VERITY had turned out to be a great asset, able to pick up the slack wherever it might be. The drawback of having her around was seeing more of Philip he insisted on bringing her over from Edinburgh and picking her up again a few days later when she was perfectly capable of driving herself. But he was “keeping an eye on his investment” and Tom could hardly avoid him.
Then there were the forthcoming babies delightful though the prospect was, there was the problem of space. Corin and Holly could hardly be expected to share a room in the annexe with their offspring for ever, and each room in the hotel had to earn its keep.
But he put up his hand to shade his eyes from the sun there was the water in Oban Bay sparkling in front of him, a sprinkling of sails on the horizon.
What a beautiful part of the world. Worth all the graft to have this on your doorstep.
He realised he was passing the Visitors’ Centre and decided to pop in to check that they hadn’t run out of Ferryboat leaflets.
“It’s Mr Jeffrey, isn’t it?” It was the assistant who had been friendly and helpful the first time he’d come in.
“Tom,” he said.
“Pretty good.” Tom nodded. “Town looks busy.”
“This sunny spell has brought everyone to the west, it seems. A bumper season. I’ve heard great things about your son-in-law’s cooking.” She smiled. “I must come out and sample it.”
“You do that,” Tom said heartily. It was great to have confirmation that in a short time Corin was garnering a good reputation for the Ferryboat.
“Oh, talking of food,” she said, “I’ve heard a rumour that ”
“Tom! Fancy meeting you here.”
He turned to see Charlie grinning at him from under a jaunty cap.
“Saw you coming in,” he said. “I’ve just been for a sail round the bay with a pal.”
“You’re looking well,” Tom said.
“Getting used to this retirement lark now,” Charlie said. “Have bus pass, will travel. I promised Sandy I wouldn’t let myself get down in the dumps again.”
“Good stuff,” Tom said. It was ridiculous, but he had been feeling guilty about Charlie’s bad spell, as if he’d stolen the hotel from under his nose. “I can give you a lift back, if you like.”
He turned back to the assistant.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “what were you going to say?”
“The rumour is,” she said, “that Andrea Gilmore, you know, the restaurant reviewer for one of the Sunday papers, is up here and doing the rounds.”
“Oh,” Charlie said. “Rather you than me, Tom. I read her column every week, and believe me, that woman does not mince her words.”
She was sure to love Corin’s food, Tom thought. And a great review in a national newspaper even Philip would be pleased with that.
His phone buzzed in his pocket. Probably the garage telling him the car was ready.
“Excuse me,” he said, and he walked to the other end of the room to take the call.
“Tom?” It was Judy, and she sounded on the verge of tears. “When will you be back? We have a problem.”