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Based on real events, The Healing Touch, is a mesmerising story of loss, heartbreak, passion, and love in many guises. A gripping read you won’t want to put down. Funny, devastating, and uplifting by turns, The Healing Touch will leave you yearning to experience the perfect love yourself.
When not one, but two men enter her life, Isabelle Cooper’s world is turned upside down. Will the unexpected loss of one man drive her back inside her safe, albeit unfulfilling life, or push her into the arms of the other?
Has she finally had enough of an unsatisfactory sex life with her husband of twenty two years? And will the cost be worth feeling more fully alive than ever before?
Gorgeous, talented, complex Isabelle, a sexy, youthful fifty five year old, is going through the menopause. But is it also a new coming of age for her? Is it time to question her long established position in life, her well-learned role? Is she bold enough to open new windows and walk through new doors?
Praise for The Healing Touch
“A lovely story by a great storyteller. I enjoyed and was moved by the very readable mix of authenticity and fiction. The story is about the redemptive power of true love and gives hope to all women that life doesn’t stop with the menopause.” – Nick Williams, author of 10 books, including The Work We Were Born To Do,www.iamnickwilliams.com
“A wonderful novel…powerful and incredibly moving.” – Lorraine Flaherty, author of Healing with Past Life Therapy, www.lorraineflaherty.com, book and CDs available on Amazon.
The Healing Touch
“She jumped, I saw her!”
“She was pushed. There was someone in the window behind her. Look!”
“She fell. She definitely fell!”
Edwardo made his way through the throngs of people beside the canal. The noise was deafening. Everyone wanted to be heard, but no one seemed to have seen the same thing.
Edwardo knew it was serious when his manservant had burst through the door, pale and shaking, barely able to speak. He had placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders to calm him. Still, it took the servant several minutes to pull himself together enough to tell Edwardo that it was Anna. Something had happened to Anna. Edwardo could scarcely believe it. They had left each other mere moments ago. They should have been more careful. He blamed himself.
He did not stop to listen further to the boy’s stuttering attempts at explaining. He grabbed his coat and was in the street. No thoughts were in his mind other than Anna. He was running as fast as his military-trained legs would carry him, and stopped dead when he saw her.
Her long dark hair drifted as though in a gentle wind around her beautiful face, and her golden dress puffed around her in the green water of the canal.
Edwardo did not care who knew about them any longer. Her uncle could hang in hell for all he cared.
He quickly got rid of most of his clothes and dove shirtless into the canal. His actions elicited even more screaming and yelling, and several ladies apparently fainted at the sight of his beauty and bravery.
He did not care. She was gone. His Anna was lost to him. The thought tore apart his heart. The salt of his tears mingled with the salty canal water.
Even as he held her lifeless body in his arms for the last time, and kissed her cold brow for the very last time, he swore an oath. “I will find you again, my love, I will never stop searching for you. You are the love of my soul, the love of my life…”
* * *
Isabelle switched off the tablet. The book was finished. She simply had to write this book.
She had no idea what category or genre it would come under, but she knew one hundred percent, that it would help others in a similar position. Even if it did not, it had helped her, healed her, made life make sense again.
After her colleague, dear friend, and much loved soul-brother had died unexpectedly, aged only thirty-three, her life had changed forever. She had felt so low, and life was utterly without point, that she had seriously contemplated checking out, not necessarily to be with him, but what was the point of it all?
Of course, the book could not exist without the people in her life who affected her day-to-day existence so profoundly.
James, who had transitioned where she could not follow, had, before he left, inspired her to strive for new horizons in friendship and in her career. Together, they had worked on two very important performance pieces, both of which she wanted to finish. She believed they were great and important works of art, and through their existence, he would continue to live in this world for as long as she did.
Victoria, her long-time friend and confidante, had become her trusted colleague as she created the music for these two projects. Victoria shared the secrets and sadness that James’s leaving had left behind, with dignity and reverence.
Simon was her husband of twenty-two years. They shared a strangely close bond, even though they had not shared intimacy or any kind of relationship for many years. He felt like an old shoe, comfortable, worn smooth where it otherwise might have chafed, but without the excitement of anything more stylish, more alive, more life affirming or expanding. Their non-existent physical relationship had instead become the thing that chafed, and the chafing had become unbearable.
