I am delighted to be closing the blog tour for Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington. My review was posted on Friday, and I happily gave it five stars. So today I have for you an extract from the book, and I also have a copy of the book to give away.
My eyes greedily take in the view ahead of us, down Grafton Street. Red, flickering lights coil around luscious green garlands, which drape from one side of the street to other. In the centre of each garland is a large red Victorian lantern and the light casts a warm glow over the busy cobbled street. Each shop window is alight with Christmas lights and resplendent baubles in rich jewel colours.
There’s something about the energy here … well, it is breathtaking.
I’m not the only one who feels that. I can see it on the faces of people as they rush by too, with their pre-Christmas festive highs.
Okay, maybe not so much on that guy's face, I giggle, as a harassed man in his forties rushes by. Last minute shopper, I decide. Poor sap. I’ve mine all done and dusted since October. I wouldn't dream of leaving it to now. But aside from the odd scowling face, the street is awash with a sea of shiny, happy people.
"Look over there." I shout in excitement as I spy a window display with a group of reindeers nibbling on fake grass in the snow. Then another scene catches my eyes and I’m darting over to the other side of the street, pulling Jim behind me.
“Earlier, when you said happiness is …" Jim waves his hand around the Christmas card view in front of us, "is all of this what you meant by happiness?"
"Well, obviously lots of things make me happy. But this, well it’s up there with the best of them. I love everything about Christmas. You must feel it too? Doesn't it feel like we’re in a Christmas movie right now?" I exclaim.
"Oh a blockbuster for sure." He drawls. "Aside from twinkling lights, which I know you’re a sucker for, what else makes you happy?"
I reckon the feel of my hand in his, as we walk through the frenzied crowds is top of my happy list right now. But a girl has to hold some cards to herself, so I remain silent.
"I want to know. Come on Belle. What else makes you happy?" Jim persists.
"Oh a lot of different things. Not having to set the alarm on Saturdays and Sundays. Peanut butter on hot toast. But don't be giving me cold toast. I can't be doing with rubbery cold toast." I say.
"A shootable offence that?" He asks and when I nod, he says, "I'm taking notes here. This is good intel."
"Well, while you're at it, add to the list that not spreading said peanut butter to all corners of the toast is equally damnable. I can't be doing with someone who just smears it on willy nilly, not giving due consideration to all parts of the bread." I tell him.
"Got it. Take care when smearing peanut butter - evenly - on piping hot toast. What else makes your ladyship happy?" He says, tipping his hat in mock salute.
"I love starting a new book and then realising that's it’s one of the good ones. The kind that I am not going to want to finish." I say.
I think some more and add, “Oh and dancing. Any kind, but preferably one that involves a lot of bum shaking is guaranteed to make me smile."
Jim raises his eyebrow so I reward him with a little shake of my bum.
"See. Look how happy my dancing makes you too." I tease, and he bursts into laughter.
"Oh you can be assured that your bum makes me happy," he declares giving it a pat and I thank the stars that I stuck at the squats this summer in the gym.
"You’ve not mentioned swinging." Jim states.
"How very dare you. I’m a respectable lady I’ll have you know. I've never left my key ring in anyone’s fruit bowl." I feign outrage. I know what he's referring to, but it’s still fun teasing him.
He starts to splutter an explanation then he realises my game.
"Yes Jim Looney, I still love swings. I can’t pass by a park without seeing how high I can go." I admit. "And I do some of my best thinking when I’m up there chasing the clouds."
"You were always the same." He remembers. "I was more of a slide man myself."
I remember him always trying to climb up the slide, rather than use the ladder and me begging him to push me higher and higher on the swings. That was a long time ago though.
He pulls me to the side of the street, out of the lane of traffic and looks searchingly into my eyes.
"What about me? Do I make you happy?"
I’m surprised to see that my confident, laid back boyfriend looks like a ten year old boy, suddenly unsure of himself.
Without hesitation, I take his hands between my own and tell him, with the utmost sincerity, "You, Jim Looney, make me happiest most of all."
My friends would be horrified that I’ve laid my heart bare so early on in our relationship. I know that I probably should play a little harder to get. But I’ve never been any good at hiding how I feel.
"You get what you see with my Belle." Tess always says. Heart on sleeve territory.
Well, he’s getting a complete, hopelessly devoted to you, kind of lovestruck feeling from me right now.
He gives me the strangest look. Damn it, I've frightened him off.
"You're full of surprises." He says after a moment of tortured silence and you’d swear he was just seeing me for the first time.
"You ok?" I ask and my stomach flips. That strange look is back on his face. It worries me.
"So much has changed since I left, but then some things, are just as they were when I said goodbye." He murmurs. "It’s disconcerting."
