We all have secrets, but some of our secrets are darker than others…When Julia’s husband leaves her, and their small son Matty, to live with another woman, her friends – especially Caroline and Vick – rally round to help. But when Julia starts a new relationship after a chance meeting, her friends are not quite as supportive.
Julia sees Brendan, the quietly spoken IT guy who comes round to fix her computer, as a loving and protective man and – as time passes – a potential father figure for Matty. Caroline and Vick, on the other hand, see him as jealous, controlling and potentially dangerous. He appears to be a man with a secret past.
What her friends don’t know is that Julia has secrets of her own and, if they get out, they will almost certainly shatter her fragile domestic bliss.
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Julia has started a relationship with Brendan, to the dismay of her friends Caroline and Vick who think it's all moved far too fast. Here, Julia has invited her friends round so she can tell them Brendan is moving in.

A couple of weeks before he had to give up his flat, I invited Caro and Vick round for a girls' evening. I'd planned to cook seafood tagliatelle and make a lemon cheesecake, get a couple of bottles of wine and create the perfect environment to tell them my news. I distinctly remembered Brendan saying it sounded a good idea.
Matty agreed to go to bed a bit early on the condition that both guests came to say goodnight to him before he went to sleep. He was bathed and in bed by 7, reading a football book Brendan had bought him, when the buzzer sounded. I was surprised. Vick and Caro weren't usually early. With a saucepan in one hand, I pressed the intercom button.
'Julia, it's me.' Brendan's voice. 'I just need to ask you something. Can I come in for a moment?'
Of course I let him in. Why wouldn't I? He came in, smiling, kissing me on the mouth and holding me away so he could admire my outfit. 'You look fantastic. Have I seen that top before?'
I laughed. 'Just a few times. I bought it with you, remember?'
He nodded, eyeing my face carefully. 'Oh, yes. Are you wearing more make-up? You look different.'
I shook my head. 'Nope, just the usual. Look, they'll be here in a minute, what is it you need to ask me?'
He looked puzzled. 'Ask you? Oh yes, I've had a thought — how do you fancy getting a takeaway after your friends have gone?'
I felt a flash of annoyance. 'Bren, I told you they're coming for dinner. It's a proper girls' evening, not just a drink. Remember, I told you what we'd be eating? So they'll be here till late. That's why I said I wouldn't be seeing you tonight.'
There was a silence. I kept talking to cover my confusion. 'But you're welcome to stay for a drink and a chat, of course you are.'
He was staring at me hard. 'No, you didn't tell me. I'm sure you only mentioned drinks. That's why I was looking forward to a takeaway, because I thought you were just having a drink with them.'
Matty's voice called out. 'Mum! I can hear Brendan! Can you ask him to come and see me?'
Brendan turned towards Matty's room, looking back at me over his shoulder. 'So we're on for later, yeah?'
I stood stock still, wondering what to do. Was he not listening or was he being deliberately obtuse? Brendan reappeared, carrying Matty in his arms, and I sighed in exasperation. 'He's supposed to be staying in bed until Caro and Vick come. That's what I agreed with him.'
Brendan laughed and put a delighted Matty down on the sofa. 'No, no, let him stay here for a while. He's got his book to look at. Why should he miss out on the fun?'
I glanced at the clock, infuriated that my careful plans had been disrupted. Caro and Vick would be arriving soon and I hadn't laid the table or started the sauce — although luckily I'd made the cheesecake earlier and it was chilling in the fridge. I went over to the kettle and filled it at the sink.
Brendan was watching. 'What are you doing?'
I pulled a pack of tagliatelle from the cupboard. 'Just getting things ready.'
Brendan moved towards me and took the pasta from my hands. 'No, let's get a takeaway.'
If he wasn't looking so serious I might have thought he was joking. I honestly didn't know how to handle the situation. Brendan and I had never argued in the time we'd known each other and this misunderstanding — for surely that's what it was — didn't seem to merit an unpleasant confrontation, especially in front of Matty.
I decided to try and placate him. 'Can we do it tomorrow night instead? It's just that Vick and Caro are expecting to eat here and—'
'That's their problem, not mine.' His face had changed. 'Look, Julia, I don't want to feel like you're putting them before us...'
'I'm not!' I was almost tearful and Matty had gone quiet, watching us over the top of his book. He put it down and came over to me, grabbing my hand.
Brendan patted his head. 'Matty, go to bed, son. Your mother and I are discussing something.'
Matty held more tightly to my hand. 'No, I want to stay here. Mum looks sad.'
Going over to the sofa, Brendan picked up the book. 'Come on, take this and I'll read it with you in a minute. Off you go. Give your mum a kiss.'
Matty reached up to me and I hugged him. 'I'm fine, sweetie pie. Go and snuggle into bed, and I'll bring Caro and Vick to say goodnight to you.'
He ran into his room and I looked helplessly at the pack of pasta on the counter, unsure whether to pick it up. Was I being inflexible, stubborn, or was I being pushed into a corner? In my confusion I couldn't think straight. Maybe I hadn't made it clear that Caro and Vick were staying all evening, but I was sure I'd described to Brendan what I'd be giving them to eat.
He was frowning and I couldn't bear it. It was difficult to see how, but I felt I'd let him down.
The buzzer sounded and my heart sank. I'd been so looking forward to this evening and now it was ruined. Either Brendan or my friends were going to be disappointed in me, and I knew I couldn't win. As they came in through the front door I registered their faces when they saw him — surprise on Vick's face, annoyance on Caro's.

Author Bio –
Originally from Manchester, Mandy Jameson spent ten years living in southwest France where Landsliding, her first novel, was written with the encouragement of a prolific writing group.
Now settled in Sussex with her daughter, her passions include football, chocolate and walking on the Downs.
She is working on her second novel.