She gave the dogs a final pat, slipped through the gate and hurried up the path before she could come out with any more stupidly awkward statements.
Calypso called Circe after dinner. She, of course, thought it was hilarious.
“I can just see it. Two people standing in the middle of a muddy field, you trying to come off as cool and sophisticated with cow poo on your shoe and him trying to be all mysterious and interesting with a bird hanging off one arm.”
“To be fair, it’s an interesting bird. And his dogs are lovely.”
“So the way to your heart is through fluffy animals?”
“Oh I miss you! Nothing’s as much fun when I don’t have your sense of humour on the other end of the chat.”
“Well at least you managed to get around those blocks on my email and number.”
“Get around, nothing, Hephastus warned me and I plugged your details into my personal phone before they could do anything.”
“That was kind of him.”
Circe snorted. “He doesn’t do kind. He likes you well enough but he loves that he was able to pull one over Zeus. Now there’s a guy with parent issues.”
“Speaking of parenting. How’re things going? Have you told your HR people yet?”
“Oh my lordy, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you! There’s a rumour going that they’re having such a time with the London reception desk that if it doesn’t settle down by the end of the month, they’re going to bring in an experienced receptionist from one of the other offices. I’m planning on dumping my news on them if they ask me, just to make their lives incredibly awkward, but can you imagine if they brought Scylla in?”
Calypso tried to choke down a giggle. “I shouldn’t laugh, there are a lot of very nice people who’d have to deal with the fallout. I’m going to be very selfish and hope they ask you to come over and you decide to give it a go, bump and all, for a bit of a change.”
“While the thought of meeting up with you for lunch is very tempting, I’m not sure they deserve my awesomeness and Milan will go to pot in my absence.”
Calypso agreed and they ended the call a short time later.
She made her way up to bed, determined to make an early start on the lists in her envelope, and have a plan in place for applications before telling Pythia about it.
She brought the envelope downstairs with her the next morning, and went through the pages over her first cup of coffee. There was quite a range of ideas and organisations. This was going to need some sort of sorting system. She trotted back upstairs, and returned with her laptop.
It took a few goes, but she found a way to sort out the various ideas and suggestions that gave her something like a to-do list. She was pulled from her work by a knock on the glass. Herne waved to her from the back terrace and she gasped in horror. She’d completely lost track of time and was still sitting in her pyjamas, with a great case of bed-head.
She scurried around the table to the door, pulling it open.
His not-quite-there smile had her hand going to her hair before she had time to stop it. “Good morning.”
“I think you’ve lost track of time, it’s two in the afternoon.”
The list had been long, and complicated. She hadn’t realised.
She gave him her best receptionist smile. “How may I help you.”
“I was wondering if you’d be interested in a quick outing to the pub this evening.”
She frantically searched for an excuse, but he went on before she could speak. “I have ulterior motives, I need to pick the brains of a few of the locals who’ll be down there and I’m hoping to butter them up by reuniting them with ‘that sweet girl that used to live next-door’, which I’m assuming is you.”
Her jaw dropped. “They remember me?”
“With great fondness, I was on the phone to the chap who owns my place this morning and he was delighted to hear you were about.”
“And he’s going to be at the pub tonight?”
“With his wife and a few others he says will be tickled pink to see you.”
Her smile warmed to her real one. “I’d like to see them too, I’d love to come.”
“Brilliant, I’ll pick you up at six if that suits. They like to have a quick pint, then home for dinner I’m told.”
“I’ll see you then.”
He nodded, and turned to go. Then glanced back with a wink. “Like the style by the way.”
She couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. “I’ll keep that in mind for this evening.”
He waved and headed down to where his dogs were waiting, sitting like fuzzy statues on her lawn.
Promptly at six, the gravel on the front drive crunched under car tyres and Calypso let herself out of the front door.
Herne was already out of his car and walking towards the house, he changed direction when he saw her, moving to open the passenger-side door for her instead. As she swung herself up into the Range Rover’s seat he said. “Nice style, I like it.”
They shared a grin as she caught herself going to pat the messy bun she’d coiled her hair into.
