I hung up the phone call from my editor and sighed. I couldn’t believe the cheek of them. Not only had my editor decided that my book needed extensive reworking. ‘Depth of characters, relatability of the storyline, hotness of the sex scenes, blah blah.’ But my publisher also wanted to bring my next release date forward. They were shaving two months off my deadline, it now loomed dangerously close on the horizon, and I didn’t know how I was going to make this one. Ever since my last book hit the bestseller lists, Anderson Books couldn’t wait for the next one to milk that cash cow for all it was worth.
I felt the panic start to rise, the taste of bile at the back of my throat. I did what any woman would do in this situation, and called one of my best friends, Rebecca. We and our other friend Daphne had been BFFs since the age of eleven and our first day of secondary school.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” She was so loud I had to pull the phone away from my ear to avoid deafness when I retold her the conversation that I had had with my editor. “Do they think that you just shit books out of your ass?” I smiled, Becs had such a polite way with words.
“It’s starting to feel that way!” I sighed. “What the hell am I going to do?”
There was a pause, and I could almost hear the cogs turning in Rebecca’s brain, she was formulating a plan, and I had to admit that this woman always had a damn good plan, a little insane sometimes, granted, but she would still come up with an idea if you needed it.
“Talk to Daphne!” She finally exclaimed.
“What good would that do?” Was this finally the time when the mighty Rebecca didn’t have a plan?
“She’s got that holiday rental company remember? Secluded, great views of the mountains, blah blah blah!” I could practically hear Bec’s eyes rolling.
“You know what babe, that idea’s not half bad!”
“I know right! She’s been offering it to you for ages now! Maybe it’s time you took her up on it?”
I thought about it for a second. Daphne has always pimped her cottages as secluded hideaways, of course, she meant it for dirty weekends and romantic getaways, but I was sure it would work out in this situation as well.
“You’re right, I think I’ll give her a ring and see what she can come up with. Thanks, best bitch.” I laughed.
Becs chuckled too. “I am the best. I know!”
She laughed and kissed at me down the phone. “Mwah! Love you too. Later asshole.” She hung up.
I chuckled, scrolled through my contacts and gave Daphne a call.
* * *
“Of course, I have something for you, chick, you know that. In fact, as long as you don’t mind my brothers being there, I have a cottage that you can stay in for free while they’re fannying about making the renovations on the latest little spot that I bought. It’s up by Loch Lomond. Very isolated, perfect for you to get your work done.”
My brow furrowed. “Your big brothers, Charlie, Finn, and Jude you mean?”
“Yeah, I have them working for me as my maintenance crew, they’re up in Scotland at the minute at that property, I know that they’ve just finished redecorating the cottage, and now they’re working on the farmhouse and doing a load of stuff around the grounds, it’s offseason, so it's the perfect time to get the work done. Between you and me you’d be doing me a favour, if you’re there they’ll not be spending too much time pissing about, they’ll have to actually work for fear of you reporting back to me.”
“Uh, sure, I guess I can live with that, I think.” I thought about how annoying Daphne’s brothers had been in school, I mean, Charlie was okay, he was the eldest, and I remember one time when I fell off Finn’s skateboard aged twelve, Charlie carried me back to their house in a piggyback while the blood poured out of my knee. He had held my hand and dried my tears too as their mum picked the gravel out of my wounds. Finn, on the other hand, was just a year older, and the bane of our lives, always picking on Daphne, Rebecca and me. He thought that he was hilarious and was there, in the background, forever doing the proverbial pigtail pulling and name calling. Of course, in my case, he really did call me names. He called me ‘Ellie Belly’, I was a chubby teenager, and he thought that he was just hilarious. He had also been the first boy that I had been even remotely interested in. He was good-looking, and funny, very sweet to Daphne even if he acted like he was a giant penis most of the time. He had been the first boy I wanted to take a look at me and think that I was amazing. Instead, he called me names and made sure he was anything but interested in someone like me. Jude was somewhere in between, which was ironic because he was literally in between the other two in age. He had been sweet and sexy, and also a little too smart for the likes of us girls who were more interest in typical teenage pursuits instead of studying. I remembered a particular time of him being nice enough to collect me, Rebecca, and Daphne from a nightclub at the age of eighteen for Rebecca to promptly throw up in the back of his Ford Fiesta. He’d never offered to collect here again after that night funnily enough. I had to be honest; I think that I had fancied all of them at some point over my teenage years; obviously the feelings were very much unrequited.
