Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Four by Kirsty Ferry

Halloween P4

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

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

Kirsty Ferry is the author to bring us the penultimate part of our story before the big day tomorrow! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

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

Read Part One by Jane Lovering HERE
Read Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE
Read Part Three by Victoria Cornwall HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART FOUR BY KIRSTY FERRY

‘Why, we’re going to help him, of course.’ Kate’s voice was hollow, and seemed to come from somewhere far, far away.

Martine shone the beam of the torch around to illuminate her friend, and stared at her in horror. ‘Kate!’ Kate’s blue eyes had darkened so they were almost black, and there was a weird, calculating smile playing around her lips.

‘Of course, to bring someone back who has crossed, we have to sacrifice someone living. Or make a bargain with the Devil. Your choice.’

‘Kate!’

‘Who the hell is Kate?’ Kate – or the person who should have been Kate swung around to face Martine. ‘My name is Bella. They said I was a witch. Maybe they were right. Perhaps I deserved to die as I did …’

Kate – or Bella – reached out and traced a fingertip down the perfect curve of the second man’s cheek. The man was staring at her, utterly enchanted, as if he had suddenly regained everything he had ever lost.

‘Bella! Is that really you?’ He reached out and captured Kate’s hand and pressed it to his lips. ‘I’ve waited and hoped that—’

‘Oh for God’s sake!’ Sebastian cut in and grabbed the second man’s hand. ‘Edward! Think about it. If Bella was really here, would she be talking about sacrifices and bargains with the Devil? Look at me, man! It’s Samhain.’ He pulled Edward towards him and Martine’s eyes widened as her heart thumped. ‘The Devil and all his demons are abroad with us tonight. Trust nobody.’ Wow. Sebastian was quite magnificent when he was angry. And he was definitely angry. His eyes were smouldering with some sort of ethereal fire and his brows were drawn together. Martine briefly thought about the fact that James and Patrick were off tugging each other’s shirts pathetically and wondered what she had ever seen in Patrick. She spared a thought for Kate and also wondered if she’d have a change of heart over James, but she doubted it somehow. Because here he was, pushing Patrick to the side and running into the room.

‘Kate! What’s wrong with her? Kate!’

Martine shook her head. ‘I don’t think she can hear you.’

‘Who’s she talking to, Martine? What is she doing?’

‘So many questions,’ murmured Martine, still staring at Sebastian. He had put himself between Edward and whoever this Bella person was, and had hold of his friend by the shoulders, shaking him.

‘Can’t you see them, James?’ Martine nodded towards the group. They were as clear as day now, flesh and blood, somehow made real in the flickering will-o’-the wisp light of the wall lamps.

‘See what? See who?’ James shouted.

‘Sebastian and Edward. Look. Sebastian’s the taller of the two.’ Martine felt her lips curve upwards at the edges as she watched him. He had her as captivated as this Bella creature had Edward.

‘You. Martine. Come.’ Kate’s strange new voice was authoritative. ‘Come with me. You want to be with him, don’t you? If you come, it will help us all.’

Martine blinked and looked at her friend – or at least the girl who was supposed to be her friend. A shadow seemed to detach itself from Kate and drifted towards Martine. The shadow took form and resolved into a dark-eyed, dark-haired girl with more of the fae about her than seemed possible. ‘You must confess,’ said the dark-haired wraith, ‘that you feel something for Sebastian. You must confess that you love this old Hall. Don’t you feel at home here? Don’t you wish you could spend an eternity here, with Sebastian, with him, here – at Maplewood Hall …?’

The girl’s voice was hypnotic, her eyes and smile cat-like as she drifted towards Martine. Martine took a step towards her, the world outside Maplewood Hall fading as she looked beyond the room they were in, as doors slammed open, one after another, down a tunnel of corridors and she had the impression of long dresses, ballrooms, music and laughter swirling, whirling around her—

‘Leave her alone! Enough!’

His voice was enough to stop her in her tracks.

Did you feel a shiver down your spine whilst reading this? Hopefully Berni Stevens won’t make you jump out of your skin with the final part of our Halloween Round Robin! Make sure you check back in tomorrow between the pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating to see how our spooky story ends.

