Authors: Sheryl Browne
First published in 2015 by Safkhet Select, Wilhelmshaven, Germany
Safkhet Select is an imprint of Safkhet Publishing
Text Copyright 2015 by Sheryl Browne
Design Copyright 2015 Safkhet Publishing
Sheryl Browne asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All characters and events in this publication,o ther than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, including but not limited to electronic, mechanical, photocopying or recording, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Find out more about Sheryl on www.sherylbrowne.com and meet her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SherylBrowne.Author
Kim Maya Sutton
William Banks Sutton
The colophon of Safkhet is a representation of the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom and knowledge, who is credited with inventing writing.
Safkhet Publishing is named after her because the founders met in Egypt.
For my family for supporting me
and all those who read and share their love of books
~ thank you!
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Safkhet Publishing, who not only commissioned me to write my first book, having read and loved my writing, but opened an imprint for three further novels. Despite my determination, I was at a point then where I wondered whether continuing to pursue my dream was sheer self-indulgent madness. Safkhet believed in me, giving me huge impetus to keep writing. My first book, Recipes for Disaster – Sexilicious Romantic Comedy Combined with Fab, Fun Recipes – was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the Festival of Romance Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Since then, I’ve just kept writing. My writing has of course grown as I’ve explored new genres. I wasn’t sure Safkhet would take The Edge of Sanity, but … they loved it. I’m hoping their faith was well placed as the book does seem to be getting some excellent reviews, one fabulous such review recently on Best Selling Crime Thrillers where the book sits proudly alongside such hugely talented authors as, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell. To my absolute delight, the book also recently featured as a Crime Thriller Hound Book of the Week, who said, “Sheryl Browne really delivers with her first thriller, a powerful and emotional read”. Needless to say, I am thrilled.
I am now doubly thrilled to be bringing you my next book, Death Sentence, the title of which was suggested by a chief constable, who was also kind enough to offer me some advice around forensics and police procedural. I can’t name him in case he arrests me! However, he knows who he is and I’d like to offer him my heartfelt thanks. Thank you, too, to all the awesome professional book bloggers and readers who have been kind enough to read my books and post reviews.
I am humbled. Writing is who I am. I wouldn’t be here without you.
Rebecca looked up from her laptop as Matthew dashed into the kitchen, looking as deprived of sleep as when he’d fallen into bed late last night. Noting the dark shadows under his eyes, the perpetual worry that seemed etched into his brow, Rebecca really wished he wouldn’t push himself so hard, as if he alone could make the streets safe. But then, throwing himself into his work was his way of coping with his demons, Rebecca knew.
‘Have you had any more thoughts about Ashley?’ she asked, as he grabbed a coffee. Now probably wasn’t a good time; Matthew had already received an urgent call from his detective sergeant, but they had to make their decision soon. It wouldn’t be easy. They were both aware of what a profoundly life-changing commitment it would be, the emotional implications of taking on a child who was a stranger to them, despite the family ties. Ashley was older than Lily would have been, but the wounds of their daughter’s loss were still painfully raw.
Matthew took a sip of his coffee. ‘Some,’ he said, glancing uncertainly at her, his velvet brown eyes a kaleidoscope of emotion, his grief, which was always palpable, but which he worked hard at hiding. His frustration at not being able to save Ashley’s mother, which was ridiculous when it was obvious his sister was hell-bent on self-destruction.
Rebecca understood his hesitation. It was a huge decision for both of them. In her mind though, at thirteen years old, if his niece was going to survive her dysfunctional childhood and learn to cope with life, in care was not where she needed to be.
‘You know I’m OK with it, don’t you?’ she reminded him, gently.
Matthew glanced at her again, that same curious expression Rebecca so often saw in his eyes. As if he couldn’t quite grasp why she hadn’t fallen apart after Lily and the subsequent miscarriage. God knew, there were times when Rebecca had felt close. So many times, when her mind played over that fateful second Lily’s hand had slipped from her own; when she would hear the impact, dull, metallic, final. In the bleak, listless weeks that followed the accident, she’d simply ceased wanting to be. Black, empty nothingness was what she’d felt, what she’d craved. Not even wanting Matthew to comfort her, she’d just wanted to curl up on her own in the dark where life couldn’t touch her. She hadn’t let go though. She’d held on, by her fingernails it had seemed sometimes, because eventually she’d realised that the baby growing inside her would need her. For Matthew, too, who had eventually reached his own lowest ebb, broke down and wept in her arms. Only once though. He cried until Rebeca had thought his heart would break, but, after that night, when they’d lain together limbs entwined, grieving the loss of Lily and the baby that had given them new hope, it was as if Matthew had shut part of himself away. The part that was emotionally vulnerable.
