Deadly Game by Matt Johnson #BlogTour #Extract #Giveaway

Today I am delighted to be one of two stops on the blog tour for Deadly Games which is available to purchase from Amazon. For my stop I have an extract as well as a give away for a signed copy of this fabulous book. For the chance to win a signed copy, you will find the link at the end of the extract.

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Extract:

Prologue

1999. Romania

The wind can kill.

Relia Stanga recalled her father’s words clearly as she huddled

against the stone garden wall for shelter.

Winter was around the corner. The east wind was beginning to turn

cold. Soon, she would need to take a chance and wait inside the house

for the factory bus to arrive. In a few short weeks the winds from the

east would bring snow and then, as Father had warned, it would be

certain death to wait in the street for the six o’clock pick-up.

One day, she prayed, summers would no longer be spent cutting and

gathering wood to see them through to the following spring. One day,

there would be food on the table every single day and she would not

have to rely on mother for hand-me-down clothes.

One day … with luck, she would find a new life.

For now, Relia contented herself with wrapping her mother’s

woollen coat tight around her slim figure, lifting the collar and making

herself as small and as tight as possible.

The wall provided the only protection from where she could see the

approach of the bus. Miss the bus, no ride. Miss the ride, no job. Miss

the job, go hungry.

Home for Relia was a small village on the north-east edge of

Romania, near the border with Moldova. She was now seventeen and

had spent the previous day with the men, cutting logs. Huge piles were

now stacked in the village stores and in shelters people had built in the

yards at the rear of their houses. Most of the harvest had been sold.

Father and her brother had left at first light to deliver the last of the

summer maize crop. With the income, they would buy salted meats that

would be eaten once a week with potatoes and root soup.

On their return from the market, the men would be drunk. It was

their release. They would meet friends, gossip, moan about the harvest,

play cards and drink. Sorrows would be drowned with home-distilled

ţuică. Relia’s father made his own from a family recipe using apples

and plums. The women said it was the work of the devil, for the rage it

sometimes brought out in the men.

Father was a hard-working man, a good man. But the drink would

release his pent-up frustrations and anger. Mother would always bear

the brunt of his wrath. The children just kept out of the way. This was

the way of men; they had to vent their rage, and using the women

stopped them from killing each other. This was the way of things, as it

always had been.

But now, Relia had a plan.

Every month or so, the factory would host men from the city. Men

from Brasov and Bucharest. Men who wore suits, drove Mercedes cars

and talked of incredible adventures.

A friend who was a house servant to the wife of the factory owner

told her the men came looking for girls. Relia could barely contain her

excitement on learning these girls secured work in places in the city,

in kitchens or waiting on tables. They had jobs, proper jobs, and they

made enough money to keep some for themselves and send the rest

home for their families.

The men would choose the best-looking girls. To each they would

give a small, yellow ticket. It was their approval to ride in the warm van

on its way to the city – their passport to a better life. The men were due

t o d ay.

Beneath her worn clothing, Relia was possessed of unusual beauty,

and yet they had not noticed her. She was determined that would

change. She was slim, pale skinned, and was blessed with shiny, raven-

black hair that a woman in the village had recently cut into a neat bob.

She had bought a little make-up, and her friend, the servant, had loaned

her a dress that would show off her figure. The next time the men came

to the factory, Relia was to help serve their drinks.

The bus arrived. It was late, as always, and, as he always did, the

driver drove fast to get the workers to the factory by seven o’clock. Relia

snoozed on the journey. She didn’t mind the potholes, the tight bends,

the heavy braking or the driver swearing. The bus was warm. For nearly

forty minutes she could drift into a world where there was no cold, no

hunger.

When they arrived at the factory gates, Relia looked across to the

owner’s house. On the drive she saw his car – a big four-wheel drive.

Then she saw the Mercedes, a black one, and behind it, a black van. The

city men had arrived.

She checked her pocket, fearing she may have forgotten the powder

and lipstick. It was there. As the factory gate opened, she saw her friend.

There was a smile, then a wink. Today was the day. Today she was to

have her chance.

The day on the factory line passed slowly. Relia was a glue mixer. The

factory made shoes. Leather imported from Mongolia was cut, shaped

and stitched together by hand. Relia helped make the adhesive that

would bind the upper parts of the shoe to the sole. It was easy work.

Day after day she simply poured ingredients into containers in the pre-

scribed measures and mixed them for the correct amount of time and

at the right temperature. It was the heat of the glue room that made the

job sought after in the winter and hated in the summer.

Due to the constituents of the glue, all the workers in the glue section

smelled of fish, a fact that earned them the nickname pesti. Relia knew

that as soon as she finished, she would have to sneak over to the owner’s

house, use her friend’s bath and clean herself. Only then would she be

ready to serve the city men and, hopefully, her freshly scrubbed skin

and hair would be perfumed well enough to mask the fishy smell.

During the day, four girls were interviewed by the city men. Three of

them were selected for employment, given their tickets and instructed

to send messages to their families that they would not be home that

night. In fact, they might never be home again. With one exception,

Relia could not recall selected girls having ever returned to the villages.

