hi, here are the opening 700 words of A Simple Mistake, book three in the Dorset Chronicles series:

Chapter 1

It was a simple mistake to make. He had thought it

Wednesday when it was only Tuesday.

But it had enormous consequences.

Thomas went to Bagber Manor, as he did every Wednesday

and Sunday, for church. He went the normal way; across the

bridge he had helped to build and which had been his

introduction to the building profession. He always crossed it

with a mixture of pleasure and pride. Then along the southern

bank for a few hundred yards, right at the mill, and up the track

that followed the Stour to the Divelish. He crossed this

tributary where the road dipped under the water and went

across the fields to the trees, following the Divelish all the way.

He had seen that stream in every mode from raging torrent to

sleepy trickle but that day it was somewhere in between, with

lazy loops of water in slow but constant motion, as if searching

for their essence or their character; for how they would be that


He knew every inch of the route for he was a frequent visitor,

especially now that he was walking out with Amelia Taylor.

He thought of her long and often, wondering what she was

doing that moment and how she would react to a particular

topic running through his mind. He saw things through her

eyes, knew she did the same. It was as if they were an elderly

couple celebrating a life spent in each other’s company.

Sometimes, like today, he held conversations with her as he

walked. Mostly, these were confined to his head but that

evening he spoke out loud, as befitted the glorious April day

with new growth everywhere; plants stacking up to blossom in

a few short weeks.

He stopped abruptly when she answered his chatter. It was

her voice, for certain, although the words were muffled. It came

from the trees ahead, just where the stream bent to the south

and a large flat stone made a natural point to sit and dangle feet



into the water below. Her voice was as well-known to him as

his own breathing patterns. He made to talk, then stopped

again; she was not answering him but another and her voice

was light and playful. Then he heard her words, as if delayed

by lingering a while in the new leaves on the oak and ash and

blackthorn above and around:

Let me scratch your back if it itches so, my dear.

The words sent a shaft into his heart.

He edged forwards to the rock ledge, obscured from view by

a bank of early nettles and brambles. It prevented sight of her

but also hid his proximity. He listened again to her beautiful

laughter. She was teasing someone, giggling quietly as if acting

in a private play. Incensed, he strode forwards, remembering

afterwards the young nettles attacking his skin with their

vicious stings.

“Mealy, what brings you…” He never finished his sentence,

instead backed away, for she was almost naked; just a loose and

soaking-wet undergarment from bosom to knees but riding up

at the side so that her left thigh was half visible. His eyes rested

on that thigh and, for a moment that went on and on, he could

not look away. Yet his brain was working on the outrage, the

deceit. And it worked on its own schedule, to its own tempo.

Amelia looked up, blushed deep red and grasped for an item

of clothing, anything within reach. She held a dress upside

down so that the skirt covered her breast and shoulders and the

top made partial cover only for her legs. He could still see her

thigh although his vision was watery, as if he had dipped his

eyes in the same Divelish she had patently been in. But his

wetness sprung from tears and those tears were of anger, with

a dash of wonder at what he had seen.

“Thomas!” she cried, standing up and backing away. “Cover

your eyes.” He covered his eyes, backed away, not wanting to

see what he had next seen.

For lying next to Amelia, similar in attire, was his sister,


Amelia had offered to scratch Elizabeth’s half-bare back.

And, presumably, would be scratched in turn herself.

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