her face and tangled the strands of her long black hair.
Her only time of freedom. How she loved to savour the calm, when nothing existed to tie her down, nothing but what she wished to infuse into the moment.
Thoughts stretched blank. On purpose. Something told her chaos awaited ’round the bend, and she had enough on the plate without the thought of some daunting, nameless Damocles’ sword hovering above her head.
She wrapped her arms tight around her as a chill skittered down her spine.
A flicker of sun tried to pierce the thick fog shrouding the bay and enveloping Robben Island and the flat-topped Table Mountain in the distance with its steel-grey cloak. The swirling mist cleared a piece of the former prison centre where Nelson Mandela and other apartheid opponents had been imprisoned.
She should go back inside or the wind would chap her lips and make them bleed, but she couldn’t move. Wouldn’t…until the first telltale note of strident bickering over who would use the bathroom first would break through the quiet.
Her children. The emptiness in her mind crowded with thoughts, emotions, and concerns. On some days she’d readily feed her progeny to sharks. Not that she shared this. No one should ever be privy to what went on inside her mind and heart. Neha had built her life around the concept of what the world expected of a woman in her position, and such thoughts disrupted the image. She’d mapped out her course ever since the age of twelve, when she’d figured out the right way and the wrong way, especially for an Indo-Mauritian woman. Since then, she had made this smokescreen of social perfection her strength.
On many days, she thanked the world for this foundation, because otherwise, she could be too tempted to bail out. Her life could be the recipe for a nervous breakdown—a possibility she kept in check every single day, when everyone around her would do their best to make her fail. Starting with her children.
At fourteen, her eldest, Suzanne, wanted to become a model. The kicker for Neha? Her daughter had the height, looks, and beauty that could take her very far in modelling. And get her lost just as easily in the process.
About her second child and first son—Kunal—there had to have been a switch at the nursery. For how else could she and her calm, soft-spoken husband have given life to such a reckless and fearless boy? At only thirteen, he held a karate black belt and wished to learn capoeira. Who in their right mind craved to experience such a violent combat art?
Rishi, her other son and the youngest of the lot, became another who would give her grey hair before she turned thirty-five. He existed in his own bubble of books and knowledge. Though only eight, his teachers wished for him to skip the next two grades because he had the potential to matriculate before he turned sixteen.
How would she keep on coping with all this? She asked herself the question every morning and every night as she went to sleep. Staring at the wide expanse of Cape Town again, she darted a gaze to the room behind her, across the wide glass panel on the sliding door, onto the bed with only one rumpled side.
Rahul, her husband, wasn’t home again, this time in India, on yet another business trip.
A pang she usually refused to allow into her heart clattered home. The man she had married had become a stranger to her. On the rare days he was home, he mostly spent his time outside, on his cell phone and grilling cigarette after cigarette. He couldn’t smoke inside the house because this would trigger her asthma. She only saw him at bedtime, and then, too, they’d each turn in and lie on their sides, their backs to each other, exhaustion getting the better of them.
When had they last shared that bed, been intimate with one another? Too long, but she couldn’t expect a raging passionate fire to still burn after fifteen years of marriage, could she?
Rahul hadn’t even wanted her to bear his name. She who should be Mrs. Kiran was known on all her official papers as Ms. Hemant. It had hurt when he’d told her to keep her maiden name. He’d preferred her to exist as her own person, while she wished for nothing more than becoming a part of him, something indispensable.
But he didn’t need her. Not even in his bed….
Face it, your marriage has been dead for a long time.
Was it ever alive?
No, she refused to acknowledge there hadn’t been much between her and Rahul to start with. That, for one thing, he’d never loved her. Rahul had loved her sister….
Stop it! She had a good marriage, as good as any could get, and it’s what mattered. The union might’ve been arranged, but had worked well for over a decade. What more did she want?
