I guess we’re all getting used to video conferencing these days. How not enough light can make you look as if you’re speaking from a dungeon, and too much light can turn you into a shadow puppet. The very lovely Annie O’Neil and I put all of our skills to good use the other day when we were asked to do a Facebook Live chat with Vic Britton, the Commissioning Editor for Mills and Boon. Did we have an amazing time? Yes, we did!
We had a few hiccups, of course, because that’s what live chats are for 🙂 Those of you who wear varifocal glasses will recognise my rather faraway look in the first few frames, which comes from trying to find the right part of the lens to read something on my screen. Annie had a special guest with her – Skye the border collie – who almost caused a disaster by sitting on her computer cable. When my connection dropped suddenly, Vic and Annie valiantly kept going until the internet fairies flew to my rescue. Oh, and if you want to know about the tennis ball, you’ll have to watch the video…
A huge thank you to the ladies at Mills and Boon, who invited us and made this possible, and to Vic who was our wonderful host. And, of course, wild appreciation for Annie O’Neil who is always a star in any given situation.
To round off Annie’s and my trip to Dolphin Cove, I’ll end with a short excerpt. Drew has been recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident, but is keen to get back to work. He’s taken his new puppy Phoenix to scout out the Veterinary Centre, early one morning, before anyone’s due to arrive for work…
The deserted reception area smelled of wax polish and hope. The consulting rooms were still the same, one of them filled with a mass of photographs of Ellie’s canine patients, and another with a more restrained set of framed photographs that belonged to Lucas. Drew’s was…empty. Neat and tidy, without a speck of dust. Drew smiled. It was ready and waiting for him.
‘Drew! What the blazes are you doing here?’
Ellie’s tone generally became firmer, in proportion to the size and momentum of the animal she was dealing with. This must be the one she reserved for charging rhinos.
Drew did the only thing possible and let go of Phoenix’s lead. When he turned, he saw the puppy barrelling along the corridor, the lead trailing behind her, and Ellie fell to her knees, scooping Phoenix up into her arms. Worked every time.
Or… Every time apart from this one.
‘Come on. What are you doing here?’ Ellie stood to face him, trying not to smile as the puppy licked her neck.
‘I could ask you the same question. Shouldn’t you and Lucas be staring into each other’s eyes over your cornflakes? You are technically still on your honeymoon, even if you are at work.
Ellie flushed slightly, presumably at the mention of Lucas’s eyes. ‘You do know what you’re doing, don’t you? Deflecting one question with another. It so happens that I didn’t have cornflakes for breakfast, and Lucas isn’t here. He’s doing the school run this morning.’
‘So you’re letting him in gently to the joys of parenthood.’ Drew grinned. He imagined that the other parents at the school gate were more of a challenge to Lucas than the whole six years he’d spent as TV’s favourite vet.
‘He said that yesterday was a bit like running a gauntlet of meerkats.’ Ellie shrugged. ‘He doesn’t mind, really.’
‘He loves it. You know that.’
Ellie nodded, smiling. She’d been in love with Lucas ever since the three of them had studied together at veterinary school. Lucas had left to become a celebrity vet, and Ellie had returned to Cornwall, where she and Drew had set up in practice together in Dolphin Cove. When Ellie and Lucas’s son, Mav, had been born, he had been so like his father, and a constant reminder that something was missing in all their lives.
But now Lucas was back. Ellie had never loved anyone else, and Drew was happy for them both.
‘You still haven’t answered my question.’
He hadn’t counted on springing this on Ellie today, but since she’d asked, he may as well grasp the nettle. ‘Why don’t we go and sit down in my office.’
‘I’m really getting worried now. You’re trying to butter me up by sitting down, aren’t you?’
Drew chuckled. ‘Yep. And I don’t want Phoenix running around here until she’s had her second set of vaccinations.’
He let Ellie tuck his hand into the crook of her elbow, but Drew was careful not to lean on her as they walked. He’d leaned on Ellie far too much already and he appreciated her support, but it had to stop. Leaning on the people around him was beginning to weaken him.
