A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

Halloween Round Robin DAY ONE

 

It’s that spooky time of year again and what better way to celebrate than a Round Robin written by five talented Choc Lit authors? To start off our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, we have our very own vampire expert Berni Stevens! Make sure you read right until the end for details on how to take part in a competition too – we’ll be giving out prizes throughout the week right up until Halloween!

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

I’ve always had a strange fascination for the abandoned church hall at the end of our road. It’s been lying empty and disused for years, shrouded in neglect and secrecy. I’ve never seen any birds in the trees that surround it, and I’ve certainly never heard a bird sing there. The place looks forlorn and unloved.  I think it’s quite sad.

The date engraved on the plaque above the old oak door, says ‘1750’, so I assume the building is protected. Hopefully that will keep greedy property developers at bay.  It has to be the only reason the hall’s still standing, and thirty ‘luxury apartments’ not put up in its place. Real estate in this part of London is valuable and much sought after. The church itself was turned into an academy for the performing arts some years ago, aimed at children aged between eight and sixteen. Know your market. There are plenty of pushy parents in this area, who want their little darlings to be famous. Actually, there’s probably plenty of little darlings who want to be the next pop prince or princess too.

I stopped by the crumbling brick wall that circled the hall. To my surprise I saw a light inside. A trick of the light reflected from the street lamps maybe?

Without thinking, I walked up the path to the front door. Stretching out a hand, I touched the rough wood. It felt strangely warm to my touch, and when the door swung open, I squeaked in alarm. A warm yellow light flooded out onto the path, and I stepped back, not wanting to intrude.

‘Come on in,’ said a deep male voice.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. Impulsive I may be, but I’m not stupid.

‘Who are you?’ Not the best line, but I couldn’t think what else to say.

I could hear someone walking towards me, and moved back to a safe vantage point closer to the pavement. A tall figure loomed in the doorway.

‘I’m called Kalen,’ he said. He sounded vaguely Irish, his voice lilting and pleasant. ‘And you are?’

‘Faye.’

‘Are you indeed?’ He sounded amused.

I vaguely remembered my grandmother telling me you should never give your name freely to strangers. I couldn’t remember why.

‘Kalen is an unusual name.’

Piercing blue eyes searched my face. ‘It means warrior.’ He said.

‘In what language?’

‘It’s Celtic. You are very inquisitive.’

I flushed with embarrassment. ‘I’m sorry.’ I turned away. ‘I should go.’

He was suddenly standing in front of me. His hand rested gently on my arm. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That was exceedingly rude of me.’

He looked every inch a warrior, tall and lean with a mane of tawny hair that nearly reached his broad shoulders.  A  contemporary warrior in faded blue jeans and a navy shirt.

‘I shouldn’t be here.’ I made to move around him, but he didn’t move his hand from my arm.

‘I didn’t mean to make you feel unwelcome … Faye.’

The way he said my name sent a little shiver down my spine. Definitely time to go. I looked down at his hand on my arm and he moved it at once.

‘You should take care who you give your name to, especially on these dark evenings.’ He spoke conversationally, but his words scared me.

‘Why?’ I couldn’t help asking the question. Funny how his warning sounded the same as my grandmother’s.

‘You never know who might be listening.’ He glanced over his shoulder as if expecting to see a crowd of people. ‘Or who might be wanting to use it.’

‘For what?’

‘A person’s name is a powerful thing. If the wrong kind take control of it, they control the person.’

Wrong kind?

‘You gave me your name, Kalen.’

He gave me a mocking smile. ‘So I did. But there are not many would control me. Or try.’

I tried for a change of subject. ‘Are you renovating the hall?’

‘Perhaps.’

‘I must go.’

He gestured for me to go around him. ‘It was a pleasure to meet you, Faye. Remember what I said about your name. Be careful – especially on All Hallows Eve.’

‘Now you’re scaring me.’

‘Much better to be afraid than to lose yourself.’

