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The next Readers' Club quarterly draw will take place at the end of June but every newsletter (one goes out every four or five weeks) contains a free competition and exciting news, so subscribe to my Readers' Club newsletter today. Sign up for my newsletter now.

The winner of the May newsletter draw is R. Kelsey, who wins signed copies of Deck the Halls and The Starlight Ball.

The winner of the April newsletter draw is S Dilley, who wins a £10 Amazon gift card.

The winner of my Readers' Club quarterly draw for March is K. Patterson, who wins a simply gorgeous, sparkly white scarf/wrap.

The winner of the February newsletter draw is A Geeves, who wins a signed copy of Deck the Halls.

The winner of my Readers' Club quarterly draw for December is S.A. Carthers (Scotland) who wins a £20 Amazon Gift voucher.

The winner of the November newsletter draw is E. Bishop who wins a signed paperback copy of Deck the Halls.

The winner of my Readers' Club, September draw is D. De Marco (Italy) who wins signed copies of all four books in my Hideaway Down series.

The winner of the September newsletter draw is L. Sims (Australia) who wins a signed paperback copy of Dancing in the Rain.

The winner of the July newsletter draw is L. Coutts, who wins a signed paperback copy of Walking on Sunshine.

The winner of the June, Readers' Club quarterly draw is L. McEwan, who wins a sterling silver filigree heart necklace.

The winner of the June newsletter draw is Y. Cantlie, who wins a colourful picnic rug.

The winner of the May newsletter draw is A. Dutton, who wins signed paperback copies of A Christmas Hideaway and Catch A Falling Star.

The winner of the March, Readers' Club quarterly draw - and the gorgeous 'falling star', sterling silver necklace - is: M.Morgan.

The winner of the February newsletter draw is V. Mills, who wins a signed copy of A Christmas Hideaway plus a cute cushion.

The winner of the December, Readers' Club draw is S Wesley. The prize was a 'Tatty Teddy' slanket/blanket.

The six winners of the Carry on Christmas Lucky Dip, drawn from all entries via email, my blog, Twitter and Facebook are as follows (and have been notified accordingly):
J. Whiteley - signed copies of all 3 Goldebury Bay books.
B.M.Mount (Canada) - signed copies of A Christmas Hideaway and Carole Singer's Christmas.
E. Sparkes - Mug and signed copy of Ninety Days to Christmas.
J. Bruce and A. Wright - (each) a calendar, pen and signed copy of A Christmas Hideaway.
R. Jones - signed copies of Highland Fling and Lizzie Marshall's Wedding.

The winner of the November draw is C Brown.

The two winners of the October draw are V. Forry - signed book. L. Pankhurst - cushion.

The five winners of the September draw are D. Williams, S. Day, G. Arkless, G. Maine and E. Mills.

The two winners of the August 'cover question' draw are S. Donald and C. Ayres.

The winner of the June newsletter draw was C. Hull.

The winner of the quarterly Readers' Club draw for June was S. Moore.

Want to see your name on this winner's list? Then sign up for my newsletter to be in with a chance of winning some fabulous prizes. You'll also gain automatic entry to my Readers' Club.

Club members are the first to hear 'hot off the press' news, receive details of upcoming books, see the gorgeous covers and find out about exciting events, in addition to having the opportunity to enter into our exclusive, quarterly prize draw and other Readers' Club competitions.
So what's stopping you? Sign up for my newsletter now.

Free

Here's a free extract from White Christmas, one of two stories in my eBook, Christmas Wishes. It's available to buy for just 99p/$1.53, by clicking on the links below:

Christmas Wishes - Amazon.co.uk

Christmas Wishes - Amazon.com

About the story

Abigail Frant made a huge mistake when she broke off her engagement to Luke Martin, the love of her life. Fifteen years later, on a snowy Christmas Eve, he’s the man she needs to mend the sleigh for the Winsham village, Christmas Parade. She’s wishing for a bit of Christmas magic... and to be back in Luke’s arms.

