“The Long Way Home is Robin Pilcher at his best. I devoured every word of this masterful storyteller.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling authorIn the vein of Maeve Binchy, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Nicholas Sparks, New York Times bestselling author Robin Pilcher returns with his most enchanting novel yet, filled with captivating twists and turns of heart. When Claire Barclay receives news that her beloved stepfather has had a stroke, she’s more than a little shaken. Leo is her last real relative, and his own children rarely check up on the old man. Claire and her husband, Art, leave New York and fly back to Scotland to care for him during the summer. Their visit makes clear that Leo is no longer capable of living on his own, but he is determined to stay in his beloved old house. Art comes up with the idea of turning the place into a conference center, thinking they could purchase the place from Leo and build him a cottage on the property. But the situation is much more complicated than it seems. Claire’s old flame, Jonas Fairwether, has become Leo’s caretaker and trusted confidant. Though Claire distrusts Jonas’s motives, Leo chooses to take his advice to put the house up for public auction rather than sell directly to Art and Claire. Claire is immediately suspicious, and even more so when she finds out that another application has been submitted to develop the property. Does Jonas Fairwether want to knock down the Leo’s house and build a development? It looks like whoever is behind the plan is being driven by financial gain, but there may be an even stronger motive. The Long Way Home will keep readers on the edge of their seats. This is a masterful novel from a master storyteller.
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ROBIN PILCHER has worked as a farmer, assistant film cameraman, and PR consultant. An Ocean Apart, his first novel, was a New York Times bestseller and a favorite among Pilcher fans, old and new. This is his fifth novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Alloa, Scotland‚December 1988
As she left the driveway and ran down the narrow lane leading to the farm, the silence of that cold winter morning was absolute, save for the crunch of breaking ice as her Doc Martens stamped through the puddles that ran ribbon-like along the rutted track. Tears glistened on her rosy cheeks, but the broad smile on her face showed that they were due to the frigid air nipping at her brown eyes rather than from any feeling of unhappiness. In fact, Claire Barclay could not have been happier. The cold that penetrated her padded jacket and bit at her ears through the woolly hat she wore pulled over her short hennaed hair was counteracted by a tingling warmth flooding from deep within.
Because Claire Barclay was most definitely in love.
Actually, she had been in love with Jonas Fairweather, expert motor mechanic and budding champion rally driver, ever since she had first come to Scotland at the age of eleven, but even though she had spent nearly every day of the next seven years in his company, she had never told him. And he had never said anything to her. They had never even kissed.
So the question that had arisen on so many occasions in Claire's mind was when to broach this subject, and take their friendship from its present stage into one of deep and everlasting affection.
Today was the day, the time was right. She had finished with school and now had nine months to spend with Jonas before she went on to university at St. Andrews. And it was Christmas, the season of glad tidings. The previous evening, they had been together in the workshop, and they had talked and laughed while he worked on his car until well after eleven o'clock. When she left, his farewell had not been the usual muffled goodbye called out from the depths of the car engine. He had walked with her to the door and stood close, spinning a spanner in his hand, catching her eye and smiling at her. She had sensed then that something was going to happen, but he had just slipped the spanner into the pocket of his coveralls, pushed the door open and said, "See you tomorrow then."
Yes, the time was definitely right.
She walked into the farm courtyard and went to the door of the workshop and slid it open. She realized immediately that things were not normal. There were no signs of activity, the bonnet of the Ford Escort was closed and the only sound came from the gas heater roaring away in the corner. She was about to turn and make her way over to the farmhouse when she caught sight of Jonas, dressed in his usual grease-stained coveralls, sitting on an old broken-backed chair by the closed tool chest. He was slumped forward, seemingly oblivious to her presence, resting his elbows on his knees and covering his face with his hands. She walked quietly towards him and, as she approached, began to hear the occasional unsteady intake of his breath.
"Jonas?" she asked concernedly. "What's wrong?"
"Go away," he replied without moving his hands from his face.
"What's happened?" she said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
He reacted to her touch as if he had been scalded. Violently pushing away her hand, he jumped to his feet and walked away from her and stood facing the rear of the workshop. "Just head off, will you. I don't want you to be here."
Claire shook her head incredulously. "No, I will not head off, not until I know . . ."
He turned and glared contemptuously at her. "For Christ's sakes, just get out. Get back to your big mansion house and stay there." He began to walk quickly over to the door. "You're not welcome here."
Tears welled up in Claire's eyes as she followed him out into the courtyard. "Jonas, what on earth has happened?" she cried after him. "Why are you being like this?"
He spun round but kept walking backwards towards the farmhouse. "Just leave me alone, will you?" He scythed his hands apart. "It's over . . . for good. I never want to see you again."
Claire stood in shock as she watched him turn and hurry off to the farmhouse. He entered and slammed the door behind him. She ran over to it and tried to turn the knob, but it was locked.
