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.”
Oliver Bradford has had enough of the hustle and bustle of the A&E department in a big city hospital. Not to mention the tension caused by the break-up of his three year relationship with one of the hospital’s top surgeons. When his sister urges him to apply for the position of GP in the quiet village of Little Mowbury, he wonders if this might be just the fresh start he needs. Unfortunately, hitting the post-mistresses’ dog with his car isn’t the best introduction to his patients.
A solitary soul, Deano Wells grew up in Little Mowbury and has been having lunch at the Thatcher’s Arms on a Thursday for the last thirty-five years. First with his father, who brought him to the pub at the tender age of ten after a hard morning in the fields, and then by himself after his father passed on. He runs the farm with a practised hand and minds his business mostly, but that doesn’t stop Oliver from being drawn to the big, quiet man and he knows the feeling is mutual, so why does Deano keep pushing him away?
Oliver grinned widely as he passed the sign welcoming visitors to the village and may have stepped on the gas a little heavier in his eagerness—which was when the large brown shape leapt out in front of the car.
“Holy fuck!” Oliver yelled as the brown thing hit the bonnet then bounced off onto the ground and skidded a few feet along the lane before him. He slammed on his brakes and turned the wheel, nose-planting the car into a bush in his effort to avoid hitting whatever it was again. Yanking on the handbrake, Oliver opened the door and all but threw himself out of the car, taking off at a run towards the bundle on the road. “It’s a deer, it’s just a deer,” he mumbled to himself as he skidded to a halt in front of the furry body. A weak whine and a pair of deep brown eyes staring out of a mop of russet fur confirmed he would never make a vet. It wasn’t a deer. Unless the deer in these parts wore studded collars with the name Hugo on a bone shaped metal tag. “Oh shit.”
Oliver took in the blood on the dog’s thick fur and the rapid rise and fall of its chest and wondered what the fuck he was supposed to do. You’re a doctor in the emergency department, knob-head. This is an emergency. Do emergency things! The thought skittered across his brain and, thankfully, his medical training kicked in. He bent down and slid his hands under the dog’s body, hoping it didn’t decide to bite him, not that he’d have blamed it, then squared his shoulders and lifted it into his arms. The dog whimpered but didn’t attempt to snap, so Oliver spun on his heel and carried it to the car as quickly, but as carefully, as he could.
Thanking his lucky stars the weather was warm and the top was down, Oliver deposited the dog on the back seat without opening the door. When he released the animal, his hands left smears of blood on the cream leather, but he pushed the sight to the back of his mind. He could freak out about the upholstery later. Scrambling back behind the wheel, Oliver gunned the engine and put his foot down, wanting to get to Little Mowbury as fast as he could. Hugo didn’t look good and every bump in the road produced a low whine from the back seat. Oliver was no vet, but even he knew that didn’t bode well.
The village suddenly appeared as if by magic around the third bend and Oliver’s gaze flitted from side to side, searching for someone, anyone, to help him. The street was deserted and he was becoming frantic when he realised the sign hanging outside the pub was waving in the warm afternoon breeze. If you pass pub you’ve gone through village. The pub. It was nearly two by the dashboard LCD and Oliver breathed a sigh of relief. There had to be someone in the pub at this time of day.
The car screeched to a halt in the gravel strewn car park behind the pub and he left the engine running as he ran for the entrance to the public bar. It was like being in an eighties horror movie. Conversation stopped and everyone turned to stare at him as he stood panting in the doorway. Oliver hurriedly scanned the bar but there was no one behind it. He didn’t see any other option, so took a deep breath and blurted out something that, ironically, could have come straight out of any Carry On film. “Is there a vet in the house?”
Not a single sound could be heard. No one answered him they merely stared back at him as though he were completely mad, which Oliver felt was completely understandable. Although it was not exactly the way he’d wanted to be introduced to the village. He was about to shout in frustration when the scraping of a single chair being pushed back echoed around the bar.
“Nearest vet’s half hour away,” a gruff voice replied. “I can take a look.”
Oliver had a quick glimpse of dark blond hair and broad shoulders as he yelled, “I need you outside, quick.” He didn’t even stop for acknowledgement, simply ran back out to the car, hoping the owner of the voice would follow. At the car he murmured nonsense to the dog and stroked its head gently, turning when the crunch of footsteps on the gravel behind him heralded the arrival of the—shit—entire pub.
“What happened?” Big and Tall, who also had to be at least six and a half feet tall, asked as he nudged Oliver out of the way.
“He ran out in front of me,” Oliver explained, being jostled from behind by villagers trying to get a look into the back seat. “I didn’t see him. I couldn’t stop.” He heard Big and Tall’s gasp as the man soothed the injured animal. “What?” he asked, his panic rising. “What is it?” Before Big and Tall could answer, a gravelly voice from behind him yelled:
“Blow me down, he’s only gone an’ killed Doris’ Hugo!”