2017 Global Ebook Awards Gold Medal Winner - Out of The Blue - Latent Memories
Ecologist Robin Carson has never had a lasting relationship, preferring to spend her time building up her Eco-landscaping business with her colleague and long-standing best friend James.
A meeting with a new client from York proves interesting when she is introduced to her client’s new assistant. Enter the beautiful but fiery blonde Jamie Buxton. When Robin and her small team begin surveying the estate, she crosses swords with Jamie resulting in a heated argument requiring an evening in the pub to bury the hatchet. Jamie manages to sweet talk Robin into letting her join her on a night walk on the estate which turns eventful, and leads to an offer of a home cooked meal, all within the first week of surveying the estate.
The attraction develops for both of them after only a few meetings, forcing Robin to rethink her previous and favoured no strings relationships of the past. Robin soon realises that she wants what everyone else seems to have, a loving long term relationship. After only seven months together, Robin’s life is transformed she is prepared to make the ultimate commitment, until she is prevented by an untimely event that could end it all too soon.
Robin is determined to return to work sixteen months after surviving a near fatal car accident that left her in a coma for twelve days robbing her of the last nine months of her memory. Still suffering haunting dreams cantered around a blonde woman with piercing blue eyes she develops vague recollections that they were aquatinted in some way.
Gaining employment as a seasonal landscape worker in Ashill-on-Sea in Suffolk, a place she is confident she has ties with but is unable to draw out the memory. A chance meeting with an attractive blonde in a carpark serves only to confirm Robin’s suspicions, the woman’s stunned reaction at seeing her fills her with fear and elation at the same time as she watches the woman flee the scene.
Unknown to Robin, Jamie’s life was turned upside down even before her terrible accident. Robin struggles to take in the news of their past, she is angry at Jamie for walking away and anyone else that was complicit in the lie. Can they find it in themselves to rebuild their relationship and begin a new chapter?
Flicking on the light, I stood in front of the mirror observing my unruly, long, black hair. Why had I been blessed with a double cowlick? I figured one could be quite annoying, but two? At least it was symmetrical, I mused as I pulled my hair back, holding it in my hands, considering putting it up somehow. No, I might need to hide behind it at some point, cowlicks willing. Letting it drop below my shoulders, I focused on my face, checking my make-up; not that I wore much, just the briefest of eyeliner to make my brown eyes stand out a little. I was lucky enough to be blessed with long black eyelashes, no doubt to balance out the cowlicks. I bared my teeth at the mirror like a dog angry at its own reflection, checking my teeth for lipstick. I hated being the front man; it made me focus far too much on my appearance. I was the one that worked in the field, quite literally. I felt much more at home walking around a muddy field in the rain, dishing out jobs to our site team.
I ran my hands under cold water in an attempt to stop them from sweating and dried them on the soft hand towels I had personally insisted on. No institution-green sandpaper towels for my delicate skin, much to the continued annoyance of money man, James. Flicking the light off, I walked in the direction of the conference room, memory stick in hand and fingers firmly crossed.
They’re here, flashed up via text on my phone.
Okay, time to buck up. We already had the contract in the bag, I just needed to wow them a little, demonstrate our competence and ability to run a successful project to put their minds at ease. I wanted them to walk away feeling confident at their decision to select our company to undertake this venture.
I almost tripped over my own feet as I paced in front of the large smart board. God help us all! I flicked on the projector, bringing up our company logo with an image of Bonnington Hall underneath it. I could see Helen, our receptionist, leading the way through the frosted glass walls, bringing them into the meeting room like lambs to the slaughter. I started off bubbly in an effort to hide my fear.
“Hello, good morning, I’m Robin Carson, co-founder of Eco-Scape.” I looked past them to the back of the room. Large squares of paper had appeared on the other side of the glass wall, no doubt for James to hide behind.
I sat at the folding picnic table we used to write up notes on our surveyed sections. The large army tent we used as a base was empty; the rest of the surveying team were already walking their sections. Gone were the days of perching on a log in the middle of nowhere, especially when you were a small team. We needed a base for safety if nothing else. I generally used this time to expand on notes made on my digital recorder about the sector I was surveying or ideas for the overall project. As I drained the last of my tea and shuffled my notes into some sort of order, the sound of car tyres crunching over the gravel driveway drew my attention. Squinting at the side windows, it looked like the yawner from the heritage department, checking up on us no doubt. I watched her negotiate the gravel in her high heels, suppressing a grin as she stumbled a little. She was accompanied by a younger man, in his twenties with long hair sharply tied back. A boyfriend perhaps? He was dressed informally compared to Jamie’s business-wear. I put my mug on my paperwork to prevent it from blowing away in the stiff breeze as they made their way towards me.
“Hello, Robin, it’s good to see you again. Hard at work I see.”
Really? I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic, as if I should be out in a field somewhere.
