In the Shadows (Shadows Trilogy Book 1)
V. L. Wren
Dec 8th - Dec 22nd
Growing up surrounded by wealth and privilege is normal for Ella. Enjoying all the advantages living on the vast estate of Carrington Hall offer, life couldn't get any better. But it only takes one night for everything she has ever known to be snatched away from her in the most brutal of ways.
In the midst of such devastating loss Ella is forced to make drastic changes. Maturing quickly she has to overcome the mounting obstacles no seventeen year old should face alone. Discovering the darker side of sex at the hands of Alex, the deeply alluring heir to the estate and love of her life, she struggles with the emotional turmoil of his domineering demands and vicious punishments as she continues to come terms with her new life.
A chance encounter in London with the mysterious American Nick, has her questioning her entire relationship with Alex. Nick is as much an enigma to her as she is to him. But fearing he is running from his own demons she’s forced back into the ensnaring grasp of Alex.
When she unearths shocking family secrets, everything she ever believed in crashes down around her and with Alex’s continued threats and unpredictable behaviour escalating she’s lead to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Gabriella (Ella) grew up surrounded by wealth, until one fateful New Years Eve when a car accident took everything she loved away. Now she is left to face the world alone. Before moving away, her godparent helped her secure a flat at Carrington Hall and a job. Family secrets start to come out and it leaves her questioning her relationship. Will she be able to deal with all the secrets and Alex’s behavior or will this be what finally breaks Ella?
I was given this in exchange for an honest review.
Ella is a strong willed naïve teenager who has been dealt a crappy hand. She was tossed around until she found a spot to settle into at Carrington Hall. Ella uses drinking and partying as her escape for all the bad things that keep happening to her. Which is normal for some one who has lost so much at such a young age. She's made several questionable decisions and the fact that her friends share their concerns about her relationship with Alex leaves her feeling like she can’t confide in many people.
Alex is your typical Alpha male who is strong, arrogant and confident. The chemistry between him and Ella makes it hard for him to stay away from her. Ella deceives Alex into believing she is 20 instead of 17, leaving him with the assumption that there is only a 8 year age difference between them. The more time he spends with her the more his behavior changes, and this could end things between him and Ella.
This is the first book of the trilogy and the debut book for V L Wren. I was hooked from the beginning as Ella and her older brother both witness their father’s betrayal, which leads to the accident that changes Ella’s life and that was just the beginning. V L Wren kept the twists coming so I had no idea what or when things would happen and kept me guessing what was going to happen next. I’m looking forward to seeing how Alex, Nick and Liv play out in Ella’s life and what is going to happen to the relationship between Ella and Alex. Of course like any good trilogy we were left with a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. This a great start to the series!
Text Copyright © 2014 V L Wren
All Rights Reserved
No sooner has that grim thought popped into my head, Deborah and Ian Gregory’s non-descript semi-detached house, in a street full of identical non-descript houses comes into view. So what’s a girl to do? I growl again.
It’s exactly seven on the dot and surprise surprise we’re first to arrive. Mum is obsessive about lots of things and punctuality is way up there on her list. There’s no such thing as fashionably late in her vocabulary, even when the host’s invitation has been less than genuine and at the last minute, with them only extending their offer yesterday. Of course we all know the reason why and as much as I hope this evening won’t end in the same way they usually do, it’s a deluded notion. We could go to a party in a monastery and mum would soon sniff out the sacramental wine and get plastered. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s a secret alcy or anything, but when she drinks she does it to Olympic gold medal standards, invariably embarrassing us in spectacular fashion.
From my slouched position in the car I narrow my eyes on the house that will be my own private hell on earth for the evening. Biting my lip to stifle yet another growl, I watch dad leap out of the car and rush round to open mum’s door. Ever the gentleman he extends his hand to help her out, taking the bowls from her grasp as she smooth’s her long blue dress down over her knees, fluffing out her long blonde curls. Dad looks as handsome as ever in his navy suit pale blue shirt and navy silk tie. Which of course mum chose to match her dress perfectly. With an exasperated sigh and roll of my eyes I fling open my door and climb out of the car, dragging my feet as I follow them up the path to the front door. Mum gives Tom and I the once over, inspecting our clothes, raising her brows at me expectantly. I return a scowl in silent protest.
