HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY, JESS RYDER!
Morning, #bookjunkies! Thrilled that my wee possum, Claire Knight is hosting Jess Ryder’s THE GOOD SISTER blog blitz today with a #teaser extract! Before we share this, let’s find out a bit more about the author and about this fabulous book! Our thanks to Kim Nash/Bookouture for inviting Claire to take part!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jess Ryder is the pseudonym of Jan Page, author, screenwriter, playwright and award-winning television producer. After many years working in children’s media, she has recently embarked on a life of crime. Writing, that is. Her other big love is making pots.
ABOUT THE BOOK
There are two sides to every secret.
When her beloved father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover a secret life he has led with another family: another house, another woman and a half-sister, Valentina.
Born in the same week, in the same hospital, they look so physically alike they could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there…
Josie is sweet and reserved, a counsellor with the perfect boyfriend and the perfect life. Valentina is damaged and reckless, and she always gets what she wants.
But what she wants is Josie’s life, and she’ll stop at nothing until she has it.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR HERE:
THE GOOD SISTER – by Jess Ryder
Prologue – August 1992
Today, about a million people in the UK are descended from the Vikings. A finger deformity known as Dupuytren’s disease is found in some people with Viking ancestry. This is possibly connected to the congenital condition of ‘trigger thumbs’.
He spread a blanket on the warm grass and laid the girls on their backs. Bending over to bathe them in his generous shadow, he carefully undid their pure white sleepsuits – so new they hadn’t even been through the wash once. He stripped them down to their nappies to let them kick their long, slender legs. They looked so exquisite he could hardly breathe. He took their tiny hands in his and marvelled at the smallness of their fingers; gazed deeply into their bright blue eyes; stroked every inch of their soft pink skin, as yet unblemished by cuts and bruises. He smoothed the fragile wisps of auburn hair – the very same shade as his own – as they fluttered in the soft breeze. They were perfect. Genetic miracles of his own creation. Daddy’s girls. His darlings. His warrior princesses both.
The Vikings came from Scandinavia, travelling very long distances from home to settle in other lands, including Britain, France, Ireland and as far as North America.
It’s three a.m. and he hasn’t fallen asleep yet, not even for a few moments. His eyes are wide open, pupils fully dilated, and the room feels hot and airless. He lifts his head and looks through the monochrome gloom to the curtains, hanging heavy and motionless. What to do? If he gets out of bed to open the window, he’ll need a pee. But then he’ll be fully awake and might as well make a cup of tea. Watch a bit of telly. Check his emails. Read the latest threatening text.
That’s the real reason he can’t sleep. Nothing to do with the stuffy atmosphere, or the bottle of wine he drank with dinner. He eases himself out of bed, rising to his full, imposing height. He wraps a bath towel around his nakedness and, shutting the door behind him with a gentle click, pads barefoot down the stairs.
He creeps into the living room and gradually turns up the dimmer, catching his reflection in the patio doors and seeing a tall man with a decent set of abs, a strong straight nose, and bright blue eyes that contrast well against his full auburn beard. He’s known as the Viking. In his fifties, and yet the female students still flutter around him, begging for ‘feedback’ on their mediocre essays. For years he revelled in his striking Nordic looks, but now they feel like a curse.
He goes to his briefcase and takes a small pay-as-you-go phone out of the inside pocket. He forgot to put it on charge at work and now there’s hardly any battery left. He squints at the tiny screen, his stomach sinking as he reads the messages. So she’s awake too.
The deadline is almost up.
I mean it.
Then a fifteen-minute gap.
Are you ignoring me?
Such a bad idea.
Then nothing for an hour. Perhaps, like him, she went to bed. He imagines her tossing and turning between the sheets, unable to sleep with her brain on high alert for the bleep of his reply. She’ll have taken his silence as enemy action, because that’s what she always does.
You have till the end of today.
He wants to tell her to fuck off, but that will only make things worse. They need to sit down face-to-face and have a grown-up conversation; you can’t discuss an issue as complicated and important as this by text message. Texts are short-form communications for making arrangements to meet, for apologies and reminders, expressions of affection or hurt. They’re particularly useful for lies and deceptions, and he has exploited these particular functions for many years. But this is different; she’s using her phone as a weapon. Not only is it irresponsible, it’s undignified; all the players in this game are worth more than that.
He starts prowling the room, his feet slapping against the stone flooring. He won’t be pushed into making a snap decision that will change lives forever. If he can’t stop her completely, he should at least play for time. He picks up the phone again, his large fingers stumbling over the tiny keyboard as he types in the words, cursing as he automatically adds kisses then instantly deletes them. Like he feels any tiny morsel of affection for her right now.
Let’s talk this over.
Her reply comes back almost instantly. No more talking. Time for action.
Give me more time.
You know my terms. Agree to them or else.
Or else. What is she, a kid? He knows she could cause colossal damage, but surely she’d never have the guts to follow through. Then again, she’s at the end of her tether; people do terrible things when they’re pushed to the limit. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and yet he’s thought of nothing else for weeks. He bangs the cluttered white wall with his forehead and a framed print shudders in sympathy. How did he let himself get into such a stupid mess?
