Jenny silently ground her teeth as she shuffled past a screaming toddler who was apparently at the very height of a meltdown. Purposefully avoiding eye contact with the child’s despairing young father, she skilfully dodged being pelted by half-chewed chunks of banana and slipping in puddles of orange juice now covering the slick floor. Relieved to be re-united with her shopping trolley, Jenny marched purposefully towards the cereal aisle, cursing the fact that she’d failed to submit her internet shopping order on time. How anybody ever maintained their sanity prior to the invention of online shopping, she would never know. Much of Jenny’s life had been spent avoiding her least favourite activity of shopping and today was a prime example of why. At least she wasn’t attempting a food shop at the weekend, which would have been sheer, certifiable madness.
Loitering momentarily in the wine and spirits section, Jenny’s focus was broken as she heard a distinctly familiar voice partaking in a one-sided mobile phone conversation. Looking up, she tried her best not to stare as, with his trademark shock of ginger hair, Jimmy Jones strolled up beside her to grab an expensive bottle of whisky from the adjacent shelf. Immediately Jenny focussed an unnatural amount of attention on the bottles of sherry she’d been perusing, but long-gone was any thought of buying a present for her grandmother. Instead, every nerve in her body was fine-tuned towards eavesdropping on his conversation.
Put simply, Jimmy Jones wasn’t just their local celebrity; he was Britain’s hottest singer-songwriter. His star was very much in the ascendancy, with his latest album snatching the number one slot both at home and in the States. Jenny couldn’t help but think how nice it was that he still frequented the local supermarket. After that famous first album had become an international success, he could well have been forgiven for falling into outlandish behaviour, as many had before him. And yet, perhaps thanks to a well-grounded family who ensured his feet remained firmly on the ground, he was regularly seen out and about in the local town, often supporting local community functions.
Jimmy’s much awaited follow-up album, due out later in the year, was tipped to go stellar across the globe. The recent engagement announcement to his childhood sweetheart had completed the fairy tale in Jenny’s mind and part of her longed to go over and congratulate him. However, the moment passed, as he turned and walked away. Besides, she didn’t want to look like an adoring, slightly mental fan; he was bound to have plenty of those to contend with and no doubt just wanted to be left in peace. Rubbing her slightly flushed face, she glanced down at the crumpled shopping list, before exhaling a sigh of relief. Only her grandmother’s favourite biscuits to pick up and she could be out of this hellhole, once and for all.
Having located the appropriate shelf, Jenny’s mood momentarily brightened. Not only were the biscuits in stock…just, but they were part of a Buy One Get One Free deal. Peering into the darkened shelving area, she saw two remaining packs, stacked right at the back of the shelf. Result! Bending down, Jenny stretched her arm into the depths of the narrow shelf, her hesitantly exploring fingers eventually coming into contact with an object. Placing the first packet of biscuits triumphantly into her trolley, she turned to repeat the exercise, only to be confronted by the back of a man who was crouching over to claim the final pack.
‘Excuse me?’ exclaimed Jenny in a distinctly unamused tone. ‘Those are my biscuits!’
In slow motion, the well-built stranger rose to his full six foot two inches in height before turning to face her. Jenny momentarily felt the air squeezed from her lungs, removing any ability to continue in her tirade. The man in front of her was, quite simply, breathtaking; olive skin and a broken nose, coupled with dark hair and even darker eyes which seemed to pierce through to her very soul and read every single thought. It was an uncomfortable feeling and one she didn’t appreciate much, particularly when her nipples began to tighten in reaction. She felt grateful to be wearing a loose fleece jumper which prevented him from discovering the extent of his impact; the man looked quite self-confident enough, without requiring that kind of ego boost. Just in case he did have keen powers of observation however, she folded her arms across her breasts, merely helping to exacerbate her angry stance.
‘Hmmm?’ he replied, drinking in the sexy woman standing before him. What was it about a beautiful, angry woman that roused him so? Perhaps he found the associated emotions he observed to be closely aligned with arousal and a loss of control. With her long tortoiseshell hair, blue eyes and tall frame, displaying curves in all the right places, she threatened to tick every single box of desirable attributes he’d ever considered, whilst offering up some helpful suggestions for potential new line items.
‘They’re my biscuits,’ she croaked, impressed to find her voice was still working. ‘Part of a BOGOF deal.’
‘Huh?’ he responded with a lazy smile. She looked incredulously at him, as though he’d been living in a cave. How could he not know about the most common of all supermarket deals? And then the answer hit her.
‘You must be foreign?’ she stated, rolling her eyes in frustration. ‘Are you not from this country?’
‘Ah, non,’ he replied in a rich, French accent, grasping onto the idea. She didn’t need to know that, for a brief moment, she had rendered him temporarily speechless. ‘What is zees Bog Off? It is très rude, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Buy. One. Get. One. Free,’ replied Jenny in an excessively laboured way, as though dealing with somebody who had a negative I.Q.
‘I don’t shop regularly,’ he muttered, realising far too late that “regularly” was practically impossible to say in a French accent…probably even if you’re French. He saw her raise a quizzical eyebrow and knew he was skating on thin ice. His accent had already started to drift towards having an Indian inflection. It would be South African next, and then she’d just assume he was a loon. He needed to move this charade along.
‘Those biscuits,’ she said in a tone which suggested she was not to be trifled with, stabbing her finger towards his basket. ‘Mine,’ she demanded, turning the finger to point at her own chest.
‘Oui, you can have zee biscuit,’ he replied, relieved to note he was well and truly French once more.
‘Thank you,’ she breathed in relief.
‘Zee payment is one keess,’ he continued.
‘I begyour pardon?’ she exclaimed with unconstrained, ice-cold outrage.
‘I zink you heard me,’ he replied, shrugging his shoulders in a very French way.
‘How bloody well dare you!’ she breathed and, spinning on her heel as best she could whilst pushing a trolley, she stomped away. He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he heard the departing comment, muttered under her breath.
‘Goddam randy Frenchmen!’
With her equilibrium entirely thrown off balance, a flushed Jenny stalked along the aisle to pick up an alternative product, before heading directly to the checkout tills; her only thought was to get away from this place and back to the safety of her home, as quickly as physically possible. As she began to empty her shopping onto the conveyor belt, one of the first items she picked up was a single packet of her grandmother’s biscuits. Immediately, Jenny felt her heart harden against that dreadful man. She was only part way through her task, when her attention was drawn towards an animated conversation taking place a few tills down the line.
‘Finn!’ exclaimed the world-renowned voice of Jimmy Jones with obvious delight. ‘How ya doing, Buddy? I didn’t realise you were back!’
Along with a number of her fellow shoppers, Jenny turned to observe the source of the commotion and was astonished by the sight of Jimmy Jones warmly embracing the obnoxious Frenchman. Unable to tear her eyes away, she continued to load her items onto the conveyor belt, without paying one iota’s worth of attention to what she was doing.
‘Yeah, I’m really great thanks,’ replied Finn in a cut-glass English accent. Jenny felt her jaw physically drop. Blood rushed to her abdomen at the mere sound of his voice; a low, rumbling melody that involuntarily lifted every hair on the back of her neck and sent crackles of electricity into the base of her skull. And yet her reaction was accompanied by confusion; why had he pretended to be French?
‘I’ve only been back a few weeks. I was planning to pop round and say hi.’
‘That’s so great you’re back!’ Jimmy exclaimed. ‘Yes, you must come over soon!’
‘I’d love to. And I hear congratulations are in order,’ he teased. Clearly the men had a close and long-standing friendship. ‘Tilly’s agreed to make an honest man out of you, at long last?’
‘Well,’ said Jimmy in a low, confiding tone, which caused Jenny to lean slightly towards them, in order to pick up every nuance of their private conversation. ‘When it’s right, you just know,’ he confessed. At exactly the same moment, Finn’s dark eyes swivelled round to catch Jenny’s gaze, before sending her a brief wink. Her body reacted immediately, causing her stomach to descend into freefall whilst her brain went fuzzy. Such was the violence of her response that she threw her hand out against the counter for support.
‘That’s so true,’ he confirmed, still giving Jenny his undivided attention across the heads of several other shoppers. Realising his friend’s concentration was absorbed elsewhere, Jimmy turned to look in the same direction. Utterly appalled, she found herself the centre of both men’s unwanted scrutiny.
‘Do you have your own bags?’ asked a loud voice, in a tone which suggested the question had already been previously asked, with no response.
