Welcome to the
Written Fireside August Blog Hop
Fifteen authors from Harper Impulse,
a digital first imprint of Harper Collins will be writing
fifteen stories all starting from one shared starting paragraph
written by competition winner
Each author will share a snippet/s from her story according to the schedule below, and then at Christmas time all fifteen complete short stories will be available to download as one awesome and free holiday anthology.
Come, join us by fire
Enjoy how each author's voice takes the starting sentences and creates a unique tale.
Lori Connelly - Aug 1,2,3
Erin Lawless - Aug 4,5
Mandy Baggot - Aug 6,7
Aimee Duffy - Aug 8,9
Teresa F. Morgan - Aug 10,11
Angela Campbell - Aug 12,13
Lisa Fox - Aug 14,15
Lynn Marie Hulsman - Aug 16,17
Linn B. Halton - Aug 18,19
Carmel Harrington - Aug 20,21
Charlotte Phillips - Aug 22,23
Romy Sommer - Aug 24,25
Jane Lark - Aug 26,27
Zara Stoneley - Aug 28,29
AJ Nuest - Aug 30,31
Time for Part 2 of What Happened in Vegas & another chance to enter the Rafflecopter to win!
Anna was taking longer than usual to get ready so Charlotte used the time to surf the net and learn some of the games at the casino. Roulette sounded addictive, plus she hated leaving stuff to chance. And there were so many different variations of poker that she could never learn them all in time. Blackjack sounded similar to pontoon but even then she hadn’t played much.
The phone in the room rang and she answered straight away, hoping there wasn’t a problem with their card details or something.
‘Daniel James is at reception for Miss Trammel. May I send him up?’ the receptionist asked.
Charlotte’s hands started to shake so much she almost dropped the phone.
The receptionist tried again. ‘Miss?’
‘No,’ Charlotte blurted. ‘I’ll be there soon.’
She slammed down the phone and hoped her heartbeat slowed soon or she’d sweat off all her make-up. What was he doing in Vegas?
And what was Anna going to do when she found out he was there?
Come to think of it, Anna was taking forever. She walked to her friend’s room and knocked the door. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Don’t come in!’ Anna shouted. ‘I’m waxing bits you don’t want to see. And I’ve made a mess with the home highlighting kit so I need to fix it with darker dye.’
Charlotte grinned. ‘So you’re planning on getting lucky tomorrow?’
But the humour was gone when she remembered who was waiting for her at reception. ‘I’m going to get a drink downstairs while I’m waiting. Text me when you’re ready?’
‘I won’t be long, maybe an hour or so,’ Anna said.
Charlotte guessed she had a good two hours before Anna would come looking for her. But she wouldn’t need that. If Daniel was there to admonish her and drag her home, she’d get security to kick him out.
It was so unfair when Daniel wore a dark Armani suit, white crisp shirt open at the collar and his dark hair looked like he’d just rolled out of bed. He knew she couldn’t resist him like that, especially when his stony expression silently challenged her to break through the rough outer shell to get a taste of the sweet man beneath.
But his expression wasn’t stony today. There were circles under his eyes and a four day dusting of hair covering his jaw. He looked a little thinner too, but she could just be imagining that.
‘Charlotte,’ he said.
The emotion in that one word stopped her in her tracks. He didn’t do public displays of anything other than put together.
He drew in a breath, obviously trying to pull himself together but for once it didn’t work. ‘I’ve missed you so much.’
The man in front of her was nothing like the one she’d walked out on days before. That Daniel had told her she was being ridiculous when she said she didn’t want to be with him.
‘How did you know where I was?’ she asked, unsure what else to say.
‘Your parents told me.’
She laughed once without humour. ‘I suppose they told you to bring me back.’
And he’d listen. He never seemed to want to disappoint her father.
‘Yes, but that’s not why I came,’ he said, and his voice was different, with none of his usual arrogance. ‘Will you have a drink with me?’
After she nodded, she headed for the bar wondering if she’d fallen asleep waiting for Anna and Daniel being here was just a dream. After all he was acting out of character, which subconsciously could be playing on her guilt for ending their relationship.
When they found a table at a quiet spot in the hotel bar, he asked what she would like to drink. Charlotte just frowned. He never asked when they were out, always ordering for her.
‘Well?’ he prompted, then cursed under his breath and took the chair across from her. ‘Sorry. I don’t mean to sound impatient.’
‘What are you doing, Daniel?’ She was sick of guessing. The drink could wait.
He reached for her hand but her expression must have deterred him because he pulled away. ‘You’re right. I was controlling, I was demeaning at times and I was the worst boyfriend ever. I’m so sorry I suffocated you.’
