Martina’s café staff have gone missing. Dequan’s mystery Christmas holiday is far too full of homicidal geese. Martina offers Dequan sanctuary—and nights in her feather bed. Time flies, geese are a laying, and the time for Christmas magic is nearly over.
After Christmas, Martina wakes to a world of trouble. How can she run her café when her staff is MIA? Who is that handsome gooseman at the market? Why does he crash her café with six geese? Gott im Himmel! Where is the gentleman lover of her dreams?
The staff have left a message on a Christmas napkin. If it means what Martina fears, a family row is brewing.
Dequan’s plans to spend Christmas with his cousin are thwarted when Lucy gets a better offer. Now he’s at a fairy-tale B&B.
The people seem nice but peculiar. Six geese seem—oddly homicidal. Are they really chasing Dequan, or is it his Christmas feather they’re after? What’s with all the eggs? Then, at the market, he sees the fräulein of his dreams.
After taking refuge in Fee Kaffee, Dequan fills in for Martina’s missing staff, but the geese are still on his case and laying eggs.
Martina has a feather bed that’s big enough for two. Dequan’s mystery holiday takes a delicious turn—until the geese, the café staff and his phone bring reality crashing in. It’s such a mess, and Martina needs a holiday.
Martina Bless, Patterdale, Victoria, December Twenty-seventh
Martina watched the feather drift from the carved canopy above her bed to land, soundlessly and almost intangibly, on her curvaceous naked body.
A Christmas angel must be flitting by.
It tickled her left nipple, and Martina blinked.
Not very angelic.
She put up a hand to brush it off, but it flitted away to tease her lips.
Oh, it’s you, my gentleman!
Martina smiled as a joyful certainty ran through her body from chin to toes. She opened her arms and lay waiting rapturously for the next touch of the feather.
Her gentleman of the bedchamber. That was the way she thought of the loving, playful presence that sometimes came to her just before she slept. She had no idea who he was or what he was. She didn’t think of him during the busy hours at the café. He never intruded on the rare times she took a lover, but, oddly, she didn’t notice his absence until she was alone and he came again.
“Not to be dictatorial, meine Liebe, but could you give me something more substantial than a feather?” She stretched and added, laughing, “Not that it is my place to order the universe, but a woman needs a full-fledged man, and it helps if he’s visible.”
She reached out in hope, but the feather danced away.
“Tangible would be nice. The feather’s fun, but can’t you give me a lovely cock to play with? And arms to hold me?” she said.
The feather, white and larger than a hen’s, returned to her nipple, painting it with shivers of delight.
Martina gasped, and her body convulsed in shudders. She cried out in a loud yodel and then collapsed in the downy support of her goose feather bed.
When she had her breathing under control, she said, with a hint of reproach, “I know you’ll leave me now, but couldn’t you let me keep the memory this time? No? Well, give me a sign, at least. Waking up alone is getting a bit…”
The feather, which had been spiralling gently in the moonlight, floated down to land on her chest.
Martina put her hand over it, finding it soft to touch, with a firm quill. She lifted it to her lips and kissed it.
“Danke, meine Liebe. I wish I could have had you for Christmas. Oh, and some conversation would be nice. Maybe we might wake up together on New Year’s Eve?”
She tucked the feather under her pile of pillows. When the universe gave you a sign, it made sense to put it somewhere safe.
A cuckoo sang out. Martina snapped awake. She glanced at the wooden clock that ticked up the hours in her bedroom—five o’clock. It was much too early to open the café, though Yannick would be out there doing the baking, dourly thumping dough.
She wondered what he thought about during those solitary hours when the kitchen of Fee Kaffee belonged to him.
The Christmas rush was over and New Year’s Eve wasn’t for a few more days. The casual staff had dispersed. Lili and Chiara would soon be—Martina’s thought broke off there.
She sat up in her pin-tucked nightgown. Hadn’t she just been naked with a feather tickling her nipple?
She swung her legs out of bed and pulled down her counterpane. She’d finished it just before Christmas Day, having devoted half an hour of every evening to her patient stitching. It was bright and delightful, from the cosy partridge cuddling a pear in his wings to the twelve drummers, whom she’d based on musicians she knew. She’d enjoyed the challenge, although she’d made only seventy-eight of the figures rather than the more ambitious total of three-hundred-and-sixty-four.
It was a generous spread. It needed to be, to cover the bulky feather mattress.
She went to splash her face in her small bathroom before dressing for the day. She brushed out her light brown hair and braided it. Her fingers fumbled with haste.
No hurry. It’s early, remember?
She forced herself to slow down as she ate her usual breakfast of rye bread and coffee in the chalet kitchen before she went to the market with a basket on each arm.
Martina stepped out into the dawn-lit garden, where tables and chairs formed the outdoor portion of the café. She hesitated to call it a beer garden. That sounded rowdy, and rowdy was something she was not.
It was warm already, and she headed out through the gate into the square and along two streets to the open-air market where the merchants of Patterdale traded fresh produce.
Most of the stallholders were human, and she greeted the ones she knew with a smile. Some of them were aware she was an alpenfee, but they all accepted her as part of the Patterdale community. Her family, the Blesses, had lived on the human side of the gates ever since her four-times-great-uncle Marti Bless married a human woman and agreed to live human with her back in the nineteenth century. His twin brother, Kettil, already wed to an alpenfee mädchen, crossed to the human realm as well. Living human was a matter of interpretation, which the twins’ descendants adjusted to suit themselves.
“Given the girls a holiday, Ms Bless?” one young man asked, interrupting her thoughts.
“No, why do you ask?”
He looked disconcerted. “Usually they get the salad things for the café.”
“Today, my lad, you must content yourself with me,” Martina said.
Even in the soft early light, she saw him flush.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. Always happy to serve you, Ms Bless.”
Martina pulled herself up. She was being formidable again, as her younger brother Dario liked to say. “No, I’m sorry. You’re quite right. Usually, it is the twins’ job to do the marketing. I woke early, so I thought I’d save them the trouble.”