“Just a few pages in and I was so hooked, I even considered sneaking it into the cinema whilst the kids were watching their film!”
When Arena escapes Tom, her abusive and vengeful husband, he vows to make her pay. Luckily, she finds love in the arms of a wonderful man called Bear Shaw. Undercover cop Bear is loving, generous and adores both her kids. He keeps them safe and they become a family.
Then, while Bear is away on assignment, Arena’s SUV is stolen … with her sleeping toddler in it.
Arena is sure it’s Tom behind the theft. The police investigate – Tom was abroad when the theft occurred. Arena doesn’t believe it – she insists it is Tom. No one can tell her otherwise.
When the police look to question Bear, they can’t find him. It seems like Bear Shaw does not exist.
Arena’s whole world begins to tilt. Who does she believe? Who does she trust?
If you’ve enjoyed Sleeping with the Enemy, you will enjoy this gripping crime and suspense thriller about revenge and retribution. This book has been downloaded more than 300 000 times!
The first time Tom hit me, I was eight months pregnant. Slapped me across the face so hard, I saw tiny white stars, even though I was indoors. I was twenty-two, he was thirty-five.
I was eight months pregnant and waddling like a duck; he was approximately one hundred and eighty pounds of solid muscle. He took part in triathlons, ran five kilometers every day, had wheatgrass and quinoa for breakfast, a green salad with no dressing for lunch, and usually ate lean chicken breast with three different colored vegetables for dinner.
Fit, disciplined, and focused - that was my husband.
Throughout my two years of marriage, I'd seen bursts of his rage - towards me and others, and his road-rage - now that was the worst - it terrified me. Especially since he liked to take on truck drivers. The bigger the truck, the greater his rage. Usually, people steered away from trucks, but not Tom; he took them on, provoked them until I was shaking with fear.
Deep down, I guess I did fear being hit by him one day, but I didn't expect it thatday - the day of my second wedding anniversary.
I was so stunned by the slap, I didn't move away or try to defend myself. I just stood and gaped at him, one hand on my cheek, the other on my swollen belly.
"I take care of everything!" he hissed. "All you had to do was chill the Cristal, and you forget to do that. A small thing like that. Chill. The. Cristal - how hard is that, huh? Huh?"
To celebrate our wedding anniversary, Tom had invited eight couples to a four-course sit-down dinner at our house, located in the upscale suburbs of St Ives, Sydney.
He had hired caterers, waitstaff, and a barman. Like all of Tom's parties, it promised to be interesting, excessive, and showy.
It was true - all I had to do was chill the Cristal, as he had taken care of everything else, without consulting me once about anything. Not even asking me who I'd like to invite. Solo - that's how Tom operated.
I didn't mind. Tom was extremely capable, highly efficient, and most of all, he had flair. I didn't, so if I did make a suggestion for just about anything, he'd usually scoff at it and shred it to bits, making me feel like the hillbilly I was. So over time, I stopped suggesting or contributing, and left everything in Tom's highly capable hands. That suited him just fine.
With pregnancy hormones, my brain sometimes became a pile of mush, and I would walk into a room and forget why I was there. I often forgot which level I had parked my car on at the mall.
It annoyed the hell out of Tom as he called it foolish, and God knows, being as astute and intelligent as he was, he didn't suffer fools gladly.
As my pregnancy progressed, everything I did was foolish and stupid to him, and he became increasingly irritable with me, and finally, he hit me.
"See what you do to me!" he snarled, his nostrils flaring, his lips a thin white line. "You make me act like this."
After throwing me a look of disgust, he stood in front of the mirror, carefully adjusted his tie, straightened his five-foot-eight frame, and walked towards the door of our bedroom.
At the door, he paused and turned to look at me. "Put on a darker shade of lipstick, wear the necklace I bought you for Christmas, and be downstairs in five," he said before he walked downstairs.
With my hand on my cheek, I sat on the bed, shrouded in disappointment and disbelief.
How could he hit me? I asked myself. How could he hit a pregnant woman? His pregnant wife - who does that?
There was no way I was going to go to his party after that. I would leave quietly through the back door before our guests arrived. I wouldn't even tell him that I was leaving him. F**k him and his party.
Just then the doorbell rang. Too late. Our guests had arrived.
"The place looks wonderful, Tom."
"Yes, it's just fabulous, Tom. Marvelous. Where's Arena?"
"She'll be down in a sec," I heard Tom say. "Honey, our guests have arrived," he called in a sweet voice from the foot of the steps. "Arena, sweetheart?"
I panicked. What do I do? How could I possibly not show up when guests had already arrived? In all honesty, I'm ashamed to say, I chickened out. Feeling pressured, I decided I would go downstairs and be civil and courteous to Tom's friends, but I would leave immediately after the party. If he tried to stop me, I would have it out with him and call the cops if I needed to. I may have been twenty-two years old, but I realized that Tom had crossed a line and I wasn't going to accept it.
I scrambled up from my king-size bed and walked over to a mirror where I eyed my cheek, red from his slap.
I picked up some concealer and dotted it over the redness. Didn't work. His imprint on my cheek and the welt showed through the concealer.
