Today’s blog is a bit of a departure from the norm. It’s the opening of my current WIP, which is a full-length, contemporary novel. Spirit is based around the idea that personal disaster brings out the best in people. My heroine, Ruth, loses everything she values. She only achieves her happy-ever-after when, like hero Mitch, she realises she was looking for it in the wrong place…
One minute Ruth Parrish had it all – complete with a thumping headache, a fresh set of scratches on the SUV and credit cards maxed out on new school uniform. Then her world evaporated in a whiff of Hugo Boss. She was left with no future, two children to support, and a cake.
Ruth’s disaster struck in the middle of a clear blue day. She and the children tumbled back into the house, hot and bothered after the trials of shopping and a grisly visit to grandma. Gasping for tea and painkillers, she stopped the children bickering by sending Grace upstairs with the new laundry marker. Grace was old enough to mark her own school kit, although Ruth knew it would be faster and less stressful to do it herself, once the children had gone to bed.
Jack was younger, but he could always be bribed with a comic to give Ruth a few minutes’ peace. She ferreted his latest one out from the tide of carrier bags lapping around her feet and pushed him through the open living-room door. Then she dragged the shopping into the kitchen. It was always her sanctuary, but today it was chaos. Her partner Alan must have been up to something. He created havoc wherever he went, and could turn his back on disaster without a thought for her, or anybody else.
Trying to ignore the mess, she shoved aside enough of it to make room for today’s star prize. One of her carrier bags contained a cake box, encrusted with gold decoupage and pink ribbons. She put it down on the table like a holy relic, and smiled for the first time that day. The box cradled a gateau au chocolat. It was supposed to be for tea – a trophy to mark the end of the summer holidays.
Although surely it couldn’t hurt just to look at it…
Ruth resisted temptation long enough to go and switch on the kettle. Then she went back to ease open the carnation-coloured lid of the cake box. Inside was a triumph of the patissier’s art. Glossy ganache had been set with tiny macaroons and curls of chocolate, then sprinkled with gold dust. She inspected the cake long and hard from every angle. It was decorated with so many little extras, nobody would miss one or two.
Licking the tip of her finger, she reached out to the gateau with the stealth of a bomb disposal expert.
‘Mum, I want Monsters from Mars!’ Jack’s voice rang through from the other room.
Caught in the act, Ruth jumped like a frog.
‘Have it! Your Dad’s sure to have left the television on standby.’
She went back to gazing at the gateau. Mentally dividing the cake into slices, she sighed. The portions looked so meagre. She wished she still made her own cakes, but if there was one thing worse than Alan’s complaints it was seeing him moan with his mouth full. He blamed Ruth’s cooking for the fact his new clothes were a size larger each time she went shopping for him. That never stopped him eating everything she put in front of him, then looking round for more. Telling him that, and adding that his age might have something to do with his weight gain, only made things worse.
Grace materialised at her elbow.
‘I thought you were sorting out your school stuff ready for next week, love?’
‘I’ve done it. Now I want to go on the computer.’
Plump, pale Grace stared into the heart-stopping cake box. ‘Where is the computer, Mum?’ she murmured, distracted by their calorie-packed coming attraction.
‘What do you mean?’ As Ruth looked up from the gateau, Jack stamped in from the living room.
‘Where’s the telly? I want Monsters from Mars!’
A cranky eleven-year-old was the last thing Ruth needed. ‘Your dad must have been moving stuff around while he tried to find the best position for his damned plasma screen.’ Sighing, she abandoned the cake like a lover.
They had left Alan “working from home” that morning. His latest toy had still been in its box then, filling the lounge. Ruth could guess what happened next. Alan would have carried on checking e-mails until he was sure she and the children were well on their way. Then he would have abandoned his work computer for the new TV. Setting it up would have sent him back to bed exhausted. She called upstairs to him on her way through to the lounge.
‘Alan? What have you been up to?’ She laughed – but not for long.
I’d love to know what you think of it: there’s a signed book from my backlist for a comment picked at random.