Publisher: Sue Brown Stories (April 15, 2015)
Amazon Kindle: In-Decision (Left at the Crossroads #2)
Little Mowbury is a sleepy English village deep in the Cotswolds. The kind of village where you’re only a local if your lineage can be traced back to the dinosaurs. Where you can find everything in the single village shop from morning newspapers to dry-cleaning, and getting your shoes mended. And, of course, where everybody knows everybody else’s business. It’s easy to find… you can’t miss it… just ask anyone and they’ll tell you… “It’s left at the crossroads.”
Eighteen months ago Jason Havers lost the love of his life and it's time to move on. Applying for the position of chef in a sleepy country pub, a million miles away from his previous life, may well be the fresh start he needs. His new employers immediately take him under their wing and before long he finds himself with a passel of new friends and a job he loves. What he doesn’t expect is Tom, a gorgeous midwife, who stirs up feelings he’s not ready to deal with.
But when someone from his previous life turns up in Little Mowbury, will Jason be able to keep them from revealing the secret he’s been keeping from those he’s come to love?
Jason Havers drove down the narrow village street looking for the Thatcher’s Arms. The farmer’s directions to Little Mowbury had been clear enough, even if he had mumbled into his beard; turn left at the crossroads and keep driving.
“But when the hell am I meant to stop?” Jason muttered. He’d reached Little Mowbury and he still hadn’t found the bloody pub. He’d left plenty of time to find the place, not wanting to be late for the job interview, but there had been congestion on the motorway. The stupid satnav had given up with a mile and a half to go, leaving him cursing at the useless piece of technology and driving through unmarked country lanes for twenty minutes until he found a human who could give him directions. Now he had ten minutes to find the pub before he could kiss the interview goodbye. “It’s on the left,” he muttered. “On the left.”
Something out of the corner of his right eye caught his attention and he slammed on the brakes, missing the man who’d stepped out in front of him by a hair’s breath. The bloke actually had the gall to glare at him and give him the finger before he disappeared into one of the cottages.
His heart pounding, Jason sat back in the driver’s seat and stared after the arsehole. He shook his head in disbelief and said sarcastically, “Welcome to Little Mowbury, Jason.”
A loud honk behind him made Jason jump and he cursed as he stalled the engine before he finally managed to get the car started again. Waving his apology to the car behind, he pulled away and there it was, fifty yards down the road opposite the village green. A typical English village pub with a thatched roof, wooden tables outside and large hanging baskets everywhere.
Jason left the car at the edge of the green and jogged towards the pub. Then he stopped and squinted at the ridge of the roof, grinning as he spied the thatched duck perched on the top. He had three minutes before eleven o’clock. Not good but at least he wasn’t late. He paused in the doorway of the Thatcher’s Arms, his eyes adjusting to the dark interior after the brightness of the late morning sunshine.
“Come in, son. You’re making the place look untidy.”
Still blind from the sun, Jason moved towards the voice, which he discovered as he drew closer, belonged to an elderly lady who stood behind the bar.
“What can I get you?” she asked, looking at him expectantly. Her huge, dangling earrings rattled as she talked. Jason tried not to focus on them, but better to look at the earrings than her impressive chest which was really distracting, even for him.
“Uh… I’m Jason.”
She looked at him with a blank expression.
“Jason Havers. I’m here to interview for the chef’s position. We spoke on the phone?”
Her expression had moved on from blank to puzzled and Jason’s mind raced as he wondered whether he’d got the wrong day or time, or even the wrong fucking pub.
Then she beamed at him as she leaned on the bar. “Sorry, luv, I completely forgot. It’s been manic here this morning. We’ve only just cleared the breakfast crowd and we’ve got to get ready for lunch. Colin, he’s my hubby, isn’t feeling too chipper this morning and Rich, the other chef, has had to go to the dentist. I’m Maggie Mason.” She shook Jason’s hand. He resisted the desire to wince and flex his fingers as she let it go. For an elderly woman she had a bloody firm grip.
Jason looked around him. The bar was half-full but he could see the tables hadn’t been bussed and there were dirty glasses at one end of the bar. “Can I help? I can give you a hand with the lunch. That is, if you want me to, I mean….”
Maggie nodded and handed him an apron. “If you want a baptism by fire, you’re on. I’ll interview you as we go. Do you mind clearing the tables?”
“Leave the dirty plates at that end of the bar and I’ll take ‘em through to the kitchen.”
Although Jason was a chef by trade, he’d done most of the jobs required in restaurants and pubs. He started at one end of the bar and worked down, removing the remains of the breakfasts and cleaning the tables. As Jason worked he was conscious of the other customers staring and whispering about him. Maggie grinned at him as he delivered the dirty plates.
“Are the locals giving you a hard time?”
Jason smirked. “They just want to know about the new boy in town.” He tilted his head at the two old gents sat in the snug. “Especially them.”
Maggie scowled at them but it was more affectionate than fierce and the old guys raised their pint glasses in response. “They’re the worst of the lot. Never tell them your business. It’ll be all round the village before you’ve had a chance to breathe.
