The Honeymoon: An absolutely gripping psychological thriller, page 7
Does he love me?
Of that, she had no doubt. He loved her with a force and passion that she’d been unable to imagine before she’d met him. If he could, she thought, he would take up residence in her body, his need to be near her was so strong.
Overwhelming at times, the little voice said, and her breath faltered.
Perhaps a little claustrophobic, if she was being honest. She bit her lip, unable to keep her concerns at bay now that they had decided to make themselves known.
And why doesn’t he have any friends?
She thought about that for a moment.
But I don’t have any real friends either, she reminded herself.
That’s because of what you did, came the answer. So, what did Dan do?
She stood and got out of the bath, unable to be alone with her thoughts a moment longer because there was no way her line of logic was helping. Her brain was addled; she wasn’t making any sense. Pre-wedding nerves. They loved each other, no question about that, so why not get married quickly if the opportunity was there? She should be flattered that he was making all the moves, that he wanted to be with her forever, for things to move quickly. Wasn’t that what she’d dreamed of? What every girl dreams of?
All good, she told herself as she put on some music and dried her hair, trying to drown out the negative voice that persisted in her head. ‘Everything is good, good, good,’ she sang until it was all she could hear.
Chloe’s phone conversation with her gran was very short.
‘Stop your fussing, girl. Of course I’m fine. That woman’s here half the day. She’s very nice, by the way. Doing a wonderful job.’
Her gran hadn’t been in the mood for a chat and had put the phone down before Chloe had a chance to say goodbye. She sighed, a heaviness settling on her shoulders. Would it hurt Gran to be civil? She hadn’t even said anything about the wedding, asked how things were going. Nothing. But then, she hadn’t really spoken to Chloe at her wedding, except to say a cursory congratulations, and hadn’t stayed for the reception, claiming she wasn’t feeling up to it. Chloe had put her into a taxi and kissed her goodbye, almost glad that she wouldn’t be there to sour the atmosphere. Their other guests, although few in number, were obviously delighted for them, laughing and chatting with Dan while she sorted out her gran.
Honestly, she’s getting harder to deal with by the day. Chloe decided that once she was back home, she’d have a proper heart-to-heart with her, see if she actually wanted Chloe to carry on being her carer. Maybe Lucy and Mark had been right about that. Maybe it would be better for everyone if she just walked away and concentrated on her own life. Her marriage.
Lost in thought, she handed the phone back to Dan, who tucked it in his pocket. ‘All good?’
Chloe nodded, her words knotted in her throat. She met his gaze, saw a glimmer of concern, and she forced a smile. ‘She’s fine, just a cranky old bat.’
Dan pulled Chloe to him. ‘Don’t let her get to you,’ he murmured into her hair, the warmth of his breath a soft caress. ‘You’ve done more than your fair share of looking after her. I don’t understand why your brother and sister can’t take a turn every now and again. I know you don’t get on with them, but I mean it’s not like they live a million miles away, is it?’
Chloe sighed. This was something she had asked herself several times in recent years, and out came the justification she invariably settled on.
‘Oh, they have busy lives, you know, with their jobs and kids and everything. I was always the single one and I’m the one who works in the caring profession. It’s just natural, I suppose, that I’m the one who’s taken responsibility for Gran.’
‘She’s mean to you, though, isn’t she? A bit of a bully really?’
Chloe swallowed and picked at his T-shirt, removing invisible bits of fluff, not wanting to catch his eye because hers were filling with tears. He’d hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what her gran was: a bully. Chloe had put up with her behaviour because she’d wanted to be punished for what she’d done. But now well, now things were different.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘one thing we really need to make a decision on is where we’re going to live now we’re married. I know we’ve discussed it and gone round in circles, but by the end of the week, we really need to get it sorted. If you’re not responsible for your gran’s care, then we’re free to live where we want, aren’t we?’
Chloe tensed. ‘I’m not ready to talk about this now. Nowhere near ready.’
‘Well, I don’t want to rush you, I just wanted to put it out there for discussion, you know? You’re my priority now.’ His cheek rested on the top of her head and his words rumbled through her. ‘I want you to be happy and I’m not going to let your crabby old gran stop me from looking after you the way you deserve, okay? It’s all about us now, you and me.’
She snuggled into his chest as his arm tightened around her. As long as he never found out the truth, then everything would be fine. If they moved away from her family, then the risk of him finding out was reduced, wasn’t it? It was a tempting thought. But one of them needed to work, and at the moment that was her. Still, she could look for jobs elsewhere. Yes, maybe she needed to take a different perspective on their future, start to believe that she could leave the past behind.
‘I’ll definitely give it some thought,’ she promised as they pulled apart and left the villa, ambling down the dirt track and into the village.
The view was breathtaking, the sea sparkling in the autumn sunshine, lines of boats bobbing in the bay, which formed a natural harbour. There were a couple of families on the beach, with young children playing in the sand, and she could see the lake behind a fuzz of trees in the nature reserve, the water speckled with birds, bobbing in little groups on the surface. Chloe breathed it all in. This was better, much better. I’m on my honeymoon, she reminded herself. Just relax. Enjoy it.
