Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017 from Choc Lit

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Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2017. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.

Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Sarah, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy, Paul, Bernie)

And now for some messages from our Choc Lit Santas …

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Santa - Rhoda Baxter Rhoda Baxter: Have a fantastic Christmas and raise a glass to a wonderful year in 2017! May you get lots of joy and chocolate and books.

 

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AnnMarie Santa photoAnneMarie Brear: “As 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers who supported me and my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, this year! Merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2017! ”

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Jan Santa photoJan Brigden: “Thanks for your fabulous support this past year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and much joy, peace and good health for 2017 (and the occasional choccie or two, of course …) Enjoy the festivities!”

 

9781781892572 Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell: “To all our wonderful Choc Lit readers here’s wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season and the best of everything for 2017 including all the books you can read and an abundance of chocolate!”

 

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Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne: “Wishing all our lovely readers a very merry Choc Lit filled Christmas. Your support over the year has been wonderful. Thank you! I hope Santa is kind to you and that all your dreams and wishes come true. Cosy up and keep safe everyone!”

 

9781781892596Clare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase“Wishing you a very happy, cosy Christmas and a wonderful 2017!”

 

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Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2017.”

 

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Victoria  Santas2Victoria Cornwall: I hope you have a wonderful, laughter filled, Christmas which will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.

 

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with everything and everyone you love, including of course loads of chocolate and plenty of time for reading your favourite books! Enjoy!”

 

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Kirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a happy, healthy and wonderful 2017.Hope you wake up on Christmas morning to joy, peace and a Santa Sack full of books, chocolate and your favourite tipple!”

 

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Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Well it’s my first Devon Christmas, helping out at a writing retreat venue in Sheepwash and aiming to get the biggest tree ever! Here’s a xmas joke for you – what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frost-bite! hehe! Have a lovely festive season!”

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

 

9781781893067Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope you enjoy the festive season. Take time to be with those you love.And don’t forget to treat yourself to something special – you know you deserve it. Thank you for all your support this year, and may 2017 be filled with peace and joy for you and yours.”

 

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Morton SantaMorton S. Gray: “Have a lovely peaceful Christmas and keep dreaming those dreams. Anything is possible in 2017.”

 

 

9781781890714Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Happy Christmas, or Glædelig Jul which is what we say in Denmark. In the face of tumultuous and terrible events across the world wish to remember that Christmas is the time for love and kindness. And reading. Lots of it!”

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Linn's Santas photoLinn B. Halton: “I’ve asked Santa for snow this year – enough to allow us all to wake up to a white Christmas morn, but I’ve also asked that it doesn’t hang around long! If he can’t deliver a brief winter wonderland treat, then I’m sending you all a Christmas hug. I hope that it’s a time of great joy and happiness for one and all.”

9781781893012Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: “2016 will soon be but a distant memory. Hopefully, it’s been a fabulous year for you all, and is leaving behind it nothing but good memories. And, equally hopefully, 2017 will be even better for you, with all the wishes that you wish for yourself coming true. A happy, healthy 2017 to you and your families, dear readers.”

 

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Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing all our readers a happy and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thank you for reading, reviewing and enjoying our Choc Lit books. In my opinion, it’s the best gift an author can receive. xx”

 

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Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:“A very happy, peaceful and contented Christmas to the friends of Choc Lit all over the world who support us in so many ways – by buying or borrowing our books, blogging, Tweeting, leaving posts on Facebook and reviewing, to name just a few. We appreciate all you do for us and hope to entertain you for a long time to come! Very best wishes for a great festive season and a wonderful 2017.”

 

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

 

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Linda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: ”Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

9781781892916Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”Wishing all my wonderful friends and readers, a very happy, safe and peaceful Christmas. xx”

 

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Berni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy healthy 2017, and many fabulous hours of reading.”

 

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Christine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: “Wishing you love, kindness and generosity of spirit, not just for Christmas  but throughout the year.”

9781781890752Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2017 to you all!”

 

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Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Good wishes for a happy Christmas, with good food, good company and good books, and some time to read them! I’m aiming to have a fabulous year in 2017 and I wish everyone the same. See you then!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL!

 

The Santa Dash: Final Part by Laura E. James

Round Robin LJ

We’re now at the end of our special Christmas Round Robin – we think the authors have outdone themselves, and hope that you feel the same! They are a talented lot ;)  

Victoria Cornwall left the story on a cliffhanger yesterday, and we’re really excited to share the ending written by Laura E. James. Let’s find out how the Santa Dash finishes and whether our hero is Jamie or Julian … 

Remember to read right until the end if you’d like to take part in the last competition of the season! Also make sure to read the other parts of the story before this extract so that it makes sense. You can find: 

Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE

Part Two by Clare Chase HERE

Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE

Part Four by Victoria Cornwall HERE

The Santa Dash: Final Part by Laura E. James

Ellie nudged Jamie’s elbow. ‘We need to move.’

‘No. It’s fine. It’s about time I had this out with the pair of them.’ Jamie adjusted his feet, taking a wider stance, and having struggled to fold his arms over his rotund Santa stomach, clasped his fingers together and hooked his thumbs over his belt.

‘Jamie!’ Ellie tugged at the firefighter’s white-cuffed sleeve in an attempt to pull him from danger, but trying to shift the six foot plus Santa only resulted in Ellie pulling a muscle. She rubbed her shoulder.

‘Seriously. It’s okay.’ Jamie’s gaze was fixed on the advancing doctor. ‘He’s no threat.’

He isn’t, thought Ellie, casting a panicked look to the skies – Dave was descending faster than a goose-fat greased Santa sliding down a chimney. ‘It’s admirable that you’re standing your ground, but …’

‘No.’ Jamie frowned. ‘It’s high time I told Dr Julian Faulkner what I think of him.’

