The Santa Dash: Final Part by Laura E. James

Round Robin LJ

We’re now at the end of our special Christmas Round Robin – we think the authors have outdone themselves, and hope that you feel the same! They are a talented lot 😉 

Victoria Cornwall left the story on a cliffhanger yesterday, and we’re really excited to share the ending written by Laura E. James. Let’s find out how the Santa Dash finishes and whether our hero is Jamie or Julian … 

Remember to read right until the end if you’d like to take part in the last competition of the season! Also make sure to read the other parts of the story before this extract so that it makes sense. You can find: 

Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE

Part Two by Clare Chase HERE

Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE

Part Four by Victoria Cornwall HERE

The Santa Dash: Final Part by Laura E. James

Ellie nudged Jamie’s elbow. ‘We need to move.’

‘No. It’s fine. It’s about time I had this out with the pair of them.’ Jamie adjusted his feet, taking a wider stance, and having struggled to fold his arms over his rotund Santa stomach, clasped his fingers together and hooked his thumbs over his belt.

‘Jamie!’ Ellie tugged at the firefighter’s white-cuffed sleeve in an attempt to pull him from danger, but trying to shift the six foot plus Santa only resulted in Ellie pulling a muscle. She rubbed her shoulder.

‘Seriously. It’s okay.’ Jamie’s gaze was fixed on the advancing doctor. ‘He’s no threat.’

He isn’t, thought Ellie, casting a panicked look to the skies – Dave was descending faster than a goose-fat greased Santa sliding down a chimney. ‘It’s admirable that you’re standing your ground, but …’

‘No.’ Jamie frowned. ‘It’s high time I told Dr Julian Faulkner what I think of him.’

‘And what’s that?’ Julian halted a foot away from Jamie. He poked at his padding. ‘At least I’m a man of substance. You’re just full of …’

‘Stop it!’ Melissa joined the accident-in-waiting. She dived between the two men and separated them by pressing a palm to each chest. Her right hand bounced off Jamie. ‘I’m sure we can clear this up in a mature and adult way.’

Ellie shook her head in despair. There was no time for mature and adult. In a matter of seconds there were going to be four Santas sprawled along the promenade. And there’d be witnesses. A crowd was gathering – three mums with buggies were pointing up at the sky, two giant elves were gawping at Melissa, and a youth who’d climbed a lamppost was beckoning to his mates to come and watch.

As a shadow loomed over the posturing Santas, and Dave’s yells of ‘Heads up!’ reached the ears of the concerned party, Jamie looked heavenward.

‘Holy sleigh bells!’ He grabbed Ellie round her waist. ‘Faulkner! Help Melissa.’

But the doctor used the auburn-haired woman as resistance and pushed himself away from her and into safety.

With the dark shadow growing larger, Jamie apologised to Ellie, lifting her out of the way of danger, and then rugby-tackled Melissa to the pavement, a millisecond before Dave’s emergency landing.

‘I’m good. I’m good.’ Dave waved from his prone position, his chute floating serenely onto the railings that divided the beach from the promenade.

‘Everyone else all right?’ Jamie got to his feet, helped Melissa up, and brushed himself down. ‘Ellie? You okay?’

Ellie stepped forward from the crowd – the crowd that was applauding Jamie’s daring do. ‘Not a scratch,’ she said, a surprise to her as much as anyone. She watched as Jamie spoke quietly to Melissa, wondering what they were discussing. He was probably telling Melissa how much he missed her. How much he wanted her back. How good it felt to have her in his arms once again, albeit in the name of health and safety.

Being in his arms had been pretty special, Ellie reflected, a sigh of missed opportunity escaping out to sea.

‘So much for Dr Julian saving lives.’

To Ellie’s surprise, Jamie was striding towards her.

‘He only cares about his own. Poor Melissa. She’s seen his true worth.’ Jamie held out an open palm in Ellie’s direction. ‘At least she’s come out unscathed from this near disaster.’ His fingers waggled. ‘Don’t leave me hanging Nurse Ellie. I’d like to get back to that something more interesting I mentioned earlier – getting to know you.’ His blue eyes glistened.

‘But … Melissa.’ Ellie scanned the area ahead for Jamie’s ex-fiancée, certain her auburn hair would stand out against the mass of red and white merrymakers, but nothing. Nada. No sight of her.

Jamie laughed. ‘She’s gone to give the doctor a piece of her mind. I have a feeling he’ll be single before the evening’s out.’

Ellie pursed her lips. ‘At work, he led us to believe he already was.’ Dr Faulkner had tricked her and Sally. They’d both fallen for his fake charms. She’d make sure she told Sally everything, although judging by the grin Sally had given when she’d passed by with the two burly rugby players, there was no risk of a broken heart. ‘How do you know Dr Faulkner?’ Ellie slipped her hand into Jamie’s. It was warm, strong and safe.

‘From the gym. He seemed like a decent bloke. Friendly. Competitive. He liked to compare treadmill stats. Always added an extra weight to the bench press. Thrashed me on the rowing machines.’ Jamie shrugged. ‘Anyway, one evening, after my session, Melissa popped down to the gym to take me straight out for a meal …’

‘And that’s where she and Julian met?’

Jamie nodded and Ellie’s hand was given a gentle squeeze.

‘Three weeks later, Melissa broke off the engagement.’

What a horrid experience that must have been for Jamie. Ellie issued a pat of reassurance to his arm. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’m not,’ said Jamie. ‘I mean, I was, but it’s Christmas and magical things happen.’

Indeed. Ellie reviewed the morning’s events. Out of the hundred or so Santas dashing along the prom, it was Jamie she’d crashed into and straddled; it was Jamie who’d pulled alongside her to exchange small talk and it was Jamie who’d rescued her from her stumble, lobbed her over his shoulder and carried her across the finish line.

And it was Jamie who’d saved her from Dave’s death-defying descent.

It was all magic as far as she was concerned. She tilted her head to study Jamie. He was magic.

‘Do you believe in Father Christmas?’ he said, his face edging closer to hers.

‘Oh yes,’ said Ellie, breathing in his cologne and closing her eyes at the touch of his lips. ‘And he’s very dashing.’