“I’m fifteen mum.” I grumble, as I obediently pull my shoulders back and straighten my spine. Tucking a few mousy brown strands behind my ears, pre-empting a further lecture about hiding my face behind my hair. This is something I do to draw attention away from myself and more specifically, my eyes, which people always comment on, being such an unusual shade of jade green. Resisting the urge to roll, said green eyes, I smile sweetly. When mum’s in this kind of mood I know better than to try her patience. Even though I’ve been head and shoulders taller than her for the last few years, she’s still my mum and she’s still intimidating.
“Well you can at least try and act like you’re happy to be here,” she snaps. I drop my head, grimacing at the calf length black flared skirt and pink blouse I’ve been forced to wear. Pulling my coat tighter around my waist, I cross my arms over my chest defensively, watching as her face transforms with a huge grin when she looks over at Tom appreciatively, ‘the golden child’, no such eyebrow raising or scrutiny for him. Satisfied that we all look like the perfect family, the Hampshire version of The bloody Brady Bunch, she rings the doorbell, proudly fussing over dad, fiddling with the knot of his tie, smoothing the length down over his chest with her fingertips as he presses a light kiss to her lips, sliding his hand down over her hip giving her bum a quick squeeze. I fight the urge to shove my fingers down my throat and gag. There should be an age limit on public displays of affection. They are too old. Ground, please swallow me up now!
For the first half hour we all linger in their kitchen, mum and dad making idle small talk as Deborah puts the finishing touches to the food. By finishing touches, I mean throwing copious amounts of parsley over her many trays of ‘brown’. I really can’t say for sure what the ‘brown’ is, or should be and even close up I’m still not a hundred percent, but as the smell is enough to turn my stomach and immediately stop it rumbling, I’m giving it a wide berth. I notice Tom slowly working his way around the kitchen, tapping his fingertips casually along the countertop, probably making a mental inventory of all the drinks on offer before settling for a bottle of Becks. Leaning his back against the counter, he braces one hand out against it, puffing out his massive chest, straining his white shirt at the seams to contain his muscular biceps as he holds the neck of the bottle between his fingers, smirking at Ian who is busily reaching for random bottles of spirits, pouring them into a large punch bowl.
Dragging a chair across the kitchen, the loud scrapping noise momentarily causes all eyes to settle on me, before I tuck myself in the corner of the room, nursing my glass of lukewarm, semi fizzy lemonade. I’m still sulking. Tugging on the long sleeves of my uncomfortable, itchy blouse I’m tempted to stamp my feet like a five year old and have a full blown temper tantrum, shouting at the top of my voice that this is going to be so fucking boring. Of course I don’t, but at least the thought of doing so brings a brief smile to my lips. This is soon wiped from my face when I see mum surreptitiously top up her glass of wine for the third time. From the look on dad’s face he’s also seen her, but is choosing to remain silent. Smart man.
It’s a further forty five minutes before anyone else arrives and even when they do it’s all old people like my parents, of course. Thankfully the very quiet, festive background music playing in the sitting room is soon drowned out by the loud, excited chatter and laughter from the other partygoers as they slowly spill in through the front door, making their way into the kitchen and sitting room beyond. Some are even brave enough to pick at Deborah’s food and Ian’s ‘rocket fuel’ punch. Unsurprisingly few go back for seconds and mum’s pasta is polished off in record time.