I left him standing on the path staring after me, as I trudged home down the hill. I remembered the old stories of the Seelie and Unseelie courts that Gran used to tell. They had always fascinated me. The shining good faeries of the Seelie Court, versus the dark bad faeries of the Unseelie Court. All nonsense of course.  Even to someone called Faye. Although I wouldn’t mind bumping into Kalen the warrior again …

An intriguing start! But who is Kalen, and will Faye meet him again? We hope so! Find out tomorrow when Rhoda Baxter will be taking up where Berni left off. Can’t wait :)  

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her fantastic vampire novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Dance until Dawn 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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Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read, click HERE

Thoughts from a vampire

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I really enjoy writing from two points of view, especially when the characters are as diverse as Ellie and Will. Ellie is a modern young woman at ease with the 21st century and its technology. Will, however, is a product of the 17th and 18th centuries, and although he’s ‘lived’ a long time and seen many changes, there are some things he isn’t keen to embrace. (Like mobile phones for example – he has a real problem with those). He can drive a car, but ‘chooses not to’, preferring instead to be driven by Luke or to take a cab. It must be the ‘Duke’ coming out in him, even after three centuries.

There would have to be times when Will, much as he adores Ellie, would want to be on his own. He would need to be somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of modern life – somewhere quiet and peaceful. Where better than Highgate Cemetery?  Then I wondered what he might be thinking as he walked around the mausoleums and graves late at night. Would his thoughts be serious or romantic? Possibly reminiscent? I’d like to share them with you …

THOUGHTS FROM A VAMPIRE

The Circle of Lebanon is a favourite ‘haunt’ of mine. I say this, tongue firmly in cheek, because of course a vampire must haunt as surely a ghost must haunt? How I love the peace and solitude of this place at night. The circle of vaults and mausoleums that were dug into the hillside decades ago, stand in their brooding silence, defying mere mortals to encroach their peace. The huge Cedar of Lebanon that gives the Circle its name, towers above the mausoleums, sheltering them – I like to think – from the worst of the elements.

Highgate is where I have lived for more than two centuries, not as some would suppose, actually in the famous Cemetery, but in a fine Georgian mansion. Popular fiction and films always like to have vampires living in mouldering coffins in dusty cobwebbed mausoleums. Personally, I enjoy the finer things in life; comfortable living, expensive wine, a good malt Scotch and the love of a beautiful woman.  Although I have to admit this particular beautiful woman has very nearly been my downfall on a couple of occasions. Elinor. The love of my life. Or should that be death? I am never sure.

Unsurprisingly, Elinor’s arrival caused a lot of anger and jealousy at the time. My own maker, Khiara, arrived with a grisly assortment of … back-up … I believe is the correct term. Things did get ugly for a while. Things always get ugly when Khiara is around. Life returned to a semblance of normality once she left. Or more correctly, was advised to leave. Some of her minions did not survive the trip and, unfortunately for them, never did make it back to Italy.

Elinor and I often take a walk in the cemetery late at night. It was one of the first places we visited when she was a new, and very frightened, fledgling vampire. She very quickly developed an affinity with the place, and it has since become our solace in a city teeming with life and noise.

Elinor still has an aversion to feeding in the time-honoured way of the vampire. She simply cannot feed from a person. I respect her decision, although it does amuse me. So I hunt and feed alone. This walk around the cemetery can be thought of as my ‘after dinner stroll’ and is the reason I am alone.  Sometimes I need solitude. Almost certainly that is a male desire – not necessarily a vampire one. Three hundred years-plus makes one a little selfish, and I need to separate myself from the madness of the twenty-first century sometimes.

Elinor appeared content to soak in a bath with more bubbles than I have ever seen, reading a favourite paperback. I doubt she will miss me for a while. Not until the water is cold at least. Although temperatures mean little to us, soaking in hot water is still preferable. Thinking of Elinor makes me smile. Thinking of Elinor naked makes me want to return home with all swiftness.

I sit on a convenient grave and listen to the sounds of the night. Even that phrase partially echoes the infamous Mr Stoker’s ‘children of the night’ quote. No wolves here of course, unless you count Stevie.  I light a cigarette and watch the plume of smoke curl upwards and disappear into the night. It would be amusing if someone called the fire brigade thinking the cemetery to be on fire. Possibly not very amusing for me, should I need to explain my presence.