Actually, enough of this. Time to be a man and take control. He sits on the arm of the sofa and turns to the phone again. Types. Or else what?
He stares at the screen for a couple of minutes, waiting and wondering what the silence means. She won’t have given up and gone to bed, that’s for sure. Is she trying to think of a suitably tough reply? Or has she finally come to her senses and realised there are other ways to solve this?
He stands up, his muscles tight and restless. The stale, overheated air feels suffocating. At times like this, there’s only one thing that has the power to relax him. An activity so demanding of his concentration that thinking of anything else is impossible. She’s waiting for him in the garage. Ever faithful, ever willing. The winding lanes will be empty, the air sharp and fresh. It’s been raining heavily and the tarmac will be slippery in parts. Poor riding conditions, but that’s good. The greater the skill required, the easier to forget all this shit. He’ll set himself a challenge to take the corners faster than he’s ever dared. He’ll ride up to Black Hill and watch the sunrise, then find a roadside café on the way back and have breakfast. His fingers start to tingle, his imagination already twisting the throttle.
He goes back to the bedroom, stealing yesterday’s underwear and T-shirt from the floor. He tiptoes downstairs again to fetch his leathers from the hall cupboard, pulling on the tight, unrelenting trousers and zipping up the Marlon Brando jacket he’s always being teased about. His boots are lying chilly in the porch and he puts them on, buckling the straps and stomping out of the house with his helmet and studded gauntlets tucked under his arm. The sky is dark, the stars shrouded in cloud, and the downpour has given way to a fine watery mist. As he crunches across the gravel, he can hear the trees dripping. He takes a deep breath, and fills his lungs with the innocence of a new day.
The garage door rattles as he pulls it up and over, the light coming on automatically to reveal the Bonneville in all her shiny black glory. Oh God, he loves this bike, the T100, an updated version of the 1960s classic he dreamed of owning when he was a teenager. Raised handlebars, a low-slung seat, flashy chrome pipes and eye-catching paintwork. She’s even got retro scuff pads on the fuel tank. Okay, he admits it, he’s what they call a ‘born-again biker’. A middle-aged, middle-class man desperate to recapture the energy and freedom of youth. And the bike hasn’t disappointed him; if anything, the sensations have been stronger, the thrills more addictive than when he was young.
The reimagined Bonneville has an electronic ignition and ABS, but she’s still a powerful, challenging ride. Nothing beats the roar of liberation as you tear down an open road, the engine vibrating through your thighs, your body an echo chamber for the thunderous noise. The joy of complete oneness as you interlock with the machine, trusting your instinct to lean into the bend at the perfect angle and accelerate out at just the right moment. The freedom of visor-down, black-leather anonymity as you weave through the traffic to beat the lights, swearing at motorists who dare to block your way. And later, on the home run, your passion spent, easing off the throttle, gently on the back brake, feathering off as you bring her to a stop and take your hands off the bars. The thrilling possibility of death; the relief of still being alive. It’s enough to turn a man to poetry.
He quietly wheels the bike to the end of the drive, then climbs on, fires up and speeds away. There are no street lamps or white markings here, making the road look and feel like a track. Oncoming traffic is extremely unlikely at this hour, so he takes up a confident position in the centre of the lane and accelerates. There are plenty of blind corners ahead to satisfy his lust, but in truth, he could drive this route with his eyes shut, navigate like a bat from the sound of the engine bouncing off the trees and hedgerows. He twists the bars and feels his way expertly around a sharp bend. This is all he wants to do, to ride and not think, to let his body be his brain.
He feels the wind wiping his face clean, the soft rainwater rinsing him out. He is a free man, his own master. But the sensation of happiness doesn’t last long. He feels a vibration in his chest – it’s his wretched phone, ringing from his top inside jacket pocket. Impossible to hear the ringtone above the rush of the engine, but he knows it’s her. So now she wants to talk. Why did he bring it with him? Why didn’t he put it back in its hiding place? The vibrations continue like an alien heartbeat, the insistent pulse of the enemy.
Enough calls, enough texts. Enough accusations and demands and threats. Enough, enough, enough. He takes his black-gloved hand off the bars and drags down the zip of his jacket, reaching in and extracting the phone. Letting out a triumphant, wolfish howl, he hurls it into the undergrowth and rides on, twisting like a ribbon around the bends. The feeling of freedom is so overwhelming and so sublime that for a split second he forgets he’s riding a modern-day motorcycle with considerable poke.
It happens very fast, and yet slowly enough for him to know that there’s nothing he can do to stop it. The road lurches suddenly to the right and he doesn’t ease off, doesn’t lean, his instincts deserting him along with the anti-lock braking system. A puddle of water forces itself beneath his tyres, and he skims over its surface like a polished black stone. He spins. He flies. Then hits the all-too-solid tree.
WOW! Now if that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will! Sounds like a great read, and if you think so too….click the links below and grab yourself a copy!
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