5 September 2015

An excerpt of Gut Feeling by Victoria Browne

So, I recently read and enjoyed Gut Feeling by Victoria Browne - you can expect a review in the beginning of November! Since Victoria is such a sweetheart she have let me share the first chapter of Gut Feeling with you guys! I really hope you enjoy it.

A bit about Gut Feeling
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Ashleigh Lands is a twenty six year old dental nurse, who after meeting Dave Croft, a gorgeous twin, finds herself in an impossible dilemma. Living in the heart of London, Ashleigh and her group of friends find themselves in numerous situations, parties, traumas and sexual experiences.

With Ashleigh's love cheat lawyer ex-boyfriend Lee Preston pulling on her heart strings Ashleigh goes on holiday to Ibiza with the girls; Rachel a buyer for a large child's clothing company and also Ashleigh's best friend.

Beautiful Jules who works for a well-known magazine company. And Gemma a house wife who has just found out her husband was sleeping with his personal trainer. 

Ibiza brings the girls new friends along with love and loss. Whilst the girls are away Dave has an unwanted sexual encounter. Ashleigh returns home only to have her life thrown into turmoil. 

"But I heard it with my own ears". Must be true then? ? ?

Dave took in a deep breath as he straightened, heaving his bag of tools on to his shoulder for support. Standing on the pavement, he squinted in the brilliant sunlight looking at the oversized front door and stepped up to the intercom, blissfully unaware how this day would change his life path. A gold plaque caught his eye.

Maxilla Facial Specialist
Cosmetic Dental Surgery
Dr. W. J. Matson
Dr. E. A. McDonald

He reached out, pressed the button and waited.  
            ‘Hello, Devonshire Dental.’ A female voice, gentle and softly spoken. 
            ‘I’m here to replace your window.’ 
            There was a click and a buzz and he pushed the door open. Dave walked through the doorway into a huge entrance hall. The light in the hall dimmed as the door closed behind him. A deep emerald green carpet engulfed the floor where he stood, and a distinctive smell of dentist hit his nose dragged him briefly back to his childhood. His eyes wandered around, looking for the owner of the intercom voice. 
As he stood waiting, his eyes took in paintings of foxhunts and an expensive-looking chandelier. 
Suddenly a pretty-looking girl stepped out into view.  
            ‘Good morning,’ she said politely.
            ‘Dave Croft,’ he said, holding his hand out. ‘Where’s this window then?’ 
            ‘Ashleigh Lands.’ She shook his hand.  ‘Tea? Coffee?’
            ‘Coffee please – black, no sugar.’