What a gorgeous ending! A perfect Christmas story from our Choc Lit authors 🙂 We hope you loved it as much as we did and it’s got you into the festive spirit. There’s not much left to say except to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for all of your support in 2016! But there is still time for one more …


If you enjoyed Laura’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, What Doesn’t Kill You … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Laura’s extract and answer this question …

Where did Julian and Jamie meet?

If you know the answer, email it to The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of today. Good luck!


A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

Halloween Round Robin DAY FIVE


Happy Halloween everyone! We know you’ll no doubt be busy preparing for trick-or-treaters and pumpkin carving but make sure you take some time out with your morning coffee to read the last part of our Halloween Round Robin and find out what happens to Kalen and Faye. A Jane Lovering finale is not to be missed 🙂 There’s one more competition to enter too!

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order.

Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens

Click HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Click HERE to read Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Click HERE to read Part Four by Kirsty Ferry 

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

We danced for what felt like days, but every time I glanced up the moon was still in the same position, as though it had been nailed to the black silk of the sky.

‘The queen wishes to meet our human guest,’ Kalen said, after we’d performed a particularly difficult waltz that had left me out of breath whilst all the other dancers seemed unaffected, almost cat-like in their grace and elegance, and also their air of slightly self-satisfied arrogance. ‘She is intrigued by your presence.’

He took my hand and led me to a dais, surrounded by gauzy curtains which fluttered in an unfelt breeze. Upon the platform sat a woman so beautiful that I immediately felt pathetically unworthy and slightly fat in my laced-up bodice and swirly skirt. Everything about her was perfect. Her hair was glossy black, parted in the middle and rippled with just enough curl to make it not hang like a 1960’s folk singer. Her face could have advertised anything from perfume to expensive cars and she wore a dress that managed to leave everything to the imagination whilst assuming that you didn’t have a very good one. She looked like Faerie Barbie.

‘So.’ And even her voice was perfect, light and amused, accentless. ‘This is the human woman that you rescued from the Dark Court’s attention.’  She rested her chin in her cupped hand and looked at me as though she was going to buy me. ‘Hmmm.’ She made a ‘twirling’ motion in the air with her other hand and Kalen obediently swung me around.  ‘I suppose she will do.’ Then her attention focused in on me. ‘Has Kalen provided you with refreshment yet, my dear? Do have a cup of sherbet.’

I wanted to point out that, what with it being Halloween, I’d already had enough sherbet to knock out a ten-year-old, but Kalen was already passing me an ornate silver goblet filled with liquid. It foamed and smelled of all the delicious things I’d ever eaten or drunk. I realised that, with all the dancing and partying and not knowing how much time had elapsed, I was actually really thirsty, and raised the cup to my lips.

A large tartan shopping bag appeared out of nowhere and smacked the goblet from my hand, spilling frothing liquid across the impeccable grass in front of me.

‘Don’t you know that you never eat or drink in Faerie?’ a crotchety voice asked. ‘Honestly, what do they teach them in schools these days?  Well, geography, I suppose. And French. But obviously not how to behave when you’ve been stolen away by the Folk… tch.’

Mrs Alden, wearing what looked suspiciously like a winceyette nightie and ankle-high slippers in purple tartan stood in the middle of the faerie ball, as incongruous as a naked man in Harrods. She’d lowered her wheeled shopping bag, but was still holding it slightly threateningly by its long handle.

The queen looked furious.  She actually hissed at Mrs Arden.

‘Now, now, my lady. You’ll not use this poor child in one of your battles against the Unseelie.’ Mrs Arden gave me A Look. ‘Just because she’s a bit simple and has her head easily turned by a man in tight britches does not give you the right to keep her in Faerie.’  A hand fastened around my wrist. ‘And you, come with me.’

She pulled me away from the floating candles and the music and the laughter.  Away from the magic that had made me feel so special, and back through the wooden door. Instantly we were outside the flats again and I could smell the rubbish bins and the damp compost from my pots. My clothes were back to being jeans and trainers, and I felt a brief pang for the loss of the cobweb dress and silver slippers. Mrs Arden continued to bundle me until we were back inside the building, and then inside her flat, whereupon she pushed me down into an armchair, made a quick phone call that I couldn’t hear, and turned to me.

‘I suppose you told them your name.’  She was shaking her head. ‘Really, child.  You let yourself be elf-struck, and on this night of all nights … well. You were just lucky I was there.’  She reached into the tartan shopper and pulled out another horse-shoe, this one was still bright and had a few nails protruding. Mrs Arden sighed. ‘And at my age I shouldn’t be wrestling with horses, it’s no joke trying to pull these things off, you know, when you’ve got half a tonne of Welsh Cob trying to nibble your nightie.’

I was still stunned.  I just sat, trying to get my head around what had just happened.  The memory of the faerie ball was fading, wisping into dream.

‘I knew what was happening the second you burst in and stole my horseshoe. If you eat or drink in Faerie, they have you, you know.’  Mrs Arden’s voice softened now. ‘They can keep you for two hundred years and do what they want with you. And what they want is rarely pleasant.’ Her voice dropped away, as though she knew. ‘And then they just drop you back where they found you.  All your family dead and gone, never knowing what happened to you.’

There was a knock at the door and she went off to open it to a tall young man with familiar piercing blue eyes, who I was absolutely NOT going to refer to as Kalen No. 3. ‘This is my great great grandson,’ she said.

The young man smiled at me, with absolutely no sense of recognition, but a warm friendliness. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘I’m Mark.’

I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times.  ‘And I’m …’ I hesitated.

Mrs Arden twinkled at me. ‘It’s all right,’ she said. ‘Halloween is just about over, and this one is definitely mortal. He’s the spitting image of his great great grandad, though …’ she added softly.

‘I’m Faye,’ I said.  ‘From next door.’

Mark nodded. ‘I’ve seen you coming and going, when I’ve been visiting Great Gran. I’m renovating the old hall down the road there, going to turn it into a house … I was going to knock and ask you to come over for a coffee, but …’ he spread his hands, ‘it just never seemed the right time.’

Mrs Arden nodded to herself, as though quietly satisfied. Then she stared at the space above the door where I’d wrenched holes in her architrave. ‘Now, I’ll leave you two alone together to get to know one another … and to get that bloody horseshoe back up where it belongs!’

We were beginning to have our suspicions about ‘Kalen Number 1’, but we’re so glad Mrs Arden stepped in to save the day – and that Faye finally met the ‘right’ Kalen (or Mark!) What a fabulous way to end our Round Robin and to begin the Halloween celebrations! 

