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Authors: Rebecca Shaw

Country Wives

BOOK: Country Wives
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By Rebecca Shaw

THE BARLEYBRIDGE NOVELS

A Country Affair
Country Wives
Country Lovers

List of Characters in the Barleybridge Practice

Mungo Price
Orthopedic Surgeon and Senior Partner.
Colin Walker
Partner—large and small animal.
Zoe Savage
Partner—large animal.
Graham Murgatroyd
Small-animal vet.
Valentine Dedic
Small-animal vet.
Rhodri Hughes
Small-animal vet.
Dan Brown
Large-animal vet.

NURSING STAFF
Sarah Cockroft
(Sarah One)
Sarah MacMillan
(Sarah Two)
Bunty Page

RECEPTIONISTS
Joy Bastable
(Practice Manager)
Lynne Seymour
Stephie Budge
Kate Howard

Miriam Price
Mungos wife
Duncan Bastable
Joy’s husband
Letty Walker
Colins wife
Gerry Howard
Kate’s father
Mia Howard
Kate’s stepmother

Chapter
• 1 •

T
he temporary vet had been working for the practice one whole week, and Joy wasn’t at all sure he should be there another day, never mind waiting until they had appointed someone permanently. It wasn’t that he didn’t work hard, or that he didn’t know his job, because he did; his experience was extensive and his meticulous punctuality and his enthusiasm were A1. No, it was none of these things; it was his
attitude
that got up her nose and not only hers but Mungo’s and everyone else’s too. He’d be in shortly and she was wishing like hell he wouldn’t be, and that it would be the much-lamented Scott who would be nonchalantly strolling in to collect his call list, his devastatingly blue eyes twinkling, his hands in his pockets, and be setting himself out to flirt with her. But it wasn’t to be; all she could do was make sure that over her dead body would this particular temp become a regular member of the staff. Glancing at the reception clock, she saw she had only five minutes exactly before the glass doors swung open and
he
would march in, brisk and alert, eager for whatever the day would bring, good or bad.

She checked his list of calls for the fourth time to make sure
he couldn’t find any fault with it and wished Kate weren’t on her day off because she seemed to know instinctively how to deal with him. Kate needed a break, though. She’d been looking ghastly this last week, and they all knew why but didn’t dare say a word to her because Kate was endeavoring to carry on as though Scott had never existed, but it was evident from her face that he’d worked his magic on her, as he had on others, and his sudden departure had hit her hard. Joy heard the outer door open and braced herself for the arrival of Daniel Brown.

Somehow he could have been excused some of his bluntness if he’d been good-looking but he wasn’t. He was a couple of inches under six feet, well built, very dark haired with a kind of craggy face that even his mother couldn’t call handsome, and he had large, challenging, alert brown eyes, which missed nothing. Also, there was a sort of “in your face” energy about him which intimidated lesser mortals.

The inner glass door crashed open and there stood Dan, in his brown corduroy trousers, his checked sports jacket and matching cap; jaw jutting, his dark eyes wide awake, eager to begin his day’s work. “Good morning, Joy. Got my list?”

“Good morning to you. Here it is, Dan; long list today, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid? Why afraid? Isn’t that what work is about? I shan’t earn my keep if I’m sitting about all day twiddling my thumbs. Those results back from the laboratory?”

“The mail hasn’t come yet, unfortunately.”

“That isn’t your fault; I’ll ring in during the morning.”

Joy nodded her head. Come back, Scott, all is forgiven.

“Right, I’ll be away then. There’s something wrong with the Land Rover. That chap who had it before me must have driven it like a maniac. Which garage do you use for servicing the vehicles?”

“Vickers.”

“Where is it?”

Joy turned to the map pinned behind the reception desk and pointed it out to him. “But Mungo likes to know; I’ll tell him.”

“No need for that. I’ll take it and see what they say. Something to do with the transmission. I can’t afford for it to break down and leave me stranded with calls still to do. That’s not the way to run a practice, is it?”

“Well, no, it isn’t.”

“Are they not serviced regularly?”

“Of course they are; but we can’t repair them before they’ve gone wrong, can we?”

“Is it you responsible for seeing them serviced?”

“Well, yes, but…”

“When is the service due, then?”

“Look here …”

“I asked a simple question.”

“I’d have to get the records out.”

“Then do it now; let’s find out. I can’t afford to be standing around here wasting time.” Dan tapped his fingers impatiently on the reception desk.

“At this time in the morning I’m busy with clients and appointments. I’ll have a look later when I’ve a few minutes to spare.”

Dan shrugged his shoulders. “Very well, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I can’t stand inefficiency; and if the Land Rover breaks down today, that’s exactly what it will be: inefficiency, yours not mine.”

“Look here …”

“If it’s cost you’re concerned about, I can assure you that if I take it to the garage myself, don’t fret yourself, they won’t overcharge
me
.”

