Obsessed meets obsessed

‘Secret Smile’ – Nicci French


Secret smile

You have an affair. You finish it. You think it’s over. You’re dead wrong . . . 

Miranda Cotton thinks she’s put boyfriend Brendan out of her life for good. But two weeks later, he’s intimately involved with her sister.

Soon what began as an embarrassment becomes threatening – then even more terrifying than a girl’s worst nightmare.

Because this time Brendan will stop at nothing to be part of Miranda’s life – even if it means taking it from her . . .

First off, let me get this out in the open. David Tennant is Brendan Block. I’m not totally mad. Back in 2005 (thanks IMDB), there was a television adaptation (pretty good, if my memory was right) and Tennant was soooo good at the role of Brendan Block that, since picking up the book again, he was all I could imagine when reading of this antagonist.

Moving on, this is not the best Nicci French book out there. Whilst it starts with a pretty good “bang”, I think it loses pace and I found the plot drifting, chapter to chapter, until French found they could justify getting to the final ending. Secondly, the protagonist, Miranda, is just a little too obsessed for my liking. Whilst she is accusing Block of obsessions, it’s her stalking and repeated “I’m going out of my way to make a point and prove something that no one else can see” that made me feel like she is the obsessed, she is the harasser.

Some of the characters are pretty dumb too. It’s difficult to believe that only Miranda has the inkling about Brendan, whilst everyone gets sucked into such a creepy, brain-washing persona. Even her sister puts a stranger before her own sister, not to mention Miranda’s own parents take Brendan’s side over their daughter’s. Unbelievable and, let’s face it, a bit grim that a stranger can turn literally everyone against you.

That being said, the ending was, well, pretty acceptable. To be honest, it technically doesn’t end but thankfully I’ve got no whiff of a sequel. Because that just wouldn’t work and it would be even more repetitive. I was glad when there was finally closure and all this stalking and harassment could come to an end. Four stars because I think it’s worthy of it for a first time read but, if like me it’s your second or third, it has less of an impact and leaves you feeling more cynical than satisfied.


A powerful, roller-coaster read

‘Gone Girl’ – Gillian Flynn


Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Who are you? What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

From the beginning when Amy’s disappearance is established, I immediately found myself pointing the finger of blame at Nick. There were so many things that I disliked about his character and the way he handled his wife being missing, that I felt sure he was a cold-blooded killer. Without giving too much away, Flynn takes you on a roller-coaster ride and, as the tag line says, there are most certainly two sides to every story.

The book switches from present day, narrated by Nick as Amy’s disappearance and the subsequent police investigations develop; to Amy’s diary in the years leading up to events. The relationship between Nick and Amy comes across as just about ok, and literally, you can feel that something is just not right. However, Flynn carefully crafts the narrative and gradually leads you down a winding, thrilling path that slowly reveals more and more about the two characters.

And this is something that I particularly enjoyed about ‘Gone Girl’. Like a roller-coaster, the plot was unpredictable and it left you feeling breathless throughout. I could not foresee where the story was going to progress and Flynn cleverly plays on readers perceptions of characters to make the next plot twist even more unexpected. At first I struggled to enjoy the different narrative styles between Nick and Amy’s diary entries, but grew to realise that this was another way of showing what the character’s were really like.

The book is split into three parts and just when you think you have nailed it and can anticipate what is coming, Flynn throws in another surprise. I really enjoyed the secrecy and psychological games that were played because it made me question my initial perception of Nick. The dual-narrative adds to the tension in the story as Amy’s journal entries encourage you to understand the motives behind her apparently violent disappearance.

This is the first book I have read by Gillian Flynn and I was not disappointed. This was a thrilling read with plenty of twists and turns along the way; so many, that it is one I could easily revisit, just to find more clues that I may have missed this first time around. I can’t wait to read others by Flynn and really hope they deliver the same level of enjoyment as ‘Gone Girl’ has for me. I beg of you, don’t pass up the opportunity to read this one.