Thank you to all of our talented authors for putting the story together. We don’t know how you manage it! And thank you also to everyone who has read the story and commented. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you all have a wonderful Halloween. 


If you enjoyed Jane’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Vampire State of Mind and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.


A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Four by Kirsty Ferry

Halloween Round Robin DAY FOURChristina Courtenay left us on the brink of being whisked away to a Halloween faerie ball yesterday (and we don’t mean just a costume party!) But will Kirsty Ferry make sure we end up there safely today? Let’s find out! Remember to read right until the end for the competition. 

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order. Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens first, HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter, and HERE to read Part Three by Christina Courtenay.

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Four by Kirsty Ferry

His hand was cool in mine. He pointed towards my little kitchen door, which led out into a rather nasty, concreted yard. My bins were out there, and a couple of plant pots that I’d tried to encourage into flower over the summer. A wooden door was built into the wall, and beyond that was the back lane that ran behind the terrace.

‘Out there,’ he said. ‘Come on.’

He stepped towards the door and I wasn’t even sure if he’d touched it or not; but it swung open and we were suddenly in my yard. He walked over to the door in the wall, and again that one swung open.

‘Where are we going?’ I asked. ‘There’s nothing out there.’

‘Oh, there is, there is. You just don’t know how to look for it yet,’ he said. His eyes glittered in the moonlight – for moonlight it was, a clear, full moon hanging like a talisman in the velvet sky, and a breath of wind kissed the back of my neck. ‘Now, my Faye, my beautiful Faye –  look with your heart.’

As one, we stepped out into what should have been the back lane and I stared around me, enchanted.

Where I should have been faced with brick walls and high fences, I was looking out onto open fields, dotted here and there with clusters of trees strung with tiny lights. Candles hung, seemingly in mid-air, flickering golden shadows over the grass. Faint music drifted through the evening, and the soft sound of laughter wound itself around me. Shadows moved on the fields, dark figures drifting around, coupling, then uncoupling, as if they were doing some kind of complicated dance.

‘Look down,’ Kalen whispered in my ear.

I did as I was bid and saw that I was wearing a full-skirted black dress, covered with sparkling silver cobwebs. The heavy fabric brushed the floor and I stuck my foot out, intrigued to see a silver slipper where my old trainers had been.

‘Is this the faerie ball?’ I asked softly, almost scared to blink in case this sparkling, starlit scene disappeared.

‘It is,’ replied Kalen. I cast a glance at him and he was no longer dressed casually – if I was some sort of faerie princess, he was definitely the faerie king; all the way down from his tawny hair to his golden waistcoat to his black breeches.

‘Kalen! Hail fellow, well-met!’ I turned and saw another warrior standing behind us. ‘And who is this?’ The man, dressed in a similar fashion to my escort – but thank God this one had dark hair, and wasn’t about to confuse me as a potential Kalen 3 – bowed deeply and I had the awful feeling that my jaw slackened and dropped, as I raised my hand, almost automatically, for him to kiss it.

‘This is Faye,’ said Kalen, amusement in his voice. ‘I don’t think she quite believes in us yet. But she will.’

The dark-haired one smiled down at me and nodded. ‘She will,’ he said. ‘Now come; you must greet our queen, and invite our young friend to feast and dance, as we all must do, this hallowed evening.’

‘And will we be expecting guests from our rival court?’ asked Kalen, drawing me close and walking me across the frost-tipped grass.

‘I trust not,’ replied the stranger. ‘There is too much danger if they come tonight. They will not be made welcome, and this young lady is, regardless, our greatest bargaining tool if they do.’ He looked sidelong at me, a knowing half-smile on his moon-shadowed face and for the first time, I began to panic.

‘Hold on,’ I said. ‘Bargaining tool? What do you mean by that?’

Kalen smiled down at me and pulled me closer. ‘It’s not often we have girls like you at our Balls,’ he said. ‘You are, my lovely Faye, the perfect guest.’

There was something in the way he said my name, in the way his Irish lilt melted around the word, that made me really, really wish that I hadn’t told any of them my name. Especially not on All Hallows Eve.

We were just starting to enjoy that faerie ball – but now we’re feeling a little bit on edge again. Can’t wait for Halloween tomorrow and to see how Jane Lovering will finish it. It’s sure to be a treat!


If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Some Veil Did Fall and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.


Part Five by Jane Lovering is now available to read, click HERE

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Halloween Round Robin DAY THREEWhen we left off yesterday, Faye was placed in a predicament when she was suddenly faced with not one, but TWO Kalens! Where will Christina Courtenay take us today, and where can Kirsty Ferry possibly take us tomorrow? We can’t wait to find out! Make sure you read right until the end for the competition. 

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order. Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens first, and HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter.

 A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Three by Christina Courtenay 

Kalen One spared me a quick glance and nodded surreptitiously towards Mrs Alden’s door. I got the message and knocked somewhat frantically. Meanwhile, he hissed something at Kalen Two. I only heard a few words, but it was enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up again.

‘I warned you … mortals … fight to the death … Unseelie … queen …’

Just then, Mrs Alden opened her door. ‘Oh, it’s you, dear. I thought the children had come early this year. What do you – ’

I didn’t let her finish, but pushed past her and turned to reach up above her door, unhooking the horseshoe. ‘Sorry, no time to explain. Need this. Costume,’ I breathed, then rushed out into the passage, slamming the door in her face. Very rude, I know, but it was for her own good.

‘Kalen!’ I walked over to the two men and lightly touched the horseshoe to K Two’s elbow. He yelled and jumped about a foot in the air while the horseshoe hissed against his skin, having apparently burned its way through his clothing.

‘Why, you little …’ He wasn’t looking polite any longer and I took a step back as I read violence in his eyes.

‘Wow!’ I blinked. So it was true. But then that meant that K Two was a … Jesus! I was standing right next to a fricking faerie! A bad one.

Kalen One was smiling and crossed his arms over his chest. ‘See? I told you. Now go!’ he told K Two. ‘And don’t you dare touch her again. She’s under my protection now.’

Kalen Two sent me a death glare that made me shiver right down to my toes, but without a word he pushed past K One and out the front door into the dark night.