‘And what’s that?’ Julian halted a foot away from Jamie. He poked at his padding. ‘At least I’m a man of substance. You’re just full of …’

‘Stop it!’ Melissa joined the accident-in-waiting. She dived between the two men and separated them by pressing a palm to each chest. Her right hand bounced off Jamie. ‘I’m sure we can clear this up in a mature and adult way.’

Ellie shook her head in despair. There was no time for mature and adult. In a matter of seconds there were going to be four Santas sprawled along the promenade. And there’d be witnesses. A crowd was gathering – three mums with buggies were pointing up at the sky, two giant elves were gawping at Melissa, and a youth who’d climbed a lamppost was beckoning to his mates to come and watch.

As a shadow loomed over the posturing Santas, and Dave’s yells of ‘Heads up!’ reached the ears of the concerned party, Jamie looked heavenward.

‘Holy sleigh bells!’ He grabbed Ellie round her waist. ‘Faulkner! Help Melissa.’

But the doctor used the auburn-haired woman as resistance and pushed himself away from her and into safety.

With the dark shadow growing larger, Jamie apologised to Ellie, lifting her out of the way of danger, and then rugby-tackled Melissa to the pavement, a millisecond before Dave’s emergency landing.

‘I’m good. I’m good.’ Dave waved from his prone position, his chute floating serenely onto the railings that divided the beach from the promenade.

‘Everyone else all right?’ Jamie got to his feet, helped Melissa up, and brushed himself down. ‘Ellie? You okay?’

Ellie stepped forward from the crowd – the crowd that was applauding Jamie’s daring do. ‘Not a scratch,’ she said, a surprise to her as much as anyone. She watched as Jamie spoke quietly to Melissa, wondering what they were discussing. He was probably telling Melissa how much he missed her. How much he wanted her back. How good it felt to have her in his arms once again, albeit in the name of health and safety.

Being in his arms had been pretty special, Ellie reflected, a sigh of missed opportunity escaping out to sea.

‘So much for Dr Julian saving lives.’

To Ellie’s surprise, Jamie was striding towards her.

‘He only cares about his own. Poor Melissa. She’s seen his true worth.’ Jamie held out an open palm in Ellie’s direction. ‘At least she’s come out unscathed from this near disaster.’ His fingers waggled. ‘Don’t leave me hanging Nurse Ellie. I’d like to get back to that something more interesting I mentioned earlier – getting to know you.’ His blue eyes glistened.

‘But … Melissa.’ Ellie scanned the area ahead for Jamie’s ex-fiancée, certain her auburn hair would stand out against the mass of red and white merrymakers, but nothing. Nada. No sight of her.

Jamie laughed. ‘She’s gone to give the doctor a piece of her mind. I have a feeling he’ll be single before the evening’s out.’

Ellie pursed her lips. ‘At work, he led us to believe he already was.’ Dr Faulkner had tricked her and Sally. They’d both fallen for his fake charms. She’d make sure she told Sally everything, although judging by the grin Sally had given when she’d passed by with the two burly rugby players, there was no risk of a broken heart. ‘How do you know Dr Faulkner?’ Ellie slipped her hand into Jamie’s. It was warm, strong and safe.

‘From the gym. He seemed like a decent bloke. Friendly. Competitive. He liked to compare treadmill stats. Always added an extra weight to the bench press. Thrashed me on the rowing machines.’ Jamie shrugged. ‘Anyway, one evening, after my session, Melissa popped down to the gym to take me straight out for a meal …’

‘And that’s where she and Julian met?’

Jamie nodded and Ellie’s hand was given a gentle squeeze.

‘Three weeks later, Melissa broke off the engagement.’

What a horrid experience that must have been for Jamie. Ellie issued a pat of reassurance to his arm. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’m not,’ said Jamie. ‘I mean, I was, but it’s Christmas and magical things happen.’

Indeed. Ellie reviewed the morning’s events. Out of the hundred or so Santas dashing along the prom, it was Jamie she’d crashed into and straddled; it was Jamie who’d pulled alongside her to exchange small talk and it was Jamie who’d rescued her from her stumble, lobbed her over his shoulder and carried her across the finish line.

And it was Jamie who’d saved her from Dave’s death-defying descent.

It was all magic as far as she was concerned. She tilted her head to study Jamie. He was magic.

‘Do you believe in Father Christmas?’ he said, his face edging closer to hers.

‘Oh yes,’ said Ellie, breathing in his cologne and closing her eyes at the touch of his lips. ‘And he’s very dashing.’

What a gorgeous ending! A perfect Christmas story from our Choc Lit authors :) We hope you loved it as much as we did and it’s got you into the festive spirit. There’s not much left to say except to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for all of your support in 2016! But there is still time for one more …

COMPETITION!

If you enjoyed Laura’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, What Doesn’t Kill You … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Laura’s extract and answer this question …

Where did Julian and Jamie meet?

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of today. Good luck!

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The Santa Dash: Part Four by Victoria Cornwall

Round Robin vc

There’s been so much mystery and intrigue in this Round Robin that we honestly have had no clue where it’s going to go next! But no the Santas are on the run and it’s time for Victoria Cornwall to take up the reins for the penultimate part of our story…

Remember to read right until the end if you want to take part in today’s competition. In order to enjoy the story, make sure you read Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE, Part Two by Clare Chase HERE and Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE before you start on Victoria’s extract.

The Santa Dash: Part Four

Sally, who had somehow hitched a lift with two burly rugby players, enthusiastically waved at Ellie as she passed her. Ellie smiled and waved back, but, in reality, she was struggling. Her trousers billowed like two elongated balloons whenever the sea wind caught her and if she was not careful she was at risk of being blown off course. It was time to sort them out or she would never finish the race.

