Read the first three chapters of Christmas in Heaven!

Chapter 1 – Helen

“Helen, your one-thirty is here.” Bette, Helen’s assistant stuck her head around the door and smiled. “It’s Matilda Braga.”

“Matilda?” Helen looked up from her laptop and frowned. “That must be someone else’s client, I don’t have a—”

“Matilda Braga from Braga Events,” Bette interrupted her. “She’s here to talk through some stuff for the Christmas party.”

“Oh.” Helen rubbed her temple and sighed. Why had she volunteered to organise the Christmas party again? At the time, it had seemed like a great idea, but now it was just causing her stress on top of her already existing mountain of stress. Being a matchmaker, this was the busiest time of the year. Christmas was nearing and people were desperate for a date. Wealthy people who paid Heaven, the company Helen worked for, up to twelve thousand pounds to find them The One. That was great in terms of commission but not so great for her time management. She hadn’t had a day off in three weeks, and working around the clock, even at home on weekends, she was getting more tired by the day.

“Send her in,” she said but then held her hand up as Bette was about to leave. “Wait. Was I supposed to prepare something?”

Bette stared at her and shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t been involved in the Christmas party, and you didn’t brief me on anything.”

“Sure. Of course.” Helen cleared her throat, cursing herself for taking this on. More to the point, why had she put off doing anything about it until her colleagues started asking questions? Where is it? Will there be a theme? What about the food? On top of all that, her boss had decided that this year’s Christmas party would double as a matchmaking event, during which they’d match up hundred people from their database who hadn’t found love this year. In a panic, Helen had called tons of venues, but they were all fully booked. Her last resort was to spend part of the budget on a party planner—the only one who was willing to take on the job last minute—and that was where she was up to.

Straightening her navy blazer, Helen stood to greet the extravagantly dressed, petite, dark-haired women who walked in.

“Hi! You’re Matilda, right? Thank you so much for coming in. I’ve been really looking forward to meeting you.”

Helen made it sound like she’d been waiting for the woman all morning, but it was part of her skill set. She was highly trained in making people feel special; that was a big part of what made her so good at her job. If her clients felt welcome and understood, they signed on, and if they signed on, Helen usually found their match. Perhaps not a forever match, but her ninety-two percent success rate alongside rave reviews told her they were happy with her work.

“Hi. Yes, it’s so nice to meet you too.” Matilda accepted Helen’s offer to sit in the chair opposite her, placed her handbag on her lap and pulled out an iPad. “I know you’re very busy, and so am I, so we can keep this short and sweet if you prefer.”

“Thank you, that would be great,” Helen said, subtly regarding her. Matilda was her age, she guessed. Dressed in red, thigh-high suede boots, a short, frilly, red skirt and a green, oversized Christmas jumper, Matilda reminded her of an elf. Her dark hair was long and framed by a hairpiece with baubles and tinsel that put Helen’s mother’s Christmas tree to shame, and she almost passed comment on Matilda’s outfit, but something told her it wasn’t meant as a joke, so she wisely kept her thoughts to herself. “What do we need to discuss?”

Matilda scrolled through her iPad. “I have a list we need to work through. Let me find it.”

“Anything. Just ask away.”

Still scrolling, Matilda crossed her legs, flashing a hint of black lace from underneath the hem of her skirt.

Hold-ups. Helen’s smile widened, with genuine enthusiasm this time. She was amused that someone who dressed like an elf bothered with sexy lingerie. It wasn’t just the lace that put her in a better mood, though. She liked Matilda’s to-the-point, no-nonsense approach; there was a good chance this meeting would be over in no time and Helen could get back to her clients.

Matilda typed something and swiped a couple of times. “Special dietary requirements.” She looked up to meet Helen’s eyes. “Did you get my email last week? I think I sent a reminder too.”

“I saw it,” Helen lied, shifting uncomfortably on her chair. She’d forgotten all about it and made a mental note to ask Bette to compile a document. “It’s not quite there yet, but if you give me a couple of days, I’ll get that to you.”

“That’s fine, but please make it a priority,” Matilda said, scrolling again. “After Wednesday, we’re not able to change the menu much, as the venue has to plan their order in this busy time of year. We were lucky to get the venue in the first place after they had a cancellation, so I don’t want to mess them about.” She looked up briefly before she continued. “Which brings me to my second point. What’s your final number on guests? The venue needs to arrange heaters, as they’ll open up their roof terrace so people can have drinks outside if they wish. As you know, the building is high and central, so I imagine most will want to enjoy the romantic view after dinner.” She paused and narrowed her eyes at her screen. “The entertainment is a priority too. There are currently only two available bands left in my portfolio, I’m afraid. But if you have any ideas, I’m happy to look into them.”

