Authors: Susan Lewis
About the Book
It’s an early autumn day like any other as Miles Avery drives his wife, Jacqueline, to the station. Nothing remarkable crops up in conversation, nor do either of them appear anything other than their normal selves. At the station, Jacqueline gets out, takes an overnight bag from the back seat, then turns towards the platforms. This is the last anyone sees of her.
Three weeks later, Miles calls the police. Enquiries are made, but there is no evidence of her boarding a train, or even entering the station. Very soon the finger of suspicion starts to turn towards Miles, and as dark secrets from the past begin to merge with those of the present, the great love he has been trying to protect is not only revealed but thrown into terrible jeopardy…
About the Author
Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of twenty-nine novels. She is also the author of
Just One More Day
One Day at a Time
, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol. Having resided in France for many years she now lives in Gloucestershire. Her website address is
Also by Susan Lewis
A Class Apart
Dance While You Can
The Hornbeam Tree
The Mill House
A French Affair
Out of the Shadows
No Turning Back
No Child of Mine
Don’t Let Me Go
Just One More Day
One Day at a Time
For James, with love
First and foremost I would like to express my thanks to Sir John and Lady Linda Jennings for making the Devonshire location of this book such a pleasure to research. In throwing open the doors to their beautiful estate I found myself afloat in inspiration, from the magnificent house and its picture book gardens, to the surrounding woods and the horse sanctuary where many deserving beasts are peacefully living out their days. I also thank John and Linda for the very touching story of Henrietta the goose, who is still skimming happily about their lake with her adopted family.
My sincere gratitude also goes to Jackie Bulley and her colleagues at the WI for their enthusiastic help with the book, and for the wicked game of skittles.
An enormous thank you to PC Robert Tansleigh at Teignmouth Police Station for talking me through official procedure at the time someone goes missing, and for showing me around the CID offices in Exeter.
My love and thanks to Ellie Gleave for so patiently exploring Chiswick, Richmond and Kew with me. Also to Jill Clarke for the quirky, but very valuable information about the clock at St Anne’s Church.
A quick last note to Linda Jennings – the next time we don’t know what something is perhaps we’ll try asking instead of going looking!
Everything seemed normal, so no reason to think something might change the course of the day, or of any days to come. The sky over Exeter was an infinite blanket of grey with no chinks to let through the sun, no planes to drop from their flights. The pavements were damp and puddled with reflections; the traffic was snarled, each driver guarding his space jealously, angry when forced to let someone in.
Jacqueline Avery was in the passenger seat of her husband’s BMW. She was a slender, stylish woman with sleek blonde hair caught up in a velvet slide, pale brown eyes that saw much and spoke of little, and a mouth that might have been sensuous were it not for the lines left by tragedy, like debris after a storm. She was dressed with a sober smartness, her handbag and shoes the same black as her coat, and the two rings she wore were a slim gold wedding band, and a small amethyst that had once belonged to her mother. Miles, her husband, had bought her jewellery over the years, but she almost never wore it. She didn’t like to be flashy, though Miles’s taste was anything but. The
was, she simply didn’t want to be noticed, not even to be admired. There was a time when she’d enjoyed it, but that was during another existence – one that had no connection to now.
As usual Miles was listening to the news as he drove. She glanced at him, but only when she knew he’d turned to gaze absently out of the side window. He was a handsome man with dark, slightly greying hair, a Roman profile and an air of authority that had always been natural to him, even before he’d achieved his success. It was part of coming from an established family, where the men had always been in positions of power. The two homes they had now – one in Kensington, the other here in Devon – had both been inherited, as had the fortune that had been rapidly devoured by taxes.
Jacqueline preferred to be in London, which was where she was going now. Miles would drop her at the station, then return to Moorlands, the small estate that bordered the savage plains of Dartmoor. The relief she felt at leaving was like the slow release of a bad dream. Nothing about Devon seemed to work for her. While it soothed and nourished Miles, it made her edgy and fearful. It was too far from London. The people were different. Though no one was ever unfriendly, she knew she’d never share the sense of belonging that was so natural to Miles and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Kelsey. They were here most of the time now, since Miles had resigned from his position as editor of a national broadsheet, and then moved Kelsey to a school close to Okehampton. She still boarded during the week, and occasionally went to friends for weekends, but usually she came home to Moorlands.
