“I really respect what he’s doing at his kennels, too,” Cally said. “Because of his experiences in the military, his interest is in rehabilitating traumatised dogs and those with behavioural problems – you know, scared of traffic, people, loud noises. He’s been working miracles with Imogen’s dog Chap. You know what a nervy thing he is.”
Catching Sheila’s amused expression, she laughed.
“I’ve got it bad, haven’t I?”
“Sounds like it,” Sheila agreed. “Are you still in the honeymoon phase, or do you think he might fancy making up a foursome some night for a curry with me and Darren?”
“I think he’ll be OK with meeting up. I’ll ring you later once I’ve asked him. Anyway, enough about me – what’s happening with you? How’s Charlene? Any more complaints about the noise in the playground?”
“No, but you’ll never guess what the latest is.”
Sheila looked around the homely little café with comic furtiveness.
“Can’t be too careful,” she murmured, and leaned closer over the table. “It could be anyone here . . . Someone’s complained about the noise from Simon’s garage.”
Simon was Sheila’s husband. He was a mechanic at a little back street workshop that kept half of the village’s cars on the road.
“What noise?” Cally asked.
“Well, sometimes they have to rev engines and suchlike, and they don’t always have the doors closed when they do it. But someone’s reported them to the health and safety office at the council. The council sent someone round to issue a warning. Simon’s boss is furious.
“As for me – I’m beginning to take it personally.”
Cally’s peal of laughter made the other customers glance round and she smiled apologetically before raising an eyebrow at her friend.
“You think it’s about you?” she said. “How do you work that one out?”
“The bell-ringers being locked in the church, the school, the garage – it’s all affected my family.”
Still giggling, Cally reached out and patted Sheila’s arm.
“It’s got nothing to do with you, I’m sure. It’s just coincidence.”
Cally was still giggling when her mobile phone rang. She slipped it out of her pocket and glanced at the screen.
“It’s my brother. I’ll ring him back later.”
“Oh, don’t mind me – take the call. It might be important.”
With an apologetic nod, Cally answered.
“Hi, Craig, what’s new?”
“Hi. Are you doing anything tonight? I’m going to be over your way pricing a job and I thought I might scrounge something to eat if you’ll be in.”
“Sure. It so happens I’ve got a chicken casserole in the slow cooker. Just come round whenever. See you later.”
She ended the call and related it to Sheila.
“Aren’t you seeing Tim tonight?” Sheila wondered.
“We’re going to the pub for a drink. Craig can come with us.”
“Have they met before?”
“Nope. Craig doesn’t even know I’m seeing someone.” But she had a feeling the two men would get on.
She drove round by Tim’s place on her way back to the cattery.
“Nice surprise,” he said, greeting her with a kiss when she found him in one of the runs of outdoor kennels. A volley of barks had greeted her, but a murmur from Tim quieted them. “Everything OK?”
“Fine. I just wanted to check that you’re remembering about tonight – and to warn you that my little brother’s going to be around. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Craig, right? Coming to check up on me, is he?” he joked.
“Actually, he doesn’t know anything about you,” she returned, and laughed as he pretended to be offended.
“So much for me thinking I was the centre of your world,” he said, drawing her into his arms, and she laughed again.
“Oh, no, that’s the cats!”
But the last words were smothered by his kiss.