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When Posy planned her wedding, she assumed that she would be at the altar, not skulking in the last pew wishing premature death on the bride. Lola planned her happily-ever-after for twenty-eight years. When a sudden death makes her homeless and jobless, she must leave the fancy biscuit trade without so much as a custard cream for the journey. The village of Steeple Fritton appears to be their only salvation. They have to utilise their assets or go under. But when the assets are a showman?s traction engine, an ailing pub and a village full of eccentrics, the new life plan is not immediately obvious to either of them.
Release date: October 8, 2014
Publisher: Accent Press
Print pages: 352
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Watching Ritchie Dalgetty marry Sonia Tozer in Steeple Fritton’s parish church was absolutely the worst thing that Posy had ever done. Sitting halfway down the nave, on the bridegroom’s side of the aisle, naturally, she witnessed the man who had been hers since childhood plight his troth to another.
Once the register had been signed – Posy hoped upon hope that it was in blood dripping from one of Sonia’s more vital arteries – the happy couple emerged from the vestry, followed sullenly by five frightening prepubescent bridesmaids in candyfloss pink nylon.
After pausing for a victorious moment on the chancel steps, the entourage then swept back up the aisle to the heart-rending cries of Whitney Houston swearing that she would always lurve yoooouuuu.
For Posy and the churchful of guests, this came as something of a melodic relief after an interminable descant version of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ from the First Lesser Fritton Brownies.
Posy, who had been staring hard at her dusty hassock with its lopsided embroidery throughout the whole service, clenched her teeth even more fiercely as Ritchie and Sonia passed the end of her pew, and prayed for an omnipotent lightning strike.
None came. God, it appeared, wasn’t listening to dumped fiancées.
Instead, the bells pealed their triumphal celebration and the congregation poured joyously out into the frosty January sunshine. Cameras rattled, cigarettes were lit, and women in hats and unfamiliar high heels shrieked at each other, their breath flowing out in smoky plumes. Disbelieving and totally stunned, Posy shivered in the brightness and just wanted to crawl away into the graveyard and join the slumbering incumbents beneath their mossy headstones.
Sonia, all floating swan’s-down and stephanotis, beamed at everyone. Ritchie beamed at Sonia. Posy, who knew she’d never beam again, pulled her conker- brown hat low over her eyes so that no one would see if she cried.
‘Lovely wedding,’ Vi Bickeridge from Steeple Fritton’s corner shop bellowed in Posy’s ear. ‘And you’d never guess she were almost six months gone, would you? Don’t show at all, do she? Mind, them skinny ones usually carries well. I remember –’
Posy gave a noncommittal please-please-leave-me- alone snort, and slithered away across the frosty hummocks of the unmarked graves.
How could Ritchie have done this to her? How could he? How could he have cheated on her? How could he have created an accidental baby with the pale-eyed, adenoidal Sonia?
Although, Posy reckoned, as it was rumoured through- out Steeple Fritton that Sonia née Tozer wore thongs and very little else, that may account for something. But how could Ritchie have married her, and then added insult to injury by allowing Posy to watch the ritual culmination of his folly?
Of course, she didn’t have to be there. She shouldn’t have come. Everyone told her she shouldn’t have come. No one believed that she would go.
Until the last minute, she hadn’t actually believed it herself.
Her entire family had been shocked rigid that she’d planned to be at the wedding. She’d never tell any of them that she’d fondly believed that Ritchie, turning from his seat in the front pew, and spotting her there in her natty burnt orange suit and the floppy brown hat, might just realize his mistake and at the eleventh hour change his mind and cancel the whole thing.
But he hadn’t. And now simpering Sonia was Mrs Dalgetty; the name Posy had scrawled on everything she’d possessed since first clapping eyes on Ritchie in the playground of Steeple Fritton Mixed Infants twenty years earlier.