Ellie attempted to hitch them up as she jogged, but her suit had other ideas and fought back. Thanks to one dragging trouser hem, a mistimed step and being temporarily blinded by her hat, Ellie finally tripped up and went sprawling to the floor. Self preservation made her keep her head down, as a few trailing Santas jumped over her prone body. Finally, when all the grunting and puffing around her went quiet, she dared to look up. A Santa, with a large stomach that swayed to its own rhythm, was running towards her. Relief flooded through her when she saw it was Jamie.

He squatted beside her. ‘Are you hurt or are you just taking a rest?’ Despite the quip he looked genuinely concerned.

Ellie sat up and removed her beard. Well, a girl could only take so much.

‘I think I’ve twisted my ankle a bit,’ she said, testing the movement inside her boot. Her boot was so big it didn’t even move. Ellie winced and pulled off her hat too. ‘I’m not going to finish now. My ankle is not too bad, but I can’t run on it.’ Ellie felt as miserable as she sounded. She had hoped to raise money for her ward and now she would have to face everyone and confess she hadn’t finished.

‘Are you sponsored too?’ asked Jamie. Ellie looked up at him and was surprised to discover that he was gazing at her lips.

‘Yes,’ she whispered. He really did have the bluest eyes. They were the sort of eyes that entered your soul and touched something deep inside you.

Jamie swallowed and looked up to meet her own lingering gaze. He suddenly smiled. It was enough to break the spell that held her.

‘No problem,’ he said cheerfully under his beard, ‘I have an idea.’ Ellie noticed the glint in his eyes had returned and grew wary. ‘Don’t look so worried,’ he reassured her. ‘I’ll carry you.’

Ellie found herself looking at the world upside down, ‘You are a fireman, aren’t you?’ she asked, speaking to the profile of a well shaped bottom in scarlet trousers. He also had good taste in cologne, as he smelt far better than any Santa she had ever met before … or any other man, come to that.

‘How did you guess?’

‘Just had an inkling.’ She tried to crane her neck to look at him. He looked so serious and determined. He was a man on a mission to finish the race … or he was finding her too heavy. She hoped it wasn’t the latter. ‘Is that why you’re so well known?’ she asked.

‘I think it has more to do with F.A.C.E.’

‘Face?’

‘Firemen Against Christmas Exclusion.’ Jamie repositioned her slightly which made her grunt in a very unladylike way. She hoped he hadn’t noticed. ‘We raise money to ensure families who have lost their homes to fire have Christmas presents for their children.’

Ellie smiled. ‘That explains a lot.’ She wanted to ask more questions, but Jamie was beginning to puff. Talking, while running and carrying a woman, was perhaps too much to ask for, which was a pity as she would love to know what music he liked. Did he have a pet? A girlfriend? A wife? Oh please, not a wife! Despite their physical closeness of having his arm threaded through her thighs and one of her legs hitched over his shoulder, she felt she might be taking advantage of the situation if she asked too many questions right now. She returned her gaze to his bottom and fought the urge to play it like a bongo drum. This race was turning out rather fun after all.

Jamie came to a stop and eased Ellie off his shoulder. They had passed the finish line and she hadn’t even noticed or cared. Perhaps he would finally take off his beard and she would see the face of the man who had carried her. They stood for a moment, looking at each other with renewed interest. His hands still held hers to keep her steady, although they both knew she could stand without him.

‘Jamie!’ shrieked a woman’s voice. They turned to see Melissa hurrying up to them, her auburn locks flowing gracefully in the wind. Jamie let go Ellie’s hands and braced himself while Ellie absently ran her hand through her own hair. Her fingers snagged on a knot and she hastily gave up.

‘Melissa,’ Jamie breathed as his face drained of all colour.

‘You know her?’ asked Ellie, needlessly.

‘Yes,’ he replied, his voice as brittle as ice. ‘She was my fiancé, until that smarmy git came along.’

‘Which smarmy git?’ asked Ellie as she noticed Julian heading their way.

Jamie followed her gaze, ‘That smarmy git,’ he replied, his jaw tightening.

Ellie’s heart sank. Julian wasn’t as perfect as he claimed to be and Jamie still had feelings for his ex. It was going to be a Santa bloodbath when they met. Evie looked up to the sky for divine intervention. She wished she was anywhere but here, preferably on some exotic beach with a Pina Colada in her hand. Instead she saw David, the ward porter, dressed in a Santa suit and gesticulating wildly as he floated down towards her.  He was doing his first sponsored parachute jump, and more worryingly still, he was heading straight for her.

Now that’s a cliffhanger and a half! Will Ellie choose Jamie or Julian, or are both men off-limits? And, more importantly, will she be knocked out by a falling Santa? Have to admit we might have decided on our favourite between Jamie and Julian now ;)

Come back tomorrow for the final part of the story by Laura E. James!

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Victoria’s writing, why not try and win a digital copy of her upcoming novel, The Thief’s Daughter … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Victoria’s extract and answer this question …

What is the name of the organisation Jamie is a part of, and what do they do?

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read the final part of the story by Laura E. James HERE.

The Santa Dash: Part Three by Jane Lovering

Round Robin

Clare Chase left us at the starting line of the Santa Dash yesterday – now it’s time to take a run with Jane Lovering for today’s Christmas Round Robin instalment! Who is the mystery woman, and why is Julian acting so shifty? 

Remember to read right until the end if you want to take part in today’s competition. In order to enjoy the story, make sure you read Part One by Kathryn Freeman HERE and Part Two by Clare Chase HERE before you start on Jane’s extract. 

