A festive story…

snow, sex, swingers, sex party

As it’s very nearly Christmas, here’s a free wintry, chilly, snowy – but fairly hot – story about a swingers’ party. This one was originally published in the Nexus anthology Silk and Strangers a couple of years ago.

Enjoy your festive season, everyone…snow, sex, swingers, sex party


Freeze Me, Please Me – Zak Jane Keir


The platform was off to the far side of the main station, yet hardly seemed to belong to it at all. It was like something out of an old film: hanging baskets already dusted with snow, sloping roof with that fancy woodwork trim, old glass lamps that Stevie couldn’t be sure weren’t gas powered or something. They’d got off the express and followed the signs, through the subway and up the rickety stairs, and he’d started to wonder if this was all for real

‘Opening credits,’ Jess murmured, sharing his thought in that way she had: they were still relatively new to one another but so in tune it was almost scary. ‘The train pulls up at the tiny station in the middle of nowhere, and the innocent young virgin steps down with her bag, lovely fair hair escaping under her black velvet hat, long black dress and those little high-heeled ankle boots, on her way to the spooky dark house where the Mad Lord lives.’

‘Yeah, but you’re not a blonde,’ Stevie suggested, and she put her tongue out at him. Jess, five foot six, with jet black pixie-cut hair and a ring through her nose, wasn’t a virgin either, of course, and as to innocent, well, that would depend on how you interpreted the word. He himself looked harmless enough, he supposed; average height, mid-brown hair, slim body… unremarkable. One of the reasons he still wasn’t sure what they were doing here, really. He’d not been with the company long enough to get himself noticed, as far as he knew, yet he’d been given the invite just like that, a week ago: team-building dinner, stay over at my country cottage, bring your partner. So he’d called Jess, who had fallen about laughing and come up with all sorts of suggestions as to what kind of hoops he might have to jump through, but agreed to accompany him on the grounds that there might at least be free drink involved.

He’d been given a map and the postcode – ‘for your satnav’ – and he’d almost thought the invitation would be cancelled when he’d said that he didn’t own a car and didn’t drive, and asked where the nearest railway station was. Still, the next thing was an email with a copy of the train times and where to change, and the handy hint that he and his guest could get a cab from the station or possibly just walk.

So now here he was, with Jess, on the last leg of the journey, with the snow starting to thicken as they paced up and down, and even though he’d seen the list of other colleagues scheduled to be there and hadn’t been all that impressed, he couldn’t shake a feeling of excited anticipation. Jess, who had reached the far end of the platform, turned back to him with a wide, exultant grin.

‘Train’s coming, I can see the light,’ she said, and even in a bulky sheepskin coat and wellies, she was still gorgeous enough to make his cock twitch in his pants. He was almost at the stage of envisaging some phantom Edwardian-style engine pulling up in a cloud of hissing steam, but the quaint little two-carriage diesel that did actually arrive was appealing enough and definitely on the vintage side.

‘How long are we on this one for?’ Jess asked, once they’d settled in a couple of seats in the rear coach and the train had started chugging up the track. Stevie fished the printout from the pocket of his parka.

‘Nearly an hour. Mind you, if the snow gets much worse I don’t know, I didn’t bargain on this.’

‘Don’t fret. I packed properly, babes. Hang on.’ She unzipped the front pocket of her rucksack and extracted a bottle of wine, along with two plastic flutes.

‘It’s nearly five o’clock, so we aren’t being alkies…’

He returned her grin as she opened the bottle, and took the glasses for her to fill.

It had been full dark for a while now, but the steadily-falling snow made it seem lighter and gave them a view of the wide sweeping landscape they were passing through.

‘Bit middle of nowhere…’ Stevie observed, sipping the wine. Jess ran a hand through her hair.

‘Yeah, but it’s an adventure. Adventures are always good.’ She drained her own glass and set it down on the little melamine table. ‘I need a wee, back in a minute.’

Watching her saunter up the carriage, Stevie wondered again what kind of adventure he was offering her on this trip. He still, sometimes, found it a bit hard to work out what she saw in him; women like Jess were usually on the arm of an aspiring rock star or something. Somehow, though, she seemed to want to stick around, and he was glad of it. Here she was again now, grinning from ear to ear.

‘Amazing loo on this train,’ she said, as she sat back down.  ‘You know how loos on trains are usually horrible? This one’s really nice, it’s really big and clean. You could just about lie down on the floor!’ She licked her lips, and poured herself another half-glass of wine.