She smiled and led him to a large, elegant room at the back of the practice. It had a high ceiling and more paintings of men on horses playing polo. In one corner was a dental chair, in the other a grand Victorian walnut desk, behind which a large window overlooked a courtyard. 
            The dentist (or nurse or receptionist or whatever she was) seemed the only one in the building and Dave assumed the practice was closed, as it was a Saturday. She returned five minutes later with a cup of black coffee. Smiling, she placed it on the desk then left him to his work while she pottered around the surgery, filing notes and restocking cupboards. Occasionally she chatted to Dave as she went from one surgery to the other. Finally, having finished her duties she took a seat to watch him finish off his handiwork.
The sun poured in through the window frame. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he balanced himself precariously on the window ledge. She poured a glass of water from the oasis, offering it to him with a quick smile. He took off his T-shirt to reveille a perfectly formed torso, he sat down in the dental chair legs spread and hanging down over either side. 
            ‘How about you lay me back and give me a check-over?’ he said, shooting her an inquisitive look and a wink. 
            ‘I think you mean a check-up.’ She turned her head to take a sip of water so he couldn’t see the smile on her face. The atmosphere had suddenly changed. ‘I’m not the dentist I’m, afraid – I’m only the nurse. Maybe I could book you an appointment for that check-up?’ 
He smiled politely then drank the water in one swift action. 
            Ashleigh wanted to bring the atmosphere back to a professional one and so explaining her role at the practice, giving him the impression that she was loyal, hard-working, caring and thoughtful of others; she seemed to enjoy helping people and was extremely polite with a nervous vulnerability about her as she spoke. There was also something about the calm tone of her voice that pricked his curiosity to know more about her. He responded by explaining his line of work, but was soon digressing with stories of his experiences with lonely housewives and the lavish places he had worked, fitting Velux windows and massive conservatories the size of a small house.
            As he described one of the lush stately homes he had worked on, Ashleigh found herself admiring his handsome face and was also curious to know more about him beneath his seemingly brash persona. He seemed laddish, but she thought she could sense a more gentle side to him – he had a kind tone to his voice and he was politer than most builder types she had met. Her eyes moved down to his bare chest, which was very well defined. 
My God, I want to kiss him, she thought. No. I couldn’t make the first move, and certainly not such a forward move as that. 
She struggled with her imagination for a while. 
I could just stand up and walk over, then straddle him and see what his reaction is
She giggled in her head. He hadn’t mentioned a girlfriend, or wife. She thought out this for a moment. The more he talked, the more she watched his body language, and each tiny gesture made her quiver with desire. 
Just do it, she told herself. Stand up and walk towards him
            She could feel herself rising out of her seat, her eyes meeting his. The atmosphere changed instantly as they looked at one another. His eyes were diverted from her stare for a moment as he slowly looked her up and down, admiring her body, then he fixed his gaze back on her face, looking into her eyes again. 
Standing by the dental chair she gently put one leg over him, sitting on his lap and bending to kiss his full lips. She could feel her heart pounding hard against her chest and sensed his hand on her upper thighs, pulling her closer. The warmth of his tongue sliding around in her mouth, her hands gripping his broad shoulders. 
            A moment later she realised that she wasn’t sitting on top of a sexy, half-naked man but was still on her stool. 
            ‘So would you?’ he asked. 
Bugger, she thought as she was torn back to reality.
            ‘Em . . . yeah,’ she said warily, unsure what to say and wishing she had been listening.
            ‘You would?’ 
He sounded surprised.
            ‘No, yes, sometimes.’ 
Oh shit, she thought, her heart was racing and she was increasingly aware of how stupid she was sounding. 
            He smiled. ‘What about me?’
            ‘What about you?’ she replied. 
This should throw some light on his question, she thought.
            ‘Would you go out for dinner with a guy like me, Ashleigh?’ 
Without thinking she burst out laughing with relief, then noticed the uneasy wide-eyed look on his face.
            ‘My friends call me Ash,’ she grinned. ‘And I’d love too. Sorry I laughed – I was just a bit shocked.’ The laughter, relief and excitement were still etched on her face. 
As Ash walked home through Hyde Park towards her flat in Knightsbridge she giggled to herself thinking about her near gaffe, but quickly started grinning as she reminisced over the fantasy that had triggered it in the first place. She felt happy, like a small child after making a new friend; her cheeks were filled with colour and she had to refrain herself from a sudden urge to skip. 
            The July heat and the fumes from the city fused together so that distant buildings shimmered like a film of gas. Hyde Park was full of children and rollerbladers whizzing up and down. The sound of people enjoying the summer made Ash smile even more as she strolled along the path. She stopped and sat down on the grass, watching the rollerbladers showing off to each other. One blader tried to catch her eye by jumping on to a stone ledge then doing some fancy footwork in the hope that she was looking. She smiled to herself lying back on the grass, thinking again of Dave and what she should wear on their date next week. Gently she drifted off to sleep in the sun, listening to the sounds of skaters. When she woke up both the bladers and the sound of children playing had vanished.
            Oh my God, she thought, I’d better get home. 
She had arranged to meet some friends and didn’t want to be late. She hurried through the park, jumped on a bus and got off just past Harrods.
            As she walked into her mews just off Knightsbridge, she stopped and all the happiness and excitement instantly drained from her. Standing by the steps to her flat was Lee Preston, her ex, whom she had dumped five months ago. She had moved addresses not long after the break-up so he couldn’t find her, but now he was there, larger than life in front of her new home.
