Maybe this time, p.1

Maybe This Time, page 1

 

Maybe This Time
 



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Maybe This Time


  Copyright © 2019 Jill Mansell

  Extract from This Could Change Everything © 2018 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 2019 by

  HEADLINE REVIEW

  An imprint of HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP

  First published as an Ebook in 2019 by

  HEADLINE REVIEW

  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 4843 5

  Jacket illustration © Giovanna Giuliano; title lettering © www.sophiaslater.com

  Author photograph © Charlotte Murphy

  Map illustration by Laura Hall

  HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP

  An Hachette UK Company

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London EC4Y 0DZ

  www.headline.co.uk

  www.hachette.co.uk

  Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  About the Author

  Praise

  Also by Jill Mansell

  About the Book

  Dedication

  Map of Goosebrook

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Read the opening chapters of THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING

  Don’t miss Jill Mansell’s other unforgettable novels

  About the Author

  Maybe This Time is the thirtieth fabulous, feel-good novel from Jill Mansell, whose books have sold over 11 million copies around the world.

  Jill lives with her family in Bristol, and is now a full-time writer, having previously worked in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology.

  Her hobbies include buying stationery, particularly magical new colours of ink for the fountain pen she uses to write all her books. (And if ‘magical’ sounds far-fetched, go on, just take a look at internet images for Emerald of Chivor, Jill’s favourite.)

  Her other hobbies include people-watching and finding new characters to put in her novels. So when you’re out, make sure to always be on your best behaviour. And beware beady-eyed authors carrying notebooks …

  Twitter @JillMansell

  Facebook/OfficialJillMansell

  The joy of Jill Mansell

  ‘A heartwarming treat from one of my favourite writers’ Katie Fforde

  ‘Romantic and brilliantly written . . . A feel-good gem’ **** Heat

  ‘Reading Jill is always such a joy!’ Veronica Henry

  ‘A lovely uplifting read’ Good Housekeeping

  ‘Fans of PS, I LOVE YOU will enjoy this funny and heart-warming read’ Bella

  ‘The sweetest love story of the year’ Fabulous

  ‘A wonderful feel-good summer read that’s full of unexpected twists and turns’ S Magazine, Sunday Express

  ‘Jill Mansell is the queen of witty, heart-warming, feel-good love stories’ Red

  ‘The perfect romantic read to make you smile and dream of long summer days by the beach’ Woman & Home

  Also by Jill Mansell

  Maybe This Time

  This Could Change Everything

  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

  Millie’s Fling

  Good At Games

  Miranda’s Big Mistake

  Head Over Heels

  Mixed Doubles

  Perfect Timing

  Fast Friends

  Solo

  Kiss

  Sheer Mischief

  Open House

  Two’s Company

  About the Book

  Mimi isn’t looking for love when she spends a weekend in Goosebrook, the Cotswolds village her dad has moved to. And her first encounter with Cal, who lives there too, is nothing like a scene in a romantic movie – although she can’t help noticing how charismatic he is. But Cal’s in no position to be any more than a friend, and Mimi heads back to her busy London life.

  When they meet again four years later, it’s still not to be. Cal is focusing on his family, and Mimi on her career. Then Cal dives into a potentially perfect new romance whilst Mimi’s busy fixing other people’s relationships. It seems as if something, or someone else, always gets in their way. Will it ever be the right time for both of them?

  For Judi and Paul

  with my love.

  Chapter 1

  So this was it then, the countryside. Well, there had been a few previous rural encounters over the years, but to a lesser degree. Whereas this definitely ranked as up close and personal.

  Feeling intrepid, Mimi stepped down from the train and breathed in the mingled green scents of spring grass, new leaves, damp earth and the smallest hint of cow poo, presumably drifting across from the field visible through the lattice of trees on the other side of the track. A couple of black and white cows lazily lifted their heads in order to observe the train as it departed, before swishing their tails and returning their attention to the serious business of tearing up clumps of grass.

  It had to be the world’s tiniest station, very cute indeed, comprising a single track dotted with wild flowers and weeds, and a small stone shelter. It would probably faint if it ever saw the gigantic edifice that was Paddington. Making her way towards the rickety metal gate, Mimi realised she’d made a fundamental error in having assumed there’d be a friendly local taxi driver waiting outside to be of service.

  The only other passenger to have disembarked, a sixty-something woman in a brown tartan skirt and brut
ally sensible lace-up shoes, said, ‘Excuse me,’ in a pained way, probably because Mimi was hesitating in front of the gate.

  ‘Oh, sorry! It’s just . . . I thought there’d be a taxi rank.’

  The woman’s eyebrows lifted. ‘Seriously?’

