This week, Kate gets an rather upsetting call from back home soon after enjoying a dinner out at the pub. Then, she finds her way back to the market at Bibury. What has been your favorite part of Kate’s journey so far? Tell me…I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you so much for reading along, It makes me incredibly happy that you love my book.
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What had been intended as a casual night out and dinner at the Rose and Crown, turned into a completely unexpected and pleasantly enjoyable evening with a member of the British aristocracy. If someone had told Kate a few weeks ago that she would be dining and sharing pints of ale at a local pub with an English Lord she would have simply laughed. But that is exactly how the night unfolded. As expected, Lord Weston, or Andrew, had been a perfect gentleman all evening. If anyone observed Kate and Lord Weston together, they would have appeared as nothing more than friends enjoying each other’s company. And that’s exactly how Kate viewed the evening. She was pleased she could add another name to a growing list of acquaintances and friends in Bourton-on-Water. She wasn’t sure who the other party was that he was supposed to have met for dinner, but their loss turned into her gain.
They talked and laughed into the night, leaving right before closing. After chiding her for over half an hour, Kate finally gave in and shared one of Imogen’s Sticky Toffee Pudding desserts with Lord Weston. The warm cake and cold, homemade ice cream was the perfect ending to their dinner, followed by tall cups of Jasper’s magic coffee.
Lord Weston had introduced Kate to two of his friends who happened by, Sir William Wainhouse and Mr. Callum James. Each friend kept glancing at Kate surreptitiously, puzzled over who the strange American was who had inexplicably appeared in their friend’s life. Neither she nor Lord Weston shared any clues that they had only met a few days before. The effortless way they conversed and jested with each other gave the impression they were old friends. Imogen gave Jasper a knowing wink after overhearing a rather jocular round of laughter from both Kate and Lord Weston. Jasper could not help but notice it was the most buoyant and chipper he had seen his boss in some time. It made him whistle a bit under his breath.
After they left the pub, Lord Weston insisted on walking Kate home even though she argued her cottage was only a few blocks away and Bourton-on-Water was not exactly the crime capital of England. When he persisted Kate finally caved. As they walked, he told her how the cottage had been rebuilt in the early 1700’s after being almost decimated by a fire. Most of the cottage’s stonework had been salvaged, as well as the chimney for the fireplace and some of the beams. Centuries ago, Bourton-on-Water had been a small village which was part of the larger Rosethorne Estate. Today the Weston family still retained several of the dwellings and business properties within the town, Kate’s cottage being one of those holdings.
“Have you always rented out the cottage?” Kate asked as they gradually made their way to her cottage.
“Yes, it’s been rented to the same family for about 27 years. Widow Riley finally conceded to moving in with her daughter in Edinburgh. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it until I got a call from Brian Green whom I knew from university,” he answered.
“Brian Green? From Heart Publishing? That Brian Green?” she asked.
“You know him? Yes, he was calling on behalf of the publishing company, looking for a cottage to rent for one of their authors. That author just so happened to be you,” he smiled. “When I heard it was Katharine Parker, I dusted off my mushroom gathering shoes and looked forward to endless days of hunting for and talking about fungi. How disappointed I was,” he quipped.
Kate laughed. She was amused that he would still tease her about her initial introduction to Lord Mayor Bittlewire. “Well, get in line because it appears I have let down a whole league of toadstool connoisseurs. I feel like such a failure,” she joked as they arrived at her cottage. “Thank you for an absolutely lovely evening, Andrew. I have enjoyed getting to know you better. You’re the first official English Lord I have met,” she winked.
“Well, speaking of disappointing, I’m glad you shared what you imagined an English Lord should look like. I promise next time I will sport the most Lordly of ascots I can find, just for you,” he promised, teasing her.
“Yes, please do. You simply must live up to my American image of you,” she kidded. “Really, though, thank you. I may take you up on that tour of Rosethorne soon. It will be a pleasant diversion from pounding away at my laptop.”
“Anytime. Oh, here is my calling card. That is my direct mobile where you can reach me. Have a restful night, Katherine Parker.”
