Nurse Cassidy Rae is a stickler for rules, but even she revels in the magic of Christmas! Unlike new Registrar Brad Donovan, who hates Christmas. With his surfer-boy looks and cocky charm, he's severely testing Cassidy's goodwill to all men. But in the festive season miracles can happen—and Brad’s about to give Cassidy a Yuletide to remember…
Her Christmas Eve Diamond
Cassidy raised her hand and knocked on the dilapidated door. Behind her Lucy giggled nervously, “Are you sure this is the right address?”
Cassidy turned to stare at her. “You arranged this. How should I know?” She glanced at the crumpled piece of paper in her hand. “This is definitely number seventeen.” She leaned backwards, looking at the 1960’s curtains hanging in the secondary-glazed double windows that rattled every time a bus went past. “Maybe nobody’s home?” she said hopefully.
This had to be the worst idea she’d ever had. No. Correction. It hadn’t been her idea. In a moment of weakness she’d just agreed to come along with her colleagues to see what all the fuss was about.
“Where did you find this one Lucy?”
Lucy had spent the last year whisking her friends off to as many different fortune tellers as possible. By all accounts some were good, some were bad and some were just downright scary. Cassidy had always managed to wriggle out of it – until now.
“This is the one my cousin Fran came to. She said she was fab.”
Cassidy raised her eyebrows. “Cousin Fran that went on the reality TV show and then spent the next week hiding in the cupboard?”
Lucy nodded. “Oh great,” sighed Cass.
“I wonder if she’ll tell me how many children I’ll have,” murmured Lynn dreamily. She stuck her pointed elbow into Cassidy’s ribs. “She told Lizzie King she’d have twins and she’s due any day now.”
“I just want to know if Frank is ever going to propose,” sighed Tamsin. “If she doesn’t see it in the future then I’m dumping him. Five years is long enough.”
Cassidy screwed up her nose and shook her head. “You can’t dump Frank because of something a fortune tellers says.”
But Tamsin had that expression on her face – the one that said, Don’t mess with me. “Watch me.”
There was a shuffle behind the door, then a creak and the door swung open. “Hello ladies, come on in.”
Cassidy blinked. The smell of cats hit her in the face like a steam roller.
She stepped to one side, allowing the stampede behind her to thunder inside, then took a deep breath of clean outside air, before pulling the door closed behind her. A mangy-looking cat wound its way around her legs. “Shoo!” she hissed.
“Come on Cassidy!”
She plastered a smile on her face and joined her colleagues in smelly-cat woman’s front room. The peeling noise beneath the soles of her feet told her that the carpet was sticky. She dreaded to think what with.
Her three friends were crowded onto the brown sofa. Another cat was crawling across the back of the sofa behind their heads. Cassidy’s eyes started to stream and she resisted the temptation to start rubbing them. Once she started – she couldn’t stop. Cat allergies did that to you.
“So who wants to go first?”
Cassidy glanced at her watch. How had she got roped into this?
“You go first Cass,” said Lucy, who turned to smelly-cat woman. “You’ll have to do a good job Belinda. Our Cassidy’s a non-believer.”
The small rotund woman eyed Cassidy up and down. Her brow as wrinkled as her clothes. “This way dear,” she muttered, wandering down the hallway to another room.
Cassidy swallowed nervously. Maybe it would be easier to get this over and done with? Then at least she could wait outside in the car for the others.
The room was full of clutter. And cats.
As Belinda settled herself at one side of the table and shuffled some cards, Cassidy eyed the squashed easy chair on the other side. A huge marmalade cat was sitting in pride of place, blinking at her, daring her to move him.
Her gorgeous turquoise blue velvet pea coat would attract cat hairs like teenage girls to a Bieber concert. She should just kiss it goodbye now.
“Move Lightning!” Belinda kicked the chair and the cat gave her a hard stare before stretching on his legs and jumping from the seat, settling at her feet.
Cassidy couldn’t hide the smile from her face. It had to be the most inappropriately named cat - ever.
Belinda fixed her eyes on her. How could such a soft, round woman have such a steely glare? Her eyes weren’t even blinking. She was staring so hard Cass thought she would bore a hole through her skull.
She looked around her. Books everywhere. Piles of magazines. Shelves and shelves of ornaments, all looking as though they could do with a good dust. Another allergy to set off. One, two, no three…no, there was another one hiding in the corner, four cats in the room. All looking at her as if she shouldn’t be there. Maybe they knew something that she didn’t.
“So what do we do?” She asked quickly.
Belinda’s face had appeared kindly, homely when she’d answered the door. But in here, when it was just the two of them, she looked like a cold and shrewd business woman. Cassidy wondered if she could read the thoughts currently in her head. That would account for the light-sabre stare.
Belinda shuffled the cards again. “We can do whatever you prefer.” She spread the cards facedown on the table. “I can read your cards.” She reached over and grabbed hold of Cassidy’s hand. “I can read your palm. Or,” she glanced around the room, “I can channel some spirits and see what they’ve got to say.”
The thought sent a chill down Cassidy’s spine. She wasn’t sure she believed any of this. But she certainly didn’t want to take the risk of channelling some unwanted spirits.
The TV special she’d watched the other day had claimed that all of this was based on reading people. Seeing the tiny, almost-imperceptible reactions they had to certain words, certain gestures. Cassidy had come here tonight determined not to move a muscle, not to even blink. But her cat allergy seemed to have got the better of her, and her eyes were currently a red, blinking, streaming mess. So much for not moving.
