To celebrate the release of Covert Affair, Totally Bound are giving away a bundle of ebooks by Geraldine O’Hara. Enter here for your chance to win: https://www.totallybound.com/index.php?route=information/competition&competition_id=23&utm_source=erzabetenchantments&utm_medium=booktour&utm_campaign=covertaffair
Getting to know your new partner can be an exciting time, yet asking questions outright to garner more information doesn’t feel right at first. We seem conscious of being nosey, don’t we, or pushing for too much too soon. Ah, that dance we do, where we glide around the main subject hoping we don’t offend or upset the one we’re starting to love. Lovely, isn’t it? Can you remember feeling like that?
We can devise ways of gleaning snippets from them, and in Covert Affair, Mandy does just that. She plays a game with her friend, Jen, called What’s her Secret? They see people then describe what their lives might be like. With Leon, Mandy wants to play the game to see if he’ll indulge her, and, I suspect, to find out whether what she shared with Jen could now be transferred to Leon. She’s switching from having a best friend in Jen to a lover with Leon. Perhaps she’s asking herself whether Leon can fill Jen’s shoes and be her best friend too?
She also wants to discover his viewpoint on certain things, to further find out what he’s like. It beats the embarrassing prospect of pointedly asking him questions—and also saves him the embarrassment of having to answer honestly. We’ve all been there, not giving our true reaction in case our new partner thinks we’re weird, horrible or whacky. Putting feelers out, doing that dance, is sometimes the only way.
And this subject also leads to us being who we’re not. We’re giving out the impression we’re a nicer form of ourselves so our new lovers only see the best of us. Also, whenever Mandy realises she’s showing more of her true self than she can handle, or she doesn’t think she can just be her normal self, she creates a new persona, hiding who she really is so Leon doesn’t see her. In the excerpt below, they have just been in contact with a man who scares them. Mandy starts a game of What’s her Secret to get her mind off that man, and later, when he enters her thoughts again, she does what she does best—becomes someone else entirely.
If only she knew that Leon would love her no matter who she is…
“Me and Jen play this game,” I said, explaining it to him. “Want to play?”
“Could do,” he said. “Something to do while we’re walking.”
“That couple there. Under the streetlamp. What do you see?”
It would be interesting to get a man’s perspective. I knew Leon was romantic, a different kind of man from any other I’d been with, and the fact that he was prepared to join in on something that might be seen as girly was a bonus in itself.
I was keeping him—forever. Never letting go.
“Two people who are kissing,” he said.
He’d need a bit of help getting into this.
I groaned. “Is that all? You don’t get anything else? Even something made up?”
A gull swooped down in front of us, beady eyes like Cauli’s, its beak open as if it wanted to peck my nose off. Or maybe it wanted to see if we had any chips it could steal. I squealed.
He laughed. “Bloody hell. They’re a nuisance, they are.”
He led me across the road, and on the other side I admired a horse and carriage that I assumed was used for up-and-down journeys along the seafront. If horses didn’t scare me to death I’d have asked Leon if he fancied a trip, but seeing as they did and I wanted to keep my knickers clean, I didn’t bother.
“So, the game?” I said. “What can you come up with about that couple?”
“I don’t think I’m on the same wavelength as you and Jen, but okay, I’ll give it a go. They’re having an affair. Is that the way you play it?”
“Yes, go on.”
“She’s married and has managed to get away for a long weekend. Maybe she’s been seeing that man for a while, I don’t know.”
A gaggle of women came towards us, off their faces on alcohol, on a hen night by the look of them. Their outfits left a lot to be desired, skin on show in abundance, blown-up condoms attached to their scanty dresses. I could see me and Jen doing that. Then I realised it would only be me and her on my hen night—I didn’t really have any other female friends—as the others in our gang were male.
“Where did they meet, that couple?” I prompted.
“Online,” he said. “On one of those dating agencies. You’ve seen the adverts for them, right? Uniform dating or whatever. She knew her marriage wasn’t going anywhere so signed up for a laugh. Her friends made her do it. Let her sign up using one of their credit cards so she didn’t get caught using hers. Umm, let me think. She didn’t expect to find someone she clicked with so soon. He’s single and spends most of his time tormenting himself that he can’t be with her as much as he wants to.” He sighed. “I know that feeling.”
“Me too, but when we go back home we’ll get it all out in the open.”
I imagined sitting in The Rusty Nail, around one of the tables, and explaining that we were a couple now. It would change the dynamics of our gang, no doubt about it, and poor Marshall would possibly feel left out if Jen and Gary announced they were also together.
“I wonder,” I continued, “whether Marshall’s ever thought of an online dating agency.”
Leon laughed—hard and loud. “What? Are you kidding? He’s too shy for that kind of thing. I mean, look at him. He doesn’t approach women, only ever goes out with any if they ask him. We keep telling him to grow some balls but so far they haven’t got any bigger.”
“Like you and Gary, you mean? From what I remember, you had no balls to ask me out. Gary arranged it all for you. The conversation about it before you came round was on Facebook, of all places.”
“Shit, that seems like so long ago, doesn’t it? Yet it wasn’t. Only a few months.”
I glanced across at him. He had a wistful look on his face—eyes dreamy, the touch of a smile on his lips. Were memories floating through his mind like they were in mine? I recalled the night we’d finally got together. In the Rusty Nail. Leon with a T-shirt held over his head by one of the others, his torso on show. Me going up to him and pretending to be a woman named Pussy Pwoar. I’d got my first touch of him then, had rubbed his torso, thinking I’d never get to do it again after that. But later, Gary had brought him round to my flat, Leon blindfolded, me seducing him—or making an effort to anyway. I’d thought he hadn’t known it was me yet he had.
Happiness spread through me and I grinned. “A few months of hiding and lying. It was fun, I’ll give you that, but enough’s enough. But it was bloody good fun. Exciting.”
“It was. Best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
I love you.
“So, you need to finish your ‘What’s her Secret?’ story,” I said. “How will it end for them?”
“She’s so in love with that man she’ll leave her husband. She might not even go back home after this weekend. She has no children so there isn’t any need, and she has the kind of job she could transfer easily.” He shrugged. “There you go, happily ever after. That do you?”
“That wasn’t a bad start. You could get very good at this game.”
“I take it you play it often?”
“We used to. Lately, not at all. Seeing as I’ll be spending more time with you now instead of Jen, you’ll need to prepare yourself for indulging me.”
He groaned. “I’ll do anything for you.”
I giggled and spotted our hotel ahead. I glanced around us, checking to see if we’d been followed. We hadn’t as far as I could tell.
A glittering sign for a casino grabbed my attention and all thoughts of Cauli loitering or us getting drunk on a pub crawl went out of my head.
“Shall we go there?” I said, pointing.
“Bloody hell, do you think I’m made of money?” he joked.
“No, but we could play the slots. That won’t cost much if we stretch it out over a couple of hours. And we could play ‘What’s her Secret?’ except we’re the couple with a made-up life. We can pretend we’re rich, that casinos are something we visit all the time. I brought a nice dress with me, and you’ve got your suit. Come on, what d’you say? Shall we become Mr and Mrs Ponsonby or whatever? Be someone else for the rest of the night?”
“What is it with you and your identities? As if Pussy Pwoar wasn’t enough, you’re dragging me into being another person with you.”
“Aww, come on. It’ll be fun, I promise.”
Like the sound of Covert Affair? Buy it here: https://www.totallybound.com/covert-affair?utm_source=erzabetenchantments&utm_medium=booktour&utm_campaign=covertaffair