Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

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Happy Easter Saturday all! We hope you’ve been enjoying our Easter Round Robin so far :) Kirsty Ferry is up today and we’re looking forward to seeing where she takes this rather surreal and magical story now. Remember to read right until the end for our daily Easter competition!

To enjoy this story, make sure you read the extracts in order:

Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

Tilly soon realised that Zaph wasn’t going to let her go in a different direction. She didn’t really want to stalk Dan (well, she did, but there were rules about that sort of thing) and after several moments of heaving and pulling a huge border collie who clearly enjoyed biscuits too much, Tilly gave in and let Zaph drag her in his wake. As soon as she slackened her grip, the dog raced after Josh until he boinged back on the extendable lead.

‘Daddy, look! The dog’s coming too!’ cried Josh. He stopped and grinned up at Tilly as she caught up. ‘Will he help us, do you think?’

‘Josh!’ Dan scolded. ‘I think – Tilly – is too busy to chat right now. She probably needs to go home or something.’

‘Oh! No – it’s fine,’ replied Tilly. She smiled suddenly. ‘I don’t have far to walk. I live in the big house, you see. This is Zaph’s garden. I think he’s excited to have so many people to play with.’

‘You live here?’ Dan stared at her. ‘Wow. Well, you must be busy, so—’

‘Do you own this house?’ Josh interrupted. ‘All of it?’

Tilly laughed and shook her head. ‘No. My cousin Marvin owns it, but we don’t quite know where he is at the minute.’ Her face shadowed. No need to burden the child with the tale: Marvin had disappeared last year and the police had reached a dead end. This crazy project was a last ditch attempt by her rather eccentric aunt to find her son.

It was Aunt Elsie, the dowager Lady of the House, who believed the most in the legends and the old magic that was supposed to breathe through the wooded glades of the ancestral home. Tilly had loved her childhood playmate, Marvin, and she missed him. She’d been the first of the family to volunteer to come and help when her Aunt had announced her intentions. Poor Aunt Elsie. People said she was soft in the head, but Tilly knew she truly believed the stories in the books in the library and the magic of the gardens would eventually lead her to find Marvin.

‘Oh,’ said Josh. Then he frowned. ‘I do wish Thumper was here.’

Zaph suddenly pulled so much, he yanked the leash out of Tilly’s hand and bounded over to a nearby coppice, woofing like there was no tomorrow, his leash trailing behind him.

‘Zaph!’ yelled Tilly. ‘Oh you stupid hound!’

‘No – he’s found the next egg!’ cried Josh. He broke away from Dan and pelted after the dog.

‘Josh!’ Dan yelled ‘Oh God help me!’ He took off after the boy, and Tilly had no choice but to run after them to try and retrieve her dog.

‘It’s here! It’s here!’  Josh shouted. He dipped down into some daffodils and pulled a blue egg out. He held it aloft triumphantly, then looked down. ‘Thumper! Thumper! I saw his tail!’ he shrieked.

The egg forgotten, Josh dived into the coppice and disappeared as the bushes closed behind him.

‘Josh!’ Dan yelled again. ‘I should just record my voice and play it on a sodding loop!’ He took off after his son and groaned inwardly as his muscles protested and his lungs complained. The coppice had to be uphill, didn’t it? Stupid coppice. Stupid egg hunt. Stupid damn rabbit!

Dan soon realised the woman – Tilly – was easily keeping pace with him. Her golden hair was flying behind her, her green eyes narrowed as she focussed on the coppice.

‘I saw the rabbit too. I saw the bushes move,’ she said. ‘That’ll be why Zaph’s gone after it. Damn dog.’

Dan stopped by a tree and leaned on it, doubling over. ‘Go!’ he said dramatically. ‘Go and get your damn dog, and my child and the damn and blasted rabbit. Good grief!’

‘I’ve got egg number five!’ came a reedy voice from the woods. ‘It’s covered in horrible sparkles though. Yeuch!’

