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Authors: Patsy Collins

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary Women, #Crime, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Escape to the Country

BOOK: Escape to the Country
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Escape to the Country

By

Patsy Collins

First Published in
2012 by Creative Print Publishing Ltd

Copyright ©
2012 Patsy Collins

The right of Patsy
Collins to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.
No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made
without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be
reproduced, copied or transmitted save with the written permission or
in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as
amended.) Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to
this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil
claims for damage.

All characters are
fictitious and bear no resemblance to actual persons, alive or dead.

Paperback ISBN
978-0-9568535-8-5

Creative Fiction

For
the enigmatic lensman Gary Davies.

Chapter 1

With a sigh of relief, Leah indicated to exit the motorway. It seemed
she really was going to escape from the city. She couldn't run away
from herself, but there were plenty of things she could leave behind,
such as the office at Prophet Margin where she'd worked until she'd
been suspended yesterday morning. She was also leaving Adam behind.

She blinked several times to clear the moisture that formed in her
eyes as she thought of Adam. If she could just get him to come down
to Kent, away from the stress and strains of his job, maybe he'd be
able to concentrate on his feelings and they'd recapture some of the
love and passion they'd once shared. Until then, a short separation
might do them both good. Adam would miss her after a day or two,
wouldn't he? Leah wasn't yet ready to give up on the relationship and
her hopes for their future.

It was no good her worrying; much better to think of something
positive. It will be great to see her aunt again. Leah hadn't really
spoken to Jayne for ages. Not since... well not since she'd met Adam,
come to think of it. She hadn't visited Jayne's smallholding for an
even longer period. Back then, it had been Jayne's parents - Leah's
granny and grandad who'd run the place and Leah had been a visiting
schoolgirl. She sighed again as she remembered how carefree and happy
she'd been then.

A chat with Jayne would soon cheer her up and then Leah could relax
in scented bath water before giggling the evening away over a glass
of home-made wine. Her worries stood no chance against competition
like that.

Leah wondered why she hadn't come down to Winkleigh Marsh before.
Jayne frequently invited her but Adam had never found a free weekend.

"Come on your own then, Leah. I can always fix you up with a
dishy tractor driver or the lad who mucks out the pigs," Jayne
had urged.

"You've got staff now?" Surely the tiny farm couldn't need
a full time tractor driver.

Jayne laughed. "Of course not. I do have neighbours though. Lots
of strong, fit male neighbours."

"Tempting, but no. Hopefully we'll be able to come next month,"
Leah had replied, but somehow they'd always had other more pressing
invitations; golf matches with Adam's acquaintances or dinner parties
with people he hoped to impress.

Yesterday evening though, when he'd seen how upset she was by her
suspension at work, Adam had suggested a break might do her good.
Leah immediately thought of visiting her aunt at Primrose Cottage.
Leah had rung Jayne to say she unexpectedly had some free time.

Jayne must have realised, from Leah's subdued tone, something was
wrong but she hadn't asked any difficult questions and urged Leah to
come as soon as she liked.

"If you came now, the roads would be quiet."

"I can't just drive down now."

"Oh, all right then. I'll see you for lunch tomorrow."

Leah had almost laughed with relief. Just like that, she'd been
offered the chance to escape. There would be problems in the
countryside too, but they wouldn't be caused by irregularities in
complicated financial dealings or a man scared of commitment and, as
she was a visitor, they wouldn't affect Leah.

Leah was glad of the sat nav Adam had fitted in her car. Although
she'd spent much of her childhood at Winkleigh Marsh, she hadn't
visited since. The device directed her down yet another narrow lane,
warning her of the sharp bend ahead, but not the tractor which made
it impossible for Leah to get around that bend anytime soon. She
didn't mind driving slowly. It was pleasant to look at the scenery as
she drove along. Even in the depths of winter, and despite a few
lumps of mud on the road, the country lane was attractive. She
spotted a deep green holly bush and ivy growing into the crowns of
trees which had shed their leaves. They weren't oaks or silver
birches, the only trees Leah could confidently identify. She
recognised several landmarks on the way to Aunt Jayne's smallholding.
The water mill, a milestone and even an old signpost looked exactly
as she remembered. She'd been away too long, but not so long she felt
a stranger.

The tractor pulled over into a field entrance, allowing Leah to pass.
She drove slowly, partly to avoid scratching her car's shiny pink
paintwork and partly to get a good look at the driver and tease her
aunt about her idea of good looking men.

Leah looked straight into the cab at the driver's smiling face,
registering an abundance of curly brown hair and broad shoulders.
Very nice! She'd thought Jayne had been kidding about the presence of
a dishy tractor driver, but apparently not. There'd be no teasing
now, just admiration of her aunt's excellent taste.

Leah waved to the driver in thanks for his consideration in allowing
her to overtake. He returned her acknowledgement. Leah was sorry that
concentrating on the road ahead meant she couldn't fully appreciate
his cheeky grin.

Jayne must have heard or seen Leah's car because she was waiting in
the yard, dog at her side, to yank open the door and hug Leah the
moment she stopped.

"It's so good to see you, lovey. My but you've got thin. Don't
they have any food up there in London then?"

Leah hugged Jayne in return and kissed her cheek. "It's good to
see you, too." She bent to stroke the dog whose front end was
trying desperately to stay still under the immense pressure of the
waggy tail. "You must be Tarragon."

