Prologue

I am finished. It is over. Today they arrived at the house again, and their eyes reminded me of flies, barely lighting on one place for more than a second, searching out evidence as if I would be so stupid to leave it in plain sight. They’ll have to work much harder than that to catch me out. I have been here for many years.

But they know. They must know, and I sense that I don’t have long. I’ve taken all the precautions I am able to, but I worry it will not be enough. They will come for me soon, and I am not ready. I could live a thousand lifetimes, and I would still not be ready. Like God moulded Lilith from clay, I moulded and shaped this house from my darkest dreams, and I am not ready to leave. I will not leave. Never.

I hear them now on the stairs and they are coming for me.

 

Chapter One

Fin picked up the toys scattered across the living room. She’d managed to get the kids down before eight, something she considered a bit of a feat. On the nights Sadie worked late, they were usually fussy and cranky and impossible to get to bed. Lucy was the worst. She seemed to have taken on the worst traits of her mothers, Fin’s moodiness and Sadie’s stubbornness, and Christ, was she stubborn. The kid would give a mule a run for its money.

Liam, on the other hand, was quiet and introspective. Unless you got his back up—then he had a temper to rival Fin’s own. She grinned. She wouldn’t change them for anything in the world.

Fin glanced at her watch and frowned. It was almost nine, and Sadie should be home by now. She worked as a barrister for a chambers in town and sometimes worked late when she was on a big case. Fin got a text from her this afternoon saying some new evidence had come up and she was going to be back about eight tonight.

Luckily, Fin’s hours were flexible as a self-employed upholsterer, so she’d been able to knock off early and pick the kids up from the childminder. Their next door neighbour Sally looked after them during the week, and she and Sadie took it in turns to be home by six for them. Fin often ended up doing Sadie’s share as well because the nature of her job meant she couldn’t always leave at five.

It irked Fin a bit, even though she knew she was being unreasonable. Sadie’s job paid a lot more, so it meant Fin’s career took a back seat where the kids were concerned.

Fin sat on the couch which was beginning to sag in the middle—she kept meaning to sort it out—and dialled Sadie again. This time, it went straight to voicemail without ringing. She pulled one of Lucy’s little plastic unicorns out from under her arse and told herself Sadie probably switched her phone off and forgot about the time. All the same, uneasiness gnawed at her. Sadie was normally good about calling when she ran late. It wasn’t that they lived in a bad part of London, though stabbings and the occasional shooting weren’t unheard of. These days that kind of shit was going on even in the nicest neighbourhoods—just one reason Fin kept bringing up the idea of them moving out a bit further.

Fin was born and raised on the council estate down the road, and she was sick of dirty, grimy, overcrowded London. She’d move in a heartbeat. Sadie, on the other hand, wasn’t as keen. She’d grown up in London too, but much further west, where the houses didn’t get much below a million pounds. While Fin was stepping over used needles and riffling down the back of the sofa for money for the electric meter key, Sadie was pissing about in ballet classes and having piano lessons. Sadie loved London—or at least, the London she knew. Fin fucking hated it.

It was well after nine now and Fin was officially worried. She tried Sadie’s phone again, and again it went straight to voicemail. She hung up and dialled the chambers where Sadie worked. Voicemail again. Shit.As Fin was deciding whether to go next door to see if Sally could watch the kids for a couple of hours, she heard the top stair creak. Fin walked into the hall and saw Liam standing at the top looking down at her. He was still small for six, and Fin always felt particularly protective of him. There was a vulnerability about him that Lucy, stocky and noisy, didn’t have.

“What’s up, mate?” she asked.

“I had a bad dream,” he answered, picking at the paint on the banister.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He nodded.

Fin walked up the stairs and lifted him into her arms. He was so light. “Let’s get back into bed and you can tell me about it.”

Fin lowered him into his racing car bed. She’d built the frame herself when he was three, and he refused to go into a proper sized single one yet. It was something that secretly pleased her. She pulled the covers up and tucked him in. “Okay, Liam. Tell me—what happened?”

“It was about Mummy. Something bad happened to her.”

