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Dingle All The Way
Dingle All The Way
Dingle All The Way
Ebook154 pages3 hours

Dingle All The Way

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Mary hasn't told her family that she's coming home for Christmas. She decided it would be fun to surprise them when she got a last-minute flight after breaking up with her boyfriend just before the holidays.

But when she arrives in Dingle after a long and tortuous journey, she discovers that they've had the same idea and have gone to New York to surprise her.

To make matters infinitely worse, they've done a house swap with grumpy actor Evan, who makes it clear he doesn't want her around. So instead of the cosy family Christmas she'd been looking forward to, she's stuck with a housemate who just wants to be left alone to sulk and take moody walks on the beach.

But while temperatures drop outside, things start to heat up between Mary and Evan. Maybe it'll be a merry Christmas after all …

A cute and funny festive romance perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane and Catherine Walsh

PublisherBalally Books
Release dateDec 19, 2022
Dingle All The Way
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    Dingle All The Way - Clodagh Murphy


    ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to take you the rest of the way?’ the taxi driver asked, swinging Mary’s case out of the boot.

    ‘No, thanks. It’s not much further and I want to surprise them. My family doesn’t know I’m coming home for Christmas.’

    ‘Ah, that’s lovely. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.’

    Mary smiled, knowing they would be.

    ‘Well, good luck. And happy Christmas.’ He turned and walked back to the front of the car.

    ‘Happy Christmas!’

    He slid into the driver’s seat, shut the door and then he was gone, leaving Mary alone in the darkness on the deserted road. She rolled her shoulders, taking a moment to decompress before tackling the hill to her parents’ house. She was stiff all over after a long, wearying journey, from last night’s taxi ride to JFK with a belligerent driver who’d kept up a constant stream of invective about the holiday traffic, to the delayed flight that had spent longer in the air than scheduled due to heavy turbulence. Then there’d been the short flight to Kerry Airport, and finally the half-hour taxi ride along dark and tortuously twisty roads to the tiny village of Inch. After four years living in straight-edged, brightly-lit Manhattan, she’d found the drive nerve-wracking and she realised now every muscle in her body had been clenched the entire time.

    But it was worth it to be here, she thought, gazing over the broad expanse of Inch Strand below her and breathing in a deep lungful of salty air. There was a profound stillness here that was instantly calming, the only sound the distant hiss of waves washing on the beach below. She felt all the stress of the past week melting away at the prospect of a few days of fresh sea air, plenty of sleep, good home-cooked food and lots of quality time with her family. It was just what she needed to heal her battered heart.

    She couldn’t wait to see her mother’s face when she showed up at the door. She’d asked the taxi driver to leave her halfway up the hillside at the turn-off to the narrow lane that led to her parents’ house, so that no one would see her coming. The rumbling of her suitcase wheels echoed loudly in the thick silence as she turned away from the sea and dragged it behind her up the steep incline. She was looking forward to a long hot bath, a big mug of proper tea and snuggling up in a soft, warm bed. Tomorrow she’d sleep late and go for an invigorating walk on the beach, and in the evening the whole family would gather around the long table in the sun room for their traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Aidan’s glorious fish pie. The next few days would follow a familiar, comforting rhythm, and she already felt her spirits lift in anticipation.

    But when she turned the final bend in the road that brought the house into view, there was no welcoming light glowing into the darkness. If anything the pitch blackness only seemed to deepen, thrown into relief by the cheery glow of the other houses dotted around on the hillside. Her footsteps crunched on the gravel as she trudged across the driveway, her heart sinking. So much for her big surprise!

    Where was everyone? She looked around in bewilderment, stamping her feet to keep warm. Both her parents’ cars were in the drive, so they couldn’t have gone far. Maybe they’d been invited to a neighbour’s house for drinks or gone to the pub. She’d just have to go inside and wait for them to return from wherever they were.

    She noticed the Christmas wreath on the door wasn’t even lighting as she fished her key out of her bag. She pushed open the door and flicked on the hall light. It was warm and cosy inside, but there was something odd about the house that she couldn’t put her finger on. It wasn’t just that there was none of the hustle and bustle there’d usually be this close to Christmas. The place felt profoundly empty, abandoned almost.

    She tried to shake off her disappointment as she hauled her suitcase upstairs and stashed it in her bedroom. This wasn’t the welcome home she’d been looking forward to all the way from New York. She took off her hat and coat and threw them on the bed, then glanced at her watch. It was almost five. Surely they had to be home soon. If they weren’t back in the next hour, she’d cave in and ring someone. Maybe she could find out where they were and turn up to surprise them – though every nerve in her body protested at the idea of going out again.

