Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin – Part One by Margaret James

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It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and what better way to celebrate than a Round-Robin romance written by five talented Choc Lit authors? We’ll be sharing a part of the story every day until Mother’s Day and there’ll be a competition a day too! 

Margaret James is starting us off today. Read right until the end to take part in the competition! 

‘Mum, he isn’t right for you. He’s a jobbing builder on zero hours contracts and you’re a grammar school deputy headmistress. I can’t believe my mother’s sleeping with a bricklayer and everybody in the village knows about it. They’ll all be laughing at you behind your back. You really shouldn’t see him any more.’ Lucy dumped her Prada handbag on the kitchen counter and gave me that particular look, the one I guess I must have given her myself when she’d brought unsuitable boyfriends home in the past.

But I’m not a teenager. I’m nearly forty-five, for heaven’s sake, not seventeen. Jack and I split up three years ago. I know Lucy loves her father, idolises him in fact, even though he’s married to someone who is Lucy’s age and now she has a half-brother who’s almost two. So aren’t I entitled to have a life as well? Who kidnapped my rebellious, free-thinking daughter and replaced her with this strict, judgemental snob who tells me how to live my life?

‘I don’t know why you’re so upset,’ I said. ‘Mike’s a perfectly nice man. He’s thoughtful, generous and kind. We get on very well. We have lots of interesting chats about all kinds of things. We both like gardening and we’re both alone, so what’s your problem?’

‘The fact he made a brilliant job of mending your old garden wall didn’t mean you had to go to bed with him. Does he even wash his hands before he touches you?’

‘Lucy, that’s enough.’ Okay, I could accept that Lucy might not want her mother to be sleeping with somebody and that it must have been a shock when she called unexpectedly last Saturday and found Mike in his dressing gown making coffee in the kitchen while I was still in bed.

‘Granny’s coming round on Sunday,’ I reminded Lucy. ‘It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve invited her for lunch. You’re welcome too, of course.’

‘I’ll check my diary,’ she said, clearly having forgotten that I’m a mother too and I might like to see my daughter on my special day.

As Lucy’s Clubman drove away, my mobile rang. It was Mike ‘Hello, beautiful. How are you doing today?’

I’ve just got home from work,’ I told him. ‘Do you fancy coming round for dinner later – half past six to seven?’

‘Sounds great. I’ll bring a bottle, shall I?’

‘Lovely.’

‘But you mustn’t go to any trouble, love. I bet you’ve had a busy day so you’ll be tired. Maybe I could cook?’

‘I was thinking M&S,’ I said, ‘and letting someone else do all the work.’

When Mike arrived he smelled of something citrus-based and altogether gorgeous. He was carrying a bunch of freesias and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. He’s not very tall and he’s not movie-actor handsome. But he’s solid, strong and capable, good to snuggle up against. He makes me feel secure, something Lucy’s father never did.

‘What are you doing on Sunday?’ he enquired as we drank the last of the white wine, lolling comfortably on the sofa. ‘I was thinking we could drive into the countryside, have lunch at some old country pub and then go for a ramble in the woods.’

‘I can’t.’ I twisted round to look at him. ‘It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve invited Mum for lunch. My daughter will be coming too, that’s if she’s free.’

‘Maybe I’ll see you later, then? We could still go out somewhere, have dinner, maybe?’

‘After the kind of Sunday lunch my mother will expect, I’m going to be stuffed. But we could walk into the village, have a drink. Yes, let’s do that. Lucy can drive her granny home. Come and call for me about half seven. Or maybe – ’

‘What?’

‘You could come to lunch. Yes, come and meet three generations of my family. It’s time you got to know them.’

‘But Jenny, didn’t you tell me Lucy isn’t keen on you having relationships? Didn’t you say she’s still upset about you and her dad splitting up? She might not want to see me.’

‘Lucy is twenty-three. She’s not a child, even though she often acts like one. It’s time she started to grow up. My mother’s getting a bit forgetful nowadays, but she’s very sweet and I’m sure she will like you. Mike, will you come?’

Oh dear! Sounds like Jenny’s Mother’s Day Sunday lunch could end up being quite an explosive affair. Come back tomorrow for Part Two by Jane Lovering to see what happens. You don’t want to miss it!

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If you enjoyed Margaret’s writing, make sure you keep an eye out in the coming months for a new release ;) Until then, you can check out her existing novels HERE

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning one of Margaret’s novels and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What does Mike bring for Jenny when he comes round for dinner?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Margaret James comp’ by Monday 27th March. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday 28th March.

Read Part Two by Jane Lovering HERE.

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Final Part by Sheryl Browne

Round Robin SB All good things must come to an end – and that includes Valentine’s Round Robins! But Sheryl Browne has her turn today and there’ll still be one more competition to enter too – if you read until the end ;) Let’s find out what happens to Harriet at her Valentine/birthday ball…

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

Part Four by Rhoda Baxter HERE

She’d known that last slice of chocolate cake had been a mistake. With the final batch of cupcakes safely delivered to the pub, Harriet was attempting to slip into her dress, a snip-in-the-sales, strappy russet satin mini dress, which frustratingly no longer seemed slippable into.

Much heaving and tugging later, the dress was on, possibly permanently. Harriet glanced forlornly at her reflection in the wardrobe mirror. ‘What do you think, Luna?’ she asked her sooty black cat, who wove a figure of eight around her ankles.

