The third book in the Isles of Scilly series will be available from the 27th of October 2022. Scroll down to read chapter 1…

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Chapter 1

Beach holidays were supposed to be sunny. An entire week of rain hadn’t even occurred to Beth as a possibility. Apparently it was something of a rarity for the Isles of Scilly in July, but that fact was of little comfort. Her first solo trip with her five-year-old daughter had been a washout. She’d need another holiday to recover from the two of them being cooped up inside all week.   

Wandering through to the living room with a steaming mug of coffee in her hand, Beth smiled at Ellie, who was in her usual spot by the window. Out of boredom, her little girl had taken to gazing out of the window, looking out for people to wave at. 

Their holiday home – quaintly named Peswera Cottage – was the last in a row of four cottages on a narrow lane, Peswera being the Cornish word for fourth. The lane ended shortly after the cottage, and a larger house stood up on the headland where the owner of the cottages lived.  

Beth perched beside Ellie on the deep windowsill. Finally, the fog had lifted so they at least had a view over the bay, even if the rain and wind had remained.

“Do you think Noah will come to see us today?” Ellie asked, looking up at Beth. 

“I’m not sure.”

“He said he’d come another day,” Ellie remarked, her eyes flicking back outside as though she expected the owner’s son to appear at any moment. He lived in the cottage next door, and Ellie had invited him in for a tea party the previous day. Not so much invited as dragged him inside by the hand.

“He said he might,” Beth said. “And I think he was just being polite.” The poor guy had spent twenty minutes sitting around the coffee table with Ellie and her dolls and teddies. Once she’d got over her embarrassment, Beth had been grateful of the adult company. 

“I think he had a nice time,” Ellie said confidently. “Can we go on Kit’s train today?”

Kit was another of the owner’s sons, who’d been over to fix a leaky tap earlier in the week. He’d told Ellie she could go for a ride on his tourist train once the rain stopped, but at this rate it didn’t seem as though that was going to happen.

“I’d like to.” Beth licked her thumb and rubbed at the dirty mark on her daughter’s chin. “Kit said the train doesn’t run when it’s raining though.”

“I don’t like this holiday.” Ellie looked accusingly at Beth. “It’s boring.”

“It was just bad luck that it rained all week.”

“When are we going home?” 

“Tomorrow.” Beth gazed longingly out to the long strip of pale sand. If the weather had been decent for their stay, it would have been the perfect holiday spot. “We need to go up to Mirren’s house to check that she can drive us to the airport tomorrow.”

“Let’s go now,” Ellie said, hopping down from the windowsill. 

“Can I finish my coffee first?”

“I want to go now, Mummy. I’m bored.”

“Okay.” She took another sip of her drink before taking the mug to the kitchen. By the time she came back, Ellie had her shoes on and was stepping out of the door. “You’ll need your raincoat,” Beth called after her.

Ellie turned on the doorstep and grinned. “It’s stopped raining.” 

“Oh my goodness. Finally!” Following Ellie outside, Beth craned her neck to look overhead. “There’s blue sky over there.”

“Does that mean we can go on Kit’s train?”

“Maybe. Let’s go and talk to Mirren, then we can walk into town and see if there’s a train trip.”

The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze as they wandered up to Mirren’s house, dodging puddles as they went. Dark clouds were dispersing fast and a shaft of sunlight emerged like a spotlight on the sea, causing the tips of gentle waves to sparkle.  

Beth had just knocked on the back door when Ellie spotted a butterfly and chased after it. 

“I thought it was never going to stop,” Mirren remarked, glancing skywards as she opened the door. “I can’t believe it’s rained for the entire week.” She beckoned Beth inside. “I’m so sorry for you.”

From the kitchen window, Beth kept an eye on Ellie, who was happily exploring the garden. “It hasn’t felt like a holiday at all. More like the opposite.” Her eyes widened as she looked at Mirren. “Sorry. That sounded terrible. The cottage is fantastic, and you and your family have been lovely.” Kit had even dropped a box of toys off for Ellie, so she definitely couldn’t complain about her hosts. “It’s only the weather I have a problem with.”

“I understand.” Mirren smiled warmly. “I feel for you.”

“It definitely wasn’t the week I was expecting.” If Beth was honest, she’d known the week would be difficult, but she’d ended up feeling sorry for herself for different reasons than she’d anticipated. 

