Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part Two by Kathryn Freeman

Birthday Round Robin Pt 2

It’s our eighth birthday today and we’re celebrating with a birthday story written collaboratively by our authors, competitions, prizes and a hefty slice of virtual chocolate cake! We invite you to join us :)  

Lynda Stacey started off our Round Robin in a very intriguing way and now it’s up to Kathryn Freeman to continue the story. Let’s see what happens next! Remember to make sense of the story, you will need to read the parts in order, so read Lynda’s Part One first HERE

If you read right until the end you might just find a competition to enter too! ;)  

The Birthday Surprise – Part Two by Kathryn Freeman

Declan stared in horror at the fancy invitation card – the one announcing his birthday party, for crying out loud – before glaring over at his brother.

‘Tell me this is a joke. Tell me you haven’t sent this out to anyone.’

Ralph, of the dashing good looks and forever smiling face, had the good sense to at least look apologetic, even though Declan knew it was an act. ‘I thought you’d be pleased. Flattered. Excited?’

Declan wasn’t any of those things. ‘I’ll tell you what I am. Fed up. Annoyed. Ready to punch someone.’

Proving he had a strong sense of self-preservation, along with his modicum of good sense, Ralph took a few steps back. ‘Come on, it’ll be fun. A man doesn’t turn thirty every day.’

‘Exactly,’ Declan hissed. ‘I’m a thirty-year-old man. Not a three-year-old boy. I don’t want a frigging birthday party.’

‘Why not?’ Before Declan had the chance to remind him he didn’t do parties, didn’t do socialising. Didn’t do any of the normal things a thirty-year-old might be expected to do, Ralph was talking again. ‘You’ve turned into a recluse and I’m not prepared to sit back and let you waste your life any longer. If you don’t want to celebrate the milestone of thirty years, how about celebrating that it’s been two years, since … you know.’

Declan did know. He didn’t need a ruddy party to remind him of the fact. ‘Not a fact I want to remember,’ he answered curtly.

‘Eight years since you last flashed those dimples of yours?’ It was said with a smile, but the message was clear.

‘Eight isn’t a particularly significant milestone,’ Declan countered, ignoring the dig.

‘Every milestone is significant. Every one worth celebrating, especially if it makes you smile.’

‘I’ve had damn little to smile about for a long while.’

A brief flash of sympathy crossed his brother’s face. ‘I know. Which is why I wanted to do something to rectify that.’

Declan felt a tug of remorse. ‘Okay, I appreciate the sentiment, but a party? Seriously? Do you not know me at all?’ Maybe he no longer did, Declan thought with a wave of sadness.

‘I know you once liked to party,’ Ralph said quietly. ‘I remember your school prom. How you couldn’t stop smiling when you put on that suit. Slicked back your hair like some sort of second coming of Elvis.’

Declan felt his chest tighten as an image of a girl with dark red hair in a long green dress flashed through his mind. Next to her he saw himself, all wide-eyed, innocent and eager. No clue of what life had in store for him. ‘It wasn’t the thought of the party that had me smiling,’ he admitted gruffly.

‘I know. It was that girl you kept drooling over.’ Ralph paused, giving Declan a careful study. ‘What happened to her, do you know?’

Declan sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. It all seemed a lifetime ago. ‘She moved schools, we lost touch.’ He’d written once, painfully scratching out attempt after attempt at a letter until finally ending up with something stilted and short. He’d never received a reply.

‘Umm.’ Ralph’s eyes drifted away from his and over to the window before finally glancing down at his watch. ‘Well, we’d better get ready. Guests are due to arrive in a few hours.’

‘How many guests, exactly?’

‘Well, let me see. If I’d gone with just the people you count as friends, there’d be  …’ Ralph held up his hand and started to count his fingers. ‘Two?’

Declan resisted the urge to throw something at him. ‘Two would be my sort of party.’

‘Yeah. And about as lively as a nursing home after lunch. So I also invited the family we still talk to, plus those of my friends who can tolerate you.’

‘Thanks.’

‘And a few people from work.’

Declan raised his brow. ‘How’s it going on that front? Didn’t you have a new apprentice starting?’

‘Yes, Helen. Lovely girl. She used to go to the same school as us.’

‘Oh?’ Was it his imagination, or was Ralph avoiding his eyes?

‘She’s eight years younger than me but it’s surprising how many connections we had in common.’

