Author Topic: The Cunning - Gritty Crime Romance  (Read 82 times)

Offline CourtneyTHansen

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The Cunning - Gritty Crime Romance
« on: February 17, 2021, 04:15:49 PM »
I'm looking for a beta reader or a critique to read my work with a fresh set of eyes before I start my querying. I'm willing to do swaps of however many chapters you like if you write crime or romance or thrillers :)

Here's a quick little taste of what The Cunning is about

Madison is nothing more than an easy target when she falls victim to abduction but it isn't long before her true character comes to light and her captors realise they might have bitten off more than they can chew... If anyone needs a knight in shining armour, it's them.

I'm going to paste the first chapter below, if anyone would like to read more that would be incredibly helpful so feel free to drop me a message or comment or if you just have a few pointers for the first chapter than that's great too, honestly, anything is appreciated!


The monotonous beeping of the scanner at Madison's till was almost enough to lull her to sleep.
Milk. Bread. Butter. Squash.
"That's £7.05," she said, her eyes falling on the frail old lady as she shakily pulled her purse from her handbag. Madison waited patiently, watching her pour change into the palm of her paper hand.
"Sorry dear, you'll have to help me. My eyes aren't what they used to be." In her hand were five-pound coins, one fifty pence and two twenties. Madison took the fifty and the pound coins, smiling.
"That's all done for you. Have a nice day." She handed over the bag, concerned whether the pensioner could even carry it.
"You too." The lady shuffled towards the door that was now being held open by a group of school children.
There wasn't another customer after the youngsters until towards the end of her shift. The bell chiming above the door broke the silence of the small convenience store. Madison looked up from the stock list she was checking. She watched the man head over to the cold drinks, his black trainers sticking slightly to the freshly mopped floor and peeling off with every slow step.
"Twenty Marlborough, please," he ordered when he circled back round to her. His focus didnít leave the old phone in his hand. It was the kind of phone that could be thrown at the wall and have more chance of chipping the plaster than cracking the screen. She placed the cigarettes next to the can of Coke.
"That's £13.95." The stranger looked at Madison through his lashes, giving her a once over with his dark eyes. They rested for just a second on the name badge pinned to her red work polo. The name it read wasn't her own, rather a spare she had found in the staff room to avoid getting in trouble for forgetting hers. After a brief silence between them he handed her a twenty, slipping the change into his back pocket and leaving without another word.
He had been her last customer before Madison wrapped up her shift and clocked out, grateful for the late-afternoon finish she'd been blessed with before her day off and a brutal week of night shifts ahead.
When she arrived home her neighbourís cat greeted her at the front door, brushing up against her shins and waiting to be let in to the silent house.
"You hungry?" she asked, scooping the black cat into her arms and kissing his sleek head. The gentle vibration of his purr rattled on the hand that rested under his chin. The two of them had fallen into a routine of spending evenings together when her mum went on business trips, something she had been doing on a regular basis since her dad had gone away.
Madison's phone buzzed as she placed a bowl of wet food on the floor in front of the fat cat. A text from her boss flashed up on the screen, asking her to work tomorrow's night shift. Chewing her lip and deciding she could do with the extra money, she reluctantly agreed. It was only six hours, nine to three, nothing she hadn't done before. Besides, she was working a whole week of them afterwards, one more wouldn't kill her. The only reason she disliked them in the first place was because it meant she was alone with her creepy boss who sat in the office all night.
She shuddered at the thought of his eyes lingering on her chest for a little too long and picked up the television remote, settling down for the evening with mind-numbing reality shows.
The following day was spent doing the same until half eight when Madison headed to the bus stop where the number seven would take her almost directly to the shop. She looked for an empty seat when her eyes landed on the familiar face sat in the middle of the backbench.
The Marlborough guy looked younger in the white lighting of the bus. A deliberate close shave of stubble shadowed his chiselled jawline and his dark eyes were observing her through untamed curls springing down from beneath his hood. That same phone clutched in his hands between his outstretched legs. She took a seat four rows in front of him, next to an older man that smelled of stale cigarettes with a wheezing cough. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she could feel him continue to stare at her.