“You, too, Andrew,” she replied. He turned and left her at the front garden gate. There was no awkwardness of an expected goodnight kiss. It had not been that kind of evening at all but more like two new friends who had enjoyed a chance meeting with good food and drink and getting to know each other better. As Kate turned off the downstair lamps and made her way upstairs, she smiled that she had actually enjoyed herself in the company of another man without worrying about any romantic aspects.
Kate showered and was just settling down with a travel book when the sound of her phone rang loud and clear beside her bed. If she had been back in Charleston and her phone had rang at eleven pm, she would have instantly been startled that an emergency was at hand. Now being six hours ahead of the East Coast, she assumed it was one of her children. She looked at the screen of her phone.
Why was her first instinct to let it go to voicemail? She felt a momentary feeling of guilt for spending the evening with another man while never once mentioning Mark’s name or even their relationship the entire time. It wasn’t as if she was purposely withholding anything from Lord Weston. It just never came up and Kate didn’t want to broach the subject of wives or significant others with a man she hardly knew. It did not seem appropriate. Her Southern mother had instilled manners in her which dictated the rules of social engagement. Besides, Kate would be appalled if Lord Weston was aware that she knew the story behind his wife’s affair and desertion. Accept for a few texts here and there, she had not spoken to Mark since she had arrived in England. She answered the call.
“Mark, hello,” she said brightly.
“Hello Katherine. I hope I did not wake you. I almost didn’t call but I know you tend to be a night owl so I took the chance on calling,” he explained.
“Not at all. I just returned not too long ago from dinner at the pub. I was settling down to do some research. How are you?” she asked.
“Other than the fact that I miss you terribly and I’m allowing myself to become swamped at work to forget you’re not here, I am fine. So, you went out to the pub tonight? Sounds like you’re already quite comfortable in town. Did you go alone?” he inquired.
Kate could hear a moderate level of scrutiny in his voice, although she sensed he was trying not to let his tone betray his feelings. “Yes, I went alone, Mark. I met this dear older couple who runs the local pub and inn almost as soon as I arrived. In fact, the same night I arrived. They have been very kind to me. I went to have dinner with them,” she explained.
“I guess one cannot get into too much trouble in a small village in the Cotswolds, huh?” he tried to joke.
“No, one cannot get into much trouble here,” she replied, trying to keep her mild agitation from sounding. “It was a much needed evening. You would be proud of me. I have been holed up in this cottage for days pummeling away on my poor laptop. I feel like I am making good progress on my book,” she shared happily.
“That’s good, Katherine. The sooner you finish your little project the sooner you can get back to Charleston.”
“Little project?” she repeated.
“You know what I mean. I know it’s your job, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just still quite confused about your sudden and unexplained departure,” Mark said.
“Mark, I tried to explain all of this to you as best I could before I left. Have you never left town to do any research for any of your clients? I don’t see what the difference is,” she tried to explain.
“The difference is I didn’t move halfway around the world to another country and leave a boyfriend and family behind wondering why the exodus was so sudden.”
Kate was growing aggravated. A phone conversation at half past eleven at night was not the time to explain herself. Especially when the previous explanations had been thorough and exhaustive. “Mark, my family completely understands and even encouraged my decision. Being here has allowed me to get my mindset back into writing. I needed this. Mark you of all people know how I have struggled with the fear I would never write again after David’s death. I really thought I could count on you, if not your full blessing then at least your moral support.”
“I do support you, Katherine. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this conversation to lead here. I guess you just caught me off guard when you told me you had been out tonight to a pub. Of course I don’t expect you to lock yourself into your cottage and never wander out, though I would prefer it not be at a pub,” he laughed.
Kate’s ire was building. Maybe she was just being overly sensitive because she felt slightly guilty about leaving out any mention of Lord Weston, but Kate knew the evening had been purely and completely unadulterated. On the other hand, she could only imagine how this revelation might sound to a man who already felt as if he had been left stranded. “It’s not as if it’s a seedy bar or something, Mark. If only you could see who the owners were, you would find your wariness comical,” she offered.
“Well, I would love to be there with you and meet them but I wasn’t offered that opportunity. It’s not too late you know. I can be there next week after this trial wraps up.”
