At that moment, Arthur came back into the room with a tea tray, which he placed on the coffee table. He’d made it the proper way—that is, he’d set out a china teapot, teacups and saucers, and included a sugar bowl complete with little silver spoon. He poured a cup for his grandmother and then looked set to do the same for me when I put out my hand to stop him.
“I can do it,” I said. “Thank you.”
“Of course,” he said, hitching up his trousers to sit beside me. “No offense meant.”
“None taken.” I made my tea and lifted the cup to my lips, aware both Arthur and old Mrs Harper were watching me and suddenly feeling very large and clumsy.
I sipped my tea and smiled at them both.
“So, you’re a gardener. That must be terribly interesting,” Arthur said, at which, old Mrs Harper snorted.
“Uh…yeah. I guess. I mean, I find it interesting.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
“No, I guess not,” I agreed.
“And your new bosses, are they nice?” Arthur asked. “Have they made many changes at the manor?”
Old Mrs Harper put her teacup back onto the saucer with a clink. “Don’t interrogate the poor boy,” she said. “Let him drink his tea.”
Arthur offered me an apologetic smile and turned his attention back to his grandmother instead. I listened to their conversation, nodded whenever they involved me, and finished my drink. When I reached for my crutches, Arthur leapt to his feet.
“Are you off?” he asked. “Do you need help at all? Let me get the door for you.”
I laughed at his eagerness to help—or get rid of me—and noticed his grandmother roll her eyes as I pulled myself up. “He reminds me of a spaniel I used to have,” she said to me. “An absolute darling but ultimately a pain in the arse.”
“Charming, Granny,” Arthur said, opening the door for me.
I just laughed politely and made my way around the coffee table towards the door. “Thanks for the tea, Mrs Harper,” I said. “Give me a call if you need anything.”
I hobbled out into the hallway and to the front door with Arthur behind me. “Are you all right? Do you need a hand getting home?”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said, turning back to look at him on the doorstep. “But I’ll just call a taxi. I’ll be fine.”
“Nonsense! I’ve got my car; I’ll give you a lift. Wait right there. I’ll fetch my keys.”
He disappeared before I could say anything, and I waited for him, though I was annoyed he hadn’t listened. He touched my arm as he passed me and made his way down the pathway and off down the road where I now noticed a silver Audi.
“I can walk that far,” I muttered.
Arthur had to turn his car around and then drive all of twenty feet before he stopped outside the cottage. I just stood on old Mrs Harper’s doorstep like an idiot as Arthur got out the car and jogged back down the pathway to me. I must’ve been scowling because his smile dropped when he reached me.
“Not an Audi fan?” he asked.
“No, I just…the taxi would’ve been fine.”
“Oh. Well, I’m here now. Come on.”
We walked to the car together, and I let Arthur take my crutches to put them in the back. The car smelled new, and I eyed the spotless interior wondering how long he’d had it. Arthur got into the driver side and turned on the engine.
Alistair Ellis is the proud gardener for beautiful fifteenth-century Whitecott Manor, in England’s West Country. His life changes forever following a gas explosion at the manor, in which his boss—and love of his life—dies. However, his boss hasn’t exactly gone for good and Alistair still finds himself involved in conversations with the deceased.
Circumstances improve when he meets Noah, the handsome dog groomer for the manor’s new owners. Although there are some issues: Noah is already engaged and Alistair suffers from cynophobia—an acute fear of dogs!
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/whitecott-manor/
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2gBiPI8
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2wBp1t6
Meet the Author
Emma Jane has been writing stories since primary school, some of which still survive in notebooks in her dad’s attic, and wanted to be an author as soon as she realised it was a possible career choice and ‘Pony’ or ‘Ninja’ weren’t viable options.
Her first short story, Club Freak, about an anonymous woman’s determination to find her husband’s killer, was published by Park Publication’s Debut magazine in May 2009. Since then, she has gone on to write many short stories and poems for various small presses and has achieved an Honourable Mention in the 2011 Writers of the Future competition.
In 2014, writing as Emma Jane, she signed her first publishing contract for not one, but two novels. Otherworld formerly published by Torquere Press, and Shuttered by Dreamspinner Press.
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