Chasing The Sun by Katy Colins extract


Machinate (v.) – Engage in plots or intrigues; to scheme

 The journey to Adelaide was our quietest one yet. I wasn’t sure if it was because we’d been in each other’s company for too long‚ were slightly hungover‚ or just wanting to be back in civilisation‚ but it felt like something had changed. We’d left‚ thankfully not bumping into Sarah-Jane as we checked out‚ and made sure to fill up a little at each petrol station we passed. Fool us once and all that.

 It was strange returning to civilisation. Swapping dusty barren plains for sprawling motorways‚ wide pavements‚ busy roads‚ and lush green parks plonked between it all. Adelaide is the fifth biggest city in Australia; everything appeared to be stretched out. It felt as though you had the whole street to yourself but also needed to walk the length of it just to get to the next tall and wide building.

‘Shell‚ is the sample sale‚ like‚ an evening late-night shopping thing?’ I asked‚ glancing at the setting sun highlighting the dust motes and sticky fingerprints on the dusty dashboard.

‘No‚’ she replied‚ shifting in the driving seat.

 ‘Are we staying in another hostel tonight then‚ to be there for first thing tomorrow morning?’ Cara asked‚ trying with all her might not to let out a moan at the thought of another hostel.

‘No.’ Shelley fixed her eyes on the road signs.

‘A hotel?’ Cara’s voice lifted three decibels in anticipation. This was clearly a woman in desperate need of room service‚ feathery soft duvets and tasteful soft furnishings. 

‘Not quite‚’ Shelley wouldn’t give any more away and told us to look out for the Serenity Bridal

Store. Cara and I passed looks of confusion between ourselves.

‘Ah‚ there it is!’ Shelley shouted‚ and veered The Beast into a parking space.

‘I don’t see any hotels.’ Cara peered outside the window at the quiet street; the sky was darkening with every second. ‘I don’t see this shop either. You sure we’re in the right place? Where’s the hotel you’ve booked?’

‘You can’t see one because we’re not staying in one‚’ Shelley said‚ cutting the engine and turning to face both of us. ‘We’re staying here.’

‘Here?’ Cara and I said in confused unison.

‘Like‚ in the truck?’

‘No!’ Shelley laughed as if we were idiots‚ ‘Out there …’ Opposite us was a large‚ red-brick shop with two enormous flouncy bridal dresses in the window. Signs announcing the sample sale of the year were hung haphazardly in the softly lit glass‚ but the most worrying part about all of this was that trailing off‚ just to the left of the wide double doors‚ were rows of tents pitched up for the night.

 ‘You cannot be serious!’ Cara quickly caught up to speed with what Shelley had planned for us. ‘I thought you were joking when you said you were packing a tent!’ The colour had drained from her face‚ even in the bright street lamp that had just flickered on outside.

 ‘If we expect to stand any chance with finding the dress I want‚ then we have to get the best spot in the queue‚ and that means spending the night in line. It’ll be fun!’ Shelley dismissed our open mouths and flung her door open. 

‘It’s official. She’s lost the plot‚’ Cara gasped.

 I just stared in disbelief at the impromptu campsite‚ unable to string a sentence together.

Shelley poked her head in the door as she began heaving our things out of the boot. ‘Come on‚ hurry up. The queue is already building!’

She raced off with bags under her arms‚ leaving Cara and me to shake our heads in disbelief.

This was surely taking bridesmaid duties to the extreme?




Excerpt: Where Rainbows End 

“I’m not a man, but that won’t stop me. Just you wait and see.”

It’s 1850 and the Noble family have arrived in Australia to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England. Headstrong Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plans for a successful stud farm a reality.

Pippa is immediately spellbound by the untamed outback landscape, although she learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush – sometimes with devastating consequences. When circumstance leads to Pippa tending the new farm alone, it is the steadfast friendship of neighbouring country estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.

Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land and make her mark, even if it means losing everything else …


Pippa rode until she coughed and her eyes smarted. The roar of the fire drowned all other sound. Smokey baulked at every movement as his terror mounted.

Pippa called for her father again and again. She waited for a few minutes, willing him to burst through the dense smoke. When it became so thick she couldn’t breathe, she wheeled Smokey back the way they’d come. With every yard they took, her sense of unease grew. Then she saw it. A torn scrap of material caught on a branch. Wrenching it free, she studied it. It was the same brown colour as her father’s tweed jacket.