            Lee was a good-looking, confident twenty-nine year old who worked for his father in a top law firm on the Strand. He still had a lot to learn as he had only been practising law for two years but his confidence overreached his knowledge. Even so, coupled with his father’s name, he was doing very well for himself and he knew it. Lee had been educated in Sweden, returning home only on holidays. By the time he was seventeen he was fluent in English, Swedish, German and Dutch. 
Every school holiday he travelled home to England, spending each day at his father’s firm, watching and learning everything he could about law and how to influence people– which his father was extremely good at and more than happy to be teaching to his only son. Lee’s mother had died whilst giving birth, so Lee was now the sole heir to carry on the family name. His father had never remarried but had not been lonely either as he entertained many women – he never settled for just one, not when he could have two and sometimes three at a time. This trait had also rubbed off on his son. 
            Ash walked towards him, not quite knowing what to do. His sudden reappearance in her life made her realise that she still had feelings for him. She had been going out with friends, enjoying meeting men, being free to think of only herself, and getting used to the single life. But now as she looked at him, she could feel knots in her stomach as she remembered the bad times he put her through and she didn’t know if she could go back there again. 
No, she thought, don’t get carried away. You don’t know why he is here yet – just smile and say hi. The ball is in your court. 
            ‘Lee. Hi,’ 
            ‘Hi Ash,’ he replied, showing off his perfect teeth. He still looked drop-dead gorgeous, she thought, as he stood there wearing the same cocky smile.
            ‘Nice place.’ He gestured up towards her front door. ‘I bumped into Sam; she told me where you had moved to.’
            ‘Did she now,’ Ash said not too happily. ‘And what do you want, Lee?’
            ‘To see how you are, Ash?’
            ‘Fine, I’m fine, can’t you tell?’ She also gestured up towards her front door.
            ‘Yeah, looks like you are – new home tucked back from the main road. Nice.’ He looked past her at the cobbled stone forecourt. ‘Still got your MG?’ He nodded at the garage doors beneath the stone steps that lead up to her front door. 
            ‘Yes thanks.’
            They stood on the cobbles, Ash not wanting to invite him up but curious as to what he wanted from her. 
            After a while Lee looked hard at her. ‘Ash, I’ve been a fool. I can’t live without you.’ He moved closer to touch her face taking off his shades to reveal his sharp blue eyes. ‘I still want you.’ He moved her hair behind her ear.
            ‘Lee don’t.’ 
I can’t let him seduce his way back in to my life like this. Not again.
            He stared into her eyes, longing to kiss her full plump lips. She let him stand close for a moment, feeling the passion before moving away. 
            ‘I can’t,’ she said quietly.
            ‘Can’t what?’
            ‘I can’t be with you again – too much has happened. I’m happy with my life now, Lee.’
            ‘Do you still want me like you used to, babe?’ He looked dead into her eyes, demanding her full attention as if she were one of his clients who didn’t understand what was at stake.
            ‘What do you mean?’
            ‘Do you think about us making love like we used to?’ he asked, stepping closer again. ‘Ash, I can’t get you out of my head at night – your smell, the way your body moved under mine, the noises you made when we were making love.’
            But he had moved her against the garage door, bending to kiss her, pushing his body hard against hers. In the heat of the moment she kissed him back for a split second, then broke away.
            ‘I want you to go,’ she said, straightening her top.
            ‘Ash, it’s still there – our life together,’ he pleaded with her.
            ‘Yeah, Lee – until something else takes your fancy,’ she shouted, running up the step to her front door. ‘Now just go – and leave me alone.’
            ‘I’ll prove it to you, babe. Just give us some thought.’
            ‘No. I’ve met someone else.’ The words fell from her mouth without her thinking. She slammed the door behind her.
Lee stared up at the door for a moment then turned to walk away, rolling his eyes. Ash stood with her back against the door, her heart pounding, her head in a spin. She put her keys on the table in the hall and picked up the phone to ring Rachel, a childhood friend and her closest confidant. But then she decided against it and put the phone down again. She couldn’t call and offload her problems about Lee again. She needed to move on from him. 
Be strong, she told herself, she would be seeing her soon anyway and could confined in her about Lee then. Ash hoped he now had the message and would stay away. She walked over to her couch and slumped down. She couldn’t let Lee do it again. He was bad for her – she knew this – but she had to admit that deep down she loved the excitement, the power he had over her. 
She stood up. Snap yourself out of it – you’re twenty-six years old and in control of your own feelings, she said to herself, and then walked quickly into her bedroom, remembering she still had to get to Leon’s apartment to meet everyone for dinner. Perhaps she should call Rachel and tell her she was running late, but she wouldn’t mention the Lee incident, not just yet.  
‘You’re late.’
            ‘I know I’m sorry.’ Ash kissed Leon on both cheeks then followed him inside. 
            Leon was a wealthy bachelor friend whom Ash had met one day as she stood admiring an abstract sculpture in the Tate Modern, when she had first moved to London. He seemed to know what the large plastic egg-shaped object was trying to convey and after that accompanied her round the gallery, explaining each individual piece of work to her. By the end she had established that Leon didn’t actually work at the gallery but was an art dealer, which explained his vast knowledge of art. 
