So rather excitingly, Choclit are having an online book festival! There are lots of readings and giveaways and author news and recipes and all kinds of other things, to help give our readers a boost during these strange times. Although, it’s not just about raising happiness. It’s also about helping us connect with our readers, to show that even now, when we’re all so alone and far apart, that we really are all together.
Because we are all together in this, aren’t we? By staying apart we’re coming together, and helping to fight this terrible virus and protect our NHS, as well as our vulnerable friends, family and neighbours.
We’re all making sacrifices for the greater good here. Mine are small, in the grand scheme of things. I haven’t seen my family in nearly six months. I haven’t left my home (except for exercise) in nearly three. The book I’ve been writing, that I my timetable said should be finished in March, is languishing still as a WIP on my laptop.
I hate that it’s still a WIP, because it was a story I really wanted to write, and was looking forward to finishing (if only so I could find out how it ends, because at this point in time, with act two finished and starting to write act three, I still don’t know). It’s about what happens when you fall in love with the right person at the wrong time, and about moving on from your past when it comes back to haunt your present.
I love this story, and so, as part of the online #chocrubyfestival I asked Choc Lit if I could post an excerpt from the book. They were very glad for me to, and so I’m happy to present below a section from chapter three of the story below.
But more than that… I actually filmed myself reading the very same excerpt (it’s filmed in my greenhouse, of all places, and I’ve just got over Covid19 so I don’t look or sound great, but still… an actual vlog!) and can also add the link below!
I really hope you enjoy this snippet from my latest WIP and look forward to hopefully sharing the complete project with you all very soon.
With a start, Alix Emerson sat bolt upright in her bed, wondering where the hell she was and what that bloody awful noise could be.
‘Sam,’ she murmured sleepily, burrowing her head under her pillow, trying to block out the noise. ‘Sam, make it stop.’
But the noise continued unabated, and Alix groaned, realising that her flatmate was not going to come to her aid.
Of course he wasn’t. How could he? They were four thousand miles away from their shared flat in Hammersmith, and he was three rooms down the hall in this hotel, rather than in the room next to hers as usual. For once, Alix would have to solve her own problems, and right now, ensconced in this dark hotel room, that problem was the pulsing beat of her alarm and –
Damn, her alarm. Rolling over, Alix grabbed hold of her offending mobile, frantically swiping at the screen until the phone stopped screeching, the room becoming blissfully quiet once more. Through bleary eyes, she looked at the time.
Eleven am London time, which made it… what? Six in the morning here? Alix threw her phone to one side, without bothering to check. She didn’t need to check. She never needed to check. When it came to the time difference between GMT and EST, she knew the hour automatically, almost like it had been programmed into her system. Every time her phone rang, early in the morning or late at night, she would instinctively do a quick calculation, mentally working out if it was too early or too late to be him. She’d tried in vain to break herself of the habit, telling herself that it was a pointless exercise, that the time in New York didn’t matter, that the time difference between them didn’t matter.
Because she didn’t matter, did she? Not to him.
He’d stopped calling a long time ago, Alix reminded herself. And the only person she was hurting in holding onto a small nugget of hope that one day, maybe one day, she’d answer her phone and hear his voice again, was herself.
She swung her legs out of bed, stumbling into the hotel bathroom and staring in the mirror. She looked tired, almost haggard, the result of a bad case of jetlag and one too many margaritas the night before. She could thank Sam Okereke and Olivia Linklater for that. As soon as their plane had touched down at JFK she’d become a bundle of nerves, her eyes glancing furtively from side to side, taking in the people around them, her mind working overtime. She found her eyes lingering on a man ahead of her, tall and broad, his head down. That could be him, she’d thought instantly. Another man to her right, his brown hair tinged with red, made her inhale sharply. Or him.
She felt stricken with anxiety and yet oddly hopeful all at once, and her hands shook as she collected her luggage, her heart racing as the taxi pulled away from the airport and the New York City skyline came into view.
She wasn’t supposed to be here, she’d thought guiltily. She’d promised him she wouldn’t ever set foot in this city again.
‘You can have London, I’ll have New York,’ he’d thrown at her, on that final, fateful night, and she’d been too hurt, too bewildered and heartsore, to fight him on the issue.
Olivia, with the razor-sharp scrutiny that had made her editor-in-chief at Gloss magazine at just thirty-four years of age, noticed Alix’s discomfort straightaway.
‘You’re shaking like a leaf, Alix,’ she’d said, giving her a sideways glance. ‘God, you’re not… on anything, are you?’
‘No,’ Alix had replied. ‘I almost wish I was.’
‘What’s up, Ally?’ Sam asked, turning instantly to her, his voice rich with concern.
