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Authors: Emily Harvale

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor, #Romantic Comedy

A Slippery Slope

BOOK: A Slippery Slope
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A

SLIPPERY

SLOPE

 

 

 

EMILY HARVALE

 

 

Copyright © 2014
Emily Harvale

 

All rights reserved

 

The right of Emily Harvale to be identified as the author
of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act 1988.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
without the prior written permission of the publisher and author.

 

All characters and events in this publication, other
than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to
real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

ISBN 978-1-909917-05-7

 

Published by Crescent Gate Publishing

 

Print and E-edition published worldwide 2014

 

 

Cover design by Miss Nyss

 

***

 

Edited by Christina Harkness

 

***

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks, as always, to my fabulous friends for their
support and friendship.

 

Thank you to the wonderful staff and my fellow
members of the Ski Club of Great Britain.

 

Grateful thanks, once again, to Christina Harkness
for editing this novel and for never saying, ‘How many times do I have to tell
you this?’ Her input is much appreciated.

 

Heap of thanks to David of DC Creation, for all the
clever things he does with my website and everything else to do with my
technological needs. He is always at the end of a phone or email and never gets
annoyed when I say, ‘David, what’s this button for?’ for the thousandth time or
‘David, could you just...?’ I don’t know what I’d do without him. 
www.dccreation.com

 

Thank you Karina for another gorgeous cover.

 

Thanks to my Twitter friends, Facebook friends and
fans of my Facebook author page. It’s great to chat with you.

 

And to you, wherever you may be, for buying this
book – Thank You.

 

Love,

***

This book is
dedicated to all search and rescue (SAR) teams and their amazing dogs, across
the globe. They save many lives each year – and not just in avalanches, of
course. But none of the dogs come with a small keg of brandy around their necks
... unfortunately.

 

***

 

This book was written and edited in British English,
including all spelling, grammar and punctuation.

 

***

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

 

Love shouldn’t be an uphill struggle

 

Verity
Lawton’s fortieth birthday surprise from her husband, Tony isn’t quite what
she’s expecting and she needs to get away. Is joining daughter Lucy as a chalet
girl in France a step too far? Verity’s cooking is more ‘
bleurgh
’ than
cordon bleu but how difficult can it be to make crème brûlée?

Chalet
Marianne looks like a dream and so does the owner, Josh Calder. But being a
chalet girl involves more than sitting by a fire watching snowflakes fall or
dancing the night away. Josh has several rules – and they don’t include Verity
snapping at him every time he opens his mouth, taking in a stray dog that seems
to have forgotten its job description, or setting the kitchen on fire.

Verity’s
on a slippery slope – and it’s about to get much worse. When her own mother
arrives, along with a repentant Tony, it’s time to make a choice. But is it
really hers to make? And will things work out for the best, or is it all
downhill from here?

 

***

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

‘Please don’t
tell your father about this yet,’ Verity Lambert said, switching off the car
ignition and casting a conspiratorial glance at her daughter, Lucy. ‘I think
he’s planning a big surprise for my birthday and I don’t want to spoil it.’

‘My
lips are sealed.’ Lucy swiped her forefinger and thumb across her mouth in a
zipping motion and got out of the car.

‘Although
come to think of it,’ she added, grinning at Verity across the car roof, ‘He’s
going to go ballistic when I tell him my news. Perhaps I should tell him yours,
first, and quickly sneak in the bit about me going off to spend five months in
the French Alps as a chalet girl.’

‘I
don’t think that’ll work,’ Verity said, walking towards the boot to retrieve
their shopping. ‘And he’ll probably have an apoplexy if he’s told both things
at once.’

‘I’ll
check his life insurance is up to date before I tell him,’ Lucy teased.

‘Check
mine too because he may well kill me when he finds out I’ve encouraged you to
become a chalet girl. Although I thought you said they’re called chalet hosts
these days and not chalet girls. Host sounds more professional so tell your
father that.’

Lucy
sighed and pulled a face. ‘It may sound more professional but it also sounds
really
boring. They only do it to be ‘politically correct’. Chalet girl sounds much
more fun.’ Her blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she joined Verity, and gave
her a little nudge with her elbow.

‘Which
is precisely
why
you should tell him you’re going to be a
host
and not a
girl.

‘Boring!’
Lucy flicked back her long blonde hair in a dramatic gesture before placing one
gloved hand on her chest. ‘I may call myself a host, but in my heart I’ll
always be a girl.’

 ‘You
and me both, darling,’ Verity said, mimicking Lucy’s gestures. ‘I may be a
forty- year-old woman on Sunday, but in my heart I’m still a sixteen-year-old
girl, with dreams of living in the Alps.’

‘And
you still look sixteen, Mum. Well not quite sixteen but certainly no older than
twenty-one. All the shop assistants today said that we could pass as twins.’

Verity
smirked. ‘People will tell you all sorts of lies when they want to sell you
something.’ 

