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

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Four by Angela Britnell

DAY 4 VRR

It’s Angela Britnell’s turn today – let’s see whether she puts Sophie out of her misery! And who could have been on the other end of that phone? 😉 

In order to make sense of today’s extract, have a read of the extracts we’ve released over the last few days. Part One by Alison May is HERE. Part Two by Linn B. Halton is HERE. Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

‘Oh, Soph, don’t tell me he stood you up? Do you want me to come and get you?’

Sophie’s eyes prickled and she ordered herself not to cry. Good old Matt. They’d been best friends since they were five and he’d rescued her from the infant school bully on the playground. She stumbled over trying to explain to him the horrific scenario waiting for her back in the bowling alley. ‘They’re all awful,’ she wailed.

‘What did Josh say when they had a go at you?’ The question hung there and Sophie knew without having to be told exactly what Matt would’ve done. Stood up for her. Told his friends they were out of line. Precisely what the niggling voice in her head had been saying ever since she and Josh arrived and he’d basically thrown her to the sharks.

Her pride kicked back in. Sophie had bored Matt silly with the “will he won’t he” story of her relationship with Josh until she’d about made his ears bleed. Last week when she’d rambled on about her dreams for Valentine’s Day he’d told her to be careful what she wished for because it might happen. Trust Matt to be right. He’d been right about her last boyfriend, Peter, too. And that louse William. As for Greg – he’d correctly nailed him as a lying, unfaithful loser.

‘Oh, he’s …’ Sophie tried to say how great Josh had been but she couldn’t lie. Not to Matt. ‘Just forget I called. You know me. Always the drama queen. I’m overreacting and being daft as usual.’

‘You’re not daft,’ Matt scoffed. ‘You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful …’

Silence. Sophie  struggled to breathe.

‘There you are. Is everything all right?’ Josh appeared by her shoulder, flashing his trademark megawatt smile.

‘Yes, thanks, one of my friends called. I’ll just get rid of … her.’

‘I’ll wait.’ Josh dropped down on the bench next to her and draped his warm arm around her shoulder. His delicious spicy cologne wafted in the air and she nearly swooned.

‘I’ve got to go.’ Sophie murmured down the phone.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll consider myself suitably got rid of. Be careful, Soph.’

She hung up and bit back tears.

‘I told the others we’d had enough of bowling.’ Josh grinned and trailed a finger down her neck, lingering at the low neckline of her dress. ‘I can think of far better ways to spend what’s left of Valentine’s Day.’

 You’re sweet and trusting and beautiful.

Had Matt really said that? Best friend, Matt. The man all her single friends drooled over but who never seemed to find the right woman. That Matt?

‘Sophie, are you listening to me?’ Josh’s smooth voice sneaked back into her awareness and she looked at him. This was what she’d spent all afternoon primping for. Wasn’t it nice that he’d wanted to introduce her to his friends? Okay, so maybe it hadn’t been super thoughtful to do it on Valentine’s day but he was a man and they didn’t make as much of these things as women tended to.

‘Of course. That’s a wonderful idea. Are you sure your friends don’t mind?’

Josh chuckled. ‘No. They encouraged me. I heard something about keeping them safe from flying bowling balls.’

Sophie forced on a smile. She could laugh at herself as well as anyone. Despite a rocky start she refused to let this Valentine’s Day join her list of romantic disasters.

Wine and chocolate

It sounds like there still could be a chance for Sophie to salvage her disastrous Valentine’s Day. Sheryl Browne will round it all off tomorrow with the last extract – and we hope the beginning of your Valentine’s Day is a lot better than the one Sophie’s had so far!

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

Name the three ex boyfriends of Sophie’s that Matt was right about.

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, why not pick up a copy of her novella, The Wedding Reject Table? The book has recently been shortlisted for a RNA award and is available to purchase HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

DAY 3 VRR

 

Has Sophie’s Valentine’s Day got any better than when we last left her? Let’s see if Kirsty Ferry has been any kinder! If you haven’t read the first extracts of the story yet, you can read Part One by Alison May HERE and Part Two by Linn B. Halton HERE

Make sure you read right until the end if you want to find out about our exclusive Valentine’s competitions! 

