12 Days At Silver Bells House

BOOK: 12 Days At Silver Bells House
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12 Days at Silver Bells House

Jennie Jones

www.escapepublishing.com.au

12 Days at Silver Bells House
Jennie Jones

From the author of the internationally bestselling
The House on Burra Burra Lane
comes a Christmas story — country style.

Kate Singleton has twelve days to find herself. With Christmas Day and her thirtieth birthday approaching, the best thing a city-chic fashion designer who no longer has a
raison d'etre
can do is nullify herself in the country. With Chardonnay.

When trouble strikes, the country presents her with Jamie Knight — a gallant but uncommunicative He-Man who drives an excavator and arrives to rescue Kate, her shoes and her case of Chardonnay from a boggy field.

The adventure should be over — nothing but a good story to tell to her friends in the city — but her saviour turns out to also be an unexpected roommate, the new owner of Silver Bells House, Kate's holiday home.

Forced together and dragged into the community Christmas spirit of the town, Kate and Jamie flounder their way through mistletoe, kissing games, carolling choirs, and a bone-deep yearning for community and acceptance.

Can the enchanting Silver Bells House and the holidays bind them together? Or will love get lost on Highway B23 back to the city?

About the Author

Born and brought up in Wales, Jennie Jones loved anything with a romantic element from an early age. At eighteen, she went to drama school in London then spent a number of years performing in British theatres, becoming someone else two hours, eight performances a week.

Jennie wrote her first romance story at the age of twenty-five while ‘resting' (a theatrical term for ‘out of work'). She wrote a western! But nobody wanted it. Before she got discouraged a musical theatre job came up and Jennie put writing to one side.

She now lives in Western Australia, a five minute walk to the beach that she loves to look at but hardly ever goes to — too much sand.

Jennie returned to writing four years ago. She says writing keeps her artistic nature dancing and her imagination bubbling. Like acting, she can't envisage a day when it will ever get boring.

12 Days at Silver Bells House
is the second book in Jennie's Swallow's Fall series, following
The House on Burra Burra Lane
. The third book in the series,
The House at the Bottom of the Hill
, will be released in January 2015.

Acknowledgements

The story
12 Days at Silver Bells House
wasn't on the cards and I hadn't even thought of writing it until I was asked if I could conjure up a story that would not only fit in with the Swallow's Fall series, but also have a country Christmas feel.

Turned out I had a ball writing this story. So thank you Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor at Escape Publishing. Thanks also (and again) to my wonderful, wise and witty writing colleagues who read everything I write and help it shine. Lily and Juanita, next time we're together, there will be wine (again).

A huge, heartfelt thank you to all my readers who loved
The House on Burra Burra Lane
. Its success means so much to me. I hope you enjoy reading this Swallow's Fall story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

For everyone who loves Chardonnay, shooting stars and the country.

Contents

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…

Chapter 1

Katherine Angelica Singleton tapped her fingers on the steering wheel of her hire car and threw all thoughts of murder onto the New South Wales Monaro Highway behind her.

Losing her life plan just as she was about to turn thirty hadn't been on her spreadsheet. Now there was a hard choice to be made. But Kate wasn't referred to as Snappy Singleton for her dress sense alone. Kate had brains and she'd decided to push them to the limit, albeit at a time when she hadn't expected to explore the spontaneous side of her nature.

The thought of why she was in this predicament caused gushes of steaming fury to rise to the surface of her skin.

Five days ago she'd been drawn to New York for a fashion shoot that would have seen her young Australian designers flourish in the way she wanted them to, in a manner that had been wearing her heels down for the last decade. By groundwork and gumption.

A measly one hundred and twenty hours away from home soil — and what happens? Her world tumbles into something she's never faced before: Mayhem. Folly. Madness.

This morning she'd stepped off the plane from New York in hometown Sydney and made her first rash decision
ever.
She caught the next flight to the political hub of Canberra, booked a hire car and drove into the Snowy Mountains.

This December, she was going without Christmas.

Stuff
the turkey. She'd ding-dong merrily on her own. With Chardonnay.

She breathed deeply and attempted to blow her worries out and away; gathering enlightenment and insight with her next intake of breath with all her Zen might. If she hadn't been driving which necessitated staying focussed — as in eyes open — she'd have got into the Lotus position.

She sighed. Twelve days of freedom; no tinsel. Four hundred and fifty kilometres south of society and Singleton's Sassy Sensations fashion house; no parties, no fake smile, no juggling canapés on cocktail sticks.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, Kate would be cozied up in a stone cottage all by herself in the Snowy Mountains, courtesy of a last-ditch wish on a shooting star in New York and a surprising suggestion from her best friend, Sammy.

She glanced at her pale arms, her pale slim fingers topped with dusky-rose nail polish, and made another rash decision.
She'd get a tan
. Stuff having to slather herself in 30+ sunscreen and take Vitamin D supplements to compensate for the lack of ultraviolet radiation. This was Australia where sunshine abounded. Even smallest, remotest Swallow's Fall township had sunshine.

She smiled in satisfaction and licked her top lip, tasting her dusky-rose lipstick.

