Can you ever really know the ones you love?
Anna Blackwell lives a charmed life with her husband, in a clifftop mansion overlooking the ocean. But things haven’t always been this way.
After seeing a news report about the death of a woman on the other side of the world, Anna realises that her past has caught up with her. That her greatest fear is about to come true. That it’s her turn next.
Uncover a web of lies and deceit in this chilling, twisty suspense thriller.
3rd January 2017, Barbados
The man watched her hasten down the stone steps, slightly ahead of him, her bare, tanned legs lithe and slim – a combination of good genes and regular dance classes, more like a teenager than a woman in her late twenties. For a moment, he felt as though he were watching a memory, a video on his laptop of someone he used to know. He gave himself a shake and followed her.
‘Come on, slow-coach!’ she called, dark ringlets bouncing around her shoulders. She threw him a glance over her shoulder, a teasing grin. He smiled back and put on a spurt of speed, scooped her up in his arms and jogged down the remaining steps with her until they reached the arc of pristine sand which curved around the turquoise bay, its backdrop of trees swaying in the breeze. The sand sifted pleasantly beneath his soles, warm and soft. Later it would become a white-hot furnace, impossible to walk on with bare feet, and he’d have to dig out his flip flops from the beach bag.
Katie wriggled out of his arms and pulled him along by the hand to their favourite spot under the morning shade of a benevolent palm, far enough away from the manchineel trees with their poison fruit and deadly sap.
A cursory glance left and right, showed two other couples already on the beach, stretched out on bright towels, and one older woman on her own, nose buried in a paperback. It was a week day, so no sign of the weekend yachties and speedboat owners who would moor up in the bay often staying until sundown. No. Today, the view was of empty ocean and sky. Perfect.
Dropping her towel and bag on the sand, Katie twirled her hair up into a makeshift bun, fixing it in place with a hairband from her wrist. ‘You coming in?’
‘Later. I think I’m going to relax for a while.’
‘Lightweight,’ she teased. ‘The woman in the villa next to ours said she saw whales in the bay yesterday. I’m going to swim out and see if I can spot them while it’s still early enough.’
‘Don’t go too far,’ he said, knowing she’d most likely ignore him.
He’d never been on holidays like this before he’d met Katie. Yachts, mansions and ski slopes had not been for the likes of him. Katie, however, had been born to it. While he’d been skinning his knees learning to ride a second-hand bike at the local skateboard park, she and her parents had been gliding across virgin snow, flying to far-flung continents on safari, or watching prima ballerinas twirl on famous stages. She had led a charmed life.
Surely, the parents of a girl like this should have been horrified when she brought home a nobody like him – a dirt-poor, classless loser with no career to speak of. But he had been proven wrong. The Spencers were nice people. Warm and welcoming. Non-judgemental. Nothing like his own family. To give himself credit, he did have a decent sense of humour and a beautiful face. He had always been admired. Charm was his gift.
And so, it had been an easy thing to become absorbed into this family. He and Katie. The golden couple. Shining wherever they went. He had shrugged on her privilege with ease, taking it for his own. Long-haul flights to distant lands, skiing, safari-ing, visiting the ballet, the opera. Moving in dizzyingly high circles without once losing his balance. They were a pair. And she loved him without reserve.
Peeling off his t-shirt, he began applying sun lotion to his torso, watching as Katie walked across the beach in her skimpy bikini towards the gently lapping ocean, its water the perfect temperature. Not like the English Channel back home which would steal your breath, needle your skin and finally give your stomach an icy punch. No, Barbados seas were warm yet refreshing. Already up to her waist, Katie struck off away from the shore, her arms powering forward. He watched her for a moment and then lay back, gazing at the palm fronds and blue sky above, trying to let his mind go blank for a while.
It didn’t do to overthink things.
