Happy Birthday Choc Lit! Final Part by Kathryn Freeman

We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Jane Lovering set us up for the perfect ending with a mysterious note left in a borrowed book. Will Kathryn Freeman deliver and finish our wonderful birthday story with a bang? Let’s see! 

In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:

Part One by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Two by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Three by Sue McDonagh HERE
Part Four by Lynda Stacey HERE
Part Five by Jane Lovering HERE

Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the last competition of the day. All competitions on all extracts will be open until next Tuesday so there’s plenty of time left to enter all of them!

The Forgotten Birthday – Final Part

As Lauren started to read the note, her heart began to pound. She recognised it. Her mind swimming in disbelief, she skimmed over the childish writing.

Happy birfday Laura. Will you be my girlfriend? Hugh xx

It couldn’t be the same note. That had been over twenty years ago. And the boy who’d written it had been called Hugh Webster, not Peacock.

But the more she stared at it, the more the memories came flooding back. It was addressed not to Lauren, but to Laura. The name she’d gone by all those years ago, before she’d decided Lauren sounded more elegant.

There was only one person who could explain to her why she was reading a note given to her on her ninth birthday. She glanced at her watch. Was ten o’clock too late for a woman to knock on the door of a man she hardly knew?

Sober Lauren would have answered yes, but this version, on a high after the day, fortified by a few drinks, had the confidence to march right up to it.

Her jaw dropped when the door opened. ‘Hugh?’ He didn’t look like the man she’d met this morning. Wearing a T-shirt that moulded chest muscles she hadn’t noticed beneath the old jacket he’d worn, it was his face that shocked her the most. ‘You shaved off your beard.’

He shifted awkwardly on his feet. ‘Ah, yes, you noticed.’

His eyes crinkled. Deep brown eyes, warm and inviting as a mug of cocoa. How had she missed them earlier? More memories filled her head. A boy with a permanently creased blazer, scuffed shoes and dark hair that flopped into his brown eyes. Her heart began to race. ‘Why?’

‘I thought you might have more chance recognising me.’ His eyes held hers and she felt their pull. Just as she had all those years ago.

‘It is you,’ she whispered.

His freshly shaven cheeks flushed. ‘Afraid so.’

‘But … how? Is this just a coincidence?’

The flush deepened and he dragged a hand through his hair. ‘Yes, and no. You applying to be on the course run by my mum, yes. Me coming here in her place, no.’ When she simply stared at him, too shocked, too overcome to do anything else, he sighed and opened the door wider. ‘I see I have some explaining to do. Do you want to come in?’ His hand rose to his chin, then dropped again, no doubt realising he no longer had a beard to scratch. ‘Sorry, you probably don’t want to come into a stranger’s room. We can go to the bar, or—’

Lauren stepped inside. ‘You’re not a stranger, Hugh Webster.’

She caught his eye and he smiled. It was the same boyish smile she remembered, though this time it came from a man. A very attractive man. Somewhere inside her chest she felt a long-forgotten tug.

Moving to the end of the room she went to sit on the chair, leaving him to perch on the bed. Maybe it was the room, but he felt larger now. No longer the bearded, bumbling author, but a potent, handsome male.

‘So.’ He smiled sheepishly, and all at once he was the boy she knew again. ‘I help my mum out with the creative writing course she runs. Daphne Peacock is her pen name. Her real name is Daphne Webster.’

‘That’s why I didn’t recognise you. Plus, the beard.’

Again, he went to scratch it. Again, he dropped his hand. ‘Ex-wife hated beards, so when we divorced I grew one just because I could.’ He searched out her eyes. ‘Am I right in thinking you’re divorced, too?’

She grinned, feeling lighter, more carefree than she’d done in a long time. ‘My Chains piece did kind of give that away, didn’t it?’

‘It did.’ His expression sobered a little. ‘I’m sorry. It sounded like you had a bad time.’

‘I’m over it.’ And she was, she realised with a burst of pride. After today, she’d officially put that part of her life in the past.

‘Good.’ His smile returned. ‘And I wasn’t kidding when I said you might have a knack for poetry. It really was very good.’

‘Thank you.’ But much as she looked forward to turning her mind to new ventures, there was still something from her past she wanted to explore. ‘You were telling me why you’re here instead of your mum?’

