WHAT’S the damage this month?” Judy looked over Tom’s shoulder as he did the accounts.
“Oh, there’s damage, but we’re on track. Just over a year since we first considered coming here and we haven’t lost as much money as I was afraid we would.”
“I take it that’s good news.” Judy leaned her chin on his head. “Although it sounds gloomy.”
“The review’s been a big help.” Tom remembered that hectic evening and Andrea Gilmore’s subsequent five-star endorsement which he credited with bringing them diners from far afield and enquiries for weddings and other functions well into next year. “And now the bridge is open there’s lots more passing traffic. Of course there’ll be rent to pay on Brook Cottage from November,” he added. “That can’t be helped. But the timing couldn’t be better.”
With Iris heading for a new life in Zurich and Lizzie preparing to move north with Jim, and neither of them wanting to sell the cottage their great-aunt had left them, they had asked if Holly and Corin might want to take a long lease on it. The Graingers and the Jeffreys fell on the suggestion gratefully. It would be a perfect home, just down the road from the hotel, to bring the babies back to.
“So.” Judy’s voice was mischievous. “Are you looking forward to this afternoon?”
Tom covered his face with his hands in mock horror.
“Maybe he’ll phone and cancel,” he said hopefully.
“No chance,” Judy replied, “not after all the fuss he’s made. Besides, he texted Corin five minutes ago to say he was just leaving.” She planted a kiss on his cheek. “No pressure, but the honour of the Jeffreys is at stake.”
“If you’ve nothing helpful to say, go away,” Tom growled, and with a laugh Judy went.
Philip had worn Tom down until he had eventually agreed to have a game of golf with him before winter set in. It was to take place on the course nearest to Lorn with which Philip and his cronies had got well acquainted. Tom had only managed a couple of rounds but he did have an ace up his sleeve . . .
* * * *
“I know you haven’t played much,” Philip said, shutting the door of his silver Audi, “so what I propose is that I give you a stroke a hole.”
The golfing equivalent of a head start.
“No, you’re all right, Philip.” Tom lifted his golf bag out of the boot. “Let’s start on equal terms. Make more of a game of it.”
Philip slapped him on the back.
“Well, don’t say I didn’t offer. That’s an impressive set of clubs you’ve got there.” He bent to make a closer inspection.
“Yes.” Tom looked up at the sky to deflect Philip’s attention. “Don’t like the look of those clouds. Let’s get on.”
Philip pushed his tee into the ground.
“The first hole is tricky,” he said, standing up again. “It’s a long one between the bunkers. Into the wind, too. I’ll go first, shall I?”
Show me how it’s done, you mean, Tom thought. He held up his hand to shade his eyes.
“Good shot.” It was, too. Philip was a worthy opponent.
In turn he lifted his club and sliced the ball down the fairway.
“Tom! Well done, you.” Philip’s tone didn’t match his words. Looking rather annoyed, he picked up his bag and strode off.
Three-quarters of the way through the course Tom putted the ball across the green and both men watched as it fell neatly into the hole.
“I think you’ve been holding out on me,” Philip said as Tom went to retrieve it. “Have you been taking lessons from Tiger Woods?”
“I wish!” Tom laughed. “You’re right, though. I may have forgotten to mention that before we went into the B&B business I was a professional for ten years. At the Ashbridge course you’ve probably heard of it.”
“I certainly have.” Various emotions crossed his face. Then he burst out laughing and held out his hand. “It’s not often someone gets one over on me.”
Tom shook the proffered hand heartily.
“No hard feelings, I hope.”
“Not at all. I’m delighted to think that our grandchildren will have a head start with both you and me to teach them,” Philip said. He put his club back in his bag. “You’re right, Tom. I think it is going to rain. Shall we call it a day and repair to the clubhouse? I’m sure you have some cracking stories to tell.”
Tom turned away to hide his smile. Philip didn’t want to finish the game and admit defeat, but they both knew who was the winner today.