‘Well
it worked,’ Lucy said, grabbing the handles of several store bags and nodding
towards the remaining bags Verity was gathering. ‘Anyway, I hope I look as good
as you when I’m your age.’

‘Hmm.
Thank you. I think.’

Avoiding
one of many large puddles, they headed towards their Victorian terraced home.
The month of November had brought nothing but rain and Dunclutha Road was
rapidly turning into a stream with stepping stones, rather than a pavement.

‘So
... when are you planning on telling Dad your news?’ Lucy asked as she leapt
across another pond-sized puddle.

Verity
skirted around it. ‘After the weekend. And unless you have a particular reason
for telling him yours today, couldn’t that wait until after the weekend too?
We’ve been keeping it a secret for the last few weeks so a few more days won’t
make much difference.’

Lucy
shrugged. ‘I suppose so. I just wanted to get it over and done with to be
honest. He’ll be furious when I tell him I’m leaving next week.’

‘True.
But he’d be furious whenever you tell him. At least this way he won’t have time
to talk you out of going. And he’ll calm down as he always does. You know his
bark is much worse than his bite. He still believes that because his mother is
Italian, it’s his filial duty to uphold the Latin temperament.’

‘And
he does it so well,’ Lucy quipped. ‘Actually, as much as I’m dreading telling him
about mine, I’d quite like to be here when you tell him yours.’

‘I
don’t think you would. Even I don’t want to be here! Perhaps I should text
him.’ Verity shot a look at Lucy and they both sniggered.

She
was referring to the fact that her husband, Tony seemed to have adopted texting
as his favourite means of communication of late. He texted to ask her to do
something for him; texted to let her know he’d be working late at his
restaurant; he even texted in response to her telephone messages. She was beginning
to wonder if he’d text her to tell her he’d like to have sex – but as she
couldn’t remember the last time they’d had any, she thought that was probably
an unlikely scenario in any event.

The
whole thing had become an ongoing joke between her and Lucy, although if she
were honest, it wasn’t really that funny. It was rather disappointing, and not
in the least bit romantic. But she couldn’t remember the last time they’d any
of that either. Romance was something she only found in books or on television these
days.

‘Perhaps
you should,’ Lucy agreed. ‘Or you could break it to him in the same way you did
to me. Short, sharp and to the point! I still can’t believe that you let me
prattle on about France all afternoon, only choosing to tell me about this on the
way home.’

‘Well
I am only five feet three inches tall, darling, with a bit of a temper so I
couldn’t be anything other than short and sharp could I? I do have rather
lovely, naturally blonde hair though.’ She tossed her head from side to side
like a model in a shampoo ad; her thick, satin-smooth hair falling back into
its stylish, shoulder-length bob.

Lucy
smiled and Verity continued, ‘Seriously though, I didn’t want to rain on your
parade, and I love it when you “prattle”. It means you’re happy and excited,
and that means the world to me.’

‘Aw
thanks, Mum. But you should have told me earlier. I mean it’s not every day you
find out that your mum has decked her boss and got the sack. I need more
details! And it all sounds so unfair. Why should you have to leave instead of
that lecherous sod? You loved working at the bank.’

‘I
did. But to be honest things have changed so much since my previous boss
retired and I began working for Alfie. I was wondering whether to move on
anyway. And for the record, I wasn’t sacked and I didn’t
deck
Alfie –
although I wish I had. I merely kneed him in the groin. The fact that he
stumbled backwards into the coffee table, lost his balance and fell flat on his
back, ripping two of the seams of his designer suit in the process, had nothing
to do with me. Although that was no more than the pervert deserved. Champagne
breakfast in his office to celebrate my upcoming birthday, indeed! I think the
entire twenty-fifth floor heard where I told him he could shove that.’

‘I’d
love to have seen his face! So what happened after that, exactly?’ Lucy asked,
pushing their front gate open with her bottom. ‘You obviously reported him to
Human Resources.’

‘I
didn’t have to. Fortunately, Georgina the head honcho of HR, was in the office
next door at the time. She heard the commotion and came to investigate – and
she takes such things very seriously as well she should. She went straight to
the top. I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time Alfie’s done this sort of
thing – there have been rumours. Anyway, to cut a long story short, they
realised I was defending myself against what, legally, could amount to a sexual
assault. There’ve been some redundancies lately because they’re in the middle
of a big merger so, after several hours of to-ing and fro-ing, we reached a
mutual agreement. They would pay me a considerable sum to leave, and I would do
so ... quickly and quietly. They really didn’t want any potentially bad
publicity.’

‘And
that’s what you’re going to tell Dad, is it? I don’t think you can text that.
It’s incredible though. This morning you left for work as normal and just a few
hours later, you’re telling me you’ve been sacked – sorry, you’ve been made
redundant – after almost twenty years! I can’t believe how quickly it was all
done and dusted.’