I tried green concealer. That did the trick and that was the first time I learned that green concealer worked better on bruises better than yellow or beige concealer.
Over the years I used a lot of green concealer, and I became an expert at concealing "flaws."
Luckily, my deep mahogany hair was in a bob and fell in a sharp point two centimeters below my ears. (Styled as per Tom's strict instructions. He ordered me to wear my hair exactly that way. He was in awe of Victoria Beckham.) That night, with the help of a little wax, I pulled the edges forward so that it covered my cheek. Just in case the green concealer let me down.
Then I went one step further and decided that if the concealer faded and someone enquired about the marks on my face, I would simply say that I had an allergy - a new facial that didn't quite agree with me. (Over the years, my friends were surprised at how many facials didn't agree with me.)
Still dazed, I adjusted my clothing, darkened my lipstick, put on the chunky gold necklace that Tom ordered me to wear, and waddled downstairs. As instructed.
When I reached the last stair of the spiral staircase of our 2.6-million-dollar home in Sydney, which had a spa, sauna, tennis court, and an Olympic-size pool, I plastered a smile on my disappointed lips and murmured greetings to our guests.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed Tom watching me with elevated eyebrows, probably waiting to see if I would tell on him, or indicate marital discord in our supposedly perfect marriage.
I ignored him and focused on our guests. I would deal with the bastard later.
After a while, his eyebrows returned to normal and he moved towards me. As if nothing had happened, he slipped his arm around my waist. I stiffened, then casually tried to shrug it off, but he held on, his fingers digging into my side, tacitly warning me to behave, or else.
After our last guest had arrived, Tom rattled a knife on a Royal Doulton goblet. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for me to give my beautiful wife her anniversary gift."
With a fake smile plastered on my darkened lips, I allowed him to take my hand.
He led us all outside, where a silver BMW X60i E75 was parked in our driveway, a huge red bow on it. I knew that it cost more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, as I had gone car shopping with him weeks ago.
"For you, my love," he said.
All eyes were on me, most of them filled with envy.
Overwhelmed by the slap and by the present, I remained mute.
He pinched my waist. Hard.
"It's beautiful," I murmured quickly, feeling pressured to say something. It truly was a lovely vehicle, although the one I was driving, a Mercedes four-wheel drive, was just as beautiful.
I looked at him. "But, I didn't get you anything, Tom." My voice felt strained and high-pitched.
He hugged me. "You are my gift alone, Arena. You bring me so much joy, my love."
"Aaaawwww!" I heard a guest mutter. "How sweet!"
My guests had no idea that less than an hour ago, this man had slapped his pregnant wife.
"And that's not all," he said and produced a pretty red-and-gold box. Tom opened it, revealing a chunky diamond bracelet. He slipped it onto my wrist, then kissed my hand and bowed obsequiously.
Back inside, gasps of delight and more unbridled envy abounded, which Tom seemed to visibly revel in.
Envy was Tom's currency - his elixir of life. Without it, I do believe that he would have shriveled up and simply died.
Then he took me into his arms and once again, lovingly embraced me. When he kissed me, he threaded his fingers into my hair and slipped his tongue into my mouth. His kiss felt horrible - like sucking on raw steak. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, and I wanted him to stop the Broadway show. I was a lousy actress and a terrible leading lady for sure.
When I jerked slightly away, his fingers gripped my hair and pulled hard, a silent warning - Play along or else.
Having no choice, I became a supporting act in his show and felt like the phony I was.
Then the doorbell rang.
He released me and said, "Will you get that, darling?"
I was surprised, because Tom always answered the door. After a moment's hesitation, I opened the door and caught my breath at the sight of the biggest bouquet of roses I had ever seen.
"For Mrs. Arena Botha," the delivery guy said, struggling to carry the bouquet.
Again, the room echoed with oohs and ahhs!
Of course, I was not one bit impressed with any of his gifts. It was not that I was ungrateful. Sure, his gifts were lovely, but I would have preferred if he had given me the gifts that morning, when it was just the two of us, or if he had sent me the roses during the day.
These gifts were all about him and his ego - Look at me. Look how successful I am. See what I can give my woman. Don't you wish you were married to me instead of your husband? When you leave here tonight, you're gonna wish you were Arena. You're gonna wish you were Tom Botha's wife.
I did leave the house that night, but it wasn't because of Tom's slap. I went into early labor and had to be rushed to the hospital that very night. Three hours after our last guest had left, I held in my arms a beautiful blue-eyed boy called Warren, who became the silver lining in my life.
All thoughts of leaving Tom and ending our marriage went out the door after that. I continued living with Tom, starring in his Broadway shows and buying copious amounts of green concealer.
One word to describe living with Tom - suffocating.
Every time he was around, I felt like I had a pillow over my face. I dreaded the hour when he would walk through that door, and when he left the house, I felt like the pillow had been lifted from my face.
Weekends were the worst - the pillow seldom lifted, and unlike most people, Monday was my best friend. I looked forward to it.
The moment Tom left the house for work, I would let out a long sigh, make myself a cup of hot chocolate, and as the morning progressed, my shoulders would slowly drop from around my ears and I would smile.
My Sunday morning psalm: Monday my love, where are you?