In the novel deceit, obsessive love, betrayal and murder are threaded along side the fabric of normal life.
Attracted by Marks lifestyle, country living, horses, a successful business, Emma believes she has found the man of her dreams, until she eventually discovers her lover has a darker side.
Was he a cold, calculated killer or a man suffering from mental torment?
Initially Emma’s relationship with Mark seemed idyllic, too good to be true, marred only by Mark’s affection for his long standing friend Alicia. Emma is heartbroken when Alicia runs over and kills her beloved pet dog, this act, combined with the aftermath of Marks affair with Alicia leads Emma to break off her engagement and return home.
Her subsequent marriage to Phil is more a marriage of convenience than passion and their relationship quickly crumbles. Shortly after they break up, Emma receives a distraught phone call from Mark informing her of Alicia’s murder.
Mark becomes a prime suspect in the investigation. After Emma’s investigative work leads to the arrest of an acquaintance, she inadvertently finds proof pointing to Marks involvement. Faced with Emma’s discovery Mark confesses to a second heinous crime. Desperate and out of control he attempts to end both his own and Emma’s life. Phil’s chance intervention saves Emma’s life.
Emma and Phil embark on a new life together. It would seem that betrayals and lies are behind them – or are they? At the end of the novel there is a clear hint that Emma is more than capable of lying.
WOW! A free sneak peek into part of chapter one–Check it out!
The Long Day
‘Go home, stay away, go back now’
Persistent whisperings inside her head flung conflicting commands across the thin net of reason holding her together.
Their endless chatter ceased abruptly as Emma performed a rapid last minute left turn.
For a heart-stopping moment she thought she had taken the wrong route altogether, until the grey slate roof of the old church came into view. Changing to a lower gear, slowing her speed, she glanced down at the funeral bouquet wilting on the passenger seat. Jostling for space amongst a sea of discarded tissues, pink and lilac petals tumbled to the ground like dying butterflies.
“Should have bought a wreath, had it sent on” she muttered.
A cloying perfume permeated the car’s stuffy interior, as though the scent had bled from each battered and bruised flower.
Vapors of antistress essence, seeping out from a dangling car freshener failed miserably to live up to its promise.
She saw the gateway looming in front of her, seemingly diminishing in size as she edged the vehicle closer toward it.
Numerous options presented themselves in rapid succession.
‘Turn around, – carry on, go home – drive on – stop’
Her mind went blank, the way it often did when faced with overload.
In a moment of sheer panic, she considered jumping ship, abandoning the car as though it was a trolley in the screaming aisles of a supermarket.
Against a whirlwind of indecision, she made her choice in a split second, challenging the wisdom behind it even as she executed the movement. Crouching low, she headed for the opening between the gateposts. Holding her breath, she hunched over the wheel, pulling her stomach in, as if shrinking her body would somehow reduce the size of the car. Grimacing at the shrill sound of metal scrapping against concrete, she drove through the gateway toward the church, mumbling a stream of expletives between gritted teeth. Her fingers curled around the steering wheel, forcing it to hold its line. With grim determination, she maneuvered the vehicle onto a concrete walkway running alongside the Church. It lurched to a stop directly below the grotesque pitted face of a stone gargoyle. In response to the crude and abruptly executed halt the rear tyres emitted an eerie screeching sound, reminiscent of an animal in pain. The alien noises produced by her undignified arrival rudely disturbed the tranquility of the church grounds.
With the flick of a key, the engine spluttered and died, amplifying the deathly silence that followed. Her stiff fingers struggled to disengage the seat belt. Tugging roughly against the buckle, she grappled in angry frustration before releasing the mechanism. Liberated from the strap’s constraints the tension slowly loosened its clawing grip, allowing aching shoulder muscles to readjust. Resting her head against the smooth circumference of the steering wheel she inhaled deeply.
An image of two small boys running across a park played silently behind closed eyelids. The red leash trailing like blood on frozen grass remained as vivid as it had been back then, making it easy for her to pinpoint the exact moment the panic attacks had started.
She felt bone tired, mentally drained, unable to think clearly.