By nine o’clock the house is bursting at the seams. I’ve long ago lost count, but it’s clear from mum’s extravagant gesticulating and screeching laughter that she is well on the way to getting drunk. Oh joy, cue to Jenson show. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that Tom managed to slip out the back door a while earlier and has yet to reappear. I’ve got a pretty good idea what he’s up to and that just pisses me off even more. Frustrated by the lack of anyone under forty to speak to, I scan the room, scowling at anyone who dares make eye contact with me. Oh yes, I really am behaving like a sullen child tonight. It’s almost enough to make me laugh. No! Bad girl, maintain the scowl. My heart sinks and my mood hits an all-time low as my eyes lock with Owen Gregory’s beady little hazel ones. Bugger, how could I have forgotten that their son would be here tonight? From the broad grin he gives me I know exactly what he’s thinking, as he makes an immediate beeline for me through the crowd. A couple of months ago Gina dared me to kiss him and me, ever the idiot I am, did, and now I can tell he’s hoping for a repeat performance. Dream on boyo! I shudder at the memory of him shoving his pointy little lizard tongue so far down my throat I’d almost gagged on it. I swallow back the bile that bubbles up in my throat, remembering his overly excited groping hands that managed a quick feel of my boobs before he came in his pants. Now I’m no expert, but even I know that isn’t normal.
Leaping up from my chair, I duck down behind a couple, accidently knocking into them in my haste for the back door. I mumble an apology in their direction, but they don’t notice, they’re far too engrossed examining the contents of each other’s mouths with their tongues. Oh God, I am so out of here. Hotfooting it across the kitchen, I shoot out the door like my arse is on fire, pulling it closed with one final backwards glance, relieved that even though Owen’s head is whipping about in a frantic search for me, now he’s reached my recently vacated chair, he hasn’t noticed my impressive stealth like manoeuvre.
I’ve only taken a couple of steps away from the house and I’m already regretting not grabbing my coat, its bloody freezing out here now. The temperature has dropped dramatically since we arrived and the moon is illuminating thick white snow filled clouds against the black night sky. Rubbing my hands together I tuck my fingers under my armpits to keep them warm, hopping from foot to foot in the stupid low heeled girlie shoes I’m wearing tonight. What I wouldn’t give for my trainers and jeans right now. Narrowing my eyes, I strain to see into the darkness hoping to catch sight of my brother, my vision intermittently impaired by the huge clouds of breath misting around my face with every exhale. Scanning the garden I open my mouth ready to call out his name, when I catch a brief glimpse of an orange glow about twenty feet away. I know it’s him, so I head in that direction, trying not to slip on the frosty path.
“What are you doing out here?” He hisses as I approach, his arm flying behind his back as he attempts to hide the cigarette in his hand.
“I’m trying to avoid Owen. Now hand it over.” I hold my hand out in front of me, clicking my fingers impatiently. Tutting, he shakes his head in resignation, popping his cigarette back between his lips, grabbing hold of my upper arm and pulling me towards the shed at the end of the garden. Yanking open the door he all but throws me inside, slamming it closed behind us.
“It’s too bloody cold to stand out there and you haven’t got a coat on.” I ignore his admonishment, smiling sweetly as he digs into his pocket for his Marlboro Lights and clipper lighter. I snatch them from his hand, taking one out of the packet, lighting it with some difficulty as my teeth chatter and hands shake with cold. The small side window of the shed which faces the rear of the house provides our only light source, so I feel around almost blindly in the semi-darkness until my fingers land on what appears to be an old armchair tucked in the corner. Plonking myself down on it I take a long drag on the cigarette, blowing the smoke out through my lips on an appreciative sigh, pushing thoughts of the millions of spiders that are probably in here watching us to the back of my mind, thankful that I can’t take in my surroundings in too much detail. I still shudder at the thought though.
“You didn’t get that from me.” Tom points a finger at the glowing cigarette in my hand as he props himself against a shelf, finishing his own.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you’ve given up.” I narrow my eyes at him, just able to make out his face in the darkness and the small smirk he’s now wearing.
“How are they?” He nods his head towards the house.
“Oh you know, I think mum’s just hit her limit and judging by the grin on his face when she walked in, it looks like dad’s selected his quarry for the evening in the form of Jeanie, so he’s in full-on flirting mode.”
“Great,” he grumbles, shaking his head in disgust as he stamps out his cigarette on the shed floor.
