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.

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Three by Victoria Cornwall

Halloween P3

Readers beware! 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 ;)  

The third author to contribute is Victoria Cornwall. Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

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

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART THREE BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Patrick lowered his torch beam as he approached her. ‘Martine? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’ He touched her hand and frowned. ‘You’re shaking,’ he said, giving her hand a mild squeeze. ‘James was an idiot for suggesting you stay here alone. ‘

‘Yes, he was … and I was an idiot for doing what he told me.’ Martine withdrew her hand from Patrick’s and fumbled with the end of the tape. Patrick was right – she was shaking, although she had a sneaking suspicion it was not only Sebastian’s apparition that was the cause of it.

Patrick attempted to help her, but Martine brushed him off and set about criss-crossing the door with a web of sensory wires. To her surprise she achieved it with amazing speed. Haunted houses – and a strong desire to leave a challenging situation – often turned her into an efficient worker.

‘I should have said something,’ said Patrick as he watched her work.

Martine stood back to admire her wired door that no person could pass through without setting off an ear-splitting alarm. ‘Not bad for a ghost hunting newbie,’ she said brightly, only too aware Patrick was standing just behind her. She felt much braver than only a few minutes before. Ghosts weren’t that scary, particularly if they were handsome and flirtatious too. ‘It was sensible of James to have someone posted by the door,’ she wittered on. ‘It just happened to be me.’

‘I don’t mean that,’ said Patrick. Martine’s senses switched to high alert and she stiffened. ‘I mean why I didn’t turn up at the restaurant the other night.’

The memory brought back the familiar flush of humiliation to her cheeks. She had spent the evening waiting for him to arrive, while the diners sitting around her threw sympathetic smiles in her direction and gossiped in hushed tones behind their hands. It had been their first date. The date she had dreamt of since she was ten. And it had turned into a disaster.

‘You didn’t even text,’ she mumbled.

‘I know.’ He touched her arm, but she immediately withdrew, hating herself for showing his non-appearance still bothered her. He reluctantly let his hand fall. ‘When I heard you scream just now I was …’

It was the diversion Martine needed. How could she have forgotten about Kate? ‘I wasn’t the only one who screamed. Kate did too!’ She grabbed Patrick’s torch. ‘We’d better go to the kitchen to see if she is alright.’

Patrick raised an eyebrow in surprise. ‘Who is this new brave Martine ready to take on the spooks?’

‘I’m not sure,’ replied Martine over her shoulder. ‘I am just finding out myself.’

They headed in the direction of the kitchen. Floating dust, illuminated by the beam of their torch, swirled around them as they passed through. At the far end of the passage they found two large doors. Martine felt Sebastian’s chilled breath on her neck as he whispered into her ear. She glanced at Patrick, who seemed oblivious to the ghost’s presence.

‘Which door do you think leads to the kitchen?’ asked Patrick.

Sebastian had told her and she had no reason to not believe him.  ‘The left,’ she replied confidently as she reached for the handle.

Sebastian had been right. Beyond the old oak door was the derelict kitchen of Maplewood Hall – the alleged epicentre of all the paranormal activity reported over the past century.  Martine and Patrick stepped into the gloom. The room was disappointingly quiet and empty. The moon shone through rain-stained windows, casting a harsh bright light onto the dusty tables, mottled copper pans and something dead and furry by the far wall. The floor was scattered with debris – a strange mix of autumn leaves, twigs and long abandoned kitchenware. A sudden movement in one dark corner startled them both. Martine automatically raised her torch as a weapon, but Patrick halted her in mid-swing.

‘Steady there, Lara Croft,’ laughed Patrick. ‘It’s only James.’

James walked briskly towards them, raking a hand through his tousled hair. ‘Kate’s gone. She said she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. One minute I was teasing her for being scared and screaming like a banshee. The next minute she was gone.’

‘Gone? Gone where?’ Patrick grabbed James’s shirt, ‘Where is she, James? If you have locked my sister in a cupboard as a joke I’ll …’

‘Why would I do that? What kind of bloke do you take me for?’

