After months of fundraising by all the villagers, Alexia can’t wait to get going – but disaster strikes when every last penny is stolen. With Middledip up in arms at how she could have let this happen, Alexia feels ready to admit defeat.
But help comes in the most unlikely form when woodsman, Ben Hardaker and his rescue owl Barney, arrive on the scene. Another lost soul who’s hit rock bottom, Ben and Alexia make an unlikely partnership. However, they soon realise that a little sprinkling of Christmas magic might just help to bring this village – and their lives – together again…
I am so pleased to be able to bring you an extract from the book:
‘I’m hoping you can help me,’ the man began loudly. ‘I’m looking for someone called Benedict Hardaker. Ben.’
Alexia gave him a second look. The man had thin sandy hair and a forehead that looked as if it saw a lot of frowns.
Tubb shrugged. ‘Sorry, mate. Don’t think I know him.’
The man’s frown dug deeper furrows. ‘He might be staying with his uncle. Gabe Piercy.’
Tubb gave his odd smile, the corners of his mouth turning down instead of up. ‘I know Gabe. Not been in here tonight, though.’
‘He’s not at home either. Neither he nor Ben seem to have been answering their phones lately.’
Tubb looked sympathetic. ‘Bad signal round here sometimes.’
‘Right.’ The man’s cheeks were mottled red. ‘Perhaps if you do see Gabe you could give him a message to pass on to Ben? It’s very important that Ben sees his brother. Tell him Imogen really needs his help, too. Oh, and we’d actually appreciate knowing that Ben’s OK.’
Tubb began to move off to serve a customer. ‘If I see Gabe I’ll try and remember the gist.’ He didn’t look as if he’d try very hard. Probably the man ought to have at least bought a drink before demanding favours.
Alexia pinned her gaze to her phone screen. Should she speak up and say that Ben was fine – if you didn’t count being moody and changeable? But Ben might be hiding out in the woods for a reason.
On the other hand . . . the messages had sounded as if they could be important.
The ‘buts’ continued to circulate in her mind while the man drummed his fingers on the counter then turned and left.
Tubb paused in front of Alexia on his way to the till. ‘Have you seen Gabe today?’
She nodded. ‘Think he was going out this evening.’ He’d been going to see Christopher – they’d taken one awkward interview each: him Christopher, her Jodie – so maybe he was still there.
‘Gabe’s nephew is the wizard in the woods, isn’t he?’
Alexia nodded, unsurprised. Tubb knew a great deal about the village and everyone in it.
Tubb grunted and went to the till, frowning. Alexia had known Tubb since she was a child being brought into the beer garden for lemonade and crisps on a summer’s afternoon. Despite his often dour façade he had a code so far as his pub was concerned. It was the village’s oasis and people deserved to be able to relax there unhounded. Ben was a prospective customer by
virtue of having chosen to live in Middledip, even if on its very edges, whereas the man asking after him was an outsider.
In following the possible workings of his mind, Alexia found herself making a decision. ‘I’ll make sure the nephew gets the message. I can ring Gabe.’
Make sure you check out the next stops in the tour!