Tilly stopped and turned to Dan, smiling. ‘I didn’t know they’d done a sparkly one. Maybe that was number six, and we’ve missed one. I must say, if that’s the case, it’s a new thing they’ve introduced this year. I remember my cousin had a real hatred of this sparkly Faberge egg my Aunt had locked away in her curiosity cabinet. He used to say—’

‘Thumper just pooped on the egg!’ yelled a delighted Josh. ‘He really did! And his poop looks like—’

‘Josh!’ bellowed Dan. He felt his cheeks flush scarlet and turned to Tilly. ‘I am so sorry.’

‘Do we need one of these?’ Tilly asked, grinning. She whipped a poop bag out of her pocket.

Dan just groaned and put his head in his hands, wishing himself a million miles away.

Stupid sparkly eggs. Since when has an Easter Egg been sparkly? Last time I saw a blinkin’ sparkly egg, I – well now. I can’t quite remember. What did I do? Still. It can take that. Sorry. But when a rabbit’s got to go, a rabbit’s got to go. It’s not even on the official trail, from what I know. Unless they hid seven eggs – like included a bonus egg. Oh heck – that dog’s back as well. Go away, hound! Away! Shoo! Stop sniffing around me – just stop it. Stop it. Just – oh heck. I’m off…

What a fabulous Easter treat! And it’s not over yet – Morton S Gray will delve further into this world of Easter bunnies and magic tomorrow just in time for your Easter Sunday. Make sure you check back then :)

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     If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, you might like to check out the latest novel in her ‘Rossetti Mysteries’ series – The Girl in the Photograph. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What is Tilly’s aunt called?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kirsty Ferry comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART FOUR BY MORTON S GRAY HERE

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

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Want to kick off your Easter weekend in the right way? Why not sit down (with an Easter egg or two) and read the second part of our Easter Round Robin by Rhoda Baxter. Yesterday Berni Stevens left us in a little bit of an awkward situation involving a dog and a (talking) bunny. Let’s see where Rhoda takes things!

Remember, if you read right until the end, you might find an Easter competition too ;)  

To enjoy this story, make sure you read Part One by Berni Stevens first HERE.

The Easter Bunny – Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Dan glared at her, and hitched Joshie up a little. ‘Aren’t you going to call it off?’ He nodded towards the dog.

‘All this fuss.’ The woman rolled her eyes. ‘Zaph, come here.’ She slapped her thigh. ‘Heel, boy.’

The dog stopped barking at the rabbit hole and looked reproachfully at her. It slunk back to her side.

‘Good boy.’ She started patting the pockets of the oversized coat she was wearing. ‘I had your lead here somewhere …’

Josh loosened his hold round Dan a little to peer at the dog. ‘It’s okay, Josh,’ said Dan quietly. ‘The dog’s stopped barking now, see.’

‘He scared the rabbit away.’

The woman pulled the lead out of one of the enormous pockets and knelt next to the dog. ‘Oh, they’re used to him. He always chases them, but never, ever catches one,’ she said as she attached the lead to the dog’s collar. ‘You’re not much of a rabbit catcher, are you boy?’ She scratched the dog behind the ears and gave him a kiss.

Dan felt an unexpected pang of envy. Absurd. Still, it had been a long time since anyone had ruffled his hair and kissed him with that much affection. ‘I think it’s safe to get down now, buddy,’ he said to Josh.

Tilly hid her embarrassment by burying her face in Zaph’s fur. She had completely forgotten about the Easter Egg hunt. To be honest, mostly, she forgot what day it was when she was in the library. If it wasn’t for having to take Zaph out a couple of times a day, she’d probably lose track of day and night too.

Just her luck that the first people she ran into were a handsome man and his cynophobic son. She looked at the boy, who was being deposited on the ground by his father. ‘I’m sorry if Zaph scared you,’ she said. ‘He runs around here every day. I forgot it was a public day today, otherwise I’d have had him on his lead.’

The man made a non-committal noise.

‘I’m Tilly, by the way.’ She held out her hand to the little boy first.

He looked surprised, but shook it. ‘I’m Josh. This is my daddy.’

Tilly stood up. Goodness, up close he really was something special. But a member of the public. She had be polite to members of the public. She was sure there had been a rule about that when she’d signed up to work on the project. ‘Pleased to meet you, Josh’s Daddy.’

‘Dan,’ he said. ‘I’m Dan.’ His hand was warm and firm when he shook hers. He had the most amazing blue eyes.