Martine left the men to their posturing and turned away. They were scared for Kate, but arguing about her wouldn’t help. Besides, Sebastian was talking to her again and his soft soothing tone, laced with a quiet chuckle, was enticing her to enter the pantry. She did not have the will to disobey. Patrick and James’s voices grew muted as she left them behind in the kitchen and entered the enclosed space of the inbuilt cupboard. At the far end was a small door. It seemed as if it was waiting for her.

‘Open it,’ whispered Sebastian’s seductive tone. She reached for the handle. It felt cold, yet turned easily in her grasp and the old rusty hinge silently opened. She stepped into an opulently furnished room basking in the white, hissing gaslight of numerous bronze wall lamps. Her friend stood in the middle of the room and at her side was a man. He was handsome, with a gentle curve to his lips and in his hand was Kate’s. He wore the same clothes as Sebastian, which were more in keeping with a time long gone by, whilst the room itself was as fresh and clean as if it was still used today. This part of the house was a stark contrast to the rest of Maplewood Hall, which relied on flapping tarpaulin to cover the holes in the roof and felt constantly chilly and damp due to the absence of electricity and a warm fire.

‘Can you see him too, Martine?’ whispered Kate, hopefully. Martine nodded slowly. Kate sighed with relief. ‘Thank goodness. I thought I was going mad. He wants me to—’

‘Help him cross over to the mortal world.’ She felt Sebastian’s presence beside her and tilted her head towards him. ‘So does he,’ she replied. As if she had asked him to, Sebastian grew more visible. ‘What are we going to do, Kate? What on earth are we going to do?’

Oooh, it’s beginning to get more than a little spooky now! Just what will Kate and Martine do? Kirsty Ferry will be telling us more tomorrow in the penultimate part of our Halloween Round Robin.

If you enjoyed Victoria’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. 

Image of both books

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Where does Sebastian lead Martine as James and Patrick are arguing?

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

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part Two by Christina Courtenay

Halloween P2

Readers beware! 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 ;)  

The second author to contribute is Christina Courtenay! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. If you missed yesterday’s beginning by Jane Lovering, read it HERE

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART TWO BY CHRISTINA COURTENAY

‘Need a hand?’

A wicked chuckle sounded right next to Martine’s ear and a white hand appeared beside her own. Sure, a bit of help would have been welcome, but not when the hand offered seemed to be floating on its own without the rest of the body it should have been attached to.

She tried to echo the kitchen scream, which had just sounded again, high-pitched and feminine, but the only thing that came out of her mouth was a small, strangled squeak. She knew she ought to make a run for it – if nothing else, to check what was the matter with Kate – but her legs were frozen to the spot and she simply couldn’t make them work.

‘Here, let me hold one end of the that and you take the other.’

The cheerful voice didn’t have the effect it obviously expected on Martine. This time she managed a proper scream to rival Kate’s, but it was cut off abruptly by the hand. Its touch on her mouth was light, but firm, and cold. So very cold.

‘Shhh, please, there’s no need for hysterics. I’ll protect you, I promise.’

As soon as the hand was removed, she swivelled her head around, glancing wildly into the more or less complete darkness that surrounded her. ‘P-protect me? Wh-what … who?’ she managed to stammer, although her voice was vibrating with fear.

‘Oh, I do beg your pardon. Did I forget to introduce myself? Lord Maplewood, at your service. Or Sebastian to my friends.’ The hand did a sort of swirl in front of her, as if it was accompanying an old-fashioned bow. ‘As I seldom have such delightful company here, I think we can safely count you as one of those.’

‘One of those what?’ Martine whispered.

‘Friends. You may call me Sebastian.’

Was she supposed to be grateful? A disembodied hand had just given her permission to call him by his – its? – Christian name. She swallowed hard. This was insane.

‘No, this isn’t happening,’ she muttered. Kate’s scream had just spooked her and now she was having hallucinations. She should never have come, no matter how much her best friend fancied James. There had to be a better way of impressing the guy.

‘I say, you weren’t expecting to walk into a haunted mansion and not encounter any of the residents, were you?’ That chuckle again, even closer now. And was that a cold breath she felt near her left ear? Martine shuddered and finally managed to take a step to one side.

‘Go away. You’re not real. You can’t be.’

‘Why not?’ He – Sebastian – sounded mildly interested.

