The perfect summer read. Continuing the light hearted, uplifting dramas around the ‘The Dog & Duck’ pub and the life of its landlady Ellie Browne.
Ellie Browne has found happiness running The Dog and Duck pub in the idyllic village of Little Leyton, and her blossoming romance with tall, handsome property developer, Max Golding, is going swimmingly. With her new best friend, Digby, the black Labrador at her side, life just couldn’t be sweeter.
But their peace is shattered when Max‘s younger sister, Katy, turns up unannounced with a whole heap of attitude. And Max‘s loyalties are stretched further when his glamorous ex, Sasha, re-appears with her own burgeoning secret.
With the master of the manor preoccupied with the demands of his ‘other women’, Ellie‘s forced to consider if she has any role to play in Max‘s life or in the village of Little Leyton.
Can Ellie get her life and relationship back on track in time for the summer charity ball at Braithwaite Manor?
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2nGQqlA
‘Come on, Digby, let’s get a move on, we haven’t got all day.’
Digby looked up at me, his ears pricked, and immediately walked on at a faster pace, his tail wagging as if understanding my every word. That nice smiley lady off the telly had assured me that spring had well and truly sprung, and she wasn’t wrong. Little Leyton was feeling positively balmy this morning. I wriggled out of my fur-trimmed anorak and hung it over my arm.
We’d been out for over an hour already, walking our usual route across the fields and down the back lanes and now we were heading back along the High Street towards the pub. I breathed a sigh of contentment, a smile spreading involuntarily across my lips. The pub – my pub, who would have thought it? There were days when I could hardly believe it myself. After all the upheaval of last year, when we first discovered the pub was up for sale and the future of the village inn had looked uncertain for a long time, I still had to pinch myself sometimes to truly believe that I was actually running the Dog and Duck now.
Crossing the road, a car tooted its horn and I span round to look, my heart lifting at the sight of Max Golding’s distinctive Jeep, which drew to a halt at the kerbside. The driver’s door was flung open and he jumped out.
‘Good morning! How’s my favourite landlady?’
‘Very well, thank you. And how’s my favourite hotshot property developer?’
Max nodded, giving consideration to that idea, before his mouth curled in amusement, clearly approving of the description. He came towards me and slipped his hands around my waist, pulling me in for a kiss.
‘Yep, good. Much better now,’ he said, his voice dropping an octave.
Butterflies danced in my stomach. I called it the Max effect. Something to do, I suspected, with his broad frame, mussed up hair and dark eyes that danced with intent, eyes that were watching me closely now. We’d been dating properly for a few months now, yet still he had the power to make my heart beat faster in my chest, and my skin tingle in anticipation.
‘Time for a coffee?’ I asked, mentally shaking myself free of the giddiness.
He glanced at his watch and grimaced. ‘I’d love to, but I’ve got a conference call at eleven, and a few other things I have to see to before then. We’re still on for Friday though?’
‘Yep, can’t wait,’ I said, quashing my disappointment with a smile.
Just then another car, a little blue jaunty number that I didn’t recognise, pulled up behind Max’s Jeep, and the passenger door window eased open and the driver leaned across the seat to speak to us. ‘Hello, Max, Ellie!’ The woman’s voice was warm and friendly.
I did a double take.
I don’t know who was more surprised, me or Max. The last person I’d expected to see this morning was Max’s ex-girlfriend, looking as indecently fresh-faced and naturally glamorous as I remembered. She’d left the village last autumn when she and Max decided to go their separate ways after a five year long relationship. It had been an amicable split, so Max had told me. Even so, when we got together soon afterwards it was something of a relief to know that his lovely ex was out of the way, having returned to her life in London. I’d barely given her a second thought since. But, sadly, now here she was… and she hadn’t grown any less gorgeous in the meantime.
‘Lovely to see you both,’ she beamed. I only wished I shared her enthusiasm at reconnecting, but, in truth, I was struggling.
‘You too,’ said Max, as charming as ever. ‘Although this is something of a surprise. What brings you to Little Leyton?’
‘Ah, long story,’ said Sasha, her gaze flickering across to me for the briefest moment. ‘In fact, I’m glad I’ve run into you, I was hoping we could have a chat. There was something I wanted to discuss, if that’s okay?’ This was very much intended for Max, and not for me, I quickly realised.
‘Sure thing,’ said Max. ‘I’m tied up for the next hour or so, but I’ll be free later if you want to pop down to the manor.’
‘Great!’ breezed Sasha.
Great, I repeated silently through gritted teeth, while smiling sweetly. Time enough for Max to entertain his ex, but not enough time for a coffee with me. I see… As if reading my mind, Max’s arm slipped around my waist and he gave me a gentle squeeze, by way of compensation, I supposed. If Sasha was perturbed by Max’s show of affection towards me, she certainly didn’t show it.
My gaze drifted off down the High Street towards the pub where I noticed someone standing beneath the recently renovated sign of The Dog and Duck; a man peering through the glazed pane of the front door.
‘Look, I’m going to have to go,’ I said, curious now as to whether I had a delivery, although infinitely more curious as to what Sasha might want to discuss with Max.
‘See you later,’ said Max, giving me a kiss on the cheek.
‘Lovely to see you, Ellie,’ said Sasha, from her car, lifting her hand to wave at me. ‘We must catch up soon.’
‘Yes,’ I said, giving her a little wave in return. I tugged gently on Digby’s lead and scurried off towards the Dog and Duck, wondering if Sasha and I actually had anything to catch up on. She wasn’t a local girl and I’d only met her a couple of times when she’d still been with Max. As far as I knew, he was the only thing we had in common and I didn’t much fancy swapping notes on that particular subject.
Jill Steeples lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.
Jill’s previous book, WINTER AT THE DOG & DUCK is out now:
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2d8AGDI
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