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Authors: Sheila Spencer-Smith

Where the Heart Belongs

BOOK: Where the Heart Belongs
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WHERE
THE HEART BELONGS

WHERE
THE HEART BELONGS

Sheila Spencer-Smith

British
Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available

This eBook edition published by AudioGo Ltd, Bath, 2012.

Published by arrangement with the author

Epub ISBN 9781471300226

U.K. Hardcover ISBN 978 1 408 45792 4

U.K. Softcover ISBN 978 1 408 45793 1

Copyright © Sheila Spencer-Smith, 2009

All rights reserved.

Jacket Illustration ©
iStockphoto.com

A
RETURN TO HAPPINESS

‘What do you think?' Shona said to the recumbent Toby jug she had placed on the passenger seat beside her. ‘Shall we take a quick look?'

Laughing at herself, she glanced at the gold and black notice board as she drove in through the open gates. Ahead of her, its façade glinting in the sunshine, was Ferniehope Castle.

No towering keep or stone-walled turrets here, just a plain white building with a fancy stone balustrade and steps leading up to a stone porch.

She got out of the car, her eyes dazzled by the splendour of the place. The left-hand side of the building had an extra storey and the different pitch of the grey-tiled roof to this side gave the whole thing an elevation that was pleasing.

‘Can I help you?'

She swung round, startled, and saw a tall man with a large rake balanced on one shoulder looking at her. His green T-shirt had a stain on the other sleeve and an aura of warmth surrounded him as if he had been engaged in heavy physical work.

‘Um,' she gulped. ‘Well no, not really. Sorry, I'll just go.'

She
felt his interest in his direct gaze that seemed to take in every aspect of her jersey and brand new jeans. ‘Surely not, now you've made the effort to come?' he said.

A strange sensation ran through her as she studied the floppy fairish hair falling over his forehead and a mouth that curved up into a beginning of a smile. She was only aware that he had spoken again when he looked at her as if expecting a reply.

‘Oh, I'm sorry,' she stammered.

‘Courses are run here, you know,' he said. ‘Archery, origami, cordon bleu cookery, canoeing.'

‘Well yes, I saw the board at the gate.'

‘And?'

‘Oh no, not for me. I'm on holiday.'

‘No one has set up a course for ceramics as yet, I'm afraid. The tutor pulled out.' His eyes clouded for a moment. ‘Was that the one you wanted?'

She shook her head. ‘Oh no, I . . .'

‘How about Navigation In Arctic Waters or Potholing For The Dumbfounded?'

She smiled, acknowledging that he was making fun of her. But she owed him that for wasting his time when he obviously had work to do. ‘I'm really sorry for trespassing like this,' she said with humility.

He glanced round. ‘No law of trespass here, you know. Broken any fences, knocked down a wall or two with that Honda of yours? If not
you're
quite safe.'

‘I was looking for someone,' she said. ‘I just wondered . . .'

‘And you suspect she may be hiding away here?'

‘No, no, of course not.' She didn't know what to make of him, standing there in his long grey shorts that emphasised the deep tan of his legs.

‘Parts of the building date from the middle of the sixteenth century,' he said.

‘They do?'

‘But it can't boast of any dungeons as far as I know, only basements. You're welcome to have a quick look round. But you'll need to move your car first or I can't answer for its safety once Donald gets going on the motor mower.'

She could hear the hum of an engine now. ‘Oh, no,' she said, even more eager to escape. ‘I'm on my way somewhere else.'

He looked amused. ‘So this was just a small entertaining diversion?'

He stayed where he was until she had turned her car and was moving slowly down the drive to the road. In her mirror she saw him wave his hand and then turn away.

Warmth flooded her face as she thought how well and truly she had been caught out when she had only intended to take a quick look at the place. Who was Rake Man, anyway, making her feel stupidly in the wrong?

‘All
your fault, Toby,' she said. ‘I should have packed you away with the rest of my stored stuff. But you wouldn't have liked that, would you?'

Toby had no answer to that. In fact he wasn't much help at all sitting there in the passenger seat and staring straight ahead at nothing because he was far too small to see above the dashboard.

I'm going mad, talking to a jug, she thought.

She had discovered him hidden away at the back of the china cabinet when she and her cousin, Jodie, were clearing out her Harrogate apartment. She had pulled him out and stared at him in disbelief. ‘A toby jug!'

Jodie had laughed. ‘The expression on your face, Shona! You look as if you've seen a ghost.'

‘It's the shock,' Shona said, laughing too.

‘And no wonder.'

Shona sat back on her heels on the dusty floor and smoothed back loose strands of fair hair. ‘Just look at his ugly face and thick handle. I can't think where he came from.'

‘A dark secret.'

‘An intriguing secret,' she said as she put the offending jug down on the floor. ‘Can you imagine Mum ever using anything like this? And Dad never did for the rest of his life.'

‘So you won't be packing it safely away when you head off into the unknown?' said Jodie, her eyes dancing.

‘No
way.' Shona wrapped the last piece of bone china and placed it in the box for Jodie to look after for her. Thank goodness they had nearly finished the packing now. The big furniture had gone to the salesroom already with only a few pieces left in position that Jodie and her family were welcome to use when they moved in.

Jodie got up and stretched. ‘All done?'

Shona leapt up too and brushed the dust from the legs of her jeans. ‘Come on, coffee time. We deserve a rest after all that hard work.'

