Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Beth finally wrestled her now slobber-covered pants from Doris and dropped them disdainfully into the laundry bin. ‘Bad dog.’ Doris seemed to know what this meant because she grumbled and lay down flat on the floor, looking up at Beth with her big dark eyes.Willow Cottage - Part One:Sunshine and Secrets http://amzn.to/2faOrF1 (out now)
‘Don’t give me that,’ said Beth, and Doris started to swish her tail from side to side. Beth had an idea. She put Doris’s lead on and led her outside. Doris had a sniff around the front garden then went into the willow tree for a snuffle under there. Eventually she lay down.
‘Great,’ said Beth, and she knocked a tent peg into the ground nearby and hooked the end of the lead around it, before knocking it flush to the earth. ‘Good girl. Stay.’
Beth set to work on sanding down the outside window frames. Her plan seemed to be doing the trick as, every time Beth peeped through the now yellowing and sparse willow branches, she could see that Doris was asleep. After a couple of hours, Beth could barely lift her head up from the aching in her shoulders. Her hands, and especially her thumbs, were sore and all she had to show for it was one and a half sanded window frames. This was hard labour. This wasn’t what she had signed up for and certainly not what she was used to. She yearned for an air-conditioned office as she pushed her hair off her sweaty forehead. Oh, the glamour, she thought.
Despite a quick break for a sandwich and a coffee, Beth worked non-stop until school pick-up time. She decided taking Doris with her was the lesser of two evils and Doris, to her credit, walked very obediently on the lead. For the first time, Leo left his new friends and came running straight to his mother or, more accurately, straight to Doris. The two were very pleased to see each other.
‘Can I hold the lead, Mum?’ asked Leo, and he visibly puffed up with pride when Beth handed it to him. It was an odd sight; the small boy walking next to the huge dog, her head level with his chest. As Leo neared the edge of the pavement, Doris sat down, which made Leo stop and carefully check the road was clear before starting to cross. Perhaps Doris was teaching Leo a thing or two about road safety, mused Beth as she followed close behind.
When Jack arrived to collect Doris, she greeted him excitedly and Beth thought that sometimes it would be nice to receive half as much reaction from Leo. ‘How did it go?’ he asked.
Beth pursed her lips. ‘Well, she went bonkers when she saw Shirley and I thought she was going to eat her.’ Jack pulled an unimpressed face at Beth’s overdramatic description.
‘It’s the trolley, she hates that thing.’
‘She mauled my mop and she trashed my tent and some … clothes but it’s okay.’
‘Sorry,’ said Jack. ‘So, no more dog-sitting then.’ He took the lead from Beth and clipped it onto Doris’s collar as she sat looking adoringly at her master.
‘No,’ said Beth, surprising herself. ‘It’s okay really, she can come again. We just needed to suss each other out.’
Jack looked astonished but pleased. ‘If you’re sure?’
‘Yep, no problem.’ Beth held up Jack’s business card. ‘Branching out from teaching IT are we?’ She had to ask.
Jack gave a sly smile. ‘No, the other way round. Business first, helping out the school with IT in my spare time.’
‘All round saint then, really.’
Yep, that’s me. See you tomorrow. Come on, Doris.’
As Jack left, he eyed the roughly sanded-down window frames and smiled.
Willow Cottage - Part Two: Christmas Cheer http://amzn.to/2faIxUc (out now)
Willow Cottage - Part Three: A Spring Affair http://amzn.to/2faLWlY (published 23/03/2017)
Willow Cottage: complete collection http://amzn.to/2faIEiP (published 15/06/2017)
The blog tour continues over the weekend so make sure you stop by One More Page and Portobello Book Blog to read what they have in store for you.