Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Three by Victoria Cornwall

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Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

The third author to contribute is Victoria Cornwall. Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. 

Read Part One by Jane Lovering HERE
Read Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART THREE BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Patrick lowered his torch beam as he approached her. ‘Martine? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’ He touched her hand and frowned. ‘You’re shaking,’ he said, giving her hand a mild squeeze. ‘James was an idiot for suggesting you stay here alone. ‘

‘Yes, he was … and I was an idiot for doing what he told me.’ Martine withdrew her hand from Patrick’s and fumbled with the end of the tape. Patrick was right – she was shaking, although she had a sneaking suspicion it was not only Sebastian’s apparition that was the cause of it.

Patrick attempted to help her, but Martine brushed him off and set about criss-crossing the door with a web of sensory wires. To her surprise she achieved it with amazing speed. Haunted houses – and a strong desire to leave a challenging situation – often turned her into an efficient worker.

‘I should have said something,’ said Patrick as he watched her work.

Martine stood back to admire her wired door that no person could pass through without setting off an ear-splitting alarm. ‘Not bad for a ghost hunting newbie,’ she said brightly, only too aware Patrick was standing just behind her. She felt much braver than only a few minutes before. Ghosts weren’t that scary, particularly if they were handsome and flirtatious too. ‘It was sensible of James to have someone posted by the door,’ she wittered on. ‘It just happened to be me.’

‘I don’t mean that,’ said Patrick. Martine’s senses switched to high alert and she stiffened. ‘I mean why I didn’t turn up at the restaurant the other night.’

The memory brought back the familiar flush of humiliation to her cheeks. She had spent the evening waiting for him to arrive, while the diners sitting around her threw sympathetic smiles in her direction and gossiped in hushed tones behind their hands. It had been their first date. The date she had dreamt of since she was ten. And it had turned into a disaster.

‘You didn’t even text,’ she mumbled.

‘I know.’ He touched her arm, but she immediately withdrew, hating herself for showing his non-appearance still bothered her. He reluctantly let his hand fall. ‘When I heard you scream just now I was …’

It was the diversion Martine needed. How could she have forgotten about Kate? ‘I wasn’t the only one who screamed. Kate did too!’ She grabbed Patrick’s torch. ‘We’d better go to the kitchen to see if she is alright.’

Patrick raised an eyebrow in surprise. ‘Who is this new brave Martine ready to take on the spooks?’

‘I’m not sure,’ replied Martine over her shoulder. ‘I am just finding out myself.’

They headed in the direction of the kitchen. Floating dust, illuminated by the beam of their torch, swirled around them as they passed through. At the far end of the passage they found two large doors. Martine felt Sebastian’s chilled breath on her neck as he whispered into her ear. She glanced at Patrick, who seemed oblivious to the ghost’s presence.

‘Which door do you think leads to the kitchen?’ asked Patrick.

Sebastian had told her and she had no reason to not believe him.  ‘The left,’ she replied confidently as she reached for the handle.

Sebastian had been right. Beyond the old oak door was the derelict kitchen of Maplewood Hall – the alleged epicentre of all the paranormal activity reported over the past century.  Martine and Patrick stepped into the gloom. The room was disappointingly quiet and empty. The moon shone through rain-stained windows, casting a harsh bright light onto the dusty tables, mottled copper pans and something dead and furry by the far wall. The floor was scattered with debris – a strange mix of autumn leaves, twigs and long abandoned kitchenware. A sudden movement in one dark corner startled them both. Martine automatically raised her torch as a weapon, but Patrick halted her in mid-swing.

‘Steady there, Lara Croft,’ laughed Patrick. ‘It’s only James.’

James walked briskly towards them, raking a hand through his tousled hair. ‘Kate’s gone. She said she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. One minute I was teasing her for being scared and screaming like a banshee. The next minute she was gone.’

‘Gone? Gone where?’ Patrick grabbed James’s shirt, ‘Where is she, James? If you have locked my sister in a cupboard as a joke I’ll …’

‘Why would I do that? What kind of bloke do you take me for?’

