Halloween Round Robin 2015


We hope you all enjoyed our Round Robin and had a suitably spooky Halloween! The festivities might be over now but, if you missed it, you can now read the whole story from start to finish (but please note, the competitions at the bottom of each post are now all closed). Enjoy ;)  

PART ONE by Berni Stevens

PART TWO by Jane Lovering

PART THREE by Christina Courtenay 

PART FOUR by Kirsty Ferry

PART FIVE by Rhoda Baxter

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Halloween Round Robin: Final Part by Rhoda Baxter


Happy Halloween to all of our readers! We hope you have lots of fun spooky plans for today (even if you’re a little too old for trick or treating!) Start as you mean to go on with the FINAL part of our Halloween Round Robin by Rhoda Baxter. We do hope you have been enjoying the story and that you read right until the end for our last Halloween competition :)   

If you have missed any of the extracts, make sure you catch up before you read Rhoda’s part. 

Part One by Berni Stevens

Part Two by Jane Lovering

Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Part Four by Kirsty Ferry

Ghostwatch: A Tale for Halloween

Final Part by Rhoda Baxter

Addy was so enthralled by the gardens that it took a moment for his words to settle into her mind. ‘S … Some of us?’ She turned to look at him.

‘I think there is something you should see.’

Addy frowned. She took another sweeping look at the gardens. How could they be here? She knew there was nothing here but sea sprayed grass. Her gaze turned to the Abbey itself. Moonlight gleamed off the faceted panes in the windows, the stones and, looking further up, the intact roof.


He held out his arm to her. ‘Come. Let me show you.’

She hesitated. He looked solid. She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. Definitely solid.

Deverell led her back into the house. She looked down to try and see where she was going. Where there should have been uneven ground, there was stone. Deverell walked on, confident, as though he knew exactly where he was going. He led her past large, moonlit windows, with views out onto the silverwashed gardens. This was weird. But … but this was amazing.

They went through another door that opened itself and Addy gasped. They were in the main hall. A long table ran along the middle of the room. There was a carpet, although it wasn’t bright enough for her to see what colour it was. A chandelier full of unlit candles hung from the ceiling. Along the walls were portraits.

She stared at it. If she concentrated really hard, she could see the ruins silhouetted against the sky above them. But the minute her eye moved, she was back inside an intact room. ‘How is this possible? Deverell?’

He led her a little way into the hall and stopped in front of one of the paintings. He gestured towards it.

Addy looked up and, for the second time, almost forgot to breathe. The moonlight fell on the portrait. Illuminating two figures. A couple. Even in the dim light, she could see the resemblance. Deverell. And herself.

The moon disappeared behind a cloud, plunging everything into darkness. All the hairs on the back of Addy’s neck stood on end. The magic disappeared. The tidy, sensible part of Addy’s mind reasserted itself. She extracted her arm from Deverell’s and put her hands on her hips.

The light reappeared, now slanting down through the ruins that stuck up against the star pricked night.

‘What the hell is going on?’

For the first time since she’d met him, he looked less than a 100% sure of himself. He rubbed a hand through the back of his hair. Now, with the moonlight glinting off the top of his head, he had lost that ethereal look. ‘It’s to do with the curse,’ he said. ‘Shall we… go back outside? I’ll explain.’

As they walked out of the ruins. The gardens has disappeared and to Addy’s intense relief, the Elsa’s wove past, arm in arm.

‘It’s to do with the curse,’ said Deverell. ‘The couple in the portrait. He was my great- great grandfather. They married for love, so that branch of the family survived. But the curse … it still follows us around.’ He shrugged. ‘From time to time, if one of us isn’t married by the time they’re twenty-five, they start to feel a … connection … to this place. There are some nights when it’s especially strong.”

‘On Halloween?’ She raised an eyebrow. ‘Convenient.’ A gust of wind cut through her costume, making her shiver. She rubbed her arms.

Seemingly without thinking about it, Deverell threw his cape around her, pulling her closer. ‘No, on full moon nights. The Halloween thing was just a coincidence. I came here tonight because I felt… compelled. And when I saw you earlier, I knew why. My ancestors brought me here to meet you.’

She should have scoffed at the idea, pushed him off and run away screaming, but she thought of the gardens, the hall in its splendour. ‘How can you be so sure?’

He pulled her closer. ‘Because, the minute I saw you, I felt the world change.’