Fast-paced and thrilling

‘Zero Alternative’ – Luca Pesaro


Zero Alternative - Luca Pesaro

Zero Alternative – Luca Pesaro


Scott Walker is a fugitive from the quicksands of Finance, with one card to play – DeepShare, a silicon oracle coveted by billionaires, hitmen and hackers. As he fights for survival and vengeance, digging deeper into the dark heart of the global economy, one question torments him: what price will the world have to pay?

‘Zero Alternative’ is an action-packed conspiracy thriller that plucks at the heart of human nature. When our grip on love, hope and morality starts to slide, the only future worth living is the one we choose for ourselves.

About the author:

Luca Pesaro was born in Italy in 1971, but he has spent most of his adult life in the US or UK. Being a proud UWCer, he likes to think of himself as just another random citizen of the world.

After spending a few years gaining a degree (LSE) and masters (Bocconi University) in the now mainly discreted pseudo-science that is Economics, he got bored, jumped the gun and became a derivatives trader in financial markets, first with the tragic Lehman Brothers, then with a bunch of other banks, somehow always managing not to blow up. He wrote his first novel in Italian in the mid-nineties, but then decided English worked much better for the type of stuff he liked to read and write, and switched. (Easy to do, he has forgotten most of his written Italian).

Recently he has decided to dedicate himself fully to his great passion since the age of eight – writing, mainly Fiction, but anything that amuses him at any given time. Zero Alternative is his first English novel, and he is hard at work on his second thriller, A Game of Kings.

He is married to the awesome F. and has two children, A. and J. who always manage to annoy, surprise and delight him beyond any reasonable expectation.

Author links:

Facebook / Goodreads / Web


‘Zero Alternative’ starts off with a bang and got me hooked straight from the beginning. With its fast pace and rapidly developing storyline, this book had me pulled in so quickly that before I knew it I was racing towards the end. Completed in one day, this was a totally satisfying read and for a debut English novel, I look forward to seeing what Pesaro has to offer next.

I don’t read thrillers very often and have in the past found them to be a little predictable. ‘Zero Alternative’ certainly was not this. I love the world of stock trading and have always been fascinated when I have seen characters in films desperately trading before the market closes. I still don’t properly understand this environment and how it all works and whilst ‘Zero Alternative’ is set in this industry, my lack of understanding did not hinder my enjoyment of the story. There is enough explanation behind the premise of the story and the new technology that Walker is being hunted for, but without it coming across as patronising or dull. This definitely appealed to me and helped me get into the story.

Walker’s character comes across as a typical broker – lots of money, reckless, with plenty of alcohol and women. At first I thought I would despise his confidence (almost arrogance) but as he quickly finds himself in a game of cat and mouse, I was rooting for him to find someone he could trust and rely on to escape the danger. The narrative follows Walker (nick-named “Yours” because of his reputation as a trader, which, I must admit, was a little annoying and confusing when I read this and thought there were typos!) but often switches to the mysterious bad guys. This change in focus was refreshing because not only did we find out how close they are to Walker, you are given enough clues to speculate who it might be. That said, when the pieces were finally put together, it wasn’t a character I had suspected – another bonus for this read.

There are some gory scenes in this book but don’t let this put you off. Whilst I don’t like reading graphic scenes of torture, I was so amazed by what I had read I just couldn’t help but repeat it to my husband and literally cringe at what was happening! It is all part of the story and is not just an added-in feature to give more substance to the story. It reflects the danger of Walker’s situation and made me even more keen that he reach safety.

This was a great read and I feel so lucky to have been able to review it. I really enjoyed it because it was so different to other books I have come across recently and, with the subject matter focusing on something I don’t know much about, it made this all the more enjoyable. I’m excited to see what Pesaro writes next.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Buy links:

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk


A vampire story with a difference

‘Tragic Silence’ – E. C. Hibbs


Tragic Silence - E. C. Hibbs

Tragic Silence – E. C. Hibbs

When tragedy strikes Bianka Farkas one night in her native Hungary, she loses more than a friend and her mobility. Some things are harder to understand. Waking up in a hospital, Bee struggles to remember exactly what happened the night she was attacked and witnessed a brutal murder. Memories of a mysterious figure plague her as well as bizarre and terrifying changes in her over the next few years. Facing this new horrifying reality with a surprising ally, Bee finally has the chance to take her revenge but at what cost?


