Joker in the Pack

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Life has dealt city girl Olivia Porter a series of bad hands, but just as she's about to fold, fate intervenes and leaves her with a full house. Out of other options, she takes a gamble and moves to the countryside, hoping Lady Luck will follow along.

Olivia’s decision to embrace the single life is soon challenged by the arrival of local ace, Tate, and wild card, Warren, but little villages can hide big secrets and somebody thinks Olivia is holding the key to theirs.

As her tormenter ups his game, Olivia gets one last roll of the dice with the arrival of a leather-clad stranger. Will she hit the jackpot or go bust?

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Excerpt – The aftermath of Edward

“Would you hurry up?”

I stood holding the ladder with sweaty hands as Maddie balanced on top. We’d been best friends since she gave me one of her sandwiches and half of her crisps on the day I forgot my lunch in primary school.

“Why are you whispering, Liv? He’s not here.”

She leaned to the side, and the ladder wobbled. I clung on tighter as my grip on sanity loosened.

“But he’ll be back any minute!”

“Almost done. Just pass me the pink, would you?”

I handed over one final tube of glitter and tapped my foot as she carefully sprinkled the contents along the fourth blade of my ex-boyfriend’s ceiling fan. His professionally decorated cream-and-grey lounge would look wonderful covered in a hail of rainbow sparkles.

I glanced at my watch—almost seven o’clock. Please, say Edward hadn’t left work early today. We should have had time to spare, but we’d got delayed taking down the curtain poles to put the hard-boiled eggs inside. Some of the screws were really sticky. Not only that, mixing his hideously expensive conditioner with hair removal cream and squishing it all back into both the bottle in the shower and the spare in the cupboard had taken longer than anticipated.

But we’d managed in the end, and now I was torn between shrieking with glee or backpedalling and putting everything back how it was.

I wasn’t normally vindictive like that, you understand, but buoyed as I was by the glass of wine I’d drunk with lunch and the vivid memory of Edward boinking his personal assistant over his dining room table, it hadn’t taken much for Maddie to persuade me. I’d chosen that table with him, for goodness’ sake. When he’d asked the assistant in John Lewis how sturdy it was, I’d had no idea what he had in mind. How stupid did I feel?

Maddie clambered down the ladder, grinning. “Grab that screwdriver, would you? We don’t want to give the game away by leaving evidence behind.”

No, we didn’t. I stuck it in my pocket and grabbed one end of the ladder, which we carried back to Edward’s garage. Inside, I took one last look at his new Mercedes. We’d chosen the colour together, and he’d even ordered the heated seats because I didn’t like getting cold. Six weeks he’d owned it, and we’d only taken a handful of trips before that awful day.

“Ready to go?” Maddie asked, hovering by the door.

“Yes. Yes, I am.” Out of my old life and into the new.

We giggled like schoolgirls as we ran towards the Tube station, but it wasn’t until we were sitting on the train that the guilt really hit. What had we done?

“Do you think the hair remover was a bit much?”

“No, I bloody don’t. She was wearing your Jimmy Choos when you caught them, remember?”

Excerpt – And so it begins…

I was smiling as I climbed onto the last bus of the night back to the countryside. An evening out with Maddie always cheered me up, and even though I missed the city, life could be worse. After all, I had three new friends, a house of my own, and an adequate though unpredictable income. Oh, and a date-and-possibly-more with a hot guy. I’d deliberately downplayed the heat factor there so Maddie didn’t get too excited.

And maybe, just maybe, the memories of Edward and Becki would eventually fade.

That positive vibe lasted the whole trip home, a long bus ride and the short walk from the bus stop to Lilac Cottage.

It lasted while I stumbled down the uneven path and pushed past the rosemary bushes.

It lasted until I saw my open front door.

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