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Authors: Paige Toon

One Perfect Christmas

BOOK: One Perfect Christmas
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Praise for Paige Toon

‘Another perfect summer page-turner from Paige Toon’


‘I loved it – I couldn’t put it down!’

Marian Keyes

‘Wonderful, addictive, sharp and sexy’


‘Brilliant… one of the rising stars of chick-lit’


‘Laugh-out-loud funny and touchingly honest. This is summer’s poolside reading sorted!’


‘Charming and romantic. Real old-school chick-lit, like they used to make in the old days’

Lisa Jewell

‘Witty and sexy – perfect holiday reading material’


‘A fast-paced and funny read… Superior chick-lit with great jokes and a thoughtful heart’

Daily Express

Also by Paige Toon

Lucy in the Sky

Johnny Be Good

Chasing Daisy

Pictures of Lily

Baby Be Mine

One Perfect Summer

Coming Soon

The Longest Holiday

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

Copyright © 2012 by Paige Toon

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Paige Toon to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue copy for this book is available from the British Library.

eBook ISBN: 978-1-47112-594-2

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

For Nigel Stoneman
who, with five little words, helped
make my dreams come true

One Perfect Christmas

I have a spring in my step as my boots crunch through the freshly fallen snow. It’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’m almost too excited to breathe. The
anticipation of the last few weeks – no,
– has been killing me. How I will sleep tonight… Who am I kidding? I

But first I have to get through today. The smile grows wider on my face and I actually giggle. Out loud. Like a proper nutcase.

‘Morning!’ I chirp to a lone passer-by.

‘Morning,’ he replies with a slightly wary look in his eye.

The streets are almost deserted at this hour on a freezing Saturday morning in the middle of December.

I practically skip over Magdalene Bridge, glancing fondly at the punts moored down to my right. There’s a thin layer of ice on the river and the buildings and streets are coated with
fluffy white icing, all shimmering under a perfect blue winter sky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cambridge look this beautiful.

Today is the day that two of my favourite people in the whole world – Jessie and Emily – get married to each other. I met Jessie when I was a student at Anglia Ruskin University,
here in Cambridge. He worked as a punter on the River Cam – he taught
how to punt – but that wasn’t the only way he brought joy back into my life. When I met him I was
a mess. But enough of that.

Emily was our housemate in my second year. She was as meek as a mouse when we first met, and Jessie and I hardly ever saw her. But eventually she came out of her shell and we became good
friends. Then she and Jessie became much more than that. They’ve been together for nine years, and now, today, they’re finally tying the knot.

When Jessie told me he had proposed to Emily I thought they’d get married in Scotland, where she’s from. But they delighted me by deciding on Cambridge. After all, this is where they
met, and I’m about to reach the house where Jessie grew up.

Jessie’s parents, Judy and Andrew, live in one of the gothic terraces on Mount Pleasant, at the top of the hill. They spent some time in America when I was at university, permitting Jessie
to rent out the two spare rooms to students – namely, Emily and me.

I open the gate, walk up to the heavy, intricately-carved wooden front door and knock. The door swings open almost immediately, and then I’m beaming up at Jessie. His red hair looks wilder
than usual, and his face a little paler. I realise with building hysteria that he has a slightly manic look about him.

I burst out laughing. ‘You’re freaking out!’ I exclaim, unable to offer him the calm, sympathetic shoulder that I probably should, given the circumstances.

‘Yeah, yeah, alright,’ he snaps good-naturedly, pulling me into the house and closing the door.

Then I throw my arms around him and he lifts me off my feet, squeezing the air out of me before starting to laugh, too. He puts me down and I look up at him.

‘Today’s the day, Weasley,’ I say gently, using the nickname that I came up for him when we first met a decade ago, because he reminded me of Rupert Grint – AKA Ron
Weasley from
Harry Potter

‘Sure is, China,’ he replies with a grin.

My name is Alice, but he calls me China because my grandmother was Chinese. I have her long, dead-straight black hair and a hint of her Oriental eyes, although mine are green, like my

We only started using our nicknames again about eight months ago. We hadn’t used them for years. We grew apart when… No. I’m trying not to think too much today.

‘Am I glad to see you,’ Jessie brings me back to the present. ‘How’s Emily?’

‘Cool as a cucumber,’ I reply. I left her in her hotel room on the other side of Cambridge. It’s only a small city, so it didn’t take long to walk.

I’m one of her three bridesmaids, and I arrived at her hotel this morning to find her calmly checking through the contents of her small suitcase before realising that she must have left
her tiara at Jessie’s place. I offered to walk here to collect it, seeing as I know Cambridge better than bridesmaids number one and two: Amy from Scotland and Ruth from London. I should do.
I’ve lived here for over ten years now.

‘Really?’ Jessie asks with surprise.

‘Yep. So you’d better get yourself together.’ I notice the tiara sitting on the hallway table. ‘Ah, good. You found it.’


I realise with surprise that I can’t smell the pancakes and bacon that I would usually be able to smell on a Saturday morning after a night at The Pickerel Inn, the local pub where we used
to hang out. We went there for some drinks last night for old times’ sake with a few of our punter buddies from the past.

‘Have you eaten?’ I ask Jessie with a frown.

‘No, I’m not hungry.’

I gape up at him. ‘What?’

He shrugs. ‘I’m nervous.’

‘You? Too nervous to eat?’ I manage to splutter. ‘Never, never,
did I think I’d hear that. Where are your parents?’

