Authors: Rebecca Heap,Victoria
BEHIND THE FAÇADE
A novel by
and Victoria Heap
design © Paul
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products
of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of
the authors, nor be otherwise circulated in any other binding or cover other
than that in which it is published.
Rebecca and Victoria
to twins everywhere.
being little, we have shared our tears and laughter, our highs and lows, our struggles
and successes. We have also shared our hopes and dreams and this novel is the
realisation of our biggest dream of all.
a special thanks to our husbands for their unfailing patience and support.
don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there's love and
inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.”
Jane Fitzgerald (1917-1996);
In her room Brenna Monaghan submitted
to the familiar routine of being buffed and beautified but her mind was
whirling. As Mel, her
helped her into a
slinky jade dress and a pair of silver heels Brenna asked her, “Do you know
anything about this man I’m going to meet?”
Mel shook her head as she fixed the
tiny buckles on her shoes. “No, but I do know you’re one lucky girl!”
“Don’t you think it’s strange that he
came forward when he did?”
“I wouldn’t be one to question good
fortune, love. It can just as quickly ‘poof’!” Widening her arms she then
clapped her hands together by way of demonstration.
She finished zipping her up and turned
her to face the full-length mirror. “You look fabulous! You’ll knock him dead!”
Brenna looked at herself in the glass
and flipping her hair couldn’t disagree. She loved the rich green against the
vibrant red of her hair. She began to feel better. Maybe this man would even be
worth it? He might be loaded
However, Brenna’s misgivings began to re-surface
as she began the journey to her sponsor saviour. Now ensconced in a sleek black
Mercedes, having made a speedy transfer from helicopter to car, she fretted
over what lay ahead. How long was she supposed to stay with him? What if he
expected more than just dinner with her? After all, she owed him quite a debt
for coming to her rescue like he had. Her stomach trembled uneasily and it
suddenly seemed all too likely that she was placing herself in a very risky
“Can we go back? I think I’ve changed
my mind,” she addressed the driver.
looked up and into the mirror at her but didn’t slow his speed. “We’re nearly
there now. Don’t fret, sweetie. Here,”
over his shoulder and passed her a small black device with a button at its
centre. “That’s a pager. Put it in your purse. Anytime you want to leave, press
it and I’ll come get you.”
Her insides untwisted themselves a
little, as she accepted the pager gratefully. “Any time?” she echoed.
He nodded, “I’ll be right there.
Now here we are.”
She realised they had indeed reached
their destination as he smoothly turned the car up a long gravel
driveway. Her attention was drawn to the lights at its crest, which
illuminated the mullioned windows and Greek portico of a magnificent red-stoned
edifice of a house. She gasped in awe. Reaching the top, Sebastian manoeuvred
the car around an ornate stone fountain, the cascading water sparkling in the
lights from the house, and drew to a stop outside the formidable front doors.
Brenna’s stomach now
clenched in nervous knots again.
Sebastian scooted out of his seat and opened the car door for her. She gingerly
stepped out on her spindly heels and he offered her his arm, which she took
with gratitude, escorting her safely to the doorstep. She anxiously gripped
that arm as the doors opened before they’d even
the owner clearly already alert to their arrival.
Sebastian whispered in her ear, “Make
a good impression.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and was gone.
It was really no surprise, she told
herself, when the doors opened to reveal a well-dressed but distinctly
overweight florid-faced gentleman, but still she quailed. Who had she been
kidding? Had she really been hoping for someone blessed with looks as well as
wealth? She just wasn’t that lucky. Never mind. She had the pager if she needed
This fifty-something walrus of a man smiled a welcome and
took her arm.
“Come in, come in. I’ve been looking
forward to meeting you Brenna, for such a long time. My name is Williamson.
Dominic Williamson, but please just call me Dom.”
later, Dom stood up from the table they had shared, saying “I’d
now like to show you something, Brenna. Follow me, if you would?”
