Novel Name : Hot Revenge Box Set 2

Chapter 29

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Coming down the stairs, my face heating, I brush by Michael. He inhales, eyes crinkling, but he doesn't
look at me, instead, suppressing a smile as he heads up.

In the dining room, I find Charlotte and Mitch. Charlotte sits by the fire in an armchair, humming to
herself, cradling Cara as though she'll never let go.

Mitch has brush and twigs laid out on the table, knotted and intertwined into a tightly woven whole, six
or eight feet long. She winds in sprigs of pine, ivy, and holly, glossy and green, and brightly berried.
Then she loops in ribbons of red and gold and tartan, twisting and knotting them with a practiced hand
into coils and bows. She looks up, eyes brightening. “Ah, Kirstie. Good timing. Can help me with the
swags, please.”

“You look as though you're almost done.”

“I am…” She twists wire through one end, then the other, “… but it takes two to hang them up. You take
that end, I'll take this. Onto the stepladders and we'll snag them onto those hooks over the fire.

The swag drapes over the hearth atop the mirror. It smells of resin and winter and… and…

Does green have a smell?

It does.

Green smells like that swag. It smells of the Winter festival when, for as long as people have gathered
in the dark of the year, they have brought nature and the Spring indoors as a reminder that soon, the
light will return.

Green smells of cinnamon and oranges and brandy and apples and cloves.

For as long as I live, green will smell of this Christmas.

In a final flourish, Mitch winds in a twist of mistletoe, then turning, arches a brow at me and drops a

Michael pokes his head around the door. “Ah, there you all are.”

James enters behind him, carrying a tray, loaded with sandwiches and slices of what looks like fruit

Michael perches on the arm of the chair, holding a plate while Charlotte takes a bite from a sandwich.
His voice is gentle. “How are you doing, Babe?”

She raises eyes, her green to his blue. “I'm much better today. I've barely coughed at all.”

I’m beginning to feel like a spare part. “Can I help?”

“Thank you, Kirstie.” James unloads his tray onto the table. “Yes, there’s more to bring in.”

In the kitchen, a pot of tea, steaming peppermint, sits waiting beside a coffeepot. “Crackers are in the
cupboard over there,” says James, “I’ll get the cheeses.”

But as I arrange crackers onto a plate, James’ mobile rings. He checks the screen then, as he taps in,
his eyes flicking to mine, lifts a finger to his lips.

Shameless with intrigue, I follow him out to the hallway, remaining silent as he briefly glances into the
lounge, then turns away, ambling to the far end of the hallway. Lurking by the door, I eavesdrop.

“Ah Eleanor, thank you for getting back to me so quickly…

“...Yes, my apologies. I realise it's somewhat of an imposition at this time of year, but you would be
doing me a huge favour... Ah, that’s wonderful…

“… Tomorrow then? Christmas Eve? That would be perfect. I’m in your debt. Thank you…” He pauses,
listening again. “Ah, yes. Chad. An excellent idea. It will help settle her in to see a familiar face.”

As he taps off, his eyes crinkle. Pressing the finger to his lips once more, he nods me towards the

I whisper, “What’s that all about? Or shouldn’t I ask?”

“Charlotte’s Christmas present from me and Michael,” he says in a low voice. “We were going to wait
until the Spring, but with everything that’s happened, we thought we’d move things forward a little. Give
Charlotte something else to think about.”

“What? Besides having a brand-new daughter?”

Rocking his hand, “Let’s say, something else to encourage her back onto her feet and get her back in
good physical condition. Having just Cara, so tiny and in the middle of Winter, might tempt her to spend
too much time indoors sitting down.”

Time to take the bull by the horns…

“James, while it’s just you and me, I wanted to ask, how is Charlotte? Really? What did they do to her?
What do the doctors say?”

He looks to the lounge door then cups a palm under my elbow, steering me away from the lounge door.
Then, dropping his voice even further. “She’s going to be fine, but she was in the most appalling
condition by the time we reached her.” His face tightens. “Even before she was abducted, Charlotte
was worrying about the birth. She was very nervous about what was coming. But then, when they took
her… The conditions they were keeping her in…” His voice cracks and he presses fingers to his


The distress in him is palpable. He draws a breath. “They’d chained her to a wall, left her lying on
concrete. She was in labour, in the cold and the damp, quite alone.”

His throat ripples. “Charlotte hasn’t had an easy life. She knows what it is to suffer. But it’s hard to
imagine anything worse that could have been inflicted on her. She’s not talking much about it, but she
must have been terrified.”

James’ expression turns bleak. “It’s not something I want to say to Michael, but if Charlotte didn't want
to have another child, I could hardly hold it against her…”

There’s still something…

Something more…

“James, is that all of it? All that’s bothering you?”

He swings his head. “No…” He breathes in. Breathes out. “Of the two men responsible, Finchby…” He

“Yes? Finchby?”

“Finchby’s dead.” His eyes flick to mine.

“And good riddance,” I say. Relief washes over his stern, handsome features. “What about the other

The relief melts away. “Baxter’s still out there. And, so far as we can tell, hell-bent on revenge.”

What the fuck do I say to that?


The indomitable James…

It cuts deep, seeing this man, this powerful, unyielding man, who I have always so respected, so
deeply upset.


No… Not for himself at least…

Upset… For Charlotte…

He recovers himself. “My apologies, Kirstie. I didn’t intend…”

I lay a hand on his arm. “James, is there anything I can do?”

He takes the hand, squeezes the fingers. “Be there, Kirstie. Be there for Charlotte. She's spent most of
her life alone. Not having anyone else to turn to. She needs to know there are people here for her.”

The lounge door opens and Michael exits, giving us a curious look. As though nothing had been said,
James, the hand cupping my elbow again, steers me past him and inside. “Kirstie, would you care for
some eggnog? Please say yes. Michael’s made enough to float a submarine.”


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