Declan narrowed his eyes. ‘Do you fancy this girl?’

‘Of course not.’

‘Then why are you staring at the wall behind me when you talk about her?’

‘I’m not.’ Ralph’s eyes swung back to his. ‘Just because you don’t have a love life, don’t think you have to help mine. I do perfectly well by myself, thank you very much.’

Anxious to avoid any further discussion on how sad Ralph thought his older brother’s life was, Declan nodded. ‘Fine.’

‘Right, I’ll leave you to try and make yourself presentable for your guests.’

As Ralph walked towards the door Declan sighed, pulling out his phone. What the hell? ‘Ralph,’ he shouted, stopping his brother just before he left. ‘Why have I got a whole load of requests to be friends with people on Facebook? I don’t have a bloody Facebook account.’

‘Ah.’ Ralph smirked back at him. ‘You do now. Consider it part of your birthday present, along with the party. My contribution to bringing Declan Doherty back to life.’

Oooh, the plot thickens! What’s led to Declan’s reclusive tendencies – and can a birthday party bring him out of his shell? We’ll find out in a couple of hours time when Lisa Hill takes her turn :)  

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     If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you might like to check out her upcoming paperback, Before You. Click HERE for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

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

How many years younger is Helen than Ralph?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Tuesday 20th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 21st June.

The Santa Dash: Part One by Kathryn Freeman

Round Robin

Ho ho ho! Not long until the big day and we’ll be with you right up until the 23rd with our fab Christmas Round Robin story – it’s super fun and Christmassy and we know you’re just going to love it! What’s more we’ll be running a Christmas competition every day this week too. Read to the end of the story to find out how to enter!

Kathryn Freeman starts us off and sets the scene. It’s time for a Santa Dash …

The Santa Dash: Part One

Ellie scanned the sea of red and white bodies crowding on to the sea front and started to giggle. There couldn’t be many sights more bizarre than the town’s annual Santa Dash. In ten minutes time there would be over a hundred Santa’s of all shapes and sizes, running – sometimes waddling – along the prom, all in the aid of local charities.

Sally elbowed her. ‘Hey, what are you grinning at?’

Ellie turned to her friend, white Santa beard hanging precariously from her mouth, red hat nearly in her eyes. ‘Just thinking how ridiculous we all look.’ Unconsciously she glanced across to the one member of their incongruous Santa line-up who still managed to look good. ‘Well, nearly all of us.’

Sally followed the direction of her gaze and sighed. ‘I reckon Dr Faulkner could dress like a turkey and still look amazing.’

Julian Faulkner was the new consultant in charge of their A&E unit. Six foot one inches of dark, brooding gorgeousness. And did she mention single?

With her eyes trained on the suave consultant, who had rather cheated by not wearing a beard or hat, or indeed anything to disguise the athletic frame beneath his red Santa suit, Ellie didn’t notice the Santa who’d started his dash a little too early. And in the wrong direction.

With a shriek she ploughed into him, knocking him clean off his feet. He landed on the promenade with a mighty thump, the air rushing out of his lungs as he let out a strangled groan.

‘Oh my God, are you okay?’

Feeling terrible, Ellie crouched over him and started to check him for broken bones. ‘It’s okay. I’m a nurse.’

A pair of blue eyes blinked up at her. With his hat and white beard covering most of his face, the eyes were all she could see of him.

To her shock, they looked like they were laughing at her.

‘What?’ she demanded, miffed since she’d been so concerned about him.

‘Sorry.’ His voice was muffled by his beard. ‘Just wondering what we must look like to passers by. You know, Father Christmas lying prostate on the floor and Mother Christmas straddling him. Hope no kids are watching.’

Ellie looked down and gasped in horror. Oh boy, in her rush to check he was okay she’d practically crawled on top of him. Hastily she scrambled to her feet. ‘Well it looks like I don’t have to worry about you. You don’t sound in pain.’

‘I think I’ll live.’ Those eyes, a vivid blue against the stark white fluff of his hat and beard, smiled as he gingerly climbed to his feet. ‘It’s been a while since a gorgeous woman has swept me off my feet.’

Ellie felt another giggle coming on but it was squashed at the sound of a deep voice behind her. One she’d recognise anywhere.

‘Everything okay over here?’

Her brain froze, as it always seemed to do when Julian was around. Luckily Sally answered for them. ‘Ellie just knocked over Father Christmas.’

