Read the first chapter of BETTER CONFESS
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These are just a few reader comments about my thriller BETTER CONFESS. Read on to try the first chapter for yourself:
Dublin. Thursday, 6:54 pm.
Florence Lynch took a bottle of perfume from her handbag and gave her neck a discreet squirt of Chanel No. 5. The fragrance had been her late mother’s favourite, and Florence liked to keep a bottle of it with her at all times.
The taxi driver glanced at her in his mirror.
“Going somewhere nice?”
He was a leathery-faced man in his fifties, with tufty, greying hair. Florence ignored him. A stranger had no business knowing her plans. She placed a breath mint on the tip of her tongue and gazed at the driver’s face in the mirror.
They thought they had a right to ask anything they liked. As bad as hairdressers, Florence thought, though at least her hairdresser stuck to asking if Florence had any holiday plans and what she was doing at the weekend.
“Excuse me,” she said, pulling out her iPhone. She brought the screen to life, lighting up the gloomy backseat of the taxi.
“Sure, sure,” the driver said.
He yawned obnoxiously. Even if she hadn’t been a coach to small-business owners, Florence would have been appalled by his lack of professionalism. People never seemed to think about the impression they made.
Florence always made sure to present herself optimally when she met clients: looking well-groomed, smelling pleasant, smiling and alert, after a solid night’s sleep. She drank two litres of water each day to keep her teenage acne in the past tense, and had her hair styled at an exclusive salon every two weeks. As far as appearances went, she had little to worry about, though some days the gap between her front teeth preoccupied her. She had a tall, athletic build, an upright carriage and long, honey-coloured hair.
At thirty, Florence knew she was on the brink of personal and professional triumph. Her bachelor’s degree in communications and her master’s in marketing had set her on a trajectory towards success. Always striving for improvement, she liked to share what she’d learned with others.
“You shouldn’t yawn like that,” Florence said, unable to resist. “It’s incredibly rude.”
“Pardon?” the driver said. From his tone of voice, Florence gathered that he had heard her, but was too stung to believe he’d heard her correctly.
Florence’s iPhone rang.
“Never mind,” she said. “I have to take this.”
She noted the time displayed on her phone, then put it to her ear. “What is it, Jill?”
Jill Fitzgibbon, Florence’s personal assistant, stayed in the office until at least nine o’clock every night, though no one asked her to do this. Florence couldn’t say she liked Jill. The younger woman was too nervous, calling Florence constantly, even out of hours. However, Florence’s father had appointed her, and he hated it when Florence questioned his hiring and firing decisions.
“Sorry to bother you,” Jill said.
Despite her shyness, Jill always spoke loudly, as if to compensate.
“What is it?”
“I was about to leave the office when I got an urgent e-mail from Jon Glynn.”
Florence groaned. Jon Glynn, a new client, liked to have his hand held. Florence had spent far too much of her morning in a meeting with him, listening to his plans for his IT company. Florence found the inner workings of computers tedious, not to mention baffling.
“What does he want?”
“He says he needs to speak to you at once.”
“Well, I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
“His e-mail does say at once. I just thought you should know.”
“Does he say why?”
“He’s worried about his trade mark. He says it’s been rejected by the Intellectual Property Office.”
“Big deal,” Florence said.
“What should I tell him?”
“Don’t tell him anything. Let him wait until tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Jill said with a nervous laugh. She drew the word out, as if she was giving herself time to think of an argument.
Florence ended the call.
“Trouble at home?” the driver asked.
Florence glared at the back of his head, at the point where grey tufts receded into pink skin.
As if he had any right to know whether Florence had trouble at home, or anywhere else for that matter.
She gazed out the window. The taxi was moving slowly through Dublin’s north inner city. They were now on Capel Street, approaching Simon’s office.
“I said, trouble at home?” the driver repeated, as if she owed him an answer.
“Never mind that. Can you go any faster?”
The driver shrugged. “Only if the car in front does.”
Florence fished around in her handbag for her lipstick, and applied a little more.
The truth was that things were wonderful at home. Florence had no reason to complain. Simon Hill was the perfect boyfriend. Sometimes he could be silly – just look at his ridiculous man-bun and his obsession with milkshakes – but he had a good heart.
Tonight, Florence was treating Simon to dinner at a new ramen bar she’d wanted to try for months. Simon had already been there at lunchtime and he insisted the place served the best noodles in the city.
The taxi passed Simon’s workplace, the headquarters of marketing company, Transcend Promotions. It was an old building. Though not much to look at, Florence felt happy every time she saw the place. Not only did her boyfriend work there, but so did her best friend, Hazel Price. Hazel was the one who introduced Simon to Florence.
The taxi began to move a little faster.
“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” the driver asked.
Could you shut your mouth? she thought.
But then she was distracted. Out the window, she saw a man who looked like Simon walking along the sun-dappled footpath.
No, it was Simon, and he was arm-in-arm with a woman in a short black skirt. The woman turned her head and Florence saw that it was Hazel.
Perhaps they had left work together.
Florence stared at her boyfriend and her best friend. Why were they so close to each other? Their arms were linked and they were laughing hard.
And, as Florence watched, Hazel threw her arms around Simon and kissed him on the lips.
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