I Am Haven Blackmoore, First Chapters

I am currently sending my new book, I AM HAVEN BLACKMOORE, out to agents and publishers. I really wanted to share with my fellow readers and book lovers, writing is a lonely process and I have a lot of work sitting on my computer that might never see the light of day!

This book didn’t take long to write, however going back for the editing process took a long time. I often hear that editing is the worst part of writing. I wish I could get it right the first time around but it usually takes a few passes before I’m happy with the result.

 

Here’s what this thriller is about:

 

Bella tried to be a good girl but a series of unfortunate circumstances push her to the edge of desperation and she breaks the law. Serving her time at Rathbone prison, she meets Haven, an inmate with a sinister side.

Years later, Bella has fabricated a glamorous new life for herself, a precarious Jenga of lies that threaten to collapse any minute. She’s married to a member of the elite Temple family in New York City and is on her way to becoming a part of Manhattan society- if no one finds out the truth.

History comes back to haunt her with the unwelcome arrival of Haven who is looking to exact a plan of revenge aimed at the Temple family. She urges Bella to commit an unthinkable crime or Bella’s perfect life will be over and everyone will learn the horrifying truth. She’s killed before and gotten away with it- what’s one more murder?

I am nervous to put this online but I will have it up all weekend. I hope you read it and love it!

 

 

PART ONE

BELLA

 

 

One

 

I’m not surprised to see you standing at my door though I should be. It’s been over seven years since I last set eyes on you and you are almost unrecognizable. Gone is the long, dirty blonde hair, unable to stay in a ponytail or bun, wild like the earlier version of you. There’s none of that feral energy from years ago. You were like an animal on the streets, darting eyes and dark energy threatening to explode. But now you are smooth and polished.

Your hair is inky and dark, blunt cut with bangs fanning over arched eyebrows, giving you a look of sophistication like you should be holding a cigarette holder in one gloved hand and a highball in the other. You are pale and skinny like a supermodel and I am immediately jealous.

The only color on your face comes from a shocking slash of crimson lipstick across your mouth reminding me of fresh blood.

You smirk. “Do you want me to stand out here all day?”

It’s sinister outside; the pouring rain splashes the concrete and the noise of the drops hitting the window sound thunderous, or is it the hammering of my heart?

I’m jittery, as if someone plunged a dose of adrenaline into my body. It doesn’t occur to me to ask how you got in. I share a small foyer with my neighbor, a drummer for a rock band. We each have our own key to the outside door but he’s been on tour for several months. A few things don’t make sense to me this morning, least of all how you had gained entry.

I usher you inside.

“Yes, yes, of course, please come on in,” I say as you breeze past, your strong perfume hangs in the air like a mist. Water drops follow your footsteps like trails of blood after a crime.

I don’t want you in my private space, but don’t have much of a choice. Crouching, I pick up our copy of The New York Times which sits on the damp sidewalk. My father-in-law subscribes to it for us, but neither Cal nor I read it from cover to cover.

I page through the paper while I drink coffee in the mornings which was the plan until you showed up. I tie my silk robe tighter across my waist and kick the door closed with a reverberating thud. Taking a breath, I brace myself for facing you.

Why are you here? I hope Cal doesn’t decide to come home, how will I explain your sudden presence?

You drop your black leather jacket over the chair in the entryway and march in like you’ve been here a thousand times. Your high black heels make snapping noises on the hardwood floor echoing like gunshots. When you reach the kitchen, you pause in front of the antique bar cart.

“Never too early for a drink is it Bella?”

I say nothing.

Your fingers dance over the St. Germaine, tequila, vodka, the Jack Daniels, and then settle on a bottle of Daniel Bouju cognac.

“I know the perfect recipe, I’m sure you have milk and nutmeg?” She doesn’t crack a smile but nods in the direction of the enormous fridge.

“What are you doing here, Haven?” I finally ask, my voice cracking. From the fridge, I pull out a gallon of organic milk, the brand Cal prefers. If you notice my trembling hands, you don’t say anything. Trying to occupy myself, I sip my coffee, now cold, while you go to town making cocktails. Figures you’d walk in after all this time and detect my weak spot.

