Welcome to my stop on the Willow Cottage Blog Tour! I'm very excited to bring you an exclusive extract from this fabulous book by Bella Osborne!
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
After they’d eaten as many barbecued sausages as they could manage Beth and Leo had settled down for their first night in Willow Cottage. Camping stuff wasn’t exactly ideal to be sleeping on but it was better than the bare floorboards and, despite all of Leo’s complaining, he was now actually enjoying the indoor camping experience. The day she had left London Beth had loaded the car at high speed and it was only now that she realised she had grabbed an odd assortment of things including the camping stuff that had been waiting to go back in the loft, her mother’s cuckoo clock, her glue gun, and a large canvas photo of Leo as a baby as well as a few items that would actually be useful to them. The thin camping mattresses weren’t the height of comfort but they would do until Beth had managed to order some beds.
The room was cool, but not cold, so they snuggled into their sleeping bags and chatted for a while as the upturned torch lit up the cracked ceiling and gave a mystical glow to the room.
‘Good day?’ asked Beth.
‘Are you and Denis friends?’
‘Kinda, I guess. It’s cool that he lives in a pub; he gets fizzy drinks and crisps whenever he likes!’
‘Mmm, does he go to the local school?’
‘Yeah, he’s a year older than me but he says we’ll be in the same class… and I can sit next to him if I want.’
‘That’s kind. So are you liking it here now?’ asked Beth, shifting a little in her sleeping bag like a fat maggot so that she could see Leo’s face better.
He pouted as he thought for a bit. ‘I like Denis and Doris and I like the food at the tearooms but,’ he paused and took a deep breath. ‘I miss my friends back home and the computer and my tablet and my Lego and my other toys and climbing club and…’
Beth could feel her heart squeezing with every new item added to the list. ‘Once we’re a bit more settled we can get some new things and I’m sure there will be some local clubs we could find out about.’
Leo didn’t answer. He was chewing his thumbnail and looked like he was pondering his mother’s response. Outside it started to rain, the droplets making a soothing pattering sound against the old, but now very clean glass.
‘Could we get a big computer? Like the one Nick had and wouldn’t let me use? And a massive telly that does everything?’ Leo was staring at his mother, without blinking.
‘Not right away but we’ll see,’ said Beth, ruffling his hair. ‘I think it’s time us indoor campers got some sleep, don’t you?’
Leo started to settle and then he sat bolt upright, ‘Did you bring a telly?’
Beth shook her head, ‘No, sorry. They were all screwed to the wall, remember?’
‘No telly?’ Leo’s eyes were wide with horror.
‘Only until we get things sorted out. Okay?’
Leo was already shaking his head and muttering to himself. ‘No telly…’ He looked around the room at the shadows he was making as he moved. ‘There aren’t any ghosts living here, are there?’ Leo looked pensive. ‘You know, like Wilf or Elsie?’
‘No, don’t be silly. They were lovely people, why would they haunt this place?’
‘Dunno, it’s really old and old places always have ghosts.’
‘Only if you’re really lucky,’ said Beth, zipping up his sleeping bag.
‘Ok-ay,’ intoned Leo doubtfully and he burrowed down further into his sleeping bag until only the very top of his head was visible. Beth leaned over and kissed him and then set about trying to get herself comfortable. She had worked hard on cleaning the living room and felt better for it. The builder and the electrician were scheduled to get started on the essentials list in a few days’ time. Things were starting to head in the right direction. Beth closed her eyes and began to drift off to sleep as the rain outside started to pelt out a soothing rhythm on the window.
Beth wasn’t sure how much later it was when she stirred and brushed something off her face as another splosh landed on her forehead. She opened her eyes to see a steady stream of drips coming through the ceiling above her. She shuffled quickly out of the way and out of her sleeping bag. She turned to look at Leo. He looked like he was dry and still sound asleep. Beth clenched her teeth; this was irritating but it wasn’t the end of the world. She grabbed the bucket and stuck it under the drip. Then she found a bin bag, made three holes in it and shoved it over her head, the last thing she wanted was soggy pyjamas. She tied another one around her head like a turban, popped her sockless feet into her boots, picked up her keys and the torch and crept out of the cottage.
Her mission to the car was successful. She was coming back with the pop up tent as a rain-hood clad Shirley was shuffling past. Shirley stopped and so did Beth and they eyed each other suspiciously.
Shirley shook her head slowly, ‘Ahh. Mittens…’ she said.
‘Crazy!’ they both said simultaneously and then scuttled off in opposite directions.
Thank you for letting me be a part of this fantastic tour!