Addy could see right into his eyes. That was easily the most romantic thing she had ever heard. Her heart sped up. She tried to think of something witty to say, but all she could think of was how much she wanted to kiss him. ‘Uh.’

His kiss was anything but cold. By the time they came up for air, Addy was warmed to her toes.

It took her a moment to get her breath back and say, ‘So you think … this…’ she gestured to him and herself. ‘This is love?’

He smiled sheepishly and nodded.

Addy reached up and touched his cheek. ‘I suppose time will tell.’

Deverell’s smile widened as he pulled her to him again. ‘I think it already has.’

The End

Aww, despite the spookiness, it was still a happy ending for Addy and Deverell! Well done to our talented authors for putting together such an awesome story once again :) Happy Halloween everyone! 


The Halloween Round Robin might be over but there’s still time for one more competition – and this one’s extra special!

If you’d like the chance to WIN a copy of Hubble Bubble by Jane Lovering, Halloween chocolate AND an exclusive pink Choc Lit T-Shirt (in your choice of size) simply tell us what you thought of the story in the comments below. Good luck! :) The winner will be announced on Monday 2nd November.

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Halloween Round Robin: Part Four by Kirsty Ferry


Kirsty Ferry is in charge of the penultimate part of our Halloween story today. What does she have in store for Addy and Deverell? Read on to find out … and make sure you check out the competition as well ;)  

If you haven’t read the previous parts of our special Halloween Round Robin, make sure you read them before reading today’s extract. 

Part One by Berni Stevens

Part Two by Jane Lovering

Part Three by Christina Courtenay 

Ghostwatch: A Tale for Halloween

Part Four by Kirsty Ferry 

Addy blinked.

Deverell pulled away from her, a secret little smile playing around his lips. ‘Was I too familiar?’ he asked. ‘I’m most terribly sorry.’

She knew, however, that he wasn’t really sorry at all.

‘No. It’s fine. It’s this place. It’s Halloween. It’s making people excitable,’ Addy stammered.

‘Excitable. That’s one way of putting it,’ he said.

Addy found her hands, within her white, buttoned up gloves, were sweating in a very un-sexy manner and she tried to subtly wipe them down her skirt. For the party, she had decided to go more Goth than Demon; and she’d opted for more coverage than cleavage. She was wearing a long, black dress, pretty much like a Victorian riding habit, complete with bustle and fitted jacket. She hadn’t bothered with an elaborate hairstyle, but had gone for a little hat with a veil, which she now realised was sitting askance on her head.

Deverell looked at her and, as if he could read her mind, he lifted her hair from her shoulders again. She could feel the chill from his fingers, touching her like cobwebs. ‘I like your hair loose,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘It suits you. I never liked it up.’

‘What?’ Addy took a step backwards. ‘You don’t know what I normally do with my hair!’ It was true – normally she had it pulled back into a ponytail or clipped back for work. The main reason she had it loose tonight was because it was supposed to be a ‘party’ and she didn’t think Stern Victorian Governess would rock it, somehow.

She looked around her nervously. She was, now she had come to her senses, in a pretty deep, cavernous vault of an ancient building with a stranger. Who, it seemed, was rather free with his affections and was apparently a bit of a stalker. Her heart began to beat quickly, thumping against the corseted bodice of the riding habit.

The silvery light coming through the latticework dulled as clouds drifted past the moon, plunging them both into an eerie otherworld that was, quite frankly, terrifying.

‘I think I should go,’ she said. ‘My friends will be wondering where I am.’

‘No they won’t,’ said Deverell. ‘Believe me, they’ve other things to keep them occupied tonight. I’ve made sure of it.’ The moonlight washed over him again as the clouds shifted outside and he took a step towards her. ‘Come. Walk with me,’ he said. His eyes were soft and very, very blue in his pale face. Addy looked at him and registered something else there – a sadness of some kind.

‘What are you?’ she whispered.

Deverell didn’t answer. Instead, he bowed low and offered his hand to Addy. ‘Please. I’ve waited a long time for this.’

As if she was in a dream, Addy found herself responding. She raised her hand and he took it, then stood up and looked at her. It was as if he was staring into her soul. She felt herself go weak around the knees again and choked back a little gulp of either terror or anticipation.

‘Where are we going?’ she asked, her voice sounding odd in the cavernous space.

‘Outside. Look. There’s the door.’ He turned, still holding her hand, and drew her towards him, tucking her into the side of him. It felt safe there – oddly safe and familiar.

Without protesting she walked with him to the door. He reached out a hand and she could almost have sworn the door opened by itself.