Alix only shrugged, keeping her eyes trained on the view outside. ‘I just don’t like New York.’
Olivia rolled her eyes. ‘You’ll like it more after we hit the hotel bar, I promise.’
Sam looked at her, almost askance. ‘We have the Armstrong takeover meeting tomorrow morning… are you sure drinking tonight is a good idea?’
‘I’ve been prepping for this meeting for two months now,’ Olivia replied, her voice sharp. ‘And I just spent an eight-hour flight up to my eyeballs in Dominion Corp and Armstrong Publication paperwork. All I want now is a hot shower and an expense account pitcher of margaritas.’
Olivia was good to her word. As soon as the three were ensconced at the bar, showered and somewhat refreshed, Olivia ordered pitcher after pitcher of cocktails, plying Alix with booze until she’d been unable to walk and they’d had to put her to bed, like a wayward child.
‘Will she be okay tomorrow?’ she’d heard Olivia say through ears full of alcohol induced cotton wool, and she’d seen Sam grin as he tucked a blanket around her.
‘Yeah. She never can hold her booze. It’s always the same. After one drink she’s fine, two she’s okay, if a little morose, but by three?’ He chuckled. ‘Three drinks and she starts speaking and singing in French.’ Alix felt Sam reach down and squeeze her fingers, warm and comforting. ‘She’s really cute when she gets like that.’
‘God,’ Olivia’s disdain was evident. ‘So, what happens if she has more than three?’ she then asked, and Alix felt Sam disentangle his fingers from her own, felt him stand and then gesture to her on the bed.
Now, Alix splashed some water on her face while starting the shower, rummaging through her toiletries bag for her toothbrush and shampoo.
It was a big day, she reminded herself. If today went well, she would really cement her role at Dominion Corp, and would go back to London with a real bargaining chip to use in why she should be allowed away from Gloss magazine and into investigative journalism at one of their more newsworthy papers.
Alix stepped into the shower with a sigh. It wasn’t that she didn’t like writing Get it up with Emmy, and she certainly wasn’t squeamish writing about sex. In fact, she was damned good at it. So damn good at it that she was one of Dominion Corp’s most syndicated columnists. So damn good that Olivia confessed she would be stupid to let her go. So damn good that Shearer was never, ever going to let her leave a goldmine article for investigative journalism at one of his newspapers. And it galled Alix to admit that her talent with words may have cost her her dream, that she would forever be at Gloss, writing lipstick and sex tips and celebrity news.
But no. It wasn’t over yet. Alix stood taller, washing her hair with more vigour. When a space had unexpectedly opened up on the Armstrong takeover team, Olivia had asked Alix if she was up to the role.
‘You’re young and well turned out and you can do the languages thing,’ Olivia had surmised, sitting on Alix’s desk primly. ‘You should come with me to New York.’
Alix had swallowed hard. ‘New York?’
‘Yes,’ Olivia inspected her immaculately manicured nails. ‘Tall place, big city. You might have heard of it.’
Alix blushed. ‘Well, yes, I know, but…’ she chewed on her lip. ‘You really want me to come to New York for the Armstrong merger talks?’
Olivia sighed. ‘Actually, I don’t. Not really. Louise was meant to come, but she fell off her horse at the weekend, the silly cow, and she’s currently laid up in bed with a broken leg,’ Olivia rolled her eyes, as though Louise had deliberately broken her leg to make life difficult for her. ‘Now I’m down a team member, and I need someone who can speak French.’
‘French? I didn’t know Armstrong was French-owned?’ Alix queried.
Olivia shrugged. ‘It’s not. But the current CEO has a place in Paris, and I’ve heard she’s not above speaking in foreign languages during meetings to get one-up on her competitors. I want to go prepared, so… enter you. Besides,’ she added. ‘Sam’s coming… so, you know. You’ll have a friend there.’
‘You mean Sam my roommate?’
‘Well, in this instance he’ll be there as Sam my assistant, but yes. It was him who suggested you for this role to me. So, check your passport and pack your bags. We fly in two days.’
Alix rinsed the shampoo from her hair, applying a liberal layer of conditioner. She might’ve come to New York as a last-minute addition to help with the Dominion Corp- Armstrong Publications merger, but she knew a chance when she saw one. And this was her chance to prove to Olivia and Shearer that she wasn’t just Emmy, sex columnist extraordinaire, but also Alix Emerson, serious journalist.
She grit her teeth. She wouldn’t give up her writing dreams. Not for anything. Not for anyone.
Not when she’d lost one dream in her life already.
What did you all think? Is it any good? (*crosses fingers* I really hope it is)
Work in Progress Reading with Sharon Ibbotson