Today it is my great pleasure to bring you an extract from Dreaming of Christmas by T.A. Williams as part of the blog tour. My thanks go to Ellie Pilcher of publishers Canelo for inviting me to join the tour. Here is what the books all about:
About the Book
It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?
Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.
The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…
Perfect for readers of Tilly Tenant, Holly Martin and Philippa Ashley, this is the perfect magical Christmas getaway from the bestselling T.A. Williams.
Dreaming of Christmas
Zoë dropped the phone and picked up the half-dozen envelopes lying on her doormat. She sifted through the bills and flyers until she found the one she was looking for. It bore an Austrian stamp and it had been typewritten. She slit it open with her fingernail and pulled out a handsome printed card. There was a company name and address at the top and the invitation read:
Mr William Fischer
requests the pleasure of your company
at the Grand Hotel Schlossberg, Bad Bergstein, Austria
From 18th to 27th December
Her name had been written in the top right-hand corner, and she immediately recognised the spidery handwriting as Billy’s. He had added PTO at the bottom and, turning the card over, she saw he had scrawled a message.
Hope you’re well. I’m organising a little reunion for those of us who lived at number 23. It’s been ten years now and I thought it would be fun to meet up and compare notes. I do so hope you can come. I’m dying to see you again after so long.
PS My treat.
My treat? Zoë had heard that Billy had done pretty well for himself since leaving university, but treating all the people who had shared the house with him to a holiday in an Austrian hotel was going to cost a packet – especially over the Christmas period. Her eyes flicked back to the address at the top of the card. The name of the company was WF Computer Systems, and she remembered he had set up his own business shortly after leaving university.
She retrieved her laptop from her briefcase and did a quick search. It very soon emerged that WF Computer Systems had grown exponentially over the last ten years and was now internationally acclaimed, as was its founder and CEO, the reclusive William Fischer, aka Computer Billy. The address in the historic city of Salzburg was described as the company’s European centre of operations. A hasty scan down the Wikipedia entry revealed that Billy’s rise to superstardom in the world of electronics had been meteoric. From penniless nerd ten years ago, his company had emerged as a major international player, with hundreds, maybe thousands, of employees around the globe.
Zoë exhaled in amazement. Good old Billy. She spotted a sheet of paper left in the envelope and pulled it out. It was headed Information and it detailed what Billy’s treat was to be. Bad Bergstein, it transpired, was a ski resort and thermal spa to the south of Salzburg in Austria, and he was offering full board and lodging there for a week before Christmas and a couple of days after. They would be accommodated in deluxe single or double rooms (please specify), provided with ski and boot hire (if required), skiing lessons (if required) and a ski pass for the duration (if required). The hotel had a swimming pool and thermal baths – the Bad in Bad Bergstein meant ‘bath’ – as well as a fitness centre at the disposal of the guests. Transfers would be provided from Salzburg airport and back (please give flight information) and there would be a gala ball on Christmas Eve (dress code: smart). It all sounded wonderful.
Zoë picked up her phone and called Juliet back.
‘Wow, Jules, I heard Billy was doing well, but… wow!’ The more she thought about it, the more amazing it sounded.
‘I know, right? He says it’ll be his treat, but it’s going to cost the earth. Have you checked out the hotel?’
‘No, but I imagine it’s pretty swanky.’
‘Pretty swanky? Zoë, have you got a computer there? Just google it. Go on. I’ll wait.’
Zoë did as she was told and her amazement grew.
The Grand Hotel Schlossberg was a luxury hotel built in the traditional Tyrolean style, five or six storeys tall, with white walls and carved wooden balustrades to the balconies. In the summer these balustrades were hung with window boxes overflowing with red and white flowers, and the winter shots showed the surrounding fir trees laden with snow. The very top floor, under the eaves, was clad with dark timber, and a thick layer of snow on the gently sloping roof gave it a very cosy air. According to the blurb, it was possible to ski from there to the ski lifts and directly back to the hotel again. Pictures of the interior were every bit as impressive as the facade, and Zoë had to agree with Juliet’s judgement – yes, it certainly looked swanky.
‘Blimey, Jules, what a place. It looks incredible. Talk about luxury! So, are you up for it? Can you get the time off?’
‘As just about the only unmarried surgeon in the hospital, I’ve worked right through the last three Christmases, so they owe me. Yes, I’m definitely up for it – as long as you are.’ Zoë heard her hesitate. ‘But Zo, you realise what this means? If he’s inviting all of us, then that’ll mean Grant as well.’
Zoë suddenly had a very rude awakening. She had been so caught up in the excitement of imagining herself in the mountains, she had forgotten about her ex. She and Grant had hooked up during their final year at university and had lived at number 23 as a couple alongside the others. If Billy was inviting everybody from the house, he would no doubt also invite Grant. In fact, there was no reason for him to assume that she and Grant weren’t still together. Although she had lost contact with Billy over the past few years, the last time they had been in touch, she and Grant had still been an item.
She took a deep breath.
‘Bugger! For a moment there, I wasn’t thinking.’
‘He might not come, though, Zo.’
‘He’ll come all right. Anything to get out on the ski slopes. Besides, the place looks phenomenal.’
‘But even if he says yes, you’re still going to come, aren’t you?’ There was a pleading note to Juliet’s voice.
Zoë stopped to consider her options, but memories of her time with Grant came sweeping back once more, unbidden. The only contact she had had with him since last Christmas had been occasional emails about everyday things like bills, or the deposit on the flat, and she hadn’t met up with him at all. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and the familiar stinging in the corners of her eyes that she thought she had outgrown. Along with this came a surge of the anger that his callous departure had aroused, which still bubbled beneath the surface. The idea of seeing him again made her blood boil and her heart sink at the same time.
‘I really don’t think I can, Jules. I’m sorry. It’s all too fresh. I’d only make myself miserable, or I might end up trying to push him off a balcony or something. Either way, I’d ruin it for everybody else.’
‘Of course you wouldn’t. You’ve got to get on with your life, Zo. He behaved like a heartless moron, but you’re bigger than that.’ Juliet’s voice was low and her tone supportive. ‘Anyway, I’ve got an idea.’
If that has gotten you all interested in reading more, then you can find the book at the following retailers:
About the Author
T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.
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