Twenty years! An entire lifetime wasted! Ferociously, Posy ground the toe of her matching burnt orange boot into the shingle path. The air was thick with the fragrance of low-hanging smoke and the chill of a winter afternoon, and a clash of expensive scents which wafted and entwined and enticed, making her feel sick.
‘You coming in the car with me, Glad, Rose, and Tatty for the do?’ Never one to take ‘push off’ for an answer, Vi Bickeridge had yomped across the graveyard to seek her out. ‘They’ve got salmon roulette for a starter.’
There was no way on earth that Posy was going to sit at a trestle table in the village hall – the very place where she and Ritchie had exchanged their first kiss at a youth club Christmas party – and watch murderously as the new Mr and Mrs Dalgetty took the floor to the strains of ‘Three Times A Lady’.
‘Er, no, probably not. I’ve, um, got to help Mum and Dad.’
Vi Bickeridge pulled her shaggy eyebrows together in disbelief. ‘They won’t need you this afternoon. They’re hardly rushed off their feet, are they? No one wants B&Bs no more. Not when they can have five-star country house stuff with sauna and gym and a golf course just down the road at Colworth Manor. Sunny Dene’ll probably go bust afore too long.’
‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ Posy muttered. ‘It’s all I ever hear at home. And why won’t anyone look at me?’
The entire village population was milling around in the churchyard trying to keep warm, and all seemed unable to meet her eyes. Even people like Rose Lusty, Glad Blissit, and Tatty Spry – people she’d known all her life – seemed to find reading the headstones suddenly irresistible.
Posy gazed at the sea of familiar faces all hell-bent on drinking themselves silly at the expense of someone else. How many of them, she wondered, had slipped her surreptitious glances throughout the ceremony to see how much she really minded Sonia stepping into her white satin shoes?
‘They won’t look at you because, although they feels sorry for you, they all knows you shouldn’t be here. Damn daft idea of yours if you asks me. Oh, bless them!’ Vi Bickeridge clapped her hands in delight as a swoosh of children – most of them Tatty Spry’s – in the latest Tesco designer gear started to clamber on to the crumbling catacomb of Sir Arthur Fritton, village founder and one-time lord of the manor. ‘They soon gets bored, don’t they? I wonder what sort of mum young Sonia will make, eh?’
Longing to snatch off her hat, kick off her silly high- heeled boots, and run as far from Steeple Fritton’s church yard as possible, Posy gave a sad shrug. Children … She and Ritchie had planned on four. Sonia and Ritchie definitely couldn’t have planned on any. The thongs obviously had a lot to answer for.
The protracted photographic session seemed to be coming to an end just before everyone succumbed to frostbite. Having twice managed to avoid the photographer’s urging that she should join in on the ‘friends of the happy couple’ set piece, Posy watched as everyone surged towards the gates.
‘Come on!’ Vi Bickeridge had got her second wind. ‘Don’t want to miss the confetti throwing, do we?’
Unable to shake off the manacle grip of someone who had spent the last forty years unscrewing the tops from recalcitrant Kilner jars in the corner shop, Posy found herself amongst a crush of overexcited villagers all clustered round the white Mercedes.
‘Why, in God’s name, do Ritchie and Sonia need a car to drive them the couple of hundred yards through the village to the reception?’
‘Because,’ Vi Bickeridge hissed from the side of her mouth as she ferreted in her handbag for her cut-price confetti, ‘they’re not having their do in the village hall. They’ve booked the banqueting hall at Colworth Manor, with the ballroom for afters.’
Colworth Manor? Posy sighed angrily. Why was she surprised? Why should she even care? When she had planned her wedding to Ritchie, here at this church on such a glorious winter’s day, she’d imagined that they’d walk to the village hall, all country-simple, followed by the congregation in a sort of rustic Thomas Hardy configuration.
