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Authors: Sarah Elizabeth Ashley

Freeing Alex

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Freeing Alex

 

 

Part one of the
Alexandra Drake Series

 

 

By Sarah Elizabeth
Ashley

 

 

Copyright © 2013
Sarah Elizabeth Ashley

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Sarah Elizabeth Ashley 2013

FREEING ALEX

All rights reserved.

The right of Sarah Elizabeth Ashley to be identified
as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, nor translated into a machine
language, without the written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names and characters are a product
of the author’s imaginations and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, events and organisations is purely coincidental.

Condition of sale

This book is sold subject to the condition that it
shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which
it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

The Alex Drake Series

 

Part One ––Freeing Alex

 

Part Two –– Loving Alex

 

Part Three–– Eternally Alex––
Early 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Acknowledgements

 

Alexandra Drake
stayed with me and gave me the motivation, drive and encouragement to continue
through to completion of this, my first ever novel, as well as my family of
course –– particularly my darling husband, who has spent many evenings alone
with nothing more than the TV for company; my, children who have stood by and
watched as Mum bashed the keyboard, but also forbidden me to write under my
‘real name’; and my biggest critic, my mum: I am so sorry I kept you awake.

Thank you to my readers for your
comments, support and feedback.

Thank you all so very much – all
of you. Now… who wants strawberries?

 

 Find Sarah on Facebook:
facebook.com/AlexDrake

http://sarahelizabethashley.com

Twitter @SarahEAshley1

Playlist

 

The Script ft. Will.i.Am ––
Hall of Fame

Calvin Harris –
Feel So Good

Icona Pop ––
I Love It

Andrea Bocelli and Hayley Westena –
Vivo Per Lei

Little Mix ––
Change your Life

Daft Punk ft. Pharrell –– 
Get Lucky

David Guetta ––
Titanium

Paul McCartney –– 
Let It Be

 
Prologue

“Don’t you dare ever forget to iron my
bloody shirts again! You’re a fucking waste of space, a hopeless bitch. I should
never have fucking married you. Your parents couldn’t wait to offload you onto the
first poor bastard that came along.”

Lewis was in an absolute rage. I just stood there petrified,
quaking in the corner of our kitchen, the ironing board out and his few shirts to
be packed half done, ironed for the second time. It was summer and warm, the windows
open. Fortunately, I knew our neighbours were out, otherwise they would have heard
the row. I stood there in my shorts and vest top, subjected to his vicious onslaught.

“You’re making me late, bitch. Get the fucking things ironed
now
before you make me any later.
Fucking
useless waste of space!”
He sneered at me, shaking with anger – something I was used to, but he hadn’t been
this bad for a while. I moved from my corner, trembling as I stepped gradually to
the ironing board, tears rolling down my cheeks.
Just breathe, Alex, breathe
.

Of course, I’d done nothing wrong. His shirts were always pressed
nicely before being returned to his wardrobe. But this was a new obsession, wanting
them pressed again before they were put into his suit carrier; he wanted me to iron
his shirts twice! A few weeks ago, during one of his good moods, I’d suggested that
I didn’t iron anything until he was ready to pack, then his shirts would be freshly
ironed and packed. That suggestion had resulted in a row and a nice bruise across
my ribs and one possibly broken. Over the years, I’d learnt how to take care of
myself and how to nurse these things.

With shaking hands, I removed the first shirt from his suit carrier.
It was hanging neatly and wasn’t creased; it was only going to be in there for an
hour or so until he reached his hotel. But he wanted it pressing again. I removed
it from the hanger and, draping it over the ironing board, I picked up my steam
generator and started to press the shirt, still shaking and still sobbing. I could
see his back; his breathing was rapid. He was still gripped by his violent rage.

“Stop the fucking crying, you stupid woman!” he yelled again
at me. With a quick movement, he yanked the iron out of my hand and raised it above
his shoulder. I turned away from him, raising my arms over my head and face, cowering
away and fearing what he would do. Since the birth of our then thirteen-year-old
daughter, he’d become violent. The hurt had always been bruises, minor cuts and,
of course, emotional – apart from my mark, the mark he’d inflicted upon me when
Anna was just a baby.

I hated the thought of fire and heat as a result of that
mark and fear coursed through me as I glanced at the iron in his hand above his
shoulders. “You fucking stupid bitch, you make me do this, stupid bitch!” he spat
as he slammed the iron onto my shoulder, pressing down.

The searing
pain
cut through me as I wilted
to the ground. I don’t know how long he held the iron on my shoulder for, but it
was agony. Once he’d had enough of the torture, he scooped his clothes up, shoved
them into his suit carrier and left, leaving me huddled on my knees, crumpled on
the floor, the burning pain intensifying by the second. The iron, still on, he
had flung on the floor beside me.