Jeanie is Deborah’s younger sister and someone who obviously thinks mid-winter is an appropriate time of year to go to a party dressed in what appears to be just her underwear and thigh length black shiny stripper boots. Twenty nine, admittedly quite beautiful, with a figure to die for and doesn’t she just know it. Newly divorced and reeking of desperation, she’s definitely on the prowl for husband number three. Just the type of woman dad would notice. For his age our dad is a good looking man. Tall and broad, his dark brown hair flecked with silver around the temples, giving him a very distinguished look. He’s always paid attention to his appearance and keeps in good shape, so wherever we go women naturally gravitate towards him. Ultimately it’s all one big game to him. He’s a natural born flirt, pure and simple.
Abruptly Tom stands up and takes out his phone, using the glow from the screen to investigate the contents of the shed more thoroughly.
“So what’s the plan of action? How long we staying holed up in here for?” I ask, dropping my cigarette to the floor in front of Tom’s foot so he can stamp it out for me. I’ve already slipped my shoes off and curling my legs up into the seat I tuck them under my skirt in an attempt to keep warm.
“I suppose until the screaming starts.” He mutters more to himself than me, as he continues to look around the shed.
“What are you doing?” I stutter through my chattering teeth.
“Looking for this.” Reaching toward the shelf behind me he grabs a large chequered picnic blanket, giving it a quick shake before wrapping it around my shoulders, rubbing my upper arms briskly, “You look like you’re about to freeze.” I bat his hands away, but he just tuts, ignoring my protests, wrapping it tightly around my body.
“What would Jase and Kev say if they saw you fussing around me?” I tease, getting myself more comfortable, gripping the blanket closely. I don’t miss his pointed look as he backs away to his perch on the shelf. Tom is like two sides of the same coin, when he’s with his friends he makes it perfectly clear that I, his fifteen year old sister am not to bother them and ideally not even speak to them. However when we’re alone he’s very different. Ridiculously over protective, he has a tendency to fuss around me like an old woman, not that I’m complaining, case in point being a few months ago whilst he was home from university, he knew something was up with me and after much coaxing I finally confessed that a boy in the year above me at school had been bullying me. I don’t think I’d ever seen him as angry as he was that day. He honestly looked like he was going to explode. He shot out the house, apparently tracking down the culprit within a couple of hours, and well, let’s just say Tom can be very scary when he wants to, especially as he’s a 6ft 2 blind-side flanker on his university rugby team with a very short fuse. Needless to say, I don’t get hassle at school anymore. I don’t know why, but I giggle at the memory, prompting Tom to raise his brows at me questioningly,
“I was thinking about Jake Carter.”
“Why in god’s name were you thinking about that little shit?” He frowns, shaking his head in bemusement.
“I don’t know,” I shrug, “I was just remembering your ‘chat’.” Giving me a sideways glance Tom smiles before answering matter-of-factly,
“You know he pissed himself.”
“WHAT?” I snort out, slapping my hand over my mouth, trying not to laugh as he casually digs his hand into his jeans pocket for his cigarettes, handing another to me. Flicking the lighter on he leans the flame closer to my face, illuminating his grin, adding, “I almost felt sorry for the little turd.”
“Oh my God! Why didn’t you tell me?” I lower the lit cigarette from my mouth, which I know is hanging open in shock. Tom just shrugs his shoulders, still smiling. We remain silent for a few moments until Tom sniggers, setting me off snorting again like a total moron.
“Shhh.” Tom thrusts his palm up in front of me, silencing me immediately as he ducks down away from the shed window.
“What is it?” I whisper, trying to untangle myself from my skirt and blanket, fumbling around in the dark for my shoes. I can tell by the look on his face whatever he’s seeing isn’t good.
“That fucking bastard. Why tonight?” His voice is a low growl. Clenching his fists at his sides, almost crushing the cigarette in his hand as he struggles to contain his fury. “What’s going on?” I’m on my feet now and making my way towards the window when Tom turns abruptly and blocks my view.
“Ella, you don’t want to see this,” he warns, gripping my shoulders, halting my progress.
“Why? What’s happening?” My voice is a high pitched squeak as I push against him, trying to peer around his large frame as he dodges from side to side, keeping himself between me and the window.