I scan the apartment, my eyes dart from ceiling to floor and around the walls where Cal’s art hangs. Do you pass judgment? Your eyes squint and I guess what you see. Cal’s family is wealthy; he receives a hefty check each month from a trust fund. He doesn’t have to work a day in his life if he doesn’t want to. The painting is a hobby that turned into a career but you know that.

Cal’s mother comes from a long line of bankers and his father owns a lucrative family real estate business. He thought I was comfortable and familiar with his way of life but I’m good at pretending. He doesn’t suspect a thing.

If he knew what you know, he would never have given me a second glance. But he will never find out, not if I can get you out the door and agree to never return. I can’t risk losing everything I’ve worked so hard to put in place.

“Nice home you have here,” you say, bent over our drinks. A spoon clanks against the glass and sends a shiver down my spine.

“Yes, thanks,” I answer. I should tell you I have an appointment, or that someone is coming over. I glance at the door and imagine you walking out.

“Must’ve cost a fortune,” you continue as the spoon hits the glass again with a spine-tingling clank. You watch me; the weight of your eyes moves through me like a seam ripper. I stare down at the floor.

Cal’s parents bought this apartment for us when we got married a year ago. A bright, modern space on the Lower East Side, right down the street from two subway stops and a gourmet grocery store. It’s around the corner from the tiny coffee shop that has seen me stumble in still wearing my pajamas a time or two.

The place is airy and large, too big for the two of us but Cal is eager to get started on having kids as soon as possible.

“What brings you here?” I finally ask. I watch you sprinkle nutmeg on the cocktails. You hand me one and nod. As I have done in the past, I say yes when I want to say no. I take a small sip, allowing the strong taste to warm my throat, ride through my veins enough to relax me like last nights sleeping pill. Pulling my robe tighter, I fold my arms across my chest and stare. The glass is cold in my hands. A tic pulses under my eye and I know you see it.

“Bella, please. We had a plan, remember?”

You down your cocktail in a few sips then set the glass on the marble top counter with a smack. A smile laced with wicked intent widens across your face exposing white teeth. I notice they are still crooked with a narrow space between the front two. A pang of affection whips through my heart. After all we’ve been through; I’ll always have a place in my heart for you and your crooked teeth.

You gaze around the large room and nod with satisfaction, “You’ve done quite well by yourself. I didn’t think you had it in you. But the time has come. You know why I’m here.”

I’m silent for a while and when I finally speak; my voice is a raspy whisper. “That plan, Haven, that was ages ago. You can’t think I’d be serious about it now. So much has changed. I love Cal. I really do.”

Your lips twist. “Sure you do.”

I take a breath, steady my inhalations, but with your gaze leveled on me, I can’t slow my pounding heart. I avoid your eyes.

In the past, each time I thought of you, a foreboding sense washed over me. How could I forget your sharp face, defiant posture, those eyes glowing with an evil plan, the kind of which you speak of right now? I prayed you’d give up and rebuild your life like I have done with mine.

But here you stand before me and a feeling like a noose around my neck tightens and makes me cough. My throat chakra. I place a hand to the hollow of my neck and feel the whipping pulse.

“Bella,” you laugh, throwing back your head. Sunlight spills through the window and your dark hair shines like polished wood. “Come on. Everything is falling into place!” Your face grows serious, eyes blaze with intensity. “Exactly how we planned it years ago.”

 

Two

“Bloody Mary?” Campbell Temple holds out a vintage hurricane glass. A celery stick pokes out of the top, the leaves pale and feathery. Sunday brunch at the Temple penthouse, a party to celebrate the return of Cal’s older brother coming home after years in Nepal. I took an anti-anxiety tablet before we arrived, the thought of having to win over another member of the Temple family makes me shiver. But I spread my mouth into a wide smile and nod when Campbell’s hands me a drink.

In the foyer, an enormous bouquet of fresh cut ranunculus, Juliet Roses, and Casablanca lilies give off the delicate scent of sweetness and money. Everything about this penthouse apartment screams wealth.

