The Pooch Plan!

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As a fulltime, well into middle age writer, (eh hem – I am assuming I will live until I am at least 100yrs old) the size of my backside and how square it is becoming, is a constant worrying thought. Not only do I force myself to go to exercise classes at least three times a week, to wobble along with other like minded ladies, I also am on a near constant diet.

A diet that has never really worked until recently.

It’s all too easy to fall into bad habits when writing. That moment when you pause your fingertips over the keyboard, rise to stretch your back, flick on the kettle for that inspirational cuppa while searching the recesses of your brain for that perfect word, that heartbreaker sentence, that killer retort… And you end up looking in the fridge or the cupboard, for nothing in particular, and see a random bag of crisps or the last cold sausage.

Your mind instantly goes wild and you glance over your shoulder to check no one’s looking, even though you know that everyone went to work hours ago. Will anyone notice if the crisps go missing or the sausage suddenly disappears? Can I blame the vanishing delights on having to offer refreshment to an unexpected visitor? Do I say that the crisps were going out of date? Or can I bring a character in my latest book to life and turn him into a food loving kleptomaniac?

Sadly, I can and have done in the past, but no longer! Because I am now on the Pooch Plan!

The Pooch Plan? Yes, I was doubtful about it myself, but I have discovered that it works incredibly well. And it is also unbelievably easy to follow. No need to count calories. No adding up various points. No eating tinned tuna three days in a row…

And the diet is priced well too. Affordable meal plans, no special shakes, actually, you don’t need to alter your shopping experience at all.

All that is necessary for complete success on the Pooch Plan, is one large, expressive eyed, and ever hungry dog!

On the Pooch Plan, you will notice that there is always a friendly companion beside you, almost before you open that cupboard door. The merest squeak of a hinge and he is there, peering up at you with soulful, starving eyes, to see what delicious goodies you have unearthed. He stands at first, and then sits, reaching up a paw as your fingers stretch out for said sausage, his eyes, soft and needy, stare up at you. A pink tongue appears and swipes over a strand of drool, as he begs to share your latest taste bud experience.

But the dog mustn’t have sausages, or crisps, or anything else that lies so handily within reach. He’ll become overweight, ruin his hip joints, or weaken his heart…

So you take a few seconds to think. Do I sneak my snack anyway and leave my companion without? How rude! I wouldn’t do that to a friend. And my dog is my friend. One of the best. Do I share the tasty morsel, and encourage him to join in my own bad eating habits?

Or do I sigh and close the fridge door?

Yes. I do the right thing. For both of us. I look in the fruit bowl and take out an apple, and reach for a dog’s dental chew. He gives me a tail wag and I give him a rub over his silky ears as I head back to my computer, head held high, and bottom growing smaller by the hour, the Pooch Plan having worked its wonders yet again!

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Fairytale Feet

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Cinderella has long since set the standard to which all ladies must aspire, so how did our heroine manage to retain such tantalizing tootsies while traipsing about doing the chores?

Did she sit by the fire each evening, gently massaging rose oil into her heels after a hard day’s work? Did she paint her nails a delicate shade of pink? Did she line those glass slippers with squirrel fur, because we all know that they would cause us lesser mortals sweaty feet.

And how can we compete with such a fascinating fairytale of her fabulous phalanges?

We can decorate them, we can buff them, we can cover them with cream, making sure that when that perfect moment comes, and our very own Prince Charming slips off our shoe, we can point a pretty toe for his ultimate delectation.

And romance readers already know that no hero ever lifted a well turned ankle to run his tongue along an intriguing instep, and stopped mid lick to grab a disinfectant wipe. Neither did he suddenly gag and yell ‘Phwarrr, Gorgonzola!’ He never leapt back in horror at the sight of a verruca, a hairy big toe, or of bulging blisters caused by the five inch high heels he loves her wearing so much. And this is all without considering that our heroine never had size nines, flat feet, or fungating nails.

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But it is not only we writers who promote the myth of the perfect pedicure. Did you ever see an Aphrodite sporting corns? Did Botticelli adorn Venus with bunions? Or did Diana ever hunt with hammer toes? No, we shake our heads sadly. Immortals cannot possibly be so human.

So what inspired today’s troublesome thoughts?