Angelo was her delicious Greek lover, who had appeared in her life at exactly the right time. Throughout her marriage, Isabelle had never even looked at another man. But the lack of physical intimacy eventually became too much for a sensual woman like Isabelle. When she had to have her car repaired and Angelo, with his dangerous good looks and magnetic personality, turned out to be the mechanic who ‘healed’ her car, she wondered if he could heal her, too. With the encouragement of several of her friends, she boldly approached him, surprised when he confirmed that he would be delighted to be her special friend. But now, a year later, their relationship had turned into the red-hot passionate love affair she had only ever read about.
Angelo had encouraged her to write the book, primarily so they could raise money to buy their own place. It was their little joke, of course. But writing the book had brought so many unexpected insights, not only into the people who shared her life, but it also gave her a rare opportunity to glimpse inside her own soul.
James was right when he told her once “…we don’t meet people by accident. They are really meant to cross our path for a reason.”
R u up for a quick chat? read the text message that made her phone buzz and vibrate.
Isabelle Cooper checked the time: eleven thirty-seven pm. She was already in bed, uncharacteristically early for her. The day had seemed longer than twenty-four hours, and she was knackered. She had been ready to activate her Kindle to read a little, as was her habit each night before sleep overcame her, but as she did not have any early-morning singing practise or teaching scheduled for the next day, she squished her pillows and took the cordless phone off its charger, ready for their chat.
Sure, she typed and sent the message.
Minutes later the landline rang.
“What are you up to, girlfriend?” Victoria’s disembodied voice said the moment she pressed the answer button.
“Oh, you know…”
Isabelle wasn’t in the mood to talk again about the ongoing problems in her marriage. What more could she add anyway? Her best friend knew everything already. There seemed to be nothing more either of them could think up to try to help her situation.
She had tried everything she could think of to keep her marriage from disintegrating completely, and to save their dwindling sex life. But their sex life, at least, had finally died without as much as a whimper.
It didn’t diminish the sadness she felt about her twenty-two year old marriage, or the fact that her husband no longer seemed to see her, or include her in his life. She still loved him, but they no longer shared a life; they never did anything together anymore, and had not done so for years.
As for actual sex… Isabelle could not remember the last time that happened, despite having tried to seduce him on several occasions. Astonished by his lack of response or her sudden lack of allure – she could not decide which – she had given up, feeling embarrassed and rejected.
The experience, however, had prompted her to read extensively about the strange phenomena that apparently befell all women after a certain age, the idea that they became invisible to men. At least it seemed more than just an idea.
But what if it was not true? What did it say about her marriage then? That Simon no longer loved her? Whenever she asked he had always confirmed it, even now, and she had no reason to doubt him. He was far too straight-talking to bother lying to her. But she did notice how he never asked if she loved him back.
What if Simon had in fact fallen out of love with her? She was not ready to be invisible yet. Besides, everyone was always telling her how much younger than her fifty-five years she looked. But if her own husband no longer saw her, what other man would? Not that she had seriously given much room to that thought. As far as she was concerned, she was married to Simon and she had never, in all their twenty-two plus years together, ever found another man who had turned her head.
“Oh babe, are you feeling down again?” Victoria could tell her moods almost before she spoke, as good friends often could. “You know I think what he’s doing is cruel, don’t you?” she continued when Isabelle didn’t respond.
“Don’t get me wrong; I really like Simon, but I mean, it’s one thing to be so caught up in your own stuff that you don’t notice your partner’s distress, god knows I’ve had to put up with that from Michael from time to time, but this is just cruel. Twenty-two years with practically no physical love, and you, such a sensual, sexy creature. I don’t know how you’ve coped all those years. You know I’d never advocate infidelity, babe, but I really think you should consider getting yourself a fuck buddy. And don’t be so shocked. I can practically hear you blushing. You never know; it might even save your relationship.”
Actually, she was not that shocked, Isabelle realised. Several of her friends, including Victoria, had suggested this scenario as a last resort, but she could not get her head around it. How would she feel if he did it? But that was the whole point, wasn’t it? He wouldn’t. Their sex drives were entirely incompatible and had been so from the beginning. How did one manage to fall in love with, and continued to love someone for this long, with such an alien sex drive to oneself?
Earlier she had read the article Victoria had emailed about how, in some societies in the past, post-menopausal women had taken younger lovers, since their own husbands no longer wanted sex for a variety of reasons, apparently the most common being fear of loss of erections.