‘Ah, yes.’ He glanced down to his clasped hands, then back up at her. ‘You’d sent a photo, and although the form said your first name was Lauren not Laura, everything else, including the date of birth, clicked and I knew, just knew it was you.’ She watched his throat move as he swallowed. ‘I thought, to hell with it, I’m running that course. I wanted to see you again. See if those feelings I had as a boy, were still there as a man.’

It was her turn to have to swallow as the emotion clogged her throat. ‘And are they?’

His dark eyes burned into hers. ‘God, yes. The moment I saw you, that was it. I turned into my bumbling nine-year-old self, desperately hoping the prettiest girl in the class would take notice of me.’

Her stomach flip-flopped and Lauren felt a prick at the back of her eyes. ‘Your note. Where did you find it?’

‘You left it on your desk at school. I picked it up, meaning to give it back to you, but I never screwed up the courage again. Until now.’

As his eyes pressed hers, her heart lifted. Slowly she rose to her feet and went to stand next to him. ‘What if I tell you that was the most romantic thing I’ve ever had happen to me?’

He smiled and his hands reached to clasp her face, sending tingles through her. ‘What if I ask you to have dinner with me tomorrow?’

Her heart jumped. ‘What if I tell you this is the best birthday I’ve ever had?’

His gaze dropped to her lips, and his eyes darkened. ‘What if I kiss you?’

Oh wow! Well done Kathryn – we certainly didn’t expect that and it really was the perfect ending to an amazing birthday story. 

Thank you to all our authors and to all of our supportive readers too! We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and continue to enjoy Choc Lit books for many years to come. Here’s to another year of fantastic authors and brilliant books! 

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate to go with it simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What is Hugh’s mum’s real name?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.

Happy Birthday Choc Lit! Part Five by Jane Lovering

We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Lynda Stacey left us with a kiss, now it’s Jane Lovering‘s turn. Let’s see what happens next … 

In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:

Part One by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Two by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Three by Sue McDonagh HERE
Part Four by Lynda Stacey HERE

Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the fifth competition of the day! 

The Forgotten Birthday – Part Five

Just before he left, Hugh muttered something in her ear. ‘Page Eleven. Don’t tell anyone.’ And then, with a final ruffle through his beard, he was gone, heading downstairs towards dinner, as Marion came to her door, regally splendid in a gown comprised of equal amounts of taffeta and whalebone.

Dinner was more fun than Lauren could remember having had for some time. With Marion’s warning against Ian clanging in the back of her head, Lauren steered clear of him and tried to throw herself more into the conversation between the others. She discovered that two of the other women and one of the men actually lived not too far from her, and they exchanged email addresses with a tentative idea of forming their own writing group.

Lauren felt a curious tingle inside, a feeling of something bubbling up at the base of her throat, and she stared down at the prawn cocktail starter with narrowed eyes of suspicion, until she realised what it was. It was excitement. She was actually feeling excited for the first time in – how long? An actual, proper emotion that wasn’t unhappiness or boredom or anger! And she looked around her at these people, strangers really, who were chatting to her about their hopes for the future raising glasses of something that certainly wasn’t champagne but it was alcohol with bubbles in. And, if she ignored the fact that Ian kept trying to press his leg suggestively against hers under the table and was just asking for a fork in the thigh, she was having a really good time.

The book that Hugh had given her was weighing her bag down with more than purely the mass of pages it contained. Hugh had been right, the book had been right, she was keeping all her emotions locked away inside her head. That exercise he’d set, Chains, had shown her that she wasn’t as over her sister and husband’s infidelity as she tried to let herself believe. That the two people she’d loved most in the world could do that to her…

Lauren looked around again. The attitude of bonhomie that was spreading in equal measure to the amount of fizzy alcohol being drunk touched something inside her. One of the women, Helen her name was, raised a glass and mouthed ‘Happy Birthday!’ across the table, and Lauren smiled at the realisation that she was having a better time here, with these virtual strangers, than she’d had with her husband during practically the whole of their marriage. That she’d married him more to get away from her family than out of love. That he and her sister hadn’t really done anything to her, she had let their betrayal affect her. And maybe now, thinking how badly they’d both treated her over the years, she could see how they deserved one another. She couldn’t quite wish them a happy future, and would gladly shove pooh through their letterbox any day of the week, but still. She was getting there, buoyed up by the sense of camaraderie and acceptance she was feeling here and now.