‘There’s no such thing as gh-ghosts. I can’t even see you. All of you, I mean.’

‘Ah, apologies. There, is that better?’

Martine almost choked on her hasty intake of breath. In front of her, still holding one end of the tape, stood a man. A very good-looking man, it had to be said, but it was hard to notice that when he was mostly see-through and there was a kind of lit-up aura surrounding him. ‘I … I … Jesus!’

‘No, no, I’m not even a saint.’ Sebastian laughed and winked. ‘Not even close. Might I suggest you concentrate on my face, then the rest of me won’t be quite as disconcerting.’

She did and he was right. Sort of. It was still hard not to notice that he was transparent, but looking at his handsome features definitely had a calming effect. His smile was infectious and if he hadn’t been so see-through – or so dead – she could have fancied him, for sure.

‘So what brings you here?’ he asked, conversationally. ‘Do carry on with this taping business, by the way. It is obviously important.’

Martine wasn’t so sure, but she realised she wasn’t as scared any longer. Perhaps it was the fact that her brain told her this couldn’t be real, and if it was just a dream or hallucination she had nothing to fear. Or maybe that Sebastian wasn’t threatening in the slightest. If she’d ever imagined ghosts, they had been of the vengeful, moaning, chain-clanking type, not one whose laughing eyes she couldn’t seem to stop looking at. And look on the bright side – at least he’s not a carp! On automatic, she picked up the tape and carried on putting it on the door frame. It was actually easier now because Sebastian’s aura threw some light and she could see better.

‘Uhm, thank you.’ Martine closed her eyes for a moment, wondering if she would wake up and find she’d dozed off, or if the vision next to her would just disappear, but he was still there when she opened them again. Disturbingly close, smiling, and with his head slightly to one side.

‘I’m glad I found you first. I’m honour bound to tell you that there will be some competition for your favour tonight, but hopefully you will give me a chance to prove that I’m more worthy of your attention than any of the others.’

‘Others?’ Martine didn’t like the sound of that. ‘What do you mean, my favour?’

‘Well, tonight is Samhain, is it not? All Hallow’s Eve?’

‘Yes, and?’

‘It is the one night of the year when the spirits of the departed may return and mingle with those of you who are still alive. And for one lucky soul it means a chance to regain that which was lost. All it takes is … well, actually, I’m not allowed to tell you because it has to happen spontaneously, without prompting.’

Martine was starting feel like she’d stumbled into a movie set or something. The whole thing was definitely surreal. She snorted. ‘What is this, a fairy tale? I can give you back life with a kiss of pure love? Yeah, right.’

Sebastian raised his eyebrows and put a hand on his heart, pretending to look wounded. ‘Are you implying you could never love me? I’ll have you know, all the ladies fell over themselves vying for my attention back in my day.’

‘I bet.’ His expression brightened at her words, so she hastened to add. ‘But you probably had a real body then.’ A hot one, if the outline of his ghostly clothes was anything to go by, but she buried that thought. Not helping. ‘But how am I supposed to fall in love with someone I could probably stick my fingers right through? Let alone kiss you?’

‘Oh, ye of little faith.’ Sebastian grinned. ‘There is a little more to it than that.’

‘But―’

Martine’s words were cut off by the beam from a torch. ‘Are you okay? What happened?’ Patrick was coming down the stairs and she could just about make out his worried frown.

‘Well …’ She waved a hand towards Sebastian, but when she looked in his direction, the only thing she could see was the falling end of a piece of tape.

Well, if we have to meet a ghost, we wouldn’t mind meeting one like Sebastian ;) But is he as charming as he seems? We might just find out tomorrow when Victoria Cornwall adds to the story!

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

Who disturbs Sebastian and Martine by coming down the stairs?

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

Choc Lit 2017 Halloween Round Robin: The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall, Part One by Jane Lovering

Halloween P1

Readers beware! 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 ;)  

First up is Jane Lovering! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART ONE BY JANE LOVERING

‘Well, here it is. What do you think?’

James pulled the minibus into the deserted car park and waved a hand, indicating the blocky outline of the house, dark and deserted, outlined against the trees. The sun was going down, throwing the shadow of the building across the sheep-nibbled parkland, like the gnomon of an enormous sundial, telling them night was imminent.