Fin’s stomach lurched and she tried to keep her voice even. “Oh yeah? That sounds like a horrible dream.”

Liam nodded and reached up to hold her hand. “Are you okay, Mum? Did it scare you too?”

Fin swallowed. It was hard to keep things from him. He seemed to know what you were feeling just by looking at you. “No, I’m okay, mate. What happened to Mummy in the dream?”

“A bad man got her.”

Fin bit the inside of her cheek in an effort to stay calm. “It was only a dream, Liam,” she whispered.

He looked up at her with his big brown eyes, and Fin was struck by how much he resembled Sadie. His brown skin was a few shades lighter than hers and his hair also brown instead of black, but they both shared those gentle, bottomless brown eyes that telegraphed every emotion they felt. Fin loved their eyes best of all.

She lifted her son’s hand and gently kissed his palm. “I love you, Liam.”

“I love you too.” He smiled, and that was all Sadie as well.

“Go to sleep now,” she whispered.

“Okay.”

Fin left his door open a crack, so light from the hall would filter in, and went back downstairs. She picked up her phone to call Sally next door, but it rang in her hand before she could dial. She didn’t recognize the number and her heart lurched painfully in her chest.

“Hello?” Her voice sounded steady but her hands were shaking.

“Is this Ms. Finola Claiborne?”

The voice on the other end sounded official.

“Speaking.” Fin gripped the phone so hard she thought it might crack.

“I’m Detective Constable Helen Lyle, and I’m calling about your wife.”

 

Chapter Two

Fin drove faster than she probably should have, but all she could think about was getting to the hospital. At a set of red lights, she called Sadie’s parents. She didn’t want to, because she couldn’t stand Treven Tate, Sadie’s father, and the feeling was definitely mutual. He acted as though he was always in court. He even looked like a fucking judge—which was to say, down his nose at you. Fin knew he thought she was beneath his precious daughter. What Fin never let him know was, she agreed—she was punching well above her weight with Sadie.

Corine, Sadie’s mother, was much nicer, and Fin got on pretty well with her. From what she’d gathered, Corine’s beginnings were much the same as Fin’s and she lacked the air of superiority which wafted around her husband. Corine’s parents had arrived from the Caribbean after World War II, the Windrush generation, and she’d grown up poor living in a council flat on a run-down estate.

Fin already wanted to put down the phone and no one had even picked up yet. She reminded herself this wasn’t about her. It was about Sadie, and she would want her father there.

DC Helen Lyle hadn’t said much on the phone, except Sadie had been attacked and was conscious and alert. Just the thought of it had Fin’s stomach roiling, and her hands clenched on the steering wheel involuntarily. It took effort to relax them. If someone had hurt Sadie, Fin would track the fucker down and—and what? Kill them? Sadie and the kids would love that, wouldn’t they? Fin tried to calm herself.

She made it the hospital in record time and was met at the entrance to Accident and Emergency. “DC Lyle?”

Helen Lyle nodded and shook her hand.

“Where is she? Is she okay? What happened?” Fin fired questions and simultaneously tried to push around the policewoman and get inside the hospital.

“Ms. Claiborne, Ms. Claiborne.” Helen Lyle had her hand on Fin’s arm trying to restrain her.

Fin resisted the urge to push her out of the way. “I need to see my wife,” she said instead.

“I know you do. She’s in CT having a scan at the minute—”

“She’s got a head injury?” Fin did push past her this time. She was taller than the police officer and must have outweighed her by a good fifty pounds.

“Ms. Claiborne. I need you to calm down. Right now.” Helen Lyle caught up with her. “You’re no good to her like this. Please. There’s a family room nearby, and I can fill you in on what we know there.”

Helen Lyle was right. Fin couldn’t fall apart and her anger was useless. She forced herself to calm down. She blew out a breath. “Okay. Sorry.”

Helen Lyle nodded and Fin followed her into a room off the main waiting area. It was painted in magnolia and had a few soft padded chairs dotted around. Fin wondered how many families had sat in here, staring at the same walls, reading the same posters about HIV and domestic abuse while waiting to hear about their loved ones.

