A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-seven)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-SEVEN – TAMSYN’S PLAN

Several months passed, with Tamsyn dividing her time between library visits and long sessions in her office at home, during which she locked the door and refused to speak to anyone, even Andy. He was getting increasingly worried about her, especially since on those rare occasions when she wasn’t in her study, she went back to sitting on the window sill in her living room, staring out the window without seeing anything.

Preparations for the nature reserve were making good progress. The Donnan brothers finally admitted defeat when the ornithologist sent through a euphoric report on two red-backed shrikes who had made their nest at the site, and Tamsyn was finally able to buy it for three and a half million pounds.

The first thing she did was create a charitable institution to take over the ownership of it, and to establish it as a nature reserve for as long as the charity could look after it. For this she set up a separate fund with enough money that the charity could run itself without running into financial difficulty. It took some months for all the paperwork to be sorted out, but at the end of March Tamsyn held the final certificate that declared the Somerset Portal Nature Reserve to be a reality, now and in perpetuity. It was the final proof that Middle-Earth, the Shire and Perry’s family would be safe, and it was a cause for celebration.

When Andy suggested they go out for a meal, he was surprised at Tamsyn’s instant agreement. Hoping he would finally get a chance to question her on her months of seclusion he reserved a table at an exclusive restaurant in London, knowing the tables would be screened from other dinner guests to give them privacy.

Tamsyn had grown pale, and her once curvaceous body was now plain skinny. Andy knew she ate – he encouraged her whenever he was around – but she rarely finished her plate, and he did not think she enjoyed any of her meals anymore. She had started featuring in gossip magazines, always on the lookout for scandal, and as the eighteenth richest woman in Britain, not to mention a bachelorette, the public lapped it up. The magazines focused on her court case, her wan appearance and her strange refusal to wear shoes.

On the day of the meal Tamsyn took a taxi from the library to the restaurant rather than letting Andy chauffeur for her, and she arrived a little later than she had intended. She spotted Andy at the bar and was about to go to him when she was intercepted by the maitre d’.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said. “I’m afraid you cannot enter without shoes.” He pointed at her feet, as if she didn’t know where shoes were supposed to be, and Tamsyn narrowed her eyes at him. She had once been a regular customer of this restaurant, and although she had not visited since her return from Middle-Earth, she had not expected anyone to bar her entry. But then, this maitre d’ appeared to be new; she had not seen him before.

“Why can I not enter without shoes?” she asked, impatience lacing her voice.

“Dress code, ma’am,” he said, pointing at a sign on the wall.

“No trainers, flip-flops, slippers or hiking boots,” she read out loud, then looked at her feet. “I’m not wearing any of those, so I don’t see the problem.”

A hint of uncertainty crept into the face of the young man, who had clearly not expected such an assertive response. Tamsyn was not by nature arrogant, but had learned early enough that it was sometimes necessary to fake the arrogance that only the very rich could afford to display. She stared the young man down, and he shifted uncomfortably to his other leg.

“It is implied that neat shoes should be worn, ma’am,” he insisted, though he lacked his earlier conviction.

Deep down Tamsyn knew he was only doing his job, but she had little patience for anyone but Andy these days. “Implied, is it?” she snapped. “Well, it is implied that if I receive good service at this restaurant, I might frequent it again and recommend it to my associates. However, it is also implied that if I don’t, I shall be directing people to the Golden Pheasant instead. Now run along and fetch your manager, I’m fed up with standing here.”

He was spared the trip: at that point the manager came trotting up with Andy in tow. “Miss Moriarty,” he said with an air of forced conviviality. “Please excuse young Daniel here, he is new and unaware of our special regard for you. Please, do follow me, we have our best table ready for you.”

Tamsyn swept after him without a further glance at the hapless maitre d’ and gave the manager a gracious nod as he pulled back her chair for her. He took their drink orders and left, and Andy raised an eyebrow at her.

“That maitre d’ will be in trouble, methinks,” he remarked, his voice neutral.

Tamsyn sniffed. “Serves him right, the officious git.”

“Serves him right for what, not knowing who you are?”

“For not realising that only super-rich eccentrics show up in posh restaurants without shoes on. Besides, if Richard Branson turned up in jeans and trainers, do you really think they’d turn him away for not sticking to the dress code?” She snapped her menu shut and signalled a waiter. “Ready to order? I am.”

They both placed their order, then Tamsyn folded her hands, suddenly looking nervous. “Andy, we need to talk,” she said, then rummaged in the briefcase she had brought with her. “And here, this is for you,” she added, sliding an envelope across the table to him.

He stared at her in surprise, the initiative taken out of his hands, then opened the envelope and scanned the papers inside. “Last will and testament of Tamsyn Moriarty…” He looked at her in consternation. “A will? Tam, what are you planning?”

“Suicide. Well,” she added with a little wave, “not really, but to all intents and purposes.”

Andy’s initial shock turned to confusion. “You what? You’re not making sense, Tam.” He took her hands, and his voice turned anguished. “I know you miss Perry, but you… surely there’s no need to end it all? You’ve so much to live for and–”

“Oh, shush,” she interrupted him. “The suicide is just a cover. I’m going back to the Shire. Back to Perry.”

The comment hung in the air, and Andy could not respond, for at that moment the waiter arrived with their wine. They waited until the wine had been tested and poured, then Andy focused on Tamsyn again.

“You’re going back? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s the best idea I’ve had in six months,” Tamsyn said quietly. “There’s nothing left for me here. I’ve tried to live without Perry, tried to find something to occupy me, but there is nothing. I left my life back in the Shire, and I’ll only get it back by going back to him.”

“But… but what about your work?”

“What about it? You think I enjoy the court case? The snipes I’ve started getting from the board? The kind of shit I have to deal with when we contract with twats like the Donnans? Andy, I’ve not enjoyed my job for a long while, not since dad died, and it’s at the bottom of the list of things I might miss in the Shire.”

“Okay, but you admit you have a list. What about your wealth? You can do anything you want, buy anything you want over here.”

“And what use is money without someone to share it with? Besides, the Tooks are rich too, both in land and money. I shan’t be any worse off as Perry’s wife.”

“What about food?” Andy insisted. “There are no Italian restaurants in the Shire, no Thai takeaways, no curry houses.”

Tamsyn laughed, a genuine, exuberant laugh which was all the more surprising for having been absent for so many months. “You mention food when I’m going to be a hobbit? Andy, every single dish I’ve eaten in the six days I spent there tasted ten times better than anything I’ve ever eaten in London’s most exclusive restaurants. Here, look at this.” She gestured at the morsel of food on her fork. “Smoked pheasant with some exotic fruit chutney. Do you honestly think it tastes better than Esme’s pork cutlets with her special gravy? Take my word for it: it doesn’t.” She ate the piece of meat and waved her fork around. “Besides, do you think I’ve been idle these past months? I’ve studied all sorts of cook books so I know how to make my own pasta, and how to combine spices and herbs to obtain certain flavours. The Shire doesn’t have every herb you can buy over here, but you’d be surprised at the ones they do have, and I have a lifetime ahead of me to experiment.”

“So that’s what you’ve been doing all these months,” Andy said in sudden understanding.

Tamsyn nodded. “I’ve studied. Not just pasta making and cooking, but also how to preserve vegetables for winter, how to card wool and weave fabrics. How to keep things fresh when you don’t have a fridge and anything else I could think of that I might need over there. I’m sure Esme can teach me a lot of it, but I wanted to be prepared.”

“How long have you been planning this?” Andy asked, slumping back in his chair.

“Since, uh, just after New Year,” Tamsyn admitted, lowering her eyes. “I realised there’s nothing left to live for over here.”

“And you waited until now to tell me?” The hurt in his voice was obvious.

“I’m sorry, Andy. I was afraid that you’d do exactly what you’re doing now.”