Brooding on the reason for her journey, she glanced anxiously through the window.
Lack of space in the designated car park offered a lame excuse for her unconventional parking. Satisfied that the risk of being wheel clamped was miniscule she decided to leave the vehicle where it was. Angling the rear view mirror toward her face, she shuddered at the unflattering image reflected on its smooth surface.
Appalled at her disheveled appearance she flipped open the catch on her handbag.
Hurried fingers delved into the cavernous interior of the bag. Familiar with its multiple pockets they quickly fished out a comb. The effort of dragging it through layers of bedraggled hair made little difference to her overall appearance. A quick look at her watch confirmed that she was way behind schedule. Unzipping a tightly crammed make up bag, she pulled out a lipstick, deftly swiveling the stick to full capacity. As she pressed the soft tip into her upper lip it broke away. A flash of pink tumbled to the floor. It lay like a fat slug in the middle of the decapitated flower heads.
‘An omen, a bad omen’
‘Shut up’ she chided herself. Her voice sounded hollow, as though it belonged to someone else.
Ignoring the temptation to reapply fresh make up she scrambled out of the car. A spray of dirty water made unwelcome contact with her skirt as she stepped heavily into a muddy puddle. Large drops of rainwater fell from the open mouth of the gargoyle, scoring a direct hit on her uncovered head.
“Oh my God!” Her face crumpled in dismay as she turned to lock the car. Several long jagged scratches framed a large dent on the near side door. Their testimony to her erratic driving elicited a grudging relief that she was in her own vehicle and not Phil’s. Mumbling a range of ungodly curses she headed in the direction of the graveyard.
The chatter in her head began in earnest.
‘Why come, why here, why now. Go Home’
The words beat their own rhythm.
The rhythm grew louder as blood pounded in her ears.
‘Why come, why here, why now. Go Home’
Shielded from view by a high stone wall she ran down the pathway toward the cemetery. Turning the corner brought her within sight of the funeral party. To save time she took a short cut across the grass, walking as quickly as dignity would allow, keeping her eyes downcast until she reached the large circle of mourners.
In an effort to become as inconspicuous as possible she stood at the back of the gathering. Despite her attempt to remain unobtrusive, she was acutely aware that her late arrival had been noted. To her embarrassment, several of the mourners looked disapprovingly in her direction. Turning away from their reproachful glances, she dropped her gaze to stare at the dove grey boots worn by the person standing directly in front. The sharp tip of the woman’s pointed heels appeared to be sinking into the wet, spongy ground.
Several minutes passed before she was able to summon up sufficient confidence to raise her eyes and scan the group. Diverting her attention from the boots, she strained her neck to look over the wearer’s shoulder, searching for familiar faces. Almost immediately, she found herself looking directly into the eyes of her ex lover.
“Emma” he mouthed her name silently.
His gaze, penetrating and unwavering locked with hers. While part of her brain registered its disapproval, the remainder dissolved into a throbbing obsessive need. An insatiable desire to be with him answered the one question she had been afraid to explore. With absolute certainty and clarity, she realized she was still in love with Mark.
Seconds passed, time melted into fragmented moments. In a heartbeat and to the exclusion of all else he became, as he always had, the centre of her being.
Memories from the past clung to her like a living membrane. Breathing substance into the ashes of half-buried dreams, she could almost feel the touch of his skin against her own. Her hand itched to smooth away his thick dark hair as it flopped endearingly over one eyebrow, like the wing of a raven.
Shrouded by the past, she reveled in its exquisite bitter sweetness.
A movement, deliberate and unhurried brought her awareness sharply back to the present. The woman standing next to Mark slowly lifted her head. Black gloved hands swept back a fine laced veil, exposing pale flawless beauty etched with arrogance and cruelty. Her gaze, as chill and unwelcoming as the grave swept over Emma like a dawn mist, freezing, penetrating and menacing.
A bitterly cold wind swept down from the moorland, Emma shivered.
Taking a small step backwards she turned her face away from the silently threatening gaze directed upon her by her adversary; half believing that Alicia could read her mind, picking out secrets one by one.
