Still finishing up the new Jessica Pine novel for before Christmas, but I’ll be done soon, and can devote my attention completely to the final part of Fifty Shades of Neigh.
I can now reveal the new cover and an exclusive sneak preview of the first chapter!
We last left Hanna Squeal newly wed and presumably newly widowed, when Crispian Neigh stole a helicopter and escaped federal custody, having pulled the old clothing switcheroo with his dumpster-dwelling sister Alicia.
Meanwhile Hanna had just come fresh from a semi-romantic tryst with her flame-haired hipster boss Timothy Grope, who had infiltrated the Neighs’ ritzy shindig for Filthy Rich Cokeheads by persuading the triangle player in the dance band that he really needed to take a break from playing the triangle and head on down to Tijuana to get very drunk, buy a bunch of illegal fireworks and probably catch some kind of social disease. With me so far?
Anyway, that happened. And then this happened.
I recline luxuriously beneath a feathered parasol on an exclusive beach in the South of France. Nice, to be precise. He wanted to go to Cap Ferrat but it’s just clogged with riff-raff these days. I hear there was a Kardashian sighting last week.
Adjusting my diamante trimmed thong, I turn over on the sun-lounger at marvel at the strange twists of fate that brought me here. I was just a mousy yet long-legged and winsomely large-eyed girl from Wisconsin. It all changed the day my room-mate Kate went on a coke and ecstasy bender and was consequently too busy smoking her way through the comedown to interview the internet billionaire Crispian Neigh.
Ah. Crispian Neigh. The mysterious Crispian Neigh. The complicated Crispian Neigh. The filthy dirty stinking rich Crispian Neigh.
Maybe it was fate that sent me faceplanting at his feet, but in idle moments I contemplate the set of circumstances that brought me here, here to this exquisite beach, a burnished jewel set in the crown of the French riviera.
My husband is stretched out beside me, wearing nothing but cut off jeans and a gimp mask. He’s conscious of the ageing effects of the sun. He is engrossed in a copy of ‘Which Buttplug?’ magazine, which is not exactly what I was hoping for on my honeymoon. I was kind of hoping he’d be engrossed in me. Except he wasn’t really interested in them once the swelling went down. As soon as the stitches were out and the implants settled he just wasn’t into it. Maybe I should get one of those 1950’s bras that make them look really pointy?
I tap him on the thigh with my battered copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. “Honey?”
“Do you think you could find a waiter? The ice in my martini has melted.”
“Mmm mrrrmmph mmm.”
I sigh. “Darling – please at least unzip the damn gimp mask when I’m trying to talk to you.”
He removes the mask. It gives him the worst case of hat hair ever but every time I point this out he just goes back to the sex dungeon and starts indexing his collection of floggers by size, weight and girth of handle. C’est la vie, I guess.
“What?” he enquires.
“My martini has melted. Where are the waiters?”
He waves to a passing waiter. “Excuse moi – garcon. Ma femme would like another martini.”
I blush. “I didn’t know you spoke French.”
“‘Ee doesn’t,” sneers the waiter, in a ridiculous accent. “‘Ave you never ‘eard of Franglais?”
I hold out the glass. “Just fucking fill it up, Pepe le Pew.”
“Certainment, Madame. And would you like me to fill the glass or just bring you a bucket and a straw?”
Is he casting aspersions about my drinking habits? “Option B,” I pout. “It’s very hot out here. And lose the attitude – if it wasn’t for us you’d be speaking Nazi.”
I reopen my classic British novel. I know I’m living the exciting life of the international jet set now, but there’s no reason to get behind on my reading. Deep down I am still the innocent, unworldly girl he fell in love with, the girl who preferred Jane Eyre to getting her bits waxed, the willowy brunette who was never a cheerleader but was actually always a whole lot better than any of them.
As if on cue, I catch the eyes of the blonde on the sunlounger opposite. She’s reading a Jessica Waters novel. I’ve never read one myself but I can tell they’re trash. Nobody ever writes anything good these days, not like Tess…
“Excuse me,” says the blonde. “Are you reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles?”