‘I
can’t either, but those guys can move like lightning when it’s in their
interests to do so. It wouldn’t normally have been settled so quickly but
things are far from normal there at the moment. Anyway, compared to Alfie’s
annual salary and contractual bonuses, what they’ve given me is a drop in the
ocean, but this couldn’t have happened at a better time.’

‘A
better time?’ Lucy queried, stepping onto the front door step and taking as
many of her mother’s shopping bags as she could manage. ‘Because you didn’t
like working with Alfie, you mean?’

‘Not
just because of that.’ Verity looked Lucy directly in the eye. ‘I didn’t
mention it, and I only found out myself a couple of weeks ago because your
father didn’t tell me – or even text me – but he’s thinking of selling the
restaurant. He says it’s been losing money and that’s why he’s been working all
hours – just to keep his head above water.’

‘What?
Why didn’t you tell me? You paid for me to go on the chalet hosting course! I
wouldn’t have gone if I’d known.’

‘I
didn’t know at the time, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. You wanted
to go and I wanted to pay. End of story,’ Verity said, rummaging in her handbag
for the keys. ‘But remember, your father doesn’t know it was a chalet hosting
course – or that I paid. He still thinks it was a cordon bleu cookery course
and that Grandma paid, and he made enough of a fuss about that. “What can they
teach her that I, Antonio Lawton, cannot?” he asked me – amazingly not via text
but in person – and I had the devil of a job trying to think of something.’

‘But
you could’ve used the money for the restaurant.’

‘No.
And it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference in the scheme of things,
darling. We agreed before he opened it that it would be an entirely separate business,
which had to support itself and pay him a good salary or he wouldn’t continue
with it. The restaurant is his ‘baby’, remember, and it always has been. He
wanted it that way.’

‘Yeah,
but I’ve never really understood that. It’s like you lead two separate lives,
sometimes. Anyway, are you and Dad going to be okay then? Financially, I mean.
Oh, you will be now, won’t you, with your big pay-off?’

‘We
would’ve been okay without it. Your father would’ve found a position at another
restaurant and I ... have some ... money I think I could fall back on. But he
does love
Antonio’s
and the fact that it’s his own place. Or he used to.
I was surprised when he told me he was thinking of selling. Anyway, now he has
the choice, so my ... windfall, we’ll call it, really is a godsend. We can use
it to clear the balance of the mortgage, pay everything else off, and still
have enough to live on for the foreseeable future. So if he wants to keep the
restaurant going, he can. Where on earth are my keys? I didn’t leave them in
the car, did I?’

‘No.
I saw you lock it and throw them in your bag – although why you didn’t keep
them in your hand is beyond me. Are you losing it, Mum ... now that you’re so
old?’ Lucy teased.

‘Very
funny. This is bloody ridiculous! How can a set of keys go missing in a
handbag?’

‘That’s
not a handbag, it’s a suitcase! You
really
need to get a smaller bag,
Mum.’

In
frustration, Verity bent down and tipped the contents of her bag onto the tiled
doorstep. A few moments later, she held the bunch of keys aloft like a prize in
a treasure hunt. ‘Ta dah!’

Lucy
shook her head, deposited the shopping bags on the doorstep, and knelt down to
help her mother retrieve her belongings.

‘What
I don’t really understand though, bearing in mind what you’ve just told me
about the restaurant, is why you don’t want to tell Dad about your pay-off,
immediately. Surely knowing he doesn’t have to sell
Antonio’s
or work
such long hours, will make him happy and stop him worrying? He’s been even
grumpier than normal over the past few months. Now I know why.’

‘Yes,
and I’ll tell him after the weekend but as I mentioned, I’m certain that he’s
got a big surprise for me. I think he’s planning to take me somewhere special
because I heard him on the phone the other day. He must have been talking to
that guy he knows who’s a travel agent because he said, “We can’t leave until
after Verity’s birthday. Lucy has organised a party for that weekend.” If I
tell him now that I’m rather well off and we can do anything we want – within
reason – go anywhere we want, it may make him feel that his surprise trip isn’t
that special after all. If you see what I mean?’

‘I
think so,’ Lucy said. ‘Dad does get into a strop if he’s not given the
appreciation he thinks he deserves. I suppose if he has been arranging a
special surprise, he would feel a bit peeved. But it seems that you keep a lot
of secrets from each other, Mum.’

Verity
straightened up. ‘Not a lot of secrets, darling and every marriage has secrets,
believe me. Sometimes with the best intentions.’ At least, that’s what she’d
told herself over the years.

‘I
suppose so,’ Lucy said. ‘And the only reason we didn’t tell Dad about my plans
to be a chalet girl was to save him having one of his lengthy strops. Although
I think that was more for our benefit than his.’ She grinned at Verity and
stomped her booted feet on the doorstep. ‘Open the door will you, Mum? It’s
getting really cold and I’m gasping for a cup of tea.’

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