It was only when the party was over and she’d gone back to her room, giggly and not-quite sober, that she remembered Hugh’s whisper when he’d given her the book. She turned to Page Eleven with trepidation, and, to her surprise, it wasn’t an inspirational quote. It was a small, badly-spelled note, handwritten, blu-tacked to the page.

Oh Jane. You can’t do that to us when we have to wait another hour to find out what it says on the note! Kathryn Freeman takes over for the last part of our Round Robin. We really hope you’ve been enjoying it so far! 

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate to go with it simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What is Marion’s gown made of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.

Happy Birthday Choc Lit! The Forgotten Birthday – Part One by Morton S. Gray

Can you believe it? We’re nine years old today! And what better way to celebrate than 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 🙂 

We’ll be sharing an extract of the story every hour until the end of the day. With every extract there’ll be a book+chocolate prize and, with six extracts, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to win! Simply read each extract to the end so you can answer a question about the story and see how to enter (we’re sure you won’t find it hard as the story’s a corker!) 

Morton S. Gray starts us off this morning, where we meet Lauren on the morning of her thirtieth birthday, and she’s getting ready for an adventure … 

The Forgotten Birthday – Part One

Lauren woke to the sound of the post plopping onto the doormat. She shrugged on her dressing gown and walked down the steep staircase of her tiny terraced house, retrieving the mail before she went into the tiny kitchen. Her friend the robin was sitting on the bird feeder outside of the window. It was almost as if he waited for her morning greeting and conversation before flying off to do whatever robins did all day.

‘Morning, Red. I know I’m late. I need to get a move on. It’s my birthday you know. Thirty. How did that happen?’

She filled the kettle, set it to boil and glanced half-heartedly at the assorted envelopes. It wasn’t likely that anyone would have sent her a birthday card. When you’d fallen out with your sister over a year ago and divorced your ex about the same time, it didn’t bode well for surprise parties or birthday greetings.

It took her the time it needed for the kettle to switch off to brave those envelopes. A charity request, store card coupons, a bill and a bank statement. No surprise there then.

‘Whoopee do! Happy birthday, Lauren.’

A cup of coffee made her feel more human and the robin uncharacteristically came back for a second visit to the bird feeder.

‘Thank you, Red. You’re the man who always make me feel special.’

The little bird bobbed into a bow, just as if he’d understood every word. Lauren laughed. Time to get ready to face her big adventure.

She’d booked her birthday treat well in advance and taken this Friday as holiday from her boring job in insurance administration. Only now did her stomach do a somersault when she thought about those unknown strangers’ faces. At least they wouldn’t know it was her birthday.

It was a terrible habit to talk to herself, but as she lived alone, it kept her on track. ‘Shower, tick, bag packed, tick, rubbish put out, tick, bird feeder well stocked for Red, tick, car keys, yes. Right let’s get this show on the road.’

Following the satnav’s annoying male voice, she headed south, stopping for another coffee at a service station on the motorway. The countryside got lovelier as she neared her destination in the Cotswolds. She kept repeating her Thomas the Tank Engine mantra. ‘I can do it, I will do it, I can …’

Before she knew it, her things were installed in a single ensuite room and she’d found her way to the conference room. There were eleven other creative writing students, five men, seven women. They all arranged their notebooks and pens on the tables and gave each other shy glances. They would be spending two days together – it was a voyage into the unknown.

Just when Lauren decided she really ought to try to make conversation and break the ice, the door crashed open. A man carrying, or rather dropping, a large cardboard box, lurched in.

‘Sorry, so sorry, I’m late, traffic was awful. Now I know you were expecting Daphne Peacock, my … erm, mother, but I’m afraid she’s sick, so you’ve got me instead.’

Hmm, this wasn’t the inspiring person she’d been hoping for. She loved Daphne Peacock’s novels. The man looked as if his jacket had seen better days, his beard was bushy. Lauren hated beards.

One of the guys helped the man pick up the box and put it on the desk. All sorts of things were spewing out of the cardboard – magazines, leaves, odd bits of metal, a watch.

‘I’m Hugh, I’m a published writer, three novels now and I’m your tutor for the weekend.’ He rummaged in the box and retrieved two rolls of sticky labels and marker pens. He scrawled Hugh on one of the labels, pressed it to his chest and then passed the rest around for the rest to do the same.

‘What sort of fiction do you write, Hugh?’ asked a fifty-something woman with a label that said Marion.

‘Romantic suspense novels, actually.’ The expression on his face suggested he was used to a weird reaction to that statement.

More rummaging in the battered box and he bought out a folder brimming with words torn from magazines.

‘Right, we’ve only got a short session before our lunch, so grab a word and write whatever comes into your head. Best to pick one at random, I find.’

Lauren found her heart-rate increase and her stomach churning as she stared with horror at the word she had picked out – chains.

Hugh was speaking again. ‘Don’t worry about this exercise, it’s just a warm up. We can share what we write in the session after lunch. Prose or poem is fine.’

It certainly broke the ice, after a tense thirty minutes of silence, apart from pens scratching over paper, the group made their way down to the dining room chattering away. Lauren held back a little listening to what the others were saying. There was a table set aside for them in the refectory with a huge Creative Writing label. Lauren glanced around at the nearby tables, Life Drawing, Vegetable Gardening, Drumming, were the ones she caught sight of.

They were the first course to arrive, but the room soon filled up. Lauren exchanged a few words about her journey with Marion and tried to assess the rest of the course members from underneath her eyelashes. All ages, but predominantly older than her. One of the men was smiling broadly at her. She squinted to read his badge, Ian, and then avoided making eye contact.

Then it happened!

A woman appeared through the door marked kitchen with a birthday cake, candles aflame and came straight over to their table.

Hugh leapt into action. ‘The course administrator noticed we had a birthday girl in our midst, Laura.’

Cheeks aflame, Lauren got up. He obviously meant her even if he had got her name wrong. She stood frozen by Hugh’s side as everyone in the room sang Happy Birthday to Laura.

‘Lauren’ she mouthed under her breath and belatedly realised she was talking aloud as if speaking to her tame robin. So much for anonymity and escape on a course miles from home.

Hugh’s face suggested he was puzzled by her reaction. Lauren blew out the candles and scurried back to her seat, amid congratulatory noises from around the room.

‘We can have the cake with our tea in the meeting room later,’ said Hugh, smiling.

Lauren wanted the floor to open and swallow her up. She’d have to read her prose piece about chains when they got back to the room …

Oh dear, how embarrassing for poor Lauren. We’re cringing for her but also can’t wait to find out more! We’re sure you feel the same. And you don’t have to wait too much longer as Kirsty Ferry’s second instalment will be up in the next hour! 

     If you Morton’s writing, you might like to check out her fabulous novels. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning a Choc Lit book and some chocolate to go with it simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What is the name of Hugh’s mother?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton S. Gray comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Final Part by Berni Stevens

Halloween FINAL

Happy Halloween! 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 ;)  

Our very own Queen of Spookiness Berni Stevens is rounding off our Halloween story today. We’ll leave you to decide whether our Round Robin this year has been a trick or treat. We know what we think!

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
Read Part Four by Kirsty Ferry HERE

The shadowy figure of Bella shimmered and dissolved back into Kate, who staggered and would have lost her balance if Martine hadn’t rushed to catch her. The sounds of the ball stopped, and doors banged shut with ferocity.

‘Kate …’ Martine gave her friend a gentle shake.

Kate didn’t answer.

‘Not yet,’ Sebastian moved between them. ‘The demon is still here.’

‘Bella …?’ Edward looked at Sebastian, using the name for a question.

‘Is not … was not a demon or a witch. That was not Bella.’

‘How do we get whoever it is out of Kate?’ Martine’s head hurt.

James was staring at her and Kate as if they’d sprouted horns, and perhaps they had. She felt anything could happen here tonight.

‘Marti … what the hell are you talking about?’ His face was ashen.

‘It’s Samhain,’ she said. James still stared at her blankly.

‘The night when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest,’ Sebastian said. ‘And the boundary can be crossed.’

Martine repeated Sebastian’s words to James, who now looked as if he might be sick. He was probably regretting finishing off the pizza everyone else had rejected.

