Kate is settling into her new cottage and getting back into her writing. Find out what excitement awaits for her this week.
Thank you for all of the many kind words of encouragement about this book. It makes me so happy that you are enjoying it. xxoo, Barb
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Kate was sitting with her back to the front door of the pub. The Alfredson’s arose as they greeted Lord Weston. Kate stood, as well, wanting to be congenial to their boss and friend. Never having the opportunity to meet a member of the British aristocracy, she was unsure of the protocol. As an American, did she call him “Lord” or simply “Sir?” She wanted to pay her respect to an elder, but she wasn’t sure what was proper in this situation.
When Kate thought of someone with the title of “Lord” her overly creative mind saw a balding, older gentleman sporting a perfectly tied silk ascot. He spoke with a stiff upper lip and carried an air of sophistication that reflected his status in life. The man approaching their table was anything but stodgy and stiff. There wasn’t even an ascot in sight.
“Lord Weston, I’m so happy you could join us. I can’t wait for you to meet our new American friend I was telling you all about,” stated Emma. “Oh, and she is also your cottage tenant. Sir, may I introduce you to Kate Parker.”
Simply stated, Lord Weston was gorgeous. He was of average height and build, and had the beginnings of a touch of gray at his temples, but he possessed incredibly blue eyes that gleamed when he smiled. He was slightly tan and, surprisingly, was wearing a basic pair of jeans and loafers and a button up shirt. If Kate had passed him at the market, and it’s very possible that she had, she would never have guessed he was a Lord.
“Lord Weston,” Kate held out her hand. Did Lord’s shake hands? A picture of her attempting an off-balance stoic, curtsy quickly passed through her mind. No, that would be awkward. “I’m Katherine Parker. It’s so nice to meet you.”
Lord Andrew Charles Weston III, the 12th Earl of Gloucestershire, had inherited the title and estate at the young age of 21 when his father passed away suddenly. He had been finishing up his fourth year at Eton College and was only a week away from graduation when he received the call with news of his father’s death. The whole family felt the pain of his loss, to include his two younger sisters, but none more so than his mother. Being raised among the nobility, Andrew had seen his share of failed marriages and unions of convenience. His parents did not fall into either of those categories. As the story was told, they had fallen in love with each other in primary school. At a time when arranged marriages were heard of less and less, Andrew’s grandfather and his best friend, Lord Farnsley, had made an agreement when their children were infants that they should marry. Fortunately for them both, love was in the cards for the school sweethearts alleviating yet another loveless marriage. His mother worshiped their father, as he did her.
Andrew fully realized the blessings bestowed upon him at birth and never took it for granted. His life was not an ordinary one by any means, yet his Mother and Father did everything they could to normalize his upbringing to the degree they could. The realization that he would inherit a title and a large estate always loomed heavily on his shoulders, as he knew the expectations such a title would bring. The call he received about his father that fateful day changed the course of his life immediately and forever. He had been accepted into a Master’s Degree program at Cambridge University where he was expected to begin in the Fall after spending the Summer traveling across Europe with friends. Instead, he found himself quickly ensconced in the business of burying his father and taking the helm as Earl of Gloucestershire AND Baron of Hastings. This included running a multi-million dollar business and estate which his mother and father had worked tirelessly to reestablish after his Grandfather, the 10th Earl, had almost lost due to poor business management, bad investments and a penchant for gambling in his younger years.
“Katherine Parker,” he took her hand. “The honor is all mine. I have heard quite a bit about you?”
“Oh, you have?” she asked nervously. Those eyes! She couldn’t stop staring at them. They were light blue with tiny specks of gold. “You didn’t hear that I was a mushroom collector did you?” she smiled.
Andrew looked confused. “Excuse me? Are you a mushroom collector? I was under the impression you were a writer, and a well-known one in the States.”
Kate laughed. “Yes. I am. I met the esteemed Lord Mayor Bittlewire and for some strange reason, he had predetermined that I was one Katharine Parker, mushroom aficionado and expert.”
“Oh, dear, you’ve met Bittlewire, have you?” he smiled.
“He was highly disappointed to learn I only wrote romance novels and knew not a single thing about fungi.”
“Lord Weston,” stated Emma. “Kate purchased some of your new Lavender Honey at the market, didn’t you Kate?”
“I did,” she agreed. “I couldn’t resist. I have never tried lavender honey before and I am quite excited to try it. Emma and Mr. Alfredson tells me your estate is the largest producer of honey in the UK.”
“Yes, I am very proud to say we are. That acclaimed honor happened about three years ago when we released a new line of citrus honeys. We’re constantly trying to create new mixtures and perfect our basic honey recipe. But, I’m boring you and you’ll think me as exciting as Biddlewire and his fungi,” he joked.
