Living By The Land – Episode 23

“YOUR uncle doesn’t look too well,” Louisa said pointedly and gained herself a look of immense gratitude from Amelia.

“He’s drunk.”

“Not for the first time, by the looks of it,” Tiernan commented.

“No. He’s a widower.”

Tiernan’s eyebrows raised.

“Your aunt must have been very special.”

“My . . .? Oh, yes. Losing his farm didn’t help, either.”

“Losing his farm?” Louisa began but a soft voice behind her stopped her mid sentence. She glanced back, feeling her skin tingle deliciously as Callum stepped into their little circle.

“Goodness, I thought I was never going to escape the bar. The local farmers are very curious about Robert’s methods, aren’t they? I think they’re trying to decide if he’s a genius or a madman.”

“And which is he?” Louisa asked, very aware of his body close to hers.

“Oh, genius, definitely. Lower Meadow is a wonderful farm.”

“Not as wonderful as Uplands,” Tiernan countered. “That’s our place in Northumbria. You should see it, Amelia.”

“I’d love to.”

She was looking up at him, her eyes dark with meaning. Louisa felt Callum nudge her and turned to find his face close to hers.

“I think we should leave those two to it, don’t you?” he murmured. “May I claim a dance?”

“With pleasure,” Louisa agreed, slotting her hand into his and letting him lead her across to the dance floor.

There was a dance in progress so they had to stand at the edge awaiting the next one. Callum did not let go of Louisa’s hand and she felt his own, warm and strong, around hers. For a few minutes they stood, comfortable together, as the dancers whirled past them, but then Louisa remembered her conversation with Tiernan earlier.

“Your brother says you may have to return home soon,” she said shyly to Callum.

He looked down at her and she saw a strange emotion cross his eyes.

“Not that soon, I hope,” was all he said.

“Do you miss the hills, too?”

He considered.

“A little, maybe, but it’s very pretty here and I love working with Robert. He’s so open to new ideas, isn’t he?”

Louisa nodded agreement.

“Martha is, as well,” she told him. “She’s letting me try out all sorts of new cheeses.”


Louisa felt shy again but this was a subject about which she was passionate.

“Different flavours. Chives, nettles. I want to experiment with honey and maybe even with moulds, as they say they’re doing in Stilton.” She stopped. He was looking strangely at her again, and no wonder. Mould, indeed! “Do you think that’s strange?” she asked self-consciously.

“Strange? Oh, no, Louisa.” His hand tightened around hers. “I think it’s admirable. I’d love to taste your cheeses.”

“You will be the first,” she promised a little breathlessly.

Callum was looking intently at her and Louisa let his eyes hold her own. The dance was ending and couples were vacating the floor but neither of them moved. Louisa could hear her blood pulsating around her veins and feel the ground light – almost non-existent – beneath her feet. From somewhere she heard Rose’s happy voice – “Nothing wrong with a kiss or two, is there?” and she felt the swirls of nervous excitement in her stomach settle into a wonderful feeling of absolute calm.

Callum’s fingers touched her chin, tracing the gentlest pattern across her skin as he dipped his face down towards hers. The rest of the dance was a blur now, an irrelevance, as Louisa moved forward into the circle of his arms, but just as Callum’s lips touched hers there was a great roar from behind them.

Alison Cook