  ‘I’ve just come down from London,’ Mimi explained. ‘I mean, I knew this station would be small, but I didn’t realise it wouldn’t have . . . anything here at all.’

  ‘Well, it doesn’t. You live and learn.’

  Helpful. Mimi tried again. ‘OK, could you point me in the direction of the bus stop?’

  The woman was now looking at her as if she’d landed from Mars. ‘There isn’t a bus stop. Because there aren’t any buses.’

  What?

  ‘But that’s just crazy. How am I supposed to get to where I want to go?’

  Mrs Tartan Kilt took out her car keys and said impatiently, ‘Where are you headed?’

  Oh thank goodness. Mimi beamed with relief. ‘Goosebrook.’

  ‘Well in that case you need to turn left at the end of the lane, then just keep on going. Follow the signposts.’

  And now, unbelievably, she was turning away, marching over to a filthy dark blue Volvo rakishly parked half on and half off the dandelion-studded verge. Having climbed behind the wheel and buzzed down the windows, she performed a nifty five-point turn and gestured for Mimi to move out of the way so she could drive off.

  In desperation, Mimi said, ‘Look, I don’t suppose you could give me a lift, could you? I’d be so grateful—’

  ‘Sorry, I’m going in the opposite direction.’ She didn’t sound sorry at all.

  ‘But how am I going to get to Goosebrook?’

  The woman gave a pitying shake of the head. ‘You have legs, don’t you? A couple of fully functioning feet? I know it’s a radical idea, but I suggest you try using them.’

  And she roared off down the narrow lane, just as the sun disappeared behind a cloud and the first fat drops of rain began to fall.

  So much for friendly locals and the magic of the countryside.

  An hour later, Mimi was making good, if sodden, progress. On the upside, at least she wasn’t wearing high heels. But her ballet flats, with their wafer-thin soles, weren’t the most comfortable either; she could feel every bump in the rough tarmac. And her overnight bag was making her shoulder ache; if only she’d brought along her red case with the wheels.

  Oh well, she’d covered four miles and there was only one more to go. It had stopped raining, too. The sky was blue once more, birds were singing, the hedgerows were starred with primroses and there were sheep in the meadow to her right, some with newborn lambs gambolling in the sunshine—

  Mimi stopped dead in her tracks, horrified by what she was seeing and realising at once what was going on. Just the other night she’d seen a report on TV about the recent spate of vicious attacks on horses in fields, and now it was happening right in front of her, but this time the victim of the attack was a sheep.

  Shock and adrenalin surged through her body. She dropped her heavy bag, vaulted the low wall and charged down the slope towards the figure half hidden behind a clump of bushes, but not half hidden enough to disguise the fact that he was wrestling furiously with a sheep on the ground.

  ‘Oh my God, stop it . . .’ She gathered speed as she ran through taller clumps of grass that whipped around her bare legs. ‘What are you doing? Get away from that sheep!’

  The man was wearing jeans and a polo shirt; glancing up, he ignored her and carried on battling with the sheep, which was lying on its back, its little legs waggling furiously in the air as it struggled to escape.

  ‘Stop it, just stop it!’ Skidding to a halt a few metres away in case he was a lunatic with a knife, Mimi yelled, ‘You leave him alone right now or I’m calling the police!’

  The man abruptly released his hold on the sheep and rose to his feet, prompting Mimi to take a few more steps backwards. OK, she hadn’t thought this through; what if he really was a lunatic?

  ‘Let me take a wild guess.’ As he spoke, he shook his wet hair out of his eyes and surveyed her, taking in the pink and white striped jacket, the short flippy white skirt and the silver ballet flats. ‘You don’t live around here.’

  OK, the good news was that he wasn’t wielding a weapon. He also had a nice voice, kind of drawly and amused. Still panting from her unexpected exertions, Mimi said, ‘Just because I’m wearing silver shoes, you’re assuming I’m some kind of . . . townie.’

  ‘Partly true.’ He nodded, conceding that she’d been right. ‘Although one other clue was the way you called the sheep him.’

  ‘Now you’re just being pedantic. I was trying to stop you attacking it,’ Mimi pointed out. ‘There wasn’t time to get out my binoculars and have a look at its private parts.’

  This was evidently hilarious; the man was now biting his lip, doing his best not to laugh. He said, ‘With this breed of sheep, if it were a male it would have horns. And it would be a ram.’

  ‘Well, you weren’t treating it very gently.’ Sensing that she was fighting a losing battle, Mimi jumped as the sheep let out a long, baleful baaaaaaaaa. ‘There’s no need to be cruel to animals, you know.’

  ‘OK, let me explain. She’s pregnant.’ He nodded patiently. ‘By the look of her, with twins.’

  Mimi was appalled. ‘All the more reason to be kind!’

