Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Final Part by Sheryl Browne

Round Robin SB All good things must come to an end – and that includes Valentine’s Round Robins! But Sheryl Browne has her turn today and there’ll still be one more competition to enter too – if you read until the end ;) Let’s find out what happens to Harriet at her Valentine/birthday ball…

To enjoy this story make sure you read the other parts first:

Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE

Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE

Part Three by Morton S Gray HERE

Part Four by Rhoda Baxter HERE

She’d known that last slice of chocolate cake had been a mistake. With the final batch of cupcakes safely delivered to the pub, Harriet was attempting to slip into her dress, a snip-in-the-sales, strappy russet satin mini dress, which frustratingly no longer seemed slippable into.

Much heaving and tugging later, the dress was on, possibly permanently. Harriet glanced forlornly at her reflection in the wardrobe mirror. ‘What do you think, Luna?’ she asked her sooty black cat, who wove a figure of eight around her ankles.

Luna meowed and padded off to jump on the bed and settle down with a contented purr.

Taking that as approval, Harriet surveyed herself again. ‘Hmm, you might be right,’ she conceded. She might have to use scissors to remove it, and she might have to keep breathing to a minimum, but the dress at least flattered in all the right places.

Realising she was going to be late for the ball, Harriet turned to kiss the cat, probably the only being she’d be kissing and cuddling up to anytime soon, and dashed down to grab up the last half-dozen heart-shaped balloons from the hall and then fly through the front door.

***

‘Ooh, I say,’ Vera looked her pointedly over, as she all but fell into the function room, ‘we have undressed to impress, haven’t we?’

‘Oh no …’ Harriet followed Vera’s gaze worriedly down to her cleavage. ‘Is it too much?’

‘Well, it’s certainly an eyeful,’ Vera said jollily, causing Harriet’s cheeks to flush a complementary russet coloured red. ‘But if you’ve got it …’

With which, Vera leaned in. ‘I think Tony’s appreciating the view,’ she whispered, nodding over her shoulder towards the bar, where Tony, looking just as edible out of uniform as he did in it,  was indeed staring intently in her direction.

Harriet’s heart did a little flip in her chest and then drooped, as the designer dressed striking brunette at his side, placed a hand on Tony’s arm, turning his attention back to her. This was Jamie then, Harriet assumed, who was no doubt asking who the barely-dressed floozy was.

Smiling wanly as he glanced again in her direction, Harriet lowered her balloons to discreetly chest-level. The woman might not be his girlfriend, but judging by the body language she was certainly laying claims on him.

Harriet sighed inwardly as Vera, obviously oblivious, gave her one of her coy winks and moved off to join Felicity and Moira to catch up on the village goss.

Zack, dressed in a black shirt – minus dog-collar – and thigh flattering jeans, was definitely challenging the stereotypical vicarly image, Harriet noticed, as she headed across the room to unburden herself of her balloons. She could almost feel the heat radiating from his smouldering grey eyes as he yanked Tammy into a tight hold on the dancefloor.

Well that was obviously a match made in heaven. Harriet couldn’t help but smile as Tammy, clearly as smitten as he was, beamed at her over his shoulder and gave Harriet a thumbs up.

Two down, one to go, Harriet thought disconsolately, still holding onto her balloons, which she’d become strangely attached to. Where was her sister, she wondered, scanning the room for signs of her, along with the mysterious blind date who would probably turn out to be predictably utterly inappropriate. The last one had been a head shorter than her and, while Harriet wasn’t short-ist, the man regaling her with rugby jokes all evening and suggesting she might wear flat shoes next time did put her off a bit.

Paul didn’t seem in evidence either. So much for her at least one dance with a man this evening. Obviously Paul wasn’t going to be a her saviour.

Wine, Harriet thought, heading for the bar. Prosecco and a chocolate cupcake would cheer her up. Who cared if she had to live in the russet-red dress for the rest of her life? And then she would dump her balloons and strut her stuff on the dancefloor with the stalwarts of the Women’s Institute. She didn’t need a man to have a good time. A handbag would do. She laughed as she passed Vera and co, who were practising some risqué moves around a strategically placed clutch bag.

‘Harriet!’ Someone yelled over the music, as she ordered her drink, making brief eye contact with a pair of lovely blue eyes, as she did. Did Harriet detect a little bit of wistfulness as Tony looked at her? No. Noting again the undeniably beautiful woman at his side, she doubted Tony would want to be practising any self-defence moves tonight.

‘Harriet!’ her sister called loudly again as Harriet turned. ‘Quick!’ she shouted, gesticulating wildly towards the door now.

‘What?’ Harriet quickened her step and hurried towards her. ‘He’s not that hot, is he?’ she asked, glancing amusedly past her sister for signs of the blind date.

‘Yes!’

Her sister’s eyes were wide, and frightened, Harriet noted, apprehension tickling its way down her spine.

‘It’s Paul!’

‘It’s …?’ Harriet knitted her brow, confused. ‘Charlotte, you mean Paul’s my—’

‘Tony!’ Charlotte shouted past her. ‘You need to come! Quickly.’

With which, her sister turned urgently back to the door, throwing, ‘Harriet’s cottage is on fire!’ over her shoulder.

***

It wasn’t about the heroics. Tony had tried. Zack, Tammy, Vera … Everyone had been a hero tonight, helping to dampen the flames until the fire engine arrived. Paul had been her saviour though. He’d been desperate to ask her out. In love with her since they’d been at school, Vera confided. Everybody knew this except, it seemed, Harriet. Everybody knew, also, that Harriet hadn’t fancied him, including Paul, who’d remained hopeful that one day she might learn to love him a little, even though he was just an ordinary man with no impressive credentials. He had been her blind date tonight, she’d learned. His last ditch attempt to attract her attention before someone else stole her away. She was the one who’d been blind, though, not seeing what was right under her nose. That Paul was there. That he’d always been there.

‘He’s okay. A bit startled, but…’ Paul assured her, passing a very sooty black cat into her arms. ‘I’d, er, better go home.’ He shrugged awkwardly. ‘Clean myself up. There’s a spare cat bed if you need it.’

Brown, his eyes were brown, the colour of rich caramel mocha latte, soft, warm and comforting. He had a scratch on his cheek. His hair was dishevelled, his clothes ruined and reeking of smoke. Harriet didn’t speak. Couldn’t.

‘Harriet?’ Tony said softly, now by Paul’s side. ‘My sister’s driving home tonight. There’s a spare room at Lilac Cottage if you’d like.’

Harriet looked from his lovely blue eyes back to Paul. ‘Thank you,’ she managed, ‘but Paul has already offered.’

 Aww! What a perfect end to a perfect Valentine’s Round Robin. As always, the Choc Lit authors have outdone themselves and we hoped you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed organising it! Let us know what you think :)  

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If you enjoyed Sheryl’s writing in today’s extract make sure you keep an eye out for her two upcoming thriller releases, After She’s Gone (out Feb 21st) and Sins of the Father (out Feb 24th) . Click the image above for pre-order information. 

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Sheryl’s first Choc Lit novel The Rest of My Life and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What is the name of Harriet’s cat?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Sheryl Browne comp’ by Sunday 19th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 20th February.

 

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

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

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

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

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

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

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

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

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

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

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

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

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


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

 

An Irish Promise

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

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

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

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

 

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

 

 

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

 


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

 

 

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

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

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

 


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

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

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

 

Nick santa photo

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!