Fuck. Helen held her breath, then blew out her cheeks. She had a rough idea of the numbers, but not everyone had responded to the invite yet, and she hadn’t listened to the samples of the bands Matilda had sent either. “When do you need to know all of this at the latest?”

“Today, ideally.” Matilda arched a brow, but her polite smile remained. “Helen, I want to organise a fantastic party for you and your colleagues and clients, but I can only do that if we’re able to sign things off together. So far, I’ve had no replies to the twenty-three emails I’ve sent you, and frankly, I’m a little stuck here. The party is just over a week away.”

Helen felt a tinge of panic bubbling in the back of her mind. Why hadn’t she acted sooner? She’d never been bad at a job, ever, but this Christmas nonsense was getting the better of her. Sure, she’d seen the emails, but there were always more pressing matters to take care of, and working seven days a week, she had no idea where to find the time. This Christmas party was important too, though; it wasn’t just any old work-do. It had to be nothing short of spectacular, and clearly money alone wasn’t enough to make that happen. It needed consideration and time. Her time. Many of their clients would be there, her boss would be there, and some of her colleagues who were jealous of her success and would love to see her fail were watching her like a hawk, secretly hoping the Christmas party would be a total and utter failure.

“Fuck.” She buried her face in her hands. “I apologise. I’ve just been so busy, and I have no idea when to do all this, or even how to get the information as quickly as you need it.” To her surprise, her eyes welled up, and she turned away for a moment, composing herself. She never cried, and she wasn’t going to start now. Swallowing hard, she tapped her desk, all too aware that she looked vulnerable, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. When she finally looked up, Matilda was staring at her. Helen didn’t know what that stare meant, and she didn’t want to.

“Okay.” Matilda sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Do you have all the phone numbers for the guests?”

“Yes.”

“Can you clear your schedule this afternoon?”

Helen hesitated. She was in over her head with open cases, but at least she didn’t have client meetings. “I suppose I could if, I take my work home tonight—”

“Good, then let’s get this sorted.” Matilda glanced over her shoulder through the glass doors. “And your assistant? Is she available?”

“I could ask her to help.” Helen felt a spark of hope at Matilda’s assertiveness. She hadn’t involved Bette, as everyone would’ve assumed she’d bummed the party planning off on her assistant. Which I’m about to do. But she had no choice because Matilda was right. With the party being next week, they had to get on with it. Everything else would have to wait today, and maybe, just maybe, the Heaven Christmas party wouldn’t be a total disaster. 

“Call her in,” Matilda said. “I can see you’re about to have a breakdown, so please leave me in charge.”

Chapter 2 – Matilda

Six hours in and Matilda felt a little calmer. Helen was making phone calls, and Bette, who had left an hour ago, had been very helpful, so she was able to tick things off her list. Ticking things off was good; it meant she could start planning the next stage of the party. Last-minute bookings were a challenge on their own, let alone one for three hundred people in Central London.

The security guard did his rounds, turned off the lights in the reception area and mumbled something through the open door about waiting for them downstairs.

“Sorry about this, Weston, we’re almost done,” Helen called after him. “I’ll bring you cake tomorrow, promise.”

“Should we leave?” Matilda asked. To her, the late hour didn’t matter. She’d just bill her time, and from their initial conversation, she had a feeling Helen was used to pulling long days too.

“Yes, we probably should. He’s been waiting for over an hour.” Helen collected the document from the printer and handed it to Matilda. “I think we have everything you need for now. RSVPs, plus-ones and dietary requirements. Well, not all. Seventeen people didn’t pick up or reply, but it’s close enough, right?”

“Out of three hundred, yes, that’s definitely close enough.” Matilda glanced over the paperwork and gave her an approving smile. “Excellent. I can work with this. Do you have energy left to talk music and decorations?” Noting she felt hungry, she added, “Maybe over food somewhere?”

“That sounds good. There’s a small Japanese restaurant on street level. They have sockets under the tables, and they don’t mind people working there.” Helen closed her laptop and slipped it into her handbag. “Shall we?”

***

“I sense you’re a regular here,” Matilda said as she wedged a piece of sushi between her chopsticks and dipped it in soy sauce. Helen knew the staff members by name and hadn’t needed to look at the menu before she ordered. “Do you always eat and work?”

“Not if I can help it, but it seems to be the norm lately, to be honest with you.” Helen shrugged. “Everyone wants a date for Christmas. They want someone to take home to their family, or sometimes they’re just lonely this time of year.”