‘Oh, yes. Sorry, yes,’ replied a flustered Jenny, immediately breaking her connection with Finn, in order to answer the under-paid, under-valued checkout assistant. Taking a step past the employee, a deeply blushing Jenny began to pack her groceries into bags, not daring to look up again, in case either man was still facing in her direction. With her head down, she funnelled all of her focus into packing. However, confusion quickly took hold; there seemed to be two packets of the BOGOF biscuits that had caused Finn and her to initially converse. She realised he must have snuck the second pack into her trolley, when her back had been turned. God! The man was infuriating! Biting her tongue in frustration, she quickly paid for her shopping and fled from the shop, looking neither left nor right and hoping never to lay eyes on him again.
With unusual viciousness, Jenny crammed the shopping bags into her vehicle before slamming the car door shut and returning her trolley to the appropriate bay. She was hardly able to believe neither her eyes, nor her bad luck, when Finn meandered over to the four by four which was parked alongside her.
‘Fate,’ he observed, lazily opening his car door, before dropping his shopping bag onto the passenger seat.
‘No such thing,’ she spat, flicking her long hair away from her face. For a long moment, he observed her intently, his guarded expression giving nothing away.
‘Finn,’ he said at last, holding his hand out in introduction whilst doing his best to ignore her obvious anger at his mere existence.
‘So the whole supermarket overheard,’ said Jenny primly, refusing his gesture of goodwill.
‘And your name is?’ he prompted bravely.
‘None of your business!’ she replied, immediately regretting her rudeness, but unsure of how else to deal with him. Unexpectedly finding herself unable to defrost even a single degree, she continued. ‘So, you’re not French anymore, then?’
‘No, sorry,’ he grinned, the amusement in his voice evident.
‘Care to explain?’
‘You’d already categorised me into a specific stereotype,’ he shrugged. ‘I was just trying to conform to your small-town prejudices…’
‘I do NOT have prejudices, small-town or otherwise!’ she exploded, hardly able to contain herself. This man seemed to be able to press every button she had; she could merrily strangle him right now.
‘…that,’ he continued, ignoring her outburst, ‘if a person didn’t understand the intricacies of supermarket discounting options on offer, they must automatically be foreign, or stupid, or both.’
As it happened, previous partners had tended to sort out the supermarket shop, so Finn wasn’t that well versed in the delights of such deals. Over the past year, internet shopping had been the name of the game; he’d set it up so he could just re-order the same, week on week. Possibly not very exciting, but it got the tedious task of shopping done, literally with the click of a mouse. Unfortunately, being without an internet connection in recent weeks had somewhat stymied his normal modus operandi. However, this was all information the beautiful yet haughty woman standing before him, simply didn’t need to know.
‘It’s a pity you’re not French,’ she growled. ‘French men can be very sexy.’
‘Ah, so speaking to you in a French accent was an inspired stroke of genius, then?’ Jenny shot Finn a withering look, which would have floored a lesser man but, perversely, only increased his attraction to her.
‘That was sonot a French accent,’ she sneered.
‘Didn’t stop you checking me out though, did it?’ he said smugly, knowing his words would get a rise. She didn’t disappoint.
‘How dare you! I was not checking you out!’ she exclaimed, eyes open wide as the flush on her neck deepened.
‘Hmm, debateable,’ replied Finn with a brief smile which had the effect of increasing Jenny’s heartrate by several notches. ‘Regardless,’ he continued, confidently taking several steps closer to her. As though part of a well-choreographed dance, Jenny immediately took several steps backwards, until she was pushed up hard against the body of her car.
‘I believe there’s an outstanding payment remaining between us?’ he stated.
‘I’m sorry?’ she stuttered, gazing up at him stupidly, suddenly overwhelmed by his proximity. If it was possible, the man was even more delectable close up and smelt positively edible; a potent mixture of aftershave and pheromones were making her feel quite dizzy with lust.
‘You heard me,’ he murmured, taking the opportunity to move slightly closer still. Dropping one hand on the roof of her car, he was inches away from her astonished features. ‘You got to bog off, in exchange for a kiss,’ he reminded her, dark eyes twinkling with devilish delight.
‘No!’ Jenny squeaked, her voice almost failing, breathless at finding herself in the full spotlight of his attention.
‘Unless you want me to believe that, as well as being prejudice, another of your character flaws is reneging on deals?’ he growled softly.
‘Good,’ he breathed, still hovering above. Slowly, Jenny’s sparkling eyes fluttered closed as she breathed out an almost imperceptible sigh of surrender. Finn couldn’t help but smile inwardly to himself, pleased to be able to read through her bluster to the blatant body language she exuded beneath.
‘Hey, man!’ exclaimed an amused voice.
Jenny’s bright, blue eyes snapped back open, only to find Jimmy Jones acting as her unexpected saviour.
‘Uh-huh,’ replied Finn, slowly turning his head to face his friend, without retracting from his proximity to Jenny’s body.
‘This Saturday, I’m having a party to celebrate my album going platinum. Just a few friends. Nothing too crazy. You’ll be there?’
‘Sounds great,’ replied Finn with a brief smile.
‘And, of course, you’re more than welcome too,’ he added to Jenny. She did her best to respond with thanks but, instead, ever so stylishly, emitted only a dry rasp.
‘Well, I’ll leave you two in peace,’ Jimmy shrugged before strolling away. For a moment, the two of them watched him go, looking super-cool with a shopping bag in one hand and his mobile phone in the other. He looked like any other bloke you might see down the supermarket, rather than one that’s just made a thousand pounds during a short conversation in the car park.
Before Jenny knew it, Finn’s full attention had been restored.
‘W..what?’ she stuttered, having existed for as long as she could bear, under his scrutinising gaze. He was so close that, although their bodies were not yet physically touching, she was aware of every movement he made. His slow, steady breaths seemed so controlled, compared to her short, sharp, shallow ones. And the less said about her pulse rate, the better; it had hit critical some minutes previously.
‘I’m just weighing up whether I should cash in my payment now, or allow you to exist in my debt for a little longer,’ he admitted astutely.
‘The latter,’ she immediately bit back, trying to hide just how aroused she was becoming. It had been a long time since she’d experienced such physical longing. ‘Then, hopefully, our paths will never cross again.’ Yet, although Jenny spoke the words, the conviction in her tone wasn’t really present.
‘You’re not a believer in carpe diem, then?’ he queried with a twisted smile. ‘Seize the day, strike whilst the iron’s hot, make hay while the sun shines, or any manner of additional clichés we might choose to live our lives by?’
‘Never put off to tomorrow, what you can do today,’ said Jenny, helpfully trying to add to his list.
‘My sentiments exactly,’ he growled, moving a large, warm hand to gently cup her cheek.
‘I didn’t mean…’ she inhaled in shock as the feel of his skin on hers for the first time caused a wave of lightheadedness to sweep through her.
‘Did you not?’ he sighed, before tentatively allowing his lips to softly brush against hers, barely touching. Jenny’s reaction was immediate and unexpected. Groaning with deep contentment, her eyes flickered closed, failing to fight Finn in any way. Surprised, yet delighted, he returned for more, responding to the pressure of her trembling lips.
With a low, animalistic moan, Jenny felt her eyes roll backwards as her mouth started to open up to him in submission. Her entire body was primed; in that single moment, there was nothing but him and the glorious sensations their combined mouths were clearly capable of creating. Perhaps it was the unexpected nature of their meeting, or the fact that she knew absolutely nothing about this stranger who she seemed unable to do anything but squabble with, but she had never felt the desirous power of attraction like this before.
As their kiss deepened, Finn’s hands never stopped in their tender caress. Their bodies naturally melded together and Jenny became aware of his thick, heavy erection wedged between their shaking frames. With her panties growing wetter by the second, the knowledge that he was equally turned on, helped her grow in confidence. Daringly, her hands started to explore his broad back and strong, powerful arms. The feel of his well-muscled shoulders immediately transported Jenny into a fantasy whereby he was holding his body weight above her, whilst he slowly, assuredly slid deep inside…
Suddenly, quite unexpectedly, Finn pulled away, leaving a panting Jenny leaning heavily against the body of her car. In the absence of contact, she pressed her lips together to savour the remaining taste of him.
‘Thank you,’ he muttered in a quiet voice. ‘Consider yourself released from my debt.’
