Book Excerpt: One Last Heist

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Excerpt:

“Would you just admit you can’t see in the dark?” Toshiro snapped in pure frustration. “Mack. Are you listening to me?”

“I’m fine. My ears work perfectly.”

Fine.

He’s fine.

Right.

Fine, my arse.

Well, my arse is fine.

“You walked into the table.” Toshiro watched in the darkened room through the night vision on his camera while his stubborn husband stumbled around. “And into the sofa—oh, and the wall. Classic. You’re supposed to crack the safe, not take a header into it.”

“Toshi,” Mack whispered his nickname sharply. “Couldn’t you yell at me in Cantonese or Japanese or any one of the hundred languages you speak? It would still be distracting, but I wouldn’t understand a word of it.”

“I speak thirty languages—not a hundred.” Toshiro grinned even though Mack couldn’t see it. “I suppose the point of a timed run-through of cracking the safe might require your full attention. Oh, look, you tripped over the carpet again.”

Toshiro Ueda-Easton.

Gregor Tempest Mackay Ueda-Easton. Fine, fine. I’ll be quiet. Continue walking into the wall, but I’m not explaining your concussion to the others.” Toshiro continued to ramble about the idiotic stubbornness of his husband in Portuguese, one of the many languages he’d picked up over the years. “Idiota.

“I understood that one.” Mack tossed one of the drill bits of his safe-drilling rig in his husband’s general direction—missing him completely. “Keep cussing me out in Spanish.”

“Portuguese.”


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Book Excerpt: One Last Heist

One Last Heist profile Picture


Excerpt:

“Would you just admit you can’t see in the dark?” Toshiro snapped in pure frustration. “Mack. Are you listening to me?”

“I’m fine. My ears work perfectly.”

Fine.

He’s fine.

Right.

Fine, my arse.

Well, my arse is fine.

“You walked into the table.” Toshiro watched in the darkened room through the night vision on his camera while his stubborn husband stumbled around. “And into the sofa—oh, and the wall. Classic. You’re supposed to crack the safe, not take a header into it.”

“Toshi,” Mack whispered his nickname sharply. “Couldn’t you yell at me in Cantonese or Japanese or any one of the hundred languages you speak? It would still be distracting, but I wouldn’t understand a word of it.”

“I speak thirty languages—not a hundred.” Toshiro grinned even though Mack couldn’t see it. “I suppose the point of a timed run-through of cracking the safe might require your full attention. Oh, look, you tripped over the carpet again.”

Toshiro Ueda-Easton.

Gregor Tempest Mackay Ueda-Easton. Fine, fine. I’ll be quiet. Continue walking into the wall, but I’m not explaining your concussion to the others.” Toshiro continued to ramble about the idiotic stubbornness of his husband in Portuguese, one of the many languages he’d picked up over the years. “Idiota.

“I understood that one.” Mack tossed one of the drill bits of his safe-drilling rig in his husband’s general direction—missing him completely. “Keep cussing me out in Spanish.”

“Portuguese.”


Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2IwvZHc

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2IzVYxy

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2ka8sxa

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2wX4mlh

iTunes: https://apple.co/2paNGjg

Nook: http://bit.ly/LastHeist-Nook

Kobo: http://bit.ly/LastHeist-kobo

All digital links: https://books2read.com/last-heist

Book Excerpt: One Last Heist

One Last Heist profile Picture


Excerpt:

“Would you just admit you can’t see in the dark?” Toshiro snapped in pure frustration. “Mack. Are you listening to me?”

“I’m fine. My ears work perfectly.”

Fine.

He’s fine.

Right.

Fine, my arse.

Well, my arse is fine.

“You walked into the table.” Toshiro watched in the darkened room through the night vision on his camera while his stubborn husband stumbled around. “And into the sofa—oh, and the wall. Classic. You’re supposed to crack the safe, not take a header into it.”