The Santa Dash – Part Three

Suddenly Ellie found herself in a confused melee of red suits and white nylon hair as the more sporty of the dashing Santas took off along the prom. For a moment she lost sight of everyone she knew, found herself spun around by the press of bodies around her, disorientated and even ran a few steps in the wrong direction to the amusement of the watching crowd. Her hat had slipped down over her eyes again and her beard was riding up to meet it, so she could only see the world through a reddish hairy filter and wondered, idly, as she managed to get herself facing the right way, if this was what Hell would look like from inside.  Probably less hirsute, she thought, getting her legs under control and managing a credible jog considering the vast amount of stuffing she’d shoved under her jacket for verisimilitude. Sally had tried to tell her that the Santa Dash wasn’t aiming for absolute Santa-ness, it was the Dash that was important, but Ellie suspected that was just so that Sally could get away with something more figure-hugging, since Julian was going to be there.

Where was Julian?  Ellie peered around the crowd of bobbing hats and beards. Surely he’d be somewhere out in front, after all he regularly played in the hospital rugby team and, judging by his muscles, must also work out.  She puffed a little bit, her padding was working its way around to the back as she ran and the beard was itchy, plus the little black boots that came with the outfit didn’t have very much grip.

‘Good sea air!’

The voice came from next to her and Ellie saw Jamie, recognisable from the way his eyes were gleaming atop the beard.

‘Sorry?’ She was a bit ashamed to find herself puffing more.

‘Nothing like a run in the sea air to clear the tubes.’  He didn’t seem to be even mildly out of breath, jogging along beside her as though this was a gentle stroll.

They ran along together for a moment, buffeted by the faster Santas who, scenting the finish line further along the esplanade, had picked up speed.

‘So,’ Ellie felt duty bound to make conversation, although she had to admit, this was perhaps the most bizarre place she’d ever found herself doing ‘polite chat’, ‘how do you come to know Julian?’

Jamie did a peculiar double-step, at first Ellie thought he’d stumbled, but he turned out to be avoiding a woman pushing a buggy with two small children in.  To Ellie’s surprise, the woman saw Jamie and gave him a big, beaming smile.

‘Oh, it’s you!’ she said, and Jamie slowed down. ‘Sorry! Didn’t mean to be in the way, but Liam was just so excited to see the Santas running …’

Jamie gave her a grin in return. ‘No worries, Gemma,’ he said, and Ellie was only mildly annoyed to notice that he wasn’t even breathing hard. ‘Nice to see you. But I’d better …’ he gestured to the mass of gently heaving red nylon that was surging ahead. ‘Sponsored, you see.’

‘Do you know everyone?’ Ellie panted, hoping her face wasn’t quite as red as her suit yet, but figuring that most of it was concealed by her beard anyway.

‘Not quite. Only the less – how shall I put it – less financially fortunate,’ Jamie turned to her and his eyes were positively gleaming. ‘After all, I don’t know you yet, do I? Coffee, after the run?’

And, without waiting for an answer, he put his head down and began running, overtaking the back markers of the pack and weaving his way through. Ellie watched the white bobble on his hat making its way through the runners.

When she turned her head to try to catch her breath, she saw that Melissa, the gorgeous red-head who’d been talking to Julian, was standing alongside the taped off track. And her eyes were also following Jamie’s running figure, with an expression somewhere between hero-worship and despair.

Ooh, the plot thickens! Join us tomorrow for another instalment from one of our debut authors, Victoria Cornwall!

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, I Don’t Want To Talk About It … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Jane’s extract and answer this question …

Who does Jamie have to sidestep to avoid running into during the Santa Dash? 

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read Part Four by Victoria Cornwall HERE

The Santa Dash: Part Two by Clare Chase

Round Robin

Kathryn Freeman started us off with a Santa Dash yesterday, and now Clare Chase is taking us right up to the starting line. And just what will happen with those two rival Santas? Will Ellie have to choose between them? ;)

Remember to read right until the end if you’d like to take part in our competition! In order for the story to make sense, you will need to read Part One by Kathryn Freeman first, which can be found HERE.

The Santa Dash – PART TWO

Ellie felt a blush creep up her neck. Thank goodness her Santa beard was so thick. But the guy’s flattery didn’t entirely distract her. What was his connection with Julian? Suddenly, she realised she’d left an awkward pause in their conversation. ‘What were you doing anyway, running before everyone else had started?’ she said, quickly.

‘Ah!’ His eyes were twinkling again. ‘Yes, sorry about that. I got a bit held up and I didn’t want to miss the start of the race. My phone’s at home and,’ he tapped his wrist, ‘my watch packed up a week ago so I couldn’t check the time. I don’t need to clock watch for work so I haven’t got around to getting it fixed.’

Ellie was about to ask him what he did when an elderly lady with a blue rinse squeezed her way between two especially rotund Santas.

‘Ah there you are, Jamie,’ she said, beaming up at the man Ellie had knocked over. ‘It took me ages to spot you in the crowd. I’m so glad I didn’t make you miss the race. I wanted to thank you again.’

Ellie wondered what ‘Jamie’ was being thanked for, but at that moment, Julian tore himself away from the gaggle of women who’d surrounded him and caught her eye, his handsome features made all the more irresistible by a smile. Within a moment he’d ushered her towards the front of the throng of Santas. ‘Don’t want to get stuck at the back with the stragglers, do we?’ His hand was still on her shoulder as he guided her into the front row of queueing runners. ‘I hope Jamie wasn’t making a nuisance of himself.’ She noticed his jaw was taut now, and his smile had faded. ‘I’d be curious to know what he said about me.’

Ellie felt the warmth of his hand through her Santa suit. It was definitely lingering on her shoulder longer than was necessary. She tried to concentrate on what he was asking. ‘Well, I gathered you’re not the best of friends, but he didn’t seem keen to talk about it.’