She stood in the open archway and gasped as she looked outside. The landscape was nothing like the grounds of the Abbey she had come to this evening. Lawns rolled onwards, ever onwards, sparkling in the moonlight. Trees were topped with moonbeams and a lake of some sort was to one side of them, black and still, with weeping willows dipping their silver fronds into the glassy water.

‘It’s beautiful,’ said Addy, staring around her. ‘I never knew it was like this here.’

There was a soft chuckle beside her and Deverell drew her closer. ‘No. Nobody knows what it was like really. Except some of us.’

Okay, things really are getting a bit spooky now! Who is Deverell? And what does he really want with Addy? Find out tomorrow when Rhoda Baxter takes to the stage with the final part of our Round Robin – just in time for Halloween! 


Congratulations to Rae Cowie who was the winner of our competition from yesterday!

For today’s competition you could be in with a chance to win a copy of Some Veil Did Fall by Kirsty Ferry and some Halloween chocolate. To enter, simply tell us how you think the story is going to end in the comments below. The winner will be announced tomorrow – Saturday 31st October.


Halloween Round Robin: Part Three by Christina Courtenay

spook day three


We hope you’ve all being enjoying our Halloween Round Robin so far! Today’s spooky extract is from Christina Courtenay. If you haven’t read the other two instalments yet make sure you do. Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE and Part Two by Jane Lovering is HERE. Read right until the end for our third competition :)  

‘So you know my name, but I don’t know yours,’ Addy pointed out.

‘True,’ he said, flashing her a smile. ‘Does it matter?’

‘Well, it’s kind of one-sided, don’t you think? And I like to know who I’m talking to.’

‘How about you just call me Deverell? My first name is a bit … old-fashioned.’

‘Deverell? As in that posh family who used to own the Abbey?’


Addy frowned. ‘I thought they’d died out, like ages ago. Late eighteen-hundreds? Some curse or something.’ She searched her memory but the details eluded her for the moment.

‘Maybe not all of them,’ Deverell muttered and walked further into the cellar.

Addy followed without thinking and walked into him – again, damn it – when he stopped abruptly and turned around. A shaft of moonlight shone down on him like a spotlight, making him look almost other-worldly, with his dark hair turned to liquid silver. His outfit, which wasn’t so much vampire as Victorian gentleman she realised, suited him to perfection – the tight-fitting jacket of his dark morning suit emphasised the broad shoulders and for some strange reason she longed to be enveloped in his red-silk lined cloak. For a moment, Addy thought he looked as though he was lit up from inside, but when she blinked the illusion was gone.

She shook her head. Get a grip, woman. He probably had some of those glow-sticks in his pockets or something. Tina had brought some, she’d said so earlier.

Deverell was staring at her, a small smile playing about his mouth. ‘It’s a beautiful place this, don’t you think? Or it used to be, when it was a family home.’

‘Yes, must have been awesome, although a bit spooky. It was a monastery before Henry VIII wrecked it and let the Deverells buy it, right?’

‘Correct.’ He grinned. ‘Maybe we’ll see some of the monks tonight? Is that chanting I hear?’ He pretended to listen.

Addy smacked him gently on the arm. ‘Stop that! I sure hope not. Anyway, I don’t believe in ghosts.’

‘Don’t you?’

His expression made her suddenly doubt herself and she decided to change the subject. ‘So, that curse … how come your branch of the family didn’t succumb to it, whatever it was?’

Whomsoever marries a Deverell had better be in love or suffer the consequences.’ Deverell intoned the words in a mock-scary voice that sent shivers up Addy’s spine.

‘What? Sounds like a load of tosh.’

He shrugged, his eyes narrowed. ‘Maybe, but the fact is all those who married a Deverell merely for money or position died within a year. That’s why the name died out … er, almost.’

‘Well, serve them right, I’d say. One should always marry for love.’

‘Is that what you would do?’ His teasing grin was back and Addy shivered for a different reason.

‘If I was lucky enough to fall in love with the right person, yes.’ It sounded impossibly prim, but she couldn’t blurt out what she’d really wanted to say, that if she’d met someone like him instead of stupid David she wouldn’t mind walking down the aisle any time.

‘Perhaps you’ll meet him tonight.’ Deverell reached out a hand and pushed her long blonde hair over her shoulder, a curiously intimate gesture that turned her legs to jelly for some reason.

‘I doubt it.’ She glanced outside where the snogging couples could be glimpsed as grotesque shadows on the ancient stone walls and added without thinking, ‘I haven’t even been kissed yet.’