Ellie plumped herself down into a chair, keeping Phoenix on her lap for more cuddles, and Lucas lowered himself into the seat behind his desk. The surface looked as if it had been polished every day while he’d been away.
‘I’m coming back to work, Ellie.’
Ellie’s eyebrows shot up, but she took a moment to moderate her reaction. ‘We weren’t expecting you till the end of the month. Are you sure you’re well enough? What does your physiotherapist say?’
‘She says that if I think I can manage it I should give it a try, just for a couple of days a week for starters. She told me to take things slowly and stop if anything gets too much.’
Relief showed in Ellie’s eyes. ‘That…doesn’t sound so bad.’
‘You know I’ve been going crazy at home, Ells. I really need this and I’m going to need your support. I know you and Lucas can do with a helping hand here.’
‘Yes, we could.’ Ellie’s gaze softened suddenly. ‘Lucas isn’t replacing you, Drew. You know that’s never going to happen.’
It might. The complex animal surgery Drew excelled at took stamina and strength, and no amount of concentrating on the positive could tell him for sure that he’d ever be able to do that again. But he still had a lot to give, and if anyone was going to replace him, he wanted it to be Lucas. And if anyone was going to replace cool Uncle Drew in Mav’s affections, he wanted that to be Lucas too.
But the late-night fears about being of no more use to anyone were just paranoia. They weren’t what Ellie needed to hear from him at the moment.
‘You’re not the only one who’s pleased to see Lucas back, you know. We were all friends, and I’ve missed him too.’
‘You never said…’
Drew rolled his eyes. ‘Of course I didn’t, not while you were missing him on a completely different level. And being remarkably tight-lipped about it.’
Ellie heaved a sigh. ‘Okay. You have my support, just as long as you don’t overdo things. If you do, I won’t hesitate to escort you off the premises.’
‘It’s a deal.’
‘I suppose…the accounts need signing off.’ Ellie shot him a mischievous look. No doubt it had crossed her mind that checking them through involved sitting down.
‘I can do that.’ Drew called her bluff. ‘Although I haven’t forgotten that it’s your turn this year. Or maybe we should give them to Lucas, since he’s our newest partner in the practice.’
Ellie didn’t take the bait. ‘We’ll both owe you one, then. Mrs Cartwright’s coming in this morning, with Tabatha…’
‘Okay. You take Tabatha, and I’ll take Mrs Cartwright.’ It was well known that whenever Mrs Cartwright made an appointment for someone to look at her cat, she really wanted to sit in the waiting room and chat for an hour. The vets at the Dolphin Cove Clinic always made sure that she got a cup of tea and that someone was available to listen to her.
‘You’re a darling.’ Ellie frowned. ‘I suppose you’re not allowed to drink welcome-back champagne…?’
‘At eight in the morning, and with painkillers, probably not. We’ll do that another time.’
‘Welcome-back coffee, then? Your mug’s in your top drawer….’ Ellie gave Phoenix one last hug and got to her feet.
‘You go and get on. I’ll make the coffee.’ Drew opened the drawer of his desk, finding pens and his coffee mug stacked neatly inside. He was going to have to do something about all this tidiness.
‘All right.’ Ellie planted her hands on his desk, leaning over to kiss his cheek. ‘I’m so glad you’re back, Drew.’
‘Don’t get sloppy on me Ells…’ Drew could feel a lump forming in his throat.
‘Tough guy, eh?’ Ellie shot him a speculative look.
‘Not really. I just don’t want you to get me started.’
‘That might not be such a bad idea, Drew. You’ve always been there for me, and now Lucas and I both want to be there for you.’
‘You are. And I appreciate it.’ He just didn’t want to talk about it. ‘White no sugar?’
Ellie rolled her eyes. ‘That’s right. Glad to see you haven’t forgotten.’
When Ellie left, he took a moment to soak in the feeling. He was here, sitting behind his desk, and already had a few things to do with his day. Looking at the accounts, making the coffee and chatting to Mrs Cartwright might not be quite at the cutting edge of veterinary practice, but it was a start.