Meet me at beachcomber b.., p.1
Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay: A delicious Cornish romance, page 1
Copyright © 2017 Jill Mansell
The right of Jill Mansell to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published in 2017 by
An imprint of HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
First published as an Ebook in 2017 by
An imprint of HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN: 978 1 4722 0892 7
Cover illustration © www.huett.se
Title lettering © www.sophiaslater.com
Map illustration by Laura Hall
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
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About the Author
Also by Jill Mansell
About the Book
Map of St Carys
Don’t miss Jill Mansell’s other unforgettable novels
About the Author
Jill Mansell is the author of over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers including THE ONE YOU REALLY WANT, TO THE MOON AND BACK and YOU AND ME, ALWAYS. TAKE A CHANCE ON ME won the RNA’s Romantic Comedy Prize, and in 2015 the RNA presented Jill with an outstanding achievement award.
Jill’s personal favourite amongst her novels is THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU, which is about cystic fibrosis and organ donation; to her great delight, many people have joined the organ donor register as a direct result of reading this novel.
Jill started writing fiction while working in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology in the NHS, but now writes full time. She is one of the few who still write their books by hand, ‘like a leftover from the dark ages’. She lives in Bristol with her family.
Praise for Jill Mansell’s unputdownable bestsellers:
‘The sweetest love story of the year’ Fabulous
‘Fans of PS, I LOVE YOU will enjoy this funny and heart-warming read’ Bella
‘Achingly romantic … we loved it!’ Heat
‘A glorious, heartwarming romantic read’ Woman & Home
‘The twists are great fun … and hold the happy ending tantalisingly at bay … Plenty … to warm all our hearts’ Telegraph
‘A lovely uplifting read’ Good Housekeeping
‘Warm, witty and wise’ Daily Mail
‘A romp of a read … One for romantics’ Company
‘A must read … heart-warming’ Daily Express
‘Written with heart and humour’ Sunday Mirror
Also by Jill Mansell
Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay
You And Me, Always
Three Amazing Things About You
The Unpredictable Consequences Of Love
Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
A Walk In The Park
To The Moon And Back
Take A Chance On Me
Rumour Has It
An Offer You Can’t Refuse
Thinking Of You
Making Your Mind Up
The One You Really Want
Falling For You
Nadia Knows Best
Staying At Daisy’s
Good At Games
Miranda’s Big Mistake
Head Over Heels
About the Book
Love is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets …
The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.
For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.
Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.
The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed …
For Tina, with all my love.
Sometimes it only takes a split second for a state of absolute calm to turn to one of horror and panic.
‘Oh dear, poor thing.’ Clemency turned to watch as a purple-faced businessman in a too-tight suit hurtled across the concourse at Malaga airport in the direction of the departure gates, panting and grunting as he ran and scattering small children in his wake.
The British girl who was working on the Chanel stand in duty-free said, ‘Honestly, it’s amazing how many people don’t bother to pay attention to the boards. Yesterday there was a party of fifteen Spanish guys in one of the bars and they were so busy watching a football match on TV that they ended up missing their flight. Imagine!’
‘That’s crazy,’ Clemency marvelled, trying a purple eyeshadow shot with gold sparkly bits on the back of her hand. Nice.
‘Oh, we see everything here. So many people don’t even turn up at the airport until their flight’s about to close.’
‘I couldn’t do that. I always like to give myself loads of time. Then I know I can really relax,’ Clemency said happily, ‘and spend ages in duty-free trying out all the make-up.’
Which was why another forty minutes had passed before she finally arrived at the checkout to pay for the new lipstick she’d chosen,
The bored-looking cashier said, ‘May I check your boarding pass, please?’
Clemency glanced down at her left hand, the one that should have been clutching her passport. The passport with the boarding pass neatly tucked inside it.
She looked down at the hand and saw that it was clutching instead a handful of perfume card samplers, each one sprayed with a different scent.
And that was the moment absolute calm turned to horror and panic.
‘Just in time,’ said the female attendant as Clemency hurtled towards the departures desk. ‘We were about to close the gate!’