“What I’m doing… What am I doing, Tam?” he asked, confused.

“Trying to dissuade me from doing this,” she replied, scratching at a mark on the tablecloth.

He took a breath to reply, then let it out again. “I am, aren’t I?” Then he leaned forward and grabbed her hand. “Tam, I’m your friend. I’m trying to look out for you. If you really feel you need to go back then I’ll help you, of course, but I need to make sure that you know what you’re doing, that you’re fully aware of what you’re letting yourself in for.”

“I’m letting myself in for spending the rest of my life with the man I love.” She finally raised her head again, and her gaze was steady and full of conviction.

“A life without plumbing, or hot water on command?”

“They have a pump, an unlimited supply of firewood and are in no hurry to get things done.” Tamsyn countered. “Besides, I have an engineering degree. I have some ideas.”

“You’d modernise the Shire?” Andy said, aghast. “The last one who tried that was Saruman, and look where that got him.”

“I’m not stupid, Andy. I’m talking little things, nothing that will impede upon the landscape.”

He blushed. “I know you’re not. As I said, I’m just making sure you know what you’re doing.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand. “I know, and I do appreciate it, but I really have thought this over thoroughly. Go on, give me more objections. I can counter them all.”

Andy tilted his head, then smiled back. “Okay. What about music? There’s no radio in the Smials, no CD or mp3 player.”

Tamsyn chuckled. “Can you remember what my music collection consists of?”

“Uh, The Dubliners, RunRig, The Chieftains… mostly Irish folk music, right?”

She nodded. “Now guess what hobbit party music sounds like?”

“Fine, another point for you,” Andy said as their main course arrived. He waited a moment for the waiters to disappear again, then said, “What about television? Films? You can’t go to the cinema there.”

“No, that’s true, but whether I’d miss it?” She shrugged. “I can do without the X-Factor or Big Brother, and while there are some classic films out there, none of them are good enough that I’d choose an evening watching them over an evening in bed with Perry.”

“Right, ah…” Andy gave an embarrassed cough, then pointed at her. “About that. No contraceptives in the Shire, surely?”

“And? I don’t see a problem there. I want his children, Andy. I know I haven’t shown much of a motherly instinct before, but this is different. I want to be the mother of Perry’s children.”

“And what if you fall ill?” Andy asked softly. “What if pregnancy gives you trouble? What if you have difficulty giving birth?”

She shrugged again. “Hobbits are a hardy race, remember? Besides, they have a healer. Melilot, I think her name was. Look, I can pick up some nasty virus here just as easily. It’s not an issue.”

“What about electricity? Central heating?”

“Electricity operates those things I do not need except lights, and for that they have candles and oil lamps. As for the heating: Great Smials is a hobbit hole in a hill. No house will be better insulated.”

Andy shook his head, smiling despite himself. “You really have thought this through, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have. I’ve looked at it from every possible angle, and always reached the same conclusion: I miss Perry as much as when I just left him, and I’ll never be truly happy again without him.”

Andy nodded, then lowered his eyes and fussed at his food with his fork. “And what about me?”

Tamsyn looked down and bit her lip, then gestured at the envelope she had given him earlier. “Please look at those papers more closely, Andy,” she said, then feigned undivided attention on her food.

He frowned at her, taking out the papers again. “What am I looking for?” he asked, then froze when he saw the name on the will. “Oh,” he said. Then again, “Oh.”

“I know that once I’m gone we’ll never see each other again,” Tamsyn said, still avoiding his eyes, “and that’s the only thing I’ve been able to think of that I would truly miss in the Shire: your friendship. But even though you’re like a brother to me, I cannot choose you over Perry. I just can’t. But that,” she gestured at the document, “that is something I can do for you. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”

He still sat there with the will in his hand, staring at the legalese that stated that Tamsyn Moriarty, declared to be of sound mind and body, would bequeath everything she owned to Andrew McIntyre in the event of her death.

“So you’re buying me off?” he asked, swallowing hard.

“No!” she protested, eyes wide. “Andy, you’re the only friend I have, and I have no more living relatives who can lay claim to any of this. It has to go to you, and it’s nothing to do with… with compensation for anything.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He wiped at his eyes, and Tamsyn grabbed his free hand.

“I’m sorry too, Andy. Don’t think I won’t miss you, but you don’t need me cluttering up your life. You shouldn’t have to look after me, and worry about me. Once I’m gone you can start living your own life again. Maybe even find a love of your own.”

He gave her a wistful smile. “That, at least, I may already have done,” he admitted.

Tamsyn sat up. “You have a boyfriend?”

Andy nodded, then shrugged. “I’d have told you, but you were rather preoccupied. Remember that group of solicitors you hired to sort through the company records? I hit it off with one of them.”

“Preoccupation or no, I’m sorry I never noticed that. What’s his name?”

“Rhys,” Andy said, a blush creeping up. “Rhys Jones.”

“Ahh, the cute Welsh one? He’s got beautiful eyes,” Tamsyn said. “So when did this start?”

“Uhh, Christmas. We, um, got a little drunk, and one thing led to another, and well…” He gave an embarrassed shrug and Tamsyn laughed.

“Well, that’s one load off my mind then,” she said with a smile. “So all that’s left is to plan my supposed suicide, and in such a way that it can’t even hint at murder.”

Andy’s head shot up. “M…murder?”

“Come on, if I disappear and leave my entire fortune to you, do you really think people won’t cry murder? We have to ensure you’re completely above suspicion, especially as there won’t be a body to find. I think you should go on holiday a few days before I go, to somewhere far away. Take Rhys with you, so he can testify that you’ve not come back to kill me.”

Andy nodded slowly. “I can see your logic. I…” He hesitated, then said, “I guess I won’t be seeing you off back to the Shire then.”

Tamsyn sagged. “No, I guess you won’t. I’m sorry.”

“Well…” He took a deep breath and smiled, though it looked shaky. “You’ll just have to pass on my regards to Radagast then. And tomorrow… tomorrow I’ll come and help you to plan for this.”

She smiled back. “You’re a gem, Andy, truly. I’m sorry for neglecting you all this time, I couldn’t have made it this far without you.”

“It’s okay. Come, let’s eat up and get back, we’ve got work to do tomorrow, and I want to check out a few things tonight.”

“Such as?”

He grinned. “Caribbean cruises. If I have to go on holiday, I want to do something I’ve always dreamed of.”

Tamsyn laughed. “Fair enough, let’s pay then. I’ve had enough.”

o–o-o–o

Will Tamsyn’s plan be possible? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-six)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-SIX – NOW WHAT?

With the hurdle of the endangered species out of the way they returned to London and waited for Radagast to recover once more. It took four days this time, and Tamsyn spent most of that time with her lawyers, since Jim McMurphy had made good on his threat and had taken her to the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. The lawyers warned Tamsyn that her outlook was bleak, but she refused to give the case her full attention until the Somerset site was protected.

When Radagast awoke on the fourth day, Tamsyn went to speak with him with a heavy heart, knowing what he was going to say. Sure enough, as soon as she had made herself comfortable he said, “I believe I have done everything you required me to do in order to aid your plans, and I would like to return to Middle-Earth. This world wearies me, and it pains me to see what your race is doing to it.”

Tamsyn nodded without rancour. “I understand. We’ll take you back today, if you want.”

“Please. I should like that very much.”

Tamsyn nodded again, then picked at a loose toenail before asking, “Radagast, would you do something for me when you get back to the Shire?”

“I can pass on a message to Peregrin, certainly,” he replied.

“Not just to Perry,” Tamsyn said, shaking her head. “I’m not even sure I can give you a message for him. There are too many things I would want to say to him.” She took a shuddering breath, fighting to keep back her tears, and instead concentrated on what she had planned to say. “I would like you to speak to the Thain. To Faramir. Please… please explain to him who I am, what I am, and why I had to leave. Please explain to him that I love Perry more than life itself, but that I had to leave him in order to save him. I do not want him to think that I simply abandoned his son. I should like him to think well of me.”

