I thought I’d share the 2nd chapter to give you a taste of this one as the 1st chapter is very short… you’ll see what I mean should you buy the book 😉

 

2: Mistress of All She Surveyed

 

To lose one husband may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looked like carelessness. This was what occupied Sharon Beesley as she laid out the morning papers. The reminders on every front cover, rubbing it in her face. One week on.

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables and general village do-gooder, centre of attention, once again.

The news was all round the village, of course, the only thing most people could talk about. Not that she’d partake in tittle-tattle, naturally. But it was unsurprising others did, she supposed, given how little happened here most of the time and how small-minded the locals were. Sharon caught her reflection in the shop window, and frowned at her dark roots. She’d have to get the bottle out later, touch those up. She’d been that busy recently, what with the constant flow of reporters and TV crews through the shop, that she’d barely been able to give herself any consideration.

She wouldn’t forgive Laura for the cream cake incident either. News of that had spread remarkably quickly, and, much to her discomfort, it appeared the villagers found it entertaining, rather than the assault it clearly was. She’d even caught Eric, her husband, smirking when he first heard of it and had had to remind him of where his loyalties lay.

Sharon glanced out of the shop window to see Manda Babcock waddling into the light cast by the shop. Manda had been a staunch ally, and one who had been sympathetic when Laura had carried out the assault, so Sharon overlooked the fact she was shaped much like a cottage loaf, although with an extra round lump on the top for her head.

‘Morning, Sharon. I know you’re not properly open yet but I saw you behind the counter and I’m in desperate need of a pint of milk. Hope you don’t mind.’ Manda breathed heavily despite only living over the road. ‘Ooh, I see she’s all over the papers again. You’d think they’d have moved on by now, wouldn’t you? Shows it’s a slow news week.’

‘You would, Manda. Although,’ and she dropped her voice a notch, ‘… between you and me, I believe there’s a reason they’re not letting the story drop.’

‘Really? Do tell.’ Manda, pint in hand, sidled up to the till, all ears, and Sharon loved nothing more than a captive audience.

‘I have been told on good authority, and, Manda, you mustn’t breathe a word of this…’ Sharon looked at her most seriously as Manda crossed her heart, for all the good that would do in keeping her mouth shut. ‘Well,’ and Sharon leaned closer, ‘there’s some talk that Laura wasn’t as in the dark about the murders as she’s made out.’

‘No! Surely not.’ The look of disbelief on Manda’s face was more than Sharon could have hoped for.

‘That’s what I’ve been told.’ And she held her hand up as if Manda could take or leave the information. ‘There’s even talk,’ Sharon made a point of looking round the shop, as though checking to make sure they were alone, ‘that she might have been involved.’ She finished in a whisper barely louder than mouthing the words to impress upon Manda the extreme confidentiality of this information. ‘But look, that’s strictly between us, all right?’

‘Absolutely! I won’t say a word.’

‘I know I can count on you. Now, the till’s not set up yet so have you got the right money?’ She reached out a hand. Manda was a frequent visitor because she was as disorganised as they come when it came to groceries, probably because she lived so close and felt she had on-tap access.

‘Oh, yes.’ Manda, unexpectedly agitated by such disclosures being fed to her at this time in the morning, fiddled in her purse, her pudgy fingers struggling to retrieve the coins needed. This rather tried Sharon’s patience but she managed to put on a smile for her most loyal customer. At least until she was on her way out of the door.

Sharon didn’t feel the least bit guilty about stirring up any further trouble for Laura as any rumours spread about her didn’t appear to matter, she always came out on top. That’s what irritated Sharon the most. Laura and her blessed horses held some special place in the village, and could do no wrong, despite the mess they made up Main Street. That was another thing that annoyed her. Although Eric was only too happy to scuttle out to pick up what they’d left behind for his precious roses. It wasn’t only Laura. All the horsey toffs irked her, actually. Each one rich enough to pay to have Laura keep their horses for them. It must be nice to be able to afford that sort of hobby.

It hadn’t escaped her notice either how the village had rallied around Laura. Sharon had heard them talking in the shop, making plans as to who would deliver food, who had given her a call to check to see she had all she needed.

The problem, as Sharon saw it, was Laura’s privilege. The Stables and everything that went with it had been left to her when her mother died, and she took it for granted. She’d not had to work for her business, not like some people. Sharon, for example. She’d had to graft for her place in the village. Had to sell off Eric’s granny’s grotty bungalow so she could buy this shop. Laura had no idea how difficult it was for some people.

