It’s only SIX days until my Christmas romcom Escape to Christmas Cottage goes live! Here’s an excerpt from the second chapter….
An hour later, having rinsed off the restorative masks I’ve had on both my hair and face, and read three chapters of my book, a murder thriller – not sure how wise choosing that was given I’m all alone – I force myself out of the bath.
In the living room the logs in the burner are roaring away. I’m not sure that was still lit when I passed through an hour ago, and even I, with my limited knowledge of such things, know that log burners don’t last all night unless topped up. Someone has been in here. Local boy, no doubt. I don’t like the idea of that and decide that once I’ve retrieved my shopping from the car, I will be deadlocking all the doors. Happily, there’s no sign of him now.
I stand in front of the log burner, my back to the warmth. It’s so nice, I even lift the back of my towel to let the heat warm my bare skin. I feel as though I can do anything I like here, be myself, indulge my misery, allow myself to be happy, even run around naked – once I’ve deadlocked those doors. A ray of weak sunshine pushes its way through the windows and bathes my face, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation.
I can hear the silence, the peace of this place. No memories – or at least not mine – running through the walls, no resentments, no accusations, just peace. I can be me. The me I used to be. Perhaps.
The snap of a door opening and my eyes ping open.
Standing in front of me is the local lad. Glistening chest wet from a shower, a towel around his waist, he’s towelling his wet hair, his face obscured. Damn cheek.
A low growl.
Then I see it. The dog. The biggest dog I’ve ever seen. It sees me and moves in a blur, grabbing my towel in its beastly jaws. Yanking so hard that I cannot hold on. I’m knocked off my feet by the power of the dog’s grasp, collapsing in a heap in front of the log burner. Attempting to cover myself with my hands – not an easy task given the size of my boobs – I’m yelping and howling as though I were a dog myself.
‘What the f…’ a male voice says, the local lad, the interloper. ‘Kong, drop.’
The dog drops my towel, the lad, though actually, clearly, not a lad, but a big hairy man, retrieves my towel from the floor and, in one swift movement wraps it around me.
‘I’m sorry about that,’ he says.
‘Sorry? Sorry?’ I scrabble to get up, gripping my towel around me. ‘What are you even doing in here? Who the hell are you?’
‘I was wondering that myself. About you, obviously.’ Is that the hint of a smirk on his face?
‘Me? Me? I’m the idiot who rented this place for ten days, not some part-time woodchopper nipping in to use the facilities. I’ll be reporting you to Mrs Lane.’ I grip my towel tighter, pulling it up around my neck.
He’s smiling now, definitely smiling. How bloody dare he?
‘What are you bloody smiling at?’ I’m incensed now.
‘Sorry,’ he says, but the smile remains. ‘I’ve rented this place too.’
‘No you haven’t. You’re the local la… man who chops wood. I saw you. Out there.’ I point my finger rather awkwardly, in the general direction of the garden but have to keep my elbow clenched to my body because I don’t want my towel to dislodge again.
‘Y-e-s-s,’ he says, drawing out the word. ‘I was out there chopping wood, because I told the owner I was happy to chop it. But I’m not local and I have rented this place.’
‘No.’ I cannot believe it.
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘There’s obviously been a mix up. Somewhere.’
For a second or two I’m speechless. A mix up? How? Why?
He stands before me, still glistening, then starts to dab himself dry with his hair towel. His body is lean, but muscled. His body is not at all like Cliff’s.
‘Well, yes,’ I snap. ‘I suggest we both get dressed then come back and discuss this properly.’
‘Okay,’ he turns away.
‘Yes, and you can put your giant dog outside too please.’
‘Kong,’ he calls and the dog trots alongside his master as the two disappear back into the bedroom next to the bathroom, the biggest one and with the en-suite too.
‘Arrogant bastard,’ I mutter. I do not want that dog menacing me inside my own holiday getaway, my Christmas escape.