From the enormous white and tan marble entryway to the library and maids quarters to the impressive servant’s hall, the Temple home is grand on every scale.

Before meeting Cal, I used to walk up and down Fifth Avenue, wondering what went on behind the closed doors of these places with the gloved doormen under the fancy awnings. The Temple’s penthouse is only a block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my favorite places to spend a lazy day. I used to go there as much as I could before I met Cal. I was dirt poor with nothing to do and needed a place to kill time as I waited.

From the window of the penthouse, there is an unobstructed view of the Jacqueline Onassis reservoir. Many times I have looked out over it with a pair of binoculars under the guise of being an avid bird watcher.

“Something I picked up on my travels to the Pichincha Province in Ecuador,” I said with a light shrug when Harris asked me what I was looking for out there. I knew that Campbell and Harris had spent time in Ecuador six years ago and he nodded with familiarity at my mention of the Province.

I like to watch people doing ordinary things which always appear extraordinary to me. A boat ride, a picnic, a stroll through the park, a horse and carriage ride, it’s what people do on a daily basis but to me, it’s magical.

People live like this! They work and walk and drink expensive wine and hail cabs and pay to have their hair blown out and they shop at Saks. I cannot believe I’m a cog in this wheel of luxury. Even after a year as Cal’s wife, I want to pinch myself. No one here is familiar with Leisure Cover trailer park in a rough desert town thousands of miles away. And I can’t imagine that anyone has survived a stay at Rathbone.

A doorman, concierge, a large sundeck are perks of the apartment.

“But no terrace!” groaned Campbell when she first showed me their apartment. She waved her arms around, her expensive vintage bracelets jingling. I heaved a sympathetic sigh and murmured something.

“Our home is your home,” she said then, embracing me in a hug as I inhaled her French perfume. I complimented her on the decor, from the antique chairs to the marble bust, to the creamy silk curtains with a delicately beaded edge that pooled on the floor like a wedding dress. I clamped my teeth together trying to stop my mouth from dropping open like a drawbridge. This was even better than I imagined. Better than what I saw online and in magazines.

“Darling, if you want my help decorating your place, say the word. We have loads of family antiques in storage that I’d love to share.” Then she nodded towards Cal and gave me a wink that made me feel warm inside. “His style is rather industrial bare. That’s polite for saying he needs help.”

We both shared a laugh since Cal’s decorating was functional at best and then my smile melted like ice cream on a sweltering day. If Campbell knew the truth, she wouldn’t have offered up the Temple family antiques. If she knew about my past, she’d escort me out and file a restraining order.

“Ready to meet the famous Auden Temple?” Cal asks, bringing me back to the present. He comes up from behind, placing his hands on my hips. His breath on my neck gives me goosebumps.

I stand in front of the large window, my eyes pointed on Central Park again.

“See any birds?” He asks, nodding his chin towards outside.

“I saw an olive-sided flycatcher…” I murmur trying to disguise the cold sweat I’d broken out in seconds ago. It dripped beneath my breasts and down my back. I downed my Bloody Mary in two seconds and hoped Campbell would reappear with another tray. I’d need at least two more before my heart rate grew steady.

Holding the binoculars to my eyes I suddenly see you, in your signature black outfit; skinny pants and a black cape. I would recognize your raven hair anywhere. It blows in the breeze reminding me of the wing of a crow.

You light a cigarette and blow the smoke upwards, and then you lean against a tree and turn towards me. You grin, and then raise your hand in a wave. My breath catches in my throat and when I speak my voice comes out like a squeak.

“Here,” I hand the binoculars to Cal with shaky hands. “Look, do you see a woman? Dressed in black? I swear she’s looking up here. It’s creepy. Look, by that tree.” I point.

“Bella.” He presses his lips together. “We talked about this. How many times do you think someone is following you? You’re a little paranoid.” He gives me a look that boarders on pity then reluctantly holds the binoculars to his eyes and does a quick sweep.

“Just look!” I beg. “See? She’s watching us!”

“No. Nothing. No one is looking up here.” Cal shakes his head then sighs like I am a child who annoys him.