‘Can you see the ghosts yet?’ She asked him.

‘I don’t believe in ghosts.’

That would have been funny under any other circumstances. Here they all were on a ghost-hunt in a haunted house – on Halloween – or Samhain – and the leader of the expedition didn’t believe in ghosts. Perfect.

Sebastian held his arms away from his body. ‘What am I? Scotch mist?’

‘Pretty much,’ she agreed. ‘Still see-through anyway.’

‘Now you’re talking to yourself.’ James muttered.

The sound of scuffling and cursing came from the doorway, as Patrick elbowed Ollie out of the way, and tumbled into the room. How come she’d never noticed the weakness of Patrick’s chin before?

‘Get away from my sister!’

James turned to glare at Patrick, ‘Get lost you stupid git,’ he said.

‘Guys, you’re a couple of wimps,’ said Martine rolling her eyes, and was rewarded with laughs from both James and Sebastian, which was actually a little weird. ‘We still need to get this whoever or whatever out of Kate,’ she said again to Sebastian.

‘I will assist you, Lara.’

“That would be Martine.’

It was Sebastian’s turn to look confused, which was a good trick for someone who was mostly transparent. ‘The other man calls you Lara.’

‘It’s kind of a joke,’ Martine began patiently. ‘Never mind. Can we do an exorcism or something?’

‘Exorcism?’ James looked horrified.

‘No need. Please light a fire to cleanse away the demons,’ said Sebastian, and began to chant in a lilting foreign language.

Martine emptied out her rucksack, picking out the rubbish that had probably lived at the bottom for years. Tissues, old receipts, a pair of fluorescent green socks (so that’s where they went) various sweet wrappers, and a very fluffy extra strong mint. Discarding the mint, she stuffed the rest of the rubbish into the fireplace.

‘James, got any matches?’

Still frowning, he handed her a box of matches, and she lit the little mound of rubbish.

Bright flames leapt up at once, as Sebastian chanted louder.

The temperature in the room dropped suddenly and disembodied voices joined in the chanting.

Suddenly Kate slumped to the floor, and black smoke curled out from her mouth and nostrils, as the chanting got louder and louder. Unfortunately this was the time both Ollie and Patrick decided to take a proper interest in the activity, and seeing Kate and the smoke, they both shrieked in a high falsetto, and pelted from the room still screaming.

The only thing missing was the tinkling soundtrack from The Exorcist. Mike Oldfield had a lot to answer for.

When the boys’ screams had faded in the distance, the chanting stopped abruptly as if someone had thrown a switch. The silence was deafening.

James went to kneel behind Kate and gently cradled her head. Martine could hear him talking softly to her as he stroked her hair back from her face. Deciding her friend would be safe now, she turned back to look at Sebastian. He held out his hand to her, and it looked pretty solid, so she took it.

‘Are you here … or somewhere else?’ she asked.

‘Where do you want me to be?’

‘Here, in my time.’

‘So shall it be.’

Hand in hand they turned to look at Edward, just in time to see him walking away with a pretty dark-haired girl on his arm. Martine blinked as they became fainter – then they faded away altogether.

We knew we could rely on Berni Stevens to finish off our Halloween tale in spooky style. We hope you enjoyed the story! Choc Lit authors are a talented bunch 🙂 Now it’s time for the Halloween festivities to begin but not before a final competition! Remember you can still enter all of the competitions listed on each extract until Thursday 2nd November.  

If you enjoyed Berni’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 Berni Stevens paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

Which items does Martine use to start the fire? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 5’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

Happy Birthday to Us! Birthday Round Robin: Part One by Lynda Stacey

Birthday Round Robin pt 1

Can you believe Choc Lit have been around for eight years? We’re finding it difficult to believe too! We thought long and hard about the best way to celebrate and decided that a story written collaboratively by our wonderful authors, competitions, prizes and a big slab of (virtual) chocolate cake were the way to go! So here we have Lynda Stacey starting us off with the first part of a special birthday Round Robin story. The other parts will follow on throughout the day, so make sure you keep an eye out! 