Sophie shimmied down the alley, the rubber-soled shoes squeaking most inelegantly on the highly polished floor. A couple of the girls – bitchy, bleach-blonde vamps from what she could tell, looked her up and down and sniggered into their spritzers.

‘Nice one, Joshy,’ murmured one of them. She had “Belinda” emblazoned across her T-shirt.

‘Strike, Joshy-lad!’ guffawed  “Arlo”.  ‘Couple of nice bowling balls up top on that one.’

Sophie felt her face flush almost as red as the dratted dress she was squished into.

‘My bad,’ replied Joshy-lad, sitting down perilously close to the other blonde – “Evadne”, apparently. ‘I forgot it was Valentines Day.’

‘Joshy!’ cried Evadne. ‘That’s so naughty. Will you ever forgive him … sorry? Susie? Sarah? I can’t quite remember…’

‘Sophie,’ replied Sophie through gritted teeth. She perched on the edge of the nasty, plastic upholstered seat and blushed again as a small parp of air released from a split in the upholstery material. Typical. Could this day get any worse? Oh how she wished she was in her own lounge, on her own un-parpy sofa, in front of a weepy girly chick-flick, cradling a box of chocolates and slugging back prosecco. Her best friend’s words floated in front of her mind. Be careful what you wish for – it might just happen. Valentine’s Day sucked, big time.

‘Your turn Sophie!’ She looked around as Josh smiled encouragingly at her and nodded towards the pile of balls. It was the walk of shame again – a wiggle and a waddle and a squeak all the way over to the balls, choose a pink one (why the heck not?), followed by a mincing sort of run as she hustled her way up to the line and sort of lurched the ball into the alley.

Sophie swore as it bounced a couple of times and ended up in the gutter.

‘One more go, love!’ shouted Arlo the Idiot. ‘Come on, give us a good show!’

Sophie knew that a ‘good show’ to Arlo would be a rip right up the back of her dress and all her lacy-knickered-ultra-waxed glory being displayed to the crowd.

Losing heart, she picked up another ball (green this time) and threw it deliberately into the alley. What was the point?

‘My bad,’ she said shrugging. ‘Excuse me just a moment, would you?’

She picked up her gorgeous designer bag and squeaked past the peanut gallery, aware of the heavy-lashed looks coming from the girls and the slobbering lust emanating from the men.

‘You okay?’ Josh asked, making to get up.

‘Fine and dandy,’ she lied. ‘It’s okay – I won’t be long. You stay there with your friends. I’m just off to powder my nose.’ She headed away to the loos, Evadne’s voice – or it might have been Belinda’s – following her: ‘Oh, sweetie pie, never mind. She’s just not our type, is she? Here, have a drink. Then you can watch me and see how it’s really done.’

Sophie managed to hold onto her dignity until she was around the corner, then sat down on a bench by a Splat-the-Mole machine and pulled out her mobile. She punched in the first number she could think of, her go-to person, and waited for the call to connect.

‘Oh thank goodness you’re there,’ she said, closing her eyes in relief at the familiar voice. ‘I’m having the absolutely worst Valentine’s Day date in all the rotten history of Valentine’s Day dates …’

 

Wine and chocolate

It just keeps getting worse and worse for poor Sophie! Angela Britnell will reveal who’s on the other end of that phone to tomorrow 😉 

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

What does Sophie sit down next to on the bench when she makes a phone call to a mystery person?