‘Spooky.’ Martine gathered her coat around her. ‘I’m scared.’

‘You’re a wimp is what you are.’ Kate opened the back door of the van. ‘We’re a ghost hunting group. We’re here to hunt ghosts, and Maplewood Hall is supposed to be haunted. Why on earth did you join if you’re scared of old buildings miles from anywhere, at night?’

‘To be fair,’ Martine pressed her face to the minibus window, ‘I’m also scared of deer, owls and carp. It’s not just the buildings.’

James, Ollie and Patrick were unloading the equipment onto the grass-studded gravel. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Patrick said, sympathetically. ‘Deer only attack in the mating season, owls will leave you alone if you’re bigger than a mouse, and there won’t be any carp in the house.’ A glance over his shoulder at the hunched half-ruin. ‘I shouldn’t think. They’re a fish, aren’t they, carp?’

Kate lifted a box and jumped down. Slowly and hesitantly, Martine climbed out of the van and stood beside her. ‘They aren’t just a fish,’ she said, ‘they are absolutely enormous fish.’

‘Here, carry that.’ Ollie handed her a big box. ‘We need to get it all into the house before the light goes. There’s no electricity in there, no lights, so we want to get it all set up before we’re blundering around in the dark taking pictures of each other and bumping into the furniture. This is a ghost hunting expedition, not a Laurel and Hardy film.’

Slowly, burdened by wires, battery packs, bundles of equipment and, in one case, a fear of fish, the Littleton and District Paranormal Investigation Unit advanced on Maplewood Hall. They crouched in the remnants of manicured parkland and glorious gardens and looked at the house itself; windows boarded and shuttered against squatters and vandals and the roof partly covered in tarpaulin, which fluttered and flapped in an unfelt breeze.

Martine shivered again. She’d only come because Kate fancied James. She would have been perfectly happy to spend Halloween watching themed television and eating Skittles, but Kate was her best friend and there were some things you just did for your best friend. Although Martine wasn’t sure that riding shotgun on a trip to a known haunted house on the spookiest night of the year, with rain forecast and probable owls, didn’t go far beyond what was expected from friendship. Especially if it meant having to spend time with Kate’s brother, Patrick, too. He was the last person she wanted to see at the moment, but she wouldn’t think about that now.

Ollie and James went on ahead into the house, followed by Kate, who hesitated for a moment in the huge stone doorway. Martine knew that Kate wasn’t as unafraid as she was trying to make out. They’d been at school together, both equally scarred by memorable episodes of the X-Files, but Kate was determined that James was the man for her and would push through any tendencies to scream in the face of moving shadows for him to see her as a potential mate.

Patrick held the door open for Martine. ‘Look. No deer,’ he said, although the interior of the hallway was so dark that there could have been a herd of elk in there and nobody would be able to see them. ‘You will be fine.’

The last rays of the dying sun flickered down past the fluttering tarpaulin above them and illuminated a huge staircase rising out of the hall into a veil of dust-speckled darkness. Doors led off the passageway to left and right, and the corridor stretched beyond the base of the stairs, curving around into the depths of the house to be lost to sight. The tarpaulin flick-flacked distantly but all else was silent, apart from their footsteps, and Patrick, who’d got hiccups.

‘Ol, you go and check down that way,’ James said. ‘Pat, you do the stairs. Kate and I will find the kitchen, that’s supposed to be the main site of any disturbances.’ He gave Kate a sideways look. Martine suspected that James knew very well that Kate fancied him and was going to use this opportunity for a quick grope and a snog.

‘What about me?’ Martine asked uncertainly.

‘You stay there. Secure the doorway, we don’t want anyone to come wandering in and setting equipment off.’ He handed her a box. ‘That’s the gear. We’ll come back and get you once we’ve reccied the place.’

Off everyone trooped, their footsteps sounding more and more distant against the bare floorboards. Martine was alone. Behind her, outside the door, the sun sank and the night pressed against the house. Her eyes adjusted slowly, but there was nothing to see, only the rising vastness of the stairs in front, and the echoey emptiness of the hallway running off in either direction.