Freedom may sound and seem good, but like people always thought the grass looked greener on the other side, it wasn’t necessarily true. So why rock a boat that didn’t appear as if it would ever capsize while navigating on calm, albeit unexciting, waters?
Carefully, she steeled her thoughts to push the unwelcome, forbidden notions about her marriage into a corner and lock them there in the dark, where they belonged.
She’d dealt this way all her life with anything not fitting her game plan. Why change tactics?
The shrill ring of the telephone shattered her thoughts, and she rushed inside.
Who would call at such an ungodly hour? The glowing blue numbers on the bedside clock said five-thirty. Just after nine in Mumbai. Rahul would be busy at this time of the day. Seven-thirty in Mauritius. Way too early for her family to call. Unless Diya, her youngest sister, had gone into pre-term labour.
With her hand on the receiver, she hesitated answering. An ominous intensity trilled in the ring, one making her heart beat faster, blood pounding at her temples while air rushed out of her lungs in small, short gasps. “Hello?”
“Neha, it’s Robert.”
She let out her breath. Robert, Rahul’s assistant. Nothing had happened to her sister and the twins Diya carried. But then she froze. Why would Robert call at this time?
At the other end, he remained silent.
“Robert, please. What’s going on?”
Call it instinct or a sixth sense, but she experienced a sudden weakness in her lower back, the one indicating either an incoming asthma attack or impending blackout.
Robert gave a shuddering intake of breath at the other end. “You know we’re in the monsoon season here, right? It’s been raining…well, pouring really, for the past three days.”
She nodded, not able to form any sound. Rahul had told her about the rains.
“Most of the roads have been flooded, and it’s impossible to travel—”
“Where. Is. He?”
Robert sighed. “We don’t know. He left the factory for the hotel yesterday morning at eleven, but he never made it.”
Eleven? That would be around seven-thirty in Cape Town. Rahul had called at quarter to eight the previous day, to speak to the children before they left for school.
Robert continued, slower this time. “When we didn’t see him at noon, we started searching for him.” He cleared his throat. “It’s been nearly twenty-four hours, Neha. I don’t know how to say this.”
Numbness crept over her and she sagged in a heap on the bed. No, this couldn’t be happening. For an insane moment back on the terrace, she’d seen herself without any ties…. But not like this. Never like this.
“Where is he?” The words thrummed faint. Had she even said them aloud?
“We don’t know. Given the circumstances, the police will declare him officially missing.”
She lost her grip on the phone, and the device slipped from her hand and landed with a thump on the slate floor.
Missing? She watched TV, cop shows, Without A Trace. The word “missing” represented a disguised way of saying not much hope remained, and the authorities thought the person to be…. She couldn’t bring herself to think of it. No, her husband probably lay stranded somewhere. Maybe he’d been in an accident, or had lost his cell phone and couldn’t be contacted.
But who was she kidding, really?
Missing, for practically twenty-four hours.
Her heart picked up an increasing throb in her chest, the only sound rising in crescendo that of her shallow breaths as the air wheezed past her lips and forced its way into her closing trachea.
Neha heaved, and sheer reflex kicked in only long enough to make her reach for the nightstand drawer and pull her asthma medicine out.
One puff didn’t make much difference. She managed a semblance of calm after the third, and when her breathing returned to sustainable again, the cold plastic fell from her hand like the receiver.
The dull echo of the cut connection still hung in the air, the droning sound a void closing around her, its thick fingers wrapping tight around her mind and heart.
The shock settled in, drying the tears on the brink of her lashes.
Here she’d been thinking about her husband who could for all intent have been missing from her life, and look where she stood—without him. Like in a snap of fingers.
Was it so easy for life to shift unequivocally?
As the question tumbled around in her head, another pushed itself to the forefront of her mind.
What would she do?
Chapter 1 previews start tomorrow - stay tuned for when it posts!
Here are the Buy Links again: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Decadent Publishing ~ Barnes & Noble (Nook) ~ AllRomance Ebooks ~ Smashwords
From Mauritius with love,