A promise is a serious thing. Our attitude to what we mean, what we intend when we give our word defines the quality of our relationships. It’s a marker for our integrity, the bedfellow to other important concepts such as trust, confidence, commitment. Relationships founder on broken promises, dashed expectations, the bitterness of disappointment.
As an author, of course, I’m minded to think that’s a good thing. Countless story arcs revolve around broken trust and the lengths characters will go to, either to redeem themselves or to get revenge.
Of all the stories I’ve written, The Dark Side remains one of my favourites. The heroine, Eva Byrne, is off the scale clever, but she has almost nil self-esteem and is engaged in a constant struggle with her mental health. She is drawn to the enigmatic Nathan Darke like a moth to a flame and falls for him utterly.
For the first time she has placed her faith in another person. He is everything to her and the image of what they have together permeates everything she does, every decision she makes. It creates a new self-image for her, and for the first time she actually likes the person she sees when she looks in the mirror.
She owes all of this to Nathan. She trusts him completely, only to have that trust shattered. A more confident, self-assured and balanced personality would confront him, but not Eva. Her social skills are in the basement, she crumbles in the face of a broken promise, can’t handle it, can’t see past this betrayal. Crushed, convinced everything she believed in was no more than an illusion, a sick joke, she rushes off to lick her wounds.
Here’s the excerpt, from Darkest (book III in The Dark Side trilogy)
For a few moments I stand, transfixed in stupefied silence, looking into the space where the undeniably lovely Susanna had been as though there was a real danger that the hateful apparition might somehow reappear. Her careless words rattle around my head like ricocheting bullets, shattering my world. Ruthlessly. Totally.
‘I’ve got my own key.’ ‘When I was last here.’ ‘When he blindfolds me.’ ‘A couple of weeks.’ As the awful implications sink in I feel sick, and dive for the bathroom. I manage to reach the loo before I throw up and proceed to heave my croissants and three cups of coffee down the pan.
At last my stomach stops heaving and churning, and I feel it may be safe to pull my head out of the toilet. I sit on the floor of the bathroom, tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t even know I was crying, but suddenly I’m sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t bother to hide my face in my hands. I don’t reach for a tissue, or even a chunk of toilet paper. I just let the grief flow.
The bastard. The absolute lying, cheating, utter bastard. The one thing, the only thing I bloody asked of him. He promised me. I asked him if there were any others, any other subs, and he promised me I was the only one. And I believed him. Like the naïve little fool I am, I actually believed him.
But he lied. He didn’t mention Susanna. And how many other ‘Susannas’ are there? How many other luscious, sexy subs popping in with their own keys, leaving their earrings in his drawers and borrowing ties? How many others who know their way around this apartment as well as I do, better probably? How many others who know exactly what the brown leather bedroom sofa is for?
I feel sick again, but there’s nothing left to throw up so I stay where I am, rocking myself in my misery, drowning in my pain and humiliation and cursing my own gullibility. He wanted to fuck me. He said so enough times. He’d have said anything, told me anything, to get me to open my legs for him. And I totally fell for it. If he’d been honest about his other women, his need for variety, I’d have accepted that. Possibly. Or at least I’d have had a choice. I gave him my virginity never expecting a long-term commitment from him. But he told me I was special. He told me he loved me. And all the time he was fucking Susanna as well.
Never one to be sparing in my misery I turn over the events of the last few weeks in my mind. When did he…? When could he have…? I remember that night he phoned me to say he was on his way to the airport to catch his flight to Ankara. It was a Friday evening and I did think at the time that it was odd to go then. Why not Sunday, or Monday morning when the construction site would be open and he could meet with his associates in Turkey? But no, he said he needed to go on Friday evening. Much more likely he was spending the weekend here in Leeds, with Susanna or someone else. Even over the last three weeks he’s been over here frequently, admittedly coming home to Black Combe most nights. But not all. He’s had plenty of opportunity, and it’s obvious that he’s been taking those chances when he could.
The shit. The cheating, lying piece of pond scum.
Leaning my head back against the wall I draw in deep, wrenching breaths, struggling to recapture my shattered soul, regain some sense of self and self-worth. Through the red and black mist of pain and jealousy I try to think, work out my options. What to do? What the hell to do now?
He’s only six floors below me. I could march into Darke Associates and demand an explanation. Yeah, like that’d work. Or I could humiliate him, like he’s humiliated me. I toy with the tempting notion of bundling all his naughty, kinky little gadgets in a bag and taking them down to his office. I could dump them on his conference room table, hopefully in front of all his business associates. With a card saying ‘Love from Susanna’. Or I could shred his clothes, cut them up with scissors and leave them in a pile on his bed. A lesser mortal than me might even piss on them. Or, most satisfying of all, I could pretend nothing’s wrong, persuade him to stay here another night, and cut his dick off while he’s asleep. With scissors.
But I’m not doing any of that stuff. All I’ve got left is my pride, my dignity. And that’s pretty thin on the ground at this moment. So I’m cutting my losses and I’m getting out of here. If my sanity’s still intact, and I’m not at all convinced at this precise moment that it is, that’ll just have to do.
I manage to haul myself to my feet. Catching sight of my ravaged face in the mirror over the sink I lean on the basin and contemplate what to do to set myself to rights. The image of dumping that bag of sex toys on Nathan’s conference room table comes to mind again, but I shove that tempting notion aside and turn on the cold tap. I splash water on my face and clean my teeth. The improvement is marginal, but I call it a draw and stagger out of the bathroom.
I take a few minutes to empty the few things that belong to me from the drawers in the bedroom and stuff them in my bag. It’s not much—a change of underwear, a hairbrush and a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On second thoughts, I toss the book back on the bed. I dump Nathan’s iPad next to it along with my key card—I want nothing of his. I fold Susanna’s tie neatly and place that alongside the rest of the stuff on the bed, and I head out of the door once more.
It’s only been an hour since I last stood in this foyer, and in that time my world has shifted on its axis. If I hadn’t forgotten my phone, if I hadn’t decided on impulse that I wanted to text Nathan and gone back to get it, I might have missed Susanna, might never have known what a shit he was. And how gloriously happy I would have remained in my ignorance.
Stiffening my shoulders I hit the lift call button.