Carrie Hatchett’s Christmas

Do you hate it when shops put out their Christmas decorations too early? From what I hear, this isn’t such a problem in the United States because Thanksgiving is one month earlier, then the tinsel and baubles go up afterward. But in other English-speaking countries, the pressure to go Christmas shopping seems to begin earlier and earlier every year.

So I apologise in advance if this week’s snippet gets you thinking about Christmas too soon. When it comes to publishing books, writers don’t have any choice but to factor in rewrites, editing and cover creation, and begin writing holiday stories months ahead of their planned publishing date.

In November last year, I published Carrie Hatchett’s Christmas, which is a standalone novelette in my Carrie Hatchett, Space Adventurer series. In the tradition of Doctor Who (which inspired the series), I plan to write a new Christmas-themed story in the series every year. This time round it’s A Very Carrie Christmas. Hope you enjoy this snippet from the beginning of the book.

Chapter One – The Office Christmas Party

Spirits were high at the premises of Carrie Hatchett Enterprises—in more ways than one. Carrie had hidden a few bottles of a choice, aged malt whisky in the locked cupboard above her filing cabinet in her personal office. But she wasn’t sure if she had enough for all her employees to have a celebratory Christmas tipple.
Luckily, she knew just the person to ask.
She made her way to the other side of the building, to the open plan office where her call center workers answered customer enquiries and complaints. The person she wanted was at his station answering a call. He had his back to her, so she went over and tapped him on the shoulder. He started and turned around.
Carrie mouthed. Have you got a minute?
“Thank you, madam,” Dave said. “You have a nice day too. Merry Christmas!” He snatched off his headset and mic and said to Carrie, “What did you do that for? I nearly jumped out of my skin.”
“Sorry. I just wanted to ask you a favour.”
Dave sighed and stood up, pushing back his chair. “Carrie, let me show you something.”
Taking her gently by the elbow, he steered her across the office and out of the door. She stopped, confused. Dave beckoned with a finger. “Follow me.”
Trotting behind her long-legged friend as he sped off, she soon realised he was taking her directly back to her own office. “Oh, Dave,” she grumbled.
“Morning,” said Mrs. Hepplethwaite, Carrie’s personal secretary as they passed her. She was playing solitaire on her computer.
“Morning, Alice,” he replied.
When they arrived in Carrie’s office, he gestured to the seat behind her desk. “Sit there.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know what you’re going to say.”
He put his hands on his hips. “Sit.”
Carrie slouched around her desk and flopped in her chair. She rested her chin on her hand. “Dave, I know—”
“Pick up the phone.”
Looking up at him from beneath a frown, Carrie did as her friend directed.
“Now, what’s my extension?”
“Eight three nine, but—”
“So the next time you want to speak to me, what are you going to do?”
Carrie sighed. “But I don’t like calling you to ask you to come over. It feels like I’m summoning you. Like you’re my slave. I hate it.”
Dave half-sat on her desk and his expression softened. “I’m not your slave, but I am your employee. It’s perfectly normal and fine for you to call me if you want me for something. What’s not normal or fine is for the owner of the company to traipse right across the site just to have a word with someone whose salary they’re paying. You’ve got a secretary, for goodness sake. The poor woman’s bored out of her head. Why not give her something to do if you want to speak to me?”
“I’m just not comfortable ordering her around. Besides, I can do most things myself.”
“So, if you don’t have any work for her, why not let her go?”
Carrie looked horrified. “I’d never sack Mrs. Hepplethwaite. She’s got three children.”
“Then make use of her,” Dave exclaimed. “Give her some tasks. I’m sure she wants to learn and improve her skills. People need to feel useful, Carrie. They need job satisfaction. They want to feel valued.”
Grimacing, Carrie replied, “You’re right. I didn’t think of it like that.”
“I’m glad you understand. Now, we’re really busy. Everyone’s phoning up before we close for the holidays, so—”
“Wait, I wanted to ask you something.” She walked across to the cupboard that held the whisky bottles. “Do you think six bottles is enough for everyone to have a nip? I thought it would get us all in the Christmas spirit.”
“Six bottles is plenty,” Dave replied. “But do you think it’s a good idea? I know a few who could probably put away one of those all by themselves.”
“Don’t worry. I remembered that most people are driving, so it’s to be strictly one finger each at the beginning of the party, so they have time to sober up before they go home.”
“You got this whisky as well as the hampers, personal Christmas presents for everyone, and everything for the party?”
“Yes,” said Carrie. “I couldn’t think what else to get. I’ve forgotten something, haven’t I?”
Dave stepped close, and she found herself enveloped in a manly hug. “Carrie Hatchett, you didn’t forget a thing. You’re the best boss ever.”
She hugged him back. “Aww, thanks.” Stepping back, she rubbed his upper arm. “Is this cashmere? It’s very soft.”
He straightened his cream, rollneck sweater. “Yes, it is. It’s a Christmas present from Iain. Do you like it?”
“It’s gorgeous. You look like a very handsome fisherman. But you’re naughty to open it before Christmas.” She waggled a finger at him. “Now, back to work, slave,” she said haughtily, and fluttered her hand, dismissing him.
“As you command, oh mistress.” Dave backed towards the door, his head bowed, raising and lowering his hands in supplication. But when he reached the door, he sprang forward as if someone had stuck him in the bottom with a pin. “Ow!”
“What’s wrong?”
Dave was staring at the open space of the doorway and rubbing his posterior. “I don’t know. I thought I felt something.”
Carrie sniffed. A strange odour of chocolate mixed with lemon had pervaded the room. Dave smelled it too. Their gazes locked. Simultaneously, they said, “Gavin.”

Thanks for reading! To read earlier Saturday Snippets, go here.