I read Third Time Lucky - The Honey Trap last month and I definitely enjoyed it. I talked to the author about posting an excerpt of the first chapter for you guys, and because she's a sweetheart, she agreed. She also agreed to posting an excerpt of Gut Feeling which you can find here. Both books are great, chicklit books.
All that's left to say is; I hope you enjoy this excerpt!
A fast moving witty chick lit drama that will take you on a journey of laughter and revelations.
Good friends Sarah a sensible simple soul, Laura bitchy complicated, Beth a ‘too cool for school’ high school teacher, and Jess a funky hairdresser, decide to honey trap Jess's new American boyfriend Richard. How could such a simple plan go wrong? Just add Jess’s new flat mate, hot sexy Elise to the mix, a few glasses of wine and you have a cocktail fit for disaster – especially when Elise honey traps the wrong boyfriend! Good friends are all Sarah needs when her uncomplicated life is jettisoned into chaos.
Dan, Sarah’s boyfriend makes some shady life choices. But who is friend and who is foe?
Wealthy bachelor Lee Preston sets his sights on Sarah and all Lee wants is to make her happy. Life could be fantastic when money is no object and your closet is filled with designer shoes, Oh, and his with secrets.
If we were to know the future, no doubt we would all be too scared to put one foot in front of the other. Already knowing the outcome, and the predictable paths it would lead us down, would mean that our lives would lack any spontaneity. In some people’s eyes this could equal sheer bliss, while for others it could simply turn into a life of mundane perseverance.
Sarah’s life was simple, with all paths seemingly predictable and leading her down mundane avenues. Until, that was, one humid evening eleven months ago when Dan, Sarah’s boyfriend, announced to her in undertones of new-found arrogance that he was to be heading up a major project at work single-handedly. A project that was to be the path to their fortune, giving them all they had ever wanted in life. However, the process that would lead to this foreseeable fortune would without doubt change everything in Sarah’s seemingly predictable life. Not even in her wildest dreams did Sarah have any idea how her life was about to change and the paths she was about to embark on.
She stood by the front door in a peaceful, early-morning trancelike state, as if in a waking sleep, with no real thoughts in her mind – just staring ahead in deathlike vacancy.
‘Bye babe.’ Dan kissed her on the lips, freeing her from her trance before shooting out the front door.
A quick blink and her senses came flooding back, along with a harsh slap of reality.
‘Don’t be late tonight,’ she called after him as the door slammed in her face.
Sarah eyed the closed door, a ray of brilliant morning sunshine striking her hazel eyes through the coloured glass panel. Shrugging, she reached for a cardigan on the peg, flung it around her shoulders, then turned on her heels and ran into the kitchen where she grabbed her iPad. Throwing it underneath her arm, she grabbed her car keys as she hurried out of the house, along the cracked paved path of their front garden, through the rusty red iron gate to her car that she had managed to park conveniently in front of their house the night before.
The park-keeper at the end of the road was opening a set of large green gates with a queue of dog-walkers waiting in a huddle around him. She stared for a while at the dog-walkers as she started the car. During the winter months Sarah’s old Ford still needed more time to warm up than was convenient and although spring had turned to summer by force of habit Sarah sat with the engine idling. She watched the dogs drag their owners through the gates one by one like petulant children.
Driving down her road she turned left on to Somerset Road just off Wimbledon High Street, where she stopped outside number Fifty-four waiting for Laura, her floor manager and good friend, to emerge. Tooting her horn briefly, not wanting to awake the neighbours, she waited with the engine still running just in case her old faithful Ford decided the early morning sprint was a bit too much for a car of its age.
Sarah and Laura both worked in a furniture store on Wimbledon High Street called Furniture Forever. Sarah had moved to Wimbledon five years ago, taking a promising job offer in a well-established superstore, selling the best-quality furniture money could buy, with outstanding earning potential and even better career prospects – or so the fat man in the interview told her five years ago.
Mr Stevenson was still fat and still the regional manager. Laura was at the time a senior sales consultant but after a drunken mistake with him at last year’s team-building weekend Laura was promoted exactly a week later. Over the past five years Sarah and Laura had forged a kind of friendship, but it was slightly one-sided in practice, with Sarah keen to please Laura, and Laura keen to please herself. However, Sarah had come to accept that this was not personal: Laura did not help anyone unless there was an element of self-gain in it; this was just the way she worked and should not to be taken to heart.