            He had persuaded Ash to have a coffee with him and even though he took the hint that she was not interested in sleeping with him, they had remained friends. Leon’s father was African and his mother English, giving Leon a deep brown shade to his skin. His parents now lived in Oxford in a manor house that was open to the public so that people could enjoy the beautiful architecture and the family’s large and valuable art collection. 
The fact that Leon was bisexual was something he assumed was hidden from other people, especially his friends, and as none of them ever asked him, he liked to think that they imagined him to be a straight, one hundred per cent, red-blooded heterosexual. He sometimes wondered, though, whether his doggedly bachelor lifestyle might have given them pause for thought. 
Indeed, unlike his father, Leon had no wish to marry and settle down in the country and instead lived, courtesy of his father, in a magnificent two-storey apartment overlooking London Bridge and the Thames. The view from the balcony was spectacular and all the rooms were exquisitely decorated with expensive works of art, both sculpture and paintings. The sofa in the lounge was in the shape of an enormous black kidney, big enough for at least seven or eight people to lounge on at the same time, but it looked more like an odd-shaped bed as it had no arms. The artworks were all originals, mainly bought at auction, and the discreet lighting worked with the soft colours on the walls to make the large spaces feel warm and homely
Ash and Leon had made new friends as a result of their friendship, namely Rachel – Ash’s closest friend who now loved Leon as much as Ash did – and Juliette, or Jules for short, one of Leon’s closest friends, who was now equally close to Ash. Jules worked for a well-known magazine company and had been heading up a team in Madrid for the launch of a new app magazine for the modern woman. She had been living in Madrid for the past year and was due to fly home in two days’ time. Over the years the four of them – Ash, Leon, Rachel and Jules – had become a close-knit group. 
            ‘Come on Ash, you minx – get a move on. I cooked you know.’
            ‘You lie, Leon. Don’t lie to me – I’m not one of your lady friends.’
            ‘OK whatever, so I had someone do it for me, but I paid. Anyway come on, sit, eat and shut up. Rachel was telling me about some model girl that OD’d on drugs.’ He pushed Ash down on to a high-backed glass chair in the dining room.
            ‘Hi, Rach,’ she said, straightening her chair. ‘So who are we talking about?’
            ‘One of Jules’s models—’
            ‘So anyway, tell me who did it,’ Leon cut Rachel off.
            ‘With the candlestick in the drawing room,’ Ash smiled sarcastically.
            ‘Funny Ash –for you anyway.’ Leon returned the same smile. 
            So . . .’ Rachel intervened, ‘I called Jules today to see what time her flight was due in etcetera, etcetera, and she was at the hospital. She told me she had just finished some big advertising campaign for something to do with the magazine and had gone to an after party and one of her models had put too much white stuff up her nose and collapsed in the club,’ Rachel took a breath.
            ‘No way that happened.’ Ash looked generally concerned.
            ‘Did she die?’ 
            ‘What, you asked what happened. I want to know if she died or not.’ He rolled his eyes and turned to Rachel for the answer. 
            ‘Don’t know. Jules had to go. Some nurse told her to get off the phone. Well, that’s what Jules said as I can’t understand Spanish. Anyway she said she would call me when she’s landed.’ Rachel took a sip of wine, looking back at Leon.
            ‘Rach, that is as big an anticlimax as the fifty-six-year-old woman I shagged last week after discovering her plastic surgery was face only.’ 
            ‘Leon, you’re a sick man,’ Rachel laughed.
            Rachel had grown up with Ash, and gone to the same independent, prestigious private school, but left with better grades and went on to pursue a career in London for a leading retail company. She was now a buyer in children’s clothing for the well-known high street brand Hop Scotch. Ironically Rachel was probably the least maternal woman on earth, with no serious relationships and no desire to find one either.
            ‘So did she tell you anything else – any big gossip? I’m talking tabloid press gossip,’ Leon continued.
            ‘Nope, I don’t think gossip was big in her mind at that point somehow, do you?’
            ‘Guess not.’ Leon dropped his shoulders. 
            They sat eating the carefully prepared Italian pasta with plum tomatoes and mozzarella then moved into the lounge so the caterer could clear the plates, then they all binged out with a tub of Ben & Gerry’s ice cream, watching the music channel and talking. After the ice cream was gone and it had been washed down with two bottles of red wine followed by two of white, they decided to call it a night and rang for a cab. Air kisses were exchanged at the front door and Ash shared a cab with Rachel, who had to be helped in as she wobbled off balance, sending Leon into fits of laughter.
            ‘Leon, you’re not helping here.’
            ‘Sorry Ash.’ Leon rushed to help Ash put Rachel into the front seat and fasten her seatbelt. 
            ‘You’re both stinking drunks,’ Ash laughed, ‘you know that, don’t you.’
            Ash raised herself to kiss him on the cheek. ‘Thanks for having us over.’
            ‘Any time, babe – and maybe if you ate less ice cream and drank more, you too could get strapped into a cab drunk.’
            ‘I’ll bear that in mind Leon.’
By the time Ash had closed her front door it was one in the morning. She was content that she had had another good night with friends, doing what she wanted to do as a single woman, making her own happiness, and also still getting to bed at a decent hour, which she usually tried to do. Ash signed as she thought about her brief encounter with Lee, she hadn’t bothered to bring it up at diner and would try to forget it happened. She had also kept her date to herself as well. It would keep she thought as a smile brightened her face. 
She pulled back the duvet and climbed into bed, sliding down into the cool, crisp sheets. Although Ash was only twenty-six and now single, all-night parties and staying out till the early hours didn’t appeal to her. She liked to have fun but didn’t like to have to endure the next morning’s hangover. That didn’t mean that Ash never over-indulged with alcohol – just not all the time like the others tended to do.

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