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

The Girl in the Painting

If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, why not pre-order a copy of her new book The Girl in the Painting HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part Two by Linn B. Halton

DAY 2 VRR

Linn B. Halton carries on where Alison May left off yesterday and – as expected – Sophie’s Valentine’s Day isn’t going quite the way she hoped it would … 

Read right until the end for details of a competition! In order to enter, you will also need to make sure you have read the first extract by Alison May, which you can find HERE, as well as the rest of the extracts leading up until Valentine’s Day (look out for those over the next few days!) 🙂

When Sophie caught sight of Josh standing in the corner of the wine bar, she was a little surprised. In her head he’d be there waiting for her with a bouquet of flowers in his hands and wearing one of his very smart, hand-tailored suits. Instead he was … well, smart-casual she’d call it. Feeling a little flustered, she offered up her cheek for the enthusiastic continental kiss, and Josh always did the three air kisses greeting. Which was definitely a sign that they were progressing from the less familiar, two air kisses. Of course, she fantasised about French kissing with him, but she wasn’t complaining. Their parting kiss on the last date had been on the mouth and her feet had almost left the floor. She’d had to throw her arms around him to anchor herself.

‘You’re looking very sophisticated, tonight, Sophie. I wish I’d worn a suit, now.’

Sophie’s mind reeled. Hello. It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re on a date. What did you expect? Calm down, Sophie, maybe you are a little over-dressed, but by the look on Josh’s face he’s certainly appreciating every little detail.

She could almost feel that first passionate embrace that would signal the end of the evening and the start of the next phase of their relationship.

‘Those heels might be a bit of a problem, though.’ Josh looked down appreciatively at the five-inch, strappy heels. ‘We’re going ten pin bowling, but it’s OK, they provide shoes.’

Sophie nearly fainted on the spot! She’d just blown her entire pampering allowance for the next six months and they were going bowling? Adjusting her face to reflect a pleasant smile, rather than the initial look of horror, wasn’t easy. And then she remembered the dress. How on earth was she going to bend in it? The idea was to sit elegantly at the white, linen-covered table, looking totally gorgeous as Josh gazed longingly into her eyes.

‘Bowling?’ She could hardly get the word out from between her gritted teeth, but managed what was, she hoped, a rather playful smile.

‘I thought it was time you met my friends. I can’t wait to show you off, although in that dress I really want to keep you all to myself.’

Sophie paused. This was good. This was very good, but she needed to re-think her strategy.

‘Oh, Josh, that’s great. I’ll just pop home to change into something a little more appropriate. It’s just that it’s Valentine’s Day and …’

‘It is? Ah, I meant to get you a card, but I’ve been snowed under at work and chained to the desk. I’m afraid if we don’t leave now we’re going to be late and they won’t start without us. Anyway, you look wonderful, Sophie, and I must admit that when you first walked in you took my breath away!’

Sophie didn’t know whether to stand there and glow, elegantly, in response to his heart-warming comment, or burst into tears. She was going to look like a complete fool if everyone else turned up suitably attired. But then, maybe this could work in her favour. How hard was it to throw a ball, not that she’d ever tried, and do it in a style befitting her outfit? She could end up looking cool and sophisticated. Her eyes gleamed. Josh was hers and tonight was going to seal the deal!

Walking into the bowling alley, Josh steered her towards a group of people sitting in a cluster at the head of one of the lanes, and her heart instantly spiralled downwards towards the floor. Yes, she was greeted by an array of smiling faces, but to her utter dismay it was clear that these people were competitive. All of the ladies were wearing the same, admittedly cool, T-shirt and leggings. This was a ‘guys versus gals’ game and as soon as the intros were done, she knew she was being evaluated. If only her dress wasn’t quite so short, or quite so snug … This wasn’t just about winning their approval and working her way into Josh’s heart, this was about proving she could fit in and match their expectations.

If I can pull this off, she thought, trying her hardest to wrestle on the awful shoes Josh had handed her, then this will be the best Valentine’s Day ever. The day you finally fall into the arms of Mr. Right and hear him say those magical words – but first things, first.

Sophie threw off all thoughts of romance and prepared for battle.

Wine and chocolate

Poor Sophie! Let’s see what plans Kirsty Ferry has in store for her tomorrow. Something tells us it might get worse before it gets better, but you’ll just have to wait and see … 

COMPETITION TIME!