‘Ellie?’ Julian’s dark eyes swept over her, making her pulse race.

‘I’m good.’ Heavens, she sounded like a mouse. She cleared her throat. ‘Thank you. It’s Father Christmas I was worried about.’

The man in question was busy trying to realign his disheveled red suit. After tugging his padded belly back into position over his shiny black belt, he finally looked up. Blue eyes that had danced at her, looked stormy as he turned to Julian.

‘Well, well. If it isn’t Dr Faulkner.’ He let out a short laugh as he surveyed Julian’s outfit. ‘It’s not really a Santa Dash for you, is it mate? You’re more Man in a Red Suit.’

Julian gave the blue-eyed stranger a cool smile and ran his eyes deliberately up and down the other man’s crumpled red suit. ‘At least I have the dash part down. You never could manage that.’

Ellie heard blue eyes muttering under his breath. Words like stuck up and arrogant prick were clearly audible but Julian wasn’t looking at the man uttering them. The focus of his gaze was entirely on her. ‘Shall we go to the start line?’

Feeling ridiculously giddy, she nodded. ‘Umm, yes. Of course.’

With Sally nowhere to be seen, Ellie started to follow Julian but within seconds his tall figure was swallowed up by the Santa swarm. Only in this case it was a flirty group of female Santa’s she recognised from the hospital staff.

‘Can’t understand what they see in him.’

The man she’d just flattened wasn’t looking like happy Santa as he stared at Julian’s broad back.

‘Why do I get the feeling you two know each other?’

‘Because we do.’ For a split second anger flashed in his eyes but then it disappeared and he yanked down his beard, flashing her a broad grin. ‘But I’m far more interested in knowing you.’

Oooh, looks like Ellie might have two rival Santas to choose from! But which one will it be? Come back tomorrow when Clare Chase will be picking up where Kathryn left off. Can’t wait to find out more! 

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, Search for the Truth … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

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

Ellie runs into a Santa before starting the race. What colour are his eyes? 

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 Two by Clare Chase HERE

Tennis at Christmas?

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Tennis and Christmas? Not a natural match, perhaps – but Kathryn Freeman makes it work in her new novel, A Second Christmas Wish! And she has written about how she did it … 

My first Christmas book, A Second Christmas Wish, was out at the beginning of November. I confess I haven’t been this excited about Christmas since Father Christmas came down the chimney and left presents on the end of my bed.

Those were the days. Days I dragged out of my memory when I began to plot out this story. Not to recreate them, but to remember some of the magic of Christmas that crowded shops, Christmas card writing and remembering to book my online grocery slot two months before I need it, has dimmed.

In fact before I began to write A Second Christmas Wish I made a list of all the things I liked most about Christmas; the nativity play, mince pies, snow balls, Christmas trees. Festive traditions a reader would easily associate with Christmas and which I gleefully weaved into the story. I also ended up including a few themes not traditionally associated with Christmas though. Like tennis.

Umm, so why on earth did I write about tennis in a Christmas book? The answer lies in my heroine, Melissa and her son, William. They are still recovering from her ill-fated marriage to a man who turned out to be a manipulative husband and cold father. It’s left them both wary of men and disillusioned with Christmas.

I needed them to meet a man who would help put some sparkle back into their Christmas. But how to meet him? William lacks confidence so I thought giving him some lessons in a sport would help improve this. Also because I’m a sucker for a sports star. Over the years I’ve had many sporting idols, like Jonny Wilkinson, Seve Ballesteros, Michael Owen. And don’t get me started on Jenson Button … he’s why I ended up writing a romance about a sexy racing driver.

Sorry, talk of Jenson has derailed me. Sexy men have a habit of doing that. I was deciding on a sport for my young hero, William. I considered football, but for a sensitive boy that didn’t seem quite right. I could have gone with a snowy theme and picked skiing but again, pushing a shy boy down a slope didn’t fit well with me, though of course I’m sure skiing coaches aren’t that mean.

The more I thought about it, the more tennis seemed a perfect fit. It isn’t a contact sport but you can learn in a group. Plus it’s a sport I know something about because I play it myself and my sons both had coaching from the age William is in the story. That’s the only reason they can beat me now of course …

So that’s how the hero of A Second Christmas Wish became ex-tennis professional Daniel McCormick. A man who’s recently opened a tennis academy, teaching youngsters the joy of the sport he loves but had to give up through injury. He’s over six feet of rippling athleticism. Imagine a combination of Pat Cash and Rafael Nadal. I know I did, when I was writing him. He certainly added a sparkle to my days but the question is, did he do the same for Melissa?