Sharon worked harder too, getting up before dawn to sort the papers and having to keep the shop open into the evening to make the most of what could be a precarious living. No, the likes of Laura, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, had no idea how the other half lived.

Both had been born and brought up in Melton too. Went to the same school, the comprehensive in town. Different years, of course. Sharon sniffed. Turning forty had certainly made her revaluate her life. For some while now her thoughts had dwelt on her place in society and found it sadly lacking. Because she knew exactly why people treated her differently to Saint Laura. It was because she’d come off the council estate. Pure and simple. Despite taking action to improve her status in life, she found that people didn’t forget. Not in places like this.

Maybe she should have moved away to rid herself of the background that had its claws so deeply embedded in her, but the shop opportunity had come up here so why should she? Still, the truth remained that whatever measures she’d taken to drag herself up and out of the life she’d been born into, the locals still saw her as Shaz from the family of ne’er-do-wells that barely held down a job between them. Criminals, the lot.

She didn’t miss the uncertainty of that life. Of the wheel-less cars that lived for months on the front garden while her brothers “did them up”. Of the change of furniture because something had “fallen off the back of a lorry” which only meant that the item which it replaced had to live out on the pavement for an eternity, neighbourhood complaints eventually forcing the council to remove it. Of coming home to find your (shared) bedroom stacked to the ceiling with dodgy DVD players, or similar.

No, she’d come a long way. Even had an en suite now. The rest of her family wouldn’t have a clue what one was.

Sharon refused to have any of them in the shop, knowing their pilfering hands wouldn’t be able to resist shoving stock into pockets and prams before arriving at the till to pay for one tenth of what they walked out with.

Rather grudgingly she supposed that at least she hadn’t had all the drama that dogged Laura’s life. First, the car accident that killed her first husband, Matt. Though Sharon had never been entirely convinced of Laura’s innocence on that one. She’d had a glass of wine before she got behind that steering wheel after all, and while Sharon wasn’t one to cast aspersions, that was a fact. One it was hard to get away from. Sharon knew all the details of the case because she’d sat through the court proceedings, obviously there as any pillar of the community should be, to support Laura. Still, it had to be said she’d been surprised when Laura had got off and had felt a certain sense of anti-climax if she was being honest.

Then Laura had lost her mother in dramatic fashion, bursting a blood vessel while on horseback. What a way to go. But that was the thing with these dreadful horsey women, they never knew when to stop.

And now this. Her second husband, Sebastian, charged with four murders and one attempted murder.

Shocking.

It appeared as though Laura had no control whatsoever over what went on in her home. Something Sharon found unbelievable.

It wouldn’t have happened under her roof, that’s all she knew. Not with her Eric. As solid as they came, he was. And reliable. He wouldn’t be sneaking off to have sex with the young daughter of a friend. Disgusting, that’s what that was. What was it about men and their urges? Animals, the lot of them. Sharon shook her head.

No, when it came to sex, she and Eric had worked it out years ago. When Daisy, their only daughter, had been born, Sharon had decided that was enough interruption to her trying to make something of her life and simply said to Eric that since no further procreation was required (she’d looked that word up, remembered being proud of being able to use it), since no further procreation was required, there was no need to carry on with the messy business of sex.

She’d never been much of a fan of it anyway, never driven by need or desire, never over-come with lust, so after using it to get what she wanted, a husband, a child, she felt no need to continue the practice.

She didn’t miss it.

Not one little bit.

Plus, it was sex with Eric after all and any sexual attraction she’d ever had for him had been manufactured by fantasies of how he could improve her life. That and her over-indulgence in Babycham and cheap cider.

Admittedly, Eric had been somewhat taken aback. He’d muttered something about needs, even going so far as to bring conjugal rights into the conversation. But as she’d said to him, he was a gentleman and as such presumably wouldn’t want to force himself upon her. Eventually, by way of a compromise, she had agreed to sex on his birthday, Valentine’s Day, and their anniversary. Although now she came to think about it, two of the three had passed in the last few months without so much as a tickle in the bedroom department. She smiled; maybe the message had finally hit home.

It wasn’t anywhere near light yet but she yelled through to the kitchen in the house, told Eric she needed him out front. She went to the door, turned the sign over to “Open”.

Eric shuffled into the shop, and placed his mug of tea on the counter.

‘Oh, I don’t suppose you thought to bring one out for me?’

‘Sorry, I was still half-asleep.’ He yawned widely to prove his point.