Radagast gave a single nod. “That I will be glad to do. I will explain to the Thain what you have done for this world, and that if it weren’t for you he might not be alive anymore.”

“That’s all I can ask of you.” She was quiet for a second, then said, “You do know that we’re not done yet, right? You know that this could still all go tits-up?”

He barked out a short laugh. “You have such a way with words, Tamsyn. Yes, I do realise that.”

“Can we contact you in any way while you’re in Middle-Earth, if we need you? I would like to let you know when everything is settled, so you needn’t worry anymore.”

“No, I’m afraid you cannot. But I will come back on a specific date, if you wish, then you can speak to me and update me. What date is it today?”

“It’s the seventh of December.”

“Ah,” Radagast said after a moment’s silence. “This could prove problematic.”

“Wait, I think I have a solution,” Tamsyn said, dashing away to fetch a laptop. “I’m sure there’s a Wikipedia entry for the Shire calendar,” she said when she returned, bringing up the page. She moved over to beside Radagast, then began to work it out.

“Here, Foreyule starts on the twenty-first of November, so that makes today the seventeenth of Foreyule.” She paused for a moment, her finger hovering over the previous month, Blotmath. “Perry said his birthday was in Blotmath. I missed it; he never told me the exact date.”

She blinked away tears, but Radagast quietly said, “I believe it is the fourteenth of Blotmath.”

Tamsyn counted. “So the fourth of November. Thank you, I will remember that. Now, it was the twentieth of September when you took me away, so that was in Halimath. We returned on the twenty-sixth, on the fifth of Winterfilth, so you’ve been here about two-and-a-half months, in all.”

“That long?” He sighed and rested his head back against the pillows. “I’ve never been away this long. I feel tired beyond anything I’ve ever felt before, and I am homesick. I want to be back in Rhosgobel.”

“We’ll leave as soon as Andy is back,” Tamsyn promised.

“And when do you wish me to return?”

Tamsyn thought for a moment. “I think six months should be sufficient for everything to be sorted. If it isn’t at that point, we can always arrange a new date. How about the first of Forelithe? That’s the twenty-second of May for me. I’ll make sure we’ll be at the portal that day to wait for you.”

“Very well, I shall be there.”

When Andy returned from his errands he found Radagast waiting in his old, brown robes, and Tamsyn grabbed her coat and scarf, though she still refused to wear shoes. “It’s time for Radagast to go home,” she said, and Andy nodded.

The trip to Somerset was uneventful. Tamsyn listened with half an ear to Andy’s incessant questions about Middle-Earth and the Shire, and Radagast’s speculation about why his world had remained virtually the same in two thousand years. It was something to do with magical races not craving innovation, which meant that even the humans in Middle-Earth – who still had some magic in them – were mostly content with the way things were.

When the discussion segued into semantics she switched off and thought of Perry. She had hoped that the days without him would become easier, but even after more than two months she still missed him as much as on the day she had said goodbye to him. She closed her eyes and tried to remember his face and his laugh, but her memories were elusive, and she couldn’t – not completely. Deep in her heart she feared that in two years time she wouldn’t be able to picture him anymore at all, yet would still miss him as much as she did now.

She startled when Andy shook her arm. “Tam! That’s the third time I’ve called you, you were miles away! Do you want something to eat? There’s a services coming up.”

She shook her head. “No, I’m not hungry,” she said, and returned to staring out the window, not noticing the worried look Andy gave her.

The site was still deserted and the fence still locked, though the local authorities now also had access to investigate the endangered species claim. They entered and set out towards the portal, Radagast with a spring in his step at the prospect of going home.

“Thank you for your dedicated care of me,” he said when they reached the two boulders flanking the portal. “I was lucky the day you found me, Tamsyn Moriarty, and I apologise sincerely for the effect my actions have had on your life.”

“It’s okay, Radagast,” Tamsyn said with a sad smile. “Much as I miss him, I will never regret having met Perry.”

“And do you have a message for him?”

“Tell him…” She swallowed hard. “Tell him I love him more than life itself, and that I miss him more than I can possibly express in words.” Her voice broke halfway through the statement, and Andy wrapped his arms around her in an effort to comfort her.

“You’d better go,” he said quietly to the wizard, who nodded and started to turn. Tamsyn, however, grabbed his sleeve.

“Remember my message to Faramir! Tell him I’m sorry.”

“I will. I will explain to him in full, I promise. Goodbye Andy, goodbye Tamsyn, until we meet again. I will be here, the first of Forelithe.”

With that he turned and walked away, and between the two boulders he vanished from sight.

 o–o-o–o

Following Radagast’s departure, Tamsyn was left with a profound sense of emptiness. The two main things in her life were her court case against Jim McMurphy and the ongoing negotiations regarding the Somerset site, but the former was going badly due to Tamsyn’s total lack of motivation to fight that battle properly, and the latter required little personal involvement. She had no ongoing projects at work, and spent most of her time at home, staring out of the window of her living room. Andy tried to snap her out of it, but often she barely even noticed his presence.

Christmas and New Year had passed before she realised she could not continue like that. She had to do something; decide what to do about her future.

Yet no amount of thinking brought a solution. She considered hobbies, but discarded them again almost immediately, for they all somehow made her think of Perry. She thought about starting a new project at work, but the very idea made her want to crawl into bed and hide under the blanket.

She continued thinking until deep into the night, staring into the darkness, looking at her life from all angles, and finally reached the only logical conclusion that presented itself to her. It was that which finally allowed her to fall asleep, and when she woke the next morning she felt more rested than she had done at any point since returning from the Shire.

With a new sense of determination she began to make a list of things to do, lingering over breakfast to ensure it was as complete as possible. She was surprised to find that she had finished her porridge while doing so, which was also more than she had managed since her return.

She was just pulling on her coat as Andy came in, using his spare key. “Ah, you’re ready to go to court then?” he asked.

“Court?” Tamsyn asked, giving him a baffled stare.

“Yes, court. You’re due there at ten, remember? I’m here to pick you up.”

“Fuck. Do I have to go? I had other plans for today.”

“Well…” Andy hesitated for a moment, then said, “You’ve already missed an awful lot of hearings, Tam. Your lawyers do their best, but they cannot fight your case on their own. I would strongly advise against missing today’s hearing.”

Tamsyn sighed. “But I couldn’t give a damn, Andy. I never stood a chance anyway. It doesn’t matter, the court case is irrelevant.”

“Still, you should go,” Andy insisted. She saw him studying her with a frown on his face, and wondered if he noticed her new preoccupation, even if she did not want to enlighten him yet.

“Fine, take me to court then,” she said, throwing up her hands. “But I need to go to the library afterwards.”

“The library?” Andy repeated, gaping at her.

“Yes, the library. You know, big building, lots of books?”

He shook his head. “But I’ve never known you to go there. Do you even have a library card?”

“I can get one, can’t I? This too is irrelevant! Come on, let’s get this bloody court session over with.” She strode out the door, leaving Andy trailing in her wake.

o–o-o–o

What is Tamsyn planning? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-five)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-FIVE – RADAGAST’S MAGIC

Andy shut down his laptop and detached it from the docking station, then he and Tamsyn went back to the penthouse, where they found Radagast awake and nibbling on a custard cream. Tamsyn smiled when she saw him and indicated the biscuit. “You must be doing well, you’re eating something.”

Radagast smiled back. “I do appear to be recovering faster than previously. Esmeralda’s food likely has a lot to do with that.”

Tamsyn sat down cross-legged on the foot of the bed and motioned to Andy. “This is my very good friend Andy McIntyre. He knows everything there is to know about your situation, and he has thought up a solution which we would like to discuss with you. Are you able to do so now, or do you need to rest still?”