Scrambling off Smokey, Pippa screamed for her father to answer her. She ran into the scrub, stumbling in haste, pulling Smokey by the reins behind her. The horse, frightened, pulled back, throwing up his head and trying to pull the reins free from her grasp. ‘No, no! Smokey. Calm down!’ But the horse half reared, snatching the reins from her hands and once free bolted away.

Distraught at losing the horse, she turned in a circle, looking through the white gloom. ‘Father! Can you hear me? Where are you?’

She darted to the right, peering around large boulders and tree trunks before running to the left where the ground steeply sloped away. She skidded down a few yards, searching the landscape for any sign of him. Her foot dislodged a rock and she tripped, landing on her knees.

‘Father!’ For a moment she knelt on the ground, exhausted. Despair waited to claim her, but she refused to give up. With a frustrated sigh, she stood and wearily wiped a hand over her eyes. Where was he?

A flock of white cockatoos screeched above the trees. The sound of what seemed like thunder came again. Abruptly, a kangaroo bounded down the slope, nearly crashing into her before it jumped to the right and away. Then another came thumping over the top and down beside her, and then another. It hadn’t been thunder at all, but hundreds of kangaroos fleeing. An opossum scuttled by, followed by a large fat wombat and smaller kangaroos and wallabies. Lizards of varying sizes and the odd snake slithered past and Pippa stared in fear as a huge goanna charged its way over a boulder and skimmed past her skirts.

Pippa stared at the exodus of animals and birds all headed east. From the west she heard the splintering of wood, followed by a loud whooshing sound. The fine hair on the back of her neck rose.

The fire was close.

Rushing back to the track, she caught her skirts on a bush and paused to unhook them. The snap and crackle grew louder. Straightening, she tore her skirts free and reached the top only to stop and stare at the small circle of orange flames licking the dry grass a few feet from her. Ash and embers floated in the air like snow; where they landed, they started spot fires.

She looked for Smokey, only he had gone. Fear closed her throat.

Lifting her skirts high, she ran down the track, heading for the entrance down into the valley. Thick smoke blanketed the countryside and crept into her lungs, slowing her down and making her cough. The roar of the fire urged her to keep going. A stiff, hot wind thrashed at the treetops, swirling the ash and embers about her head. The air seemed sucked dry and, apart from the crackle of flames, the bush was eerily quiet.

Pippa ran, the sound of her laboured breathing noisy in her ears. Her eyes smarted and streamed, while her lungs felt as though every breath would be her last. She tried to ignore the encroaching danger and concentrate on getting into the valley. She had to outrun it.

Buy links:

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Author Bio:

Australian born AnneMarie Brear writes historical novels and modern romances. Her passions, apart from writing, are reading, researching, genealogy, roaming historical sites, buying books and gardening. She is an author of historical women’s fiction, contemporary romance and several short stories and is currently living in England.

AnneMarie Brear on the web:  

Twitter @annemariebrear.


Excerpt: Embrace me 

Hudson spun to face her and within seconds Allie was in his arms, the hard planes of his body crushing her against the alley’s brick wall. Both hands framed her face as Hudson sealed his mouth over hers. His tongue pushed passed her lips, taking her in a lush, deep kiss she felt echo to her very core. Allie’s hands found their way into his hair, her fingers twisting through the dark waves, trying in vain to hold him to her when he broke their kiss.
​His face hovered mere inches from hers. “You’ve been a bad girl tonight,” he rasped.
​Just those few, roughly spoken words had her heart racing with excitement. Hudson was in control and she wouldn’t have it any other way. In the boardroom she stood her ground, going toe to toe with her stubborn husband on a wide range of issues. But in the bedroom he was her dominant lover and although there was a time she would have never considered such behavior a turn on, there was no denying the effect it had on her. There was a freedom in surrendering herself to him, a liberating sense of self unlike anything she’d ever experienced. With Hudson she was able to let go of her inhibitions and explore the wanton lust only he could evoke.
​A soft moan escaped her lips as he ran his tongue up the column of her throat.
She hadn’t expected him to show up at her bachelorette party and had certainly never imagined him dragging her out of the club cave-man style. But there he was, touching her, kissing her, and all she could think about was how badly she wanted him.
​“Did you enjoy having those men rubbing themselves all over you?” The hard ridge of his erection pressed against her though the soft fabric of her skirt. Behind them a muffled bass beat a hypnotic rhythm through the club’s darkened windows. It pounded through them, urging her to grind her body against him.
​“It’s only you Hudson. It’s always been only you.”
​“You can prove it to me when we get home.” He stepped back, leaving her warm and wanting, to reveal their limo idling behind him. He reached for the handle and gave the door a hard yank. “After you.”
​Allie slid across the leather bench with Hudson close behind. Before he had even settled onto the seat she was in his lap. “We don’t have to wait until we get home.”