Martine left the men to their posturing and turned away. They were scared for Kate, but arguing about her wouldn’t help. Besides, Sebastian was talking to her again and his soft soothing tone, laced with a quiet chuckle, was enticing her to enter the pantry. She did not have the will to disobey. Patrick and James’s voices grew muted as she left them behind in the kitchen and entered the enclosed space of the inbuilt cupboard. At the far end was a small door. It seemed as if it was waiting for her.

‘Open it,’ whispered Sebastian’s seductive tone. She reached for the handle. It felt cold, yet turned easily in her grasp and the old rusty hinge silently opened. She stepped into an opulently furnished room basking in the white, hissing gaslight of numerous bronze wall lamps. Her friend stood in the middle of the room and at her side was a man. He was handsome, with a gentle curve to his lips and in his hand was Kate’s. He wore the same clothes as Sebastian, which were more in keeping with a time long gone by, whilst the room itself was as fresh and clean as if it was still used today. This part of the house was a stark contrast to the rest of Maplewood Hall, which relied on flapping tarpaulin to cover the holes in the roof and felt constantly chilly and damp due to the absence of electricity and a warm fire.

‘Can you see him too, Martine?’ whispered Kate, hopefully. Martine nodded slowly. Kate sighed with relief. ‘Thank goodness. I thought I was going mad. He wants me to—’

‘Help him cross over to the mortal world.’ She felt Sebastian’s presence beside her and tilted her head towards him. ‘So does he,’ she replied. As if she had asked him to, Sebastian grew more visible. ‘What are we going to do, Kate? What on earth are we going to do?’

Oooh, it’s beginning to get more than a little spooky now! Just what will Kate and Martine do? Kirsty Ferry will be telling us more tomorrow in the penultimate part of our Halloween Round Robin.

If you enjoyed Victoria’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. 

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COMPETITION TIME! 

To be in with a chance of winning a Victoria Cornwall paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Where does Sebastian lead Martine as James and Patrick are arguing?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 3’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

The Fourth Character

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Earlier in the week we celebrated a double release day with Victoria Cornwall for two books in her ‘Cornish Tales’ series: The Thief’s Daughter (now available in paperback and eBook) and The Captain’s Daughter (available in eBook). Today on the Choc Lit corner, Victoria talks about one of the most important aspects of her historical novels … location! 

In its simplest form, a story has a hero, a heroine and an antagonist. However, there is another element to a story that has as much importance and influence over the storyline as the main characters themselves. It is the setting where the story unfolds or what I like to call the fourth character.

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Daphne Du Maurer recognised the important role a setting holds and wasted no time in introducing Mandalay to the reader in her novel, Rebecca. Wuthering Heights and Jamaica Inn are as memorable as the main characters of their novels, so important their authors used their names for the title of their books. Even Poldark is out shadowed by the location the story is set in. The county of Cornwall. My birth place and home.

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Cornwall remains a firm favourite with novel writers, but the county is more than a beautiful backdrop to a story.  It drips with history and, to the discerning eye, there are signs everywhere relating to its past. Celtic stone crosses and place names remind us of its numerous Cornish saints. Oddly named coves, such as Pepper Cove and Prussia Cove, hint at its smuggling and wrecking past. The silhouette of derelict mines still frame the skyline and wind-tortured trees continue to stretch their branches inland.

Pepper Cove

When I wrote The Thief’s Daughter I knew that Cornwall, in particular its coastline and smuggling past, would play a key role in the story. I wanted the reader to experience a face of Cornwall which is very different to the picture-perfect postcard, where sandals, towels and sandcastles are the only things that litter the beaches. I wanted the reader to feel they are with Jenna and Jack as they fall in love, hear the winter sea winds and smell the smoke of their fire as a downdraft puffs it back down the chimneys during a gale. I want the reader to see the salt stains on the glass of their windows and feel their anxiety as the coastal winds rob them of their breath as they climb its steep cliffs. Until you experience these things, you cannot truly convey what it is like to live in Cornwall, away from the tourist routes and picture postcard summer scenes. Inspired by Winston Graham’s writing, I have tried my best to show the side of Cornwall a tourist rarely sees and open a window on a murky past it can never forget.

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In my second novel, The Captain’s Daughter, I moved inland to the barren landscape of Bodmin Moor. Atmospheric and dramatic, it provided the perfect backdrop to Janey’s journey from an innocent girl to a strong, courageous woman. The National Trust property, Lanhydrock House, inspired Bosvenna Manor where she takes up a position of Lady’s Maid. Grand, daunting, yet beautiful, with its strong demarcation line between the servants’ accommodation and those of the gentry, the house bears witness to the events that unfold within its walls. Events that will change the lives of those who live there forever.