‘That can be arranged.’

‘Huh?’ Addy realised what she’d said, but before she had time to feel mortified his mouth was on hers, his arms wrapping her inside that amazing cloak, just as she’d wished earlier. She knew she should have pushed him away – she barely knew him, for goodness’ sake – but two things stopped her.

One – he was an expert kisser and she hadn’t been kissed like that for years, if ever. And two – she realised with a jolt that his mouth was freezing cold, as cold as the grave, and she was frozen to the spot.

Wow! The more we hear about Deverell, the more we’re intrigued … and also a little scared! What will happen in the aftermath of the kiss? Find out tomorrow when Kirsty Ferry takes over ;)  


Congratulations to Karen Mace who was the winner of yesterday’s competition. Those who weren’t so lucky, fear not. We’re running another one today!

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of Christina Courtenay’s fabulous new book, The Jade Lioness (as well as some Halloween chocolate), simply tell us what you think will happen next in our story in the comments below. Good luck! The winner will be announced tomorrow – Friday 30th October.



Click HERE for the next instalment by Kirsty Ferry.

Halloween Round Robin: Part Two by Jane Lovering


It’s time for the second part of our special Halloween Round Robin – and this one’s by Jane Lovering! Find out what happens to Addy at the Abbey next and whether she bumps into any ghosts … or handsome, blue-eyed strangers ;)  

If you haven’t read the first part by Berni Stevens, you can see it HERE

Ghostwatch: A Tale for Halloween

Part 2: Jane Lovering

More and more of the group arrived during the evening. Addy wondered where Tina had managed to drag them up from. Actually, looking at the way they were dressed, some of them really did seem to have been dragged up, but Tina just muttered at her for being ‘rude’ when she mentioned this. A squadron of zombies, who were, Tina hissed when Addy drew her attention to them, from the local accountants who worked for Tina’s company; a cotillion of witches, some of the green-faced ‘Wicked’ variety and others for whom being wicked was obviously on the agenda later tonight. Addy had never seen so many stockings and suspenders on display in one locality.

‘Cheer up Ads.’ Tina was, as ever, at the centre of things, preparing the party under the most Gothic of the arches the Abbey had to offer. ‘It’s a laugh. Remember “laughing”? Honestly, since David dumped you, you’ve been so mardy, and it wasn’t even as if he was much of a catch. You can do so much better than a bloke whose only conversation is about his Morris Marina.’

‘It was a classic car’, Addy mumbled, but she knew Tina was right. Knew there was more to life than beige seat covers and a man who counted his loose change every night before bed.

She walked away from a trio of mummies, trailing their filthy bandages as though they were trying to make some point about the NHS, and stood at the edge of the headland, where the Abbey grounds had washed into the sea. She watched the last of the light leach out of the sky and the first stars appear, dotting the darkness like little points of hope.

‘Funny to think they’re always up there, isn’t it?’ A voice spoke just beside her and made her jump. ‘We just can’t see them during the day. All that beauty, and it’s invisible until it gets dark.’

Addy tried to look out of the corner of her eye.  She didn’t want to be uncool and stare, but she knew it was the blue-eyed stranger who’d wished her that misplaced Happy Halloween earlier. Behind them, Tina’s iPod played a snatch of ‘Monster Mash’ and there was the sound of a raucous dance-off starting up.

‘They aren’t even drunk yet’, she said, and then berated herself for the superficial comment. Here was a stranger, gorgeous and, more to the point, talking to her, and all she could do was cast aspersions on her fellow partygoers.

‘You don’t approve of a Halloween party?’ He sounded amused, and now she did turn her head to look at him.

‘We’re too old for this. Hallowe’en is for kids, all apple bobbing and “Trick or Treating”, we’re just using it as an excuse to dress up and get drunk.’ She managed to get the words out, despite the fact that her mouth had dropped open. Old Blue-Eyes was sensational, tall and slim with shoulders that filled out his vampire costume a treat. He even had a cape, which twirled about him like a well behaved spaniel.

‘You don’t believe in All Hallows Eve? The night when evil must be driven back with light and fire?’ He sounded amused.

Addy looked over her shoulder at where several party-goers had started throwing the marshmallow eyeballs at one another. ‘I think it might take more than light and fire,’ she said.

Beside her, Blue-Eyes laughed and she could feel it down to her toes. ‘Oh, Adelaide, you do need cheering up, don’t you?’