Andrew loved the ease of her laugh and the way she so easily conversed with him. Most women he met knew who he was beforehand and had ulterior motives, such as a title, already in mind. It was refreshing to find a woman who felt comfortable around him and could look past who he was.
Mr. Alfredson indicated the empty chair by Kate. “Lord Weston, may I buy you a pint, sir?” he asked his boss.
“Oh, thank you, Alfredson, but I need to get back to the estate. I am meeting the new fromagère I hired in about an hour. I was just anxious to see how the new honey was being received here at market.” He glanced back at Kate. “Mrs. Parker, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance and I hope you enjoy the honey.”
“I’m sure I will. Oh, and Lord Weston, thank you for allowing me to rent your cottage. I absolutely adore it. It could not be more perfect,” she added.
“I’m happy to hear that. If there’s anything you need while staying there Alfredson here is my man. He will take care of you,” he replied. “Maybe if you’re in the area you can stop by and test some of our honey varieties. I can show you around the estate,” he invited.
“Yes, I’d love that,” she agreed. “Maybe soon.”
Lord Weston gave her a smile and a nod, looked at the Alfredson’s and gave them his regards. Kate stood watching him leave until she heard a small voice clearing behind her. She turned to see Emma knowingly smiling at Kate.
“He’s a looker, ain’t he, mum,” she whispered, yet it was loud enough to be heard. “He isn’t my Mr. Alfredson, but he sure makes a fine gentleman.”
“He’s very interesting,” Kate replied. “Certainly not what I expected. I guess as an American we are raised to think of most Lords and Ladies somewhere between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and Prince Charles and Camilla. I don’t think Lord Weston meets any of those factors.”
Emma laughed. “Well, I have only known a few Lords and Ladies myself, mind you. The few I did meet are sniffle-pants and act high and mighty. But, not our Lord Weston. He’s down to earth and sincere and treats me and Mr. Alfredson like family, doesn’t he Mr. Alfredson?”
Kate was curious. “Does Mrs. Weston, um…oh, I guess that would be Lady Weston assist with the estate’s honey business?”
Emma looked at Mr. Alfredson with gloom filling her countenance. “Now, Mrs. Alfredson,” he started, “don’t you be spreading any of your prattle and tongue waggin’ tales. Kate doesn’t need to hear all of the gory details.”
“Be off with yourself, Mr. Alfredson. I shan’t be telling Kate nothing but the truth.” she chided her husband.
“Gory details?” Kate asked. “Oh my, maybe I don’t really want to hear this at all.”
“Not gory, mum,” Emma offered. “Rather sad and wretched. Ya’ see, Lady Weston ran off with Lord Weston’s best friend.”
“What? Wait! His best friend?” Kate asked astounded.
“I’m afraid so, about three years ago. It seems they had been having a two-year long affair right under the Lord’s nose. I knew she was up to no good, didn’t I, Mr. Alfredson? There were too many dodgy trips into town with her coming back empty handed. No shopping bags, no anything. Mr. Alfredson thought me crazy when I suggested she was having a dalliance, didn’t you Mr. Alfredson?”
“I am sorry to hear that. I cannot imagine. His best friend of all people,” Kate said trying to comprehend.
“Mum, he was gutted he was. It was his best friend from his Eton days. The chap was always underfoot staying at the estate for as much as a fortnight at a time. After she left, we worried about him when he started drinking a bit too much” Emma said.
“Mrs. Alfredson, that is quite enough. We don’t want Kate getting the wrong idea about Lord Weston,” he admonished. “Lord Weston went through a tough time but he is right as rain now. And the business is growing and growing.”
“I would never think bad about him, Mr. Alfredson. I am sorry for his pain. That would be a very tough situation for any human being to deal with. I know when I lost my husband, I was in a mental state where I could have easily done some foolish things had it not been for my children. Did Lord Weston’s children support him?” Kate asked.
“Mum, his youngest daughter is at Cambridge, and his older daughter lives in Paris. Lord Weston’s son and heir travels abroad a good bit with his job. They came home as often as they could, but I would not say they were a pillar of support. His heart was left in shambles, it was. Poor Lord Weston,” Emma lamented.
“Well, he seems fine now,” Kate added. “Thank you for introducing us. I had planned on penning him a Thank You note for allowing me to rent the cottage but telling him in person is even better. Okay, that said, I really need to be going. I have to put away my market purchases and try to get some work in. Thank you so much for telling me about the beautiful market at Bibury, Emma. And Mr. Alfredson, I appreciate lunch. And the Pimms,” she winked.
Mr. Alfredson blushed. “It was my pleasure, mum. You be careful going home now.”