“I think I can stay awake for another hour or so,” Radagast replied, taking another biscuit from the pack. “But I have to ask – what is that smell?”

“That would be London,” Tamsyn said with a wry smile. “I’m afraid I had to take you home with me.”

“London,” he repeated, sounding almost wistful. “I never yet managed to visit there. As you can imagine, with the portal where it is, my own two feet can only get me so far.”

“Well, I’ll be happy to show you around, but you’ll probably be sick of the sight of it soon enough. Anyway, our plan?”

“Yes, of course, do tell.”

Tamsyn told him of the reluctance of the site owners to sell and Andy’s idea for a nature reserve dependent on endangered species. When she’d finished, Radagast stroked his beard thoughtfully.

“You, young man, have a very good head on your shoulders,” he said. “Yes, I may indeed be of assistance with that, though it won’t be easy. I would need to see real examples of both species before I could duplicate them, and I will need to ensure that the site can cater for their needs.”

“I’ve done my best to find species that I think can thrive there,” Andy said. “But if you say you can check the site for certain, then of course you should. We’re here to give you any assistance you need.”

“Thank you,” the wizard said, closing his eyes and leaning back into the pillows. “I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude in words, but I will be indebted to you forever.”

Tamsyn shook her head. “Radagast, the man I love lives in that world, but even if he didn’t, I couldn’t live with my conscience if I allowed an entire world to be destroyed. Especially not Middle-Earth, and especially not if I could have done something to prevent it.”

She left the room feeling better about herself, but her good mood lasted exactly until her next toilet visit when she noticed spots of blood in her underwear, indicating that her period had arrived. She was just reaching for the sanitary pads when the full significance of it hit her and she sank to the floor, utterly devastated.

She wasn’t pregnant.

She would never hold a little copy of Perry in her arms, would never see him again through her son or daughter.

When Andy finally came looking for her, he found her leaning against the bathroom wall, crying bitter tears for something she would not explain to him, but which he guessed was related to Perry. He carried her to her bed, where she clung to him until she cried herself to sleep.

 o–o-o–o

To forget her double loss, Tamsyn embarked on a whirlwind of activity. Radagast took three more days to fully recover, but after that the first thing they did was buy him some different clothes, going for the elderly scientist look with corduroy trousers, sweaters with leather elbow pads and tweed jackets. They trimmed his beard to a neat goatee, then proceeded to cart him to every single zoo and bird centre they could find on the internet and in the yellow pages. They finally found a red-backed shrike in an ornithologist’s aviary in some obscure place in the south of Wales, and Radagast spent three hours studying it in depth before he declared himself satisfied.

The orchids proved less elusive, and were found in the third horticulturist’s garden they visited. Here too Radagast took several hours, claiming he needed the time to fully ‘understand’ the species. With that accomplished, however, he was ready to inspect the site, so Tamsyn and Andy dutifully drove him back to Somerset.

The site was now the centre of a legal dispute between Moriarty & Co. and Donnan & Donnan Real Estates Ltd, with the Donnan brothers refusing all offers to sell. Desperate to keep the project from restarting, Tamsyn had been forced to play her hand and declare that she suspected the presence of endangered species on the site. It had triggered the building of a bird observation hut, and a possible visit from two horticultural experts; something they were not yet ready for, since Radagast had yet to produce his specimens.

Andy opened the gate in the fence when they arrived and locked it again behind him, but five minutes into their trek Radagast said, “I think we are being observed.”

“Don’t look, act natural,” Tamsyn said. “Is it the man in the bird hut?”

“Can’t be,” Andy said. “They built that over on the other side.”

“Then it must be the Donnans or their flunkies. Fuck. Any ideas on how to shake them?”

“Allow me,” Radagast said. “Please take my arm so I can continue to walk with my eyes closed.”

Tamsyn obliged and he started whispering intently. She could not make out the words, but they carried the same ring of ultimate command, and she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. After a few minutes he stopped his muttering and stumbled. “That should do it,” he said. “Please, I need to sit down a moment.”

She led him to a flat rock, and Andy offered him a bar of chocolate, which he gratefully accepted. “What did you do?” he asked the wizard.

“Nothing serious, but they’ll find that they cannot see us anymore, nor can they get their bearings for a few hours. They will be completely lost.”

Andy sniggered. “Neat. Useful to have at hand.”

Radagast smiled wanly, then pushed himself back to his feet with a deep sigh. “Come, let me show you where the portal is.”

Tamsyn wasn’t sure what she had expected, but certainly something more than just two boulders close together, with just enough room for someone to pass, provided they hadn’t overindulged on cake and chocolate. She squinted at it, hoping to see some strange twisting of the air, or a vague shimmering at the corner of her vision, but whichever way she looked at it, they remained nothing more than two big boulders.

Radagast gave a small smile, walked between them and disappeared. Two seconds later he reappeared out of thin air. “Satisfied?”

Tamsyn blushed. “I believed you, I just thought it would look more… I don’t know, impressive.”

“Tamsyn, my dear, if it looked impressive it wouldn’t have remained hidden all these thousands of years.” He looked around, then sat down, resting his back against one of the boulders. “Now I need to attune myself to the land. This will take several hours, I’m afraid.”

Andy nodded. “We’ll keep watch.”

It was a long wait, during which it seemed as if Radagast had simply fallen asleep, but he finally opened his eyes again and nodded. “The site is suitable for both species.”

Tamsyn felt a tension flow away she hadn’t even realised she carried, and shared a hug with Andy. “Fantastic! Now what?”

“Now I call them to me,” Radagast said. “The flower first, I think. It will be easier. Follow me, I know where it wants to live.”

He set out with long, distance-devouring strides, and after five minutes they reached a small, boggy area, where Radagast knelt down next to a spot sheltered by two small rocks. He cupped his hands over it and began to hum quietly; a soft, eerie melody with a haunting quality to it. After a while Tamsyn discerned a repeated litany of words with a quality to them which she could only describe as flowery. A muted light began to glow between the wizard’s fingers, and after half an hour he finally stopped chanting and sagged back. On the spot were now three plants which had not been there before, with distinct orchid-like flowers.

“Bring on the horticulturists,” Andy said, and Tamsyn squeezed his hand, then knelt down.

“Radagast, are you alright?” she asked. “Are you capable of calling the birds as well?”

He nodded, though he looked very tired again. “I will manage, but I will need to rest again after that,” he said. “Magic is so difficult these days… It was never easy, but I do not recall that I needed to rest so much back when Mithrandir was still with us.”

“Maybe it’s just this world,” Tamsyn said. “I can’t imagine it is very friendly to magic-users, since we have none of our own.”

“Perhaps, perhaps,” he conceded. “Please, help me up.”

He led them to a different part of the site, where a few bushes and trees sheltered a sheer rock face of about seven feet high. He began another chant, but this time the words had a distinct bird-like quality. When he finished, the trees held a small nest with a pair of light brown birds, similar in size to blackbirds.

“Is this anywhere near the bird hut?” Tamsyn asked, turning to Andy.

He looked around and half-shrugged. “I’m not sure where it is in relation to here, but if these birds range far enough, I’m sure they’ll be spotted. I’m more worried about those flowers – I wouldn’t put it past the Donnans to destroy them just to keep their precious site.”

“Call the horticulturists now, they’re local, aren’t they?” Tamsyn said. “We can guard the flowers until they arrive.”

“I fear I must rest before then,” Radagast interjected.

“Mind if we stick you in the back of the car for now?” Andy asked.

Radagast laughed; a thin, wheezy sound. “As I’m sure you’ve observed by now, once I’m asleep I notice very little. The car will be fine.”