She sat in one of the chairs and Helen Lyle in another. She steeled herself and nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Your wife was attacked coming out of her chambers at about seven thirty this evening. She was dragged into an alley by her assailant. She was threatened with a knife.” Helen Lyle paused and Fin could feel the other woman studying her, probably seeing if Fin would kick off again. She didn’t—she wouldn’t. Right now she was numb, though she knew the anger would come later.

“What did he do to her?” Her voice sounded calm, as if it came from far away. She felt like she was in a dream and she would wake up any minute.

“He took her purse and her bag. She told us he attempted to rape her but was disturbed by a group of men coming down the alley. Several of the men gave chase but he got away.”

“Jesus Christ.” The words came out on a breath and Fin leaned forward in her chair. She was sick and dizzy.

“Ms. Claiborne? Finola? Are you okay?”

Helen Lyle was standing over her with a hand on her shoulder, gripping lightly. The touch helped. Fin sat straighter in her chair. “I want to see my wife.”

“I know. She should be back from CT shortly, and then I’ll take you to her. She did suffer several blows to the head—hence the scan—and she has some nasty bruises to her face. Other than that, physically, she’s fine.”

“Okay.” Fin felt relief at that. He hadn’t stabbed her and he hadn’t raped her. There was that, at least. “I called her parents. They live in Kensington so they won’t be here for a bit, but—”

“I can wait for them, no problem. I’m your family liaison officer. That means I’m here to support you and Sadie and the rest of the family. I’ll give you my card, so if you have any questions, you can call me any time.”

“You’ll tell me when you’ve caught the piece of shit?”

“I will. I can keep you updated on the investigation, as much as I’m able to. I’ll also need you to answer a few questions when you’re ready.”

Fin’s head came up. “Why?”

“It’s nothing to worry about. Just routine stuff about your habits, whether you’ve noticed anyone following you. Anything unusual.”

“I thought this was a mugging and attempted rape? Isn’t that sort of thing random?” Fin’s eyes bored into Helen Lyle’s. She looked away.

“At this stage, we have to investigate every—”

“Bollocks. You think someone targeted her?”

“Ms. Claiborne, I can’t give you anything at this stage. We don’t know.”

Fin didn’t believe her, but she’d deal with that later. Right now, she wanted to see Sadie.

Helen Lyle’s phone went off and she answered it. She nodded a couple of times. Fin watched her, trying to gauge what was happening.

She hung up and turned to Fin. “They’ve recovered the knife.”

Knife?You said she wasn’t—”

“He used it to make her comply. He didn’t use it on her. We might be able to get some useable prints.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s good.”

“Your wife should be back by now. I’ll take you to her.”

Fin stood and willed herself to be calm. Sadie would need her to be solid, which meant no angry outbursts. Except Sadie always knew what she was feeling. She knew Fin’s moods better than Fin did herself.

 

Chapter Three

Sadie closed her eyes—well, one of them anyway. The other had been closed for her by that bastard. She tried not to think about it, but she couldn’t get the smell of his body odour out of her nostrils. Or the way he felt, pushed up against her, one rough hand pulling at her trousers while the other held a knife to her throat. She shivered and opened her eyes again—well, one of them.

She kept telling herself she was lucky. Lucky those men came along and scared him off. Lucky he didn’t stab her right away, although she knew it was because he wanted more than just her purse. Lucky she would live to see her children and Fin again.

Fin. Sadie sighed. She hoped Fin was behaving with the police. She had a temper, and Sadie knew she was capable of lashing out when she was scared. Especially if it was to do with Sadie or the kids. She hadn’t changed much from the angry twentysomething Sadie met at her twin sister Rena’s party when she was nineteen.

She’d been drawn to her immediately. Back then, Fin was scruffy and looked like she needed a good meal and a bath. Sadie had thought she was a musician too, like Rena, and it was only when they started talking, Sadie realized Fin felt as out of place as her at the gathering. Sadie was in her first year of law school and about as uncool as you could get. She found out Fin was a trainee upholsterer and only there because a friend was nervous about going alone. The friend ditched Fin immediately for some hipster playing bongos in the corner.