Kate kissed Emma good-bye and made her way back to her car. What an interesting day this had been. A British Lord wearing blue jeans. Who knew?
The next few days were spent holed up in her cottage office. Kate wrote for as long as the words freely flowed from her. She felt once again like the old Kate when she could sit at her laptop and write for days on end. One of her best selling novels had been completed in only two weeks. The story and the writing had come so easily to her then. These past few days not only had she managed to edit the original chapters but she had written and edited six more. She was happy with the storyline so far and how it was playing out. Although Kate had established a timeline for the story before she wrote a single word, rarely did she stick to it. She figured out soon after her second book that she was better at writing organically rather than sticking to a strict pre-determined scheduled storyline. Somehow the narrative always managed to go off in a completely different direction than she had planned. At times the story would take on a particular angle depending on a life experience that spurred her imagination or seemed to fit into the novel. Going to the market at Bibury was such an example and now her love story had a new locale to work into the plot.
Kate stood away from her desk and stretched her aching muscles. There were notes scattered all around. A few errant ones had made it to the floor and a notepad with scribblings and some various British travel books were lying on the ottoman of the small club chair next to the window. Kate would alternately sit at the desk and move to the club chair as she worked. The chair and ottoman had also served as her bed when she had fallen asleep the night before, her mind exhausted. For the time being, she needed a break because the words in her last few paragraphs had started to sound forced and Kate knew it instinctively. There was a time to write, and a time to give it a rest. The latter had arrived. Besides, Kate was absolutely famished. She had nibbled here and there on the fruits and cheeses she had bought at the Bibury market, along with the basket of goods Emma and Imogen had given her. Now, her tummy was telling her she needed something a bit more substantial like a Steak and Kidney Pie or some Bangers and Mash. Her mouth started watering at the mere thought of it and she knew exactly where to go to get such fare – Jasper and Imogen’s Rose and Crown. Kate caught a glimpse of herself and knew she would not be going out into polite society without a hot shower and some makeup. She looked an absolute mess. As a matter of fact, Kate could not even remember if she had brushed her teeth that morning. She blew on her hand to catch a whiff of her own breath. Ew, indeed she had not. She hurried upstairs and grabbed her toothbrush first thing.
A light drizzle was starting to fall as Kate made the short walk to the Rose and Crown. Unlike her first visit to the pub she would not arrive there soaked to the bone. This time she was more prepared for the inclement weather by sporting her favorite Burberry slickers and matching umbrella. She had dressed casually in jeans and a black sweater and scarf, but she spent a few extra minutes on her hair. Sometimes a girl just needed to feel pretty for no other reason than for her own self worth. It was Friday night, and the pub was filled to the brim. Since it wasn’t tourist season yet, most of these patrons were locals. There was a mixture of ages, ranging from families who had stopped in for dinner, to a younger crowd laughing and conversing in the corner booth. Elderly men and women enjoying an evening out with friends and neighbors. Kate left her wet umbrella in the stand by the door and immediately caught Imogen’s eye.
“Mum! It’s so good to see you. I was going to send my Jasper out looking for you if you did not turn up here soon,” she chided.
Kate gave her new friend a hug, and apologized for the long absence. “I’m so sorry Imogen, I have been in a writing frenzy these past few days. Just so you know, whenever I disappear for a period of time never worry; it’s just how I work. But I’m here tonight because I am absolutely famished!” she declared. “I need some of your good cooking, Imogen.”
“Well, that is just what you shall have. I have a table near the fire or I have a small booth in the alcove, but the young set is over there so it may be a bit loud,” she offered.
“The table by the fire is perfect. Before I sit down I’m going to step over and say hello to Jasper,” she said.
“I will bring you out a menu and some freshly baked sourdough bread. I will have that empty tummy filled right up, you just wait and see,” Imogen promised.
“Oh, I have no doubt about that,” Kate laughed. She walked over to the bar, scooted up onto an empty stool and several pairs of eyes turned to stare at her. “Good evening, gentleman,” Kate announced smiling to the curious onlookers. “Jasper, how are you, my friend?”
“Kate! Where ya’ been gal? My Imogen has been asking about you and I made her a promise I would check on you this weekend. She was getting worried and I had to remind her you were a grown woman capable of takin’ care of yourself,” he said.
“I am fine, but it’s nice that she worries about me. I have been working on my book is all, but my stomach got the best of me tonight and decided it needed something heavier than fruit and cheese, so here I am,” she smiled.
“You’ve come to the right place you have. What shall you be drinking? How about a cold pint to help fill that belly?” he asked.
“That sounds wonderful, Jasper. Surprise me with a local favorite. Oh, and I may be wanting one of your magic coffees after dinner,” she winked.