Return to the dangerous and seductive romance 

that got pulses racing in the Chasing Fire trilogy…


A Chasing Fire Novella (#3.5)

Ann Marie Walker & Amy K. Rogers

Releasing September 20th, 2016

Berkley Intermix

Hudson Chase and Alessandra Sinclair’s heartracing romance continues in this hot, new novella in the Chasing Fire series.

Return to the dangerous and seductive romance that got pulses racing in the Chasing Fire trilogy…

It took ten years for Hudson Chase and Alessandra Sinclair to find their happily ever after, and they’re not about to let anything get in their way…

Nothing could stop the passion between Allie and Hudson—not time or distance. Not even tragedy, betrayal, and blackmail. But now they’re facing a new challenge: wedding planning. And while Allie’s social status demands she put on the event of the century, her well-intentioned family and friends have her doubting her walk down the aisle…

Hudson knows tensions are pushing Allie to the brink, but he’s not letting her throw everything away over some flowers and cake. He has plans for his new bride, and unlike their last adventure, he’s determined that this time there will be no unwelcome surprises. But for all his determination and control, there’s one element Hudson Chase has never been able to predict—and she has some adventurous ideas of her own…

Praise for the Chasing Fire trilogy

“Exceptional…Seriously sexy and

sinfully steamy. Can’t wait for more from this writing duo!”–New York

Times bestselling author Tara Sue Me

“Walker and Rogers strike the

perfect balance between blistering physical desire and heartfelt

connections…”–RT Book Review  

Buy Now


Amazon | B & N | Google | iTunes | Kobo

Though thousands of miles apart, Ann

Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers are in constant contact, plotting story lines

and chatting about their love of alpha males, lemon drop martinis and British

supermodel, David Gandy. You can find them on twitter as @AnnMarie_Walker and


Amy K. Rogers

Ann Marie Walker

Start the Chasing Fire Series Now

Amazon | B&N | iTunes| Kobo | GooglePlay

Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | GooglePlay

Blog tour: YOU BEFORE ANYONE ELSE by Julie Cross & Mark Perini

Be a #ModelCitizen and Enter to Win!


Julie Cross & Mark Perini

Releasing August 2nd, 2016

Sourcebooks Fire

Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with international model Mark Perini to create You Before Anyone Else, a poignant and authentic contemporary YA novel and companion to Halfway Perfect.

The supportive friend, the reliable daughter, the doting big sister: Finley is used to being the glue that holds everyone together. But while her sweet demeanor makes her the perfect confidant, her wholesome look isn’t landing her the high-paying modeling jobs, which are what Finley needs if she is going to reopen her mother’s dance studio.

Enter Eddie. He’s intense and driven, not to mention the life of every party, and he completely charms Finley. The last thing she wants is another commitment to stand in the way of her dreams, but when she’s with Eddie, their chemistry takes over and she can let go of her responsibilities and just be. After all, what’s so wrong about putting herself first once in a while?

Except Eddie is hiding a secret. A big secret. And when it surfaces, he and Finley are going to have to choose between their love for each other and everything else… 


Amazon | B

& N | Google | iTunes 

Julie Cross and Mark Perini, along with Tasty Book Tours, are celebrating those who have taken the steps in Breaking the Mold on society’s expectations, like Finley, the heroine from YOU BEFORE ANYONE ELSE!  We are looking for anyone who would like to share their story and be entered to win a 2017 Erin Condren Life Planner!

Head over to and leave a comment with your story.  Feel free to share picture of your journey and use #breakingthemold at the end of your comment!

Entries must be in by 11:59pm, Aug 15th, 2016.  No purchase necessary to enter.  If under 12 years old, you must have approval by a guardian to enter.

Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).

She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA.

She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Mark Perini is a New York City based author debuting his first YA novel, Halfway Perfect.

Additionally, Mark is a featured author in the NA anthology, Fifty First Times.

Mark began his career as an international fashion model when he was 18 years old, while simultaneously obtaining a business degree from Seton Hall University. He has a passion for traveling the world, and he’s made a blood pact with friends to see all seven ancient wonders of the world before he’s thirty. Four down three to go.



