We have the PERFECT Christmas treat for you today! Get in the Christmas spirit with an extract from Katie Ginger’s new heartwarming romance The Perfect Christmas Gift.
‘Listen, Bella, I’m sorry,’ Nick said, and Bella inhaled. Was this to be her first conversation about Evan? Had Nick seen him leave? The news was probably all around the village by now. ‘I – umm—’ Nick continued and feeling tears well in her eyes she knew she had to stem the flood.
‘Thanks, Nick, but honestly, I’m fine. I mean, I’m kind of not fine. I had no idea Evan was planning on leaving me, but then you don’t do you, I suppose. I’m sure you didn’t expect it either, but I’m just taking each day as it comes and – and I’ll get over it eventually.’ Did she mean that? She wasn’t quite sure right now, but words kept tumbling from her mouth. ‘Having said that, my heart is kind of breaking, but I hope it’ll get less and less every day as I learn to live with it.’
Why was she being so honest with him? Rabbiting on like she was performing some kind of crazy am-dram monologue. Perhaps it was knowing he’d gone through the same thing. An annoying tear trickled from her eye and she dabbed at her face with her big woolly glove. When she looked up, Nick had grown ashen, and his eyes were wide. Bella glanced towards the car, seeing her mum and Caro unsubtly studying the houses on the other side of the lane.
‘Oh, look. A duck,’ said Caro.
‘Yes, lovely,’ their mum replied.
‘You weren’t actually going to say anything were you?’ asked Bella.
‘No. Sorry. I was going to say I’m sorry that Freddie said murdery.’
‘Yeah.’ He pushed his hands further into his pockets and stared at the ground.
‘So, you didn’t know . . .’ She pointed to the house as if that explained everything.
Nick shook his head. ‘No, sorry.’
Bella closed her eyes slowly, wishing the ground would open and swallow her down into its depths. Why had she done that? She should have known that of all people, Nick Cowley was not going to be talking about his feelings or hers. They were neighbours. It wasn’t like they were best friends who confided in each other daily. Christ she was an idiot.
‘Right. Well, that’s rather embarrassing, isn’t it?’ Bella gave a small laugh. ‘Sorry. I just assumed – you know what this place is like – I just thought—’ She shook her head. ‘And yet, here I am, still talking. I really should shut up now.’
‘I hadn’t heard you and Evan had split. I’m sorry.’
Dropping her eyes and running a finger over the top of the small white gate, she said, ‘He left me yesterday when I got in from work. He was just on his way . . . out.’
‘Wow.’ Nick shook his head. ‘That’s tough.’
‘It is.’ She summoned courage enough to look at him and an understanding passed between them. As the moment grew awkward, she muttered a quick goodbye and dived into the car. Caro drove away, almost breathless from laughing and Bella stared straight ahead. ‘Don’t. Say. A. Word.’
‘I wouldn’t dare,’ Caro squealed, like a pig being chased in its pen. ‘But I have to say that’s probably my favourite embarrassing memory of yours now.’
‘Poor boy,’ Cynthia added from the front seat. ‘He was absolutely terrified.’
Caro pressed a hand to her side. ‘Oh God, I’m getting a stitch.’
‘But isn’t he handsome when he’s surprised,’ Cynthia continued. ‘When his eyes go that wide you can really see how blue they are. And he’s even better-looking with all that grass and mud washed off him. I quite like him dirty as well though. A bit rough and ready and—’
‘Mum!’ Caro and Bella shouted in horror.
‘Stop it!’ Caro yelped. ‘I’ve got to calm down before this baby makes an early arrival.’