Yes, you guessed it. My latest hero’s fixation with his heroine’s feet, but I am not letting him get away with criticising her for her callus’. Oh no! His man-pedi must pass muster too! No chilblains, gout, or crusty cuticles, thank you! Our hero must walk, not only on water, but on a strong arch, a high instep, with size proportionate to his height, long tendons, soft skin, and deliciously flexible toes.

A tall order? Perhaps. But it all comes back to those fairytale feet.

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SCARRED PERCEPTIONS (Scarred 7) coming soon.

http://bit.ly/1WWYmxj

 

 

A Writer’s Retreat!

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My little maison de vacance in France is my writers retreat. A lovely bungalow in a tiny village miles from anywhere. A few hardy souls live here, but sometimes, especially if the weather is inclement, I can go for more than a week without seeing a single other person.

And such was last week. It poured every day. The rain came sideways and I stayed indoors, relentlessly tapping away at my keyboard, busy writing Scarred Perceptions (SCARRED 7). But the sun eventually peeked its face through the clouds and I decided that my hero and heroine would manage by themselves for a while so I could do some household chores.

Now as I said, this is a sleepy little village. I come several times a year, but as I am meant to be writing while here, I tend to keep myself tucked away unless unavoidable. And sorting out the domestic rubbish eventually becomes unavoidable.

I know the few French neighbours I have think I am slightly dotty, hiding away as I do, but this week I think I have confirmed their suspicions!

So back to said household chores…

I head over the road to dump my rubbish, but as I pass beneath the arch in my hedge, leading from the steps of my house,  I saw a leaf fall from the bush. (not surprising, I thought, it is Autumn) Anyway, I continue over to the bins and think ‘Hell, that leaf must have fallen down my top. It’s tickling like mad’…So after dumping the rubbish, I take a discreet gander down inside my shirt and almost pass out! GAHHHHH! There is a WHOPPING GREAT SPIDER nestling comfortably in my cleavage!

So naturally I let out an almost inhuman scream! I leap around like a mad thing doing some new version of a seventies pogo dance while flapping my top and yanking my bra around to release the gigantic creepy crawly. But does he go quietly? Not flipping likely! The beastie from hell hangs on for grim death until I force my breasts out of the bottom of my bra and let it all hang loose! Yes, this is all while in the street. But that doesn’t really matter. As I said previously, this is a sleepy little village with hardly a soul living here…

So why, at the precise moment of most embarrassment, do 3 other people suddenly turn up to empty their bins? WHY!!! This place is like a ghost town from an old spaghetti western…

AND 3 PEOPLE APPEAR OUT OF NOWHERE!!!

I hang my head in shame as their mouths hang open. I try to explain about ‘la énorme aragnée,’ but they continue to stare at me as if I am mad, so with my top back in place and my chin now held high, I made this red-faced writer’s retreat.

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Scarred Perceptions (SCARRED 7) will be available soon. Spiders not withstanding!

http://www.romanticsuspensebooks.org/scarred-series/

 

We All Love Free!

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Yes, we all love something for nothing. No one can deny it. For some reason it feels especially good when it’s food.

Who hasn’t tasted 3 different cheeses, 2 delicious  hams, and all the knobbles of olive and rosemary bread in the supermarket and then decided they don’t need to buy lunch? Who hasn’t had a smile on their face when they’ve discovered a Bogof on 50p bags of pasta at the supermarket. And who ever said no when they were handing as many icelollies at possible at the festival when the ice-cream van’s generator broke?

Yes, we difintely all love FREE!

But there is a more special kind of FREE that I discovered this week. Not the free when someone gives you something, but the FREE that you earn for yourself.

There is absolutely nothing quite like supplying and making your own dinner for free. When I mean free, I mean that you went out and either picked it or caught it, you washed it and dried it, you prepared it lovingly, and then savoured every delicious mouthful, knowing that you didn’t pay a penny, only expended your own energy on hunting it down.

I have done it myself. The pride you feel when cooking Moules marinières after picking the mussels from the rocks and cooking them with herbs from your garden. The extra care you take when making crumble with the blackberries you risked life, limb, and an armful of scratches to bring home. That special moment when you taste the first of your homemade elderberry wine – and the headache you experience the morning after!

