Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage

BOOK: Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


About the Book

About the Author

Also by Cathy Woodman

Title Page




Chapter One: A Fresh Start

Chapter Two: Only the Horses

Chapter Three: New Shoes

Chapter Four: Irons in the Fire

Chapter Five: Wet Shirts and Hidden Depths

Chapter Six: Nailed it

Chapter Seven: Why Walk When You Can Ride?

Chapter Eight: The Healing Power of Horses

Chapter Nine: In Your Arms

Chapter Ten: Hammer, Anvil, Forge and Fire

Chapter Eleven: The Cherry on the Cake

Chapter Twelve: No Foot, No Horse

Chapter Thirteen: The Way the Wind Blows

Chapter Fourteen: Hammer and Tongs

Chapter Fifteen: The Price of Fish

Chapter Sixteen: St Dunstan and the Devil

Chapter Seventeen: Nelson's Last Stand

Chapter Eighteen: My Kingdom for a Horse

Chapter Nineteen: The Wrong End of the Stick

Chapter Twenty: One-Trick Pony

Chapter Twenty-One: Negotiate with a Stallion, Tell a Gelding, and Ask a Mare

Chapter Twenty-Two: Life is a Bowl of Cherries

Chapter Twenty-Three: Another Bite at the Cherry


About the Book

After years of training, horse-mad Flick has finally achieved her dream of becoming one of the few female blacksmiths in the country.

Her first job is in Talyton St George. The little cottage on the green where she is staying is idyllic, and it feels like the fresh start she needs. But she soon finds she is having to work overtime to prove her abilities to the not-so-welcoming locals.

One person very much on her side though is Robbie Salterton. He's a bit of a local celebrity – a handsome stunt rider who does charity work in his spare time – and he seems to be going out of his way to look out for Flick. But is he just being friendly or does he see Flick as something more?

Despite swearing off men, Flick can't help wanting to find out . . .

About the Author

Cathy Woodman was a small-animal vet before turning to writing fiction. She won the Harry Bowling First Novel Award in 2002 and is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association.
Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage
is the tenth book set in the fictional market town of Talyton St George in East Devon, where Cathy lived as a child. Cathy now lives with her two children, a cat and two Border Terriers in a village near Winchester, Hampshire.


Trust Me, I'm a Vet

Must Be Love

The Sweetest Thing

It's a Vet's Life

The Village Vet

Vets in Love

Country Loving

Follow Me Home

Vets on Call

In loving memory of Dr Brian Chadwick, geologist, bibliophile and wonderful dad


I should like to thank Laura Longrigg at MBA Literary Agents, and the team at Penguin Random House UK for their continuing enthusiasm and support for the Talyton St George books.

I'm also very grateful to my family, some of whom have enjoyed our forays into the horsey world, some of whom have merely tolerated it! I wouldn't have written this book without my experiences of owning and riding a variety of horses and ponies.

Last, but not least, I'd like to mention Penny, Steve and Riley at Cherry Tree Stables for the inspiration for the title of this book.

Chapter One
A Fresh Start

Christian Grey, eat your heart out. My horse is the original fifty shades and far more gorgeous. It's true that I have a whip and spurs somewhere amongst my belongings, but I've never had any desire to use them. I've never loved anyone even half as much as my beautiful grey boy. When I'm with him my heart beats faster and my blood bubbles with happiness. I don't have to pretend to be one of the lads at work, or make out that I'm having the time of my life in front of my ex, or act the perfect daughter to please my parents. I can be myself.

I lean forwards in the saddle and stroke Rafa's neck, running my fingers through his flaxen mane, which falls in waves down past his dappled shoulder. He smells of sweat, fly-spray and de-tangler, and his coat feels warm and slightly damp.

I sit up straight and ride on, squinting in the rays of the early-evening sun that slant between the branches of the gnarled trees bordering the lane. The ancient oaks are unfurling their leaves and the blackthorn is frothing with blossom. It's late March and my favourite time of year, when the weather is getting better and the days start drawing out, meaning there's more opportunity to get out riding.

At the top of the hill where the scent of wild garlic and farmyard starts to fill my nostrils, Rafa sidesteps a shadow. I take a tighter grip on the reins and push him forwards with the pressure of my calves. He breaks into a trot and I begin to relax again as he covers the ground, the sound of his feet muffled by the grass that's growing lush and green between the stones and patches of tarmac.

I bring him back to walk. He shies for a second time, snorting as if to say, ‘Scary monster alert. Let's get the hell out of here.'

‘Oh no you don't,' I say, spotting the offending plastic bag that's drifting slowly across the ground in front of us. ‘You are such a wuss,' I add lightly. That's what he's like, though. He doesn't care about trucks, rattling trailers or tractors, but show him a crisp packet and it's the end of the world.