“And you? Your plus-one isn’t on here.” Matilda picked up the guest list to double-check. “Do you want me to take it off?”

“No, leave it on. I’ll find someone.” Helen rolled her eyes and groaned. “Yet another time-consuming project to worry about before the Christmas break.” When she straightened herself to meet Matilda’s eyes again, she looked even more deflated and tired than she had this afternoon.

“So, you’re single?” Matilda asked, studying her. Helen had big, blue eyes, sharp, dark brows, and her blonde hair fell over her shoulders in waves. She wore little make-up and was naturally pretty, in a girl-next-door kind of way, but her presentation was all business, from the stylish black suit that hugged her in all the right places to her black, leather designer handbag, neither of which were cheap. Evidently, she received a nice salary in return for her hard work.

“Isn’t that ironic?” Helen chuckled. “I’m the best matchmaker in the UK and I can’t even find a date for the Christmas party. I’ve been single for four years.”

“I imagine it’s not easy meeting people when you work such long hours,” Matilda said. “Would it be so bad if you went alone?”

“Not necessarily, but as a matchmaker, that doesn’t look good.” Helen chewed her lip as she stirred a piece of sashimi through her soy sauce. “Also, I may have told my colleagues I was seeing someone,” she added, shrugging when Matilda’s eyes widened. “I know. It was an incredibly stupid move, but I am where I am, and now I must find a way out of this hole I dug for myself. Please don’t tell anyone.”

Matilda laughed. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. I know a few single guys. Maybe I can help. What’s your type?”

“Anything but a guy,” Helen said dryly as the corners of her mouth pulled into a small smile.

“Oh.” Matilda cringed at her voice when it went up a notch. “Women. Okay. So what kind of woman are you looking for?”

“I don’t think I have a type, but since we’re talking about the Christmas party, they have to be presentable. I like women who dress well and hold their own in social situations.”

“Right…” Matilda frowned, wondering why on earth she hadn’t sensed Helen was gay. Her gaydar was rarely off, but she hadn’t seen this one coming. “In that case, I might have some single female friends for you.”

Helen, who had just taken a bite of sashimi, stopped chewing. “Wait. Are you…?”

“Yes, I’m gay too.” Matilda waved her hands with a grin. “Surprise.”

“Wow.” Helen laughed out loud for the first time that day, and she looked even prettier with a huge smile on her face. “I’m usually so good at reading people. I mean, it’s my job. How could I not…?” She shook her head. “I’m clearly in need of a break.”

“Are you having a break?”

“Yes, the office is closed for two weeks after the Christmas party, so I’ll have some time to recharge.” Helen tilted her head as she looked Matilda over, and Matilda was dying to know what she was thinking. “And you? Are you having time off?”

“Your party is my last event before Christmas. After that, we’re closed until New Year’s Eve, but I’ll probably do some work in the days leading up to that, as we have a huge event. So, all in all, I probably won’t get that much time to myself.”

“I’m sorry I’ve kept you today. I should have been prepared for our meeting, and instead I’ve wasted your precious time.”

“It’s fine, it happens all the time.” Matilda shot her a smile. “Really, don’t worry about it. I’m glad we have everything sorted now. Apart from the music, the decorations and the seating plan, but the seating plan can wait.”

“Would it be okay if I left you in charge of the decorations and music?” Helen asked. “You have a better idea of what works than me. I’m a novice when it comes to Christmas.”

“No problem.” Matilda unlocked her iPad, loaded a presentation and handed it over. “I’ve already put a proposal together. I just need you to approve it. Companies usually like to have their logo colours incorporated in the decorations, but since yours is black, I’ve kept it neutral, using white and gold for a cosy, wintry feel, and I’ve added hints of black to reflect your company identity. We could put your logo on the napkins and project it on the wall both inside and outside, but apart from that, I don’t want to over-brand the event, as this will be an elegant occasion.” She paused while Helen scrolled through the mood boards she’d created. “As your budget allows it, I’ve reserved crystal glasses, black velvet table runners, white China and nice silverware, and I suggest we go with the blues band.”

“I love it,” Helen said, her shoulders visibly dropping in relief as she sat back. “This party has been haunting me for months. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to know it’s under control and that it will look spectacular.”

“Everything will be great, don’t worry about a thing. Despite a little setback this afternoon, you’ve actually made it easy for me too. You have no idea how many of my clients get involved in the details and keep changing their minds.”

“Hey, the less I know the better.” Helen pointed to her head. “It’s getting crowded up here and I need my storage for work.”