“I’m sorry,” Mirren said. “I hope you’ll come back another time. I’ll give you a discount if you do.”

“I can’t believe we’re leaving tomorrow. The weather forecast for the next week is glorious.”

Mirren winced. “It’s such a shame. Little Ellie would have loved playing on the beach.”

“I don’t suppose the cottage happens to be available next week so we can extend our stay?” When Mirren wrinkled her brow, Beth felt her cheeks heat up. Apparently a week stuck inside with Ellie had impeded her social skills. “I was joking. Sorry. Of course you’re booked up … and we can’t really extend our stay anyway.”

“Can’t you?” Mirren asked, her features serious. 

“Well … we’re booked on a flight tomorrow.”

Mirren moved to the window, her eyes following Ellie. “It probably wouldn’t be easy to rebook the flight in peak season. You might be able to get on the ferry though.”

Beth stared at her in confusion. “Do you have availability?”

“I might be able to organise something.” Mirren looked thoughtful. “Peswera Cottage is owned by my son, Trystan. He lives in London, so I rent it out for him. He’s arriving home this afternoon and he was going to be staying in the cottage after you leave. He’s here for the summer. I don’t see why he can’t stay with me for a few nights … that way you could stay on in the cottage and have a few days of sunshine.”

“Oh … I’m not sure …” Outside, more clouds parted and bright sunshine made the pale sand glow while illuminating the water to a tantalising shade of turquoise. “Wouldn’t your son mind?”

“Trystan will be fine with it.” There was a twinkle in Mirren’s eyes which made Beth wonder whether he really would be fine with it. “I’ll make us a cuppa and you can have a look at changing your travel plans.”

They moved out to the patio and Mirren dried a couple of chairs for them to sit down. While they sipped cups of coffee, Beth tapped away on her phone, checking their travel options. Mirren was right that the flights were full, but there was plenty of availability on the ferry. It would mean getting a train from the ferry port in Penzance, but the slightly longer journey would be worth it for a few days of actual holiday. Besides, there had been a purpose to her trip that she hadn’t yet fulfilled. 

“Are you going to drive us to the plane tomorrow?” Ellie asked Mirren when she gave up exploring the garden and joined them on the patio. 

“I think we might stay for a few more days,” Beth told her, then looked to Mirren. “Are you sure it’s okay? I’m concerned your son isn’t going to be happy. Do you need to call and check with him?”

“No.” She chuckled. “I’ll surprise him with the news when he arrives.”

“Why do I get the feeling he’s going to be annoyed and you’re going to take pleasure in his irritation?”

“I promise he won’t be annoyed. Not with you, anyway. There might be some eye-rolling and muttering in my direction. Cancel your flight and enjoy a few more days. Shall we say until Wednesday? That gives you a full four days to see the islands.”

“Thank you.” Beth felt instantly lighter at not having to leave so soon. “Isn’t that great?” she asked Ellie, pulling her onto her lap. “We get to stay for longer.”

“It’s good if it doesn’t rain.” Ellie pushed her hair off her face with the palm of her hand. “Can we go on the train now?”

“Do you think it will be going?” Beth asked Mirren.

“I’d imagine so.” She checked her watch. “I’m not convinced you’ll make it in time though.”

“How about we go tomorrow?” Beth asked Ellie. “We’ve got lots of time now that we’re staying for longer.”

“I want to go now.” She pouted. “You said we can go as soon as it stops raining.”

Mirren chuckled lightly. “Let me give Kit a call. See what we can do.” She reached for her phone, and after a brief exchange, she ended the call and smiled at Ellie. “You’re in luck. He says he’ll wait for you. I’ll drive you down there.”

“We could have gone tomorrow,” Beth said apologetically. 

“The poor little mite’s been stuck inside all week. No wonder she’s desperate to get out and do something fun.”

While Mirren fetched her car keys, Beth nipped back to the cottage for her bag. She was completely embarrassed when they arrived at the promenade in Hugh Town to find the train full of waiting passengers. Kit opened the front door and beckoned them onto the seat beside him.

“We get to sit right at the front!” Ellie said excitedly. 

“Thank you for waiting,” Beth said to Kit. “It’s really kind of you.”

“No problem.” He tickled Ellie’s tummy. “I have to tell the passengers about the island, but I’ll talk to you in a little while, okay?”