He’s heard my complaints about this feeling that plagues me, an intuition that someone is trailing me. There are times when I hear footsteps behind me, I see a flash of something and my heart catches in my throat.

“It’s the sleeping pills,” Cal always says with a look of disapproval stretched across his face. “Plus the Xanax, who knows what you’re doing to your body? Is paranoia a side effect?”

I’ve promised to stop taking the anxiety medication and the sleeping pills but I never do.

But now it isn’t a feeling, you are here and you’re watching me. I’m certain of it.

“Okay, okay,” I acquiesce, my throat itching for another Bloody Mary or straight up vodka. I sniffle. “Never mind. How are you holding up? Eagerly awaiting the return of your brother?”

I reach up to give Cal a kiss and pretend you aren’t outside surveilling, waiting, plotting.  Under other circumstances, it might be nice to see you, to catch up but not now. Not when I have so much to lose.

I wrap my arms around Cal. He smells clean, like the lavender juniper soap I special order from a shop in Aspen. I tuck a stray piece of hair behind his ear.

Cal wears his hair longer than what is conventional, especially in this conservative family. It reaches his shoulders but today it’s held back in a ponytail.

I stare into his eyes, blue as Windex. If this is a dream I don’t want to wake up, ever. Cal looks like a famous actor I used to think was gorgeous. We used to watch his old movies at Rathbone, do you remember?

In a blink, I’m back there with you in the plain gray room watching the television, commenting on how much Cal Temple looks like this actor. And now I’m here with Cal, not quite believing how everything has worked out.

“I’m hanging in there. You holding up? I know how you hate social interactions.”

“That’s true, but you’re here so I’m fine. Better than fine.”

Cal winces and a look that I cannot identify slides over his face. Am I slurring my words? My head is fuzzy. Did I remember to eat? Maybe the drinks have gone to my head. Damn it, why can’t I be a normal person who gets through the day without itching for a little alcohol to blur the sharp edges?

I smile and kiss his smooth cheek. I don’t tell him the reason I hate social interactions. There is so much I keep from him, things he must never know. It’s for his own good. He excuses himself to make a call and I sink into the welcoming cushions of the couch and close my eyes.

Calvin Hollings Temple is the black sheep of the family, always living in the shadow of his brilliant older brother. When we first met, Cal told me that he had a brother, which I already knew. There wasn’t much I didn’t know about any of the Temple’s. Our research was impeccable.

His voice was low and emotional as he told me details about Auden. We snuggled on the chaise lounge on the rooftop of his apartment, the only light coming from an enormous full moon that looked like a prop from the set of a movie. He laced his fingers through mine and bared his soul.

“He’s perfect, everyone’s always loved Auden. Straight A student, star athlete, ideal son. He’s smart, a doctor. And is doing charity work in Nepal. How can I compete with that?”

I looked into those heart-stopping blue eyes. “You don’t have to. I already like you more.”

In my head, I drew a picture of what Auden will be like and it’s not flattering. He will be all macho bravado, a preppy athlete with an air of self-entitlement made worse by the fact he is from a rich family. I think of that asshole, Richie Van Leer and I think of you and what happened when I was a teenager and though it was years ago, I feel the wash of humiliation as if it all went down yesterday.

Rich, snotty, gifted with everything yet without an ounce of kindness or humility.

I hate people like that.

I remember the smell of the oleander, the dull knife plunging into skin, my footsteps as I was led through the heavy doors of Rathbone.

Like a deck of cards, my memories flip and shuffle and I’m suddenly on the dirt path with Richie and his buddy Michael, ashamed and humiliated. Then I’m home and there’s no time to talk about what happened because we get the call about my father and my world crashes down around me.

Auden can’t be like Richie. We didn’t even consider that, did we?

I bring myself back to the present and glance down at my hands, nails bitten despite the glossy nail polish.

I’m not sure how this welcome home brunch will play out for my husband and I bite on my thumbnail and ignore my pounding heart. Is it nerves or a sense of foreboding?