Martine grabbed at her coat again. It was cold. The hair at the back of her neck was prickling and she didn’t dare move in case she fell over something. And she was missing EastEnders. With a sigh she opened the box that James had given her and started to make herself useful, stretching fine tape across the doorway to prevent anything human coming into the house. She wasn’t sure how effective it would be, James hadn’t thought to leave her a torch and she was operating mostly by touch. When a soft sound slithered into her ears from the direction of the staircase, she dropped the tape and spun around.

‘Who’s there?’

There was no answer. But Martine could just make out a shape, a pale smudge in the dark, a faint ‘something’ against the wooden panelling. Something that drifted towards her in a silent haze of dust – she drew in her breath to scream, but her yell was stopped by a sudden, louder scream that came from the direction of the haunted kitchen …

A suitably spooky start from Jane Lovering that ended with a scream and a potential ghostly happening. Just what we all want from a Halloween Round Robin!

If you enjoyed Jane’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. Jane will have a new Christmas novella out in December – keep your eye on our social feeds for more information, coming soon! 

JL

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Which three things is Martine scared of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 1’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.

Choc Lit Easter Round Robin 2017 – FINAL Part by Angela Britnell

Easter Round Robin5

Well the Easter weekend is almost at an end – but we hope you enjoy your last day off from work and that you’re not feeling too sick from all the Easter eggs! And just as Easter weekends must draw to a close, so too must Easter Round Robins. But luckily for you, you still have the final part of the story by Angela Britnell left to enjoy – and a competition too! 

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

Part Three by Kirsty Ferry is HERE

Part Four by Morton S. Gray is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Final Part by Angela Britnell

Tilly blinked and struggled to focus.

‘Are you all right?’ A pair of worried blue eyes stared down at her and things began to click into place.

A sparkly egg. A laughing boy. And a rabbit whose face oddly reminded her …

‘We banged heads and I’m afraid you got the worst of it. I wanted to call the doctor but your Aunt—’

‘Told him not to be silly.’ Aunt Elsie’s brusque assertion made Tilly smile.

‘She tried to convince me “magic” gardens cure concussion,’ Dan scoffed.

‘I doubt she phrased it quite that way.’ She tried to placate him. ‘Help me up and let’s get some tea.’

‘Tea!’ Dan’s voice rose. ‘We’ve got a lunatic rabbit. A maniacal dog. A damn Easter egg that I’ll swear is genuine Faberge. And let’s not forget a magical garden where things supposedly disappear and reappear at will.’

‘If you put it that way…’ If Tilly explained the whole story there went her chance with the first lovely man she’d come across in ages.

‘Look what’s in the egg Daddy!’ Josh grinned and brandished a tiny gold key.

Tilly scrambled to her feet and glared at her aunt. ‘Why did you give it to him?’

‘This is our only hope of finding Marvin.’ Elsie gave a triumphant smile.

Any second now Dan expected a man to jump out of the bushes brandishing a camera and saying this was a prank being filmed for a new TV show.

‘Josh, it’s late we need to go.’ He cleared his throat but the lump refused to go away as Tilly’s wide green-eyed gaze landed on him.

‘We can’t go! You told me there was one special prize and I’ve got it.’

Dan’s heart sunk. He’d stupidly read the small print at the bottom of the entry form to his son and Josh never forgot anything.

‘We’ve got to find what it opens, Daddy.’

He caught the two women exchanging secretive glances and Elsie nodded.

‘Stay here.’ Tilly ran towards the house and Dan sank into the nearest chair pulling a frowning Josh into his lap. You’re not the only one who doesn’t understand, Joshie.

Here she comes. Oh, no. If the boy opens that box I’m in trouble. No more Mrs. Marvin and the little Marvins.

Tilly set a small wood box on the ground. ‘Dan, will you put Josh down for a minute please and stand up?’ She linked her hands around the back of his neck and he startled as she brushed her lips over his mouth. A smile crept over his face and for a moment she forgot the Trecarne legend, their audience and everything except the zip of electricity tingling through her body.

‘Yuck, Daddy. Why is she kissing you?’

‘I don’t know but I hope she does it again.’ Dan’s whispered reply reverberated against her skin.

