A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part Four by Victoria Cornwall

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Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Victoria Cornwall has written a fabulous penultimate part today – but, before reading this extract, make sure you’ve caught up with Parts 1-3 of the story. 

Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Two by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Three by Angela Britnell HERE

And, as always, make sure you read right until the end to find out how to enter an exclusive competition! 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – PART FOUR BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Jess opened the fourth box. She breathed a sigh of relief. Her piece de resistance, a cake decorated with ivory lace icing, had survived, unlike her other creations which reminded her of last night’s news footage reporting the aftermath of a tornado in Nebraska. Jake arrived and she shot him an irritable glance.

‘What were you thinking, Jake?’ she said under her breath when Mark had left. How Jake got the Event’s Manager’s job she would never know. She suspected it had something to do with his habit of doctoring his CV.

Jake held up his hands in mock surrender. ‘I swear I wasn’t looking at her cleavage.’

Jess rolled her eyes. ‘I didn’t mean that, I mean putting Mark’s ex-wife’s stand next to ours. Today is turning into a disaster.  I haven’t even hung up all the bunting yet.’ Jake reached for a red sugared heart. Jess slapped his hand away. ‘This mess is your fault, Jake. If you hadn’t had your eyes glued to Harriet’s cleavage …’

Jake nodded knowingly. ‘I knew it was about the cleavage. It was difficult to avoid, Jess.’

A devious thought struck her, ‘I’ll forgive you, but only if you do me a favour.’

Jake eyed her warily, ‘What are you up to?’

‘Nothing much. I just want you to use your position as Events Manager to ask Harriet to move the stand for her chocolate cake a bit more to the left. It will give us more room.’ The sun will catch it nicely there, thought Jess. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the chocolate covering to melt.

Jake walked over to talk to Harriet and Jess returned to her boxes to see what she could salvage. Her first task was to set up the only cake that had survived. She had to admit, it was one of her best. She stood back to admire it. She had hoped to impress Mark. As if on cue, Mark reappeared carrying a box of wine.

‘I’ve had an idea,’ he said, opening a bottle and flashing her one of his sexy smiles. ‘We can give out free drinks and taster samples. If we slice up the broken cakes, no one will know what a mess they look now.’

It was a brilliant idea. Jess felt the urge to hug him. In fact she had the urge to hug him quite often these days, but had always resisted … until now. She was about to fling herself at him, when he turned round with the sharp end of a knife pointing at her. It killed the moment.

‘Here.’ He held the knife out to her. ‘You start cutting and I’ll get the plates.’

Deflated, Jess took the knife from him. She helped herself to a very large glass of wine as she began to slice up a squashed cupcake. She glanced over at Harriet’s chocolate cake. Either the wine was more potent than she had expected and it was distorting her vision or the top tier was already beginning to slide. She hoped it was the latter.

Unfortunately, Mark had noticed too.  He rushed over to rescue Harriet and arrived just as the top tier slid slowly forward and onto her dress. Jess downed another glass of wine as she watched Mark fuss around Harriet. She wasn’t sure what upset her most, that they appeared to be enjoying each other’s company or they were doing it amidst her favourite chocolate recipe. Could the day get any worse?

Oh no – poor Jess! And there’s only one more part of the story left for her to get her happily ever after. Let’s hope Jane Lovering is kind to her tomorrow … it is Valentine’s Day after all 😉 

If you enjoyed Victoria’s part of the story, you can find her novels on all eBook platforms – and The Thief’s Daughter is also out in paperback and can be ordered through your local book shop! Click on the cover images below for more details. 

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!):

What happens to Harriet’s chocolate cake? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 4’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part Three by Angela Britnell

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Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Before the weekend Kirsty Ferry and Morton S. Gray set the scene and left us in the midst of drama (Read Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE  and Part Two by Morton S. Gray HERE). Where will Angela Britnell take us today? Read on to find out … 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – PART THREE BY ANGELA BRITNELL 

‘Oh, Mark how terrible! All your beautiful cakes are ruined. I’m dreadfully sorry.’

Jess ordered herself not to be a witch for thinking that if Harriet’s fake eyelashes fluttered any faster they’d take flight. Mark stood with his mouth gaping, sympathy for his ex-wife oozing from every pore and she itched to smack some sense into him. Seriously?