‘What’s up bitch,’ Laura yanked opened the car door.
‘How short is your skirt, Lau? You should know better being the manager and all.’
‘That’s right. I’m the manager and what I say goes.’
Laura slid into the car, her dark-blue skirt sticking to her like a sausage skin. Picking up Sarah’s iPad from the foot-well she opened the case and tapped in the passcode. Sarah awkwardly wiggled around on her seat, hitching up her skirt to match.
Laura was twenty-five years old, her eyelashes were unnaturally dark for a blonde and ridiculously long, her body still benefiting from the effects of a young, fast metabolism. Laura checked her reflection in the wing mirror, flicking her long, silky hair to the other side and raking it with her fingers, then ruffled it with both hands to give it some more body whilst pouting her lips. Sarah let herself watch Laura for a moment before dragging her secret envy back inside. Laura turned her attention back to the iPad.
‘Jess is having a party – we’ve been invited on Facebook ... Saturday at her flat, Lee’s going.’
‘So,’ Sarah said defensively.
‘Sooo … oh come on, you know you want him.’
‘Err …What about Dan? You know, my boyfriend?’ Sarah said with a hint of irritation in her voice that she tried to suppress.
Sarah had met Dan four years ago when he had wandered into Furniture Forever looking for new furniture, which now adorned the house he shared with Sarah. Things had been exciting back then. They lived life spontaneously and would go out somewhere new on a whim. Their relationship had long since declined into predictability and no longer felt like the dream of perfection it had seemed at the beginning. After all, she thought, she was only twenty-six. Where had all the fun gone?
‘Dan? What about him? He isn’t coming.’ Laura sounded offended and looked visibly irritated.
Sarah laughed. ‘I have to bring him. He knows everyone. He even knows Lee.’
‘God, he’s becoming the bane of my life. That means if he comes you become Little Miss Boring.’
This statement Sarah had to agree was true, she thought, as she drove down Wimbledon High Street. If she was honest with herself, Dan did not make an effort any more. He was always working late and the days that he did come home on time he went to bed early so that he could be focused on his fantastic new project. Sarah was sympathetic to his cause and appreciated that he was busy at work overseeing the new project; she understood that in the long run it would pay off for them, but at the same time she could not help but resent his absence from their home and practically their bed. If she was really honest, the biggest absence was the lack of affection Dan was giving her recently.
As the car idled at a set of traffic lights, Sarah reminisced about the first time they met. Dan chatted her up in the store over a bed purchase late one Saturday evening, Laura had left Sarah to lock up on her own, allowing Dan to seduce her, christening his new bed before it had left the store. They joked after saying it was a sales pitch, ‘try before you buy’.
Sarah sighed: life was certainly fun back then, and sex was definitely more frequent.
‘Sod it,’ Sarah spat. ‘Let’s face it, Lau, Dan is now a boring fucker … There, I said it. Dan is boring.’
‘Fank fuck for that, finally you’re seeing what I’ve been saying to you, babe. It’s time to move on, it’s time to have some fun. Dan is twenty-seven going on forty-seven. It’s not like you knew he was going to turn out to be a dismal twat. Let’s face it, in the beginning he was hot, exciting stuff. Even I would have.’
‘You would have?’ Sarah’s exclaimed.
‘Yeah… I fancied the pants off him when you two met. But now…’ Laura paused. ‘Well ya know. He’s kinda lost his appeal, and his dress sense, and charisma, and from what you tell me, his sex drive too.’
Laura reeled all this off matter-of-factly – she was right again, and she knew it. Sarah was in a tiresome, sexless relationship, going nowhere except into a life of babies and nappies and endless housekeeping and a husband who would always be at the office, probably shagging his PA. Something had to give.
But could Sarah bring herself to do it? Could she make the break? After all, she did love him. She just wished things could be different, like they used to be at the beginning. She felt the familiar dull ache in the pit of her stomach that came on when she allowed herself to think back to when Dan had started to change.
First came the new job project, then the late nights and more recently Dan had become snappy and distant, almost nasty towards her, leading Sarah to start pandering to Dan’s moods, not wanting to anger or antagonise him when he was in one of his strops. She made sure dinner was ready for him every night; she stopped giving her real opinion, just so it would not create an argument, and all the time not realising that she was inadvertently giving Dan power over her thoughts, actions and decisions.