About the author:

E. C. Hibbs

E. C. Hibbs

E. C. Hibbs has lived all her life in Cheshire, north-west England. A lover of stories from an early age, she wrote her first ‘book’ when she was five, and throughout school was a frequent visitor to the younger classes to read her tales to the children.

Living so near the coast, she loves anything to do with the sea. She studied Animal Behaviour at university and longs to work with marine mammals in the future. As well as nature and animals, she also has a soft spot for history, and loves paying visits to castles, cathedrals and museums.

There are many things she could be without, but writing isn’t one of them. She carries a pen everywhere, in case an idea appears, and takes pride in still seeing the world as brimming with magic. Besides writing, she reads obsessively, her favourite genres being the classics and all kinds of fantasy. She also enjoys Disney and horror films, practising Shotokan karate, drawing, archery, and playing with her very cheeky kitten.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Goodreads


When I realised this was a vampire story, I was expecting something along the lines of biting humans, beautiful and ageless vampires with turning humans thrown in along the way. But ‘Tragic Silence’ is very different to previous vampire stories I have read and it was refreshing to read this alternate take on such a popular genre.

Set in Budapest, readers are presented with Bianka who has suffered seeing her best friend murdered by a vampire. She is hospitalised and deeply traumatised by the experience. Through flashbacks, we understand how Bianka lands in hospital and who the horrifying figure is that is haunting her. The opening chapters really focuses on Bianka and her experiences and this sets up the narrative for the rest of the novel. Whilst it is a first person narrative, Bianka’s telling of the story makes this rather densely descriptive, to the extent that I found it distracted me from the action when it happened. That being said, you get a true insight into her character but because it was so heavy with her thoughts and feelings, I found the narrative became a little tedious in places and prevented me from enjoying the plot development as much.

I really enjoyed the fact that this is primarily set in Budapest. I rarely read stories set so far away from home and though the plot moves to London, Hibbs keeps up the cultural references with different names for vampires and smatterings of Hungarian dialogue. This is another feature that makes ‘Tragic Silence’ a refreshing read because this is so unexpected. It works well with the different vampire angle that Hibbs offers and it helped maintain my interest in the story.

What really makes this a vampire story with a difference is how the whole process of turning into a vampire is presented. Bianka’s boyfriend, Frank, plays a key role in telling her all about the change and his explanations were really intriguing. So unusual, I liked the whole process that was presented and the entire lack of certainty, even for our protagonist, Bianka.

My rating of three stars reflects the dense narrative in this plot from Bianka’s perspective. This is an interesting vampire story but I found her voice too present in the story and this certainly slowed the pace down. There are lots of features in this novel that make it stand out from other vampire stories and this makes the read more enjoyable. Not one in a series, it made a change to read something with a conclusive ending, and this is something I definitely applaud the author for! Definitely give this a go if you like vampire stories because this is so different, but just anticipate the slower narrative.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


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Welcome to the indulgence of Civitas

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ – Leti Del Mar


Secrets of the Unaltered - Leti Del Mar

Secrets of the Unaltered – Leti Del Mar

The fate of the entire Confederation rests on their shoulders.

Only they have what it takes to uncover the secrets that have imprisoned their land, but can they survive a truth more disturbing than they ever imagined?

Rose and Flynn have left the Land of the Unaltered on a mission to discover the truth behind who created the genetically engineered super army and stop it before the Rebellion is doomed. Time is ticking, but soon capital life begins to pull them in different directions. Flynn struggles to fit in with the self-indulgent and fashion obsessed populous while the expectations of Rose’s influential family tests their fragile and newly formed relationship. Will they let the capital pull them apart?

Everyone is counting on them, but in this time of discord, can they count on each other?

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ is a Young Adult Dystopian Romance and is the second instalment of The Confederation Chronicles.