Tilly forced herself to ease away. ‘Now you can open the box, Josh.’ Her voice wobbled, certain they were doing the wrong thing.

‘Oh goodness, Tilly look!’ Elsie yelled. ‘It’s a sign from Marvin. He always loved the rabbits.’

She grabbed Zaph’s collar a second before it registered with her unruly dog that their friendly rabbit, its mate and four tiny baby rabbits stood in a line staring at them. ‘Don’t even think about it, Zaph.’

‘What’s going on?’ Dan asked.

No one kissed like Mrs. Marvin. Her warm soft nose nuzzling his neck made Marv happy. They could keep the Easter Bunny if he could keep Mrs. Marvin, Poppy, Moppy, Fluffy Tail and Paul, the naughtiest new addition to their growing family.

‘Come here, bunnies.’ Josh waved his hands and the key flew into the air before landing with a plop in the fountain.

‘I’ll find it.’ Dan lunged towards the water.

‘Leave it,’ Tilly pleaded.

‘But—’

‘She’s right.’ Elsie’s eyes glistened with unshed tears but her voice remained steady. ‘If Dan doesn’t mind I’ll take young Josh to see the maze.’

Tilly fell a little more in love with him when he didn’t question her aunt. ‘Don’t worry. It’s only three feet tall so we’ll easily spot them.’ They sat on the bench together and Tilly told him about the first Earl of Trecarne who fell in love with a Russian duchess already promised to another man. As a parting gift she gave him the Faberge egg containing a small gold key. ‘For it to work there first must be a kiss between two lovers.’ Her cheeks burned. ‘The key opens the box which then guides you to find what you’re looking for or the reverse whichever it believes you need most.’

‘Marvin?’

‘He wasn’t happy running this place and used to joke about using the key to disappear. I didn’t take him seriously.’

Dan’s eyebrows rose. ‘You don’t really believe …’ He gestured towards the rabbits hopping off into the distance.

Tilly shrugged. ‘Who am I to argue with history? It brought you here.’

‘We came for the egg hunt.’

Tilly couldn’t believe Dan had failed to notice the lack of any other families around today. Maybe because they’d held the official Trecarne egg hunt last week. She angled her face for another wonderful kiss mentally promising the Trecarne version of the Easter Bunny a big bag of carrots.

Wow! What a fabulous and romantic ending to our Easter tale. Somehow they always manage it, don’t they? Well done to our amazing (and ever-imaginative!) Choc Lit authors :)

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If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, you might like to check out her latest novella  – You’re the One That I Want. 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 inside the sparkly egg?

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

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

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

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

Part One by Berni Stevens is HERE

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is HERE

The Easter Bunny – Part Three by Kirsty Ferry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What is Tilly’s aunt called?

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

READ PART FOUR BY MORTON S GRAY HERE

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

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

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

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

The Easter Bunny – Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

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

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

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

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

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

‘He scared the rabbit away.’

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

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

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

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

The man made a non-committal noise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What colour are Dan’s eyes?

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

READ PART THREE BY KIRSTY FERRY HERE

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

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

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

The Easter Bunny – Part One by Berni Stevens

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

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

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

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

The rabbit twitched its nose.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Can I have a rabbit?’

‘We’ll see.’

Josh knew that usually meant no. He sighed.

‘That rabbit’s so pretty.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘There he is Daddy. Quick!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Here’s one!’

‘Well done Josh. Good work.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What name does Josh give to the rabbit?

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

READ PART TWO BY RHODA BAXTER HERE

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Final Part of Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin by Morton S. Gray

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A very happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there – we hope you are all thoroughly spoilt today, and that you have the chance to spoil your own mums too :) We’re sure your day will be full of treats but start off with this treat from Morton S. Gray – the final part of our Mother’s Day Round Robin. One final competition at the end too!

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

Part One by Margaret James HERE 

Part Two by Jane Lovering HERE

Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE

Part Four by Kirsty Ferry HERE

FINAL PART BY MORTON S. GRAY

I found myself enveloped in Mike’s arms. He rubbed circles on my back and I could feel his warmth dissolving my misery and drying my tears.

Lucy and my mother were sitting next to each other on the settee, as I peered over his shoulder. They both looked contrite.