“Toshi,” Mack whispered his nickname sharply. “Couldn’t you yell at me in Cantonese or Japanese or any one of the hundred languages you speak? It would still be distracting, but I wouldn’t understand a word of it.”

“I speak thirty languages—not a hundred.” Toshiro grinned even though Mack couldn’t see it. “I suppose the point of a timed run-through of cracking the safe might require your full attention. Oh, look, you tripped over the carpet again.”

Toshiro Ueda-Easton.

Gregor Tempest Mackay Ueda-Easton. Fine, fine. I’ll be quiet. Continue walking into the wall, but I’m not explaining your concussion to the others.” Toshiro continued to ramble about the idiotic stubbornness of his husband in Portuguese, one of the many languages he’d picked up over the years. “Idiota.

“I understood that one.” Mack tossed one of the drill bits of his safe-drilling rig in his husband’s general direction—missing him completely. “Keep cussing me out in Spanish.”

“Portuguese.”


Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2IwvZHc

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2IzVYxy

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2ka8sxa

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2wX4mlh

iTunes: https://apple.co/2paNGjg

Nook: http://bit.ly/LastHeist-Nook

Kobo: http://bit.ly/LastHeist-kobo

All digital links: https://books2read.com/last-heist

The Wanderer – Blog Tour

 

Title: The Wanderer
Series: The Sin Bin, Book 1
Genre: Gay Romance
Release Date: April 8, 2017
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
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Graham Hodson lives for adventure. His entire life has revolved around his obsessive wanderlust. His inner fear of staying in one place or being with one person for too long has kept him on the go. The last thing he expects is a sudden diagnosis to ground his travel—permanently.

Boyce “BC” Brooks has screwed up his lifelong dream of being the captain of the English national rugby team. He’s lost everything. When his uncle leaves him an inn and a dog in Cornwall, he has little choice but to try his hand at innkeeper.

Can two jokesters kicked around by life and their own decisions find stability when their world shakes beneath their feet?

Weddings.
Weddings were a pain more excruciating than a broken nose, or tooth, or both—an event to be avoided when at all possible. Only the blissfully ignorant would voluntarily submit themselves to the farce of “marital bliss,” never mind the noise, whimpering women, and a priest who would undoubtedly drone on and on unless someone whacked him upside the head.
Why did I agree to this shit? If this bint sobs into my sleeve one more sodding time, I’ll shove her into the aisle, manners be damned. I should’ve claimed a sudden bout of dengue fever in Macau and been done with it.
Graham Hodson had returned home early from yet another adventure to attend the wedding of his best mate, Francis, and his soon-to-be husband, former rugby star Caddock Stanford. He’d contemplated doing a runner. His twin brother, Rupert, had threatened to drag him in by the ear, pointing out that they couldn’t disappoint their childhood friend, could they?
Even if he were tempted to do so, Joanne, Rupert’s wife, had promised untold pain if he did anything to ruin Francis’s day. The spoilsport also vetoed all of his ideas to improve the day for the two grooms. He didn’t see why they wouldn’t enjoy having massive cod strung up to their escape vehicle.
Graham glanced across the room, and his mood brightened when he spotted an old mate, Jack Sasaki. They’d spent summers playing on Cornwall beaches together as kids, along with Rupert. They often flirted with the same boys, though one date with each other had been enough to realise they made far better friends.
The half-Japanese and half-Cornish man made his living as a barber a few villages over, in Fowey. Graham hadn’t seen him in a while and would have to find time while home to have a beer and chat with him. He hoped Jack was having better luck romantically than he currently was.
Wanderlust didn’t come with the perks of being romantically available. His passport might’ve been filled with stamps, but his nights had been filled with loneliness—aside from occasional casual sex. His adventures brought joy to his life.
I don’t sodding need anyone to be happy.
 
