The Dilemma by B.A. Paris is published by HQ Stories on 9 January 2020.
HQ have kindly allowed me to share an extract from the book.
Sunday June 9th
It’s the cooling water that wakes me. Disorientated, I sit up quickly, sploshing suds up the sides, wondering how long I’ve been asleep. I release the plug and the drain gurgles, a too-loud sound in a silent house.
A shiver pricks my skin as I towel myself dry. A memory tugs at my brain. It was a sound that woke me, the roar of a motorbike in the street outside. I pause, the towel stretched over my back. It couldn’t have been Adam, could it? He wouldn’t have gone off on his bike, not at this time of night.
Wrapping the towel around me, I hurry to the bedroom and look out of the window. The guilty beating of my heart slows when I see that the light is still on in his work shed. He’s there, he hasn’t gone to settle scores. Part of me wants to go down and check he’s alright but something, a sixth sense perhaps, tells me not to, that he’ll come to me when he’s ready. For a moment, I feel afraid, as if I’m staring into an abyss. But it’s just the dark and the deserted garden that’s making me feel that way.
Turning from the window, I lie down on the bed. I’ll give him another ten minutes and if he’s not back by then, I’ll go and find him.
I race along deserted streets, scattering a scavenging cat, cutting a corner too tight, shattering the night’s deathly silence with the roar of my bike. Ahead of me, the slip road to the M3 looms. I open the throttle and take it fast, screaming onto the motorway, slicing in front of a crawling car. My bike shifts under me as I push faster.
The drag of the wind on my face is intoxicating and I have to fight an overwhelming urge to let go of the handlebars and freefall to my death. Is it terrible that Livia and Josh aren’t enough to want to make me live? Guilt adds itself to the torment of the last fourteen hours and a roar of white-hot anger adds to the roar of the bike as I race down the motorway, bent on destruction.
Then, in the mirror, through the water streaming from my eyes, I see a car hammering down the motorway behind me, its blue light flashing, and my roar of grief becomes one of frustration. I take the bike past one hundred mph, knowing that if it comes to it I can get to one-twenty, because nothing is going to stop me now. But the police car quickly closes the distance between us, moving swiftly into the outside lane and as it levels with me, my peripheral vision catches an officer gesticulating wildly from the passenger seat.
I add more speed and the car sweeps past and moves into my lane, blocking my bike. I cut my speed, just enough to make him drop his, and as he moves into the inner lane, inviting him to join him at the side of the road, I open the throttle and thunder past. Now he changes tactics. He overtakes again and begins a game of cat and mouse, moving swiftly into my lane whenever I try to pass him, slowly reducing his speed, bringing me in. I’m not sure why I let him. Maybe because I don’t want Livia to have even more pieces to pick up. Or maybe it’s Marnie’s voice pleading, “Don’t Dad, don’t!” I swear I could feel her arms tightening around my waist for a moment, feel her head pressed against the back of my neck.
My limbs are trembling as I bring the bike to a stop behind the police car. Two officers get out, one male, one female. The male strides towards me.
‘Have you got a death wish or something?’ he yells slamming his cap onto his head. ‘Where’s your helmet, you idiot?’
The second officer – the driver – approaches. ‘Sir, get off the bike,’ she barks. ‘Sir, did you hear me? Step away from the bike.’
I try and unfurl my hands from the handle-bars, unstick my legs from the bike. But I seem to be welded to her.
‘Sir, if you don’t comply, I’m going to have to arrest you.’
‘We’re going to have to arrest him anyway,’ the first officer says. He takes a step towards me and the sight of handcuffs dangling from his belt shocks me into speech.
‘It’s about Marnie.’
‘My daughter.’ I swallow painfully. ‘Marnie’s my daughter.’
They exchange a glance. ‘Where is your daughter, Sir?’
About the book
It’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she’s having the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding she never had. Everyone she loves will be there except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But although Livia loves Marnie, she’s secretly glad she won’t be at the party. She needs to tell Adam something about their daughter but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.
Adam wants everything to be perfect for Livia so he’s secretly arranged for Marnie to come home and surprise her on her birthday. During the day, he hears some terrible news. He needs to tell Livia, because how can the party go on? But she’s so happy, so excited – and the guests are about to arrive.
The Dilemma – how far would you go to give someone you love a last few hours of happiness?