I tried to get my breathing under control because my heart rate was going ballistic. Clutching the horseshoe in front of me like some sort of mini shield, I backed away. ‘I, uhm, perhaps I’d better … you know …’ I nodded towards the door to my own flat. ‘Thank you for …’

I couldn’t say the words out loud. Thank you for rescuing me from a bad faerie.  Oh, and by the way, are you one of the good ones? It sounded too incredible. And maybe I’d dreamed that hissing bit? Yeah, I must have done. There was no such thing as faeries.

‘There are, you know.’ Kalen said, leaning against the doorframe as if he planned on staying there for the foreseeable future.


‘Faeries. We do exist. As you just saw.’ His smile had reached his eyes and that impossibly blue gaze was keeping me rooted to the spot. I couldn’t take the few steps to my door, couldn’t lift the keys to fit in the lock, couldn’t … I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I had to break his spell. For spell it surely was.

‘Okay. If you say so. But now I really must get on. It was lovely meeting you. Have a great rest of the evening.’ I knew I was babbling, but he made me nervous and I didn’t want to discuss this anymore.

He chuckled. ‘Fine, have it your way for now, but later you will believe. Trust me.’

I didn’t want to trust him at all, but had a feeling I didn’t have a choice in the matter. Thankfully, the first trick-or-treaters chose that moment to ring the door bell and I was finally able to move my limbs and enter my flat. Unfortunately, so did Kalen, although yet again he’d managed to do it before me. ‘How the hell …? Oh, never mind.’ I was getting a bit irritated by this habit of his. ‘Don’t you ever wait to be asked?’ I muttered, but his only reply was another deep chuckle, which resonated inside me in a very unsettling way.

‘I’ll help you with the sweets,’ he said. ‘You’ll need protection against some of the little monsters out there.’

He wasn’t wrong. I’d had problems with belligerent teenagers the previous year. They’d insisted they were still young enough to need sweets but privately I’d thought it a bloody cheek. This time I needn’t have worried – one look from Kalen and the teens disappeared into the darkness, presumably to terrorise some other people.

When all my sweets were gone, I hung a sign on my door which I’d prepared beforehand. ‘All out of sweets – come back next year. Happy Hallowe’en!’

‘I like a woman who’s organised,’ Kalen commented, his eyes twinkling again. I tried my best not to look into them because I was sure that was a dangerous thing to do. Although perhaps it was too late for such thoughts … As if to confirm this, Kalen put the kettle on and made himself at home in my tiny kitchen alcove, where he could barely turn around. The small space only emphasised his broad shoulders and muscular build. Casually, he said, ‘So, time for you to pay me back.’

‘Excuse me?’ I sank down onto the nearest chair.

‘Tea or coffee?’ he asked, searching my cupboards for what he needed.

‘Either. Whatever. What do you mean, “pay you back”?’

He didn’t reply until he’d made us both a hot drink and placed mine in my hands. Sinking down onto the nearby settee, he smiled again. ‘I saved you from the bad faerie and you gave me your name, so you owe me. It’s Hallowe’en, right?’

‘Right, but …’

‘That means that for tonight, you have to come with me wherever I wish.’

I almost choked on a mouthful of overly sweet tea. ‘Come with … Says who? Wh-where?’ My thoughts were whirling. I’d allowed a madman into my home. An axe murderer? A rapist? Maybe the other Kalen had been the good one? How could I be sure this one didn’t get burned by iron as well? I hadn’t tried to touch him with the horseshoe.

He held out his arm. ‘Do it.’

I frowned. ‘Stop. Reading. My thoughts! It’s seriously annoying,’ I grumbled, but I grabbed the horseshoe anyway and put it on his arm. A little puff of steam rose into the air, but his clothing remained intact and he didn’t yell. I narrowed my eyes at him. ‘So, just because the iron doesn’t hurt you, I’m supposed to trust you? I don’t think so. I’d like you to leave now. Please.’

He shook his head and sighed while putting his mug on the floor. ‘Sorry, Faye, but it doesn’t work that way. You should’ve been more careful.’ He stood up and held out his hand. ‘Come, I have things to show you. And the Queen awaits. Wouldn’t you like to go to a ball?’

‘A … faerie ball?’ It sounded amazingly tempting when he asked, that wonderful Irish lilt in his voice. ‘But I don’t have anything to wear!’

Okay, so that was possibly the most shallow, girly thing I could have said, but it made Kalen laugh out loud.

‘That, my dear, is the least of your worries. Trust me.’

He held out his hand again and this time I took it. It wasn’t as if I had a choice, did I?

Oh, beginning to wish that somebody like Kalen would whisk us off to a faerie ball – but we’re not at the happily ever after yet! Kirsty Ferry will bring us one step closer tomorrow, before we finish with Jane Lovering on Halloween 🙂 


If you enjoyed Christina’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of The Silent Touch of Shadows and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.


Part Four by Kirsty Ferry is now available to read, click HERE

SHORT STORY: A Rose Among Thorns by Christina Courtenay

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A charming short story by Christina Courtenay just in time for the weekend! If you’ve read The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight already you might recognise a certain house …