Julian’s smile was back. ‘No, well, he wouldn’t. Whatever he told you wouldn’t reflect well on him. Still if he didn’t elaborate, I won’t either.’ He moved his hand from her shoulder and touched what would have been her cheek, but was currently just nylon beard. She squirmed with embarrassment. It really was too unfair that she was finally within a hair’s breadth of him – dressed as a fat, ageing man with glue-on eyebrows. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, as though reading her mind. ‘You carry off facial hair very nicely.’

At that moment, Ellie noticed a woman with cascading auburn locks that shone in the winter sun. She was standing at the edge of the Santa dash course, wearing a mini skirt, suede jacket and long boots. Distressingly, she seemed to be trying to attract Julian’s attention. When the woman caught her eye and gesticulated, Ellie realised she’d have to give in and let him know.

‘I think someone in the crowd’s waving at you,’ she said, nudging him and pointing.

Julian looked round and spotted the glamorous woman. As Ellie watched she was surprised to see him look startled, and then hesitate before responding. It took at least five seconds for him to muster a smile.

‘Melissa!’ He shouted at last. ‘I’d no idea you’d be here.’

‘Mum said you were running. I thought it would be a hoot to come along and see you. Mind you, I imagined it would be much harder to pick you out.  I might have known you’d barge your way to the front though. Why on earth aren’t you wearing a beard?’

Rather than replying, Ellie noticed Julian suddenly seemed preoccupied with the crowd of Santas behind them. His brow was furrowed and his shoulders tensed as he craned round. She followed his gaze, and found she was looking into the eyes of Jamie, three rows behind them. Then, after a second, Julian looked back at the woman called Melissa again.

‘What is it, Julian?’ Ellie asked.

Suddenly his eyes were back on her. ‘Nothing,’ he said.

And at that moment, a man with a loud hailer distracted them both. ‘Marks, set, go!’

Curiouser and curiouser! Of course Clare Chase’s part was going to end with a bit of a mystery! Can’t wait for tomorrow when Jane Lovering will be taking us for the next mile in our Santa Dash … 

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Clare’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, You Think You Know Me … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Clare’s extract and answer this question …

What is the mystery woman’s name? 

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read Part Three by Jane Lovering HERE

The Santa Dash: Part One by Kathryn Freeman

Round Robin

Ho ho ho! Not long until the big day and we’ll be with you right up until the 23rd with our fab Christmas Round Robin story – it’s super fun and Christmassy and we know you’re just going to love it! What’s more we’ll be running a Christmas competition every day this week too. Read to the end of the story to find out how to enter!

Kathryn Freeman starts us off and sets the scene. It’s time for a Santa Dash …

The Santa Dash: Part One

Ellie scanned the sea of red and white bodies crowding on to the sea front and started to giggle. There couldn’t be many sights more bizarre than the town’s annual Santa Dash. In ten minutes time there would be over a hundred Santa’s of all shapes and sizes, running – sometimes waddling – along the prom, all in the aid of local charities.

Sally elbowed her. ‘Hey, what are you grinning at?’

Ellie turned to her friend, white Santa beard hanging precariously from her mouth, red hat nearly in her eyes. ‘Just thinking how ridiculous we all look.’ Unconsciously she glanced across to the one member of their incongruous Santa line-up who still managed to look good. ‘Well, nearly all of us.’

Sally followed the direction of her gaze and sighed. ‘I reckon Dr Faulkner could dress like a turkey and still look amazing.’

Julian Faulkner was the new consultant in charge of their A&E unit. Six foot one inches of dark, brooding gorgeousness. And did she mention single?

With her eyes trained on the suave consultant, who had rather cheated by not wearing a beard or hat, or indeed anything to disguise the athletic frame beneath his red Santa suit, Ellie didn’t notice the Santa who’d started his dash a little too early. And in the wrong direction.

With a shriek she ploughed into him, knocking him clean off his feet. He landed on the promenade with a mighty thump, the air rushing out of his lungs as he let out a strangled groan.

‘Oh my God, are you okay?’

Feeling terrible, Ellie crouched over him and started to check him for broken bones. ‘It’s okay. I’m a nurse.’

A pair of blue eyes blinked up at her. With his hat and white beard covering most of his face, the eyes were all she could see of him.

To her shock, they looked like they were laughing at her.

‘What?’ she demanded, miffed since she’d been so concerned about him.

‘Sorry.’ His voice was muffled by his beard. ‘Just wondering what we must look like to passers by. You know, Father Christmas lying prostate on the floor and Mother Christmas straddling him. Hope no kids are watching.’

Ellie looked down and gasped in horror. Oh boy, in her rush to check he was okay she’d practically crawled on top of him. Hastily she scrambled to her feet. ‘Well it looks like I don’t have to worry about you. You don’t sound in pain.’

‘I think I’ll live.’ Those eyes, a vivid blue against the stark white fluff of his hat and beard, smiled as he gingerly climbed to his feet. ‘It’s been a while since a gorgeous woman has swept me off my feet.’

Ellie felt another giggle coming on but it was squashed at the sound of a deep voice behind her. One she’d recognise anywhere.

‘Everything okay over here?’

Her brain froze, as it always seemed to do when Julian was around. Luckily Sally answered for them. ‘Ellie just knocked over Father Christmas.’

‘Ellie?’ Julian’s dark eyes swept over her, making her pulse race.

‘I’m good.’ Heavens, she sounded like a mouse. She cleared her throat. ‘Thank you. It’s Father Christmas I was worried about.’