Mustn’t stare. Mustn’t stare. She turned her attention back to Josh. He had the same blue eyes, but it was easier to focus on him. ‘How’s your easter egg hunt going?’

He showed her the card. ‘I’ve found three already. The rabbit there was helping.’

‘Was he now?’ She pretended to look into the rabbit hole.

‘Ah. There was a rabbit we were following,’ said Dan, with a hint of embarrassment. ‘I’m sure it wasn’t the same one each time.’

‘It was Daddy, it was,’ said Josh. ‘He was leading me to the eggs.’

Tilly felt a stab of extra interest. ‘Really?’ Could it be …

‘My son has a very vivid imagination,’ said Dan. He took the boy’s hand. ‘Come on Josh.’

‘Actually,’ said Tilly. ‘There are those who say that these gardens are magical.’

The little boy’s face lit up. ‘Really? Why?’

‘Strange things happen, you know. Things that are lost for years suddenly turn up. Other things disappear.’ Like people. It had been a year to the day since Marv disappeared. That’s what she’d been thinking about when she let Zaph out of the private garden into the main one. That’s why she’d completely failed to register all the bunting that festooned the place. ‘I’m doing some research into the local legends,’ she added.

They walked along following Dan’s map, looking for the next egg.

Oh good, the mutt’s gone. Wonder if it’s safe to come out?

There they go. The woman’s got the dog on a lead. Why does that dog always chase me? It’s not like it’s short of rabbits in this place, but no, it’s always me. I don’t mind the woman though. There’s something about her that’s familiar. Reminds me of someone …

Curiouser and curiouser. Things are starting to get a little bit surreal in our Round Robin and we love it! Can’t wait to see where Kirsty Ferry takes it tomorrow :) Make sure you’re around to read the next part. 

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 If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing, you might like to check out her latest award-nominated novel – Girl Having a Ball. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What colour are Dan’s eyes?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Rhoda Baxter comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART THREE BY KIRSTY FERRY HERE

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – Part One by Berni Stevens

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Easter is nearly upon us and we hope you’re stocked up on chocolate Easter eggs for the long weekend ahead! We felt you deserved one more little treat in addition to the chocolate – so here’s the first part of a special Easter Round Robin story for you to enjoy :) We have five authors taking part so make sure you come back every day until Monday to read each part of the story!

Today Berni Stevens is starting us off – and if you read right until the end, you might find an Easter competition too ;)  

The Easter Bunny – Part One by Berni Stevens

‘Look – it’s the Easter Bunny!’ Excited squeals followed the shouting.

Hey – do I look like the Easter Bunny to you? Yeah, I get it, I am a rabbit, but I’m nothing to do with Easter. I don’t even like chocolate … But I do like living here. It’s posh. Although it’s better when the place is closed to the public. Now the Easter holidays are here, it means kids – everywhere. And noise. I came outside to get some peace and quiet too. Fat chance.

The small boy edged closer to the rabbit who eyed him warily.

‘Do you know where the eggs are?’ he asked.

The rabbit twitched its nose.

Eggs. It’s always about the eggs. If you want to know where they are, it will cost you in carrots. I don’t come cheap.

A harassed-looking man with an unruly mop of brown hair and sparkly blue eyes grabbed the little boy’s hand before he could get any closer to the rabbit.

‘Leave him alone, Joshie,’ he said. ‘He’s wild.’

Wild? I’m furious. Why does everyone always think I know where the eggs are? Just ’cause I’m a rabbit. Actually I do know where they are, I watched the junior staff hide them this morning. But I’m not telling. Nope. Not. Telling.

The boy and the man walked away, the boy continually looking back over his shoulder at the rabbit.

‘Can I have a rabbit?’

‘We’ll see.’

Josh knew that usually meant no. He sighed.

‘That rabbit’s so pretty.’

Awww cute kid. Okay, I’ll give you a clue to the first egg …

‘He’s following us,’ Josh whispered, tugging on his father’s hand.

‘It’s probably a different rabbit,’ his father, Dan, replied with a smile. ‘There are loads around.’

