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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Talún covered his eyes with his hands, wanting the world to go away. In all his emotional turmoil over Jess he had nearly forgotten the date, something that made him angry with himself as well as with her. He had vowed never to forget his mother, the woman who gave birth to him, who had devoted her whole life to raising him – someone who he still believed was out there somewhere and would return one day. In crazier moments of wishful thinking he’d dream of returning to the cottage to find her in the kitchen baking bread, her wild, brown hair tied back, and a smudge of flour dusting her cheek. Ellie had been responsible for teaching his mother to cook and, like everything else she turned her hand to, she had excelled.
And now, just when he thought he’d successfully hidden himself away here alone with his memories, Jess Hayden had turned up with her soft words of apology. His reaction to her intrusion and to the words he never imagined her ever saying to him resulted in one volcanic, emotional outburst as he hurled the axe at the nearest tree.
Afterwards, awash with misery and confusion, he slumped onto the nearest thing he could find: a hard, uncomfortable, fallen log. And now he was aware of warm pressure on his thighs and a soft voice breaking into the blanket of fog shrouding his thoughts. Pulling his hands away from his face, he found himself looking down into huge, brown, anxious eyes.
‘Talún, please, it’s all right.’
His first reaction was to push her away but he hesitated as he found himself unable to tear himself away from her concerned gaze.
‘Please I want to help,’ she said, her expression gentle as her hands covered his.
‘I don’t need any help; and why should you care anyway?’ he snapped, pushing her away and springing quickly to his feet.
‘Because I know how you must be feeling,’ she said quietly, as he moved away from her.
‘Jess, you haven’t the slightest idea how things are,’ he threw right back at her with a wave of his hand. Heaven help him, the last thing he needed was this sudden sympathy to make up for all her previous insensitive words, however well-intentioned. Who had told her why he was here, anyway? George, he expected; someone else with misplaced good intentions.
‘I lost my mother too.’
As he heard her words he stared at her blankly. It was the first time he had ever considered her situation. ‘Yes, I realise Amber was your stepmother. I’m sorry,’ he said quietly.
‘I was thirteen.’
Again he digested her words: a terrible age for a child to have their mother die.
‘She had an affair with a man almost half her age.’
Those words destroyed his previous thoughts and also made him realise why her reaction to his relationship with Leanna had been so hostile. He went to open his mouth but she clearly had not finished. ‘They eventually married and moved abroad,’ she continued. ‘I’ve not seen her since she left. In fact,’ she said with a small heave of her shoulders, ‘she didn’t even say goodbye. I came home from school one afternoon to find she had packed her things and gone.’
‘Gone?’ He looked at her in surprise.
‘Yes. The divorce had come through, she had remarried, and left for her new life in Mexico.’
‘How could she do that?’
Jess gave a strange smile. ‘You have to understand I never had the same sort of upbringing as other kids. Leo worked abroad for most of my childhood, we hardly saw him. I lived with my mother, although…’ she hesitated, ‘…I never saw much of her either because most of the time she was out – shopping or lunching with friends or at some evening thing she’d been invited to. I had various babysitters and went to sleepovers with school friends. So I would think leaving me behind was probably quite easy for her.’
Talún stood watching as she settled herself on the log he had been occupying. He had been eighteen when his mother had left. He still had the note she had written telling him she loved him and would be back in a few weeks. In contrast, Jess had simply been abandoned by a mother wanting a new life without the burden of a child.
‘And after she’d gone?’ he prompted.
‘Oh, Leo returned to sort things out, but he made it clear he was remaining abroad and I would have to board at my school. If it hadn’t been for Rufus I don’t know what would have happened.’
Talún paused for a moment. ‘I’m so sorry, Jess. I had no idea.’ This new awareness of her situation made him abandon all previous thoughts he’d had about who and what she was. Materially she seemed to have had it all but emotionally her growing up must have been tough. At least his childhood had been a happy one. Suddenly he wanted very badly to reach out and give her a simple hug. However, although he sensed things might be changing between them he was smart enough to know exactly where those new redefined boundaries lay. ‘I know our situations are slightly different,’ he added quietly, opting for a safe halfway house as he settled beside her on the log, ‘but I can see how it must have been very painful for you.’
‘It was,’ Jess nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear, intense brown eyes fixing themselves on him again. ‘But for me those bad memories are no longer an issue. For you, however, they are. You’re still hurting and you shouldn’t be here on your own today.’