Slowly, she blinked open her eyes, staring stupidly up at him whilst trying to understand what had just happened. Feelings of hurt and shame began to flood her body, immediately drowning out the dopamine that had quite happily been encouraging her onwards, just moments before. Swiftly, anger became the dominant response; anger for her weakness, for her gullibility and for allowing him to talk her into ignoring her first impressions which were almost always correct.
‘I knew it!’ she erupted, bristling with indignation which immediately made her go on the attack. ‘You take what you want, from whomever you want, and then just move on.’
‘And there are those prejudices again,’ he observed dryly. ‘Never far from the surface.’
‘I could report you for…for…for sexual harassment,’ she accused wildly. His rich laughter filled the air at the absurdity of her statement.
‘Really? You’re going to try and make out that what just happened between us was one-sided?’
‘Screw you!’ she snarled, eyes blazing.
‘I would dearly love to screw you,’ he murmured, almost as much to himself as anyone. Amused by Jenny’s shocked gasp, he took full advantage of her temporary inability to verbally attack him. ‘If you were to check your bog off packaging, you might conclude that you’re wrong about me.’
With a sideways glance, Jenny opened her car and pulled out the packets of biscuits in question. Sure enough, there, tucked between the inner and outer packaging, was his business card. With a cursory glance, she looked back up at him spitefully, hating that he was one step ahead, always able to predict her responses.
‘Thanks, but I use old newspapers to light the fire,’ she spat. ‘So, I don’t need this.’
‘Come on,’ he said encouragingly with a teasing twinkle in his eye. ‘Why don’t you try to suppress your many and varied prejudices and be my date on Saturday night?’ Jenny knew he was referring to Jimmy’s ice-cool party. She felt a frisson of excitement about the thought of attending and immediately hated herself for being so shallow.
‘You’re a Bastard!’
‘Better than being a Pricktease,’ he observed dispassionately, disappointed that he’d clearly overplayed his hand quite so spectacularly. Jenny’s eyes automatically darted down to his groin. The sight of a substantial bulge in his trousers doubled her anger, in memory of the amazing way he’d made her feel.
‘Go to hell!’ she growled, screwing up his business card in her tightly clenched hand. In an attempt to be unpredictable, she threw it at his feet, hating her decision for doing so, even before the piece of card was released. Storming around her vehicle, she jumped in, revved the engine with unnecessary ferocity and roared away. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, she mused as she angrily put her seatbelt on, in order to cease the continuous safety alarms echoing around her. What the hell was wrong with her?
Finn leaned back on his car and exhaled a long, deep sigh. So, that didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. Watching her speed out of the car park, aware of blood continuing to pump to his swollen cock, Jimmy’s words echoed through his head. “When it’s right, you just know.” And, despite evidence to the contrary, he knew this woman was right. Even though that knowledge scared the shit out of him; he didn’t have the best track record of selecting appropriate women. Yet, he had seen straight through all her defensive layers to read the person she was beneath, and he more than liked what he saw. The fact that she physically looked like an angel was simply a bonus. How the hell was he going to find her again?
With a somewhat heavy heart, Finn took a leisurely drive back home. Following a long, hot summer on the continent, he had returned to England just as Autumn was starting to take a firm hold. Late September was capable of delivering such a variation of weather; blustery and cold one day, hot and sunny the next, as the last hurrah of summer burst forth. Recently, he had to admit to being somewhat fanatical about checking the weather forecast. But then with three strategically placed buckets beneath a leaky section of roof, a missing window and a dead tree branch hanging precariously over his garage, who wouldn’t?
As it happened, owning twenty acres of land, upon which resided a sprawling, seven bedroom farmhouse which couldn’t be much more run down if it tried, had never been part of Finn’s grand plan. When a distant relative had died the previous year, he was as surprised as anybody to discover himself named as the sole beneficiary in the will. Although, to be fair, by the time Great Uncle Charles had reached one hundred years of age, he had precious few options left to him. Acerbic, crotchety and downright rude at times, the old man had become estranged from most of his living relatives, so his wealth either had to go to Finn, or an animal charity. In the end, probably via the flip of a coin, he chose a family member.
Finn was travelling around Italy when he’d picked up the email one night, to confirm that probate had been completed and he was now the proud owner of Orchard Farm. Having never seen it, his intention had been to immediately put the property onto the market and sell as quickly as possible. What he hadn’t accounted for was to fall in love with the house, almost the first second he swung his car off the road and traversed the long, overgrown driveway. Being in the building trade himself, Finn was not ignorant of the many and varied repairs that his new property clearly required; a leaking roof to replace, brickwork that needed re-pointing and gutting the entire interior, to name but a few. But, despite all the problems, he envisaged how amazing it would look, once everything was fixed. Whether his new home turned out to be a blessing to cherish or a millstone around his neck, well, only time would tell.
Striding along the overgrown garden path, he glanced up at the incredible, centuries-old building, wondering how many generations worth of stories it held secret within its walls. The oak front door creaked nosily as Finn pushed it open and he made a mental note to add oiling the rusty hinges onto his seemingly infinite ‘To do’ list. Perhaps there was a key to the door somewhere but, so far, he hadn’t been able to find one. Besides, justified Finn, there was precious little for anybody to steal. Most of his personal belongings were still in storage, whilst he worked on renovating the house and bringing it up to a liveable standard. The house certainly wouldn’t be a target for a self-respecting burglar and if squatters were silly enough to try and take up residence, they would simply be handed a paintbrush and warmly welcomed on board.
Dumping his shopping bag in the kitchen, Finn inhaled deeply. Usually, the cool, timeless ambience of the house calmed him, but not today. He felt agitated, uncomfortable, restless and more than a little frustrated. What was worse, he knew the exact reason why…thatwoman. Try as he might, he was failing to push aside the memory of their kiss, so she stubbornly remained at the very forefront of his mind. When their soft lips had met and melded together, the experience had been surreal. Never, in the four decades he’d spent on the planet, had he experienced such physically overwhelming feelings. Finn remembered the sheer indulgence of her exquisite breasts pushed against his chest, savouring her soft hair between his fingers, the warmth of her body, the sound of her throaty moans… In short, the stuff fantasies were made of.
What was perhaps less tolerable, was the unexpected flood of emotions she had caused him to feel. Their lips had barely joined, before he realised he would be obliged to break their kiss, or else lose himself completely. Hell, if he hadn’t acted as he had, they’d probably still be there kissing right now. There was no question that she had been willing. Finn sighed. Hadbeing the operative word. Now she was just pissed at him. Although it hardly mattered, given that he hadn’t the slightest idea who she was. What an utter mess!
Kicking his foot in frustration against an old central beam, Finn exhaled nosily and shook his head at his own ineptitude. He needed to distract his attention onto a task and it wasn’t like he was short of things to do. Furthermore, the task must involve physical labour, to act as a diversion for his overactive libido. Casting his eyes around the old, decaying building that exuded so much promise, his gaze was snagged by the lounge. His brow furrowed with distaste as he grudgingly observed the well-worn carpet. Badly stained and frayed, it was a sickly orange affair, adorned with great swirling patterns, reminiscent of the nineteen seventies. Nothing short of heinous, such a sight to behold was an insult to his new home and Finn vowed he wouldn’t allow it to remain for one moment longer. Decisively, he grabbed his toolbox, marched into the room and focussed his mind on something useful.
It was late afternoon before Finn had completed his task which even included burning all remnants of carpet on the bonfire outside. The exercise had turned out to be extremely therapeutic. Standing back to admire his handiwork, he couldn’t help but grin broadly. The removal of the carpet had exposed something quite unexpected; the most incredible, undoubtedly original, wide oak floorboards. Some complete spanner, Finn’s money being on his late relative, had completely bodged the job, using glue and the occasional nail to fix the hideous carpet down in the first place. Indeed, he’d physically winced upon discovering it, occasionally muttering a disbelieving “Why?” to himself. Consequently, additional effort would need to be put into their restoration but Finn was confident he could return the flooring to its former glory. Despite the relatively minor damage, the wood grain was glorious and he felt quite honoured to be the first person to directly walk on the floorboards for nearly fifty years.
Finn had worked hard and a shower, plus his microwave meal for one, were starting to call him. Before he surrendered to such mundane needs however, he wanted to know what structure lay beneath the floorboards. This knowledge would allow him to ascertain what insulation materials would need to be ordered. If he understood the situation up front, he could ponder the necessary next steps and his leisure.