Now, repeat the mantra until the wedding stops making you act stupidly moody.
It might be the wedding of a close friend, but boredom continued to make his mind drift. Did anyone other than the couple care about the cute dog with a bow tie or the adorable child in the tuxedo? No. The answer would always be no. People went to ceremonies for the food and drink that followed after, and no one would ever be able to convince him otherwise.
A sniffle from the woman beside him was a reminder that maybe some people did care. With a less cynical view, Graham could admit the tuxedos had been well chosen. Tastefully done bouquets of white roses were adorned with pale blue ribbons that had antiqued copper rugby charms dangling from them.
Adorable.
Graham could also admit, however painfully, that the blissful happiness on Francis’s face made him slightly envious. “Sodding weddings.”
A gasp from the weepy twit reminded him not to mutter out loud. He summoned a smile when Francis glanced his way. The things one did for friends.
Oh, hello.
 
Who the bloody hell are you?
 
Never mind who you are. Can I see you naked?
An absolutely gorgeous bloke sitting on Caddock’s side of the church had caught his attention. Tall, with a closely shaved head and black beard, he had a strong jaw—sharp lines all over really, from what Graham could see. He wore a suit that bordered on obscene for the way it clung to his muscled form.
Suddenly this event looks far more interesting than it did a minute ago. Now how do I get myself an introduction? Should be easy. It’s a wedding; single people come to hook up at them, right?
 
Right.
Their eyes met. Almost identical grins of acknowledgement followed, which intrigued Graham. People didn’t always read him so well. Mr Tall, Bald, and Gorgeous smirked as if he knew exactly what Graham had been thinking.
They’d definitely made a connection.
Interesting.
If the wedding ceremony hadn’t been in full swing, Graham would’ve immediately wandered over to introduce himself. They settled for not so subtle flirtatious smirks. His impatience grew more palpable waiting for it to be over.
Their eyes continually drifted towards one another. An electric shock hit him each time. It sounded dramatic even in his head—but he did feel a mysterious sense of adventure just from contemplating a brief encounter with the mystery man.
Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress. She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters. An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.

 

 Game On Submissions

Start at the Beginning.

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I love the first paragraphs of The Wanderer.

From the prologue:

Weddings were a pain more excruciating than a broken nose, or tooth, or both—an event to be avoided when at all possible. Only the blissfully ignorant would voluntarily submit themselves to the farce of “marital bliss,” never mind the noise, whimpering women, and a priest who would undoubtedly drone on and on unless someone whacked him upside the head.

Why did I agree to this shit? If this bint sobs into my sleeve one more sodding time, I’ll shove her into the aisle, manners be damned. I should’ve claimed a sudden bout of dengue fever in Macau and been done with it.

It still makes me giggle months after I first wrote it.

The first few sentences manage to bring Graham’s sarcasm, mood, and philosophy on life into sharp focus. He’s not interested in love or demonstrations of it. Commitment is way down on the list of things he wants to have.

In so many areas of his life, Graham could be considered completely fearless. Not in love. He’s a cowardly lion when it comes to relationships. He’s a man who has made one massive mistake and refuses to try again.

A cowardly ginger lion.

The first paragraph makes me laugh because I know what’s to come for him. Graham finds in The Wanderer how much courage he actually has. He learns, I think, how to love—and be loved. It’s not perfect, but he doesn’t need it to be.

After all, perfection is boring.

Are you fearless in love?

I wasn’t when I was younger–but I think I am now lol.

Alicia – An Excerpt

ALICIA-DAHLIA-DONOVAN-GOODREADS-WEBREADY-COVER

I thought as a little teaser for Alicia which is coming out on April 15th, I’d share an excerpt:

Chapter One

Alicia

      ‘My little daughter—soiled and spoiled forever.’

‘Where did I go wrong?’

‘How could you break my heart? What would Amin have said to see you brought so low? And for what? I don’t think I know you any longer.’

‘We must protect the family name.’

