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BY GILLIAN Y. GODDEN
Single mother Francesca is struggling to get by when an act of desperation leads to her owing a debt to notorious gangland boss, Tony Lambrianu.
Tony has his own troubles – a change of image from playboy to respectable married man is needed to further his criminal career. He has women falling at his feet, but none he wants to make his wife.
As Francesca is drawn deeper into the dark underworld dealings of Tony and his associates, she has to make alliances of her own to survive. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her small son.
This is a roller coaster ride of high stakes, dirty tricks, loyalty and love. Strap in – it’s a hell of a trip!
Remembering the Past
Getting out of the black cab, I handed over the fare and put my coat over my arm. It was getting warmer than I had presumed it would earlier. Although the skies had looked dull this morning, it had surprised everyone when the sun had shone and the clouds had disappeared.
Walking towards the huge building in front of me and reaching my hand up to the door handle, I was just about to pull it open when, through the glass pane in the centre of the door, I saw the man I loved standing at the bar. Standing on either side of him were two beautiful leggy young blonde women, each with her arm around his waist, laughing and joking without a care in the world.
I instantly pulled my hand away from the handle, and although the sun was blocking my view slightly, I surveyed the happy scene before me. How I had once dreaded walking in on such a cosy scene like this, and how all my insecurities had risen at the thought of it.
Looking at my watch, I noticed it was another half an hour before I was due to meet him. The journey into the West End of London hadn’t taken as long as I had thought. Deciding to leave them all to it I looked around and spotted a coffee shop with people sitting outside under umbrellas enjoying the sunshine and watching the crowds passing by.
The West End of London was in all of its glory on a sunny day. Tourists were walking along the footpaths, while would-be artists drew chalk drawings of famous celebrities on the pavements, people watching in awe at their talent. Buskers with their guitars sang away, hoping for tips from the crowds of people passing by.
Taking a seat at a table, I ordered a coffee from the smiling waitress who came out to meet me, notepad in hand waiting for my order. Pointless really—I only wanted a black coffee, not one of the fancy ones advertised on the windows of the café. I looked across at the huge building with its flags heralding the owner’s name and remembered the happy scene I had left behind me. The waitress put my coffee on the table before and asked if I wanted anything else.
Shaking my head to indicate no, I lifted the cup to my lips to take a sip and thanked her and then put the cup down back on its saucer. My mind wandered off again. I had been thinking a lot about the past lately. I didn’t know why. But sometimes in quiet moments, things you haven’t thought about for years suddenly pop into your mind at the oddest moments, and you just wander off into the past to the person you once were. You know what I mean, don’t you?
Staring at the hustle and bustle of the crowds before me reminded me of how I’d felt the first time I had come into the West End and seeing all the fantastic sights before me—the famous theatres advertising famous plays I had only ever heard about. I had felt excited. But I’d also been nervous because I was going for a job interview. At this moment, that all seemed like a lifetime ago. I was young and foolish; and worst of all, I was in love. Or I thought I was. What is love? It makes you blind, ignoring the harsh truths it brings with it. I, Francesca, was the biggest fool of all.
I had been broken and penniless when my husband Luke had eventually left me for my best friend and supervisor Emma. She was everything I wasn’t—beautiful, clever, and a homeowner with plenty of money in the bank since her husband had died.
Frowning to myself, I picked up my cup again and took another sip of the hot coffee, warming my throat. Remembering that time still made me feel sick inside. How stupid and naive I had been. No—sighing to myself and rethinking the situation—how gullible and desperately lonely I had been.
I had been flattered when Luke had sought me out at an office party. It was one of those team-building exercises. He had asked me to dance. He was tall, handsome, and in charge of the security at the office where I was doing my secretarial work experience.
All the ladies smiled, a little jealous at my achievement, so I thought. I was surprised he had even noticed me. He was the original London cockney man, and I was eighteen, on work experience, and as naive as they came. People should have a work experience course on life, shouldn’t they? There I was, living in the big city until I finished my course, which had been arranged through my college in Yorkshire, where I was from.
We had dated for a while when Luke asked me to move in with him. Of course, I instantly agreed—not only to be with him but also to get out of the women’s hostel I was staying at. I suppose we both used each other in a way.
He had a typical bachelor flat, which needed a lot of attention. But we could decorate it together and make it ours. After all, we were in love. That meant you could do anything, as long as it was together.
He was always borrowing money from me, even though he was the one with the real job. I couldn’t understand why he needed to borrow. He was always coming home late, saying he’d had to work overtime, and I’d believed him.
Looking back, I realised how stupid I had been. Gossip had spread through the office, and there was talk that Luke was cheating on me regularly and basically couldn’t keep his trousers on. But I didn’t believe it. When I told Luke what people were saying, he would just laugh it off and tell me he loved me, and they were jealous. Why had he carried on living with me? Why when people told me out of ‘friendship’ about his cheating and I had confronted him one evening had he asked me to marry him?