For a moment I’m startled. “Yes,” I murmur. “Yes, I am.”
She nods. “You might find it easier if the book wasn’t upside down. Just a thought.”
I sigh and summon Naylor, the head of our security team. His name’s not Naylor but Cr…my husband used to have a bodyguard named Naylor and I rather liked him before he turned out to be a mole for the federal authorities. Anyway, it’s lucky all that unpleasantness was cleared up…
“That and the helicopter crash.”
“The helicopter crash,” says the blonde, from behind her bad romance novel. “You know. The one where he crashed in a ball of fiery death into the…”
Naylor peers curiously at me. “Go back to your post,” I say.
“Is everything all right, Mrs. Neigh?”
“Everything’s fine,” I say, peering at the blonde from behind the edge of my sunglasses. I can’t be sure if she spoke or not. I didn’t see her lips move, but it must have been her, right? They told me if I kept taking the pills I wouldn’t hear the voices any more.
Pepe le Pew comes mincing back over the sand. “Martini a la poubelle, madame,” he says, handing me a large black and silver container with a silver straw. “Amusez-vous avec ce.”
“A la poubelle?” I blink at him, almost dislodging my new mink lash inserts. “Is that a French thing?”
“We didn’t ‘ave a bucket, madame,” he says, peering down his nose. “We ‘ad to use ze bin. Mind the straw – zere was a big Vanity Fair party last week and it may still have some coke in zere.”
I sigh and turn back to my husband, who hasn’t stirred from his perusal of anal novelties large and small. “Darling, I’m beginning to wish we’d gone to Cap Ferrat after all.”
He shakes his head. “Hanna, you know you’d never have lasted a whole week with my mother.”
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? He’s right – I despise his mother and the feeling is mutual. She’s hated me from the get-go, and I know why. She wants to be queen of his heart forever, but a boy’s got to grow up sometime, right? Can’t spend the rest of his life clinging to the Louboutin heels of a dipsomaniac Botox bitch who hasn’t been able to replicate normal facial expressions since he was in High School.
And if his mother wasn’t bad enough there’s his sister. I am not looking forward to seeing her again. She may have given up wearing cat-ears, living in dumpsters and attempting to speak Japanese, but her latest obsessions have made her (astonishingly) even more annoying than she used to be.
Once more I sigh and glance over at my husband. It’s nice that he has hobbies, but I do wish sometimes he’d pay more attention to me. And to them. You would think he’d at least be interested in them from a surgical point of view.
Feeling daring, I lean forward and unfasten my bikini top. My shiny new D-cups spill forth in all their voluptous glory. I point my nipples hopefully in his general direction and jiggle.
“Don’t forget the sunblock, darling,” he says.
I take a sip of my poubelle martini and lean back on the sun-lounger. “You don’t care, do you?”
“You don’t care that everyone can see my breasts.”
“Well, you know,” he says, waving a hand towards the sunswept beach vista before us. “This beach is sort of covered in tits, lambchop.”
“Tits?” I snort.
“That’s what you think of them, is it? Tits? A ten thousand dollar breast augmentation and you refer to them as tits?”
He shrugs. “I can’t very well call them Pinky and Perky any more.”
I sputter martini all over my semi-erect nipples. “I beg your fucking pardon, Mr. Neigh?”
“I used to call them Pinky and Perky. Pinky was the bigger one. But now you’ve had the slight asymmetry corrected…”
I snort and settle back on the sunlounger. There’s a long, weighted pause. Pepe was right about this straw – I think it’s clogged with something. I ditch it and take a long gulp. God, he could have at least put in an olive.
“You’re so crass,” I murmur. “I should never have married you.”
“Technically, you didn’t.”
Whoa. I glance over to my side. The blonde is fast asleep, snoring behind her sunglasses, her mouth wide open. On the other side my husband is comfortably zipped back up in his favourite gimp mask, breathing loudly through his nose. Oh God. Maybe I should call Dr. Quinn? Or my mother?