A bat swoops nearby, and I smile again, thinking of Elinor’s question over a year ago. ‘Can we turn into bats?’ She had asked me. I shuddered and said absolutely not. I think perhaps she felt a little disappointed that we could not. The thought to me, is quite repellent.

I finish my cigarette and stand up. Hopefully Elinor should be out of the bath by now. She wants to go to my club, Dusk, tonight, so that is exactly what we will do. Whatever my lady desires …

You can follow Will on Twitter @austen_will

You can also follow Berni Stevens on Twitter! @Berni_Stevens1

If you enjoyed reading about Will, why not try Berni’s books, where you can read much more about him!

Dance until Dawn

Revenge is Sweet

 

Mother’s Little Helper: Part Four by Clare Chase

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Clare Chase takes up where AnneMarie Brear left off yesterday for the penultimate part of our Mother’s Day Robin Romance. Let’s see how the ‘little mother’ is getting on- and Rob and Lily of course!

Make sure you read right until the end to see the next question for our competition.

To make sense of the story, make sure you read Part One by Berni Stevens HERE, Part Two by Sarah Waights HERE and Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE

Lily was fascinated to see the mother cat cleaning the new black kitten, doing all the things a well-trained midwife might, completely by instinct.

She caught Rob looking up at her, his face lit by a smile.

‘It took my breath away too,’ he said, ‘the first time I saw a cat produce a litter.’

Lily crouched down next to him as the mother prepared to deliver a second. ‘I just never expected it would come so naturally.’

Rob nodded. ‘That’s why I told you not to worry. They seldom have any trouble.’

She glanced at him. ‘I’m sorry I interrupted your evening.’

‘It is my job, after all.’ He turned towards her.  ‘Didn’t happen to be great timing, but I’m glad to see this now I’m here. I shouldn’t get blasé about the chance to watch something so special.’ And then he turned to look back at the scene, and his arm brushed hers.

Their eyes met again. ‘Sorry,’ he said.

But he didn’t look that sorry. She felt herself blushing. Gazing at a gorgeous man was one thing, but the unexpected physical contact sent a shiver down her spine.

At that moment, the second kitten arrived, and she used the distraction to get up and go back to the kitchen. He’d said he wanted plenty of coffee, and now might be the time to get it.

Jo took one look at her expression and rolled her eyes. ‘Blimey. I can see the sight of a cat’s afterbirth hasn’t cooled your ardour. You are so cut out to date a vet.’

Lily huffed as she went to fill the kettle. ‘It’s no use talking like that. He loves animals, so he’s glad he’s here, but he’d rather be back at home with the mystery woman. My call clearly came at an awkward moment. He mustn’t find out what I’m thinking, or he might take fright and leave before it’s all over!’

Back in the living room, the mother cat was at work again, tending to a third kitten that had arrived. Lily watched as its siblings snuggled up to try to suckle, whilst being nudged and bumped, due to the other activity in the box.

She re-filled Rob’s mug with coffee.

‘Thanks.’

In no time, it looked as though the mother was ready to deliver yet another kitten.

‘This might well be the last,’ Rob said.

It was only a minute before Lily sensed there was something wrong.  The mother cat was trying, but the next kitten didn’t appear. She watched as a frown traced its way across Rob’s face. He put his coffee down.

‘Might have to check her over,’ he said, reaching inside the box. ‘Have you got something extra to keep the kittens warm whilst I hold her? Be good if it’s clean. If it smells too much of you it might stop them bonding with mum.’

Lily dashed upstairs and grabbed a soft fleecy throw from a cupboard, ignoring Jo’s look of horror from the kitchen doorway as she wrapped it round the damp looking new-borns.

Rob was manipulating the mother cat’s abdomen.

‘What is it?’

‘There’s just one kitten left, but the position of its head’s wrong. If I was in the surgery I’d have the option of a C-section, but we’re just going to have to hope manipulation works. It often does. Or so I’m told.’ He looked at her. ‘I haven’t actually done this before.’

Lily bit her lip as he worked. Half-watching, she tried to make sure the fleece stayed snuggly round the other kittens.

And then suddenly Rob’s expression cleared. ‘I think we might be in business.’ He put the mother cat back in the box, leaving some space between her and the new-borns, and within a minute, a fourth kitten appeared, tiny, but very much alive.

