This wasn’t a song I listened to as I wrote NAS, but the second I heard it, I thought: Patrick. And then I saw this video. Okay, so it’s Libby who’s the dancer, but this is sexy, manly… it’s Patrick in dance. cx
Now, let’s meet the bad boy himself, the hottest vet in the county…
At Low Wood Farm, Patrick McBride wandered through the garden, barely registering the borders overflowing with foxgloves or that the lawn needed scything rather than mowing. Like he cared if the Golding’s usual quintessentially English standards were slipping – it was a sunny June afternoon and at their annual barbeque the booze supply would be endless. For that alone, Patrick couldn’t be more thankful. His pallor matched the grass as he made his way towards the gazebo bar. Hair of the dog time.
‘Now then, Vet’nery.’
The owner of Manor Farm, Tom Ellwood, stood between him and the bottle of Becks that would offer salvation. While Tom rocked back and forth on his heels and remarked on the perfect haymaking weather they were enjoying, Patrick took slow, steadying breaths, trying not to inhale the fumes from the other man’s glass of whisky. That really was the animal that bit him on the backside.
Tom moved on to the latest over-officious DEFRA legislation and Patrick scanned the other guests, looking for an escape route. Gosthwaite’s social set milled around, clutching glasses of Pimm’s – the majority, especially the crag-faced farmers, fidgeting uncomfortably in their smart-cas ensembles. Two of the grooms from the riding school, both layered in fake tans, nails and ponytails, gazed with blatant longing towards the large wooden picnic table where a couple of Patrick’s friends lounged around looking infinitely more relaxed in shorts and t-shirts.
Patrick pushed back his mop of black curls as Robbie Golding beckoned him over with an icy bottle of Beck’s. Okay, to hell with being pleasant to Gosthwaite’s answer to landed gentry.
‘Tom, I have to go. Rob needs to talk to me about his new mare.’ And without waiting for a response, Patrick pushed past him, collapsing into an oak chair between his two best and oldest friends.
‘Liar, liar, pants are on fire. I haven’t got a new mare.’ Robbie laughed.
Patrick sat down, watching Gosthwaite’s hottest blonde, Daisy Golding, saunter across to the gazebo bar. She might look like an angel with her cloud of white curls, but the way she held herself, her pale blue mini-dress clinging to her perfect tits, he bet she’d be absolute dirt. Patrick swore as Robbie’s younger brother, Xander, joined her. Why was she married? And worse, why she was so adamant about being faithful?
‘She’s absolutely wasted on him,’ Patrick mumbled.
‘That’s my brother you’re dissing,’ Robbie said, gently punching his arm.
Patrick raised a hand as a sincere apology.
‘You know you’d kill her if you had to spend a day with her,’ Scott said cracking open a bottle. ‘Too high maintenance.’
Doesn’t stop her being hot.
‘Beer?’ Scott offered.
‘Cheers, fat boy,’ Patrick joked, referring to Scott’s increasing waistline and earning himself another faux punch on the arm.
With several mouthfuls of cold lager easing his hangover Patrick relaxed, planning to enjoy getting drunk with his friends – a rare occurrence. These days, he had to play with new acquaintances while they went home, walking adverts for married with children. Well, they would be if Scott didn’t stifle a yawn every two seconds and Robbie wasn’t clenching his jaw in anger. Following his line of sight, Patrick watched Robbie’s wife, Vanessa, blushing as a tall, dark-haired guy kissed her cheeks three times.
‘Who the hell’s that?’ Patrick asked. And why was Vanessa tipping her head to the side. Was she flirting?
‘The viola player from the bloody string quartet she’s in.’ Robbie slugged his beer. ‘Jason Benoît. French twat. The Argonauts are in tow.’ He nodded to a middle-aged man whose girth appeared to exceed his height and a teenager with hair marginally greasier than his skin. ‘Those two play the violins while that wanker…’ he tipped his bottle in Jason’s direction. ‘…makes a play for my wife.’