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If you like the sound of Victoria Cornwall’s evocative Cornish novels, you can find purchasing options here:

The Thief’s Daughter
The Captain’s Daughter 

For more on Victoria Cornwall:

Follow her on Twitter @VictoriaCornwall and Instagram: www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx
Like her on Facebook: Victoria Cornwall
Check out her website:  www.victoriacornwall.com

Cornwall, Poldark and historical fiction

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Earlier in January we released The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall – a rugged and windswept Poldark-inspired novel set in eighteenth-century Cornwall. Today, we have Victoria on the blog to tell us a little more … 

I love to read historical romantic fiction. I am going to show my age now, but I’ve enjoyed the genre since I graduated from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books onto my mother’s discarded 80’s romance novels. Thankfully, just like their contemporary counterparts, historical romantic fiction has moved with the times. Gone are the fainting heroines and brutish heroes of the 70s and 80s. Today’s readers want characters they can respect, keep their interest and who they can learn to care for. The era the story is set in makes their journey to happiness even more difficult than a modern romance. There are no texts or emails to clear up misunderstandings. No cars, trains or planes to bring lovers together at quick notice and I haven’t even started on the constraints placed on relationships in general, such as the law, etiquette, class, expectations – even the very clothes that they wear.

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Like readers of any genre, I have my favourite authors whose writing styles have the power to keep me in the characters’ fictional world and turning the pages. Without realising it, they write stories that match my list of “likes” and “dislikes” and in doing so their storytelling does not frustrate me, wrench me out of the time period or lose my interest.

All readers have their own list of “likes” and “dislikes”. Our lists may differ, but I suspect we share many too. When I wrote The Thief’s Daughter, I kept my list firmly in mind, the idea being that if I wrote the book I would enjoy reading, hopefully others would enjoy it too.

The Thief’s Daughter is set on the north coast of 18th century Cornwall (yes, the Poldark era) and tells the story of a woman’s love for her brother and the mysterious man who has hired her, which challenges her moral integrity, her loyalty and, ultimately, her trust in both. It is a story which is fraught with danger and betrayal, and played out in the shadow of the hangman’s noose. Jack and Jenna are eager to share their story with you. Oh, I mustn’t forget to mention Jenna’s brother, Silas, too … as I know for certain he would not want to be left out!

Pepper Cove

The Thief’s Daughter is available as an eBook on all platforms. Click HERE for buying options. 

 For more on Victoria visit:

Website: www.victoriacornwall.com

Twitter: @VickieCornwall

Facebook: www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017 from Choc Lit

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Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2017. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.

Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Sarah, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy, Paul, Bernie)

And now for some messages from our Choc Lit Santas …

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Santa - Rhoda Baxter Rhoda Baxter: Have a fantastic Christmas and raise a glass to a wonderful year in 2017! May you get lots of joy and chocolate and books.

 

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AnnMarie Santa photoAnneMarie Brear: “As 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers who supported me and my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, this year! Merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2017! ”

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Jan Santa photoJan Brigden: “Thanks for your fabulous support this past year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and much joy, peace and good health for 2017 (and the occasional choccie or two, of course …) Enjoy the festivities!”

 

9781781892572 Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell: “To all our wonderful Choc Lit readers here’s wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season and the best of everything for 2017 including all the books you can read and an abundance of chocolate!”

 

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Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne: “Wishing all our lovely readers a very merry Choc Lit filled Christmas. Your support over the year has been wonderful. Thank you! I hope Santa is kind to you and that all your dreams and wishes come true. Cosy up and keep safe everyone!”

 

9781781892596Clare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase“Wishing you a very happy, cosy Christmas and a wonderful 2017!”

 

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Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2017.”

 

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Victoria  Santas2Victoria Cornwall: I hope you have a wonderful, laughter filled, Christmas which will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.

 

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with everything and everyone you love, including of course loads of chocolate and plenty of time for reading your favourite books! Enjoy!”

 

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Kirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a happy, healthy and wonderful 2017.Hope you wake up on Christmas morning to joy, peace and a Santa Sack full of books, chocolate and your favourite tipple!”

