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The Beaten Track by Louise Mangos (Extract)

The Blurb

After her stalker takes his own life and she’s jilted by a holiday lover, Sandrine comes home from her round-the-world backpacking trip perturbed, penniless and pregnant. She meets handsome Scott who offers her love, security and all she and her new baby could ever wish for.

But their dream is about to turn into a nightmare…

Before we get to the extract I’m almost through reading this now, because it’s not a book you can put down. My review will be up in a few days

So here goes….

ONE

 

January 1988

 

I’VE ARRANGED TO have coffee with my best friend in the Café Tivoli on the main street in Châtel St Denis, but the waitress approaches me with a frown as I enter. Valérie has left a message saying she can’t make it.

‘A problem with her car she needs to fix,’ the waitress says. ‘She told me to look for a woman with a baby.’

I curse Valérie under my breath. She has no idea how much organisation it takes to get out of the house, and I’ve been looking forward to a good chat. My spare time is precious, between the turmoil of feeding and laundry, not helped by a disturbed sleep pattern and Papa’s dementia.

Kai’s fallen asleep. The smell of roasting coffee is alluring, so I decide to stay. Although I should be taking advantage and resting too, it feels good to be out. My brother’s girlfriend, Marianne, is looking after Papa today. I feel guilty relief at being away from the house. Papa’s frailty and decreasing moments of lucidity seem to have heightened my postnatal anxiety.

The café is crowded and my spirits fall as I scan the room, then lift again on spotting a free table in the corner by the window. The pram is cumbersome as I manoeuvre between seated customers. I feel inept, like a learner driver on her first lesson, bumping into the backs of chairs, causing sighs of protest and irritated glances.

Someone brushes past me. He waves his hand to placate customers who are obliged to move out of the way and he eases my passage to the table. Flushed with gratitude, I turn to thank my saviour. 

‘Merci, Monsieur.’

He tips his head, then points to the seat opposite mine.

‘May I?’ he asks.

I smile when I hear his accent. American, or maybe Canadian. I still can’t tell, even after all those months globe-trotting with hordes of North American backpackers. 

His sun-bleached hair flops over his blue eyes, and I can tell he’s well-built under his linen shirt. As a single mother, my sole purpose should be to nurture my baby for these first uncertain months, so I’m a little abashed for reacting to this man’s attention.

He picks up Kai’s muslin that’s fallen to the floor and hangs it over the handle of the pram. He leans down to peer in before sliding onto his seat. 

‘He’s beautiful,’ he says, eyeing the baby blue blanket.

Like many North American tourists, he assumes we all speak English. I smile.

‘Thank you, on behalf of the baby,’ I say. ‘He’s called Kai.’

I’m curious to see a shadow flit across his features.

‘That’s an interesting name,’ he says. 

He settles in his seat, and smiles back at me. His teeth are straight and white. Like a film star. I narrow my eyes and study his face, wondering if I’ve seen him on the cinema screen. He holds out his hand.

‘I’m Scott,’ he says. ‘It’s real nice to meet you.’

‘Sandrine. But call me Sandy.’

His grip is strong, confident.

‘Sandy…’ he murmurs. 

The way he says my name makes me tingle. I pull at my creased blouse and suck in my stomach, still soft from carrying Kai, wishing I’d paid more attention to some postnatal toning. 

‘Kai was the name of the baby’s father,’ I say. ‘But we lost him before the little one was born.’

It isn’t exactly a lie, but it feels weird saying this out loud to a stranger. Scott will probably excuse himself and take off at any moment. It isn’t the first time in the past few months I’ve felt an overwhelming need to cry for no reason. Something to do with hormones.

But he reaches across the table and puts his hand on my arm. A Patek Philippe watch flashes at his wrist.

‘Then it sounds like someone should be taking care of you,’ he says.

I clear my throat, and change the subject, trying to cover my blush. 

‘It hasn’t snowed much yet this season. Last year when I was away on my travels, they experienced the coldest temperatures on record here. What brings you to Switzerland?’

‘I arrived a few months ago for work, so it looks like we’ve both picked the right year to be here, for the weather,’ he says.

The awkward moment passes, and we continue the small talk. By the time we’ve finished our coffees, Kai begins to stir. I reach for my purse. Scott wants to pay, but I insist on splitting the bill. Outside the café he offers me a lift home, pointing to a black Range Rover in a parking space near the Place d’Armes.

I marvel at his chivalry, although it seems a bit forward. I nevertheless refuse, thinking of Kai’s safety without a car seat. After we swap phone numbers, he helps me lift the pram onto the bus. He says he’ll call soon. I’m sure that’s the end of my Cinderella meets Prince Charming moment.

Once you open this book don’t have other plans, because it’s not likely that you will be carrying them out!! Here’s the buy links….

https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/the-beaten-track-limited-edition

https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/the-beaten-track

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Published by Books’n’banter


Hi and welcome to my new blog. I’m reading and reviewing the books I read, after a long break I realised just how much I missed reviewing. I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood and I don’t imagine that changing. 
If you would like me to read and review a book you’re bringing out, please feel free to contact me. If it’s not my type of book I won’t waste your time by agreeing. I don’t promise 5 star reviews, and I know authors do appreciate feedback , but I can only promise an honest review. 
 Genres I love include crime, thriller, tartan noir is a stand out favourite. I do also enjoy horror, and other fiction/non fiction as they take my fancy. 
Please feel free to tell me if you have any recommendations for books to read whether they are already out or just about to. Reviews will be published on Twitter and Goodreads. Contact me here on the blog or email me at booksnbanter1@gmail.com 
Many thanks 
for visiting! Angi 





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