He lay there for some time before he heard the noise. Faint, at first, like a lazy bumble bee or a neighbour’s lawnmower. Then, growing louder. An engine, determined, fast, the random crashes of its hull against the ocean’s surface. He imagined himself sitting up and looking at the sea, searching out the source of the noise, but his body was locked in place, too tense to move. He couldn’t stop staring at the impossibly blue sky. Could barely breathe.
A scream jolted him from his brief stasis and he jerked upright before springing to his feet. As his senses sharpened, he saw the other sunbathers running towards the ocean, their hands raised against the glare of the sun, pointing, shouting. Beyond them, a white speedboat bounded out to sea, its wake contaminating the glassy blue ocean. His eyes scanned the water for Katie. No sign. Maybe she was hidden by the chop from the boat.
He sprinted down to the water’s edge, shielding his eyes from the sun, trying to locate her.
‘Did it hit her?’ a woman with a German accent cried out to him. ‘Did you see?’
‘What?’ he replied, panting.
‘The boat out there. I think it might have hit your friend.’
‘Are you sure?’ he questioned, his voice slow and stupid, his mind frozen. ‘The boat? It hit my wife?’ He dove into the water, powering through the ocean to reach Katie.
He felt the company of another swimmer beside him – a concerned sunbather wanting to help. The boat was already a pale dot in the distance, its motor a receding hum. He didn’t know where to look for her. Stupid. He should have been looking out for her instead of staring at the sky. But the man ahead of him knew where he was going, his long, powerful strokes propelling him towards a fixed point. He would follow that man.
A crimson stain like a beacon spread out before him, already losing its bright hue, turning pink and dissolving into wisps. Soon it would be absorbed into the ocean. But still no sign of Katie. This is where it must have happened. Where the speedboat had collided with his wife. He took a long gulp of air and dove down. He couldn’t let the other man reach her first. The crystal water showed him what he needed to see.
Her body was whole, but had been mangled, torn up, beyond repair. One side of her head was missing, ribbons of red following her descent. He looked away briefly, noticing the blurry shape of the man from the beach next to him. Then, he turned back, swam towards his wife, took hold of her slippery body and kicked up to the surface, gasping for air.
The man rose up with him, clapping him on the shoulder. ‘Jesus,’ the man gasped. ‘Let’s get her to shore. That fucking speedboat, man.’ A South African accent. ‘Shall I help you . . . with . . . her?’
‘No. I’ve got her.’ He knew how to tow an inert body. Remembered it from his lifesaving classes. The South African swam alongside him as he carried his dead wife, the smell of sun and salt and blood in his nostrils, a strong desire to vomit, a blank void in his brain, a trail of blood in their wake.
Back on the beach, one of the women was shaking her head and crying, the other two had mobile phones clamped to their ears, no doubt calling the emergency services. The other man on the shore took Katie’s legs and they carried her between them, up the beach away from the shoreline towards his and Katie’s favourite palm tree. They laid her on her towel, where she’d been standing less than an hour earlier. A numbness overtook his body and he realised he was shaking.
Someone placed a warm towel over his shoulders, but the shivering only increased.
‘He’s in shock.’ A woman’s voice, loud and authoritative.
‘It was his wife,’ the South African said.
‘Do you think they’ll catch them? The people in the speedboat?’
‘I gave the police a description of the boat over the phone. Didn’t see who was driving it, though. Surely they can track it on radar?’
‘No chance. They’ll be long gone.’ An English voice.
‘I can’t believe it. Poor woman.’
The crush of words wove through his consciousness, but he didn’t respond. He closed his eyes and clutched at the towel around his shoulders, desperately trying to stop the shivering and act more coherently. React. Respond. Cry. An arm slid around his shoulder – the South African. ‘The police will be here soon, mate. Don’t worry. They’ll catch them. Those bastards will get what’s coming to them. Don’t you worry about that.’
The Millionaire's Wife will be available on April 27th
on Kindle, in paperback and slightly later as an audiobook.