Lowering her eyes, she stared unseeing at the grey boots.
The brief moment of tenderness and intimacy between herself and Mark faded away without a fight. As transient as ripples on a lake, it lacked the substance to survive. Treasured memories collapsed like a house of cards, replaced by uncompromising reality.
Time had not diminished the bitterness, hatred and anger Emma harboured toward Mark’s wife.
Her reaction on seeing Mark forced Emma to examine her motives for attending Brian’s funeral.
Denied the comfort of self-delusion the truth hit her with force. Closing her eyes in shame, she acknowledged the facts as they were. Brian’s death offered a convenient excuse to see Mark again. Despite her marriage, regardless of a new life painstakingly created, she had wasted precious time hoping for a tender reunion. Her lies lay exposed like a gaping wound, raw and painfully obvious.
Straightening her drooping shoulders, she strove to convey an outward air of dignity. A master of deception, adept at concealing the truth, she could handle this, go through the motions and return home.
Through half closed lids, she stared down at the toes of her black suede boots. Flecked with grass and mud they looked shoddy and cheap. Splashes of rainwater had left wet patches down the front of her ankle length black skirt. Studying their damp shapes, she willed herself not to look in Mark’s direction. Complex questions invaded her thoughts, demanding an answer.
‘Where might the future lie, had past reactions been different?’
The answer eluded her.
Sunlight filtering through trees created patterns of colour and light on her closed lids.
Reminding herself of the supposed reason for her journey she mouthed a silent ‘sorry’ to Brian. Knowing him as she had, she believed he would understand. A tear trickled down her cheek. She sniffed and wiped it away.
Seeking comfort from within, closing the door on a hostile world, she remembered Brian in happier times.
Brief cameos of her last moments with him teased their way into her mind, like ill-fitting pieces of a jigsaw they refused to slip neatly into place.
Frustratingly, amazingly, she found herself unable to recount the exact occasion of their final meeting.
‘Was it three weeks before Christmas?”
Yes, it must have been.
“Can I leave this with you Brian, I don’t want Mark to see it, he’ll only want to open it!”
Was that their last conversation? Or was it a few days later when he invited her into the kitchen to sample a glass of malt?
“Just a small tipple Brian, I’m not a lover of whisky”
Brian shaking his head in mock horror.
“How can anyone not be a lover of whisky?”
In complete contrast, she remembered every drawn out second of her last moments with Joyce – the feel of Joyce’s arms around her trembling shoulders, failing in their attempt to offer comfort.
Joyce’s round face, pale, saggy, and old looking, as if the horrors of that day had carved their memory into her skin, drawing it down, pulling at her mouth.
Had Emma known it was to be the last time, she would have held Joyce a little closer, hung on to their friendship.
Following the breakup, it had been Emma’s decision to cut off all contact with Mark’s parents. Initially she had found it too painful to keep in touch. Later, the passage of time brought its own constraints.
Carefully chosen works spoken by the parish vicar rose above the sound of the strengthening wind. Regardless of his loud and forceful tone, Emma ignored the content of the eulogy. His emotive speech went unheeded as she dipped into happier memories of Brian and Joyce.
Emma’s first opinion of Joyce had been less than favorable.
Mark had already forewarned her to expect the unexpected.
“Don’t take any notice of my mother, she’s a touch eccentric! A family trait, at least on mother’s side, present company excluded of course”
Ignoring Emma’s appeal for more information Mark had teasingly refused to impart further detail.
“You’ll find out soon enough don’t worry; she’s harmless, well, most of the time anyway”
Emma had anticipated the meeting with a mixture of intrigue and dread. Initially she had interpreted Joyce’s lack of small talk as rudeness. Those early reservations rapidly faded; despite Joyce’s bizarre, often unconventional behaviour her unflinching honesty won Emma’s respect. Over a short period of time respect turned to affection.
Emma’s over riding memory of Joyce was her kindness, at a time when she needed it most.
It was almost impossible to think of Joyce without picturing Brian.