During his afternoon’s work, Finn had noticed some loose floorboards in the corner of the room which abutted up against the huge inglenook fireplace. Grabbing his tools for the final time that day, he set them down in the corner and began to carefully tease up the flooring. To his surprise, a number of floorboards were very easy to raise. Exposing the cavity beneath, Finn noted it was mostly filled with dust, bent nails and discarded offcuts of wood. The debris was, no doubt, a victim of the process to install the original flooring.
With a sigh, Finn eased himself up from his aching knees, mentally assessing the purchases he would need to add to his shopping list of building materials. It was obvious that knee pads were also likely to be prudent. Suddenly, a dull glimmer of something beneath the exposed floorboards caught his eye. Dropping back to the ground, he used his strong arms to hold up his body weight as he shone a torch into the pitch black cavity. But it was hopeless; along with the darkening night and the poor lighting in the house, he simply couldn’t see. Gingerly, he stretched his arm into the hole to retrieve whatever the object was, praying it wasn’t a set mouse trap… or worse.
After a moment of tentative exploring, which whisked his mind back to the depleted shelf of biscuits and that beautiful woman, his fingers made contact with several separate items. Pulling them gently towards him, Finn was delighted to discover a small, very rusty tin with a hinged lid, alongside a package, wrapped up in ancient brown paper and tied by string. With a rapidly beating heart, he transferred the objects into the kitchen, where the light was better. Excitement consumed him as he painstakingly prised open the lid of the tin which would once, no doubt, have displayed a pattern or advertising slogan, although none existed now. Beneath a sheet of delicately folded tissue paper lay what he guessed were a girl’s cherished possessions; a small notebook, a copy of an Agatha Christie novel, a wallet of aged, sepia photographs, a few items of jewellery and a handful of old coins.
Not realising his breathing had turned very shallow, Finn turned his attention to the second item. With immense care, he willed his large fingers to untie the delicate bow of string and conscientiously unfolded the brown paper from around the thick package. The very first thing he noticed was the front page of a yellowing newspaper, declaring in enormous letters “IT’S OVER!”. Dropping down to his seat in utter astonishment, he could only stare in disbelief. In his hands, he was holding an original edition of the Daily Mail, published over a century before, rejoicing in the day World War One ended. The grainy, accompanying images showed jubilant Brits celebrating in the streets. “Joy and thanksgiving mark start of the Armistice on greatest day of our history” declared the by-line.
Dizzy with excitement, Finn very cautiously lifted the item into his hands, only to be confronted with a stack of perhaps twenty other newspapers below. Each one carefully preserved another key moment in history, running between nineteen eighteen and the nineteen forties. The abdication of Edward VIII to marry Wallace Simpson, the outbreak of World War Two and its many subsequent atrocities, and the discovery of Pluto, to mention but a few. Finn sat there for hours, his stomach rumbling and all thoughts of a shower long forgotten, utterly submerged in the fascinating historical documents he had unearthed.
Gradually, his focus returned to the person who had trustingly secreted the items beneath the floorboards in the first place. Logic dictated that Great Uncle Charles could not have placed the items there originally, for they pre-dated his time living in the house. Neither could he have been aware of their existence, thought Finn wryly, because he would have sold them. The only clue seemed to be a recurring surname in the top right hand corner of most of the newspapers; Turner.
When Finn returned his attention to the little tin, astonishment rendered him quite speechless when he opened the cover of the delicate copy of “The Murder at the Vicarage”; Miss Marple’s first appearance in a full length novel. Not only was it a first edition, but there on the front page were scrawled the words:
Darling Harriett. The very happiest Christmas to you. All my love, Agatha x
Closing the priceless book in awe, Finn gathered his thoughts. At last, he had a name from which to start his search; Harriett Turner. Placing both packages well out of harm’s way, he vowed to commence that search tomorrow, in order that he could return these precious items to their rightful owner.
Several weeks had passed since the initial excitement of finding a time capsule hidden beneath the floor of his house. Finn, however, had not been idle. In between working hard to renovate his new home, he had been busily researching Harriett Turner. Due to an absence of both telephone and internet communications at Orchard Farm, much of his efforts had taken place at the local library. This was an unexpected blessing because it resulted in Finn crossing paths with a chap who worked there called Simon. Simon was highly experienced in genealogy and turned out to be extremely helpful in navigating various census records as well as birth, death and marriage certificates for traces of the Turner family.
As Finn parked up and strolled into the library that day, he recognised that there was an added bonus to being out and about, rather than stuck inside his dusty, dilapidated house. There was a chance, albeit extremely small, that he might run into heragain. The woman from the supermarket hadn’t been far from his mind ever since they’d shared a kiss. Never was this truer than when his guard was down, in that vulnerable moment between consciousness and sleep. It was then that she appeared most clearly. Initially, she would be all fight and bluster; snapping and snarling, arousing him against his will. By the time Finn was safely ensconced inside his dreams, he was content to happily wallow in her breathy sighs and bliss-filled groans. Powered by a lustful desire, those dreams were increasingly focussed on him frenziedly driving them both out of their minds; a scenario no doubt motivated by an increasing urgency to come deep inside her.
‘Finn! I’ve got great news!’ said Simon happily, almost the very moment he set foot across the threshold of the library entrance.
‘Fantastic!’ grinned Finn, largely because the image of his dream woman, naked and fully open to him, remained emblazoned at the very forefront of his mind.
‘I’ve found Harriett!’
‘You have?’ he exclaimed, suddenly fully focused on the present. ‘That’s fantastic! Is she alive?’
‘She certainly is,’ nodded Simon, laying out a number of documents on the desk. As the two men carefully discussed and scrutinised the evidence, Finn felt a rush of gratitude towards his new acquaintance. He had seemingly done the impossible in finding Harriett Turner, who, following her marriage in the year nineteen fifty-seven, now went by the name Harriett Wilkins.
‘So, just her address to track down…’ muttered Finn to himself, as they tidied the papers away again.
‘Actually, I think I can help you with that too,’ admitted Simon, handing over a yellow post-it note. ‘I looked her up on the electoral register and Harriett lives in the next village. I’ve written her details down here,’ he said, laughing in reaction to Finn’s incredulous expression.
‘You are seriously wasted here, mate,’ he said in astonishment. ‘At the very least, the Security Services could benefit from you.’
‘Thanks,’ chuckled Simon. ‘Will you let me know how it goes? With Harriett.’
‘Of course. That feels like the very least I can do,’ replied Finn, shaking his hand warmly. ‘Well, I guess there’s no time like the present?’
Finn was surprisingly nervous about calling Harriett, but in the end, she couldn’t have been nicer. Without a thought, she invited him around for a cup of tea later that same day. By the time he parked on the road outside her address, the day had turned cold, wet and overcast. Pulling his collar up around his neck, in an attempt to gain protection from the driving rain, Finn grabbed a couple of bags and ran towards the front door. Given the previous splendour of Orchard Farm, he admitted to being surprised at Harriett’s current residence. From the outside, it looked extremely small and basic. Some might even say poky.
Having rung the door bell, he remained wedged on the tiny porch, in an attempt to shield himself from the worst of the elements.
‘Just one moment!’ called a female voice from inside, as various catches and chains were unfastened. When the door eventually opened, it revealed a frail-looking, grey-haired lady. However, despite being eighty-nine years old, her eyes still managed to sparkle with amused delight. And one thing was certain; her personality was far from frail.
‘Come in, you’re getting soaked!’ she declared, standing back so a dripping Finn could squeeze his way into her home. Quickly removing his saturated jacket, he turned to face her.
‘I am so thrilled to be meeting you at last, Mrs Wilkins,’ he grinned with delight.
‘Harriett,’ she said immediately with a smile, grasping his proffered hand with a surprisingly firm grip. ‘And the pleasure is all mine, Finn. Come through.’
With heavy reliance on her walking stick, she made her laborious way into a small lounge. There, she dropped precariously into an armchair beside a single-bar electric heater, whilst Finn sat in the chair opposite. Between them was an occasional table, displaying a Scrabble board which had been abandoned mid-game.
‘Jenny will be back very shortly,’ she explained. ‘If you don’t mind waiting a few minutes for a cup of tea?’
‘Of course not. And perhaps, in the meantime, I can give you these,’ said Finn, passing across Harriett’s childhood tin, whilst placing the newspaper bundle, a packet of biscuits and a beautiful potted orchid on the table beside her.