“I’ll take him,” Tamsyn said. “You sort out the experts.”

 o–o-o–o

The experts turned out to be a couple of late middle age, somewhat curt for having been roused at short notice. When they saw the orchids, however, their mood shifted to elation.

“Such beautiful specimens!” the woman exclaimed, dropping down onto the peaty soil with complete disregard for her clothes. She produced a small test tube and carefully snipped off a piece of leaf with a pair of nail clippers. “We’ll get these analysed to ensure it is the correct genus, but I have little doubt. We are indebted to you, Miss Moriarty, especially as you stand to lose a great deal of money if this project is abandoned.”

There was a question implicit in the statement, and Tamsyn smiled at the woman. “I may be a building magnate, but I have a great appreciation of the natural world,” she said. “If this site contains an endangered species, I would much rather it stayed as it is. There are enough buildings in the world.” She considered for a moment, then added, “I am hoping to buy this site and turn it into a nature reserve, but the current owners are proving to be extremely obstructive. If you were somehow able to… ease the negotiations, I would be very grateful. I will do everything in my power to protect this site, but I would need to own it first to do so.”

“I see,” the woman said, exchanging a glance with her husband. “Do you know why they are uncooperative? Are you…” She coughed delicately. “Forgive me for being blunt, but are you not offering them enough?”

Andy cut in. “The site is worth around four and a half to five million pounds as real estate, considerably less if real estate is no longer a possibility. Either way, Miss Moriarty will offer the full value.”

“Just to turn it into a nature reserve?”

“Yes,” Tamsyn said. “I’ll be happy to give you a written statement to that effect, if you wish?”

“We would appreciate that,” the woman said, after a moment’s thought.

Andy produced a pen, pad and clipboard, and Tamsyn wrote a quick statement and signed it. “Good luck in dealing with the Donnans,” she said as she handed it over.

The woman’s eyes widened. “The Donnans, you say? They own this site?”

“Yes,” Tamsyn replied. “You know them?”

“Oh, do we know them.” She exchanged another glance with her husband, and they both nodded grimly. “This time we’ll get the fu… uhh…” She stopped mid-word, glancing at Tamsyn.

“Please, don’t mince your words on my account,” Tamsyn sniggered. “They are a bunch of fuckers. And to be frank, even if there were no endangered species here, I’d turn this into a nature reserve just to spite them.”

The woman stared at her for a few moments, then gave a slow smile and held out her hand. “A pleasure making your acquaintance, Miss Moriarty. We’ll be in touch, and we may request your help at a later date.”

“You have it,” Tamsyn said, and with that they took their leave.

o–o-o–o

Will this suffice to save the site? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-four)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-FOUR – THE BOARD MEETING

The following morning Tamsyn dressed with extra care, using make-up to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor of her face. Andy nodded his approval, though he still shook his head at her lack of shoes, and she felt as ready as she’d ever be to face her executive board.

On the trip to the office she found herself wondering why she had never thought to modernise her board of directors – bring in some new blood and some more women – but deep down she knew she had never even thought to mistrust her father’s old friends. Now she was on her way to face seven white, fifty-something males who apparently didn’t trust her as much as she’d trusted them.

When she walked into the boardroom at five to ten they were all already there, whispering among themselves, and she looked at them with new eyes, noticing things she had never seen before. Jim McMurphy glanced her over, and she saw a glimpse of both disdain and lecherous desire which made her skin crawl. Robert O’Donohue – whom her father, as a fellow Irishman, had always favoured – had an air about him that suggested he was indulging her by being there, but felt he had more important things to do. Of all seven men, only Albert Moore seemed the same, kindly gentleman he had always been, and Tamsyn hoped fervently that he at least would back her up, so she wouldn’t have to fight this fight on her own.

“Morning guys,” she greeted them. “Sorry for calling you up at such short notice.” She had never insisted on formality, and saw no reason to change that policy now, even if it might have been an advantage.

“That’s fine, Tamsyn,” Albert said. “I must say I’m glad to see you; we’ve not been able to reach you all week.”

There was enough of a question in his voice that Tamsyn took it as one, and she gave him her best effort at a smile. “I felt I was long overdue for a holiday, Albert, so I went and hid for a few days. I figured you wouldn’t miss me for just a week.” Especially not since you’re happy enough to conduct transactions behind my back anyway, she thought.

“So, why are we here?” Jim asked.

Tamsyn took a deep breath and met his eyes. “Interesting that it should be you asking that, Jim, since in a way it was you who instigated this meeting.”

“What? Me?” he said, taken aback, then looking at his colleagues in confusion.

Tamsyn dropped her casual tone. “I found out yesterday that the Somerset project is being done on contract with the Donnan brothers. Normally I know I can trust all of you implicitly in matters such as the acquisition of new contracts, but I can’t help but remember a rather… explicit e-mail to all of you after the last building project we did for them.” She opened the folder she had brought in, took out a sheet of paper and slid it across the table towards Jim. “This is a copy of that e-mail. Please, Jim, read it out to all of us.”

Jim looked at her as if to say something, but bounced off on her icy glare. Instead he cleared his throat and read, “To: all members of the Board of Directors. Subject: Donnan & Donnan Real Estates Ltd. Message reads: Donnan contract finally resolved. If anyone, I repeat, anyone ever tenders for contract with these motherfuckers again, they’ll find themselves on the street so fast that their arse won’t even touch the fucking stairs. Love, Tamsyn.”

In the quiet that followed she heard several coughs. She didn’t know whether they were embarrassed coughs or coughs to hide laughter, but neither did she care. She kept her gaze fixed on Jim, who made as if to slide the paper back to her, but she gestured at it again. “Kindly check the date on that, Jim. When was it sent?”

He cleared his throat again. “Six months ago.”

“Six months ago,” she repeated. “I understand that the current contract we have with Donnan & Donnan was brokered by you. Is that correct?”

“Yes. Yes, it is,” Jim replied stiffly.

“Right, so here is your one chance to give me a good reason not to have your arse out on the street, because I really don’t think that e-mail could have been any clearer as to my feelings on this subject.”

He looked around for support, but everyone studiously avoided his eyes. “Well, we… we kind of thought that message was a joke, really,” he stammered.

“Really,” Tamsyn snapped. “Do tell.”

“Well, the language…” He trailed off and Tamsyn sighed.

“Guys, what’s going on? We’ve never minced our words with each other, and I’ve always encouraged you to be honest with me. You think that mail a joke? In its wording maybe, but that was only because I thought the contents were so obvious I didn’t need to state it in more serious terms.” She leaned forward and jabbed a finger at the paper. “Two years, Jim. Two fucking years it took us to get our money out of those Wiltshire cunts. What the fuck possessed you to tender to them?”

At that point Robert butted in. “Company policy states that we tender for all contracts above a value of–”

“Company policy my arse, Rob.” Tamsyn whirled on him. “Company policy is not to do business with fucktards, and the Donnan brothers are worse than fucktards.”

“But the size of the project, the prestige…” That was Ronald Wessington, and he too flinched when Tamsyn turned her gaze on him.

“Value. Size. Prestige. Is that what you base your decisions on these days? Because my father always went for honesty, value for money and benefit to local communities and companies.”

“Paddy has been dead two years now, Tamsyn,” Rob said, trying to sound gentle.

“I am aware of that, Rob. He was my father after all. And his last wish was for me to continue in his footsteps and to uphold his values and beliefs. I thought I had your support in this.”

“You have, Tamsyn, but…” Ronald said, trailing off when she glared at him.

“But? I didn’t think there was room for a ‘but’ in there. You either support me or you don’t. If you find that you suddenly have difficulty with the values I’m trying to uphold, I’d appreciate it if you told me so now, rather than simply bypassing me and doing things behind my back.”

Jim cleared his throat again. “Tamsyn, the Donnan brothers represent the single biggest real estate company in the Somerset and Wiltshire area. Not dealing with them means that we’re unlikely to ever do any projects in that area of the country again.”