Luna meowed and padded off to jump on the bed and settle down with a contented purr.

Taking that as approval, Harriet surveyed herself again. ‘Hmm, you might be right,’ she conceded. She might have to use scissors to remove it, and she might have to keep breathing to a minimum, but the dress at least flattered in all the right places.

Realising she was going to be late for the ball, Harriet turned to kiss the cat, probably the only being she’d be kissing and cuddling up to anytime soon, and dashed down to grab up the last half-dozen heart-shaped balloons from the hall and then fly through the front door.

***

‘Ooh, I say,’ Vera looked her pointedly over, as she all but fell into the function room, ‘we have undressed to impress, haven’t we?’

‘Oh no …’ Harriet followed Vera’s gaze worriedly down to her cleavage. ‘Is it too much?’

‘Well, it’s certainly an eyeful,’ Vera said jollily, causing Harriet’s cheeks to flush a complementary russet coloured red. ‘But if you’ve got it …’

With which, Vera leaned in. ‘I think Tony’s appreciating the view,’ she whispered, nodding over her shoulder towards the bar, where Tony, looking just as edible out of uniform as he did in it,  was indeed staring intently in her direction.

Harriet’s heart did a little flip in her chest and then drooped, as the designer dressed striking brunette at his side, placed a hand on Tony’s arm, turning his attention back to her. This was Jamie then, Harriet assumed, who was no doubt asking who the barely-dressed floozy was.

Smiling wanly as he glanced again in her direction, Harriet lowered her balloons to discreetly chest-level. The woman might not be his girlfriend, but judging by the body language she was certainly laying claims on him.

Harriet sighed inwardly as Vera, obviously oblivious, gave her one of her coy winks and moved off to join Felicity and Moira to catch up on the village goss.

Zack, dressed in a black shirt – minus dog-collar – and thigh flattering jeans, was definitely challenging the stereotypical vicarly image, Harriet noticed, as she headed across the room to unburden herself of her balloons. She could almost feel the heat radiating from his smouldering grey eyes as he yanked Tammy into a tight hold on the dancefloor.

Well that was obviously a match made in heaven. Harriet couldn’t help but smile as Tammy, clearly as smitten as he was, beamed at her over his shoulder and gave Harriet a thumbs up.

Two down, one to go, Harriet thought disconsolately, still holding onto her balloons, which she’d become strangely attached to. Where was her sister, she wondered, scanning the room for signs of her, along with the mysterious blind date who would probably turn out to be predictably utterly inappropriate. The last one had been a head shorter than her and, while Harriet wasn’t short-ist, the man regaling her with rugby jokes all evening and suggesting she might wear flat shoes next time did put her off a bit.

Paul didn’t seem in evidence either. So much for her at least one dance with a man this evening. Obviously Paul wasn’t going to be a her saviour.

Wine, Harriet thought, heading for the bar. Prosecco and a chocolate cupcake would cheer her up. Who cared if she had to live in the russet-red dress for the rest of her life? And then she would dump her balloons and strut her stuff on the dancefloor with the stalwarts of the Women’s Institute. She didn’t need a man to have a good time. A handbag would do. She laughed as she passed Vera and co, who were practising some risqué moves around a strategically placed clutch bag.

‘Harriet!’ Someone yelled over the music, as she ordered her drink, making brief eye contact with a pair of lovely blue eyes, as she did. Did Harriet detect a little bit of wistfulness as Tony looked at her? No. Noting again the undeniably beautiful woman at his side, she doubted Tony would want to be practising any self-defence moves tonight.

‘Harriet!’ her sister called loudly again as Harriet turned. ‘Quick!’ she shouted, gesticulating wildly towards the door now.

‘What?’ Harriet quickened her step and hurried towards her. ‘He’s not that hot, is he?’ she asked, glancing amusedly past her sister for signs of the blind date.

‘Yes!’

Her sister’s eyes were wide, and frightened, Harriet noted, apprehension tickling its way down her spine.

‘It’s Paul!’

‘It’s …?’ Harriet knitted her brow, confused. ‘Charlotte, you mean Paul’s my—’

‘Tony!’ Charlotte shouted past her. ‘You need to come! Quickly.’

With which, her sister turned urgently back to the door, throwing, ‘Harriet’s cottage is on fire!’ over her shoulder.

***

It wasn’t about the heroics. Tony had tried. Zack, Tammy, Vera … Everyone had been a hero tonight, helping to dampen the flames until the fire engine arrived. Paul had been her saviour though. He’d been desperate to ask her out. In love with her since they’d been at school, Vera confided. Everybody knew this except, it seemed, Harriet. Everybody knew, also, that Harriet hadn’t fancied him, including Paul, who’d remained hopeful that one day she might learn to love him a little, even though he was just an ordinary man with no impressive credentials. He had been her blind date tonight, she’d learned. His last ditch attempt to attract her attention before someone else stole her away. She was the one who’d been blind, though, not seeing what was right under her nose. That Paul was there. That he’d always been there.

‘He’s okay. A bit startled, but…’ Paul assured her, passing a very sooty black cat into her arms. ‘I’d, er, better go home.’ He shrugged awkwardly. ‘Clean myself up. There’s a spare cat bed if you need it.’

Brown, his eyes were brown, the colour of rich caramel mocha latte, soft, warm and comforting. He had a scratch on his cheek. His hair was dishevelled, his clothes ruined and reeking of smoke. Harriet didn’t speak. Couldn’t.

