Getting dumped four times over the course of the past ten years on Valentine’s Day was definitely not in Hazel Benny’s life plan. So when her boyfriend of three months dumps her a week before Valentine’s Day to save her the humiliation of a fifth VD dumping, Hazel decides to take a break from life altogether by borrowing her brother’s camper van and taking off to the highlands.
Life in the camper van is going great—fresh air, beautiful scenery, a deeper bond with her homeland, no work, and best of all no men!
Until Valentine’s Day.
Getting caught in the woods with her pants down is the last thing Hazel expected to happen to her on the dreaded romantic day. Worse still getting caught by attractive American, Liam Brody, an annoyingly sexy man the universe seems intent on throwing her way for the day.
By the time this year’s Valentine’s Day is over, Hazel will have only one question on her mind:
How could one day, one tiny little day, change her life so epically…
Release date: April 27, 2017
Print pages: 62
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One Day: A Valentine Novella
The Cairngorms, Scotland
“One bloody day,” I muttered in irritation as I shoved my walking boots on. I fumbled with the torch on my phone and grabbed my last roll of toilet paper. “Bloody hell.” I’d need to get more when the rest of civilization eventually woke up.
Typical, I thought, as I jumped out of the camper van I’d borrowed from my brother. Shivering in the freezing cold February morning, I swung my torch/phone toward the woods, and contemplated hurrying back into the van for my coat.
But the pressure on my bladder insisted I move. Quickly!
Muttering obscenities under my breath I started toward the woods, cursing this cursed fucking day to hell!
Not once on this camping trip had I needed to pee this early in the morning. But on Valentine’s Day, on a pitch black, baltic, Valentine’s Day at five o’ clock in the morning, of course I was so desperate for a pee there was no way I could wait until the public toilet opened.
To make matters worse I was parked on a layby next to Loch Alvie. I was surrounded by hamlets. The nearest frickin’ town was Aviemore, which to be fair was only ten minutes away but ten minutes was a long time when your bladder was screaming at you. Plus… again… no public toilet was open at this time!
“The woods are probably cleaner,” I huffed, thinking of some of the dodgy public loos I’d used in the past week.
“Ah!” I slipped on mud in the woods, my heart—which had been beating hard already—suddenly pounded faster. “I’m going to die,” I whispered, my eyes round and huge as I tried to see by the light of my phone. This was how horror stories started. I could see the headlines now:
LONE WOMAN FOUND MURDERED IN WOODS BY LOCH ALVIE.
Locals suspect mythic woodland beast!
“Oh shut up, Hazel,” I murmured, and stopped, feeling far enough away from the road not to be seen by any early work traffic. “You’re more than likely to be mauled by a red squirrel, unable to defend yourself because they’re a bloody endangered species.” And they could be vicious little buggers.
As I unzipped my walking trousers and pushed them and my underwear around my ankles, I cursed bloody Valentine’s Day all over again. Squatting, peeing in the woods in the blistering cold, I sighed. It was as though this day had it in for me. For the past ten years! What the hell had I done to piss off Cupid?
Physical relief moved through me as the pain in my bladder eased, and just as I was about to let out a grateful sigh, my whole body froze at the sound of cracking bracken. I looked up and to my shock saw a light dancing nearby.
Suddenly I was blinded by the light.
A frozen scream stuck in my throat.
I was going to die!
There was someone in the woods, looking at me peeing and I was going to die!
Well don’t just sit there, you moron!
My body unlocked at that inner demand and I jerked up my arm to hold up my phone. The torch on it did little to help me see in the dark. What I did see was the shadow of a great, big, hulking figure.
That scream suddenly escaped me and I tried to yank up my trousers and underwear at the same time as running. Except I couldn’t remember in which direction I’d find the road!
“Wait!” I heard a man’s deep voice. “I’m not going—”
But whatever he said was muffled by hard dirt slamming into my body as I fell. The blood whooshed in my ears as my heart sledgehammered against my ribs. The crack of woodland behind me told me he was following me. I scrambled to my feet, desperately trying to get my trousers on. I’d succeeded with the underwear but the fucking trousers had fucking fallen again and fucking tripped me up.
“Come on!” I whisper screamed, tears burning my eyes as I got them up. Suddenly I was out of the trees and—“Ahhh!” I scrambled to a stop, slipping on the large pebbles on the shore of the loch. I whipped around as that bright light bounced out after me.
I was not going to die here.
I rushed the mammoth man with all my strength and collided with his solid body. My hope was he’d go down and I’d get passed him. But his grunt sounded in my ears as we both tripped over the loose rocks around us and fell head first toward the woods. My head thudded against dirt and the breath was knocked out of me.
“Fuck,” I heard the voice say. “Shit. Are you okay?”
I stilled at the concern in the stranger’s voice, and for some stupid reason, instead of taking the opportunity to run like hell I wheezed out, “Are you American?”