Clemency couldn’t speak. She wanted to fall to her knees and gulp air into her burning lungs, but there was no time; she was already being ushered out through the sliding doors and across the tarmac towards the waiting plane. Her drag-along case was banging against her ankles, perspiration was trickling down her spine and her mouth was dry as she struggled up the clanky metal steps, still hyperventilating. Oh God, she could only imagine the colour of her face. She must be puce.
The male flight attendant greeted her with a wink. ‘Nice of you to decide to join us. Welcome on board.’
You know that little inner surge of triumph you get when you’re on a packed-to-the-gills plane and everyone’s boarded and the seat next to yours is magically still empty … until at the very last minute someone else gets on and you realise you won’t be enjoying the luxury of having an empty seat beside you after all?
This, Clemency knew, was the feeling currently being experienced by the passenger occupying seat number 45A. As she made her way towards 45B, she could almost hear the thud of disappointment and his accompanying sigh of resignation.
Oh well. His hopes might have been cruelly dashed, but on the upside he had excellent cheekbones and a beautiful mouth. During her flight over here, the guy in the seat next to hers had weighed almost as much as the plane itself and had been eating tuna sandwiches, so this one was already a marked improvement.
Still getting her breath back, Clemency smiled broadly at him. ‘I know, I’m sorry, I’d be disappointed too.’
This was the man’s cue to relax, to notice that as far as seat-neighbours were concerned he could do an awful lot worse, and to gallantly offer to lift her heavy case into the overhead locker.
Except this didn’t happen. Instead he acknowledged her with the briefest of nods before returning his attention to the phone in his hand.
Then again, she had looked better. Maybe a red-faced, perspiring twenty-five-year-old gasping for breath wasn’t his cup of tea.
Case stowed and locker closed, Clemency collapsed into her seat, wiped her face and hands with a tissue and examined her left foot where the wheels of her carry-on case had repeatedly bashed against her ankle. She exhaled noisily. ‘I can’t believe I almost missed my flight! I always make sure I leave loads of time so nothing can go wrong. All these years and it’s never happened before … but I suppose the thing is, something always can go wrong. Like today. You can’t imagine how I felt when … umm …’
She trailed to a humiliated halt when she realised the man was determined to ignore her. Nothing, not a flicker; he clearly wasn’t interested at all.
He might have a beautiful mouth and excellent cheekbones, but he had no intention of engaging in conversation with the stranger at his side.
Fine. Clemency ostentatiously took out her own phone and began to check her emails. Because look at me, I’m really busy and important too.
Half an hour later, once they were flying at 36,000 feet over the Pyrenees, two cabin crew brought the drinks trolley down the aisle, and her travelling companion removed his earbuds in order to speak to them.
‘I don’t believe it.’ Clemency laughed at her own stupidity. ‘I’m such an idiot!’
The man turned to look at her. ‘Sorry?’
‘You! Those things!’ She gestured to the earbuds in his right hand. ‘I was chatting away to you earlier and you completely ignored me, so I stopped talking because I thought you didn’t want to be disturbed. I couldn’t see the wires from here because of the way you were sitting and your collar covered them up. But I can’t believe I didn’t realise the reason you were ignoring me was because you had headphones in.’ Giddy with relief, she added, ‘Well, I suppose I was in a bit of a state, what with almost missing the flight … my brain felt as if it’d been whizzed up in a blender … Ooh dear, sorry, that sounds a bit—’
‘Red wine, please,’ the man said to the blonde flight attendant.
‘Certainly, sir. And you, madam? Would you like something from the trolley?’
It was free. Free wine! Why would anyone say no? Except Clemency had observed on plenty of occasions that some people, for mystifying reasons of their own, did sometimes say no.
Ha, not her, though. She said, ‘I’d like white wine, please. Oh … is it cold?’ Because sometimes it wasn’t.
The flight attendant wrinkled her nose conspiratorially and said, ‘Not very, I’m afraid.’
‘I’ll have red, then.’ Clemency smiled. ‘Nothing worse than lukewarm white wine.’ The next moment, seeing that her travelling companion was about to put the buds back into his ears, she added, ‘I think I deserve a drink, to celebrate not missing this plane!’
‘There you go.’ The attendant passed them their mini bottles and plastic glasses, along with two airline-sized packets of cheese biscuits.
