Joanna Weston stood leaning against the wall in the small back garden belonging to the pretty little cottage, situated about a mile from the village of Aidensfield. She smiled with pure pleasure as she looked down the valley. Rolling moors - beautiful now in the May sunshine but harsh in the winter - with the village of Aidensfield nestling underneath them. It was just so right to come here. Her parents, who lived about 30 miles away had recently acquired the cottage by means of an inheritance from a very distant relative on Joanna's mother's side. This had meant various visits to the cottage for redecorating and so on and Joanna had accompanied her mother on these. She had therefore learned there was a teaching vacancy at the local village school. As her parents debated whether to sell or rent the cottage Joanna made the decision for them. She was a relatively newly qualified teacher and on impulse, needing an escape and a fresh start, applied for the post at the school, secured it and told her parents she was their new tenant.
They had been slightly stunned by her decision and her mother had been distinctly cross when she learned at the same time Joanna had ended her fledgling relationship with Maxwell Cartwright whose family were local landowners and minor aristocracy. But all Joanna's mother saw of Maxwell was his charm, the other side of him he had kept hidden. Joanna had seen it though and she didn't like it, and that had been why she had told him anything that might have existed between them was over. But his anger at her decision highlighted to Joanna that she was going to have put some distance between them.
So here she was, first day in Aidensfield and tomorrow she would start at the village school. It was only her second teaching post and she felt naturally apprehensive about it, wanting to make a good impression and settle into the community.
She turned away from the gate as if to go back into the cottage then stopped, startled as a very familar car pulled onto the rough track adajcent to the cottage (which formed the driveway) from the road. Her heart sank as Maxwell got out of it. Seeing him now here in Aidensfield brought home to Joanna all the things she didn't like about him. Undoubtedly good looking and distinctively "out of the top drawer" he might be but he could not hide his arrogant manner, his contempt for anyone beneath him. And he had a temper when he did not get his own way. He did not look best pleased now.
"Max!" she stepped out of the garden, onto the track. . Her expression was anything but welcoming. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Not much of a welcome old girl," Max replied leaning casually against his car.
"I told you there was nothing between us and I also told you I was going away. I also told my mother not to tell you where I was." Joanna took a breath. "Well, she obviously has the same problem as you. She doesn't listen."
"Now don't be too hard on the old girl," Max replied. "She just wants the best for you. She was so helpful telling me where this place was."
"I bet she was! Just go away will you Max?"
"Not even going to offer me a coffee when I've driven all this way to see you?" Suddenly he grabbed hold of Jo's wrist holding her in a tight grip. "Not very nice is it? You need to learn manners I think!"
"Just let me go of me now! How dare you!" Joanna felt fear because she knew Max's temper. He'd never hit her before but she would never rule it out. She'd tried to tell her mother this but her mother was blinded by Max's charm which he could turn on at the drop of a hat. And Jo's father too had struggled to believe Max could behave anything other than honourably. Escaping had been Joanna's only option.
They were distracted by the sound of a motorbike. Max dropped Jo's wrist and turned. The motorbike was pulled up in the road at the entrance to the driveway and on board the bike was a police constable.
"Everything all right?" PC Nick Rowan called over watching Max keenly.
"Absolutely fine Constable!" Max said easily.
But PC Nick Rowan wasn't having that. He wasn't comfortable with what he had seen and he looked past Max directly at Joanna.
"Honestly its fine," Joanna said. "My - friend was just leaving." Joanna glared defiantly at Max who glared back at her.
Nick rolled the motorbike back slightly so as to given Max room to get out his car glancing pointedly at Max. He waited patiently making it clear he wasn't going anywhere until Max had chosen to leave. Max looked at him angrily then back at Joanna before he finally gave in.
"I'll be back Joanna, this isn't the end of it!" He slammed his way into the car, reversed at speed out into the road and then drove off.
Joanna walked down to where Nick was watching Max drive off. He focused his attention back on her.
"Thank you," she said. "I mean, everything's fine, he was just a bit upset. He's an ex-boyfriend."
Nick nodded. "Have you just moved in here?" he asked. "It used to be old Mrs Harris' place didn't it?"
"Yes. I'm Joanna, Joanna Weston. Its my parents place really - Mother was a distant relative of Mrs Harris and the only relative as it turned out and inherited the cottage when she died - but I'm living here for now - I've just taken up a post at the village school."
"We should see each other around then. I'm Nick Rowan, I'm the village bobby in Aidensfield." Nick paused feeling oddly drawn to her and not knowing why. "If you have any more bother with him let me know. If you tell me where's he from I can ask someone from the local station to speak to him if you like. I'm guessing he's not local."
"No he lives near my parents. Thank you but honestly I can deal with Max. He's just used to getting his own way that's all and its a shock to him when he doesn't."
"Maxwell Cartwright. He just gets a bit upset sometimes. Its fine."
Nick was not quite so sure about her ability to deal with Max. His impression was Max was a pretty nasty bit of work when things went against him and he was pretty certain Joanna was more shaken up than she was letting on. Glancing at Joanna's wrist, he said, "He's marked your arm."
She pulled down the sleeve of her dress hastily. "Its nothing. Thank you for your help. But I should probably get on with unpacking. Can I offer you tea or coffee?"
"No its fine thanks. I'll let you get on. But call me if you need anything all right?"
Nick watched her go back into the house then caught hold of himself. He had plenty to be getting on with after all but he was slightly concerned and as he headed back toward the village he saw Maggie Bolton's Land Rover coming towards him He waved her down.
"All right Nick?" she asked him
"Yeah. I've just come past Brock Cottage."
"Joanna Weston's place?"
"Oh, you've met?"
Maggie nodded. "I was at the school when she came for a look around and then I saw her again after her interview. Everything all right?"
"Maybe. She was arguing with someone when I came past, she wanted him to leave but he was being a bit stubborn about it so I just pulled in to make sure he left. Nasty piece of work, he'd grabbed hold of her and marked her arm."
"What did she say?" Maggie asked.
"Not much. Just that he was an ex-boyfriend. She was trying to make out she wasn't too worried but I think she was more shaken than she's letting on."
Maggie nodded. "All right, well, I've some things to do and then I'll drop by on my way past, see how she is." She looked closely at Nick. "You're worried aren't you?"
"I didn't like what I saw," Nick said. "And I think she knows he'll probably be back."
"Well all we can do is help her when she asks us for it. Don't worry Nick, I'll look out for her."
"Thanks Maggie." Nick kicked the bike into gear. "Better get on. Speak later."