Brenna was happy to oblige. She’d been
plied with spectacular food, very expensive wine and humorous tales of Dom’s
college experiences in an obvious effort by him to find some commonality with
her. He’d not once patronised her and listened with interest to her description
of her life at home. It was flattering to be shown such respect by a man as
intelligent and successful as he clearly was, in spite of the difference in
their age and experience. Whilst initially disappointed she was now feeling
rather pleased. Surely Dom was living proof of that old adage ‘appearances can
be deceptive’. He’d proved to be a very convivial host and had shown that his
interest went far deeper than appreciation of her physical appearance. Perhaps
this is what it would have been like to have a father? He’d referred to himself
as her patron, not liking the term sponsor when they’d touched on his future
role in her career. She liked that.
Having knocked back more alcohol than
was probably good for her, along with a generous slug of pleasant conversation,
she jounced out to meet him in the main reception area feeling buoyant. He
beckoned her to join him at the top of some stairs that led off the back of the
“Where are we going?” she asked,
curious and peering down the dark stairwell.
“A very secret, very special place,”
he told her in almost reverent tones. He turned to her. “One I’ve prepared just
Brenna froze and her stomach roiled in
confusion. She looked into his once benevolent eyes. What she saw there left no
room for doubt. He meant to do unspeakable things to her. They glimmered with a
deep, dark maniacal glee. Frantic, she dug into her purse, frenziedly pressing
the pager Sebastian had given to her.
Dominic grabbed her hand and easily
pried it from her fingers. Then, rather than throwing it aside as she’d anticipated,
he studied it with growing amusement. “Do you know what this is, Brenna?”
. “It’s a garage door remote control. I’m
afraid we don’t have any garage doors here that will open for you.”
Any hope of assistance gone, her only
remaining choice was to make a desperate run for it. But she was too slow, made
sluggish by the wine. He seized her by the arm as she turned, his grip
bruising. “Don’t try and run. You’re mine. You always have been. Duly bought
and paid for.”
She screamed with the horror of
capture and betrayal, twisting in his grasp, but it was no use. He had the
strength of the brute he truly was. He struck her forcibly in the face and
after the pain exploded it was something of a relief when she swiftly fell into
the numbing blackness of unconsciousness.
gathered, pushed and pummelled by an angry wind and rain began to whisper down
from the bruised skies. Katherine Pearson stood at the bedroom window, staring
out at the darkening landscape. Hearing footsteps, she turned, the silk skirt
of her dress rustling softly, as her fiancé Robert Spencer entered the room.
on the threshold and took time to study her, eyes gleaming appreciatively. She
was wearing a crimson evening gown which showed off her svelte figure and
brought out the red glints in her hair.
amazing,” he said and walked forward, with his arms outstretched.
Kate sank into his embrace and sighed wearily. “There are so
many of these parties running up to Christmas, I hardly have time to catch my
breath before the next one is upon us. Do you mind if we don’t stay so late
Robert stepped back from her and smiled down into her face.
“Of course not, babe.
I don’t think I’ll find it too hard to
leave early when I have the prospect of a warm bed with you to come back to.”
He grinned seductively and, as usual, she was amazed at how quickly his charm
disarmed her as heat, like little fireflies, swarmed over her skin.
to drop light teasing kisses on to her lips. “You’ll ruin my lipstick!” she
really care?” he replied, amusement bubbling in his voice. He pulled her closer
to him and covered her lips with his, probing her mouth with his tongue.
she opened up to him, he cut off the kiss abruptly. “Damn!” he exclaimed,
breaking away from her.
What is it?” she asked, alarmed.
he said reaching for her wrap. “Put this on. I’ve just remembered that there’s
an important case I need to review before my meeting Monday morning. We’re going
to have to stop off at the office on the way to the party.” Robert occupied the
senior manager’s position in the accounts section of her father’s Bespoke Cars
. As treasurer of her father’s charity, Kate visited
the office regularly and that was where she had first bumped in to him, quite
you access it from your laptop?” Kate queried.
He sighed. “Yes, but I left it at
work, didn’t I? I know you hate it when I’m glued to the computer all
weekend. I meant to bring the paper file home with me. I’m sorry.”
As he wrapped the luxurious garment
around her shoulders, he ran a hand up her arm and his mouth momentarily
lingered on the soft, tempting line of her neck. His breath sent shivers up her
spine. Kate turned to him and their lips inevitably met again. This time she
was the one who broke the contact. Pushing him away, she said “If we need to
make a detour you should definitely stop this! You’ll make us terribly late!”
