A little bit of christma.., p.1
A Little Bit of Christmas Magic, page 1
A Little Bit of Christmas Magic
Rossetti Mysteries – Book 4
Rossetti Mysteries Series:
Some Veil Did Fall
The Girl in the Painting
The Girl in the Photograph
A Little Bit of Christmas Magic
A Delicious Selection of Bite Size Reads!
Copyright © 2017 Kirsty Ferry
Published 2017 by Choc Lit Limited
Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2AB, UK
The right of Kirsty Ferry to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Barnards Inn, 86 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1EN.
To my family, who make every Christmas special!
Thank you to my wonderful publishers Choc Lit, who have allowed me the indulgence of my very first Christmas book. Fortunately, I managed to write it over the Christmas season, but my poor editor had to do her work during the summer months, so I do apologise if the thought of mince pies and ice-skating jarred with sunny days and ice creams! Thanks must go to her, and the rest of the team who made this possible – to the super Tasting Panel who read it and enjoyed it, to my wonderful cover designer and to my gorgeous Choc Lit family, who understand the doubt and insecurity of the writing life and are always there for a chat or a pep talk. Special thanks to Catherine L, Melissa B, Claire W, Sigi, Lucy M, Jo O, Jennifer S, Sarah B-H, Barbara P, Susan D, Anne E, Dimi, Rachel D, Carol F and Cordy S who passed the manuscript on the Panel.
Thanks must also go to the readers who loved the ‘Rossetti Mysteries’ series and asked me to write more about the people they had come to love. Ella and Adam are very special characters to me – they were the first ones to keep me awake at night whilst they told me their story, and I felt they deserved more than simply being a part of Some Veil Did Fall. This book is for them, and for everybody who believes that angels can come to us in the strangest of guises; but especially when we need them most.
“We hear the Christmas angels …”
O Little Town of Bethlehem: A Christmas Carol
About the Author
More Choc Lit from Kirsty Ferry
Introducing Choc Lit
Preview- Watch for Me by Moonlight by Kirsty Ferry
‘I don’t know who would choose to get married on Christmas Day,’ said Tara, the Carrick Park receptionist. ‘It’s just an odd day to get married. Most people would choose Christmas Eve, surely? Much nicer. And they don’t miss out on presents or Christmas dinner then.’
Ailsa McCormack shook her head. ‘It’s their choice,’ she said. As the Wedding Events Coordinator at Carrick Park Hotel, she was used to all sorts of foibles and requests from brides, grooms and anything in between; but she had to admit that even she hadn’t organised a wedding for Christmas Day before.
‘You’re going to have a very early start tomorrow, aren’t you?’ asked Tara sympathetically.
‘I am.’ Ailsa sighed and looked around her at the decorations in the entrance hall. There was a huge Christmas tree in the alcove by the grand staircase, elegantly covered with silver and blue decorations and a fire was roaring and crackling in the large fireplace, garlands of greenery swathed over the mantelpiece.
The heady smell of pine resin and wood smoke seemed as familiar to this place as the salt-tinged breezes that swept across the North Yorkshire moors and embraced the old building. Carrick Park had been, once upon a time, the home of the Carrick family, but had, eventually, become a hotel when the last owner, Lydia Carrick, had sold it.
‘“Change the name and not the letter, marry for worse and not for better”,’ murmured Ailsa, her eyes drifting to a bookshelf built into the alcove nearby.
‘Who are you thinking of?’ asked Tara curiously, leaning forwards at her desk.
‘Lydia Carrick. She married her cousin Jacob, didn’t she? Somewhere along the line they made sure the Carrick name continued so one of the husbands had to take his wife’s name to ensure the inheritance – so they were both Carricks. And if the letter makes for a bad marriage, God help the person who marries someone of the same name!’
Lydia Carrick’s cousin, Jacob, had, apparently been the undoing of everything the family held dear; the instigator of the disaster of Lydia’s marriage; the subsequent unravelling of Carrick Park as the family home – the man who, too tragically, had loved Lady Eleanor Carrick to distraction and hated Adam, Lydia’s brother, because Eleanor – or Ella, as she was known – had loved Adam instead.
‘Ah! That’s all in the book, isn’t it?’ Tara nodded across to the bookshelf. It held a well-thumbed copy of a book about the family who had lived at Carrick Park, and more hardback copies were piled neatly on a unit nearby for visitors to purchase. ‘And don’t forget the ghosts!’
‘Ghost in the singular,’ said Ailsa with a grin. ‘There’s only supposed to be Ella here, Lydia’s sister-in-law.’
The book Tara referred to had been written by Becky Nelson, a journalist who had caused quite a storm with an article she had published about a famous painting. Before that, her Carrick Park book had detailed the mystery of Ella and Adam Carrick’s sudden disappearance in 1865. Lydia had inherited the house after that, but had moved out of the place just as soon as she could.
Becky suggested that Ella and Adam had been caught in a thunderstorm, and there had been a terrible accident. Jacob had been the sole witness, and had taken most of the secrets of that night to his grave.