About the author:

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, daughter and abnormally large cat. When she is not writing, reading, or blogging, she teaches Biology and Algebra to teenagers. Leti is also a classic film buff, is passionate about Art History and loves to travel.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter/ Web / Goodreads


What a great follow on from ‘Land of the Unaltered’! Continuing straight on from the first book, Leti Del Mar keeps up the pace with the setting moving to the intriguing city of Civitas. This was a read I couldn’t put down and it was very easy to rate it five stars.

In my review of the first book, I noted how easy it was to imagine the craziness of Civitas from Rose’s descriptions. This time the story takes place in this city and the author’s descriptions were so vivid that it brought it alive in my imagination, leaving me hungry to find out more about this indulgent place. The intense desire to follow fashion (in this book it went from tangerine to turquoise and then to black and gold!) is quite believable based on how Del Mar has described the characters. We finally meet Rose’s mother and her friend Constantine and I just loved how different they are in comparison to Flynn and his upfront way of living back in Eureka.

Both Rose and Flynn find themselves being pulled in two directions as they settle in to life in Civitas. Whilst Rose is desperate to please her father, Flynn cannot forget the mission they are supposed to be completing and is keen to get home to a Eureka as soon as possible. The dual narrative once again allows the reader to be privy to both Rose and Flynn’s feelings, particularly as they feel themselves drifting apart because of the distractions that Civitas has to offer. However, what I found surprising was that the author causally does not include information about the characters which we do not follow, for example Flynn racing transportation in the afternoons, and this little extra detail I think would have added even more to the portrayal of life in this city.

The mystery that Rose and Flynn are working on deepens in this story and the romance definitely takes a back seat. The revelations that came throughout were mostly surprising to me and I really enjoyed the final showdowns leading up to the ball and then on to the end. Del Mar has definitely set readers up for an exciting conclusion and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

This is a great read and one I could easily imagine being turned in to a film. I really enjoyed reading about the city of Civitas and we are finally given that extra information about the great virus that caused society to change. There is a lot of scope to cover in the next story and it would appear that the other cities also get involved, so I am keen to see what role they play. I read ‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ in one day because it was so enjoyable and got me hooked so quickly. Bring on the next title!

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


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Buy links:

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Amazon / Smashwords

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Romance and mystery

‘Land of the Unaltered’ – Leti Del Mar


Land of the Unaltered - Leti Del Mar

Land of the Unaltered – Leti Del Mar

Rose comes from the capital of the Confederation of Cities where its citizens live in luxury and the greatest fashion statement of all is being Altered. People change everything about the way they look as often as they do their hairstyle but Rose is different. Her position of privilege has made her an outcast and led her to suspect that something sinister is happening to the citizens and flees the capital along with a past that imprisons her in search of a fresh start in the Land of the Unaltered.

Flynn lives in the Land of the Unaltered and hates the capitol and everything it stands for. So when a spoiled capital girl is assigned to work with him, he wants nothing to do with her and is prepared to make her life miserable. But Flynn was not prepared for someone like Rose. She doesn’t fit the mold he expected and finds himself strongly attracted to her. As she continues to surprise and outwit him, they begin to forge a bond that is tested when they discover a secret that could change everything they know about Land of the Unaltered. 

This was an easy read to get in to with a mix between young romance and the dystopian setting. There is a fair bit of mystery and intrigue as the two main characters, Rose and Flynn, make some startling discoveries whilst working in the forest outside of the city of Eureka and, these elements combined, made this an enjoyable read.

The premise of this story really intrigued me and Leti Del Mar generally delivers in this first book of the ‘Confederation’ series. Set in an unspecified future, readers are presented with a society that has survived an outbreak and dispersed into different colonies. However, the ruling city, Civitas, is unique and different from other similar books I have read. This ruling city is governed by surgery as people happily alter themselves to keep up with the latest fashions. The author describes this city well and I could really picture the whacky clothing and surgery that the citizens would do to themselves just to fit in with the crowd.

