not high, May told herself as she set her foot firmly on the tree.
All she had to was haul herself up onto the branch and crawl along it.
Easy enough to say when she was safely on the ground.
Standing beneath the branch and looking up, it had seemed no distance at
all. The important thing, she reminded herself, was not to look down, but
keep her eye on the goal.
‘What on earth are you doing up there, Mouse?'
As her knee slipped, tearing her tights, she wondered how much worse this
day could get. The advantage that she didn’t have to look down to see who
was beneath her – only one person had ever called her Mouse – was
completely lost on her.
‘What do you think I’m doing?’ she asked, through gritted teeth.
‘Checking the view?’
‘You should be able to see Melchester Castle from up there,’ he replied,
as if she’d been serious. ‘You’ll have to look a little further to your
She was in enough trouble simply looking ahead. She’d never been good
with heights – something she only ever seemed to remember when she was too
far off the ground to change her mind.
‘Why don’t you come up and point it out to me,’ she gasped.
‘I would be happy to,’ he replied, ‘but that branch doesn’t look as if it
could support both us.’
He was right. It was creaking ominously as she attempted to edge closer
to the kitten which, despite her best efforts not to frighten it further,
was backing off, a spitting, frightened orange ball of fur.
It was far too late to wish she’d stuck to looking helpless at ground
level. She’d realised at a very early age that the pathetic “where’s a
big strong man to help me” routine was never going to work for her – she
wasn’t blonde enough, thin enough, pretty enough -- and had learned to get
on and do it herself.
It was plunging in without a thought for the consequences that had earned
her the mocking nickname “Mouse”, short for “Danger Mouse”, bestowed on
her by Adam Wavell when she was a chubby teen and he was a mocking, nerdy,
glasses-wearing sixth former at the local high school.
Her knee slipped a second time and a gasp from below warned her that Adam
wasn’t the only one with a worm’s eye view of her underwear. A quick
blink confirmed that her antics were beginning to attract an audience of
mid-morning dog walkers, older children on their autumn break and shoppers
taking the scenic route into the town centre – just too late to be of
Then a flash, followed by several more as the idea caught on, warned her
that someone had taken a photograph using their mobile phone. Terrific.
She was going to be in tomorrow’s edition of the Maybridge Observer for
sure; worse, she’d be on YouTube by lunch time.
She had no one to blame but herself, she reminded herself, making a firm
resolution that the next time she spotted an animal in distress she’d call
the RSPCA and leave it to them. That wasn’t going to help her now, though
and the sooner she grabbed the kitten and returned to earth the better.
‘Here, puss,’ she coaxed, desperately, but its only response was to hiss
at her and edge further along the branch. Muttering under her breath, she
went after it. The kitten had the advantage. Unlike her, it weighed
nothing and, as the branch thinned and began to bend noticeably beneath
her she made a desperate lunge earning herself a cheer from the crowd as
she managed to finally grab it. The kitten, ungratefully, sank its teeth
into her thumb.
‘Pass it down,’ Adam said, his arms raised to take it from her.
Easier said than done. In its terror it had dug its needle claws in,
clinging to her hand as desperately as it had clung to the branch.
‘You’ll have to unhook me. Don’t let it go!’ she warned as she lowered it
towards him. She was considerably higher now and she had to lean down a
long way so that he could detach the little creature with the minimum of
damage to her skin.
It was a mistake.
While she’d been focussed on the kitten everything had been all right, but
that last desperate lunge had sent everything spinning and before she
could utter so much as a “fudge balls”, she lost her balance and slithered
off the branch.
Adam, standing directly beneath her had no time to avoid a direct hit.
They both went down in a heap, the fall driving the breath from her body,
which was probably a good thing since there was no item in her hand-made
confectionary range that came even close to matching her mortification.
But then embarrassment was her default reaction whenever she was within a
hundred feet of the man.
‘You don’t change, Mouse,’ he said, as she struggled to catch her
Not much chance of that while she was lying on top of him, his breath warm
against her cheek, his heart pounding beneath her hand, his arm, flung out
in an attempt to catch her – or more likely defend himself — tight around
her. The stuff of her most private dreams, if she discounted the fact
that it had been raining all week and they were sprawled in the muddy
puddle she had taken such pains to avoid.
‘You always did act first, think later,' he said. ‘Rushing to the aid
of some poor creature in distress and getting wet, muddy or both for your
‘While you,’ she gasped, ‘always turned up too late to do anything but
stand on the sidelines, laughing at me,' she replied, furiously. It was
untrue and unfair, but all she wanted right at that moment was to vanish
into thin air.
'You have to admit you were always great entertainment value.’
‘If you like clowns,’ she muttered, remembering all too vividly the
occasion when she’d scrambled onto the school roof in a thunder storm to
rescue a bird trapped in the guttering and in danger of drowning, concern
driving her chubby arms and legs as she shinned up the down pipe.
Up had never been a problem.
He’d stood below her then, the water flattening his thick dark hair, rain
pouring down his face, grinning even as he’d taken the bird from her. But
then, realising that she was too terrified to move, he’d taken off his
glasses and climbed up to rescue her.
Not that she’d thanked him.
She’d been too busy yelling at him for letting the bird go before she
could wrap it up and take it home to join the rest of her rescue family.
It was only when she was back on terra firma that her breathing had gone
to pot and he’d delivered her to the school nurse, convinced she was
having an asthma attack. And she had been too mortified – and breathless
– to deny it.
He was right. Nothing had changed. She might be less than a month away
from her thirtieth birthday, a woman of substance, respected for her
charity work, running her own business, but inside she was still the
overweight and socially inept teen being noticed by a boy she had the most
painful crush on. Brilliant but geeky with the family from hell. Another
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From the book
CONVENIENT HUSBAND REQUIRED by Liz Fielding
Text Copyright © 2010
by Liz Fielding
Cover Art Copyright ©
2010 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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