The man in question was busy trying to realign his disheveled red suit. After tugging his padded belly back into position over his shiny black belt, he finally looked up. Blue eyes that had danced at her, looked stormy as he turned to Julian.

‘Well, well. If it isn’t Dr Faulkner.’ He let out a short laugh as he surveyed Julian’s outfit. ‘It’s not really a Santa Dash for you, is it mate? You’re more Man in a Red Suit.’

Julian gave the blue-eyed stranger a cool smile and ran his eyes deliberately up and down the other man’s crumpled red suit. ‘At least I have the dash part down. You never could manage that.’

Ellie heard blue eyes muttering under his breath. Words like stuck up and arrogant prick were clearly audible but Julian wasn’t looking at the man uttering them. The focus of his gaze was entirely on her. ‘Shall we go to the start line?’

Feeling ridiculously giddy, she nodded. ‘Umm, yes. Of course.’

With Sally nowhere to be seen, Ellie started to follow Julian but within seconds his tall figure was swallowed up by the Santa swarm. Only in this case it was a flirty group of female Santa’s she recognised from the hospital staff.

‘Can’t understand what they see in him.’

The man she’d just flattened wasn’t looking like happy Santa as he stared at Julian’s broad back.

‘Why do I get the feeling you two know each other?’

‘Because we do.’ For a split second anger flashed in his eyes but then it disappeared and he yanked down his beard, flashing her a broad grin. ‘But I’m far more interested in knowing you.’

Oooh, looks like Ellie might have two rival Santas to choose from! But which one will it be? Come back tomorrow when Clare Chase will be picking up where Kathryn left off. Can’t wait to find out more! 

COMPETITION TIME

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, why not try and win a copy of her novel, Search for the Truth … we’ll even throw in some Christmas chocolate too!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply read Kathryn’s extract and answer this question …

Ellie runs into a Santa before starting the race. What colour are his eyes? 

If you know the answer, email it to info@choc-lit.co.uk. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced at the end of the week. Good luck!

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Read Part Two by Clare Chase HERE

Driving in the Outback

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Janet Gover has recently celebrated the paperback release of her novel, Little Girl Lost, which returns us to our favourite Australian town of Coorah Creek! In today’s post, Janet takes us up and down some of the outback roads which were inspiration for the book. Watch out for kangaroos! 

When I first came to live in England, one of the things that amazed me was all the conversation about roads – or more precisely routes.

I’d listen to people saying – ‘The M3 was jammed so I exited at the A30 and came via the B389…..’

This doesn’t happen in the outback of Australia.

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You don’t have a lot of options on outback roads.

We don’t give all our roads number in the same way. But more importantly, a lot of the time there is only one road that leads from A to B.  In the towns, of course, there are options, but where I learned to drive there was only ever one road that went where I wanted to go, and it was flat and pretty much straight, owning to a lack of rivers and hills. And as often as not, it was a dirt road as well.

This is the sort of road I learned to drive on. Although not when it rained. It’s too easy to get bogged on the black soil tracks.

This is the sort of road I learned to drive on. Although not when it rained. It’s too easy to get bogged on the black soil tracks.

When I first saw an OS map, I was really surprised at the scale and detail. The owner of that map was equally shocked to learn that in Australia, we don’t have anything similar. The country is too big, and vast areas of it have no roads, no buildings … not even a creek. The only tracks are those left by cattle or sheep or camels. An OS map would have very little to show.

Driving a long straight outback road is so very different to driving on an English motorway. For a start, you can go for an hour or more without even seeing another car. The English motorways have lights. The only lights in the outback are the car’s headlights. It gets very dark out there.

There are warning signs like this in a lot of places, but the kangaroos don’t read the signs. You can find them anywhere.

There are warning signs like this in a lot of places, but the kangaroos don’t read the signs. You can find them anywhere.

There is always the risk of an animal – most often a kangaroo, on the road. And if a kangaroo seems to jump out on front of you in a vaguely suicidal fashion – that’s just what they do. You have to stay alert. And never forget that where there is one kangaroo, there’s bound to be more, and just because one has safely crossed the road ahead of you, you still need to be ready to slam the brakes on.

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It’s easy to see where someone had taken some pretty fast evasive action.

I was recently driving near Canberra with an English friend – who was very excited to see kangaroos on the side of the road. He didn’t seem to understand that they made me, as the driver, wary.

In Little Girl Lost, we spend a bit of time on outback roads – with Tia on her motorcycle, with Pete in his truck. And of course, Sergeant Max patrols the road.

This is the Harley Davidson motorcycle I gave to Tia. I found it in a car park in the Middle East – but it looked just right.

This is the Harley Davidson motorcycle I gave to Tia. I found it in a car park in the Middle East – but it looked just right.

There is a certain magic to driving an outback road late at night. The sky is just amazing – the stars seem very close. The night air smells like nothing I have found anywhere else in the world.

Sometimes it can seem as if you are the only person left in the world.

Now there’s a story idea in the making!

A truckie heading west into the outback.

A truckie heading west into the outback.

 

Little Girl Lost is now available to purchase as an eBook and paperback. Click HERE for buying options.

For more information on Janet Gover, follow her on Twitter: @janet_gover
Visit her website: www.janetgover.com

Tennis at Christmas?

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Tennis and Christmas? Not a natural match, perhaps – but Kathryn Freeman makes it work in her new novel, A Second Christmas Wish! And she has written about how she did it … 

My first Christmas book, A Second Christmas Wish, was out at the beginning of November. I confess I haven’t been this excited about Christmas since Father Christmas came down the chimney and left presents on the end of my bed.

Those were the days. Days I dragged out of my memory when I began to plot out this story. Not to recreate them, but to remember some of the magic of Christmas that crowded shops, Christmas card writing and remembering to book my online grocery slot two months before I need it, has dimmed.