Trust men to react so radically to the problem, Isabelle thought.
She had read how these women were sought-after teachers for the younger men, teaching them how to pleasure a woman so that they in turn could keep younger women happy, once they were ready for such relationships. It was apparently widely accepted. And it worked for both the older women, who still had their sex drives intact, and also for the younger men, who could get sex practically on tap. But sadly, that was no longer the case. These days, very few people, it seemed, would frown at a fifty-five year old man having a twenty-year-old girlfriend, or even wife. Older women in such relationships, however, elicited strongly negative reactions accompanied by snide remarks, and were often called names, the most popular and derogatory being ‘cougars.’
It did not mean she was necessarily contemplating a relationship with a younger man, but if she did, it might be ‘safe,’ as she could not imagine actually having a satisfying relationship with a younger man. But just sex? Maybe. Intimacy? Not so sure. But she would not mind physical intimacy, pleasure, and feeling loved, even if it was just a sexual love. It would feel so good.
Isabelle sighed again. “Well, anyway,” she said instead, changing the subject. “I’m at my wits’ end about my car. I genuinely think car mechanics see women coming a mile off, and they smack their lips and rub their hands together at the outrageous profits they feel they can make from us. I’ve been to three different garages and they all want to charge me more for the car’s MOT than the bloody thing is worth.”
“I’ve told you before; why don’t you see my mechanic? He’s a real gentleman and he won’t overcharge you. We’ve been going to him for more than fifteen years.”
Isabelle felt grateful for Victoria’s flexibility and sensitivity. She loved her friends and was only too aware that without them, she would most likely be a real basket case.
“Oh wait, I remember him. He’s that very cute guy I saw once in your driveway… about eight years ago. I think you said his name was Angelo?”
“What a memory. But I guess I wouldn’t expect anything less from a singer,” smiled Victoria’s voice. “Yes, that’s the one. All my friends go to him. He’s very reliable.”
“Mmm…a gentleman mechanic? This I have to see.”
* * *
Isabelle made an appointment, surprised that Angelo could book her car in the following day, and even more surprised to discover that his workshop was so close to her home, in an adjacent borough of North London. It meant she could walk back through the park, a good excuse for some much-needed exercise.
It did not take long to find his workshop in a quiet neighbourhood, nestled in between residential homes on either side. AA Servicing said the no-nonsense letters above the workshop.
She parked her elderly, but much beloved Fiat opposite the garage under a huge tree, its naked branches black against the grey London sky. She shrugged on her jacket to guard against the chill November air, locked the car, and went to find Angelo.
The place was remarkably clean and tidy for a garage, despite several cars in various states of repair outside the garage, and another on the ramp inside the workshop. This meant negotiating around it to get to his office, where his voice, a mellifluous tenor, drew her. He was speaking on the phone to a customer, she surmised.
When she poked her head around the door, she saw Angelo sitting behind his desk, computer monitor to the side and papers strewn chaotically over every available surface, the mess a stark contrast to the tidy workshop next door.
Behind him, an open door exposed a small kitchenette where lush plants grew in pots. An ivy crept from its pot around the doorframe and along the side of the ceiling in the office. At first, Isabelle wondered if it was one of those plastic plants, but one look at the pot it originated from told her that the plant was real. Not something she had expected in a garage, but the green of the plants exuded a kind of peace in the chaos that surrounded it, and brought a form of paradoxical beauty to the place.
The sight of him caught in her throat, and for some reason her hands felt instantly clammy, her heart racing.
Organised chaos, she thought instead, forcing herself to retain her composure. She could relate to the chaos at least. It reminded her of her own computer room at home. She took a deep breath, smiled, and waved hello.
A sexy smile dimpled at the corners of his upper lip and travelled to his cheeks. He beckoned her towards the chair in front of his desk, his hands making easily recognisable apologetic gestures.
She mouthed “no worries” and took a seat, unable to take her eyes off him.
She remembered again, seeing him once, years ago, outside Victoria’s house, when he had been fixing something on her car. But being in such close proximity to him here was another matter entirely. He seemed even more attractive and handsome than during that last brief encounter, when she had already greatly appreciated his striking good looks. After all, she was not in the habit of ogling good-looking men when she was married to a stunner like Simon.