She and Fin spent most of the evening sitting on the balcony smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and sipping from a cheap bottle of vodka Fin smuggled from the party in her worn out jean jacket. Fin told her later she was too nervous to kiss her that night, and Fin had shaken her head ruefully when Sadie confessed she’d been dying for her to. But Fin didn’t bottle it the next time, and Sadie remembered it was the sweetest kiss she ever had.

She smiled at the memory despite the shooting pain in her jaw which was swollen from his punches.

She glanced up as the door opened and Fin came striding in. She looked at Sadie, her face full of horror that she quickly hid. Her short blond hair was tousled as if she’d been pulling at it and her blue eyes were glassy. Sadie reached out her hand and Fin took it gently.

“Thank God you’re okay.” Fin sat by the side of the bed and reached out with her other hand to smooth Sadie’s hair. Sadie sighed and leaned in to the touch. “I mean, I know you’re not okay, but—”

“I know what you mean.” Alive. “I am okay. How are the kids?”

“Sally came over to watch them. They don’t know about what happened,” Fin said.

“Good. I don’t want them to know.”

“Babe, they’re going to know something’s wrong. Your face…” Fin trailed off, and Sadie saw the worry flit through her eyes.

“We’ll think of something. Liam already has bad dreams. This will just make things worse.”

“He had one tonight. He said a bad man…” Fin cleared her throat. “A bad man hurt you.”

“Psychic Liam strikes again. He was right,” Sadie said quietly.

“I’m so sorry, Sadie. I’m so sorry for what happened to you.” Fin lifted Sadie’s hand and Sadie smiled as Fin gently kissed her palm. “I love you.”

“I love you too. We’re going to be okay.”

Fin nodded.

“I mean it. I won’t let that bastard win.”

“The police want to talk to me. About our routine and whether I’ve noticed anyone hanging around.”

“They asked me the same thing. Have you noticed anything odd?” Sadie asked.

“No. Have you?”

“Maybe.” Sadie wasn’t sure how to continue. She was bound by certain rules about her clients and had to be careful what she divulged. Even to Fin.

“Sadie.” Fin ducked her head and met Sadie’s eyes. “Please tell me.”

“I had a client a few months ago, Lance Sherry. Some things came to light which meant I couldn’t represent him unless he changed his plea. He wouldn’t.”

“He was guilty.” Fin wasn’t a lawyer, but she’d been around enough of them over the years she could probably pass for one.

“I can’t tell you that, Fin. He sort of threatened me—”

What?

Fin’s voice took on the calm deadly tone Sadie knew well. Before Fin could explode, Sadie hurried on. “It happens, Fin. I didn’t take it seriously. I thought he was just mouthing off.”

“So you tell him you can’t represent him, and he kicks off at you and, what, leaves?”

Sadie shifted in the bed. “No, he came to chambers one night after work. The security guard threw him out.”

Fin jumped up off the bed and began to pace. “That fucking piece of shit. Who is he? What’s his name again, Sadie? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because of this, Fin. I knew you’d lose your temper. Please sit down. My head hurts and I’m tired.”

Sadie watched Fin deflate as quickly as she’d exploded. She hurried back to the bed and took Sadie in her arms. “I’m sorry, babe, I’m sorry. I was so scared.”

Sadie burrowed further into Fin’s arms and sighed when she began to stroke her hair. This was the Fin she needed right now, the Fin who made her feel better about everything.

“I told the police about him. They’re going to pick him up,” Sadie said into Fin’s shoulder.

“Was it him?” Fin asked, still stroking her hair.

“I’m not sure. I think so, but it was dark and I was scared. He wore a hoodie and a scarf around his face. But…I think so.”

Sadie didn’t tell Fin his voice sounded familiar too. If she did, Fin would want to know what he said, and she didn’t think she could tell her that. It didn’t stop her hearing the words in her head, though, over and over again. Going to fuck you then kill you, bitch. She’d told the police and that was enough.

“I called your parents. They’re on their way.”

“Thank you. Fin?”