‘Mum’s in the shower, Dad’s still in bed.’

I check my watch. I have time – Emily won’t mind if I don’t rush back. ‘Right,’ I say with determination. ‘I’m making you breakfast.’

He follows me reluctantly down the hallway to the kitchen. I pull out a chair for him, and then set about getting the contents for Scotch pancakes out of the fridge and larder.

‘What time are Chris, Jacob and Tom arriving?’ They’re his groomsmen. Chris is one of our old punter pals, and Jacob and Tom are friends of Jessie’s from London, where he
and Emily now live. Emily is a social worker, and Jessie is a manager at a gastro-pub.


Good. They can take his mind off things, but for now that responsibility falls to me.

‘How’s the house?’ Jessie asks.

My smile threatens to break my face. I only moved in a week ago.

‘That good, huh?’ He gives me a weak smile. He must be feeling faint.

‘When are we going to be allowed to see it?’

‘Any chance you’ll have time on Monday before you set off?’ I ask hopefully. They leave for their honeymoon on Monday afternoon.

He frowns. ‘Aren’t you at work?’

‘Oh yeah.’ Trust me to forget about that.

He smirks.‘Bet you wish you weren’t. What time does he arrive?’

I catch my breath. ‘Tomorrow night.’

‘Excited?’ he asks with a wry grin.

I nod quickly and can’t stop my feet from jumping with delight on the kitchen floor.

Jessie laughs affectionately. ‘I love seeing you this happy.’

I smile and decant some flour into a measuring cup. ‘What about you, Weasley? How are you feeling? This is supposed to be the happiest day of your life.’

‘I feel like I’m going to throw up.’

We hear quick footsteps on the wooden floorboards overhead and both glance upwards. His mum must be out of the shower. She sounds like she’s racing around like a rocket, and then we hear
her squawking at Jessie’s dad to wake up.

‘She sounds even more stressed than you,’ I comment. Jessie is an only child, so this, effectively, is her big day.

‘That’d be right.’ He rolls his eyes and I turn back to the job at hand. ‘What are you doing?’ he suddenly snaps.

‘I’m spooning sugar into a bowl,’ I reply slowly, as though he’s a bit thick.

‘You haven’t sifted the flour!’ He sounds outraged. ‘Budge over,’ he says as he gets up from the table. He pushes me down into his
empty chair and I grin. Weasley making breakfast – order has been restored to the world. And, I think with amusement, I’ve managed to take his mind off things. Double result.

By the time his groomsmen arrive, his mum and dad are downstairs, the former fussing about, while the latter reads the paper as though this is an ordinary day.

Jessie sees me to the front door. ‘Don’t forget to give her these,’ he says, handing me a paper bag containing three Scotch pancakes wrapped in aluminium foil.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Emily was ordering a Champagne continental breakfast as I was leaving.

‘Oh, and I’d better remember this!’ I grab the tiara from the hall table.

‘Give her my love,’ he says, touching me on the arm.

‘I will.’ I smile warmly up at him. ‘Good luck.’


‘See you on the other side,’ I add. He snorts with derision and shoves me out of the house.

The morning passes by in a blur of hair, make-up and beautiful dresses, and when we finally go downstairs where the cars are waiting to take us to St Mary’s Church in the
city centre, Emily looks absolutely gorgeous. She’s wearing a long, cream-coloured velvet gown with a matching coat to protect her against the winter weather. We wouldn’t normally
expect snow this early, but no one is complaining – it’s magical. Her dark hair has been piled up on top of her head, underneath the glittering tiara. A few loose tendrils hang down.
Her make-up is pretty and neutral – she looks very, very different from the goth chick who moved into Jessie’s house all those years ago, with her heavy make-up, black clothes and nose
ring. She stopped dressing that way when she got her job in London.

As for us bridesmaids, we’re wearing floor-length smoky-grey velvet gowns and high heels. But even with our matching jackets, it’s hard to keep our teeth from chattering as we pose
for a few photographs. And then the show is on the road.

nervous as the doors to the church are opened, so I can’t imagine how Emily feels. Jessie is standing up at the altar with his friends and we exchange shaky smiles. As
Emily’s third bridesmaid, I have to lead the way in. Ruth is behind me, Amy, the Maid of Honour, follows her, and then it’s Emily and her dad. The music starts up and my feet take me on
autopilot up the long aisle. Concentrating on walking slowly and not rushing, I reach the altar and stand off to the left. Breathing a small sigh of relief, I turn around to watch Emily. The church
is quite full, and it’s hardly surprising – Jessie has always been enormously popular, and Emily is a far cry from the shy girl she used to be at university. Jessie is standing sombrely
as he watches his wife-to-be approach. It’s the look on his face that does it. My eyes well up and with blurry vision I see Emily smile back at Jessie as she reaches him. Mercifully, a tissue
appears out of nowhere. I smile gratefully at Ruth as the priest starts his address, and then we’re instructed to sit down. I turn to take my seat in the front pew, but do a double take as my
gaze falls to the rear, far left corner of the church. My heart skips a beat as his dark eyes meet mine. He has a beard, a bushy black beard, but it’s definitely him. He smiles a playful
smile and then gives me a look, nodding his head meaningfully. He’s trying to convey that everyone else is sitting down so I quickly do the same, but his stare burns into the back of my head
as my heart beats wildly. And then happiness floods me and I can barely contain myself. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here.

BOOK: One Perfect Christmas
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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