***

White Christmas

‘You always said that he was good with his hands,’ Lydia reminds me, chuckling merrily like one of Santa’s elves – which it just so happens, is exactly how she’s dressed. She grabs a pink jewellery box from the pile of gifts on the table and places it in the centre of a piece of wrapping paper then glances across at me.

I don’t need reminding. I can remember everything about Luke Martin as if we’d broken up only yesterday and not the fifteen very long years ago that it actually is. And let me tell you, it wasn’t just his hands he was good with – but let’s not go there.

It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re in the village hall, wrapping presents to hand out at the local old people’s home. It’s an annual event but this year there are problems, two of which are: it’s been snowing heavily all day and one of the skis on our sleigh is broken. Half an hour ago, my best friend Lydia informed me that my ex-fiancé Luke is coming to try to fix it.

‘He was good with his hands,’ I say as calmly as I can, bearing in mind that at any time now, I will come face to face with the one who got away. Although for the sake of accuracy that should be the one I sent away as I was the idiot who ended the relationship, not Luke. And boy, have I regretted it since!

Have you ever made what turned out to be a really bad decision but one that seemed to be right at the time, based on the information you had? Well I have, and dumping Luke wasn’t the only one. Trusting that evil cow, Kristal Carter was my first really bad decision. That led me to make the biggest mistake I’ve ever made during the entire thirty-four years and three-hundred and sixty-four days of my life: calling Luke Martin a two-timing, cheating bastard and telling him to ‘sod off’.

You’ll have just worked out that it’s my birthday tomorrow. Yep! On Christmas Day. And that’s another sore point. Luke proposed to me on Christmas Day fifteen years ago and no, in case you’re wondering – he wasn’t a cheapskate. He didn’t say that my present was the engagement ring; he also bought me separate birthday and Christmas presents. Luke was generous to a fault.

Why on earth did I listen to Kristal Carter?

Anyway, as I say, it’s Christmas Eve and we’re preparing for our annual Winsham Christmas Parade. It’s not as grand as it sounds, believe me. The parade starts at our village hall and ends at the old people’s home, three buildings away where we hand out the presents. The entire circuit of our village takes a mere fifteen minutes. Winsham is not large by any stretch of the imagination.

Having said that, the farm that Luke’s parents own just on the edge of it, is. That makes Winsham appear twice the size, if you were looking for it on a map. Not that you would be. The only thing of interest in this place is the ghost of a meddlesome witch from the 15th century who resides in the ancient village pub.

She’s actually a distant relative of mine but I can assure you I don’t possess the craft. If I did I would have turned that cow Kristal Carter into ... a real, live cow, instead of the overweight and very unhappy woman she has become. Hmm. Perhaps I do have some powers after all. No. As much as I dislike her, I wouldn’t wish harm on anyone. ‘It always comes back and bites you on the bum,’ my gran used to say.

Mind you, unless we can get the sleigh repaired there won’t be a parade, well not one worth watching in any event. If the members of the Christmas Committee think I’m walking the streets in two feet of snow, carrying a sack of presents on my back, they are even madder than most of them look. I’ll take the presents to the wrinklies but it’ll be in my Fiat Panda 4x4. I’ll put some tinsel on it but I’m not sticking my head out of the sunroof to wave at the crowds. Although that’s a bit of a misnomer anyway. A crowd in Winsham consists of about six people.

The broken ski on the sleigh is only one of several problems we’ve got this snowy Christmas Eve. My dad, who always plays Santa, has got the flu and my mum, who plays Mrs Claus and accompanies him, is at home, taking care of him. I’ve been roped in to take over and play the part of Miss Claus, their daughter. So this year it’s just me, my trusty elf, Lydia, and a sackful of presents in a tinsel-covered Fiat Panda – unless Luke is indeed still good with his hands.

The Winsham Band will be accompanying us, of course – and they will be on foot, poor things. Still, there’s nothing like a rousing chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful to get the blood pulsing through your veins ... even if your toes are frostbitten.