“No Mark, we have talked about this. You’re sweet for offering, and I do appreciate it,” she replied. Kate simply wasn’t prepared for this encounter tonight with Mark, and wanted to end the call. “Hey, I really need to get some rest. I have a long conference call with Harriet tomorrow and I need to finalize a few things before then.”
The line was quiet and she wasn’t sure what to say. “I miss you, Katherine. Do you miss me?” he asked expectedly.
“I do miss you. Mark, I care for you and I hope you know that. We have enjoyed some wonderful moments together these past few months, but I really need to know that you back me on my decision,” she admitted.
“Sure, sure. I do. I want your book to succeed. Like I said, the sooner you finish the sooner you can come home,” he replied.
“I will talk to you later, okay? Hope your trial goes well,” she added. They ended the call, and Kate felt a heavy knot in her stomach. She wasn’t going to allow herself to feel like a woman who had besotted a man and left him at the alter. Their relationship had not even progressed to a sexual level. She cared for him and appreciated the time they had shared, and looked forward to possibly moving to the next stage of their relationship when she returned. At this point, however, she could only describe what they had together as nothing more than an exceptional friendship. In all fairness to him, it wasn’t for his lack of trying. He was romantic and thoughtful and kind-hearted. Yet, for all of his positive strengths as a man and a suitor, Kate never allowed herself to completely surrender to him because of her state of mourning for David. Her husband had been the love of her life and that was something she felt she would never completely get over.
Kate now found herself wide awake. Part of her wished she had not answered the call. She could have feigned that she was asleep when she returned the call. The conversation, though short, had left her feeling remorseful over an evening that had been nothing but entertaining and innocent. Kate threw on her robe and made her way downstairs, eager to put Mark’s call behind her if she could. A cup of tea was definitely needed. It would be several hours before she was able to close her eyes and sleep.
England’s weather was always one of mystery. From day to day, you never knew what to expect, but you could count on a good deal of precipitation at any given time. The weekend proved to be rain filled, which was fitting for Kate’s mood. She tried to take up writing where she had left off, but her mind kept veering back to her conversation with Mark. Guilt was nagging at her for not telling him about Lord Weston, but what was there to tell? How could she explain she had met a gentleman and they had enjoyed an honest dinner and a convivial conversation? She had to admit, if the shoe had been reversed she might think the circumstances sounded suspect.
The rain came down steady through late in the afternoon on Sunday. Kate needed to relax after an extremely long conference call with Harriet and the public relations staff. Harriet had been pleased with the progress of the book and reassured Kate that this endeavor would be just as much a success as her previous novels. Hearing Harriet’s words definitely bolstered Kate’s confidence. Harriet had become more than just her Editor, she had become a dear friend. That said, she was also a professional and would have no qualms in telling Kate if her work was lacking. After the call, a long bath was the remedy she needed, especially after a restless night’s sleep.
The front door knocker reverberated through the cottage and Kate glanced at her phone to check the time. Half past four. She hurriedly threw off her robe and quickly donned yoga pants and a GAP sweatshirt, giggling at how Americanized she must look. She hoped the person on the other side of that door appreciated the “just out of the shower freshness” she presented.
A stodgy looking man in a dark suit greeted her with a slight bow. “Mrs. Katherine Parker?” he inquired.
“Yes, may I help you?” she asked.
The man presented a cream colored, linen embossed envelope to Kate. “Your presence is requested at the Rosethorne Estate Garden Party Saturday next. Your invitation, madame,” he stated, handing her the beautiful envelope.
“Oh, thank you. What a beautiful invite,” she replied. She glanced at the envelope and saw her name and the words “By Hand” written elegantly across the front.