The budding relationship between Rose and Flynn was really cute and I was so keen for them to realise their feelings for one another! Helped by the fact that we switch between their narratives, you really get an understanding of their misguided feelings and prejudices. Rose is keen not to show Flynn any weakness and stands up to the massive reading he gives her when she joins the lumber yard and so hides her frustrations until she leaves work each day. In contrast, Flynn cannot help his opinion that everyone from Civitas is spoiled and useless. Both became keen for the other to view them in a positive light and it was sweet to see them finally let their barriers down and get to know each other for who they really are.

The author does not give away too much about the past society and this was something I was keen to learn about. Given the way this book ends, I imagine this will truly be revealed in the next book which is why it didn’t have a massive impact on my overall rating. I did like the fact that Leti Del Mar keeps you wanting more and it is this interest that will carry over and left me keen to read the next book in the series.

This is an easy and inoffensive read. I have few criticisms of this book and whilst I found the romance side of the story a little predictable, I still enjoyed the mystery that built up around Civitas. Rose’s family background adds dimension to the story and it will be interesting to see how this influences events in the next book. ‘Land of the Unaltered’ is a solid read and one you could easily devour in an afternoon. It will be interesting to see what happens next!

A vampire’s revenge

‘Parricide’ – S. Briones Lim


Parricide - S. Briones Lim

Parricide – S. Briones Lim

Stanley Heckley’s world was torn apart the night his wife and infant daughter were murdered by his wife’s ex-lover, James Gandy. Left with no family to call his own, Stanley is consumed with rage and thirsts to exact revenge in the only way he thinks is fair – to kill Gandy’s entire bloodline.  Unfortunately for Stanley, his timid personality and good conscience makes killing a difficult task to accomplish. 

Tormented by his inability to avenge his family, Stanley seeks the help of a distant acquaintance known simply as the vampire, Geoff. Touched by Stanley’s plight, Geoff takes it upon himself to give Stanley a thirst for blood and the talent to kill. As a newly turned vampire, Stanley joins Geoff on a complex mission of murder and vengeance as they hunt each member of the Gandy family one by one, wiping the entire bloodline from existence.

Or so they thought.

Over a century later, Stanley learns that a dire mistake has left one Gandy alive. Once again faced with the monsters of his past, Stanley finds himself returning to his hometown of Meyers to hunt the remaining descendant, Amanda.  From the get-go, Stanley’s mission is plagued with many obstacles including a new henchman for Geoff, a ghost of a young, sadistic girl, and the fact that Amanda looks remarkably like his late wife. For this member of the undead, hunting the final Gandy may just be the death of him.


About the author:

S. Briones Lim

S. Briones Lim

Thanks to her Mom’s unwavering devotion to read a bedtime story to her every single night throughout her childhood years, S. Briones Lim’s love for books began before she could even speak.

Raised in Southern California, author S. Briones Lim initially dreamt of becoming an artist and/or book author. A Psychology Degree (Summa cum Laude), a stint in Art School, and a career in Advertising/Media later, she is finally delving back into her first love – books. As a self-renowned bookworm, S. Briones Lim’s love for books has inspired her to pen her own novels and hopes her readers will fall in love with her stories as much as she enjoyed writing them.

Author of the ‘Life Force’ trilogy, S. Briones Lim’s other obsessions include time with family, POPCORN, watching movies and her pug, Tobi. She currently lives on the East Coast with her husband and continues to write everyday.

Author links:

Facebook / Web / Goodreads / Email


‘Parricide’ is a different horror book compared to the typical vampire stories I have read in the past. A dual-narrative with flashbacks to how the story began, I found this an intriguing narrative that had my curiosity building as the plot reached its climax.

The narrative moves from Stanley in 1904, when the tragedy of his wife and daughter’s murders sets him on a path of revenge, to present day, when he has returned to his home town to finally finish this mission. Briones Lim also switches between present day Stanley and Amanda, the woman who has returned to find out more about an apparent curse that has haunted her predecessors. I felt that this non-linear narrative works really well; as 1904 Stanley continues his mission of revenge and we learn about how the Gandys were destroyed, readers are brought back to present day and see Amanda getting closer to the truth about what happened. I found it enriching to find out about the past as the narrative moved forwards and felt this just added to my intrigue into events. Rather than being given the past all at once, readers are almost living it at the same time that Amanda is researching events.