In marked contrast to his wife, Brian had been a quietly spoken, sensitive man, polite and courteous, combining a dry sense of humour with a razor sharp wit. Outwardly, Brian appeared shadowed by Joyce’s overly large persona. The image proved deceptive. Closer observation showed that Brian was indeed Joyce’s rock. Although Joyce was the driving force behind the business it was Brian who had calmed many a storm.
They worked well as a team, steadfastly building up an enviable property portfolio. Beginning with the renovation of their first home the couple went on to create a thriving business.
A senior partner in the family business Mark appeared to share his father’s commitment to the company. During their time together Emma saw Mark’s role expand as his father gradually relinquished authority over to his son. It was generally accepted but rarely mentioned, that Brian would retire before he was sixty. The master plan was that he and Joyce would travel, but if pressed both were sketchy on detail or time scale. Emma agreed with Mark’s assessment that neither of them would care to be away from their home for too long.
As Emma watched the coffin being slowly lowered into the ground she sadly acknowledged that both had died before reaching their retirement. In truth, she could not imagine one without the other.
The coffin landed in its resting place with a dull thud. Emma lifted her head, looking upwards into pale, sifting clouds. Trying to imagine the world beyond the earth’s atmosphere left her feeling vulnerable, insignificant, and completely alone.
As if in defiance of the prevailing bleak environment, a break in the cloud allowed a shard of bright autumn sunshine to filter down. Pale golden rays touched the bowed heads of the somberly dressed circle of mourners. Shimmering light created the effect of a temporary halo of brightness around the group. A gentle breeze shook the surrounding foliage, softly ruffling the feathers of watchful birds perched high in the safety of nearby trees. Emma guessed that they were waiting patiently for a chance to pick out food and grubs from the newly disturbed earth.
‘Life went on’ she thought, smiling sadly ‘Brian would have appreciated that’
The vicar’s final ‘Amen’ served as a signal for the gathering to disperse. The group broke up into small intimate segments. Moving forward like separate parts of the same body they inched toward the Church, a darkly clothed, creeping mass.
Emma shivered as a surge of unease uncurled like a snake in the pit of her stomach.
Unable to think rationally, mindful of her past weakness in dealing with Alicia, Emma planned to put some distance between them. Her gut feeling was to head for home as soon as possible. Nursing a strong premonition that her day was about to get worse she hoped to slip away unnoticed.
Retracing her earlier steps she made her way across the wet grass to a gravel pathway skirting the gravestones. Despite a growing sense of urgency, her pace slowed to a shuffle as she walked passed tightly spaced graves. Glancing at the headstones her heart rushed with sympathy for the unknown occupants. Many of the structures were in various stages of neglect or decay, creating a picture of desolate cold loneliness. Staring at the aging monuments and weed encrusted containers she found it hard to believe that the occupants had once been a part of the living.
‘Had they followed their hearts or died in regret for opportunities lost’?
Her eyes scanned the tombstones; faded lettering humanized the graves, linking them to the present.
Bowing her head in silent acknowledgement, she hoped they had achieved at least some of their dreams.
Standing in proud contrast amongst the crumbling head stones of long ago, a scattering of well-tended graves added their own colour and life. Ornamental statues stood proud and erect on raised surrounds. Vases of fresh flowers threw splashes of vibrant colour against the dismal canvas, their cheery brightness incongruent against the bleak backdrop. Taking a moment to ponder on the finality of death Emma turned her attention to the living.
* * * * *
Having previously combined writing short stories with a career in psychiatric and community nursing I now write full time. Beware The Seventh Wave is my debut novel. My second novel Killing Mrs Panama should be ready soon.
When I am not writing I can usually be found riding one of my horses. I live in the Peak District with my husband and a friendly assortment of creatures’ great and small.
If you have a moment please take a look at the 62 second promo/video. I tried to tie in the video with the title of my book, which ties in with the plot. I hope you like it.
The you tube link is http://youtu.be/mlR-IN0fbLo
To read a sample chapter of both books, or for any further information my website is
www.maureengregorybooks.com comments always welcome and all emails answered.
My facebook author page is
Thank you for your time, and many thanks to Jessica for giving up her time to host me on her blog.