NEXT ON HER LIST

Julia is attractive, wealthy and successful. She has good friends and a lovely flat in South Ken. But she just can't nail a relationship. Each man she meets seems keen - until he vanishes. When she discovers her latest lover has died, she goes to his funeral. There she meets an old colleague who tells her another of her lovers died 5 years ago - just after she last saw him. Suddenly Julia can't shake off a terrible notion... What if each man she meets comes to a grisly end once he's slept with her? To banish this foolish idea, her friend convinces Julia to hire a private detective called Michael to investigate all her past lovers. But when Julia falls in love with Michael she deeply regrets involving him in her life and fears he might be next...

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Daniel is gay, introverted - and in a rut. There should be more to his life than a low-paid admin job and living in a house-share in north London. Exasperated by his indolence, his extrovert friend Seb convinces Daniel to attend a swanky party with him in Barcelona. But when Seb is too unwell to go, Daniel finds himself alone in a new city and realises he can be anyone he wants to be and no one will know anything different...

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NEXT ON HER LIST

Opening Chapter

“Don’t come any closer!”

         The man in the blue shirt continued to smile, as he stepped through the busy room towards me. Not surprising, really, as I hadn’t actually voiced my warning, but my mind was still screaming at him to keep away. He was extremely handsome, smartly dressed, with a killer smile – definitely my type. But there was no way I was going to allow him to get involved with me.

         He must have sensed something because he came to a halt, mid-stride. His smile faded. I turned my back on him and came face to face with one of the bartenders.

         “Two daiquiris, please.”

         “Strawberry? Regular?” Not knowing which my friend Angela would prefer, I ordered one of each. Why had we gone for cocktails of all things? Now I’d be standing here for minutes on end, while the young woman with the eyebrow piercing muddled strawberries and did all the necessary vigorous shaking up and down and side to side that warranted the extra cost. Plenty of time for him to consider it was worth a go, after all, and sidle up next to me. Plenty of time—

         “Allow me to get that for you.” His voice was not at all what I had expected: a smug, nasal drawl. I took a breath and turned to face him. No wonder. It wasn’t him. A man in a shiny suit with thinning hair was smirking at me, undressing me with reptile eyes.

         “Thanks, but I’m ordering two drinks. One for me and one my friend.”

         “The more the merrier.”

         “Thanks, but no thanks.”

         “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

         “Well it’s someone else’s lucky day, then, isn’t it?” I responded, tartly. He gave me a sour look and moved to the other end of the bar. Why was it, I wondered, that as soon as you’ve decided to become resolutely unavailable, everyone starts buzzing around you?

         I’d thought meeting Angela for an early evening session in my work clothes – a pale grey trouser suit with a turquoise blouse – would send out a clear message that I was only here for a catch-up with a friend. But evidently the message had not got through – or was being deliberately ignored.

         The daiquiris arrived, at last. As I turned, I braced myself for another sight of the man in the blue shirt, but there was no sign of him.


         Angela had opted for the strawberry daiquiri. I was relieved: I wasn’t in the mood for something that sweet. Unlike me, she would probably have enjoyed a bit of cheeky attention from one of the men in the bar. We were both on the wrong side of 45. While workload and gym sessions had kept me on the skinny side, bordering on bony, Angela was larger than life in every way – almost six foot, with a big frame, which made her appear voluptuous rather than overweight. But she was doing herself no favours with her current outfit – a multi-coloured, tent-like shift and a set of chunky coral beads.

         “Up yours.” She held her drink aloft.

         “Chance would be a fine thing.”

         “Now, now!” she chided. “Anyway, what was wrong with the blond guy?”

         “The one in the blue shirt?”

         “Who else? I saw you clocking him.”

         “What’s the point? He’ll only vanish again, like they all do. At best, we’ll spend the night together, he’ll sound all keen and that’ll be the end of it.”

         “You don’t know that.”

         “Yes I bloody do! You’ve seen it happen time after time.”

         “I’ve never watched you sleep with someone. That’s not my thing at all.”

         “You know what I mean. You’ve had a blow-by-blow account – stop sniggering – of every encounter I’ve had for years. You’ve seen the pattern. There’s something wrong with me. There has to be. I’m cursed.”

         “Stop that right now! You’ve just had a terrible run of luck, that’s all. I really thought you’d turned a corner with Lorenzo, though. He was such a charmer – and a looker! I still can’t believe he’s not got back in touch with you. Not a single text?”

         “Nothing.”

         “Maybe something happened to take him away suddenly, you know, like… a family crisis in Italy?”

         “His parents live in Croydon.”

         “Right. Well perhaps some great aunt lives over there and is on her deathbed. Last rites about to be read? Had to drop everything and jump on a plane?”

         “Very likely. But that wouldn’t stop him contacting me, would it? They do have phones and email in Italy, last time I checked.”

         Angela gave a muted grunt. “I really did think he was different, my love. I’m so sorry.”

         “I thought so too. He even came along to your dinner party!”

         “What are you saying? My cooking’s not that bad.”

         “John did the cooking.”

         “I made dessert, if you don’t mind!”

         “You know what I mean. It was like introducing him to my parents on a second date.” Angela gave an indignant snort. “And yet he wasn’t put off at all!” Memories of Lorenzo started to flood in. Get a hold of yourself! I wasn’t going to become a blubbing mess.

         “You did have two lovely dates with him, at least…”

         “Wonderful. Well, the pattern is clear enough to me and I’ve made my mind up: I’m through with men – so don’t try to fix me up with any more suitors!”

         “Weren’t you already through before you met Lorenzo?”

“Yes I was – and it was bloody stupid of me to drop my guard! Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson now. I’m better off alone.” I went to take another sip of my cocktail as a defiant gesture, but my glass was already empty.

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TESTIMONIALS

WHAT READERS HAVE SAID ABOUT "NEXT ON HER LIST"

"Read it in one go on the plane."

"Very original story. I really enjoyed it and especially liked all the London references."

"I read it in 3 sittings and really enjoyed it! Impressed with the twisting story and genuinely didn't know who would be in the room at the end."

"I just wanted to get in touch to say that I loved your book! I was intrigued from page one!"

"Attractively easy writing style and a neat plot."

"A real page turner, mysterious, gripping and touchingly romantic; I loved it."