‘So, Lucy, what’s wrong with your car?’ Mike asked. I could tell he was deliberately changing the subject.

‘I don’t know really. It’s just making a strange noise.’

‘What sort of strange noise and can you tell where it’s coming from?’

My mother piped up. ‘It sounded like a steam engine when she arrived.’

‘Something vibrates underneath me.’

With a feather light kiss on my forehead, Mike released me and walked to the window. ‘It’s stopped raining. Let’s leave your mum and gran to open the chocolates and you can start your engine and let me listen to this noise.’

The door had hardly closed when mum rounded on me. ‘He’s nice. You want to hold onto that one. So, useful to have a man who’s handy. He can sort out my garden and I’m sure Lucy will come around. You’ve done your best for her. Don’t ever believe any different. I hope Mike’s good in bed too.’

It was all I could do not to spit out the mouthful of red wine I’d just sipped.

Mum and I went to stare out of the window.

‘I always regretted not finding someone else when your dad died, love. Life is much better shared … I wonder if Mike could recommend me to his dad?’

When I looked askance at her, she said, ‘I met John once. He’s a good-looking man, a waste single. He might like a companion for concerts, or … or bridge, perhaps.’ I could swear she was blushing and her face took on a faraway look as if she was imagining a cosy tête-à-tête with John Philips.

Lucy was behind her steering wheel revving the engine. Mike circled the car, occasionally yelling instructions to my daughter as he peered beneath the car.

She switched off the engine and jumped out, handing a duster to Mike. He launched himself to the ground and put his duster-clad hand under the car. I couldn’t see what was in his hand when he got up. They stood talking earnestly to each other for a few moments. I worried about what Lucy might be saying. Was she warning Mike off? Extolling the virtues of her father?

Lucy got back into her car and started the engine again. The noise appeared to have miraculously disappeared.

Lucy was laughing as she and Mike walked back towards the house.

‘What was it?’ I asked.

‘Just going to wash my hands,’ said Mike, as he disappeared upstairs to the bathroom.

Lucy was beaming. ‘Mike is Liam’s dad.’

‘Liam?’

‘The guy I’ve fancied for ages. Mike says he’ll invite him to have a drink with us at the pub later. The noise was a piece of metal stuck above the exhaust. Mike says it was vibrating and making that awful noise. So, nothing serious or expensive after all, thank goodness.’

She walked over and gave me a brief hug, which I took as an apology for her earlier behaviour. ‘Mike’s nice,’ she whispered.

Mike came back into the room and looked at each of us in turn, a surprised expression on his face. I realised we were all grinning at him.

I shook myself and got up. ‘Right, if Lucy’s car is fixed, I’ll serve lunch. Mike, would you help me in the kitchen?’

He followed me and after a glance into the other room to make sure my mother and Lucy were occupied, he said, ‘Well, how am I doing?’

‘Wonderfully. Although I think you’ve got the role of matchmaker later. Lucy’s after Liam and mum has her eye on your dad.’

Mike came and hugged me from behind, narrowly avoiding launching the steaming lamb joint which I’d just extracted from the oven to the tiles.

‘Hmm … might make for a very complicated family tree when you agree to marry me,’ he laughed.

Maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t that bad after all.

What a truly gorgeous ending! The Choc Lit authors do it every time. We hope you’ve enjoyed our 2017 Mother’s Day Round Robin. Let us know what you think in the comments :) Happy Mother’s Day all!

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing, check out her debut release The Girl on the Beach which is available to purchase in eBook format from all platforms.

COMPETITION TIME

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

What was the problem with Lucy’s car?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton Gray comp’ by Monday 27th March. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday 28th March.

Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin – Part Two by Jane Lovering

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It’s Jane Lovering‘s turn on our Mother’s Day Round Robin today! Will Jenny’s Mother’s Day lunch be a success or a complete disaster? Let’s see ;) Remember to read right until the end for a competition. 