Clearly of Greek ascendance, Angelo’s dark brown eyes were alight with intelligence, wit, and the essence of his exuberant spirit. She assumed his hair must be dark brown also, given that a swathe of dark hair cheekily peeped out from under the rolled-up sleeves of his deep blue overalls. But a woolly hat covered his head. Who could blame him? It was freezing in here. She drew her jacket closer around herself and snuggled into the chair.
He was taller than she remembered, his confident presence a tangible thing, which snapped, crackled, and popped with energy, probably amplified in the small room, she realised.
Every gesture, every movement mesmerised her. How could any man be this sexy, she wondered. It seemed to ooze from the very core of him, and made her want to lick his arm where the hair looked so soft. It took all her reserve to refrain from touching him.
He laughed suddenly. The person on the other end of the phone had clearly said something funny. More dimples appeared. But what struck her most especially was the musicality in his voice and the sheer sexiness that dripped from the sound of his laughter, a sensual thing that burst forth from deep within him. As a classically trained singer, she particularly appreciated it.
She wondered suddenly if he could be the one. Could he be her ‘special’ male friend that her friends had so recommended for her?
One thing was abundantly clear to her right away; no other man had ever had such a profound effect on her, not even her darling Simon.
Angelo was clearly younger than she was, but he was not a boy. He was male in every good way. She assumed he might be in his late thirties, or early forties. A perfect age. But was she supposed to be this attracted to a fuck buddy? Would that not be too dangerous? And this man was dangerous; of that, there was no doubt. A strong, deeply sensual earthiness permeated the air around him and somehow made her feel safe and extremely vulnerable, simultaneously.
It seemed each time their eyes met, he could see right into her soul, every secret, every desire, every vulnerability laid bare to him.
She felt suddenly uncoordinated and exposed to this man, with his unflinching and intense eyes. Her head was spinning. Her breathing was faster and higher in her body than was her usual habit: she was aware of that, at least. She wondered if he had noticed it, and forced herself to breathe slower and deeper, an old habit formed over the many years of singing. She could not let him see the effect he was having on her. That would be just too embarrassing. What was wrong with her anyway? He had not even spoken to her yet, and here she was already unhinged. She took a few more slow, deep breaths and paid careful attention to how her stomach muscles un-knotted, surprised, as she had not been aware of holding any tension there.
She had just got her breathing under control again when he put down the phone and turned his penetrating gaze fully on her, a smile lingering at the corners of his kissable lips.
Oh hell, she thought, and crossed her legs.
Angelo Antoniou stretched his legs under his desk.
No one liked to be the giver of bad news, but it was part and parcel of the service he offered, and although the part he liked least, it had to be done. Luckily, he knew most of his customers over many years, and they trusted him. This customer was no exception.
He dialled Michael’s number and leant back in his chair. He liked Michael. They had an easy camaraderie and even met up for a few drinks from time to time.
Michael answered, as usual, after the third ring, and Angelo found himself listening politely to yet another of Michael’s fishing stories. He waited, as he knew it would come, for the appropriate moment to impart the bad news about the extra cost for the replacement part on his car.
A woman poked her head around the door of his office.
Angelo stopped himself from doing a double take. She was stunning. He felt his heart skip a beat. What the fuck, he thought, and then remembered who she was. A friend of Victoria, Michael’s wife, she had called the day before about an MOT on her car. What a coincidence that he was talking to Michael right when she arrived. What was her name? Oh yes, Isabelle. It suited her.
He waved her in and motioned towards the chair in front of his desk. She indicated that she did not mind waiting.
Angelo watched as she walked to the chair, admiring her grace and gorgeous curves. She was not big by any means but her clothes could not entirely disguise her ample womanly figure, the kind of figure he most liked. Most women these days were far too skinny and bony for his liking. Give him someone like Marilyn Monroe any day. A shame Marilyn had been a blonde, though. Or how about the British celebrity television chef, Nigella Lawson. Now, there was a woman to his liking: curvaceous, gorgeous, and with an appetite for food he could appreciate. It was not hard to imagine she could have equally lusty appetites in the bedroom.
Michael was still prattling on, giving Angelo meanwhile the perfect opportunity to scrutinise Isabelle from beneath long, dark eyelashes. As much as he liked him, Michael could sometimes bore the glue off sticky-tape.