“I fail to see the problem with that,” Tamsyn said through clenched teeth. “We operate all throughout the UK and have even done building projects abroad. We’re one of the biggest building companies in Britain. We’ve been increasing our profits for the past five years. What need do we have of two measly fucking counties?”

“Tamsyn, we simply feel that in certain areas we have more… experience than you,” Rob said. “We were never trying to bypass you.”

“Funny, because that’s very much what it feels like to me. As for experience, I’ve been following dad around since I was seven. Oh, I’ll admit that a seven-year-old child doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on at a building site, but dad never failed to explain things to me, and he’s taught me everything he knew, on top of the education I got. If that’s not enough for you, then please give me one example, just one, where I’ve gone wrong. Just one example where I’ve failed to get Moriarty & Co. the best deal possible.”

There was silence all around the table, because Tamsyn knew very well that there were no examples to bring up. Then Jim’s cough echoed through the room again. “Tamsyn, you’re so young and so…” He hesitated, waving his hand vaguely as he looked for the right word.

“Female?” Tamsyn suggested with ice in her voice.

“Well, you have to admit that this business asks for a certain amount of… ruthlessness sometimes.”

“And because I’m young and a woman I can’t be ruthless?” She met him stare for stare, and Jim was the first to look down.

“You want ruthless?” Tamsyn said, and she now spoke quietly enough that the men on the other side of the table had to strain to hear her. “I’ll give you ruthless. I would have given you another chance, Jim, for the sake of the long friendship between my father and you, but I see now that that would be too weak, too feminine of me. So have it your way: you’re fired. I’ll pay you your notice, but I do no want to see you in these offices again after today. Am I clear?”

Jim had gone pale, but he took the hit with dignity. He nodded and stood up, then gave Tamsyn a calculating look. “Don’t think I’ll take this lying down, Tamsyn. I’ll see you in court for constructive dismissal, and then you’ll see what ruthless really means.”

“Please do,” Tamsyn said with a nonchalant gesture. “I’ll look forward to it.”

He gave her another long look, then left the room, ramrod straight and never looking back. Tamsyn turned back to the others and met six apprehensive stares.

“Well, that was unpleasant, but necessary,” she said. “Before we wrap this up I’d like you to know that I’ve taken the liberty of hiring a team of solicitors and auditors to go through all Moriarty & Co’s files with a fine-toothed comb. They’ve taken copies of everything as is. If there is anything of specific interest in there that you feel I might want to know about, you have one week to tell me about it yourself. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this any further. Good day.”

With that she turned on her heels and left the room. Andy was waiting for her in her office, tapping away on his computer, and when he saw her he jumped up and winced at the look on her face. “I take it that didn’t go too well then?”

She sighed and plunged down into a chair, resting her feet on the edge of his desk. The remaining board members were just filing past and stared at her, wide-eyed, as if they’d only just noticed she was barefooted. “Close the blinds, will you? Stupid fucking glass offices.”

He did, and closed the door with a decisive click that shut out the rest of the office, and only then did Tamsyn answer him. “Whether it went well is a matter of opinion.” She rubbed her eyes. “I had to fire Jim.”

Andy whistled. “I’d say that’s bad.”

“You’re probably right, especially as he says he’s going to sue for constructive dismissal.”

“Ah. Um, exactly what did you fire him for?”

“Technically, because he blatantly ignored a company directive that told everyone not to deal with those Donnan arses again. In reality, because he suggested I wasn’t ruthless enough, so I had to prove him wrong.” She sighed and stared ahead of her, suddenly despondent. “What am I doing here, Andy? Why am I doing this? All that time I spent learning this shit, and now this. I’ve got no friends, I’ve always lived for my job, and now I find I’ve been stabbed in the back by my own board of directors. Why am I here?”

Andy gave her an apprehensive look. “I’m your friend, Tam,” he said.

She gave him a wan smile. “I know, but you’re the only one. Jim McMurphy certainly won’t count as one after today.”

“He goaded you, Tam,” Andy said, feeling back on safer ground now. “I’m sorry to say that it probably means you don’t have a leg to stand on.”

“Oh, I agree with you. But you know what? I couldn’t give a rat’s arse, because I have far more pressing priorities. Where have you got to with buying that site and your research into nature reserves and endangered species?”

Andy gave a small smile and showed her a few links on his computer. “I reckon if we go for two species we’ll be about right. That’s enough to make the situation pressing, but not too much to push it into the unbelievable. So I’ve picked a bird and an orchid.”

“A red-backed shrike?” Tamsyn said, raising an eyebrow. “Never heard of it, but then I’m not an ornithologist. Why that one?”

“Not been spotted in the UK since 1970, but they found a breeding pair earlier this year in Devon, so this could be seen as another step towards them re-establishing themselves.”

Tamsyn nodded her approval. “And a lady’s slipper orchid.”

“Yep. Common in other parts of the world, but endangered in Britain. I picked this one because they like boggy soil, and there’s a patch of that on the site which is due to be drained as part of the project.”

She patted him on the shoulder. “Two species that could conceivably have cropped up naturally, and will be able to survive in the area. Perfect. Now we just have to hope that Radagast can work with that. Come, let’s see if he’s woken up yet.”

o–o-o–o

Will Radagast be able to help with the endangered species? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-three)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-THREE – TROUBLE AHEAD

The following morning they set to work. Andy inquired after the owners of the site, trying to find out what they had paid for it initially, and at what price they might be willing to let it go. Tamsyn contacted her various banks to figure out how much money she had available in liquid assets. Both inquiries took up most of the morning, and they took stock over lunch.

“Land in Somerset tends to be pretty dear,” Andy stated while Tamsyn picked at her food. “It’s not quite as sought after as Devon or Cornwall, but it’s still popular with wealthy people who want a second home in the south. We’re talking between two-fifty and three hundred thousand per acre.”

“Okay, and how big is our site?”

“Seventeen acres.”

Tamsyn winced. “So that makes what, four to five million quid?”

“Give or take a few,” Andy confirmed with a shrug. “How much have you got?”

“Seven million easy access. I could probably free up more if I had to, but seven should suffice, surely?”

Andy pulled a face. “They’re being… difficult.”

“How do you mean, ‘difficult’?”

“Well, to start with, they’re not happy that the work has stopped. They’ve demanded a full explanation and are threatening to take us to court. Every day I delay that explanation they’ll be less willing to deal with us.”

“What excuse did you use to shut it down anyway?”

“I kept it as vague as I could, told them some soil samples had come back with anomalies that had to be tested in the lab first.” He made an apologetic gesture. “I had to improvise at very short notice and under extreme emotional stress. I was frantic about you, Tam.”

Tamsyn patted his hand. “Do you think they’ll be more amenable to dealing with me? Let’s face it, they probably think you’re only some flunky I’ve thrown at them because I couldn’t be arsed to talk to them myself.”

“It might be worth a try,” Andy conceded. “I told everyone that you’d gone on a very short notice trip and would be unavailable for a while.”

Tamsyn sighed. “I suppose I’d better reassure the board of directors that I’m still alive. In the meantime, can you please arrange a meeting with the site owners? And who are they, by the way?”

Andy coughed. “Um, that’s the bit I haven’t told you yet. It’s owned by the Donnan brothers.”

Tamsyn went rigid. “The Donnan brothers,” she repeated flatly, and Andy held up his hands in defence.

“Sorry, it wasn’t my fault.”

“Just to be sure,” Tamsyn said, rubbing her temples, “these are the same Donnan brothers who complained about every last brick, support beam, roof tile and window-frame we used to build their row of houses in Wiltshire? The same Donnan brothers whom we had to take to court to get our money out of them?”

“Yep, the very same.”

