Authors: Faith Mortimer
BEHIND A TWISTED SMILE
A Mystery Suspense Thriller in the “Dark Minds” series
from the Best Selling Author of
“On Devil’s Brae”
“The Assassins’ Village”
& “The Seeds of Time”
About the author:
Faith Mortimer: born in Manchester, England and educated in Singapore, Malaya and Hampshire, England. Qualified as a Registered nurse and later changed careers to oversee a number of travel and sport related companies.
Faith is married with a family. Once the children attended University, she decided to join them in reading for a Science degree. Faith obtained an Honours Science degree in 2005 and believes the dedication and stamina needed to sit for a degree while in full-time employment, gave her the confidence to finish writing her first novel.
She has now written and published 14 novels and a volume of short stories. All are available as eBooks and paperbacks from your favourite online book store.
For more information about Faith and her writing please follow on Facebook.
Where Faith writes a regular blog about all manner of things!
A Big Thank You to my editor Catherine and to my husband Chris for their invaluable assistance and patient support
BEHIND A TWISTED SMILE
Copyright © Faith Mortimer 2014
The right of Faith Mortimer to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All Rights Reserved
No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication
may be made without written permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents originate from the writer’s imagination.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
by Topsails Charter, Southampton
BEHIND A TWISTED SMILE
I knew it was silly, but the urge was strong as I crossed the road and ran the half mile of pavement to the park and running track. The slabs were equally spaced apart, and by trial and error, I proved time and again that it was possible to complete the distance without treading on any of the cracks. If people only knew what was going through my mind at the time, they would have shaken their heads and muttered OCD. But they would have been completely wrong. Yes, I was finicky when it came to tidiness and perfection in many things, but this was simply amusement, a reminder of my childhood when my sisters and I would plague the neighbourhood with our often rowdy and sometimes maddening games.
I finished work early that afternoon, and like a child eagerly anticipating a trip to somewhere thrilling, I went straight home, threw my working clothes into the laundry basket and donned my running gear. I had a half-marathon race coming up a month later, and week by week, I had been shaving the minutes off towards my goal. So far, I had taken part in various national fun runs and other half-marathons around the country and I was improving. My best was just under one and a half hours, but I knew I could get that down to nearer eighty minutes.
I usually ran on grass when training, as I was aware that pounding along miles of concrete and tarmac would eventually lead to stress fractures, and in my job, I would have been stupid to allow that to happen. A bit of a conundrum really: there I was, a holistic body therapist and massage expert, who loved running despite knowing I could suffer from the long-term ill effects one day.
But as I said, running was something I had to do, I wasn’t suffering from OCD—that description suited
much better. Perhaps it was time he went. Life was too short to waste on unexceptional involvements.
I ran and ran, sped up, slowed, sprinted and eventually jogged home, sweaty, but feeling confident and euphoric. My body was full of endorphins. Who needed drink or drugs to feel so positive and energised?
After a prolonged spell of drab clouds and drizzle, that afternoon was beautiful. An autumnal wind skittered among the trees, loosening leaves of copper and gold. My week had been busy, my appointment book completely full, and the thought of indulging in an evening alone, with a deep luxurious bath, a glass or two of Chablis and supper in my dressing-gown while watching a good film seemed like sheer heaven.
When I arrived at the door of my ground-floor flat, I cast a cursory look round. There didn’t appear to be anyone lurking in the vicinity, so I fished around inside the utility cupboard, and retrieved my key hidden beneath a flat stone. Inside, I removed my trainers, clicked the door shut behind me and walked barefoot along the long hallway to my kitchen. A rivulet of sweat ran down between my breasts, and as I was dying for a drink of water, I would have carried right on past the sitting room if it hadn’t been for a soft chuckle that caught my ears. I checked and stared at the closed door. Had I heard something? Was I mistaken?
I immediately thought
and looked round for something hard and heavy. I decided Aunt Edith’s ugly vase of dried flowers sitting on the hall table would do the trick. With my heart pounding, I turned the handle, pushed the door open a few inches, and there he was. As large as life, head down, utterly engrossed in my laptop. I noticed a glass of my Chablis close at hand, lying next to the mouse. Bloody cheek!
Martyn must have sensed my presence, as he glanced up and swiftly made an attempt to close the lid.
“Moya.” In one fluid movement he stood up. “Hi, darling. You’re home early.” He stepped towards me before I had time to answer and, with his hands on my shoulders, kissed me full on the lips.
He leant back and studied my face. “Mmm, salty. Very sexy. I like it. Fancy a glass of wine? I’m afraid I started without you…we’ll probably need to crack another bottle open later on.”
I stared at him. Martyn was undeniably handsome: tall and slim, and his dark hair flopped into those green eyes in a most beguiling manner. Along with his prominent cheekbones, he could have passed for an Italian or another Latinate. But I hardly knew him…let alone give him the run of
flat. And what business was it of his what time I arrived home? Hang on…how the hell did he get in?