‘Harriet?’ Tony said softly, now by Paul’s side. ‘My sister’s driving home tonight. There’s a spare room at Lilac Cottage if you’d like.’

Harriet looked from his lovely blue eyes back to Paul. ‘Thank you,’ she managed, ‘but Paul has already offered.’

 Aww! What a perfect end to a perfect Valentine’s Round Robin. As always, the Choc Lit authors have outdone themselves and we hoped you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed organising it! Let us know what you think :)  

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If you enjoyed Sheryl’s writing in today’s extract make sure you keep an eye out for her two upcoming thriller releases, After She’s Gone (out Feb 21st) and Sins of the Father (out Feb 24th) . Click the image above for pre-order information. 

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Sheryl’s first Choc Lit novel The Rest of My Life and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is the name of Harriet’s cat?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Sheryl Browne comp’ by Sunday 19th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

 

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Four by Rhoda Baxter

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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.’

‘Sure.’

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. 

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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. 

COMPETITION TIME

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 info@choc-lit.co.uk 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.

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Three by Morton S Gray

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We hope you all enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day yesterday – but the romance and fun isn’t over! We still have three days of our Valentine’s Round Robin to go – three more days to spend in the village of Thistlethorpe AND three more competitions too!

Today, it’s Morton S Gray‘s turn – and you might remember yesterday that a certain handsome vicar was introduced. Who will be Harriet’s date to the ball now? 

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! 

To enjoy this story make sure you read Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE and Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE first. 

Harriet picked out two of her favourite vintage tea cups and placed them on the tray with the tea pot and milk jug. She glanced over at Zack. He had removed his dog collar and undone a couple of buttons on his shirt. As he stretched his shoulders, she glimpsed golden chest hair. Hmm, nice.

Putting the best iced bun, a muffin and a huge slice of chocolate cake on a plate, she carried the tray over to the table and set about making the tea.

‘Milk?’

‘Just a drop please.’

She pushed the sugar bowl over to his side of the table and then sat down carefully, arranging her limbs so as not to brush against Zack’s outstretched jean-clad legs. Did vicars wear jeans? He was sure challenging her stereotypical image of a minister of the church.

For once she found herself tongue-tied, so it was a good job Zack was bursting with questions about the village. He told her he’d already met Vera and been subject to an extensive interrogation about his credentials to take over at the church. Harriet became mesmerised by the flashes in his grey eyes and her tea went cold, as she filled him in about the movers and shakers in Thistlethorpe.

‘You’ve been so helpful, thank you. The problem with moving to a new parish is the immense possibility of putting your foot in things and upsetting parishioners before you’ve even taken a service. Vera terrified me. Shall I see you on Sunday?’

‘Erm …’ Harriett wasn’t a regular churchgoer, more a christening, wedding and funeral type of girl, apart from the annual carol service, although intense staring at the new blond vicar in action might make sitting on the hard, wooden pews more appealing.

She was trying to decide how to reply, whilst simultaneously indulging in a fantasy about joining the flower arranging committee to have Zack admiring her flowers, when the café door bell sounded and her friend, Tammy bounded in accompanied by Paul.

‘Harriet, you’ll never guess … Oh … Ooooh.’

Harriet found herself blushing at her friend’s obvious excitement at finding a new attractive man in the café. She needn’t have worried. Zack was staring at Tammy open-mouthed, desire dripping from every pore. He appeared to be instantly besotted with her friend. Maybe there wasn’t a Mrs Vicar after all.

Harriet sighed. Another man off the list. What with Tony bringing unknown Jamie to the Valentine’s Ball and Zack only having eyes for Tammy, her sister’s promise of a blind date was looking like her only chance of a slow dance on her birthday.

‘What’s this I hear about a Valentine’s Ball?’ She’d forgotten Paul was even there as she’d been too busy watching the interaction between Tammy and Zack. ‘Put me down for a ticket, oh and at least one dance, of course.’ Paul winked. He’d been at school with Tammy and Harriet. It was almost like your brother asking you to dance. Great! Why Paul? Why was it always the ones you didn’t fancy who came on to you?

Paul had recently taken over his father’s business. He was an optician and wore designer specs on his aquiline nose. She realised she’d never seen him without glasses, as he’d worn them even at junior school. In fact, she hadn’t ever studied him at all, he’d just always been around.

Zack stood up and was talking animatedly to Tammy. She introduced the two men as they made their goodbyes and left Harriet sitting alone in the café. Tammy hadn’t even told her why she’d come in and Zack had left his chocolate cake uneaten.

She picked up the plate and tucked into the delicious gooiness, knowing that if she was going to look sylph-like in her dress for the ball, it wasn’t a good idea. In fact, the ball didn’t feel like such a good idea any more. She’d have to watch Tony dancing with Jamie, Tammy with Zack and make do with jiving with Paul or the unknown blind date her sister was supplying, not quite how she imagined the evening going at all.

What could she do to make the Valentine’s Ball her dream event?

Aww, poor Harriet. We really thought Zack might be the one. But anything could happen on the night – and there’s always that blind date! Looking forward to the next instalment by Rhoda Baxetr tomorrow. 

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her stunning debut novel, The Girl on the Beach. Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What slightly ‘unvicarly’ item of clothing is Zack wearing?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton Gray comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Four by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read HERE

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Two by Christina Courtenay

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Happy Valentine’s Day all! We hope you have a lovely day planned with a special person that will involve plenty of chocolates, flowers and pampering. Enjoy! 