She’d be carrying a tumbled sheaf of holly and ivy, and have winter roses in her hair. Ritchie would be wearing an artistically crumpled linen suit with a freshly picked sprig of mistletoe in the buttonhole, and the tiny brides- maids would be skipping along in seasonal dresses of crimson and green …
She stared into the dark and flower-filled recesses of the Mercedes, her eyes drawn helplessly towards the happy couple like a Paul McKenna victim. Ritchie was grinning inanely at no one, still starchily unrecognizable in top hat and tails, while Sonia had the victorious bared-teeth grin of brides the world over.
Posy felt the knot of pain rise from under her ribs and hover somewhere in her throat. At any moment she’d burst into tears and ruin the whole cool ‘I don’t give a damn’ facade.
She blinked and swallowed, and at that moment Ritchie turned his head and looked at her for the first time. His eyes, deeper blue now in the darkness of the limousine, met hers and asked a million questions. Feeling the shiver of pain and revulsion and – sod it, yes – badly timed but unmistakable stirring attraction, Posy jerked her head away just as a shower of confetti rained down on her, mercifully blurring the awful vision.
Spitting out bits of pastel tissue paper, Posy freed herself from Vi Bickeridge’s grasp at last and sprinted away from the church. Hurling her hat in a cartwheel of pique into the nearest field and longing to do the same with the boots and the stupid clingy suit, she didn’t stop running until she’d reached the crossroads which dissected Steeple Fritton’s two commons.
The village dozed drowsily, silently, beneath the weak January sun. For once, the white lanes were deserted, the cottage windows closed and soundless. Everyone was joining in the celebrations. Everyone except Vi Bickeridge’s Clive who’d been ordered to keep the store open for the sale of headache tablets and Alka Seltzer, and Posy’s own parents who had never shut up shop even on Christmas Day. Just in case.
Her mum and dad and her younger brother Dom had been uniformly outraged on her behalf when Ritchie’s duplicity had been discovered. It had only added to their incredulity when she’d told them she was going to the wedding. Her best friends in the village, Amanda and Nikki, had told her she was barking.
Not knowing her reasons, and loudly voicing fears that she’d interrupt the service at the ‘does anyone here know of any reason why …’, they’d all advised her not to go within a mile of the event. And of course, Posy thought, sinking down on the bench by the war memorial, they’d been right.
Now she’d have to live the rest of her life in Steeple Fritton, with her Ritchie, whom she sadly realized she’d love for ever, and the bug-eyed Sonia happily ensconced in one of the Bunny Burrow starter homes. She’d have to bump into them at every claustrophobic village occasion, and probably even be expected – within weeks – to coo at the bat-eared, cloven-hoofed baby in its tartan Mothercare sling.
No, she bloody wouldn’t! She stood up angrily, shivering, brushing bits of grit from the seat of her girlie tight skirt. Steeple Fritton wasn’t big enough for her and damn Sonia née Tozer. One of them was going to have to leave. And quickly.
It took less than five minutes to stomp the distance between the war memorial and Sunny Dene. Posy paused for a moment and gazed at the sprawling three-storey, much-built-on cottage with pure pleasure. Overgrown with ivy, jostled by flowers in the summer, and shaded by a horse chestnut tree, it was straight from the front of a chocolate box. The back garden, of course, was straight from the front of a Hornby Double O catalogue, given over as it was in its entirety to her dad’s model railway layout.
Sunny Dene may be odd, but it was the only home she’d known – and now, because of Sonia Tozer and her thongs, she’d have to leave it for ever.
Posy scrunched up the drive and thundered through the open door beside the faded lettering that told the world that Norrie and Dilys Nightingale offered a home- from-home welcome, comfy beds, and a full English breakfast. Dinner optional. Rates on application.
The dogs, Trevor and Kenneth, loped joyously towards her, their claws scrabbling on the flagstones.
‘Oh, why can’t men be more like dogs,’ Posy breathed in the warmth of home and fondled their silky heads. She smiled as they both attempted to chew the toes of her orange boots. ‘You know exactly where you are with dogs.’