Who could blame them? With a new life in the city, money in their

purses and, probably, husbands, there was no reason to come back to

such a lowly life. Some would write, many would send small amounts of

money, but none came back to the poverty of the villages.

The one that had returned had been the wife of one of the city men.

She had spoken of having made her fortune, of the bright lights and

excitement of the city, of girls marrying American soldiers and of the

opportunities available to those willing to leave the villages. As she

spoke, she held the young factory girls spellbound. The older women

weren’t convinced. ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’ they

would mutter. But the young women wanted their chance and it was

them the city men came to see.

That evening, Relia avoided the queue for the homeward-bound bus

and crept slowly around the back of the factory. Here, she knew she

could find the gate to the owner’s house. It was locked, as always. The

owners thought all the workers were thieves.

At the arranged time, six o’clock, her friend Elisabeta was waiting.

Elisabeta unlocked the gate from the inside and the two girls then

scurried along the concrete path towards the house. In the half-light

from the windows of the house she could see the garden was green

and luxurious, nothing like the sun-parched yards of the village. It was

the first time she had seen behind the high walls into this secret place.

Only the owners and selected house staff were allowed such a privilege.

Relia had heard the stories and now, with her own eyes, she could see

it was as beautiful as they said. To one side there was even a swing and

a fountain.

Relia paused for a moment to stare. It was just like she had seen in

the well-thumbed magazines that sometimes appeared in the factory

for the workers to look at during their breaks.

Voices came from the house – male voices – laughter.

‘Hurry,’ her friend whispered. ‘We mustn’t be seen here.’

Relia understood. If they were caught, it would be assumed they

were stealing. They would be dismissed if they were lucky, jailed if the

owner called the police. The politia locale were good men, in the main,

but they would always believe a respected factory owner over a poor

village girl.

Elisabeta stopped as they reached the small door that led to the

servants’ quarters. She pressed a single finger to her lips then gently

opened the door.

The first thing that struck Relia was the heat. Even in this part of

the house, it was warm and comfortable. In the village they could only

afford to heat one room. Here, there were radiators in all the rooms, and

even in the corridors.

That evening, Relia enjoyed the longest, hottest bath she had ever

experienced. She scrubbed her hands, her feet, her face, all the while

sniffing herself to check the smell of fish was fading. She washed her

hair four times before she was satisfied the aroma was gone.

Elisabeta sprayed her sparingly with a body perfume. Relia would

have liked a little more but her friend was insistent. The owner’s wife

gave it to all the female staff so they wouldn’t carry their body odours

into the main rooms. There was one spray-can each per month, and

they were expected to make it last.

When Relia saw the dress Elisabeta had prepared for her, she nearly

wept. It was thin, silk-like and hugged her figure. Although blue, it was

such a dark shade as to almost appear black. The design was sleeveless

and reminded Relia of pictures she had seen of film stars like Marilyn

Monroe. It was sexy.

The dress was a colour all the household staff wore to serve dinner.

But for Relia it had a different purpose. Skin tight, it emphasised her

curves and suggested hidden treasures. On this night, it was to lure the

city men.

At eight o’clock, the head girl sounded the brass gong in the hallway

to signal dinner was prepared. Elisabeta served at table and had

arranged that Relia would support her. The girl who normally filled that

role had agreed to hide in her room for the evening. Elisabeta was sure

her absence would not be noticed, especially when the men saw Relia.

The plan worked. The men fell silent the moment they set eyes on

the new girl in the dark-blue dress. Smiling, the owner asked who she

was, and while Elisabeta explained, the oldest of the city men beckoned

Relia closer. . When the owner had grunted his approval, the old man

immediately asked Relia if she would take up a chance to be his per-

sonal assistant in Brasov.

Relia nodded and then backed away as the men negotiated a price

to secure her services. She heard the figure of two thousand lei being

argued over, before the owner and the elder city man shook hands. The

deal was done. There was much laughter and the men returned to eating

and drinking.

That evening, as the chosen girls waited for the city men’s van to be

made ready, they wrote letters to their families. The factory owner’s wife

had suggested it, and even helped them with the wording.

‘Are you excited?’ one of the girls asked Relia, as the owner’s wife

collected their envelopes and left the room.

But Relia didn’t answer. The owner’s wife had left the door ajar and,

through the gap, Relia could now see her dropping the little stack of

letters into one of the sacks they used for rubbish in the factory.

‘Relia?’ asked her companion, a tiny frown knitting her brow.

Relia shook herself and smiled, but a gnawing sense of worry

remained.

‘Yes,’ she replied. Then, trying to sound more certain: ‘Yes, I can’t

wait.’

To win a signed copy of Deadly Game by Matt Johnson then please click here.

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About Sarah Hardyhttps://bytheletterbookreviews.wordpress.comI'm Sarah, I'm self employed and in my spare time I love to read. Due to my love of reading I thought I would set up a blog to share with people my thoughts on the books i've read.

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