FIRE IN THE BLOOD
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2013
“Look…Oliver!” She pointed. “Over there!” Her eyes were wide with alarm. She was praying it wasn’t what it looked like.
He peered out in the direction she was indicating.
“That’s not the sunrise, is it? It’s a fire! – And it’s in Fenwick!”
“But you can’t do that!” Gennie Durham was on her feet, fist thumping the table. “You can’t sell the Flying Fox. I won’t let you!”
Mitch Hammond looked away and cleared his throat. His wife, Molly’s, eyes rounded with surprise at the outburst.
“She’s right, Dad,” Oliver Hammond was on his feet. “Gennie’s a shareholder in the company just like the rest of us. She’s entitled to have her say.” He shot a glance to his brother, expecting Will’s support, but the younger man just shrugged, his disinterested frown sliding from one to the other.
Gennie’s eyebrow arched. Oliver had never gone out of his way to support her before. Now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember him ever showing any real interest in the family pub business either. He was a successful architect with a suite of riverside offices in York. So why was he suddenly jumping to her defence?
Molly put up her hands in a gesture that said, stay calm. “Of course you’re all entitled to have your say,” she reasoned. “That’s why we’ve called this meeting. Your father was just putting forward the options.”
The Hammonds had been running the village pub in Fenwick-cum-Marton for as long as anyone could remember. Before Mitch and Molly, it had been Mitch’s father, Dan, who ran the hostelry. A Flying Fox had stood on this site for centuries, and had always thrived.
Will and Oliver had been born and brought up here. But over the years things changed. Since the couple’s retirement to Glenview, their new bungalow a year earlier, when they’d taken Gennie on as a junior business partner, the only Hammond still living at the pub was Will. And as far as Gennie could see, that was under duress.
Will and his brother couldn’t have been more different. Will was twenty-four, almost six feet tall, with a mop of yellowy-blond hair that flopped over intensely blue eyes. He looked and dressed as though he’d just walked off a rugby pitch.
Oliver, in his late twenties, was the elegant one. Taller than Will, but equally broad-shouldered, and with dark hair unexpectedly flecked with grey at the temples. His generous mouth seldom smiled. And it showed no sign of doing so now. To make matters worse, he was watching her.
DANGER AT MELLIN COVE
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2012
“The moors are not safe at night. There’s talk in the village about a cut-throat band of fair-traders who use coves in these parts to land their illegal cargoes.”
It had been an alarming encounter. At first she thought her mare, Molly, had slipped, pitching her into the prickles of a gorse bush. Then she realised she was being dragged from her horse.
A hand was clamped itself over her mouth, and an urgent voice instructed in her ear. “Shush! If you value your life…be quiet!”
Until that moment Hedra had given no thought to her own safety. Her only concern had been for Rachel and her child. Now all the tales she’d ever heard of bandits who roamed the moors by night intent on robbing and killing innocent travellers flooded her mind. Her heart was hammering beneath the fine green wool of her gown and heavy clock. She tried to wriggle free to see her assailant, but his muscular arm grasped her firmly – and his hand pressed tighter over her mouth.
“They’re coming,” he hissed, dragging her and her horse deeper into the thicket. “They’ll kill us both if you cry out…so don’t!”
Terrified, Hedra held her breath. She had no choice but to obey this man.
The first flickers of lights through the trees sent a chill down her spine. She could hear feet shuffling closer, whispered voices. From her enforced hiding place she watched, mesmerised, as a string of donkeys, their legs almost buckling under their weight of sacks and boxes, lumbered past.
The stooped figures leading them were taking no chances of being recognised, having swathed their faces in ragged scarves. In the light from their lamps she could see the glint of cold steel, and realised each man had a knife slung around his middle.
Hedra’s hood slipped, and she felt her captor’s breath on her hair. Her face was pressed hard against his chest and, even through the thickness of his leather doublet, she could feel his heart thudding.
Was he one of them? Surely he must be? How else would he have known these men were here?
She’d been rigid with fear, but now that the immediate danger had passed, she had to escape this bandit and race to fetch Dr Roskilly. She tried to struggle free and, to her surprise, he released his grip.
She stepped back, searching the outline of his face, taking in the broad cheeks, the firm line of his jaw. There was something familiar about the tilt of this man’s head. But how was that possible when he was a stranger? She glanced up and saw a flash of white teeth as he smiled down at her.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to murder you.”
His eyes followed the track the smugglers had taken. “…Although they would have if they’d caught you,” he said, turning back to her.
She couldn’t help wondering what colour those large dark eyes really were.
“Why were you flying through the night like a hellcat anyway?” he asked.
Panic returned at the memory of Rachel’s pain-contorted face.
“Dr Roskilly” she cried, frantically looking round for her mare. “I must get to Dr Roskilly’s house. My brother’s wife is very ill.”
She felt the man stiffen. He was matching her urgency. “Here, I’ll help you.” He grabbed Hedra’s horse. “Do you have far to go?”
She nodded ahead. “A mile beyond the village.”
He grasped her waist and, in one easy movement, as though she weighed no more than a feather, swung her back onto her horse. She seized the reins, but looked back as her mare picked up speed. She could still see the outline of his tall frame in the darkness.
