Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.
BURIED TREASURE: mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE (universal)
Extract from BURIED TREASURE
Jane and her friend and associate, Emma, are driving away from Lancaster College. They’ve been scoping it out as the possible venue for a conference Jane is organising. Twice they have come into contact with a white-haired academic. Not many words have passed between them, but Jane has read disdain in his manner and tone, particularly when she admired the gothic detail of the Banqueting Hall, assuming it was original.
‘Bastard!’ Jane hits the brake as the car in front of her suddenly slows.
‘It’s the traffic ahead that’s stopped!’
‘I don’t mean…! That bloody man, back at Lancaster. The one with the white hair.’
‘Well…’ Emma demurs. The mood of excitement and independence which had infused Jane when they set out this morning has drained away. The cold wind and gathering cloud made the decision about closing the car roof a no-brainer. Now she feels tired, irritated and defensive.
‘What do you mean … we – ell?’
‘He didn’t say much. He wasn’t rude.’
‘Depends on your definition. He kept staring at my feet.’
‘Your feet? Perhaps he was admiring your sandals.’
‘Don’t think so…. Bloody hell! If we’d left when I planned to…!’ she adds, when the traffic ahead inexplicably slows again. ‘Did you not see him sneer. How should I know the Banqueting Hall isn’t the real deal?’
‘I suppose it must be on the website.’
‘When I originally did the research, I was concentrating on the conference facilities. The detail of the history passed me by. Of course, I clicked through the images, but the reality of the hall eclipsed my expectations.’
‘No one would guess it’s Victorian,’ Emma reassures her.
‘And those tourists loved it. They didn’t care whether it’s a hundred or five hundred years old. What really appeals to me is the irony of a conference on modern urban planning held amongst all those ancient cloisters and courts and half-timbered elevations. The fact that not all of it is quite as old as it looks is not going to put me off recommending Lancaster to my client.’
‘I should think not!’
‘Professor what’s-his-face may think it’s a travesty, but who cares. It’s not as if we’re likely ever to see him again.’
‘Although….’ Emma says, slowly, ‘he’s quite fit. I wouldn’t throw him out of bed.’
‘What? For God sake Emma! You’re always on the look-out for potential boyfriends. First Aaron, now Professor … I don’t know.’ She shakes her head in exasperation. ‘Plum! He’s old!’
Emma laughs. ‘Be fair, Jane, he’s not old.’
‘His hair is whiter than my grandfather’s!’
‘But there’s plenty of it, and it wasn’t, like, really white. It was more, like, silver. He must be one of those people whose hair goes grey prematurely. I thought it was an attractive combo.’
‘Well, I hope I never see him again. And there’s no reason to.’ Jane says, with an emphatic slap down on the indicator, to exit on the slip road. ‘Our conference is absolutely nothing to do with him…. So why did he have to make me feel small?’
‘Look, I didn’t take to the man! I just happened to notice he’s nice looking. He’s one of those brains-on-legs, too grand to interact on a human level with the hoi polloi.’
‘Exactly. An upper-class fogey, existing in a rarefied atmosphere, without the faintest clue how the rest of the world lives.’ Jane’s dismissiveness masks her real lack of confidence. It’s far too easy to undermine her, too easy to make her feel inadequate and ill-educated. Even Lew, who was so disparaging of graduates, who always said how proud he was of her initiative, her spirit and her natural intelligence, had ultimately played her for a fool and made her feel like the lowest of the low.
Also by Gilli Allan:
Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction.
After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother.
Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.
She is published by Accent Press and each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.
Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.
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