‘We’re mortified aren’t we, Armand? We’ll help you get all this cleaned up.’

‘But, chérie—’

Harriet rested one elegant hand, showing off her manicured blood-red talons, on Mark’s shoulder. Jess’s self-control strained with the effort of not swatting it away. ‘Being business competitors is one thing but it’s nothing personal.’

Jess snorted in disgust and the other woman’s mask slipped briefly before the practised smile returned. No one else noticed. Stamping her foot would be juvenile but Jess might as well be one of the blobs of pink icing oozing out of the upturned boxes for all the notice anyone was paying her.

‘Don’t worry.’ Mark’s soothing tone irked her. ‘I’ve got my secret weapon here.’ Jess’s back received a friendly pat. ‘She’ll work her usual miracles. You take care of your own display. We’re good aren’t we, JJ? Accidents happen.’

She grunted something he could take as agreement and Harriet’s smirk deepened. Before the ill-fated wedding Mark’s new fiancé buttonholed Jess and spelled things out in no uncertain terms.

You’re in love with Mark. I recognise it but he doesn’t because he’s a man and they never see the sweet, loyal girls who’re always there as anything more than a vaguely female version of their mates. I’ll make something of him that you never could. Stick to making cakes and keep your puppy dog eyes to yourself.

‘Armand, let’s get ready to amaze our customers.’ Harriet’s gaze swept over Jess’s faded pink vintage floral dress. ‘The whole shabby chic thing works well on you, dear.’

The sly dig reminded her of Pippa Warrington at primary school who pretended to admire Jess’s newly chopped off hair, courtesy of her older brother’s attempt to emulate Vidal Sassoon, while tossing her own enviously perky blonde ponytail.

‘You all right, JJ?’ Concern laced Mark’s deep voice and Jess forced on her friend/efficient employee smile. ‘We’ll make this work.’

‘Of course we will. Let’s see how bad the damage is.’ She lifted the first box onto the table and prised off the lid, unable to suppress a sharp intake of breath.

‘You spent hours on those.’ The miniature fairy cakes were a smashed mess and all the spare icing and decorations they’d brought along couldn’t save them. ‘She manages to spoil everything doesn’t she?’

In spite of the cake disaster Jess’s heart did a little flip. Maybe Mark wasn’t a lost cause where it came to Harriet after all. A ring of steel settled around her spine. She’d overcome far worse than this in her life including a childhood spent in care and a dangerous drift along a bad path until baking saved her. ‘Only if we let her and we won’t.’ Mark’s expression softened and he rested his big competent hands on her shoulders. For a wonderful moment Jess was only aware of his deep brown eyes and warm smile.

‘The pièce de résistance. The star of the whole wedding show.’ Harriet’s gloating voice pierced Jess’s happy glow.

As she jerked around Mark’s fingers dug in, willing her not to grab his ex-wife by the throat.

The magnificent chocolate cake complete with cascading creamy white icing roses was a work of art. Jess’s own prized recipe in its full glory. She met the challenge in Harriet’s gaze. For some reason the other woman wasn’t giving up her claim on Mark anytime soon. Bring it on. You don’t know who you’re tangling with but you’re about to find out.

Well if Harriet didn’t annoy you already, Angela Britnell has certainly exposed her truly manipulative and scheming side. Poor Jess! We hope she gets the ending she deserves but there are still two parts to go, with Victoria Cornwall adding her part tomorrow. Anything could happen!

If you enjoyed Angela’s part of the story, you can find her novels and novellas on all eBook platforms.Click on the cover images below for more details. Also make sure you keep an eye out as we’ll be revealing further details about an exciting new release from Angela Britnell very soon!

AB

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What is Jess wearing to the Fair?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 3’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part Two by Morton S. Gray

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Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Yesterday Kirsty Ferry started us off with Part One (which you can read HERE) and today Morton S. Gray takes over. What drama will unfold at the Valentine’s Wedding Fair? Read on to find out … 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – PART TWO BY MORTON S. GRAY 

Straight in front of Jess and Mark, parked to unload outside of Valentine Manor was a van emblazoned with the Bobbins logo. Harriet had arrived already.

