Thursday, 2 November 2017
Release Date: 2nd November 2017
Genres: Humour / Romance /Saga
Alexia Kennedy – interior decorator extraordinaire – has been tasked with giving the little village of Middledip the community café it’s always dreamed of.
After months of fundraising, the villagers can’t wait to see work get started – but disaster strikes when every last penny is stolen. With Middledip up in arms at how this could have happened, Alexia feels ready to admit defeat.
But help comes in an unlikely form when woodsman, Ben Hardaker and his rescue owl Barney, arrive on the scene. Another lost soul who’s hit rock bottom, Ben and Alexia make an unlikely partnership.
However, they soon realise that a little sprinkling of Christmas magic might just help to bring this village – and their lives – together again…
‘I know who he was.’ He rested his head on the chair back, knowing he had to prioritise. ‘It is possible that one of those messages might be important.’ Not the one about his brother, Lloyd – or, at least, he doubted it would prove to be anything new.
But Imogen . . .
‘Would you mind hanging on while I make a quick call?’ Without waiting for an answer he jumped up and made for the kitchen. There, he opened his contacts list and tapped on Imogen.
She answered after two rings, voice breathy with surprise. ‘Ben?’ She sounded so familiar that for an instant he felt as if the past had slipped into the present, as if he might be calling to say he could get home on Friday so they could go out to dinner. He could almost hear the reply she would have made: Or we could stay home, just the two of us . . . and then you never know what you’ll get on the table, her slight Berkshire burr caressing the words ‘could’ and ‘never’. He’d have laughed and lowered his voice to suggest . . .
He snapped his mind back to here and now. ‘Yes, it’s me. Are you OK?’ It made something in his chest feel odd to voice the commonplace, caring question he’d asked a thousand times.
‘Yes. Well, so far as . . . you know.’
‘Yes, I know,’ he answered awkwardly, compassionately, hearing what she wasn’t saying.
‘Why are you calling?’ Was that a thread of happy anticipation in her voice?
Guiltily hoping it wasn’t, he kept his voice steady as he
explained. ‘I think it’s just Dad being Dad, but I got a message and wanted to check you weren’t in any trouble.’
‘I won’t ask what’s going on between you and your dad this time, but thank you.’ A pause. ‘Did you get your . . . you know, the divorce . . .?’
‘The nisi? Yes.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Obviously you did?’
‘Yes.’ Another pause. What was she waiting for him to fill the silence with? Had it been hope he’d detected in her voice? If so, when she spoke again she’d smoothed it carefully away. ‘It seems odd to discuss it so casually. But I suppose it’s good that we’re not at each other’s throats.’
‘Yes.’ They never had been at each other’s throats. Cold anger on Ben’s part and bitter remorse on Imogen’s had been how they’d seen off their marriage. Maybe he’d have felt better for a few screaming matches. ‘Well, sorry to disturb your evening. I just wanted to . . .’
‘I’m touched you did, but I’m fine. And you—’
‘I’m fine, too.’ He didn’t want to prolong the call. Before he slid his phone back into his pocket, however, he sent his parents a one-line text assuring them that they needn’t worry about him.
Then, gingerly, he examined the state of his heart. The usual swirl of grief and guilt about Imogen had been absent as they talked. Not long ago the call would have been enough to plummet him into a black mood.
As if movement would keep the darkness at bay, he crossed to the door to the sitting room and gave it a tiny push. He could see Alexia sitting where he’d left her, fidgeting and casting glances at the front door as if considering using it. He pushed the kitchen door properly open and cleared his throat. ‘Want to feed Barney?’
About The Author
Award-winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. She’s won a Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award, and been nominated for others, including a ‘RoNA’ (Romantic Novel Award). Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, and a past vice chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and editor of its two anthologies. The daughter of two soldiers, Sue was born in Germany and went on to spend much of her childhood in Malta and Cyprus. She lives in Kettering.