Addy felt a little prickle of something almost like fear raise the hair on her neck. ‘How do you know my name?’

Another laugh and she tried to ignore its slightly erotic power. ‘Tina told me, of course.’ He started to walk, away from the headland now and back into the Abbey, but away from the fires and music that were breaking out and the little parties of snogging that had clustered around various fallen buttresses. Addy saw a skeleton and a couple of Elsa’s from Frozen chasing one another with a bottle of vodka and decided to follow him.

They walked into the darkest part of the Abbey, the old cellar, where an arched stone roof curved overhead and the remaining walls were thick enough to cut out the sound of the revels outside.

       Oooh, do you think it was a good idea for Addy to follow the blue-eyed stranger? You’ll find out if it was in the next part of the Round Robin tomorrow by Christina Courtenay!


Congratulations to Beverley Lloyd who was the winner of yesterday’s competition!

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of Vampire State of Mind by Jane Lovering and some Halloween chocolate, simply comment below and let us know whether you think Addy was right to follow the blue-eyed stranger and why. The winner will be announced tomorrow morning – Thursday 29th October.

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Click HERE for the next instalment by Christina Courtenay.

Halloween Round Robin: Part One by Berni Stevens


It’s Halloween this week and we’re celebrating with an exclusive Round Robin and a competition a day until the 31st October! Remember to return to our blog every day until Saturday to catch up with the story and enter the competitions :)  

Today, Berni Stevens starts us off in suitably spooky fashion! 

Ghostwatch: A Tale for Halloween

‘Eyeballs?’  Adelaide stared at her best friend, Tina. ‘Seriously?’

Tina grinned. ‘Not real ones,’ she said. ‘Eyeballs made out of marshmallow.’

Adelaide shuddered. ‘Even so …’

Somehow she felt this whole thing had suddenly spiralled out of control. She had never been a fan of All Hallows Eve, and the thought of spending the night anywhere haunted made her want to vomit. Actually, eyeballs made out of marshmallow made her want to vomit too.

‘And we need glow in the dark cobwebs.’

‘You’ve thought about this way too much.’ Adelaide gave her a stern  look. ‘Plus I have real cobwebs here all year round – and spiders,’ she added, watching as Tina glanced about her with  a worried look on her face. ‘Big ones.’

‘It will be fun, Ads,’ insisted Tina, keeping a furtive vigil for anything of the eight-legged scuttling variety.

‘It’s commercialised rubbish,’ said Addy. ‘It’s for kids.’

Tina sighed. ‘Promise you’ll think about it?’

Addy shrugged in a non-committal, don’t hold me to anything kind of way.

Tina hugged her, and left for her evening Zumba class. Something else Addy thought over-commercialised. Probably the person who’d invented Zumba was, at this very moment, coming up with another money-spinning dance idea, which would intimidate anyone who hadn’t trained in ballet from the age of two. She plopped down on the sofa, and sighed again. Hallowe’en? It really was for kids wasn’t it? Trick or Treat and all that stuff. What on earth would a bunch of so-called young professionals get out of  sitting around in a ruined abbey waiting for a ghost to show up? Other than pneumonia.

Addy picked up the romance she’d been reading when Tina turned up. In spite of her reticence about Halloween, she liked ghost stories. Not that she actually believed in ghosts. Seeing was believing after all … but … can you see ghosts?  She put the book on the table and switched the TV on. A bit of channel flicking found Most Haunted. Talk about ghost overload. She pressed the off button and went back to her book.


On Saturday afternoon, Adelaide trudged up the hill to the Abbey. “Addy and the Abbey”, she thought with a smile. Hardly the stuff creepy ghost stories were made of. Somehow she’d found herself agreeing, against her better judgment, to go along with Tina and the gang on their Halloween ghost watch. Well, what was the worst that could happen? They could get arrested for drinking wine in the grounds of an ancient monument, or someone could trip and break a leg in the dark or … well maybe it wasn’t a good idea to think of the worst things. It had been ages since she’d walked up to the Abbey, it was always just … there. Overlooking the town in its quiet and elegant Gothic way.

There were plenty of visitors milling about, taking photographs and posing as vampires in various archways. Addy wandered around the outer walls, enjoying the warmth of the Autumn sunshine. She squinted up at a gargoyle, high up on the ancient wall. It appeared to be poking its tongue out, so she poked her own out back – and cannoned straight into a tree.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the tree. ‘Are you all right?’