“You’re the one who flaps her mouth, Maggie May.” An elderly man with an amazing amount of snow-white hair wrapped his arms around Maggie and tugged him against her.
She huffed but didn’t try to move away from him. “Jason, this is my husband, Colin. Ignore everything he says. I’m the one in charge.”
Colin shook Jason’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Jason. We just let Maggie think she’s in charge—for a quiet life.”
“I understand,” Jason assured him then winked at Maggie, who burst out laughing.
“I like him. I think we’ll keep him.”
“You haven’t tried my cooking yet,” Jason pointed out.
Maggie looked at her watch. “You’d better get in the kitchen. Rich did the preparation before he left.”
Colin frowned at his wife. “I thought he was here for an interview?”
“We decided to make it a practical interview. He offered to help clear up.”
“Okay, son. The kitchen is all yours. I’ll show you round.” As Jason followed Colin he noticed the man shuffled one of his feet. Colin saw his gaze and shrugged. “I had a stroke the end of last year. I’m fine now but I still struggle walking any distance.”
“Is that why you’re looking for another chef?”
“Rich has been great. He’s picked up most of the shifts, but he’s found a girl in Southampton and he wants to spend more time with her. We agreed to split his shifts.”
Jason frowned. “So the job isn’t full-time?” He couldn’t afford to work part-time. Not now he was on his own.
“It is, but split over breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll have more than enough to do.” Colin opened the door to the kitchen.
“Wow.” Jason blinked as he looked at the stainless steel kitchen. He was hard put not to drool as he gazed around. “This looks new.”
“Almost,” Colin said. “We replaced it just before my stroke.”
“First orders, boys.” Maggie handed them to Jason, ignoring Colin’s outstretched hand. “Three mixed grills and hold the bacon on one of them.”
Colin limped to the fridge. “I’ll give you a hand if you want.”
Jason was about to protest he was fine on his own, but realised this was part of his interview. “Sounds good to me.”
They worked efficiently together with Colin holding back as Jason got the hang of the kitchen. Colin nodded in approval as he plated the order then Jason delivered the food to a family sitting in one corner of the bar.
He smiled at them all. “Who wants the no bacon?”
A teenage girl with soft curls and large eyes smiled shyly at him. “That’s mine.”
The man with her looked at his plate. “This looks amazing.” His stomach rumbled audibly and he blushed as his wife scolded him.
Jason grinned at them. “That’s what I like to hear. You’re my very first customers. Enjoy.”
As he walked past Maggie she handed him more orders. “It’s Thursday, so it’s liver and bacon day. Don’t forget the extra gravy for Deano Wells.”
Jason ruffled through the orders. “How will I know which one is his?”
“He’s usually the only one who orders liver and bacon,” Colin said drily.
Maggie shrugged. “We look after our customers.”
“Maggie has her favourites and they get whatever they want,” Colin said as they retreated to the kitchen. “I just shut up and do as I’m told.”
“Bollocks,” Maggie yelled behind them.
“I’ll make sure to do the same thing.” Jason deliberately raised his voice and smirked at Colin when Maggie responded with a loud snort.
“You’ll do just fine here,” Colin said.
Jason really hoped so because he hadn’t got nearly enough of this kitchen. “Tell me that at the end of the lunch session.”
Jason worked hard for a couple of hours until the rush died off. He was clearing up the last of the dishes when Maggie came in and handed him an envelope.
“What’s this?” He opened it to see a few ten pound notes.
“Your pay for today. You came for an interview, not to manage the kitchen. The job is yours if you want it.”
He cheered inside, but there were practical details to sort out. “I’ll need to find somewhere to stay. I couldn’t do this journey every day.”
Maggie pursed her lips before she said, “There’s a room upstairs if you want it. We used to run a B&B but after Colin’s stroke it became too much. There’s a room and a private bathroom.”
Jason hesitated for only a second. Although Maggie didn’t know it, this was the answer to his prayers. He had the chance to get away and make a fresh start. Away from David, and away from all the friends who looked at him as though he was broken. Those that had even bothered to stay.
“When do you want me to start?” He beamed at her and she grinned back.
“You can start Monday, but Saturday is Cricket Day for the village. Why don’t you stay Friday night and meet everyone before you start work?”
Jason opened his mouth to say it was too soon then closed it again. “Sure. I’ll drive over tomorrow evening, Mrs. Mason.”
Maggie held out her hand. “Welcome to the family, son. Call me Maggie.”
He dried his hand and shook it. “Thanks, Maggie. This means a lot to me.”
“You’re welcome. Now finish cleaning those dishes.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two children. When she isn't following their orders, she be found haunting coffee shops to feed her coffee addiction. She spends hours people-watching instead of typing. She feeds the plot bunnies, not the word count.
Sue discovered M/M erotica at the time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favorite television series. The series was boring; the kissing was not. She may be late to the party, but she's made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture out into the world of original fiction
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