Ellie nodded solemnly and stared at Kit in wonder as he put a microphone headset on and announced to the entire train that they were ready to go now that the VIP guests had arrived. Beth felt her cheeks flush and was glad when they set off and Kit switched to talking about the scenery. 

Initially, she was concerned that Ellie might get restless, but they were both enthralled by Kit’s commentary. When Ellie inched closer to him, Beth pulled her back along the bench seat, quietly telling her not to distract him. 

“I hope she isn’t bothering you too much,” Beth said, when Kit stopped the train on the northern tip of the island, giving the passengers five minutes to enjoy the view and take photographs. 

Kit looked confused as he slipped his headset off. “I forgot she was there, she’s so quiet.” He stepped out of the train and stretched his neck. “Do you want to take some photos?” 

“I wish I’d thought to bring my camera,” Beth said, getting out to stretch her legs. 

“You forgot your phone?” Kit asked, smiling down at Ellie as she leaned against his leg.

Distracted by her flirt of a daughter, it took Beth a moment to register his words. “Oh, yes, I could use my phone.” She pulled it from her pocket and opened the camera. “I’m a photographer for my job, so I usually have a better camera than my phone.”

“I’d say you can come with me again tomorrow and bring it then, but it’s your last day today, isn’t it?”

“We’re actually staying a few more days.” Beth raised her phone to take a few photos of the crystal-clear water and the smaller islands in the distance. “Your mum took pity on us because it rained all week. She said we can stay on until Wednesday.”

“At Mum’s house?”

“No, in Peswera Cottage.”

He smiled widely. “Trystan’s going to love that.”

“Oh god. Is he going to be annoyed? Mirren said it was fine, but I get the feeling I might not be very popular with your brother.”

“He won’t mind,” Kit said. “I’d like to be there when he finds out though.”

“That definitely sounds as though he will mind.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Kit looked down at Ellie, who’d curled herself around his leg. “Why don’t you hop into my seat for a minute and your mum can get a photo of you driving the train?”

“Can I really drive it?” Ellie asked.

“No!” Beth laughed. “Just pretend for the photo.”

Once Ellie had posed for a photo, Kit pointed beside the steering wheel. “Press the button for the horn,” he instructed Ellie. “That will make everyone get back on the train.” He slipped in beside her and lifted her onto his lap. “How about helping me drive the train?”

The look of glee on Ellie’s face filled Beth with joy. She took a few photos with her phone while Ellie proudly clutched the steering wheel as they drove the rest of the route.  

When the train came to a stop back at Porthcressa Beach, Kit hopped out to chat to the passengers while deftly creating balloon animals for a bunch of eager children. 

“Please can I have one?” Ellie asked once the crowd had dispersed. 

He smiled down at her and began to pump air into the long thin balloon. “How about a giraffe?”

“Yes. Can I have a dog as well so the giraffe doesn’t get lonely?”

“That’s a good idea,” Kit said, before Beth could jump in and tell Ellie it wasn’t polite to ask for two.

“How much do I owe you?” Beth asked Kit, pulling out her purse as he handed over a yellow giraffe to Ellie.

“Nothing,” he said. “VIPs get to ride for free.”

“What’s a VIP?” Ellie asked, gazing up at him.

“Very important person.”

“Are you sure?” Beth said.

“Yep.” He focused on twisting the next balloon, then handed it over to Ellie. “Thank you for helping me drive. You can come and work for me when you’re older.”

“I’d like to be a train driver,” she said.

“I think you’d be very good at it.” He took his phone from his pocket and tapped away. “Sorry. I’m being summoned. Trystan’s just arrived back and the whole family is meeting in the pub for a drink. Do you fancy joining us?”

Beth stared at him, surprised and touched by the offer. “Thank you, but I think we’re going to find a cafe for dinner.”

“The food in the pub is good.”

“I don’t want to intrude on your family reunion. Especially since I probably won’t be your brother’s favourite person when he finds out that Mirren’s letting us stay longer in his house.”

Kit chuckled. “I promise you he’ll be fine with it.”

“The amusement on your face makes me think he’s actually going to hate me.”

“No chance!” Kit backed away from them. “Are you sure I can’t tempt you?”

She shook her head. “Thanks for the offer. And for the train trip. We had a great time.” 

The Trenearys had all been so kind, but there was no way she could impose on their family time.