The drive to the pub was short and uneventful. She tugged her new jumper further down over her new jeans as they walked across the car park.
They walked in to a warm blanket of laughing and chatter. As Herne steered her towards the bar, the group standing there turned and a small woman with a twinkling smile cried out.
“It’s never our little Calypso.”
“Mrs Granscombe, it’s so good to see you!”
Calypso was enveloped in her former housekeeper’s hug and the evening turned into a delightful conversation of re-introductions, memories and updates.
Herne remained nearby, deep in his own conversations, although he silently appeared at her side at one point when one of Mrs Granscombe’s sons tried a little too hard for a kiss ‘for old times’ sake’. He backed away quickly and Calypso turned to Herne with a smile.
“Thank you. He did try to be my first kiss a number of years back. He seems to have forgotten I broke his nose instead.”
“Blood on the carpet is a pain to clean, I’ll tell the publican he owes me one.”
The two sets of conversations blended together as the local crowd gave Herne the benefit of their experience regarding local properties.
Herne told them. “I’m supposed to be meeting with a realtor by the name of Cynthia Smythe-Browning on Monday for an initial review of my requirements. She seemed to have the best listings”
Mr Jameson, the owner of The Old Stables said. “Well, unless you’re interested in a wife along with your new house, you might want to ask our Calypso to join your conversation. Her divorce went through a couple of months ago and word is she’s already on the hunt.”
Mrs Granscombe looked towards the opening door of the main bar. “Speak of the devil.”
A well-polished, improbably blonde woman had walked in with two others; also polished but somehow not as eye-catching. They ordered from the bar and took a deliberate detour by way of their table en route to a vacant one.
Mr Jameson smiled politely, it didn’t reach his eyes. “Cynthia, lovely to see you.”
Her answering smile was much brighter but seemed to Calypso to be equally false. “Charles, what a lovely surprise, this is a rather late night for your crowd isn’t it?”
Calypso checked her watch. It was gone 8 o’clock, definitely later than usual for a group that liked to be home for an early dinner.
She tuned in to Mr Jameson’s reply. “It’s a special occasion, we’re welcoming a newcomer to the village and welcoming one of our previous residents back.”
The bright smile was turned on them. “Oh really, I must introduce myself.”
Herne stood and offered his hand. “I believe we’re meeting on Monday Ms Smythe-Brown. Regarding a few of the properties in the area.”
The smile turned up to blinding. “Oh you must be Herne, how simply delightful to meet you.”
Herne inclined his head, then turned, dropping Cynthia’s hand in favour of holding his out to Calypso. “And this is Calypso.”
She took his hand and stood, leaning in to him slightly before turning the smile that iced the whole of Z Corp in her early days there on the other woman.
Offering her own hand to shake she said. “Lovely to meet you. I do hope you’re able to find something suitable. The dogs need quite a bit of space and then of course, there’s Owlbert.”
Cynthia looked bewildered. Calypso turned laughingly accusing eyes on Herne. “You didn’t tell her about the animals?”
“I just said I needed a garden and a wooded area nearby, Owlbert is a little hard to explain.”
Calypso addressed Cynthia again. “I’m sorry, we won’t take up your time now though, we’re stealing you from your friends. Herne can fill you in on Monday.”
Cynthia had dropped her three-fingered handshake as quickly as possible and now turned back to Herne. “I’d be delighted to hear all about your pets and how we can best accommodate them.”
With a final simper, ignoring Calypso, she wiggled her way to the table where her two friends were waiting.
As they sat down, Herne leaned across. “For the love of all that’s holy, please do not make me face that woman alone.”
Mrs Granscombe heard his mutter and tried to suppress a snort of laughter. “Well now, Calypso, are you going to come to his rescue?”
Calypso sighed. “I’m only here for anther week and I’m supposed to be doing all sorts of job hunting projects.”
Herne brightened. “I can help with that. Proof reading, interview practice, cyber-stalking hiring managers – sign me up.”
That earned him a thoughtful look, then a slow smile. Calypso held out a hand, this time taken in a proper shake. “Deal.”