‘No, well, that’s you all over isn’t it? Only ever time to think of yourself.’

‘I’ll pop back out to make you one.’ But as he appeared to be only too pleased to get an opportunity to delay his start in the shop, Sharon got in first.

‘Don’t bother.’ She pushed past him. ‘I might as well do it myself. Get the till set up while I’m gone.’ She hustled out the back, keen to get some of her jobs done. Being so organised, she had certain tasks that had to be done on set days and one of today’s, being the first of the month, was to water her plants, although she was only responsible for those in the house as Eric took care of the garden. Most of her houseplants had to be kept damp all month, so after she filled her small indoor watering can, it didn’t take her long to do the rounds and top them up.

There was one however, her senecio rowleyanus, that, coming from Africa, only required monthly watering, hence the reminder in her diary. Senecio rowleyanus. She used the Latin whenever possible, despite its unfortunate ending. Its common name was a String of Pearls. It was a succulent and hung from a hook in the ceiling in the corner of the dining room, an indoor hanging basket. Its fleshy leaves were strung like pearls along the cascading tendrils. Sharon had placed it there purely to provide a talking point when people came round. To date few had actually had an opportunity to discuss the unusual plant due to her working hours and the fact they, as a couple, had a disappointingly small number of friends. The reason for that being that Eric had few topics of conversation beyond accountancy, which wasn’t everyone’s idea of a scintillating evening. Still, as and when the need arose, Sharon had made sure there was something in the room worth discussing, because as she herself hadn’t travelled further than Lowestoft, her special senecio rowleyanus was, in her eyes, exotic.

Sharon knew Eric would have done nothing other than perch on the stool behind the counter once she left him alone. He always moaned on a Saturday morning that he was weary, and longed for a couple more hours in bed. What he didn’t realise was that it was a long week for them both, and Sharon didn’t think he could be that tired anyway because all he did was shuffle paper and stare at a computer screen, whereas she was on her feet all day. He’d once made the argument that she had chosen to take on the shop, not him. He was happy with his Monday to Friday nine-to-five. But she’d set him straight on that immediately saying that it might have Sharon’s Stores above the door but in a marriage, you shared things and that included the hard work.

She bustled back past him half an hour later, not rising to his grumble about how long it took to make a cup of tea.

‘Have you done what I asked?’

‘Yes, dear. The till’s all ready to go. No sign of any customers though, they’re probably having a lie in. Lucky buggers.’ He downed the rest of his tea.

‘No need for language, Eric.’

‘I don’t see why we don’t get Daisy to do this early shift. I could do with stopping in bed a bit longer.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. She was at the pub last night. You can hardly expect her to be up at the crack of dawn this morning.’ Sharon picked through the bunches of flowers to sort what couldn’t be put out.

‘She shouldn’t even be at the pub, she’s only sixteen.’

‘I’m well aware of how old my daughter is. And you know there’s no other social life in this place. How do you expect her to meet up with friends if they don’t go there?’

‘I’m just saying. She’s too young. Who knows who she’s mixing with? Anyway, she could still help us out by taking on this shift. Give her a bit of responsibility. A bit of hard work wouldn’t hurt her.’

‘She’s still at school, or doesn’t that count anymore? She has quite enough on already; anyway I told her I didn’t need her until later.’

‘Well, you shouldn’t have done. She has enough energy for her social life on top of school, so I’m sure she could manage a job with an early start. Plenty do.’

The bell jangled as the door opened and in walked Harry O’Connor. Eric smiled for the first time that day. Sharon frowned; she knew what he was thinking, here was someone who worked hard all right. Someone from whom Daisy could learn a thing or two.

‘Morning, Eric, you all right?’

‘Mustn’t grumble, no one’d notice if I did.’ Harry smiled at the response he got every Saturday morning.

‘Hello, Harry,’ said Sharon, managing to make her greeting curt as she appeared from round the end of the aisle, ‘How’s Laura? Still shaken, I bet.’ She tilted her head to one side in the way one did when appearing sympathetic. However falsely.

‘She’s fine, I’ll tell her you were asking after her, shall I? Papers ready?’ Harry peered over at the counter as though keen to get on. Sharon wasn’t surprised. He was heavily entrenched in the Laura camp and it was only because of a lack of suitable alternatives, on both sides, that he did any work for Sharon at all. Especially now, as he’d witnessed the cake incident.

‘Here you go.’ Eric heaved the bag up off the floor for him. Harry took it with one hand, swung it across his back and turned to leave.