“Hi, yes, we’re pretty busy. Should only take a few more days to complete the surveying.”
“Really? I thought it’d take longer than that.”
She still hadn’t introduced the man with her, so I continued to ignore him, too. “We have a good dedicated team on hand.”
“Are you staying out here?” Jamie asked, as she nodded towards the campervan parked off to the side of the house.
“No, no. That’s Mike’s, one of my team. He’s a bit feral, so it’s best he stays out of town on jobs like this. He’s more at home out in the sticks roughing it.”
“I see. Sorry, Robin Carson this is Pete Nicholls. He’s new to the department. An ecologist. I wondered if you could use him for some of the surveying.”
What the hell is this? We have our own team. I could feel my heckles begin to rise. Before I could answer, Pete piped up, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen between us.
“I know it’s a bit of an intrusion on our part, but I’d just like to get involved purely for the experience of surveying for a project like this.”
I softened immediately at his words. I’d been in the same situation not so long ago, looking for any way to gain more experience. He seemed genuine and even a little embarrassed at the situation he was in. “Sure, no problem. I can pair you up with one of our surveyors.”
“Great, thank you, Robin,” Pete replied.
Jamie’s focus fell on me. I thought I detected a slight look of relief on her face. Her dishevelled hair seemed to gain more order in the wind as we stood there. She seemed to look at me for an age, making me a little uncomfortable.
“Well, I’d better get going. I’ve got to check on the snagging progress in the main house.”
I could have sworn I heard a collective groan from the workmen at her words.
“Will someone be able to give Pete a lift back to town later?”
“Of course. Leave him with me. I’ll set him up with one of my team. Most of them are staying in town except for hippy Mike, so he’ll be fine,” I said, turning to him, not wanting to speak about him as if he weren’t there. We both watched Jamie make her way to the main house.
“Right then … Mike’s one of our most experienced surveyors and he’s just come back for something so I’ll introduce you to him. You just might need to stay downwind from him as I don’t think he’s showered in a few days.”
“Right, I really appreciate you letting me work on this.”
“No problem. Let’s go and have a word with Mike.”
After settling our infiltrator with Mike, I still felt pretty burned about the situation. Taking my seat back at the picnic bench I made sure I was alone before fishing out my phone and sending James a text informing him of the spy in the team. My phone buzzed into life a few seconds later.
Breaking from the group, she headed towards me as I continued to my car, cutting me off as I reached to open the boot of my BMW Roadster.
“Hi … Wow, nice car,” Jamie said, spying the emblem badge as I pulled up the boot. Her tone was light considering her anger earlier.
“Thanks. You look a little more casual,” I said, trying to keep an even tone.
“I was on my way to look for you, but Mike said you’d be back any minute. Have you, umm … lost something?”
I saw her gaze drop to my feet as a look of resignation stretched across my face. She spoke again before I could get my words out.
“Listen, I’m sorry about earlier. Can we bury the hatchet? We do have to work together after all. My grandmother says I was born without a hand brake when it comes to my temper. What about a drink later? What did you do to your face?”
Did she ever stop talking? Shouldn’t I be the one apologising here? My hand immediately went to my cheek. I could feel the rough dried blood and a slight tenderness.
“Nothing, I caught it on a twig,” I replied, not wanting to make the situation any worse between us.
“Did you put anything on it?”
“A tissue,” I said dryly as her eyes rolled to the back of her head.
“Do you have a first aid kit?”
“It’s nothing, really,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t press me on the circumstances of the injury.
“Let me at least put some antiseptic on it.”
I relented, pulling my personal first aid kit from the boot. Sitting on the edge of the boot rim, I watched as Jamie pulled an antiseptic wipe from its protective seal. Her eyes fell to mine as she opened up the wipe.
“I’m sorry about our spat. Please don’t take it out on me now,” I pleaded.
I saw a smile creep across her face as she prepared the wipe.
“So, where are you staying?” she asked.
“The Hilton, near the tower thing.” I grimaced at the cool touch of the antiseptic as it swiped over my cheek, leaving a sting in its tail.
I saw her jump as I gripped the edge of the car. I couldn’t tell if her slight grin was for the pain she was causing me or my ignorance at the historic surroundings.
“Okay, I’ll meet you in the foyer at seven. We can walk to The Golden Fleece from there. They have a good selection of bar food, too.”
I checked my watch. I had almost two hours to get cleaned up and write up my notes. “Sounds good.” I gathered up my various discarded socks, chucking them in my car as Jamie continued trying to make small talk.
“It’s Open Mic Night, so there might be some good folk music on if you’re interested.”
I pulled some trainers from my car and slipped them on without undoing the laces. “Absolutely, I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” I said as I made my way to the driver’s side of my car. I stood holding the door open, watching Jamie walk off. I couldn’t help wondering what her intentions really were.