How about another rash decision? She frowned behind her polarised oval-framed sunglasses. She didn't make impetuous decisions, it was difficult pulling one from nowhere. She slapped her hand on the wheel. ‘No dieting.' Dump the eternal calorie counting. Her days would be filled with endless summer walks and her evenings spent with Chardonnay and pretzels — the full fat, don't-hold-back-on-the-salt variety.

She pressed the window button and stuck her arm out into the country air which rushed over her skin with more heat than she'd reckoned on. This was the
Snowy
Mountains for God's sake. It was supposed to be a little chilly even in summer.

She closed the window and concentrated on Highway B23 spreading before her.

Look out country, here comes Kate
.

Kate brought the car out of cruise-control and slowed to make a right turn into All Seasons Road. She'd purposefully missed the town's turn off at Main Street ten kilometres back. No need to head into the little town until tomorrow morning. The only thing she didn't have was food, but she'd gone without food most of her adult life, what would one night without pretzels matter? And anyway, she wasn't ready to face any holiday cheer that might be going on in town. They probably already had a big fat fir tree in place outside the pioneer cemetery, with plump carol singers standing around its base, handing out home-made mince pies while going off-key with a rendition of ‘Deck the Halls'.

The last thing Kate wanted was optimism of the Christmas variety. Which is why Silver Bells House would be her safety-net. ‘
Key's probably under the door mat
,' Sammy had said. ‘
Or someone will be there to let you in
.' The lack of administrative orderliness about the what's and how's of this away-from-it-all holiday worried Kate but she'd grown accustomed to weekly reports about rural life from Sammy, and had herself witnessed the quaint curiosity of the people of Swallow's Fall when she'd visited to attend Sammy's wedding. Over a year ago now. Her friend had married a vet. Her artist friend had chosen the country instead of the city. And her friend was so bloody happy. If Sammy could find happiness in the country, why couldn't Kate?

Driving along All Seasons Road calmed her disorderly emotions. The long, wide road led to relief. The hedgerows guided her. White, purple and yellow wildflowers sprung in tufts along the verge and wandered into the undulating grassy plains beyond. So quiet. So isolated. So bloody perfect.

Yes, siree. The twelve days of Kate. Should be plenty of time to make The Decision, as she'd christened her problem. ‘Heck, darn and shucks,' she said, practising her country vernacular. She'd been practising from the moment she stepped off the plane from New York, having sat next to an elderly couple from Texas and learned all about which vittles were best for a Sunday sundowner after a long, hot day of branding, and how to attract a whisky-swilling ranchero — should one want to. She'd been a'bushel and a'peckin' all through Customs, right through baggage collection and straight into her hire car.

She jolted in her seat and gripped the steering wheel as a deafening, squawking noise erupted above and around her. The early evening sky darkened as though the devil himself had swung the cape of evil from his shoulders with a wrathful flourish. Hark! The herald of the country.
Parrots
. Hundreds of them.

‘For God's sake,' she yelled as she slowed the car. They swooped so low that for a second, she couldn't see the road in front of her, just a sea of slate-grey wings and red topped heads. She pounded the horn.

‘No,' she hollered as globs of dinner plate-sized parrot poo hit her windscreen. White mess. Lots of white mess.
What the hell did the birds eat around here
? She hit the wiper-washer — no water. ‘You're joking!' She pulled the arm again — still no water, just a squelchy squeak as the blades made a Picasso of the poop on the windscreen. And the car was still moving.

She slammed the ball of her foot onto the accelerator instead of the brake and screamed as the car veered sideways and crashed through something that splintered, cracked and popped like an exploding barrel.
Must be a gate
. The slam knocked her backwards in her seat. She hit the brake — and almost snapped a four-inch heel — but the vehicle slid, and kept on sliding, the glopping sounds and bouncing informing her that the car was skimming along mud.

Kate had little idea how to steer a runaway car but she kept her hands on the wheel in case something brilliant happened, like a sudden downpour of rain on the near-blanketed windscreen. No such luck. Just a tree.
Great
.

The car came to a thumping stop when it bumped into the tree trunk, a shower of twigs and leaves falling on the roof and the bonnet of the car.

Then the air bag exploded, pushing the breath out of her lungs.
Timing
! Would have been too late if the car had hit a brick wall. She'd have been crushed. They'd have found her buried beneath twisted metal, smashed windscreen and parrot poop.

Time stood still, except for the squawking parrots as they flew overhead and on towards the next unsuspecting motorist.
Good luck finding one
. She hadn't encountered another car in the last forty-five minutes.

She pushed the airbag down, helping it deflate faster with hard slaps; punching her fury into it. She gripped the steering wheel and watched billowing white powder float in the air and all over her figure-hugging indigo and eggshell coloured business dress, designed by herself. Now she smelled like talcum powder.
Why me
? Life had changed too fast and she wasn't referring to the last five minutes. Kate had changed. She turned her head and looked out at the sprawling green and brown paddock through the side window. No — she hadn't changed, she'd been kicked out of her own skin. She'd lost herself.

BOOK: 12 Days At Silver Bells House
6.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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