Having worked a handful of nights before, Madison knew what to expect on the customer front. The adolescents seeking alcoholic drinks for the after-party, other people heading to their own twilight occupations, the odd teenager desperately trying to get served for cigarettes. Nothing out of the ordinary over the course of the six hours. Stifling a yawn, she watched the digital clock on the till as it switched to three. She'd made it.
"Would you like a lift home?" Peter asked, walking into the staff room as the clock in machine swallowed her card and spat it back out after a loud beep. Her eyes were involuntarily drawn to the yellow-tinged sweat marks on the pits of his white shirt straining against the gut that hung over his belted trousers. Peter was Madison's boss. He was in his late forties with tobacco-stained teeth and a greasy exterior. She would much prefer the fifteen-minute walk over getting within close proximity of him and his lingering eyes.
"No thank you, I'm getting a ride," she lied. He grunted.
"Okay, be careful out there, those streets aren't safe for young girls like you." She refrained from shuddering at the insinuation behind his words.
After saying a quick goodbye and shrugging her jacket on, she left through the staff exit into the cold bite of the dark morning. His warning playing in the back of her mind.
Madison tucked her chin into the neck of her windbreaker, breathing into the material and creating heating for her lower face. The wind was strong and made her ears ache every time she looked up from her feet. It was, nevertheless, a more preferred option than accepting a lift home from Peter. Anything but that.
The streets were empty. All residents in the block of flats along the road seemed to be asleep. Every twenty meters was lit with the orange glow of the looming streetlights, some of them flickered every now and then, inadvertently creating an ominous feel to the night. She brushed off the anxiety that was stewing inside her and picked up speed. Five more minutes and she would be home.
Curling her arms tighter into her body in a futile attempt to lock in as much warmth as possible, she rounded a corner only to come to an abrupt halt when she bounced off of something soft.
The weight of hands on the sides of her shoulders hadn't immediately registered as she peered up at the large figure that was now steadying her.
A scream burned in Madisonís throat, and her lips parted but no sound came out as her eyes darted over the strangerís face.
Every feature was hidden behind a black bandana and a hood, leaving nothing but the eyes and a singular curl resting almost purposefully in the middle of his forehead. A tell-tale curl.
Panic was a feeling she was well acquainted with, and she knew the heat that crawled up her body and pulsed in her head was fear. Fear that wasn't present in the eyes that were staring back at her. The eyes that went from malicious slits to what she perceived as concern.
Familiarity seeped through all of the other emotions.
Twenty Marlborough.
Slowly, he raised a gloved finger over his hidden lips, signalling for her to remain quiet. Instinct convinced her to listen. The crowbar that was held in his left hand was suddenly hard against her upper arm as the feeling came back to her limbs. The cement blocks that had kept her feet pressed firmly to the pavement dissolved and she had to fight nausea that now replaced the leaden weight in the pit of her stomach. He pointed over her shoulder and hesitantly, Madison looked, spotting the alley before turning back to the empty space he had been stood in.
Without a second thought, she bolted in the direction he'd pointed to. No time to question whether he was leading her to something or whether he had simply let her go to carry on with whatever he had been doing.
She didn't stop sprinting until she was at her front door, jamming the key into the lock and slamming it behind her. Only then did she allow herself to breathe, gulping in air as if she had been held underwater and just resurfaced.
What had just happened?
Her head span as she slid her back down the door, feeling her entire body vibrate with the adrenalin coursing through her veins. Her blood ran ice cold.
The silence was deafening.
What the hell had happened?
"Jesus Christ," she stammered under her breath, scrambling to her feet and into the kitchen. She pulled a bottle of brandy from the cupboard. Her numb hand shaking as she poured a large glass.
Finishing the drink in one, she poured another and raised the glass to her lips and spotted the note left on the kitchen side in her mumís elegant handwriting.
She had gone to America for two weeks on overseas business.
The strangerís eyes flashed in her head, breaking her concentration on the words. Why had he looked concerned? Had he panicked too?
The second drink went down much smoother than the first, and she savoured the burning sensation it left in her stomach, dulling the knot that had formed. Trying to process the last ten minutes right now was futile. After one more drink, Madison took herself to bed, staring out of her window until the sky turned a miserable grey. Only then did her eyes close for longer than a few seconds.