“Then that’s settled.” Matilda was pleased with their progress. She could move on to the fun part now, the part when everything came together. “Do you have time to meet up soon to go through the table plan? That’s the only thing I really can’t do for you, I’m afraid.”

“Sure. Could we do it over dinner?” Helen asked. “If you’re busy too, we might as well save ourselves some precious office hours. You pick the place though. I’ll come your way.”

“Okay, I’ll reserve a table.” Matilda hesitated. “Can I ask you something?” She continued when Helen nodded. “Why are youin charge of the party?”

“I’ve been asking myself the same question.” Helen shot her a comical grin. “Frankly, it was a silly idea to volunteer, but I honestly didn’t think it would be so much work. I guess I wanted to show off. I’m the golden child at work. I bring in the most clients and have the highest success rate in matching. Deep down, I guess I wanted a spectacular party to celebrate my achievements and prove I could throw a better party than last year’s, which was underwhelming in my opinion.” She paused. “But if it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t have been a party at all. I’m so glad you said yes. I must have called over twenty party planners and they were all fully booked.”

“I’m not surprised. I was only available because I had a cancellation myself.” Matilda put her iPad back in her bag and zipped it closed. “Anyway, enough work for today.” She pointed to the pot of tea on their table. “Would you like some more tea? Or I could order some sake while we discuss the last thing on the agenda.”

I’m always up for sake,” Helen said, gesturing the waiter over. “But what’s left to discuss?”

Matilda shot her a mischievous look and held up her phone. “My single friends, AKA your potential dates for the party.”

Chapter 3 – Helen

“You’re so picky. Beggars can’t be choosers, Helen,” Matilda joked as she showed Helen the fifth and final picture, which was of her friend, Sedi. “Sedi is thirty-six, she works in finance, and she has a lovely apartment in Belsize Park. She plays golf on weekends, and she loves to go to live music gigs. Do you like music?”

“Yes, but who doesn’t?” Helen was trying to be open about Matilda’s suggestions, but she wasn’t feeling it. Sedi was good-looking, and she had a cute smile, but Helen couldn’t imagine dating her, even if it was just for one night. “She sounds great, but she’s not for me.”

“Then I’m afraid I’m out of options.” Matilda topped up their sake. “Tell me, how do you approach this in your job? How do you find a match for your clients?”

“I interview them face-to-face and make sure I know absolutely everything about them. The questionnaire holds over three hundred questions. I ask questions that may seem irrelevant, but they give me a better picture of who my clients really are and what their values, aspirations and dreams are. Then I enter all the information into a programme that was developed especially for our company, the Heaven Databank. Based on this information, I usually get between twenty and forty hits on matching profiles, and I spend hours going through them one by one.” She sipped her sake, savouring the warm liquid that relaxed her after a long and stressful day. “This is where my psychology background comes into play.”

“You’re a psychologist?” Matilda arched a brow. “I thought…”

“You thought we were just a bunch of hopeless romantics playing with people’s hearts?” Helen winked. “Trust me, I’m far from romantic. There’s an actual science to this, believe it or not.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why that took me by surprise.”

“It’s okay. You’re not the first to think that, so you’re forgiven.” Matilda’s embarrassed expression amused Helen. It was kind of cute, and she decided she liked this woman.

“Anyway, I interrupted you, so please continue,” Matilda said, eager to move on.

“Sure.” Helen grinned. “After I’ve vetted all the profiles, I select three matches and interview these people before my psychologist’s gut tells me which one is most suitable, then I call them and discuss the match, and if they agree to meet, Bette sets up a date for them on neutral territory.”

“And how much will your matchmaking set them back?”

“The membership fees are twelve thousand pounds a year. If they haven’t been on a date within a year of signing up, we’ll refund them or roll the fees over to the next year.”

Matilda whistled through her teeth. “That’s a hefty price to pay for a date.”

“Would you consider it a hefty price if you found The One?” Helen shot back at her. She smiled when Matilda remained silent. “See? You can’t put a price on love.”

“Hmm…” From the look on her face, Matilda wasn’t convinced. “How many people do you have in your database?”

“Thousands. We operate internationally, but we try to match people who live reasonably close to one another. I generally don’t have to travel much, my clients come to me, but if they’re celebrities, I may meet them in their home if they don’t want to be seen walking into Heaven.”

“Wow. That’s very cool.” Matilda narrowed her eyes. “So, why don’t you just pick someone from your own client base? Find yourself a match?”

Helen laughed and shook her head. “The membership requires proof of income. We only work with very wealthy people, and I don’t fall into that category quite yet. Even if my income was in seven figures, it would still be unethical as I’m an employee.” She was enjoying talking to Matilda and realised it had been a long time since she’d had a stimulating conversation over dinner. “What about you? Are you in a relationship?”