There was a beautiful Landseer portrait of Ella on the staircase, displaying her formal title of Lady Eleanor Carrick. Ella’s tragic spirit was supposed to drift around the hotel and play the piano, but Ailsa had never seen her or heard her. Neither had Rosa, the Senior Receptionist. The fact that Ella played the piano at all was a story in itself, as she had apparently lost her hearing when she was quite young.
‘I’m sure the piano was going the other day,’ said Tara, raising her eyebrows. ‘I’m sure I heard Christmas carols.’ A piano had been reinstated in the old drawing room, which had, up until a couple of years ago, been the hotel restaurant and bar.
The management had since decided that the space served better as a function room, and during an almighty refurbishment, the restaurant was relocated to the morning room, the bar moved into the study and the newer dividing walls knocked down again, as the drawing room was opened back up to its full size. Ailsa preferred the new layout; it was much better for weddings and, in her opinion, reflected more the character of the original Carrick Park, which was something she cared deeply about. Her working environment was
They’d all joked at the time of the building work that ghosts didn’t like refurbishments and it usually stirred things up with them. Ailsa had hoped, just quietly to herself, that Ella might materialise out of the plaster and rubble and shake an elegant fist at them for messing up her home – but she hadn’t, leaving Ailsa slightly disappointed.
Today, though, Ailsa laughed. ‘Don’t play the innocent with me, Tara. It’s Mozart Ella plays – not Christmas carols.’
Tara smiled. ‘I’m rumbled. Just teasing.’
‘Well don’t bother,’ replied Ailsa, good-humouredly. She picked up her iPad and hugged it to her. ‘I’ve still got some work to do for tomorrow, so I’ll head into the office and get onto it. Do you want anything while I’m on my travels? Coffee? Tea? One of Rosa’s mince pies?’
Tara groaned. ‘I can’t eat any more of those pies. I’ve had three today already. I’ll just sit here and think about what I’m missing at home – like stress and panic and erratic tempers.’
‘Families, eh? Mine are scattered all over now. Meanwhile—’ Ailsa raised the iPad. ‘I have to sort out a wedding.’
‘Good luck. Are you staying here overnight then?’
‘Might as well.’ Ailsa sighed. ‘I normally go to Edinburgh for Christmas, but—’ she put on a broader Scottish accent than she actually possessed, ‘—it’s nae gonna happen this year is it? Never mind.’
It wasn’t too much of a hardship to stay at Carrick Park this year. Ailsa had been brought up by her Aunt Moira and Uncle Stewart after her parents had died, but this year, they were heading to Australia to spend Christmas with their son. One of her other cousins had just recently put roots down in the borders and married a girl from Jedburgh and her other cousin had moved to Derbyshire. Ailsa wasn’t quite sure where she fitted in any more, which was silly really as she was an adult and had been established in Yorkshire since she finished university. But still; it felt a bit odd not having her relatives around her at this time of the year.
‘At least you’ll have a bit of company tonight if you’re here,’ said Tara. ‘I’ll be around until one in the morning – then Louisa will be here until nine. And Rosa’s coming in after that to work the day shift.’
‘Well I hope Joel’s making her dinner for when she gets in!’ commented Ailsa. ‘She’ll be ready for it.’
‘He’s bound to. She’s got him well trained.’
‘Good for her.’
‘Do you know,’ said Tara, looking thoughtful, ‘I’m really surprised this couple you’re looking after got anyone on board to sort out a wedding for Christmas Day.’
‘People have businesses to run,’ replied Ailsa. ‘They’ll charge extra, no doubt, but I don’t suspect many of them would turn down the chance of a job. And speaking of businesses, I must get off and do this. See you!’
‘Have fun!’ called Tara as Ailsa headed off to the office. It was at the back of Carrick Park, part of the old servants’ quarters and had possibly been a housekeeper’s room or a butler’s pantry at one point; but clearly it had been nicely refurbished as an office space and Ailsa managed to get through her bits and pieces with the help of another cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit.
It was about ten-thirty when she finally closed down the iPad and rubbed her eyes. She didn’t keep standard hours at the best of times but this was altogether different. She couldn’t refuse Sophie and Gabe, the bride and groom, their special day; but part of her wondered if they’d done it so the anniversary date was easier to recall. She’d found out that Gabe’s birthday was on Christmas Day too. She smiled at the thought, mentally scolded herself for even supposing that and left the empty office to the whir of the cooling fans in the computers and the gentle hum of electrics.
In the olden days, this place would have been crawling with people – all these bells, for instance, along the corridor would have been destined to ring for whatever reason. It wasn’t the first time she’d considered that and she looked at the faded, painted labels by each one as she passed: Blue Bedroom, Nursery, Drawing Room …
The drawing room. Her favourite room in the whole building. It was, it seemed, the perfect evening and the perfect time to go in and spend a little time in that drawing room to wind down before bed. She was officially off-shift, so it couldn’t be classed as loitering – and besides, that was the room Sophie and Gabe had booked for tomorrow, so it was maybe just as well that she go in and just check it over. Or so she told herself, anyway.