To his surprise, as his eyes travelled up to her face, he realised that her eyes were locked on him also. Not in a hurry-up-and-get-off-the-phone kind of way. Rather, she seemed happy for him to finish the phone call. Her inquisitive eyes were not listening to his conversation: she was simply taking him in. He wondered what she thought.
She really was beautiful, he thought again, and in fact reminded him a little of the gorgeous Nigella Lawson. Isabelle, too, had the curves, the porcelain white skin, and dark hair that he liked so much. But that was where her resemblance to the television chef ended. Unlike Nigella’s dark chocolate eyes, Isabelle’s eyes were dark green. The colour reminded him of trees in the summer, his favourite time of the year. Probably because of her intense gaze, it felt as though she was really seeing him. He wondered what she saw.
A sensual femininity practically poured off her. He guessed she was probably in her early to mid-forties, a few years older than he was, but she had remarkable skin with hardly a wrinkle to blight her beauty, which became nearly blinding when she smiled.
She had crossed her legs and intertwined her fingers over her knee. The action had pushed her breasts together and even under her polo neck top and winter jacket, he could clearly make out a generous cleavage.
It was not an everyday experience for a woman like that to cross paths with him. He looked at her hand and saw the ring.
She was married.
A thought he had occasionally been nursing bubbled to the surface again. What if she turned out to be one of those married women whose sex life had gone south, and although she did not want to leave her husband, she might be looking for a special male friend? He could definitely be that person for her. It would suit him perfectly.
The phone call with Michael finally finished. “Hi. Sorry about that. What can I do for you?” He knew what he would like to do for her, but buried that thought in a box marked ‘inaccessible.’
She briefly introduced herself, confirming what he already knew of her, and he followed her out of the workshop to her car. The little car seemed somewhat at odds with her. No accounting for taste, he thought, but at least a quick, straightforward job. The interior was scrupulously clean and tidy. He smiled. She clearly loved the car. That was something at least.
She handed over the keys and took him by surprise when she hugged him goodbye. Most likely a normal thing in her world, he thought. He assumed that like Victoria, she too, had to be involved in the performing arts in some way and judging by her voice, he would bet that she was a singer.
For a few moments, he found breathing a tad difficult. His heart was thumping and he wondered if the same electric bolt had hit her when their bodies met. The soft impression of her breasts burnt against his chest for a few moments afterwards.
He watched her walk down the road, and almost groaned aloud. He was definitely a bum man, and hers was exactly the shape and size he fantasised about. In fact, he could safely say she was his fantasy come to life, something he never thought possible.
Sure, beautiful single and married women regularly brought their cars to him, and some were very flirty. Some would hug and kiss him, too, and some even discussed their sex lives with him, perhaps as an indication of their interest in him. But this was the first time in a very long time that he felt such a strong physical attraction to anyone. God, why did she have to be married.
The rest of the day went by in a blur. He could not get her out of his mind. He made a mental note to thank Victoria at the first opportunity for referring Isabelle to him.
Isabelle… He rolled her name around in his mind a few times. Even her name had a certain sensuality and an element of a forbidden fantasy to it.
On the other hand, maybe it was best that Isabelle remained a fantasy. He was certainly not ready for any kind of relationship yet, and may never be again, although fourteen months had already passed since his breakup with Nathalie. The realisation startled him.
Perhaps it was true what they say; time was the best healer. He was in a much better place now than he had been even a few months previously, but he still awoke from the odd nightmare every now and then, confused, drenched in sweat, heart racing. It usually took a few minutes for him to understand that he was no longer with her. She was no longer his responsibility. Instead, he was safely in his familiar childhood bedroom at his parents’ home, where he had essentially retreated to lick his wounds. Outwardly, it seemed a practical enough thing to do and no one questioned his actions.
He could no longer live in the house he had shared with Nathalie over the past eight years. It was just too full of painful memories. Besides, Nathalie had wanted him to buy her out from the property, and so the most logical short-term solution was to rent it out. He could have sold it, but the market was wrong for selling at the time, and the house remained a good investment. He had decided to keep it until he could face the task of really looking at what to do about it, and he knew that would take as much time as it took.
Thinking about Nathalie and the business with the house turned Angelo’s mood morose. Much better to focus on a fantasy, he thought, as he breathed in Isabelle’s lingering perfume, and adjusted the seat in her car, before driving off to the MOT station.
You can also download The Healing Touch from Amazon:
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£3.99 postage for orders worldwide.