I am thrilled to be part of the blogtour for Orenda’s THE RINGMASTER by Vanda Symon and my thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation.
Below is an extract from the book and I don’t know about you, but I think this is brilliant.
‘Rosie, wait.’ He lengthened his stride to catch up with her. She turned and he couldn’t help but enjoy the immense smile that lit up her face as she realised who’d called after her.
‘Hey, this is a pleasant surprise. I thought you were working late tonight.’ She started to lean in to kiss him, but checked herself and put her hands in her pockets instead, a blush spreading across her cheeks.
She was such a pretty young thing, he thought; pretty and clever – a winning combination. They turned and continued walking together along Dundas Street, past the bottle-strewn fronts of the down-at-heel terraced houses inhabited by university students.
‘You know I don’t like you walking along that track by yourself when it’s getting dark,’ he said. ‘I thought I’d come and keep you company. I’d never forgive myself if something bad happened to you.’ It was early evening and the gloomy weather made the light lower than usual for this time of year.
She laughed, so melodic. ‘You worry too much. Nothing’s going to happen. Dunedin’s as safe as. Everyone takes this shortcut from uni to the Valley. Besides, walking through the bush helps me unwind – it’s so beautiful and serene.’
She had a point – the track was very picturesque. They turned into Gore Place and passed through the large iron gates into the enchanted realm of the Botanic Garden. The track meandered between the Water of Leith and the curve of the hill before it crossed over on to the flat expanse of the lower park with its lawns, flowerbeds and the impressive Winter Gardens. The route passed through lush native bush and on a fine day it made for a lovely stroll. The deserted playground by the gates was testament to the hour and to how drizzly the day had been.
‘I don’t worry too much,’ he said, pretending to be piqued.
‘Oh, you’ll trip over that lip if you’re not careful,’ she said, playing the game. ‘By the way, I like the new coat and hat. Didn’t even recognise you at first. You’re not getting hip on me, are you?’ Again the melodic laugh.
‘If you can’t beat them, join them, as they say. Maybe being around you youngsters all day is rubbing off on me.’ He made an attempt at a twirl and grinned at the girl’s yelp of delight. He stopped and turned to face her, taking a big breath as he chose his next words.
‘Look, Rosie, there is something I need to talk to you about. Something important.’ He saw a flicker of a frown cross her face and realised she thought it was bad news. ‘No, no. Nothing bad. It’s good news.’
She leaned forward, expectant. ‘You mean you’re finally…’
The crunch of approaching footsteps on the gravel path made her pause. They both stepped back slightly from each other, and he turned and looked up the path. He heard her say hello to the passer-by and then watched the back of the young man as he carried on towards the gardens.
‘Do you know him?’ he asked, when he thought the student was out of earshot.
‘No, just being friendly. It’s a big campus and despite what you may think, I don’t actually know everyone,’ she said. ‘Why, are you jealous?’ He gave her a ‘yeah right’ look and motioned with his head that they should keep on walking. They were now under the canopy of the trees, making their way along the path by what little light filtered through the dense foliage. ‘See how dark it gets in here,’ he said. ‘I really don’t like you walking this way now the days are getting shorter. You don’t know what weirdos could be here, lying in wait for a lovely creature like you.’
‘It’s very flattering that you worry so much, but I feel quite safe. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll start walking along the road when it gets too dark. They shut the gates earlier in winter, so I won’t have any choice soon.’
They came to a massive pine tree, its branches thin and octopus-like, reaching out into the bush. A small path disappeared through the undergrowth beside it.
‘Come down here, where we won’t be disturbed. I really need to talk to you.’ He grabbed her by the hand and led her down the trail; she had to skip to keep up with him.
The gravel ended and they walked a hundred metres along a mown grass verge bordering the Leith until they came to a small clearing at the river’s edge. He looked around to make sure they didn’t have any unwanted spectators; he could see no one. His pulse began to beat faster; his face felt hot. He took her hands in his, wishing they weren’t both wearing gloves to ward off the chill; wishing he could feel her soft skin.
‘Look, you know I love you, and that you’re the woman for me. I haven’t been able to be with you as much as I’d like. And I realise you’ve been very patient about it. My … commitments have got in the way. But I’d like that to change.’
Her face lit up with that beautiful smile. ‘Oh, my God. You’re going to leave her, aren’t you? You’re finally going to leave her.’ She looked into his eyes, searching his face for a response. He simply nodded, and with that she threw her arms around his neck and he used the momentum to swing her off her feet. Landing on solid earth again, she planted a kiss on his mouth. Her lips felt cold, but incredibly soft.
He didn’t want to pull away, but he did, and laughed. ‘Wait, wait, there’s more.’ He stepped back, creating a space between them. ‘I want to give you something – a sign of my commitment, I suppose; a promise that you’re the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. Close your eyes and hold out your hands.’
The sight of her – gorgeous, flushed with excitement, jiggling up and down – brought a lump to his throat and filled him with a moment of apprehension about what he was going to do. But no, he had come this far, had planned and worked so hard for this. He took a deep breath and reached into his pocket.
It only took a second to slip the already looped cable tie around her outstretched wrists and then to pull it tight.
In the time it took for her eyes to flash open and her to start saying, ‘What … what are you doing? I don’t…’ he had pulled the duct tape out of his pocket and ripped it open. He slapped it across her mouth and around the back of her head. By now, terror had registered in her eyes and she ducked down and turned, trying to escape and run. But he anticipated this, tripping her and making her fall elbows first to the ground. She tried to wriggle forward, but was hindered by a large rock in her path. He stepped over her squirming form, straddling her shoulders. Her damned backpack made the job more difficult, but he managed to grab her by the head and, despite her resistance, slam her hard over and over into the rock. There was a cracking noise and then silence. She went limp in his hands and he dropped her on to the grass.
Hands on knees and panting heavily, he had to hold his breath so he could listen and look around to ensure there had been no witness to his work. But all was silence and gloom. He dragged her over to the Water of Leith and slid her in, holding her face down in case the cold of the water revived her.
He waited a few minutes to make sure, but there was no more movement from his beautiful Rosie. He hadn’t tried it this way before, but it had worked a treat. In fact, it had been easier than he’d thought.
He was getting good at this.