‘Oh, my dear boy, thank you,’ she breathed. For a short while, she gazed in wonder at the tin, back in her hands for the first time in nearly seventy years. Eventually, her line of sight drifted towards the table. ‘Oh, those biscuits are my favourite!’ she exclaimed in delight.
‘Mine too,’ smiled Finn sadly. Suddenly he was reminded of the supermarket woman, who was already guilty of crossing his mind multiple times today alone. If only he could start to slowly wean himself off thinking about her. ‘I have to ask,’ he added, as Harriett thumbed carefully through the Miss Marple novel with a soft smile on her face. ‘Did you actually know Agatha Christie?’
‘I did,’ she admitted with a bright smile. ‘She was a childhood friend of my mum’s.’
‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ breathed Finn. ‘Along with the rest of the world, I’m a huge fan of her work.’
‘She was certainly a most astonishing lady,’ agreed Harriett.
‘She mysteriously went missing herself at one point, didn’t she?’
‘Yes. In nineteen twenty-six, four years before I was born. It was the most peculiar affair, by all accounts. A thorough search of The Silent Pool, just outside Guildford in Surrey, ensued. They pulled together a large search party of various tradesmen, which included my father.’
‘Oh?’ breathed Finn.
‘Yes. The locals feared the worst. But in the end, she turned up ten days later in a hotel in Harrogate. The media were fed a story about Agatha suffering amnesia, brought on by a nervous breakdown from the death of her mother and confessed infidelity of her husband,’ explained Harriett, clearly in her element. ‘But I believe there was more to it than that…’
‘What trade was your father in?’ asked Finn, when she failed to enlarge further.
‘I share a trait with your father then,’ he explained. ‘I was originally a carpenter when I first started out.’ Harriett nodded approvingly.
‘That must come in very handy with the renovation work?’
‘I hope it will,’ admitted Finn. ‘Although so far, all I seem to be doing is de-junking the place. It desperately needs to be brought kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, if only in terms of communications and utilities. I really hope you might consider visiting Orchard Farm,’ said Finn softly. ‘I would be honoured if you would.’
‘I’d love that,’ nodded Harriett, tears threatening to spill from her eyes at the thought of his kind offer to see her childhood home once again.
Her hand drifted towards the brown paper parcel of newspapers and she pulled the delicately tied bow to unfasten them. Just as Finn had found them, the top headline referred to the end of the war.
‘I remember the day my father gave me this newspaper,’ she sighed. ‘I was born over a decade after this was published, so it must have been one from his own collection.’
‘His own collection?’ clarified Finn.
‘Yes,’ smiled Harriett. ‘He was a hoarder too; I’m afraid it’s a genetic abnormality, passed down through the generations of my family.’
‘There are worse things to be guilty of,’ chuckled Finn.
‘Not many. Oh, that sounds like Jenny now,’ she added, as the unmistakable rattle of a key being fitted into a lock drifted through the room. ‘I’m not sure what I’d do without her.’
‘Sounds like you’re lucky,’ smiled Finn cordially.
‘Yes, I might have brought her up but she’s looked after me for years now, working two jobs to support us and allow me to keep my independence. She knows full well that packing me into a nursing home would kill me off altogether. Darling!’ exclaimed Harriett, now glancing towards the doorway. ‘This is Mr Jacobs, whom I mentioned to you. The new owner of Orchard Farm.’ Levering himself up from the low, squishy chair, he turned towards the door to partake in introductions, only to find himself utterly lost for words. For there, in front of him, stood the woman he’d lusted after for weeks. And she looked none too happy to discover him in situ.
‘Finn, this is my granddaughter Jenny, who lives with me,’ continued Harriett, seemingly ignorant to the massive undercurrents swirling about the room.
‘You!’ she hissed so quietly that her grandmother failed to hear it.
‘I’m very pleased to meet you,’ said Finn, stepping forwards and holding out his hand. Clearly, whatever discussion needed to take place between them, it was best not done in the presence of an elderly lady. Jenny apparently agreed because, with a false smile on her face, she took his hand and briefly shook it with a nod.
‘I’m sure the pleasure’s all mine,’ she said meaningfully before quickly releasing his hand once more.
‘Any chance you could make a cup of tea for us?’ asked Harriett kindly. ‘We’ve been waiting for you to return.’
‘Of course,’ agreed Jenny, immediately backing out of the room. Right now, she needed some space to understand her confused emotions.
Jenny stood in the tiny galley kitchen, attempting to take slow, deep breaths, as she waited for the kettle to boil. It pained her to admit that Finn had inhabited many of her thoughts over the past few weeks, no thanks in part to the flashbacks she kept experiencing of THAT kiss. With an exasperated huff, she grabbed three mugs from the cupboard, briefly wondering whether putting something noxious into Finn’s beverage, might hasten his exit from the house. Lemon juice and mustard might do it? Or dishwasher salt, perhaps?
As she threw a teabag into each cup and started to pour over the boiling water, she acknowledged a truth to herself. Her greatest frustration was the anger she felt at herself for wanting to repeat their kiss. Even in spite of his callous rejection, she still secretly desired him. The realisation hardened her heart further against him as her memory dredged up the feel of his soft, sensual lips. Of his strong, powerful body dominating her own. Christ! How far would she have gone with him, if he hadn’t backed away? She dreaded to think. Yet, as much as she hated to admit it, meeting Finn and rubbing shoulders with popstar royalty had been the most exciting part of what was otherwise an extremely dull year, filled with nothing but work. Her melancholy was swiftly pushed aside, thanks to the sound of approaching footsteps.
‘What do you want?’ she growled, not deigning to look around at her adversary.
‘I’ve come to help with the tea,’ he said softly.
‘Bullshit!’ she exclaimed, spinning around to face him and immediately wishing she hadn’t. The kitchen was small and Finn’s sexy, muscled mass looming large in the door frame was more than a little intimidating. She felt blood pump to her pussy as recollections of their shared kiss exploded once more in her memory. ‘Unless you seriously think I’m not capable of making three cups of tea?’
‘Look, can we call a truce to our hostilities?’ he asked with the hint of a smile on his face.
‘I can be civil,’ she agreed. ‘So long as you don’t think my opinion of you has changed. I don’t trust you. You lie too easily.’
‘I didn’t lie,’ countered Finn. ‘I simply played along with your prejudices for a short while.’
‘I am not prejudice!’ she squeaked.
‘Then you make a good deal of assumptions, most of which are totally unfounded,’ he stated simply. ‘And you know what they say about people who assume?’
‘They make an ASS out of U and ME,’ he chuckled. Jenny practically howled in response. God, this man was even more infuriating than she had given him credit for, when his only crime was being French and stealing her biscuits.
‘You want me to kiss you again, don’t you?’ he grinned, enjoying pushing her just a little bit further.
‘Of course not!’
‘You’re not a big fan of spontaneity, then?’ he queried.
‘I’m not a big fan of you!’ she huffed, holding onto the kitchen counter for support. Each time they met, he sent her pulse and emotions into a swirling mess; who needed that kind of confusion in their lives?
‘Luckily, the feeling is entirely mutual,’ he said, with a tight smile, frustrated with her wall of anger that he seemed incapable of breaking through. ‘And don’t worry. I have no intention of kissing you again.’
‘You’d better not,’ she hissed.
‘Believe me, I won’t. There’s no pleasure to be found in kissing a tight-lipped, suspicious woman who’s too afraid to embrace the sheer exhilaration of life. Just because you aren’t getting any, there’s no need to take your frustrations out on the rest of the world.’
Jenny stood facing him, her jaw slowly dropping in astonished shock, to reveal a perfect set of white teeth.
‘Ooops!’ chuckled Finn, looking slightly embarrassed. ‘Did I just say that last sentence out loud?’
‘How dare you!’ she spluttered.
‘I call it as I see it,’ he shrugged.
‘You have no idea…’ she started, but her reproach was in vain. Finn had already turned his back on her and left the room. Returning her focus to making tea, whilst re-considering the additional ingredients that Finn’s cup might now require, Jenny pummelled his teabag with such force that it ripped open. As the tea leaves drifted onto the surface of the steaming liquid, Jenny closed her eyes, momentarily defeated. She would have to start over again now. Perhaps his observations had been depressingly accurate; she wasn’t getting any, she did seem increasingly afraid to embrace life and suddenly, even making three cups of tea was proving beyond her limited abilities.