For a chance to win a mystery romance & chocolate prize, simply read the extracts as they are released each day and answer the questions we ask at the end. When you have all five answers, simply send them in to us for a chance to win (more details will be given when the last part of the story is released on Valentine’s Day). Today’s question is …

What are Josh’s female friends wearing when Sophie meets them at the bowling alley?

As well as the main competition, we will also be running a competition each day to win a book. To enter this competition, simply comment with what you think of the story so far, either below in the comments section or on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

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If you enjoyed Linn B. Halton’s writing, you can order her book A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love HERE

The Perfect Valentine’s Day: Part One by Alison May

Valentine's Day 1

 Alison May kicks off our Valentine’s Day Round Robin in style! Look out for the other four parts of the story coming over the next few days and finishing on the big day itself. Make sure you read each part of the story right until the end so you can take part in our competition for a mystery prize of chocolate and romance 😉 

Sophie Morris had a dream. It was a dream of coming home to find her flat filled with red roses. It was a dream of chocolate and perfume delivered to her desk at work. It was a dream of a mountain of cards on the mat after the postman had been. It was a dream of her perfect Valentine’s Day.

In reality Valentine’s Day had always been a bit of a nightmare. There’d been all the years at school when she’d watched the cards pile up on the desks of the prettier, more popular girls. There’d been one particularly awful year at university when she’d ended the Valentine’s Ball not in the arms of her intended Romeo, but crying in the toilet with half the contents of the punch bowl down her previously white dress.

But this year was going to be different. This year she had her fourth date with Josh Tyler. Josh Tyler. Tall. Blond. Former professional swimmer, and now an almost very nearly fully qualified solicitor. Brawn and brains. Just the sort of man, in fact, that Sophie had been building her Valentine’s fantasies around for years, only Josh was real. She’d first seen him three months ago getting coffee across the road from her office. Two months ago he’d been behind her in the queue and picked up her drink by mistake. By Christmas, they’d been on nodding terms. And a month ago, she’d plucked up the courage to suggest that they ‘take a proper break’ and drink their coffee together.

If you counted that coffee, as Date One, and Sophie did, then tonight was Date Four and Date Four on Valentine’s Day meant, to Sophie’s deeply romance-focused mind, that this was a Proper Relationship.

Her perfect Valentine’s Day was planned down to the last minute. Unfortunately, it did still involve going to work, but that was fine. She had to give her quarterly presentation to the sales team just before lunch, but then, the plan was to take the afternoon off and get herself fully Valentine’s ready. She had appointments for hair, nails, facial eyebrow wax, leg wax, and ahem … well other waxing – she had very definite plans for Date Number Four.

Then she would head home, all newly scrubbed and buffed and get dressed in her brand new Perfect Date Outfit. She’d tried on no less than forty-seven potential outfits in preparation for this date. She’d gone through everything in her wardrobe and her sister’s wardrobe before dragging her sister round the shops until she’d found the perfect little red dress. Short but not too short. Tight but not too tight. It seemed to suck bits of her in and pop other bits of her out again in all sorts of good ways.definite plans for Date Number Four.

And then, taxi into town to meet Josh. He was keeping their destination secret, which was exactly as it should be – a little mystery, Sophie felt, added to the romance. And actually she had a pretty good idea where they were going. She’d spent the last three weeks casually mentioning the new French style bistro that had opened opposite the cathedral, and Josh was a smart boy. She had no doubt he’d have picked up her hints.

So, for the first time in her life, Sophie Morris left for work on Valentine’s Day full of confidence. This year really was going to be her year. This year she was going to finally win at Valentine’s Day. Nothing and nobody was going to spoil her perfect day.

Wine and chocolate

We’re already rooting for Sophie to have her perfect Valentine’s Day … but something tells us it might not go completely to plan! You can now read the other four parts of the story:

Click HERE to read Part Two by Linn B. Halton

Click HERE to read Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

Click HERE to read Part Four by Angela Britnell

Click HERE to read Part Five by Sheryl Browne

And now for our COMPETITION! In order to enter you will need to read each part of the story carefully and answer FIVE questions. Please only enter once all parts of the story have been released and you have answered all the questions. Today’s question is …

Where is Sophie hoping that Josh takes her on Valentine’s Day?