Merrick Court, July 1670

‘I don’t understand why you insisted on bringing me here, Mama. It’s humiliating and utterly pointless!’
Rose Parry swished open her fan and tried to hide behind it. Not that anyone was looking at her – the great hall of Merrick Court was full of people, all talking at once, but the undoubted centre of attention was the dashing heir to the estate – Rupert, Viscount Cadell. His parents, the Earl and Countess of Merrick, appeared to have invited as many young ladies of marriageable age as possible, together with their parents. There were whispered rumours that Lord Cadell was to select a bride from among the girls present today.
‘How can he possibly make a choice when he’s only just met everyone?’ Rose scoffed. She considered it highly unlikely he’d fall in love at first sight, even though she had to admit she’d been instantly smitten with him when they’d been introduced earlier. A silly reaction and one she’d do well to forget.
    ‘It is very odd, to be sure,’ Rose’s mother Anne agreed. ‘His parents are apparently insisting that he choose a wife for himself.’ She sniffed. ‘They claim to have married for love and want their son to have the same opportunity. A lot of nonsense, if you ask me.’   Most parents did not consult their offspring, but contracted advantageous matches on their behalf. Rose thought it kind of Lord Cadell’s parents to give him such freedom, but it didn’t make a difference to her. She had no chance of catching him. The room was full to bursting with pretty girls and there was no way she could compete. With her wild mane of bright red curls and a face marred by freckles, there was simply no point her being here. She watched as Lord Cadell moved away from the group he’d been talking to, then lost sight of him. The room seemed less bright without him to focus on.
‘Perhaps the young man likes redheads,’ Anne soothed, then ruined it by adding, ‘There’s no accounting for taste, you know.’
Rose clenched her fist so hard she almost snapped the delicate spokes of her fan. Her mother meant well, but she could be exceedingly tactless at times.
Taking a deep breath, she concentrated on her surroundings rather than the chattering throng. The dark oak panelling gleamed with polish, there was a rather splendid fireplace with a carved surround, and intricate plasterwork on the ceiling. Several large windows let in the summer sunshine and the double doors had been left open, showing a glimpse of the garden. Rose longed to escape into the cool shade of the trees outside.
‘Mrs Parry, Miss Parry, I understand you have already met my son. I was just telling Rupert you have come from Ewyas Harold.’
Rose turned to find her hostess, Lady Merrick, smiling at them, and next to her stood the heir. The sight of him had the same impact this time – like a blow to her middle – and she drew in a deep breath. He was tall, like his father, and had inherited his sire’s handsome features, but his colouring was all from his mother’s side – hair like golden honey and eyes as blue as forget-me-nots. Combined with a decidedly masculine physique – his broad shoulders filled out his dark silk coat to bursting point – he was everything a woman could wish for.
‘I trust you are enjoying your visit to Merrick Court, ladies?’ he said, giving them a graceful bow.
Rose longed to shout ‘No!’, but of course she couldn’t. Instead, she curtseyed politely and murmured, ‘How could we not?’
When she looked up, Lord Cadell was looking at her with raised eyebrows, as if he’d heard her unspoken thoughts. Rose felt her cheeks heat up.
‘It is rather warm in here,’ he said. ‘Perhaps you’d care to take a turn in the garden with me, Miss Parry?’
   Rose looked around. There were at least a dozen girls nearby, all more beautiful than herself. She frowned. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t rather walk with someone else? I wouldn’t want to waste your time.’
   She heard her mother draw in a hissing breath, while Lady Merrick’s eyes opened wide before she turned a splutter of laughter into a cough.
   Lord Cadell’s mouth quirked. ‘I’m quite sure, but thank you for your concern. Shall we?’ He held out his arm and Rose had no choice but to put her fingers on it and follow him outside. To her surprise, her mother didn’t follow to chaperone them, but then they would probably stay within sight of the house. Rose imagined a dozen pairs of eyes stabbing her back with jealous fury, but she hadn’t asked to be singled out in this fashion so she pretended not to care. No doubt Lord Cadell would soon become bored and return to the others. In her haste to escape, however, she caught her heel on one of the stairs and her shoe came off.
   ‘Allow me.’ Lord Cadell bent to retrieve it, then helped her put it on.
Rose felt her cheeks flaming – what must he think of her? Not just plain, but clumsy as well. ‘Thank you.’
   But he pretended as if nothing had happened and again gave her his arm. ‘Would you like to see the knot garden? It is my mother’s favourite spot.’
   ‘Y-yes, please.’
   ‘So you live near the old abbey then?’ Lord Cadell asked.
‘Abbey Dore, yes, in the Golden Valley. Our home is not far from there.’
  ‘A beautiful place, I believe.’
   ‘Indeed, but so is this.’ Rose looked around and admired the profusion of roses and other flowers that surrounded them. She noticed Lord Cadell was taking her further away than she’d thought but it was a relief not to have everyone’s eyes on them.
‘I’m glad it pleases you. Do you like it enough that you can imagine yourself living here?’ Lord Cadell had stopped by a small fountain.
Rose let go of his arm and marched over to a stone bench, sitting down rather abruptly. ‘If you are going to make fun of me, you may as well return to the house and leave me here. Thank you for escorting me, but I shall be fine on my own.’ She turned her face away from him, trying to stem the tide of anger that threatened to boil over into even stronger words. How dare he toy with her in this fashion? He’d never choose someone like her when he had all those beauties waiting indoors.