‘She’s playing the cello, not him.’ Scott stretched. ‘He’s got a ponytail, for Christ’s sake. As if she would.’
But Robbie still scowled.
Looking for a change of subject, Patrick studied the dark circles under Scott’s eyes. ‘I went to bed at four. What’s your excuse for looking like shit?’
‘Work. A telecoms buyout. And Will likes to party as late as you. He’s his mother’s son.’
‘Don’t blame your son, or me. You were watching the cricket.’ Scott’s wife, Clara, joined them, setting a baby monitor on the table. ‘He’s finally gone down. If he wakes up, it’s your turn.’
Patrick slugged his beer, happily eyeing Clara’s long lean legs, capped by tatty denim cut-offs. If only all primary school teachers were five-nine, blonde Scarlett Johansson lookalikes. Fit as, but been there, done that and now she was Scott’s wife, strictly off limits.
‘Got any paracetamol?’ Patrick asked her, praying she would.
Clara perched on Scott’s knee and delved into her vast bag, pushing aside nappies and baby wipes as she frowned at Patrick. ‘You look like crap.’
‘I love you too.’ But he meant it when she produced a pack of Anadin Extra.
‘And how’s my favourite Musketear?’ She fluttered her eyelashes at Robbie with exaggerated innocence. ‘Ready to whisk me away from all this?’
‘You’d run a mile if I asked.’ Robbie gave her a wink.
Patrick knocked back two pills with a mouthful of lager. He hadn’t heard anyone call them by the old nickname in years. Scott must’ve confessed. The Musketears – infamous for watching each other’s backs and leaving broken-hearted girls in their wake. Those were the days.
Out of habit, he evaluated the females at the party. Amongst the usual village faces, only a few fit the twenty to thirty-five demographic, but he wouldn’t want to see any of them in the morning – although, a pretty blonde over by the pond had potential. She seemed a little austere in her prim white dress with her hair in a severe bun, but the way she toyed with her straw, rolling it between her dark plum lips, had him take a second look.
‘Who’s Grace Kelly?’ he asked Robbie.
‘Rachel something. She’s with Jonty.’
‘Don’t be fooled by the respectable exterior,’ Clara said. ‘From what I’ve heard, she’s a ho-bag. She was last year’s Miss Haverton.’
‘A ho-bag beauty queen?’ Patrick nodded. ‘I could go for that.’
‘What you should go for,’ Clara said, giving him her stern, school-teacher frown, ‘is a single sexy blonde, not Jonty’s or anyone else’s. Get a girlfriend of your own. You might like it.’
The hypocrisy of Clara nagging him was almost amusing. She’d spent most of her life shagging around but the minute she got married, she expected him to do the same. Sod that. Patrick concentrated on last year’s Miss Haverton as she glanced around, double-backing when she spotted him already watching her. A smile played at the corner of those perfectly pouty lips.
Hello, princess. You might be with Jonty, but maybe I can have you too.
‘I bet she would though,’ he said to Clara.
‘Don’t be ridiculous. She’s with Jonty.’
‘You think she’s going to ditch him for you? Jonty’s twenty-four, a celebrity chef and a millionaire. You’re a vet. You shove your arm up cows’ bums.’
‘And?’ Patrick smiled as Clara cast a disdainful eye over his ten year old t-shirt, threadbare, ripped at the knee jeans and battered shell-toes.
She shook her head. ‘Jonty looks like he’s climbed out of a Dolce and Gabbana ad. You look like a… homeless skateboarder. Honestly, are you so hard up you can’t afford a new t-shirt, or is this your tight-arsed Scottish side coming out?’
‘He’s not even slightly hard up,’ Robbie said. ‘He just spends it all on mountain bikes. Give it up. You know he’s right.’
‘Jonty gets his hair cut.’ Clara tugged Patrick’s hair. ‘Have you even brushed yours today?’
Patrick looked her in the eye, smiling. ‘And?’
‘The only respectable thing about you is your t-shirt has actually been ironed.’