Lily realised there were tears in her eyes, and when Rob looked up, she could see he was battling emotion too.

He shook his head, and turned to her. ‘Not the kind of thing you ever get used to. Thanks for finding that fleece so quickly.’

And then he put his hand on her arm. Maybe it was the fresh emotion, or the fact that it was deliberate this time, but full-scale rockets went off. Hell. She was sure he’d noticed.

And then his mobile went again.

 Aww, can’t get much better than that – newborn kittens and a spark of romance. But who keeps phoning Rob? We’ll reveal all in the final part of our Round Robin by Kathryn Freeman tomorrow! 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you’d like the chance to win a mystery prize in celebration of Mother’s Day, make sure you come back every day until Sunday so you can answer all five questions. You will need to read right until the end of each part to answer. We will give contact details of where to send your answers to on the final day of the Round Robin. Please wait until the end of the story to send in your answers.

The fourth question is: What does Lily fetch from the cupboard to help keep the newborn kittens warm?

 If you enjoyed Clare’s writing, make sure you check out her NEW ‘Death by Choc Lit’ novel, A Stranger’s House, available as a Kindle eBook HERE

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Mother’s Little Helper: Part One by Berni Stevens

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It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday here in the UK and to celebrate, we’re running another Round Robin romance featuring five talented Choc Lit authors. And, just like with the last story, make sure you read right until the end so you can take part in our competition

The first author up is Berni Stevens, and she begins with just a little twist ;)  

‘Did you hear that?’ Lily turned her head towards the front door of the small apartment.

Her flat mate, Jo, shook her head. ‘I didn’t hear anything.’

‘It sounded like a cat.’

They both listened again. After a few minutes, a faint miaow sounded.

‘There,’ said Lily.

She went to open the front door, and on the step sat a small black cat. It looked up at her, big green eyes glinting in the light from the hallway.

The cat miaowed again, sounding more plaintive this time. Lily knelt down to get a better look. She held out her hand and the cat nuzzled and butted her.

‘Is it a cat?’ Jo came to the door, and sighed when she saw the animal on their step.

Lily picked the cat up in her arms and stood back up.

‘She’s pregnant,’ she said.

Jo knew the signs, so she went off to find a cardboard box for a bed. ‘Animals in distress always find you Lily,’ she said. ‘And birds.’

Lily had always been the same, ever since junior school. A blonde angel of mercy, forever rescuing birds with broken wings, finding confused hedgehogs, and abandoned cats and dogs. Once she’d even brought an orphaned fox cub into school that she’d found alone and starving under a hedge. The cub’s pungent smell had infiltrated the classroom and most of the corridors by lunchtime, and their teacher had begged Lily to take it home.

When Jo came back with a cardboard box filled with old towels, the little cat was on Lily’s lap, purring happily.

Lily looked up, ‘I think she’s going to have her kittens soon.’

Jo looked worried. ‘Do you know what to do?’

‘I’m hoping she will.’

‘What if something goes wrong?’

Lily stroked the tiny ears gently. ‘Where’s the nearest vet?’ She asked.

Jo pulled her iPhone from her jeans pocket. ‘No idea,’ she said. ‘Let’s have a look.’ She plonked herself in the other armchair and began scrolling through likely surgeries. The nearest veterinary practice was half a mile away.

‘Wychwood Veterinary Practice, Orchard Road. Shall we call them?’

Almost on cue, the cat howled and they both jumped. Lily scooped her up and put her carefully in the box. ‘Call,’ she said. ‘I think we need help.’

Jo held the phone to her ear, listening to a recorded message, and suddenly began opening drawers frantically. ‘Pen!’ She shouted. ‘And paper!’

Lily found an old envelope and a stub of a pencil. ‘Okay.’

Jo read out the number and Lily started to write it down. The pencil broke and the cat screeched at the same time. Muttering the number to herself, she tipped her handbag upside down and shook it frantically. Her phone skidded out amongst the debris, and grabbing it, she jabbed at numbers on the keypad.

A deep voice answered immediately. ‘Wychwood. Rob Daniels speaking.’