Clattering across the spotless flagged hallway with its 1930s furniture and huge vases of mop-headed chrysanthemums and with Trevor and Kenneth dancing attendance, she pushed open the kitchen door.
‘Is it all over? Oh, shit, Pose, you look awful. Do you want to talk about it?’ Dom, her eighteen-year-old brother, was sitting at the kitchen table, and peered short-sightedly up from the intricate innards of a 1950s Hornby locomotive. It was really difficult to tell where the miniature railway engine ended and Dom started. For something so tiny, the oil and grease were all- encompassing. ‘Shall I get you a coffee?’
‘Yes. Cheers. No. Yes. Thanks.’ Posy kicked off the boots. Trevor and Kenneth immediately dragged them under the table. ‘Are Mum and Dad around?’
‘Taking the opportunity to snooze by the fire as the village has turned into the Marie Celeste,’ Dom put his specs back on, poured black coffee into a Tweenies mug, and added several spoonfuls of sugar. ‘Shall I shout for them?’
Posy shook her head. ‘No. Not yet. In fact, not at all. I don’t want an inquest.’ The coffee was hot and strong and burned her tongue. She liked it. It re-sited the rawness away from her heart.
‘Was it really scabby?’ Dom picked up a pair of tweezers.
‘Very. And don’t say I told you so. I know I shouldn’t have gone.’ Dom disappeared into the mechanical entrails again, using a magnifying glass to carry out the repair with surgical precision. ‘No, you shouldn’t. Not unless you were going to blacken both their eyes just before the photographs.’
‘I wouldn’t have been able to reach. They’re both descended from giraffes.’
And that was another thing that was so galling: they’d looked so right together. Ritchie and Sonia. Tall and elegant. Posy gritted her teeth in mute anguish against the grainy rim of the mug. She, being not a lot over five foot four, had always bobbed along beside Ritchie like a Yorkshire terrier frantically trying to match strides with a greyhound. Not only had she been saddled with the name of a Noel Streatfeild heroine, but with her cloud of dark curls and bird-like, delicate frame, she actually looked like one.
Which was pretty appalling for someone whose only other life ambition, apart from becoming Mrs Ritchie Dalgetty, had been to become the motorcycling champion of the world.
‘I’m going to leave.’
Dom’s eyes widened. ‘Leave? Leave where?’
‘Home, you mean? The village? Sunny Dene?’
‘All of them, yes. I should have done it months ago. When, well, you know …’
Dom nodded kindly. He knew. The whole village knew. ‘But where will you go? Down to Auntie Cath’s for a while, or something?’
‘Miles away. For ever. This isn’t something that can be sorted by me spending a couple of weeks with various relatives. This is crunch time. I’ve got to do something on my own.’
‘But the business. The B&B … I mean, you can’t do anything else, can you?’
Posy paused on the coffee dregs. No, she couldn’t, but it was pretty galling to be told so. Especially now. She could make a bed to her mother’s exacting standards in three minutes flat, she could cook and serve a dozen fried breakfasts in her sleep, and if they were going to get into listing life-skills she could also ride a motorbike, strip it down, and fine-tune it with the best of them, and even shared some of her father and Dom’s knowledge on the repair and upkeep of all things steam-driven.
But she couldn’t do anything else.
‘I’ll easily find another hotel job, and that’ll solve the accommodation problem, and if I go somewhere huge, like a city or something, there’ll be loads of choices.’
‘Think it over,’ Dom perched on the edge of the kitchen table. ‘Don’t do anything hasty. You’ve never lived anywhere else. You’d have no friends, no one who knows you –’
‘Exactly,’ Posy slammed the empty mug on to the table, making bits of the Hornby jump in alarm. ‘No one to keep asking me if I’m OK, or peering at me to see if I mind, or desperate to tell me the minute Sonia goes into labour or –’
‘Point taken. Don’t shout. So, what are you going to do? Look down the sits vac? Stick a pin in the map and send away for hotel details?’