She squinted to get her eyes back in focus, and found herself staring up into a pair of very blue eyes.


‘I asked if you were all right,’ said the owner of the blue eyes.

‘Yes – thanks,’ she said. ‘Sorry.’

He smiled and the blue eyes sparkled. He was definitely better looking than the gargoyle. She found herself smiling back, and edged around him, unable to think of anything else to say.

‘Happy Halloween,’ he called after her.

‘Erm … you too,’ she replied. Did people normally wish each other a “Happy Halloween”?  She turned back to get another glimpse, but strangely there was no sign of him.

Tina loved Addy’s account of meeting the blue-eyed stranger. ‘He’s probably a ghost,’ she said.

‘In the daylight?’ Addy gave her raised eyebrows and a look of disbelief.

‘Ghosts aren’t vampires.’

‘Eyeballs,’ said Addy, changing the subject.  ‘Two bags of. But you can get your own cobwebs.’

If you’ve watched horror movies, you’ll have learned that nothing good ever comes from staying in haunted places overnight. How will Addy and Tina fare at the Abbey? And will the blue-eyed stranger make a reappearance? Come back tomorrow to find out in the second part of our Halloween Round Robin by Jane Lovering!


If you enjoyed Berni’s extract and would like the chance to read more of her work, then why not enter our competition to win a copy of her novel, Dance Until Dawn? Simply comment on this post and let us know what you think is going to happen to Addy next to enter. We don’t have any marshmallow eyeballs to give away but we will throw in some Halloween chocolate as well ;) The winner will be announced tomorrow morning – Wednesday 28th October 2015.

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Click HERE for next instalment by Jane Lovering.

Choc Lit on holiday!


Are you a Choc Lit reader and lucky enough to be going on holiday this year? 

Why not enter our summery competition? Here’s how:

1. Pack your Choc Lit paperback or load up that eReader.

2. Take a photo of your Choc Lit paperback or the front cover of your eReader (as shown above) by the pool, on the beach, in a French cafe, or up a mountain if that’s more your style!

3.  Send the photo to us at info@choc-lit.com with the subject heading ‘Choc Lit on Holiday’. Make sure you tell us where you are.

The best photo will win a cash prize of £100 (to be paid via Paypal) and there will also be runner-up prizes to win SIX Choc Lit books. The closing date is September 30th 2015 so get snapping! We’re looking forward to seeing your entries :)

Full terms and conditions available from info@choc-lit.com

The Birthday Party Part #6 by Sheryl Browne



And so we come to the end of our special Round Robin and our birthday celebrations! Thank you to everyone who joined us on Facebook and Twitter for our #ChocLitParty. We had a lot of fun and we hope you did too :) Here’s to many more Choc Lit birthdays. 

But now back to Joss’s party – is a happy ending on the cards? Sheryl Browne decides! 

To win an ebook copy of Sheryl’s fab summery novel The Rest of My Life (which is yet to be released!) read on until the end :)  

I did. Oh, how I did. My small hand clasped firmly in his strong, manly – furry – hand, I didn’t really care who might be delivering what at the door. I hardly even noticed the strippergram, who obviously was back again, gyrating with gusto in the hall. Or what Izzi was doing with his banana.

‘Close your eyes,’ Harry instructed, pausing at the front door and turning towards me.


‘Your eyes,’ he said, the twinkle in his indecently, far-too-blue eyes now in megawatt overdrive.

Breathe, Jocelyn. Feeling a little faint, I heaved in a breath, possibly asphyxiating the palpitating mouse in my corset, and reluctantly lowered my eyelashes.

‘No peeking.’

I wasn’t peeking. I was puckering. His face was now so close to mine, my lips had taken on a will of their own.

‘Now, don’t open them until I say so. Okay?’

Yes,’ I squeaked. He was still holding my hand. I had no idea what he was doing, but I felt a definite ruffle run down my taffeta.

‘Right,’ Harry said, also drawing in a breath … from somewhere down below, ‘go for it, Lisa.’

Go for it. Go for what? Should I duck? Run? In these shoes?

Imagining with sick certainty that Harry was about to pay me back for that really embarrassing thing, I twanged open my eyes, just in time to see Lisa pull open the door. ‘Ta-dah!’ she said, looking at me expectantly.

I, in turn, looked astonished from her to our caller, and then stared down at Harry, who was looking similarly thunderstruck towards the surprise at the door.

‘Oh, grrreat.’ His broad shoulders slumped, visibly.