‘And?’ He raised his eyebrows expectantly. ‘Money, table.’
‘I’ll put twenty on Miss Haverton being a gold-digger.’ Scott had his chin resting on Clara’s shoulder. ‘She’ll stick with the twenty-four year-old with too much bloody money.’
Patrick gave a derisory laugh. ‘Bitter words from a very nearly thirty year-old with too much bloody money. But I’ll take your cash.’
‘He was born into it. I’ve earned mine.’
Clara leant away from her husband, her eyebrows raised in mock-astonishment. ‘You’re a six-figure corporate lawyer who earns immoral bonuses. It’s people like you that’ve brought this country to its knees and stop people like me getting pay rises.’
‘Come on, Clara.’ Patrick prodded her. ‘Who’s she going to go for?’
She sipped her wine, refusing to comment.
‘If she is a ho-bag, my money’s on you.’ Robbie touched fists with Patrick, their old school-yard handshake.
‘Okay, okay. If she has any sense, she’ll dump him. He’s far too slick and you’re… well, you.’
Patrick glanced at Scott, hoping no inappropriate messages were being assumed. Too much water had almost washed away that bridge, but Scott was smiling; clearly he knew where Clara’s loyalties lay.
Over by the pond, Jonty kissed his date and headed into the house, foolishly leaving her unattended. Better still, Miss Haverton wandered to the gazebo, looking to top up her empty glass. Game on.
She innocently inspected the spirits lined up on the groaning trestle table, smiling a polite hello as he joined her.
‘You look awfully hung-over,’ she said, picking up a bottle of Jose Cuervo. ‘Kill or cure?’
He nodded and as she filled two shot glasses, he gave her a once over, not bothering to be subtle about it.
‘You do realise I’m here with Jonty?’ She sprinkled salt onto the back of her hand and picked up a slice of lemon.
‘We all make mistakes.’
Patrick seized her wrist, pulling her towards him. He slowly licked the salt from her hand then downed a shot, never dropping his direct eye contact with her. She would. Her smile grew as he took hold of her other wrist, bringing it to his lips to gently take the lemon from her fingers. Definitely would.
Ten minutes later Patrick returned to the table, where Clara and Scott were still relaxing in the sun, and opened a fresh beer. He sat next to Clara and showed her his phone, displaying Miss Haverton’s name and phone number.
‘Jonty looks very pissed off,’ Clara said, giggling.
Miss Haverton had one hand on Jonty’s chest, the other smoothing his shirt as she no doubt tried to explain where she’d been and Jonty shot an accusatory glance in Patrick’s direction.
‘Are Miss Haverton’s tits as fake as they look?’ Clara asked, frowning at the beauty queen.
‘How should I know?’ Patrick asked. ‘I just took her to see the horses.’
‘Are they fake?’ Scott asked.
Patrick nodded, unable to hide his grin.
‘Copping a feel behind the stables… d’you remember those days, Scott?’
Scott shook his head. ‘They’re nothing but dim and distant fantasies that keep me entertained when I’m working away.’
Clara squealed in protest but Scott shut her up with a kiss. Patrick wanted to dislike their loved up PDA but he couldn’t. Scott was happy. Knackered but happy.
‘Hey,’ Clara said, turning to Patrick, her eyes glinting. ‘Did you hear you’re getting new neighbours?’
Patrick laughed at Clara’s blatant gossip-mongering. ‘And here’s me assuming Maggie left the house to the cat.’
‘Can you imagine a worse way to go?’ Scott asked. ‘Breaking your neck and the only way anyone knows you’ve died is because your cat pesters the neighbour?’
‘Yes,’ Clara said, resting her bare feet on the table. ‘Bagpuss eats your rotting corpse.’
Patrick didn’t laugh along with them. He’d put down hundreds of animals, each time knowing it was the right thing to do, but the sight of Maggie’s broken body at the bottom of the stairs… He drained his beer. The least he could do was look after the cat.