Jess heard Mark sigh heavily. She guessed it wasn’t much fun being confronted on a regular basis by the biggest mistake of your life in the form of your ex-wife, who just happened to be a competitor for the same customers.

She turned to her boss. ‘Come on, let’s get unpacked. We’re going to be in the same room all day, so we may as well get the first meeting with Harriet and Armand out of the way.’

‘Guess so. I just felt my heart sink to my boots yet again.’

‘Look, if I’d said anything to you before you married her, you wouldn’t have listened to me … would you?’

‘They say love’s blind and it’s so true.’

It got worse when they got inside Valentine Manor. The beautiful ballroom, decorated in pink and white, where normally the wedding receptions were held was chaotically full of people and boxes. The wedding fair opened at ten and the retailers were rushing to get organised before the public arrived.

‘We’ve got stand twenty. It should be in the middle, opposite the main doors. Jess struggled to see past the boxes she was carrying. Mark followed behind her with an equally heavy load as they dodged past the other stall holders.

The awful truth dawned on her. Bobbins had been placed right next to the Buntings stand. Harriet must have spoken to Jake the Events Manager about prime positioning in the room too. Jess felt her own heart sink to her boots.

It wasn’t just the competition or the frosty relationship between Mark and Harriet after their divorce that worried Jess, but the fact that Bobbins had chosen bright red as the predominant colour for their display. Jess suspected that being right next to the tall red plastic shelving on Harriet’s table, Buntings’ display might look rather more shabby than chic.

She concentrated hard on smoothing the rosebud embroidered tablecloth on their own stand, trying to ignore that Harriet was watching her closely and was wearing a red apron with a heart-shaped top, showing an ample amount of cleavage at the V of the heart.

After piling up their food boxes on the table and pulling a have you seen that face at Jess, Mark went to park the van, leaving her to arrange the tasty delicate stock. She’d begun to assemble the cake stand centrepiece when Jake, her best friend Ellie’s dishy brother came walking towards her. Jess felt her heart rate accelerate.

‘All okay? Do you have everything you need?’ He appeared to be talking to Jess, but her smile was lost on him as his eyes were firmly fixed on Harriet’s cleavage. Hmm … maybe she wouldn’t be going for a drink with him after all.

Jess wasn’t the only one to notice Jake’s fixation with Harriet’s ample chest. Armand barged between the two stands to position himself in front of Harriet with a thunderous expression directed at Jake. As he pushed between the two stands, he didn’t seem to realise that his elbow had connected with the piled-up plastic food boxes on Buntings’ table. Jess watched with open-mouthed horror as her carefully prepared cakes, truffles and canapes went into an avalanche slide over the back of the stand with a sickening crash.

Having seen what had happened as he returned to the stand, Mark came flying across the room to confront Armand, who was still oblivious of what he had done and seemed about to challenge Jake for ogling Harriet.

Jess was frozen to the spot, torn between going to see if anything could be salvaged from the toppled food boxes and waiting to see if she needed to break up a fight.

Disaster! What a fabulously dramatic second part from Morton S. Gray. Question is, are you Team Buntings or Team Bobbins? We think we already know the answer! Come back on Monday when Angela Britnell will be taking over. Will punches be thrown? Will cakes be salvaged? You’ll have to wait and find out! 

If you enjoyed Morton’s story, you can purchase her debut novel The Girl on the Beach on all eBook platforms. It’ll also be out in paperback in April! Click on the cover image below for more details. Also make sure you keep an eye out over the coming weeks as we’ll be revealing further details about an exciting new release from Morton S. Gray. Stay tuned!

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COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What is the colour of Bobbins’ stand?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 2’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – Part One by Kirsty Ferry

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Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day commence! It’s time for another Valentine’s Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a super sweet short story – A Valentine’s Wedding Fair – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (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 surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more ;)  

Kirsty Ferry is the author start us off this time! Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition. 

A VALENTINE’S WEDDING FAIR – PART ONE BY KIRSTY FERRY

‘It’s a good location,’ Jess’s boss, Mark, said to her. ‘The name should attract a few people anyway.’ Jess worked at a caterer’s, and was preparing some samples to take along to a Wedding Fair at Valentine Manor, a local stately home that had been turned into a wedding venue.