I shook his arms from my shoulders and stepped back. “What are you doing here?”
He smiled a lazy smile. “Thought I’d come round early and surprise you. I let myself in—I know where you keep your key. You ought to be a bit more careful, you know. You keep your key where anyone could find it. It’s a good job it was only me. I’m right, aren’t I?” He waggled a finger in front of my face.
My eyes slid away from his and I saw he hadn’t had time to switch off my laptop—the white light still glowed. I moved towards it. Before I asked, I knew what he had been reading, and I felt my blood boil. I was in the middle of writing a novel. But it wasn’t just any old novel; the story was based loosely on me and my three sisters. I started it as a cathartic exercise but soon became engrossed with the joy of writing, and although I hadn’t told a soul, I hoped to publish it one day.
“Hey! That’s private.” I spun round to confront him. “You’ve been reading something confidential. How dare you!”
He had the nerve to give a slight shrug and a lop-sided smile. “I didn’t know. I needed to look something up on the ‘net and found you’d left it icon-ed. I couldn’t resist.”
I glared and he held up his hands. “Okay, okay, I get the message. I apologise, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done it. But it’s only me. We shouldn’t have any secrets from each other. The reading was…interesting. It’s about you, isn’t it? Am I right?” He laid a hand gently on my cheek and rubbed a finger suggestively along my lower lip.
“You shouldn’t have touched my laptop.” I pulled away and slammed the lid down.
“But honeybun, I want to know everything about you. This has certainly whetted my appetite. I never realised—” He saw my glower and tried another winning smile.
“I promise I won’t do it again. Not without asking, anyway. All right?”
I couldn’t look at him. My thoughts were recorded on my laptop—my personal thoughts. I squirmed inside. Some things were better left unspoken, and although I had documented my secrets, if I went ahead with the novel, I would have had to change things around so that no one got hurt.
“Anyway, it’s good. You should try your hand at writing your notes down properly into a full-blown novel. I’ve often thought I should write one. I’m sure I have a book in me.”
I stepped away from the desk and glanced at him, only half listening to what he was saying. His voice was an irritating sound in my ear, like a mosquito persistently droning in the dark. I suddenly realised Martyn irritated me quite a bit and we had only been going out together for a matter of weeks. I made up my mind in a flash. No one had the right to invade my space, trespass on my property or read my stuff
be aggravating. He was pretty boring too, come to think of it.
“I’m sorry, Martyn, but I’d like you to leave.”
“But honeybun, I’ve only just arrived. I thought we’d enjoy a nice evening together. Look, if it’s about your laptop, then I really am sorry. What more can I say or do?”
“No, it’s not just that.” I paused and bit back a sigh. “It’s not working…us, I mean.”
I made sure my look didn’t waver as I stared at him, and for a second his cajoling expression didn’t change. Then he lifted his hand as if to lay it on my shoulder and I inched away.
“Moya,” he said in a wheedling tone.
“I mean it, Martyn. I don’t think we should carry on.”
“You don’t really want that.”
I jerked my head up. “Yes…I do.”
“Moya, you’re tired. Look, you’ve just got in from a tiring training run. I said the other day you’re overdoing things what with your job as well. What does it matter how long you take to run a bloody half-marathon?”
“It matters to me. I don’t want to go over this again or get involved in an argument, and I’m not joking. Please just go before one of us says something we’ll regret.”
“Moya.” His voice changed into that of a more charming tone. “If you were older, I’d say you were suffering from a touch of the dreaded menopause. No, that’s too unkind. Be honest—you’re just tired and a bit miffed. We’ve got something good going on between us. It’s crazy to throw it away…we’ve been so happy together.”
I stared and then, realising my mouth had dropped open, hurriedly closed it. “What?”
“Think of those fantastic days…and nights we’ve had.”
“About two weeks, two and a half at most, and we’ve only slept together a couple of times.”
“Who’s counting? Each time was wonderful.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I suddenly did feel tired and deflated over the whole ridiculous conversation. Martyn seemed to be living a dream. The whole relationship was blown out of proportion. It was a casual affair. We met through a work contact, and he ended up asking me out. It didn’t matter that much to me; he was simply someone I dated a few times, and then one night, after one too many drinks, we ended up sleeping together. Thinking about it didn’t make me feel particularly good.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I wanted to see if you were interested in a weekend away. Some friends have a place in Cornwall and they have a spare room. We can confirm it tonight before anyone else snaps it up.”
I blinked and shook my head. He really was trying hard. “I’ve just told you I don’t want to see you again, so I’m hardly likely to agree to a weekend away.”
“I don’t believe you’re thinking clearly over this. A weekend will give us more time together.”
I laughed. “No! I’ve said no, and I’m perfectly lucid, thank you.”
Martyn ran his tongue over his lower lip as he considered my words. His voice sounded taut when he replied. “I don’t see what’s funny.”
I sobered and felt myself go very still. His face appeared drawn, his lips pulled down in a grimace. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. This time it was I who apologised.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean it. I’m not laughing at you.”