To celebrate Easter Summer Moved On, the first book of my South Devon Duo is on special offer over the holiday weekend.
For each of the four days this offer is posted I will be including an extract from different parts of the book as a taster…
After a long-buried secret tears her family apart, Jess Hayden moves to the South Devon village of Lynbrook to live with her uncle. Rufus owns the village pub, The Black Bull, and having visited before, Jess knows the villagers well…especially one of them.
Talún Hansen has a reputation, making him the kind of man no decent girl should get involved with. Jess, however, has been under his spell from the moment they first met. Although they always seem to bring out the worst in each other, there is no denying the attraction that simmers between them – an attraction Jess knows she needs to keep under control after repeated warnings from her uncle.
As she settles into village life she begins to learn more about this wild, dark-haired gypsy with the compelling eyes, and realises their lives hold many similarities. Despite her uncle’s warnings, she begins to spend time with him. For Jess, the coming summer holds passion; for Talún the hope that he has at last found someone who truly cares for him.
But as autumn approaches, a dark shadow from Jess’s past returns, bringing far-reaching and unwanted changes for both of them.
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The day after the incident at the waterfall, three very determined thirteen year olds were busy plotting again. In Amanda Lee’s bedroom with the Sugarbabes playing in the background, they had been brooding over their recent failure. Their plan to be the envy of their classmates by displaying Talún in all his glory on social media had bombed miserably.
‘If only Jess Hayden hadn’t come barging out of the wood on her great snorting horse,’ Amanda complained, a pinched expression on her face. ‘We almost had him, you know.’
‘Well, it’s a waste of time trying again. He’ll be expecting us, won’t he? And he’ll probably wear his pants from now on.’ Kimberley pouted as she sat cross legged on the floor, twirling a finger in the curl of her dark brown hair.
‘I think she ought to be taught a lesson,’ Hayley, lounging on the bed next to Amanda, announced. ‘We need to give her a bit of a fright. After all, I lost my mobile because of her.’
‘Yeah, right.’ Amanda rolled over and sat up. ‘Like I’m sure she’ll be scared of us. And why are you moaning about the mobile, Hay? Isn’t your dad going to stump up for a new one? I don’t think you’ve got any reason to complain.’
The room fell silent for a moment and then, as the CD came to an end, Kimberley got to her feet. ‘I’ve just had the most amazing idea,’ she said with a wicked grin.
‘I know your ideas, Kim, they usually get us into trouble.’ Amanda eyed her anxiously. ‘My Dad plays golf with Rufus Hayden; if this goes wrong…’
‘Oh shut up, Amanda, you’re such a wimp at times. Nothing will go wrong because she won’t even know it’s us.’
Opening her mouth to protest, Amanda found Hayley’s hand on her arm. ‘At least let us hear what Kim has to say and then we can decide if we want to do it, okay?’
Reluctantly, Amanda nodded. With a spiteful smile, Kimberley leaned towards her two friends. ‘Right, now this is the plan…’
Kimberley and Amanda were crouched together, hiding in undergrowth above the track along the ridge. ‘Are you sure this is going to work?’ Amanda looked at her friend sceptically. ‘What if she’s taken a different route this morning?’
‘This is the main track through the wood, she always comes this way,’ Kimberly insisted, in a voice that indicated she was rapidly running out of patience with her friend.
The appearance of Hayley, running through the trees towards them, suggested their quarry was not far away. ‘Told you,’ Kimberley said, giving her friend a smug grin.
‘She’s stopped to give the horse a drink,’ she said, settling herself down with them and getting her breath back.
‘Right Amanda, get ready.’ Kimberley handed her a black hooded cloak and mask. ‘And make sure you completely cover your head.’
Holding on to her doubtful expression and trying to bury her annoyance at being the bait for this trap, Amanda slid down to the path, pulled on her disguise and carefully positioned herself on its rough, flat earthen surface.
‘Move out to the middle,’ Kimberley instructed, as she gazed down at the prone form of her friend, ‘that’s right. Pull the hood over your head a bit more and tuck your hair in. Good, now stay there and don’t move!’
Moments later they heard the distinctive sound of a horse’s hooves approaching. Jess rounded a bend in the pathway, riding slowly, her attention fixed on the river below. Kim and Hayley pulled on their own similar disguises of dark cloaks and masks, waiting until she got close enough to become aware of Amanda’s prone form lying in the dirt.
Eventually, Jess switched her attention back to the track, her eyes widening with surprise as she saw what looked like a heap of black rags lying on the path. Kim saw her frown as she dismounted and led the horse closer. Nudging Hayley, they crept quietly down the bank, positioning themselves directly behind her.