The man bowed again slightly, placed his hat back upon his head and bid Kate a farewell. Kate closed the door and looked down at her bare feet and oversized GAP sweatshirt and yoga pants, thinking the gentleman must have wondered if Lord Weston had completely lost his mind by inviting her to a garden party. Kate opened the invitation and read the inscription inside. She was immediately impressed to see it was a yearly charity event for the local orphanage. Kate’s first reaction was that she would reply with an appreciative message of thanks for being invited, but would respectfully decline and instead offer a donation. She placed the tea kettle on the stove and added some loose green tea leaves to the infuser. The weather looked as if it was not going to abate for the rest of the day. Maybe she would attempt to do some more writing after she called her children. She grabbed her tea and headed upstairs. Kate stopped and looked back at the invitation lying on the kitchen table and smiled. A Garden Party. At an English Estate owned by a Lord. She smiled when she pictured herself arriving in her current after-shower yoga pants and sweatshirt ensemble. Maybe she could add a large hat and gloves to complete the look. The invitation wasn’t your standard store bought package of invites you filled out by hand. No indeed. They were custom printed featuring a beautiful scrolling letters on what appeared to be very expensive handmade, linen paper. She ran a fingertip across the satiny paper. She would ask Imogen if she would be attending and maybe give it some more thought. Kate had been interested in seeing Rosethorne Estate, so this presented the perfect opportunity.
Thankfully, the sun broke through Tuesday morning. Kate decided a trip to the Bibury market would accomplish several things. First, she could restock her almost depleted fridge and pantry. Second, she could finally get outside and enjoy some fresh air after being cottage bound for three days because of the rain. Third, she could check out a local B&B she had read about in one of her travel books. It sounded interesting, dating back to the 1500’s, and she wanted to see it in person and get a feel for how it really looked. If the travel books had described it properly, she would consider adding it to her novel. Kate was in need of a meeting place for her characters to connect. After gathering her market basket and wallet, she headed out the door. Pausing in her back cottage garden, she made a mental note to do some light weed pulling later in the afternoon. Kate remembered Lord Weston’s mention about the prior tenant, a widow. It was obvious the older lady was very adept and skilled at gardening. The English herb garden was spectacular and Kate would feel remorseful if she did not care for it while she lived at the cottage. Maybe she would pick up a few new herb plants to add her own touch.
The Bibury market was not as crowded as the first time she had visited but it was also earlier in the day. The same vendors were set up in the exact same spot as last time, so Kate was able to make her way around quicker than before. She stopped at Lord Weston’s Honey Stand and purchased a few more varieties such as the Citrus and Ginger Honey. She also grabbed some of the jarred Honey and Sea Salt Body Scrub. The kind older gentleman at the cheese stand remembered her from last week’s visit and they had an enjoyable exchange about different local varieties of cheese. He let her sample several and she ended up buying some of his recommendations. Kate loved that he was a bit flirty with her, and predicted he was equally as flirty with all of his female clientele. Good business marketing, she laughed. Her shopping complete, she ambled between stalls just taking in the sights and sounds and the smells, especially at the baked breads and pastries stand. The homemade cakes and pies looked like they were straight out of her own grandmother’s kitchen. No boxed mixes there.
Kate decided she’d grab a quick lunch before driving over to the B&B she planned to check out. On the way over to Bibury, she had placed a call to the Inn’s proprietor. The owner was elated when Kate explained the reason for the call, and told Kate she would have tea ready for their visit. A jar of Lord Weston’s honey and a small bouquet of sweet peas would be the perfect hostess gift and a chance for Kate to show her thanks for the invitation and tea.
The pub where she and Imogen and Jasper had previously enjoyed lunch last week was active but not busy. A small table by the window was open and Kate slid in. It offered a beautiful view across the town and the market. About the time Kate was perusing the menu, she caught a glance of Imogen making her way towards the front door of the pub. Perfect timing, Kate thought! She could talk to her friend about the Garden Party.
“Imogen, over here!” she waved when her friend entered.
“Dear Kate, how wonderful to see you. I was hoping to see you here today,” she smiled.
“I finished up my market shopping and decided to have a quick bite before heading out. I’m visiting a local B&B to do some research for my book,” she offered.
“Brilliant. That sounds like a lovely afternoon,” Imogen replied. “Have you ordered yet? I am simply famished.”
“Not yet, I just sat down so you showed up just in time. How about I go order us a nice, cold Pimms,” Kate asked, smiling.