I’m on the couch under the window, glancing out towards Central Park, waiting to see you again. My heart thumps beneath my blouse and my mouth is dry. I hear Cal talking in another room and I assume it’s about his paintings. He’s always on the phone with his agent planning gallery shows or negotiating sales. I don’t want to tell him his art is shit, I never understood how splashes of paint on a canvas is considered brilliant, but the Temple name opens doors.

“Do you need my help?” I ask, rising from the couch and stepping towards Campbell who has glided into the room.

She flutters around, making sure the flower arrangements are Pinterest perfect and the pillows on the couch are fluffed like clouds. In the kitchen, a Michelin starred chef has preparations underway for an elaborate brunch.

Once Auden arrives, we will move from where we are now, in the “drawing room” to what Campbell calls the “banquet room,” which is a large space decorated with hand embroidered curtains and a fancy candelabra on the sideboard with fine china in the drawers. I only know those terms from studying design and architecture books before I became a Temple. It was a lot of work and a lot of reading and if you were here, you’d say that I have my PhD. in the Temple family.

“No my darling girl! I don’t need a thing!” she calls over her shoulder as she lights a candle, a thick pillar of white that gives off the scent of gardenias.

Campbell wears an elegant forest green wrap dress and I know that the shoes on her feet are Chanel. I snuck into her closet one day and appraised everything in it. The Temple’s were out of town and I stopped by, the dutiful daughter-in-law, making sure everything was in order. I checked that the housekeeper had dusted the antiques and the furniture was smudge free and the bathrooms sparkled. Someone had to make sure the heated toilet seats were functioning.

I took inventory of Campbell’s walk-in closet, wouldn’t you? You would have tried on her clothes and admired yourself in the mirror.

Designer clothes hung in neat rows by color and sleeve length. Jewelry snuggled in a clear glass chest, locked with an elaborate decorative gold lock. Her closet smelled like fresh cut roses. The chandelier hanging from the ceiling cast a pinkish glow throughout the massive closet.

When I stared at myself in the mirror, the reflection was not a girl from Leisure Cove trailer park doing what she had to do to survive. The face that stared back was that of a young woman who lived out her dreams and was afraid of nothing.

At this moment, I admire Campbell’s highlighted auburn hair, styled in a chignon and her makeup applied meticulously. I know she has a personal hair stylist and makeup artist on call for important occasions, no doubt the full crew was over earlier.

She has the good looks and general refinement of a woman who eats little more lettuce and Greek yogurt all day, who plays weekly tennis games to keep her figure slender and goes for facial injections every four months like clockwork. Everything about my mother in law is high class. If she touched a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag, the kind I used to carry, her fingers might wither and fall off. Campbell Temple is everything I hope to be in twenty-five years. I glance around the room and smile inwardly:  all of this will be mine someday.

 

Three

 

From the kitchen, I hear the quick POP! of a champagne cork and the sound immediately brings up another memory, this one the piercing sound of shattering glass that woke me from a deep slumber. I was only a toddler, barely out of diapers. Occasionally a sharp noise will transport me back to that horrifying moment from my past.

I swallow hard as I recall dragging my sleep-drunk body towards the noise, it was the high pitch of my mother’s scream that would haunt me for years as the explosion and the crack of a gun echoed through our small house. I turned to run, but caught my reflection in the window, jagged slices of glass splitting my body in two, pinning me in place. We never spoke about the incident but occasionally, like now, a sound or a glimpse of something will remind me and I’m transported to that small dark house and what happened in it.

My father-in-law Harris suddenly appears like an apparition and I gasp. I was so into my thoughts that I didn’t see him at first.  He stands a daunting six feet three inches, his swirl of gray hair sweeps back from his high forehead like a dollop of whipped cream. His boxy chin juts out like a lantern and his small dark eyes, once they fix you in his gaze, are compelling and difficult to pull away from. An imposing figure, I thought he’d see right through my bullshit but he welcomed me into the family as Campbell did. I was a better actress than I gave myself credit for.

I rarely see him in the apartment without a crystal cut glass full of scotch, ice cubes rattling, in his beefy hand. He always wears charcoal gray or navy blue suits, and fancy leather shoes. Cal and I joke that he probably sleeps in a three-piece suit, he so rarely wears anything else.