Once I heard the front door shut and his car pull off the gravel
drive, I staggered to the kitchen sink, retching. I vomited until my stomach was
empty and staggered upstairs to the shower.
Cold water... cold water...
kept
playing through my mind.

I should have gone to Accident and Emergency. After all, I hadn’t
been for six months – long enough for them not to suspect anything. But how I could
pass this off, that I had burnt myself with the iron
on my back
? Well, I
couldn’t. I turned the shower on and stood under the cold water, fully clothed and
shaking for what seemed like ages, letting the cool water bathe my burning skin.
I heard the telephone ringing. It would be Anna, asking me to collect her from town.

After carefully removing myself from the shower I stepped out
of my sopping clothes. Taking off my vest top was torture in itself. I dried
off, patting my shoulder injury. Looking in the mirror, I studied the extent of
Lewis’s latest efforts to destroy me. “Nice job, Lewis,” I said to myself. “I won’t
be wearing anything backless for a while, if ever again.”

I slipped a cool cotton blouse on – I couldn’t wear a bra, the
straps would sit right across the burn. I finished dressing with a pair of denim
shorts and checked who had called; it
was
Anna. Calling her back, I arranged
a meeting place in thirty minutes.

Venturing downstairs, still feeling incredibly sick, I took two
painkillers and tidied the kitchen as best I could, finding it difficult to move.
Lewis would be gone for the week as usual, so I could take it easy for the next
four or five days, pray that his lates effort to hurt me didn’t become infected
and then make sure the house was spotless before he came home.

That was five years ago...

 
Chapter 1

So… I’m Alexandra Drake, although
everyone calls me Alex, and I’m forty-two. Recently my life changed, for the
better, perhaps. Well, it certainly couldn’t have got any worse! As I sit here
in the foyer of Reid’s Hotel, a prestigious five-star luxury hotel in Covent
Garden, London, I can’t help but think about where I’ve come from, how quickly
my life
has
changed in the last few months. Anna, my daughter, she’s
seen changes too. She’s moved with me down to London, to the Cheyne Row home
included in my “Aunt Maggie’s” estate, a huge house that we’ve had re-decorated
since we moved in and made it ours, although I still don’t know if I really
feel at home there.

  Anna’s eighteen and finished school. She’s off to
university in October, assuming she passes her A Levels that she sat back in
May, and gets the grades required.

Looking back, it’s a wonder that the shock and disbelief of
what Tom Chandler, my solicitor, told me back in May didn’t kill me. First of
all, I’m told that my bastard of a soon-to-be ex-husband tried to intercept the
letters that the solicitor had sent to me regarding Maggie’s estate, he’d even
telephoned the legal practice and told them that I wasn’t capable or competent
to deal with any legal affairs. Then I was politely informed that the woman who
I always regarded as Aunt Maggie wasn’t my aunt at all – she was, in fact, my
birth mother, and as to who my birth father is, heaven knows!

The couple who raised me, Mum and Dad, were actually my aunt
and uncle, Maggie’s sister and her husband, but nobody told me. Chandler had
calmly read out a letter to me from my birth mother which clearly explained
what had happened, what she’d done all those years ago. That they had planned
to explain but, well, I suppose circumstances had prevented this; I was eighteen
when my dad died,
they
had planned to tell me then. Lewis, the bastard,
came along very shortly after that, forged a huge valley in the relationship
that me and my mum had and she passed away shortly after we married, so little
old me was never told that I was adopted, that Maggie had given me away as she
felt her career prevented her from bringing up a child – although from what I
see here before me, this hotel, I get the impression it was more like empire
building!

To complete the mammoth shock, I inherited everything that
“Aunt Maggie” owned, which includes this place, a fifty per cent share in a
high-end night club and several silent partnerships and investments in
properties and organisations the length and breadth of the country. There are
also holiday homes in Tuscany and California and millions in the bank, and when
I say millions, I’m not joking.

Yes, I’ve gone from a twenty-two-year marriage, that wasn’t
the best by any stretch of the imagination, to this, the start of my new life.

My husband could be very abusive and controlling, forcing me
to give up my job as a primary school teacher and, well, I suppose keeping me
as nothing more than a housekeeper. Before you shout, “you should have left”, I
would like to add in my defence that I had nowhere to go other than a hostel
and I wouldn’t do that, me on my own maybe, but not with Anna, and besides
which, Lewis was really only ever home at the weekends, his work taking him
away Monday to Friday.