“Good luck to your sister…” he called after her, but the rest of his words were snatched by a gust of wind as he watched her ride away.
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2013
‘The school’s almost snowed in and it’s getting worse,’ she shouted at the phone over the noise of the storm. ‘There’s no time to lose. We must evacuate the children right now!’
‘That’s why I’m ringing,’ James yelled back. ‘The road’s blocked. The school is already cut off!’
‘Have you seen it?’ Dolly rushed past Rowan into her warm kitchen. ‘Have you seen what he’s done now?’
Rowan sighed. What now? Dolly was a good friend but her volatile nature had not lessened over the years. Her round face was bright with indignation as she made a beeline for the window, pushed aside a bowl of fat, blue hyacinths and strained for a glimpse of the harbour.
‘Look,’ she insisted, grabbing Rowan’s hand, ‘you can just about see it from here. No, not there…look!’ She pushed Rowan to where she could have a better view.
‘Look at what?’ Rowan frowned, peering over the cottage roofs.
‘Your young Laird has only put up a gate, that’s all! He has no right! The men will have that down before the end of the day, you’ll see.’
Rowan was still mystified about what had caused Dolly’s agitation. Then she spotted it; a new cross-barred gate right across the entrance to the waterside walk.
This was a well-trodden track, which led from the harbour along to the end of the peninsula, and a popular Sunday walk. Flat along the shoreline, it banked steeply to the right and up to what were now Clett Drummond’s fields. Ballinbrae farmhouse was set further up the hill on the country road that eventually passed the village school.
On summer evenings, when the water lapped gently onto the pebbled shore, it was a peaceful retreat. Rowan knew that, if Balcreggan folk had no legal right to use it, they certainly had a moral one.
And Simon was out of order by denying it to them.
Dolly was talking again.
‘That nice Mr Drummond won’t be able to get his tractor down there now because it’s impossible to reach that bottom field from the top.’ She slid a glance to Rowan. ‘He’s not going to appreciate that.’
Dolly was right. Clett Drummond might have his difficulties at the moment but he didn’t strike Rowan as the kind of man who would tolerate this kind of thing. It suddenly occurred to her that this could have been what had motivated Simon to erect the gate overnight. He liked to show people he was the boss.
‘Honestly Rowan, I don’t know what you see in that man.’ Dolly let out an exasperated sigh.
Rowan flashed her friend a mischievous grin.
‘You mean apart from him being a rich landowner and the most eligible bachelor this side of Inverness?’
Dolly’s round grey eyes widened.
‘Rowan Fairlie! I’m surprised at you. You’ll be telling us next that you want to be the next ‘lady of the manor.’
‘If I had ambitions in that direction – which I don’t – I should think Simon’s mother would have something to say about it.’
‘He’s a dangerous man that one, Rowan. You should watch your step with him.’
INHERIT THE DREAM
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2013
‘What kind of incidents?’
‘Oh, nothing serious. It’s just that…’ She hesitated, not sure she should be saying this. ‘I suspect someone might be trying to sabotage the business.’
Matthew West cleared his throat, adjusted his rimless spectacles, and straightened the documents in front of him before glancing at the tense faces gathered around his desk. It was the reading of the late Sinclair Morrison’s will, and there was sure to be a ruckus. He knew most the people seated in his tiny office and nodded to the deceased’s younger brother, Fraser, and his wife, Rosemary. Sinclair’s son, David, had fixed him with an irritated stare, while his sibling, Sarah, looked impatient.
The two other young women in the room were strangers to Matthew. His eyes settled on the one he was sure was Kerra Morrison. He knew from Sinclair’s description that she would be pretty if she smiled, but this morning the huge blue eyes were clouded. She pushed back a fringe of corn-coloured hair and glanced uneasily around her companions.
‘Well, you all know why we are here, so I won’t beat about the bush,’ he began.
Kerra shifted uneasily in her chair. She’d never before been a beneficiary in anyone’s will. To her mind the whole thing was happening with unseemly speed. It was less than a week since they’d all stood in the tiny churchyard in Craigallen, – in her case, blinking back tears – as the minister spoke the appropriate words over her Uncle Sinclair’s grave. The plaintive notes of “Flowers Of The Forest ” still rang in her ears, and she remembered the piper’s slow, respectful strides as he moved away from the assembled mourners, his music fading as he went. Kerra thought it was the most moving thing she had ever witnessed.
Now, here they all were again, gathered in the solicitor’s office, awaiting the details of his will. She glanced across at her mum and dad; they looked as uncomfortable as she felt. She caught their eyes, gave them a reassuring smile. Her cousins, Sarah and David, sat opposite. There was a glitter of excitement in their eyes as they watched the solicitor straighten his papers for the umpteenth time.
Why didn’t the man just get on with it, David thought, irritably. It’s not as if it won’t all be completely straightforward. Since his uncle and aunt, and young cousin, Kerra, were here, the old man had obviously left them small bequests. His gaze fixed on the woman sitting next to Kerra. Why was she here? She was his father’s shop assistant – surely he hadn’t left her any money?
