Beautiful Liars by Isabel Ashdown

Beautiful Liars by Isabel Ashdown

Author:Isabel Ashdown
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Kensington
Published: 2019-04-14T16:00:00+00:00


You’re doing just fine, Martha Benn. Just wanted you to know.

It’s exactly the kind of thing Juliet would have said, and Martha feels as vulnerable as a child. A surge of emotion comes at her, confusing and violent in its urgency. This is not good, this blurring of the personal and the professional. Heart thumping, she heads for the bathroom to run cold water over her wrists, to gaze at the groomed, grown-up Martha Benn who looks back at her. What the hell is wrong with her? She’s never struggled with this before. Until now her tough shell has been unbreakable, her mask of strength the most vital tool in her armor. But right now, every fiber of her body wants to give in, to soften in response to Toby’s warmth, to show him the yielding Martha beneath. And what then? Weakness must surely follow, and she knows weakness is a luxury she can’t afford. She’s got a reputation to maintain.

“OK,” she tells her reflection. “OK. Time to phone Finn.”

* * *

When Martha was small, Finn and Helen Palin had been regular visitors to the Benn family home, back in the days before Stanley House, when Sunday lunchtimes were the happy focal point of the weekend. Finn and Martha’s dad had remained best friends since they were probationers together, rising through the ranks together at more or less the same pace, and performing best-man duties at each other’s weddings in the same year. They were “thick as thieves,” Mum and Helen would often joke, but they weren’t wrong; the two men were as devoted as brothers. They worked hard, and the pressures of police work were not inconsiderable, so when their shifts coincided, they regularly made time for a few pints together at the Anchor on Dove Street. Long ago, following a worrying night when a worse-for-wear Dad had wandered home the wrong way along the river, an unspoken pattern had been established, whereby Finn would deliver him home at the end of the evening, pushing him through the front door before heading on his way. It was a standing joke, Finn’s ability to fare better, given the same quantities of alcohol, but on reflection Martha knows Dad’s worse state was down to preloading of several sly shots of scotch before his night out had even begun.

Of course, her mum barely noticed when Dad’s drinking progressed from steady to heavy, as her own quiet consumption had increased at a similar pace. Hers, however, was stealthy and low, hidden behind unremarkable behavior and a gentle manner. With the passing of years, the presence of Uncle Finn, once the happy signal of weekend get-togethers and laughter, had morphed into the omen of bad fortune. Nothing changed for him; as regular as ever, he’d turn up ready for a night out, bellowing his cheery hello through the hallway, returning Dad to them several hours later, reeling and reeking. But increasingly Dad’s end-of-evening merriment switched the moment he stepped back through the door of



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