Her mother Amelle’s words still reverberated in Alicia Lowe’s ears months after they’d been uttered. It was a shower of sharpened knives constantly pricking at her conscious. She had, in a moment of weakness, confessed the possibility of her being pregnant to her mother and stepfather. Her traditionalist Moroccan mother hadn’t handled the news well, and even though they knew it had been nothing more than a false alarm, she continued to ignore her daughter.

Alicia had never been happier to see the start of a new year considering the turmoil 2013 had been for not only her family, but also for her closest friend in the world, Ivy. They all deserved a quiet, peaceful year; whether they’d get one was another story. She’d trade all of her presents at the moment for her mother to forgive her minor indiscretions.

The worst of it was it felt highly out of character for her mother. Amelle was certainly conservative in her values, but she had never forced it on her daughter. She’d accepted the men Alicia had dated in the past and even seemed to enjoy the varied friends in her daughter’s life.

The change had driven a wedge between their small family which was pushed wider by her sodding stepsister, Fawn, taking full advantage. She loved her stepfather, Gavin, who worked as an executive chef at a premier London restaurant; he’d been brilliant when he married her widowed mother. Fawn, on the other hand, had no ambitions, no goals and mostly lived to enjoy the wealth of her father and the Kader family wealth.

While Alicia didn’t necessarily need a career, she’d spent her life watching all of the men in her family work incredibly hard every day. She hadn’t wanted to simply enjoy the fruits of their labours. She’d dedicated herself to studying tirelessly at university and afterward building her business as a stylist and fashion show organizer.

Since her father Amin had died when Alicia was one year old, the family businesses had been run first by her grandfather, and then passed on to her uncle, Tarek Alim Kader. He kept a tight rein on their immense fortune, ensuring someone like Fawn couldn’t simply burn through money with no restraint. It was yet one more thing which caused drama between the sisters.

“No, no, no,” Alicia grumbled when a knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Her voice was too low to be heard. “Bugger off.”

She ran her fingers through her silky, raven-coloured hair to smooth out the tangles and paused to wipe a smudge off her arm. She looked particularly golden after spending a few days in her native Morocco under the bright sun. Her normally honeyed complexion had gained the slightest of tans.

The absolute last thing Alicia needed on a Friday after a week which had been a borderline disaster was a knock on the door at eight in the evening. It couldn’t be Ivy since she’d swanned off with her delicious men. The stranger persisted in ringing the bell giving her no choice but to wander over and remark, ‘I’m not interested,’ before even glancing at who was disturbing her.

“And I came all this way just for you.” Josh rested his arm high on the door frame, leaning toward her with his other hand out to stop the door she’d been in the process of closing. “Can I come in from the cold? You wouldn’t want me to catch a chill, would you?”

No.” She scowled at him, not buying the chill story for a second.

“I brought cake.” He pulled a small package from behind his back. “One slice, we’ll have to share. You enjoy sharing, don’t you?”

“Indeed.” Alicia stepped to the side to allow him into her living room. She rubbed her hands along her arms to warm up as the frigid air swept into the room with Josh. “It’s freezing.”

“I could…” Josh stopped himself mid-sentence. Alicia wondered what the rest of his statement would’ve been. He sat across from her in her living room and got straight to the point. “Do I stand a chance? Any at all?”

Alicia’s eyes narrowed on him. “Four weeks isn’t enough time to process your impressive ability to spontaneously sprout fur and tail.”

Several days before the twenty-fifth of December, Alicia had discovered Josh was playing Father Christmas, leaving sweet presents on her doorstep anonymously. She’d tracked him down to his flat to thank him, only to get an eyeful of Josh turning himself into a large panther, a sleek, beautiful creature which was not normal.

Not.

      Normal.

Over multiple pots of tea, Alicia had asked her next-door neighbour and best friend, Ivy Langdon, every question she could think of. Ivy was the only other person she knew who had any connection to shifters since her two mates were occasionally four-legged creatures themselves–wolves, though not panthers. They, and Josh, were all a part of the Blackbird Security Firm, which she learned was more of a pack of shifters than simply a business.