Knowing that, knowing him, a man who drove himself to work harder when he was hurting, a man determined to fix the hurts of the world when he could never hope to, Rebecca had stayed strong. Aware that Matthew might be the one to fall, somehow, she’d survived. And now, she suspected, but didn’t say for fear of swaying him unfairly, she would stay strong still, this time for Ashley, who clearly desperately needed someone to simply just love her. Rebecca could do that, she was sure.
Watching her studying him, seeing the determination in her eyes, Matthew despaired of himself, his own inability to be as positive as she was. How many women, he wondered, having gone through what Becky had, would still be standing, let alone considering taking on a child she hardly knew: his niece, not hers. A child abandoned by her own mother, who preferred the company of the bottle. Matthew sighed inwardly, still not able to understand how his sister could have turned her back on her own daughter. He wanted to take Ashley. At least, he thought he did. Who else was there, if not him? The truth was, though, he was scared. Scared for himself—how could he not see Lily every time his eyes fell on another young girl wandering around the house? More scared, though, for Becky. Could she cope? Truly? Seeing another child in Lily’s place?
Instantly assaulted by the flashback he tried constantly to block out, Matthew closed his eyes, seeing with absolute clarity the quiet pleading in Lily’s. She’d been silently begging him, her daddy, to fix things, as he’d cradled her in his arms. He hadn’t been able to fix it. Matthew swallowed back the pain and anger that burned steadily inside him. He
have been there, at home, on time, not pouring over some case that would probably never be solved. They might never have taken that route to the cinema, might never have left the house at that time, if he’d been back, as he should have been. Instead, even knowing deep down in his gut that that bastard Patrick Sullivan might make good his threats, he’d been late.
He asked himself, as he did at least a thousand times a day. How could any God in heaven be so cruel as to snatch away the life of a child in front of her mother’s eyes? Rebecca had never known about Sullivan. Imagining that someone had deliberately ploughed a car into her innocent daughter … Matthew wasn’t sure that wouldn’t destroy her, no matter how hard she fought to stay strong. And then, with no evidence against Sullivan, Matthew had decided to keep the information from her. As far as Rebecca knew it was a hit-and-run, assailant unknown. Matthew knew though—and he’d made himself a promise the day he’d watched his daughter’s life slip away—one way or another Sullivan was going to pay.
Tugging in a tight breath, Matthew buried the memory, which was the only way he knew how to cope with it, then smiled as Rebecca, ever intuitive of his mood, walked across to him. ‘Did I ever tell you how much I love you, Detective Adams?’ she said, hooking her arms around his neck and gazing knowingly up at him.
‘Frequently.’ Mathew swallowed. She did tell him, often, but he wasn’t sure how she could. Why she was still with a man who hadn’t been there when she’d needed him and then emotionally missing for months thereafter?
‘So? What about Ashley?’ she urged him.
Still, Matthew was hesitant. But then, what kind of a future would the girl have if they didn’t take her? Chances were, coming out of care, she’d end up following in her mother’s footsteps, abusing alcohol, homeless, spending her nights on canal embankments, in subways, freezing cold half the time and not even knowing or caring where. Her days begging funds to fuel her addiction … No, he couldn’t let that happen. Then there was Becky. She must feel so lonely, rattling around this place on her own. Finally moving into the barn conversion, renovated with a family in mind, only to lose their children, had been the cruellest twist of all. He’d thought he’d been doing the right thing investing some of his father’s insurance pay-out in a property outside the city, yet close enough to ensure all amenities. It had been a mistake. The place was too isolated, half of it still a building site since the builders had gone bust, no neighbours—nor was there likely to be any in the foreseeable future, which could only exacerbate Becky’s isolation.