Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Final Part by Berni Stevens

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! 

It’s only right that we finish our Halloween festivities off with our very own Queen of vampire fiction, Berni Stevens! And if you were wracking your brains trying to work out which way this story could possibly go, we don’t think you could have possibly guessed Berni’s fantastic finish!

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

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE
Read Part 2 by Angela Britnell HERE
Read Part 3 by Kathryn Freeman HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – FINAL PART BY BERNI STEVENS 

Meredith had been knee-deep in Halloween preparations since the last Kate encounter, and too busy to question the weirdness of life – and death – at Hargreate Hall. By the time Sunday morning dawned, she’d convinced herself she’d misunderstood the ghost’s words. Whatever her ‘plan’ was, she’d said it would involve Joe, and he hadn’t looked too thrilled.

However, she felt pleased with the way everything was shaping up back at the Hall. The trail looked seriously spooky already – even in daylight, and once the various LED lights were hidden among the fake cobwebs which draped over the yew hedges, it would look even more amazing. She still had bags of marshmallow eyeballs, and chocolate pumpkins and witches to hide for the children to find, and then she needed to set up a barrel for apple bobbing.

The hedges rustled as she passed by, which caused the cobwebs to quiver, and Meredith found herself sniffing the air suspiciously for any whiff of lilac. She made her way to Joe’s office, hoping he’d actually be there, and hadn’t suddenly decided against helping her. She’d forgotten to ask how old his daughter was too, which could be a potential problem if she turned out to be a sulky teenager. Knocking smartly on his office door, she stepped back when it opened immediately.

A small, female version of Joe stood there, with the same vivid blue eyes, which stared up at her without blinking.

‘I’m Lily,’ she said. ‘And I’m six.’

Meredith held her hand out. ‘Hello Lily,’ she said. ‘I’m very pleased to meet you.’

‘You’re supposed to tell me your name.’ Lily put her small hand in Meredith’s.

‘Lily, I hope you aren’t being rude.’ Joe came to stand beside his daughter. He glanced at Meredith, and there was a definite twinkle in his eyes this time.

‘I’m sorry, Lily,’ Meredith said. ‘My name’s Meredith, but you can call me Merry if you like, lots of people do.’

‘Merry.’ Lily repeated.

‘Suits you.’ Joe flashed a grin at her. Wow, what a difference a grin made. He really should bring his daughter in to work every day.

A crash from the corridor made them all turn round. Joe sprinted past Meredith and Lily. A large Chinese vase had fallen from its plinth, and shattered into tiny fragments on the flagstone floor.

‘What …?’ Meredith walked towards the debris, and caught the faint smell of lilacs. ‘Kate?’

The air felt distinctly cooler the closer she got to the broken pieces of vase. Joe was back to looking grim again.

‘Was it valuable?’ She looked at Joe.

‘I doubt it, the family sold most of the valuable things off, to try and keep this place going.’

‘It was my mother’s.’ A disembodied voice floated down.

‘Doesn’t make it valuable,’ said Joe morosely. ‘Just old.’

‘That’s rude,’ a small voice piped up.

Meredith hid a smile. Lily had a point. ‘Why would you break it then?’ She addressed the air smelling mostly of lilacs.

‘It was always a disgusting vase.’ The air turned suddenly colder.

Lily looked mutinous and seemed not in the least phased by everyone having a conversation with – apparently – thin air. ‘Disgusting,’ she repeated. ‘That’s a bad word.’

Joe shrugged his broad shoulders. ‘Lily’s learning good and bad words at the moment.’

Meredith grinned. ‘And she’s very good. Shall we clear this mess up?’

It took longer than expected to sweep up the pieces of broken china, because apparently Kate thought it extremely amusing to blow them down the corridor just as they approached with the dustpan and brush. Luckily Lily thought it hilarious too, and not at all scary. But time and trail waits for no man – or ghost – and Meredith eventually managed to get Joe filling the large half barrel with water and Lily washing apples, whilst she made sure all the batteries worked for the lights.

Even Joe had to admit the trail looked incredible, and very ghostly, once all the lights were switched on. They’d hung plastic bats from the trees and even hung a full-sized plastic skeleton from the gnarled branch of the ancient oak tree.

Meredith switched off the lights on the trail and went to find Joe and Lily. The soft scent of lilacs wafted past her and she stopped.

‘Kate?’

A rustle of silk skirts and a soft laugh answered her.

‘So where have you been?’ Meredith addressed the air where the laugh had come from.

‘Around.’

‘I thought you had a plan that involved Joe.’

‘I did, and it’s working.’

Well, who knew ghosts did riddles. Meredith sighed. ‘Kate, it’s been a long day …’

To her surprise, Kate began to materialise in front of her. She looked so beautiful. Soft auburn hair curled down to her shoulders, and green eyes glinted with a mischievous sparkle.

‘But I thought you couldn’t …’

‘I always could … I chose not to.’

‘Why?’

‘We needed to convince Joe to remain in the mortal world.’

‘I don’t understand …’

‘His wife died when Lily was only three, and he … well he tried to join her.’

Meredith gasped. ‘And you stopped him.’

‘Yes.’

‘So you ruined his death.’

‘I did.’ Another laugh. ‘I knew you were the one for him, but he had to see for himself.’

‘Which he hasn’t.’

‘Yes he has …’

Kate’s image faded away in front of Meredith’s eyes. Then she heard Joe call her name, and turning around, she watched Lily run towards her, with arms outstretched, and she crouched down to catch the little girl in a hug. Over her head she saw the look in Joe’s eyes when he looked down at her, and she knew the ghost had been absolutely right.

Awww, what a sweetly spooky ending to a fabulous Halloween Round Robin! We hope you enjoyed it! Thank you once again to our super talented authors for putting this together. We hope all our readers enjoyed both our stories 🎃 Enjoy your Halloween evenings all – we hope they’re filled with plenty of treats and not too many tricks!

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and we’ve just released her quirky (and not at all spooky!) Christmas novella, One Magical Christmas! Click the images below for purchasing options. 

 

 

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 Halloween-themed sweets does Meredith hide for the children on the trail?

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

Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Part 3 by Kathryn Freeman

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! 

Kathryn Freeman really has her work cut out for her in following up from Angela Britnell who left Joe and Meredith in a very unusual situation with a ghost in the last part! We’re sure she’ll pull it out of the bag though! Read on to see if she does. 