Ned walked around the drawing room, seeing the old room brought back to life after the refurbishment. This was better. This was how it was meant to be. It had never looked right before – no way would the Carricks have had a bar in their drawing room, let alone dining tables.
No, the Carrick Park dining room was the only place they would take their meals, and all that ever got served in the drawing room were pots of tea and the occasional sandwich or cake. At Christmas, the servants would have brought mulled wine and mince pies, of course, and Lydia had still liked, sometimes, to warm her mulled wine the traditional way by using a poker and putting it in the glass after she’d left it in the fire for a little while. It wasn’t such a good idea, though, when she got bits of ash in her wine, and complained of it having a distinctly smoky flavour, when the rest of them were wrapping their hands around glasses which had been brought from the kitchen, already full of warm, spicy, plum-coloured liquid, heated in a big copper pan on the hob.
Ned smiled. Lydia had been one of a kind. He looked at the book he had thumbed through earlier and was pleased to see that Becky Nelson had done such an excellent job of telling their stories – telling Ella’s story, in particular. In his mind’s eye, he saw the Landseer on the staircase and, despite everything that had happened, he could still spare a thought for Ella Dunbar and the fact that she had been forever captured as Lady Eleanor Carrick. She would have hated the formality of it.
The book had even said that, despite her sense of humour and the confidence she had within her immediate circle, she was quite shy when she was out of her comfort zone. Becky Nelson was correct. If you couldn’t hear anything that was going on around you, how could you hope to react appropriately to something that might throw you? Ella had been completely deaf for some time before she married Adam. You had to admire her. She tried. Goodness only knew, she’d tried. It was a crying shame that her stubbornness had been the catalyst for all that had happened, but you couldn’t change the past and that was the God honest truth.
The door clicked behind him and Ned turned. A slim, dark-haired girl came into the room clutching an iPad. His heart skipped a beat and he couldn’t help but smile. She had pale, creamy-coloured skin which he knew would boast a dusting of freckles over her nose in the summer and the most beautiful brown eyes he had seen for a long time. They were probably the same hue as a fresh horse chestnut, and just as enticing. Her hair was loose and bounced around below her shoulders in waves, the ends kinking up, not quite tamed.
‘Good evening,’ he said, thinking he’d better let her know he was in there. ‘Sorry – do you need to lock up? I was just enjoying some peace and quiet.’
‘Oh!’ The girl started. She had a good right. He had been hidden in the shadows behind the piano, only stepping out of them as he spoke. ‘No. No, it’s fine. I’m not here to lock up. My excuse is that I’m checking it for a wedding tomorrow – Gabe and Sophie? You might know them – you might be a guest! Sorry – I feel as if we should have been introduced already?’ She blinked, clearly more puzzled than he was.
‘Ah, Gabe and Sophie,’ agreed Ned. ‘Because Gabe’s birthday falls around Christmas time, hence his name.’
‘Exactly. I’m Ailsa McCormack, the Wedding Events Coordinator for Carrick Park. I’m just doing some last-minute work, making sure it’s all perfect for them.’
She held out her hand and Ned took it, shaking it and marvelling at how warm it was compared to his. ‘I’m sure it will be,’ he replied with
‘Oh? Do I have a grumbling sort of face on me?’ asked Ailsa, tilting her head and looking amused.
‘I didn’t say that,’ said Ned, laughing. Her accent was perfect – soft and Scottish, with a smile in every word. ‘I think you’re going to say you wish they’d put the Christmas tree in the middle of this room, instead of the foyer.’
‘You read my mind! Yes, I always say I think it’ll look better in there, but I keep getting told it would disrupt too much if they did that. I’m sure they think you’d have Gabe going around one side of it and Sophie going around the other when they walked back up the aisle. Plus, it would be in the way for the reception.’
‘Do you think this is where it would have been when the Carricks were here?’ asked Ned.
‘I’m almost certain,’ replied Ailsa, ‘but all that’s lost to history now. I see you’ve got a copy of their book.’ She nodded towards his hand, as he clutched the hardback. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think I’m inclined to agree with you. I’m Edward Cavendish, by the way. I’m very pleased to meet you, Ailsa McCormack.’
‘Edward Cavendish?’ Ailsa frowned for a moment. ‘I can’t recall the name, but they’ve got so many guests. You do seem very familiar, though. I’ve seen people coming and going all day – that’s probably it.’
‘Probably. I might be there as Ned. I often get that instead. So is it all right for me to be in here, then? You don’t need me shifted out?’
‘Not unless you’re planning on falling asleep on one of the sofas, then I think the night porters might get a bit concerned. It wouldn’t have been the first time we found a guest napping in here, though. It’s very cosy.’
‘I love the open hearth,’ he said, moving towards it. He put the book down on a coffee table and leaned over, rubbing his hands together in the warmth. ‘I doubt it would heat the whole room though. It’s a big space.’
by Kirsty Ferry have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes