To celebrate the recent release of Hannah Pearl’s Christmas novel, Mistletoe and Mayhem at the Little Shopping Mall, here is an exclusive extract from the book!
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to get shut in a shopping centre overnight, this excerpt is bound to intrigue you! What will Caroline and Damian get up to in Holly Walk Mall after getting locked in?
We headed for the exit too. It wasn’t until we reached the new gates that I remembered I needed the key, and it wasn’t until I returned to my office to fetch it that I discovered Ian had taken all of them. Not before locking us in though.
I called his mobile but he didn’t pick up. I messaged, in case he’d avoided my calls thinking I was going to have a go at him again. When an hour passed with no reply, I rang my brother.
‘Stop laughing,’ I told him. ‘I can’t get out.’
‘Want me to come and break the gates open?’ he offered.
‘Only if you can pay to replace them. I’m not sure it would be covered by the insurance.’
‘Call a locksmith?’
‘That’ll cost loads too, and I don’t want to risk them damaging the old gates. I’ll try Ian again. He can’t ignore my calls forever.’
‘Good luck. At least you’re stuck somewhere you love. It’s not like you’ll be lonely.’
‘I won’t, he’s locked Damian in too.’
My brother laughed even harder at that. ‘Maybe he’s playing matchmaker? You could do with the help.’ I glanced up to make sure that Damian hadn’t overheard my brother’s comments, but he didn’t look scared so I figured I was safe.
‘We’re out of food,’ I pointed out. ‘The packed lunch you made was amazing but I finished it already. Do you think Marco would mind if I open the cafe and raid their fridge?’
‘You know he wouldn’t, Caro, as long as you find things you can eat without cooking.’ I hung up and looked at Damian.
‘Are there no other ways out?’ he asked.
I shook my head. There were none that I felt comfortable with.
‘We’re stuck, aren’t we?’ He didn’t look as happy about it as my brother had sounded.
I felt guilty when I saw his face fall. ‘I’m still hoping Ian will get my messages in a minute and call me back.’
‘And if he doesn’t?’
‘Do you have someone you need to get home to this evening?’
He shook his head. ‘I’m sure he’ll get back to you soon, won’t he?’
‘He will. And if not, he’ll definitely be here early tomorrow. He promised to open up because I’d pulled the extra shift with the builders today.’ I found myself grinning. I’d grown up daydreaming about what I’d do if I ever got to stay in the shopping centre overnight so I didn’t find the idea as daunting as Damian clearly did. I grabbed his hand and dragged him out into the concourse. ‘What do you fancy first? Dinner or a show?’
We started at Marco’s. I let myself in with my key and switched on the lights. ‘I can fix you a sandwich followed by the best ice cream you’ve ever eaten,’ I announced.
He followed me through to their giant fridge. It was packed with goodies. Packages of cured meats and boxes of cheeses greeted us, as did heads of lettuce and the reddest, plumpest tomatoes that just begged to be sliced and eaten with mozzarella and fresh basil. There were trays of lasagne, prepared that just needed heating but I knew not to touch those.
‘And we can really help ourselves?’ Damian asked, as he took in the vast range of choices.
‘As long as I don’t use the oven, we’re golden. I’ll make Ian pay them back for anything we take. Call it compensation.’
‘Can I cook?’ Damian asked.
‘If you’re asking if you’re allowed, yes. It’s only me who is banned.’ I pointed at a small black smudge on the ceiling. ‘That had three coats of paint and you can still see it. Nonna says it’s a sign.’
‘What were you making?’ Damian asked, his eyes wide as he noted how high the ceiling was and how much damage I must have caused to get smoke up there.
‘A toasted sandwich. These days I’m allowed to make myself tea, but I’m not even supposed to go near the coffee maker.’
Damian laughed, and it was just the tension break that we needed. Accepting that we might be stuck for some time, he stopped worrying about it. Maybe me digging out Marco’s grappa helped too. I splashed some more into our tea cups. Nina wouldn’t mind if we drank it. She was always on at Marco to cut down.
Damian found a clean napkin and used it as a makeshift tablecloth. I fetched cutlery and set the table as he cooked. He apologised as he dished up that it was just a simple pasta dish, but made with such great ingredients it was delicious. I fixed us ice cream sundaes for pudding. They weren’t as impressive as Marco’s but I made up with using a bit of every one of the flavours. We also had more of the grappa.
I tried Ian again as Damian washed up. No luck. So after we’d packed away what we’d used, I locked up behind us and let us into Peter’s electronics shop instead. He had a selection of DVDs that he used to test machines.
‘Rom com or action film?’ I asked, as I searched to see what films we could borrow.
‘Bit of both?’ Damian suggested. I picked Deadpool and fetched my laptop from my office. ‘Now we just need somewhere cosy. Shame we don’t have a furniture store any more. A nice comfy sofa would have been perfect. Although …’ I grabbed his arm and dragged him back through the mall, past the hut we’d spent all afternoon painting, and towards Doris’ shop. ‘She keeps a display bed at the back so she can show off her linens. We can borrow
some cushions and sit on that.’ I’m not sure if it was the alcohol talking, the long day of decorating or the tension with Ian, but I felt myself relax as we sat next to each other on the bed and I hit play for the movie.
I meant to try Ian one more time, to see if he would come and let us out, but the bed was so cosy, and I was so tired. And when Damian put his arm around me so that we could squeeze closer to see the tiny screen, well, I must have simply forgotten.
About the Author:
Hannah Pearl was born in East London. She is married with two children and now lives in Cambridge.
She has previously worked as a Criminology researcher at a university in Leicester, as a Development Worker with various charities and even pulled a few pints in her time.
In 2015 she was struck down by Labyrinthitis, which left her feeling dizzy and virtually housebound. She has since been diagnosed with ME. Reading has allowed Hannah to escape from the reality of feeling ill. She read upwards of three hundred books during the first year of her illness. When her burgeoning ereader addiction grew to be too expensive, she decided to have a go at writing. In 2017 she won Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City #heatseeker short story competition, in partnership with Heat magazine, for her short story The Last Good Day.
Find out more about Hannah here: Twitter: @HannahPearl_1
About the book:
Count down to Christmas with mistletoe, mayhem, meddling friends and mystery men …
There’s a saying about all work and no play – but there’s never a dull moment for Caroline working at Holly Walk Mall, especially at Christmas. When she’s not dealing with orders from Ian, ‘the manager who can’t manage’ as her friend Rachel puts it, she’s overseeing the usual late-night shopping sessions, Santa’s grotto construction and, most importantly, the sampling of many delicious festive treats at the Italian café her friends Nina and Marco own.
But when a new jewellery shop moves in and brings ‘mysterious guy with the cute bottom’ to Holly Walk, Caro isn’t yet aware just how much mayhem she’s in for in the countdown to Christmas. With strategically placed mistletoe, revealing cowboy outfits and even a bit of sleuthing, could this festive season turn out to be the liveliest yet for both Caro and her beloved Mall?