 

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Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Well it’s my first Devon Christmas, helping out at a writing retreat venue in Sheepwash and aiming to get the biggest tree ever! Here’s a xmas joke for you – what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frost-bite! hehe! Have a lovely festive season!”

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Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whetheryou’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

9781781893067Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope you enjoy the festive season. Take time to be with those you love.And don’t forget to treat yourself to something special – you know you deserve it. Thank you for all your support this year, and may 2017 be filled with peace and joy for you and yours.”

 

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Morton SantaMorton S. Gray: “Have a lovely peaceful Christmas and keep dreaming those dreams. Anything is possible in 2017.”

 

 

9781781890714Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Happy Christmas, or Glædelig Jul which is what we say in Denmark. In the face of tumultuous and terrible events across the world wish to remember that Christmas is the time for love and kindness. And reading. Lots of it!”

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Linn's Santas photoLinn B. Halton: “I’ve asked Santa for snow this year – enough to allow us all to wake up to a white Christmas morn, but I’ve also asked that it doesn’t hang around long! If he can’t deliver a brief winter wonderland treat, then I’m sending you all a Christmas hug. I hope that it’s a time of great joy and happiness for one and all.”

9781781893012Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: “2016 will soon be but a distant memory. Hopefully, it’s been a fabulous year for you all, and is leaving behind it nothing but good memories. And, equally hopefully, 2017 will be even better for you, with all the wishes that you wish for yourself coming true. A happy, healthy 2017 to you and your families, dear readers.”

 

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Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing all our readers a happy and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for reading, reviewing and enjoying our Choc Lit books. In my opinion, it’s the best gift an author can receive. xx”

 

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Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:“A very happy, peaceful and contented Christmas to the friends of Choc Lit all over the world who support us in so many ways – by buying or borrowing our books, blogging, Tweeting, leaving posts on Facebook and reviewing, to name just a few. We appreciate all you do for us and hope to entertain you for a long time to come! Very best wishes for a great festive season and a wonderful 2017.”

 

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Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me!”

 

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Linda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: ”Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

9781781892916Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”Wishing all my wonderful friends and readers, a very happy, safe and peaceful Christmas. xx”

 

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Berni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy healthy 2017, and many fabulous hours of reading.”

 

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Christine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: “Wishing you love, kindness and generosity of spirit, not just for Christmas  but throughout the year.”

9781781890752Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2017 to you all!”

 

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Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Good wishes for a happy Christmas, with good food, good company and good books, and some time to read them! I’m aiming to have a fabulous year in 2017 and I wish everyone the same. See you then!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!

 

The Santa Dash: Part Four by Victoria Cornwall

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There’s been so much mystery and intrigue in this Round Robin that we honestly have had no clue where it’s going to go next! But no the Santas are on the run and it’s time for Victoria Cornwall to take up the reins for the penultimate part of our story…

Remember to read right until the end if you want to take part in today’s competition. In order to enjoy the story, make sure you read Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE, Part Two by Clare Chase HERE and Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE before you start on Victoria’s extract.

The Santa Dash: Part Four

Sally, who had somehow hitched a lift with two burly rugby players, enthusiastically waved at Ellie as she passed her. Ellie smiled and waved back, but, in reality, she was struggling. Her trousers billowed like two elongated balloons whenever the sea wind caught her and if she was not careful she was at risk of being blown off course. It was time to sort them out or she would never finish the race.

Ellie attempted to hitch them up as she jogged, but her suit had other ideas and fought back. Thanks to one dragging trouser hem, a mistimed step and being temporarily blinded by her hat, Ellie finally tripped up and went sprawling to the floor. Self preservation made her keep her head down, as a few trailing Santas jumped over her prone body. Finally, when all the grunting and puffing around her went quiet, she dared to look up. A Santa, with a large stomach that swayed to its own rhythm, was running towards her. Relief flooded through her when she saw it was Jamie.

He squatted beside her. ‘Are you hurt or are you just taking a rest?’ Despite the quip he looked genuinely concerned.

Ellie sat up and removed her beard. Well, a girl could only take so much.