And I saw two other such happy people only this week. They were clearly travelling and had a ratty old van, down on its springs, tyres barely legal, and covered in the best kind of French cow poo, parked at beautiful viewing point in Brittany.

The long-haired man and his girlfriend laughed and joked with one another as, carrying their fishing rods, they clambered through first gorse, then down a staggeringly steep set of cliffs before leaping over wet, slippery rocks to find their perfect perch.

Fascinated by their tenacity and good humour, I sat and waited, watching with my heart in my mouth, willing them on as time after time they pulled in an empty line.

An hour had passed, and I was about to give up. I sighed, sorrowful about their bad luck. I wondered if they would go to the supermarket and buy a fish. It’s not expensive here and, even though their van looked grotty, I don’t actually think they were poor.

I put my camera away and was about to start my car, when two giant WHOOP WHOOPS! echoed off the rocks, laughter wafted across the waves, and the seagulls took to the air. They had caught a fish!

My intrepid heroes came lunging up the cliff twice as fast as they went down. Smiles as wide as the La Manche that they fished, they stowed their gear in their van, their prize in a cool bag, and drove away.

I don’t know exactly what they caught and I missed the vital moment with my camera. But did see him remove it from his hook and tuck it safely in his bag. It wasn’t huge. It probably wasn’t anything terribly special. But I do know it was FREE, and I bet it tasted all the better for it!

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You can just about see the ratty old van parked up at the viewing point. Seems an awful long way down for one little fish!

The Colour Red

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Golf is an engaging sport, but can it be that fascinating?

Seven days a week. Every afternoon, and sometimes in the evening…

I’m writing. Or meant to be writing. On my laptop. Trying to reunite my hero with his heroine. Across a raging, alligator filled river. But she has been swept away, and he is out of options.

Ring Ring! The phone call would give me some much needed logistics time. I answer.

“Hello.” My mind is elsewhere. How do you cross a tooth filled Amazon, with no boat nor bridge?

A pleasant voice responds in my ear. Keen, interested, distracting me from my hero’s latest challenge.

“Hello Mrs. Williams. Steve Jones here, Spicer McColl estate agents. Do you have a moment to answer some questions on your recent house buying experience?”

Recent? Really? I have not bought a house in over 35 years. Even then, I think it was through Beresfords. But this guy sounds friendly. And he’s using my name. Like he knows me personally.

I think hard for a total of half a second…

“Er, you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve bought several houses recently. Buy to let. Can you remind me?” Where that came from I have no idea, but there is a niggle at the back of my brain. And I can think fast when required.

“Of course.” His cheerful voice replies. “I understand completely. Busy times. Yes, we’re talking about Rose Cottage in Lovers Lane. The terraced property. We’re doing a short survey.”

My hero and heroine are left to their watery plight. I open another tab, quickly looking up Land Registry while I answer, yes. And no. Or maybe.

Did I feel that the viewing gave me enough time? Could I park easily? Was their description of the house accurate and detailed? What else could they have done to make the buying process easier?

No idea, of my response to the last one. Because at that exact moment I clicked the button to pay for my search. And saw my husband’s name appear. Big and bold. In black and white. No doubt about it.

£154,000 three months ago. He spent £154,000  On a house. For another woman! Because it certainly wasn’t this Mrs. Williams who the delightfully chatty Steve Jones showed around the place.

So my world falls apart in that one millisecond.

I finish answering the questions. I don’t recall what I said. I know I put the phone down. I know I sat there for some time, staring at the evidence on the computer screen.

My hero and heroine remain on opposing river banks. The alligators go hungry.

It’s almost dark when my husband walks through the door, trusty golf bag in hand.

“Good game?” I ask as I stare at him hard.

“Oh yes! I hit an eagle on the last,” he replies, slick as a patch of oil.

And I see a blazing flash of colour before my eyes. The colour red.

I rise from my chair. Look him right in the eye and get up close. I can smell his breath.

“And you had a pint in the club?” Not a whiff of beer. More like lasagne. Maybe some red wine. I glance down at his once flat stomach. It all becomes clear. Two dinners a day. Maybe breakfast and lunch too. For three months.

He shrugs. His eyes narrow a fraction. Wary.

“Only a half. No one stayed.” He yawns as he fiddles with the head of a wood.

