All text and photos © Louise Marley unless otherwise stated Site Design: Seaweed Hut
The day Caitlin learnt she was pregnant, her husband Hugh cracked open a bottle of champagne. Not supermarket plonk but the very best vintage, stored for posterity in the cellars of his family’s hotel. Caitlin would have been impressed - if she had not discovered him, twenty minutes later, pouring it over his half-naked mistress.
She had known something was up as soon as she returned from her doctor’s appointment. Her staff were unusually pleasant, keen to discuss the arrangements for Hugh’s birthday party that evening, but vague as to his actual whereabouts. So she was not at all surprised to find him in bed with another woman. After all, it could have been worse. It could have been two.
Amanda de Havilland lay across Caitlin’s four-poster bed; her dress casually rucked down to her hips, her blonde hair framing her face like an undeserved halo. “Be careful, Hugh!” she giggled, as he shook up the bottle once more. “I’ll drown!”
“Funny,” said Caitlin acidly, “I would have thought silicone floated.”
Amanda sat up and shrieked, pulling the bed sheets protectively against herself. Despite the perfect DD breasts, she looked like a teenager in her pale pink dress. Caitlin wondered if she’d dressed that way on purpose. Everyone knew Hugh liked his women young. Which was why he had married her.
Hugh, quite unperturbed by the arrival of his wife in the middle of entertaining his mistress, lit a cigarette. “But, Caitlin,” he smiled sardonically, “I thought you’d enjoy a night off.” Calmly he picked up his clothes, strewn around the room in a fit of romantic passion. His socks went on first, then his boxer shorts and jeans - as he took the utmost care not trap anything important in the zip.
Caitlin, infuriated by his apparent indifference, looked for something to throw. As their suite was crammed with family antiques, mostly hers, she had to make do with the champagne bottle. It smashed beautifully against the carved oak headboard and showered glass and alcohol across the green patchwork quilt, embroidered in 1915 by Hugh’s great-grandmother, ruining it forever.
Amanda screamed and threw herself under the bed.
Hugh didn’t even blink. “Why don’t you have a drink, Caitlin? It might improve your aim.”
Caitlin stared at the broken glass and, feeling the shock wash over her, sat abruptly on the window seat before her legs went AWOL. The whole scene was like an action replay of her childhood. An endless succession of stepfathers in bed with the maid, the nanny, her teenage friends … She remembered her distraught mother, the violent screaming matches and slammed doors. Now Hugh was behaving in exactly the same way. Just as her mother had said he would.
Involuntarily her eyes met his. The blue irises were rimmed pink from late nights and early drinking. Deep lines of discontent ran tracks from his nose to his mouth and fanned out from his eyes across his cheeks. His dark hair was turning grey, his full lips now mean and spiteful. He looked far older than his forty years. Amanda could have been his daughter. It was obscene.
Through a plume of smoke, Hugh was studying her equally carefully. He took another long drag on his cigarette, the tip glowing orange, and then he removed it from his mouth, tapping his fingers against the tip and carelessly showering ash across the threadbare carpet.
“So you have been drinking … ” he said.
“Yes.” Caitlin blinked back the tears as she remembered how happy she had been, not thirty minutes previously. After the doctor had told her the news, she had planted a huge lipstick kiss on his cheek and virtually danced out of the surgery, swinging around lamp-posts and jumping in puddles like a manic Gene Kelly. “That’s what you’re supposed to do with champagne,” she said. “Celebrate … ”
He gave a wry smile and dropped his cigarette into a discarded glass, still half-full of flat champagne, where it fizzed and went out. “True - but it’s not as much fun.”
She watched the cigarette bob up and down, slowly turning the alcohol grey, vaguely symbolic of her love life. It was his audacity that hurt her most. He didn’t care how she felt. Perhaps he assumed their life would carry on as it always had, that she would forgive him, yet again, and that a bunch of flowers would make everything all right.
But not this time. As her heart grew another coat of armour plating, she picked up one of his elegantly handmade shoes and hurled it at him.
“Missed,” laughed Hugh, just before its mate clobbered him across the ear.