“For God’s sake Tom, what’s out there?” I hiss angrily, pulling free from his grasp, managing a glimpse outside, just in time to see dad pushing Jeanie up against the back wall of the house. Far enough away from the back door to risk being seen from inside, but still close enough so the light from inside illuminates them to us. Sliding his hands inside the full length leopard print fur coat she’s now wearing, he buries his face against her neck, his hands groping at her breasts before dipping lower. “Holy shit!” I slap my hand over my mouth again, stumbling backwards away from the window, inadvertently knocking a can of paint off the shelf. Jeanie’s head whips up towards us, momentarily stilling them both. Dad still has his back to us as she peers over his shoulder. Tom and I freeze on the spot, barely breathing.
Smiling like a Cheshire cat, Jeanie whispers something in dad’s ear and the pair saunter off round the side of the house, instantly swallowed up in the darkness. I know I’m trying to speak, my mouth is moving but no words are coming out, as I struggle to form some sort of coherent sentence, shaking my head in confusion. I’m not even sure what I’ve seen or what I’m trying to say as I make a grab for the door handle. Tom pulls me back and at that moment, the full moon that had been hiding behind a veil of thick cloud, decides to make an appearance and dad and Jeanie are once again bathed in a bright bluish white glow, a little further away, but still painfully obvious to us.
It is utterly disgusting watching our father going at it with this slapper, who at almost twenty years his junior clearly has no shame. For the next few minutes neither of us seem capable of taking our eyes off this hideous spectacle. Jeanie’s hands frantically fiddling with the front of his trousers, before grasping each side of her coat, wrapping it around them both. Within a matter of seconds he’s hoisted her feet off the ground and the pair are grunting and groaning like a pair of wild animals, as his hips thrust wildly against hers. Oh yeah, they’re definitely having sex and the image of him doing something like that, there, within ten feet of our poor unsuspecting mum makes my stomach churn. I swallow down the saliva that’s flooding my mouth, breathing deeply through my nose in an attempt to stop myself from being sick. Their heavy breathing causing huge swathes of cloudy breath to rise up above their heads as she dramatically throws her head back on a pleasured moan, loud enough for us to hear from inside our hiding place. Flinging her arms up in the air, her coat falls open, exposing their entwined bodies to us. Her shiny PVC boot clad legs clamped around his waist, her ankles locked at the small of his back as he grips the underside of her thighs tightly, thrusting against her, grunting into the side of her neck.
I can’t bear to watch this anymore and stagger backwards until the backs of my knees hit the chair and I slump down into it before my wobbly legs give way completely. Keeping my eyes on Tom, I press my palms over my ears, blocking out every sound except that of my erratic breathing and pounding heart. All the while Tom just stands there staring, transfixed on the scene.
Finally after what seems like a lifetime, he glances my way and I lower my hands. I can’t hear any sound from outside, so I gingerly stand and peer back out the window. They’ve separated from each other and are briskly re-adjusting their clothes. Jeanie casually takes a shiny gold cigarette case from her pocket and lights up what looks like a long slender cigar. She offers one to dad, who, after readjusting his tie, accepts, prompting Tom and I to give each other open mouthed wide eyed glances. Seriously, we’ve just witnessed our dad screwing some tart against the side of a house and we’re both shocked at the fact he’s smoking! They wander back to the rear of the house again and stand a few feet from each other chatting and laughing in a totally relaxed manner, as if the last ten minutes hasn’t even happened. At this point the back door swings open and two other guests tumble drunkenly outside, their raucous laughter filling the air. They nod at dad and Jeanie and the seemingly innocent scene of two friends enjoying a surreptitious smoke as they all chat amiably.
“That was close.” I whisper, sitting back down in the chair, glancing back up at Tom expectantly. Waiting for him to give me some words of reassurance that maybe I’ve been mistaken at what’s transpired.
“I wish someone had caught the bastard.” He growls, pulling yet more cigarettes from his packet for us both, lighting them up.
“Don’t say that, it would kill mum to know what he’s done. I don’t think I could handle them getting divorced.” I pull my knees up, hugging them to my chest as I extend a shaky hand in front of me, taking the proffered cigarette.
“Divorced?” He scoffs at the word, “You think she doesn’t know? Of course she knows, she’s always fucking known. Why the hell do you think she drinks so much?” Turning away from me, he glares back out the window.