Joy, seething with the injustice of his opinions, thought,
No, I bet they won’t. They’ll do it for free just to get you off the premises
.

He studied his list for a moment. “This first call, Lord Askew’s? Is it a stately home, then?”

Joy answered him as civilly as she could: “A minor one, but stately all the same. We do all his farm work, but his horses are looked after by a practice near Sherborne.”

“Why don’t we do
all
his veterinary work?”

“Because his horses are rather special; the Sherborne practice specializes in equine work, and he prefers to use them.”

“That’s enough to get my back up. However…”

“Be seeing you.”

“Indeed.” Dan nodded his head at her and dashed out through the front door.

Livid with temper and more determined than ever that he had to go, Joy listened to the roar of the Land Rover and heard it brake suddenly; and then there was the screech of brakes other than his. But there was no sound of metal on metal, so they must have missed each other. Pity.

Dan roared off, guided by the sign for Askew Newton as he was leaving the town. He’d spent a whole evening in the clinic painstakingly copying onto his own large-scale map the names of the farms and their positions from the map behind the reception desk, so now with only the briefest reference to his handiwork he could head off to the various clients. It took a while to get to know all the farmers and their own particular idiosyncrasies; but he was already getting the hang of the place, and Dan had to admit to a liking for it. It hadn’t been easy coming back to England after seven years abroad, but a clean break had been the best thing. He’d done that and found this job in less than a week of returning, and he had half a mind to stay if they would have him.

He swung into the turning for Lord Askew’s place, admiring
the beautifully sculptured parkland and enjoying the glimpse he caught of the large stone house through the trees.

He pulled up in an immaculate cobbled courtyard surrounded by stables. A groom was walking a horse across the yard. Dan didn’t know when he’d seen a more princely looking animal. It was a wonderful roan, just the shade which appealed to him. He admired it for a moment, thoroughly enjoying its beauty.

The groom called to Dan. “Morning, can I help?”

Dan got out and went across to him. “My name’s Dan Brown, from the Barleybridge Veterinary Hospital, come to see Chris? Has a cow with mastitis.”

“That’ll be through the archway.”

“Right.” Dan paused for a moment, looked at the horse and said, “Don’t like the look of the action of his front feet.” He touched his cap to the groom, climbed back in the Land Rover and swept away through the arch. Now this really was a well-kept place. Just what he preferred to see. Attention to detail meant well-cared-for animals and he liked that, did Dan. Nothing he hated more than careless husbandry. In fact, if it was careless,
husbandry
was a misnomer.

A man he took to be Chris came out to greet him. “Where’s Scott, then?”

“Gone back to Aussie land in a hurry.”

“Not surprising. Woman trouble I expect! He was a rare womanizer, was that Scott. There wasn’t a female anywhere around these parts who hadn’t fallen for his charm, including her ladyship. Pick of the lot of ’em he could have had. So, it’s goodbye, Scott, and hello … ?”

“I’m Dan Brown, come to see a cow with mastitis.”

“I’m Chris, nice to meet you.” Chris appraised Dan with a piercing eye as he shook his hand and said, “That Scott was a bad lad, but he knew his job.”

“You’ll find no fault with me. Lead the way.”

“Didn’t say I would; just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression of Scott.”

“How big’s your herd?”

“One hundred and forty-three at the moment. All pedigree Guernseys.”

Dan was impressed, but he was appalled when he saw how ill the cow was.

While he took her temperature he very, very quietly asked how long she’d been like this.

“Three or four days, not bad like, just off color more than anything this morning …”

After checking the thermometer and feeling the affected quarter of the cow’s udder, Dan straightened up and looked Chris in the eye. “You’re the stockman, are you?”

Chris nodded.

“Are you sure?”

Puzzled, Chris nodded again.

“No stockman worth his salt would allow a cow to suffer like this. She’s been more than “off color” as you put it for three or four days, as well you know. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. It could be almost too late to save her. Is his lordship about this morning?”

Chris took a deep breath, “Out riding. But…”

“There’s no buts about this. How many years’ experience have you had?”

“Eleven years in charge, but look here, it’s not my fault.”

“Kindly tell me whose fault it is, then? The gardener’s or the housemaid’s or someone?”

“No, of course not, but his lordship …”

“Oh! I see, now it’s his lordship to blame, is it. What time is he usually back from his ride?”

“Any time now.”

“I’ll deal with the cow and then I’ll deal with him.”

“It’s the money you see.”

Dan wagged his finger at Chris, saying, “I don’t expect owners to
lavish
care on their beasts, but I do expect them to be well cared for. With veterinary work, a good motto to remember is ‘a stitch in time saves nine,’ and you’d do well to abide by that.”

BOOK: Country Wives
2.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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