Country Roads

She glanced over at him. “Should I worry about Jason and Hercules having a fight?”

Narcissus tipped his head to one side and looked thoughtful (someone walking past them sighed). “It’s unusual, but no relationship worth its salt is all smooth sailing. It’ll be fine.”

“Maybe I should send then a quick note, see how they are.”

That earned a crack of laughter. “And risk interrupting make-up sex? Don’t do it.”

Calypso felt her cheeks burning. “Oh, well, maybe something in the morning then.”

“Just not too early.” Narcissus gave her a friendly shoulder bump. “They’re both grown-up boys and they’ve been together for a while, you don’t need to worry.”

Once home, Narcissus showed her to the spare room. The bed was made up and there were towels in the ensuite. He shrugged. “Always good to be prepared. My cleaner takes care of it.”

Clio had remembered pyjamas and a travel kit of toiletries. A new beauty line apparently, Calypso snorted at the name ‘Love Aphrodite’. Aphrodite didn’t love anyone other than herself, maybe.

The pyjamas were unexpected. The slim-fitting tank top and brief boxers could have been sweet if they hadn’t been a lurid shade of purple and lavishly decorated with cartoon fairies in various shades of glitter. She wondered if any of the clothing shops at the station would be open early enough.

She slept well enough, in spite of the glitter, and dressed according to Clio’s instructions.

Narcissus was making coffee when she emerged. He looked her up and down and nodded. “She’s got a good eye, I approve.”

Calypso smiled and replied. “Her daywear choices are lovely. I think she might have had trouble getting stock from Artemis’s night range though.”

He handed her the black coffee he’d been sugaring. She liked her coffee with milk, and without sugar. As she was wondering how to pretend to drink it, he asked. “What do you mean about the nightwear?”

She put the coffee down and reached for her bag. The pyjamas were on top and she pulled them out.

“I like the cut but the decoration isn’t terribly me.”

Narcissus laughed. “I’ll ask her about it, it’s very out of character for both her and you. Maybe you can go shopping somewhere this afternoon.”

Calypso shook her head. “Nowhere near enough. I’m hoping one of the station shops has early bird operators.”

His grin was sympathetic but implied he doubted it and a moment later, the door buzzer went. “That’ll be the driver. Do a quick check of your room and the bathroom and I’ll put the coffee in a travel mug.”

She knew she hadn’t left anything but humoured him, doing a quick scan of both rooms and returning to find him pouring the coffee down the sink.

“It was cold and the station cafes will be open.”

Calypso zipped her bag closed and they left the flat.

She made the station, and the train, without drama, although Narcissus was right about the shops, only the cafes were open.

Settling into a window seat, with coffee (white, no sugar) and a muffin, she smiled as the train pulled out of the station. It felt like going home.

She jerked back into her seat. She couldn’t feel like that! She mustn’t feel like that. And yet, there it was.

She fretted and analysed as the train sped across a wet-grey world.

Half an hour before her scheduled stop, Herne sent a message. Stuck at Hillview Farm with a recalcitrant calf. Mr Grey is coming to pick you up. I’m afraid your nice relaxing weekend is going to start in a muddy farmyard. It will improve.

Calypso sent a positive reply and mentally thanked Clio for the boots, and for the umbrella she’d found neatly strapped to the side of the bag. She opened the bag, just for something to do and blinked.

The purple glitter fairy pyjamas were gone. Sitting at the top of the bag was a tangle of scarlet lace and ribbons. She pulled it out of the bag, felt her cheeks flame the same colour as the skimpy lingerie she held, and stuffed it back inside. What had Narcissus done?

She closed the bag again and willed the fire from her cheeks, her stop was the next one and she did not need to arrive looking like a tomato.

The platform was empty when she stepped off the train but a man appeared at the entrance as she neared it.

His first glance went to her umbrella, it pegged her as a Londoner straight away. He was wearing a sturdy waterproof jacket with the hood pulled so far forward she had trouble seeing his face.

He stood waiting for her to reach him. “You’re Calypso then? Didn’t realise you were Titan’s little girl.”

Calypso blinked. “You know my father?”

He replied. “Had the occasional pint with him going back a few years. Nothing recent.”

“He’s living in Singapore now.”

Mr Grey (it had to be him) nodded sagely. “That would explain it. Well, hurry along now, that lad of yours will be done and ready to go before we are, with the train being so late.”