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

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE
Read Part 2 by Angela Britnell HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – PART 3 BY KATHRYN FREEMAN 

‘Your death?’ Meredith lurched backwards, banging the back of her head against the wall. As she felt her knees give way, a pair of strong arms reached out and caught her.

‘Hey, I’ve got you.’ Concern softened Joe’s usually harsh features. ‘Come and sit down.’

Before she knew what was happening, she was back in his office, sitting on the visitor chair with him crouched down next to her. ‘Feeling better?’

She drew in a breath, and as she let it out, Kate’s words rushed back to her. ‘What did Kate mean, about ruining your death?’

Joe sighed heavily, rising to his feet and perching on the edge of the desk. ‘Do I look dead to you?’

Her eyes rested on his big muscular thighs, straining against the material of his jeans, then skimmed up to his darkly handsome face. ‘No.’ He looked gloriously, vividly alive.

‘Well then. Don’t believe any nonsense you hear from a ghost.’ His jaw tightened, and the harshness returned to his face. ‘Especially that ghost.’

Meredith gulped. Clearly Kate had been right. There was some sort of history between them. History she was too afraid to ask about for fear of upsetting him further. ‘Your words imply there are other ghosts, but Kate said she’d run them all off.’

A ghost of a smile – oh God, terrible pun – flickered across his face. ‘What did I say about listening to her? She thinks she rules the place. Always has.’

Okay, okay. About a million questions buzzed through Meredith’s brain, but now wasn’t the time. Not when she had a Halloween trail to put together, which required Joe to be in a good mood. ‘Kate said she would help with the Halloween event.’ Meredith hesitated, remembering the conversation. With the ghost. Joe himself had said Kate was a ghost, so it was quite possible she really was. Then again, Kate had said Joe was dead, which would also make him … no, that was plain insanity. ‘Actually, Kate,’ yes, that sounded better than saying the ghost, ‘said she had a plan, but it involved you.’

‘Did she now.’ He stood, jaw muscle twitching again, and walked to the window, sliding his hands into his jeans pockets. Leaving her staring at his broad back.

Silence pinged around the room and Kate could feel his tension. Slowly he turned to face her. ‘Kate also said I was dead, which we’ve established isn’t true, so why believe she’s going to help?’

Because I’ve established more of a relationship with Kate since coming to work here than I have with you? The words were there, hovering on her tongue, but Meredith held back from saying them. Still, she wasn’t going to leave it alone totally. ‘At least Kate has offered to help. All you’ve done is throw cold water over my ideas.’

He winced, his shoulders sagging. ‘I have, haven’t I?’ Slowly he went to sit down at his desk. ‘Look, I’m sorry I’ve been a bit negative.’

‘A bit?’

He gave her a crooked smile. ‘Fine. Sorry I’ve been a total pain in the backside. Better?’

A warm, fuzzy feeling swept through her. He was smiling at her. They were actually having a friendly conversation. ‘Much better.’

‘The thing is, I had my reasons. Have my reasons.’ He glanced away then, as if considering his next words. ‘If you want to involve Kate, fine. Why not suggest she comes – or appears, or whatever it is she does – to our meeting on Sunday.’ His vivid blue eyes met hers. ‘I’ll bring my daughter to help. She loves all that tacky Halloween crap you’re planning.’

This time she didn’t take offence, because this time his eyes smiled when he said it. ‘Okay, great. And you promise to be nice to Kate?’

The smile vanished. ‘I can’t promise that. But I do promise to turn up and help you.’

It was as much as she could hope for, and more than she’d expected. ‘Thank you. And thank you for, you know, catching me.’

‘No problem.’ His eyes darkened as they held hers. ‘It was my pleasure.’

Her heart bumped against her ribs and Meredith almost floated out of his office.

Now all she had to do was find Kate.

Find a ghost.

She laughed to herself as she stepped into the corridor, feeling lighter, happier. She and Joe had turned a huge corner in their relationship. Working at Hargreate Hall had the potential to be a million times better from now on. Well, it would if she still had a job.

Hurriedly she walked towards the library – the first place she’d ‘met’ Kate. Feeling daft, she paced up and down, past the rows of dusty books, the wooden fireplace, the oil paintings of previous occupants.

That’s when she smelt the lilacs. ‘Kate?’

‘I’m here. So, did you get anywhere with our Joe?’

Our? ‘Can you meet us here on Sunday?’

Meredith heard laughter. ‘I’m hardly going anywhere, am I? Did Joe agree to help?’

‘Yes. He’s bringing his daughter, too.’

Kate gasped and immediately the air around her became noticeably colder, until Meredith felt her fingers going numb.

‘Kate?’ She whispered into the frozen silence.

But the smell of lilacs had vanished.

What did we say about Kathryn pulling it out of the bag? 😉 But now she’s left us on a spooky cliffhanger and it’s up to Berni Stevens to finish things off. We’re going to leave you biting your fingernails in anticipation for another hour though!  

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – including plenty of fab Christmas books! Click the images below for purchasing options. 

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What type of flower does Meredith smell when Kate is around?

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

Halloween at Hargreate Hall: Part 2 by Angela Britnell

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! 

Yesterday Morton S. Gray introduced us to the staff at Hargreate Hall and today Angela Britnell has her turn. We still really want to find out why Joe is being so mean! 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!

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Morton S. Gray HERE

HALLOWEEN AT HARGREATE HALL – PART 2 BY ANGELA BRITNELL 

‘I could ask you why you’re not trying at all?’ Except for trying her patience. ‘I don’t want to lose my job even if you do.’ Judging by the way his dark eyebrows shot up her comment hit home. ‘Do you want Hargreate Hall to go bankrupt?’ Joe’s unwavering stare made her tingle all over.

‘No.’ His loud yell startled her and she almost tripped over one of the tottering stacks of files scattered around the floor. ‘But I am a realist. You can’t wave a magic wand and drop a few plastic spiders around this godforsaken wreck and seriously believe the few pounds we’ll make will be anything more than a drop in the bucket.’ A hint of cynical amusement twisted the corners of his mouth. ‘Although our leaky roof could make a decent contribution. Why on earth don’t you stop wasting your time and energy and get a job somewhere else?’