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

Part One by Margaret James HERE 

PART TWO BY JANE LOVERING

Sunday dawned, and the heavy skies mirrored the feeling in my stomach. What on earth had I been thinking? Three generations of my family, plus … well, plus Mike, it was almost as though I was willing disaster on myself.  Even the leg of lamb looked vaguely accusing as it lay in its red wine marinade and I found myself patting it reassuringly, as I’d used to pat Lucy’s nappied bottom when she’d cried as a baby. She’d been such a lovely child, all blonde ringlets and a slight look of Felicity Kendall about her, we’d been close through her childhood and even her teenage years had been more spirited attempts to get her up, washed and to school on time than the slammed door slanging matches that my peers all seemed to indulge in.

I gave the lamb another pat and popped it into the oven just as the doorbell rang.  I tidied my hair (in case it was Mike), checked the level on the gin bottle (in case it was my mother) and assumed a suitable air of situational control (in case it was Lucy), then went to answer it.

‘Ah, there you are,’ said my mother, as though she’d been waiting on the step for half an hour. ‘I do hope it’s not going to rain. I left the sheets on the line, you know, they simply don’t smell clean when they’ve been in the tumble drier, do they?’

‘Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum,’ I said, a little weakly.  ’Come on in, Lucy should be here in a minute and … well, there’s someone else coming who I’d like you to meet.’

Somewhere on the horizon thunder rumbled. I crossed my fingers that the weather wasn’t being metaphorical.

My mother sniffed.  She had a whole series of sniffs, eloquent as a curse at one end of the spectrum and resigned admiration at the other.  Suffice it to say that her ‘disapproval’ sniffs got far more of an airing.  ’Yes,’ she said. ‘Lucy mentioned something about you having A Man.’

I poured her a glass of wine in the kitchen and bustled her through to the dining room, where the table was neatly laid for four.  ’I haven’t really got him, mum, he’s …’  How to sum up what Mike was to me?  More of a companion, more affectionate, more concerned for my wellbeing than Lucy’s father ever had been? Also considerably better in bed, but I certainly wasn’t going to mention that to my mother … ‘He’s a very nice man,’ I finished, inadequately.

The sniff this time told me that she was reserving judgement.

‘This wine’s bitter,’ she said.  ’Haven’t you got any gin?’

Just as I reached for the bottle I heard the rattle of hail against the window, mirrored by a rattling sound as Lucy’s car drew into the driveway, it sounded as though something had come loose somewhere underneath.  Probably exactly what she thought about me, I mused, opening the front door so that she could run straight in out of the apocalyptic weather that was breaking above us.  Hailstones clanged and battered off the roofs of the cars, flattened the clumps of daffodils that Mike and I had weeded so assiduously last week and laid a slippery mat on the doorstep.  Lucy hurtled in through the door, like a ghost of who she had been.

‘I hope you’re not taking to gin,’ she said, seeing the bottle in my hand. ‘It’s bad enough with … hello Granny!’

The sniff this time passed judgement on the length of Lucy’s skirt, the shortness of her hair and the redness of her lipstick. ‘That car doesn’t sound right, Lucy,’ she said, despite never having driven in her life and having a knowledge of cars that stopped at ‘four wheels’.  ’Can’t your father have a look at it for you?’ She hugged Lucy quickly, disentangling herself in favour of the gin I held out.

‘Dad’s too busy these days, I think Megan and Luca keep him occupied,’ Lucy said a little too brightly and I wondered if she’d already asked Jack to take a look at the car. ‘But it’s fine, Granny. Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum.’ She held a bowl of blue hyacinths out like a peace offering.  ’These are for you.’

I took them and buried my nose in the shell-like flowers, inhaling their sweet smell and hiding my face at the same time.  Hyacinths had always been my favourites. She’d remembered.

‘Never liked those things. Smell like old ladies,’ said my mother, who only ever smelled of Chanel No 5.

The noise of the hail had drowned out any sounds from outside, so when the doorbell rang again it made us all jump.  Mike had arrived.

Now that Mike’s arrived, the fun can really begin (or possibly not!) Let’s see where AnneMarie Brear takes it tomorrow ;)  

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If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, make sure you keep an eye out for a new release, coming soon! Until then, you can check out her existing novels HERE

COMPETITION TIME

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

What is Jenny’s mum’s drink of choice?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering comp’ by Monday 27th March. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday 28th March.

Read Part Three by AnneMarie Brear HERE.