He shifted beside me and I realized we were all tangled up in each other, his heavy legs over mine. He gently extricated his legs from mine and placed his torch between us. A ghoulish face looked at me. I imagined my own face was just as ghoulish in the torchlight. His eyes, however, were not the eyes of a crazed madman. They seemed to hold genuine concern.
“Yes, I’m American. Liam Brody.” He held out his hand to me, but I just stared at it, still not convinced I wasn’t in danger. “You can call me Brody.”
I continued to study his hand, wondering if I moved now, might I get away?
“I’m not a homicidal maniac,” he said, amusement in his words, “I promise. I left my tent because I needed to pee and after I did, I saw your light in the woods, and then I saw you… well… and then you were screaming and taking off. I realized I’d scared the shit out of you, and probably in hindsight shouldn’t have chased after you to assure you I wasn’t going to kill you. So… sorry about that.”
If I hadn’t still been shaking from adrenaline (and blaming him for it) I might have grinned at his explanation. “Where’s your tent?”
He swung the torch to my left and it lit up the shallow rocky bank of the loch. In the distance I could see the outline of a tent.
“I think that might be illegal,” I said. “And bloody idiotic in this weather.” I looked back at him. “You must be freezing.”
“I’m not the one wearing only a sweater.”
True enough I could see and feel the puffy jacket he was wearing. “I’ve got two T-shirts on underneath my jumper.”
Liam ignored that. “Where’s your tent?”
“Camper van.” I said, moving to my feet. “Parked on the layby.”
He got up too, towering over me by a good nine or ten inches. I was small at five foot five so it was easy for a really big guy to look like a giant next to me. Feeling intimidated I took a step back. “Can you find your way back?”
“Sure, I—oh balls in hell!” I bit out, realizing I’d dropped my damn phone in my rush to get away from Liam.
“What is it?”
“I dropped my phone.”
“I have a good sense of direction if you want me to take you back the way we came?”
I contemplated him a moment. “You promise you’re not a homicidal maniac?”
“I promise. Although for future reference a homicidal maniac would probably promise that too before he killed you.”
I stared at him in horror.
“But I’m not one.”
“You really know how to reassure a strange woman who is lost in the woods with only you and your torch to rely on.”
He gave a huff of laughter and strode past me into the dark cover of the trees. “You can hold onto my jacket if you want. Or I could take your hand.”
“I’ll manage,” I insisted, thinking a little distance between us wouldn’t be a bad thing in case I did need to run for my life from him. “Fucking Valentine’s Day,” I muttered.
“What was that?”
We were silent, the only sounds around us the creaking woods, the early morning whisper of bugs and birds, and in the distance a vehicle driving by.
“Kind of bold of you,” Liam suddenly said.
“Huh?” I’d been intent on watching my footing in the dim light his torch left behind as he moved in front of me.
“Peeing in the woods by yourself.”
“Well it was that or pee myself.”
“You could have peed on the layby.”
Was I really discussing public urination with a strange man? I snorted at the thought. “People use that layby. I wasn’t going to pee on it. Plus anyone passing would have seen my bare arse.”
“And you’d deny them that pleasure?” I heard the laughter in his words and couldn’t help but grin in response.
“How do you know it would be a pleasure? I might have an arse like a moon crater.”
Liam chuckled. “I know for a fact that’s not true.”
Mortification flooded me as I realized he’d probably caught sight of my bare arse fleeing him! “Fucking Valentine’s Day.”
“Do you keep muttering “Fucking Valentine’s Day”?”
“Yes. Because it is. Fucking Valentine’s Day.”
“That it is,” he said, sounding suddenly grim.
Could it be? Had I actually found another human being who understood that VD was not a day for celebration but a cursed, commercial piece of bullshit lorded over by a tiny cherub-shaped tyrant?
I grunted in acknowledgment of his grim tone.
“Any sign of my phone?” I said, hoping we found the damn thing. It cost a small fortune.
“We’re getting closer to where you were peeing.”
I flushed at his casual mention of it. “You know, you could stop talking about the fact that you’ve seen me in such a vulnerable position.”
“We all need to pee,” Liam said matter-of-factly. “It’s not like I caught you taking a sh—”
“Tra la lah!” I cried to shut him up.
He gave a bark of laughter and stopped to look back at me. “I can’t believe you actually tra la lah-ed. No one tra la lahs.”
“I do… when I’m trying to stop rude Americans discussing my bodily functions.”
“We all need to sh—”
“Tra la la la lah, la la la lah!”
His shoulders were shaking in front of me. “You do realize you’re tra la lahing to Deck the Halls?”
I played the Christmas song quickly in my head. Damn. I had just tra la lahed to it. “Stop talking about… certain things and I’ll stop tra la l—.”
“Got it,” he suddenly said triumphantly.
He bent over, and when he straightened and turned around he had his torch lit over my phone. “Looks okay.”
“Oh thank heavens.” I took it from him. “Thank you. Any chance my loo roll is there?” I gestured beyond him.
He swung back around, bent down again and retrieved the toilet paper.
“Thank God.” I took it from him.