‘Lovely. Thank you.’ Clemency filled her glass, raised it towards the man next to her and said, ‘Cheers!’
‘Cheers,’ murmured the man, before glancing back at his phone.
Sometimes persuading someone to make conversation when they didn’t want to became a kind of personal challenge. Before he could plug himself back into his music, Clemency said brightly, ‘Doesn’t it always feel brilliant, having a glass of wine on a plane?’
‘It does.’ He looked pointedly out of the window.
‘I wasn’t late getting to the airport, you know,’ Clemency told him. ‘I had tons of time, which was why I spent ages in duty-free, and it wasn’t until I reached the checkout that I discovered I’d put my passport down somewhere and for the life of me I couldn’t think where I’d left it. Oh God, that feeling, though.’ She clenched her free hand and clutched it to her chest at the awful memory. ‘My heart was going like a train, I was trying to ask where it might have been handed in, and everyone in the queue behind me was getting annoyed because all they wanted to do was pay for their duty-free …’
For the second time Clemency’s voice trailed off, giving him the chance to join in and say, ‘So what happened next?’
Instead, after an awkward silence that seemed to last longer than Wagner’s Ring cycle, he replied, ‘But you found it.’
‘Yes. Yes I did.’ Clemency nodded and looked at the buds he was clearly longing to plug back into his ears. Carefully raising the tray in order to get out of her seat before lowering it again and resting her glass of wine on it, she said, ‘Excuse me,’ and escaped down the aisle.
How embarrassing to realise that whilst you’ve been merrily going through life thinking you were a perfectly nice travelling companion, the kind of person anyone might enjoy sitting next to, you might have been wrong. That you might, in fact, be the kind of irritating person other people dread being trapped with.
Chastened, Clemency stared at her reflection in the mirror above the tiny sink in the toilet cubicle. Oh dear, what a mortifying discovery to make. And that poor man, who had presumably been willing her to shut up and leave him alone instead of wittering on about her stupid passport … OK, she wouldn’t utter another word from now on, wouldn’t even glance at him.
She left the cubicle and made her way back along the aisle. The man in the seat next to hers was gazing out of the window at the great swathes of cloud surrounding them. As Clemency lifted her glass of wine in order to raise the tray and sit ba
Hold the front page. He speaks!
But she had no intention of breaking her vow. With a little I’m-fine shake of her head, she put her handbag on the floor in front of her, then went to raise the tray in order to—
The jolt of the plane was both sudden and dramatic, eliciting shrieks of alarm from several nervous passengers. Having lurched to one side and bounced off the seat in front of her, Clemency ricocheted back and felt rather than saw the contents of the glass hit her chest.
The plane righted itself, the screams and panic subsided and order was restored. From the cockpit, the pilot genially announced over the tannoy, ‘Apologies for that spot of turbulence, ladies and gentlemen. If everyone could stay seated for the next couple of minutes and keep their seat belts fastened, we’ll just make sure there aren’t any more surprises to come.’
Clemency looked down at her pale yellow lacy cotton top, liberally splattered with red wine. The splashes were spreading, joining up into one vast purple splodge across her front. It was, of course, one of her all-time favourite items of clothing, because that was sod’s law, wasn’t it? You never got a drink thrown over you when you were wearing some ancient falling-to-pieces T-shirt.
‘Whoops, poor you,’ said one of the air stewards, hurrying down the aisle to check that everyone’s seat belt was fastened. ‘Sit down.’
‘Oh dear,’ said the man next to her as she sat.
Clemency glanced at him; he didn’t have his earbuds in. She did a tiny shrug and felt the wet material cold against her skin. Urgh.
‘I bet you wish you’d stuck with the lukewarm white wine now.’
This was like being in a silent movie. Clemency raised her hand briefly in a doesn’t-matter gesture and reached for the riveting airline magazine in the seat pocket in front of her. Time to read about the dazzling tourist attractions of Malaga.
‘Are you … not speaking to me?’
Ah, so he’d noticed. She turned to look at him, one eyebrow lifted quizzically. ‘Sorry?’
‘Are you deliberately ignoring me because you thought I was deliberately ignoring you?’ There was a hint of amusement in his voice.
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