Five people in a sleepy English coastal town. One year that changes everything.
They seem to have it all. They’re in good health and are financially secure. They live in a pleasant and comfortable town. But as their lives intertwine, cracks emerge and restlessness grows.
For Clive, is retirement the beginning of the end? Can fun-loving Saskia break free from her adulterous husband? Will Andy marry his childhood sweetheart? Is Jamie prepared to change his dishonest ways? Might Ellie’s happy marriage be shattered by temptation?
Heart-warming and heart-breaking collide in this novel about aspirations, expectations and the realities of everyday life.
I’m delighted today to welcome author R J Gould to booksaremycwtches with an extract from his book The Bench by Cromer Beach.
The bench by Cromer beach is set in a beautiful, largely unspoilt, town on the North Norfolk coast. There are five main protagonists, one of them the old man sitting on that bench overlooking the beach. As their lives intertwine, cracks emerge and restlessness grows. Another character is Ellie. She seems happily married but is in danger of throwing everything away unless she resists temptation. This extract covers an encounter with the person who threatens to shatter her comfortable life.
She was back down to earth as she got ready for that evening’s celebratory meal (universities always seemed to be celebrating something or other with food and drink). There would be time to resume her career, but for now her family came first.
She put on a summer dress that she’d bought a couple of months previously but had yet to wear, a waisted 1950s lookalike that made her feel good now that her body was back in shape post-pregnancy. She applied a new shade of lipstick, a deeper red than the usual neutral colour, and added rather a lot of mascara. She inspected herself in the corroded mirror, the diagonal crack dividing her face in two. She looked like a panda. Two pandas.
In true university style, there was lots of food, lots of drink, and over-long speeches, each speaker congratulating everyone involved and presenting flowers to administrators, managers, caterers and student helpers. It was gone eleven by the time the dinner drew to a close, at which point the hardy amongst the group retired to the bar. Ellie wasn’t hardy, but there she was, sitting next to Tom, drinking her God knows what number prosecco.
‘What a day! A huge well done, Ellie.’
‘Thanks, Tom. I loved it.’
‘What time are you planning to leave tomorrow?’
‘I suppose I’d better get going soon after breakfast. I need to check the house is still standing.’
Their eyes met – that unspoken pull again.
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Oh, I was wondering whether you fancied a walk around the Broads National Park. It’s a beautiful place and the weather forecast is promising.’
‘Tempting, but probably not.’
‘Well the offer’s there. See how you feel in the morning.’
Ellie looked down at her watch, the digits blurred by alcohol. Where had the last two and a half hours gone, it was half-past one?
‘I’d best be heading off to bed.’ She stood, stumbled and sat back into the chair. She managed to remain upright on the second attempt, though stability was in short supply.
Tom stood by her side and took hold of her arm. ‘Let me help you get back in one piece. My room is in the block next to yours.’
They walked together, arm in arm, Ellie all too conscious of the warmth of his body against her own. She edged closer, wanting more. She looked up at a full moon peeping through the trees, casting spooky shadows. The sudden head movement brought on a wave of dizziness and she stopped in her tracks, pulling Tom to a halt next to her.
Who started the kissing, Tom or her? Who kept it going for so long, a hungry exploration of mouths and tongues? Who was the first to reach naked skin, she caressing Tom’s lower back, his shirt pulled up, he stroking Ellie’s neck, shoulders, arms? Tom touched her breast, through her bra and then inside it. She shivered in the heat of it all.
When they froze it was like they’d been captured in a photo, her hand on his waist, his clumsily reaching to her breast, their faces depicting both bewilderment and lust.
Who pulled away first?
It was Ellie who was the first to speak. ‘We can’t do this. I can’t do this.’
‘Nor me. I want to but can’t either.’
There was no need for explanations or apologies. Both had happy families, loving partners who couldn’t be betrayed.
They sank down onto the grass and lay together. For Ellie the pull of sex swiftly waned, replaced by the comfort of leaning against this fine man. They remained there in silence for quite some time, the full moon casting magical shapes around them as the trees swayed gently in the breeze.
It was Tom who broke their reverie. He stood and held out his arm to lift Ellie. ‘Come on, best get some sleep.’
Ellie didn’t take hold. ‘You go, I’d like to stay here a bit longer.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yeah, I am. I’ll see you at breakfast.’
‘I’ll see you tomorrow then.’
Tom walked off, tucking his shirt in as he went.
Ellie was wiping away tears as she watched him.
You can purchase this book via the following links –
About the author
R J Gould is published by Lume Books and Headline Accent and is the author of five novels: A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack and Jill Went Downhill, Mid-life follies and The bench by Cromer beach. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people. He lives in Cambridge, England.