Lewis is a partner in a building company and most of their
work is in the north of England. He preferred to stay away, and I didn’t
complain. It’s been like that since… oh, I can’t remember, years and years. I
know he has other women, in fact I’m sure there’s a mistress or two stashed
away. He simply lost all interest in me,
all
interest in every respect,
not that it bothered me, I cringe at the thought of him touching me now anyway!
Other men, yes, I’ve looked, drooled and wanted but everyone I have fancied has
been married and
I
wouldn’t do that to another woman and, anyway, God
forbid if Lewis ever found out!

I watch the comings and goings in this luxurious, sumptuous
place, where the richest of the rich stay, dine and drink. I know from the
reports that I have seen, that are sent to me by my accountant, that this place
is a goldmine. The money it takes is astronomical, as are all of my aunt’s –
sorry,
my
investments. I’m still in shock, I think, even though it’s
been a few months since I found out about my inheritance and then left my home
in Staffordshire. I escaped with Anna on a Tuesday afternoon, our beat-up old
Focus struggling to get above sixty miles an hour on the motorway. It
eventually died as we pulled up outside our new house, meaning that my first
purchase was a new car. Anna and I went car hunting and bought with our hearts,
a pretty white Audi R8 Spyder. It’s gorgeous but I regret it already as I
loathe driving in London, completely. But, I tell you, it didn’t half feel good
spending that sort of money! Empowering or what!

I’m here today to meet the illustrious James Aconi, the
hotel’s General Manager. I’ve heard lots about him, mainly from my solicitor
who, as they were unable to make contact with me initially, discussed the
running of this place with him on a weekly basis. I suppose he was technically
looking after Maggie’s affairs until they could find me, process her will, and
pass everything onto me. Apparently he’s amazing at his job, sounds like the
perfect gentleman, Tom can’t speak highly enough of him. I have no idea what he
looks like, although the surname Aconi leads me to believe that he’s of foreign
parentage. From what I’ve been told about how experienced he is, I’m expecting
someone at least the same age as me, possibly older.

I shuffle in the deep sofa, waiting for Mr Aconi. How much
longer will he keep me waiting? I check my appearance in my compact mirror. My
shoulder-length dead straight blonde hair – my own colour blonde, I might add –
still looks fine, my blue eyes brighter than they’ve been for years, probably
because I’m happier than I’ve been for years. Putting the compact away in my
chain-store handbag, I look down at my floral dress, from a chain store again.
I look totally out of place here amongst the designer dresses and suits,
although at least I’m slimmer than the designer-wearing brigade. For 42 I think
I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape, I’m still only a size 12. Well, my boobs
mean that a 14 fits better on top.  But no, I think I’ve not done too badly at
all, no middle-aged spread to speak of and no excess flab! What would all these
people milling around think if they knew
I
owned the place?

I glance at my watch. I’ve been waiting ten minutes already,
I’ll give it another five and then I’ll ask what’s happening. I’ve been asked
not to introduce myself to any staff just yet, so the girls that greeted me at
reception just looked me up and down when I announced myself, telling them that
I had an appointment with Mr Aconi. I bet they think I’m here for a job! I just
smiled sweetly, oh yes, feeling very powerful.

Looking around, I take a sharp breath as I see the back of a
large man. The same stature as Lewis, the same hair, looks just like Lewis from
the back. I go cold at the thought. I have no doubt that if he found me, came
looking for me, it would result in some form of
punishment
, as he would
refer to it.  Yes, I’m divorcing him and he’s acknowledged that, but I haven’t
told him where I’ve moved to. Anna and I didn’t even tell him we were going, we
just left, although I suspect he knows where we are. Either his solicitor would
have told him or he’d have found out somehow, and I know that one day he’ll
make contact. Knowing him like I do, I’m certain that he won’t let go
completely without a fight, he’s so motivated by money and I’m sure that the
settlement that I’ve offered him, effectively to “go away”, won’t be enough.

The large man still has his back to me and I feel just the
start of panic. He looks so much like Lewis from the back, although deep down I
know it’s not. What do I do? Do I leave, walk out?
No, Alex, you’re strong
now. Stick with it, girl, breathe deeply and look away.

No matter how much I concentrate on calming myself, the cold
feelings start turning to warmth, a sure sign that I’m on the verge of an
episode, something I suffered with for a little while since Lewis assaulted me
with that iron. But then the man turns, I breathe deeply, a sigh of relief,
it’s not him. Mentally pulling myself together, checking my breathing, I glance
at my watch. Right, where the
hell
is this Aconi guy?

Standing, I walk to the large marble reception counter. One
of the girls is busy with a guest, two others are in the office behind
reception, the door open. They’re standing in the doorway talking openly and
not quietly either, unaware that I’m standing there, I think.

