Willow's Dip Book One
The ambience of the woods was all around her, serene and calming. She drank it in, absorbing its cool, fresh quality. She walked on and came to a large clearing. There, nestled cosily among the trees, was an ornate, anachronistic gypsy caravan. Parked alongside it, in complete contrast, was an old, red, Ford van. The caravan was beautiful. Dome shaped, red and gold, with wooden steps leading to a door in the front; a door which was closed. A thin wisp of grey smoke twirled upward from a chimney in its roof, signifying habitation, yet there seemed no sign of life. Curiosity began to gnaw at her but she fought it, remembering what had happened last time she’d given in to it. She turned and continued her walk, deeper into the woods.
There were more bramble bushes and she managed to find enough ripe berries to fill a pie. Peering into the carrier bag, she wondered whether she ought to pick any more. Maybe just a few, then she’d head home. She’d come to the edge of the woods, bordering onto some fields, when she noticed a bushy plant bearing shiny, black, cherry-sized berries. They looked so attractive she wanted to reach out and touch them, but she wouldn’t because she didn’t know what they were. However, it didn’t stop her stooping down to get a closer look.
“You don’t want to be touching those, they’re highly poisonous.”
The voice behind her made her jump out of her skin. She leapt to her feet and whirled round to face the most attractive man she’d ever seen. A shock of unruly black hair framed a sensitive face with dark brown eyes like bottomless pools, that seemed to bore right into her. He put her in mind of her favourite Hollywood star. At his side was a black dog of uncertain parentage, and a young fox.
“I.. I.. wasn’t,” she stammered, feeling a need to apologise for her actions. “I was just taking a closer look because they looked so tempting.”
“Don’t ever be tempted by them,” advised the mellow voiced stranger. “That’s deadly nightshade.”
Even the name had an evil ring to it and she shuddered involuntarily. Of course she’d heard of it, but never come across it before.
“I wasn’t going to touch them because I didn’t know what they were and you can’t be too careful can you. I’ve just been picking blackberries. Would you like one?” She opened the bag and held it out. (Why on earth was she offering this man the fruits of her labours?)
“Thanks.” The stranger took one and popped it in his mouth. A hint of a smile touched the firm line of his lips. “So I wasn’t saving you from a very nasty death then?”
She shook her head returning the smile. “’Fraid not.”
He extended a hand to her. “Nathaniel O’Keefe.”
She took it. “Chloe Hetherington.”
Her heart was beating like the wings of a trapped and frightened bird. The cool touch of his fingers sent a current of electricity right along her arm and up into her brain, triggering a chemical reaction over which she had no control. Why on earth was this man having this effect on her? She felt like an adolescent schoolgirl in his company.
“Well I.. I.. must be getting back,” she muttered. “I only came for the blackberries and I’ve been out longer than I intended.”
She moved on and he fell into step beside her, his animals gamboling on ahead.
“I haven’t seen you in the woods before.”
“No,” she answered. “I don’t usually come this far. I got a bit carried away today. Everywhere looked so beautiful with the approach of autumn.”
“Just like the poem.”
Chloe’s head whipped round to look straight into his eyes. His reference to the poem touched a chord deep within her soul; a feeling she’d never shared with Adam. “Do you like poetry?”
“Yes, I must confess to a weakness for it.”
“Me too.” She shook herself mentally to break the spell. “Do you visit the woods often?”
“I live here.”
“You live here?” She looked back into his face. “Oh, the gypsy caravan.”
“You’ve seen my humble abode then?”
She nodded. “It’s very beautiful.”
“Belonged to my grandmother. She brought six children up in it.”
“Hmm, hard to imagine isn’t it.”
“It is rather. How long have you been living here?”
“Couple of years. I move around.”
She cast a sidelong glance at him from under her lashes. He really was very handsome. He had a presence that was disturbing, magnetic. His clothes; jeans and checked shirt, had a careworn appearance. She could picture him in a neckerchief like a true gypsy but it was absent. Instead, round his neck, he wore an amulet. He was the complete antithesis of Adam.
What was she thinking? Why was she suddenly comparing this stranger to her husband whom she adored and had never so much as looked at another man since she’d met him? Why that breathless, heady feeling after a chance meeting with a good looking stranger?
She couldn’t understand the power of her feelings. A part of her, the sane part, wanted to dash home, get away from him, back to normality, but the other part, the decadent part, wanted to run back with him to that beautiful caravan and have him make mad, passionate love to her.
How could she! Her cheeks blushed scarlet at the unbidden thoughts that had invaded her mind. The sane part won.
“I must go,” she said hastily, trying to hide the confusion that was fuddling her brain, and ran on, praying that he wouldn’t follow her.
“Jet. Tag. Come on.”
She heard him call the animals but not daring to turn, she ran on her way. Her heart had wings. It fluttered and danced and she felt very young and carefree. His face filled her mind, her senses. Nathaniel O’Keefe. No matter how hard she tried to force his image away, it remained, stubbornly, refusing to be erased.