Caitlin looked around for more ammunition.
Believing a cease-fire in progress, Amanda slid surreptitiously from beneath the bed to retrieve her bra, still clutching her dress to hide her nakedness. Although it pained Caitlin to admit it, Amanda was by far the most attractive of her husband’s many indiscretions. Her Barbie doll looks contrasted perfectly with the dark-green William Morris wallpaper - far better than a pasty-faced brunette such as herself. If Hugh decided to move his little tart in on a permanent basis, at least he would not have to redecorate.
Amanda’s purple lace bra had somehow become hooked over a Tiffany lamp. There was an undignified scramble but Caitlin got there first.
Triumphantly she pulled out the padding. “Silicone and Wonderbras? Is anything about you real?”
Amanda prettily burst into tears and was gallantly rescued by Hugh. “Now then, girls,” he smiled, placing himself between them. “I’m quite willing to be shared.”
“I bet you are,” snarled Caitlin, launching a convenient bowl of potpourri in his direction. The porcelain clanged to the floor, amazingly not breaking; the dried petals showered over him like confetti. “You pervert!”
“Actually,” Amanda’s voice wavered bravely as she peeped out from behind Caitlin’s husband. “Hugh and I are going to get married.”
“Married?” Caitlin spluttered.
Hugh shrugged. “I’m so conventional.”
“But not conventional enough to get divorced first?” Caitlin looked at Amanda, the fairytale princess who always got her man, even if he belonged to someone else. It wasn’t difficult to calculate how she had won Hugh’s cheating heart.
“Let me guess,” began Caitlin slowly. “You’re pregnant? It’s amazing what one can achieve with a packet of condoms and a pin. Well, I’m sorry to wreck your happy ending but I’m having a baby myself. A legitimate one.”
“You’re what?” Hugh seemed genuinely shocked.
“Pregnant,” Caitlin repeated, with some irritation. “You know, bun in the oven, with child, up the duff, about to drop one ... ”
“Are you sure it’s mine?”
Bastard. “Oh definitely,” she replied, hoping he could not hear the tremor in her voice. “I haven’t had a vision of the Archangel Gabriel since I gave up on the tequilas.”
Amanda was frantically doing sums on her fingers. “But Hugh said he hadn’t slept with you since Bonfire Night.”
“He’s lying.” As her life turned into a West End farce, Caitlin realised she sounded more hysterical by the minute, but was quite unable to do anything about it. “The baby was conceived on Christmas Eve. It’s surprising what one can do with a bit of mistletoe and tinsel. I got out my stockings and guess what? Santa wasn’t the only one who came.”
“Well,” said Hugh, slowly smiling. “I suppose that does change things … ”
Amanda regarded him warily. “What sort of ‘things’?”
He ruffled her hair. “Well, can’t dump the old girl now, can I?”
“But Hugh … ” she whispered. “You told me you loved me!”
Hugh lit another cigarette. His hand trembled faintly. “A man will tell a girl anything to get her into bed, darling. Surely you can’t be that naïve?”
Caitlin, taken aback by his abrupt change of mind, could almost hear Amanda’s heart breaking.
“Please, Caitlin,” the girl appealed. “Please … make him change his mind. You know you don’t love him.”
How do you know how I feel? thought Caitlin. When I’m not even sure myself.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
After marrying the handsome and wealthy Hugh Kirkwood, all Caitlin wants to do is
enjoy her happy ever after. But on the day she learns she is finally pregnant, she
catches him in bed with another woman.
Before Caitlin can even think of divorce, Hugh and his girlfriend are killed in a mysterious fire. But Caitlin’s problems are only just beginning. Hugh took out additional life insurance before he died, the fire turns out to have been started deliberately and the police are now eyeing her up as their number one suspect.
Just as Caitlin really feels her life cannot get any worse, fate has one last shock in store …
#1 Romantic Suspense #1 Romance & Top 100 Bestseller (Amazon UK)
“Thoroughly good fun” Irish Tatler
“An enjoyable read” Woman’s Way
“A lively debut novel … Cathy Kelly meets Agatha Christie” Irish Independent