‘Because I’m not a quitter.’ At one point she’d considered Joe a friend and hoped for something more but now? Over the last few months their relationship had gone downhill and she suspected Joe had labelled her as a mentally lightweight blonde. He wasn’t the first person to make that mistake. ‘You could easily find another job too so why stay if you’re not committed to Hargreate?’

‘I can’t leave,’ he mumbled.

The obvious follow up to his mysterious statement hovered in the air between them.

‘I do want to see Hargreate Hall flourish but …’ Joe bent a paperclip until it snapped in two. ‘I’ll be here by four o’clock on Sunday.’ He picked up a folder from his desk. ‘Will that be all?’

There were a million questions she itched to ask but Meredith plastered on a smile, thanked him in a very businesslike way and gave the door a firm slam on the way out. Not quite loud enough that he could call her rude… If she’d been determined before to make the Hargreate Hall Halloween After-Dark Trail a success her stubbornness had solidified. She would prove Joe wrong if it was the last thing she did. The problem was she couldn’t do it alone.

A sudden chill skittered down her spine. ‘I should have guessed you wouldn’t be able to resist interfering.’

Only a puff of smoke lingering underneath the chandelier, the scent of lilacs and Kate’s insubstantial bell-like laughter betrayed her. Lady Katherine Ernestine Warren, second wife of the appalling Lord Peregrine Warren, fluttered closer to Meredith.

‘That’s not a terribly kind thing to say.’ Kate pouted, or at least it sounded like a pout because she didn’t do visibility well. A swish of pale blue satin the first time they met on the spiral staircase in the library was the only half-concrete sign Meredith had ever received. If anyone asked her before that cold March day if she believed in ghosts she would have answered with an unequivocal no. Now she couldn’t be certain. ‘I hoped you might appreciate my help.’

‘Yours?’ She hated to point out the obvious drawback in that offer.

‘Oh ye of little faith.’ Another trill of laughter filled the Great Hall. ‘I hear you are trying to attract visitors for this … Halloween event.’ Kate’s disdain oozed through her voice. No doubt she considered it tasteless and Meredith couldn’t put her finger on why she was worried about the feelings of someone who’d been dead almost a hundred and fifty years. Did ghosts even have feelings? ‘Every profitable castle and stately home boasts of having a ghost. Naturally multiple ones are far more profitable but you’ll have to make do with me because I’ve run all the others off.’

‘Others …’ Her voice faded. No wonder Meredith’s head ached. After her confrontation with Joe and now this encounter it was a miracle she wasn’t lying down comatose in a dark room.

‘Of course there were others.’ Kate snorted. ‘This house has been in the Warren family for over five hundred years. Do you seriously believe I’m the only one to have died in tragic circumstances?’

‘I suppose not.’

‘I have a plan.’

I was afraid you might.

‘We’ll have to let the dashing Joe in on our little scheme.’

‘Joe?’ Meredith could swear she saw two, pink round dots hovering in the area where Kate’s cheeks might logically be.

‘That’s my condition for helping you.’

She tried to imagine approaching Joe, who’d mocked her enough recently, with this new crackpot idea.

‘I think you’ll find he won’t mind. Joe and I have a … history shall we say?’ If Kate was a cat she’d be purring.

‘You and Joe?’ Meredith’s overwrought brain spun in dizzying circles.

‘Were you calling for me?’ Joe blustered out of his office with a dark scowl marring his handsome features. ‘I’m off out to prune the …’ His ruddy face turned the colour of curdled milk and he swayed on his feet. ‘Get that creature out of here now.’ He jabbed his finger at Kate. ‘She ruined my life.’

‘No, dearest Joe I ruined your death.’

 

Did anyone feel a tingle up their spine? We suppose every Halloween Round Robin needs a ghost … but Lady Katherine Ernestine Warren seems a rather unique ghost – and just what is her connection to Joe? Hopefully Kathryn Freeman can shed some light in the penultimate part coming up in the next hour! 

If you enjoyed Angela’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and her new winter read, Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat, will be released in December. Click the image below for purchasing options. 

 

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Where did Meredith and Kate (the ghost!) first meet? 

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

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.

A Rocky Horror Halloween: Final Part by Kirsty Ferry

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’ll be sharing one today and one tomorrow – keep an eye on the blog so you don’t miss out! 

Victoria Cornwall really left poor Bella in the lurch in the last extract – and now it’s up to Kirsty Ferry to finish things off, one way or another 👻 This is the final part of our Round Robin for today but we’ll be back with a new story tomorrow for Halloween itself! 

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

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Lynda Stacey HERE
Read Part 2 by Caroline James HERE
Read Part 3 by Victoria Cornwall HERE

A ROCKY HORROR HALLOWEEN – FINAL PART BY KIRSTY FERRY 

The room swam before her eyes, and the ceiling was pressing down on her. The chanting was growing louder and within the weird incantations, she heard faint snatches of words she half-remembered from the Rocky Horror Show. These ghouls were going all out for it –she had to give them credit for that. They were taking some sort of evil pleasure in making her remember the show, remember that the show was what had led to this – her very probable demise.

It had been a hell of a lot more fun when she’d been in the show – right up until she’d been attacked backstage.

Magenta. The strong, sassy French Maid. The one who survived at the end of the show. The one who disappeared in that space ship thing with …

‘Riff Raff!’

‘Meow.’

Bella turned her head painfully as the cat came right up to her. She stared at it, eye to eye, and something else floated into her head: the words of one of the songs she’d belted out with Frank ‘n’ Furter, Brad, Janet, Riff Raff and Columbia.

Something about how, in just seven days, they could make Rocky a man.

Well she didn’t have seven days. She had approximately seven minutes, if she was lucky.

‘Can I make you a man, Riff Raff? Can you save me?’

It wasn’t even funny. But the cat was looking at her strangely, and it pushed its face right up to hers. It’s eyes locked onto her, and she stared back at it.

Suddenly, her mind filled with images of the show, rushing at her like a whirlwind. The mad antics of them all as they tried to do a synchronised Time Warp or jiggle feather boas in time with one another; the laughter as they all painted their faces with absurd make-up and squeezed into basques. The face of the guy who had played Eddie – the bad-boy biker who had roared onto stage and taken her breath away in more ways than one.

Max.