Nevertheless Dan couldn’t help glancing back every now and again. It did look like the same rabbit following them. He wished he had a bell on a collar he could put around ‘their’ rabbit’s neck. Like that chocolate bunny off the TV. They’d be able to tell then.

‘Daddy, he’s gone,’ said Josh suddenly, sounding quite upset.

‘Gone to get some lunch I should think,’ said Dan, realising that food sounded like a great idea. ‘Are you hungry Josh?’

‘No. I want to find some eggs.’ Josh looked mutinous. ‘Six eggs.’

Six eggs. Dan frowned. Where was the Easter blooming Bunny when you needed him?

As if on cue, a little rabbit scuttled out from the undergrowth ahead, its white cotton-tail bobbing as it ran up the hill.

‘There he is Daddy. Quick!’

Josh started up the hill after the rabbit, with Dan following behind.

‘It might … be … a … different … rabbit,’ puffed Dan. He should probably get back to the gym sometime, he felt seriously unfit.

The rabbit sat underneath a huge, ancient oak tree, watching their progress up the hill. If Dan didn’t know better, he’d say it looked smug.

Josh reached the rabbit first. ‘Hello, Thumper.’

Actually, the name’s Marvin, but you’re a cute kid. Thumper’s fine.

Josh parted the bluebells growing around the foot of the oak tree.

‘Thumper says there’s an egg here,’ he said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Sure enough, after a few seconds, Josh swooped on a brightly coloured wooden egg with the number one painted on it in fluorescent yellow.

‘Here’s one!’

‘Well done Josh. Good work.’

Dan pulled out the Easter Egg Hunt leaflet, ticked the number one on it, and added the location. He watched Josh put the egg back carefully, his round cheeks flushed with excitement.

Who could have guessed how much he’d love hunting for eggs? Although he thought a certain brown rabbit could be most of the attraction.

The rabbit scampered off in another direction with Josh in hot pursuit. Dan did have very long legs, but Josh was only seven years old, and that had to be in his favour. He puffed after his son, feeling relieved when both rabbit and boy came to a halt near the aviary.

Dan’s heart rate had just returned to normal, when Josh held a wooden egg aloft in triumph. He ticked number two on their sheet and watched Josh replace the egg.

The rabbit stayed with them. Everything felt a little surreal.

‘Four more to find,’ announced Josh, eager to be on the move.

You gotta give the little guy kudos. Okay kid – third egg, then I must get back to the Missus. She worries. AAAAGH … DOG!

The rabbit suddenly dived down a burrow, seconds before a border collie skidded to a halt at the entrance. Josh shrieked in terror, and Dan scooped him up in case the dog was dangerous.

‘Zaph! Bad dog!’ A woman’s voice called.

Dan did a double take as the owner of the voice ran over to the dog. Wow. The vision appeared to be in her early thirties, with waist-length corn-coloured hair and eyes the colour of peeled grapes. But she should still be in control of her mutt, no matter how gorgeous she looked.

‘That dog should be on a lead, and muzzled.’ His voice sounded terse.

Muzzled?’ Angry green eyes sparked defiantly up at him. ‘Who died and made you the game-keeper?’

Brilliant start from Berni! And is it just us or is the rabbit stealing the show? ;) Rhoda Baxter will be providing us with Part Two tomorrow – don’t miss it!

9781781892619     If you enjoyed Berni’s writing, you might like to check out the latest novel in her ‘Immortals of London’ vampire series – Revenge is Sweet. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What name does Josh give to the rabbit?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Berni Stevens comp’ by Tuesday 18th April. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 19th April.

READ PART TWO BY RHODA BAXTER HERE

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

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

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

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie. Unusual name for a girl, but still …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Er, hello, what would you like?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME

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

How many iced buns does Tony buy?

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

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

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

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

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too! 

Kirsty Ferry starts us off today … 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME

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

What was the ‘great scandal’ of Thistlethorpe?

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

Part Two by Christina Courtenay is now available to read HERE

The Santa Dash: Part Two by Clare Chase

Round Robin

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

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

The Santa Dash – PART TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘What is it, Julian?’ Ellie asked.

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME

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

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

What is the mystery woman’s name? 