He didn’t leave, however. Instead, he came to sit on the bench beside her and put his hand on her arm. ‘What did I say? I didn’t mean to offend you.’ When she glanced at him, he was frowning, the twinkle gone from his blue eyes.
She moved away from his gentle hold and blinked back tears of humiliation. ‘Must I speak plainly?’
‘Please do.’
‘Very well. My mother should never have brought me here today. She knows my father will find me a husband, someone who will overlook my faults in exchange for a substantial dowry.  I doubt you need one of those so there’s no reason for you to leg-shackle yourself to a freckle-faced redhead. You can have your pick of the county’s beauties.’ She nodded in the direction they’d come from. ‘So please, waste no more time on me.’
He tilted his head slightly to one side and looked at her. Really looked at her. Rose felt a blush creeping up her cheeks and wished he would just go away and stop tormenting her. That handsome face was doing strange things to her insides and she couldn’t stop herself from staring at his perfect mouth with longing. But it was madness. Such a man was not for her, she’d always known that, had resigned herself to a sensible choice. Or she’d thought she had until now.
‘You’re wrong, you know,’ he murmured.
‘About what?’
‘When I look at you I don’t see a freckle-faced redhead, as you said. I see a lady with the most amazing hair I’ve ever laid eyes on – like a fiery sunset combined with molten copper – and a lovely face accentuated by a very few freckles. They do nothing but draw attention to a pretty little nose and a pair of emerald eyes a man could drown in. Are you sure you own a looking glass, Miss Parry?’
‘I … beg your pardon?’ Rose was stunned. Why was he saying these things? What could he possibly hope to gain? ‘If you’re thinking that dowry of mine sounded tempting, I do believe Miss Griffiths has one twice as large.’
Lord Cadell laughed. ‘I see I shall have to speak plainly as well. Are you in love with someone else?’
‘No, of course not! Why would you think that?’ Rose was confused.
‘Because you are doing your utmost to put me off courting you.’
‘Cour– … you can’t be serious?’
‘Oh, I assure you, I’ve never been more serious in my life. Your dowry doesn’t tempt me in the slightest, but you do. Your beauty may be different from the other girls’, but it is unique and appears to be coupled with sense. You are the only lady here today who hasn’t simpered at me, batted your eyelashes or tried in any way to attract my attention. That is refreshing and intriguing, believe me.’
Rose stared at him, trying to see if he was in earnest. The incredibly blue eyes stared right back and then he smiled, a smile that made her feel quite faint.
‘I can see it will take me a while to convince you,’ he said. ‘Just tell me one thing – do you find me repulsive?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ The words were out of Rose’s mouth before she could stop them.     ‘I-I mean … I’m sure you are very aware of your charms.’ If he was fishing for compliments, he wouldn’t get them from her.
He laughed again. ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I understand.’
She frowned up at him. Had he heard her mother earlier? His smile told her he had. ‘My mother didn’t mean …’
   ‘Your mother will need to learn some tact, but I shall inform her she was right in this instance – I find I do like redheads. Or rather, one particular one. And perhaps this will convince you of my ardent regard?’ He leaned over and kissed her, softly placing his lips on hers while gazing into her eyes.
   Rose couldn’t look away, nor could she leave. Her lips moved of their own accord, melding with his, and a tingling awareness spread right through her. When she opened her mouth to gasp in surprise, he deepened the kiss and it was some time before she became aware of her surroundings again. ‘My lord!’ she protested, knowing he shouldn’t have taken such liberties. But it sounded feeble even to her own ears and he grinned as if he knew she didn’t mean it.
To her surprise, he got down on one knee in front of her and brought something out of his pocket. He held out a sparkling emerald ring on the palm of his hand. ‘Miss Parry – Rose – would you do me the honour of becoming my wife? That kiss confirmed what I already guessed – we are eminently suited to each other in every way.’
‘But … we only met an hour ago.’ Rose looked from him to the ring and back again.
‘It only takes a moment to fall in love and I am sure I have found my perfect rose today among the thorns.’
Feeling dazed, but happier than she’d ever thought possible, Rose held out her hand. ‘I do believe you’re right – it only took one look in my case, so yes, I will. If you’re sure?’
He slipped the ring onto her finger. ‘I am.’ And then he kissed her again to prove it.

If you enjoyed Christina’s writing, why not give her new time-slip book, The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight a read? Click HERE for buying options.
For more information of Christina, follow her on Twitter @PiaCCourtenay

As Weekends Go: Jan Brigden’s most memorable weekends

AWG_hirespackshot 150dpi


As Weekends Go is out in paperback today and, to celebrate, we have Jan Brigden on the blog, chatting about her favourite weekends … 

Whilst writing As Weekends Go, I fondly recalled memorable weekends of my own and how each of them, from the action-packed to the funny to the downright lazy, had benefitted me.

For instance, I always feel a huge sense of achievement when pounding the streets, (or by the end of a long day, dawdling …) taking in the sights and sounds of a new place, exploring its quaint and quirky sides, its glitz and charm, learning its history, sampling its culinary delights and snapping photographs, as with York, (below) the central city in my novel.

Me in grounds of RY Hotel (1) 20160707_150420 (1) Shambles (1) 20160707_150316 (1)

One of my most comical weekends away was spent huddled under four blankets at night, fending off frostbite in a rickety old caravan down on the south coast, in what felt like the coldest March on record. Yes, I know … March? What were we thinking? Alas, it was the only time all thirteen of us could synchronize our timings. Yes, the weather was foul and half the facilities closed, but we made our own fun and have never stopped laughing about it since. That has to be a positive, surely?

Equally beneficial, are those rare weekends where I find myself commitment-free. Should we be lucky enough to have two days back to back sunshine (indulge me!) simply wandering in and out of the garden in my flip flops, towel spread on the grass, radio on low, cool drink beside me, book in hand, refreshes both mind and body no end.


Obviously in winter, the book would remain, but it’d be the sofa I’d be stretched out on, with the pear cider exchanged for a steaming mug of tea or hot chocolate. You get my drift though.

I always think if you’re talking about your weekend on Monday and still talking about it months later, you know you’ve done alright.

Of course there have been less enjoyable Saturdays and Sundays, days I’d happily write off, but all in all, As Weekends Go, the good ones far outweigh the duds!

Love Jan x

As Weekends Go is now available as a paperback and available to order through all good bookshops and stockists. For buying options click HERE

For more information on the author: 

Follow @briggy44 on Twitter.

Liz Harris: How I became an author


Yesterday was paperback release day for Liz Harris and The Lost Girl. Today Liz shares her journey to becoming a writer and a little bit about her latest hero, Joe Walker … 

I give a lot of talks, and when my talk is over, I stay on to chat with the readers there, something I always enjoy doing. During the conversation after my latest talk, which was at the BeaconLit Festival at the end of June, I was asked, as I regularly am, if I’d always wanted to be an author, and who my heroes are modelled upon. Knowing that I was going to talk to you today, I thought I’d answer both of those questions for you.

Firstly, have I always wanted to be an author from the moment I knew what ‘author’ meant? The answer is no! I’ve always loved reading – I’ve read everything I could get my hands on over the years: Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfield, Jane Austen, Mickey Spillane, Catherine Cookson, Agatha Christie, Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Taylor Bradford – everything. And I’ve always loved writing essays, letters, exam answers. However, it was years before I connected my two loves. Books just happened, I would have thought, if I’d thought about it at all.

So how did I come to be an author? Well, when I finished my studies, I set off to see the world. I started in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles. As you can see, I didn’t get far! I had six fantastic years in California, and then real life intervened and I had to return to England.

During the years that followed, I settled to life in England, which included writing voluminous letters to friends, until one day, a friend, in desperation at having received yet another ten-page letter, phoned up and suggested I wrote a novel. Hmm, I thought. I sat down at the typewriter, slipped in a sheet of paper and started my first novel. Even before the end of Chapter One, I was hooked!

Now, after six published novels and several short stories, I’m still hooked. To spend all day giving birth to new characters and situations makes for a wonderful life. I can’t imagine anything better than being an author.

As for the inspiration for my heroes, the latest of whom is Joe Walker, the ‘star’ of The Lost Girl. Joe is one of a line of heroes who have grown out of my love for Wyoming and the American West, a time when men were men, you might say.