Thinking of her daughter could easily make Jacqueline’s head spin, while her heart ached with the guilt and horror of what she’d done.
done, she reminded herself. She’d never meant her any harm, she simply hadn’t been in her right mind. Miles understood that, so did Kelsey, but they no longer trusted her and she didn’t blame them. She should never have been a mother. Time had proved how incapable she was, and it just went on and on proving it.
Hearing her mobile phone bleep, she took it out of her bag and read the message.
Still don’t know who’s picking me up. You or Dad.
Jacqueline sent a text back.
To Miles she said, ‘I’ve just told Kelsey you’ll collect her on Friday.’
He nodded, but was apparently too engrossed in some political story to enlarge on that.
She was neither surprised nor disappointed. Conversation wasn’t something she wanted right now, so she wouldn’t bother to tell him that Kelsey had called the night before. It wasn’t particularly important, it had only been to ask the same thing. Jacqueline had told her she’d call back, because she and Miles had been in the middle of an argument at the time. They hadn’t made up before going to bed, nor had either of them mentioned it this morning.
‘That reminds me,’ she said, as they pulled up at the lights outside Sainsbury’s at Marsh Barton. ‘Mrs
gave me a list of things she needs, so perhaps you can pop into the supermarket on your way home.’
‘No problem,’ he responded.
She put the list in the small well in front of the gearstick and rezipped her bag. She wondered if he was really as absorbed in the financial news as he seemed, or if it was an act to avoid speaking to her.
Dry-eyed, she turned to look out of the window. She used to love him, when she was able to love, but not any more. She wondered why he’d stayed married to her, but since she knew the answer she discarded the sophistry and asked herself instead what right she had to hurt him this way. The answer was none, of course.
He swore quietly under his breath as someone cut them up at the roundabout. She watched the other driver speed on towards the station, presumably late for his train. She wondered if Miles was already feeling the relief of her departure. After the tension of the past few days he must be, though she knew he’d rather have the issue resolved than let her go without getting what he wanted. But there was no point in discussing it further. It should be forgotten, swept away like dust. She was sorry that he loved another woman, but he’d been in love with her for three years or more, so it wasn’t new. She and Miles had to stay together and he knew it, so why was he suddenly so insistent on having his freedom now? The timing was curious, she thought, though perhaps not altogether surprising.
As they drove alongside the River Exe she watched the water gushing wildly over rocks and roots, always moving forward, stopping for nothing, a purposeful frantic rush to the sea. She looked up at the railway bridge and her hands tightened on her bag. In less than five minutes he would pull up outside Exeter St
wait for her to take her bag from the back seat, then after saying goodbye he’d drive away. Those were some of the things that might happen. She had no idea if he’d kiss her, or glance in the rear-view mirror before turning, or even wait for her to disappear inside the station. It all remained to be seen. All she knew for certain was that life could change in less time than it took a heart to beat, or a bird to take flight, or a person to go into a garage to pay a bill. And if Miles were being truthful, she suspected he would like to drive away and never see or speak to her again.
Maybe she wouldn’t mind that so much either, never having to see or speak to herself again.
She frowned slightly as he turned off before they reached the station approach. Then, realising he was taking the short cut, she closed her eyes and rested her head against the seat back.
There really never was any way of telling what might happen next.
SINCE RECEIVING THE
message, four days ago, Vivienne had been living on a knife edge. It had been so unexpected that it had taken her several moments to believe what she was hearing – not because of what was being said, but because of who was saying it. She knew the voice better than almost any other, but it was the first time she’d heard it for over two years and it was as though time had folded inwards, like a fan, bringing the past to the present, closing out both time and distance and even the heartache that had filled so many of the days between.
There had been no contact since, but the woman he’d told her would be in touch had rung a few hours later. Alice, her closest friend and business partner, had dealt with the call, while Vivienne struggled with the dilemma of whether or not to ring him back.
‘I need to talk to you,’ he’d said at the end of the message. ‘Please get in touch as soon as you can.’
She still hadn’t, but for the past four days she’d thought about nothing else. It was as though his voice had found its way to her memories, rousing them back to life, stealing through them like colour, warming them with feelings that were almost too powerful to bear. Her hopes were soaring out of control, while her
tensed with remembered passion and her breath caught on the echoes of laughter. She wanted to capture it all again, go back to a time when they’d been so happy it didn’t seem possible it could end. After hearing him, the images of all they’d shared had become so clear in her mind that it might only have been yesterday that they’d been forced to say goodbye. A lot had happened since that he knew nothing about, but she guessed he could probably say the same. What had been going on in his life during the past two years?