“Oh.” The embers smouldering in my vision rapidly become more intense. But my voice is like ice.

He rubs the side of his nose.

“Tired now though. And I have another busy day tomorrow. Things to do. People to see.”

I’ll bet! Lying piece of crap! I nod my head sagely.

“Yes, I suspect that you do, though I wonder…But only if you have time.” I stare at my husband of 35 years, and let my words hang in the air.

A snake stares right back at me.

“You wonder?” He tilts his head. Enquiring.

Can he really look me in the eye? Every day. For months! My jaw is clamped so hard I think I just broke a tooth. Forget red. The whole world is a dangerous shade of crimson.

I force the words from between my teeth.

“Yes, I wonder…Do you have time to tell me about Lovers Lane. The terraced cottage. £154,000 … And can you explain about the woman who chose it?”

His eyes bulge as his knees sag. Silence greets my words.

I look down at his clubs. Golf clearly is a fascinating sport!

“You really have been playing around.”

The golf bag topples over. Balls roll about the floor. And his face turns a sick shade of green.

***

Just as a note, this incident inspired me to write A Hole in One, Front and Back Nine, a naughty romp set at Fairweather Fields golf club, and very losely based on the game of golf.

(Strictly for 18+ only readers)

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http://bit.ly/1WaUyHP

 

 

 

How low can you go?

Just so true I couldn’t resist reblogging! And yes, jeans have belt loops especially for that great invention…The belt!

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On a scale of hips to mid-thigh, how low do you wear your jeans?

Personally I think jeans, depending on the fit, should be around the top of your pants/knickers, so above the butt crack is preferable.

HOWEVER, there are a handful of people out there who didn’t get the memo and insist on wearing their jeans round by their knees! Firstly, how the hell is that comfortable? Surely it seriously restricts your ability to walk. And secondly, I really REALLY do not want to see what underwear you are, or are not, wearing! Now I know I cannot be alone in this, because if you’re telling me that you find it pleasant then you are a liar, and I am calling you out on it.

I understand that some people are a wee bit on the thin side, and sometimes your jeans do get a bit baggy after…

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A Family Trait

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Does ‘artistry’ run in families? I don’t know if there is any scientific answer, but let us take a quick look at mine.

I have a tiny family. No direct cousins, no aunts, no uncles. There are ten of us in all, including my parents, my older sister and my younger brother, the partners of my siblings, my children and theirs.

At a first glance at my parents, you might not think we should be ‘arty’. Before their retirement, my father was a microbiologist and bacteriologist. My mother was an accounts assistant. Nothing very arty in those two professions. It made me wonder where my sister and brother and I gained our love of making things, and turned that love of creativity into our professions.

But I recall that my father always liked to make some of our furniture by hand. He made it to last too. Several items have stood the test of time and remain as strong and as useful today as when he created them perhaps 40 years ago. He still makes things now at eighty-six years old. We all sit and eat at the table he ‘put together’ not so long ago.

And then I remember my mother playing the piano, the concentration creasing her brow as she turned the music in front of her while my sister, brother, and I gazed on, wondering how such a beautiful sound came from such a strangely shaped wooden box. She still ‘has a tinkle’ now.

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So perhaps it is no surprise that my sister became a buyer for Liberty, London, a more art and design led department store I cannot possibly imagine. After a career change, she began silk painting. Beautifully hand coloured and decorated scarves continue to grace my wardrobe. Now she ‘canes’ chairs, another skill that has my mind boggling with its complexity, while her husband turns wood and makes the most beautiful and useful implements. They are both musical too, playing the guitar, banjo, drums, piano, clarinet, and oboe.

My brother became an antique restorer. His work is so fine, his attention to detail so great that his restoration is invisible, making the piece work as if new while retaining the grace of great age. His wife helps him in his work and also began web design.

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My son plays the guitar with great skill. He loves woodwork too. My daughter dances, professionally as well as for fun, and she plays the piano extremely well, working out the notes via the internet rather than through traditional means. She also writes a fashion blog. My nine year old niece already writes books, her adventures in Toyland gripping and fun.

My own first job was in the jewellery trade. I became a pearl stringer. A good one too. Even to this day some thirty-eight years after first learning, I can perfectly, individually knot a cultured pearl necklace in less than ten minutes. I still make my own beautiful jewellery. Some of it to wear and some of it to sell, and I continue to restring pearls for anyone who asks.