‘Can we go out on a boat, do you think?’ she said, pointing out into the bay. ‘Over to that little island?’
He held her hand as they walked, and the feel of his warm skin against hers set her heart humming. She noticed the flowers and the insects buzzing around, little birds fluttering in the woods that bordered the track on one side, while the land fell away in rocky steps down towards the sea on the other.
‘Oh yes, that’s a great idea. Perfect conditions today, I’d say.’ He squeezed her hand. ‘Not so bad here after all, is it?’
She smiled. ‘No, it’s lovely and I’m sorry if I made a fuss yesterday, I just—’
‘Don’t mention it. It’s forgotten. Yesterday was mad and we were tired, and I should have told you sooner, but who knows where the time went over the last couple of weeks? And I honestly didn’t think you’d mind because this is like paradise, isn’t it?’
‘I don’t mind, honestly I don’t.’ And that was the truth. In her new state of calm, she found that she really didn’t mind the change of plans, the lack of coconut palms and the fact that the beach wasn’t white and the sea wasn’t quite that glorious turquoise colour. Just being here with Dan was enough.
He should have told me, though.
She swatted the thought away like a pesky insect and leant into him, enjoying the feel of his bare arm brushing against hers. Even the cool canopy of the trees on the wooded stretch of the track didn’t seem so sinister today.
‘So, is this like where you were living in Spain?’
He laughed. ‘If only! No, I was in Barcelona. Definitely urban. But it’s a lovely city. I’ll take you there some time. I think you’d love it. Way better than Brighton, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to get out of the place.’
‘I thought that before I moved down to look after Gran. But you know, it just sort of sucks you in. And it’s just buzzing with life. Close to London if you want to nip up there for shopping or a show. After a while, you wonder how you could not live there.’
‘Hmm.’ He looked off into
They walked in silence until they reached the village, each lost in their own thoughts, Chloe unsettled by the idea that Dan might not want to stay in Brighton after his mum fully recovered from her accident. Just something else to add to the list of things she didn’t know about him.
She wondered now what they had talked about for the last two months, and the idea that she didn’t know him at all wormed its way into her mind. Yes, she knew that his favourite colour was blue and he loved to read Lee Child and his favourite meal was Italian and his musical tastes were Ed Sheeran and George Ezra and he hated wearing a suit and loved the outdoors. But what did she know about the big things? His ambitions? What he wanted his life to be like? Apart from certain aspects of her family history, he knew almost everything about her because she had wittered on for hours, and she had loved the way he had listened. But what had he really said about himself? Very little. And that realisation brought all her other concerns bubbling to the surface again. Why is that? Is he hiding something? The very thought made her shiver.
* * *
The village was not a big place: all the restaurants sat along the beachfront, or on a stilted pontoon that stretched out beside the harbour. They checked them all out before Dan turned and pointed to the one at the far end. ‘I think that will be the nicest place to sit for a while, don’t you?’
‘I don’t mind.’ She frowned. Her indifference bothered her. She should mind, shouldn’t she? Did she have no opinion on what she wanted to eat? But it didn’t seem to matter while the bigger questions preoccupied her thoughts, creeping beneath her skin, making her restless and twitchy.
The restaurant was light and airy, and they sat by the window, the breeze just slightly too chilly by the water’s edge to sit outside. Seafood seemed to be the only option and they feasted on prawns and calamari, deliciously fresh and beautifully cooked.
Once she’d had something to eat, Chloe started to relax a little. She fancied a glass of wine, and although she knew Dan wouldn’t join her, it seemed the perfect end to the meal. Something light and crisp and ice-cold. A spritzer maybe? She was just contemplating her options when the waiter appeared and asked if they wanted anything else.
‘Dessert?’ Dan looked at her. ‘Ice cream, maybe? I think I’ll have something, what about you?’
‘I’ll just have a white wine and soda please. Dry white.’
The waiter bowed and walked off while Dan frowned at her. ‘Wine?’
She shrugged. ‘Why not? We’re on our honeymoon, aren’t we? It’s not like I have to operate heavy machinery this afternoon, or make sensible conversation with clients. I just feel like kicking back a bit.’ She wasn’t sure why she was sounding so defensive. ‘Anyway, what’s wrong with wine? You never told me why you don’t drink. Is it all drink you disapprove of? Or is it that you just don’t like the taste?’
He gave her a brittle smile. ‘Oh, it’s what happens to people when they’ve had a drink that I don’t like.’
‘So, you don’t want me to drink because it’ll make me turn into someone you don’t like. Is that what you’re saying?’
He leant across the table and took her hand. ‘Babe, if you want the odd glass of wine, don’t mind me. It’s just I’ll never share a bottle of wine with you, or crack open a beer after work. It’s not for me.’