In fact before I began to write A Second Christmas Wish I made a list of all the things I liked most about Christmas; the nativity play, mince pies, snow balls, Christmas trees. Festive traditions a reader would easily associate with Christmas and which I gleefully weaved into the story. I also ended up including a few themes not traditionally associated with Christmas though. Like tennis.

Umm, so why on earth did I write about tennis in a Christmas book? The answer lies in my heroine, Melissa and her son, William. They are still recovering from her ill-fated marriage to a man who turned out to be a manipulative husband and cold father. It’s left them both wary of men and disillusioned with Christmas.

I needed them to meet a man who would help put some sparkle back into their Christmas. But how to meet him? William lacks confidence so I thought giving him some lessons in a sport would help improve this. Also because I’m a sucker for a sports star. Over the years I’ve had many sporting idols, like Jonny Wilkinson, Seve Ballesteros, Michael Owen. And don’t get me started on Jenson Button … he’s why I ended up writing a romance about a sexy racing driver.

Sorry, talk of Jenson has derailed me. Sexy men have a habit of doing that. I was deciding on a sport for my young hero, William. I considered football, but for a sensitive boy that didn’t seem quite right. I could have gone with a snowy theme and picked skiing but again, pushing a shy boy down a slope didn’t fit well with me, though of course I’m sure skiing coaches aren’t that mean.

The more I thought about it, the more tennis seemed a perfect fit. It isn’t a contact sport but you can learn in a group. Plus it’s a sport I know something about because I play it myself and my sons both had coaching from the age William is in the story. That’s the only reason they can beat me now of course …

So that’s how the hero of A Second Christmas Wish became ex-tennis professional Daniel McCormick. A man who’s recently opened a tennis academy, teaching youngsters the joy of the sport he loves but had to give up through injury. He’s over six feet of rippling athleticism. Imagine a combination of Pat Cash and Rafael Nadal. I know I did, when I was writing him. He certainly added a sparkle to my days but the question is, did he do the same for Melissa?

… And you can find out whether he did in A Second Christmas Wish which is now available to buy on all eBook platforms! 

Kindle UK  Kindle US  Kindle AUS  Kindle CA

For more information on Kathryn, follow her on Twitter @KathrynFreeman

Or visit her website: www.kathrynfreeman.co.uk

The Perfect Christmas Kiss

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Today sees the release of Alison May’s Christmas Kisses; a collection of gorgeous festive stories about three girls searching for ‘the perfect Christmas kiss’. But does that ‘perfect’ kiss even exist? Alison asks that exact question in today’s blog post … 

The idea of writing a post about ‘The Perfect Christmas Kiss’ seemed such a good idea as an abstract concept when I agreed to it a week before I had to actually sit down and write anything. It’s such a beautiful romantic idea – surely everyone has an idea of their perfect mistletoe-moment?

You might have a fantasy of meeting your flawless long-distance lover at the top of the Empire State Building as the bells chime to ring in Christmas Day. Or you might prefer a more traditional English Christmas scene – maybe with snow falling over a village green outside a beautiful old stone church, everyone wrapped up in hats and scarves and the love of your life with a sprig of mistletoe and a certain twinkle in his or her eye? Or perhaps you’re not a lover of Christmas and would prefer to be whisked away to a sunkissed beach to forget the festive season altogether and indulge in a little holiday romance whilst you’re there?

But here’s the problem – all of those ideas sound lovely in practice but they’re fantasy, aren’t they? And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy, but trying to translate fantasy into real-life is a surefire recipe for anti-climax and disappointment. That sunkissed beach sounds lovely, but actually having a frolic on it is just going to lead to sand in your pants and a sunburn in places that the sun really isn’t supposed to shine. The meeting at the top of the Empire State Building is such a romantic idea, but once you actually get there you’ll be sharing the viewing platform with every other lovelorn hopeful in New York city, and there’s nothing worse than having to form a queue every time a eligible-looking singleton appears on the off-chance that they might be the one for you. Even the snow-covered English village sounds frankly off-puttingly chilly, and realistically, you’re going to have a streaming nose and chattering teeth if you stay out trying to canoodle for too long.

So here’s my suggestion for the perfect Christmas Kiss – don’t plan it. Perfect moments are something that happens, not something that can be prepared. You know how nights out where you swear that you’re just going to have one drink and then end up crawling home at 3am are always more fun than big nights that take weeks to plan? Well I think perfect Christmas kisses might fall into the same category. Whatever you think perfection is going to look like, that’s almost certainly not how it would actually turn out. Perfection, where is exists at all, exists in the surprising and the unexpected, in the spontaneous and the organic, rather in those things that have been meticulously planned and preconceived. That’s something that each of the heroines in Christmas Kisses has to learn in their own different way. Perfect is never really what you think it’s going to be. Sometimes you have to open your mind and enjoy the moment that you’re in right now, whether it looks like you expected or not.

Christmas Kisses is now available to purchase in paperback from all good book stockists and retailers. Click HERE to order from Amazon. 

For more information on Alison, follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay.

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

Halloween Round Robin DAY FIVE

 

Happy Halloween everyone! We know you’ll no doubt be busy preparing for trick-or-treaters and pumpkin carving but make sure you take some time out with your morning coffee to read the last part of our Halloween Round Robin and find out what happens to Kalen and Faye. A Jane Lovering finale is not to be missed :) There’s one more competition to enter too!

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order.

Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens

Click HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Click HERE to read Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Click HERE to read Part Four by Kirsty Ferry 

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

We danced for what felt like days, but every time I glanced up the moon was still in the same position, as though it had been nailed to the black silk of the sky.