“Oh, you naughty, naughty girl. Hurry back,” she laughed.
A few minutes later, Kate came back with two tall glasses.
“Where is Jasper, Imogen? Did he not come today?” she asked.
“No, he has a lot of work to do these next few days to get ready for Lord Weston’s Garden Party,” she replied. “It’s a huge event, and my Jasper works very hard to make sure the event is perfect.”
“That’s what I needed to speak to you about. I received an invitation. I have no idea if I will go but I need to decide soon so I can RSVP.”
Imogen beamed. “Oh, mum, you must go. It’s a beautiful event and for a good cause, and people come from all over England to attend. This is an event Lord Weston’s mother started many years ago. I am so happy you were invited. Did Lord Weston invite you the other night at dinner?” Imogen asked.
“No, I am not even sure he mentioned it come to think of it. I received an invitation delivered by a staunch looking gentleman in a dark suit,” she joked.
“Oh, that would most likely be Thomas, Lord Weston’s butler,” she assumed. “It’s an honor to be invited, you know.”
“It is? Well, it’s a deserving cause, but I didn’t bring anything appropriate to wear. You should have seen how I answered the door, in yoga pants and a sweatshirt. I am pretty sure his butler was not impressed with this American,” she jested. “I think I will just send a donation and my regrets.”
“You shan’t do any such thing, Kate Parker! You simply must attend. Lord Weston would be greatly disappointed if you didn’t show.”
“I have nothing to wear, Imogen. I didn’t exactly plan on an invitation to a Garden Party at a large English Estate when I was a packing for this trip. I totally left out my hat and pearls,” she joked.
“Well, it’s not as if we don’t have dress shops around here. In fact, over in Chipping-Campden there is a very popular shop and she will outfit you to the nines. So that solves your problem,” she suggested. “I can go with you and we’ll make an afternoon of it.”
Kate thought pensively for a moment. It did sound interesting and maybe a chance of a lifetime. After all, how many English Garden Party invitations would she receive in the future. “I will at least consider it, how is that?” she offered Imogen. “Will you be attending, too?”
“Not exactly, I will be there but in an official capacity. I will be busy in the kitchens with Emma. We are always in charge of baking all of the biscuits and scones,” she announced proudly. “But, I love to peek out at all the ladies dressed in their finery. And I hope to look out and see you on the lawn amongst them.”
“I promise I will consider it. If and only if I can find something appropriate to wear. I would not want to look like a country bumpkin come to town,” she ribbed.
“Mum, you never have to worry about that. Jolly good, shall we say tomorrow at noon we go to Chipping Campden?” Imogen asked Kate.
“Oh okay, we have a date then. I’ll pick you up. You can get a taste of an American driving on the wrong side of the road,” she teased.
“Oh goodness, maybe I should have a few pints before we leave to calm my nerves,” Imogen laughed.
They said good-bye an hour later, their plans for the next day firmly in place. Kate made her way over to the market once more to purchase the bouquet of sweet peas she wanted to give the B&B proprietor. Afterwards, she would be more than ready to get back to the cottage, change into some comfy clothes and do some writing. Bibury, with it’s gorgeous row of ancient stone cottages, had put her in the perfect mindset to be creative.
The tiny roads weaved in and out of the village. Thank goodness the market crowds were lighter today but all of that would change in a few weeks as the busloads of tourists ascended on what was considered “the most beautiful village in England.” Kate’s car was parked at the end of a narrow street about a block from the market. After securing her basket and packages in the back seat, she buckled up for her drive to the B&B. And that’s when things went awry. The engine churned but didn’t start. She pumped the gas pedal a few times, and tried again. Nothing. Kate sat and stared at the hood of her car, wondering if a swift kick to the tires would help, similar to scenes she had seen in movies. She pumped the gas pedal a few more times. That had always seemed to do the trick when she had been a teenager visiting her grandfather’s farm. He would pump the gas pedal on his old work truck and “ole’ Betsy” would start right up. Kate’s limited mechanical knowledge concluded at filling the tank with gasoline. After a few more attempts at starting the car, it finally settled in that this was not a good situation. Not good at all.