Yesterday Kirsty Ferry introduced us to the village of Thistlethorpe and Harriet, who was organising a Valentine’s Ball with a little bit of an ulterior motive in mind! Today Christina Courtenay picks up where Kirsty left off. Will Harriet be successful in her attempts to encourage Tony to the event? Read on to find out …

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! 

Remember to read Part One by Kirsty Ferry before starting on this extract. 

Talk about bad timing. Of course it had to be the object of their discussion, Tony himself, and Vera turned to wink at Harriet. Not in a subtle way, but a big comical sort of wink, which the policeman couldn’t fail to see. Harriet felt her cheeks burn. Well, if he didn’t know about her crush before, he certainly did now.

But her mortification didn’t end there. Vera took another sip of her tea and called over to Tony, ‘We were just talking about you. Harriet has something to ask you.’

Well, thanks a bundle. Harriet sent Vera a death glare, but the annoying woman just giggled.

‘Oh?’ Tony’s blue eyes twinkled, but he appeared not to have noticed the wink or any undertones. Or if he had, he was gentleman enough not to let on.

Harriet took a deep breath. What was the worst that could happen, after all? He could say no and that would be that. ‘I’m organising a Valentine’s Ball at the pub and I just wondered if you’d like to join us? Everyone else will be there and you are, after all, part of the village now. I … uhm, thought it might be nice for you to get to know us a bit better.’

Ha! How was that for diplomatic? That should show Vera and hopefully Tony wouldn’t read too much into the invitation.

He nodded. ‘Sounds great, thank you. I’ll have to check whether I’m on duty, of course, but I should be able to pop in at least for a while.’ He hesitated. ‘Actually, I have a visitor coming to stay that weekend. Do you mind if I bring someone?’

Harriet’s heart plummeted. Oh God, she was such an idiot. Of course a man like him would already have a girlfriend. He must have had a life before he came to Thistlethorpe. And he certainly didn’t look like he’d been a monk. Six foot two-ish, broad shoulders, muscles, lots of muscles, and those eyes … She cleared her throat. Yeah, goodbye to that dream then. ‘Of course.’ She managed a smile. ‘As I said, everyone is welcome.’

‘Oh, good. I’m sure Jamie will fit right in.’

Jamie. Unusual name for a girl, but still …

Harriet pulled herself together. She had a job to do. She plastered on an even wider smile. ‘So, what can I get you? The iced buns are on special price today.’

‘Then I’ll have half a dozen, thank you.’

When Tony had paid for his buns and left with another bone-melting smile, Harriet glared at Vera. ‘Don’t. Say. A. Word. Okay?’

Vera held up her hands as if surrendering. She actually looked quite sad, as if she cared about Harriet, but the latter didn’t feel up to discussing her love life. Or lack of it.

She’d have to implement Plan B – getting her sister to bring that blind date she’d been threatening. How bad could he be? Actually, knowing Lil, very …

Vera left, with a tiny wave and a grimace of compassion – at least that’s how Harriet interpreted the face the woman made – and Harriet concentrated on unloading another tray of iced buns into the display counter.

When the bell over the door rang again, heralding another customer, she prepared to act professional. She didn’t have time to mope around. And her life was fine as it was – a great job, a lovely little cottage all to herself, a cat and enough money to do most of the things she wanted. Who needed a man? They were nothing but trouble anyway. With a welcoming smile, she looked up and nearly dropped the tray in her hands. In front of her stood yet another gorgeous male – blond this time, and with eyes like a grey, stormy sky, in his early thirties maybe and … a dog collar. She swallowed a gasp.

‘Er, hello, what would you like?’

Instead of just giving his order, the man held out his hand across the counter and gave her a big grin. ‘Hi, I’m Zack, the new vicar. It’s my first day so I thought I’d celebrate with something nice for tea. Any recommendations?’

‘Er, right. I’m Harriet. Buns. Iced buns or … or maybe a piece of the chocolate cake? The frosting is to die for. I mean …’ She stopped. Did one say things like that to a vicar? A vicar named Zack? It didn’t seem a very ‘vicarly’ sort of name, if there was such a word. And having two handsome men move into the village at the same time was unheard of. Still, she wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. No matter how good-looking Zack was – and although he wasn’t quite as big and brawny as Tony, he seemed to be in pretty good shape and those cheekbones of his were quite simply amazing – she wasn’t falling for him. There was probably a Mrs Vicar. Or if not, he was celibate. She bit her lip and tried to collect herself.

‘Do you know, I think I might just have one of each,’ he said. ‘I don’t suppose you’d care to join me? My treat. It would be nice to get to know my parishioners a bit. But only if you have time. If you’re allowed …’ He tailed off and looked behind her as if he was wondering if she had a horrid boss who was going to come out and tell her off for fraternising with the customers.

Harriet relaxed. There was no harm in talking to the man and business was always slow this time of day. ‘Sure, I’d like that, thanks. As long as you’ll excuse me if anyone comes in to buy something.’ She gestured towards one of the tables. ‘Take a seat and I’ll be with you in a minute.’

As she made the tea, she wondered if one could invite a vicar to a ball?

The plot thickens! And now Zack the vicar has been added to the mix, the possibilities are endless. Come back tomorrow to find out what happens next when one of our debut authors Morton S. Gray takes her turn.