No. No. I can’t call my mother. She’ll only give me a mouthful about my ‘responsibilities’. I love how she’s suddenly Mrs. Responsible after she spent my entire childhood dragging me from ashram to commune to polyamorous anarcho-bisexual collective. Not to mention all those ‘Women’s Awareness’ retreats where we were supposed to squat over handmirrors and write love poetry to our you-know-what’s. I still haven’t forgiven her for those.
I close my eyes. I doze. I drift. I think I feel a flashback sequence coming on.
It was supposed to be the most wonderful day of my life. I’d planned my fairytale wedding ever since I was a little girl. I was going to have a flowing white veil and a diamond tiara and a Cinderella style coach was going to deliver me to the church. And when I said ‘I do’ there were going to be a bunch of pure white doves released into the air to symbolise the depth and purity of my devotion.
Instead I’m still bleeding from the fist-fight with his lawyer and I’m watching the fiery remains of a stolen helicopter plunge into Puget Sound.
“Yeah. He’s boned,” says Kate.
“He’ll never get out of that alive,” agrees Jesús.
Damn it. This is not the flashback I was trying to have. And even in flashbacks my friends insist on behaving like assholes.
“Who’s being an asshole?” says Kate. “I’m just being realistic, dude. Did you see the way that fucking fuel tank blew? Kaboom – he’s in like fifty different pieces all over the Sound already.”
“Could you at least try to be tactful?” I moan. “This is my husband we’re talking about. It’s bad enough you crash into my flashbacks and start dragging up awful memories…”
Kate frowns. “Hanna, you’re awfully meta for chapter one. Something bothering you?”
“Aside from the helicopter crash, you mean?”
“Yeah, but this isn’t really happening,” says Jesús. “This is just a shitty framing device because otherwise we were gonna spend the entire first chapter watching you get drunk on a beach. It’s not exactly the kind of narrative that hits the ground running, is it?”
I sigh and pull my bloodstained silk wrap tighter around my shoulders. Ever since Jesús took up writing pornographic stories for Kindle he’s been acting like he’s some kind of authority on literature. “This is fucking stupid,” I mutter.
“Duh,” says Kate. “Says the dingbat who just got married to a man she’d known for about two months. You were the one who dragged us into a goddamn flashback – in the first chapter, mind you. You think I don’t have better things to do? Like trying to raise your terrible ki…”
I turn and walk away. I don’t need this. This is the worst day of my life. Crispian’s sister is screaming in fake Japanese and his mother is trying to calm her down. I walk past them. I have no words of comfort to offer. There is only pain. And cold. A cold that chills me down to the bone. How am I ever going to live without him? He can’t be gone. He can’t be.
Who the fuck ends a book with a helicopter crash, anyway?
Dimly, I am conscious of a strange, spreading wetness below my waist. I jerk back to full consciousness to find that my now warm martini has spilled all over my bikini bottoms. Damn it. Why did nobody wake me up? I feel like I might have a sunburn.
I kick my sleeping husband awake. “Is it cocktail hour yet? Can we go back to the yacht?”
We were going to stay at what was allegedly the most exclusive hotel in Cannes. I say allegedly because the week before that Eurotrash hack Jessica Waters was staying there, probably doing ‘research’ for her latest squalid novel, which is almost certainly not a patch on Tess of the D’Urbervilles. You can’t be a true artist if you’re making enough money to stay in exclusive hotels in Cannes. Everybody knows that. She should be dying of tuberculosis in an attic somewhere.
Luckily we had the loan of a luxury yacht from one of my husband’s billionaire business contacts. I don’t know the name of it – it’s written in some strange, dyslexic gibberish that my husband assures me is Russian. I expect they can’t afford proper schools since the collapse of communism. Anyway, the yacht is stunningly beautiful and was in mint condition when we stepped aboard, aside from some stains in a footlocker that the servants said had been used to store human heads. At least, that’s what they said – they don’t speak very good English and probably don’t understand half the words that come out of their mouths.