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

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Who does Edward think Kate is?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 4’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

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

Halloween P3

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

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

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

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

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

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART THREE BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You didn’t even text,’ she mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of both books

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

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

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

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Two by Christina Courtenay

Halloween P2

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

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

The second author to contribute is Christina Courtenay! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. If you missed yesterday’s beginning by Jane Lovering, read it HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART TWO BY CHRISTINA COURTENAY

‘Need a hand?’

A wicked chuckle sounded right next to Martine’s ear and a white hand appeared beside her own. Sure, a bit of help would have been welcome, but not when the hand offered seemed to be floating on its own without the rest of the body it should have been attached to.

She tried to echo the kitchen scream, which had just sounded again, high-pitched and feminine, but the only thing that came out of her mouth was a small, strangled squeak. She knew she ought to make a run for it – if nothing else, to check what was the matter with Kate – but her legs were frozen to the spot and she simply couldn’t make them work.

‘Here, let me hold one end of the that and you take the other.’

The cheerful voice didn’t have the effect it obviously expected on Martine. This time she managed a proper scream to rival Kate’s, but it was cut off abruptly by the hand. Its touch on her mouth was light, but firm, and cold. So very cold.

‘Shhh, please, there’s no need for hysterics. I’ll protect you, I promise.’

As soon as the hand was removed, she swivelled her head around, glancing wildly into the more or less complete darkness that surrounded her. ‘P-protect me? Wh-what … who?’ she managed to stammer, although her voice was vibrating with fear.

‘Oh, I do beg your pardon. Did I forget to introduce myself? Lord Maplewood, at your service. Or Sebastian to my friends.’ The hand did a sort of swirl in front of her, as if it was accompanying an old-fashioned bow. ‘As I seldom have such delightful company here, I think we can safely count you as one of those.’

‘One of those what?’ Martine whispered.

‘Friends. You may call me Sebastian.’

Was she supposed to be grateful? A disembodied hand had just given her permission to call him by his – its? – Christian name. She swallowed hard. This was insane.

‘No, this isn’t happening,’ she muttered. Kate’s scream had just spooked her and now she was having hallucinations. She should never have come, no matter how much her best friend fancied James. There had to be a better way of impressing the guy.

‘I say, you weren’t expecting to walk into a haunted mansion and not encounter any of the residents, were you?’ That chuckle again, even closer now. And was that a cold breath she felt near her left ear? Martine shuddered and finally managed to take a step to one side.

‘Go away. You’re not real. You can’t be.’

‘Why not?’ He – Sebastian – sounded mildly interested.

‘There’s no such thing as gh-ghosts. I can’t even see you. All of you, I mean.’

‘Ah, apologies. There, is that better?’

Martine almost choked on her hasty intake of breath. In front of her, still holding one end of the tape, stood a man. A very good-looking man, it had to be said, but it was hard to notice that when he was mostly see-through and there was a kind of lit-up aura surrounding him. ‘I … I … Jesus!’

‘No, no, I’m not even a saint.’ Sebastian laughed and winked. ‘Not even close. Might I suggest you concentrate on my face, then the rest of me won’t be quite as disconcerting.’

She did and he was right. Sort of. It was still hard not to notice that he was transparent, but looking at his handsome features definitely had a calming effect. His smile was infectious and if he hadn’t been so see-through – or so dead – she could have fancied him, for sure.

‘So what brings you here?’ he asked, conversationally. ‘Do carry on with this taping business, by the way. It is obviously important.’

Martine wasn’t so sure, but she realised she wasn’t as scared any longer. Perhaps it was the fact that her brain told her this couldn’t be real, and if it was just a dream or hallucination she had nothing to fear. Or maybe that Sebastian wasn’t threatening in the slightest. If she’d ever imagined ghosts, they had been of the vengeful, moaning, chain-clanking type, not one whose laughing eyes she couldn’t seem to stop looking at. And look on the bright side – at least he’s not a carp! On automatic, she picked up the tape and carried on putting it on the door frame. It was actually easier now because Sebastian’s aura threw some light and she could see better.