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE

Mother’s Little Helper: Part Four by Clare Chase

MD RR Part 4

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 Two by Sarah Waights

MD RR Part 2

Yesterday Berni Stevens set the scene with a heavily pregnant cat and a (potentially) handsome vet. Today Sarah Waights picks up the baton for the second part of our Mother’s Day Round Robin!

Make sure you read Berni’s extract first HERE and follow the story right until the end to find out about our competition :)  

They settled the little cat into the box where she industriously kneaded the thick layer of towels until they were to her liking before throwing herself onto her side with another plaintive miaow.  The two girls were watching her anxiously when they jumped in unison at the sound of the doorbell.

‘You go,’ said Jo. ‘He’s going to be cross at being called out and it’s your fault.’

Lily was already on her way. She could see him through the frosted glass panel in the front door.  She had a general impression of dark, wavy hair, a black jacket and jeans.  Goodness he was tall.

‘Thanks so much for coming,’ she said breathlessly, as she opened the door. He ignored her, bending down to pick up his bag. ‘Does anyone ever tell you you’re really, really tall,’ she added, nervously.

‘Yes,’ he said, not bothering to meet her eye. ‘Often. Now, where’s this medical emergency of yours.’ He didn’t wait for a reply, but brushed past her in the narrow hallway, before striding towards the open door of the sitting room.

‘Did I interrupt something when I called?’ she added, trotting after him, keen to find out what she was supposed to be apologising for – it was obviously something quite bad.

‘Yes,’ he said again. ‘She’ll get over it.’

‘I’m Lily, by the way.’

‘Rob,’ he replied. ‘And who’s she?’ He cocked a thumb at Jo, who was skulking in the kitchen area, pretending to wash up.

‘The cat’s mother,’ quipped Lily, rather wittily she thought.

‘So she’s paying my bill then?’

‘Erm, well, no …’ stuttered Lily, glancing at Jo apologetically, ‘that would probably be me.’

Rob raised his eyes to heaven, and shook his head. ‘Right, let’s take a look,’ he said hunkering down to the box on the floor and shrugging off his jacket.

Strong thighs, noted Lily, inconsequentially, and broad-chested too – like a rugby player. She wondered who the woman was who would ‘get over it’. A glamorous girlfriend, no doubt.

Despite his obvious exasperation at the girls he examined the little cat gently and efficiently, running his hands over her ribs and peering into her ears.

‘Well, she’s a stray for sure,’ he said. ‘And you’re right about the kittens. Not long now, by the looks of it. She’s a bit underweight,’ he added, ‘and I doubt she’s even a year old. Too young to be a mother.’

‘A teenage mum,’ observed Lily. ‘Poor little scrap. She’s so tiny.’

‘Not fully grown,’ explained Rob. ‘This’ll stunt her growth, she’ll always be small now.’

‘Aaah,’ said Jo, coming out of the kitchen and looking at the cat more sympathetically before going to give her a stroke.

‘She’s got fleas, by the way,’ added Rob.

‘Urgh!’ Jo recoiled. ‘She’s not staying,’ she told Lily.

‘I’ll add a flea treatment to my bill,’ said Rob.

‘In for a penny, in for a pound,’ agreed Lily, getting a bit worried about the preoccupation with money. She was a bit broke at the moment.

‘Would you like a coffee?’ she asked. He looked like he needed something and perhaps she could soften his heart with a chocolate biscuit or two if they had any left.

Well, Rob certainly sounds gorgeous – but also a bit grumpy! Will those chocolate biscuits work to soften his heart? And who was it on the end of that phone? Find out tomorrow when Annemarie Brear takes over. 

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 second question is: As well as being heavily pregnant, what else is the poor cat suffering from?

If you enjoyed Sarah’s writing, why not check out her debut novel, Never Marry a Politician, which is out in paperback on 7th March. Pre-order HERE

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Mother’s Little Helper: Part One by Berni Stevens

MD RR Part 1

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.

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

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

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

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

Part One by Alison May can be read HERE.

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

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry can be read HERE.

Part Four by Angela Britnell can be read HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About to. Balti, Josh had texted back.

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally stunned now, Sophie just continued to stare.

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME!

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

Where does the lovely Matt work?

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

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

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