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Authors: Wendy Holden

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Farm Fatale

BOOK: Farm Fatale
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Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

About the Author

Copyright © 2010 by Wendy Holden
Cover and internal design © 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Michel Vrana/Black Eye Design
Cover images © gweem_fairy/, heather_mcgrath/iStockphoto. com
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
(630) 961-3900
Fax: (630) 961-2168
Originally published in 2001 in Great Britain by Headline Books Publishing, in somewhat different form, under the title
Pastures Nouveaux.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Holden, Wendy [Pastures nouveaux]
Farm fatale : a comedy of country manors / by Wendy Holden. p. cm.
Originally published under title: Pastures nouveaux. London : Headline Books, 2001.
1. Country life—Fiction. 2. Villages—Fiction. 3. England—Fiction. I. Title. PR6058.O436P37 2010 823'.92—dc22

To Noj.

Chapter One

Bang on 8 am, the car alarm that had been shrieking all night finally stopped. After a two-second pause, the road drills began. Rosie could hold back no longer.
    "Mark? You know we've been talking about moving to the countryside…"
been talking about it, you mean," corrected Mark, hunched over his bowl of Cheerios and flicking rapidly through the newspapers. "I don't believe it." He groaned.
    "I know." Rosie pressed her hands to her ears. "They only dug up that patch a week ago. Something to do with cable TV…"
    "Not that," said Mark, his spoon dripping milk as he shook it at the center spread of a tabloid. "This. The
's got Matt Locke. We've been trying to get him for ages."
    "Who's Matt Locke?"
    Mark looked at her, exasperated. "Honestly, you're like that judge who asked 'Who is Gazza?' Don't you ever
the papers?"
    "You know I don't. Apart from the horoscopes." No doubt, Rosie thought, she was missing something, but she failed to share the awe with which Mark regarded newspapers in general and his job on one in particular. After all, it wasn't as if he was setting the national agenda, exposing Nazis, or bringing corrupt politicians to book. As far as Rosie could make out, Mark's job as assistant editor on a Sunday lifestyle section mostly involved rewriting other people's articles—"tickling up" as he called it—and attempting to persuade celebrities to give interviews about everything from their cystitis (for "Disease of the Week") to the contents of their refrigerator (for the "Chillin'" slot).
    "Matt Locke, m'lud," Mark explained with elaborate patience, "is an extremely successful singer. The chisel-cheeked champion of howling rock 'n' roll angst, he burst on the scene two years ago with the number one platinum album
Posh Totty
, an epoch-making elegy to soaring strings, gutsy guitar, melancholy blues, and a touch of country and western, following it up with the even more successful
What Did Your Last One Die Of?
Then, at the height of his fame, he crashed and burned amid claims that the stress was too much."
    "Oh," said Rosie, peering at the newspaper photograph of a girlish-looking youth with elaborately tousled hair and huge lips. He did not look particularly stressed. Actually, he looked half asleep.
    She winced as the road drills outside changed to an even more brain-penetrating key. "Darling, you know you said you'd think about it. The countryside, I mean."
    "Recycled interviews, of course," Mark muttered, pressing his nose almost against the newspaper. "Nothing that's not been printed before. Apart from these aerial pictures of Matt in his garden, although they're so blurry, it's probably one of the gnomes."
    "Two-thirds of people living in cities want to live in the country," Rosie persevered, hoping she'd remembered the figures properly. "Thousands are migrating every month."
    "So if we stay in London," Mark said flippantly, "everyone else will eventually leave, house prices will go down, and we'll end up with a mansion on Regent's Park Road."
    "Look," Mark said, putting the newspaper down at last. "I know I said last night that I'd think about it, but it was the wine speaking. I don't want to leave London. I'm a townie born and bred. Crowds and noise are my lifeblood; filth is my friend. I can't breathe anything but carbon monoxide. A landscape of brutalist shopping precincts, down-at-the-heel Tube stations, and municipal concrete bunkers is the only sort of scenery I have time for. Besides," he added, stretching with satisfaction, "I'm going to be promoted. At long last, the paper's going to give me a column of my own."
? But you never mentioned that last night."
    "Well, it's not quite sorted out yet."
    "So it's still 'Driving Miss Daisy' for the moment?"
    The main column in Mark's section, "Driving Miss Daisy," recorded the adventures of Househusband, a stay-at-home father who looked after his infant daughter, Daisy, while his wife, a successful futures trader, went to work. Desperate for a column of his own, Mark despised the weekly chore of extracting the material out of Househusband and writing up the results himself. The fact that Househusband was incapable of stringing a sentence together, much less coming up with ideas, was, as Mark often savagely pointed out, not unconnected to the fact that he was the brother-in-law of the paper's editor.