‘Ever joined the Mile High Club?’

Stevie raised an eyebrow:  the few flights he’d taken had been in the company of male friends or, in his younger days, family members, so there had never been an opportunity to have sex on a plane.

‘Me neither,’ Jess admitted, before he’d even had the chance to answer. ‘I heard once that doing it on the Eurostar is the Mile Low Club, but I can’t say I’d fancy that, somehow.’

Stevie began to have an idea of what she was contemplating, and the thought of it gave him a rush of excitement. One of the many things about Jess that turned him on was her spontaneity: the night they met, she’d pulled him into a phone box on the way home and they’d wanked each other off, glorying in the juvenile naughtiness of it, glancing over each other’s shoulders in case any passers by were likely to catch them in the act. Remembering it now, the moment of helpless frenzy as his cock spasmed in her hand, jetting hot spunk against the dirty plastic side of the booth, he felt himself grow hard. Jess wriggled out of her sheepskin and slung it on the seat beside her.

‘Come on babes, I dare you.’

‘Just a minute,’ Stevie said, as the train slowed down. ‘Patience, patience.’  He was ready, but he couldn’t resist teasing her, just a little.

They had arrived at a station, but no one got into their carriage, so when the train began to move again, he followed her into the toilet and found it, as she’d said, roomy and clean, though he wasn’t entirely sure they could lie full length. With the door locked, she leaned her back against the wall, stretched out a hand and began to rub his crotch, cupping him through the fabric of his jeans, gently squeezing, stroking and pressing. He moved in up close and kissed her, slipping his hands under her thick jumper and sliding them up towards her breasts, pert and firm without a bra, as always.

‘Up against the wall, babes, fuck me up against the wall,’ Jess whispered, undoing the button and then the zip of his trousers, freeing his stiff prick from his pants. She wrapped her hand round the length of his shaft, her thumb skating repeatedly over his cockhead and teasing drops of pre-come from it as he got hold of the waistband of her leggings and eased them down. She was wearing little lace panties, snug against her shaven quim, and he caressed her through them, pushing the thin strip of scratchy fabric in and out between her hot, wet pussy lips.

‘Now, babes, Stevie, please, now!’ Jess moaned, spreading her thighs wider. He guided himself inside with one hand, kissing her, his other hand bracing against the wall, bending his knees a little to thrust up inside her. She was just the right height for a standup fuck, and now her hands were on his arse cheeks, pulling him in deeper, and she was grinding herself against him. The train had picked up speed, and the rattling, swaying, rhythmic motion seemed to be working with the pair of them, helping the delicious friction build and build. He had his hand between their bodies, middle finger working her clit as she bit his neck and urged him on, her cunt drawing him in, milking him, slick juicy warmth engulfing him, his balls tightening as he ground himself into her, harder and harder. He wanted to feel the hot gripping spasm of her orgasm, but he was too excited to last, couldn’t hold back and he was spurting, spurting, his mouth on hers, trying to keep back the words he didn’t quite dare say.

Feeling himself soften a little, he used his fingers, frigging her hard and skilfully while he was still inside her, pushing against her, kissing her again until she came against his hand, a warm gush of pleasure.

‘No one makes me come like you do,’ Jess murmured, a few moments later, wrapping her arms round him, and Stevie felt a glow of satisfaction that was more than just the aftermath of orgasm.  Quickly adjusting their clothes, they left the cubicle and went back to finish the wine.


Valeria was just tasting the casserole as Les came back in through the kitchen door with a basket of logs. He dumped them on the doormat and brushed snow from his hair.

‘Getting heavier,’ he said.  ‘Any more calls?’

Valeria replaced the lid on the casserole dish and returned it to the left oven of the Aga. ‘Alan and Lydia texted: they’ve given up and booked themselves into a Travelodge just off the motorway. But no word from that nice little Stevie and his date, so far.’ She straightened up, removing her oven gloves and dropping them on the workbench. A slim, classically English blonde in her early forties, Valeria had the kind of effortlessly correct elegance, even flushed from cooking a meal, which made it almost impossible to imagine her losing control, using vulgar language or screaming with joy as a huge stiff prick invaded her arsehole. Yet Les knew that under her expensive blue velvet dress, despite its modest neckline and calf-length skirt, she was wearing suspenders to hold up her navy blue stockings, and that her knickers were of filmy navy nylon, trimmed with lace. He’d seen her with a cock in her mouth and another in her pussy; he’d seen her fucking another woman with a pink crystal strap- on dildo, and he’d shot plenty of his own spunk over her lovely breasts.