She had deliberately pushed him out of her mind – when she’d been hobbling around in that stupid cast, he’d disappeared abroad for a holiday job, and she never saw him again. They’d written to one another, but that had gradually dwindled away as university and new friendships took over for them both.

He was the one who had told her that Justin had been the one to push her over – Justin, who fancied her in her French Maid’s outfit to a worrying degree. Justin, who had played Rocky and thought that she should fancy him back as he posed in his tiny gold lamé outfit.

Well she hadn’t. She had been more into the leather-clad, toned body of Max.

And that was when the warning bells had really started to ring tonight, if she was entirely honest. Justin would never have been seen dead in the role of Frank ‘n’ Furter. Frank didn’t get the girl, did he? Rocky got the girl. And Eddie got the girl. Sure, Eddie got chopped up and cooked for dinner, and Rocky threw himself off a tower, but they both got girls.

‘Max?’ Her voice was almost a whisper. ‘Is it you?’

This place was messing with her, it really was. How the hell could Max be a bloody cat? How?

The cat blinked and pressed its cheek close to hers.

There was a spell on the place, there had to be. Some sort of hex that was confusing her and churning all this stuff up from the darkest recesses of her mind. She took a deep breath and tried to think logically, if such a thing was even possible.

From the corridor came a steady thump, thump, thump as the footsteps of her demonic captors edged closer. Her heart began to pound and she closed her eyes again, praying to anything that might be listening.

Okay, if she was truly stuck in Rocky Horror Hell, what did they do to make Rocky come alive. What did they do? There was a spark of life, she seemed to remember, that fizzed him alive. And there was another song – she’d loved it, loved the idea of it, but she hadn’t been part of the group that sung it. About how you shouldn’t just dream it, you should be it …

‘Meow!’

The cat seemed to be encouraging her, nodding, almost.

She remembered standing with Max in the wings, their fingertips touching as they smiled out at the rest of them on the stage. So, feeling completely ridiculous, she started singing the song quietly to herself.

The footsteps outside stopped, and Bella, aware of the pause, dared to look at the cat. It moved away from her and melted into the shadows. It was deathly still now, and even Mike’s voice had stopped and the phone lay silent.

This was it. She was going to die any minute, and she wished with all her heart that the cat really was Max, and her lovely positive song had made a difference. But no. Instead, she was going to die here alone, all murdered and abandoned.

Then a bright light burst from the shadows and the almighty roar of an engine shattered the silence of the room. Bella screamed, and tried to curl up into a ball as the room was illuminated by the headlights of a black and silver Harley Davidson. The bike shot past her and broke down the doorway where the demons were lurking.

She watched in horror as the man on the bike, all dressed in black, drove straight into the fake Rocky cast and scattered them like ninepins. He held a stake like a jousting weapon and stabbed them, one after another, and they exploded into clouds of dust.

Then he skidded the bike into a 180 degree turn and faced Bella.

‘Hey. That was a fun reunion, wasn’t it?’ The man grinned and dismounted, then he walked over to where Bella lay. He knelt down and offered her his hand, then pulled her to her feet. ‘Long time, no see, Magenta.’

‘Max? Max! It is you.’ Bella stared at him and her heart bounced around in her chest again. ‘You were. You were the cat!’

‘Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I just know I got an invite to a reunion – and I didn’t even particularly like some of the cast ten years ago. Are you pleased you came?’

‘Hell, no!’ Bella stared at him. ‘Where on earth – where on earth did you learn that?’

She was barely aware that the rooms were crumbling and disappearing around her and she was no longer in a spooky, Gothic house, but right in the middle of a graveyard. But the moon was shining and the dead couldn’t hurt her.

‘Where?’ Max grinned and she realised she was still holding his hand. Neither one of them seemed in any hurry to let go. ‘After we did Rocky, I got the urge to go to Transylvania. The rest, as they say, is history. Now – we’ve got a few years to catch up on. Can I offer you a ride somewhere? Anywhere?’

Bella suddenly laughed. ‘Transylvania? Really?’

‘Really. Now – about that lift? Fancy it?’

‘Hell, yes!’ said Bella. And suddenly, a Halloween reunion didn’t seem so bad after all.

Well done Kirsty for finishing the story in style! And thank you to all of the authors involved for such a unique and fun story. We hoped you enjoyed it as much as we did  – and weren’t TOO scared 😉

If you enjoyed Kirsty’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. And of you want to meet another unique black cat, we also very much recommend her ‘Schubert’ books – A Christmas Secret isn’t out until November but Every Witch Way is available now as an eBook and perfect for Halloween! Click on the images below to see purchasing options for Kirsty’s full range of books. 

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!):

Where did Max go after finishing school and the Rocky Horror production? 

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

COME BACK TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER SPOOKY HALLOWEEN ROUND ROBIN STORY WRITTEN BY FOUR MORE AUTHORS! 

A Rocky Horror Halloween: Part 3 by Victoria Cornwall

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’ll be sharing one today and one tomorrow – keep an eye on the blog so you don’t miss out! 

Caroline James left us in a spooky situation and now it’s up to Victoria Cornwall to save Bella … or will there be further spookiness to come? 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! 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
Read Part 1 by Lynda Stacey HERE
Read Part 2 by Caroline James HERE

A ROCKY HORROR HALLOWEEN – PART 3 BY VICTORIA CORNWALL

Bella glanced up from the card to Justin. He smiled. This time Bella noticed that his smile didn’t reach his eyes. A shiver of fear raced up her spine. She looked to the others for support, help or, perhaps, reassurance. One by one they turned their cards to show her that her name was starkly written on each one. She didn’t understand this murder mystery game. Surely the cards should have the words of either murderer, victim or detective on them, not a name. Not her name. None of this made sense.

‘You’re the one who is going to be murdered,’ announced Chloe, smiling.

‘Why me?’ asked Bella.

‘Because, Bella dear, you are the only one amongst us who is still living.’

Bella couldn’t avoid the truth any longer – she did not feel safe. Up until now she had doubted herself, ignored her gut feeling and gone with the flow. The party invitation had surprised her, the setting had unnerved her and the costumes had made her feel the odd one out, but now she was certain that these oddly dressed people were not the class of 2008. Yes, people change, but there is always something in their eyes or mannerisms which relate to the child they had once been and she had seen nothing. She would even be surprised if they knew the steps to the Time Warp.