    Mark's brows drew together crossly. "For the moment, yes. But they've obviously given me that to train me for better things." He raked a hand through his rumpled golden hair. "Rosie, I can't leave. I'm on the brink of a promising career."
    "Look," she said persuasively. "Why don't you ask the paper for a writing contract? Or go freelance, if they won't do it. You'd enjoy it much more. We could live anywhere we liked then. You can't really want to stay here." The hand she waved at their rented flat's dustbloomed windows jerked involuntarily as a backfiring car joined the shrilling symphony of drills. "Imagine: Clean air. Cottages with roses round the door. Sun-dappled country lanes, empty of traffic."
    Mark merely shrugged at this. Her dreams, Rosie realized miserably, were not his. In which case, she'd target his nightmares, namely the dentist and going bald. "Water that doesn't cause tartar buildup behind your teeth. Rain that's clean and doesn't poison your hair follicles." As he still looked unimpressed, she added desperately, "Struggling into the office on the crappy, broken-down old Tube with your face pushed into someone's bottom. Or armpit."
    "You don't have to struggle on the Tube anyway," Mark cut in self-righteously. "You're a freelance illustrator. You can lie around all day if you want."
    Rosie rolled her eyes but refrained from pointing out that the endless illustrations for the food and horoscope pages of various glossy magazines in which she seemed to have become a specialist left little time for bon-bons on the couch. The fact that paintings of scallops and Scorpio were relatively poorly paid was, Rosie thought, another argument in favor of the move. Her fees would go further in the country.
    "But what about everything we'd leave behind?" demanded Mark. "Restaurants, the theater, the cinema, and all that."
    "But you decided a while ago we couldn't afford to eat out anymore," Rosie said gently. "We never go to the cinema, and I can't remember the last time I saw the inside of a theater."
she added silently, the most cultural thing we've probably don
all year was eat Marks & Spencer's ravioli in front of
The Charlie Rose Show. "We don't really make use of London these days," she pressed. "If you went freelance, we could live anywhere in the country. So why not live somewhere that's nice?"
    Mark's handsome face was preoccupied. He was, Rosie knew, searching for the defining argument against, the ultimate no.
    "But I'm on the fast track. The managing editor told me the other day that anything could happen. Which can only mean one thing: they're seriously thinking about giving me my own column."
    "But wasn't he just saying anything could happen, now that everyone's combining jobs because of the cutbacks? I mean, now the fashion editor's the foreign editor too, so he's got a point."
    "As I believe I mentioned," Mark said defensively, "the only reason Tallulah covered the military coup in Zwanwe was because she was doing a bikini shoot in the disputed border area at the time. Getting her to do a few interviews while she was there was only sensible."
    "Even if her scathing criticism of the local warlords' dress sense wasn't," muttered Rosie, suddenly tired of arguing. "Darling, listen to me," she pleaded. "Moving out's not a mad idea. A recent survey said seventy-one percent of all people thought the countryside was more peaceful than the town. Fifty-four percent like the feeling of space and, um, fifty percent like the trees and forests." She was gabbling now, she knew.
    "Fascinating," said Mark. Rosie looked at him sharply. Was he being sarcastic? The smooth dips and planes of his face, however, expressed only thoughtfulness.
    Rosie waited, stiff with hope, watching Mark anxiously. Odd how, straight from bed, clad only in crumpled boxer shorts and an ancient T-shirt, he still managed to look devastating. She drew her toweling robe around herself, conscious of gray calves so long unshaved they probably needed a combine harvester by now. "So what do you think?" she ventured.
    "I think," Mark said, slinging the spoon back into the pool of milk in his bowl, "that I might suggest it to the editor as a features idea."
    Rosie ground her teeth and decided to drop the subject of the countryside. For now.
    "Don't forget we're going to Bella's for dinner, will you?" she reminded him.
    "Oh Christ. Do we have to?" Mark groaned; he had little time for Rosie's best and oldest friend.
    "Yes. Half-past eight. You know Bella. Starters timed to the nanosecond. We can't be late."
    "Well, I will be." Mark returned with a pile of clothes from the bedroom, which he proceeded to put on in the hallway. "I'm working late. I'll be very late. Anyway, the last time Bella came here she was at least an hour late."
BOOK: Farm Fatale
5.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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