None of it made much sense. Considering the amount of money he was always borrowing from me, perhaps he thought he would marry me rather than have to pay me back. He was always skint, I supposed because he was paying the rent and most of the bills. I had taken a weekend cleaning job to try and make us some extra money, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.
The wedding was cheap and cheerful at the local registry office. We had a few drinks at the local pub around the corner afterwards—again because we couldn’t afford anything else. I had felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I’d also felt that, now, the gossips would shut up. I had proved them all wrong. He had married me. The truth was he had just blurted it out one drunken night when yet again I was moaning about the gossip and the fact that we were both working and still never had any money. He had said it to shut me up and probably regretted it instantly. But he’d followed it through anyway.
Wincing to myself now at my stupidity, I felt sorry for that young woman I had once been—alone in the big city, miles away from home and family and no one to talk to. I didn’t tell my mam about all the arguments Luke and I were having. I knew she would worry and I hadn’t wanted that. She had enough to deal with looking after my three younger brothers on her own since dad had died.
I knew for a fact that she would have insisted I go home, back where I belonged. I felt I couldn’t do that. I wanted to make something of myself. Maybe in the big city I would be given the opportunity to do that. Maybe I’d even make some extra money to send home to Mum to help her out. This, of course, never happened because there never seemed to be enough for ourselves, let alone extra.
I couldn’t go back a failure. Mam had been so proud when I was offered this opportunity to better myself. That was why I hung on to my marriage, lived hand to mouth even though I was working every hour possible, and even put up with my newlywed husband lashing out and using me as a punchbag. Of course, he was always sorry, and even though I made excuses up at work about my bruises, I knew they knew.
Then the worst had happened. I’d discovered I was pregnant. Luke had hit the roof when I’d told him. I had never seen him so angry. I could see him now. His face was flushed, and the angry words just spewed out of his mouth. ‘You will just have to get rid of it, you stupid cow. How on earth could you let something like this happen?’ I had actually found myself apologising, as though it was all my fault! You do, though, in those kinds of marriages. You’re brain washed into believing you’re always in the wrong and you actually believe it yourself.
I never mentioned my pregnancy again. I wouldn’t ‘get rid of it’, and Luke never acknowledged the fact or spoke of it again. He was happy as long as I was working and as long as I continued for as long as I could. He had seen it as my problem. The last thing I’d wanted was for him to lash out at me and the inevitable happen, so I had kept a low profile. God knows what I was going to do when I had to give up work for a while, but I’d cross that bridge when I had to.
As time went on, I saw less and less of him, which in some ways I was glad of. There had been lots of talk about Luke cheating on me. But there was a particular woman that everyone around the office talked about more than most. The silence, which was accompanied by knowing looks when I walked into the office canteen was deafening.
I had tried putting a little money aside, some days going without food or heating. I knew, though, that, come the end of the week when I was at work, Luke would always return and take the lion’s share out of the money pot and then disappear again. I hadn’t dared hide it all. That would have been asking for trouble.
When I had gone into labour and the pains were coming thick and fast, I had tried contacting him at work, to no avail. So I rang my supervisor, Emma. She had always been so kind to me in the past. I had rung her at home, knowing this was her day off. To my utter surprise, it had been Luke who had answered the telephone. The shock in his voice when he realised it was me was nearly as bad as the shock I had in hearing Luke. Emma!
So there it was—my friendly, understanding supervisor and my husband. I just hung up the telephone. There was no point saying anything now. I had other things to do. I rang a taxi to take me to the hospital.
A few hours later, I gave birth to my son, Bobby. At least something good had come out of my marriage. When I had gone home a few days later, the house was empty. The television was missing, and so were other household items. Still holding Bobby in my arms, I walked the full length of the flat towards the bedroom. My heart was in my mouth and I could feel the panic rising inside of me.
The wardrobe was empty, and all of Luke’s belongings had gone. He’d even taken some of mine, which he would probably sell. The money pot was also empty. He had left me, and he had left me and my baby with nothing. Tears just rolled down my face. That was it then, the end of my marriage—not even a goodbye.
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About Author Gillian Godden…
“I work as a doctors receptionist at the local health centre, close to where I live. I’ve experienced a lot of support in the writing community and have seen my titles flourish under the microscope that is Amazon. The only part of writing I find difficult is the promotion. Bloggers help authors to market, advertise, and publicise our wares, but I’d far rather be writing them.
“I live in Yorkshire with my dog Susie. Walking her around the park after ten-hour shifts clears my head and allows me to plot ideas. The best murderous plans come to me this way. My son, Robert, lives in London. I’d love to move back there someday.
“My books appear in Fantastic Fiction, London Crime, and during a recent visit to Streatham library I donated one copy of each of my books. People regularly send me photos of themselves reading them while on holiday. And I often receive messages from those who’ve enjoyed my works.
Links to Gillian‘s Website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon (Dangerous Games, Book 1):
Amazon (Nasty Business, Book 2):
Amazon (Francesca, Book 3):
You can buy all of Gillian’s books here:
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Thanks, Gillian, for sharing your book with us!
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