‘Uhm, thank you.’ Martine closed her eyes for a moment, wondering if she would wake up and find she’d dozed off, or if the vision next to her would just disappear, but he was still there when she opened them again. Disturbingly close, smiling, and with his head slightly to one side.

‘I’m glad I found you first. I’m honour bound to tell you that there will be some competition for your favour tonight, but hopefully you will give me a chance to prove that I’m more worthy of your attention than any of the others.’

‘Others?’ Martine didn’t like the sound of that. ‘What do you mean, my favour?’

‘Well, tonight is Samhain, is it not? All Hallow’s Eve?’

‘Yes, and?’

‘It is the one night of the year when the spirits of the departed may return and mingle with those of you who are still alive. And for one lucky soul it means a chance to regain that which was lost. All it takes is … well, actually, I’m not allowed to tell you because it has to happen spontaneously, without prompting.’

Martine was starting feel like she’d stumbled into a movie set or something. The whole thing was definitely surreal. She snorted. ‘What is this, a fairy tale? I can give you back life with a kiss of pure love? Yeah, right.’

Sebastian raised his eyebrows and put a hand on his heart, pretending to look wounded. ‘Are you implying you could never love me? I’ll have you know, all the ladies fell over themselves vying for my attention back in my day.’

‘I bet.’ His expression brightened at her words, so she hastened to add. ‘But you probably had a real body then.’ A hot one, if the outline of his ghostly clothes was anything to go by, but she buried that thought. Not helping. ‘But how am I supposed to fall in love with someone I could probably stick my fingers right through? Let alone kiss you?’

‘Oh, ye of little faith.’ Sebastian grinned. ‘There is a little more to it than that.’

‘But―’

Martine’s words were cut off by the beam from a torch. ‘Are you okay? What happened?’ Patrick was coming down the stairs and she could just about make out his worried frown.

‘Well …’ She waved a hand towards Sebastian, but when she looked in his direction, the only thing she could see was the falling end of a piece of tape.

Well, if we have to meet a ghost, we wouldn’t mind meeting one like Sebastian ;) But is he as charming as he seems? We might just find out tomorrow when Victoria Cornwall adds to the story!

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

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Who disturbs Sebastian and Martine by coming down the stairs?

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

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part One by Jane Lovering

Halloween P1

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

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

First up is Jane Lovering! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART ONE BY JANE LOVERING

‘Well, here it is. What do you think?’

James pulled the minibus into the deserted car park and waved a hand, indicating the blocky outline of the house, dark and deserted, outlined against the trees. The sun was going down, throwing the shadow of the building across the sheep-nibbled parkland, like the gnomon of an enormous sundial, telling them night was imminent.

‘Spooky.’ Martine gathered her coat around her. ‘I’m scared.’

‘You’re a wimp is what you are.’ Kate opened the back door of the van. ‘We’re a ghost hunting group. We’re here to hunt ghosts, and Maplewood Hall is supposed to be haunted. Why on earth did you join if you’re scared of old buildings miles from anywhere, at night?’

‘To be fair,’ Martine pressed her face to the minibus window, ‘I’m also scared of deer, owls and carp. It’s not just the buildings.’

James, Ollie and Patrick were unloading the equipment onto the grass-studded gravel. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Patrick said, sympathetically. ‘Deer only attack in the mating season, owls will leave you alone if you’re bigger than a mouse, and there won’t be any carp in the house.’ A glance over his shoulder at the hunched half-ruin. ‘I shouldn’t think. They’re a fish, aren’t they, carp?’

Kate lifted a box and jumped down. Slowly and hesitantly, Martine climbed out of the van and stood beside her. ‘They aren’t just a fish,’ she said, ‘they are absolutely enormous fish.’

‘Here, carry that.’ Ollie handed her a big box. ‘We need to get it all into the house before the light goes. There’s no electricity in there, no lights, so we want to get it all set up before we’re blundering around in the dark taking pictures of each other and bumping into the furniture. This is a ghost hunting expedition, not a Laurel and Hardy film.’