The drive to Hillview Farm was near silent. Calypso’s questions about the calf Herne was treating were met with little more than polite grunts. It seemed he’d worn out his words at the station and she was relieved when the Landrover turned in to a well-kept farmyard and parked.

The rain was taking a short break, so Calypso avoided using the umbrella when she got out. She still looked like a city-dweller playing at country life, but it wasn’t quite as jarring when she wasn’t sheltering under an umbrella with a giant tiger lily covering the inside.

Herne strode out of the barn on the far side of the yard, his grim expression lightening as he caught sight of her.

Her eyes went wide as he crossed the yard, pulling his windcheater off as he came, the T-shirt underneath going with it. He grinned as he got closer. “It’s filthy and I want to say hello without covering you in cow muck.”

She couldn’t help the bubble of laughter that left her. It was gone an instant later as his arms came around her and his lips found hers.

Calypso’s head spun and she went to grab Herne’s shirt but instead encountered warm, bare skin. Skin she wanted to explore but they were in public, so she couldn’t and then Herne pulled her closer and her thoughts splintered into fireworks and heat.

Eventually, and far too soon, he let her come up for air. She clung to him, trying to focus and eventually honing in on his smile. It was smug but, given the effect he’d just had on her, she thought it might be justified.

A shrill voice carried across the yard from the barn door. “I don’t pay you to snog your fancy city girlfriend.”

Herne’s jaw firmed and his face turned grim again. Keeping one arm around Calypso, he turned and addressed the young woman. “You don’t pay me at all, your grandfather does, and right now, you’re wasting his money.”

He said to Mr Grey, watching on nearby and looking faintly amused. “The calf is fine, his mother is fine, they’re fine now, they were fine when I arrived. If that happens to change, for any reason, over the next thirty-six hours, call my practice partner. He’s on call. I’m on leave.”

Mr Grey harrumphed. “I’ll see to it.”

Herne grinned and held out a hand. “Thank you, and I’ll make sure your pup’s next vaccination is on the house as a thanks for the station run.”

The older man shook hands. “Sounds a more than fair exchange.”

He jerked a nod to Calypso. “Nice to see you again, lass. Give your father my best when you talk next.”

Calypso smiled and replied. “I will. He’ll be happy to hear you’re well.”

He grunted and ambled across to the barn and his scowling grand-daughter. “Now, then Janey. How about you explain what this is about?”

He herded her into the barn as Herne steered Calypso towards his Range Rover, then opened the back and loaded her bag inside.

He then pulled a spare jumper out of a second bag, and swapped his wellies for a cleaner pair of hiking boots. The recently-hosed rubber boots and the filthy clothes went into a box strapped to the side of the back area. And within a minute or two, Herne was completely, and disappointingly, presentable.

He winked at her expression. “Always good to be prepared. I had a case early on when I had to drive home in nothing more than my underwear, soaking wet from the barn hose. Now I always carry spare clothes and a couple of towels.”

He opened the passenger door and she climbed in, then asked as he rounded the car and slid into the driver’s seat. “What on earth were you doing to end up like that?”

His grin turned wry. “You really do not want to know.”

She rolled her eyes at him.

He chuckled as he started the car. “Fine, it involved cows, again, only that time the case was serious – twins, which isn’t normal for cows – and upset the farmer’s prize broodmare enough that she went into early labour in sympathy and decided to have a breech birth. Farmer said the two of them had been trying to one-up each other since their earliest days.”

Calypso laughed, and Herne reached for her hand, setting it on his thigh as he turned out of the farm gate. “I’ve missed hearing you laugh, and talk, and everything.”

She sighed. “I’ve missed you too.”

“Are you sure it’s not just the green, and the dogs, and Owlbert?”

She sent him a mock glare. “Herne.”

His grin came back and without taking his eyes from the road, he picked up her hand, pressed a kiss to the backs of her fingers and returned it to its previous spot just above his knee.

She loved the feel of his muscles shifting beneath her fingers as he changed gear. It was tempting to inch her hand higher up his leg, but the rain had returned with a vengeance and she didn’t want to distract him.

They turned in to Wildwood and Herne said as he parked. “Make a run for it, I’ll get our things later.”

Calypso nodded, then jumped out and raced the short distance to the front door, Herne at her heels.

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