‘Jocelyn!’ Great-Gran scowled, her four-foot three inch frame looming in the doorway. ‘What on earth are you wearing, dear?’ Pausing, she peered disapprovingly at my black taffeta. ‘You look like something from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Not at all suitable for a wedding. Honestly, you young girls nowadays. No dress sense.’ With which she swept in, stepping between Harry and me, who wobbled precariously on his one knee.

Hell,’ he growled, righting himself, with the assistance of Julia and one of his hairy band of brothers. ‘It was supposed to be a quartet.’

‘What?’ I managed to close my mouth in order to gasp.

‘A quartet,’ he repeated, running a hand through his temptingly clutchable hair, once assisted to his feet. ‘It was supposed to be a string quartet, not the bloody Rottweiler.’

‘I heard that, young man!’ Gran boomed from the kitchen, as Harry stared forlornly back towards the door, probably in hopes of Gran’s chain yanking her back.

‘A quartet?’ I was struggling now, but definitely surprised. I’d give him that.

Harry met my eyes briefly and then glanced awkwardly down. The twinkle in his eyes had gone, I noticed. They were more the colour of a summer storm than summery blue skies. ‘I was going to …’

‘You need to wear white, dear, not black,’ came Gran’s voice, now from the bedroom. ‘At least I hope you do.’

‘Propose,’ Harry mumbled, glancing warily back up.


‘I wish you’d stop repeating everything he says,’ Julia said behind me. ‘The poor man’s embarrassed enough as it is.’

‘You’re blushing,’ his hairy friend commented, giving Harry’s cheek a hearty tweak.

‘Come on.’ Julia sighed, leading Liam off by his vine.

‘I’m coming. I’m coming.’ Liam wiggled his eyebrows in Harry’s direction before obliging. ‘But promise you’ll take me gently.’

‘I’ll leave you two alone,’ Lisa said, eyebrows also in insinuating wiggle mode as she too stepped between us.

‘Propose?’ I uttered again, utterly bewildered.

‘He’s been trying for donkey’s years,’ Gran announced, emerging from the bedroom, various white items from my wardrobe in hand – and one suspiciously grey.

‘But you will keep thwarting the poor boy’s attempts to…’ Gran stopped in order to accept the drink she was proffered. Then, sipping it, she promptly spat it out. ‘Call this a Pimm’s,’ she spluttered, twirling around to head back to the kitchen. ‘Tastes like cat’s pee.’

Harry laughed, a rather strangulated laugh. ‘I never got chance to say yes.’ He shrugged, so boyishly I wanted to hug him to my cleavage, wherein my mouse had possibly passed out. ‘You know, after that, um …’

Really, really, embarrassing thing: my proposal. He’d wanted to get me out of my dress then too. You’ll have to marry me first, I’d slurred merrily. And then was immediately sick, again.

‘So?’ He smiled, his true-blue eyes so twinkly, I swear the lightbulbs paled. ‘How about I carry you over the threshold?’ He nodded mischievously towards the landing. ‘And then get you out of that uncomfortable dress?’

‘Yes and yes!’ I tried not too squeal too inelegantly as he scooped me up in his hairy arms, like some magnificent hero in a romantic movie.

‘Excellent,’ Harry said, his lips a soft breath away from mine.

‘Harry!’ Liam yelled up the hall, as Harry squeezed me and my many layers through the door. ‘Watch the banana …’



Make that a rom com.

What a wonderful ending! Both to the Round Robin and our birthday celebrations. Well done Sheryl :)  

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of The Rest My Life by Sheryl Browne, simply comment on this post or on Facebook/Twitter. 


To read Part One by Berni Stevens click HERE.

To read Part Two by Kirsty Ferry click HERE.

To read Part Three by Laura E James click HERE.

To read Part Four by Jane Lovering click HERE.

To read Part Five by Christina Courtenay click HERE.

The Birthday Party Part #5 by Christina Courtenay


We’re nearing the end of our special birthday Round Robin but, fear not, you still have two more extracts to read, including this one by Christina Courtenay! Let us know how you’ve been enjoying it so far in the comments! 

Make sure you read all the way through to find out how you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of Christina Courtenay’s most recent novel, The Soft Whisper of Dreams :)

The Birthday Party – Part 5

Yep, depressingly, that must have been what he meant. Harry didn’t say anything more about me being single or whatever, and just helped me decorate the flat as if we were best mates, nothing else. When the others arrived, he introduced me to Liam and disappeared to the kitchen. Typical.

