Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept… And we can’t keep this phenomenal psychological thriller secret any longer.
The House of Whispers by Anna Kent is out in paperback on Thursday 5th, and we’ve got an early extract of the first chapter for you to read now to whet your appetite!
I didn’t tell Rohan straight away that Grace was coming back. The morning that I got her email, I started to tell him, but then I held the thought inside me, like a breath. Inviting her to stay with us was a huge decision. I knew it would change everything.
It was 7.30 a.m. and already the air in the kitchen was stifling; residual heat from the long days of the heatwave was an unwelcome guest trapped in the ceilings and walls of the house, like a ghost. London was suffocating.
‘Darling,’ I’d begun, thinking at that point that I would tell him – not just about Grace, but everything – the whole story. Ridiculous, really, but it was honestly what I was thinking that sweltering morning. We were sitting at the small table in the kitchen, and the back door was propped open to suck in what reluctant breeze there might be. I was nursing a coffee and my husband, ready in his work shirt, his silk tie slung over his shoulder, was eating scrambled eggs on toast. Already I could see the fabric of his shirt darkening under his arms.
But he hadn’t heard me. Maybe I hadn’t said it loud enough; maybe I hadn’t said it out loud at all – I don’t like to think he ignored me. The unresolved issue of what we were going to do about New York hung in the air between us, crackling like an electrical charge. I was still upset with him and he knew it. The fine hairs on my forearms tickled under a sheen of sweat. A fly, gleaming metallic blue, circled lazily over the fruit bowl. The coffee made me sweat more; I pushed it away.
‘So, what are you up to today?’ Rohan said. ‘More pets?’ He shook his head and tutted, but he was smiling. ‘I don’t know why you do it. You should be focusing on your real work: going to galleries, looking at books – I don’t know. Nobody ever got inspired painting dogs. And no gallery ever bought Rufus – the Series.’ He laughed.
I closed my eyes as I let out an imperceptible sigh. We’d been here before. ‘As Picasso said,’ I told him, ‘“inspiration exists – but it has to find us working.”’
Rohan moved his head in time with the words; he’d heard that before, too.
‘I’m doing a home visit today,’ I said.
His eyebrows shot up. ‘A home visit?’
Rohan looked at me then, his head tilted; the ghost of a frown lining his forehead. ‘I thought they were supposed to upload photos. Wasn’t that the whole point of the website?’ He shook his head and smiled indulgently. ‘You’re too soft.’
I went over to him and put my hands on his shoulders, feeling the heat of his skin under his shirt as I gave him a little massage.
‘It’s a one-off.’
Rohan leaned back into my hands. ‘Yeah, that’s good. Right there.’ He groaned as my fingers released the tension in his muscles and I realized that, with one thing or another, we hadn’t touched properly for a day or two. That was unusual for us; New York really was taking a toll.
‘Look,’ Rohan said, ‘you’re the best judge, of course, but I really think you need to focus on your next collection and stop messing about. You’ve exhibited in London, hon. It was a sell-out! You can do it again!’ His voice softened. ‘You’re good.’ He reached up and squeezed my hands. ‘I hate it when you sell yourself short.’
He stood up and touched his lips to mine. The tension went out of me as I relaxed into the kiss and, for a few moments, there was no New York, no Grace, no house, no masterpiece waiting to be painted – just the feel of my husband’s mouth on mine and the familiar smell of his skin. But then he pulled away reluctantly, stroking a finger across my cheek as he did so.
‘Hold that feeling, gorgeous. Save it for tonight.’ His hand slid down my body, round my waist and across my bum. ‘I’ve got to run.’
He winked as he looked around for his keys and his briefcase, and that was it: the moment to bring up the topic of Grace was lost. But what I didn’t realize then was that the longer I held the information inside me, secret and burning, the harder it would be to tell him. Rohan didn’t know Grace, or the effect she had on me, but I did.
I’d lived with her before.