“Right, then I have three questions. One: which fucker thought it was a good idea to tender for another contract from them? Two: why did those Donnan arseholes even want to accept our tender, and three: why the fuck did no one tell me this? If I’d known about this it would have happened over my dead fucking body!”

“One: that would be Jim McMurphy. Two: fuck knows, and three: I didn’t actually find out until today, so all I can assume is that Jim managed to convince the board that neither of us needed to know about this.”

“Jim Mc… what?” Tamsyn stammered, taken aback. “I don’t understand, he always was my father’s closest friend and supporter!”

“Your father’s, yes,” Andy said. “I’m not so sure now whether that was transferred to you when Paddy died.”

Tamsyn sank into a chair. “Please tell me this isn’t to do with the fact that I’m young, female and good-looking?”

Andy sat down next to her. “I couldn’t tell you, Tam, only Jim can. But if we consider the track record of all the white, fifty-something, chauvinistic men we’ve encountered in this business…” He trailed off, but Tamsyn didn’t need him to finish the thought. She felt a sudden, aching desire to be back in the Shire, back with Perry and Esme and Faramir. Maybe they didn’t place any high demands on her, but at least they had never casually ignored her abilities, or brushed them aside, and they had taken her at face value.

“Okay, fine,” she said, trying to shake off her melancholy mood. “Forget about meeting those Donnan twats, just offer them five million for the site. I don’t care what reason you give them for wanting to buy it. You can tell them I want to breed puppies for all I care, as long as they sell me that site. Then we’re going back to London, because I have some choice words for my board of directors.”

“And what about him?” Andy cocked a thumb towards Radagast.

“He’ll have to come with us. He won’t wake up for at least another day, and even then he’ll need a few more days before he’s good for anything.”

They borrowed the wheelchair again and loaded the wizard into the car, and during the three-hour journey back to London they spoke little. Tamsyn’s mood worsened by the minute, and when they finally reached her London penthouse, the main thing that hit her as she got out of the car was the incredible, all-permeating stink of the city, so strong that she nearly gagged on it. It was such a shock to her lungs after the clean, wholesome air of the Shire that she wasn’t sure she could ever get used to it again. She tried to remember what Perry smelled like, but of all the senses, smell was the most elusive, and she soon gave it up as impossible.

Once they had Radagast continuing his rest in her guest bedroom, Tamsyn left a jug of water and a pack of biscuits on his nightstand, then went to the living room and sat on the window-sill for a while, looking out the window but too lost in thought to see anything.

She startled when Andy put a hand on her shoulder. “They’ve refused,” he said, and for a moment she was at a complete loss as to what he was talking about. Then understanding dawned, and she frowned.

“The Donnans? Offer them five and a half,” she snapped, then turned back to the window.

“I already did,” Andy said quietly, and Tamsyn realised she was taking her bad mood out on him.

“I’m sorry, Andy, I’m being a cow,” she said, feeling contrite. “Come, sit with me, you’re a miracle. Just offer them that, and if they refuse again keep going up until you hit seven.”

He pulled up a low, comfy seat and sat down, then fixed his serious gaze on her. “And what if they refuse seven as well? Because I have a feeling that they will.”

“Then… then I don’t know,” Tamsyn admitted. “I’ll have to start selling things, I suppose.”

“And how much would you sell?”

“Everything, if I must.” When he continued to give her that serious stare she shrugged. “Nothing I own, nothing, is more important than keeping Perry safe. It’s that simple.”

He nodded. “I may have thought of a different way.”

Tamsyn sat up, instantly interested. “Tell me.”

“Make it a nature reserve.”

Her eyes widened. “Andy, that’s genius! But I’d still need to own it first.”

“Not necessarily. We can force their hand.”

“How?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m still not certain of this, but I believe that if you can prove that that site in Somerset contains an endangered species, the site itself almost automatically becomes protected. Then we could buy it on the cheap and convert it into a nature reserve, hopefully in perpetuity.”

“Okay, so we need to check if it has an endangered species.” She bit her lip thoughtfully, then added, “Bit of a long shot, really.”

Andy stared at her for a second, then started laughing. At her indignant stare he laughed even louder, then shook his head at her fondly. “Tam, love really has addled your brains, hasn’t it? I would have expected you to work this out for yourself.”

She still looked confused, so he indicated the guest bedroom door with his chin. “What have you got in there? A wizard. And not just any wizard, no, you have the wizard who abandoned the war against Sauron to look after the birds, animals and plants of Middle-Earth. If anyone can rustle us up some endangered plants or beasties, it’s Radagast.”

When it clicked with her, she produced the first true smile Andy had seen from her since she’d returned. “Oh, you beauty, I love you!” she said, grabbing his face and kissing his forehead. “I knew I could count on you to finally give me some good news!”

“That bad, is it? Have you spoken to the board yet?”

Tamsyn pulled a face. “I’ve called a meeting tomorrow at ten.”

“On a Friday? When most of them can’t be arsed to come in? Bet they liked that.”

“Yeah well, they had no choice. I’m their chief executive and I pay their wages,” she replied with a steely look.

“You’re not going to tell them what happened, I hope?”

Tamsyn raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought we’d established that I’m not crazy?”

“Fine, I just had to ask,” he said, raising his hands. “Just have your cover story ready, they’ve been bugging me all week about where you were.”

“Mmm,” Tamsyn said, sagging back against the window frame. “I’m torn between making up an urgent business deal and saying I needed a holiday.”

“I’d go with the holiday,” Andy said, scratching his chin. “It’s easier to claim that you nipped to Majorca for five days than to make up a business deal that doesn’t exist. Especially since the latter means that you failed to secure it on your own.”

“Good point. Holiday it is.” She yawned and stretched, then slumped back again. “Now I just need to get through the evening. Maybe I’ll just go to bed,” she said morosely.

“What? Tam, it’s barely seven o’clock. Have you even eaten yet?”

She shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”

Andy sighed and put a hand on her shoulder. “You have to eat. You can’t just go on like this. I know you miss Perry, but you have to get over him and start living again. Every time when you don’t have anything to do, all I’ve seen you do is stare out the window.”

“I know.” Tamsyn lowered her eyes. “It’s too fresh still, Andy. I can’t bring up any enthusiasm for anything. I know I need to go and shout at my board members tomorrow, but part of me just wants to say ‘fuck it, who cares?’ Think of it: if Jim hadn’t bypassed me like that, I’d never have gone to Somerset, I’d never have met Radagast and I’d never have met Perry.”

“And wouldn’t that have been better?”

“No,” Tamsyn said, shaking her head emphatically. “It hurts, but I’m with Tennyson on this one: it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

“Considering how upset you told me that Perry was when you left, are you sure he would agree?” He met her stricken eyes, then pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. Come, I’ll cook you your favourite Thai curry and then we’ll watch a film, okay?”

She nodded and followed him to the kitchen, then went to the supermarket to fetch some coconut milk and chicken when they discovered there was none in the house.

Fifteen minutes later she returned and met a bemused Andy in the hallway. “Did you just go to the supermarket without shoes?” he asked.

Tamsyn looked down, then shrugged. “Apparently so.”

“It’s ten degrees out and the rain feels like ice, and you didn’t notice you weren’t wearing shoes?”

She shrugged again. “No, but I guess it explains why everyone was giving me weird looks.”

Andy shook his head. “People are going to think you’re crazy, you know. You can’t go around walking on bare feet.”

“Can’t I?” She lifted her chin and gave him that steely stare again, so he threw up his hands.

“Fine, be a hobbit. You’re rich, I suppose you’ll be eccentric rather than crazy.”

He went back to his food preparations, but while Tamsyn dutifully ate the fare and sat down to watch the film with him, every time he looked at her she had a faraway look in her eyes.