Jodie seated herself at the kitchen table and picked up the toby jug she had brought in with her. ‘He's attractive in a hideous sort of way,' she said at last. ‘Someone loved him once or how did he get into the cabinet?'

‘But pushed right to the back,' Shona reminded her.

Jodie gave the clumsy handle a pat before putting the jug down to take the cup of coffee Shona passed to her. ‘Mmm, this is good.'

‘Biscuit?'

‘Don't tempt me.'

Shona plumped down too. ‘I don't know about you, Jodie, but I'm shattered.'

‘Full of energy, me. I can't wait to move in and get settled.'

‘So you'll want me out of your way at once?'

‘Of course not, Shona. You know that.'

Jodie looked so upset that Shona hastened
to
reassure her. ‘Only joking. Anyway, I'm anxious to get on my way. I'll be off at first light tomorrow and then the flat's all yours.'

‘Going off on your own for a few weeks sounds wonderful,' said Jodie, a little wistfully.

Shona took a sip of her coffee and looked at her cousin with affection. ‘You don't really think that,' she said. ‘Duncan wouldn't like it if you went off somewhere on your own, now would he. What about the twins?'

‘Well no,' said Jodie, a catch in her voice. ‘I'd miss them horribly too. And we're going to love living here. I hope you won't regret it letting us have your lovely home until we find somewhere of our own.'

Shona smiled. ‘It's great knowing it'll still be in the family.' She thought of the half-empty sitting room, unrecognisable now as the overheated and crowded place her father had loved.

‘Uncle wasn't always easy to look after, was he?' said Jodie. ‘Now's your chance to enjoy some freedom, Shona. Where are you planning on going?'

Shona gazed down at her coffee. ‘I'll probably drive up through the Dales and head for Penrith and then up to Carlisle. I may linger there for a day or two if I can find a good B&B, visiting friends in the area, and then who knows . . . Scotland?'

‘Galloway?' said Jodie, leaning forward eagerly. ‘Why not? What fun to go back there
again.
I loved being all together on those family holidays when we were growing up, didn't you? Just think, you might run across Felix again.'

‘Felix? I can't think what you mean.'

‘No? Then why are you blushing?'

‘For goodness sake, Jodie. That was years ago.'

‘And that's what the toby jug reminds me of.'

Shona gazed at her cousin, memories she had damped down for years beginning to stir. The lovely area of south-west Scotland had seemed magical to her as she was growing up and hero-worshipping the young local boy they met each holiday. All nonsense, of course. Felix, intent on finding the right kind of mud from the estuary to fashion into rough and ugly pots had no eyes for her. She had nursed her secret unaware of her sharp-eyed young cousin drinking it all in.

‘Remember Rich Aunt Aggie? We never met her, did we?' said Jodie.

‘I always thought Felix made her up.'

‘He could make anybody up, that boy. Remember the tramp on the island that turned out to be a stuffed sack? I had nightmares for weeks.'

‘All so long ago.'

‘You must go back there now,' said Jodie. ‘Who knows, it could be fate bringing you together again.'

Fate?
Hardly, Shona thought. She hadn't wondered before why the Galloway holidays had come to an abrupt end and had never asked. Strange really.

‘And I'll want to hear all the details about Felix Langholme.'

‘Don't hold your breath,' said Shona, laughing.

To cause a distraction she picked up the toby jug and ran her fingers over the shiny surface. Not even its glistening colours could disguise his ugliness, but already he was beginning to get to her. ‘I think I'll take this little chap with me for company when I head north,' she said.

‘And you'll visit Galloway again, won't you?'

‘Maybe.'

‘And make sure you text me when you get there. I'll be waiting to hear about Felix.'

‘There'll be nothing to tell.'

‘If you say so.'

The teasing expression in her cousin's eyes had finally made Shona's decision. No way would she have let on just then about her ex-boss's good friend who was in need of a personal assistant at his conference centre in Galloway, in case nothing came of it. Harley de Los, thriller writer, off to live in Boston with his new wife, no longer needed Shona's input as his researcher and had eagerly recommended her to Jack Cullen, but she wasn't too sure it was for her, although she
needed
the money.

She couldn't spoil that happy moment by hints of her own financial status. It had been good to see Jodie relaxed and optimistic about her future again after the worry of the enforced move of the family from their home.

Time enough to tell her about the position at Ferniehope Castle when she had decided what she was going to do about it.

*   *   *

From Dumfries she had intended taking the road all the way to Stranraer, but decided almost at the last minute to turn off north at Crocketford. Then at New Galloway she had headed south again and taken the road through Laurieston Forest to have a quick look at Ferniehope Castle while she was in the area. Now she wished she hadn't. Instead, she should have looked for the farm nearer the coast where her family had stayed years ago.

To her dismay she couldn't remember the name or exactly where it was. Not surprising really after twenty years. She had changed too from that naïve fifteen-year-old girl who imagined that a brief kiss from a rather vague and dreamy local boy meant more than just relief of not being cut off by the tide.

Now, that boy would be a thirty-eight-year-old man and secure enough to make fun of a supposed stranger. If the man with the rake
she
had just met was Felix Langholme, of course. And how likely was that? Allowing Jodie's romantic imaginings about herself and Felix to get to her was total nonsense.

BOOK: Where the Heart Belongs
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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