Read The Secrets Between Us Online

Authors: Louise Douglas

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Literary

The Secrets Between Us

BOOK: The Secrets Between Us
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About the Book

A chance encounter

When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex, she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They’ve both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together?

A perfect life

But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn’t add up. Alex’s beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so?

A web of lies

Genevieve’s family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he’s letting on. But Sarah’s fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn’t have anything to hide. Or could he?

A mesmerizing novel reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s
Rebecca
– a passionate love story and a haunting page-turner that will keep you gripped to the very last chapter.

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Six

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-One

Chapter Sixty-Two

Chapter Sixty-Three

Chapter Sixty-Four

Chapter Sixty-Five

Chapter Sixty-Six

Chapter Sixty-Seven

Chapter Sixty-Eight

Chapter Sixty-Nine

Chapter Seventy

Chapter Seventy-One

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also by Louise Douglas

Copyright

The Secrets Between Us

Louise Douglas

For Chris, Nick and Mark,

with all my love

CHAPTER ONE

I FIRST MET
Alexander in the walled garden of the Hotel La Fiora in a secluded part of the southern coast of Sicily.

I was swimming in the pool and had been there for a while, half an hour maybe, long enough for the skin on the pads of my fingers to wrinkle. I floated on my back with my arms spread wide. From above I would have looked like a crucifix spinning slowly on the surface of the water. My eyes were closed against the needling brightness of the sun. It was the middle of August and the temperature was well over thirty degrees, and at that time of day, early afternoon, most Italian people were asleep indoors with the shutters pulled to. My sister, May, had gone to the room she shared with her husband, Neil, for a lie-down. She was much fairer than me and struggled in the heat. I was not sleepy. I preferred a swim to a nap and, anyway, I found it best to keep myself occupied, because in quiet moments my mind tended to drift back to Laurie standing at the doorway to our bedroom a week earlier, watching me pack and begging me not to leave him. His hair stood on end. He was holding his glasses by one of the arms, waving them. He wore his faded-to-grey trousers and his feet were bare. My bag was on the bed and I was stuffing it with clothes. Behind me, Laurie had said:
‘Sarah, this isn’t helping. We need to talk about our problems. You can’t just run away.’

I had replied quietly: ‘Watch me.’

The most pressing of our problems, at least as I saw it, was that Laurie had slept with my friend Rosita in that very bed, our bed, not just once but several times. It wasn’t the actual infidelity; it was the fact that Laurie had taken his lover, my friend, into our bed, our most private place, that disturbed me most. I don’t think I’d have minded so much – at least it wouldn’t have hurt so badly – if they’d simply rented an anonymous hotel room and fucked one another stupid there.

After they’d had sex, he must have lain on the bed and watched her dress, seen the private angles of her shoulder blades and elbows as she reached backwards to marry the hooks and eyes of her bra. Laurie was probably already beginning to feel guilty, because that was Laurie’s way. Even so, he took trouble to cover his tracks. After Rosita left, he must have showered and made the bed; patted out the pillows; checked for any stray long dark hairs. He must have plumped the duvet, turned and straightened it, and, later, he let me sleep in the same place where Rosita had lain.

I could not forgive him that.

As I packed, Laurie had pleaded with me. He blamed his infidelity on me – no, not blamed exactly, but he intimated that I had driven him to it. He was distraught, his face distorted with contradictions. ‘You’ve been so distant lately,’ he’d said. ‘I didn’t know how to reach you.’ And I had replied: ‘Believe me, Laurie, this wasn’t the way.’

Rosita was a distraction, a salve, according to him – that was all. She was a symptom of the unhealthy condition of our relationship since we’d lost the baby. He always spoke in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’ when talking about the stillbirth to show that he saw it as a mutual loss in which equal pain but no blame or responsibility was apportioned.

Sleeping with Rosita was stupid, he had said; it was
nothing. It meant nothing. I didn’t remember if I’d said anything out loud, but the words cannoning through my brain making my eyes hurt were: Oh but, Laurie, you did not change the sheets. You took her into the bed where our baby was conceived, that sacred place where we talked to him, and you measured his progress with the palm of your hand every night on my belly. You took her there, to our most private place, and then you let me sleep where she had lain. You betrayed us all. You lied, your body lied and you did not change the sheets.

In the swimming pool in the garden of the Hotel La Fiora, I paddled with my hands a little, to make myself rotate in the sunlight. I was heavy with my thoughts, weighed down by them. I floated but I felt as if I were made of lead.

It was hot and quiet in the hotel gardens. The blinding white concrete of the main building was staggered down the cliff-face so that every bedroom window overlooked the bay. Dark-leaved citrus trees, palms and spiky plants in terracotta urns cast patterned shadows on the grass, and a sprinkler quietly and methodically watered the beds. People dozed on their loungers in the shade and a tiny grey kitten pounced on a spider on the footpath. Even the man who sat behind the bar in the kiosk by the pool was struggling to stay awake, his face cradled low in his hands, his upper eyelashes yearning to meet the lower ones. He flicked away an insect with the back of his hand; yawned. A motorbike drove by on the pot-holed road beyond.

Most of the hotel guests around the pool were resting on their sun beds with their eyes closed, or reading airport thrillers. They were older than me; middle-aged Italian and German holidaymakers with short, grey hair and sunglasses, wrinkled chests and hard, round bellies. I dipped underwater and swam a length, and at the far end of the pool I turned. Under the trees, a little boy was climbing out of his trousers, holding on to the side of the sun bed for balance. Beside him,
a man in faded Hawaiian shorts and sunglasses was sitting hunched, elbows on splayed knees, blowing into an armband. I hadn’t seen any children at the hotel before; it wasn’t the kind of place for young families. None of the other guests seemed to have noticed him.

I slid beneath the water again and swam a few strokes. When I broke the surface, I wiped my eyes with my hands. There was a splash, and a rush of water, waves. I turned to see the same child doggy-paddling towards me with his chin held high, his upper body made buoyant by the inflated orange armbands. His white-blond hair was cut very short, which made his eyes and ears seem very large and his face too small, and streaks of sun-protection cream on his nose and cheeks glistened in the sunlight. I headed for the steps at the far end. I did not want to share the pool with a child. The man was standing on the second step, hesitating. A phone was ringing, its tone piercing the somnolence of the afternoon. The sleepy people were disturbed. They raised their heads and pushed their sunglasses up their foreheads and frowned at the noise. The man glanced from the child to his phone on the lounger and back again. He caught my eye.

‘Would you watch him for a moment?’

I hesitated; I half-shrugged, half-nodded. What else could I have done? The man gave me the thumbs-up and stepped out of the pool, the wet hairs of his legs black and flat against the skin. I moved towards the child, who was concentrating on his swimming.

‘Hi,’ I said.

‘Hi.’ He looked as displeased by the supervisory arrangements as I was.

I struggled for a straightforward question, and eventually asked: ‘Who taught you to swim?’

‘I don’t need armbands,’ he replied. He had a slight lisp. His two top middle front teeth were missing.

‘Oh.’

‘Mummy said I didn’t need them but my dad makes me wear them.’

The boy looked towards his father, who was standing facing us but leaning into the telephone, listening earnestly.

‘What’s your name?’ I asked the boy.

‘Jamie.’

‘That’s a nice name. How old are you?’

The child looked at me. His eyes were the same blue colour as the tiny square ceramic tiles that lined the swimming pool. The irises were outlined in a darker colour and there were drops of water on his lashes. His face was delicate and small, babyish, but his expression was almost adult in its seriousness.

BOOK: The Secrets Between Us
13.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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