The scenes between Stanley and Amanda were quite tense as we see how Stanley tries to keep curious Amanda from learning his secrets. It is at these points that I found the characterisation a little weak. Amanda keeps throwing out questions to Stanley about his knowledge of her family history, his responses are pretty rubbish and, surprisingly, Amanda just accepts this. Maybe because she is blinded by her attraction to him (which, thankfully, does not drive this narrative forwards), but her desire to know the truth just did not match this acceptance to Stanley’s lies. I found myself hoping she would challenge him more and unfortunately this did not happen.

Throughout the present-day story, there is a mysterious little girl who clearly knows Stanley’s secret, but at the same time appears to Amanda which encourages her to question the “truth” she is being presented with. Either I missed something major in the story, but Briones Lim does not reveal who this ghostly little girl is. Her ghostly presence adds to the mystery of the story and by the end of the narrative, I had plenty of theories about who she could be and her purpose. Unfortunately she is dismissed by the end of the story and I wished that the author had expanded on this a bit more.

Throughout the novel, Stanley is warned about his actions from his creator, telling him if the “Bureaucracy” find out about Stanley’s murders, there would be serious consequences. The reader is finally presented with the Bureaucracy as the story builds towards its climax but, like the little girl, I had found myself hoping that this did feature more in the development of the story, particularly as Stanley returns to his home town where he had committed atrocious murders in the century before.

It was a delight to read a story that is not part of a trilogy and did just finish properly on the final page. Whilst I found the ending a little rushed, it was still satisfying and worthwhile. The climax between Stanley and Amanda was fulfilling but I think it would have been better if the author had perhaps included an epilogue to further explain the outcomes. Indeed, whilst this might have ruined the fast-paced ending, it may have lessened my opinion that this was a bit rushed.

‘Parricide’ was a good read for me. I don’t read many horror books and I enjoyed the unique storyline. If you enjoy reading horrors and vampire stories, then I definitely recommend this to you. If not, give this one a go because the mystery and intrigue will certainly have you hooked.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.


Author S. Briones Lim is giving away Kindle or Nook copies (depending on the winner’s preference) of her novels ‘Green’ and ‘Red’. This competition is open internationally for readers aged 13 and up, as long as you are eligible for Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble gifting. The giveaway will run the length of the tour (7th April – 14th April). Good luck!


Excerpt from the novel:

Stanley                 April 9, 1904

“No! Please don’t shoot!” Her voice wavered slightly though she tried her hardest to remain firm and unfazed. Had it not been for the tremor in her tone and the unmistakable trembling of her shoulders, the intruder might have bought her act of valor.

The terrified cries of my wife echoed against the bare wooden walls causing me to run in a panic. I flew down a flight of stairs towards the parlor area and noticed the dim flicker of a single candle illuminating the room. It added an eerie ambiance to what was to be the most horrifying moment of my life.

“Gandy! What do you think you’re doing?! Get your hands off my wife!” I shouted with pure ferocity. I wouldn’t be surprised if the blood vessels in my eyes had burst open given the tint of red that shadowed my vision.

“Well, well, lookit ‘ere who it is,” Gandy slurred drunkenly as he gripped my wife’s strawberry blond hair between his fingers. “It’s Stanley Heckley! Or might I say, the Great Stanley Heckley.” He cackled and peered down at my wife.

My eyes fell instantly onto Christiana’s tear stained face. I made an attempt to rush forward, however, she shook her head slightly and mouthed, “Go! Save Katie.”

My stomach wrenched as I pictured our three-month-old daughter hidden under the floorboards in the main room upstairs. She was safe – for now.

I cleared my throat and stood up straighter. Holding my hands out as a final plea, I said as calmly, but with as much authority as I could muster, “Gandy, please put down the gun. You had a little too much to drink tonight and I promise that if you walk out of here this instant, I will not tell the authorities of this little incident.”

