Stephen Connor is thirty-six-years-old and is the eldest son of Michael and Mary Connor, originally from Cork in Ireland. Stephen met and fell in love with Rebecca ‘Becca’ Burns and her waist-length blonde hair when they joined the London Metropolitan Police as probationers and they soon moved into a flat together.
Becca is the white sheep in a family of black sheep. The Burns’ are a notorious criminal family from the East End of London and when Becca attempted to disassociate herself from them by changing her name from Concepta to Rebecca and joining the police, the Burns’ arranged for her to be attacked. The attack left Becca deaf in one ear and she had to leave the police.
Stephen and Becca agreed to try for a baby and they spent a weekend in Brighton on England’s south coast. Soon afterwards, Jackie Burns, Becca’s sister-in-law, turned up at the flat. Jackie was told she can’t have children and her husband walked out on her. Jackie was hysterical and threw herself at Stephen, knowing exactly what to do, where to do it, and for how long. Stephen and Jackie had sex in the hall, in the bathroom, and in the bedroom. Becca then walked into the bedroom and found Stephen and Jackie in bed together. For Becca, this was the ultimate betrayal and she disappeared.
Stephen searches for Becca but she is good at covering her tracks and he throws himself into his work. He rises through the ranks of the police, eventually being promoted to Detective Inspector at the age of just thirty-one. But he can’t forget Becca, no matter how hard he works and no matter how many women he sleeps with.
Then, one morning, Stephen is told about a road traffic accident outside a school in north London. A woman in her thirties with waist-length blonde hair attempted to stop the abduction of her five-year-old son and was knocked down by a car on a pedestrian crossing. The woman’s injuries were not life-threatening and she was taken to St Hilary’s Hospital. Stephen goes to the hospital immediately. Surely, it can’t be Becca. She doesn’t have a son. Does she?
Sooner or later, your past will catch up with you.
Rebecca Burns has been running and hiding from her drug-dealing family all her adult life and trusts no one. An injury ended her career in London’s Metropolitan Police, and when she took a chance on love, she discovered Stephen cheating on her.
Changing her name, she runs and hides again, despite being pregnant with Stephen’s child. ‘Becca Hills’ and her son live a deliberately quiet life in a London tower block, but when she is involved in a road traffic accident, she finds Stephen and her past catching up with her. Can Becca allow herself to trust, forgive and love again?
An Excerpt from Chapter Two
They went into the kitchen and she shut the door as overly-dramatic cartoon music began blaring from the television. The kitchen was miniscule, only about six feet square. With the cupboards, worktops, sink, and appliances, there was barely enough room for her to move around, never mind share the space with a furious Stephen.
“Too bloody right we need to talk. Tommy doesn’t have a clue who I am, does he?” Stephen demanded.
“No.” She moved as far away from him as the tiny kitchen allowed, feeling the sharp corner of the sink digging into her back.
“Doesn’t he ask why he doesn’t have a daddy like other children?”
“He’s beginning to, yes,” she admitted.
“And what do you tell him?” Stephen added savagely. “That I’m dead?”
“No.” She was adamant. “No, that you’ve gone away but will be back one day.”
He pulled a disbelieving face. “And now what? Are you going to tell him who I am?” She peered down at her hands. “Becca, for God’s sake, please. I’m his father.”
“Yeah,” she muttered. “And married to your job.”
“Jan told me,” she explained, raising her head. “Inspector at thirty-one. Congratulations. What’s it going to be – chief inspector before you’re forty? Superintendent a few years after that?”
“Please allow me to be Tommy’s father?” he asked instead of answering.
“Stephen, he needs someone reliable. Someone who, when they tell him that they’ll take him out at six o’clock, will take him out at six o’clock. You will never be able to guarantee him that.”
He slumped back against the worktop. “No, I won’t, but I’d make it up to him.”
“Guilt presents?” she suggested, shaking her head, and noting with relief that it wasn’t pounding quite as much as it did earlier. “No. I see far too many of them at Tommy’s school. Trainers, smartphones, video games – anything they think will make up for the disappointment.”
“Please just think about it, Becca?” he asked.
“What else did you think I was going to think about now?” she snapped.
“Jackie,” he replied. “Jackie’s family. I’ve just come here from telling them she had taken an overdose of painkillers and was dead.”
“Why the hell should I think about her or her family?” She exhaled a short, humourless laugh. “I don’t need to tell you what I thought of her. I’ve never met any of her family, and it’s not very likely that they’re going to give a toss about me or Tommy.”
“They asked me who the little boy was and I had to tell them. They’d have found out, anyway. Did you tell anyone, Becca?”
“No,” she replied simply and, adding before he asked, “because it was safest that way.”