She’d been in the kitchens mega-early icing some tiny fairy cakes, decorating each pink and white morsel with a red sugar heart and they almost looked too good to eat. She’d also made a gorgeous red-velvet cake in the shape of a heart, and Mark was helping her load the candy-floss coloured van up. As well as the cakes, they’d made little chocolate truffles and neat canapes that melted in the mouth. It all looked very tasty and Jess knew it would look even better when they’d set everything up.

‘Here, don’t forget the cake-stand,’ she said, handing Mark a vintage rose-patterned three-tier china stand. They prided themselves on a shabby chic sort of presentation, and she also had a surfeit of bunting and floral paper plates to decorate their stall with.

‘Our centrepiece,’ he said with a smile. ‘Can’t leave that behind. Okay. Are you ready?’

‘Yep. Who’s driving?’

‘Me. You’ll take a corner too quickly and shatter the cake stand in the back.’

‘Once! Once I did that. And you can barely see the join. Especially with a paper doily on top.’

‘Superglue is a wondrous invention,’ Mark said solemnly. ‘Come on then. Let’s get there before Harriet does.’ His face closed up as he mentioned his ex-wife. She’d taken all the tricks of his trade – and Jess’s to-die-for chocolate cake recipe – and set up a rival company.

It seemed at every Wedding Fair Mark and Jess attended with Buntings, Harriet was there, with her new company, Bobbins, and her new boyfriend, Armand. It seemed as if this fair at Valentine Manor would be no exception. Jess had become something of a website stalker and kept close tabs on Harriet and her up-and-coming events pages. She knew without a doubt Bobbins and all its associated dreadfulness would be there today.

‘Never mind Horrific Harriet. At least I made sure we got the best stall.’ Jess’s best friend’s brother, Jake, was the Events Manager and she’d pulled a few strings to get Buntings centre-stage. She only hoped that Harriet would stay out of their hair. She couldn’t abide the woman – never had been able to. Jess had, in fact, been the world’s most miserable wedding guest. She’d had to bite her tongue to stop herself from screaming in the church: ‘Don’t do it! She’s just vile!’

‘So how did you manage to get us the top spot at Valentine Manor, then?’ Mark gave her a comical, side-long glance and she laughed.

‘I may or may not have agreed to go for a drink with Jake. Note – may or may not I’m not being accused of nepotism.’

‘So you say,’ said Mark and turned his attention to the road.

‘So I say.’ Jess turned her own attention to the scenery as they drove towards Valentine Manor.

She’d had a really good feeling about today for some reason.

And that feeling lasted until they pulled up in front of the manor and began to unpack their nibbles…

We’re loving the way this story has started off! Cake and Valentine’s Day – what a match made in heaven. But we get the feeling that ‘Horrific Harriet’ might have a few tricks up her sleeve. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow when Morton S. Gray takes over to see how this plays out …

If you enjoyed Kirsty’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. 

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Kirsty’s upcoming novel (and second in the Hartsford Mysteries series) will be out on 3rd April but is available to pre-order. Click on the cover image for buying options. 

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COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What is the name of Harriet’s new boyfriend? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 1’ by Thursday 15th February. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 16th February.

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.

 

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Four by Rhoda Baxter

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Yesterday we left poor Harriet alone in her cafe after her friend snagged another potential date for the Valentine’s Ball. Will Rhoda Baxter be kinder to her? Let’s see 😉 

Come back each day until Friday 17th to read part of an amazing Valentine’s-themed story by five authors. Read right until the end so you can enter our daily competitions too!  All the competitions on previous extracts are still open so feel free to go back and read for details on how to enter.

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

Tuesday arrived and Harriet was exhausted by lunchtime. She’d baked and frosted until late the night before to get the display of pink heart-shaped cakes ready. They sat in boxes in the back. She would have to carry them across to the pub later. There were balloons to blow up and a decorations to tack to the walls. She hoped Tammy would be able to get there before the ball started to help her out.

Harriet sighed and raised the slice of chocolate cake to her mouth. She didn’t often eat the stock – she’d be huge if she did, but the ball was going to be a disaster anyway, so she may as well take solace in confectionery. Besides, it was her birthday.