Sarah knew that she was different when Dan was around and it sat uneasily at the forefront of her mind. He was not a violent man, but she did not want to give him any reason to fly off the handle at her, showing everyone that their happy relationship was not as it seemed. What Sarah did not see was that everyone could see it all anyway.
The lights changed to green and an irate driver behind pressed his fist on his horn for at least five continuous seconds.
‘Oh piss off, you tosser.’ Laura made a hand gesture out of the open window and the man returned the gesture with added aggression.
‘Do you think I’m boring nowadays, Lau?’ Sarah asked, as she pulled away from the lights, leaving the angry man behind.
‘Er kinda…’ she paused. ‘But only because you’ve got comfortable. You yourself aren’t boring, just your lifestyle, you know.’
‘But isn’t that what happens with most people in the end? Everyone gets comfortable.’
‘Yeah, everyone gets comfortable, Sar. But not boring, and certainly not bored with sex. That’s unhealthy.’
Sarah wished she had not told Laura about that part. She was bored with sex but she thought that was also natural in long-term relationships. Don’t most women feel like this? It’s not like she had gone off it completely, she just didn’t want it every night – or every week, come to think of it, she would be happy if it was a once-a-month act. Sarah struggled with her thoughts.
‘S’pose you’re right.’ Sarah pulled up the hand brake outside Furniture Forever. ‘Sar, mate, it’s not often I’m wrong but this time I’m right.’ Laura flung her head back laughing at her own joke.
Sarah gave her a soft smile, thankful for her friendship even if she was a rude, self-centred bitch.
* * *
Later that day Sarah and Laura resumed their daily lunchtime position, perched on a wall around the corner from the store with cigarettes at the ready. The side street they overlooked was empty, with different coloured terraced houses lined up in a long row as if waiting for them. The curtains at number six twitched, indicating that at least some kind of life existed in the still, quiet road, unlike the busy high street yards away from where they sat with legs dangling off a wall.
They could hear hustle and bustle of traffic, car engines at traffic lights, angry bus drivers slamming on their brakes and bringing their huge red vehicles to a screeching stop, but this did not hamper the girls’ lunchtime ritual on the quiet side road. Sarah shifted on the wall for more bottom purchase and lit another cigarette while turning the pages of her magazine. Laura stood next to her, leaning over to ogle at the shiny pages and size-zero anorexic models. Her lips wrapped round her cigarette butt like a cat’s bum as she drained the white stick.
From around the corner strolled Jess. Sarah and Laura had not noticed her casually walking towards them due to their adolescent bickering over an article Sarah was reading aloud. Jess was dressed head to toe in black as a requirement of the hair salon she worked in on the high street. The midday heat slowed her normal casual walk down the road towards her friends.
‘Yo hoes. Got a light?’ Jess put a cigarette to her mouth.
‘Hiya, Jess – you on lunch?’ Sarah handed her a lighter.
‘Not really. I’ve got a client in a bit but thought I’d nip out to see what you two skivers were up to.’
Sarah and Jess had both gone to university in Brighton. Both studied English, both somehow passed with a two-one and both had not done anything relevant in their careers to warrant having a degree in English. After leaving university Jess was a different character from the shy, fat, reserved fresher Sarah had met on her first day on campus to the girl standing in front of her today – a slim, confident girl, not frightened to speak her mind.
The first time Sarah saw Jess she had long brown hair, a striking difference to her now short blonde hair, practically white in colour with flashes of light pink running sporadically through it. Tomorrow could turn it red or purple but one thing was for sure – it would never be long and brown again, that would be too plain for Jess now. Sarah pondered on this thought for a brief moment feeling a small pang of apprehension. She had become shy like Jess used to be, instead of being exciting and matching the confidence and brio of her friends, and this bothered Sarah.
How had Sarah gone through a journey of self-confidence with her good friend helping her to find her voice, coaching her in the art of male manipulation, determination and self-realisation, to come out the other end the way her friend went in? Had she, given away all her own self-realisation and male manipulation tips and left herself with nothing at the end of it. Was this her reward for helping a fellow girlfriend find herself?
