“Here are the keys, Mr. Lovell. Once I leave tomorrow morning you’ll have the estate to yourself. I’ll lock and shutter the big house, but the grounds are yours to enjoy. There’s a decent fishing rod in the cottage garden shed, if you fish. The river is famous for trout.” Jackson Montgomery placed a sizeable bunch of keys in Dane’s palm with a smile. “You still have my phone number, just in case, eh? Janice stocked the larder and fridge for you?” He glanced around the big kitchen as if he could see into the larder and fridge to assess the contents. Cottage was a misnomer for the place Dane Lovell had rented for the next eight weeks. With two floors and a cellar, plus the fact it stretched the length of just about three ordinary family houses, Dane considered the old place a mansion.
“Yes, thanks. She showed me everything and it’ll probably take me my whole stay to get through the supplies.” He smiled as he followed the caretaker out of the back door and onto the patio.
Jackson turned to him and held out his hand.
Dane shook his hand in goodbye. “Thanks for everything.”
The caretaker gave a nod and was gone, marching along the short, crazy-paved path to the side gate, where with another glance over his shoulder at Dane, he went through it to the neighboring and smaller cottage that was his home.
Dane pushed his hands into his jeans pockets and wandered to the bottom of the garden that adjoined the cottage. He breathed in the cool, reinvigorating air emitted by a thicket of evergreen trees as he took the path that wove through them and led him to the bend in the river rushing past.
His cell phone buzzed in the pocket of his denim gilet.
“Lovell.” He stopped walking to answer.
“Dane, where the hell are you? What happened to our meeting?” His brother’s voice held both annoyance and anxiety.
“Sorry, Emmet, I took off earlier than I expected. I did leave you a message, at your office. Didn’t you get it?”
“Rosie strikes again. I swear I’ll never have another temp from that agency. Okay, well, have a good break. Keep in touch. I guess planning a new project can wait until you’ve recharged your batteries for a few weeks. I wish you’d not gone quite so far away, though, Dane—New England…”
Dane caught the change in his brother’s tone and knew he must be smiling.
“I needed a total change after the incident with Jeremy. It’s been months and I’m still not over it, but thanks, Emmet, I’ll try to have a good break.” He ended the call as he gazed into the flow of water where the weak sun threw its light. Square sparkles dashed by on the water looking like little windows into the river. Dane walked closer to the edge of the bank and watched for a few moments. Immediately below, long slender reeds swayed in huge tangled bunches. Dane turned and walked back to the cottage, hunger forcing him away from the mesmerizing sight.
He’d not eaten since the day before. Dane never ate before late afternoon. In fact, he was never usually out and about until midafternoon. He worked far into the night and usually fell into bed around dawn. Somehow, over the years, this had become his normal pattern of living—Dane was nocturnal. Meetings, such as the one he was to have with Emmet, posed a problem. Although his brother always accommodated him, other people usually wanted them in the morning. On those occasions, Dane forced himself out of slumber and took a cab to the venue, not trusting his sleepy head to drive. Sometimes Dane tried to change this nocturnal pattern, but it never worked. The blanket of night offered him comfort.
He entered the kitchen and made straight for the fridge. Janice, the caretaker’s wife, had left a large roasted chicken for him. He brought it to the table and pulled a loaf of crusty bread from the breadbox on the counter. Dane hummed as he made a sandwich. The complete change of scenery already soothed his soul. Cocooned in stands of trees and circled by sparkling water, Dane breathed a sigh of relief. There were no reminders of Jeremy here.
Janice Montgomery handed her husband, Jackson, a beer.
He took it with a grateful smile. “Thanks, sweetheart.” He sat heavily in his armchair and brought his feet up onto the footstool. “It’ll be great to get away. Have you packed?”
She came to sit on the arm of the chair and ran her fingers into his hair, taking it back from his forehead. She planted a kiss there. “I have. Have you finished work? Can we make an early start?”
Jackson caught her hand and kissed her palm. “All done. Let’s leave around six. We’ll miss the business traffic if we get out the other side of town before seven.”
A small frown put a crease between her eyes. “Jackson … have you mentioned Zachary to the guy leasing the cottage?”
Jackson pursed his lips. “Dane Lovell’s the guy’s name, and no I, er, I forgot.”
Janice stood. “I don’t think you forgot. I think you chickened out. Dinner’s ready. I’ll dish up.”
Jackson gazed after her. He heaved a sigh. Zachary…
A TV sat on a shelf in a breakfast nook at the end of the kitchen. Dane ate his sandwich as he caught the evening news. He made coffee as he listened to the weather report, and then he brought his laptop to the big pine table in the main part of the kitchen, and booted it.
Dane opened the folder on the desktop marked Emmet and clicked on the file. His architectural design software opened it. He scrutinized the drawing for a few moments.
The design was finished. He could email it to Emmet. That way he could concentrate on his other project, his secret passion. He closed the file and opened his email program. Wi-Fi included was one of the attractions listed for the cottage. He emailed the file with a short note for Emmet to go ahead and take over the deal.
Dane loved designing buildings, but although architecture was his first love, it wasn’t his only love. Dane wrote. He wrote mystery novels under a pen name. A few months ago, Dane’s ideas dried up. At first, he didn’t worry, thinking the break-up was to blame, and then as time galloped by with not a word written, he admitted to himself that he had a real problem. He figured a total change of scenery might help both his melancholy and his writers’ block.
The email sent, Dane closed the mail application and sat back in the chair to stare at the screen. He waited for words to perform magic in his head the way they used to, but it didn’t happen. Instead, lovely houses built in his imagination. He pushed away from the table. The chair scraped on the flagstone floor. A sigh escaped him as he stood to get another cup of coffee.
He shivered in the cool evening breeze that entered through the open window over the kitchen sink. With a fresh cup of coffee on the table, he went to the bedroom he’d chosen to sleep in and found a sweater. He picked up his favorite sketchbook and pencils as the need to draw filled him…
Dawn filtered through the slim gaps at the sides of the blinds. Birds sang their morning song. Dane stretched and considered the drawings he’d worked on all night.
“Time to snatch a little sleep,” he told himself. He stripped off the sweater and left it on a chair as he passed on his way to take a shower.
Copyright E.D.Parr 2017 Evernight Publishing
The Night Gardener
Architect, Dane Lovell takes an off-season vacation in an old New England mansion. One night, the sound of the back door smashing open in the wind and rain shocks Dane from his work.
Spooky, gorgeous, and enigmatic Zachary Yarrow has brought logs for the fire. He brings with him not just passion and a love affair for Dane, but a strange, spine-tingling mystery.
Amazon global link http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B06XH4TFSS
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