She closed her eyes and savoured the generous chocolate icing melting on her tongue. Sometimes in life, you had to take the good moments where you found them. She let out an appreciative ‘mmmm’.

The shop bell made her jump. She looked up. Tony, in all his loveliness, stood in the doorway, staring.

‘Tony. Hi.’ She jumped to her feet. Had he heard her moaning over chocolate cake?

Tony gave her a smile that made her chest go funny. ‘You…er…’ He indicated vaguely to his chest.

Harriet looked down. The thump on her chest had been a dollop of chocolate icing falling on her. It was slowly sliding down her top. ‘Oh.’ Her face flaming, she tried to wipe it off with her forefinger. This merely flicked the icing so that it slid down further. She caught it, but it had left a long trail of brown on her top. Just as well she wasn’t trying to impress Tony any more. She wiped her chocolatey hand on her napkin and dragged up her most professional smile.

‘What can I do for you, Tony?’

‘I was… um…’ he seemed to be having trouble dragging his eyes away from the brown splodge on her chest. He cleared his throat. ‘I thought I might buy a cake.’

‘Well, you came to the right place.’ She dodged back behind the counter. ‘What would you like?’

‘The lemon drizzle, please. It’s Jamie’s favourite.’

Jamie. That’ll be the blasted girlfriend. She was careful to keep her smile in place while she wrapped up the cake. She handed it over to him. ‘I hope your girlfriend likes it.’

Tony frowned. ‘Girlfriend?’

‘Jamie,’ she said.

He gave a little laugh. ‘Oh no. Jamie’s not my girlfriend—’

The bell rang, interrupting whatever he was going to say. Harriet glared at the newcomer.

Paul stood in the doorway. His gaze flickered from Harriet to Tony and back to Harriet. ‘Hello,’ he said.

Bloody Paul. Brilliant timing. ‘Paul,’ she said, curtly.

‘I’d best get on,’ said Tony. He gave Paul a nod. ‘I’ll see you at the ball later?’

‘Yep. I’ll be there,’ said Paul. ‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world.’ There was a bit of scuffling around as the two broad-shouldered men manoeuvred around each other so that Tony could leave.  They were both around the same size. Odd. She’d always thought of Paul as skinny … when she thought of him at all.

Paul made his way up to the counter. ‘I was wondering if you needed any help with anything. I’ve got an hour off for lunch, so if you need any errands running, I can do them for you.’

She might have been annoyed with him for interrupting her chat with Tony, but she wasn’t about to turn down an offer of help. ‘Oh yes please! That would be lovely. Could you take two boxes of cakes over. That’ll mean less for me to haul across later.’

‘Sure.’

She brought the boxes out from the back and carefully lifted them up to the counter. Paul took them off her, his forearms brushing against hers. He had nice, big hands. Yet another thing she hadn’t noticed before. She hurried round and opened the door for him.

‘I’ll see you later then,’ he said, as he passed her, his arms full of cake boxes.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you at the ball.’

She shut the door behind him and watched him walk down the street, carrying the boxes with care. Paul was less boring than she’d thought he was … and Tony wasn’t bringing a girlfriend. Perhaps this ball wasn’t going to be a total washout after all.

 Things are looking up for Harriet it seems – but will she find her true valentine at the ball? Find out tomorrow when Sheryl Browne finishes the story. 

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If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her recently award-nominated novel, Girl Having a Ball (RoNA Romantic Comedy category). Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

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

What falls onto Harriet’s top just before Tony walks into the cafe?

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

Part Five by Sheryl Browne is now available to read HERE.

Choc Lit Valentine’s Round Robin 2017 – Part Three by Morton S Gray

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We hope you all enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day yesterday – but the romance and fun isn’t over! We still have three days of our Valentine’s Round Robin to go – three more days to spend in the village of Thistlethorpe AND three more competitions too!

Today, it’s Morton S Gray‘s turn – and you might remember yesterday that a certain handsome vicar was introduced. Who will be Harriet’s date to the ball now? 

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

To enjoy this story make sure you read Part One by Kirsty Ferry HERE and Part Two by Christina Courtenay HERE first. 

