The Women Who Ran Away - Sheila O'Flanagan

Chapter 1

Grand Canal, Dublin, Ireland: 53.3309°N 6.2588°W

Even after she’d put her luggage in the tiny boot of the convertible, Deira still wasn’t sure if she was going to go through with it. Which was crazy, she told herself, because this was the easy bit. The harder part had been the previous night, when she’d walked into the dimly lit underground car park and waited for the Audi to unlock automatically. Even as she’d told herself that nobody would take any notice of her, she’d expected one of the residents to suddenly appear and ask her what the hell she was doing. But the one person already there, a young man in head-to-toe Lycra, was more concerned with unchaining his bike than with Deira’s actions.

Nevertheless, the familiar click as she slid her hand along the driver’s door was comforting. So was lowering herself into the driver’s seat and finding that it still moved automatically to her favoured position when she pressed the memory button. She’d been afraid it would have changed. But there was no lingering scent of an unknown perfume or a different shampoo. No sense that someone else had taken her place. Nothing at all was different. Her heartbeat slowed down. Everything felt normal. Easy. Right.

Driving slowly out of the apartment complex, she’d told herself that her criminal career was off to a good start.

Of course she had a key, which surely meant that taking the Audi wasn’t actually a criminal act, no matter how anyone else might see it; but she wasn’t supposed to be here, doing this. Deira didn’t care. She was past caring. And being back in the car was comforting in a way she hadn’t expected. So it was worth it.

Now, as she slammed the boot closed and walked back into the granite mews overlooking the canal, she felt a sudden rush of tears fill her eyes and clamped down hard on her jaw to try to stop them falling. It didn’t matter that she was tired of crying; the slightest thing still set her off, blubbing uncontrollably and embarrassing both her and anyone around her. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. If for no other reason than the sake of her skin, she needed to get over it. Her complexion was ruined from the salt of her ever-present tears.

She glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall and released a slow breath. Unless she was going to chicken out at the last minute, she’d have to leave soon. After all the trouble she’d gone to, missing the ferry would be a complete disaster.

But instead of picking up her keys and bag and heading back outside, she put a pod in the coffee machine and made herself an Americano. She sipped it slowly as she studied the tickets in front of her, making doubly sure that she had the right date. It would be idiotic of her to go on the wrong day, but over the last couple of months she’d done so many idiotic things that she didn’t trust herself any more. She recalled the phone calls, the emails and – worst of all – the scene in the office, and she shuddered. She’d been made a fool of, but she knew she’d been a fool too. And that was hard to take.

She put the tickets back in her bag. She had the right date. She wasn’t a complete idiot, no matter what other people might think.

Although the trip had been booked nine months previously, she’d totally forgotten about it until the direct debit for the balance had resulted in her account being overdrawn. She hadn’t even realised she’d gone into the red until her bank card had been declined at her hairdresser’s. It had been one more humiliation added to all the others. Naturally she’d burst into tears again.

It had been Gavin who’d first suggested taking the car to France, confessing a need to drive a stylish convertible along some decent motorways before people judged him a sad old fart and passed comments about his virility and the size of his penis.

Deira had laughed when he said that, and wrapped her arms around him.

‘Nobody would think that of you, ever,’ she’d told him. ‘They wouldn’t dare.’

Because Gavin Boyer looked at least a decade younger than his fifty-seven years. True, his hair, once even darker than Deira’s, was now almost entirely silver-grey, but that only made him appear even more distinguished than when he was younger. He was still tall and