‘Poor Hyssop.’ Scott frowned. ‘If Will wasn’t so rough, we could–’
‘Hyssop’s fine with me,’ Patrick said, hoping to end the conversation.
‘Someone to share the bachelor pad with?’ Clara suggested and he threw a cork, aiming it perfectly to land down her cleavage. ‘But you might not get to keep the cat. Sheila next door told me the house was left to Margaret’s great niece, Zoë.’
‘Holiday home?’ The last thing the village needed was another holiday home, but if it was they wouldn’t want a cat to look after. Patrick picked at the label on his bottle, waiting for Clara’s response.
‘Lynda from the post office said the niece is moving up here with a friend. Do you remember Zoë? Apparently, these days she’s this tall, glamorous brunette. She’s going to work at Young & Carr, the estate agents.’
Would she want Hyssop? ‘And the friend?’
‘Another girl,’ Clara replied.
‘Hot lesbians moving to the Green?’ Patrick asked, flashing Scott a grin. ‘Ace.’
‘That’s right.’ Clara shook her head in despair. ‘Because when I moved here with Daisy, that’s what we were, hot lesbians. Idiot.’
‘Scott, you promised me that was true.’ Patrick thumped Scott’s arm and found himself in a headlock for his trouble. Their laughter was cut short when the baby monitor crackled into life and Will’s cries filled the air. Scott jogged away, muttering expletives, and Clara reclined a little further, closing her eyes against the sun.
In an effort to banish the image of her and Daisy, Patrick glanced around the garden. To his left, walking away from the other guests, Vanessa practically skipped along as she spoke to Robbie. They stopped, half-hidden by the rampant honeysuckle draped over the pergola and Vanessa smiled, waving her hands as she spoke to her husband. She looked so excited, Patrick wondered if she might be pregnant again – a fourth kid would explain why Robbie was trying to tear his hair out.
‘Are you kidding?’ he heard Robbie ask, his voice loud enough to draw the attention of the vicar and Lynda from the post office as they admired the clematis growing up the side of the rickety shed.
Vanessa’s smile disappeared as she answered him, quietly so no one could hear.
‘No,’ Robbie snapped.
She folded her arms, staring at Robbie in surprise. ‘What?’
‘No,’ he said again, folding his arms to mirror her.
Jesus, this didn’t look good, and Lynda had sniffed gossip in the air.
‘Clara, deal with the vicar,’ Patrick said, already psyching himself up to distract the nosiest cow in the village. If Robbie and Vanessa were about to have a marital, they didn’t need her within earshot. ‘Lynda, how’s Boadicea? I had a couple asking about puppies the other day. Have you got homes for yours?’
Lynda lost all interest in the Golding’s row as she gave him a simpering smile, resting her hand on his arm. ‘Oh, Patrick, I’m so pleased you asked. I wanted to talk to you actually…’
Grinding his teeth, he smiled. Rob, you owe me for this. While Lynda rambled on about a puppy’s paw, Patrick gave advice he ought to be charging for and kept an eye on Rob. The argument had gone quiet bar the occasional hissed invective, but the arm waving, finger jabbing and clenched fists meant this was an out of character, venomous argument – especially for Vanessa who’d usually never say boo to a gosling.
‘… so if you could pop round to look at little Pickle…’
Vanessa turned, tears already falling down her beautiful face and Robbie stalked away, heading out of the garden.
‘… but the cat’s never been sick in the house before…’
Patrick glanced back down at Lynda. ‘Why don’t you ring the surgery on Monday? Grace can book you in for an appointment.’ And I can bill you. He flashed her a cursory smile and followed Robbie, grabbing a bottle of whisky from the bar on his way.
Around the back of the house, in a small secluded garden away from the party, Patrick stepped over the children’s toys littering the grass as he made his way to the large wooden chair swing where Robbie sat, smoking a cigarette and staring at the sky. Patrick sat down and handed him the whisky bottle without saying a word.