Harriet picked out two of her favourite vintage tea cups and placed them on the tray with the tea pot and milk jug. She glanced over at Zack. He had removed his dog collar and undone a couple of buttons on his shirt. As he stretched his shoulders, she glimpsed golden chest hair. Hmm, nice.

Putting the best iced bun, a muffin and a huge slice of chocolate cake on a plate, she carried the tray over to the table and set about making the tea.

‘Milk?’

‘Just a drop please.’

She pushed the sugar bowl over to his side of the table and then sat down carefully, arranging her limbs so as not to brush against Zack’s outstretched jean-clad legs. Did vicars wear jeans? He was sure challenging her stereotypical image of a minister of the church.

For once she found herself tongue-tied, so it was a good job Zack was bursting with questions about the village. He told her he’d already met Vera and been subject to an extensive interrogation about his credentials to take over at the church. Harriet became mesmerised by the flashes in his grey eyes and her tea went cold, as she filled him in about the movers and shakers in Thistlethorpe.

‘You’ve been so helpful, thank you. The problem with moving to a new parish is the immense possibility of putting your foot in things and upsetting parishioners before you’ve even taken a service. Vera terrified me. Shall I see you on Sunday?’

‘Erm …’ Harriett wasn’t a regular churchgoer, more a christening, wedding and funeral type of girl, apart from the annual carol service, although intense staring at the new blond vicar in action might make sitting on the hard, wooden pews more appealing.

She was trying to decide how to reply, whilst simultaneously indulging in a fantasy about joining the flower arranging committee to have Zack admiring her flowers, when the café door bell sounded and her friend, Tammy bounded in accompanied by Paul.

‘Harriet, you’ll never guess … Oh … Ooooh.’

Harriet found herself blushing at her friend’s obvious excitement at finding a new attractive man in the café. She needn’t have worried. Zack was staring at Tammy open-mouthed, desire dripping from every pore. He appeared to be instantly besotted with her friend. Maybe there wasn’t a Mrs Vicar after all.

Harriet sighed. Another man off the list. What with Tony bringing unknown Jamie to the Valentine’s Ball and Zack only having eyes for Tammy, her sister’s promise of a blind date was looking like her only chance of a slow dance on her birthday.

‘What’s this I hear about a Valentine’s Ball?’ She’d forgotten Paul was even there as she’d been too busy watching the interaction between Tammy and Zack. ‘Put me down for a ticket, oh and at least one dance, of course.’ Paul winked. He’d been at school with Tammy and Harriet. It was almost like your brother asking you to dance. Great! Why Paul? Why was it always the ones you didn’t fancy who came on to you?

Paul had recently taken over his father’s business. He was an optician and wore designer specs on his aquiline nose. She realised she’d never seen him without glasses, as he’d worn them even at junior school. In fact, she hadn’t ever studied him at all, he’d just always been around.

Zack stood up and was talking animatedly to Tammy. She introduced the two men as they made their goodbyes and left Harriet sitting alone in the café. Tammy hadn’t even told her why she’d come in and Zack had left his chocolate cake uneaten.

She picked up the plate and tucked into the delicious gooiness, knowing that if she was going to look sylph-like in her dress for the ball, it wasn’t a good idea. In fact, the ball didn’t feel like such a good idea any more. She’d have to watch Tony dancing with Jamie, Tammy with Zack and make do with jiving with Paul or the unknown blind date her sister was supplying, not quite how she imagined the evening going at all.

What could she do to make the Valentine’s Ball her dream event?

Aww, poor Harriet. We really thought Zack might be the one. But anything could happen on the night – and there’s always that blind date! Looking forward to the next instalment by Rhoda Baxetr tomorrow. 

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If you enjoyed Morton’s writing in today’s extract make sure you check out her stunning debut novel, The Girl on the Beach. Click the image above for purchasing information. 

COMPETITION TIME

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

What slightly ‘unvicarly’ item of clothing is Zack wearing?

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

Part Four by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie. Unusual name for a girl, but still …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Er, hello, what would you like?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME

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

How many iced buns does Tony buy?

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsty Ferry starts us off today … 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMPETITION TIME

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

What was the ‘great scandal’ of Thistlethorpe?

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

Part Two by Christina Courtenay is now available to read HERE

The 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