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Of course, I also write romantic mysteries. Once I began writing, I found I couldn’t give up and now my imaginary characters have taken lives of their own. Their tales take up most of my time, not only with the books themselves, but with what I have found to be a new creative craft. That of making book covers, where I can use my newfound love of photography.

So that is all ten of us. Do you think creativity a family trait? From my family’s record, it would certainly seem so!

http://www.romanticsuspensebooks.org

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Afternoon Tea

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Nothing grabs my attention quite so much as an English country mansion. It is partly because of the fabulous architecture, the grandeur, the extravagance, but mostly the allure is my curiosity for those who clearly had so much wealth they could afford to build with such lavishness.

Who was the person considering bedrooms for a possible fifty guests who visited for only two weeks of the year? Who decided that they wanted rooms for twenty staff, when if they hadn’t chosen to build such an enormous edifice, they would have only needed three? How did they chose what to paint on a ceiling when viewing such splendour only gave one a crick in the neck?

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What made that person’s life so busy that they couldn’t make their own bed, put on their own shirt, or even rustle up some ham sandwiches for lunch? What made that person build on an estate so far from anywhere that they would need horses, carriages, stablemen, grooms, and even more buildings to house them?

Of course, many people inherited from the original owner, and then what could they do? Let the window frames rot, the roof fall in, turn the staff out onto the streets, or sell their spectacular mounts to the knackers’ yard?

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Perhaps it is simply family pride that that makes the owner continue to sink their wealth into such bottomless pits of excessiveness, forcing them to take what must be a knock to their dignity, and open their homes to the masses.

And for that I am glad.

Many is the place that has been lost to us due to lack of financial support. But fortunately for those wonderful places that remain, there are people like me who happily pay to be amazed at the opulence, astounded at the luxury, or just fancy spending a day pretending to be one of the lucky few, who could afford to build with such flare and passion, while I enjoy an afternoon tea.

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Photographs taken at Chatsworth and used in my book covers.

A Bed of wild Roses last final copy with Subtitle

http://bit.ly/2f4vYqp

A Promise of Pure Gardenias final with subtitle

http://bit.ly/2vI8gwX

A World of Inspiration

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Some years ago, a friend persuaded me to buy what I considered at the time, a major, frivolous purchase. I recall opening the package with something akin to reverence. Such an expensive piece of kit had to be guarded, cosseted, and shielded. So protective was I of my new baby, I hardly used it at all.

Fortunately, my curiosity at what it could actually do soon over rode my fears for its safety, and now my beloved DSLR camera accompanies me almost everywhere on my journey of inspiration.

Having gasped at the clarity, the detail, the way I can zoom in on the most distant object or view, I seem to have lost my inhibitions and, much to the annoyance of other drivers, I have been known to stop my car in most unsuitable places. I jump over ditches and fight my way through hedges. I get up close and personal with terrifying bugs, large animals, and high places, all at the slightest temptation. Most unusual for a fifty something romance writer who generally behaves in a most restrained and elegant manner.

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I have discovered that looking at a subject through a lens gives things a whole different perspective. A new world has opened up before my disbelieving eyes. White spiders disguised in flowers; the mesmerising reflections of trees on water; a sky so incredibly red as to almost make one cry with the beauty of it.

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And all these captured images are only the beginning of my newest, creative adventure.

https://www.instagram.com/wackyjackyful/

A Wicked Woman

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Now.

Will it take long, I wonder as I sit quietly in my car. I can’t smell anything, and I don’t feel tired. Should I feel tired? I put the envelope in my lap and lean back, stretching out my hands, extending my fingers to test the feelings. My sleeves ride up and I turn my arms to see the scars interlacing over my flesh. Old under new. More scars than any man should bear.

I’ve told her that I love her. That is a lie now, but it was once true. True when she appeared to be beautiful, flirtatious, interested.

Oh, she was interested all right, when I was fool enough to boast. But every man boasts. Don’t they? Of his wealth, the make of his car, the depth of his bank balance. Anything to impress the woman he wants.

And impress I did. Within weeks she was mine. Mine! With a diamond wedding band on her finger.