“What are you so afraid of?” Summer asks.

I take a sip of the beer Dima brought me a few minutes ago. “Oh, I don’t know, addiction, overdose, puking on some innocent victim’s shoes, random drug testing by the agency…”

Summer laughs. “Drug testing on models? Yeah, that’ll be the day.”

Okay, so maybe I just don’t want to do it. Even if I should be in my so-called experimental phase.

I wouldn’t exactly label myself a rule follower, but I guess I’m just cautious. I haven’t always been this way. Not that I’ve done drugs, but before high school, I was all about ballet. Let’s just say I had a rep for being the sassy troublemaker. My mom being my ballet teacher may have had something to do with my behavior. My fingers immediately move to the cross dangling from my neck—I’ve only removed it a couple times over the last four years. Somehow, it’s always warmer than my hands.

I debate texting my dad to ask him if he’s done coke or molly. He’d probably tell me. But I wouldn’t want to freak him out. Seems like a conversation better reserved for a weekend visit instead of late on a Friday night when I could be too far gone to help, for all he knows.

I glance around the room and finally spot someone I know: my friend Alex and his girlfriend Eve. Alex and I did a big Calvin Klein shoot last year, and Eve was the photographer’s assistant. Actually, Eve used to be a model too, another preteen/teen phenom like Elana, who headlined that CK shoot along with Alex. My part had been fairly small, and still, that was my biggest job ever.

“Have you met Alex?”

Summer shrugs, grabs two more shots of vodka, and hands me one. “Like I would remember.”

I down the shot quickly and prepare to talk to Alex and Eve. Maybe they’ve done drugs and can advise me. But my buzzing phone distracts me. I pull it out of my purse and glance at the new text. 

JASON: Yeah, it’s so weird to be home again. But I missed it. 

My stomach flip-flops. He replied to my text. Hours later, but still…this could mean—

“Oh lord, you’re pathetic.” Summer is leaned toward me, reading over my shoulder. “That’s probably enough for you to live off of for another six months or so, right?”

I glare at her and shove the phone back into my purse.

“No comeback? Wonder why…” She pretends to be in deep thought. “He said he missed it. Not you. Cut the fucking cord already. It’s not healthy.”

If only it were that easy. When you’re in a relationship with someone for four years, you get so comfortable with that person. It’s daunting to start all over again.

I make my way across the room to see Alex and Eve, who are leaning against the back of the couch, more absorbed in each other than anything else.

“I heard Elana’s back from France?” Alex asks me, keeping his voice low.

“Yep, her and her mom. I think her mom is driving her crazy, but that’s to be expected. French Mama is driving me crazy too.”

They both laugh at the mention of French Mama, but I can’t take credit for that title. Summer made it up.

“I can’t believe her parents let her come back to New York,” Eve says.

Alex smiles at her. “You’re just upset that they’re here and not in France where we can hit them up for lodging.”

My gaze travels back and forth between the two of them. “You guys are going to France? Are you going for Fashion Week?”

Eve shakes her head. “Nope. I did the Prada shoot, and I’m done for good. Got tuition for next year covered.”

Even though Eve had supposedly quit modeling a few years ago, she pulled a one-last-job stunt last spring to cover her tuition at Columbia. She’s a photography student with a lot of experience under her belt.

“We’re doing the cheap travel, backpacking in Europe but without actual backpacks thing,” Alex explains.

Across the room, another beer pong player is being requested. This could possibly be the most adventurous thing I’m willing to do here. I turn to Alex and Eve again. “Well, good luck in Europe. I’m gonna go play beer pong.”

“Hey.” I grab Dima’s shirt sleeve. “You need another player?”

He looks me over, deliberating. “Sure. Be the new guy’s partner.”

“The new guy?” I glance around. What does that even mean? New to the party, like he just walked in? I’ve been here fifteen minutes.

“He’s new to the agency,” Dima says. “First casting, and he books some big job.”

“So we hate him then, right?” I joke. I turn around to head toward the game table and run right into a guy about my age with wild, dark curly hair and designer jeans.

“This guy,” Dima says to me and then turns to the new guy. “Got you a partner. Finley. She lives in the agency apartment downstairs.”

They exchange a look that says I’ve been mentioned before. I’m not liking that too much, but usually, I don’t come to these parties. Instead, I bang on the door at two in the morning to tell them to

stop thumping around like elephants. Maybe I got a bad rep.