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

The Birthday Surprise – Part One by Lynda Stacey

Anna sat on the edge of the bed in her dressing gown, tossed her long auburn hair over her shoulder and stared aimlessly at the gilt edged invitation. ‘I don’t get it, why on earth would Declan Doherty invite me to his party?’ She looked over her shoulder at her younger sister, Helen. She was leaning back against her pillows, with her leg in the air, while she painted her toe nails.

‘I don’t know, Anna. He’s probably desperate!’ She sat up higher against the pillows and straightened her leg. ‘Maybe he has no other friends. I mean, come on, how long is it since you saw him? Ten, twenty, thirty years?’ She smiled, pointed her toes and admired the nail polish.

Anna closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Helen was right, as always. The last time she’d seen Declan Doherty, had been at their high school prom. It had been a night of glitz, glamour and excitement, and a night of wearing the most beautiful dress she’d ever owned. It had been long, jade-green and off shoulder, and although she’d only been sixteen years old, she’d felt so very grown up and had beamed with pride when Declan had turned up at her door, ready to escort her to the ball.

She clearly remembered him standing before her in his dark suit, and white shirt. His bright blue eyes had sparkled with excitement, his dimpled cheeks had been tinged with a blush and his dark black hair had been slicked back, making him look much older than his years. He’d taken her hand in his and she’d barely been able to breathe, as they’d walked to the gate, where a taxi stood waiting.

It had been at that moment she’d thought to glance over her shoulder, at her mum, who’d waved from the doorstep with tears of joy in her eyes.

‘Fourteen years,’ Anna finally said as she stood up and flung open the wardrobe doors, ‘It’s been fourteen years. You’d have been just six years old. The same year that our mum died.’ She held back the tears and began flicking through her rail of dresses. ‘And for your information, clever clogs, I have no idea why he’d invite me, or what the hell I’m going to say to him.’ She tried to lighten the mood, ‘I mean, come on, what do you say to the birthday boy when you haven’t seen him for fourteen whole years?’

Helen laughed, ‘You could always reject the invitation. I mean, come on, he could be a real minger by now and you really don’t have to go, do you?’

Anna sighed. She knew that she didn’t have to go. But, something inside her wanted to. She wanted to know how he’d turned out. What he’d done with his life and how he looked. Was he still as cute as he had been? Would he still blush each and every time he looked at her?

‘Do you think he could be gay?’ Helen suddenly chipped in. ‘I mean, he could be, couldn’t he?’

Anna spun around on the spot, ‘Why on earth would you even think that?’

‘Well, he’s coming up to thirty. If he were straight and married, wouldn’t his wife be sending out the invites?’

Anna turned her attention back to the wardrobe and pulled out a black, chiffon, off shoulder dress. It was short, sexy and perfectly cut to show off her long legs and slim figure. ‘What do you think to this one?’ she asked, as Helen nodded.

‘Yeah, it’d do. But, I think the red one’s better,’ she said before turning her attention back to her toes.

Anna held the dress up to herself and stared at her reflection in the full length mirror. ‘I could wear it with the black stilettos.’ She once again she looked over her shoulder and stared at her sister, hoping for a reaction. An explosion of questions had suddenly flown into her mind.

‘Helen, what if he really is married. What if it’s a surprise party? What if his wife sent the invitation?’

Helen tutted and rolled her eyes, ‘Well, first, because it would say the word surprise on the invitation and secondly, think about it, why would his wife send you of all people an invitation?’

Anna flopped down on the bed, laughed and pulled her sister into a hug, ‘And, why little sister, are you always right?’

Helen squirmed, shrugged, and jumped up from the bed. ‘Well, maybe that’s because I took the trouble to look him up on social media. See, it says right there look, single.’ She began to giggle and held her mobile up in the air. But, Anna grabbed at the phone, to clearly see Declan Doherty’s profile, which now showed on the screen in front of her, minus a photograph.

Very intriguing start from Lynda – bet you can’t wait to find out more! And you don’t have to wait too much longer as Kathryn Freeman’s second instalment will be up in the next couple of hours! 

9781781892916

     If you enjoyed Lynda’s writing, you might like to check out her upcoming paperback, House of Secrets. Click the image above for more information.

COMPETITION TIME!

To be in with a chance of winning an exclusive advance copy of House of Secrets (well, it is our birthday after all!) and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):

What colour was the dress that Anna went to her Prom in?

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

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

Easter Round Robin3

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