Harris usually renders me speechless, like now, his presence so imposing. Auden has inherited his father’s sturdy, handsome looks, from what I can tell after looking at the family photos Campbell showed me. Cal looks more like his mother, almost pretty with those blue eyes and long hair.

He and Campbell exchange a few words and moments later I hear Harris’s deep, commanding voice, boomeranging from down the hall. He stays in his study or the library where he works out complicated business deals when Cal and I are over. I spend most of my time with Campbell, swept up in her aura of perfumed enthusiasm and opulence.

“Too much? Too little? Should we have gone out?” Campbell asks, sipping from her flute of champagne, her nails glisten in the light. “I want everything to be perfect for Auden’s homecoming!”

I lick my lips and wonder if there’s more champagne. I should have some coffee and try to gather my wits, sober up a little. My head is cottony, body heavy like lead. I stand from the couch and wobble.

“You always do the most marvelous job of entertaining, Campbell. The house looks absolutely magnificent.”

“Oh Bella, you are such a doll!” She nods once then claps her hands. “He’ll be here any second! You are going to love Auden! I can’t wait for you to meet him!”

Cal saunters in and we exchange looks. When Campbell turns her back, I roll my eyes and Cal’s sunny expression displaces the anxiety that chokes me.

Why did you choose to come back now? I don’t want you to ruin this good thing I have going.

A cold thread of fear works its way to my stomach and coils like a snake. I swallow hard. I wish I could get through the afternoon curled up in one of the spare rooms. Instead I join Campbell in the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee from the Italian coffee machine. I kill time by talking to the chef about the famous people he’s cooked for while munching on water crackers and cheese slices.

Harris strides in and makes small talk but I sense his nerves from the way he clutches his glass and crunches ice cubes between his teeth. Every few minutes, the Temple’s glance at their matching Cartier watches until the doorknob finally twists and we hear the sound of Auden making his grand entrance.

Harris and Campbell spring into action, hugging Auden and talking in loud exuberant voices at once. Other relatives and friends will come over later but the Temple’s wanted Auden’s immediate homecoming to be a small gathering.

I stand back, allowing Cal and his parents to greet Auden. He drops a smart set of leather luggage in the foyer and strolls in like an Army hero returning from World War Two. There are hugs and kisses and tears until the excitement dies down for a second and everyone turns to me. I swallow hard and plaster a smile on my face. Thankfully the coffee and crackers have helped me sober up.

Campbell spreads her arms wide. “Meet our lovely Bella, Cal’s wife. So sorry you missed the wedding! It was a small affair, very intimate,” Campbell’s grin is open and toothy. “Bella, Cal, why don’t you fill Auden in on everything while I make sure the food is ready?”

We migrate into the sitting room and I bite on my pinkie nail as Auden sits on the arm of a chair, some tufted piece that cost more than my entire wardrobe. His posture is erect and his gaze direct like his father’s. Between thoughts of you out there watching, waiting and Auden coming back, I feel the clutch of nerves tighten in my stomach.

Harris perches on the edge of the beige velvet couch and jiggles the ice cubes in his glass. Everyone is quiet and I hear Campell’s heels clapping on the floor of the kitchen.

He pats his hair which I recognize as a sign of insecurity. Once he takes it out of his ponytail and begins to run his fingers through it, we’ll be in trouble, that’s Defcon 4 anxiety.

We share feelings of unease in social situations; our extreme reticent natures brought us together. I’ll never forget how it all played out the night we met. Even better than we had planned, you would have been so proud of me.

3 Comments

  • Allyson Quinlan July 7, 2018 at 4:07 am

    So good! I can’t wait to read more.

    Reply
    • cindyb July 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Oh yay! Im glad you liked it!

      Reply
  • Page Turners! – All The Good Books July 13, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    […] upon lies? That sounds like my novel, I Am Haven Blackmoore (I posted a few chapters recently on this blog). I especially like when the author is British and the story takes place in England, there’s […]

    Reply

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