Do you think that equality of the sexes stretches to individual marriages? Me, I have my doubts. Someone has to be the boss and more times than enough it seems to be the man. That’s the problem that Suzie Alexander comes up against in Shalimar, my upcoming release from SirenBookStrand. Her husband Mark, a highly intelligent, driven lawyer doesn’t even stop to think that Suzie might be unhappy acting as nothing more than an extension of him.
To be fair, Suzie herself doesn’t acknowledge that she feels unfulfilled, until she catches Mark with another woman. She flees to Shalimar, the country house where she grew up and still feels most at home. Mark follows her there, desperate to fix their troubled marriage but finds his progress hampered by an eclectic mix of people from The Grange, the neighboring property, who have befriended his wife.
Annabel, a woman without conscience or morals, will do whatever it takes to help her boss, brash, overweight John Greenberg, to acquire The Grange. Motivated by the desire to amass as much money as she can, she even enters into a kinky sexual liaison with Greenberg.
Suzie, distraught at the disintegration of her marriage, is distracted when she uncovers ancient family secrets that place her in deadly danger, testing Mark's determination to keep her safe. Suzie and Annabel's lives entwine in the most unexpected way when they join forces to thwart Annabel's grasping boss.
Here’s how Suzie tries to explain her feelings to Mark, the first time he comes to see her at Shalimar.
“So you don’t blame me?” Mark looked as though he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
“Did I say that? I believe Kate was being deliberately malicious for some convoluted reasons of her own, but you didn’t have to go along with her.”
“I know, and I did try to walk out. I didn’t—”
“Quit whilst you’re ahead, Mark,” she said tightly. “Don’t make it worse by lying.”
Suzie reach for her stick and stood to pace the terrace, too agitated to sit still and let this arrogant charmer woo her with his clever words.
“If I could have moved with my job to the new surgery, there would have been more for me in Epsom.” She eyed her husband. “But you didn’t want me to do that.”
“It was full-time,” he said. “You don’t need to work at all, much less full-time.”
“God, do you know how old-fashioned that makes you sound?”
“I just want to look after you, Suzie. Is that so bad?”
“No, it’s not bad,” she said, sighing. “But have you stopped to consider how much time I spend on my own? You’re away during the week more than you’re home. Perhaps I need something worthwhile to fill my hours.”
“I thought you understood about my work,” he said quietly. “It won’t always be this crazy.”
“No, it won’t because in the end you’ll burn out.”
“You didn’t complain about being bored or unhappy.”
“What would have been the point?” she asked, resignation in her tone. “And anyway, I wasn’t—until recently. I know how important your job is to you and how hard you work. But you didn’t seem to realize that simply keeping house for you and waiting patiently for you to return home wasn’t enough for me. I have a brain, too, but it’s dying from lack of stimulation.”
“Oh God, Suzie, I didn’t have a clue!” He dropped his head into his splayed hands and shook it from side to side. “Why didn’t you say?”
“Say what? That I want a baby? That I want to see more of you?” She squared her shoulders and held his gaze. They both knew how often she’d suggested the former. “What do you think my recent depression’s been about?”
He stood and reached for her but she moved out of range. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say. It was never my intention to make you unhappy.”
“I know that, but since I’ve been down here, it’s given me time to do some thinking. I love the countryside, and no,” she continued, holding up her hand, “Epsom isn’t really countryside. It’s just part of the widening suburban sprawl. I love this house, too. Oh, I know it’ll have to be sold soon, but I can stay here for the months that takes and get things sorted for my parents. Don’t suppose they’ll want to do it themselves. Anyway, perhaps afterward I can buy myself a small cottage down here and find work. I’d like that.”
“You don’t have to worry about money, Suzie. I’ll always look after you, no matter what.”
She sighed. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
“I want to be my own person. Be self supporting and prove to myself that I can make a difference, however small, in an area that’s important to me.”
Mark caught her arm as she paced past him and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Suzie,” he said fiercely, “look me in the eye and tell me you don’t love me anymore.” He offered her a curling smile, full of love and unfulfilled promise. “If you can do that, then I’ll stop fighting you and let you go. I’ll even help you to find your cottage.” He placed his index finger beneath her chin and tilted her head until she was forced to look into his face. “Well, come on then,” he said, when she didn’t immediately take up his challenge, “let’s get this over with.”
Suzie was in a quandary. She had never lied to Mark in her life. If she did so now, then she’d be free and could start to get over him. It was easy. All she had to do was to say those few simple words. “I don’t love you anymore, Mark.” That was all it would take, and he’d release her.
She simply couldn’t do it. Even though she hadn’t yet spoken, she could see from Mark’s guardedly triumphant expression that he knew he’d won.
“Tell me, Suzie,” he said, increasing the pressure he was placing on her shoulders.
“I can’t, I don’t know what I—”
“Hello there, trust we’re not interrupting anything?”
Jane’s strident voice caused them to move apart like guilty lovers and turn in unison to face the gang striding up the garden path.
“Fuck it!” muttered Mark under his breath. “We’ll continue this conversation later.”
Shalimar – available from SirenBookStrand http://www.bookstrand.com/shalimar and discounted to $4.68 until the end of the month.
Read the entire first chapter at my website: http://www.wendysoliman.com
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