Read An Unexpected Christmas Online

Authors: Lori Jennings

An Unexpected Christmas

 

 

An
Unexpected Christmas

 

By Lori Jennings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text copyright © 2015 Lori Ann Jennings

Cover design © 2015 Lori Ann Jennings

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

For Sarah

I am so grateful for
all the years of support

and being as big a
fangirl as I am.

 

For my Nate.

Thank you for being
there when nothing else helped.

Prologue

 

I stared at my laptop screen open
mouthed and watched as my mother continued with her ironing. It wasn't the fact
she was ironing while skyping me that had me in shock, the ironing was actually
a regular occurrence, it was the fact she had just informed me that she
wouldn't be spending Christmas at home. 'April, close your mouth. I don't know
why you are so surprised. Your father and I have been meaning to visit with
Bill and Karen for a while.'

I let out a heavy breath and felt
my shoulders sag. 'I know Mum I just didn't think you would be going for
Christmas.' It had always been my favourite time of year with all the
decorations, music, gifts and spending time with my family, I always looked
forward to the whole season.

'You could always go to your
sister's.' My mum replied as she shook out a shirt and placed in on the ironing
board.

I shook my head. 'No, Abby is
going to Scott's parents, I spoke to her yesterday.'

Mum placed the iron on its stand
and looked out of my laptop screen. 'I'm sure you will be alright and you will
save money not having to travel up from London.' She smiled at me. 'Don't
worry; just have a nice quiet few days.'

I took a breath, she was right;
and I wouldn't have to spend four hours alone in a car and could spend the day
in my pyjamas without someone telling me I was lazy. 'You're right, it's going
to be great and I'm glad that you and Dad are finally heading to New York, it
will be a nice change for you.'

'Well, that's settled then.
Right, I best go, I have the W.I. ladies coming over in an hour and I need to
clear all this up first.' She gestured to the piles of ironing that were neatly
stacked on the table.

'Okay, I will speak to you
later.'

'Bye darling.' She started to
make kissing gestures into the camera which brought a smile to my face.

'Bye Mum.' I clicked the end call
button and her image disappeared. Leaning back on my sofa I looked around my
small flat. All of my excitement for the season had simply drained away from me
and I only knew one cure for my depression.

I stood up and wandered over to
my DVD collection, a bookcase filled with all sorts of movies and TV box sets
and one section dedicated to Nathaniel James Hamilton. I glanced over the
titles, organised chronologically and decided to start at the beginning of his
career.

Placing the DVD into the player I
sat back and dragged my blanket over me then pressed play.

Nate Hamilton was my cure for
most things. His early work as the adorable and sweet love interest for the
plain girl in a couple of period dramas sparked my interest in him. Then there
was his work in amazing interpretations of some of Shakespeare's work which had
me stunned by how much talent he possessed. More recently he shot to fame
playing 'Dax', the charismatic bad guy in the 'Danger' series.

It wasn't just that he was incredibly
talented either, in the interviews I had seen, and with the hours I had lost on
YouTube, I had seen a lot, he came across as genuinely lovely. Always smiling
and laughing and filled with such confidence. It also didn't hurt that he was
incredibly handsome with thick chocolate hair and bright eyes that were
sometimes blue and sometimes green and he was really tall, I loved that he is
really tall.

Some people knew about my mild
obsession with Nate Hamilton but when I started my new job I decided to keep it
quiet as long as possible, I was a twenty eight year old woman not an obsessive
teenager and confessing that my main way of coping with things was to lose
myself in his work may come across as odd. I wasn't ashamed of it; it was just
simpler to keep it to myself. So I sat on my sofa, snuggled under my blanket
and lost myself in his movies wondering what my Christmas was going to be like
this year.

Last Christmas had been the usual
house full. My niece and nephew charging around and getting over excited about
all the presents Santa had brought them. My sister and her husband taking a
breather from entertaining their children by eating their way through a couple
of tins of chocolates and my mum and dad making us all the perfect Christmas
dinner all ending in board games and the Doctor Who special, perfect.