"Jonas!" she yelled out. "What are you doing? Please, Jonas, let me in." She laid her cheek against the cold wood of the door. "You can't do this," she said quietly. "I love you." She slumped onto the doorstep, brushing away the tears that fell freely down her cheeks with the back of her hand, ignoring the icy dampness that seeped through her denim skirt and thick black tights.
She stayed there for half an hour, only moving when the shivering in her body became so severe that she felt she might pass out with the cold. She got up and glanced back at the closed door before making her way stiffly across the courtyard and back out along the track.
It was the last time she would ever use it.
New York‚May 2005
Pushing the set cutlery on the table to one side, Claire Barrington placed the menu and reservations book on the laundered white tablecloth and smoothed down the back of her black pencil skirt before sitting down on the velvet dining chair. She pulled it in and opened up the book, turning the pages to find that day's bookings. Every line was filled, both for lunchtime and the evening meal, and additionally six names and telephone numbers were written in red at the side of the page in case of cancellations. It wasn't a surprise or anything out of the ordinary. Since her husband Art had started the restaurant over sixteen years ago, Barrington's had steadily built up a reputation of being one of the best places to eat in the East Village.
Claire glanced over her shoulder towards the kitchen. There was no sign yet of the chef appearing. Pushing back her chair, she got up and walked over to the bar, taking out the small make-up case that she always kept on a shelf behind it. She had learned over the years to take opportunity of every downtime moment and she hadn't yet had the time to check her appearance since arriving that morning. She undid the zip of the case, extracted a lipstick and was in the process of applying a light red gloss to her mouth when the chef hurried through from the kitchen. She turned to him and smiled. "So, what happened to you, Jean-Pierre?"
"I am sorry, Claire, I was talking to the fruit supplier. He was not able to fill the order for the avocados."
Claire smacked her lips together and studied them in the mirror at the back of the bar. "What can we do about that, then?"
"There is another man I can try. I will phone him after."
Claire replaced the make-up case behind the bar and led the way back to the table. The chef followed close behind, wiping his hands uncertainly on his starched white apron. He had come over from France to work in the United States two years before as a sous-chef in one of the smart uptown hotels, and although quite happy in his work, he had seen the job advertised at Barrington's for a head chef and had decided to apply. As soon as he arrived at the little restaurant in the East Village, with its smart cream exterior and the green-striped awning with "Barrington's" in italic letters across it, giving shade to the small wrought-iron tables that were trellised off from the sidewalk, he knew that he wanted the job.
During the interview, his Gallic mindset had caused him to focus more on the owner's wife than on what was being said to him by the owner himself. He liked very much what he saw in front of him‚Äîthe short dark hair, the brown eyes and the small nose with the hint of childish freckles across its bridge. They seemed to belie her age, which he would guess at being about mid-thirties. She remained standing behind her husband during the interview, and so he was able to take in her slim figure and maybe too-slender legs, but what he had not read was the steely assuredness of her character behind the elegant appearance.
"Excuse me," she said, breaking into her husband's explanation about the job's required duties, "but are you more concerned with staring at my body than hearing what this job entails?"
He had spluttered out an apology, his face reddening as he glanced from husband to wife. His credentials got him the job, but he had never dared to cross Claire Barrington again.
He now sat down on the chair opposite Claire. He took off his tall white hat and laid it on the table, and sliding a hand through his hair, he watched in silence as she studied the menu.
"Those avocados are important, Jean-Pierre," she said without lifting her eyes. "We need them for the cress salad to go with the fish."
"Don't worry. I will get them."
"What fish are you going to use?"
"Halibut. I have already had the delivery."
"How much did you get?"
"Enough for thirty covers."
Claire glanced across at the reservations book. "That should be about right. We're about sixty for lunch. What about steaks?"
"More than enough. The price was so good last week, I put in a big order. I shall get sufficient out of the deep freeze this morning."
"And the dessert?"
The chef smiled. "Liam has asked if he could make a pavlova, so I have given him the chance to shine."
Claire frowned dubiously at Jean-Pierre, knowing that the young sous-chef had yet to prove himself. "Then on your own head be it."
He nodded. "I will be watching him."
Claire closed the reservations book and placed the menu on top of it. "Okay, so we'll wait until Art gets back before we discuss what we'll do for dinner. Five o'clock all right for you?"
"Of course," Jean-Pierre replied, getting to his feet and replacing his hat. "When is Art coming in?"
"I'm not sure. He's gone to the bank."
The chef glanced out of the window at the teaming rain. It fell so heavily that it hazed the view of Tompkins Square Park, no more than a stone's throw on the other side of the road. "I hope he doesn't get caught in this, otherwise he will be mouillv© jusqu'aux os, wet to the skin."
"Let's hope not."
As the chef made his way back t...
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