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If you enjoyed Christina’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her most recent book, The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight, which is set in and around the historic Raglan Castle in Wales and has recently been nominated for a RoNA award in the Paranormal/Speculative Romance category. Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning one of Christina’s books and some chocolate simply answer this question:

How many iced buns does Tony buy?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Christina Courtenay comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Three by Morton S Gray is now available to read HERE

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part One by Kirsty Ferry

Round Robin KF

The day has finally arrived and we can’t wait to share this year’s Valentine’s Round Robin with you. As always, the Choc Lit authors involved have excelled themselves :) Hopefully you’ll be spoilt with wine and chocolate tomorrow, but treat yourself with the first part of our story today!

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! 

Kirsty Ferry starts us off today … 

The trouble with living in a small village was that everybody knew everybody else’s business. Harriet had discovered this to her cost when she had decided to organise a Valentine’s Ball in the function room of the local pub.

Harriet worked in the local cafe, and as such, everybody knew her prowess with buns, cakes and pots of tea. As she was also quite a chatty person – and her best friend Tammy was a barmaid and was also quite a chatty person – everybody knew that Harriet from the cafe harboured a deep desire for Tony, the new policeman who had just moved into Lilac Cottage. It was generally agreed that Harriet was arranging the Ball in order to entice Tony there. Everybody knew this except, it seemed, Harriet, who stared at Vera, the head of the Women’s Institute as she smiled at her over a sticky bun.

‘Tony is a very nice chap,’ said Vera. ‘I must say, we invited him for an informal meeting with us all two weeks ago. We decided that we needed some advice on staying safe in the village, and he seemed the perfect person to discuss it with us.’ Vera blushed and lowered her eyelids coyly. Harriet felt that in a village such as Thistlethorpe, where the greatest scandal of the twenty-first century had occurred when “someone” stole the star off the village Christmas tree five years ago, advice on personal safety wasn’t exactly a great excuse to get Tony into the Village Hall on a Tuesday evening.

She did wonder, however, whether his lovely blue eyes had crinkled up at the corners when he smiled at the ladies as they went through some basic self-defence moves; and whether his unruly chestnut-coloured hair had been as mussed up as usual—

But her thoughts were interrupted when Vera continued: ‘I do hope you get him to your Ball, Harriet. He’s a lovely boy. Lovely! You could do worse.’

‘My Ball!’ Harriet blushed as scarlet as the glace cherries in her scones. ‘I’m not arranging the Ball to get Tony there!  I mean, if he’d like to come, it would be lovely to see him, but—’ She blushed again. ‘The reason I’m doing this is just so we can all have a bit of fun. I think Christmas seems so far behind us and summer isn’t for months yet, and we need something in between to cheer us all up. Anyway, it’s my birthday as well, so I wanted to do something special for it!’ It was indeed her thirtieth, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to get all her friends together and have champagne and cupcakes and giant heart-shaped balloons. There was nothing nefarious to that at all – nothing.

‘Well, Tammy mentioned your little fancy to Felicity, and Felicity told Moira, and Moira told me and, well, he’s lovely.’ Vera sipped her tea looking smug and Harriet felt sick. It was one thing arranging a party on the pretext of birthdays and champagne and balloons – but in reality, yes; she would have to admit (if push came to shove) that the main reason for the party was, indeed, Tony. But the problem now was clearly going to be issuing him an invitation, without looking completely and utterly desperate. Because he obviously knew how she felt – how cold he not with the Gossip Train in motion – and she had no idea how she could face him without her getting incredibly embarrassed and him, quite possibly, running away screaming in the opposite direction.

‘Vera, I have to say—’ Harriet began; but then she was interrupted by the bell over the door as someone entered the cafe.

A little bit of a cliffhanger there. I wonder who could possibly be coming into the cafe? ;) Find out tomorrow when Christina Courtenay takes up the reins for Part Two!

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If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her books, Some Veil Did Fall and The Girl in the Painting. Click the images above for purchasing information. Kirsty’s new book The Girl in the Photograph will also be out in March, and there’ll be a special Valentine’s cover reveal tomorrow – keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for that!

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Kirsty’s first book Some Veil Did Fall and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What was the ‘great scandal’ of Thistlethorpe?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kirsty Ferry comp’ by Friday 17th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

Part Two by Christina Courtenay is now available to read HERE

The Santa Dash: Part Two by Clare Chase

Round Robin

Kathryn Freeman started us off with a Santa Dash yesterday, and now Clare Chase is taking us right up to the starting line. And just what will happen with those two rival Santas? Will Ellie have to choose between them? ;)

Remember to read right until the end if you’d like to take part in our competition! In order for the story to make sense, you will need to read Part One by Kathryn Freeman first, which can be found HERE.

The Santa Dash – PART TWO

Ellie felt a blush creep up her neck. Thank goodness her Santa beard was so thick. But the guy’s flattery didn’t entirely distract her. What was his connection with Julian? Suddenly, she realised she’d left an awkward pause in their conversation. ‘What were you doing anyway, running before everyone else had started?’ she said, quickly.

‘Ah!’ His eyes were twinkling again. ‘Yes, sorry about that. I got a bit held up and I didn’t want to miss the start of the race. My phone’s at home and,’ he tapped his wrist, ‘my watch packed up a week ago so I couldn’t check the time. I don’t need to clock watch for work so I haven’t got around to getting it fixed.’