‘And Kathy and her husband cried off earlier, didn’t they?’ he mused. ‘So at this rate it might just be you and me for dinner, and what will the big boss say then?’ They shared a smile, thinking of Colin Harper, the boss of the agency. While he wasn’t quite the amiable twit he liked to seem, Colin took a fairly relaxed attitude to what methods his staff used to get the job done, and while Les understood very little of the world of PR, he often thought that Valeria was lucky in that department: some people might have thought her ways of ‘getting the best out of people’ on the dubious side.

‘They still might turn up,’ Valeria said. ‘I don’t want to ring him in case it sounds like I’m putting him off. The boy’s a bit easily wrong-footed, he needs encouragement, lots of it.’

‘You know best, dear.’ Les added just the right amount of campness to his tone. Tall, well-muscled, crop-haired, he liked to present a vaguely military manner, though his only professional time in uniform had been as a security guard a few years ago. He went and got a bottle of wine from the rack on the kitchen counter, found the corkscrew and used it.

He’d met her when she came to one of the earliest swingers’ nights he’d been involved with, back in the days of the Renegades club. In the year since he’d discovered the scene and separated, amicably enough, from his wife, he’d had nearly a hundred thoroughly enjoyable erotic encounters with couples, groups and the occasional adventurous single girl, but now he’d got himself on the crew at Renegades, he’d slowed down a little. It didn’t always do to mix business with pleasure, after all: when he was working at the club he was there to keep an eye out for trouble and deal with it, if necessary.

Valeria had looked like trouble, at first. The bloke accompanying her tended to turn up with a different woman every week, and though he’d never put a foot out of line as far as anyone knew, there was something about him that some people didn’t much like. And now this woman with him, absolutely stunning but somehow detached from it all – maybe she was a journalist looking for a story, something like that. She’d sat on one of the high bar stools, a vodka and tonic in front of her, watching, watching. And Les had watched her: partly, he had to admit, in admiration. She’d been wearing a pale pink satin corset with ruffled silk panties, natural-coloured stockings and very high heeled pink shoes. The corset had been trimmed with satin rosebuds, and she’d had similar ones in her piled-up hair. The Fairy Princess, he’d called her in his head.

Then, in the general course of the night, he’d had other things to attend to, and when he went up to the bar later there was no sign of her, and he’d assumed at the time she’d found the place too grubby for her or whatever and fucked off. But she’d been back the next week, and the week after, and every week after that, unaccompanied by her original date, always wearing something amazingly classy, always starting the night at the bar with a vodka and tonic. Sometimes she’d caught him looking, and smiled at him, and something about that smile had made him aware that his original impressions had been inaccurate in every way. That smile had been filthy.

The fourth or fifth time she was there he saw her at the end of the night, pulling her coat on over that week’s silk and satin ensemble, and her hair was loose and messy, and her makeup was all gone, and she had a sleepy, sated air about her that somehow made him ache in a way he didn’t fully understand.  By now, other clubgoers were tending to mention her with enthusiastic approval, even though she apparently gave little away about her life outside these Saturday nights. The following week he’d been determined to keep an eye on her, and it had paid off:  seeing her head for the upper level with a group of other clubgoers, he’d given it ten minutes then decided to do a quick ‘troubleshooting’ stroll round the playrooms. He’d found her in the second one, riding the cock of one man in the reverse cowgirl position while she sucked the rigid pole of another, and a curvy brunette in black PVC played with her tits. He had no doubt that she’d arranged herself and the scene so that she and her playmates were displayed in all their glory to anyone pausing in the doorway. He’d nearly come in his pants when she turned her head a fraction, one cheek still distended with the prick she was fellating, and tipped him a tiny, sneaky wink.

That night, for some reason, the club had peaked early and seemed to empty out sooner than usual, so Les had been almost at a loose end by two-ish when he saw her again, sitting back on her favourite barstool, with what appeared to be a glass of white wine. As there was clearly not going to be a chaotic scramble for the cloakroom tonight, he had taken a deep breath and gone over to stand next to her.

‘Enjoyed your night, Miss?’ he’d asked. She’d looked him up and down and smiled that terrifying, filthy smile.

‘I could have done with one more big hard cock, actually,’ she’d said. ‘Would you have one handy, my good man?’