We travel by Jet Ski to the yacht, and the sea spray is fresh and cooling on my overheated skin. However, almost as soon as I’ve dried out a bit I’m conscious that my skin feels hot and tight and my arm is a not-very-fetching shade of cranberry.
I go to our suite and discover the maid lurking behind one of the high backed boudoir chairs I picked out in Paris. “Stop reading romance novels and draw me a bath,” I say. “A cool one. With plenty of aloe vera.”
She puts down her book and goes to the bathroom. It’s Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. How I know that feeling. Not one of his better works, though.
“It’s a classic,” says the maid, over the sound of running water. “You’ve just never read it.”
“What’s the heroine’s name then?”
I hesitate. “It’s been a while since I read it.”
“It’s not a name you’d forget.”
“Er…Ava, Anna…Amy?” Maybe if I just go through the alphabet I’ll jog my memory. I really think she’s being unreasonable – it’s not like I can be expected to remember everything, not with my hectic yet incredibly glamorous jet-set lifestyle. Ever since I met my husband my life has been one long round of parties, galas, shopping trips and operas. And yet sometimes I can’t help feeling anxious and unsettled. I didn’t really do anything to deserve this fabulous wealth. Nothing but fall in love.
“Truly an empowering message for the twenty-first century woman,” says the maid, passing me. Except her lips don’t move as she speaks. Oh dear.
I grab her arm. She looks up at me in confusion and says something in Russian. “Please missus,” she says. “My English not good. I understand not.”
I release the maid and stomp into the bathroom. “All right!” I shout, tearing back the shower curtain. “Give it up! I know you’re in here somewhere.”
“You’re half right,” says the voice. “Not to mention half bright.”
“They said if I kept taking the medication you’d go away!” I clutch my head. Oh God. Why is this happening again?
What do you mean ‘go away’? I’ve been here since the first book. I mean, yes – you had a bit of a meltdown after it turned out you had like six different voices all copying my schtick…
-…you think I didn’t notice? Libido, conscience, subconscious…
…ah, Subconscious. I kind of liked her. Like a sort of Dadaist mime.
I let out a short scream. It’s bad enough that my Inner Goddess is back. She doesn’t have to rub it in by talking about mimes. She of all people should know about my crippling fear of mimes.
I drop my robe and tentatively poke one foot into the tub. Ow. Cold. Then again, maybe I was expecting too much of a Russian to know the difference between cool and cold. They probably don’t have much of a frame of reference.
My Inner Goddess wolf-whistles.
– Go away.
What? You didn’t think I’d notice the new upholstery. Jesus, what are those things? An E cup?
– D, actually.
You should have gone smaller. You’re way too skinny for a D-cup. You’ve got that skinny rib sternum thing going on – like cantaloupes glued to a rack of lamb.
– Thank you for reminding me of why I didn’t miss you.
Shut up. You were bored shitless without me. I’m the one interesting thing about you. That’s why you had to overcompensate with those ridiculous tits. Should your nipples be that colour, by the way? They look like clown noses.
– Go. Away.
I turn and catch sight of myself in the mirror. Oh my God. I’m horribly sunburned. Worse, my Inner Goddess is shrieking with laughter and pointing at my breasts. Someone has drawn smiley faces on each breast, presumably in sunblock – two dot eyes above each nipple and a mouth below. This is not even slightly funny.
It fucking is.
Tears spring to my eyes. This is terrible. It will take weeks for the burn to settle down and I’ll probably have a pair of white smiley faces emblazoned on my tan boobs for the rest of the summer. My honeymoon is ruined.
Honeymoon? How can you be on honeymoon when your first husband hasn’t even been declared legally dea…
– I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Yes you do, Hanna. Your little flashback adventure gave you away. You remember everything about the helicopter cra..
-…oh look. The chapter’s ending.