There’ll also be the Winsham Choral Society, followed by the members of the Christmas Committee and the pupils of the Winsham School of Dance. Although quite what they intend doing in two feet of snow is beyond me.

‘He’s still single, you know,’ Lydia says. She’s like a dog with a bone; she just won’t let the subject drop. She nonchalantly tosses the bobble at the end of her elf hat, away from her large deep brown freckles and bright red cheeks – both cosmetic – and looks me directly in the eye. ‘That must mean something.’

‘Yeah. It probably means I put him off getting engaged ever again. How do you know he’s still single anyway?’

I try very hard not to give her my usual accusatory glare: the one I give to anyone who ever mentions Luke’s name in a way that suggests, ‘I know something you don’t.’

‘Don’t give me that look,’ she says, so I realise I’ve failed. ‘His mum casually mentioned it when she called back and told me he’d be coming over to fix the sleigh.’

I find that very difficult to believe, and say so.

‘What did she say then? “We got your phone message and Luke will be over at three this afternoon to mend the sleigh because he’s still single and doesn’t have anything better to do with his holiday.” You asked, didn’t you?’ This time I emphasize both the accusation and the glowering look.

‘No! Well ... sort of. But not straight out. I was very tactful.’

‘Yeah right! You’re about as tactful as a reindeer landing on someone’s head to tell them it’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s got transport problems. What did you say, Lydia? I hope you didn’t mention me.’

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to see someone blush through that much red face-paint, but you learn something every day.

‘Bloody hell, Lydia! What did you say? Tell me or I’ll hit you with this baseball bat!’

I’m only half-joking, and it was pure chance that I’d just picked that up to wrap it. Although what a ninety-year-old could possibly want with a baseball bat, I have no idea. The food and the staff are pretty good at Happy Meadows Retirement Home – even if the name is crap, so I can’t see anyone wanting to start a riot. One never knows though, I suppose.

‘You’ll hit me if I do tell you,’ she says, looking both a little anxious and apologetic. ‘And you may hit me harder so I think I’ll keep quiet.’

I’ve been friends with Lydia since we were about four years old and she is rarely quiet. I know it will just be a matter of time so I wait, tapping my upturned palm with the tip of the bat and watching her as she fumbles with a Teddy bear.

‘Okay!’ she says, hugging the bear to her chest.

I assume she’s done that for comfort because a nine-inch high stuffed toy is no protection from a baseball bat. Not that I’d actually hit her, and she knows that. It’s my icy stare that does it. Gran used to say I could sink ships with it. Gran used to say a lot of things, now I come to think about it.

Lydia sighs heavily. ‘All I said was that I was sure Luke wouldn’t want to leave his girlfriend and spend time working on the sleigh. Mrs Martin said he wouldn’t mind and that he didn’t have a girlfriend anyway. It was she who asked if you were here. I may have mentioned that your dad had the flu and your mum was looking after him. And possibly that, as we couldn’t find anyone else to play Santa at such short notice, you’d stepped in and were giving out the gifts this year. She told me that Luke would help out ... in whatever way he can.’

I can tell from her expression that there’s more to this story than she’s letting on but I’m not really sure I want to know now. I suddenly realise I need to go and check my make-up, and whether that spray-on stain remover really has made the dark brown mark ... vanish. I spilt virtually an entire cup of tea down the front of my red velvet dress when Lydia told me it was Luke, not his dad, who was coming round to fix the sleigh.

‘There’s a very strong possibility that you’ll find yourself on Miss Claus’s naughty list, Lydia Crawford,’ I say, hoisting up the heavy skirt of my dress and heading for the loo.

‘No change there then,’ she replies before bursting into a rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

One thing I have to say about her: she’s got a damn good voice. Me: I make a dog sound melodious.