Bella carefully placed her card on the table with trembling hands. She was in a whole heap of weird trouble and, like any brave, intelligent, independent woman, Bella turned and ran like hell.

Bella heard their laughter echo after her as she ran from the room and to the front door. She grabbed the handle, but it would not turn. She pulled frantically, but the door would not budge. A strange chanting began to radiate out of the room as Bella considered her next move.

She left the hall and ran through a doorway, along a corridor and into a room, then another room and another. Every part of the house was clouded in darkness with only the occasional flickering candle to light her way. Cobwebs hung from chandeliers like frayed rags, as eyes, staring out from dark portraits, appeared to follow her every move. No room made sense, no window offered her an escape and time and time again she ended up in the same room she had started in. And all the time she heard their chanting, filtering in through the doors, the walls and up through the floorboards.

Suddenly, her mobile rang. Bella frantically searched her pockets to stop the noise before it was heard.

‘Hello, is that Bella?’

Bella frowned. The voice sounded vaguely familiar but she could not place it – another thing to confuse her in a world that was becoming stranger by the second.

‘It’s Mike. I work with your brother on the Search and Rescue team.’ Mike? Who was Mike? ‘We met the other day in the supermarket, third aisle by the pumpkin display. I made a poor joke about carving pumpkins together.’

Bella felt a flood of relief. Yes she remembered Mike. He was tall, dark and handsome, in a rugged kind of way, with a firm looking body and an amused glint in his eyes. It had been a normal brief encounter, when two people meet casually for the first time. This she could understand. This she could make sense of.

‘Yes, I remember you,’ she whispered back.

‘I got your number off your brother. Fancy meeting up for a coffee sometime?’

‘No I can’t. I’m in a house with four people, dressed in stockings and fishnets. They are claiming to be dead.’

Mike remained silent on the other end of the phone. Somewhere in the depths of the house the chanting grew louder.

‘I understand,’ he said eventually. ‘Maybe another time. It was nice to meet you anyway.’

Bella clutched the phone. ‘No! This is no brush off, Mike. I’m in trouble and I could do with some help. Preferably from someone who is not going to send me off to the lunatic asylum.’ Another silence. ‘Mike? Are you there?’ asked Bella. ‘I need help.’

‘Where are you?’ he asked.

Bella scrambled for the invitation in her pocket and read the address. ‘The Old Rectory, Cemetery Road, Ugerthwaite’. Bella heard Mike’s intake of breath. His reaction didn’t sound good. ‘What? Do you know it?’

‘I’ve heard about it. I always thought it was one of those urban myths.’

‘What have you heard?’

‘Two hundred years ago four people were murdered in the Old Rectory on Halloween night. In the 1930s a group of ghost hunters did a séance there and strange things have been happening ever since. Rumours have grown over the years and the tale goes that on Halloween night their ghosts rise up and entice a single female virgin to the rectory.’

‘Well that can’t be true. I’m not a virgin.’

‘The tale did sound absurd,’ said Mike.

He sounded as if he was smiling. Bella wondered why. Suddenly she realised what she had said and began to smile too. Strange how you can find humour at the bleakest times of your life, she thought.

‘Besides, the rectory is a ruin now,’ said Mike. ‘It burnt down years ago.’

Bella glanced around her opulent surroundings illuminated by candlelight. ‘It doesn’t look like a ruin now. At least it doesn’t to me.’

‘Really? Strange. Apparently seeing a black cat is a warning sign … or so they say.’

Bella sobered. ‘I saw a black cat! How do they entice their victims?’

‘By pretending to be from their past.’

Bella clutched the phone even tighter. ‘They invited me to a Rocky Horror Party.’

‘That explains the fishnets and stockings, although it raises a few questions too.’

‘I was in the school play. I played Magenta.’

‘Ahhh, I see. Bella, I don’t want to scare you but—’

‘No chance of that. I am already!’ she whispered back.

‘—I think you should get out of there as fast as you can. Maybe they are less fussy about capturing virgins these days and I’m over an hour away to be of any help.’ Bella nodded frantically. Yes, she must get out now. ‘And Bella …’

‘Yes?’

‘Don’t eat or drink anything they give you.’

‘Why?’ Bella frowned as the room began to distort around her.

‘The tale goes that they always offer their victims a drink.’

Her eyes narrowed as she tried to focus on a small shape slinking towards her on the floor. It briefly came into focus. It was the black cat and it appeared to be grinning at her.

‘Too late,’ murmured Bella. Her tongue felt thick and dry with tannin, yet still held the sweet notes of blue black grapes. ‘I’ve already drunk it and I’m not feeling too well.’

The mobile fell from her useless hand. Bella stared at it dumbly lying just out of reach. She stumbled as her knees buckled. She tried to remain standing, but the task seemed too great. The room tilted and she found herself falling backwards. Time slowed as her strength drained away. Suddenly the floor banged into the back of her head. She lay still, dazed and helpless, listening to the haunting distant chant growing louder and louder and Mike’s frantic voice calling her name from the phone by her side.

😱😱😱 Victoria Cornwall just stepped this Halloween Round Robin up a notch! How is Kirsty Ferry going to save Bella now? You’ll have to wait another hour to find out when Kirsty finishes off the first of our Halloween Round Robins. 

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

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Where did Bella and Mike meet? 

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

A Rocky Horror Halloween: Part 2 by Caroline James

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’ll be sharing one today and one tomorrow – keep an eye on the blog so you don’t miss out! 

Lynda Stacey wrote the spooky start of our Halloween tale and now it’s Caroline James’s turn! 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! 

A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order. If you missed the beginning by Lynda Stacey, read it HERE

A ROCKY HORROR HALLOWEEN – PART 2 BY CAROLINE JAMES

Bella was motionless as she watched the man go into the house. His bulky frame was dwarfed by the large entrance, a menacing silhouette that disappeared into the candlelit hallway. She shuddered. Her instinct told her to turn around, get back in the car and drive away as quickly as possible but the man had her suitcase and she had no choice but to follow. As she climbed the stone steps, forcing one foot in front of the other, Bella had a sudden flash back. Her heart hammered as she remembered the final curtain call of the Rocky Horror Show. The cast had bundled off stage, giggling with anticipation as they raced ahead to guzzle on bottles of cider smuggled into their dressing room. As she’d turned to follow, Bella felt a push as two strong hands shoved her forward and she tripped. Pain tore through her ankle, and she’d turned to see who had viciously attacked her but there was no one in sight and alone, without assistance, she’d hopped to the side of the stage. Suddenly, without any warning, she’d felt fingers grip her shoulders, pinning her arms as she was pulled into a darkened corner. Hot breath circled her throat like an invisible noose and unable to see her attacker, Bella was paralysed with fear. But, as quickly as she’d been taken, she was released and she’d spun around. The assailant had gone and Bella could only make out the ghostly shape of a tall bulky figure, shrouded in what appeared to be a long dark cape.