Slowly, burdened by wires, battery packs, bundles of equipment and, in one case, a fear of fish, the Littleton and District Paranormal Investigation Unit advanced on Maplewood Hall. They crouched in the remnants of manicured parkland and glorious gardens and looked at the house itself; windows boarded and shuttered against squatters and vandals and the roof partly covered in tarpaulin, which fluttered and flapped in an unfelt breeze.

Martine shivered again. She’d only come because Kate fancied James. She would have been perfectly happy to spend Halloween watching themed television and eating Skittles, but Kate was her best friend and there were some things you just did for your best friend. Although Martine wasn’t sure that riding shotgun on a trip to a known haunted house on the spookiest night of the year, with rain forecast and probable owls, didn’t go far beyond what was expected from friendship. Especially if it meant having to spend time with Kate’s brother, Patrick, too. He was the last person she wanted to see at the moment, but she wouldn’t think about that now.

Ollie and James went on ahead into the house, followed by Kate, who hesitated for a moment in the huge stone doorway. Martine knew that Kate wasn’t as unafraid as she was trying to make out. They’d been at school together, both equally scarred by memorable episodes of the X-Files, but Kate was determined that James was the man for her and would push through any tendencies to scream in the face of moving shadows for him to see her as a potential mate.

Patrick held the door open for Martine. ‘Look. No deer,’ he said, although the interior of the hallway was so dark that there could have been a herd of elk in there and nobody would be able to see them. ‘You will be fine.’

The last rays of the dying sun flickered down past the fluttering tarpaulin above them and illuminated a huge staircase rising out of the hall into a veil of dust-speckled darkness. Doors led off the passageway to left and right, and the corridor stretched beyond the base of the stairs, curving around into the depths of the house to be lost to sight. The tarpaulin flick-flacked distantly but all else was silent, apart from their footsteps, and Patrick, who’d got hiccups.

‘Ol, you go and check down that way,’ James said. ‘Pat, you do the stairs. Kate and I will find the kitchen, that’s supposed to be the main site of any disturbances.’ He gave Kate a sideways look. Martine suspected that James knew very well that Kate fancied him and was going to use this opportunity for a quick grope and a snog.

‘What about me?’ Martine asked uncertainly.

‘You stay there. Secure the doorway, we don’t want anyone to come wandering in and setting equipment off.’ He handed her a box. ‘That’s the gear. We’ll come back and get you once we’ve reccied the place.’

Off everyone trooped, their footsteps sounding more and more distant against the bare floorboards. Martine was alone. Behind her, outside the door, the sun sank and the night pressed against the house. Her eyes adjusted slowly, but there was nothing to see, only the rising vastness of the stairs in front, and the echoey emptiness of the hallway running off in either direction.

Martine grabbed at her coat again. It was cold. The hair at the back of her neck was prickling and she didn’t dare move in case she fell over something. And she was missing EastEnders. With a sigh she opened the box that James had given her and started to make herself useful, stretching fine tape across the doorway to prevent anything human coming into the house. She wasn’t sure how effective it would be, James hadn’t thought to leave her a torch and she was operating mostly by touch. When a soft sound slithered into her ears from the direction of the staircase, she dropped the tape and spun around.

‘Who’s there?’

There was no answer. But Martine could just make out a shape, a pale smudge in the dark, a faint ‘something’ against the wooden panelling. Something that drifted towards her in a silent haze of dust – she drew in her breath to scream, but her yell was stopped by a sudden, louder scream that came from the direction of the haunted kitchen …

A suitably spooky start from Jane Lovering that ended with a scream and a potential ghostly happening. Just what we all want from a Halloween Round Robin!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options. Jane will have a new Christmas novella out in December – keep your eye on our social feeds for more information, coming soon! 

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Which three things is Martine scared of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 1’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

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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A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Halloween Round Robin DAY TWO

In yesterday’s instalment of our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, Berni Stevens introduced us to Kalen and Faye. Today we have Rhoda Baxter picking up where she left off and we can’t wait to find out more! Remember to read on right until the end to find out how to take part in one of our special Halloween competitions :)  

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

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

It was fully dark now. I pulled my bag a little closer to me, as I hurried along. It wasn’t far to my place and I’d been down the road many, many times before, so why the sense of unease? I guess Kalen’s warning spooked me more than I thought.