 ***

I’ve never had to stand before a firing squad, having led a rather sheltered life, both in Winsham and in London, where Lydia and I now live and work, but waiting for Luke to walk through the swing doors of the village hall has to be far worse, I’m sure. My nerves are hanging by a thread and if I didn’t have to be in charge of a sleigh full of presents and two spirited reindeer in just over an hour’s time – or a Fiat Panda, depending on just how good Luke still is with his hands – I’d be hitting the eggnog with a vengeance.

Tea just doesn’t have the same soothing effect, especially not Sybil Mallenthorpe’s Lapdog Shoeshine or whatever the revolting stuff is called. I like PG Tips, with milk and two sugars and if that makes me a heathen – which according to Sybil it does – that’s fine by me.

‘What’s the time?’ I ask Lydia.

She’s feigning disinterest and pretending to be engrossed in what appears to be the arduous task of wrapping a fleecy hot-water bottle cover – far more the thing for a wrinkly, even if it is in the shape of a tiger. She keeps sighing and tutting and it can’t be anything I’m doing, although every time the wind rattles the doors, I can see her glance up in the direction of the neon exit sign.

She sighs and tuts again. ‘It’s about a minute and a half later than it was the last time you asked me,’ she says, rather snippily in my opinion.

‘’Tis the season to be jolly,’ I remind her, forcing a smile and a positivity I definitely do not feel.

‘Ho, ho, bloody ho!’ she replies.

‘Is there a sign on the other side of those doors saying, “Entrance”?’ I ask. It’s never occurred to me before and I consider going to look but I’m not sure I can make it that far now without crumpling into a quivering heap.

‘Why? Are you worried Luke won’t remember the way in? Or what a door is for? He’s a freelance journalist who travels all over the world, for heaven’s sake. I think he can figure out how to get into the village hall.’

I toss another Teddy bear in Lydia’s direction and pull a grotesque face. Of course, it’s Sod’s Law that Luke picks that exact moment to show up.

You know those cowboy films when Clint Eastwood or someone, shoves open the double doors of the saloon and the entire place goes silent as all eyes turn in his direction? Well that’s exactly what this is like, and I swear even the Teddy bears look askance.

A flurry of snow dances around Luke as he stands in the doorway, and his gaze lands directly on me and the ridiculous face I’m making. He seems more muscular than I remember him but his blond hair, and warm, deep blue eyes are exactly the same. They may have a few lines around them, as does his perfect mouth but they are still as mesmerizing as they always were.

‘Mum said that you need a hand with the sleigh,’ he says after a moment, as if we see each other every day and it hasn’t been fifteen years since we last spoke to one another.

I appear to have lost my voice although I can feel my mouth opening and closing. I wonder if I have suddenly gone deaf and glance towards Lydia but I realise from the look she’s giving me that I’m not saying a word.

‘Yes,’ she says, coming to my rescue. ‘We think the ski’s broken. It seems to wobble from side to side and we don’t know if it’s safe to use in that condition. It hasn’t been used for years because it’s so long since we’ve had snow at Christmas, but we can’t use the sleigh with wheels when there’s this much snow on the ground.’

His brows knit together for just a second. ‘Okay. I’ll take a look. It’s in the shed at the back, I assume?’

I’m tempted to say, ‘No. It’s in the kitchen, drinking Lapdog or whatever it’s called, with Sybil Mallenthorpe and the rest of the Christmas Committee,’ so it’s probably just as well that I can’t speak. That possibly wouldn’t be the best way to renew our friendship. Not that Luke’s opening line was very friendly. I mean for heaven’s sake – the guy didn’t even say, ‘Hello’! Fifteen years and he can’t even do that. Although to be fair, nor can I, it seems.

Another quick glance at me and he’s gone, leaving the double doors to bang shut behind him. I get the strangest feeling that if I don’t do something drastic, it’ll be another fifteen years before I see him again.

A Teddy bear hits me on the side of the head with surprising force.

‘You big numpty!’ Lydia says. ‘You could have at least spoken to him.’

‘I tried! The words just wouldn’t come out.’

‘Try harder. He’s only here for four days so there’s no time to waste.’

 ***end of extract***

© Emily Harvale 2013-2017