I braced myself for his reaction and was surprised to hear a hearty chuckle in response. Christiana winced as he continued his belly laugh and pulled tightly against her head. Her beautiful braid was now a rat’s nest and I was surprised not to find clumps of her pinkish locks strewn along the floor.

“Do you think you have the right to tell me what to do?” Gandy laughed hysterically. With his gun toting hand he reached up and wiped tears from the corners of his eyes.

“I beg your pardon but I don’t see the humor in this situation,” I growled.

“You want to know what’s funny?” Gandy snapped. “The fact that Christiana here picked you over me. What does she see in you anyway? Nothing but a stack of cash that your daddy gave you.”

I glanced around the room frantically, looking for any escape route. My eyes focused on the window and my mind methodically went over any possible option I had to get my family out of this situation. It was as if everything was running in slow motion, from the flow of my blood through my veins to the harsh beating of my pained heart.

“Are you listening to me?!” Gandy’s hazy voice interrupted my frantic thoughts.

I gulped. “Yes, Gandy.”

His eyes widened as he pointed the barrel toward me. Christiana gasped and began pleading frantically, begging for him to drop the gun. Ignoring her cries, he lifted an eyebrow as he looked me dead in the eye. “It’s yes, sir,” he corrected.

I nodded my head. “Yes, sir,” I replied through gritted teeth.

His lips curled up into a sinister grin and he began pacing the room dragging Christiana along with him. She grabbed at his hand, trying to pry his fingers from her scalp, but was unsuccessful. The gray skirt of her dress, a birthday present from me, dragged behind her, becoming soiled with the dust from the floor.

“Now, I don’t know why you’re stupid enough to come back to town,” he said through gritted teeth. “The folks here were finally steer clear of the Heckleys, yet here you are infesting our town again with your filthy riches. You think your family’s better than all of us here, don’t you? Just because of your blue blood ways.”

“Gandy,” I said in an even tone. It pained me to even speak, my throat dry and parched from fear. “Please leave my property. We’ll deal with this when you’re sober in the morning.”

“This ain’t about being sober! This is about the abomination that your family has bestowed upon the less privileged. That’s why you came back to town now, isn’t it? To take over all the businesses that your greedy father wasn’t able to get his cold, vile hands on! You should have stayed in God knows where you were!”

“It was a mistake to come back,” I agreed as I nodded my head; and good God did I agree. “We only came back to tie up ends concerning my father’s estate. Nothing more.”

“Ah, yes,” he grinned. “That’s right! Your old man croaked a month ago, didn’t he?”

My blood began boiling and instinctively my fists clenched together. “Yes,” I said in a raspy tone. The pain of having lost my father still burned freshly in my heart. Hearing Gandy speak so nonchalantly about his passing made me want to gouge his eyes out. That would have to wait. For now I needed to focus on helping my sweet wife.

I cleared my throat and continued, “We’ll tie up loose ends and leave town immediately.” I gestured towards the room. “We’ll leave this house and never return to it again.” My eyes widened as realization came over me. “Is this what you want? Do you want my property? It’s yours! Take it! Take everything in here!”

Gandy snickered. “I don’t want your house,” he snapped. He glanced down at Christiana and brushed the gun across her face. She and I stiffened simultaneously, our breaths caught in our throats. “What I do want is your wife,” he continued.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” I replied angrily.

“Why? She’s already mine!” He shouted. “Do you really think your sweet Christiana was a virgin when she met you? When she wed you? Her naked body was under mine before you even had a chance to look her in the eye!”

Though I tried to remain calm and composed, I couldn’t help but glance desperately at my wife. Her eyes were clamped shut and she began to sob, proof that what Gandy had said was true.

“It was a long time ago!” Christiana screamed. “Before I met you!”

“Shut up, whore!” Gandy growled.

I gulped. “I don’t care,” I said sternly. “She is my wife and anything she may have done before me is of no consequence. I took a vow.” Christiana’s eyelids flew open in relief. Her gaze fell upon mine and we held each other’s eyes as if saying silent I love you’s though it felt more like goodbyes.

Gandy stiffened and gripped her hair tighter. Losing composure he stammered, “Well, did she tell you we made love a quarter’s night ago?”