Make sure you note down your answer and come back tomorrow for the second question!

There will also be a prize each day for the best comment so please let us know what you think of the story so far in the comments section below!

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Alison May’s wonderful novel, Midsummer Dreams, is out in paperback on Valentine’s Day. You can pre-order your copy HERE.

 

Enjoy Good Friday and the second part of our Easter Round Robin!

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Happy Good Friday! We hope you enjoyed the first part of our Easter Round Robin by Jane Lovering (you can read it again HERE). Today, it’s Janet Gover’s turn. Has she helped Grace out of the very awkward situation she was in yesterday? 

Grace had to make a choice.

Should she stay in her hiding place and just hope HE left without seeing her? Then she could slink away and escape. Slink away – that sounded like a beaten dog. It felt like she was doing that far too often these days. That wasn’t an image she liked. Okay – next option.

She could reveal herself. She had every right to be here. In fact, someone had asked her to come and rescue them from their plague of Blatella Germanica. In her head, she saw herself leaping out from behind the fridge like some deranged rubber-clad superhero. It wasn’t a pretty sight. And when accompanied by eye-watering chemical smells … Definitely not the impression she wanted to make. There had to be another alternative.

‘Hello.’

Great. Caught cowering between the fridge and the Aga and surrounded by dead cockroaches. Was that worse than slinking out like a beaten dog? Probably.

There was nothing for it but to stand up. Except … She grunted with pain as her knees protested at the amount of time she’d spent crouched in her hiding place.

So she was now a grunting, rubber-clad, chemical-scented deranged superhero. Could things get any worse?

‘Can I help?’ A hand was extended towards her. She couldn’t help but notice the total lack of a ring on his third finger.

He’d always had beautiful hands. The sort of hands that could belong to a surgeon or a concert pianist. But those long slender fingers weren’t effeminate or delicate. They knew exactly what to do with a power tool … or the body of a girl who was naive and innocent.

It would be a sacrilege to put her chemical stained rubber glove into that beautiful hand – but she did it anyway. It was that or remain crouched behind the Aga until her knees seized permanently and they had to call in the fire brigade to extricate her.

He began to pull her upright with enough strength to compensate for her decidedly shaky knees.

The trousers above the ever-so-slightly mud-spattered Wellingtons were clean, with a razor sharp crease. The belt around the narrow hips looked expensive, with its understated shiny silver buckle. The shirt underneath what was obviously a tailor made jacket was pale pink, crisply ironed, and showed no sign of either mud or sweat. Who wore a pale pink shirt in a farmyard? And even more perplexing, how did anyone come out of a farmyard that clean?

The answer was simple. Someone who was perfect. Perfect in every way.

She raised her eyes to look at his face. Still drop-down-dead gorgeous. His dark hair was cut shorter than she remembered, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved that morning. The hint of stubble was terribly fashionable and suited him, damn it. His long straight nose was twitching slightly at the wave of cockroach killing fumes that had preceded her. His eyes were on her feet, slowly working up her rubber-clad form. At last they reached her face.

Grace braced herself. Maybe he wouldn’t recognise her. She was a very different woman to the girl she had once been. The girl he had known. Maybe she would escape after all.

A small frown creased his perfectly smooth forehead. He reached forward and carefully removed her baseball cap.

Waves of unruly, unwashed, unbrushed blonde hair cascaded down to her shoulders like the tangled string from an old mop.

His lovely dark brown eyes widened.

‘Oh my God! Grace?’

Who could this gorgeous stranger from Grace’s past be? Perhaps you’ll find out tomorrow 😉 

Janet Gover’s new book, The Wild One, is available to buy NOW on all the eBook platforms. You can follow Janet on Twitter here

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