"You’re getting all reflective in your old age." I poke him in his side. "Now enough of that, come on admit it, Brown Thomas gives Macy's a run for its money, doesn't it?"
"Absolutely, it’s not half-bad.” He acknowledges in his slow half Midwestern, half Irish drawl, and we pause to take in the decadent window displays.
"I really think it’s the most beautiful street in the world." I murmur. "When I stand here, I feel like a child again."
As we move from window to window of the department store, Brown Thomas’s, I have the most wonderful sensation that I've been engulfed in a big Christmas hug. Mannequins draped in Victorian clothing, bejewelled with pearls and glittering gems, stand and sit in displays, dressed with snow, fairy lights and dazzling Christmas trees. I lean back into Jim’s embrace and nuzzle my head into the crook of his neck.
Oh, I love how he smells. I've spent some time on this subject and have decided that it's a mix of spice and cinnamon and oaky leathers. He actually smells a bit Christmassy.
And then his arms wrap around my body and I think he’s just so … I struggle to find the right word and then giggle when it comes to me. He’s just so manly, yes that’s the word.
I catch a glimpse of us in the reflection of the window display, me giggling and him smiling in response, even though he has no idea why I’m doing so and I don’t think I’ve ever felt luckier.
I notice a few people looking at us. I'm used to that, the gawping that is. The foxy haired Irishman with a Midwestern US drawl and the caramel skinned Amazonian woman, with black afro hair and Dublin accent. An unlikely pair maybe, but we somehow fit perfectly.
When I stand by his side, he makes me feel prettier than I’ve ever felt with any other man. It doesn’t hurt that at 6" 4 he can make my 5’10 tall frame look almost petite. Well, maybe not petite, that’s probably a stretch.
And never mind how he looks, it’s how he makes me feel that has me undone. Ever since our amazing first kiss, I crave him, there's no other way to describe how it feels than that.
I mean, I was doing very nicely without him for the past ten years, thank you very much. Now I cannot be without him.
Is this what true love feels like? Did Cinderella feel like this when she met her Prince Charming? I hope so.
What happens when he goes home to Indiana after Christmas though?
There’s that nasty inner voice again. Shut up. I refuse to even think about anything more than in this moment. And to prove that point I turn to face him and kiss him passionately, with all my being. I don’t care who is watching and it appears, as his tongue makes its way towards mine, that he doesn’t either.
"Ahem." A voice coughs and we pull apart to see who is trying to get our attention. It’s the dapper concierge of Brown Thomas. He’s wagging his finger at us, but he's smiling, there’s no sting to his rebuke. He just wants us to move away from the front of his store.
"Sorry about that." Jim tips his head towards him and we start to move away. "Let’s go get some of that mud pie you keep going on about. I think I’m gonna need to keep my strength up with you."
I wave happily to the concierge and he waves his top hat to me, shouting, "Merry Christmas, lovebirds."
The chocolate pie tastes as good as I remember. Jim suggests sharing a slice, but I put that notion to bed straight away.
“I’ll add the no sharing of chocolate treats to my list.” he jokes.
When we leave Captain America’s, sated and giddy with sugar, we stop, listening to the sounds that tinkle in the air.
We walk slowly up to Stephen’s Green and take a stroll around the park. It’s quiet there and we walk in comfortable silence.
Giveaway to win a paperback copy of Every Time a Bell Rings (UK Only)
If you like the sound of this book, then this is the giveaway for you. I am giving the readers of Rachel's Random Reads a chance to win their own copy of Every Time a Bell Rings in paperback.
Giveaway open residents of the UK only, due to postage costs (I will do more international giveaways soon), all options are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 13/12/2015. Winner will be announced on twitter and emailed, and they will need to reply within 7 days, or forfeit the prize, and I will re-draw for a new winner. Good luck everyone.
About Carmel Harrington
Carmel Harrington lives with her husband, Roger, and children, Amelia and Nate, in a small coastal village in Wexford. She credits the idyllic setting as a constant source of inspiration to her. She has won several international awards including Kindle Book of Year and Romantic eBook of Year at the Festival of Romance in 2013 for her debut novel, Beyond Grace’s Rainbow.
Carmel is a regular on Irish TV as one of the panelists on TV3’s Midday show, as well as being interviewed on RTE1’s Today show, TV3’s IrelandAM and The Morning Show. She has also been interviewed on US TV – Indiana’s WNDU. A regular guest on radio stations nationally, including BBC Radio 1 Ulster, RTE Radio 1, Newstalk, SouthEastRadio, Artyfacts and many more regional stations. A popular freelance writer, she has written features for the Irish Independent, Daily Mail, Evening Herald, Woman’s Way and acclaimed online blog, Mothering In The Middle.
Carmel is also a popular motivational keynote speaker at events in Ireland, UK and US.
To find out more about Carmel, go to www.carmelharrington.com.