But I claimed my prize too soon. For in reality it was all an illusion. Though I was caught firmly in her silken web, she was not mine at all.

A month later.

I came home to a pout, a pair of narrowed, icy eyes, and shoulders turned with pointed blades. A polite enquiry brought out a lashing tongue. I hadn’t taken out the bin? Okay, I’ll take out the bin. But the bins have already been collected, she screams, her face mottled with ire. This one will have to wait until next week. Okay, so I’ll take it out next week.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

I appease her, placate her. I promise to do better. Her satisfied smiles soothe the tension, but for a moment I wonder why they don’t quite reach her arctic eyes. I don’t forget the bin again.

Another week passes.

I arrive at my kitchen door to a barrage of complaints and whirling movement. I duck. Fast. The dinner plate misses my head. Just. Food slides down the wall. Was I that late home? She has been waiting for hours! I dare to check my watch. Maybe fifteen minutes, but not an hour, nowhere near. I explain about the traffic. There’s a chopping knife in her drawn back hand. I quickly promise not to be late again.

Knife back in block, she leans up and brushes her lips over my cheek as she hands me a gin and tonic. Leads me to my chair. She’s had a hard day. My eyes flick about our beautiful home. A hard day? I glance up as she stands over me. My gaze lingers on the fingers wrapped around the heavy bottomed glass she holds. Her knuckles are white.

The day of love.

Two dozen roses come flying at my face. I raise my hands in self defence and the thorns score my arms. Why orange? Why not red? She demands answers. Orange is my favourite colour, and the flowers were beautiful. The most exquisite I had ever seen. Just like her?

The thrashing stops. Is she smiling? I don’t even know any more. Her teeth are showing, but her lips are drawn back. Is that a sneer? She laughs. Or is that a cackle? I am not sure. I am a fool! It’s red roses for Valentine’s day. Orange means cheap. Red means love. And perhaps they don’t come with so many stinging barbs. I stare at my shredded skin and the once perfect petals lying scattered on the floor.

My birthday.

Burning! The flesh begins to blister on my chest. I grab the glass of water beside me and douse the searing pain. What the hell! I rub the sleep from my eyes. She’s standing over the bed, the empty coffee cup held carelessly in her hand. The stained sheets steam and through the haze of confusion and denial, I see the corner of her lip twitch. Upwards.

She is so sorry. She tripped. She presses antiseptic too hard on the tender welts. BITCH! I clamp my jaw and lie silently, trying not to flinch. Disbelieving but accepting of what I already know.

I change my will. My nephew will get everything. The house, the money, the car…

Three days ago.

I watch her from my seat at the bar. Everyone thinks we are so happy. The illusion confuses me. Her wit, her radiant smiles, the toss of her golden hair. But none of it is aimed my way. I think of Jim’s six bedroomed house, and his top of the range Mercedes parked outside the pub door. It’s time to go home.

I should have kept my mouth shut. Telling her to lay off my mate wasn’t a good idea. Her manicured nails claw my cheek, slash my neck. I grab her wrists but her teeth rip into my shoulder and the points of her designer shoes bruise my shins. I hold on tightly and bear the agony as she eventually wears herself out and quietens. She lifts her chin, pulls her hands from my grip, and stalks out of the door.

I stare at my reflection as I wipe blood from my face. Who is the ruined wreck who stares back at me? I remind myself to say something to Jim the next time I see him.

Yesterday, at work.

The silence around me is deafening. Everyone stares. She has to be joking! Arrested for abuse? I’ll show them abuse! I rip open my shirt and point to the scars on my face, my throat, my chest, my arms…But she has bruises on her wrists and I am six foot four. No one believes me. And when they eventually charge me before releasing me on bail, I don’t even care anymore.

Now.

The envelope is open in my hands again. Divorce. I breathe carefully as I turn the page. Division of assets. They had been all mine before. There’s a surprise. She wants it all. I raise an ironic eyebrow as I think of how long ago I changed my will.

A smile crosses my lips as I press ‘send’ on the text I wrote to Jim. Free at last, I take a deep breath and close my eyes… I feel slightly euphoric and begin to laugh as I pull in long breaths of the fume filled air. She thinks she’s going to get it all. My house, my money, my car?

Over my dead body!

www.romanticsuspensebooks.org