Ellie was about to ask him what he did when an elderly lady with a blue rinse squeezed her way between two especially rotund Santas.

‘Ah there you are, Jamie,’ she said, beaming up at the man Ellie had knocked over. ‘It took me ages to spot you in the crowd. I’m so glad I didn’t make you miss the race. I wanted to thank you again.’

Ellie wondered what ‘Jamie’ was being thanked for, but at that moment, Julian tore himself away from the gaggle of women who’d surrounded him and caught her eye, his handsome features made all the more irresistible by a smile. Within a moment he’d ushered her towards the front of the throng of Santas. ‘Don’t want to get stuck at the back with the stragglers, do we?’ His hand was still on her shoulder as he guided her into the front row of queueing runners. ‘I hope Jamie wasn’t making a nuisance of himself.’ She noticed his jaw was taut now, and his smile had faded. ‘I’d be curious to know what he said about me.’

Ellie felt the warmth of his hand through her Santa suit. It was definitely lingering on her shoulder longer than was necessary. She tried to concentrate on what he was asking. ‘Well, I gathered you’re not the best of friends, but he didn’t seem keen to talk about it.’

Julian’s smile was back. ‘No, well, he wouldn’t. Whatever he told you wouldn’t reflect well on him. Still if he didn’t elaborate, I won’t either.’ He moved his hand from her shoulder and touched what would have been her cheek, but was currently just nylon beard. She squirmed with embarrassment. It really was too unfair that she was finally within a hair’s breadth of him – dressed as a fat, ageing man with glue-on eyebrows. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, as though reading her mind. ‘You carry off facial hair very nicely.’

At that moment, Ellie noticed a woman with cascading auburn locks that shone in the winter sun. She was standing at the edge of the Santa dash course, wearing a mini skirt, suede jacket and long boots. Distressingly, she seemed to be trying to attract Julian’s attention. When the woman caught her eye and gesticulated, Ellie realised she’d have to give in and let him know.

‘I think someone in the crowd’s waving at you,’ she said, nudging him and pointing.

Julian looked round and spotted the glamorous woman. As Ellie watched she was surprised to see him look startled, and then hesitate before responding. It took at least five seconds for him to muster a smile.

‘Melissa!’ He shouted at last. ‘I’d no idea you’d be here.’

‘Mum said you were running. I thought it would be a hoot to come along and see you. Mind you, I imagined it would be much harder to pick you out.  I might have known you’d barge your way to the front though. Why on earth aren’t you wearing a beard?’

Rather than replying, Ellie noticed Julian suddenly seemed preoccupied with the crowd of Santas behind them. His brow was furrowed and his shoulders tensed as he craned round. She followed his gaze, and found she was looking into the eyes of Jamie, three rows behind them. Then, after a second, Julian looked back at the woman called Melissa again.

‘What is it, Julian?’ Ellie asked.

Suddenly his eyes were back on her. ‘Nothing,’ he said.

And at that moment, a man with a loud hailer distracted them both. ‘Marks, set, go!’

Curiouser and curiouser! Of course Clare Chase’s part was going to end with a bit of a mystery! Can’t wait for tomorrow when Jane Lovering will be taking us for the next mile in our Santa Dash … 

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Clare’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, You Think You Know Me … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

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

What is the mystery woman’s name? 

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 Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE

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. 

COMPETITION TIME!

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.

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The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Final Part by Sheryl Browne

DAY 5 VRRHappy Valentine’s Day to all our readers and to everyone who has been keeping track of our fabulous Valentine’s Round Robin :) We hope your days are full of wine, chocolate and romance! 

Sheryl Browne is rounding up the story today and, without giving anything away, she does us proud. Thank you to each of the five writers who have taken part – as always, you have outdone yourselves!

So sit back (hopefully with a big, preferably heart-shaped, box of chocolates) and enjoy the last part of this Valentine’s Day story. If you haven’t read the other extracts yet, make sure you do before reading this! And remember to read right until the end to find out about our Valentine’s Day competition :)  

Part One by Alison May can be read HERE.

Part Two by Linn B. Halton can be read HERE. 

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry can be read HERE.

Part Four by Angela Britnell can be read HERE.

Oh.’ Sophie lost the smile as they pulled up in front of the hotel.

‘Problem?’ Josh obviously noted her crestfallen expression. ‘It’s just that my roommate has first dibs on the flat tonight. New girlfriend. I think he’s trying to impress her.’ Shaking his head, he rolled his twinkly ocean blue eyes and then looked at her uncertainly. ‘If you’d rather not, though …’

‘Yes! I mean No, no problem.’ Unimpressed though she was by the tactless, “trying to impress her” comment, Sophie plastered her smile back in place. Having only recently moved in, her own flat was still an absolute tip. There was no way she was ready for him to see that. Where else did she think they were going to seal their relationship? The bowling alley, with his obnoxious fangirls cheering him on? Sophie shuddered, quashing a fleeting image of Arlo guffawing and bitchy Evadne and Belinda scoring her points out of ten. ‘It’s a good idea.’ She nodded. Impromptu. Romantic, she thought dreamily. This was special. It meant something. Obviously it meant something to Josh too.

‘I booked us a room.’ Josh whipped his key from the ignition, and promptly pricked her romantic bubble. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, I got you something.’ He turned, leaning over the seat, his mesmerising blue eyes meeting hers, his delicious spicy cologne playing havoc with her senses.