It was going to be much quieter
without them all and I was going to miss them but I would persevere and make it
as special as I could, just a nice quiet Christmas on my own.

Chapter One

April

It was so close to Christmas I
could practically taste the turkey and all the trimmings. The smell of pine
wafting in from my living room set a smile on my face and the sound of festive
music filled my entire flat; I was getting ready to spend the next few days
with my friend Ella and her family and I was just stuffing the last of my
clothes into my suitcase when the chorus of 'Merry Christmas Everybody' by
Slade began to ring out of my back pocket. Pulling out my phone, I smiled as I
glanced at the caller ID and hit the answer button, 'Hey Ella, I'm almost ready
I swear.'

I heard her chuckle. 'Don't worry
I haven't left yet. Just calling to ask if you want me to pick you up a coffee
on my way over?' She paused, 'Or is that a ridiculous question?'

'You know me too well; coffee
would be wonderful, thank you. Any idea what time you might get here?' I pushed
another pair of shoes into my case and wondered if I would even wear them.

'Maybe half an hour or so,
there's no rush; Mum isn't expecting us until later so we can take it easy. I
will text when I set off.'

'Thanks see you in a bit then!'

We said good bye and I pushed my
phone back into my pocket. I took in the sight around me; I stood at the side
of my bed surrounded by most of my clothes which I had pulled from the small
chest of drawers and the boxes from under my bed. I never thought of myself as
a vain person but I knew that if I thought I looked good then I would feel good
and that always boosted my confidence so my suitcase was pretty much full but I
still had loads to pack. Pulling out a holdall I began to add jeans and
sweaters to it. I had also picked a couple of dresses, a really nice black
puffball skirt and my cute sparkly ballet shoes; I knew Ella's mum lived in a
small village but I liked to be prepared for any event that might arise and I
also knew Ella liked a good night out so she might drag me to something I
needed a dress for.

I had met Ella Lawson at work
only ten months ago. She was in fact my line manager but we had hit it off
instantly; I was new to London, moving from a small town in Cheshire, and as
Ella had lived here all her life she took me under her wing and showed me how
wonderful, and not scary and intimidating, the big city was. Ella was stunning;
standing at six feet tall, not in heels, and with beautiful long blonde hair.
You could mistake her for a supermodel but she was one of the nicest people I
had ever met.

It was because she was so nice
that I was spending my Christmas with her and her family. When Ella heard that
I would be spending my holiday alone as my parents would be in New York
visiting friends, and my sister and her family would be at her in-laws, she
never hesitated to invite me to spend it with her and her family; she truly was
one of the best people I knew.

Approximately thirty minutes
later the doorbell sounded through my small flat and I skipped over to answer
it. Ella was standing there in skin tight jeans and a huge sweater that on me
would make me look at least three times bigger than I was but on her looked amazing.
I took the coffee cup she was holding out to me and gestured for her to enter.

'You ready?' She asked; a smile
on her face.

I took a sip of my coffee before
answering, 'I think so. If I have forgotten anything it's too late now.'

I took another sip and savoured
the taste. Ella had learnt early how I like my coffee and how often I drank it;
it wouldn't surprise me if she had planned specific stops along the way to her
Mum’s house just to keep me caffeinated.

 'We should probably get going,'
Ella said, and I grabbed my coat.

Ella had managed to park right in
front of my building and after loading my bags in to the back of her dark blue
Mini roadster I moved to the passenger side and climbed in.

'So, how long is it going to take
us to get there?' I settled myself into the seat; it had been freezing cold for
weeks and the weather report had been hinting that it might snow along the
south coast for the past few days but I wouldn't believe it until I saw it with
my own eyes. I hadn't seen real snow for about three years and I really hoped
that I would get a chance to have a white Christmas.

'It's about three and a half
hours.' I looked over at her and raised my eyebrow. 'It will be fun. We have
loads of Christmas music to sing along to and I brought jelly babies.' She held
up the packet and wiggled it in front of me. I hesitated for a moment then took
the bag from her and opened it. Ella just laughed and started the engine. 'Are
you ready?'