“Well, there’s a good chance that Jackie has told your family where you are,” he told her and her heart lurched before it sank like a stone. “We found her iPhone and the last call made from it was to an unregistered pay-as-you-go phone.”
“Knowing Jackie, she probably tracked me down and took Tommy, hoping that John would take her back. ‘Please take me back’.” She mimicked Jackie’s high-pitched voice. “‘I even took Becca’s little boy so we can be a proper family, and we can bring him up as one of the next generation of Burns Boys’.” She rolled her eyes. “The stupid cow. Tommy will never be a Burns,” she spat. “Never. Knowing John, he probably just laughed at her.”
“Probably,” Stephen agreed. “There’s no way he’d want anything to do with a police officer’s son.”
His stomach rumbled as he spoke and she glanced at the clock above the doorway. Six o’clock. She really had to eat something and so did Tommy. It was his bedtime soon. “When did you last eat?”
He shrugged. “Can’t remember. Breakfast, probably.”
“Do you have to be somewhere?” She heaved herself away from the sink.
“No. I won’t get the official post-mortem results for a few days at the earliest. Then, Tommy needs to be interviewed, as well as you.”
“So Jan said. When?”
“Tomorrow morning,” he told her.
She nodded. “Well, today is pizza day. I hope you still like pepperoni?”
She saw him trying and failing to hide his surprise. “Yes, I do.”
“It’ll be about twenty minutes. Have one of these in the meantime.” Squeezing past him, she went to the fridge freezer, took out a pot of petit filous followed by a spoon from the cutlery drawer, and passed them to him.
Squeezing past him again, acutely aware of how he made no effort to move out of her way, she lit the gas oven. Extracting the pizzas from the bottom of the fridge freezer, she pulled them out of the box and cellophane and put them in the oven before turning around.
“Look.” She pointed to his tie. “You’ve dripped some on it.” He began wiping the blob away with a dishcloth but only succeeded in making it worse. “Stop.” Taking the cloth from him, she went to the sink and ran water on a corner. Holding up the tie, and feeling his eyes watching her every move, she wiped it clean. “There.”
“Thank you.” He pulled it loose then undid the top button of his shirt.
“Who irons your shirts these days?” she asked, going to a cupboard and taking three dinner plates out.
He gave her a little smile. “Non-iron.”
He laughed. “I burned holes in six shirts before I gave up.”
“And who goes around after you now picking up socks, boxer shorts, and T-shirts?” she added. “Jan or one of the other female officers?”
He stiffened. “No-one.”
She noticed and changed the subject. “Do you still live on Dixon Street?”
“Yes. Alone.” He finished the pot of petit filous and put the pot and spoon on the draining board. “I got fed up of renting so I bought the apartment. A couple of years later, I bought the apartment next door and knocked the two together. The living room is now three times the size and there are now three large bedrooms instead of the original two tiny ones plus a roof terrace.”
“Three bedrooms?” she echoed. She’d loved the old apartment but not their small bedroom and cold bathroom.
“Got to keep my harem of female police officers somewhere,” he told her. She grinned and his eyes widened. “Was that a grin I saw?” he teased with a smile.
“Something like that.” She busied herself in flattening the pizza box while staring at his reflection in the door of the microwave oven before putting the box and cellophane in the bin. He was maturing well, his face a little fuller, his hair cut a little shorter, but his smile hadn’t changed one bit and could still turn her legs to jelly. What did he think of her six years on? Did he find her prematurely old? Haggard? Coarse? At least her hair was still beautiful. “So, you haven’t quite managed to work your way through all the Met’s female officers, then?” she asked, turning around.
He gave her a humourless smile. “My longest relationship since you lasted all of a month.”
“That long?” This time he did laugh. “Jan fancies you,” she added, and his smile vanished.
“I know she does but I don’t fancy her.”
The forcefulness of his tone took her aback a little. “Once bitten twice shy?”
He shrugged. “Something like that. But you and I were the same rank back then.”
“Yes, so don’t expect me to call you sir now.”
His lips twitched. “I won’t.”
The kitchen door opened slowly and they both turned to look at Tommy. “Mummy? I’m hungry.”
“The pizzas are in the oven,” she assured him. “They won’t be long.”
“Okay.” Giving Stephen a puzzled look, he retreated back to the living room.
She sighed. “I’m going to have to tell him something. I’m not going to have it all come out tomorrow when he’s being interviewed.”
“What will you tell him?” Stephen asked, and she could hear the trepidation in his voice.
“That his daddy has come back,” she said simply. “I’m not going to lie to him. Are you ready?”
He took a deep breath. “As I’ll ever be.”
“Come on, then.” She opened the door. “Tommy, turn the television off, please.”
“Oh, Mummy,” he protested.
