Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christina Hollis: Highland Hideaway...

My mum has been hospitalised with a chest infection, which would be bad enough at any time of year but in the run-up to Christmas it's hit her very hard. I'm working on a snow-bound story to cheer her up. 

In the name of work Megan gets stranded in a remote Scottish cottage (the Highland Hideaway of the title) with only a heartthrob celebrity for company. It's no dream job. Drew Wallace is a man whose public image is all an act. He's ticked the box for "no publicity" while he takes a break from the bright lights, but Megan's on a deadline.  Facing a huge hike in her rent, she really needs this interview to pay her bills, and avoid being thrown out of her flat.

Here's the opening of the first draft...

Shepherd’s Bothy was only a deer's leap up the track, according to the cabbie when he left Megan at the bottom of the hill. He was right—if it was a deer with legs as long as BeyoncĂ©. From the main road, Drew Wallace’s hideaway was a smudge of light in the black landscape. After toiling up the track for what felt like hours, it grew into a huddle of buildings with their backs to the mountainside. 
Megan stopped to catch her breath. A shadow broke away from the surrounding darkness and an owl swept over her head, making her duck. As she jumped sideways there was a crack like gunfire, and her Samsonite slewed. The handle bucked out of her hand, and the next ripple of fitful moonlight ran over its broken axle. One wheel lay flat on the frozen mud.  
Hahaha! shrieked some animal from the slopes, high above in the darkness. 
The owl hissed an answer from the nearest tree.
‘If it wasn’t for you frightening me half to death, that wouldn’t have happened.’ Megan huffed.  So much for the peace and quiet of the countryside. ‘If I had the time and energy, I’d sit down and swear.’ 
Icy blasts sucked all the warmth from her body, replacing it with cold prickles. The wheel was too big to fit in her coat pocket. Pulling the case along on one castor almost broke her wrist. If her best friend Sandy’s wedding present hadn’t been inside, she would have abandoned the thing in the nearest ditch. There was nothing for it but to battle on, hoping Drew Wallace, Man of the Moment, could fix the break. 
This darling of the gossip columns was more than just a handsome face. As well as being the top man of wildlife-documentary making, he was well-known for being able to turn his hand to anything. Asking the world’s most famous recluse if he was any good at running repairs would be an icebreaker, if nothing else. And there was plenty of ice about tonight. 
Megan hauled the case up into her arms. As she bunny-dipped to pick up its wheel, the moon did another disappearing act. Groping in the dark, handicapped by the dead weight clutched to her chest, she lost her balance. The Samsonite went one way, Megan went the other—and landed with a bang on her bottom. 

Muttering through her teeth, she fumbled about. Finding her luggage again she scrambled to her feet. What was the point of wasting all those hours traveling up from London, worrying how Drew Wallace would react when she turned up out of the blue— or rather, out of the black? Working out how to get to his house in one piece would have been more use.  

Security lighting bloomed over the bothy. Actually meeting Big Bad Drew Wallace would be a snap after this endless struggle up the mountainside. It would have been quicker to fly transatlantic. If only Sandy had stuck with New York for her celebrations rather than switching to her hometown of Inverness at the last minute, they’d all be looking forward to brunch in Allswell tomorrow. Instead, it would be a Best Western special in the capital of the Highlands.
Not that spending the next few nights in Scotland wouldn’t be a great break. Leaving behind office paperwork until the New Year felt good, but a bachelorette party to kick off the holiday season took some beating.  When her boss, Max Croome, suggested she came up to the Highlands a day early on time-and-a-half plus expenses to coax Drew Wallace into writing his autobiography for Croome and Filditch, it felt like the icing on Megan’s Christmas cake. 
Shepherd's Bothy is only half an inch away from Inverness on the map. How hard could it be? 
The last two hours of delays, transport strikes and route-marching had been a tough lesson in Highland geography.
Max had been upbeat. “All you have to do is pop in to Drew at the Bothy, get him to sign on the dotted line of this contract, and Bob’s your uncle!”
And Fanny’s your aunt.
Mr Rossiter, Megan’s landlord, had a lot to answer for. Anyone who brought in a rent rise from 24th December deserved to be haunted by nightmares, like Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol...

Megan's got a big shock in store when Drew opens the door. He may be a hunk but he's also a tough, bad-tempered misery. Getting snowed in at his Highland Hideaway for the holidays feels like a life sentence—until Megan makes a discovery that changes both their lives forever... 

I’d love to know what you think of Highland Hideaway so far. You can let me know in a comment below.

I hope you have a lovely holiday season, and a happy, peaceful New Year. See you again in 2017! xxx


Jeanne Miro said...

Christina -

As soon as you mentioned Highland and Hideaway you had me hooked!

I must admit as soon as Drew opened the door I loved the way that Megan realized immediately that he would not only be tough as well as being a bad tempered "misery".

Since I've been married to my husband for 54 years I have a feeling that she'll find out that Drew is the man she's been waiting to meet!

Jeanne Miro

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Jeanne, I'm glad you enjoyed the extract. I'm not giving away any secrets just yet :) but there's a happy-ever-after *and* a wildlife surprise waiting to be discovered in Megan and Drew's Winter Wonderland!