‘It’s the cat,’ said Lily.

‘Your cat?’

‘No, she just – sort of – turned up.’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘She’s having kittens.’

‘She’ll be okay. Cats are good like that.’

‘Please come.’

A muffled discussion could be heard between the vet and what sounded like an extremely angry woman. Lily was sure she heard a door slam. Then he came back on the phone. ‘Give me your address.’

Lily sighed with relief. Help was coming.

 We’re already a little intrigued by this vet and very much looking forward to meeting him! Look out for Sarah Waights’s Part Two coming tomorrow. 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you’d like the chance to win a mystery prize in celebration of Mother’s Day, make sure you come back every day until Sunday so you can answer all five questions. You will need to read right until the end of each part to answer. We will give contact details of where to send your answers to on the final day of the Round Robin. Please wait until the end of the story to send in your answers.

The first question is: What is the veterinary practice that Lily rings called? 

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing, you’ll be pleased to know she has a new book (the second in her London Vampire Chronicles series) coming out in April. Until then, why not check out her first novel with Choc Lit – Dance until Dawn. Available HERE

Dance until Dawn

You can now read Part Two by Sarah Waights here.

Happy Easter from Choc Lit (and welcome to the first part of our Round Robin)!

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Hello and welcome to the first part of our Easter Round Robin! Every day over the Easter break we will be posting an extract of a story written by a Choc Lit author, with the first part being today and the last part on Easter Monday. Make sure you come back to the blog daily to see what happens next. 

Kicking us off today is Jane Lovering with a very seasonal extract … which also involves cockroaches!  

Grace had never liked Spring. There was something about all the birds tweeting in the hedges, advertising their availability for a mate, that made her think about those internet dating sites she’d signed up to and totally failed to get anywhere with. She wondered if the sparrows ever had to suffer the birdie-equivalent of men who took you to dinner twice and then expected to move in, or vanished, never to be heard from again. Watching a particularly persistent blackbird, she had to conclude that, yes, they probably did.

Her friends were all terribly encouraging, of course.  “Give it another go,” they all said, from their cosy, settled places on the sofas next to their comfortable other halves. “There’s someone for everyone out there.” Grace pulled a wry face every time she heard that.  Maybe, then, she wasn’t “everyone”. Or maybe men didn’t find a woman who ran a pest-extermination business and spent most of her working days in waist-high waders carrying metal traps and enough lethal pharmaceuticals to eradicate a small country, to be possible dating material?

Grace started her van and began the long drive out to her latest call; a farm twenty miles away, which had apparently had an influx of cockroaches.

The farmer wasn’t in. This wasn’t completely unheard of, Grace had been to many call-outs in rural areas where she’d been left to get on with whatever the job in hand required without any input at all from anyone else, and no sign of another human being, apart from occasional glimpses of someone in overalls doing something determined with a grain silo on the other side of a yard.  So today was no different.  She pulled on her protective clothing, pushed open the unlocked farmhouse door, and began her usual assessment of the pest situation on her hands and knees around the kitchen.  She’d just got herself wedged into a promising corner between an Aga and a double-sized fridge, where several slower-moving than average cockroaches had become subjected to her Spring-fuelled wrath, when a door opened in another corner of the room and she heard several men come in.

‘I dunno, Mac,’ one was saying as booted feet walked past her.  ‘I’m not convinced.’

‘I’ve got to do something.’ Another voice, this one belonging to the full-length Wellingtons, lightly splattered with mud, that were standing just in front of Grace’s corner.  When she raised her eyes from the floor, she could see that these boots led to beige trousers and then on up to a jacket.  She couldn’t see higher up, but there was something about the voice that was horribly familiar.

Grace drew herself further back into her corner, barricading herself almost subconsciously from the speaker, with two bags of cockroach bait.  Surely it couldn’t be.  No.

‘The farm isn’t making any money.’  The voice spoke again, and this time … Grace felt herself going red and hot … there couldn’t be any doubt.  It was him.  HIM.  And here she was, crouched in a corner wearing neck to ankle rubber, and gloves that wouldn’t have been out of place on an episode of a vet programme, her blonde hair under a baseball cap and her hands full of chemicals. The world could, at least, have been kind and allowed her to meet HIM again when she was wearing a designer dress, Louboutins and knock ‘em dead perfume.