‘She wants to go on tour with that ridiculous quartet.’ Robbie slugged back a mouthful of whisky.
‘Be fair, you were always going away with work before you had the restaurant.’
‘But she wants to leave the girls for one, maybe two months. Why would she want to do that? Just to play a bit of Mozart? Or is this because of that French wanker?’
‘Oh, come on, she’s an angel. She’d never–’
‘Whose side are you on?’ Robbie flicking his cigarette butt across the lawn.
‘Yours.’ Patrick took the bottle back. ‘And never ask me that again.’
‘Are you going to let her go?’
‘Let her?’ Robbie rubbed his temples. ‘I told her not a fucking chance in hell, but how can I stop her? It’s her dream come true.’
‘So let her do it. You know she wouldn’t shag around.’
‘I used to, but these days…’ He let out a long slow sigh. ‘I’m not sure she even knows what she wouldn’t do. Since the restaurant, she’s… well, she’s always fed-up and the only thing that seems to make her smile is that fucking viola player.’
‘She wouldn’t, Rob.’
‘Even so, how the hell am I supposed to cope with three kids, a restaurant and twelve horses on my own?’
‘You could get an au-pair. A hot Swedish girl would help me cope.’ Patrick smiled at the thought. ‘Might keep Van on her toes and distract you from the drudgery of being a stay-at-home dad.’
‘I’m not letting some eighteen year-old look after the girls.’ Robbie lit another cigarette. ‘Christ, what a bloody mess. Did everyone hear us fighting?’
‘No, we distracted the main offenders for you.’ Patrick knocked back two mouthfuls of whisky before nodding to the right. ‘Look at this, a shining example of modern parenting.’
Scott came over, pushing Will’s pushchair with one hand and clutching a six pack of beer in the other.
‘Little bugger will only sleep in this.’ He left the pushchair ten feet away and sat down next to Robbie. ‘Clara told me what happened.’
‘I’m trying to talk him into getting an au-pair,’ Patrick replied. ‘Swiss, maybe?’
‘If there was a hot au-pair working here, you wouldn’t be allowed on the yard.’ Robbie shook his head, smiling.
The buzz in Patrick’s pocket alerted him to a new message, the third from Miss Haverton. Want something to snuggle up against tonight? The attached photo showed her fake breasts barely encased in a white lace bra, the edge of a nipple peeking out. He thought better of sharing it with his friends. Robbie’s jaw was twitching again, his brow furrowed and Scott yawned for the hundredth time. Marriage? Children? Looked a lot of hard work, and for what? From the sounds of things, shagging your wife wasn’t one of the bonuses.
Patrick really didn’t see the point.
Two weeks later, he sat back, enjoying the buzz of his latest coke hit and Miss Haverton unzipping his fly. Clearly, the girl was a nutcase. They were in the restaurant toilets and the mayor was dining with several local businessmen about twenty feet away. Anyone could walk in but, Jesus, did she know how to use her hands. And tongue.
Patrick clutched at her hair, looking down at her arse as her head bobbed. Her little black dress had ridden up, revealing a leopard print thong, and her shiny black heels were resting against the cubicle door. There wasn’t a single classy aspect to Miss Haverton, but since she’d first wrapped her fingers around his dick, rubbing in coke like a pro, he’d cared less about her dubious taste in underwear and more about the toys she had in her bedside drawer. At least he’d persuaded her to stay inside this time. Her penchant for dining al fresco nearly had them collared by the police two days ago.
Sod this. Who cared if the mayor walked in? Patrick pulled her to her feet and moved behind her, smiling as she bent at the waist and wedged her feet against the walls, her hands planted in front of her. Not a single classy bone in her body. This was the last time he was taking her out. Definitely.
‘Baby,’ she said, purring as she pushed back against him. ‘How do you fancy my friend Emma joining us later?’
Miss Haverton had just earned herself another reprieve.
* * *
If you’d like to buy Nearly Almost Somebody, you can get this 436 page Award-winner for just £1.99 / $2.99