Sampler: A Year in the Life of Belinda Brand by Lucinda E. Clarke
May 18, 2021
I know what you did. Are you going to keep it a secret? I have the power to hurt you, and I am looking forward to it.
Belinda Brand becomes an overnight sensation when Hollywood offers to make a film of her runaway bestseller. A confident, modern woman, she has the world at her feet – and a secret she is convinced no one will ever discover.
Leah, her gentle and long-suffering stepmother will guess, but she would never betray her, or would she?
When menacing notes appear after the Awards ceremony in London and then follow her across the Atlantic, Belinda realizes someone is threatening to expose her.
As she struggles to stay calm, her best friend disappears, Belinda’s celebrity life turns into a nightmare and there is no one she can trust.
If the Brand family thought they could lead a quiet, normal life, they were wrong. Danger continues to lurk in the shadows.
A fast-paced, page-turning psychological thriller, full of surprises, twists, and turns.
Sampler: A Year in the Life of Belinda Brand
The threats began on the night of the awards.
We were booked into a hotel, a very expensive, five star one, in the centre of London. It had all the bells and whistles. The building was old, but they’d tarted it up very nicely; posh bathrooms; there were even jacuzzi taps on the tub in mine, several channels on the TV, and even a bath robe. Now that’s what I call thoughtful.
The world was still spinning around me when they finally let me go. I was knackered. I went back upstairs and fiddled with the plastic card that was supposed to open the door. It didn’t. I tried it every which way but no go. I was forced to traipse back down the corridor, take the lift, and bleat at reception. Even here in the lobby, I noticed people stare and point at me as I waited in line. Two of them whispered until one ran over and patted me on the arm.
“You’re her, aren’t you?”
“Pardon?” I was about to say ‘what the fuck?’ but I was on my best behaviour.
“That famous writer, you know…” She had the grace to look a little embarrassed. The bloody woman didn’t even know my name. Once the morning papers came out, she’d know it for sure.
I swallowed and gave her a brief nod and tried to turn away, but she wasn’t having that. “Please can I have your autograph? Oh, and a selfie too?” She whipped out her mobile and leaned into me, steadying herself by flinging one arm around my shoulders.
The flash nearly blinded me and, as she peered at the picture and pronounced herself satisfied, I noticed I had bright red eyes. Strange what pleases some people. She’d also caught me scowling at the lens, bags under my eyes and my hair ruffled. I’ve seen cuter gargoyles hanging over church doorways.
I explained my problem to the elderly man on the other side of the counter.
He peered at the computer screen and shook his head. “You are in a single room,” he said.
“Yes. And the card doesn’t open the door.”
He tapped a couple of keys on his computer and leaned forward. “According to the log here,” he dabbed his finger on the display, “there is already someone in there. Are you sure you tried the correct door?”
A shiver ran down my spine as I snapped back that I was quite sure.
He spun the card in his fingers a couple of times and then swiped it below the keyboard and handed it back.
I was about to thank him and turn away when, for the second time that night, I froze. “Is there maybe someone who could come up with me to the room, to check? If you say there is someone in there and you…”
“But of course, Ms…?” He must be the only person in the hotel who didn’t recognise me, or was he being discreet?
He picked up the phone and, a moment later, a young man in hotel livery was standing next to me. We made for the lift.
I stood back while he inserted the card and opened the door. The first thing I noticed was a huge basket of fruit and flowers on the centre table. Ah, that would explain the problem. Housekeeping or management had delivered the complimentary goodies and it had screwed up the electronics. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The hotel employee peered into the bathroom, checked the wardrobe, and even got down on his knees to look under the bed. It was hard not to giggle as he swept the curtains from side to side before announcing the all clear. I thanked him profusely and watched in dismay as he hovered by the doorway. Heck, he was waiting for a tip. How much did he expect? How much change did I have? I’d not carried a handbag down to the function and it took me several minutes to unlock my case and rescue my purse. All the while I could sense his eyes boring into my back. I felt uncomfortable. I turned and pushed a note into his hand then put the chain on the door the moment I’d closed it behind him.
The raucous jangling of the phone on the bedside table made me jump and I hesitated a moment before picking up the handset.
It was only Pamela, just checking to see if I was OK and reminding me that we had an early start tomorrow. The BBC were sending a car at 6.30 am for my spot on the Breakfast Show.
I glanced at my watch and groaned. It was already after 2 am, not much time for sleep. In a few hours I would look like hell to how many million viewers?
I hung up and made for the bathroom where I saw the envelope, propped on the shelf above the sink. It had my name on it, printed and in large childish capitals. My hands shook slightly as I picked it up and removed the single sheet of paper from inside.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.
ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP IT A SECRET?
I CAN TELL THE WORLD AT ANY TIME.
WATCH HOW YOU GO.
I HAVE THE POWER TO HURT YOU, AND I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.
My hands shook as I backed out of the bathroom and collapsed onto the bed. My worst nightmare. Leah was the only person in the whole world who might suspect the truth, more than suspect, but my stepmother would never threaten me. She loved me and I guess I’d grown to love her. And, she was away on a cruise, floating somewhere in the Caribbean by now with wallpaper Bill.
I read the note again. Who had been in my room? Who was threatening me? I hadn’t a clue and I couldn’t ask Pamela for help either. She was the last person I could share my secret with.
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