It had been four years ago, almost, and he remained enthralled by the contrasts in her.  Though they both had a knack of compartmentalizing their lives, and kept separate homes, they considered themselves completely suited to one another; a perfect match. Valeria had been encouraging and helpful in a dozen different ways when Les decided to take the plunge and set up his own swing and fetish club, and though she preferred to remain discreet about her own sexual activities in her professional life, Les had often been able to help her out with contacts, locations for photoshoots, various ways to add a just-edgy-enough touch to a product launch.  And then there were the Team Building Dinners.  Les sometimes thought that one day, there would be a disaster of some description, she would have read someone wrong, or someone would have a dubious agenda of his or her own, but so far it hadn’t happened. He had to admit, though, that the possibility of danger only made the whole business more exciting.


The snow was thick on the pavements now as Jess and Stevie trudged down the hill. At least, with only three roads in the blasted place, it would be difficult to get too badly lost, he thought, and it couldn’t be much further, surely. The warm glow brought about by the combination of wine and sex had dwindled away, and he was starting to feel horribly guilty for dragging Jess along on this ridiculous trip. At least, when they’d got to the station and found it deserted and the tiny cab office shut, he should have come up with a better option than trying to walk. Why hadn’t he just rung Valeria’s mobile and said, we’re stranded at the station, can someone come and get us? He supposed it was because Valeria made him nervous, even though she’d never been anything but charming to him. There was just something about her, that was all.

Besides which, Jess had instantly suggested walking. Shortly before they’d actually pulled in, she’d mentioned having been in the area once, a few years ago, and demanded to look at the map he’d been given, in case the village was the one she’d actually visited. She hadn’t, however, confirmed whether it was or not because the train had come to a groaning, shuddering halt and they’d had to grab their bags and dive for the door.

‘I reckon that’s it!’ she called now, a few steps ahead of him.  She’d stopped at a low, wide wooden gate and was brushing snow from the sign nailed to it with one gloved hand. ‘Ferndown Cottage, here we are.’

As he got close to her, she grinned at him, flicked the snow she’d gathered at the front of his coat and then grabbed his head and kissed him firmly on the mouth.

‘Cheer up, babes! I bet they’ve got a roaring fire, and dinner ready, and a butler with a silver tray of mulled wine for us, didn’t you say your boss was posh as anything?’

Her continuing good humour brought back some of his own, and they hugged their way down the uneven sloping drive that led to Ferndown Cottage. Despite the name, it was quite a substantial building, old-looking, with leaded windows and a big brick porch with a tiled roof, solid wooden door with a hefty metal knocker shaped like a dragon’s head. Jess picked it up and banged it good and hard. The door was opened almost immediately by a fit, authoritative-looking bloke in a dark suit who Stevie recognised as Valeria’s other half – partner? Husband? He couldn’t remember. Couldn’t remember his name, either, but luckily Jess was introducing herself with a big grin, and there was Valeria, very done up but smiling brightly at them, and it was all a flurry of ‘Come in, you must be frozen, we were starting to worry about you, have you had an awful journey?’ And then the wind and the dark and the whirling snow were safely shut outside and they were in the warm, well-lit hall, an open door off to the left giving a glimpse of a table laid for a meal and the open log fire Jess had been predicting. An appetizing smell of cooking meat and herbs filled the house, and Stevie began to feel more comfortable. Then he intercepted a lingering glance between Jess and the other man, and wondered what exactly it might mean.


Les was enjoying the meal more than he had expected. Not that Valeria’s cooking was ever anything other than delicious, of course, but he’d been slightly dubious about the entertainment prospects that might be on offer with only one other couple, particularly as that couple was going to consist of Stevie, whom he’d met briefly at an after-work drinking session that had overrun, and whatever girlfriend the wimpy little twerp might have managed to dredge up.  Though he didn’t know Kathy and Michael, the other two expected guests, Alan and Lydia, who’d bailed out on the trip when the roads had got too icy, were often at Ferndown and could be depended on for a little discreet fun late at night even if whoever else was there turned out to be non-participants. However, he’d been pleasantly surprised to discover that Jess was the girl Stevie was currently seeing. If he could attract a girl like that, there must be more to him than Les had previously believed. While Jess wasn’t exactly a regular at the Midnight Lounge, Les’ current club, she’d been there a few times and he’d had one or two chats with her when she’d happened to pick a quiet night.  She hadn’t let on about the connection so far, and he was happy to play along with her, though wondering if she was going to say anything was adding an extra layer of anticipation to the evening. He’d only just recognized her on the couple’s arrival, all bundled up in big coats like a couple of hippy students, but just before Valeria had taken them upstairs and showed them the bathroom and the front right-hand bedroom and left them to change, Jess had looked him up and down, and raised one amused eyebrow, before giving a tiny shake of her head.