The waiter returned with Dan’s dessert and her glass of wine, condensation glittering on the outside of the glass. She raised it to him. ‘Cheers,’ she said and took a long drink. It was cold and sharp and sour and fizzy. And perfectly delicious. She looked at him and licked her lips. He lowered his eyes and started eating his ice cream while she took another long sip of her wine. Exactly what she needed. She felt it, icy down her throat, then the warmth of the alcohol in her stomach. Oh, that really was nice, and she was determined not to let his obvious disapproval ruin her enjoyment.
She called for the waiter, held up her glass when he came over and gave him a broad grin. ‘Another one of these, please.’
Sod Dan, she thought. I’ve earned a bit of a treat.
It was only when she’d finished her second glass and she was feeling a little dizzy, having downed them pretty quickly, that she wondered whether her actions had been counterproductive. She took a big glug from her glass of water, hoping to dilute the effects of the alcohol.
He gazed at her. ‘I was going to suggest we hire a kayak and paddle to the island, but I think we’d better save that for another day.’ He folded his napkin and laid it carefully on the table. ‘When we’re fresh.’
Her eyes widened. ‘You mean you think I’m pissed?’ There was no mistaking the slur in her voice and she glowered at him. A kayak trip would have been fun. He could have mentioned that earlier, couldn’t he? Before she’d ordered a second drink.
‘No, I don’t think that.’
But he does, really, she thought, judging by that look on his face. His jaw was clenched, eyes narrowed, lips pressed together. Judgemental, she decided, and it wasn’t a look she liked.
‘Anyway, I don’t fancy kayaking today,’ she lied. ‘I’m still feeling a bit weird after all the rush yesterday. I just want to relax. Not do anything, really.’
‘Shall we go back to the villa, then?’ He sounded disappointed. No, frustrated would be more accurate, she decided, his tone of voice the same as a parent would use with a child who was playing up and ruining a day out.
Okay, if he wants to play that game, we’ll play it.
‘Yes.’ She glared at him, got up from the table and stalked out of the restaurant, knowing that he had to stay and pay. She didn’t want to walk back with him. What she needed was a bit of time to herself. He’s being odd, she decided, and it was really bothering her. Not only had he been weird about her drinking, he’d also been on edge all through the meal, glancing around the restaurant, as if he was looking for someone, not really paying her much attention at all.
She stopped in her tracks as a thought hit her like a slap, stinging through her mind.
Wait a minute. Does he know a woman here? Is that it? Is that who he was looking for? Another thought piled into the internal discussion. Perhaps she works in the restaurant?
The idea mushroomed in her mind until it was all she could think about. But why would he bring Chloe here if he thought an ex-girlfriend would be lurking in the shadows? She breathed out as the voice of reason made itself known. That’s right. He wouldn’t. What on earth was she thinking? Why so suspicious? She hadn’t felt like this back home; in fact, she’d felt the opposite. But then, ever since they’d said their vows, Dan had started behaving differently. He’d changed their honeymoon destination without telling her, he’d been bossy, taken charge of everything, and today well, today he’d definitely been distracted. How could things have changed so much in the space of a day?
You’re being ridiculous again. Nothing’s changed except your mood. She nodded to herself. It’s the wine talking.
She turned and started walking back the way she’d come, knowing she was in the wrong. She had behaved like a petulant teenager, and resolved to apologise so the day wouldn’t be ruined, but when she neared the restaurant, she saw a scene that made her breath hitch in her throat. She crept into the shadows where she could not be seen.
Dan was talking to a woman. A very attractive woman, and a local by the look of her: dark-haired and olive-skinned, lithe and athletic. They were leaning against the wooden rail that bordered the decking outside the restaurant, standing shoulder to
Way too intimate, Chloe decided.
Her heart started to race, and she chewed her lip in an effort to keep her emotions at bay. She told herself to go over and make her presence known, find out what was going on. Instead, she found herself turning and running away, back along the road towards the villa, completely overwhelmed by the situation. She was in a foreign land with a man who seemed more foreign to her by the day, and there was no way she was going to embarrass herself by bursting into tears in public. No, she’d go back to the villa and calm herself down. When the wine was out of her system and her thought processes were more composed, then she would confront him and find out who the woman was.
She slowed to a walk, the sun hot on the back of her neck, sweat dampening her T-shirt, and when she started up the track to the villa, she moved to the side where the trees cast a line of shade. She was feeling a bit queasy, wobbly on her legs, and really needed a lie down. She glanced ahead but knew that it was still a fair way up to the house and she’d have to walk through the long stretch of forest area on her own. The old fear crept up the back of her neck, pulling her scalp so tight it started a headache.
There was a large, flat boulder under the shade of an old olive tree up ahead, a perfect spot for a rest. Her body felt heavy and weary, and she lay down on the warm rock to wait for Dan to catch her up. He had the key, so she couldn’t get in the house, and she really didn’t want to walk through the forest on her own. No. She had to wait.