T.A. Williams shares extracts from his new book, To Provence, With Love.
The dog stopped dead, only a few feet from Faye and waited for his master. She was impressed and relieved. She loved dogs, but she was on her way to an interview after all, and the last thing she needed was to be leapt upon by a dog, however friendly his intentions might be. She took a step back and studied the man surreptitiously as he approached.
He was wearing a battered T-shirt that had once advertised a Rolling Stones European tour. From its faded appearance, the tour in question had probably taken place in the years before the surviving members of the group had reached pensionable age – and that was a good while ago. On his feet were equally scruffy trainers and his strong, brown legs ran a long way up before disappearing into his sand-coloured shorts. He had hold of the dog by the collar and was bending over. Sensing her eyes on him, he looked up towards her and, to Faye’s considerable surprise, she realised that he was very, very good-looking. Somehow, out here in the wilds of deepest rural Provence, she hadn’t expected to meet a man whose face could have come off the front cover of a fashion magazine. She swallowed hard before answering.
‘Afraid so. Totally lost. I’m looking for St-Jean-sur-Sarde; the chateau to be precise. I was told to follow the signs for St-Jean and then turn right after the restaurant in the centre of the village. Only I can’t seem to find any road signs at all and I’m just going round in circles.’
The man nodded. Satisfied that the dog wasn’t going to jump all over Faye, he released his grip on the collar and reached up to pull off his sunglasses. As he did so, Faye noted the network of lines around his eyes that would no doubt have been airbrushed away by a photographer. As it was, they only served to add character to an already remarkable face. His eyes met hers for a second before he dropped them again and, in spite of herself, Faye was fascinated. They were the most amazing and unusual colour; a very light yellowy brown. They gave her the surreal sensation of looking into the eyes of a lion or a tiger – and a very fine-looking male of the species, although by the look of him, a rather unhappy male of the species. She was wondering why the expression on his face was so glum when he shot a glance at her, his expression not exactly hostile, but definitely lacking in warmth.
As she opened the car door, she heard a cacophony of barking and came close to closing the door again and locking it. It sounded as if the Hound of the Baskervilles himself was in there, straining to get out. Cautiously, she made her way up the steps until she was level with the half-glazed front door that was visibly shaking. By this time, Faye was also close to shaking. The door, set into a carved stone surround, was made of sculpted oak and, thankfully, it looked solid, even though the upper half was made up of little square red, white and blue stained glass panels. Staring at her through the base of one of these, was the source of the noise. A shiny black nose and an intimidating set of gleaming white teeth were very much in evidence, as were a pair of bright eyes that studied her approach. Then, as she and the dog made eye contact, the barking suddenly stopped, leaving Faye’s ears ringing. The dog dropped back to the floor, and in place of the barking, she heard low whines emanating from inside.
At that moment, the door was opened by a slim, grey-haired man in jeans and a crisp white T-shirt, his other hand firmly gripping the dog’s collar.
‘Good morning. You must be Faye. We’ve been looking forward to meeting you.’
He spoke in English, with a soft American accent, and he might have been seventy or so. He shot a glance down at the dog, who was wagging his tail so hard, the whole back half of his body was wiggling. ‘You must tell me your secret. I’ve never seen Marlon so pleased to see somebody before. I’ll let him go if you’re all right with dogs. He’ll probably try to jump up at you, but just push him down.’
Faye looked at the dog whose intentions were now unmistakably friendly and nodded her head. ‘Hello, yes, I’m Faye Carter. Do let him go. I’ll be fine.’
A split second later she found herself pinned back against the door by a pair of hefty, mercifully clean, paws; a big hairy Labrador head stretching upwards, a pink tongue trying unsuccessfully to reach her face. Marlon was definitely very, very pleased to see her. She recovered her balance, persuaded the dog to return to all fours and bent down to stroke him. As if by magic, feeling her touch, he slid down onto the floor and rolled over, all four legs in the air, emitting an assortment of happy canine grunts, his tail still wagging furiously, doing a very efficient job of sweeping the polished oak floor.
‘That’s quite amazing.’ The grey-haired man was still looking very surprised. ‘We normally have to shut him in the kitchen when somebody comes to the door.’ He stepped to one side and waved her in formally. ‘Anyway, welcome to St-Jean, Faye. My name’s Eddie Marshal. I’m Miss Beech’s PA.’
Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!
Anything is possible…
Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau! So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…
But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?
T.A Williams lives in Devon with his wife. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. His books include When Alice Met Danny, What Happens in Tuscany and What Happens at the Beach.