Was this it? Was this her life now?
Reality brought her back as she felt the hot sun tingle on her shoulders, gently cooking her skin and turning it a darker shade of brown, the smell of petrol mixed with pollution wafting under her nose.
‘Are you both coming on Saturday? Sarah, Lee’s coming,’ Jess smiled.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, she did this to me earlier.’ Sarah gestured an irritated flick of her hand toward Laura. ‘Why do I care if Lee is going?’
Jess laughed, raising her eyebrows. ‘All I’m saying is, he is going. If you don’t care then why get so stressed?’
Sarah rolled her eyes.
‘He’s single,’ Jess reminded her.
‘Is he?’ Sarah said hastily, causing Jess and Laura to giggle.
‘Thought you didn’t care, Sar,’ Jess said with sarcasm, emphasising her name.
Sarah threw her hands up. ‘OK. OK. I bloody well I admit, I fancy him. But there’s a small problem called Dan so let’s just drop the Lee thing, yeah? It’s never going to happen, even if he is single. And Dan is going to be there so—’
‘Oh no, you’re not bringing Dan,’ Jess groaned, cutting Sarah off.
‘I told her not to,’ Laura chipped in.
‘I can’t not bring him, can I? He knows Lee, for God’s sake. Let’s hope he works late, hey?’
‘Now that would be a result.’ Sarah allowed herself to get excited at this thought because it was a real possibility, seeing as Dan worked late the last two Saturdays and the project according to him was at a critical point. Whatever that meant.
‘Right – well, I’m off. See ya girls,’ Jess flicked her smoked cigarette butt, watching it bounce into the road before striding off.
‘Come on, Sar, we best be heading back too. Simon is in this afternoon.’
‘Simon, is it? Mr Stevenson to the rest of us, the fat twat. Why the hell you shagged him I will never know.’
‘Honey, I did it all for the good of our department, or would you have preferred Tim Nice But Dim to be your floor manager, like he was meant to be? I single-handedly saved our sanity.’
Sarah’s face filled with laughter, admitting Laura was right again. Tim was the manager of the sofa department downstairs and there had been talk about the two departments becoming one with Tim as the floor manager for both. That was until Laura convinced Mr Stevenson – with the help of some drunken sex behind a bush – that this would not be in his best interests.
‘Well, if you’re as good as you think, then get him to give us the day off on Saturday.’
‘On your knees of course,’ Sarah offered the suggestion with a devilish grin.
‘No way I’m not doing that sober.’
‘I’ll snog Lee on Saturday if you do.’
Laura stared at Sarah, ‘I’ll see what I can do,’ she breathed.
And Sarah suddenly regretted her deal.
Furniture Forever was not the biggest of names, but if you lived in Wimbledon this is where you came. Or so Mr Stevenson would brag in his so-called motivational sales meetings. The large store was dated and in desperate need of a refurb to keep it up to date with the other superstores, which were sinking Furniture Forever with their cut-price discount days. But Mr Stevenson was too far up his own fat arse to listen to what his staff thought, ranting on about budgets and how good the customer service brought the so-called loyal consumers back. Reality was a somewhat different turn of events and Sarah could not fathom how he could not see this in his silly budgets and forecasts that he droned on about.
To get through to the bed section you had to walk through sofas and tables, then midway through the table section was an abnormally wide set of curving stairs covered in navy-blue carpet, leading up to the beds, by far the liveliest section of the whole store. Beds overlooked the main entrance, occupying most of the space above the sofa section with a clear view of nearly the whole store, providing entertainment for the four-strong sales force, Sarah, Laura, Dave, and Ben, who regularly took bets on what section customers would buy from as they entered the store to pass the quiet, drawn-out hours of the day. As fun as the bed section was to work in, the amount of foot business they had was not anywhere near enough to warrant four members of staff and they all knew the day would come when one of them would be moved.
Laura ran the last two steps, diving head first on to a king-size, out-of-date waterbed. She sat up, bobbing around, looking to see where Dave and Ben were before jumping up ready to rally her team.
‘Right, let’s have a quick meeting, guys.’ Laura waved Dave and Ben over to the waterbed.
‘Why are we having a meeting,’ Ben said, chewing noisily on a piece of gum.