‘I’m going to pack. Now. And say goodbye to Mum and Dad, and then just go.’
‘Jesus Christ!’ Dom slid from the table. ‘You can’t just ride off into the sunset!’
‘Watch me,’ Posy said darkly, knocking over the greater part of a dismembered layout of Crewe Station circa 1942. ‘Just bloody watch me.’
Running away from home wasn’t as easy as all that, of course.
Having no transport other than a BMW 1100 touring motorcycle – an ex-motorway patrolling beast once owned by the local constabulary, bought by Posy at auction and immediately re-sprayed peacock blue and sugar pink – taking all her worldly possessions was proving to be a non-starter. She gazed around her tiny bedroom and wondered again just what she should leave behind.
The photographs of Ritchie had long gone, ritually incinerated around the time that Sonia had announced her pregnancy to a stunned Steeple Fritton; her wardrobe consisted solely of jeans and vests and Dom’s cast-off jumpers; her bookcase was a shrine to Carl Fogarty, Joey Dunlop, and Barry Sheene; her make-up bag was far slimmer than her mother’s.
There was still far too much to cram into two panniers and a top box.
Trevor and Kenneth, sitting side by side on her bed, watching every move with worried brown eyes, thumped their tails disconsolately. Posy tried not to look at them. Leaving Steeple Fritton and all her family and friends would be bad enough – a life without Trevor and Kenneth was practically unthinkable.
‘Dom’s just told me!’ Dilys Nightingale, plump and brightly coloured like a beach ball, hurled open Posy’s bedroom door without her customary knock. ‘You’re not serious, are you?’
Posy paused in rolling up her favourite pair of Levis. ‘Deadly. And Dom shouldn’t have said anything.’
Dilys pursed glossy tangerine lips. ‘He’s worried. He said you weren’t going to Auntie Cath’s.’
Everyone in the Nightingale family hightailed it to Auntie Cath’s in times of strife.
‘I’m not. I’m going to, to, oh …’ Posy screwed her eyes shut. Where in the world was a suitable place to be running away to? Not London. Steeple Fritton to London in one hit would be far too much of a culture shock. No one would believe her. She opened her eyes again. ‘Swindon.’
‘Swindon? Why on earth would you want to go to Swindon?’
Posy, who had clutched the town out of the air, really didn’t have a clue. ‘Oh, well, because it’s developing quickly, so there should be plenty of work and hotels and guest houses and things … And because it’s almost a city, so I’ll be anonymous. And because it’s not that far away from here, so that you can visit and …’
She stopped. Even to her, the reasons sounded pretty pathetic.
Dilys blinked greengage eyelids and nodded gently. ‘Yes, well, why don’t you sleep on it, love? You’ll probably feel differently in the morning. Sometimes it’s braver to stay put than to run away.’
‘I’m not brave and I’m not running away.’ Posy squeezed a multi-coloured stripy jumper into a tight ball. ‘I’m getting a new life. And sleeping on it won’t help. I haven’t slept for months. I’m going. Tonight. Because if I don’t, then I probably never will and I’ll always be unhappy …’
‘But Swindon?’ Deliberately ignoring her mother’s anxious face, Posy dithered for a second over a navy blue sweater with a lot of unravelled sleeve, then discarded it. Why not Swindon? Swindon was less than a hundred miles north- west of Steeple Fritton as the crow flew – and probably only an hour away if she and the BMW took the motorway route. Why not Swindon? Why not anywhere that didn’t have memories of Ritchie’s infidelity and her broken heart imprinted on every corner?
‘Because I’m bound to find a job and … and no one there will look at me and think I’m a fool.’
