The Mystery Of Anna Grace – Episode 28

Charlie thought for a moment.

“So there may simply be more journals, but we don’t know where they are and no-one’s looked at them in years.”

“Exactly. I’d better get myself together if I’m to make the train. I liked your post on Ghillie, by the way.”

High praise indeed, Charlie thought, wondering why she was always on edge when Robin was around, yet missing him when she heard his car pull away, as it did now.

No doubt wise, practical Anna would have told her to pull herself together.

*  *  *  *

Grant was not what she had expected, Harriet thought a few days later as she made herself a coffee in the Anna Grace kitchen. Charlie was out doing some market research for the artists’ weekend.

For their first date, Grant had taken Harriet out for the day along with her niece, whom she looked after for her ill sister. Rhona had liked him from the moment he pretended to pinch the marshmallows from her hot chocolate.

He had taken them to a little café near the play park so Rhona could have a go on the swings later.

Normally Harriet didn’t date as she was too busy with her job and with Rhona.

It had been a difficult few months, though Harriet’s sister was a little better now and Rhona had moved back home.

Harriet had spent the morning going through the accounts as the auditor was due in a week or two. She was canny enough to see that Anna Grace could not keep going the way it was, but she also knew that Charlie had more than paid for her position in the short time she had been with them.

Harriet spooned coffee into the cafetière. She knew she had to stop seeing Charlie as a rival. She was simply a young woman trying to make a go of things, just as Harriet had been a few years back.

Robin, she knew, wasn’t really a great one for mentoring. He simply hadn’t the time and she knew, with a guilty start, that Charlie really had been thrown in at the deep end.

It was also Charlie who had made sure that Grant Thornberry arrived safely that snowy night.

When Harriet had met Grant, she had felt herself begin to relax. Of course, she hadn’t wanted to let her guard down too soon, but there was something that she liked about Grant.

Harriet had dealt with many wealthy people, especially in her early days at Anna Grace, when some guests would stay for the prestige of it.

She had soon learned which of the guests ignored her when they realised she was not one of the Graystone family.

Yet Grant had turned up for their first date in jeans and trainers and had not been too put out by the snow or having to wear a jumper from the lost property box.

It soon became clear to her that Grant, like all good businessmen, played to his strengths. He had a degree in computer science and ran the IT side of things for his father’s hotel chain. One look at their website was proof that it worked.

Harriet poured the water into the cafetière.

Just then, Katarina bustled in, her arms full of laundry. Automatically, Harriet started to help her fold the dry sheets.

“They do not grow on the trees, you know,” Katarina said.

“What don’t?” Harriet said.

“Good men.”

Harriet laughed.

“Grant has just taken Rhona and me for hot chocolate a couple of times, that’s all,” Harriet replied. “And he’s taking me out to that new restaurant for lunch. The one near where Denby’s farm used to be.”

She knew that her red face would give her away.

“I just like him, that’s all,” she added.

Just then, she heard a car pull up. He was early.

Unexpectedly, Katarina gave Harriet a hug.

“I must go,” Harriet said quietly, hardly trusting herself to speak.

* * * *

In the car, Harriet told Grant more of her plans to make Anna Grace a wedding venue for guests from all over the county, adding in her ideas for a spa.

Grant listened as he drove through the beautiful countryside.

“I’m afraid Robin’s right, darling,” Grant said as they pulled into the car park.

“Do you think so?” Harriet said.

“Anna Grace can’t have a spa or become a wedding venue, and I think you know that in your heart, as well as in your good business brain,” Grant added.

“Surely it’s only a case of hiring the right interior designer and negotiating competitively with suppliers and –”

She paused, looked at Grant’s handsome, kind face and finally found the courage to be honest.

“I always felt like this place gave me a home when I needed it most, and I just feel . . .”

“That you’re not ready to let go?” Grant prompted gently.

She found she had an unexpected lump in her throat.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

“You may find that your debt to Anna Grace was paid long ago, Harriet. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start.”

Harriet took Grant’s hand, looked down at Anna Grace, nestling in the hills, and knew that he was right.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.