Now, Bella stepped into The Old Rectory and forced herself to follow the man. Her heart hammered as it had that night but she took a deep breath and told herself not to be so stupid. After all, this was a party and she was here to enjoy herself! As she was led through a long corridor the candlelight grew dimmer, casting flickering light and Bella struggled to see the discernible shapes of furniture, which she darted to avoid. A cat, black and inky, leapt out and Bella almost tripped over it. ‘What the…’ she cried out and thought that the animal must be following her.

‘Don’t mind Riff Raff.’ The man turned, his eyes glinting as he led Bella out of the corridor. ‘Do come through,’ he said, ‘everyone is in here.’ Bella forced herself to smile as she stepped into the kitchen.

‘It’s Bella!’ several voices chimed. A group of people stood around a vast inglenook where a roaring fire blazed. Above the fireplace a banner had been strung and written in red paint, Bella could make out the words: The Rocky Horror Class of 2008Reunion. The dark red wording had bled into the white fabric, dripping like blood clotting on pale skin. Bella shuddered.

A drink was thrust into her hand. ‘Remember Ben?’ Their host asked as he made introductions, ‘and Chloe, and of course you must remember Katie …’

Bella gripped the silver goblet and took a sip of a warmed mulled wine. ‘Yes, of course,’ she replied and wracked her brains to place the weirdly dressed characters who nodded in greeting. Everyone had come as the characters they’d played in the show but now, a decade later, Bella hadn’t a clue who was who as she stared in fascination at the macabre sight.

‘Great to see you again, Bella,’ the woman introduced as Katie, smiled and gave a little wave.

‘I’ll show you all to your rooms, just as soon as we get back the power back.’ The man placed Bella’s case with a row of bags, lined up to the left of the fireplace, ‘Drink up.’ He reached out to a cauldron shaped pot by the fire and grabbed a ladle. ‘How’s the ankle?’ he asked and topped up Bella’s wine. ‘You had your foot in a cast for quite a while as I remember.’

‘Er, it’s fine, thanks, just the occasional twinge,’ Bella replied and flexed her foot. She’d broken her ankle in two places on the night of the show and even now, occasionally felt sharp stabs of pain.

‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ the man asked. His pearly white teeth glinted in the firelight. ‘My name is Justin, or Dr Frank N. Furter,’ as I was then.’ He leaned in and Bella felt warm, moist breath brushing across her cheek.

‘Of course,’ Bella nodded, ‘hard to put faces to the names after all these years.’

‘I thought we’d have a murder mystery throughout the weekend.’ Justin stood back and turned to the rest of the party. ‘Everyone is up for it and I’m sure you are too?’

‘Oh, yes, it sounds like a lot of fun,’ Bella mumbled and took a swig of her drink. Nothing had prepared her for this weird party and she was already wondering how the hell she could retrieve her case and make a bolt for the door.

‘We’re waiting for the others to arrive,’ Justin said, ‘but you can all get into character now if you like?’

‘Just like the old days,’ the guests giggled as they swigged their wine.

Justin produced a little coffin-shaped box. ‘Pick a card,’ he said.

Everyone reached out and Bella felt her fingers wrap around an oval-shaped card. The edges appeared to be black, matching the dark ink of the hand-written wording. Bella’s hand began to shake and she closed her eyes as she recognised the name.

What the hell had she let herself in for?

Who else is spooked? We certainly are! We honestly don’t know what’s going to happen next but we’re on tenterhooks to see where Victoria Cornwall takes this story! Keep an eye for her part coming up very soon!

If you enjoyed Caroline’s writing, you can find her book, The Best Boomerville Hotel, available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and it’s out in paperback very soon as well! Click the image below for purchasing options. 

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

What is the name of the black cat that Bella almost trips over? 

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

A Rocky Horror Halloween: Part 1 by Lynda Stacey

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’ll be sharing one today and one tomorrow – keep an eye on the blog so you don’t miss out! 

Today’s story has been started off by Lynda Stacey and we’ll be sharing three other parts by other authors throughout the day. 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!  

A ROCKY HORROR HALLOWEEN – PART 1 BY LYNDA STACEY

Bella drove slowly. The road was dark, the moon barely visible between the dark looming clouds, and, to top it all off, it looked like it was about to rain. The satnav had packed up early on in the journey and she’d been left to search alone and without direction.

For the fourth time in ten minutes she picked up the invitation from the front seat of the car and read the words. ‘The Old Rectory, Cemetery Road, Ugerthwaite’.

She raised an eyebrow. ‘Of course, The Rectory, where else would they hold a Halloween party?’ she whispered to herself as she gently put her foot down on the accelerator and continued to trundle along, checking each house for a name as she went.

Sighing, she looked up and down the road in the hope that someone would walk past, but typically the road was empty of any living form, all apart from a small black cat that suddenly ran in front of her car, forcing her to hit the brakes. ‘What the …’ She took in a deep breath and composed herself.

‘Okay, I’ll give it five more minutes and if I haven’t found this stupid party by then, I’m going home.’ She thought of her comfy cottage, of the log fire, the big fluffy rug and the soft, homely lighting. ‘I can’t believe I gave all that up for this …’ she paused, pulled the car to the edge of the road and once again began to read the house names. ‘In fact, what is this exactly? A weekend away with people you did a production of the Rocky Horror Show with on the last day of school. People you haven’t seen since and who you probably wouldn’t recognise if you walked past them in the supermarket.’ She thought of the last time they’d been together and laughed. Their state of dress, or undress, had been questionable, and the make-up had been insane. She had to admit, it had been fun. But it had all happened such a long time ago. They were all different people now. The teenagers she’d known would be gone and, in their place, would be grown-ups. Most would have children, husbands, wives and dreaded mortgages all of their own.