Dilys Nightingale gathered Posy in her arms as Trevor and Kenneth tried to muscle in on the act. ‘I do under- stand why you want to go, but it’s going to be a whole lot different out there on your own. You’ve always lived at Sunny Dene, in the village, where you know everyone –’
‘Which is exactly what Dom said and exactly why I have to go.’ Posy sniffed into her mother’s shoulder. The blouse was rainbow striped and smelled of familiar things like cooking and miniature railway engine oil. ‘I’ll be OK. I’ve got enough money to see me through for a month at least. And, and if I can’t find a job or anything within that time then I’ll come back, but at least I’ll have tried, won’t I?’
Dilys held her at arm’s length. ‘We’ll miss you though. Especially with Dom going back to university in a couple of weeks. The place will be so empty. Both of you gone at the same time and so soon after Christmas.’
Posy groaned at the threat of maternal emotional blackmail. ‘I’ll miss you, too. But I’m twenty-five and I haven’t got a life any more.’
‘Yes you have,’ Dilys said fiercely. ‘Of course you have. Your life’s here. There’s more to life than Ritchie Dalgetty.’
‘Not to mine there isn’t.’
‘Oh, Posy …’ Dilys blinked the greengage lids furiously. ‘But you really don’t have to go immediately. They, er, Ritchie and Sonia, they’ll be away on their honeymoon for a fortnight.’
‘My honeymoon.’ Posy felt the tears prickle in her nose and sniffed them back. ‘Our honeymoon. Ritchie and I had … had … oh, you know, we had, Mum. Planned it. Always. Two weeks in Paris! Sonia shouldn’t be going to damn Paris!’
‘Hopefully she’ll drop off the top of the Eiffel Tower on the first night,’ Dilys said vigorously. ‘And that treacherous bastard with her. But at least reconsider leaving tonight. It’s already dark. You won’t be able to find anywhere to stay –’
‘There’ll be hotels, like I told Dom,’ Posy said with more conviction than she felt. ‘And guest houses and millions of places all desperate for my expertise. It’ll be fine.’
Dilys gave her the sort of look that mothers always give when they’re sure it’ll be anything but fine. ‘And it’ll be even finer tomorrow morning. Everything looks better in daylight. If you stay tonight I’ll cook something special.’
Posy sighed. Her mother’s culinary something specials would make angels weep. It’d probably be the last decent meal she’d have for months. It was an unfair bribe. ‘OK, you win. But I’ll still be leaving Steeple Fritton at the crack of dawn tomorrow.’
Trevor and Kenneth buried their noses in their paws and howled.
And she had. At first light, Trevor and Kenneth had slunk into the conservatory at the sight of all the luggage and had refused to speak to her at all. Her parents and Dom had managed to speak, but made it plain by their woebegone expressions that she was doing The Wrong Thing. Her best friends, Amanda and Nikki, from whom she’d never been separated since starting infant school, wept, and even Vi Bickeridge, who had turned up out of the blue for the departure, told her helpfully that she was off on a fool’s errand.
Ignoring them all, Posy had roared away from Sunny Dene and Steeple Fritton and everything she loved and knew she’d never be happy again.
Almost two hours later, on a dark and dreary January Sunday morning, sitting astride the BMW motor cycle in the car park of a service station on the west- bound M4, Posy took stock. Steeple Fritton was behind her and Swindon awaited, and as long as she didn’t think about Ritchie and Sonia, she’d be fine.
Irritatingly, somewhere across the constant six-lane thrum of traffic, church bells were ringing. As church bells would be for ever synonymous with weddings, and weddings with treachery and deceit, she closed both her mind and her ears. Weddings were to be no-go areas in her new life. She’d never marry now. She’d probably become some aged crone, still taking the Motor Cycle News in her nineties, wearing leather on her withered legs, and boring people rigid with details of how to differentiate between Hornbys and Bachmann Branch Lines.
Fortified by The Tasty Bite’s mega-trukka-breakfast and three cups of coffee, Posy clutched her crash helmet beneath one arm, ignored the bells, and studied the map. It seemed pretty straightforward. If she left the motorway at Junction 15, Swindon was impossible to miss. There was then nothing between her and the new life she craved but a short stretch of main road.