“Yeah?”

“I know you won’t want to, but I’d like to stay with my parents for a while. I don’t want to go back to the house.”

She felt Fin take a deep breath and almost smiled. “Okay. I understand.”

“He took my purse. It had my keys and my driving license in it. He knows where we live.” She shivered and Fin held her tighter.

“Shh, it’s okay. I’ll get the locks changed. You and the kids can stay at your parents until they find him.”

“And you.”

“Sadie…”

“I mean it, Fin. He’s dangerous. I don’t want you staying there either.”

She felt Fin’s body tense beneath her, and then she sighed.

“Okay, fine. We’ll all stay with your parents. It’ll be great. Your dad, especially, will be pleased to have me as a house guest,” Fin said sarcastically.

Sadie elbowed her playfully and smiled. “Don’t be an arsehole.”

Sadie was glad her parents were coming, but all she wanted at the moment was to stay like this, with Fin hugging her and stroking her hair. For the first time all evening she felt safe.

 

v

 

Fin went outside to call Sally and asked her to wake the kids and take them over to hers. After finding out Lance Sherry had keys to their house, she wanted them out of there. The police promised to swing by a few times over the night and check on things, which made her feel a bit better.

The doctors wanted to keep Sadie overnight for observation and were moving her up to the ward. Fin couldn’t get over the sight of her, beaten black and blue. She wanted to scream and shout and hunt down the fucker who’d done it. It wouldn’t help Sadie, though, and would only make things ten times worse. It was only that thought, and the way Sadie’d looked in the hospital bed—so scared and somehow small—that kept Fin from erupting.

She rubbed her eyes and breathed in the cool evening air. She felt someone watching her and turned to see a woman standing close by, smoking a cigarette. The woman smiled and held out the packet. Fin gave up smoking years ago, but right now she thought a fag was just what she needed.

“Cheers,” she said.

The woman nodded and blew out a long stream of grey smoke. “You look like you need one. No offence.”

Fin laughed. “None taken.”

They stood side by side for a while, smoking and watching the cars go by on the main road. After a time the woman dropped her cigarette in the ashtray and went back inside.

Fin mentally ran through everything she’d need to do tomorrow. Drop the kids to school. Pack clothes and stuff for them to take to Sadie’s parents. She’d take enough for a few weeks and hope they didn’t have to stay longer because she might end up killing Treven if they did.

“Smoking kills.”

Speak of the devil.

“Hi, Treven.”

“Where’s Sadie? What happened?” His deep voice was commanding, and when you combined it with his six foot two frame, she imagined he ruled his courtroom completely. The problem was, in her opinion, he ruled his family the same way.

She turned to face him and was shocked to see how scared he looked. She bit off the angry reply she had intended.

“She’s okay. They’re moving her up to a ward overnight. I’ll take you to her.”

“You should be in there with her, not smoking out here.”

Fin fought the urge to snap back. Now wasn’t the time. “Where’s Corine?”

“Parking the car.”

Typical Treven. Everyone took a back seat to his needs. “We should wait for her or she won’t know where we went.”

“You just want to finish your cigarette. My daughter was attacked and you’re standing out here without a care in the world. What’s wrong with you?”

“Fuck you, Treven,” she ground out.

His eyes widened in surprise. She guessed no one ever spoke to him like that.

As if she hadn’t spoken, he pointed at her and said, “I’m going inside to find out what’s happening.”

Just like that, she was dismissed. Fuck, she hated him. The idea of staying in his house made her want to scream.

 

Chapter Four

Three weeks later

 

Liam knew something was wrong. Ever since that horrible dream about the bad man. Neither of his parents would tell him the truth because they thought he was still a baby. He wasn’t a baby—Lucywas a baby. He was six.

Even Lucy knew something was wrong because otherwise why would they be living with Granny and Grandad? Especially when Grandad and Mum hated each other so much. That was another thing they thought he didn’t know, but he did. He wasn’t stupid like they seemed to think.

Liam still remembered the dream, and he thought that somehow the bad man got out of the dream and hurt Mummy. He wasn’t sure how a thing like that was possible, but it wouldn’t be the first time it happened.