He glanced across at her now and picked up the bottle in front of him, wordlessly offering more wine. She held out her glass with a smile before continuing the conversation she was having with Valeria about footwear. She was looking good, he thought, in a low-cut Goth-style dress of dark green velvet with long floaty sleeves, and even Stevie looked impressive: black drape coat and a white shirt with a fancy collar. Either the boy had hidden depths or Jess was a good influence on him. She’d be an influence on anyone, that was for sure: if Valeria was the English rose, fairy princess type, Jess was more of a dark goddess. She was leaning over to say something to Stevie now, and her breasts in that plunging dress were pretty spectacular.

By the time they’d finished dinner and were sitting in front of the fire with coffee and brandy, Les had revised his opinion of Stevie once again, and was mentally reminding himself that it was foolish to doubt Valeria’s judgement on anyone or anything. Valeria herself was looking enthralled and pleasantly surprised, and there was a definite feeling of something unusual going on. They’d been talking about lifestyles and subcultures, particularly sexual ones and had found that they were all remarkably in agreement. Just as Les was wondering who, exactly, was going to be the first to declare him or herself as an active participant on the sex party scene, every light in Ferndown Cottage went out.

It wasn’t quite the jolt it might have been, as there had been an arrangement of candles and pinecones on the dinner table which no one had bothered to blow out, and the fire was still relatively high. It did mean that everyone stopped talking long enough to realise quite how cruelly the wind was howling outside.

‘A power cut, how tiresome,’ Valeria said lightly. ‘That’s the trouble with the countryside – but it could be worse, Les brought in plenty of logs for the fire and we’ve plenty of candles. And with the Aga, we won’t even have to worry if it’s not back on by breakfast time.’

Jess and Stevie didn’t look too bothered, and Les was glad to see it. Not that he’d expected either of them to panic, it wasn’t like they were at the end of the world, but he hadn’t wanted anything to spoil the growing mood of… what would he call it? He didn’t know.


She should let Stevie take her away more often if this was a sample of what might happen, Jess thought, gazing up towards the ceiling in the dim glow from the fire. The minute she’d set eyes on that sexy old rogue, Les, she’d worked out that there was a lot more to Stevie’s boss than met the eye, and though she’d decided to stay discreet for the time being, she wasn’t worried about Stevie finding out. He was up for anything, that one, all he needed was a bit of encouragement. And the encouragement was about to be forthcoming, she was more than sure.

They’d carried on with the brandy and the conversation for a while, the combined warmth of fireplace and the residual heat from the Aga making them perfectly comfortable, but when Stevie made use of the upstairs facilities, he remarked on reappearing that it was pretty chilly up there.

‘Of course, the bloody heaters will have gone off,’ Les had said, and even Valeria had looked momentarily disconcerted. She’d rallied quickly enough, though, and suggested that they bring down a couple of mattresses and all the bedding and sleep in here, by the fire. With the armchairs pushed back up against the dining table, there was just enough room to spread a single and a double mattress, and with the quilts from all four bedrooms piled on top, they’d created a cosy nest for four people. Both Stevie and Les had chivalrously taken the outside edges, so Jess was cocooned between her lover and his boss, cosy and comfortable and more than a little horny.

A silence had fallen, and she wondered about the etiquette of instigating something. If it hadn’t been for the power cut, she might have steered the conversation directly onto the subject, but she’d let the moment slide. Still, she felt it was probably up to the host couple to make the first move, really – but that didn’t stop her rolling onto her side to put an arm across Stevie and making sure that, as she did so, she nudged her hip against Valeria’s. The older woman made a little purring sound and returned the pressure, just as Jess felt the slightest brush of fingertips against her arse cheek. She knew that Les was touching both her and Valeria in a way that could easily be apologised for, if she gave any indication that the touch was unwelcome, and she appreciated the subtlety of it.

