Yesterday we left poor Harriet alone in her cafe after her friend snagged another potential date for the Valentine’s Ball. Will Rhoda Baxter be kinder to her? Let’s see
Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! All the competitions on previous extracts are still open so feel free to go back and read for details on how to enter.
To enjoy this story make sure you read the other parts first:
Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE
Part Three by Morton S Gray HERE.
Tuesday arrived and Harriet was exhausted by lunchtime. She’d baked and frosted until late the night before to get the display of pink heart-shaped cakes ready. They sat in boxes in the back. She would have to carry them across to the pub later. There were balloons to blow up and a decorations to tack to the walls. She hoped Tammy would be able to get there before the ball started to help her out.
Harriet sighed and raised the slice of chocolate cake to her mouth. She didn’t often eat the stock – she’d be huge if she did, but the ball was going to be a disaster anyway, so she may as well take solace in confectionery. Besides, it was her birthday.
She closed her eyes and savoured the generous chocolate icing melting on her tongue. Sometimes in life, you had to take the good moments where you found them. She let out an appreciative ‘mmmm’.
The shop bell made her jump. She looked up. Tony, in all his loveliness, stood in the doorway, staring.
‘Tony. Hi.’ She jumped to her feet. Had he heard her moaning over chocolate cake?
Tony gave her a smile that made her chest go funny. ‘You…er…’ He indicated vaguely to his chest.
Harriet looked down. The thump on her chest had been a dollop of chocolate icing falling on her. It was slowly sliding down her top. ‘Oh.’ Her face flaming, she tried to wipe it off with her forefinger. This merely flicked the icing so that it slid down further. She caught it, but it had left a long trail of brown on her top. Just as well she wasn’t trying to impress Tony any more. She wiped her chocolatey hand on her napkin and dragged up her most professional smile.
‘What can I do for you, Tony?’
‘I was… um…’ he seemed to be having trouble dragging his eyes away from the brown splodge on her chest. He cleared his throat. ‘I thought I might buy a cake.’
‘Well, you came to the right place.’ She dodged back behind the counter. ‘What would you like?’
‘The lemon drizzle, please. It’s Jamie’s favourite.’
Jamie. That’ll be the blasted girlfriend. She was careful to keep her smile in place while she wrapped up the cake. She handed it over to him. ‘I hope your girlfriend likes it.’
Tony frowned. ‘Girlfriend?’
‘Jamie,’ she said.
He gave a little laugh. ‘Oh no. Jamie’s not my girlfriend—’
The bell rang, interrupting whatever he was going to say. Harriet glared at the newcomer.
Paul stood in the doorway. His gaze flickered from Harriet to Tony and back to Harriet. ‘Hello,’ he said.
Bloody Paul. Brilliant timing. ‘Paul,’ she said, curtly.
‘I’d best get on,’ said Tony. He gave Paul a nod. ‘I’ll see you at the ball later?’
‘Yep. I’ll be there,’ said Paul. ‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world.’ There was a bit of scuffling around as the two broad-shouldered men manoeuvred around each other so that Tony could leave. They were both around the same size. Odd. She’d always thought of Paul as skinny … when she thought of him at all.
Paul made his way up to the counter. ‘I was wondering if you needed any help with anything. I’ve got an hour off for lunch, so if you need any errands running, I can do them for you.’
She might have been annoyed with him for interrupting her chat with Tony, but she wasn’t about to turn down an offer of help. ‘Oh yes please! That would be lovely. Could you take two boxes of cakes over. That’ll mean less for me to haul across later.’
She brought the boxes out from the back and carefully lifted them up to the counter. Paul took them off her, his forearms brushing against hers. He had nice, big hands. Yet another thing she hadn’t noticed before. She hurried round and opened the door for him.
‘I’ll see you later then,’ he said, as he passed her, his arms full of cake boxes.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you at the ball.’
She shut the door behind him and watched him walk down the street, carrying the boxes with care. Paul was less boring than she’d thought he was … and Tony wasn’t bringing a girlfriend. Perhaps this ball wasn’t going to be a total washout after all.
Things are looking up for Harriet it seems – but will she find her true valentine at the ball? Find out tomorrow when Sheryl Browne finishes the story.
If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her recently award-nominated novel, Girl Having a Ball (RoNA Romantic Comedy category). Click the image above for purchasing information.
To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:
What falls onto Harriet’s top just before Tony walks into the cafe?
To enter, send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Rhoda Baxter comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.
Part Five by Sheryl Browne is now available to read HERE.