‘Was?’ she asked, but then felt a stab of guilt for being bitchy. Especially when his emotions were so clear for once. He looked devastated.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. ‘Yes, was. I’m working on changing all that.’
Call her sceptical, but, ‘It’s only been a week.’
He looked at her then and she could see in his eyes that he was miserable. ‘It feels like months.’
Her heart throbbed. She wanted to comfort him, but didn’t know how. And she wished she could just forget the bad things about the last two years, but how could she be sure it wouldn’t just go back to the way it was before she ended their relationship?
It was time to put his apology to the test. ‘I’m in Las Vegas now instead of last year because you wouldn’t let me.’
‘I was scared what you and Anna would get up to, even though I knew you wouldn’t have betrayed me. And it’s dangerous here, Charlotte.’ He sighed. ‘But you shouldn’t have had to ask for permission, and I shouldn’t have told you not to go.’
It was odd to hear him admit he was wrong about something, but she barrelled on just in case this was some sort of act. ‘I was at a male stripper show last night.’
Instead of anger, it was pain that flitted across his expression. ‘Did you enjoy it?’
She decided if he was being open, so would she. ‘Yes.’
The silence stretched until a waiter came to take their order. She was stumped again when he ordered a scotch, then didn’t blink an eye at her ordering the strongest cocktail the bar had.
‘We’re going to the casino tonight, and then Anna wants to go clubbing with the guys tomorrow.’ His expression made her feel awful, like she was poking a wounded animal with a stick just to see what it would do, so she added, ‘I’m not keen on tomorrow’s plans though.’
He offered her a small smile, like the ones he’d given her when they were alone. ‘I’d love to spend Christmas with you, but I don’t want to impose on your plans.’
The drinks arrived and Daniel promptly downed his, then ordered another. After a sip of her cocktail, she said, ‘I still don’t understand why you’re here.’
‘I want you back. I’ve been so miserable without you I’d do anything you wanted if it meant we could be together,’ he said.
Her lips parted but no words came out.
Then her mobile chimed, giving her something else to focus on. Anna’s emergency gave her the perfect excuse to go away and think this through.
‘I have to go. How long are you staying?’ she asked, hoping he wasn’t jumping straight on a plane back to Edinburgh.
‘I don’t know. I only bought a one way ticket just in case.’
She rose and, ever the gentleman, he rose too.
‘Okay.’ She turned to leave but he turned her back to face him.
‘I don’t care if you slap me right now. I need to do this,’ he said.
Then he pulled her into his arms and kissed her fiercely, like he did when he’d come back from a business trip to show how much he’d missed her. But then they’d been alone. Now they were in an open bar and when she wrapped her arms around his neck and twisted herself closer, he only hugged her tighter.
When she broke the kiss they were both as good as gasping.
‘I will change, Charlotte. I’ll be whoever you need me to be,’ he promised.
She untangled herself and offered him a sad smile. ‘I never needed you to change. I just wished you’d have loosened up a bit and given me space to breathe, let me make my own mistakes. Why do you think I never moved in with you? It was so I could have somewhere to be myself without worrying who I’d offend. Plus, being together doesn’t mean controlling each other. Life’s about give and take.’
He just nodded, and she left, hiding the moisture pooling in her eyes.
Anna wasn’t kidding about the emergency. Her hair had gone orangy pink and there was a strip of cloth waxed onto her sensitive area that she couldn’t bring herself to rip off. To distract her friend from the pain, Charlotte had come clean about Daniel in the bar and her friend had been equally perplexed.
They spent the evening in a late night salon until Anna’s hair was a nice shade of chocolate brown, then they squandered their money in a casino. The conversation was focused on Daniel and his possible motivations, but even Anna couldn’t understand his change in attitude, or the public display of passion.
‘Maybe he was acting how he thought he should when you were together,’ Anna said the next morning. ‘I mean, you’ve met his parents. They’re more stuck up than yours.’
Charlotte didn’t feel the need to defend her parents. They were so concerned about how people saw them that they lived their life like military sergeants.
‘His parents are cold,’ Charlotte agreed. ‘And the only emotion they show is a fake smile when we went to visit.’
‘I have an idea!’ Anna said, bouncing up from the sofa. ‘Put his promise to change to the test.’
Charlotte just stared at her, wondering how on earth she’d manage that.
‘Think about where you are! You’re in Vegas, and its Christmas. What do people love doing here and anywhere on this day?’ Anna hinted.
‘Get drunk and lose all their cash?’ she guessed, but wouldn’t put money on her answer.
‘No you idiot. They get married!’
Her eyes popped so wide it was a surprise they didn’t fall out of the sockets. ‘I’m too young for that!’
Anna pffd. ‘It’s only young people who get married here and anyway, I don’t think it’s legal anywhere else in the world so you’d only be man and wife in Vegas.’