“You’re right,” he said, “but you’re
so terribly tempting.” She laughed and turning from him, she examined her face
in her mirror and hastily reapplied her lipstick.
hurried down the stairs. Kate followed more cautiously, berating her feet for
their long and stubborn refusal to accustom themselves to high heels. Jeremy,
their driver, met them at the bottom but Robert dismissed him, insisting that
he felt like driving and wanted to keep a clear head for the next day.
was swiftly spreading its dark wings over the city and the wind whirled around
them every so often, delivering frenzied sprays of rain that battered the car
like bullets. Robert slid the BMW smoothly into the courtyard of the Martin de
Pores building and halted outside the main entrance.
to Kate. “I won’t be a minute,” he said, dropping a quick peck on to her cheek
and squeezing her hand.
watched him hurry into the office and then lowered her head to begin scrutiny
of her short nails, wondering whether she should change the stance of a
lifetime and visit a manicurist.
raised her head in surprise when the driver’s door opened and Robert
reappeared, slightly breathless, after departing only seconds before.
an urgent rasp to his voice, “The alarm is
disabled and the doors are disengaged.”
eyes widened and she was about to speak when he grabbed hold of her shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he soothed. “It’s probably just a system failure or power
outage. I’m going back in to check things out
clutched hold of him. “Are you sure that’s wise, Rob? What if it’s an
don’t want to contact the police when it could be nothing.”
still clung to him, her stomach tightening uneasily. “What if...?” she
silenced her by placing a kiss on her trembling lips. “I’m a big boy,” he said,
“I can look after myself. I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
pulled himself from her grasp and was out of the car and racing back to the
building before she could voice any further protest. She stared after him,
unable to shake off a feeling of foreboding. Despite the warm air blasting out
from the car heater, she shivered as thunder growled overhead like a predatory
animal awakening from its sleep.
time ticked by with no sign of Robert returning, Kate began to feel more
apprehensive. She glanced at the illuminated digital clock on the car dash. It
had only been ten minutes but it felt like forever because she was waiting,
alone and anxious. She focused on the entrance to the building, willing Robert
to return quickly so she could shake off her misgivings and they could carry on
with their night together. It was now ten to nine and they were due at the
party for nine o’clock.
it reached nine o’clock and Robert had still not emerged from the building,
Kate decided she couldn’t stand this tense inactivity any longer. Grabbing her
phone from her handbag, she hastily pressed the speed dial. She heard the phone
ring out and waited for Robert to pick up but it eventually reverted to
voicemail. She made several more attempts but failed to reach him.
her worst imaginings broke loose through her mind, like a fluttering throng of
black-winged birds. Had Robert disturbed an intruder? He could be hurt or in
some kind of trouble. She must not waste any more time. She struggled to still
her trembling fingers as she dialled the police.
felt a lot calmer when she had finished her call to the police. She had been
near hysterics when they answered but they had calmed her down. Talking through
the events had helped to anchor her fears and give her a sense of control over
the situation. They had listened to her carefully, despite the fact she had not
got much to tell them. She could not even say if a crime had been committed,
only that the building was unlocked, her fiancée hadn’t returned and he wasn’t
answering his phone. Commended for not panicking and entering the building
herself, she’d been instructed to wait until an officer got to her and checked
she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She looked across at the
offices and cried out with relief, offering a silent prayer to God for ending
this nerve-racking episode. Robert was there and had returned at last. She
flung open the door of the car and ran to meet him in sheer relief and delight,
heedless of the rain that was still spitting down from the sullen sky. Until
this moment, she had truly been convinced something horrible had happened
neared him, she blurted “Rob! Thank God! Like a fool I’ve phoned the police
but....” She abruptly broke off her sentence as lightening flashed and the
realisation flared, equally bright in her mind, that the man in front of her
was not Robert. She tried vainly to halt her forward momentum.