“What do you mean, she’s always known?” My eyes remain glued on his profile, my heart thundering in fear of what his reply will reveal. He drops his head, his shoulders visibly sagging as he braces his arms against the shelf in front of the window. Sighing heavily he finds a bucket on the shelf, which he upturns, dropping it to the floor to sit on. Still not meeting my eyes, he stares broodingly at his cigarette, rolling it between his thumb and index finger, contemplating his answer.
“This isn’t the first time dads…you know….played away from home, let’s just say.” “What, with Jeanie?” He finally meets my wide eyes. The sympathetic look he gives me has my stomach in knots. I know whatever he has to say is going to be a bitter pill to swallow.
“Look, the whole Jeanie thing has only been going on a couple of months max. But prior to her, I know of at least three women in the last five years alone. Who knows how many more there’s been in all.” I blink rapidly, shaking my head, my eyes already stinging with a dam of tears that I refuse to release, as I try to comprehend what he’s said. “I’m so sorry Ella,” he sighs, coming over to me, squeezing his huge frame onto the armchair next to me, wrapping me up in his large arms. He makes me feel so tiny and insignificant in his fierce grasp as he rests his chin on the top of my head. Burying my head against his chest I wipe a few stray tears that have run down my cheeks across his shirt. Feeling his chest vibrate on a chuckle I lift my head in surprise. “Did you seriously just wipe your nose on my shirt?” I glance down at his chest then back to his face and him rolling his eyes at me.
“Sorry.” I mumble on a half giggle. He gives me one final tight squeeze before pulling away, looking down at me, using his thumbs to wipe my face.
“You okay?” I look into his eyes, taking in a deep shuddering breath as I shake my head. Sighing, he releases me so he can stand up and take another look out the window.
“I want to go home.” The words come out as nothing more than a harsh whisper, but he hears me. Looking over he nods briefly, returning his gaze to the window, lifting his chin toward the house.
“I think they’re going back in.” My legs ache as I stand up with a mixture of cold and anxiety. I watch as the other two guests finish their cigarettes and stagger back inside, leaving dad and Jeanie once again on their own. I’m not even aware that I’m holding my breath as Dad approaches her and gently cups her face in his large hands, brushing his lips over her mouth so delicately they barely touch. He rests his forehead against hers and she closes her eyes on a soft smile, reciprocating his gesture, placing her own hands on his face. I can’t stop the small gasp that passes my lips at such a beautiful, tender exchange. This is not the act of a man looking for a quick screw, this is someone in love. The sad fact remains however, that it’s between him and someone other than my mum. Dad places a kiss to her forehead, not uttering another word as her blood red polished talons scrape lightly over his cheeks and she pulls away from him. He turns and wanders back into the house leaving Jeanie standing outside alone for a minute before she also approaches the door. With her hand on the handle she turns back towards us, staring directly at the shed window, giving us a little wave and air kiss before scurrying back inside.
“THAT FUCKING WHORE!” Tom bellows exploding in rage, picking up the first thing his hand finds, a glass jar full of nails.
“TOM!” I scream, ducking out of the way, narrowly avoiding the jar as it flies past my head and smashes into a million pieces against the wall behind me.
“SHE FUCKING KNEW WE WERE IN HERE THE WHOLE TIME.” He continues to roar. His face just inches from mine.
“I know,” I cry, only this time it’s in fear of being in a confined space with a very, very angry Tom. He steps away from me frowning, realising what he’s done, his chest heaving as he drags in huge lungful’s of air, as if he’s just run ten miles. His eyes flickering between remorse and rage.
“That’s it I’m having it out with him now!” He makes a grab for the door handle, as I make a grab for him.
“NO!” I pull him back with all the strength I have, but compared to him it’s futile. He yanks free from my grip and storms out of the shed, flinging the door open so violently it springs back, slapping me in the back as I charge out into the garden, in pursuit of him. “Tom, please don’t.” I beg, chasing him across the cold grass. The low heels of my shoes sinking into the damp ground, impeding my progress as my arms swing out making another grab for him. “Please,” I plead. He stops in front of the door, staring in through the glass. I follow his eyes to our mum and dad in the kitchen, laughing and chatting, dads arm casually draped around mums shoulder, looking happy and relaxed. “Not tonight. Think of mum.” I whisper, squeezing his wrist. He lowers his head, rubbing his fingers over his temples.