‘… and isn’t it just so weird, like, how we’re related and we didn’t even know it? And if it hadn’t been for Harry, we’d never have realised!’ Liam gave me what he must have thought was his best smile, but it didn’t have the effect on me that he’d probably intended. ‘Good thing we’re not too closely related though, if you know what I mean?’

Yeah, how could I fail to get his meaning when he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and stared down my cleavage? Yuck. This was turning into the birthday from hell.

Harry and the other rugby lads danced past in a long line, singing at the top of their voices. ‘You-ooh-ooooh, I wanna be like you-ooh-ooooh …’ They were accompanied by King Louie’s song from Disney’s The Jungle Book, blaring out of my iPod dock. What were they, six-year-olds?

‘He was an orangutan, you morons, not a gorilla!’ I shouted crossly, but either they didn’t hear me or they chose to ignore me. I was the only party-pooper after all, the only one not enjoying myself despite the Pimm’s.

Maybe it was time for a refill?

The doorbell rang and I almost groaned. More guests? They wouldn’t fit. Seriously.

Jen stuck her head round the door, having obviously gone to see who it was. ‘A present for you.’ She grinned. ‘From your big bro.’

This time I did groan out loud. My older brother lived abroad and every year for my birthday he sent me the same thing, thinking it hilarious – a strippergram. Would he ever grow up? A bunch of flowers would be such a nice change. I sighed and made my way to the front door. What would it be? I’d had everything from Batman to the Pink Panther. This time it was …

Yes, should have known. A gorilla.

‘Hey, want to get down to some monkey business with me?’ The guy outside the front door smiled seductively – or so he thought – and, as the stripper music started up behind him from his car, he began to unzip his hairy suit and thrust his pelvis at me.

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, just go away!’ I shut the door in his face and stomped off down the corridor. Grabbing a huge glass of Jen’s punch from the kitchen, I headed out the back and into the tiny garden. Maybe a birthday spent on my own was the best option. Who needed parties?

‘Joss? What’s up? I thought you and Liam were getting on really well?’

I looked up. Harry. And he was still trying to pair me up with his mate. Just great.

‘Sorry, but he’s not my type. A bit too hairy.’

Harry laughed. ‘Er, I hate to break it to you, but he’s not the only one …’

‘I meant the beard. Stubble is one thing, but when it gets to the stage where dinner might get stuck in it … nah, not for me.’

‘Oh, Izzi told me you all liked guys with beards now, it’s the height of fashion. I was thinking of growing mine.’ He rubbed his stubble, giving me goosebumps at the rasping sound. If only I could be the one to do that …

‘Don’t! I mean, not that it’s any of my business …’ I realised I’d almost given myself away there. It shouldn’t matter to me whether he grew a beard or not as he didn’t have to please me. Not that he’d want to … or care … or, whatever.

‘So, you’re not enjoying your own party. We’ll have to do something to fix that.’

Harry smiled at me and for a moment I let myself imagine that maybe he had guessed my feelings after all and was going to tell me he felt the same. That he wanted me as much as I wanted him. His blue eyes twinkled in the dusk of the summer’s evening and he leaned forward as if he was going to kiss me. Yes!

‘Clearly, what you need is cake.’

‘Huh?’ My bubble burst again and I closed my eyes before standing up abruptly. ‘Thanks, Harry, but … I. Don’t. Want. Any. Sodding. Cake!’

Just then, Izzi stuck her head out the back door. ‘Sorry to interrupt you – was I interrupting anything?’ She giggled. ‘There’s someone at the door. Says he has a surprise for you Joss.’

I thought she winked at Harry, but couldn’t be sure. Now what? If that gorilla guy was back again I’d give him what for …

‘Let’s go and see,’ Harry said, and to my surprise, he took my hand to lead me into the house. ‘I think you’re going to like this.’

Oh dear, sounds like Joss’s party has turned into a bit of a disaster! But what’s this surprise? And will it make up for the inappropriate advances of long-distant relatives and strippers in gorilla suits? Sheryl Browne will reveal all in the final extract in an hour’s time ;)  

If you’d like to win a copy of The Soft Whisper of Dreams, simply comment on this post or on Twitter/Facebook.

SWOD_hirespackshot RGB-150dpi copy

To read Part One by Berni Stevens click HERE.

To read Part Two by Kirsty Ferry click HERE.

To read Part Three by Laura E James click HERE.

To read Part Four by Jane Lovering click HERE.