‘The queen wishes to meet our human guest,’ Kalen said, after we’d performed a particularly difficult waltz that had left me out of breath whilst all the other dancers seemed unaffected, almost cat-like in their grace and elegance, and also their air of slightly self-satisfied arrogance. ‘She is intrigued by your presence.’

He took my hand and led me to a dais, surrounded by gauzy curtains which fluttered in an unfelt breeze. Upon the platform sat a woman so beautiful that I immediately felt pathetically unworthy and slightly fat in my laced-up bodice and swirly skirt. Everything about her was perfect. Her hair was glossy black, parted in the middle and rippled with just enough curl to make it not hang like a 1960’s folk singer. Her face could have advertised anything from perfume to expensive cars and she wore a dress that managed to leave everything to the imagination whilst assuming that you didn’t have a very good one. She looked like Faerie Barbie.

‘So.’ And even her voice was perfect, light and amused, accentless. ‘This is the human woman that you rescued from the Dark Court’s attention.’  She rested her chin in her cupped hand and looked at me as though she was going to buy me. ‘Hmmm.’ She made a ‘twirling’ motion in the air with her other hand and Kalen obediently swung me around.  ’I suppose she will do.’ Then her attention focused in on me. ‘Has Kalen provided you with refreshment yet, my dear? Do have a cup of sherbet.’

I wanted to point out that, what with it being Halloween, I’d already had enough sherbet to knock out a ten-year-old, but Kalen was already passing me an ornate silver goblet filled with liquid. It foamed and smelled of all the delicious things I’d ever eaten or drunk. I realised that, with all the dancing and partying and not knowing how much time had elapsed, I was actually really thirsty, and raised the cup to my lips.

A large tartan shopping bag appeared out of nowhere and smacked the goblet from my hand, spilling frothing liquid across the impeccable grass in front of me.

‘Don’t you know that you never eat or drink in Faerie?’ a crotchety voice asked. ‘Honestly, what do they teach them in schools these days?  Well, geography, I suppose. And French. But obviously not how to behave when you’ve been stolen away by the Folk… tch.’

Mrs Alden, wearing what looked suspiciously like a winceyette nightie and ankle-high slippers in purple tartan stood in the middle of the faerie ball, as incongruous as a naked man in Harrods. She’d lowered her wheeled shopping bag, but was still holding it slightly threateningly by its long handle.

The queen looked furious.  She actually hissed at Mrs Arden.

‘Now, now, my lady. You’ll not use this poor child in one of your battles against the Unseelie.’ Mrs Arden gave me A Look. ‘Just because she’s a bit simple and has her head easily turned by a man in tight britches does not give you the right to keep her in Faerie.’  A hand fastened around my wrist. ‘And you, come with me.’

She pulled me away from the floating candles and the music and the laughter.  Away from the magic that had made me feel so special, and back through the wooden door. Instantly we were outside the flats again and I could smell the rubbish bins and the damp compost from my pots. My clothes were back to being jeans and trainers, and I felt a brief pang for the loss of the cobweb dress and silver slippers. Mrs Arden continued to bundle me until we were back inside the building, and then inside her flat, whereupon she pushed me down into an armchair, made a quick phone call that I couldn’t hear, and turned to me.

‘I suppose you told them your name.’  She was shaking her head. ‘Really, child.  You let yourself be elf-struck, and on this night of all nights … well. You were just lucky I was there.’  She reached into the tartan shopper and pulled out another horse-shoe, this one was still bright and had a few nails protruding. Mrs Arden sighed. ‘And at my age I shouldn’t be wrestling with horses, it’s no joke trying to pull these things off, you know, when you’ve got half a tonne of Welsh Cob trying to nibble your nightie.’

I was still stunned.  I just sat, trying to get my head around what had just happened.  The memory of the faerie ball was fading, wisping into dream.

‘I knew what was happening the second you burst in and stole my horseshoe. If you eat or drink in Faerie, they have you, you know.’  Mrs Arden’s voice softened now. ‘They can keep you for two hundred years and do what they want with you. And what they want is rarely pleasant.’ Her voice dropped away, as though she knew. ‘And then they just drop you back where they found you.  All your family dead and gone, never knowing what happened to you.’

There was a knock at the door and she went off to open it to a tall young man with familiar piercing blue eyes, who I was absolutely NOT going to refer to as Kalen No. 3. ‘This is my great great grandson,’ she said.

The young man smiled at me, with absolutely no sense of recognition, but a warm friendliness. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘I’m Mark.’

I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times.  ’And I’m …’ I hesitated.

Mrs Arden twinkled at me. ‘It’s all right,’ she said. ‘Halloween is just about over, and this one is definitely mortal. He’s the spitting image of his great great grandad, though …’ she added softly.

‘I’m Faye,’ I said.  ’From next door.’

Mark nodded. ‘I’ve seen you coming and going, when I’ve been visiting Great Gran. I’m renovating the old hall down the road there, going to turn it into a house … I was going to knock and ask you to come over for a coffee, but …’ he spread his hands, ‘it just never seemed the right time.’

Mrs Arden nodded to herself, as though quietly satisfied. Then she stared at the space above the door where I’d wrenched holes in her architrave. ‘Now, I’ll leave you two alone together to get to know one another … and to get that bloody horseshoe back up where it belongs!’

We were beginning to have our suspicions about ‘Kalen Number 1′, but we’re so glad Mrs Arden stepped in to save the day – and that Faye finally met the ‘right’ Kalen (or Mark!) What a fabulous way to end our Round Robin and to begin the Halloween celebrations! 

Thank you to all of our talented authors for putting the story together. We don’t know how you manage it! And thank you also to everyone who has read the story and commented. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you all have a wonderful Halloween. 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Vampire State of Mind and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

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