While we wait for Dima to find a partner, I snatch two beers from a nearby cooler and offer one up to New Guy. “So, Dima said you’re new, but he didn’t say where you’re from.”

“Uh…the Midwest.”

“The Midwest.” Okay. Someone doesn’t want to get personal. “Like Wisconsin or like Chicago?”

“Chicago…well, not in Chicago, but around it, you know?” he says.

“Right.” I pop open my can and take a drink. “What’s your name? I’m sorry, I don’t think Dima said…”

“Eddie.” He lifts his gaze again. “Eddie Wells. And you’re Finley Belton, the girl who lives downstairs.”

Summer breezes past me but stops when she spots me holding the beer pong ball. “Beer pong? Oh, you wild animal…grrrr.” She holds up her tiger paws and growls at me.

I give her the finger and then turn back to Eddie. “I’m one of the girls who live downstairs.”

“One is too bitchy, one is too underage, and one is nice,” he recites, most likely quoting Dima.

This is exactly what I’m trying to escape tonight. “Dima called me the baby bear?” I’m secretly hoping he catches my reference to Goldilocks.

“No,” Eddie says. “He called you Finley Belton, but I added the nice part, because you brought me a beer. And it is just right, not to mention you’re talking to me instead of staring and whispering to other people about me.”

Points for his fairy tale knowledge, and I’m sure the whispering is the result of whatever big job he’s landed. Too many models at this party.

Eve tries to be Dima’s partner, but he refuses and tells Alex to play with him. Eve opens her mouth to protest, but Dima holds up a hand. “Don’t even. I know your type. You’ll engineer some fancy trick shots. No Ivy League players showing me up. I got a rep to protect.”

“Fine,” Eve snaps. “I’ll just stand here and look pretty. And I’m definitely rooting for Fin and…” She gestures toward the new guy.

“Eddie,” I fill in for her. “Eddie from Chicago.”

“Eddie from Chicago,” Eve repeats. “Good luck.”

Summer returns and stands beside Eve, both leaning against the back of the love seat.

“Fin makes a great partner,” Summer says to Eddie. “She knits. Lots of finger dexterity.”

I shoot her a glare and will my face not to heat up. So not cool.

Don’t miss the companion novel

                     HALFWAY PERFECT

Extract: My Sister’s Secret 

Willow’s memories of her parents are sun-drenched and full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago.
Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child.

How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents? Why will Hope not break her silence?

 Willow cannot move forward in her life without answers. But who can she really trust? Because no one has been telling the truth for a very long time.

 ADDICTIVE, GRIPPING and EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL, this is the perfect read for your summer holiday escape.

Today I am delighted to share with you an extract from My Sister’s Secret by Tracy Buchanan.

‘How many casualties?’ Guy asks.

‘A hundred and eleven died,’ I say.

‘Rogue wave, right?’ Guy says. ‘Dived a ship in the Atlantic Ocean that was taken down by one of those. 

Must’ve been big news at the time.’

 ‘Very big news.’ I pick up my stabiliser jacket – or stab jacket, as we call them – checking it all over.

‘The rich dude who owned it died too, didn’t he?’ Guy continues.

I give Ajay another look. This man talks too much. ‘Man, I can’t wait to get under.’

Ajay shoots him a look. ‘Remember to keep the excitement in check. Safer that way.’

‘Yep, you won’t get much diving done when you’re dead,’ I say.

 ‘You didn’t tell me what a firecracker we have on our hands,’ Guy says to Ajay. ‘Was she this bad when you were training her?’

‘Worse,’ Ajay says, smiling.

‘I am here, you know,’ I say.

Ajay looks contrite. ‘Sorry, Willow.’

‘You will be sorry when I kick your arse at table football tonight.’

Everyone laughs. This is what I’ve learnt working as a diver the past few years. Let them know when they’ve gone too far then lighten the tone, no hard feelings. The commercial diving world is tight and it’s hard to fit in, especially as a woman. I manage though, I’ve even made some good friends, my ‘tribe’, as I call them.

Guy catches my eye and shoots me a sexy smile, his blond hair hanging in his eyes. I ignore him. Ajay thinks I’m too fussy when it comes to men, comparing them all to my dad. But it’s hard when every time a man looks at me, I think of the way my dad looked at my mum when they were young.