But no. The world, it appeared, was going to force Grace to confront the lost love of her life, whilst looking like an advert for kinky sex.

How is Grace going to manoeuvre herself out from this tight spot? Find out tomorrow when it will be Janet Gover taking over for the second part of our Round Robin :)  

Jane’s latest book, How I Wonder What You Are, is available in Kindle, Kobo, Google Play & iBook format. It will be published in paperback on May 7th. Click HERE for buying options.

You can follow Jane on Twitter HERE

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All I want for Christmas …

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A festive post with a difference written by our author, Sarah Waights. Have you ever wished that getting what you wanted most in life was as simple as writing to Father Christmas? Emma does … 

Dear Father Christmas,

You don’t mind if I call you ‘Father Christmas’ do you? Tell me if I’m wrong but I’m guessing you’re something of a traditionalist. That said, I appreciate ‘Santa’ has been creeping up the popularity ranks for a while now. It’s all ‘Santa baby’ and ‘I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus’… I appreciate singing ‘Father Christmas is coming to town’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Maybe I’m just a late adopter, but I can’t go with ‘Santa’, I really can’t. For me ‘Santa’ sounds like an item of sanitary protection. It evokes pictures of lithe young women roller-skating in unfeasibly tiny shorts, diving into swimming pools displaying unlikely levels of abdominal muscle perfection, or flying kites on the tops of hills, all whilst laughing inanely with their girlfriends and exchanging flirty but empowered looks with handsome young men who are looking on admiringly. Why? Because this is apparently what advertising men think women get up to when they’ve got their period … God knows why. I definitely don’t. So, the point is, say the word ‘Santa’ and feminine hygiene is what pops into my mind – as it probably will into yours from now on too. Sorry about that.

Actually, whilst I’m apologising, let me just come straight out and acknowledge the elephant in the room; you will have noticed I’ve not written to you since I was seven. Twenty years, eh?  How time flies … I appreciate, belatedly, you might have assumed it was because you didn’t fully deliver on my expectations that time. Obviously the tiny tears doll which eats yellow gunk and then dirties its nappy when you squeeze it was bang on, and the extensive list of stocking fillers was broadly fulfilled – no complaints – but I do want to make it absolutely clear that there are no hard feelings about you not coming through with the real, live penguin. To be honest, my geographical knowledge as a seven year old was poor (it isn’t much better now) and I simply thought it would be a case of leaning out of your sleigh and grabbing one in passing. I certainly didn’t expect you to go all the way to the South Pole, which you obviously wouldn’t have had time to do. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t ask for a polar bear.

Talking of hindsight, I imagine we need to cover the issue of whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Are we talking just the last year or the whole couple of decades? I’ll assume the latter but, for brevity, we had better stick to edited highlights. So let’s see … I’ve always tried not to be knowingly cruel (but also see below), I’ve been polite and grateful to my mother, apart from the obligatory teenage years obviously, and broadly I think my friends would say I’m a reasonably nice person.

And now for the last year. Well – they say “you hurt the ones you love” don’t they? And I have. I know I have and I am so desperately sorry, (although I suppose it’s not you I should be apologising to). All I can say is I would do anything for things to be simple again, to wind back the clock and be asking for a doll or a new packet of felt tips because I left the lids off the old ones. But that isn’t how life works. So here goes: The reason I am writing to you now, is because I have to ask for just one, final thing, and after that I promise I will never ask ever again. You see, Father Christmas (or, what the hell, ‘Santa’ if you prefer), the only thing I want – not just for Christmas but for ever and ever is James. And if he were to come down my chimney and back into my life I promise I would love him and cherish him and never let him go until death us do part. He could even watch the football. Sometimes. Potentially in return for emptying the dishwasher occasionally. I’m not unreasonable …

Lots of love

Emma xxx

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Find out more about Sarah’s debut novel, Never Marry a Politician:

@SarahWaights

www.sarahwaights.com

Never Marry a Politician is available on Kindle:

Kindle UK  Kindle US