I've put it on sale for 99p/$0.99 for the next week.
And the photo shows you exactly how I've been celebrating.
Those of you who know me well, will understand the significance of the Gray.
A couple of reviewers have kindly pointed out a few typos, so I've gone through it with a fine-tooth comb and corrected them. You can't please all of the people all of the time, and because it's a story set in England, my characters speak with British accents and use British idioms. That's not changing, I'm afraid, but I've made it a little clearer, so people who are offended by that have the choice before they buy!
Based on some comments about the implausibility of a young woman in an isolated country house opening the door to a bunch of strangers on a soggy winter's night, I've added some insight to the state of Ginny's mind when she did this.
Here's a sneak preview:
“What a day.” Ginny sighed, easing herself under the peach-scented bubbles, letting the steamy heat take some of the tension out of her weary limbs. Day? What a week! Stress was much too small a word for the complete and utter physical exhaustion she felt right now. Her mental state was no better. Taking a mouthful of wine, she lay back, luxuriating in the mellow tang, closing her eyes for a moment as she tried hard to believe in the power of relaxation. How did it go? Something about emptying your mind of all the unsettling thoughts. Pretty much the whole of the last week, then.
The dratted voice from her meditation CD filled her head. “Now, breathe deeply and force your mind to think of your perfect peace place.” Bloody stupid woman and her alliterations.
Another sip of Chardonnay would help. No, what would really help was a big, brave hunk to sweep her off her feet and restore her faith in men. Someone strong enough to protect her from danger, but with a soft, squidgy centre: in touch with his feminine side and willing to take on his share of the household chores. Which, of course, would make him bat for the other side. Her dream shattered as she remembered the sequence in Bedazzled where Brendan Fraser’s character had tried to design the man he wanted to be, in order to win his girl.
Sipping the wine, she slipped back into the bubbles, letting the romance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasia relax her as she tried to build her ultimate mate. Good sense of humour was at the top of the list, along with honesty and courage. He should be kind, generous … oh bugger, the guy was veering off into Mary-Sue territory. How about witty, smart enough to hold a decent conversation on most topics, and completely comfortable in his own skin? Good start. Self-reliance had a lot going for it; mummy’s boys need not apply. But he needed more of an edge.
The music hit a crashy-bangy bit, which made eight-year-old her and her cousin, Carrie, hide behind the sofa, giggling in pretend terror.
That’s what he needed, a hint of danger. Her catalogue continued: mysterious, brooding, and occasionally wild. Considerate and adventurous in bed.
Dark themes in the music conspired to delve deep into her memory, and she was once more assaulted by the recent experience: hands pawing at her clothes, lips hissing revolting words and licking … STOP!!!
Plunging under the water, she immersed herself in the task of rinsing off the conditioner. It had been drying out for a while, making it hard to shift. Her hair was silky smooth as she gave it a final cool rinse, and piled it on top of her head, fixing it in a clasp.
She needed a good image to replace the nightmare. Like at the end of a horror movie – she always watched a comedy show to soothe the residual adrenaline making her muscles twitch. Pouring another inch of hot water into the bath, she toyed with the idea of a number of men with different combinations of her preferred attributes.
When she turned off the taps, the music quieted enough for her to hear rain lashing the windows as the storm raged outside. It brought to mind the old song, “It’s Raining Men.”
Of course. What she needed was a houseful of men so she could determine her ideal type. Like that was ever gonna happen. Smiling at Aunt Ellie’s recent remark about “being ripe for romance,” Ginny closed her eyes and called on her imagination to help out.
A secluded beach, with one of those straw-topped huts housing a bar. Her gaze flitted over a number of barflies, all superb male specimens with muscular torsos and bulging biceps, each one making eye-contact in his own unique way. She was excited to meet each one and try out the adventure their smile promised. As she lay on a sunbed, a stunning waiter approached with another glass of perfectly chilled Champagne, accompanied by the melody of the wind chimes behind the bar. She smiled up at the gorgeous blond, but as she reached out for the glass, the bell rang again, shattering her illusion, despite its apologetic tone. You have to be kidding, right? No way was that the front door, not this late on a soggy Saturday night.
“Go away, there’s no one in.” Did she actually say the thought aloud? If she kept quiet, whoever it was might think the house was empty and leave her alone. Settling back into the bath, she strove to recall the sound of waves lapping against the shore and the healing warmth of the sun on her body, searching in vain for the bronzed Adonis and her sextet of hunks. Tee hee.
The urgent rapping of the door knocker, accompanied by continuous chiming, drove her out of the bath. Oh, for goodness sake, nobody could sleep through that amount of noise. Not even with a heavy sedative. She grabbed her purple bathrobe and dried her feet enough to shove them in fluffy slippers. The uninvited visitor would have to live without the sleek black cocktail number and a trowel-full of foundation. Anyway, she was gonna come straight back and resume her yummy dream as soon as she’d sent the person packing. More to the point, she couldn’t risk the din going on for a second longer than necessary.
She switched on the light at the top of the stairs, and the racket stopped. Thank goodness. Descending with purpose, she coiled her damp hair into a towelling turban. The shadow peering through the coloured glass stood back as she approached. With a final tug on the robe’s belt, she unlocked the door and pulled it as wide as the chain would allow.
“Thank God. I saw the light at the back and hoped someone might be in.” The intensely male voice had the energy of recent effort.
Ginny flinched. What little she could see of the man made her want to slam the door shut – fast. His face and hand were spattered in blood. Zombie apocalypse, anyone?
Observing her horrified reaction, his gesture was a direct appeal to her sympathy. “Please, you’ve got to help us; there’s no one else around. Bryn’s car skidded and crashed into a tree.” He moved aside. “He’s got so many cuts from broken glass, I can’t tell how badly he’s hurt. He may have a cracked skull.”
Her eyes narrowed as she looked past him to where the security light picked out a man sitting on the bottom step, holding his head in his hands and groaning.
The first guy carried on talking. “This place is like the back of beyond; no network coverage at all.”
She had to make a snap decision. No contest.
“I’m sorry. My uncle won’t let strangers in the house. I’ll call an ambulance for your friend.”
“Thanks, you’re very kind.”
She pushed the door to close it.
“Wait!” Something in his voice made her halt.
A beat. “Look, I know what you must be thinking, but Bryn’s in shock, and I don’t know how much longer he’s going to last out here in the cold.” He glanced down as the other man swayed ominously. Something quickened his words. Concern?
“He’s lost a lot of blood. If you could just let him come into the warmth … please. It could be ages until anyone comes and he’s in no state to do you any harm. I can go back and wait in the car.”
His sincerity was persuasive, and she was influenced by recent events: If not for a similar act of kindness, Uncle Reg might never have made it to hospital in time. She shuddered. “Ok, wait a sec. I’ll have to take the chain off.”