Once, when he was really little like Lucy, he had a dream that their neighbour Mrs. Cole got hit by a bus and squashed. The next day Mum sat him down and told him in a sad voice that Mrs. Cole had an accident and was in heaven now. It was a pity because she was a nice lady and always gave him ice pops from her freezer in the summer.

He didn’t tell his mum about that dream because he was worried it might be his fault for dreaming about it. Maybe the bus drove right out of his dream and squashed Mrs. Cole from next door?

Liam didn’t know anyone else who had dreams like that, and he was fairly certain neither of his parents did. He wondered about the bad man from his dream and why he would want to hurt Mummy. He also wondered how he got out of the dream, and if there was any way to keep him in next time. Liam hoped there was, because he had another one last night.

In that dream the bad man came back.

 

v

 

Sadie could hear Fin and her dad in the other room. This week, they were being coldly polite to each other. Sadie wasn’t sure which she preferred—this, or them bickering. They were driving her crazy.

They’d never got on from the start. The first time Sadie brought Fin home, her father looked her up and down like he was observing something in a Petri dish. Despite what he often said to Sadie, Fin wasn’t stupid and cottoned on quickly that Treven Tate thought she wasn’t good enough for his daughter.

The most frustrating thing—something she could never tell either of them—was her dad and Fin were so much alike. And though they would deny it strenuously, they really did have a lot in common. Like Fin, Treven came from a rough council estate and was raised by a single mother. Unlike Fin’s mum, though, Sadie’s grandmother spent every penny she had making sure her dad got a good education.

Even so, Fin hadn’t done badly either. She’d told Sadie it had been touch and go for a while, when she got in with the wrong crowd and left school without doing any exams. But she sorted herself out and became an upholsterer. Last year, she started her own business. Fin liked to play it down, but Sadie knew she was good. Really good. She was starting to get clients from overseas through recommendations, and Sadie knew it wouldn’t be long before the business was extremely successful.

Sadie wished Fin didn’t feel so inferior all the time. She knew her father didn’t help, always insinuating things and making veiled insults about her intelligence. Although, to be fair, it wasn’t all his doing. Fin liked to needle him whenever possible. Somehow, they always managed to bring out the worst in each other.

For the first week they stayed with her parents, her dad and Fin were on best behaviour. It helped that Fin was out of the house at six, driving across town to drop Liam at school, then going to work, and back at eight after collecting them from Sally. She was too tired to fight with Sadie’s dad.

But when it became clear Lance Sherry had gone to ground and wouldn’t be found as easily as they first thought, they’d hired a childminder closer to Kensington, and Sadie’s mum picked Liam up from school for them. So Fin was around more, and the fighting had escalated.

Sadie hadn’t said anything to Fin yet, but she didn’t think she could ever go back to their house.

She knew Fin changed the locks and Lance Sherry wouldn’t be stupid enough to hang around the house, but all the same, when she thought about going home, her chest got tight and she found it hard to breathe.

The counsellor she was seeing told her this was normal. Panic attacks were common and nothing to be ashamed of. But she could barely manage a trip to the local shop without one of these panic attacks coming on. If someone got too close, or came up behind her on the pavement, she freaked out and she hated herself for it.

She knew it was normal, she’d been through a trauma, blah, blah, blah. Sadie just wanted her life back. She wanted to be able to take the kids to the park without crying when a jogger ran past her. She wanted to go out to dinner with Fin and not freak out if the restaurant lighting was too dim and she couldn’t see other patrons’ faces clearly, terrified Lance Sherry would be seated at one of the tables.

She was sick and tired of constantly wondering where he was and whether he was coming for her to make good on his promise to fuck her and kill her.

In the next room, something crashed to the floor and she screamed.

 

v

 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Fin hovered by the door and Sadie wanted to yell at her to go away.

“I’m fine. For the millionth time, Fin,” she snapped and immediately felt horrible. Fin was just trying to help. She’d been next door with Sadie’s dad trying to put together a plastic playhouse for Lucy’s birthday when it fell apart on them. In a way, it was almost good she’d screamed and had a panic attack because it stopped the inevitable shouting match that would have ensued. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you.” She patted the bed beside her.