What, Sophie wondered headily. Roses! It had to be. Chocolates! With which they would indulge after … She held her breath, sure she would just burst with happiness at his thoughtfulness.

Oh. She deflated a bit as he produced a bottle of wine.

‘It’s not the best, but not bad,’ he said, waving the bottle in her direction and then shoving his door open and climbing out. ‘Coming?’ he asked, leaning back in to shoot her his confident, megawatt smile.

Sighing inwardly, Sophie reached for her door. At least she’d got the prosecco, she supposed. And at least he’d thought to come around and open her door for her. He was a gentleman. A gorgeous sporty hunk and very nearly a fully qualified solicitor. He was hers.

‘Watch your step. Don’t want to end up in A&E, do we?’ Giving her a mischievous wink, Josh nodded down at her ankle accentuating shoes as she teetered alongside him on the uneven cobblestones. He didn’t take her hand. Sophie swallowed back her disappointment.

‘So, what do you think?’ Josh asked, once they’d found their room, another flash of uncertainty in his eyes as he scanned her face. Another small plus.

It was tiny, shoebox sized. But clean and … serviceable. She didn’t need roses, Sophie told herself firmly. They would make their own romance, sip chilled wine together, make sweet meaningful love together, and then lie satiated in each other’s arms, sharing secrets until the sun rose. How much more romantic could it be?  Josh, she realised, was obviously as nervous as she was. Or possibly not. Turning back to beam him her best grateful smile, she blinked, slightly stunned to find him peeling his shirt off.

Sophie’s smile faltered, as he walked towards her, his tanned biceps glistening, his ocean blue eyes smouldering. ‘Are we getting naked?’ He stopped directly in front of her, his lips a hair’s breadth from hers. His breath was minty, his eyelashes long and lustrous, incongruous with his sun-kissed clutchable hair. Sophie almost wilted, as he pulled her proprietorially to him, her tummy dipping, her head giddy with longing, as he closed his delicious mouth over hers, kissing her hard, deep and  … stopping.

‘Damn.’ He groaned, as his phone beeped in his jeans pocket. ‘Talk about bad timing.’ Leaving Sophie reeling on her vertiginous heels, he pulled away, fished the phone out and read the text. Then, shaking his head, he smiled, keyed in a response and tossed the phone on the bed. ‘Sorry about that,’ he said, turning back to her.

‘No problem,’ she said, actually thinking it was.

‘I’ll just, er …’ Nodding towards the bathroom, he hooked a finger over the low neckline of her dress. ‘You might want to lose that,’ he suggested, smiling … amusedly? … and then sauntering off.

But, short of a bow, she’d dressed entirely to please him, from her lacy knickers to her figure hugging red dress, which actually now felt a bit tarty. Wasn’t he going to unwrap her? Obviously not. Watching him disappear into the bathroom, Sophie huffed over to the bed. Parking herself ungraciously to hitch off her heels, she paused as the phone beeped again. Her eyes travelled towards it. Should she?

What was so flipping urgent anyway? A curry. She realised, her heart sinking, as she read the text: How’d it go? Got to grips with the bowling balls yet? We’re heading over to The Dilshad. Will order for you. Balti or Masala?

About to. Balti, Josh had texted back.

****

‘Bastard.’ Matt surprised her, swinging her flat door wide as she waggled her key in the lock, wrapping an arm around her and steering Sophie gently inside. ‘If I see him soon he won’t be able to walk in a straight line, let alone bowl.’

‘Oh, Matt, it was a disaster! ’ Sophie blubbered, never more grateful for her strong, dependable, caring friend. He’d obviously used the key he’d had when he’d helped her move in and made sure to be here to pick up the pieces, again. ‘But you shouldn’t be here.’ She took the tissue he offered her and blew, not very daintily. ‘What about your date?’

‘I, er, cancelled. This morning. Come on, come on in. I’ve run you a nice scented bath.’

‘But…?’ He’d bought roses. Armfuls. She’d seen him in town, this afternoon. He’d looked a bit down, Sophie remembered. She’d assumed it was something to do with his job at the hospice, but she’d been so full of her own news about her date with despicable Josh she hadn’t asked him. She should have. She glanced up at him. He smiled embarrassedly. Leave it, she told herself, guessing poor Matt had had a disastrous Valentine’s Day too. ‘Thank you,’ she said, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek, and then padding towards her bedroom, ridiculous heels in hand.

He was too sensitive, that was Matt’s trouble. Too caring. Too good-looking for the women he dated to see past the physique. They wanted macho, sporty types, like ‘Joshy’, not sensitive souls like Matt, who preferred to woo women before bedding them. They could have him. And she’d have Matt in a flash, if only she was one of the prettier more popular girls.

Sniffing, she pressed down the door handle, noting the heavenly waft of scented bath oil as she did, and then froze. Not bath oil. She blinked, bewildered. Roses! Everywhere. On the bedside table, on the dressing table, petals on the floor. Matt?

Speechless, panda-eyed, bedraggled, shoeless and short, Sophie turned slowly around to face him. ‘For me?’

Matt laughed. ‘Well, they’re not for me.’

‘But …’ Sophie stared at him, incredulous. ‘Why?’

‘Because I… ‘A flush to his cheeks, Matt stopped. ‘Because you’re beautiful. Sweet and beautiful, and far too good for that conceited pillock. I know you don’t … Probably wouldn’t consider, but …’ Pulling in a huge breath, Matt paused again, then, ‘Would you do me the honour of being my Valentine, Sophie?’