One of my earliest memories is of us all sitting in our huge garden. I watched my parents gaze at each other beneath the willow tree I was named after. Then my dad noticed me watching them so he pulled me into his arms, telling me he loved me over and over. I loved those summer days at the cottage. That memory of my parents still haunts me now.

 We all grow quiet as the buoy marking the ship’s location comes into view. I take a deep breath.

Finally, we’re here.

I focus on the routine of preparing for the dive to calm myself, pulling the shoulder straps of my stabiliser jacket down so it’s nice and snug. Then Ajay helps me get my air tank on. I check my diver computer on my wrist, pressing the small buttons around its large clock face to set all the measurements up. Then I pull my weight belt up and grab my fins before walking to the edge of the boat and looking down at the calm sea. The ship is right under my feet, right here. I press the button to inflate my stab jacket, feeling it expand against my chest. Usually that feeling sends a thrill of excitement through me: time to head in and grapple with the sea.

But I’m suddenly feeling apprehensive, even reluctant, to jump in.

Ajay squeezes my shoulder, looking me in the eye. ‘All set?’

‘She can handle herself,’ Guys says. ‘You said yourself she’s dived worse wrecks.’

‘This is different,’ Ajay says.

Guy nods. ‘Yeah, I guess the fact no one’s dived it since the rescue operation makes it more dicey.’

‘It’s not just that,’ I say, glancing at him. ‘That rich dude who owned the ship? That was my dad.’

 My Sister's Secret 

Extract: I Followed The Rules by Joanna Bolouri

Today I am super excited to share with you an extract from I Followed The Rules by Joanna Bolouri and once you’ve finished reading don’t forget to enter the giveaway below because thanks to Alainna at Quercus, I have one copy to giveaway! 

  About Joanna:

Joanna Bolouri worked in sales before she began writing professionally at the age of thirty. Winning a BBC comedy script competition allowed her to work and write with stand-up comedians, comedy scriptwriters and actors from across the UK. She’s had articles and reviews published in The Scotsman, The Skinny, the Scottish Sun, the Huffington Post and HecklerSpray. Her debut novel The List has already been sold for translation in 13 countries. 

She lives in Glasgow with her daughter

 He’s late. He’s half an hour late.

I nervously tuck my hair behind my ears and continue scrolling on my smartphone. That’s all right, I tell myself; people are late all the time. Maybe they’re not HALF AN HOUR LATE on a first date, but he’s obviously been held up. Could be a number of reasons – he could be stuck in a traffic jam . . . had a car crash . . . he could have fallen down a sinkhole; these things happen. I’ll just continue scrolling through the BBC News website, pretending that everything’s fine. The people in this bar don’t know I’m waiting for someone. As far as they know, I’m just a woman, sitting in front of a table, asking it to bear the weight of her large glass of red wine. Yup, nothing to see here.

But by the time I order my second glass, he still hasn’t arrived and I’m fuming. He clearly isn’t coming and I’ve wasted a Friday evening that could have been spent cuddling up to my eight-year-old daughter, Grace, in her fluffy pyjamas, being ignored by my equally fluffy cat Heisenberg. My sister Helen is babysitting for me, no doubt feeling pleased with herself for being the person responsible for getting her unmarried sister on her first proper date in weeks –

‘Just meet up with him, Catriona. Have a drink. Colin’s really nice . . . arty type. Goes to the theatre quite a bit.’

‘How do you know him?’ I’d asked suspiciously. My sister generally only knows two types of men: those who are married and those she wants to set me up with.

‘He works with Adam. He thought Colin would be perfect for you.’

‘So you haven’t actually met him? All you have to go on is your husband’s word? The same husband who set me up with already-engaged Kevin?’

‘To be fair, no one knew he was engaged.’

‘Well, I’m guessing HIS FIANCÉE did! I walked past the church as they were having their wedding photographs taken. He told me he was in Chester looking after his sick mother.’

‘Yes, that was shameless. His mother died years ago. Anyway, we’re no longer friends with him. But Colin is definitely single.’

I look at the clock behind the bar again, shaking my head. Why did I listen to her? Take a chance, she’d said. You deserve some fun! And now here I am, drinking alone, with a terrifying red wine smile and three per cent battery life. Fuck it. I drain the rest of my drink, pull my coat on and throw my phone in my bag. I have better things to do than wait around for a man who –


I turn around and I’m suddenly chest to face with a short, rain-soaked, gold-cravat-wearing stranger. The sinking feeling in my stomach that follows makes it clear to me that this bizarre man is Colin.

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