New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow - Jessica Redland Page 0,2

the outraged community had pulled together, salvaged the stones and re-built the barn even better and more fit for purpose than it had been before with a proper second floor instead of the mezzanine we’d had installed in the original barn. Today’s Family Fun Day was therefore a celebration of Hedgehog Hollow being open for business but also a massive thank you to everyone who had so generously donated their time, resources or money.

‘And you’ve been amazing too,’ I added, giving my friend a hug. ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’

‘Absolute pleasure.’ Hannah squeezed me tightly. ‘I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve achieved. You’re such an inspiration.’

Tears pricked my eyes. ‘Where’s Toby and Amelia?’ I asked, keen to take the focus away from me. It was a happy day and I didn’t want to spend any of it crying.

‘She needed changing so he’s at the car sorting her out.’

‘You look done in,’ Josh said, pushing back his hedgehog head and rubbing the towel over his hair. ‘And you’re losing your voice.’

I rubbed my hand over my throat. ‘I didn’t think so many people would attend my talks. I’ve done more than double my estimate but it’s nothing some hot blackcurrant won’t sort out. Are you ready to get out of Mickleby?’

‘Never been more ready.’ He picked up the abandoned pair of paws.

‘There were way more visitors than we expected,’ Josh said as we slowly made our way across the farmyard, me carrying the heavy cashbox in both hands and Josh holding a paw in each of his. ‘I’m thinking it’s been pretty successful.’

‘Definitely. I’m full of ideas for next year already.’

‘I knew you would be. And I bet they involve me dressing up as Mickleby again.’

I smiled at the mock-resignation in his voice as I gave him a playful nudge. ‘He’s your alter-ego now. There’s no escaping.’

He laughed. ‘I might regret saying this but it’s been good fun. Hot and sweaty but definitely fun.’

We’d almost reached the farmhouse when a woman’s voice shouted Josh’s name. We both turned to face a very pretty pregnant woman with long, pale blonde hair scraped back into a high ponytail. She looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place her. Then my stomach plummeted. I’d only ever seen her in a photo at Josh’s cottage but it was definitely her. Beth. The woman who’d broken his heart.

I glanced at Josh, cringing for him coming face-to-face with his ex-girlfriend while dressed as a giant hedgehog. How mortifying must that be? What was she doing here anyway? He’d made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with her and understandably so after what she’d done.

His eyes were narrowed, his jaw tight. With a low snort, he turned his back on her and shuffled towards the farmhouse as fast as his outsized feet would allow.

I didn’t want to strike up a conversation with her but it felt rude to completely ignore her so I shrugged my shoulders apologetically and muttered ‘sorry’ before turning and following Josh.

‘Please Josh!’ Beth cried.

‘I’ve got nothing to say to you,’ he shouted back to her before disappearing into the house.


Sighing, I stopped and took a couple of steps back towards Beth. I was going to have to say something. ‘I’m not sure that turning up here without warning was the best idea.’ I hoped I sounded like I was giving her an explanation rather than a lecture.

She stroked her hands over her baby bump. ‘I know, but he hasn’t left me much choice. He’s blocked my calls and emails. You’re his girlfriend, right? Samantha, is it?’

I nodded, narrowing my eyes warily, unsure as to how she knew my name or where to find Josh. As though sensing my confusion, she added, ‘I’ve got a friend who still works at Josh’s practice. They weren’t gossiping about you. I don’t want to—’

‘It’s okay,’ I reassured her.

‘I’m glad Josh has found someone special,’ she said. ‘He deserves it. He was an amazing boss and a lovely boyf…’ She broke off and shook her head, her pale cheeks colouring. ‘I’m sure you already know that. I really do need to speak to him. Could you have a word with him? Please.’

Her ice-blue eyes fixed on mine pleadingly and I felt a wave of compassion for her. She wasn’t what I’d expected. Josh had never said much about their relationship. All I knew were the basic facts leading to them splitting up about eighteen months ago. They’d been together for two years and he’d