‘Because Mr Stevenson has so kindly decided to pay Furniture Forever Wimbledon a visit today,’ she said in a mock posh voice. ‘Ben, spit that gum out, you chav.’
‘What. Why? He ain’t here yet,’ Ben protested with outstretched arms.
‘But I am. Spit.’
Dave passed Ben a piece of scrap paper for him to dispose of the mangled gum. Laura waited impatiently.
‘OK, so what I want is Dave downstairs by the front entrance—’
‘Oh what. Why?’ Laura paused, irritated that she had been interrupted. Choosing to ignore this interruption she carried on. ‘Ben, you at the top of the stairs with a clipboard and me and Sarah will be floor-walking. It’s only for four hours so try to look busy and professional, and then you can piss of home.’
Dave shot a look at Ben slumping off down the stairs in his oversized suit.
‘Big smiles, Dave,’ Laura bantered after him.
Dave looked over his shoulder, shooting her a sarcastic grin and brushing his floppy hazel-coloured hair back from his face.
‘Right Ben, d’you know what you have to do?’ Laura passed Ben a clipboard.
‘It’s only for an afternoon, sweetie. Tomorrow we’ll be back to norm.’ Laura patted him on the head softly, not wanting to ruin his carefully styled hair. Ben was by far the better looking of the two boys, but being only seventeen Sarah and Laura did not pursue him with flirty jokes or innuendos like others before him. He had become their little work brother, and he knew he had it good this way.
Everyone was in place. Dave was stood awkwardly by the main entrance, shuffling from foot to foot, looking sour-faced. Ben was flittering at the top of the stairs, chewing a fresh bit of gum, whilst Sarah and Laura sat out of sight at the sign-up desk, filing their nails and overseeing the floor.
A bellowing voice below sprung the girls to their feet. Mr Stevenson had arrived. The girls stood, eyes locked on each other, listening with intent. Eventually they heard Mr Stevenson’s voice drift away and they relaxed momentarily.
Not long after, the phone on Laura’s desk rang.
‘Hello. Beds,’ Laura answered in her best voice.
‘Laura. Mr Stevenson. Can you come down to the store room please,’ Mr. Stevenson demanded in his normal arrogant tone.
‘Oh yeah, just me and you is it, big boy?’ Laura flirted.
‘Shame. I was hop—’
‘Laura. Down now,’ he cut her off.
‘Oh, I like it when you talk tough, Simon.’ She made a thumbs up signs to Sarah, who was laughing into her hand.
‘Laura, you’re on loudspeaker. I suggest you get down here and stop acting like a schoolgirl, everyone is waiting.’
The line went dead. Laura clapped her hands over her face, dropping to her knees.
‘What? What happened?’ Sarah was now standing over Laura, helping her up on to a chair.
‘I… Oh God… I…was on loudspeaker.’
‘Yeah … everyone’s there.’
‘Oh God…’ Laura breathed. ‘They’re all waiting for me in the store-room, Oh shit, fuck, bollocks. I’m gonna look like such a knobhead.’
‘Laura you best go if their all waiting.’
‘I know, I know,’ Laura saw Ben walking towards them. Not wanting to explain, she gave Sarah a pleaful glance and hurried down to the store-room.
Laura took a huge gulp of air before pushing the door to the store room open. Stepping inside, she saw four faces staring back at her, two trying not to laugh. Tim from sofas and Eddy from tables. Her eyes moved over to where Simon stood, leaning against a ladder. She could not tell from his expression if he was mad at her. Colin, the store manager, quite clearly looked livid. His natural face was a bright shade of red and now Laura had stepped inside the room it was turning a deep shade of claret.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ she felt her skin prickle beneath the compulsory uniform. She tugged at the collar of her pale blue shirt trying not to meet Colin’s stare.
‘OK. Thank you for joining us, Laura. Now Mr Stevenson has something he needs to tell you all. This information stays in this room. Do I make myself crystal clear?’ Colin looked at them all. ‘Well. Do I?’
‘Yes,’ they said in a slightly out of time union and nodding.
‘Good, Simon over to you.’
‘Thanks, Colin. Now… I know you are all doing your best and from what I have seen today that is more than some floor managers in other stores are. But,’ Mr Stevenson paused. ‘The brand is not doing so well, as you may already know. We are making cutbacks and this is going to mean staff cuts too. Now don’t worry, all of your jobs are safe but I am afraid some of you will be losing a member of your department in the near future to another store where staffing is needed. Eddy you’re losing Vicky and Beth. Laura, you’re losing Dave – where to is yet to be finalised, but you will be informed of this next week.’