I’m a real romantic and a believer in love at first sight. The morning after I’d met a certain Richard, I went into the school where I taught and told my friends that I’d met the man I was going to marry. The morning after Richard met me, he told his closest friend that the night before he’d met the woman he was going to marry. We married 38 years ago.

And what could be more romantic in a novel than a man who forged his life in the openness of Wyoming, beneath an endless wide blue sky; a man who was lean, tanned, athletic, at ease in the saddle, able to turn his hand to anything; a man who was passionate when he fell in love and fiercely protective of his woman?

So that’s how I became an author. And that’s also an introduction to Joe Walker, a rugged, good-looking man. I think you’re going to like him.

Liz’s new novel, The Lost Girl, is the author’s fourth paperback novel with Choc Lit. Click HERE for purchasing options. 

For more on Janet, follow her on Twitter: @lizharrisauthor

Visit her website:

Where does fiction meet real life?


It’s paperback release day for Kathryn Freeman and Search for the Truth today. In celebration, Kathryn is here on the blog exploring the connection between the fiction she writes and her own life … 

A question I’m often asked is whether I base any of my fictional characters on people I know or have met. This question has been asked even more frequently  about my latest paperback, Search for the Truth. The reason? Search for the Truth is based in the pharmaceutical industry – an industry I worked in for over twenty years.

‘Am I in it?’ Is the most common question from former colleagues. The answer is no.

‘Is the romance based on your romance?’ I met my husband at work, but while I love him dearly, he is to romance what McDonald’s is to haute cuisine. Hence sadly, the answer is no.

‘Is Jim based on me?’ Is the question asked by my male colleagues. Jim is my hero, the head of Research and Development (R&D) and a George Clooney look alike. Clearly the answer is … no.

As I pointed out, the whole thrill of writing fiction is making things up. And the thrill of writing romantic fiction in particular, is dreaming up, okay, fantasising, about a fictional hero. Jim Knight is, I confess a combination of quite a few of my fantasies …

But while the people I write about only ever live in my imagination, some of the things they do are based on what I’ve seen or experienced in real life. For example when she’s at the airport Tess, my heroine, always likes to get to the gate the moment the flight is called. My husband is like this, and it does drive me slightly nuts. After all, they put all those duty-free shops in the departure lounge for a reason, don’t they?

I’ve also experienced the same dilemma Tess experiences when she finds herself in New York on a business trip; relax in the hotel for a few hours before the meeting, or do a mad shop/sightsee dash? Like Tess, I chose the latter.

Helix pharmaceuticals is a fictional company, but some of the dubious things it’s accused of doing are based on activities the industry has been criticised for in the past, like entertaining doctors too lavishly and not publishing all of its study results. I’ve never seen any lap dancing, I hasten to add (umm, you have to read the book for that to make sense).

So yes, even though Search for the Truth is a totally fictitious story about fictitious people who work for a fictitious company, nuggets of real life have helped to feed my imagination. What I hope I’ve done is build on those nuggets, twisted them and shaped them, so the end result is a lot more entertaining, more exciting than another day at the office 🙂

Search for the Truth is now available as a paperback from all good book stockists and suppliers. Click HERE for purchasing options.

For more information on Kathryn:




Before You: The inspiration


Kathryn Freeman’s new novel Before You was released this week. Here she chats about the inspiration behind the book … 

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from. For me, in nearly every case it starts with my hero, though it’s not always obvious where he comes from. My husband thinks it’s him and while I usually nod my head and say of course dear, in Before You, he could just be right (for once). Panic not, Aiden Foster, my outwardly cocky, fabulously sexy racing driver, bears no resemblance to my husband. He was however inspired by the gift my husband gave me for Christmas several years ago. A life size cardboard cut out of Jenson Button, which sits next to my desk.*

Jenson Button cut-out: worth straining your neck for 😉

It’s very hard to have JB twinkling down at you and not want to write about a racing driver. So that’s how Before You was born.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a couple of Formula 1 races (Spa and Silverstone) but it was only when I started researching more on the subject that I realised how much these sportsmen lend themselves to being romantic heroes. For a start, they are phenomenal athletes. Between the g-forces they experience and the heat in the cock-pit, each race is likened to running a marathon in terms of the physical endurance required. Every time they corner, a racing driver experiences forces up to four times their own weight. In fact in terms of the effect on their necks, they are said to experience three or four car crashes every lap!

Then there is the fact that while they’re coping with these g-forces, heat and inevitable fatigue, they’re hurtling round a track at two hundred miles an hour – with twenty other drivers all vying for position around them. Racing must take incredible mental strength, courage and nerves of steel, especially when you consider one momentary lapse in concentration could send the driver spinning dangerously off the track.

Aiden Foster, hero of Before You, doesn’t just have all that thrown at him, either. When he gets out of the car, his life doesn’t get any easier, what with trying to live up to his father’s racing legacy, the arrival of a troubled boy and the distractions of a pretty press offer … but perhaps I should leave you to read about all that 😉

* In case you’re wondering, my husband works for one of the companies who sponsor Jenson Button’s team, McLaren. They were doing a promotion in the coffee area and he spotted the cardboard figure and asked if he could take it home. He might not feature in my books, but a man prepared to walk through work with a cut out of Jenson Button under his arm because he knows his wife will love it, is my type of hero 🙂 

For more on Kathryn:

Follow her on Twitter @KathrynFreeman1

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Visit her website: 

Kathryn’s new book, Before You is out now and available to buy as an eBook from all platforms. Click HERE to view purchasing options. 

Happy Birthday Choc Lit: Telling Porkies by Debbie Flint


Now, something slightly different from Debbie Flint to round off our series of birthday short stories – birthday pork pie rather than birthday cake anyone? 🙂 

‘I’m sorry ma’am but I’m going to have to confiscate these.’

‘But they’re not meat. They’re pork pies,’ I whined.

The customs official held one side of my little package, my precious little package, and I held vainly onto the other. It didn’t work. He was shaking his head at me, and with a jerk, took my booty away. My heart always pounded as I strolled nonchalantly through the airport arrivals. But this time it was pounding for a different reason. He was handsome too. Annoyingly so. It would have been easier if he was overweight and ugly, and he should have been sweating in the warm Florida customs department interview room with its dodgy air conditioning and wilting yucca, but he wasn’t. I was, though – or was it my first hot flush? Or rather, a ‘glowing moment’ as my 75 year old mother called them when she was having hers.