man had not even been looking at her but behind him into the building. He had
somehow missed her approach but, at the sound of her voice, he turned towards
her and shot out a hand that was as swift and as startling as a snake. Instead
of falling into the welcoming arms of her lover, she found herself grabbed
harshly and spun around, with her arm held behind her in a vice like
had little time to adjust herself to the shock of this unexpected situation and
instinctively cried out in fear and surprise. Her captor immediately put his
other hand over her mouth and snarled, “Who the ‘
are you and what are you doing here?” an Irish lilt doing nothing to soften the
censure in his tone.
struck her as ironic that this was the very question she would have asked him
if she could, but with his hand held so firmly on her mouth, she could not
speak. But there was no need to reply. He answered for her with the
words, “Of course...! You must be his
struggled then, fearing not for herself but for Robert. He tightened his hold
and said, “What was it you said just now? You’ve gone an’ called the cops?
on cue a police car then turned into the car park, its headlights illuminating
them briefly before it came to a halt. She felt him tense and in contrast she
sagged with relief. Now this would all be over she thought.
police officer was busy getting out of the car, her aggressor pulled her
upright with a jerk, and his voice hissed urgently in her ear, “As far as they
are concerned, I am your boyfriend and there is absolutely nothing wrong here.
There’s a bomb in that building. If you do anything to alert them, I’ll blow it
all to ‘ell, along with your fella. You’d better act your part well if you
value his life.”
these words the man destroyed any delusionary hope Katherine had momentarily felt
and his next move took her completely off guard. He held his grip on her arm
but subtly and quickly changed their positions, so she was facing him, took her
other arm in his grasp and pulled her towards him, his mouth meeting hers
before she had any chance to resist.
kiss was blessedly hard and quick and as he released her mouth he called across
to the officer, who was now approaching, “My girlfriend here told me she’d
called you. She rang you unnecessarily I’m afraid. There’s been no break-in.” He
a reminder to her she had no doubt
of her role and his warning, and then finally took his hands off her.
head was reeling. She felt assaulted on both a mental and physical level and it
took all her strength to resist the overwhelming and instinctive urge to
retaliate. Instead she plastered what she hoped was a convincing smile on her
face as the policeman approached.
Miss,” he said in greeting. He introduced himself as Police Constable Anthony
Connor, produced a notebook and asked, “Were you the lady that made the
nodded and the officer’s gaze lingered on her a little while, no doubt taking
in her dishevelled hair and flushed face. It was then that she fully
appreciated how crafty the man had been as Officer Connor would undoubtedly put
this down to the kiss he had witnessed.
weather’s quite nasty and you look frozen Miss. I’ll try not to keep you both
very long. Can I just verify a few things?” He didn’t wait for a reply and
simply continued, “You are Miss Pearson?” Katherine confirmed this was correct
with another nod. He looked down at his notes. “I notice here that a Harry
Pearson is the landlord. Is that a relation of yours?”
that’s my father.” Kate replied.
felt the assessing eyes of her assailant upon her. She glanced towards him but
switched her gaze swiftly back to the policeman, shivering not only from the
cold but also from the undisguised hostility she had seen in his eyes.
normally have to notify him if there’s been a security breach.”
was about to affirm that this was quite alright when the stranger stepped in
and countered, “I don’t think that is necessary, officer. There’s no sign
of an intruder or any disturbance. I’ve been inside and I think it was just a
system fault. No need to trouble
mention it to Harry tomorrow, myself.”
policeman now gave his full attention to her partner, carefully considering the
man beside her, who Kate noticed held himself confidently under his scrutiny.
“And your name, Sir?” asked the officer.
wondered how he would respond. When he gave out Robert’s name without
hesitation, her heart sank. Her thoughts turned once more to Robert. What if he
was dead already or in need of medical attention? She trembled, torn between
the desire to give the policeman some positive sign that there was a problem
and knowing that, if she did, she could be putting all of them in immediate and
mortal danger. A bomb explosion would certainly ruin any chances for Robert’s
survival and might injure them as well.
officer continued with, “You have authority to enter the building Sir, I take
see some credentials?”
held her breath. Would he be able to produce this? Should she do something?
What if her assailant couldn’t comply with this request and now panicked and
set off the bomb?