I have a lot of writing hats on at the moment, it's a very busy time. I'm currently working on The Wife Series - a dark domestic drama/psychological thriller I'm writing for HarperImpulse under the pen name ML Roberts.
But I've also been working on another self-published project, which, time permitting, I hope to release before Christmas. And I did mention last week that I'd be releasing a sneaky peek at this new romance - no ordinary romance, remember, it's me writing here - and I'm keeping that promise.
You can now check out the first few (unedited - this isn't finished yet) pages of 'Tainted Love', a story of friendship, betrayal, and crossing lines... see what you think...
Tainted Love Taster
I love my kitchen. It’s cosy, warm; it’s comforting. Dark wooden floorboards, hand-crafted cupboards, a large round table in the corner next to a huge welsh dresser. I’ve even got a pantry. I always wanted a pantry. My grandmother had a pantry, even though my dad used to say it was nothing more than a glorified cupboard. I like my glorified cupboard. I love my life. It’s a bit like my kitchen, really – cosy. Comforting. Familiar.
“We’re going to be late if we don’t get a move on, Joss. Are you ready?”
Sam comes rushing into the kitchen, his arms full of notebooks, a slightly flustered expression on his face. Sam Coburn. My husband. Ready for work in his tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt.
Handsome. Smart. Funny. We’ve been together almost sixteen years now, married for thirteen, and he still makes me laugh. I still love him as much as the first day I met him.
“I’ve been ready since seven 0’clock. It’s you who’s running late.”
He looks at me and shrugs, throws me a half smile as he swipes a slice of toast from my plate, winking as he shoves most of it in his mouth all in one go.
“You’re such a pig sometimes, do you know that?”
“Yeah. But you still find it sexy, right?”
He winks again, but I don’t answer him. I pick up my books, my bag and my phone and I usher him out of the door. He’s right. If we don’t get a move on we are going to be late. And I’ve never been late for school. Not once. Not ever.
She’s way more organised than I’ll ever be. Joss. Mrs Coburn. History teacher. My wife. Every teenage boy’s secret crush, understandably so. If I was fifteen again I’d make sure I was always hanging around in the corridor, just so I could watch her walk past, man, she has the sexiest arse! Not the reason I married her, of course. Well, not the only reason.
I slam the car door shut, which puts me on the receiving end of one of Joss’s death stares. She’s always telling me not to slam the door like that, but it’s just habit. And I’m not good at breaking habits. Especially the bad ones.
We walk across the yard, weaving in between teenagers loitering in groups, huddled together, heads bent over their mobile phones. Doesn’t anyone talk to each other anymore?
I glance at Joss out the corner of my eye as a group of boys yell something wholly inappropriate at her, even though I’m right there beside her. Her husband. Mr Coburn. Head of the Physical Education department. Science teacher. The man who gets to live out their wet dreams, for real. Horny fuckers. But they mean no harm. To them it’s just banter, and despite its inappropriate content, given their age and Joss’s position, she treats it as just that, flicking them the finger behind her back as she walks past. Which they love, of course, it’s attention. They crave attention, no matter what kind, and that’s exactly what Joss has given them. But she knows how to handle them. She knows how to handle anything. My wife.
Millers Bridge is very different to the last school I ran. The first one I was ever in charge of. That one was in a fairly run-down area, on the outskirts of south London. The kids were disillusioned; distracted. It was a hopeless place, for the first few months I was there. But I turned it around, with the help of great staff and students who finally realised the whole world wasn’t against them. It was, in fact, just waiting for them to go out there and grab it by the balls.
My job there, though, is done. An amazing teacher called Gary Banks now runs that school, continuing the legacy I created. And now I’m here, hundreds of miles away in North East England. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to be exact. I’m here, running a school that, basically, ticks along quite nicely. It doesn’t need my help. It doesn’t need me. I need it …
“Savvi! Savvi, come on, you’re going to be late! Savannah!”
“All right, Jesus! I’m coming.”
I stand at the bottom of the stairs, watching as my soon-to-be-eighteen-year-old daughter comes thundering down them, her white-blonde hair pulled back from her pretty face in a messy ponytail.
“And don’t call me Savannah.”
“That’s what it says on your birth certificate.”
She just throws me a look.
“Savannah is a beautiful name.”
She doesn’t respond. She sits down on the bottom stair, shoving her books into her bag, checking her phone, she rarely puts the thing down.
“You need to get going, Savvi. The bus is due in five minutes.”
“I’m going, I’m going.”
“Have you got money for lunch?”
She leans in to me, quickly kissing my cheek. And she smiles, squeezing my hand before she runs to the door and leaves without another word. I smile too as I head back into the kitchen. I’ll tidy up in here, then I need to email my editor, make a few calls. And I’m teaching a yoga class this afternoon, I need to prepare for that, too.
My phone ringing jolts me from my to-do list and I pull myself up onto the countertop, crossing my legs underneath myself as I answer it.
I smile at the sound of his voice. I never know when he’s going to call, we don’t make definite plans. We can’t. But hearing his voice, it always fills me with an inner peace, despite the chaos our relationship would cause if people knew about us.
“Hey back. You at work?”
“I am. Another day at the coal face.”
I laugh quietly, absentmindedly picking at the hem of my skirt. “You make it sound like you hate what you do. And you don’t, I know you don’t.”
“No, I don’t. It has its moments. What are you up to today?”
“Writing. Yoga. And I might head down to amateur dramatics tonight, I haven’t decided yet.”
“I need to see you, Summer.”
I pause, just for a second. “Yeah. I need to see you, too.”
I need to see him more and more as each day goes by, and this wasn’t what we planned. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It should have been over by now, but it isn’t. It isn’t.
I can hear in the background that he isn’t alone now, so I ready myself for the call to end. For him to go back to his life and let me get on with mine.
“I have to go,” he almost whispers down the line, and I don’t even get a chance to reply before he hangs up.
I don’t normally make bad decisions. He’s one I could’ve stopped myself from making, I could have walked away; should have walked away. But I didn’t. And I don’t regret what I did.
© Michelle Betham 2017
© Michelle Betham 2017
'Tainted Love' will be released - fingers crossed - late 2017.
Watch this space for pre-order details and the cover reveal, which should be coming soon!
And in the meantime, have you started reading The Wife yet? Part One (To Have and to Hold) is out now, and it's still FREE to download from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kobo and iBooks! What have you got to lose...? 😉