BENEATH THE SKIN
5 October 2017
Paperback Original, EB, Audio
Today is my stop on the Beneath the Skin blog tour and I'm thrilled to be sharing an extract from the book
Presenting a stunning debut psychological thriller about a life-changing lie.
Caroline England’s, Beneath The Skin is a tense and compelling read, exploring truth, friendships and betrayal.
Three women. Three secrets.
Antonia is beautiful and happily married. Her life is perfect. So why does she hurt herself when nobody’s watching?
Sophie is witty, smart and married to the best-looking man in town. She likes a drink, but who doesn’t?
Olivia is pretending to be a happy wife and mother. But her secret could tear her family apart.
Their lies start small, they always do. But if they don’t watch out, the consequences will be deadly.
No-one remembers your past. But you do.
‘Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’
It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets. Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth.
Antonia is safe. Isn’t she? The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?
Sami pulls up the leg of his trousers at the knee, crouches down and spreads out the plans on the dusty concrete floor as he recalls an extremely pleasurable start to the day. Sophie was dead to the world when the alarm woke him at seven. But that’s nothing new. She jacked in her job at the estate agents months ago (‘too early, too boring!’) and he suspects she sleeps in all morning during the week when he isn’t there to cajole her into the land of the living. He’d done his press-ups, showered and finished the box of no-added-sugar muesli, and was just about to unlatch the walled garden door of his townhouse when Sophie called his name. He turned his head in surprise and there she was on their doorstep, naked save for fluffy slippers and the chunky glasses she wears first thing in the morning before her ‘battle’ with contact lenses.
‘You haven’t given me a kiss, darlink,’ she called in her best Marlene Dietrich accent. He laughed. Her face looked crumpled and sleepy, her hair like a crow’s nest, but her body was beautiful; rounded, plump and still tanned from their Antiguan summer.
‘I haven’t cleaned my teeth, so . . .’ Sophie mumbled as she knelt on the floor of the hallway, the front door still ajar. She slipped one hand in the fly of his suit trousers and unbuckled his belt with the other. ‘So I’ll give you a different kiss goodbye.’
‘That was a very nice treat,’ he said afterwards. He stood at the lounge door for a moment and eyed Sophie thoughtfully. She’d put on the dressing gown he tries regularly to throw out and was lying on the sofa, the Daily Mail propped on her knees. ‘Was there a particular reason why you were kind enough to . . .’
‘I just like to keep you on your toes,’ she replied, her face still hidden by the newspaper. ‘Besides, you’ve been—’
‘What?’ Sami asked, his heart sinking just a little as he thought of the time. He knew that any heavy conversation about babies would make him very late for work.
Sophie narrowed her eyes as she lowered the paper. ‘I don’t know,’ she said slowly, turning her head towards him. ‘You seem happy.’
‘I am happy. No, I’m absolutely delighted that we’re going through with the IVF again. I know how hard it is for you with all the drugs, the hospital visits and stuff, but you know I’ll be there. I’ll be with you every step of the way, I promise.’ He glanced at his Montblanc watch, which still gave him the rush of pleasure it had given him six months previously when he’d finally given in to temptation and bought it for himself. ‘And I think it’s going to work this time, I don’t know why, but I feel sure.’
Sophie turned back to the newspaper and the horoscopes. ‘OK, you can bugger off to work now. Your usefulness is at an end.’
Sami now brushes the dust off his trousers as he straightens back up. Time to focus on work. ‘Shall we start, Jack? Time is money and all that. Is the client coming or not?’
‘What have you got that I haven’t, Richards?’ the quantity surveyor replies as he removes a pen from behind his ear and jots down some figures on his clipboard. ‘On second thoughts, don’t answer that,’ he says with a dry laugh, ‘we’re not paid by the hour.’
Irony one: the morning nap has made Sophie tired. She yawns and looks at the calendar before opening the fridge. ‘Coffee with Christine’ is pencilled in for today, but it doesn’t ring any bells. Irony two: the handwriting is hers, so she can blame no one but herself. The forgetfulness can be worrying, but only if she lets it, and anyway, she never forgets anything important.
She bends to pull out the carton of milk from the fridge and then changes her mind. It would be a shame to forego a glass of Chablis when it’s so beautifully chilled, and besides, she bought a replacement bottle yesterday, just in case. She makes a mental note of the level of the wine before she pours. She’s sure that Sami has too. Perhaps he’s sketched a diagram and slipped it in his briefcase along with his work plans. She laughs as she closes the fridge. The big question for her is whether she’ll remember.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters.
In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKAbooks, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies.
She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.
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