‘I think I’ve twisted my ankle a bit,’ she said, testing the movement inside her boot. Her boot was so big it didn’t even move. Ellie winced and pulled off her hat too. ‘I’m not going to finish now. My ankle is not too bad, but I can’t run on it.’ Ellie felt as miserable as she sounded. She had hoped to raise money for her ward and now she would have to face everyone and confess she hadn’t finished.

‘Are you sponsored too?’ asked Jamie. Ellie looked up at him and was surprised to discover that he was gazing at her lips.

‘Yes,’ she whispered. He really did have the bluest eyes. They were the sort of eyes that entered your soul and touched something deep inside you.

Jamie swallowed and looked up to meet her own lingering gaze. He suddenly smiled. It was enough to break the spell that held her.

‘No problem,’ he said cheerfully under his beard, ‘I have an idea.’ Ellie noticed the glint in his eyes had returned and grew wary. ‘Don’t look so worried,’ he reassured her. ‘I’ll carry you.’

Ellie found herself looking at the world upside down, ‘You are a fireman, aren’t you?’ she asked, speaking to the profile of a well shaped bottom in scarlet trousers. He also had good taste in cologne, as he smelt far better than any Santa she had ever met before … or any other man, come to that.

‘How did you guess?’

‘Just had an inkling.’ She tried to crane her neck to look at him. He looked so serious and determined. He was a man on a mission to finish the race … or he was finding her too heavy. She hoped it wasn’t the latter. ‘Is that why you’re so well known?’ she asked.

‘I think it has more to do with F.A.C.E.’

‘Face?’

‘Firemen Against Christmas Exclusion.’ Jamie repositioned her slightly which made her grunt in a very unladylike way. She hoped he hadn’t noticed. ‘We raise money to ensure families who have lost their homes to fire have Christmas presents for their children.’

Ellie smiled. ‘That explains a lot.’ She wanted to ask more questions, but Jamie was beginning to puff. Talking, while running and carrying a woman, was perhaps too much to ask for, which was a pity as she would love to know what music he liked. Did he have a pet? A girlfriend? A wife? Oh please, not a wife! Despite their physical closeness of having his arm threaded through her thighs and one of her legs hitched over his shoulder, she felt she might be taking advantage of the situation if she asked too many questions right now. She returned her gaze to his bottom and fought the urge to play it like a bongo drum. This race was turning out rather fun after all.

Jamie came to a stop and eased Ellie off his shoulder. They had passed the finish line and she hadn’t even noticed or cared. Perhaps he would finally take off his beard and she would see the face of the man who had carried her. They stood for a moment, looking at each other with renewed interest. His hands still held hers to keep her steady, although they both knew she could stand without him.

‘Jamie!’ shrieked a woman’s voice. They turned to see Melissa hurrying up to them, her auburn locks flowing gracefully in the wind. Jamie let go Ellie’s hands and braced himself while Ellie absently ran her hand through her own hair. Her fingers snagged on a knot and she hastily gave up.

‘Melissa,’ Jamie breathed as his face drained of all colour.

‘You know her?’ asked Ellie, needlessly.

‘Yes,’ he replied, his voice as brittle as ice. ‘She was my fiancé, until that smarmy git came along.’

‘Which smarmy git?’ asked Ellie as she noticed Julian heading their way.

Jamie followed her gaze, ‘That smarmy git,’ he replied, his jaw tightening.

Ellie’s heart sank. Julian wasn’t as perfect as he claimed to be and Jamie still had feelings for his ex. It was going to be a Santa bloodbath when they met. Evie looked up to the sky for divine intervention. She wished she was anywhere but here, preferably on some exotic beach with a Pina Colada in her hand. Instead she saw David, the ward porter, dressed in a Santa suit and gesticulating wildly as he floated down towards her.  He was doing his first sponsored parachute jump, and more worryingly still, he was heading straight for her.

Now that’s a cliffhanger and a half! Will Ellie choose Jamie or Julian, or are both men off-limits? And, more importantly, will she be knocked out by a falling Santa? Have to admit we might have decided on our favourite between Jamie and Julian now ;)

Come back tomorrow for the final part of the story by Laura E. James!

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Victoria’s writing, why not try and win a digital copy of her upcoming novel, The Thief’s Daughter … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

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

What is the name of the organisation Jamie is a part of, and what do they do?

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read the final part of the story by Laura E. James HERE.