As mud landed on her windscreen the steering wheel jerked out
of her hands Caz Ryan slammed on the brakes, and the silver mini she had been
trialling for the weekend lurched and slid sideways into a ditch. Everything went
black and now there was just sound, bad sound, brambles and stone sloughing off
showroom-pristine paint and the catastrophic wrenching sound of metal giving way.
The car was dead and not just the engine.
And now everything was eerily quiet.
Careful not to move Caz conducted a full physical inventory. Everything seemed
to be present and correct, no broken bones, no blood dripping on the carpet. She
was intact, and apart from being wedged between her seat and the door with her
overnight bag welded to her head, she was fine. It was a miracle; no thanks to
the Neanderthal driving the tractor. She should have stayed in London where men
knew to get out of her way.
But this wasn’t London this was Hawkshead. Hawkshead, the last bastion
of civilisation before the harsh Pennine conditions had made even cavemen think
twice about setting up camp. Talking of which…
Having managed to shove this season’s must-have travel bag from her face,
Caz stared up to see a dark shape looming over her. ‘Don’t just stand
there,’ she instructed it. ‘Do something!’
This was no time for subtlety. The ditch was deep, it was getting dark, and
she was lying on her side with the weight of her overnight bag pressing on her
The man didn’t speak he just stood looking down at her.
‘This is your fault!’ she yelled up at him. ‘You and your
tractor and trailer!’ Which was patently untrue. Still steaming from the
office and from the drive up the motorway she had been trying to overtake the
crawling monster in her flash new car when disaster struck.
Shouldn’t there be a warning about ditches in the country, a sign, at
least? Caz fumed until movement distracted her. ‘Come back here, you! Don’t
you dare leave me!’
But he had and a great gulping sob escaped her throat. She didn’t want
to be left alone. Not here. Not here in a freezing cold ditch in the horrible
country with rain lashing through the ruined roof wrecking her hair not to mention
Having got a full-on howl out of her system she quietened down and started
listening. Her space in the car had dwindled to nothing where the door had caved
in, but by wriggling she managed to crane her neck. She still couldn’t see
a thing. So was he going to help her, or was he just going to walk away? She found
herself listening for the tractor starting up and rumbling off.
Typical man; useless.
She started fumbling for her phone; her lifeline, her best friend-
Where was it?
Real panic set in. The thought of being cut off from the civilised world was
unimaginable. ‘I hate this place!’ The guttural scream only made her
throat sore. Teeth chattering and shivering violently, she scrabbled about achieving
nothing. There was no one to hear her other than the crows peering down from their
roost in the trees. How long would it be before they got around to pecking out
She had to stay calm. She sucked in several deep breaths. She never lost control.
Ever. Her life was a carefully structured edifice, perfect in every respect; she’d
made sure of it. She had recreated herself; shed the carapace of Caz Ryan from
the children’s home and emerged a butterfly named Camilla Bailey Brown.
Camilla was never lost for direction, let alone in lovely London where everything
was so well signed.
Why had she decided to move up north? Caz fumed. It was hard to believe she
had thrown aside the familiar fog, stench and bustle of the big city for wide
open spaces and the promise of a large country house in Yorkshire.
Restored by thoughts of a large house and lady of the manor status she managed
a thin smile of satisfaction, but then she remembered The Man. Where the H was
Silence in the country was all-enveloping, and the wind was blowing a Hammer
horror movie soundtrack through the trees. Other than that, nothing.
Nothing, apart from the proof that she’d finally lost it, Caz concluded,
hugging herself as she continued to shudder uncontrollably. And that wasn’t
good news for Cassandra because she had recently been appointed a director of
Brent Construction. The new chairman, young Mr Brent was taking inventory of his
board on Monday, and gibbering wrecks just weren’t his style.
She could imagine him now. His father had been a bluff man whom everyone had
respected, but Brent the younger, showing a blatant disregard for conventional
business techniques had taken a cosy family business and turned it into a world
class concern. They would all be under the microscope on Monday morning, and she
wasn’t going to slide down the greasy pole now.
Rest and recreation, and yes, a little gloating when she surveyed her inheritance,
had been on the cards for this weekend. Until she landed in a ditch.
With an angry sound Caz pressed back in her seat and struggled to see out of
the window. It was useless. She couldn’t see a thing. Sighing heavily she
closed her eyes and then opened them again and started with alarm. The man had
returned with a giant-sized pair of cutters. It was impossible to gauge his intentions
through a mist of rain, tears and dissolving mascara.
‘I’ve called the emergency services,’ he said in a deep husky
voice that made her toes curl, ‘and now I’m going to get you out of
His voice was pitched in that confident masculine soothing the little woman
tone. She refused to be soothed. ‘What are you waiting for?’
‘You’re suffering from shock,’ he said in the same confident
drawl, ‘but don’t worry, I’ll soon have you out.’
‘Don’t worry?’ She moderated her tone, aware that
she was giving him some cause for concern. ‘Thank you,’ she managed