‘They’re for my mum’s birthday. Can’t I keep just one, to take her? She loves them and can’t get them here – not the crunchy crust, Marks and Spencer’s kind anyway. It’d be a lovely surprise for her.’ He didn’t respond, just examined my passport and made some notes, poised and calm.

‘Sorry Ma’am,’ he said. Then he handed it back to me, one eyebrow raised. I took it from him, or tried to, but he held the other side of it till I looked him in the face. What? said my expression, as I tried to act affronted. He wasn’t moved.

‘You know, sometimes I wonder if you people have a heart,’ I said. He narrowed his eyes at me, but I couldn’t help it. ‘Just one little gesture of goodwill – you can see they are packaged up, you surely know I will be eating them, not using them to infect your precious crops.’ Still no sign of compassion. ‘She’ll be heartbroken. Can’t you make them magically vanish into my case again?’

He chewed his lip and took a breath, then spoke. Still the level, calmness, totally at odds to the turmoil I was feeling – for more reasons than one.

‘No. Ma’am.’ And he glanced up into the corner of the room. ‘Now I hope the next time I see you,’ he said, leaning towards me and lowering his voice, ‘Draco here won’t be alerting me that your suitcase holds contraband.’ He had a stern expression, but one eyebrow was quivering slightly. The yellow Labrador on the floor wagged its tail upon hearing its name.

Now it was my turn to look quizzical. ‘Draco?’

‘It was either that or Weasley,’ he explained. ‘J.K. Rowling fan.’

‘So it seems,’ I said with a sniff. ‘I prefer Robert Galbraith myself.’ I waited, and the corner of his mouth quirked right on cue. Then he snapped my passport together.

‘Now I ought to file a report, but you say it’s your first offence so …’ he said. I batted my eyelashes very slightly at him, waiting expectantly. And hopefully. He paused a moment, then handed me back my passport. ‘I’ll “magically” let it go. Don’t do it again.’

I breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Thank you,’ I said, and smiled at him. ‘I won’t.’

He beamed back at me. ‘Now, you may go on your way. Have a safe journey home and I hope your mother has a wonderful birthday. Are you celebrating somewhere special?’

So he was being conversational now? I tucked the passport into my bag and took one last lingering look at the package on the table, being investigated by that damned efficient black nose. I bet I knew exactly what he’d be doing with my mother’s ‘gift’ as soon as I walked out the door. ‘A party at her house – with jelly and ice cream … and no pork pies,’ I said.

He smiled. ‘Well jelly and pork pies never went well together,’ he replied. ‘Goodbye ma’am.’

‘Goodbye, Mister …’ I looked at the name badge on his jacket, ‘… Christoff.’ And with that he led Draco out the door to pick on the next poor victim of over-zealous sniffing, leaving me to repack my suitcase in front of his disinterested colleagues excavating someone else’s suitcase on the other side of the room. Then I made the walk of shame back out of the exit door.


‘What a lovely thought,’ my mum said the next night as she caught her breath. ‘When you said you were bringing a surprise I thought it would have been pork pies again, not a big cake like this! It’s far too much for just us. I’ll have to go cut it up to share it with the neighbours,’ she said, removing the candles she’d just blown out. I felt a pang of regret that her so called creative daughter hadn’t come up with the customary cunning gift.  She hadn’t said anything, but I knew she was disappointed. Oh well, maybe next year. Mum headed off to the kitchen with the cake just as the door bell rang and mum’s little spaniel started yapping loudly. ‘Get that would you? If it’s Albie next door, tell him he’s twenty minutes early,’ she called over her shoulder. ‘Hermione, shut up,’ she shouted at the dog, who paid no notice and as soon as I opened the door to the hall, the bundle of black fluff sped past me towards the dark figure just visible through the opaque glass in the front door.

‘Hang on!’ I called, picking Hermione up. Suddenly in a break in her yapping I heard an answering deep ‘woof’ outside the door and my heart skipped a beat. I released the catch on the door and the little dog practically jumped out of my arms trying to get to whoever was on the other side. I struggled to get the spaniel back under my arm. ‘Quiet Hermione!’ I hissed. Only then did I see the owner, and the yellow Labrador wagging its tail energetically on the doorstep.

‘Quiet, Draco,’ the dog’s owner said, and the Labrador shut up. Suddenly all the stress in my body was replaced with a different kind of tension. I opened my mouth but no sound came out so I shut it again. ‘Hi,’ he said, somewhat sheepishly. The authoritarian tone was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Mister Harry Christoff stood there in a leather jacket looking every inch the biker type. With the dog. Oh my god, had he discovered I’d lied about it being my first time? I could see the headlines now – ‘Serial Pork Pie Smuggler gets Deported to the UK.’ My mother would be mortified. Then I saw something familiar in his hand. ‘This is for your next of kin. Well, your mother.’ He presented the pork pies towards me, still cold – he’d even put them in a fridge or something. Then he produced a bunch of flowers from behind his back. ‘These are for the birthday girl,’ he added.

‘How?’ I asked. It seemed I was only capable of uttering one word replies – it was like he’d bewitched me or something.

‘Turns out a sniffer dog will sometimes rescue a package from the trash can at the end of a shift. Completely unbeknown to me,’ he said and the tell-tale eyebrow-flickering flashed across his tanned face, and his blue eyes glinting at me. ‘And I thought I’d help rescue a birthday party. Bit like a magic trick,’ he said. ‘See, turns out we do have a heart.’ Then hesitating, he added. ‘I hear this is the place to get jelly and ice cream?’

‘And pork pies, as it happens. Thank you.’ I said, a big beam spreading across my face. ‘Magic.’

Thank you to everyone who has helped share our birthday news and who has entered our competitions. You’ve all been incredible and we feel lucky to have such lovely readers and bloggers supporting us 😀 Remember, you can continue entering all the competitions on the blog until Friday 17th June for the chance to win some book goodies  🙂 


If you enjoyed Debbie’s story and would like to read more of her writing, then you’ll love this competition. For a chance to win a copy of Take a Chance on Me and some goodies, simply tell us what you think of the story, either in the comments below or on the relevant Twitter/Facebook post. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts :)

You have until Friday 17th June to enter.