Ivy’s two men, along with Josh, had been brought into their lives a little over a year ago after a terrorist attack in London. Neither Ivy nor Alicia had been the same ever since. Alicia had hoped things would start to calm down, but Josh’s sudden transformation had added another twist to her already-tilting world.

The trouble was it didn’t exactly stop her from finding Josh absolutely, deliciously gorgeous. He was wearing a lighter shirt under his jacket, which contrasted with the dark tones of his obsidian skin. Alicia’s own golden tones paled in comparison. He was the midnight sky, where she felt more like sunset.

His shirt stretched slightly over his muscled chest. Alicia longed to allow herself to sink into the strength of his embrace, but she couldn’t, not until she knew if the risks were worth the reward. Josh wasn’t like any of the other blokes in her life, furry alter-ego notwithstanding.

Her uncle Alim always cautioned her to observe carefully and move slowly—both in business and in life. Alicia thought it wise advice at the moment. She wished the tall, dark and handsome man in front of her wasn’t quite so tempting. It made her want to throw her concerns aside.

“See something you like?” Josh’s lips curved up into an inviting smile.

She’d never met a man with such luscious, full lips. Focus, Allie. Focus. “What sort of chance are you in search of, merely for the sake of argument?”

Josh reached across the coffee table separating them to take her hand in his. “I’ll greedily take whatever you give me.”

“And then some?”

“I have manners.”

“You’re forgetting I watched you and Darren all but demolish the mince pies at the Christmas party. You had crumbs flying everywhere. What exactly do you call that?” Alicia had laughed her arse off with Ivy when the two men fought over the last pie.

“My delightfully roguish charm in action?”

“Show me again.” Alicia hastened to specify when his grin widened. “Your animal, and not the one below your waist.”

Getting slowly to his feet and releasing her hand, Josh shifted rather rapidly into his panther. Alicia hesitantly skirted around the coffee table over to where the magnificent beast stood, his tail swishing back and forth. His head cocked to the side as she approached him.

“Can you understand me?” Alicia paused to tell herself to stop being a coward and then continued forward to crouch in front of him. She reached a hand up to rest lightly on his fur, which felt velvety to the tips of her fingers. “You are gorgeous.”

Her compliment was rewarded by a nuzzle against her neck from the panther. Alicia wasn’t entirely certain how to process kneeling next to what should’ve been a vicious, wild animal. She’d lived in London most of her life and seen some wickedly bizarre things, particularly during uni when she’d spent too much time with Jezza at seedy pubs. A man turning into a large cat certainly beat anything she’d seen on pub crawls, though.

“This is beyond my ability to comprehend.” Alicia dug her fingers into the thick fur around his neck. “You know my mother has experienced two great loves in her life, my father and stepfather. I’ve dabbled in relationships and played with men, and they’ve played with me. Ivy claims most shifters mate for life. If that’s the case, why choose me? And what precisely does it mean for your ‘furry form’, as she calls it, to have picked me?”

The fur under the tips of her fingers slowly morphed and Alicia found her hand suddenly resting against the bare skin of Josh’s neck. His nose brushed against her jaw. It was more disconcerting to have the man so close than it had been when it was his feline form. She only had to tilt her head and their lips would touch. She still remembered their briefest of kisses before Christmas.

Still dreamed about the kiss—about how it sent off fireworks throughout her soul.

“Have dinner with me?”

“Now?”

“Tomorrow evening.” He nipped lightly at her jaw before bending forward enough so his lips met hers.  She swayed toward him when he pulled back, wanting to feel the shiver that went up her spine for a second time. “Dinner, just one dinner. If there’s no spark, I’ll sod off and leave you alone.”

Liar.

“Might take more than one dinner for you to see the man beneath the muscle.” Josh flexed his arms then stood up, bringing her with him. “Laughter is not what I was going for, Allie.”