No one was fully naked, but no one wore more than underwear; a couple of passing comments about shared body heat had been made and, though his eyes had widened slightly, Stevie hadn’t demurred. His skin felt hot to Jess’ touch now, as she ran her hand lightly over his chest and down the front of his cotton boxers. His cock was still soft, but she felt it stir and shift as she cradled it in her hand, and he reached out to stroke her cheek before kissing her on the forehead, then the nose, and finally finding her mouth. She had half-expected a protest or a query, but the kiss, after an initial hesitation, became hard and deep, and he turned his body towards her.

She felt his cock unfurl as she continued to rub and stroke it, and now he was teasing her tits, pinching each nipple in turn, gently rolling them between finger and thumb, pinching them into hardness, and her pussy was opening up and getting wet. She was aware of movements behind her, not sure exactly what the other two were doing, but a brief moment’s concentration gave her the impression that Les had at least one finger working on Valeria’s quim; she could hear light panting and the distinctive juicy squelch of a well-frigged honeypot.

Stevie seemed to pause for a moment, so she kissed him again and murmured against his mouth, ‘It’s fine. ‘S ok, don’t stop.’ He pulled back a little and she felt a flash of irritation, but then she realised that he was simply moving down so he could take her left nipple between his teeth after kissing a trail from her chin to her cleavage. This moved his lower body slightly away from her, so she reached out and found the waistband of his pants, got her hand inside and felt for his now fully-erect sex, caressing the length of it, holding it firmly.

‘I need to move round,’ she heard Valeria saying, though she wasn’t sure if the remark was meant for anyone but Les. Stevie seemed to take it as a cue to slide his own underwear right off, and then to do the same for her panties, pulling them decisively over her hips and down.

‘Get on top, Jess,’ Stevie whispered, drawing back slightly. She followed him across the mattress, realising that Valeria needed enough room to get herself and Les into a 69 position, or so she assumed. Whatever; she was going to get her own self sorted, and so she eased her leg over Stevie’s body, making the motion nice and smooth, barely even disturbing the quilts as she draped herself across him and slid her swollen, dripping snatch up and down the length of his prick, rubbing her clit against the column of rigid flesh, teasing herself and Stevie as she prolonged the moment.

‘Oh god, Jess, oh baby,’ Stevie groaned, and she rose up a little, just enough to get her hand between their bodies, grip the base of his shaft and impale herself on it, sucking him in, taking it all, the powerful muscles of her sex gripping the hot, stiff rod as she lay down on top of him, kissing and nipping at his mouth, holding him down, keeping the movements small but focussed. Stevie, as he so often did, understood what she needed without her having to tell him, and they settled into a tight and concentrated rhythm.

Next to them, she was aware of Valeria and Les operating at a similar intensity, their occasional muffled grunts and gasps intermingling with soft sucking sounds. The banked fire having died down almost to nothing meant there was little or no light to see anything, but that only made her other senses more acute. Her tits, pressed against Stevie’s chest, felt swollen, the nipples tingling; her cunt had that quivering, trembling feel that meant she was going to come very soon and really hard. She bore down on his cock, grinding her teeth, longing for the moment of release, so close now, getting closer. He was clutching her bum cheeks, pulling her close, and then he slid one hand down and under the yielding mounds and used the tip of his finger to circle her arsehole, gently pressing and probing, never quite going in, and that was just too much and she cried out, her whole body tensing and shuddering, grinding into him as he let go as well and drove himself upwards in a series of powerful thrusts, exploding deep inside her. At the outer edge of her mind, she registered the moans of similar pleasure taking place from the other two only seconds later.

Then for a few minutes the only sounds were those of four people’s breathing gradually returning to normal, and the occasional crackle or creak as the house settled around them.


As the Range Rover finally made it onto the motorway, early on Sunday afternoon, Valeria gave a sigh that mingled relief and regret. It had taken all four of them a good hour’s hard work to get Ferndown’s drive clear enough of snow for Les to move the damn car at all, but with the power still out and unlikely to return for at least another 24 hours, it simply wasn’t feasible to hole up in the cottage and continue where they’d left off the night before, even though she was sure the others would have enjoyed doing so as much as she would. She turned to look at Jess and Stevie, holding hands in the back seat: there was no way the two of them could have been abandoned to the mercies of the railway on a day like this.

‘I hope you’ll come again,’ she said graciously, and was gratified when they both laughed. ‘Ferndown’s lovely in the spring. And I think you’re going to be a valuable addition to the team.’

‘Oh, he will be,’ Jess replied. Her eyes met Valeria’s in the rear view mirror, and the two women exchanged a meaningful wink.


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