Fiona Crombie caught his glare and felt her face flush. She’d no idea why she was here, but the sooner the whole business was over with the sooner she could get back to the shop. She’d put up a notice on the door explaining the closure, but now she was wondering if she’d been summonsed here to be told to lock up the shop for good.
No one in the family had ever appeared interested in following in old Mr Morrison’s footsteps. David had his own garage business which, judging by the number of times he appeared at the shop and clattered down the metal spiral staircase to his father’s workshop for yet another heated demand for cash, seemed to be in constant financial trouble. His younger sister, Sarah, had married a bank manager and had three children at fee paying schools in Aberdeen. Fiona suspected they were living above their means in their big house here in Inverness.
THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE & Other Stories
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2012
The Fisherman’s Wife
The sun was low over Crabster Cove’s pebbly beach and Marion shielded her eyes against its dazzle to watch the two figures dragging their dinghy across the shingle. She squinted into the reflections dancing on the water and could just make out her family’s fishing coble, The Lady Marion, bobbing at anchor a little way offshore.
Between the Lines
Solving murders was Hettie Moon’s thing. Not the forensically nasty, brutal sort. She was much more adept at cracking the cosy kind.
Rowan Tree Cottage
“This isn’t bad,” said the woman, running her eye over the old kitchen range that had been Effie’s pride and joy. “Is it original?”
The cottage creaked its indignation, but the woman had already switched her attention upwards.
Ellie shivered as rain pattered noisily against the glass. She could picture the dark, storm-lashed seafront and the waves slapping the harbour wall.
Below their bedroom window the wind had caught the tall fronds of her prized Yucca, hurling the pot with a loud crash onto the patio.
She sighed. “The lifeboat is going to be called out again. Isn’t it?”
The Prize Catch
“Willie Patterson!…” Fred, the barman at the Crowdie Inn, boomed, pointing an accusing finger at Willie as he appeared for his usual lunchtime pint.
Heads turned in his direction. “Ok,” Willie sighed, sliding onto the vacant barstool. “What have I done now?”
All That Glitters
Rose stared at her hand. The broad gold band that had been on her finger for more than 30 years had gone!
She took a steadying breath. Calm, Rose, she told herself. Stay calm. But the image of the last time she had seen the ring was filling her with dismay.
Fletchers’ Field! Her ring must have slipped off when she was playing with the children.
From her vantage point at the bay window of the Waterfront Guesthouse, Ellen Maitland watched the newcomers emerge from their red Honda.
They were younger than she’d expected – a couple in their early 30s, a girl of about eight and a slightly younger boy.
“They’ve arrived Henry,” she called over her shoulder.
Credit Crunch Spouse
Mel knew by the dejected stoop of Luke’s shoulders how much her words had shocked him.
In her head she begged him Plead for us. Say we can turn everything around.
But his face as he looked at her was stony.
“If that’s what you want,” he said, “I’ll go today.”
A Cornish Revenge
By Rena George
Published by Rosmorna 2013
‘Oh my God,’ the voice behind them cried, and they turned to see that the others had followed. Netta’s hand was covering her mouth. ‘It’s a body, isn’t it?…There’s a dead body down there.’
Loveday Ross frowned at the glistening ribbon of wet road twisting ahead and tried to work out what was wrong with Lawrence.
The previous evening’s exhibition in St Ives had been a triumph. At least five of his paintings had sold, which was wonderful because he’d made a point of inviting the county’s most knowledgeable and discerning art critics and buyers. So why had he seemed so distracted?
She sighed, forcing her concentration back to the morning’s picture shoot. Loveday was on her way to the old tin mine workings at Borlase, near Lands End. It was a bizarre place to hold an art class, particularly on a damp, grey Saturday in September. Images of pretty coves and villages, old harbours and standing stones, flitted through her mind. Any of these would have made a better picture spread for the magazine than the bleak landscape of brick chimney stacks and mine relics, but she trusted Lawrence. He knew what he was doing.
As she turned into the parking area, she glanced down at her green canvas satchel and went through a mental checklist – notebook, pens, digital recorder, camera. Her mobile phone was in her pocket. She got out, striding across the rough terrain, forcing the worry about her friend temporarily from her thoughts as she raised her camera and zoomed in on the old engine houses that clung precariously to the cliff-edge. They were an iconic Cornish image and she would be remiss not to include them in the article.
It had stopped raining, but the sea still looked hostile under the iron-grey sky. In spring and early summer these cliffs would be alive with nesting seabirds, and Loveday had been told that the secret coves and caves far below were favourite basking sites for Atlantic grey seals. But on this damp autumn morning, the kind her Scottish father would have described as ‘dreight’, it all looked very different.
She picked her way along the rough track, stopping to watch the black crows, or were they ravens? She could never tell which was which. Her neck cricked as she gazed up, smiling as they squabbled for the best vantage points on the high brick stack.
The bleakness of the place made her shudder and she wondered again why Lawrence had chosen it. The wind whipped long strands of dark hair across her eyes and she pushed them back, hooking them behind her ear. She stopped to listen. It was easy to imagine the tappings of miners, long since gone, echoing along the labyrinth of the shafts and tunnels beneath her feet.