As Leah made a fuss of the English Setter, she studied her aunt.
Jayne's rich red hair was cut short for practicality, but the choppy
style suited her and showed off her lively, heart shaped face. Leah
wasn't sure if she was wearing mascara, but if so it was her only
trace of make up. Jayne's clothes weren't at all fashionable, but the
bright colours were cheerful and drew attention to her neat curves.
There were no bags or dark circles under her eyes and the faint lines
on her face were definitely laughter lines not wrinkles.

Leah had much longer hair in the same vibrant shade, was fifteen
years younger, fashionably dressed and immaculately made up, but she
didn't put Jayne in the shade. Leah felt they could easily have
passed for sisters.

"How long's it been?" Jayne asked.

"Too long," Leah admitted. They'd met in London and at
various family functions, but not often.

"It has. And for your parents. I know they're loving life in New
Zealand, but I miss my big brother. Letters and e-mails are great,
but no substitute for a hug."

"They say the same. I know they want to come and see you."

Jayne helped Leah carry in her bags and showed her to her room.
Tarragon came into the house, but didn't accompany them upstairs.
Unlike the bedroom Leah shared with Adam, in this room there was no
TV, no phone socket, no computer. Just a big comfy bed, wardrobe and
bedside table.

"You sort yourself out, lovey and I'll put th
e
kettle on."

Leah didn't bother to unpack. She just shoved her cases into the
bottom of the wardrobe and took her wash bag into the bathroom. Once
she'd freshened up, she sat on the bed and put her alarm clock on the
bedside table next to the vase of evergreens and snowdrops Jayne had
picked to welcome her. Force of habit had made her pack the clock,
but Leah doubted she'd be setting the alarm during her stay.

On the wall was a photograph of May, Leah's grandmother and Jayne's
mother. Although Leah had seen the picture before, she was still
startled by May's beauty. It wasn't just the woman's name that had
seen her crowned May Queen several times in her youth. Grandad had
always assured Leah, and probably Jayne too, that she was just as
pretty, but he'd have said the same whatever she'd looked like. It
was still hard to believe she'd never see them again except in
photographs.

Leah wandered over to the window and looked out. The lovely view over
farmland and woods Leah remembered from her childhood was still much
the same. Leah sent Adam a text, to let him know she'd arrived
safely, before going back downstairs.

Jayne had made a pot of tea and set the table for lunch. She served a
big slice of home-baked steak pie. Leah accepted the offered plate
and helped herself to vegetables. It wasn't true that Leah had lost
weight, in fact for the last few weeks she'd been comfort eating. She
sighed.

"Something wrong?" Jayne asked.

"No, this looks and smells delicious." Leah knew Jayne
hadn't really been asking about the food, but wasn't ready to admit
her problem was more than a silly misunderstanding at work. That
she'd known for a while things weren't right. Leah took a bite of
crisp pastry and succulent meat. It was delicious.

"I'm glad this is home-made," she said as Jayne encouraged
her to have a second helping. "There's no panel on the pack to
tell me how much saturated fat and how many calories per 100g."

"There's no need to worry about that anyway as you're here for a
change, not a rest, my girl. I intend making you work for your
supper, lovey."

Great; physical work might help Leah get things into perspective.
With any luck she'd be working hard enough to burn off all the food
she'd eat. Not that it mattered for a few days; Jayne wouldn't make
any sarcastic comments even if her clothes were a little more filled
out than the designer would have liked.

"Do you want to talk, or just chat?" Jayne asked.

"Just chat, for now," Leah replied. If possible she was
going to forget her problems just long enough for her to gather the
strength to tackle them.

"Suits me - there's plenty of gossip to catch up on. G-B has
made some changes and you remember my friend Chantelle? Well, you're
never going to believe what she's been getting up to and..."

As Leah listened to an outline of the forthcoming gossip-fest she
studied her aunt.

"You look great, Jayne."

"Nothing like as good as you're going to look once you've got a
decent night's sleep, some fresh air and tried a few of my lotions
and potions."

"You've got a herbal remedy to cure accusations of fraud?"

"Fraud! Leah who could say such a thing about you? You've always
been completely honest, even as a little kid. I remember times when a
little white lie would have got you out of trouble but you wouldn't
say it. Remember when you tripped and broke a whole basket of eggs?"

Leah started to shake her head, but stopped as the memory of smashed
shells, burst yolks and a feeling of guilt came back to her. "Yes.
I'd seen Grandad carrying a bucket down to the lambs and I thought
I'd miss feeding them. I ran after him instead of taking the eggs in
as I'd been told."

"Yes and you admitted as much and gave Mum your pocket money to
try to make up for it. There's no way you'd commit fraud, Leah."

"Oh, Jayne, I'm so glad I came." She wanted to cry at the
relief of being believed.

"It'll be all right, lovey. I know I don't yet know exactly
what's wrong or how it can be put right, but I'm sure we'll think of
something."

"Everything is wrong, that's what."

Tears trickled down Leah's cheeks as Jayne pulled her into a hug.

Why, when she'd stumbled into Adam's office, after her boss had told
her about the irregularities in her biggest account, hadn't Adam done
that? His 'let's wait and see and look into all the facts before
doing anything' approach might be realistic and no doubt he was
working behind the scenes at Prophet Margin right now in ways of
which she was unaware, but when she'd told him, all she'd wanted him
to do was hug her and say everything was going to be OK.

After a few minutes of crying, Leah felt calmer. She blew her nose.
"Sorry, Aunt Jayne."

BOOK: Escape to the Country
6.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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