Fin hesitated, then came in and stretched out alongside her. Sadie snuggled into her. “Fin, we have to get out of this house. Before I kill either you or my dad.”

Fin laughed. “Believe it or not, we’re both trying to be nice to each other. He only called me thick twice today, and I only thought about murdering him once.”

Sadie slapped her belly playfully. “We need to get out of here,” she repeated.

“No argument from me. I outstayed my welcome back in 2002. You want to move back to the house?”

Sadie fought down the panic which bloomed in her chest at the thought of going home. “No. I can’t go back there, Fin. Ever. Even when he’s caught, he’ll still know our address, and he could tell other people. He’s a nasty piece of work, and I’d always be worried who was knocking on the door. Do you think I’m being silly?”

“Of course I don’t think you’re being silly. Besides, you’ve got a lot to deal with at the moment. Whatever you want, we’ll do, okay?”

“I knew there was a reason I married you,” she joked.

“We know it wasn’t for my brains,” Fin said.

“Don’t do that, Fin. You aren’t stupid. I love my dad, but he’s a terrible snob. Don’t let him make you feel bad.”

Fin was silent and Sadie waited, betting she would change the subject. Fin rarely talked about the emotional stuff, especially where it concerned her vulnerabilities.

“I can put the house on the market tomorrow,” Fin said.

“Thank you. My dad offered to help us if we wanted to buy further out this way.”

She felt Fin stiffen. “Do you want to live around here?” Fin asked quietly. Under ordinary circumstances, Fin would have gotten angry at the suggestion, and Sadie loved her for trying so hard not to blow up.

“No. I told him we don’t need any money,” Sadie said. “I knew you wouldn’t want it.”

“He would throw it back in my face every chance he got.”

Sadie didn’t say anything because it was true. “I’ve been thinking about where we’d move to.”

“You want to leave the area, then?”

“Yes. I think so. Do you still want to move out of London?” Fin shifted beneath her and looked down with hope in her eyes. Sadie smiled. “I was thinking we could try the outskirts, maybe? That way, when I go back to work, it won’t be a long commute. Or I could get a job closer to where we live. You’d be able to work from home if we got somewhere with an outbuilding. Though I’m not sure we’d have the budget for that.” Sadie was aware she was rambling. The truth was, she wasn’t sure if this was what shewanted at all. She was feeling scared and vulnerable, and suddenly the idea of Fin’s country dream started to appeal to her in a way it hadn’t before.

If they stayed fairly near to town, it wouldn’t be too much of a change. She was trying to convince herself, she knew.

“Are you sure, babe? I mean, you weren’t interested before. It might be just a reaction to what’s happened.”

Sometimes, Fin was clueless about how Sadie was feeling. Other times, like now, she could read her perfectly.

“It is, partly. But there’s another part of me that thinks it’s a good idea. It would be great for the kids, and we wouldn’t be so far from London that I couldn’t go in whenever I wanted.”

“And work? It’s a longer commute, maybe a few hours. We couldn’t get anywhere with land in a reasonable distance to town.”

Sadie didn’t want to think about work right now. She’d been signed off and was thinking of handing in her notice, though she hadn’t told Fin yet. She wasn’t sure if she could go back when she’d been attacked right outside her chambers. Her dad would have something to say about it as well. A lot of things to say about it. She didn’t care, though. She’d spent her life doing what pleased him—university, law degree, and then becoming a barrister. He had hopes of her becoming a judge like him, she knew.

Since the attack, she’d felt something inside her shift. She understood how fragile her life was because for a few moments, someone else held it in his hands. Sadie was living her father’s life and maybe she didn’t want to any more. Maybe she wanted some time to figure out what sort of life she did want. Maybe fresh air and country living would help her do that.

“Put the house on the market, Fin. Start looking at places out of London. Just, not too country, though. Okay?”

Fin laughed and squeezed her. “Okay. Not toocountry. I’ll get on it tomorrow.”