‘Oh, before you go,’ Sharon called, as she reached across the counter, and picked a slip of paper off a clip attached to the till. ‘Here’re the extras.’ Harry stretched out an arm to take it from her then went on his way. He glanced at the list before mounting his bike and setting off.

The paper round was one of the many small jobs Harry did to make ends meet as an artist. Sharon knew that at twenty-eight he was too old for a paper round and should some willing kid in the village be eager to take it on then he’d told her he’d relinquish it in an instant, but at the moment no one of that nature had come forward and she also knew he was glad of the extra. Plus, he told her it helped keep him fit. So, for the time being it suited them both.

Sharon was proud of Sharon’s Stores. In fact, it was her pride and joy. She delighted in the fact she had made it a success where others had failed. She had worked hard over the years, sinking all her time, energy, and dare she say it, love, into it that she had and she was never happier than when she was behind the till or on the shop floor revelling in her baby, her passion, her success.

Out of the new things she’d experimented with to make her business the triumph it was, one of the most popular, was connected to the paper round. Harry delivered the papers, and the recipients, plus a few on the extras list, left out their order for him to take back to the shop. Sharon would fill those and later in the day Harry would return and set off once more to deliver them. It was a scheme that had proved to be a huge hit in a village which had a fair number of the elderly among the population.

Sharon turned her attention back to Eric. She’d given him her list of things to do which she knew would keep him busy most of the weekend. Many of the jobs she could have kept on top of during the week, but why should she when he could do them when he was here? Plus, it kept him involved and it was unfair for her to be the only one working.

He always started off with the worst job first, she’d noticed that – lugging the coal and sacks of wood from round the back to top up the supplies stored in huge wooden crates under the windows out front. With his desk-ready body, as Sharon liked to call it, he was hardly built for the job. She peered through the window, could see it was drizzling and he was struggling, even using the hand barrow.

Once done he would set about clearing up the stockroom, a task he clearly preferred as he always took long enough doing it. Every week Sharon ended up having to go in there to fish him back out onto the shop floor.

Daisy arrived at ten, well before Sharon had said she needed to be there, which surprised her. She was fully made up and looking as fresh as, well, a daisy. Sharon knew that if she could get away with it, Daisy would stay behind the counter. She said she preferred it but so did Sharon and as Sharon was the boss, well, there was only ever going to be one winner there. Two of them on the till was rarely needed and as Sharon told her, she could always call her to come and help if it got busy.

Recently Eric had encouraged Daisy to help him restock the shelves, a task she took on without any fuss. Sharon served the customers that came in, and, in between, she kept her eye on Eric and Daisy from her perch. Because they spent a good part of every Saturday restocking the shelves it meant they were on the shop floor, right where Sharon could see them. She found that ever so useful. Every little query a customer had, every little need, and they were there, ready and waiting. It certainly saved her legs.

She noticed how they chatted away as they worked together and it crossed her mind that if they talked less, they’d get more done, but she said nothing. You could only push family so far.

Daisy also completed her customary Saturday job, which was to fill the orders that Harry had brought back ready for his return trip in the afternoon. During this time Sharon avoided Eric’s request that she come to help him during any lull in customers and always managed to look busy rechecking the contents of the orders and tidying the already tidy counter.

As Sharon’s family worked away together, she thought back to when Eric had moaned he’d had other ideas of what to spend his inheritance on, only she didn’t remember him putting them forward when she was pursuing the business. One of her points at the time had been that with having the house and shop all as one unit, she would be more available to him and Daisy than if she’d had to go out to work – it would therefore increase the amount of family time they got to spend together, something he was in favour of. The proof that had been a success was plain to see because weren’t they all here together now?

Lunch meant warm sausage rolls all round. Eric and Daisy always took theirs off to the stockroom, said they didn’t like eating in the shop, where anyone could see them. Often, they’d come out laughing which Sharon didn’t care for and said it looked unprofessional so she liked to split them up on separate tasks for the afternoon.

On this day that meant that while Sharon stayed at her post behind the counter and Eric continued renewing the stock on the shelves, Daisy was at the end of the counter finishing off the orders when the bell jangled and Trent walked in. He smiled over at Sharon and Daisy then turned to walk up the first aisle. Sharon was relieved she’d cleared the pastry flakes from around her mouth. She looked down, and dusted more off her tabard, where her chest had acted like a shelf.

