Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Part 1 by Morton S. Gray

Happy Halloween! It’s time for this year’s Halloween Round Robin. And this year we have not one but TWO fabulously spooky tales written collaboratively by eight talented Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction authors to share with you 👻 We shared one yesterday (click HERE to begin reading it) and today we’re starting again with a new bunch of authors! 

Morton S. Gray starts us off today, taking us to the very atmospheric Hargreate Hall where we’re sure there’s potential for spooky surprises aplenty! Come back every hour until 2pm to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes. Alternatively you can wait until all parts have been put up and read the story in its entirety! 

Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more 😉 

Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition! 

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – PART 1 BY MORTON S. GRAY 

Meredith had no idea why Joe had been so against her suggestion of a Halloween trail around the house and grounds of Hargreate Hall, but then he seemed pretty anti anything she suggested these days.

She was sure he hadn’t been like this when she’d first joined the staff at the hall as events co-ordinator two years ago. Having carefully analysed every time she could remember being in conversation, or a meeting, with Joe she still couldn’t decide what on earth she’d done to upset him. The atmosphere when they were in close proximity had become so frosty that she was even considering looking for another job just to get away from the man.

He was the head groundsman and in charge of anything outside of the main house. It didn’t help Meredith’s confusion that he was six feet of gorgeousness, broad shoulders and hair that flopped over his glinting blue eyes. His lips were full and expressive. Lips you could imagine kissing. Lips she’d studied often in boring meetings. Unfortunately these days those lips were usually turned down in an unhappy frown.

Joe’s objection to her Halloween idea wasn’t helpful when Hargreate Hall needed to increase visitor numbers just to keep afloat. Lord Warren had been open about the financial difficulties at the end of August, when it became clear that summer visitor numbers were the lowest ever recorded. He had asked everyone for any income generating ideas which could be put in place for the last quarter of the year. Her employer’s voice had contained a warble of desperation that made Meredith feel sad.

‘Why don’t we open the house and grounds after dark in Halloween week? With the hall lit by candles and part of the garden by lanterns, it would be magical and attract the crowds. Kids always love finding clues on a trail, Halloween-themed of course, and we could have a few surprises set up along the way – spiders, skeletons, ghosts, strange noises … and we could sell hot chocolate and toffee apples,’ Meredith had suggested.

‘A lot of work. Difficult to supervise after dark too,’ Joe had replied grumpily.

Lord Warren was positive though, so Joe was overruled. Hargreate Hall Halloween After-Dark Trail had been put into the programme, hastily blogged and tweeted about.

Now with a week to go and her article about the Halloween trail on page three of the free local newspaper, Meredith was in a panic. She’d been collecting props for the ghostly displays, pumpkins, lots of cotton wool, a few plastic skeletons and a huge spider. Could she pull this off? The downside of the hall being in financial difficulty was that she didn’t have the two assistants she’d had in previous years. She really needed Joe on her side to help set everything up in the grounds.

She knocked on the door of his office in the old stable block.

‘Come in,’ boomed his deep baritone.

It felt like entering the headmaster’s study at school after some misdemeanour.

‘Oh, it’s you.’ He greeted her with a sour expression on his handsome face.

Meredith decided not to challenge him about his attitude, although she knew that day was long overdue, but she’d hold back until after Halloween as she desperately needed his help. With her mind screaming ‘What on earth have I ever done to you?’, she smiled sweetly and plonked herself down in the chair opposite to his, pushing her long blonde hair behind her shoulders. ‘As you know, we have the Halloween trail evenings starting next Monday and I could really do with your help setting everything up.’

‘Humph …’

Oh dear, Joe didn’t look keen or helpful.

‘What exactly is involved?’

Meredith laid her newly printed trail map on the table between them. It was an adaptation of the one that had been used for the Kings and Queens and the Alice in Wonderland trails in the summer. She’d had the help of Colin and Mary for those two, but Colin had recently retired and Mary had left and in the current dire circumstances neither had been replaced. ‘I have everything ready.’ She crossed her fingers under cover of the desk. ‘It just needs to be put in place.’

Joe pulled the piece of paper towards him, sighing. Despite his obvious reluctance, Meredith was distracted by the flex of his bicep as he moved the trail leaflet closer and the spark of physical attraction she felt made her blush.

Her interest was quickly drowned by his next comment. ‘Load of rubbish. Who’s going to pay to walk around an old damp house by candlelight and stumble across the muddy grounds in the rain to find plastic skeletons draped in cotton wool?’

She bit her lip as her hackles rose, but she replied in a calm voice. ‘Look, Lord Warren supports the event. I don’t need you to approve, just to help me set things up. Pretty please. It will have to be done on Sunday though, after we’ve closed for the afternoon I’m afraid.’

‘I suppose I can help, but I’ll have my daughter with me on Sunday.’

A daughter? That was news to Meredith. She hadn’t known he was involved with anyone, let alone a father.

She smiled, whilst wondering how old his daughter might be. ‘I’m sure I can find her a few jobs too.’

He leaned back on his chair, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

As he stared straight at her, she felt her cheeks colour yet again, despite her willing them not to.

His next words surprised her.

‘Why are you trying so hard?’

We love the idea of a Halloween after-dark trail but why is Joe being so mean to Meredith?! Maybe we’ll find out in the next instalment by Angela Britnell – up in the next hour! 

If you enjoyed Morton’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and her new Christmas book, Christmas at Borteen Bay, will be released in November! Click the image below for purchasing options. 

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What were Meredith’s two former assistants called? 

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Morton S. Gray comp’ by Friday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday 5th November.

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