She laughed harder at the indignant look on his face. “You can pick me up at eight for a late supper the day after tomorrow.”

“Why not tomorrow?”

“My mother wants another go at me, and I promised Uncle Alim that I would attempt to reason with her.” Alicia wasn’t holding her breath. Her mother took stubbornness to a whole new level when it came to her daughter.

“Would you like me to slay the dragon for you?” Josh’s lips twitched, but he managed to keep the stern gleam in his eyes.

“Slay the dragon?” Alicia shook her head with another laugh, that time at her mother’s expense instead of Josh’s. “I’ve weathered her fire before, and I’m confident I can do it again. And you keep your slaying for bad men, like Rafael.”

Josh turned serious almost instantly. “What do you know about Rafael?”

“Alim has been watching him.” She found herself pitying anyone who crossed the suddenly intense, foreboding man in front of her. “Is he a danger?”

“Never you mind about Rafael. I slay dragons, remember? He’s just a rather well-funded one.” Josh looped an arm casually around her waist to bring her forward. He leaned down for another kiss. “I’ll see you for supper.”

“Josh?”

“I can’t tell you a damn thing about Rafael.” He didn’t seem overly saddened by the fact. “You’ll have to wait for Ivy to gossip to you about it.”

Prat.”

“Hey, I’m a sensitive bloke; you might crush my tender feelings.” Josh teased her then gave one last brush of his lips against hers which had her leaning into his touch, wanting more before he headed for the door. “Good luck with your dragon.”

“You will not win points with my mother for calling her a dragon.” Alicia started to close the door on him.

“How about with her daughter?”

            “Maybe.”

Twelve Days

TwelveDays900

Excerpt:

       Judith Norton had been married to Forrest Norton for over fourteen years before he was tragically taken from her when a car struck him when their daughter, Ivy, was nine. She missed her husband dearly, though over the years the pain had all but faded away. It did her heart good to see Ivy finding her own happiness again with the two men who’d rescued her the year before at Christmas.

She watched her daughter standing, (well, fidgeting was more like it) beside the handsome Gareth. The two had dithered over tea for a good twenty minutes. She knew her Ivy as well as any mother knew her child, and it was obvious the two had something important to share.

Of all the secrets Ivy might impart to her, Judith hadn’t quite been prepared to see Gareth morph slowly into a beautiful wolf in front of her. She sipped her tea carefully while observing Ivy who continued to twist her napkin in her fingers. Her daughter handled most things brilliantly, but she’d never done well with family dramatics.

“They’re wolves, Mum.” Ivy gestured to the white wolf standing beside her after Judith failed to comment. He wagged his tail and she flicked his ear lightly. “Wolves.”

“Ivy, dear, I don’t need to know your men are animals in bed.” Judith decided to have a wee bit of fun with her daughter. “Does he chase his tail?”

“No, Mum…” Ivy pinched the bridge of her nose. “This is Gareth in his wolf form.”

“Is it like our Rosie?”

“No, Mum, bloody hell. Honestly, Rosie’s asexual, not a shifter. She doesn’t have sexual relations.” Ivy dropped her head into her hands, clearly completely exasperated. “Gareth, switch back, please?”

“How are you going to marry at church? Can they go into the building?” Judith sipped her tea absently. “Is there a special ceremony for them?”

“They’re not bloody vampires.” Ivy flicked Gareth on the ear when he snorted loudly.

“Do vampires exist then?”

Ivy glanced up at the ceiling and probably hoping for divine intervention or patience. “I have no bloody idea.”

“Ivy.” She reached out to lightly tug on Ivy’s sleeve.

She turned back toward her mum. “Yes?”