“It’s handy for Glasgow airport if you want to fly up there and then hire a car or something?” Daphne suggested, bringing me back to reality.
“Yeah, I’ll probably do just that. I’ll text you later with the time I’ll get in. I’ll go and sort my travel now.”
“Not a problem, you sort it, and I'll text you the details and text the lads to know when to expect you.”
“You’re a gem Daph, I owe you.”
I heard the smile in her voice, “You’re welcome. Get that book done, I’m looking forward to reading it.”
I groaned, said my goodbyes and got on my laptop to look for flights.
* * *
The next morning, I unloaded the last of my bags out of the car. “You better call when you get there!” Becs reminded me from the airport drop off.
I grinned and shook my head. “You know there’s probably no coverage there, right?”
“You know that we had telephones with these things called wires long before mobiles were invented, right?” My cheeky friend replied. “Daphne said the cottage has a phone for emergencies!” She reminded me.
"I know, I know!" I said holding my hands up in defeat. "Just don't give the number out to anyone okay! I'm going up there to make my deadline, distraction-free!"
Rebecca nodded and held out her arms for a hug. “You take care.”
“I will.” I agreed. “It’s only for a few weeks. We’ll head out the second I’m back! I will be missing cocktails with my girls and city life!” I smiled.
“Later bitch.” Becs pouted, and I waved and headed towards departures.
An hour and thirty-five minutes after taking off, I touched down at Glasgow International Airport. I collected my bags and headed out of the main terminal towards the car hire building just beside it. Soon, I was behind the wheel of a Ford Focus and heading off for the hour-long drive to the farmlands by Loch Lomond.
Thirty-five or so miles of picture-perfect scenery later, I pulled off the small single-track road into the driveway that led to a farm. There was an old stone cottage that had been whitewashed. It looked like something out of a romance novel. It had a heavy wooden front door, and pretty sash windows divided into twelve smaller panes of glass. Everything about the place was idyllic, and Daphne had been right, this place was deserted as hell, I hadn’t passed another house for miles.
I got out of the car and headed for the back door. Just as I got to it, it sprung open and there filling the doorway completely, stood Finn. It had been years since I had last seen him, being out of school we didn’t move in the same circles anymore. Aside from the occasional family photo he was tagged in on Daphne’s Facebook, which I hadn’t really been paying attention to, but I had to admit, I was now impressed with what I saw. He was more handsome than I remember. He was more muscular, he had a scruffy beard on his face, I was enjoying looking him a little more than I should have, and then he opened his mouth and ruined everything. “Well, hello Ellie Belly. Long time, no see.” He smirked.
I sighed. “Finn the Fuckwit. I see you’ve not grown up any in the years since I last saw you.”
“Awww, are you still thinking about me after all these years Ellie Belly?” He grinned a shit eating grin. Ugh. I wanted to punch him in his smug mouth. Instead, I settled for elbowing him in the ribs as I made my way past him.
“You know if you wanted to actually be useful, you could grab my bags out of the car.” I huffed and handed my keys to him. What had I been thinking to agree to this? I guess I figured maturity would have settled in by now, unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
He just looked me up and down and said nothing. There was something to the way he looked at me too. Like a leering bloke in a club you know is going to be all hands later. Finn had better not try that shit with me. When he had had his fill of eye fucking me, he headed to the boot of my car and started pulling my stuff out. I sighed, happy that for now, he was occupied and away from me. I needed a cup of coffee to wake me up after traveling, and to heat me up a little too. Damn November in Scotland was cold!
Just as I was filling my cup with hot water, Finn banged his way through the door with my bags and took them down the hallway. I opened the fridge and found a little fresh milk at the bottom of a carton, just enough to make my coffee a hint below black.
“I take mine milky with two sugars.” His voice behind me made me bristle.
I glared at him and held up my mug. "Sorry used the last of the milk," I smirked and brushed past him again, needing to find the lounge and a fireplace. I prayed that Daphne would have told him to have a fire going for when I arrived.