She tried to come up with a good reason for why she’d come and couldn’t think of any except, well … she was intrigued. ‘The ten-year anniversary of the Rocky Horror Halloween Party,’ the invitation had said. ‘Come and join the class of 2008, for a weekend of recollection, fun, laughter and of course … murder.’ She nodded and remembered how quickly she’d responded to the RSVP, unable to resist the idea of a high school reunion with a twist.

She tried to think of the names, of those that had taken part in the production. Had there been a Ben, a Chloe, a Kate … or had it been Katie.? She attempted to think of the others but couldn’t. There had definitely been eight of them, which left four whose names must have completely slipped her mind. Wait, wasn’t there a Justin.? Her mind spun out of control, her heart rate quickened. She shouldn’t have come, she wanted to go home, and she was just about to turn the car around when the name plate of the Old Rectory finally came into view.

The name was barely visible, etched into a small brass plate that looked like it hadn’t been polished for years, and as she turned in through the gates, she quickly came to the conclusion that the driveway looked just as unloved. Weeds grew through the block paving, bushes grew haphazardly, and the house loomed up in the distance, old and gothic with just one tiny light illuminating a small downstairs window.

‘Okay, maybe I really should go home.’ She pulled the car to a stop and squinted through the darkness. She could see four other cars. All were already parked to one side of the house and she debated the idea of simply turning around, leaving and sending an email of apology saying she’d been taken unwell. But as she pondered the thought, the huge wooden front door swung open and a tall, broad man stood in its entrance.

‘Bella, so pleased you could make it. Do come in, we’re all in the kitchen.’ He pointed to the house, ‘Got a bit of a power cut going on.’ He paused and laughed, ‘I’m sure it’ll be sorted soon.’ He skipped down the stone steps to meet her, ‘Are the bags in the boot? I’ll get them for you.’

Bella clicked open the boot as she climbed out of the car. Her mind whirling around as she tried to place the man. She was sure they’d never met, and she stood, open-mouthed staring as he pulled her suitcase from the boot.

‘Oh, you do remember me, don’t you?’ He walked on ahead without introducing himself and began to climb the steps that led to the front door. ‘Come on, the others are in here. They’re dying to see you.’

Well done Lynda! A very promisingly spooky start to our first Halloween Round Robin of 2018. We can’t wait to see where this one goes and it’ll be up to Caroline James to continue the story. Keep an eye for her part coming up very soon!

If you enjoyed Lynda’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers – and her Christmas book, House of Christmas Secrets, will be out in paperback very soon! Click the image below for purchasing options. 

COMPETITION TIME! 

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

Which year did the original ‘Rocky Horror Halloween Party’ Bella attended happen? 

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

READ PART 2 BY CAROLINE JAMES HERE
READ PART 3 BY VICTORIA CORNWALL HERE
READ PART 4 BY KIRSTY FERRY HERE

Happy Birthday Choc Lit! Final Part by Kathryn Freeman

We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Jane Lovering set us up for the perfect ending with a mysterious note left in a borrowed book. Will Kathryn Freeman deliver and finish our wonderful birthday story with a bang? Let’s see! 

In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:

Part One by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Two by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Three by Sue McDonagh HERE
Part Four by Lynda Stacey HERE
Part Five by Jane Lovering HERE

Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the last competition of the day. All competitions on all extracts will be open until next Tuesday so there’s plenty of time left to enter all of them!

The Forgotten Birthday – Final Part

As Lauren started to read the note, her heart began to pound. She recognised it. Her mind swimming in disbelief, she skimmed over the childish writing.

Happy birfday Laura. Will you be my girlfriend? Hugh xx

It couldn’t be the same note. That had been over twenty years ago. And the boy who’d written it had been called Hugh Webster, not Peacock.

But the more she stared at it, the more the memories came flooding back. It was addressed not to Lauren, but to Laura. The name she’d gone by all those years ago, before she’d decided Lauren sounded more elegant.

There was only one person who could explain to her why she was reading a note given to her on her ninth birthday. She glanced at her watch. Was ten o’clock too late for a woman to knock on the door of a man she hardly knew?

Sober Lauren would have answered yes, but this version, on a high after the day, fortified by a few drinks, had the confidence to march right up to it.

Her jaw dropped when the door opened. ‘Hugh?’ He didn’t look like the man she’d met this morning. Wearing a T-shirt that moulded chest muscles she hadn’t noticed beneath the old jacket he’d worn, it was his face that shocked her the most. ‘You shaved off your beard.’

He shifted awkwardly on his feet. ‘Ah, yes, you noticed.’

His eyes crinkled. Deep brown eyes, warm and inviting as a mug of cocoa. How had she missed them earlier? More memories filled her head. A boy with a permanently creased blazer, scuffed shoes and dark hair that flopped into his brown eyes. Her heart began to race. ‘Why?’

‘I thought you might have more chance recognising me.’ His eyes held hers and she felt their pull. Just as she had all those years ago.

‘It is you,’ she whispered.

His freshly shaven cheeks flushed. ‘Afraid so.’

‘But … how? Is this just a coincidence?’

The flush deepened and he dragged a hand through his hair. ‘Yes, and no. You applying to be on the course run by my mum, yes. Me coming here in her place, no.’ When she simply stared at him, too shocked, too overcome to do anything else, he sighed and opened the door wider. ‘I see I have some explaining to do. Do you want to come in?’ His hand rose to his chin, then dropped again, no doubt realising he no longer had a beard to scratch. ‘Sorry, you probably don’t want to come into a stranger’s room. We can go to the bar, or—’

Lauren stepped inside. ‘You’re not a stranger, Hugh Webster.’

She caught his eye and he smiled. It was the same boyish smile she remembered, though this time it came from a man. A very attractive man. Somewhere inside her chest she felt a long-forgotten tug.

Moving to the end of the room she went to sit on the chair, leaving him to perch on the bed. Maybe it was the room, but he felt larger now. No longer the bearded, bumbling author, but a potent, handsome male.

‘So.’ He smiled sheepishly, and all at once he was the boy she knew again. ‘I help my mum out with the creative writing course she runs. Daphne Peacock is her pen name. Her real name is Daphne Webster.’