She doubted Anna’s take on the law but was coming round to the idea. Not of marriage, but marriage here was the last thing in the world Daniel would ever do. If he agreed to get hitched in some chapel by an Elvis look-a-like on Christmas day, surely that meant he was willing to loosen up a bit.
There was only one way to find out.
‘Okay,’ Charlotte agreed. ‘You make the arrangements and I’ll get in touch with Daniel.’
She’d chickened out of actually going to see him so had texted him instead. As she stood at the alter before a thirty year old ordained Elvis impersonator with her best friend at her side and six male stripper witnesses, she was losing hope that Daniel would come.
‘If he ditches you at the alter, I’ll marry you,’ Anna whispered.
Charlotte wrinkled her nose. ‘Have you been drinking?’
‘Drinking is the Christmas tradition in my family. I’m just keeping it going,’ Anna replied.
Her friend’s distraction worked though. Instead of worrying whether Daniel would show in the next five minutes, she was giggling when she imagined her mother’s face as she told her she’d married Anna in Vegas.
A rumble of encouragement from their sexy witnesses also took her mind off the fact she was sweating buckets and her stomach was doing flip flops.
Then the doors at the other end of the aisle opened and she turned to see Daniel there. Time stopped for a second as she took him in. He was wearing a kilt and the way he looked at her, like she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, made her feel like this really was her wedding day.
He walked towards her then, followed by a man with a video camera in his hand.
‘What’s with the camera?’ she asked him.
‘How else are we going to show our parents our wedding?’ he said, taking her hands. Leaning closer, he whispered, ‘I’d marry you anywhere, anytime, Charlotte. You shouldn’t have called my bluff.’
Her heart took off and nerves started to kick in. She turned to the young Elvis, ‘Can you give us a second?’
Before waiting for him to agree she dragged Daniel into a quiet corner of the chapel. ‘Daniel, this isn’t real. We’re not really getting married.’
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘This,’ she gestured around the place, ‘isn’t you. You don’t want to get married here.’
He shook his head. ‘You’ve got me all wrong. I grew up with my father as a role model. I thought that’s just how couples were – all my aunts and uncles, grandparents. They all had cold, distant relationships.’
He took her hands in his. ‘Charlotte, when I’m with you I don’t want to be cold or distant. And when you ended our relationship I realised the other stuff had to go too.’
‘I believe you.’ Her heart was so full with love that everything she was unsure about got smothered. He was actually going to marry her in a chapel and film it to show his parents. She could trust that he would loosen up and give her the freedom of choices she needed. ‘But we still don’t have to do this. It was just a test to see if you meant what you said.’
Daniel laughed. ‘I guessed that much.’
Then he got down on one knee and pulled a little black box from his pocket.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked, darting a glance at Anna who was as gobsmacked as her.
‘Will you marry me, Charlotte? Right here and now, or back home surrounded by family, or on the moon if you want. I don’t care if it means I get to keep you forever.’
He flipped the lid on the case, showing off the pretty rose gold ring with a huge diamond. Her eyes watered as she remembered one day at a jewellers when they were looking for a present for her mum’s birthday, he’d said rose gold looked cheap and she should get a platinum bracelet. This, as well as everything else, just proved he was willing to do things for her instead of trying to impress others by giving her what he thought was better.
‘If you’re serious, if there’s no more controlling or berating me for being me, then yes. I’ll marry you,’ she said, her voice thick with emotion.
‘I love who you really are. I swear it will be different this time.’ He slid the ring onto her finger, then rose. Taking her hands between his palms, he kissed her again only this time it tasted of joy rather than desperation.
Anna interrupted them. ‘So are you two getting hitched or going to get a room?’
‘Both, hopefully,’ Daniel said with a grin.
It was hard getting used to his smiles. In fact it was hard getting used to all this.
‘Wait.’ She still felt like she was forcing him into this.
‘I can’t be without you, Charlotte. I’d like you to teach me how to be the kind of man who deserves you. If we can get married now, that’s more than I could ever hope for.’ He dropped a kiss on her nose.
All of this was more than she could hope for too. She looked down at her ring and had to wonder if she’d been put on the nice list and not the naughty one. After all she’d stood up for herself and that seemed to be the push Daniel had needed so they could really work as a couple.
She looked up at him and could see that she was right. Her man loved her and was now going to show her that love, regardless of how he was raised to believe showing any kind of emotion was a cardinal sin. ‘Would it be cheesy to say, all I want for Christmas is you?’
He pulled her close and grinned. ‘Not when I want exactly the same thing.’
She snuggled close, careful not to get make-up on his black shirt. ‘Then marry me. Right here, right now.’
Daniel took her hand and stared at her with a soft, loving expression, then nodded.