“This is such a fucked up mess.” He tips his head skyward, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “I’m having it out with him tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I nod in agreement, taking his hand, holding it in both of mine. “Are you alright? Or do you need a few moments to calm down?” I add cautiously.
“No, I’m fine.” He gives my hand a returning quick squeeze, releasing it and opening the back door. I take a moment alone, to wipe my face and compose myself before heading back inside.
Tom’s brooding in the corner of the sitting room next to me, having never left my side since we returned from the garden, barely taking his eyes from Jeanie and when he does it’s only to scowl at dad, who I suspect knows we’ve caught him out, as he shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot each time he makes eye contact with either of us, which isn’t often.
As twelve o’clock approaches, everyone gathers in the sitting room, all huddled around the TV counting down to the New Year with the chimes of Big Ben followed by a drunken rendition of Auld Lang Syne. I’m reluctant to give dad a kiss when he wraps his arms around me, wishing me a happy new year. I can’t even force a smile as I offer him my cheek. As soon as his lips make contact with my skin the image of them all over Jeanie flood my mind and I immediately pull away. As soon as mum approaches me I barrel into her, hugging her fiercely, almost knocking her off her feet. She has to grab hold of the back of the chair I’d been sitting on just to steady herself as she wraps her arms around me.
We all spill back out to the postage stamp size garden, where the first flakes of snow have just started falling, for a spectacularly disappointing two minute firework display. The real fireworks start fifteen minutes later back in the kitchen as Jeanie sidles up to dad, rubbing her leg between his, drunkenly whispering in his ear, and right in front of mum, who obviously decides enough is enough. Slamming her glass down on the countertop, sloshing wine everywhere, she lunges across the kitchen screaming. Dad makes a grab for her, struggling to unfurl her fingers from the huge clump of Jeanie’s hair that’s in them. I’m all up for giving mum a hand, but as I rush forward Tom catches my upper arms in his vice like grip, holding me back.
Now I don’t know what a screaming banshee is, but I’m pretty sure if I looked it up on Wikipedia I’d find a picture of a petit middle aged blonde woman in a blue cocktail dress, ripping the hair extensions out of the village slut. Even though her speech is slurred and mum’s swaying on her feet, her reference to Jeanie being ‘all fur coat and no knickers’ is remarkably accurate. She swiftly follows this up with an almighty punch, catching Jeanie squarely on the jaw. The sound of which reverberates around the suddenly silent kitchen, just in time for everyone to hear me shout, “Rip her fucking hair out mum.” Oops.
I’m instantly aware of several dozen eyes all on me, including those of my mum, dad and an extremely startled Jeanie, who has already retreated to the other end of the room, clutching her face in both hands, as Tom sniggers behind me. Seizing the opportunity to get mum out of here, dad drags her towards the door, but she breaks free of him, turning back to the stunned guests announcing in a frighteningly calm voice,
“The Jenson’s have left the building,” before lifting her chin and turning to walk away. Nicely played mum.
So here we are, not half an hour into two thousand and six and we’re already in the car on the way home. Mum’s still throwing all sorts of accusations at dad and to be honest I really don’t want to listen anymore. Making a grab for Tom’s iPod that he’s left on the seat next to me, I hastily pop in the ear buds, flicking on the first song on his playlist. I don’t care that most of his music isn’t to my taste, I kind of like it at the moment as it’s drowning out their voices, so goal achieved.
I wonder if mum knows what happened tonight and if what Tom has said is true, why she puts up with his affairs, choosing to stay married to him for almost twenty three years. My mum is a beautiful woman and she could easily find another man, not that I want her to find another man and neither would it seem does she. She still wants the one sat next to her, calmly taking the brunt of her fury.