“Now, please. Then, go and sit in the armchair.” Tommy climbed up and sat down, reaching for the remote control and switching the television off. “Good boy. Now,” she began, glancing around the room. Where was Stephen? He was standing at the kitchen door and she beckoned him to come to them. “Tommy, remember when you asked me where your daddy was?” she continued and he nodded. “What did I tell you?”
“That he was away but that he would come back one day.”
“Yes. Well.” She stroked his hair. “He has come back. Tommy, this is your daddy.”
Tommy peered up at Stephen, who crouched down beside the brown armchair with a smile.
“Where’ve you been?” the little boy asked him.
“Doing what?” Tommy persisted.
“I’m in the Metropolitan Police,” Stephen explained. “A detective.”
“Mummy watches Inspector Morse,” Tommy informed him. “A lot. It’s on for ages.”
“Does she?” Becca saw Stephen’s lips twitch. “Well, I’m an inspector, too. Not a chief inspector, though.”
Not yet, Becca added silently.
“Do you have a big car, too?”
“I have a car but it’s not a Jaguar. It’s a Ford.”
“Oh.” Tommy sounded disappointed. “What’s your proper name?”
Tommy nodded, his brain clearly processing the information as fast as he could. “And you’re really my daddy?”
“Yes, I am.” Stephen smiled again.
“Are you coming to live here?”
“No.” Stephen’s face fell. “I have my own apartment. You and Mummy will have to come and see it sometime.”
“How old are you?”
“I’m thirty-six, a year older than Mummy.”
“That’s okay.” Tommy gave him a solemn nod and Becca couldn’t help but smile. Tommy had no idea what thirty-six was.
Stephen’s eyebrows rose. “Is it? Why?”
“My friend Simon’s daddy is really old. And his hair is all grey. Yours is nice and black.”
“Thank you,” Stephen replied, before nodding at the television. “What were you watching?”
Stephen frowned. “The what?”
She laughed. “Oh, dear, we’ll have to educate, Daddy, won’t we, Tommy?”
“Do you watch the Teletubbies, too?” Stephen inquired.
Tommy gave him a scornful look and she couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Stephen. This was going to be a very steep learning curve. “They’re for babies.”
Stephen pulled an awkward expression and adjusted his position, getting down on one knee. “Oh. Right. Well, what do you like?”
“My Disney DVDs.” Tommy pointed to a scatter of DVDs on the floor beneath the television. “And Scooby Doo.”
Stephen’s face brightened. “I used to watch Scooby Doo.”
“You?” Tommy replied sceptically. “What else did you used to watch?”
“Oh.” Stephen paused, clearly racking his brains. “Play School, Grange Hill, Blue Peter…”
“Do you love Mummy?” Tommy interrupted.
“Tommy,” she scolded, feeling blood rushing into her cheeks.
“I used to,” Stephen told him. “I used to love her very much.”
“Then, why did you go away?” Tommy continued and Stephen’s shoulders shrugged.
“Mummy thought I didn’t love her anymore.”
“Do you love Mummy now?”
Stephen exhaled a long sigh. “I haven’t seen Mummy for a few years. You can’t just go back to the way things were back then. I would like to be friends with Mummy again, though. And with you. Would you like that?”
Tommy nodded. “Yes. When can I see your apartment?”
“When Mummy says it will be all right.”
“The lady today. She said she was married to Mummy’s brother.” He glanced up at her. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“I haven’t seen either of them for a few years,” Becca explained. “The lady didn’t hurt you, did she?”
“No. She just told me to watch the television, argued with someone on the phone and then she cried a lot. She’s got satellite television. Have you got satellite television?” he asked, turning back to Stephen.
“Yes, I have.”
“You mean you’ve got the Disney Channel?” Tommy added, his eyes widening with excitement.
“Erm,” Stephen scratched his head. “Probably. I’ve got lots of sports channels for the football. Do you like football?”
“Yes. I support Arsenal.”
Stephen’s face broke into a grin. “So do I. We must go to a match sometime.”
The oven timer beeped and Tommy slid off the armchair. “Good. I’m hungry.”
“Go to the bathroom and wash your hands,” she instructed and he ran out of the room. Stephen stayed kneeling beside the armchair, his head bowed. “Stephen?”
He sniffed, running a hand over his face. “Sorry.” He got up and wiped his eyes. “Becca, he’s beautiful.”
“He likes you,” she told him gently, fighting the urge to take him in her arms. “I mean it. If he didn’t, he would have told you.”
“Yeah.” He smiled through his tears.
“Daddy?” Tommy stood at the hall door making Stephen jump violently at being called that for the first time. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh.” He fumbled in his trouser pocket before pulling out a handkerchief. “I’m just so glad to see you and Mummy again.”
“Can I see your apartment soon, Daddy?”
“We’ll see,” she replied instead and went to the kitchen to serve the pizzas.