Jenny took so long to return to the lounge that Finn considered returning to the kitchen to check on her and, no doubt, face her wrath for a second time. As they sat sipping their cups of tea, it was abundantly clear that his words had upset Jenny, the outcome of which he deeply regretted. Like cat and dog, there was just something about her that made him want to provoke, to force a response. He didn’t really want to anger her, but in the absence of anything else, that reaction was better than nothing. Nevertheless, knowing he’d overstepped the mark, Finn spent the rest of his visit making pleasant conversation, purposefully on his best behaviour, whilst Harriett reminisced.
‘I don’t believe I was ever happier, than the time I lived at Orchard Farm,’ she sighed contentedly. ‘Do cherish it, won’t you?’
‘I intend to,’ nodded Finn gravely. ‘On which note,’ he added, standing to leave. ‘I’d like to repeat my offer for you to visit Orchard Farm.’ The offer was made to Harriett, but he hoped beyond hope that her presence would also necessitate a certain granddaughter’s attendance too.
‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea,’ replied Jenny immediately, her head racing with legitimate concerns. ‘You’re not very mobile and from what Finn’s described, it sounds like the house isn’t in the safest condition.’
‘That’s a fair point,’ he conceded. After all, it was still pretty much a building site. ‘But I’d obviously do my best to have a good clear up prior to you arriving.’
‘I’d like to go,’ confirmed Harriett decisively. ‘But it might have to wait a few weeks. I had an operation on my knee a little while ago,’ she explained for Finn’s benefit. ‘I’m under strict instructions to avoid too much excitement for a little while longer.’
‘That’s no problem,’ grinned Finn. He was already very fond of the older lady who had just the kind of attitude he admired. ‘Consider it an open invitation, to both of you, whenever you can make it.’
‘Thank you, Finn,’ said Harriett graciously, as he bent down to kiss her goodbye on the cheek. ‘In the meantime,’ she added. ‘Would you be kind enough to visit me again soon? I’ve really enjoyed this.’
‘I can do one better,’ smiled Finn warmly. ‘Might I take you out somewhere, for tea and cake? You are, of course, invited too,’ he added to Jenny, whose eyes dropped to her lap, inexplicably unable to face him directly.
‘That would be lovely,’ Harriett accepted firmly, on behalf of both herself and her granddaughter. ‘I’ll give you a ring to arrange a suitable time.’
‘I can’t wait,’ said Finn, grinning broadly. ‘Don’t get up. I’ll let myself out,’ he added with a brief nod towards Jenny. ‘Goodbye.’
‘Bye Finn,’ called a delighted Harriett, whilst Jenny merely managed a half-hearted grunt.
‘I’m going to visit Orchard Farm,’ Harriett stated kindly but firmly, once she’d heard the front door close. ‘If you’d like to accompany me, that would be very much appreciated. But ultimately, I will be accepting Finn’s kind invitation.’
‘Can we discuss this later?’ breathed Jenny. Finn’s visit had sapped her of all energy, confidence and emotion. She simply didn’t have the strength to think about him right now.
‘Of course, dear,’ agreed her grandmother supportively.
‘You aren’t upset, are you?’ asked Jenny cautiously. She couldn’t help but notice that her grandmother looked slightly deflated, with Finn’s exit.
‘No,’ sighed Harriett. ‘We were just so happy living there. Finn’s visit brought back a lot of memories; good and bad.’
‘But you wouldn’t want to turn back time and still be living there now?’
‘I’d return in a heartbeat,’ chuckled Harriett.
‘You aren’t happy here?’ Jenny dared to voice. It was true their house was a basic two-up, two-down affair, but it was home all the same.
‘So long as you are nearby, I’d be happy anywhere,’ she smiled. Jenny scrunched up her face; that hadn’t exactly answered her question.
‘Shall we carry on with our game of Scrabble?’ asked Harriett, breaking her granddaughter’s thought processes. Jenny nodded. Loosing herself in a board game was exactly what she required. Glancing down at the board to try and remember their last move, she caught sight of a new four letter word that had materialised on an unused corner of the playing board. “FATE”. Unable to help herself, Jenny burst out laughing. She rubbed her hand across her weary eyes, as she absorbed the personal joke Finn had left for her to find. On the one hand, she’d never met a man like him; he turned her to jelly with the slightest touch and she’d spent far too many hours recently, imagining what making love to Finn Jacobs would be like. Conversely, he was utterly infuriating and she’d never encountered anybody she wished to strangle more.
Logic suggested that, now Finn knew the identity of his mystery woman, he ought to be less consumed with thoughts of her. But in reality, he found himself thinking about Jenny more and more. He knew it was crazy, particularly as he seemed to do nothing but irk her, big time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something he was in control of. Like a lovelorn teenager counting down the days until they would next set eyes on the object of their desire, so Finn found himself counting down the time left until his agreed coffee and cake date with Harriett. During his conversation with Harriett to arrange it, Jenny hadn’t been mentioned and, in all honesty, Finn had been too cowardly to ask.
Regardless, Finn met up with Harriett just over a week later. The garden centre location was celebrated for its coffee shop, which boasted an excellent selection of tea and cakes, plus pretty views over the neighbouring countryside. But what thrilled Finn the most was the knowledge that he wouldn’t be required to collect Harriett because her granddaughter would be accompanying them.
As Jenny assisted Harriett in making slow progress through the café, she caught sight of Finn rising from a nearby table and walking towards them. With cheeks aflame, Jenny purposefully didn’t look at him. All her energies were instead centred on trying to control her galloping pulse.
‘How lovely to see you, dear,’ exclaimed Harriett, happy to accept Finn’s proffered arm and be led towards the table he had chosen. It was adjacent to a huge window which arguably provided the prettiest view available.
‘You too,’ smiled Finn, before nodding briefly to acknowledge Jenny. He’d decided to try and turn over a new leaf today and show her what a decent bloke he could actually be when he wasn’t being riled by an extraordinarily attractive woman who upset his equilibrium and made him say inappropriate things. He acknowledged it would be a struggle, not least because the woman in question looked even more attractive than ever, but he was determined to try.
The first half hour went very well. Pleasant small talk was made and large slices of coffee cake, accompanied by Earl Grey tea, were enjoyed by all. The arrival of Harriett’s good friend Eve however, marked the start of a very slippery downhill slope.
‘Why don’t you two go for a stroll?’ suggested Harriett, smiling broadly. ‘Leave us elderly ladies to catch up with…elderly lady stuff?’
‘Sure,’ smiled Finn. Immediately rising from his chair, he helped Eve, who was no younger than her friend, into a seat before turning to face Jenny. ‘That is, if you can bear a little one on one time with me?’ He couldn’t help but smirk as she looked up at him, a deep red flush passing across her face.
‘What the hell does that mean?’ she gasped.
‘Jenny, I think you misunderstand…’ began Harriett.
‘More like wilfully misunderstand,’ murmured Finn under his breath, so that only Jenny could hear. Pushing her chair back sharply, she stood. For a brief moment, she stared fiercely at him, before turning to walk away. Finn immediately fell into step beside her.
‘Why do you continue to rile me?’ she demanded, once they were out of Harriet’s earshot.
‘I’d have thought that was blatantly obvious,’ he replied in an undertone, as they made their way through the aquatic section. Jenny did a double-take as confusion passed across her face. She hadn’t been expecting him to admit to it.
‘Not to me.’
Pausing, Finn turned to look her directly in the eye, causing a familiar fluttering through her pussy that his focused attention automatically tended to inspire.
‘Because, without exception, you being angry at me is the sexiest thing I have ever experienced,’ admitted Finn calmly. As he moved off, Jenny remained motionless, mouthing in a similar way to the goldfish currently circling the pond beside which she stood.
After a short moment, her conscious brain kicked in and she trotted along to catch up.
‘So, I’m destined to be made angry by you, for the duration of time we spend together?’ she clarified.
‘Sorry?’ replied Finn, purposefully setting her up once more.
‘Because me being angry turns you on?’ she prompted.
‘I never said you turn me on,’ stated Finn, glancing down at her sternly. ‘That’s quite a leap. And perhaps even a little big-headed, if you don’t mind me saying.’
‘You said me being angry is the sexiest thing you’d ever seen,’ argued a determined Jenny. ‘So not thatmuch of a leap?’ she added sarcastically.