He had always been as close to her as a brother, but she had moved beyond his reach now, and he wasn’t sure he could ever get her back.

o–o-o–o

Can Tamsyn buy the site and save the portal? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-two)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-TWO – CATCH-UP

Once they had manhandled Radagast onto the big double bed, Tamsyn picked up the laptop again, and Andy sat down next to her. She tried all the links to the various sanity tests she had found, but became increasingly frustrated. Half of them were jokes, and the other half seemed to be the same, even if they purported to be serious. After fifteen minutes she thumped her fist on the table in frustration.

“Tam,” Andy said, “is it really that unbelievable, what you’re going to tell me?” She nodded, looking away, but he turned her face to him. “Try me anyway. I saw you disappear right in front of my eyes, leaving your clothes behind. I saw a great whirlwind in that cabin which didn’t touch anything other than you and him. That’s why I didn’t involve the police. What was I going to tell them? You weren’t kidnapped, you just… vanished.” He swallowed. “Was it… was it magic?”

She simply nodded and he sighed in relief. “Tam, for six days I’ve tried to think of possible ways in which you could vanish while leaving your clothes, and for six days the only thing I could come up with was magic. Which was even dafter than religion, but it couldn’t be religion, because you were the only one who disappeared. So whatever you’re going to tell me, I’ll believe it, because either we’re both sane, or we’re both insane.”

For a few moments she looked into his eyes, gauging his feelings, then finally nodded. “Okay. Let’s sit over there then, because this will take a while.” She gestured at a set of low, comfortable chairs around a small table. “Let’s order some room service too, or at least a big pot of tea.”

Andy did so, and when he hung up the phone and sat down, Tamsyn took a deep breath. “Did you ever read The Lord of the Rings? Or The Hobbit?”

“Absolutely, lots of times.”

“I thought you might have,” Tamsyn said with a nod, then gestured to the sleeping figure on the bed. “That is Radagast the Brown.”

Andy stared at her blankly, then slowly turned his head to look at the wizard, taking in the robe, the makeshift shoes and the white scraggly hair. “I take it that it wasn’t just his appearance that convinced you of that?”

“No. What convinced me that he wasn’t some batshit crazy old fool from a nearby mental institution was the fact that he made me disappear right in front of you, and reappear in the middle of the Shire.” When his eyes widened she added, almost as an afterthought, “As a hobbit.”

Andy’s mouth sagged open. “He turned you into a hobbit?” At her solemn nod he rubbed his face a few times, then took a deep breath and sat forward. “Okay, tell me everything.”

So she did. Her initial account was brief and to the point, and recounted her arrival in the Shire, her stay with the Tooks, Radagast’s explanation of the portal and the importance of not building on it, and why it had taken nearly a week for her to return. She went into more detail when Andy asked questions, but throughout her account she avoided speaking of Perry as much as she was able to. An hour later she had drank three cups of tea, and Andy sat back in his chair, shaking his head.

“I can see why you wanted to convince me you’re sane first, because this does sound ludicrous beyond reason.”

“But you believe me anyway?” Tamsyn asked, holding her breath as she waited for his answer. She could do what she needed to do without Andy, but she didn’t want her only true friend to turn away from her.

“If you hadn’t disappeared before my eyes…” He shook his head again, then smiled. “But you did, and whatever happened over there, you’re still the Tamsyn I know. I can’t see any signs that make me think you’re crazy, so yes, I believe you.”

Tamsyn let out her pent up breath in relief, but froze when Andy added, “But there’s something else that you’re not telling me. What aren’t you telling me, Tam?”

She fixed her gaze on a random whorl in the pattern on the carpet, suddenly blinking away tears. “I haven’t told you about Perry,” she whispered.

“Is he the one who found you? The Took lad who took you to his family and put you up for a week?”

She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut, but it had no effect on the flood of tears that had now been unleashed. She took a breath which came out as a sob, and then Andy was on his knees in front of her, wrapping his arms around her in comfort. “Tamsyn, what’s up? What’s the matter?”

“I love him,” she managed to bring out, and then she broke down and bawled on his shoulder for the next five minutes, with Andy awkwardly patting her on the back and trying to calm her down, to no avail. Finally her sobs subsided and she wiped at her nose and eyes with her sleeve, until Andy gently pushed her hands away and dabbed at her cheeks with a tissue.

“You managed to fall in love with him in six days?” he asked, disbelief lacing his voice.

Tamsyn shook her head. “No. It took a day to fall in love with him. Six days for me to know that he’s the only man I’d ever want to marry.”

“Wow,” Andy said. “He must be something special.”

“He is.”

“And he? Does he love you?”

She nodded miserably. “Leaving him has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. He was stood there watching me, and he was crying… Oh God, I’ll never see him again!” She burst into a fresh fit of tears and Andy resorted to patting her back again.

“So that’s why you’ve changed,” he said when she’d calmed down again, shaking his head in wonder. “You’re in love. I’ve never seen you in love before.”

“I haven’t been in love for… I don’t know, eight years? Nobody seemed worth getting all hot and bothered about.” She dabbed at her eyes again with the tissue.

“I’d like to hear about him, if… if you can, and if you don’t mind,” Andy said carefully.

Tamsyn’s eyes unfocused and she gave a wistful sigh. “He’s cheerful, and handsome. Black hair, broad shoulders, strong… And he’s got the most beautiful dark green eyes I’ve ever seen. They’ve got these little black flecks in them that somehow sparkle when he smiles at me. I know that makes no sense, but they do…”

And then it all spilled out. Tamsyn talked and talked, and this time Andy simply listened. After an hour and a half he ordered another pot of tea, and the remaining contents of it were long cold by the time she finally finished.

“He does sound like he’s one in a million,” Andy remarked. “And he’s there and you are here… I don’t know what to say, Tam. I am so, so sorry for you.”

She made a helpless gesture. “I’ll have to get over him somehow, though God knows how I’ll do it. And I have to try and save him. I’ll never forgive myself if I allow that portal to be damaged.”

“Do you know where it is exactly?”

“No, only Radagast does, and he’ll need a few more days sleep before he’ll be able to show us. In the meantime I must try and buy the site. What time is it?”

“Seven thirty. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow before we can get started on that.”

“Fuck,” Tamsyn said with feeling, then yawned. “To be fair, I’m knackered. I could do with some sleep.”

Andy raised an eyebrow. “Is travelling between worlds that tiring?”

“Not for me, only for him,” she replied, pointing at Radagast. “No, I spent last night in Perry’s bed, so I didn’t get much sleep.”

“Oh!” Andy said, his eyes widening. “Um, does that mean that you…?”

“Oh yes. Yes, I did.” Then, with a shock, Tamsyn realised that she could be pregnant. She wasn’t on the pill, and didn’t know whether hobbits even knew of contraceptives. There certainly hadn’t been any thought or mention of protection the night before. Automatically she placed a hand on her stomach, fervently wishing it to be true; a child would not only be the best, but the only memento she might ever have of him.

“Well, I’d better go and arrange another hotel room then,” Andy interrupted her thoughts. “I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of sharing a bed with old beardy here.”

Tamsyn gave him a half-smile, then placed a hand on his arm. “Andy, would you… would you mind sharing with me tonight?” she asked, her eyes pleading.

He stared at her. “Well, as long as you’re not looking for any more nookie,” he tried to joke. “You know I’m not into that sorta stuff with women.”

“No, I know. I just… I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

“Hey, you know I’ll always be there for you,” Andy said, putting his hand over hers.

“I know. I’m glad I have you.” She hugged him, then tried to walk away, giving him a questioning look when he wouldn’t let go.

“Tam, please smile at me? I’ve never known you not to smile at my jokes, no matter how bad they are.”

She bit her lip. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that I can. Without Perry I have nothing to smile about.”

With that she walked away, and Andy looked after her, his heart aching for her.

o–o-o–o

Can Tamsyn buy the site and save the portal? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.