‘That’s why I didn’t recognise you. Plus, the beard.’

Again, he went to scratch it. Again, he dropped his hand. ‘Ex-wife hated beards, so when we divorced I grew one just because I could.’ He searched out her eyes. ‘Am I right in thinking you’re divorced, too?’

She grinned, feeling lighter, more carefree than she’d done in a long time. ‘My Chains piece did kind of give that away, didn’t it?’

‘It did.’ His expression sobered a little. ‘I’m sorry. It sounded like you had a bad time.’

‘I’m over it.’ And she was, she realised with a burst of pride. After today, she’d officially put that part of her life in the past.

‘Good.’ His smile returned. ‘And I wasn’t kidding when I said you might have a knack for poetry. It really was very good.’

‘Thank you.’ But much as she looked forward to turning her mind to new ventures, there was still something from her past she wanted to explore. ‘You were telling me why you’re here instead of your mum?’

‘Ah, yes.’ He glanced down to his clasped hands, then back up at her. ‘You’d sent a photo, and although the form said your first name was Lauren not Laura, everything else, including the date of birth, clicked and I knew, just knew it was you.’ She watched his throat move as he swallowed. ‘I thought, to hell with it, I’m running that course. I wanted to see you again. See if those feelings I had as a boy, were still there as a man.’

It was her turn to have to swallow as the emotion clogged her throat. ‘And are they?’

His dark eyes burned into hers. ‘God, yes. The moment I saw you, that was it. I turned into my bumbling nine-year-old self, desperately hoping the prettiest girl in the class would take notice of me.’

Her stomach flip-flopped and Lauren felt a prick at the back of her eyes. ‘Your note. Where did you find it?’

‘You left it on your desk at school. I picked it up, meaning to give it back to you, but I never screwed up the courage again. Until now.’

As his eyes pressed hers, her heart lifted. Slowly she rose to her feet and went to stand next to him. ‘What if I tell you that was the most romantic thing I’ve ever had happen to me?’

He smiled and his hands reached to clasp her face, sending tingles through her. ‘What if I ask you to have dinner with me tomorrow?’

Her heart jumped. ‘What if I tell you this is the best birthday I’ve ever had?’

His gaze dropped to her lips, and his eyes darkened. ‘What if I kiss you?’

Oh wow! Well done Kathryn – we certainly didn’t expect that and it really was the perfect ending to an amazing birthday story. 

Thank you to all our authors and to all of our supportive readers too! We hope you’ve enjoyed this story and continue to enjoy Choc Lit books for many years to come. Here’s to another year of fantastic authors and brilliant books! 

If you enjoyed Kathryn’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What is Hugh’s mum’s real name?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Kathryn Freeman comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.

Happy Birthday Choc Lit! Part Five by Jane Lovering

We’re nine years old today! And we’re celebrating with a birthday Round Robin written by six of our talented Choc Lit authors. Lynda Stacey left us with a kiss, now it’s Jane Lovering‘s turn. Let’s see what happens next … 

In order to enjoy this story, you’ll need to read it in order, so make sure you read:

Part One by Morton S. Gray HERE
Part Two by Kirsty Ferry HERE
Part Three by Sue McDonagh HERE
Part Four by Lynda Stacey HERE

Also, remember to read right until the end so you can enter the fifth competition of the day! 

The Forgotten Birthday – Part Five

Just before he left, Hugh muttered something in her ear. ‘Page Eleven. Don’t tell anyone.’ And then, with a final ruffle through his beard, he was gone, heading downstairs towards dinner, as Marion came to her door, regally splendid in a gown comprised of equal amounts of taffeta and whalebone.

Dinner was more fun than Lauren could remember having had for some time. With Marion’s warning against Ian clanging in the back of her head, Lauren steered clear of him and tried to throw herself more into the conversation between the others. She discovered that two of the other women and one of the men actually lived not too far from her, and they exchanged email addresses with a tentative idea of forming their own writing group.

Lauren felt a curious tingle inside, a feeling of something bubbling up at the base of her throat, and she stared down at the prawn cocktail starter with narrowed eyes of suspicion, until she realised what it was. It was excitement. She was actually feeling excited for the first time in – how long? An actual, proper emotion that wasn’t unhappiness or boredom or anger! And she looked around her at these people, strangers really, who were chatting to her about their hopes for the future raising glasses of something that certainly wasn’t champagne but it was alcohol with bubbles in. And, if she ignored the fact that Ian kept trying to press his leg suggestively against hers under the table and was just asking for a fork in the thigh, she was having a really good time.

The book that Hugh had given her was weighing her bag down with more than purely the mass of pages it contained. Hugh had been right, the book had been right, she was keeping all her emotions locked away inside her head. That exercise he’d set, Chains, had shown her that she wasn’t as over her sister and husband’s infidelity as she tried to let herself believe. That the two people she’d loved most in the world could do that to her…

Lauren looked around again. The attitude of bonhomie that was spreading in equal measure to the amount of fizzy alcohol being drunk touched something inside her. One of the women, Helen her name was, raised a glass and mouthed ‘Happy Birthday!’ across the table, and Lauren smiled at the realisation that she was having a better time here, with these virtual strangers, than she’d had with her husband during practically the whole of their marriage. That she’d married him more to get away from her family than out of love. That he and her sister hadn’t really done anything to her, she had let their betrayal affect her. And maybe now, thinking how badly they’d both treated her over the years, she could see how they deserved one another. She couldn’t quite wish them a happy future, and would gladly shove pooh through their letterbox any day of the week, but still. She was getting there, buoyed up by the sense of camaraderie and acceptance she was feeling here and now.

It was only when the party was over and she’d gone back to her room, giggly and not-quite sober, that she remembered Hugh’s whisper when he’d given her the book. She turned to Page Eleven with trepidation, and, to her surprise, it wasn’t an inspirational quote. It was a small, badly-spelled note, handwritten, blu-tacked to the page.

Oh Jane. You can’t do that to us when we have to wait another hour to find out what it says on the note! Kathryn Freeman takes over for the last part of our Round Robin. We really hope you’ve been enjoying it so far! 

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing, you might like to check out her books. You can find details by clicking the images above. 

COMPETITION TIME!

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

What is Marion’s gown made of?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Jane Lovering comp’ by Tuesday 19th June. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday 20th June.