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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.