The Image of Her – An Excerpt

cropped-theimageofherbylornapeel-fbbanner.jpgRachel Harris was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church-run children’s home in England and later adopted. Who was her birth mother and what were the circumstances which led her to give up her baby?

Searching for someone who doesn’t want to be found seems a hopeless task until Rachel meets Matthew Williams, a Church of England clergyman.

Then the anonymous and increasingly frightening attempts to end their relationship begin. Are these actions connected to the mysterious events surrounding Rachel’s birth?

Rachel and Matthew from The Image of Her  dfef82dbdc16cf899c6ca8c5ee8595d3

Excerpt:

Hot Vicar Alert! The e-mail screamed at Rachel out of a sea of spam and she glanced at the sender. Kathy Roberts. Hmm. It could mean anything but was doubtless some rubbish joke doing the rounds or, worse still, one which Kathy in her infinite wisdom had dreamt up herself. Rachel braced herself and opened it.

Hi Rachel,

That caught your attention, didn’t it? 🙂 Anyway, I know HOT and VICAR don’t belong in the same sentence but trust me on this one, OK? Reverend Sykes is on holiday and this guy’s the locum, or stand in, or whatever they’re called in the Church of England, and he’s GORGEOUS. I managed to be at Gran’s when he was doing the rounds of the pensioners and he’s just WOW—tall, dark and handsome—the works. So off you pop to morning service in Upton on Sunday, have an ogle, and you can thank me profusely on Monday, OK? 🙂

Kathy

Have an ogle? In church? At the vicar? Well, thank you, Kathy, subtle as ever. Rachel closed the e-mail then began to wade through the rest. It was high time she got one of those spam filter thingies. A second e-mail from Kathy caught her eye and she opened it, wary of its content.

Sorry, Rachel, I forgot to mention that I managed to arrange for said HOT VICAR to call around to you in the next couple of days about the weird noises you’ve been hearing at the cottage. With a little luck he won’t think you’re nuts and it’ll take your mind off your mum’s nagging for a bit. Good luck with the job interview tomorrow. Found a lodger yet? Ask HOT VICAR to move in. 🙂

Rachel’s mouth fell open. Oh, God, Kathy had told a complete stranger about the weird noises. She rested her forehead on the laptop keyboard and groaned. She ought to be worrying about her job interview, not this. Hot Vicar? She couldn’t help but laugh…complete contradiction in terms…

* * * *

The job interview went well, Rachel mused the following day, as she treated herself to lunch in town. She’d just managed to clear her mind of vicars—hot or otherwise—and weird noises for the half hour duration. She collected her car from the garage, tried not to wince as she paid for the new back bumper, then drove home. She’d better get the job now, and try to remember to bring the advertisement for a lodger with her the next time she went out.

A green Volkswagen Golf was parked outside the cottage as she pulled up at the side. Zippy, her Irish terrier, yapped at the garden gate but she shushed him before going to see who the visitor was.

The driver’s window lowered. “Rachel Harris?”

“Yes?” She shaded her eyes against the sun as a tall man dressed in black got out. “Sorry, I’ve been in town.”

“That’s okay.” His response sounded cheerful. “Your friend wasn’t sure what time your job interview was.”

“My friend?” She tried not to sound suspicious and, to her relief, he laughed kindly.

“Mrs Roberts asked if I could call. My name is Matthew Williams.”

She frowned. This wasn’t Hot Vicar already? If so, he was scarily eager to learn more about the weird noises. She’d better make sure.

“Sorry, I’m not with you. Are you a Jehovah’s Witness, or something?” She cringed as soon as the words were out of her mouth. Now you’ve said so, he must be. “Because, well, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not—”

“I’m Church of England, actually. I’m standing in for Reverend Sykes while he’s away on holiday. Here.” He fished into his jacket’s inside pocket and handed her a business card.

She squinted at it. Reverend Matthew Williams. Editor of The Message – The Magazine of the Church of England Diocese of Aldabury. He lived in Aldabury but—she noted the address—in one of the awful 1960’s tower blocks on the north side of the city and not in a vicarage. This had to be Hot Vicar but, she raised her eyes to him again, he wasn’t wearing a dog collar either, just a plain white shirt under the black suit.

“I’m not a churchgoer, sorry.” She made an awkward shuffle from one foot to the other. “I don’t know what Kathy’s been saying. I know I’ve had a lot of bad luck lately, what with my Gran dying, my job disappearing, and then pranging the car. But these things come in three’s, don’t they, and I’ve just had my third so…”

“I’ve come about the house, actually.” He gave the old stone cottage, covered in Boston Ivy, an appreciative glance. “Your friend was worried about you, er, hearing noises?”

Bingo. He was definitely Hot Vicar. She shouldn’t have asked him if he was a Jehovah’s Witness, though. She peered at him, trying not to make it obvious. He seemed normal enough, with short dark hair and brown eyes. But hot? It was hard to tell with the sun in her eyes and especially as he was staring back at her with quite a puzzled expression, waiting for her to reply. But good-looking? Oh, yes, which was a pity as he was probably a bit of a nutter and one who clearly thought her one, too.

“It’s up to you whether you would like me to come in, but I must admit I am curious. I don’t get many calls about weird noises to be honest.” He gave a comical shrug and smiled.

“There won’t be a sudden thunder and lightning storm the moment you step inside, will there?”

He chuckled and glanced up at the sky. “I hope not.”

“Do you, like, feel things? Presences and things?”

He froze as if he had never been asked such a question before and Rachel closed her eyes for a moment. Well done, two stupid questions in about as many minutes.

“No, I’m not psychic, though there have been times I really wish I was. I’m not in the Ministry of Deliverance and I don’t carry out exorcisms. Here.”

He held his driving license out to her. His photograph stared back at her and the address matched the business card so she passed it back.

“Thanks. Um, so what in particular do you do, if you don’t mind me asking? If you’re not in this Ministry of Deliverance, I mean? I’m not sure how this sort of thing works.”

“Mrs Roberts rang the diocesan offices and explained your problem. First point of contact is the local minister and as Reverend Sykes is away, that’s me at the moment.”

“And if you believe it’s necessary, you’ll refer the problem to this other ministry?”

He responded with a grave nod. “If it’s necessary.”

“Blimey. You’d better come in, then.”

TheImageofHerbyLornaPeel-500

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