'Yep, drive on!' I replied
through a jelly baby filled mouth.

Traffic wasn't too bad as we
headed out of London and I watched as the landscape changed from tall
skyscrapers and the usual city life to smaller towns and eventually
countryside. I didn't know much about Ella's mum's house, just that it was
somewhere on the coast and Maggie, Ella's mum, had bought it after her divorce
from Ella's dad about twelve years ago.  I was really looking forward to
spending my Christmas somewhere new and I hoped I would have plenty of time to
get through the pile of books I had brought with me; work had been so busy
lately and I was the sort of person with the bad habit to keep buying books
even though I had hundreds to read already.

We sang very loudly and very out
of tune to the Christmas music blasting out of the speakers but after almost
two hours Ella moved into the inside lane and took an exit for the services.

'God I really need to pee.'

I giggled at Ella then sent her a
sympathetic smile. 'Alright, we could probably do with some more jelly babies
or maybe something a little less sugary.'

Ella nodded and climbed out of
the driver's seat. We walked into the service station and were immediately hit
with a wall of warm air and electronically produced Christmas music, and after
visiting the ladies Ella went off in search of snacks while I grabbed another
coffee.

As with most services these days
it had the usual food and drink vendors on offer, and luckily this one had my
favourite coffee chain. I ordered a gingerbread flavoured latte and paid,
moving along the counter to wait for my beverage. The guy behind the counter
shouted my name and I thanked him as I took my cup. I sipped at it and savoured
its sweet yet slightly bitter taste, I knew that I had a bit of a caffeine
addiction but shrugged it off; it was Christmas after all - a time for
indulgence.

I wandered over to the little
shop and found Ella flicking through a magazine. The cover showed the latest
celebrity scandal but there was a by-line that caught my eye.

'I see you managed to get your
fix,' Ella said as she glanced at me and stuffed the magazine back on the rack.

I resisted the urge to pick it
back up and flick through to find out what it said. 'Yep, you know me I have to
keep my caffeine levels just right or I turn into a crazy person who can't form
full sentences, just grunts at everyone. Are you getting anything?'

'Yeah, was just going to grab a
bottle of water and some crisps.'

Once Ella had made her purchases
we headed back to the car. I climbed in next to her and clutched my cup to my
chest savouring its warmth. We still had quite a way to go but the Mini was
comfortable and I relaxed back into my seat. Ella turned the key in the
ignition and the Christmas music started up again.

'Do you mind if we have a bit of
a break from the Christmas tunes? It feels like it's all I have listened to
since October.' She reached into her handbag and pulled out her iPod.

'No go ahead.'

She plugged in her baby pink iPod
and hit play. I recognised it as her chilled out playlist and smiled as I
wiggled deeper into the seat and happily sipped my coffee. Ella put the car
into gear and headed off again.

When we eventually turned off the
motorway I looked out the window at the surrounding countryside; the weather
had threatened to snow but nothing had hit us yet and the fields and hills were
still dark greens and browns. We passed through a couple of towns, both similar
yet with their own history and styles of buildings, then the towns got smaller
and smaller as we neared the coast.

'Is it much further?' I felt a
little like a whiney child but I was genuinely curious. I hadn't gotten a view
of the sea yet and had no idea where we were.

'Only about ten minutes,' Ella
replied with a quick glance at me. I knew she was as excited about the holidays
as I was but I had the added curiosity of the unknown. I wanted her family to
like me as I did when I met any new people, it was part of who I was, not
wanting to be hated or ignored and fearing in being so. But if her family was
anything like Ella I knew I would be welcomed with open arms, the thought alone
made me smile and that smile broadened as Ella turned a corner and the vast
blue sea came into view.

From a distance it looked like a
deep dark blanket of glistening blue but as we travelled along the coastal road
I saw its movement and the white crests of waves as they hit the sandbanks. I
was always fascinated by the sea and how it could look so calming one moment
and the next be crashing and breaking down on itself, as well as the many
changing shades of blue it could be depending on where you were in the world. I
thought of the turquoise ocean and its warm and inviting waters I had seen on a
holiday to the Caribbean I had taken with my family many years before and how
that was a total contrast to the dark and bleak looking waters that lay out
before me; every so often there would be a break in the clouds that loomed
overhead and a shaft of light would hit the surface of the water and sparkle
making it look almost mythical.

