Christmas Griffin - Zoe Chant Page 0,1

to herself, soaking in Pine Valley’s cozily American Christmas atmosphere a whole ocean away from her family, and drinking mulled wine and eggnog until it ran in her veins.

Except then she’d driven into town and discovered every shop, restaurant and grocery store full of Belgraves, and all her plans had been pulled out of her hands like the last mince pie on Christmas Day.

She could handle it. She could. She was a Belgrave, after all, even if she hadn’t come out right. And the first way she was handling it was by leaving town—temporarily. Her grandfather, the patriarch of the Belgrave clan, had insisted that someone find him something to drink that was more palatable than the dross available in Pine Valley’s stores. Delphine had jumped at the chance. She always did. It made her feel a bit like Cinderella, doing everyone’s odd jobs and errands, but it got her out of the way. And this latest errand was an absolute winner. Spending a whole night away without worrying that someone was trying to speak to her telepathically or would insist she join them for a sneaky midnight flight…


She would wait until it was light, take her time getting her bearings, and slowly make her way back to Pine Valley. If she timed it right, she would miss family breakfast and perhaps even lunch as well. And she would pretend, as she always did, that the opportunity to get herself out of a fix by using shifter abilities had never arisen.

If only they hadn’t come at all—She pushed the thought away before it could take root. No point wishing for things that hadn’t happened or for things hadn’t happened that already had.

One night down, she told herself. After that, four to go. Tomorrow, then Christmas Eve. After that, the big day—she couldn’t exactly skip out on Christmas, but hopefully everyone would be so sozzled on food and drink that they wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about her. One more day after that, for everyone to sleep off their hangovers, and then the great Belgrave clan would go their separate ways. Most of them would fly directly back to the UK, where they were all lived.

Five nights. Delphine closed her eyes. Five nights. Four days—four and a half, if she counted the final day, when everyone would be packing and leaving.

She could manage that.

She had better.

Because if she wasn’t very, very careful, then the lies she’d built up around herself over the last fifteen years would come crumbling down before Christmas was over.

She checked the time. It was past nine; if her GPS hadn’t failed her, she would have almost reached Pine Valley by now. Night seemed closer out here in the mountains. Darkness pressed against the side windows, and even the headlights seemed thin and weak, as though the night was too powerful for them. If she turned the car engine off…


Complete darkness. For a second, her eyes didn’t want to catch on; after-images of the light inside and outside the car lingered in her vision. She blinked them away and stared out at the full pitch black.

It was as though the world was completely empty, and she was utterly alone.

Something that had been knotted inside her for so long she’d forgotten it was there slowly released.

“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, but that wasn’t enough to describe the feeling that filled her at the sight of all that nothing outside. It made her wish that—that—

She let out a hard, heavy breath and wrapped her arms around herself. Forget what she wished; she’d just found a little problem with her big plan to stay in her car overnight. With the car’s heating turned off, the darkness wasn’t the only thing pressing in.

Turned out, winter in the mountains was cold. Who’d have thought?

Delphine grimaced at herself and turned the key. The car roared back to life: engine, heating, defog all back on. The night’s enchanting emptiness faded away, replaced by a sight more troubling than Grandmother Elaine peering at the hotel’s wine list.

Tiny flecks of snow were dancing in the beams from her headlights. As she watched, some of them landed on the windshield and melted. Then bigger flakes joined them, flurrying more heavily through the air, and when these ones landed, they didn’t melt.

“Oh, good,” Delphine said again. It wasn’t like there was any point in saying oh, bad. She knew it was bad. Saying it out loud wasn’t going to change that.

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