“You need help getting back to your van?” the words were tinged with laughter.
I hated to admit it but it was either wander lost by myself for a while or take a chance that the American wasn’t homicidal. “Yeah. Please.”
I started following him again, using my own torch/phone to light my way.
“You know you should invest in an actual flashlight,” Liam said. “The one on your phone won’t get you very far.”
“It got me far enough to pee,” I said, forgetting momentarily that I’d insisted we not talk about my bodily functions.
Suddenly we broke out of the woods, coming to a stop at the bottom of the slope that led up to the layby. Liam climbed it and then turned around to hold out his hand to help me up.
I took it, and a shiver ran through me at the feel of his callused skin against mine. His hand was huge compared to my hand and he pulled me up like I weighed no more than a feather. Putting the shiver down to the fact that it was freezing cold outside, I ignored the sharp heat of awareness I felt toward him.
His torch swung over my brother’s camper van.
It was about eight years old and not the prettiest looking thing ever. Still, it was comfortable inside. Along with plenty of sleeping space, it had a sink to wash in, a burner to make tea on, and to heat up soup and beans on.
I thought about Liam in his little tent in the cold. If I were wise I’d get in my van and leave. However, I seemed to be plagued by a sense of gratitude toward the American, and an even weirder feeling of not wanting to say goodbye to him just yet.
Which was ridiculous because I’d spent the last week avoiding men and loving every minute of it.
“Wait there,” I said, striding past him to my van. I climbed in the back and opened the drawer under the burner. Grabbing the penknife I had inside it, I clambered back out of the van with the knife switched open.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” I said casually.
His torch swung from me to the knife. “How do I know you’re not a homicidal maniac planning on killing me for my handsome pelt?”
A smile prodded the corners of my mouth at his teasing. “I keep this at hand for protection and you get a hot cup of tea, or you can wander back into the woods to your cold wee tent. What’s it going to be?”
“I’ll have the tea, thanks,” he said, striding toward me.
The light from my van spilled over his face.
He had a chiseled, stubbly jawline, and short, closely-cropped dark blonde hair and he was… well he was hot.
He wasn’t joking about his handsome pelt.
I gave him a weak smile and gestured for him to climb on in, suddenly rethinking this idea. I wasn’t exactly immune to a pretty face and I had sworn off men for the time being.
“I hope you realize how much of a chance I’m taking,” he said, somehow managing to gracefully get his large body inside my van. “You could do anything to me in here.”
I grinned at his teasing, charmed already (and inwardly cursing myself for it!) and climbed in after him. After pulling the doors shut to block out some of the cold, I placed the penknife on the unit by the burner and hurriedly slipped on my jacket. As I did, my eyes clashed with Liam’s and in the bright overhead light of the van I saw his eyes were gorgeous. Light green and expressive.
He was unfairly good-looking.
I set about boiling my kettle over the burner, a little self-conscious because I could feel him watching my every movement.
He suddenly reached out to touch my arm and I jumped.
“Your hand. You’ve got a cut,” he explained.
I turned it over to look at it and saw he was right. It must have happened during one of my falls. “It’s not too bad.”
“You should clean it. Use some of the hot water from the kettle and a cloth. Have you got a first aid kit?” He said, looking around the van.
“Behind my rucksack.” I pointed to large bag I’d placed behind the driver’s seat and watched as Liam crawled over to it. His jacket shrugged up his body and his walking trousers tightened over his arse.
I felt a little build up of saliva in my mouth.
That is a very, very good arse.
“Got it,” he said and I dragged my gaze away before he caught me ogling him.
“Fucking Valentine’s Day,” I muttered, rummaging through a plastic carrier bag I kept tea towels in. I found one and carefully poured a little of the hot water on it.
I looked up at Liam.
“I’ll do it.”
Deciding to trust the apparent sincerity in his beautiful eyes I crawled over to him and held out the cloth. He gently took it and my hand, and began to clean my cut.
I stared determinedly at what he was doing rather than at his face. “Thanks,” I murmured.
“You’re welcome,” he murmured back, his voice deep and far sexier than any man’s voice had a right to be.
A flip in my lower belly caused a shot of tingles to rush between my legs, and at the same time my nipples tightened against my bra.
It’s the cold! I assured myself, even though I knew it wasn’t.
Of course I’d meet the most attractive man ever on Valentine’s Day. It was official: Cupid hated me.
It seemed to take forever for him to clean my cut, put antiseptic on it, and then seal the cut with a plaster. Or a bandaid, as he called it.
“You’re all good.” He stroked his thumb over the top of my hand and my eyes flew to his.
His gaze roamed over my face in this interested, appreciative way I knew too well.
I yanked my hand from him. “Tea?” I said, hurriedly crawling away from him.
I thought I heard him chuckle behind me before he said, “Tea would be great.”
“I have milk in a chill box,” I said, pulling it out and opening the box filled with ice. Nestled in the ice was the fresh milk I’d bought the day before, along with some cans of Diet Coke.
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