I looked over my shoulder at the church hall. It was dark and still again. As though Kalen had never been there at all. I stopped and turned back to stare at it. Nothing moved. The light in the window was gone. There was only one road away from the building and I was on it. If Kalen had left, I’d see him. Odd.

I could go back and see what was going on … except, it was getting late. My stomach gave a little growl. Yep. Definitely getting late. I had leftover pasta bake waiting for me at my place.  I didn’t need to worry about Kalen. He looked like a guy who could take care of himself. Besides, there wasn’t anything to worry about. Was there?

I hitched my bag up a bit. There was approximately half a kilo of mixed sweets in there. Mrs Alden, my neighbour in the flat across the hall liked to put a pumpkin out, so we always got kids coming round trick or treating. They always tried knocking on my door after Mrs Alden had given them chocolates.

I lived in one of the old townhouses that had been converted into flats. The flats at the top were lovely and roomy, but down at the bottom, Mrs Alden and I had tiny little one bedroom places that barely passed the bedsit/flat divide. As I neared the door, I fished out my key and put it in the lock.

And something changed.

The hairs on the back of my neck tickled and they rose. I had the strangest sensation between my shoulderblades. As though, if I just turned round, I would find someone watching me. I turned the key in the lock, fighting the urge to turn. Just before opening the door, I looked over my shoulder. Someone was walking towards me from the direction of the church. Kalen?

I paused, my hand on the door-handle. Suddenly, the door flew open, wrenching me forward into the house. I would have landed face first if someone hadn’t put out a strong arm and caught me.

‘Woah. Are you okay?’ said the owner of the arm. A warm, solid, male arm, I noticed. Behind him, the door thumped shut.

I regained my balance and turned to thank him. The words fizzled out in my brain. Kalen. Against all common sense, he was standing in front me. Inside the house.

‘Hi.’ He smiled. ‘I’m Kalen. I’m visiting my friends upstairs for a few days. Are-’ he stopped. Frowned. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘You. But. How?’ I shook my head. He had been behind me. It’d just seen him walking up the road. There was no way he could have got in before me. The feeling of wrongness, of things out of place, returned in full force. I clutched my bag to me, although it wasn’t much use to me unless I was going to kill someone slowly with diabetes.

The new Kalen seemed concerned. He gazed at me, with intense blue eyes. ‘Are you okay miss … er … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’ It was question. An invitation.

‘Fay-… Fe-licity,’ I remembered Gran’s warning this time. ‘I’m Felicity.’

‘Pleased to meet you Felicity,’ said the new Kalen. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were trying to open the door at the same time as me. Are you okay?’

Behind him someone hammered on the door. He glanced back at it. My mind whirred. What else had Gran told me? Didn’t I have to invite them in … oh no, that was vampires … Iron. That was it. They didn’t like iron. I started to back away towards the door to my flat.

Did I have anything iron? Mrs Alden had an old iron skillet. She’d shown me once. And there was a horseshoe above the door to her flat. On the inside. Not much use to me now.

The hammering on the door grew louder.

‘You have very insistent trick-or-treaters around here,’ said the new Kalen.

‘Uh … yes. Yes. Quite frequent too.’ Should I try and get into my flat? I didn’t want whatever this weirdness was to follow me in there. My eyes flicked to Mrs Alden’s door. If I could get there … I could get hold of the horseshoe …

There was a soft pop, like one of those suction pads coming off a wall, and the front door flew open. The guy standing in front of me whirled round to face … Kalen. Great. There were two of them now.

They glared at each other. Weird and identical with their tawny hair and matching intense stares. They circled each other. This was creepy as all hell. And worse, they were in between me and the front door.

Oh wow! We were NOT expecting that. And now there are two Kalens – but the question is which one is good, and which one is evil? Maybe we will find out tomorrow when Christina Courtenay takes up the reins …

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Rhoda’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 Please Release Me 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.

PLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiPart Three by Christina Courtenay is now available to read, click HERE

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