‘It's nothing.' I take a firm hold. ‘There's no need to be silly about it.'

I focus on the scenery, trying to ignore the way his hindquarters are bunching up beneath me as he utters another snort, blowing air through his nose so hard that he makes us both jump.

At the summit of the hill, the lane bends sharply one way then the other before hugging the contour of the slope on the way down the far side. There's a bank of red earth to the right and a hedge to the left filled with hazel, pale yellow primroses and blue speedwell. I can hear the faint sound of church bells and water, a small torrent emerging from a culvert below the hedge where the ground falls away. In the distance I can see glimpses of a river and the market town of Talyton St George.

When I hear the rumble of an approaching tractor, I decide to trot along to the next gateway to give it space to pass, but as we get closer, the scent of farmyard becomes more noxious. Rafa stops dead in the middle of the lane, his ears pricked, his nostrils flared and his head up like a giraffe. I make a clicking sound in my throat to ask him to move on, but he refuses to budge any way but sideways. As he starts to sidle up the bank, I give him a firm nudge in the ribs with my heels. He doesn't respond so I lean across and snap a twig off a nearby hazel, using it to give him a tickle on the flank.

I can hear the tractor moving closer, chugging up the hill. In desperation, I flick Rafa with the twig again, and with my legs flailing in best Pony Club fashion, we're away, at least as far as the gate where he stops abruptly, sending me halfway up his neck. I slide back down into the saddle, trying to regain my stirrups. His heart is pounding loud and fast. He's genuinely scared this time. He snorts for a third time. The echo, followed by a series of loud oinks, comes back from behind the hedge, and all is lost.

He plunges forwards, unseating me so I'm clinging to his withers. I grab at his mane and I'm just about hanging on until he bucks and I lose my grip on his slippery tresses. He tips me off into the hedge beside the gate and bolts towards the tractor, the clatter of his hooves fading into the distance.

Struggling to catch my breath, I extricate myself from the brambles in full view of an audience of sandy-coloured pigs. My burgundy sweat top is adorned with sticky buds and the knees of my cream jodhpurs are stained green. The screen on my mobile has cracked into little pieces, but I'm okay: my skull-cap is intact; no bones broken.

Cursing the amount of de-tangler that I used on Rafa's mane while getting him ready, I start to run after him, listening out for the sound of skidding wheels and the sickening crash, but it doesn't come. Instead, the tractor appears and draws up alongside me. The driver, a middle-aged man in a red baseball cap, leans out of the cab.

‘You're going to have to run faster than that, my lover. Running faster than the wind, he was,' he calls in a broad Devon accent, dropping his aitches and rounding his vowels.

I thank him – I'm not sure what for – and keep running down the hill until I reach a crossroads with a wooden signpost and a grassy triangle in the centre. Rafa has left a circle of hoof-prints, as if he paused for a mouthful of grass.

I call his name repeatedly. There's no sign of him, no clue as to which way he went. I'm really panicking now, agonising about what I'm going to find. He could be lying in the road with a broken leg for all I know. My lungs are raw, my muscles are burning and my feet are killing me. I can't hear anything except a pulse of impending doom thudding in my ears.

And then I catch sight of two horses, a black one and a grey, heading my way along the right fork at the crossroads. My heart floods with relief, and my face with embarrassment as the rider of the black horse moves closer. He halts just in front of me, and looks me up and down, one eyebrow raised.

‘I assume this is yours,' he says, handing me Rafa's reins.

‘Thank you for catching him,' I say, still breathless. I check my horse's legs, running my hands over his knees and fetlocks. There are no cuts or obvious bruises. He's had a lucky escape.

‘Is he all right?'

‘He's fine.' I look up. The rider of the horse is male, most definitely male, and in his mid-to late twenties. He sits tall in the saddle, with his long muscular legs in dark breeches and leather boots wrapped around his horse's body, but it's his shirt that really catches my eye. It's flamboyant and rather ridiculous, made from cream-coloured cheesecloth with a ruffle down the front. He wears it with the top buttons unfastened, revealing the shadowy dip at the base of his neck and a generous view of the slab-like muscles of his chest. The sleeves are rolled up to show off his lean, tanned arms.

‘How about you?' he asks. ‘You look as if you've been dragged through a hedge backwards.'

‘You aren't far wrong there, but I'm okay, thanks.' I'm carrying my riding hat under one arm and my shattered mobile in the other hand. Aware that I must have one of the worst cases of hat-hair ever, I run my fingers through my short dark brown crop in a vain attempt to give it some body.

‘Are you sure? You've cut your lip.'

I touch my mouth, tasting the metallic tang of blood.

‘It's nothing.' I try to make out his features, but his face is shaded by the peak of his hat; a helmet – like the polo players wear – not a skull-cap like mine.

BOOK: Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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