When Kate made her way back to the table, a small linen-covered basket filled with bread was waiting on her, as well as a bottle of water. The crusty bread was still warm, and she smeared on some of Imogen’s homemade butter which immediately melted into a glistening, yellow pool before soaking in. Kate usually had a “no bread” or “one slice” policy, otherwise she would lose control and go into a carb overload. She wasn’t so sure she could constrain herself tonight. The menu was more varied than she expected. Normally, the usual pub fare was offered – shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash. Kate was surprised to see a variety of burgers and sandwiches, as well as, heartier dishes like Slow Roasted Salmon en croute. It all sounded good, but Steak and Kidney Pie was what tempted her most tonight.
Kate sipped her ale and looked around at the differing crowd. She loved pubs, such an integral part of Britain’s history. They served as local meeting places, entertainment venues and many times they were the focal point of a community. Pubs were more than just a version of an “American bar.” In fact, it was not unusual to see smaller children accompanying their parents for dinner at a local pub. Rarely did the drinking get out of hand and the crowds become boisterous and obnoxious. Whenever Kate and David traveled, they made it a point to find a local pub to dine. The food was usually quite substantial but, more than that, it was a chance to meet and talk to the locals making the experience much more personal than a larger, nondescript restaurant.
Kate had learned that although the Rosethorne Estate owned the pub, Jasper and Imogen were considered the Landlords and fully operated both the pub and Inn. It was quite the endeavor, but Imogen’s abundance of energy and Jasper’s way with people made them the ideal couple to run the operation proficiently and successfully. Outside the rain was coming down steadily, but inside the atmosphere was light and jovial.
“Here you are, mum,” Imogen said as she placed a platter holding a Steak and Kidney Pie with a flaky crust topping and a fresh mixed green and herb salad. “And tonight we have Sticky Toffee Pudding with homemade French Vanilla ice cream for dessert. So make sure you save some room.”
“Dear friend, you really are trying to fatten me up, aren’t you?” she joked. She was just about to dig in when she heard her name and looked up.
“Mrs. Parker, hello again.”
“Lord Weston, what a pleasant surprise. Did you brave the elements tonight for some of Imogen’s yummy food?” she smiled, glancing down at her dinner.
“I did indeed. Cook has every Friday off and she worries I don’t get fed. Little does she know I eat very well here,” he laughed.
“Well, I came out of a writing frenzy that I’ve been in for several days and knew without a doubt where to come.” She paused, not sure if it was proper to ask or if he would feel compelled to. “Lord Weston, would you like to join me for dinner? I would love to hear more about your honey business. By the way, the Lavender Honey gets two thumbs up,” she told him.
Lord Weston looked around, as if looking for someone. Kate followed the direction of his eyes. “That’s very kind of you. I was supposed to be meeting a friend here, but I am well over an hour late because I had an issue to deal with, and it appears this person has given up and left. So yes, I would love to join you.” He pulled out a chair and sat down opposite Kate. “So how does one work herself up into a writing,um…frenzy did you call it?” he asked jokingly.
Kate laughed. “Oh, the images that must conjure up. And truthfully, frenzy is probably the most adequate word to describe what goes on during this period. I sleep very little, and often just fall asleep at my laptop. I don’t eat much, and I just delve body and soul into my work. Sounds horrid doesn’t it?’ she smiled.
“It sounds to me like someone who is trying to take advantage of the moment. Perhaps it’s what makes you so successful at what you do.”
“Perhaps,” she agreed. “Or perhaps I am one of those deranged type of scribblers who are a few pages away from being mental,” she jested.
“Hmmm…well, if I thought that for a single moment I would have made my excuses to join you here and scurried over to the other side of the room. No, Mrs. Parker, I have no doubt you are quite sane,” he added.
Kate’s smile was genuine. “I promise I will control myself tonight. Are you having dinner, as well? Shall I have Imogen bring you a menu?” she inquired.
About that time, Imogen placed a large platter of fish and chips in front of Lord Weston and Kate stared at them both in slight confusion. Lord Weston looked at Imogen and winked. “Telepathic ordering, huh, Imogen?” he joked.
Imogen laughed. “Sir, if telepathic means you eat my fish and chips every Friday then, yes,” she joked before hurrying back to the kitchen.
Lord Weston lifted his pint of ale towards Kate. “Here’s to your next successful novel, Mrs. Parker.” Kate lifted her ale and clinked glasses with him.
“Thank you, that is kind. But, I have a request? Please call me Katherine…or Kate,” she asked.
“Then Katherine, it is,” he agreed. “And I insist you call me Andrew. Now let’s eat I am absolutely ravenous.”