Dropping Skylark’s reins, Jess leaned over the body, her hand only inches from the mass of black material when it unexpectedly came to life. As she lurched backwards with a horrified shriek at the white faced monster that rose up before her, the two girls struck from behind. One heavy shove from Hayley knocked her completely off balance. Stumbling towards the edge of the pathway, her foot caught in an exposed tree root. Another push from Kimberley sent her tumbling down the steep bank towards the river, her scream echoing through the trees.
Kimberley grinned and pulled off her mask. ‘I knew these Trick or Treat outfits would work,’ she said, waving it at her two friends.
‘Kim, I thought we were only going to frighten her,’ Hayley said, with a worried look towards the river.
‘So, she’ll get a good soaking as well. Seems only fair, doesn’t it, after what she did?’ She glared at Hayley, daring her to argue.
‘I suppose so.’ The other girl shrugged uncomfortably.
‘What are you doing?’ Kimberley now turned her attention to Amanda who was leading Skylark towards a nearby tree.
‘Tying him up, of course. He might run off. We can’t expect her to walk home from here, not after…’
‘Of course we can,’ Kimberley interrupted, giving Skylark a sharp smack on his rump and sending him cantering off down the track. ‘Come on, let’s go home before she climbs back up,’ she said, pulling off her cloak with a grin.
Five minutes into their walk, Amanda halted. ‘My mask!’ She turned her black cloak over in her hand. ‘It’s gone. I must have dropped it.’
‘Leave it,’ Kimberley snapped at the panic stricken girl, ‘we can’t go back. She’s going to be as mad as hell when she gets out of the river soaking wet and finds her horse gone. The last thing we want is to run into her. She’s bound to know it’s us.’
Talún was almost home. It had taken less time than he anticipated for Joe Sellars, the blacksmith, to re-shoe Lukas and he knew it meant he would be arriving back at Manor Farm well in time for lunch. As he turned into the country road leading to the village, movement to his right made him look up. ‘Skylark?’ he said under his breath, as he recognised the riderless horse that had just emerged from the wood. A second thought colliding with the first reminded him George had selected the gelding for Jess to ride that morning. Urging Lukas forward, he went to intercept the animal, now busy cropping grass.
Skylark raised his head as Talún approached, patted the animal’s neck and retrieved the reins. ‘What’s happened to Jess, then?’ he asked gently, checking the horse over to make sure he wasn’t injured. ‘Let’s go take a look, shall we?’ he said, leading him back to where Lukas waited. Remounting, he followed the trail of crushed grass back towards the trees. Entering the wood, he decided to follow the high ridge track that ran parallel with the river, which he knew to be her usual route.
As he rode, he repeatedly called out her name, disappointed and frustrated when all that greeted him in return was the rush of the river below and birdsong in the trees above. Then, as he rounded a bend, he saw something white lying in the middle of the pathway. Dismounting, he walked forward and picked it up, turning the hideous skeletal mask over in his hand. All at once the implications of such an item lying here changed everything. He tied both horses to a tree and scanned the water below, but from this height and with the overhang of the bank he realised he was only viewing the far half of the river bed. Sliding down through ferns, soft earth and rock, he hovered on the lip of the bank and saw her, lying face down in green vegetation on the edge of the river, her legs immersed in water.
‘Jess!’ he called, lowering himself into the river and wading towards her. Turning over her lifeless body he knelt beside her and lifted her wrist, giving a huge sigh of relief when he found her pulse beating strong and steady. As he moved her onto a large slab of dry rock, he realised how lucky she had been. If she had landed the other way round with her head in the water she would most probably have drowned.
Setting her down gently, he began to pat her face. ‘Jess,’ he whispered, ‘Jess, come on, wake up,’ but she remained unresponsive. ‘Shit!’ He inhaled an agitated breath and pulling his phone from the back pocket of his jeans quickly dialled 999. His actions, however, drew another curse when he realised here in the middle of the wood he was in a mobile blackspot. Pocketing the phone, he lifted Jess gently into his arms. Keeping close to the bank, he made his way upriver, looking for a place that would allow him to reach the track above. Eventually he saw a break in the bank and headed for it, splashing through the shallows.
When he reached the horses he placed her carefully onto Lukas’s back, hauling himself up behind her. As he secured a steadying arm around her waist he felt sure he heard a slight groan. ‘Jess?’ He leaned forward in the saddle, his face next to hers, hoping to hear some response. When there was none he dug his heels into the roan and with Skylark in tow began making his way as swiftly as he could back along the track. As he rode, the first spots of rain came hissing through the foliage above, splattering his shoulders and face. The shower intensified and he urged the animal forward, eager to reach shelter as quickly as possible.