The countdown to the launch of my new book All I Want For Christmas is well and truly on: the launch date is now officially October 31st. A slice of Christmas on Halloween? Why the heck not! To get you in the mood, here’s the new cover in all its festive glory, plus a bit of the first chapter to whet your appetite. Hope you enjoy!
All I Want For Christmas: Chapter One
“You know, I don’t want a lot for Christmas.” That was me, Tori Hammond saying that. Lover of all things Christmas and festive. Even I couldn’t believe the words were coming from my mouth, but they were definitely mine.
“Thank you, Mariah.” That was my best friend Holly replying.
I pulled my thick grey scarf around me and shivered in the early evening air. We were sat on our bench at the top of our hill, looking up at the charcoal sky. It had been our hill since school, where we’d met 16 years previous. As teenagers, Holly and I had sat and discussed boys here because we thought that’s what we were meant to do. Now aged 27, we sat and bemoaned women and pretended our world had evolved.
Behind us was a path lined with bare chestnut trees, their leaves long since dropped. Ahead of us was the smudged outline of the city below, fogging up with every breath we took.
“No, I mean it,” I said, my breath a ghostly circle swirling in front of me. “I don’t need any new clothes or shoes, jewellery or perfume. My mum keeps asking me what I want, and I don’t know what to tell her.”
Holly rapped her knuckles lightly on my skull. Her long legs were crossed, her green duffel coat done right up, her short dark hair peeking out of her hat on one side, part-shaved on the other. In the darkening light, her pointed features appeared almost sinister, which was the total opposite of the open, compassionate person she was.
“Hello, Earth to Tori — is that you or have you been taken over by some alien invaders? You love Christmas! You’re the biggest Christmas lover I know.”
I shrugged. “And that hasn’t changed — Christmas is still my most favourite time of the year. I just don’t want any big presents this time.”
“I’ll remind you of that when I give you nothing,” Holly said. “You could tell your mum to give you a Good Gift — a goat for a family in Africa or something. My gran bought my mum the gift of sight for five children last year.”
I turned my head. “How did she react?”
Holly smiled her lop-sided smile. “Mum said it was a nice gesture, but a bottle of gin to go with it wouldn’t have gone amiss.”
I smiled as I turned to face front again, looking out over the city skyline that was twinkling in the inky gloom before me. “Does it mean I’m getting old? Soon, I’ll be leaving presents to open till after lunch. I might even fall asleep before opening them. Imagine that.”
Holly nudged me with her elbow. “Does anyone in your family do that?”
An image of Christmas day with Mum, Gran and Aunt Ellen ripping open their presents one after the other and holding their favoured loot aloft came to my mind. They could hardly contain themselves till after breakfast.
I shook my head. “Not really.”
We sat in silence for a few moments, the air stained and blurry. The smell of flattened mud and grass filled the air, the path in front of us chilled and damp. Holly wore black jeans, a green beanie and a new pair of black and gold Nikes. She’d always followed fashion way more than I did, mainly because she had the 6-foot 2 frame to pull off any item of clothing she fancied.
“You know what I really want for Christmas?” I said.
Holly sunk lower on the bench. “A minute ago, it was nothing, but do tell.”
“I want a girlfriend. Last year I didn’t have one, but that was okay because it was too soon after Amy. But this year is different. This year, I want to share my favourite time of year with someone special. I want to really enjoy the holidays.”
I heard Holly grin — her jaw always made a noise when she did. “You want a girlfriend for Christmas?”
“Well that’s easy enough,” she said.
I sat up and looked at her. “Is it?”
She nodded. “Sure. We just make you a billboard, drop you in the middle of Oxford Street and away you go.”
I scowled. “I’m being serious.”
She smiled. “So am I.”
I stood up and paced around in front of Holly, the trees all around creating eerie shadows. “If I had a girlfriend, she’d have to buy me something — she’d have to think of an amazing present, wouldn’t she?”
“Which is the perfect reason to get one.” Holly was being ironic, but I ignored her.
I cast my mind back to the last time I’d had a serious girlfriend. Amy. For Christmas, she’d bought me a hot air balloon ride one year, a ski jacket the next. I wanted that this year. I wanted to receive presents not bought for me by Mum or Gran. I wanted to go ice-skating and kiss while we held hands. I wanted drunken Christmas sex. And I wanted it all now.
“But it’s November 25th — Christmas is only a month away,” Holly said. She was far more practical than me. Holly favoured order and spreadsheets, so I could see how this sudden plan troubled her.
I wagged a finger in her direction, twisting one way, then the other. “It involves a deadline though, and you must admit I work well to deadlines.”
Holly nodded. “You do.” Then she cocked her head, holding up a single finger. “But I have one question.”
“Is this all because of Melanie Taylor?”
I paused, then bit the inside of my right cheek. “No.” It was, but I wasn’t about to admit that right away.
All I Want For Christmas is due out on October 31st and can be purchased from all the usual outlets, including Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. Stop back here for one-click links to buy when it’s available, or sign up to my mailing list to never miss another release!