‘It’s true,’ admitted Finn, his lips twitching into a smile, delighted that she was starting to play along at last. ‘Seeing you angry is very sexy. Although I daresay, witnessing you experiencing other extreme forms of emotion would have a similar effect on me.’
‘Such as?’ she croaked, her eyes wide with disbelief. As they continued to walk, she briefly glanced around to ensure nobody could overhear their deeply private conversation.
Finn shrugged casually.
‘I’m not one hundred percent sure,’ he admitted. ‘But I would have thought ecstasy would be pretty high up on my list.’ Damn. That new leaf hadn’t lasted as long as he’d hoped.
‘You can’t say that!’ she squeaked in an undertone that could have been mistaken for a pleasurable moan.
‘Course I can,’ he replied seriously, raising an eyebrow. ‘I just did.’
‘But why would you want to see me…experience ecstasy?’ she asked, breathless at the mere thought of it. ‘When you stated you had no intention of ever kissing me again?’
‘Mmmm,’ growled Finn, stopping in his tracks and turning to face her. ‘I might have lied about that.’
‘Another lie?’ accused Jenny, only half joking.
‘The only lie,’ he corrected, enjoying watching her quiver under his concentrated gaze. Unable to maintain the intensity, Jenny broke eye contact and glanced around the garden furniture section, in which they now stood.
‘Oh fuck!’ she breathed. Over the far side of the room stood her ex. As their eyes met, recognition suddenly flooded his pale features. With a determined look on his face, he started to head towards them.
‘Tell me?’ demanded Finn.
‘It’s Matt. My ex. I desperately don’t want to talk to him!’
‘Mat with one “T”?’ grinned Finn. ‘As in door?’
‘Fuck you!’ she growled, suddenly wishing she was anywhere but there.
‘How desperate are you, not to talk to him?’ asked Finn softly.
‘Seriouslydesperate,’ she murmured, as Matt navigated around an eight-seater table and chair garden set, continuing to close the distance. Things had not ended well between them and the last thing she needed was a full-on scene in a very public location, only a few miles from her primary place of employment. She had only been the office manager at the local solicitors for the past year and wouldn’t want reports of her involved in a garden centre brawl to reach them.
‘Do you trust me?’ he whispered, placing a hand tenderly around her waist and pulling her trembling body to lean against his.
‘No, not at all,’ she gasped, suddenly unable to focus on anything but Finn. He had taken hold of her as though he owned her and Jenny could feel her body responding in kind. She barely trusted another human being on this earth, with the exception of her grandmother. If her own parents could abandon her – the very strongest ties there should be – then what was to stop the rest of the world doing the same?
‘You should trust me,’ he murmured, his breath bouncing across her lips. ‘I want only good things for you.’ With a sigh of surrender, Jenny allowed his strong arms, which were now firmly wrapped around her, to support her body weight. Easing her down onto a very comfortable garden seat, Finn’s lips lovingly encompassed her own. This beat scrapping with her ex any day.
Jenny had absolutely no idea how long they remained there, enjoying the glorious sensation of their tongues sliding against each other. All she knew was that Matt never did approach her, or at least if he did, she was wholly unaware of his presence. She was far too busy being held in a state of extended pleasure. Each sweep of Finn’s tongue made her internal muscles clench tightly, ensuring her panties became damper and damper with every minute that passed. When they eventually broke apart, his mouth remained hovering dangerously close to hers.
‘We need to get something straight,’ he growled, his tone betraying the unavoidable truth that he was intensely turned on. Jenny tried to ask what they needed to get straight, but her own voice had entirely deserted her, so she ended up just nodding back at him. ‘Two people don’t kiss like that, unless there’s some serious chemistry at work.’ And that, in itself, is a massive understatement, acknowledged Finn silently. He had literally never experienced that level of passion from a single kiss before in his entire life. The two of them would be dynamite in bed.
‘What’s your point?’ she croaked.
‘No more fucking around. I desperately want you,’ he admitted, boldly laying all of his cards on the table. ‘Would it be fair to suggest you feel the same way?’
‘Yes,’ she breathed, looking utterly shell-shocked. ‘That would be fair.’ This admission earned her a tender glance, as Finn gently stroked a strand of hair away from her face.
‘Good,’ he smiled. ‘In that case…to be continued. Right now, we ought to get back to your grandmother?’
‘Oh…yes,’ gasped Jenny, momentarily forgetting both where they were and who they had come with. ‘Of course.’
‘There you are!’ smiled Harriett, as a flushed Jenny scurried back to their table.
‘Here we are,’ grinned Finn, who was following calmly behind, a fresh pot of tea in one hand and a selection of tasty treats in the other.
‘Are you trying to fatten us up?’ accused Harriett playfully.
‘Would that be so bad?’ chuckled Finn, carefully pouring her out a fresh cup of tea. ‘I don’t want you wasting away, after all.’
‘No chance of that, the amount of biscuits Jenny buys me,’ laughed Harriett. Finn turned his attention to Jenny and cast her a lazy wink which did nothing to assist with her temporary speechlessness.
‘Now, why don’t you tell us more about your plans for Orchard Farm?’ continued Harriett, apparently unaware of the significant undercurrents at play.
‘Sure,’ he agreed, relaxing back in his chair, pausing for a moment to take a sip of his steaming beverage. ‘Well, I’m afraid the property hasn’t been maintained at the level it deserves over the past twenty years or so. I hope it won’t be too much of a shock when you do visit.’
‘Oh?’ enquired Harriett, taking a bite of a mouth-watering piece of shortbread.
‘Pretty much everything that could need doing, does need doing. From a leaking roof and woodworm, through to the clearance of mountains of detritus and waging war on the gardens. But I guess that’s what happens when you live in a house for decades and don’t invest in its upkeep.’
‘So it remained in the hands of Charles and Lavinia Black for all that time?’ asked Harriett. Finn heard Jenny hiss at mention of their name but didn’t comment.
‘Ummm…yes,’ he confirmed. ‘Well, I understand that Lavinia had died some ten years previously, but Charles only died within the past year.’
‘Black by name, black by nature,’ scowled Jenny, pulling her jumper protectively around her body.
‘We shouldn’t speak ill of the dead,’ chided Harriett.
‘Perhaps not. But in the case of my great uncle, I believe it might be warranted,’ sighed Finn.
‘Yourgreat uncle?’ spat Jenny, every word apparently a heavy burden.
‘Okay, what have I done this time?’ he asked, hands raised in mock surrender. Finn may well admit to finding the angry version of Jenny sexy, but he’d come to realise he liked the soft, pliant and affectionate side of her personality infinitely more.
‘You’re related to that morally reprehensible excuse for a human being?’ she demanded.
‘I’m sorry,’ murmured Harriett, swiftly apologising for her granddaughter’s behaviour, before she had chance to slander the man further. ‘Jenny is a little protective of me. You see, it was I who sold the property to the Black’s all that time ago and…well, to be honest, they were a little deceitful.’
‘To put it mildly!’ exploded Jenny, not caring who heard her. ‘They ripped you off…big time! When you were at your most vulnerable,’ she added. ‘Bastards!’
‘Do you mind me asking what happened?’ asked Finn evenly, trying to ignore the fact that Jenny seemed to be packing all her belongings together, in preparation to leave.
‘I was young; barely an adult. And had just suffered the loss of both of my parents,’ sighed Harriett, after a brief moment’s consideration. ‘I didn’t have the life experience to manage such a big house or the income to keep it. I believed my only option was to sell our family home. I suppose the Black’s realised I was more than a little naïve and they took advantage of the situation.’
‘Took advantage?’ seethed Jenny, her focus on leaving briefly broken by the conversation. She hated the thought of anybody hurting her precious grandmother, even though she hadn’t been alive at the time herself, so had been in no position to prevent it.
‘Took advantage,’ confirmed Harriett. ‘Conveyancing wasn’t always the tightly controlled industry it is now. The Black’s managed to retain a proportion of the sale price through some kind of legal trickery. It’s not important anymore,’ she sighed, wearily rubbing her forehead. ‘What’s done is done.’
‘Do you mind me asking what percentage they withheld?’ asked Finn, more serious than Jenny had ever seen him.
‘Forty percent,’ admitted Harriett quietly. It was still a source of great shame to her that she had allowed her family’s wealth to be frittered away in that manner. Finn whistled.