… And you can find out whether he did in A Second Christmas Wish which is now available to buy on all eBook platforms! 

Kindle UK  Kindle US  Kindle AUS  Kindle CA

For more information on Kathryn, follow her on Twitter @KathrynFreeman

Or visit her website: www.kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from the Choc Lit Team and our Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2015. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.
Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy) 

And now a message from our Choc Lit Santas: :)

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juliet Santa photoJuliet Archer:  ”As Jane Austen said in Emma, published 200 years ago this month: ‘This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.’ I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, with lots of ‘friendly meetings’ and as little as possible of ‘the worst weather’.”

Santa - Rhoda BaxterPLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiRhoda Baxter: “Wish you all a fab holiday season with lots of chocolate, cake and nice warming books to read. See you next year.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell: Meri Kirihimete (Maori) everyone and many best wishes from New Zealand. May you all have a wonderful festive season. ”

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

AnneMarie Brear: “Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, (a perfect time to read good books) and a safe and healthy 2016!”

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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Jan Brigden: “Wishing everyone a joyful, peaceful, healthy Christmas & New Year, with much festive good cheer, happy reading (and chocolate goodies aplenty!). Enjoy!”

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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Angela Britnell: “Wishing all of our Choc Lit readers a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year filled with good books!”

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

9781781892350Sheryl Browne: Christmas time, mistletoe and wine … If you fancy a gorgeous hero to complete the scene, dip into scrummy Choc Lit book. Perfection. Have a lovely Christmas everyone!


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, full of warmth and good cheer, followed by a very happy 2016.”

 

An Irish Promise

Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val):  Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2016.”

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: “I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a peaceful, relaxing holiday hopefully with lots of time for reading! Thank you all for your support this year and here’s to a fantastic year in 2016!  Christina xxx”

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy 2016. I hope you enjoy a festive season filled with cake, chocolate and a multitude of good books! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

9781781892206Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Wishing you sleighbells and snowflakes, mince pies andmulled wine, silent nights and holly-days, myrrh and magic moments, tinselled tots and festive pets, plus perfect peace, Christmas cheer – and to all a good night!”

 

9781781892466 Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whether you’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

Janet Gover - Santa!9781781892688Janet Gover: “May Christmas be a time of joy for you and yours – and I hope 2016 will be a wonderful year filled with love and laughter.”

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2016 be filled with love, laughter and good books to read.”

 

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Linn B. Halton: Wishing everyone peace, love and happiness this Christmas time, and a wonderful start to 2016! Linn x

 

 

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Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: ”Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”

 


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson: 
“Wishing you love, light and oodles of laughter this Christmas.”

 

 

9781781892701Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a 2016 that’s overflowing with good health and great books.”

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James: “Merry Christmas, readers and writers, and may 2016 be a wonderful year for you all.”

 


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson: “I’d like to wish everyone a very happy festive season and offer my best wishes for the new year.”

 


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine: “I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas whether you are spending it with family or friends, or have chosen to be on your own surrounded by chocolates, wine and good books. May I wish you both good health and happiness throughout 2016.”

 

Jane Lovering - Santa!9781781892817Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me! JANE X”

 

9781781892176Sally santa photoSally Malcolm: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a New Yearfull of adventure!”

 

 

Alison May - Santa!9781781892947Alison May: “May your festive season be joyful and filled with books, chocolate and all good things. Happy Christmas one and all.”

 

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: “Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”May your Christmas sparkle with happiness, surprises and above all else, good health. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2016  xx”

 

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing everyone a Perfectly Paranormal Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Happy reading! Love Berni xxx”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas one and all. Here’s wishing you everything you would wish for yourself.”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2016 to you all!”

 

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “Wishing all Choc Lit readers a fabulous Christmas and as much romance and chocolate as you can handle in the year to come.”

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Happy Christmas – Nadolig Llawen – and health, happiness and lots of good books for everyone in 2016.”

 

Nick santa photo

Nicky Wells:  ”Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues! ~That’s “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” in my native German, and I’d like to wish you both of those with all myheart. May your Christmas sparkle and may your 2016 be filled with love, laughter and happiness. Xx”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!