“Did you see her?” one of them says. “She was the same one
that came in last week. Roger said the sounds coming from his office, well,
let’s just say he was probably shagging her into next week!”

“Really?” Her colleague doesn’t look surprised at all.
“Thomas says they come here looking for him, he must tell them what he does,
where he works.” She laughs. “Can you imagine, though? He’s so hot, so fit.
Wouldn’t you just want to get laid by him?”

“Oh yeah.” The first girl rolls her eyes. “Molly said she
had him last year and he’s a stallion between the sheets, I mean really, really
hot!”

The colleague flicks through she papers she has, looking
down, clearly still unaware that I’m waiting, that she’s being listened to. “I
know, she told me that too! And that he’s, well…” she pauses, “very well hung,
if you get my meaning!” Both of the girls sigh.

“Worth working here just for a boss like that!” the first
girl muses.

“I know. I heard about him when I worked at that hovel
around the corner, why do you think I applied for this job? Only because of the
great Aconi!” They both laugh as one of them saunters out of the office towards
me.

“Hello. May I help you?” She looks me up and down. Clearly
my chain-store dress is not suitable for this place: if only she knew.

I glare at her.
Lady, I’ll deal with you later.
I
make a note to discuss the inappropriate chatter.
So, Aconi is a stud? Umm.

“I have an appointment with Mr Aconi, or should I say I
had
an appointment twenty minutes ago. I believe he knows I’m waiting, so please
would you tell him that Mrs Alex Drake is still here,
still
waiting for
him.” I’m firm. Since leaving Lewis I’ve started to regain a little of my
confidence, confidence that was initially bashed out of me. Don’t get me wrong,
I’m not there yet, just working on it, but determined that I am going to have a
new life, a fulfilled life and, yes, I’d like a new man I think, but not just
yet. Give me a couple of months and then
I
can roll in between the
sheets with a stud!

She looks at me again, down her nose at me, I’m sure, and
makes the call. “Roger, can you tell Mr Aconi that Mrs Drake is still here,
waiting to see him, she
says
she has an appointment… Okay, I’ll ask her
to wait.” Her tone’s demeaning. I don’t know if I like this young lady. I
wonder if she would be different if she knew who I was, her
real
new
boss, the person who could effectively click her fingers and have her fired?
Not that’d I do that. No, I’m a little more tactful, just a little more
compassionate than that, but she – they – will have to be told about their
behaviour.

She hangs up and looks at me. “Please take a seat, Mrs
Drake. He
knows
you’re here, he won’t keep you too much longer.” That
tone needs to be checked too. Mental note.

“Thank you,” I look at her badge, “Monica.”
I’ve got your
name, lady
. I won’t be marking her card yet, but we need to have a chat.

I return to my seat and continue my wait. My thoughts drift
again to the last few weeks, the people I’ve met in person and talked to on the
telephone, mainly business, people that Maggie was involved with. The car I
bought, because the Focus died. The fact that I hate driving in London!

I sigh and return to people watching, it fascinates me. I
look at those coming and going from the hotel and my eye is drawn to a large
blond man, late thirties, maybe early forties, I guess. He’s with a petite slim
young lady walking at his side, slightly in front, almost as if she’s being
escorted from the premises. There’s a hoot of laughter from reception, I look
up and see the two girls that were gossiping watching the big man and this
woman walk straight across the foyer. Is that Aconi?

He escorts the woman, who looks dishevelled, probably from
the good shagging that I understand has taken place, out of the hotel and then
approaches the reception counter where he speaks briefly to the girls. One of
them points to me and he makes his way over. As he approaches I get to see him
more closely. There’s no fat on him, he’s big, muscular, and very tall. No,
scrub that, he’s huge! 

“Mrs Drake?” he enquires in a very deep gravelly voice.

I stand. “Yes.” Oh God, I remember now what it feels like to
be attracted to someone of the opposite sex, I haven’t felt like this for
years.
Shit, Alex, pull yourself together!

Now I’m closer to this blond-haired Action Man standing
before me, I re-evaluate my guess at his age, maybe in his forties, and my
initial impression is that this is the great James Aconi, the General Manager
that I have heard so much about. He’s dressed in a dark suit and a black shirt,
he’s also wearing an earpiece.
What a prat
, I think to myself, walking
around the hotel with his Bluetooth earpiece in place, and did he service that
woman with it stuck in his ear, I wonder if he conducted business between
thrusts? He looks so cool and calm, he can’t have just been
doing it
?
No, surely not, she looked wrecked, he looks shower fresh!

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