Yawning loudly I kick off my shoes and stretch out across the back seat, jabbing Tom in the thigh with the heel of my foot. Without looking up from his phone he gives my ankle a swift slap and I give him another quick prod, nodding towards the pair of them in the front, with a grimace. I’m not sure if he can see my face pulling in the darkness of the back seat, but from the glow of the mobile phone in his hand I clearly see his slight nod and him mouthing the word ‘tomorrow’. That alone fills me with dread, unsure of what will happen within the next few hours.
Tucking my legs up in front of me, I fold my arms in the space between them and my chest. Using my coat as a pillow, I prop it against the window and rest my chin on it, gazing out at the inky blackness. There’s not a single light anywhere and just the faintest glow in the distance of the nearest town, some five miles away. Even driving across the endless heathland during the day there’s nothing to look at for miles, just trees, fields and the occasional pony or deer. Now my view of nothingness is interspersed with large white flakes of snow that are being reflected off the car headlights and have been falling steadily since just before midnight, forming a thick white blanket on the road. Usually I love the snow, I get excited watching it fall silently to the ground, leaving everything looking pristine and beautiful and the trees sparkling as if they’ve been dusted with a million diamonds. On any other day I’d be looking forward to the morning and maybe taking one of the horses out on a long hack through the drifts. But not tonight. Tonight there is only one thing on my mind. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pray for a few moments respite from my inner turmoil. Yawning again I’m grateful fatigue is winning the battle against my anxiety, as I try to erase the memories of tonight and close my eyes.
I can’t be certain what jolts me awake, the loud bang or the ear piercing screech that proceeds it, but the initial feeling I have when my eyes fly open is of being weightless, almost floating above my seat. The sensation comes to an abrupt halt with the first impact, as our car roof hits the road and we bounce back into the air. The thick webbing of my seatbelt cuts painfully into my neck as it fights to restrain me, forcing me back into my seat, taking all the air from my lungs with it. In the interminable moments that follow, the only sounds are those of Radiohead’s No Surprises, which continues to play as a grim sound track to this terrifying event, as my ear buds remain firmly stuck inside my ears. Apart from that, my mind appears numb to all external stimuli. I don’t think I scream or even breathe as my arms fly out blindly, reaching for any sort of anchor point whilst I’m jostled violently from side to side in my seat as the car continues tumbling over and over. I cover my face with my forearms, protecting it from the shards of glass and all sorts of loose objects that are flying around inside the car.
In the darkness Tom’s hand finds mine and we cling desperately to each other, our fear and terror mirrored in our expressions. I feel an explosion of pain in the side of my head as it bounces off the door pillar and everything slows down. Fighting to keep my eyes open, my vision blurs just as Tom’s hand slips from mine and he’s propelled out into the night through the car’s rear window and a calm nothingness engulfs me.
So, first and foremost I'm mum to two fabulous boys, who fill my heart with joy and drive me insane in equal measure.
I live just outside London and have my very own feral yank, (his own description). Who ironically I met after writing book 1, but in my eyes is my very own Nick. Haha. He's also the only person who calls me Victoria. But as he's got the sexiest damned voice I've ever heard, I let him get away with it.
I thought about writing a book (or 3) for years, but as is generally the case, life got in the way. You have no idea how many stories I've started and given up on over the years, but about two years ago I started In the Shadows. I never planned it as a trilogy, but as I got into the story and the characters evolved, I just kept going. I've loved writing every bit of this story, and to me, Ella and the gang truly exist. Albeit in the small space between my ears. But they are my escape from school runs, laundry and teenagers homework!
I still never planned on releasing the book. It was just something I wanted to say I'd done. My one and only reader/fan was my sister-in-law and I was more than content with this. Even though she constantly harassed me to publish it. But it wasn't until last year, when I was diagnosed with and successfully treated for breast cancer, (sorry if that's a bit depressing) lol, that I decided, life is too short to not take a chance. So I said, "fuck it, I'm doing this," and I put it out there.
I know the story isn't to everyone's taste. And the subject matter is quite harrowing at times. But what I will say is this, everyone that deserves a HEA with get it, but there are a hell of a lot more twists and shocks in store in the next two books. Oh and a bitch of a cliff hanger at the end of book 2. Ooops!
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