HERE COME THE GROOMS
I dropped in to see how Liz was getting on with this contest of mine but she was too busy to do more than raise a hand momentarily from the keyboard. I understand she has a problem with an elf. I thought it better not to ask...
Anne, too, is busy and Christo has had to take charge at her end. Kate is in Wales working with new writers and no one has seen Nikos -- well, he has his hands full right now.
Anyone who thinks these women spend their days lying on a sofa, murmuring sweet words to their secretaries really hasn't a clue. I can't begrudge Liz the time, though. My story is told, I have my beloved Lydia and life, while it has taken an unexpected turn, is full and sweet.
More than forty of these amazing women, and a couple of men, have taken time out of their frantic lives to write some delightful, touching and very different stories for the collection that Liz is giving away as a prize in the competition.
LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT is a showcase of the diversity of romantic fiction, a celebration put together by the Romantic Novelists' Association and published by Mira. Here's a moment from Liz's story, The Partnership Deal...
ANNIE Latimer took the soft little baby vest from the washing machine, held it for a moment to her cheek. Soft, sweet and dangerous. It was just the kind of thing that made even the most sensible woman go wobbly in the knees. Rang the alarm on her biological clock. Made her stumble as she stepped up to the top rung of the professional ladder.
Fortunately, her twin sister had grabbed all the domesticity genes before the egg split; making it in a male dominated corporate world where the words “maternity leave” were professional suicide required a single-mindedness of purpose that left no time for biology.
She dropped the vest into the laundry basket reminding herself that while Sarah had married the boy next door and set about populating the world single-handedly, she was a whisker away from a seat in the boardroom. Was the possessor of designer wardrobe that was not permanently covered with baby spit. Owned a minimalist loft apartment overlooking the river with a full complement of electrical appliances – including the essential drier.
How Sarah, with three children under the age of six, managed without one was a mystery, but she’d refused one even as gift.
There was being “green” and then again, Annie thought, there was being an idiot, but while Suzanne and Sarah Latimer were identical in appearance, they had always been chalk and cheese when it came to life choices.
Fortunately the sun was shining so she picked up the clothes basket and headed for the environmentally sound washing line in the back garden. Playing “mummy” while her sister was having a well-deserved holiday in the sun courtesy of the company whose organic baby cereal adorned her clothes on a regular basis having “…completed the following sentence in ten words or less…” and won a second honeymoon.
Not that it had been easy to shoehorn her sister out of her domestic rut. “Who,” Sarah had asked, her big blue eyes twin pools of innocence, “could she possibly entrust with her three precious children for eight whole days?”
Annie knew she’d walked right into that one and took it on the chin like the sucker she was, waving her sister and brother-in-law off for a much needed holiday – one they were no doubt even now using to create more little replicas of themselves.
Whatever made her sister happy, she thought, even though the timing couldn’t have been worse. Fortunately, modern technology meant that she was as good as in her office even when up her elbows in laundry.
Right now baby George was asleep under a net in the shade. Molly, three years old, copper curls and a smile as sweet as sugar, was eager to help with the pegs and Jack, just turned five, was kicking a football into his mini goal net.
Her cell phone was in her pocket.
Her wireless laptop connected permanently to the internet.
All was well with the world.
‘Blue peggie,’ Molly said, holding up a pink peg.
‘Pink, sweetie. It’s a pink peggie… Peg,’ she corrected herself, hurriedly. She cringed when her sister used babytalk. It had never occurred to her that it was contagious.
‘Blue peggie,’ Molly said again, this time holding up another pink peg.
‘Pink, Molly,’ She bent down, took another peg from the basket. ‘This one is blue…’ She broke off, jerking around as a screech of tyres from the far side of her sister’s dense hedge shattered the peace of the morning, heart in mouth as she waited for the crash.
It didn’t come.
There was no crash, no rending of metal, no cry for help and after a moment she let out the breath she’d been holding and smiled reassuringly at Molly who looked as if she was about to burst into tears. She hated loud noises… ‘Just some dumb man driving too fast,’ she said, reassuringly and Molly gave her a wobbly smile.
‘Pink peggie,’ she said.
‘That’s right!’ She pegged up a tiny pair of dungarees. ‘Pink peggie, blue dungarees.’
Realising that she hadn’t heard Jack’s repeated cry of “Goal!” for a minute or two she half turned to check what he was doing but was distracted by the sound of a car door slamming, a man’s raised voice from the far side of the hedge. A very angry man if the words “stupid”, “idiot” and “fool” were anything to go by. Maybe he’d scratched his precious car.
Serve him right for speeding…
Remembering her nephew, she looked around. He’d already given her several bad moments with his disappearing acts before popping up out of nowhere. She couldn’t see him.
Calm, she thought. Calm. Nothing could have happened. The side gate was safely shut…
‘Jack!’ she called again, louder this time, as she picked up Molly, heart thudding in her chest.
She hadn’t taken more than a step before the gate was flung open by one of those tall, dark and impossibly handsome men you read about in romances but never seem to encounter in real life. Or if you do they’re married and, truthfully, if they weren’t you’d have to wonder why.
Tall, dark but, in this instance, scowling.
He was holding Jack under one arm and Jack’s football under the other. The football was flat and Jack was trying very hard not to cry.
Don't forget, you have until 1st March to get your entries in. All the details of what, where and how are below. Hopefully, by then, Liz will have the elf under control and Santa will be smiling.