She didn’t like the look of the cards either. Knowing her luck she’d turn over the death card – or the equivalent of the Joker.
“Let’s just do the palm please.” It seemed the simplest option. How much could anyone get from some lines on a palm?
Belinda leaned across the table, taking Cassidy’s slim hand and wrist and encapsulating them with her pudgy fingers. There was something quite soothing about it. She wasn’t examining Cassidy’s palm – just holding her hand. Stroking her fingers across the back of her hand for a few silent minutes, then turning her hand over and touching the inside of her palm.
A large smile grew across her face.
The suspense was killing her. Cassidy didn’t like long silences. “What is it?”
Belinda released her hand. “You’re quite the little misery guts aren’t you?”
“What?” Cassidy was stunned. Last she’d heard these people were only supposed to tell you good things. And certainly not assassinate your character.
Belinda nodded. “On the surface you’re quite the joker with your friends at work. On the other hand you always see the glass half empty. Very self-deprecating. All signs of insecurity.” She took a deep breath. “But very particular at work. Your attention to detail makes you hard to work with. Some of your colleagues just don’t know how to take you. And as for men…”
“What?” Right now, men were the last thing on her mind. And the word ‘insecurity’ had hit a nerve she didn’t want to acknowledge. It was bad enough having parents who jet-setted around the world, without having a fiancé who’d upped and left. Last thing she wanted was some random stranger pointing it out to her.
“You’re a clever girl but sometimes you can’t see what’s right at the end of your nose.” She shook her head, “You’ve got some very fixed ideas and you’re not very good at the art of compromise. Just as well Christmas is coming up.”
Cassidy was mad now. “What’s that got to do with anything? Christmas is still three months away.”
Belinda folded her arms across her chest, a smug expression on her face. “You’re going to be a Christmas bride.”
The woman was clearly crazy. Either that or she’d lost her cat-brained mind.
“How on earth can I be a Christmas bride? It’s October tomorrow and I don’t have a boyfriend. And there’s nobody I’m even remotely interested in.”
Belinda tapped the side of her nose, giving her shoulders an annoying little shrug. “I only see the future. I don’t tell you how you’re going to get there.” She leaned over and touched the inside of Cassidy’s palm. “I can see you as a Christmas bride, along with a very handsome groom – not from around these parts either. Lucky you.”
Cassidy shook her head firmly. It had taken her months to get over her broken engagement to her Spanish fiancé – not something she wanted to repeat. “You’re absolutely wrong. There’s no way I’m going to be a Christmas bride. And particularly not with a groom from elsewhere. I’ve had it with foreign men. The next man I hook up with will be a true fellow Scot, through and through.”
Belinda gave her the look. The look that said – you’ve no idea what you’re talking about.
“That’s us then.”
Cassidy was aghast. Twenty quid for that? “That’s it?”
Belinda nodded and waved her hand. “Send the next one in.”
Cassidy hesitated for a second, steeling herself to argue with the woman. But then the fat orange cat brushed against her legs and leapt up onto the chair beside her, determined to shed its thousands of orange cat hairs over her velvet coat. She jumped up. At least she was over and done with. She could wait outside in the car. It was almost worth the twenty quid for that alone.
She walked along the corridor, mumbling to herself, attempting to brush a big wad of clumped cat hair from her coat.
“Are you done already? What did she tell you?”
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “It’s not even worth repeating.” She jerked her head down the corridor. “Go on Tamsin. Go and find out when you’re getting your proposal.”
Tamsin still had that determined look on her face. She stood up and straightened her pristine black mac – no orange cat hairs for her. “You mean if I’m getting my proposal.” She swept down the corridor and banged the door closed behind her.
Lucy raised her eyebrows. “Heaven help Belinda if she doesn’t tell Tam what she wants to hear.” She turned back to Cassidy. “Come on then. Spill – what did she say?”
Cassidy blew out a long slow breath through pursed lips. She was annoyed at being called a misery guts. And she was beyond irritated at being called insecure. “I’m apparently going to be Christmas bride.”
“What?!” Lucy and Lynn’s voices were in perfect tandem with their matching shocked expressions.
“Just as well Tamsin didn’t hear that,” Lucy muttered.
“Oh, it gets worse. Apparently my groom is from foreign climates.” She rolled her eyes again. “As if.”
But Lucy and Lynn’s expressions had changed, smiles creeping across their faces as their eyes met.
Cassidy watched in bewilderment as they high-fived each other in the dingy sitting room.
“What’s with you two? You know the whole thing’s ridiculous. As if I’m going to date another foreign doctor.”
Lynn folded her arms across her chest. “Stranger things have happened.” She had a weird look about her face. As if she knew something that Cassidy didn’t.
Lucy adopted the same pose, shoulder to shoulder with Lynn. Almost as if they were ganging up on her.
Her gaze narrowed. “I’m willing to place a bet that Belinda could be right.”
Cassidy couldn’t believe what was happening. The crazy cat-woman’s disease was obviously contagious. A little seed planted in her brain. She could use this to her advantage. “What’s it worth?”
Lucy frowned. “What do you mean?”
Cassidy smiled. “I’ll take that bet. But what’s it worth?”
“Night shift Christmas Eve. Oh,” the words were out before Lucy obviously had time to think about them. She had her hand across her mouth. It was the most hated shift on the planet. Every year they had to draw straws to see who would take it.
“You’re on.” Cassidy held out her hand towards Lucy, who nodded and shook it firmly. She had no chance of losing this bet. No chance at all.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!