    She took off her boots and padded downstairs in her socks, gasping for a cup of tea. In the kitchen she filled the kettle and flicked on the switch. Leaning against the worktop as she waited for it to boil, she again got that odd sense of emptiness. The room was strangely bare. Normally the day before Christmas Eve the house would be a hive of activity, with friends and family dropping off presents and supplies, neighbours popping in for drinks or to borrow forgotten essentials, and the preparations for Christmas dinner in full swing. Every surface would be covered with food – bowls of fresh breadcrumbs ready to be turned into stuffing, trays of mince pies cooling on the worktop, crates of vegetables waiting to be peeled, and pots of jewel-red cranberries popping and bubbling on the stove. But there was nothing here to suggest that the big celebration meal was just a couple of days away.

    Thinking about all that food made her hungry, and she realised she still hadn’t eaten since a bleak cardboard sandwich she’d had when she was hanging around at Dublin Airport between flights. When the kettle came to the boil and clicked off, she opened the big American style fridge to get milk for her tea and see what she could find to snack on. But as she reached for the milk carton, she did a double take. It wasn’t that the fridge was empty. There was plenty of food in it; it just wasn’t the right food. There was no massive turkey, no ham, no family-sized cartons of cream or sides of smoked salmon – just half a quiche, a wedge of leftover lasagne and some salad stuff alongside the basic staples and a big supply of beer. She closed the fridge door and scanned the room with a growing sense of unease. There was something very wrong with this picture.

    Could the family have decided to spend Christmas somewhere different this year? It seemed unlikely. It was hard to imagine her mother relinquishing control of the cooking. She wouldn’t trust anyone else to get it right – not even Aidan who was a trained chef and owner of a highly acclaimed restaurant. She’d felt sorry for Mary when she thought she’d be spending the day with Greg’s family. ‘It won’t be the same,’ she’d said sadly. ‘I mean, you don’t even know what they’ll do for stuffing. Some people put fruit and nuts and all sorts in it.’ As far as Sheena McBride was concerned, there was only one way to do Christmas dinner – her way. And anyone who’d tasted one of her Christmas dinners would find it difficult to argue with that.

    But maybe Bo had wanted to be home in her own house, and they were going to Aidan’s. If anyone could persuade her mother to break with tradition it would be Bo. She never could say no to her only grandchild. Still, if that was the case, why had no one mentioned it to Mary? She spoke to them often enough.

    When she’d made her tea, she wandered into the big open plan living room, mug in hand, and was drawn straight to the wall of windows overlooking the sea. At this time of the evening, all she could see was her reflection in the glass, so she turned out the lights to gaze at the shimmering waves of Dingle Bay while she sipped her tea. Even though she’d grown up in this house, the view never failed to captivate her.

    She sank into an armchair by the window, and as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she realised what had seemed so off about the house, apart from the unprecedented quiet. Her mother usually went to town on the Christmas decorations and would have the whole house decked out like the Dingle branch of Macy’s with ornaments and knick-knacks collected over the years. But it was uncharacteristically minimal this year. There was a garland on the mantelpiece, and the tree stood where it always did in the alcove beside the fireplace – a tall fir, the scent of fresh pine hanging in the air. But there were no presents under it, which was odd.

    She knew there would be some simple, rational explanation for all this. But she couldn’t for the life of her guess what it could be, and she wished her parents would come back soon and put her out of her misery. She’d done too good a job of keeping her trip home a secret. It had been difficult staying away from social media for the last few days, and she’d been itching to post on Instagram throughout her long journey. But she’d resisted. Now she was sorry she’d bothered.

    She should have told Abbie she was coming. One of her brothers would have been sure to let something slip, but Abbie could keep a secret. She was the only one Mary had told about her break-up with Greg. Her parents still believed she’d be spending Christmas with his family. She hadn’t been sure she’d be able to get a flight at such short notice – at least not one that she could afford – and she knew her mother would be upset to know she’d be on her own in New York having just been dumped by her boyfriend. Then when she’d managed to get a flight, the idea of surprising everyone had taken hold …

    Her eyes were starting to droop closed when she heard a key in the front door. Finally! She leapt out of the armchair, mug in hand, and raced to the kitchen, ducking behind the door and listening as footsteps came down the hall. She was poised, ready to spring out as she heard the living room door open and the light in the outer room was switched on. But then the footsteps were striding towards the kitchen, and before she could react, the door was being pushed open and she had to leap out of the way to avoid it hitting her in the face, the remnants of her tea splashing out of the mug.

    ‘Surpri—Aaagh!’ She shrieked, the grin sliding off her face. Because looming in the doorway was a very tall masked man dressed all in black, only his scowling eyes visible. She leaped back, and her mug dropped to the floor and smashed.


    For a beat they both froze, staring at each other in silence – though Mary’s heart was pounding so wildly, she’d be surprised if the intruder couldn’t hear it. She was backing away, looking around frantically for a weapon, when he spoke.

    ‘Can I help

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