‘Isn’t he utterly gorgeous?’ she muttered under her breath, with only Daisy in earshot, then stared after him much as a dog would a mutton chop. Fancying Trent was one of the few things Sharon found she had in common with her daughter and she only recognised that because she noticed Daisy blush one day when he spoke to her. Now they enjoyed watching him whenever he crossed their path. Today he wore jeans and a checked shirt, one that fitted perfectly across those lovely broad shoulders of his. Sharon was certain he’d have no trouble shifting her logs and coal, had even imagined him doing so at times when the shop was quiet. He was from the Melton Estate, at the heart of which was Melton Manor, home to Lord and Lady Cavendish. The estate was largely agricultural and Sharon was certain someone had told her Trent was the estate manager, but surrounded by a stone wall the estate had an air of mystery about it, as did he. Sharon wasn’t sure if that was what made him so attractive but there was a certain brooding darkness about him and she’d bet he could be ever so stern. That thought alone was enough to make her tingle in places that rarely felt anything these days. Because of this reaction Sharon had considered that he might possibly be the one man she would be willing to reverse her ban on sex for. She pondered the fact she usually hated long hair on men but strangely the dark mess that reached to slightly below collar length looked good on him, although she couldn’t have explained why.

As Trent passed Eric, with bread in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, they exchanged polite greetings as Sharon looked on. While much about the estate remained a mystery, she knew he was married to Emma who looked after the horses for Lord and Lady Cavendish and that they had a daughter, Zaffy. What sort of name was that anyway? It must have been Emma’s doing, some sort of flight of fancy Sharon imagined he’d pandered to.

‘Close your mouth,’ Daisy said out of the corner of hers as Trent approached to pay. Sharon shone the biggest smile possible at him then, leading hips first, shunting her daughter to one side to get to the till.

‘Afternoon, Sharon, Daisy, how are you both?’ His voice, rich like caramel, caused a strange trickling sensation in Sharon; she felt heat rise up her face.

‘I’m fine, thanks,’ replied Sharon, as she scanned his items. ‘Are you and the family all well?’

‘We’re fine too, thank you.’ He had an old-fashioned formality she found charming and felt sure in olden times he’d have fitted right in and had the ladies swooning.

He wished them all a pleasant day and the pair of them followed his every step as he left the shop and walked out into the rain, then turned to each other, eyes wide. Sharon mouthed the word, “Wow”.

She had to fan herself for a few moments, having come over unexpectedly warm, despite it being February and her being too tight to have any heating on in the shop.

‘I don’t know what it is you see in him,’ Eric called out from where he was stacking tinned pilchards. ‘He’s a bit too obvious.’

‘Ooh, he could be as obvious as he liked with me,’ said Sharon.

‘I wouldn’t mind living on that estate either,’ said Daisy.

‘Shame about the wife.’ Sharon sighed.

‘Leaving aside the small matter that he’s married, as are you, dear, he’s also far too old for you, Daisy. Find someone your own age,’ said Eric on his way back to the stockroom. Sharon noticed he was wearing his baggy old beige cardigan. His favourite, but not hers, and she made a mental note to throw it out the next time it appeared in the laundry basket.

‘Did you know Emma still goes under her maiden name, Emma Grayson?’ Sharon said to Daisy. Sharon didn’t like that; you didn’t know where you were with women that did that sort of thing. Was it a modern fad? Was it feminism gone mad? She couldn’t say.

‘If I married him,’ Daisy replied, ‘I’d happily tattoo Mrs Trent across the back of my neck, I’d be that proud.’ This was definitely the other extreme and Sharon couldn’t help wondering where her daughter got her ideas from sometimes. Although, as always, she blamed social media.

Shape of Revenge is now available to buy.

Book Description

His secret’s revealed… Her revenge is silent…

 

A woman wronged. Her husband a cheat. Can she get her revenge without him realising he’s being punished?

 

Sharon Beesley, owner of Sharon’s Stores, discovers by chance the secret life her husband Eric is living, and once she begins to take her revenge, she finds she’s unable to stop.

 

Meanwhile, their schoolgirl daughter Daisy follows the tempting trail of breadcrumbs left by a much older man. But when they meet, all is not what it seems. And no one knows where she is.

 

With Daisy in trouble and her parents distracted by their own problems, everyone is surprised when help comes from an unlikely place. As does retribution…

 

Shape of Revenge is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and unexpected twists then you’ll love this exciting novel.

 

If this looks like something you might like to read, you can find it at your favourite bookshop HERE. Or click on the book cover.

 

Thank you.

 

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