Well, nothing but the little ring of roundabouts, looking like an amber necklace on the map, which might prove a bit tricky. But she was sure she could cope with them when the time came.
Kick-starting the BMW into life, she tucked her curls into her crash helmet, ignoring the lusty shouts from a group of lorry drivers who had just ambled out of The Tasty Bite. As she swooped towards the slip road, Posy wondered for the umpteenth time why a smallish woman in black leather on a biggish bike always seemed to bring out the worst in men.
Half an hour later she had more than a few sexist remarks to worry about. The map’s little amber necklace of roundabouts, so pretty on Ordnance Survey, now had her totally foxed.
She’d never seen so many mini-roundabouts in one place. And each time she’d circumnavigated half a dozen of them, another clutch appeared. Giddily, she was pretty sure that she and the BMW had done the same set at least three times.
Flicking up a gear, Posy indicated left for the ninth time, and roared away from the circular confusion towards a straight bit of road. It had houses and a sort of dual carriageway, and didn’t look like any of the other bits of road she’d already covered. Feeling sure that this way must eventually lead to Swindon’s town centre, Posy pushed on. And on. And on.
‘Bloody hell!’ She mumbled the curse into the folds of her insulating scarf. The houses and the dual carriageway had petered out with no warning. Now all she was left with was a lot of undulating green hills to either side, a single-track road ahead, and the sprawl of Swindon vanishing behind her in the wing mirrors.
Knowing that she’d have to find somewhere to turn around and try again, she slowed down to the annoyance of a line of traffic behind her. The chunky BMW was too wide for the following cars to overtake safely, and the road too narrow for her to turn. Posy accelerated, hoping that a handy farm track would appear to her left. It didn’t. Instead, the road grew more rural, the skeletal trees more dense, and the tantalizing back view glimpse of Swindon had disappeared completely.
However, there was faint hope on the horizon: a rickety signpost indicated that there was a turn-off a little way ahead on the left-hand side. Indicating, loving as always the thrust of power, Posy prepared to glide the BMW into the turning and retrace her steps.
Instantly, almost before it happened, Posy was aware of something not being quite right with the bike. As she nosed into the side road the acceleration dropped, she could feel the loss of power, and knew the motorbike was going to falter to a halt. With one gentle apologetic splutter, it did.
‘Sod, damn, sod.’
A blocked carburettor was all she needed.
Posy swung her leg across the saddle and heaved the BMW on to its stand. It was her own fault. She’d filled up with petrol after The Tasty Bite’s breakfast, and should have run through all the other checks then instead of trying not to listen to the church bells and daydreaming. Snatching off her helmet, and removing her gloves and scarf, she scrambled for the tool roll. Casting aside her entire wardrobe, and various other paraphernalia of her previous existence, and dumping the whole lot on the scrubby roadside verge, she selected a suitable spanner.
Clearing the carb was a routine – if messy – task, and one she’d done plenty of times before. And because of Sod’s Law, usually in far less pleasant conditions than these – at least it wasn’t dark, or raining, or icy, or on a busy road. Chucking her jacket onto the top box, she yanked up the sleeves of her sweater and went in for the kill.
Posy had almost completed the job when she realized she was being watched. Knowing it would be someone filled to the brim with testosterone, bursting to tell her exactly how it should be done, she didn’t even bother to look up.
‘I’ve managed, thank you. It may not be the way you’d do it, but then you’re not –’
She stopped. There was a lot of heavy breathing. Oh, great. Miles from anywhere and she’d met up with the local pervert out for his Sunday stroll. Clutching the largest spanner as a handy weapon, she took a deep breath and turned her head.
A pair of liquid brown eyes stared inquisitively at her. A pink tongue lolled over liver-freckled jowls. Muddy paws were planted four-square on the verge while a plumy tail wagged happily. Posy looked at the dog and wanted to cry. She?
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