Totally stunned now, Sophie just continued to stare.

‘OK, right.’ Matt coughed, at length, and looked more embarrassed than ever. ‘Well, no problem. I get that you don’t, you know. I’d offer to wash your back,’ he joked, as was Matt’s wont, ‘but …’

‘You’d like to woo me first?’ Sophie found her voice.

A slow smile curved Matt’s mouth, a shy, gorgeous, completely unpretentious smile. ‘If you’ll let me?’ he asked hopefully.

‘Yes!’ Sophie laughed, bewildered. Was it possible? Did she dare hope, after so many heart-breaking disappointments, that her dream of the perfect Valentine’s Day had come true?

Aww, so glad Sophie got the Valentine’s Day she wanted in the end – and Matt sounds gorgeous! We hope everyone reading this gets their perfect Valentine’s Day too :)  

COMPETITION TIME!

Now that we’ve reached the last part of the story, it’s time to submit your answers from the last four days, along with one last answer from today for your chance to win a mystery prize! Here’s the question:

Where does the lovely Matt work?

When you’ve read every part of the story and collected together your answers, send all FIVE of them to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner (with five correct answers) will be picked at random. Deadline for entry is Wednesday 17th February and the winner will be announced on Thursday 18th February.

There is also one last chance to win a prize by commenting on this post or on Facebook/Twitter to let us know what you think of the story. The winners of these daily competitions will be announced at the same time as the main competition winner. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Sheryl Browne’s writing, why not give her book, The Rest of My Life, a go? The novel will be out in paperback on April 7th and is available to pre-order HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Four by Angela Britnell

DAY 4 VRR

It’s Angela Britnell’s turn today – let’s see whether she puts Sophie out of her misery! And who could have been on the other end of that phone? ;)  

In order to make sense of today’s extract, have a read of the extracts we’ve released over the last few days. Part One by Alison May is HERE. Part Two by Linn B. Halton is HERE. Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

‘Oh, Soph, don’t tell me he stood you up? Do you want me to come and get you?’

Sophie’s eyes prickled and she ordered herself not to cry. Good old Matt. They’d been best friends since they were five and he’d rescued her from the infant school bully on the playground. She stumbled over trying to explain to him the horrific scenario waiting for her back in the bowling alley. ‘They’re all awful,’ she wailed.

‘What did Josh say when they had a go at you?’ The question hung there and Sophie knew without having to be told exactly what Matt would’ve done. Stood up for her. Told his friends they were out of line. Precisely what the niggling voice in her head had been saying ever since she and Josh arrived and he’d basically thrown her to the sharks.

Her pride kicked back in. Sophie had bored Matt silly with the “will he won’t he” story of her relationship with Josh until she’d about made his ears bleed. Last week when she’d rambled on about her dreams for Valentine’s Day he’d told her to be careful what she wished for because it might happen. Trust Matt to be right. He’d been right about her last boyfriend, Peter, too. And that louse William. As for Greg – he’d correctly nailed him as a lying, unfaithful loser.

‘Oh, he’s …’ Sophie tried to say how great Josh had been but she couldn’t lie. Not to Matt. ‘Just forget I called. You know me. Always the drama queen. I’m overreacting and being daft as usual.’

‘You’re not daft,’ Matt scoffed. ‘You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful …’

Silence. Sophie  struggled to breathe.

‘There you are. Is everything all right?’ Josh appeared by her shoulder, flashing his trademark megawatt smile.

‘Yes, thanks, one of my friends called. I’ll just get rid of … her.’

‘I’ll wait.’ Josh dropped down on the bench next to her and draped his warm arm around her shoulder. His delicious spicy cologne wafted in the air and she nearly swooned.

‘I’ve got to go.’ Sophie murmured down the phone.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll consider myself suitably got rid of. Be careful, Soph.’

She hung up and bit back tears.

‘I told the others we’d had enough of bowling.’ Josh grinned and trailed a finger down her neck, lingering at the low neckline of her dress. ‘I can think of far better ways to spend what’s left of Valentine’s Day.’

 You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful.

Had Matt really said that? Best friend, Matt. The man all her single friends drooled over but who never seemed to find the right woman. That Matt?

‘Sophie, are you listening to me?’ Josh’s smooth voice sneaked back into her awareness and she looked at him. This was what she’d spent all afternoon primping for. Wasn’t it nice that he’d wanted to introduce her to his friends? Okay, so maybe it hadn’t been super thoughtful to do it on Valentine’s day but he was a man and they didn’t make as much of these things as women tended to.

‘Of course. That’s a wonderful idea. Are you sure your friends don’t mind?’

Josh chuckled. ‘No. They encouraged me. I heard something about keeping them safe from flying bowling balls.’

Sophie forced on a smile. She could laugh at herself as well as anyone. Despite a rocky start she refused to let this Valentine’s Day join her list of romantic disasters.

Wine and chocolate

It sounds like there still could be a chance for Sophie to salvage her disastrous Valentine’s Day. Sheryl Browne will round it all off tomorrow with the last extract – and we hope the beginning of your Valentine’s Day is a lot better than the one Sophie’s had so far!

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

Name the three ex boyfriends of Sophie’s that Matt was right about.

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, why not pick up a copy of her novella, The Wedding Reject Table? The book has recently been shortlisted for a RNA award and is available to purchase HERE