Christiana had been with me, caring for our infant daughter. Gandy was full of fucking shit. Though I felt like rolling my eyes, I knew better. “Gandy,” I said instead. “It is late and I demand you to leave my property.”

Gandy’s hands began to grow limp and for a moment I thought that we would be able to put this whole unfortunate situation behind us. My family and I would leave town immediately, never glancing back. Father’s estate would just have to take care of itself and it could stay rotting. It could be food for the termites and worms for all I cared. Unfortunately, that is not how it happened.

Katie’s cry rang through the household, a cry for food, for love, for attention? A cry that still rings through my head every day.

“What is that?” Gandy cried out in a horrified tone. “Another Heckley?!” He looked down at Christiana’s face in shock and anger. “How dare you breed another member of this foul family?” Gandy released her hair, throwing Christiana to the ground. He quickly turned on his heel making his way through my house. His gangly body made odd shadows on the wall as his loose, wavy, blond hair flew in wisps behind him.

“No!” Christiana shouted. She ran after him, pushing him away as she followed Katie’s cries. She ran quickly up the stairs, frantically searching for our daughter. Though I had hidden our infant under a loose floorboard, the emptiness of the house made it difficult to mask her cries. The acoustics amplified her wails easily marking her hiding place.

Gandy  steadied  himself,  having  never  let  go  of  the  gun,  and  began  sprinting  after Christiana. He raced up the grand staircase, two steps at a time, and was quickly gaining ground. I desperately followed after him and flew up the staircase as rapidly as I could. A surge of adrenaline rushed through me and I quickly caught up with him in the upstairs hallway, tackling him to the ground. I grabbed at his hand and began beating it against the wooden stair rail, trying to dislodge the gun. Briefly looking up, I noticed Christiana through the open door of the master bedroom retrieving Katie, carefully swaddling her in her arms.

“Run!” I shouted as I successfully knocked the gun out of Gandy’s thin hand. He growled in pain as I pushed his palm into the ground.

Christiana nodded and looked around for an exit. Remembering the ancient Servants’ passageway, she turned and headed for the door, trying to make a sudden right into the adjacent hallway. Simultaneously, Gandy managed to knee me in the groin and bit my hand, knocking the breath out of me. I fell backwards for a moment, looking up in time to see him grab his gun. Regaining my balance, I lunged forward in an attempt to tackle him. Unfortunately, it was too late. As if in slow motion I saw him cock his gun and aim toward my wife and daughter. With a deafening bang, Gandy pulled the trigger, the gun recoiling against him. Christiana’s eyes went wide as the bullet flew towards her, penetrating my baby girl and in turn traveling through my wife’s body.

“NO!” I screamed.

My throat went hoarse and tears burned my eyes as I watched my family fall to the ground. Blood trickled from Christiana’s mouth and her eyes rolled back, lifeless and vacant. Red stains smeared Katie’s crocheted blanket, turning pink towards the white edges.

Panting heavily, I looked down at Gandy who appeared surprised himself; disbelieving of his own atrocious act. I yelled out inaudibly and kicked out my black leather boot, hitting him square across his face. He fell backward, loosening his grip on the gun, and his nose quickly began spouting out spurts of blood. Quickly grabbing for the gun, I reveled in the cold steel against my palm. Aiming it straight for Gandy’s head, I pulled the hammer back and placed my finger on the trigger.

“Do it!” Gandy demanded. “Do it! I just killed my one and only love!” He began sobbing, the effects of alcohol wearing off his body.

“She never loved you,” I hissed. My hand began trembling, my grip on the gun growing weaker with each passing second. “So what if she slept with you? It was a long time ago and you were just a warm body who never had a hold of her heart.”

He growled at me with narrowed eyes, but soon started laughing as he focused in on the shaking gun. “You can’t do it, can you? You can’t pull that trigger! You may be a useless fuck getting all you want with daddy’s money, but you don’t have the ballocks to kill a man – even when he just shot the fuck out of your family!”

Trembling with rage I applied pressure to the trigger.

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