  He smiled. ‘Her fleece is sodden with rain. She has a huge belly. When she lay down, she rolled onto her back and now she’s stuck there, can’t get up again. If she’s left like that, she’ll die. So if you want to help, come over here and give me a hand getting her back on her feet.’

  The grass was wet and slippery, and the pregnant ewe was bottom-heavy and wriggly, but after a couple of minutes of tussling, heaving and baa-ing, they finally managed to get her upright once more.

  The man who wasn’t a knife-wielding maniac held the animal’s bulky body against his legs, giving her time to regain her bearings. Then he released her and they both watched as she trotted off without so much as a backward glance to rejoin the rest of the flock.

  ‘Not even a thank you,’ Mimi remarked.

  ‘I know. She won’t write, she won’t phone.’ As they began to make their way back up the sloping field, he said, ‘Still, you did a good job there, helped to save her life. Not bad, for a townie.’

  ‘Thanks. And I’m sorry I shouted at you.’

  ‘No problem. You meant well. Where are you visiting, anyway?’

  ‘Goosebrook.’ Wondering just how shiny her face was, but not wanting to get caught trying to make herself look better, Mimi surreptitiously gave her forehead a wipe with the sleeve of her jacket.

  ‘Well that’s where I live.’ They’d reached the gate that led out onto the road, and Mimi saw now that a dark brown terrier was waiting there for him. As he unhooked the lead, which had been looped over the gatepost, the man said, ‘This is Otto. I’m Cal.’

  ‘And is this your flock?’ She belatedly realised that he must be a farmer.

  ‘No, they aren’t mine.’ He grinned. ‘I just stopped to help out a young lady sheep in distress.’

  Otto was up on his hind legs, nudging Mimi’s hand with his nose, eager for attention. Rubbing his lopsided ears, she said, ‘Hello, aren’t you gorgeous?’ then looked up at Cal. ‘I’m Mimi. Well, Emylia. But mainly Mimi.’ Now that she wasn’t distracted by the sheep, she noted that his hair was straight and shiny, streaked white blonde by the sun. His brows and lashes were dark, the whites of his brown eyes very white. He had olive skin, an outdoorsy tan and an athletic physique.

  ‘Mimi. Nice to meet you. So how long are you down here for?’

  She couldn’t help perking up a bit; whilst she’d been checking him out, had he been doing the same to her? Damn, though, she definitely wasn’t looking her best. Aloud, Mimi said, ‘Just a couple of days.’

  ‘Staying in one of the holiday cottages?’

  And now her heart was doing that uncomfo
rtable speeding-up thing it always did, even after so many years. She really should be used to it by now. She straightened her shoulders. ‘No, I’m visiting my dad. He lives in Goosebrook.’

  Cal looked surprised. ‘He does? Who’s your dad then?’

  ‘Hang on a sec, I left my bag . . .’ Turning before he could see the flush colouring her cheeks, Mimi ran back along the lane to where she’d flung her bag down in the dip where the grass verge met the dry-stone wall. She loved her dad to bits and she wasn’t embarrassed by him, but there was always that tricky moment when other people discovered you were his daughter and you had to deal with whatever they might have to say about it.

  The thing was, sometimes you weren’t bothered about those people’s reactions because they weren’t important to you anyway. But at other times, when you met someone and instinctively liked them, it meant the pressure was on because you really didn’t want them to come out with some response that was either rude or downright offensive.

  Please don’t let him do that.

  Mentally preparing herself, Mimi hurried back to where Cal and Otto were waiting for her. She held up her bag – like an idiot – and said, ‘Got it! Never a good idea to leave your overnight stuff in a ditch!’

  Otto, eyeing her with bright-eyed interest, wagged his tail.

  And Cal, also eyeing her with interest, said, ‘Can I guess?’

  ‘Um, if you like.’ Did he really want to know what she’d brought down with her? OK, if he managed to tell her that her bag contained grey and white elephant-print pyjamas, a Fortnum and Mason fruit cake and half a dozen hardback thrillers, that would be seriously impressive and—

  ‘Are you Dan Huish’s daughter?’

  Mimi stared at him. ‘Yes! How on earth did you know that?’ Because her father had told her only last night that no one in the village knew of her existence.

  Cal shrugged and said simply, ‘You look like him.’

  ‘Oh. Really? I mean, I think I do a bit, but people don’t usually notice. I’m more like my mum.’

  ‘I’m observant.’ He smiled. ‘You have the same eyes. Green, deep-set. Similar face shape too. You have quite a bit more hair, though.’

  ‘I definitely win that competition.’ Mimi ruffled her mass of tortoiseshell hair, which always exploded out of control the moment it was exposed to rain.

 
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