Ella followed the road which
turned and bent with the coastline and then moved a little inland taking me
away from the view of the sea. I slumped slightly in my seat but continued to
watch the scenery outside the car. We started to approach a cluster of houses
and a little sign at the side of the road said 'Calavell Village'.

'It's just through the village
and down towards the beach.' Ella smiled and I could hear the excitement in her
voice and her posture changed as she sat a little straighter. 

Driving through the one road
village I smiled as memories of my childhood filled me. I had spent a few years
in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere Cheshire, before moving closer to a
town and Calavell was so similar to where I had grown up; two pubs, a post
office and a village shop, then a row of very adorable looking thatched cottages
and to one side and set slightly further back a very old looking stone church.
Ella drove slowly along the street and received a wave from a lady bundled up
in a bright red coat and hat.

'That's Mrs. Harris, she runs the
post office.' Ella informed me as she waved back.

'So it's one of those villages.'
Ella glanced at me with a raised eyebrow, I grinned back at her, 'You know,
where everyone knows everyone and you can't keep a secret to save your life.'

Ella laughed, 'Not quite. I don't
know everyone but I do know a lot of people through Mum. She likes to get
involved.'

'Involved how?' I was genuinely
curious to know more about the woman I would be staying with; Ella was not very
forthcoming with stories of her family usually.

'You know, book groups, jumble
sales, festivals. She has been on the Parish Council for years and loves
organising events and activities. She rang me yesterday and wondered if I would
want to join in with the carol singers.' I let out a snorted laugh then slammed
my hand over my mouth. 'Go ahead and laugh we both know I can't hold a note. I
may have mentioned that you might be up for it though.'

I stared at her in shock and
after a moment she burst into laughter. I poked my tongue out at her, 'You are
cruel.'

'I know! I'm sorry! I would never
make you stand up in front of people and sing. Not unless you are drunk
anyway.'

I nodded in agreement as Ella
turned the car down a single lane road. I got a glimpse of the sea again and
the road snaked down towards its edge. I sat up in my seat and spotted a dark
slate roof.

'There it is,' Ella said,
pointing towards the house.

We reached the bottom of the hill
and she turned the car into a gravel driveway. When Ella said her mother lived
in a cottage I imagined a small stone building with a thatched roof not unlike
the ones we had passed in the village but what stood before me was far from
that picture. It was a large brick building with a dark slate roof and huge
windows. From the outside I guessed it had at least four, maybe five, bedrooms
and who knew how many reception rooms. There was a large garden to one side
which looked pristine despite the time of year and its location.

Ella parked her car in front of
the house and when I looked out of my window I gasped. The other car already
parked in the driveway had been my dream car since its review on that car show
with the annoying host; it was the brand new Jaguar F-type in a shining sliver
and did not look out of place in front of the house.

'Holy mother of...' It came out
in one breath.

'What?' Ella asked a little panic
in her voice; when she saw that I was staring at the car she started laughing.
'It's pretty nice isn't it? My brother does have good taste I will give him
that.'

'It's so... sexy.' I wanted to
touch it, I had memorised the spec from the website and now seeing it in real
life I recited it to myself; the Rhodium silver metallic exterior I wanted to
run my fingers over, I wanted to follow the smooth lines and flow of the body
and feel the cool metal beneath my hand. From where I sat I could see the
20" Tornado rims and how they stood out, shining against the deep black of
the tyres and I bit my lip wanting to climb out of my seat and circle the
machine that was so close. I knew it would look as impressive from the back as
it would from the front with its shining twin exhausts and I hoped, no, prayed
he had gone for the plush black leather sports seats with red trim. I may be
fully in love with this car, it was the most amazing creature I had laid my eyes
on and I would give my right arm to own one but with my salary it wasn't likely
and I would just have to make do with drooling from a distance.

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