‘That’s a hell of a lot of money,’ he admitted, a wave of anger passing through him at the unjust way his relatives had acted. He observed Harriett’s threadbare elbows and couldn’t help but remember her small, basic home. It was at that moment, he resolved to do something to rectify the situation.
‘No shit, Sherlock,’ growled Jenny, rising to her feet. Finn inclined his head slightly and pursed his lips, but said nothing.
‘I know you said not to speak ill of the dead,’ said Finn, calmly addressing Harriett whilst trying to ignore Jenny’s outburst. ‘But it’s my understanding that my great uncle was shrewd, verging on criminal. I never met him and, by the time he died, I was the only suitable candidate on a shortlist of one, to inherit. But I am certainly nothing like the man.’
‘No wonder you neglected to mention you were related to him, before now,’ accused Jenny.
‘For the record,’ replied Finn curtly. ‘I didn’t purposefully hide the fact. I just never thought to mention it; I had no idea about the financial impropriety between our families before today.’
‘You’re still related! Come on, let’s go,’ said Jenny, forcefully attempting to remove her grandmother from this charlatan’s presence. ‘We mustn’t stay here any longer.’
‘No thank you, Jennifer,’ replied Harriett in a steely tone. ‘And I would have thought you, of all people, wouldn’t reproach a person for the behaviour of their relatives.’
‘I…I…’ stuttered Jenny. ‘I’d like to leave now.’
‘In that case, would you be kind enough to drive me home, when we are finished?’ the old lady asked Finn.
‘Of course,’ he replied quietly. ‘That wouldn’t be a problem.’
‘Excellent. Problem resolved,’ said Harriet. ‘I’ll see you back home?’
‘Fine,’ grumbled Jenny, swinging her bag over her shoulder and storming towards her car. Finn watched her go with a heavy knot in his stomach and a sinking feeling in his heart. The joint emotions of confusion, frustration and hurt swept across his handsome features. Although they only remained for a brief moment, it was quite long enough for Harriett to extrapolate their meaning.
‘May I offer you some more tea?’ he offered, with an attempt at joviality.
‘Thank you,’ she nodded. ‘And whilst you do that, let me tell you a little story.’
‘Oh?’ he grinned, his good nature immediately returning.
‘Once upon a time,’ began Harriett with a twisted smile. ‘There was a little girl called Helena. Her parents loved her very much and did their best for her. They all lived happily together until that little girl grew into a young adult. She became wild, headstrong, selfish and more than a little spoilt; a situation that was only exacerbated when she fell in love with her first boyfriend.’
‘Uh-oh,’ frowned Finn, giving Harriett the focus she deserved.
‘They met when they were young. Very young. Too young,’ she corrected. ‘Helena’s parents didn’t like him. Not one bit. And they were probably guilty of making their feelings a little too clearly known.’
Harriett paused for a moment to exhale a deep, troubled sigh, before collecting herself.
‘Ultimately…stupidly, their actions were probably instrumental in pushing the two of them closer together, rather than letting a teenage romance run its course.’
‘Hey,’ he said, noticing tears starting to line the lower lids of her eyes. Finn laid his large, strong hand over her mottled, frail one and squeezed gently. Never had he seen this powerhouse of a woman look more defeated. ‘My mum always says to my siblings that parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. You have to make your own mistakes and enjoy your own triumphs.’
‘You’re close to your parents?’ asked Harriett with a watery smile.
‘Very,’ grinned Finn. ‘They’re incredible.’
‘Do you have a big family?’
‘Two sisters and a brother,’ he admitted. ‘All with children of their own. Christmas is…interesting, when we all get together.’
‘How wonderful,’ smiled Harriett. ‘Family is soimportant. You don’t have any children of your own?’
‘No,’ he shook his head thoughtfully. ‘I don’t.’
‘Well, they can be a blessing and a curse, in my experience. Unfortunately, with Helena, there were too few triumphs and more than a fair share of failures. By the time she was eighteen years old,’ she continued, drawing strength from Finn’s continued supportive contact. ‘She was engaged and pregnant. Nine months later, on the day of her nineteenth birthday, she bore a daughter. Jennifer.’
Suddenly, Harriett had Finn’s full and undivided attention. The story she had been telling was of Jenny’s birth mother and, he guessed, her early life.
‘Such a beautiful child,’ sighed Harriett, glowing with the memory. Her mind was clearly elsewhere as she remembered the precious moment she had first held her cherished granddaughter in her arms. ‘The young family struggled along until Jenny was five months old. Then, one morning, I was woken by the sound of crying. Helena had snuck into my home and left Jenny in her carry cot on the lounge floor. Neither of us ever saw them again.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Finn gruffly. ‘Did you try and make contact?’
‘Yes,’ she sighed. ‘About a week afterwards, I received a letter postmarked from Spain. In it, she’d tried to justify the unjustifiable; they were too young to have children, they needed to live their lives, they couldn’t afford to have a baby. That kind of selfish nonsense. I wrote back, but by the time my letter arrived, they’d moved on without leaving a forwarding address. Purposefully, I don’t doubt.’
‘That’s tough,’ he sympathised.
‘We haven’t heard from them now for…’ There was a moment’s pause, whilst Harriett quickly worked out Jenny’s age, trying not to let shame engulf her. ‘Thirty-seven years.’
Finn shook his head, unsure of what he could possibly say.
‘I tell you this, not for your sympathy,’ Harriett continued, cutting short his thought patterns. ‘But to enable you to gain a better understanding of Jenny. Perhaps despite appearances, she really is the sweetest, kindest of souls.’
‘I know,’ agreed Finn. He’d known that in the car park, the first time they’d kissed. You could tell a lot from a kiss. Their much more intense coupling less than an hour ago had only consolidated that belief.
‘Although she is so stubborn,’ sighed Harriett with a frustrated shake of her head.
‘Yes,’ agreed Finn teasingly. ‘I can’t imagine where she gets it from, can you?’ Harriett lips pursed, as though trying not to smile.
‘Jenny finds it difficult to trust, to have fun, to let go,’ she explained gently. ‘She needs someone like you to teach her how.’
‘Why me?’ queried Finn, his eyes creasing attractively at the edges.
‘Young man,’ chided Harriett. ‘Don’t be coy. My vision might not be what it once was, but some things I can’t fail to see… the way you look at her when you know she’s not watching. And the way she lights up inside whenever you’re near.’
‘Really,’ she confirmed.
‘Can you both read me like a book, or is it just you?’ shrugged Finn.
‘It’s just me.’
‘But what happens to you in this scenario?’ asked Finn shrewdly. ‘Assuming you give this pep talk to all potential suitors, one of them could take her away from you. And you previously told me how being moved into a nursing home would kill you off altogether.’
‘Two things,’ smiled Harriett, impressed that he was considering the welfare of all three of them and not just himself, further bolstering her belief that he was just the man Jenny needed in her life. ‘Firstly, what I need is not important; if Jenny is settled and loved by a decent man, I will die the happiest of women. Secondly,’ she explained, looking him directly in the eyes. ‘I’ve never given this “pep talk”, as you call it, to anybody before.’
‘No, you’re simply the first person I deem good enough for her.’
‘Thank you,’ he said, bowing his head.
‘So I haven’t put you off altogether, then?’ asked the older lady tentatively.
‘No, quite the opposite, I assure you.’
‘Good, because what my granddaughter requires is stability; someone she can trust to always be there. To allow herself to let go in their presence and have faith that they will protect her good heart,’ explained Harriett sincerely. ‘So, if that doesn’t sound like …what you’re looking for, I only ask that you let her down gently before her obvious attachment grows too strong.’
‘I understand,’ sighed Finn. ‘Although now she knows I’m related to the infamous Black family…’
‘I don’t deny you might have your work cut out, to encourage her round to our way of thinking.’
‘Well,’ said Finn positively. ‘If there’s one thing I’ve never been afraid of, it’s hard work and a challenge. Not when I can see how much the end justifies the means. You’ll understand that for yourself when you see the current state of Orchard Farm.’
The full version of ‘Better Fate Than Never’ by Fenella Ashworth, is available from Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
Fenella Ashworth is a British author of contemporary erotic fiction. All of her stories are available from Amazon and free for those with Kindle Unlimited access. Her best known novels are ‘To Love, Honour and Oh Pay’ and the Daniel Lawson series.
Fenella also releases stories on BooksieSilk, Booksie, Lush Stories and Literotica, and is often visible in the Literotica ‘Erotic Couplings’ Hall of Fame (Top Rated).
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