“When I was a young girl, my parents used to take your uncles and me on holiday in Cornwall—to the beaches in Newquay.” She paused to pour more tea for the three of them since Gareth had decided to change back finally. Her fingers trembled slightly around the handle of the teapot as she thought of the young man she’d met so many years ago. “I met a young lad there the first time when I was all of twelve. He was very dashing, a few years older than me.   He could do the most extraordinary things and often turned into the loveliest light grey wolf. I’d never seen anything like it. We saw each other every summer, but then when I was seventeen he wasn’t there anymore. I always wondered what happened to him.”

Gareth reached out to grab Ivy’s teacup before it fell out of her hand. “He was light grey?”

“Mmm,” she nodded. Judith brushed her fingers through her short, grey hair. She could still see the handsome boy who seemed to live constantly in her dreams, though they’d faded over time. “His name was Carl. I never did learn his family name.”

“It’s Elmer.” Gareth nudged Ivy with his elbow. “She’s talking about Carl Elmer.”

“The surgeon who works with the pack?” Ivy’s eyes widened in surprise. “Honestly? How bloody…you had a romance with a shifter and never mentioned it. How could you not tell me?”

“Have some tea, dear.” Judith started to reach for the teapot again. “It’ll help calm your nerves.”

Mum.” Ivy ignored the tea and focused on the important facts. “Why were you acting like a completely uninformed berk just now?”

“You know I love winding you up.” Judith’s blue eyes danced with amusement. Her daughter, like her father, was often easy to ruffle with teasing, though she handled more serious matters with a quiet strength. She glanced over at Gareth a moment later. “So you know Carl?”

“I do,” Gareth said easily. “Would you like to see him again?”

Her heart skipped a beat at the very idea. Judith set her cup carefully on the saucer and placed it gently on the tray in front of her. Thirty-seven long years had gone by since she’d last seen Carl—the beautiful lad with sweet, brown eyes. She remembered his carefree smile as he showed her the finer points of surfing. She never imagined after all this time she might see him again.

When Forrest died, Judith devoted all of her attention to raising a young daughter by herself; there hadn’t been time for finding romance again. The years had flown by before she even realized how age had caught up with her. She wasn’t sure she wanted to shatter Carl’s memories of her with the reality of her age.

“Mum?” Ivy reached out to squeeze her hand. “Do you want to see Carl again?”

Judith patted her daughter’s hand. “I’m afraid I’m not the same girl who skipped stones across the water with him.”

“Carl’s a private bloke. He never really talks about his life outside of being a surgeon.” Gareth spoke around a large bit of scone, causing Ivy to swat him on his arm. He smiled at her and Judith couldn’t help but laugh at the way her daughter melted at the boyish grin. “He’s never been married or dated anyone as far as I know. I can have him in London in a few hours.”

“It’s Christmas, Mum.” Ivy’s eyes were filled with love and concern. “Let’s see if a bit of magic isn’t in the air, shall we?”

Despite having numerous misgivings, Judith allowed her Ivy to talk her into heading to the Blackbird office. She sat in one of the spare offices with a warm mug of tea and nattered with her daughter about wedding plans and the upcoming Christmas party. It was a pleasant enough distraction though she still felt as if a herd of Corgis was running rampant in her tummy.

      Nerves like a silly schoolgirl.

The Corgis leapt into her throat when voices and footsteps seemed to pass by the door and linger. Ivy told her not to worry; it would all go bloody brilliantly. She got to her feet and darted out of the room, leaving Judith to her own racing thoughts.

What if he didn’t remember her?

What if he did remember her?

What could he possibly remember about a girl he’d known over thirty years ago?

Judith was struck with a sense of having let her daughter’s Christmas-inspired optimism carry both of them away. Despite the heavy blows life had dealt Ivy, she’d always managed to eventually find an unending amount of hope. It was inherited from her father, along with her dreadful tendency to curse at every little thing.

Bollocks,” Judith whispered when the door handle turned.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, pardon my intrus…” Carl trailed off the minute he glimpsed who was in the room. “Judy?”

 

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