Mr. Stevenson surveyed the room, ‘Right, well, any questions?’
Everyone knew better than to object so silence fell,
‘Good, well that’s that then. Keep up the good work. Laura, can you stay behind please?’
Eddy shot Laura a look of shame, then curled the corners of his mouth into a smirk. Colin followed them without a second look at Laura, closing the door behind him.
‘Simon I… I’m sorry, I didn’t kno—’
‘That, my girl, was very stupid.’ Mr Stevenson stood in front of Laura looking somewhat happier than was expected. ‘You, young lady, are a very, very naughty girl.’
‘I am?’ Laura cocked her head like a Labrador. ‘Yes I am,’ she said, as she suddenly understood his expression.
‘Naughty girls must be punished.’ Mr Stevenson moved his hand down to his belt buckle and tugged. Laura felt slightly repulsed but gave him a falsely seductive smile.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, Laura opened the door of the storeroom, adjusted her skirt and walked briskly back to beds.
‘So that’s what you have to do to get a promotion nowadays.’
Laura faltered, turning to see a tall, skinny, black man with oversized glasses stepping out from behind a beachwood cabinet. It was Eddy from Tables.
‘I don’t know, Eddy. You tell me.’
‘I got my promotion through hard work. How about you?’ Eddy surveyed her with folded arms.
‘Oh believe me, I got mine through hard work as well.’
‘What, on your back you mean?’
Shit, don’t mince your words, Laura thought.
‘Eddy why are you talking to me about my bloody promotion now? It happened ages ago.’
‘Dunno, just thought we could compare how we both got to the top.’
Laura laughed, wondering how Eddy could possibly think being a floor manager was the top. ‘Well, maybe we should compare salaries at the same time then.’
‘Huh? What do you mean? All floor managers are on the same.’ Eddy looked perplexed.
‘Oh really?’ Laura lent into Eddy’s personal space. ‘There are some things a man just can’t do, Ed, that a woman can.’
‘Well, if sleeping your way to the top is the answer, then it can’t be very rewarding, Laura.’ Eddy stepped backwards.
‘Oh yes it can, Ed. Mr Stevenson just gave me and Sar Saturday off and you’re covering my department.’
Laura shot him a triumphant smile and bounced up the stairs without a look back, leaving Eddy’s stare burning a hole in her back.
* * *
Sarah went to bed that night at 10 pm, leaving pork chops and mash potato on a plate in the oven. To keep herself from screaming – or worse, crying – Sarah concentrated her thoughts on her midweek night out tomorrow with the girls, pondering on what she should wear as she paced the kitchen. She then scribbled a note on the back of a Waitrose receipt she found on the side and left it on the kitchen table for Dan.
Gone to bed as you’re still not home,
dinner gone cold in oven!
She lay in bed, turning from one side to another, trying to clear her mind of thoughts. Eventually, at some point during her restless turning, she drifted off into a fragile, troubled sleep.
Sarah felt the bed press down and a cold breeze on her back. She didn’t turn to welcome Dan home like she would normally do, nor did she want him to know she had the weekend off. She lay still, concentrating on her breathing, but the more she thought about it, the more she realised she was breathing strangely slow breaths. She told herself to breather normally but this just felt like she was now holding her breath so she tried quicker, deeper breaths. Sarah felt faint with this method, it was not helping. She felt a heavy arm slide round her waist. Dan’s chest was cold against her back, and his breath had a hint of alcohol as he breathed against her ear.
‘Are you a wake, babe?’ Dan’s stubble irritated the side of her face.
‘Aghhh,’ Sarah shrugged him off, pretending he had just woken her.
‘Babe,’ he whispered. ‘Babe, I’m sorry, the guys, they wanted a drink to celebrate. We closed a big deal today… babe.’
‘Dan, just go to sleep.’ Sarah gave her shoulder one last shrug, giving Dan a clear message to move away.
‘OK babe, I love you.’ His words, mixed with the smell of whisky, irritated Sarah further. She moved towards the edge of the bed, not returning Dan’s declaration.