“No, I’m single,” Matilda said. “Like you, I don’t have time to date and I’m happy by myself.”

“Then maybe I have single friends for you.” Helen winked. Truth be told, she had only a handful of friends, and she didn’t think they’d be interested in dating someone who embraced Christmas with as much enthusiasm as Matilda, especially in the looks department. The woman was lovely, and Helen enjoyed her company, but she wasn’t into Christmas jumpers or bauble tiaras.

“Oh, you’re turning the tables on me now, are you?” Matilda had a humorous twinkle in her eyes. “Bring it on. Show me why you’re the most successful matchmaker in London.”

“I’d need to interview you first.”

Matilda crossed her arms on the table and leaned in. “Fire away.”

“Are you sure?”

“Come on. How bad can it be?”

For some reason, Helen couldn’t stop smiling. “Very well. Let’s start with a simple question. What’s your star sign?”

“Virgo.” Matilda chuckled. “Please don’t tell me star signs influence your matchmaking. That’s just—”

“Everything is important, including star signs,” Helen interrupted her. “Tell me about your family and the family dynamics.”

“Okay, let’s see… I was born and raised in London, and my parents divorced when I was four. I grew up with my mum, and I’m very close to her. Mum’s from Brazil, and most of my family from her side live there, including my grandparents. My father’s roots are Brazilian too, but he grew up in Ireland and moved back there after the divorce. I visited him a few times a year when I was younger, and nowadays we see each other even less. We’re not close, but we’re okay. I’m much closer to my mum—I think I still blame him for hurting her.” Matilda bit her lip as she sank into deep thought. “Our family’s small. I’m an only child, and I have an aunt, an uncle, three cousins and my grandparents in Rio, whom I visit once a year. I don’t know my family in Ireland that well because I’ve never spent much time with them.”

“What role did money play growing up?” Helen asked.

“It wasn’t easy. Although Dad paid some child support, Mum still struggled being a single mother and she worked long days at a dry cleaner’s Monday to Friday, so I learnt from an early age to be independent. I had my first part-time job doing dishes at a restaurant when I was sixteen, and I worked my way through university while I studied hospitality management. After I graduated, I worked in hospitality in London for a while. Then I got a job as crew manager on a charter yacht and spent seven years sailing around the world. The tips were generous, so I managed to save up a lot of money, and when I came back because I missed London, I started Braga Events.”

“Interesting,” Helen said, genuinely intrigued by Matilda’s life story. She’d struck her as ambitious from the moment they’d met, and knowing she’d done all that by herself was admirable. “Do you miss travelling?”

“Yes, but my time is limited, and when I take time off, I tend to go to Brazil with Mum to visit family.”

“Okay. And do you like your job?”

“I love my job,” Matilda said without hesitation. “I’m proud of what I’ve built. That moment when my client walks in and sees the venue is so rewarding. I always come in for the first half hour to make sure they’re one hundred percent happy.”

“You don’t stay during the event?” Helen asked.

“No, I leave it to my event managers to handle the event. I used to be a control freak and micromanage, but over the years I’ve learnt to trust my staff. If I worked nights too, I wouldn’t have a life at all.”

“Of course.” Helen poured them the last of the sake from the ceramic jug and sipped it. “What about relationships? Your dating history? Sexuality?”

“There’s not much to tell, really. I came out when I was sixteen and my parents never made a fuss of it. I’ve only ever dated women over the years and was in two short-term relationships, but they didn’t work out.”

“Why didn’t they work out?”

“I think because I always put my business first.”

Helen nodded and noted talking to Matilda was like holding up a mirror. She saw so much of herself in her, it was almost scary. “Do you want love? Do you want children? A family?”

Matilda hesitated and focused on her sake cup, running a finger over its uneven surface before she answered. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “I don’t know if I want love. I think I do, but something’s holding me back. And as far as children are concerned…I’m honestly not sure. I’m thirty-five and I don’t feel an itch, if you know what I mean.” She downed the rest of her drink and sat back, subconsciously telling Helen she was getting too close and that she was done answering questions. “So? What’s the verdict, Helen from Heaven? Do you have a match for me in your circle of friends? Or do you need another hour of interrogation?”

Helen smiled. “I didn’t even touch on the sex questions yet, but I think I can do this, as you’re pretty easy to analyse. How honest do you want me to be?”

“Brutally.”

“Very well.” Helen took a deep breath before she fired away. “I think you’re single because you’re afraid of commitment, and before you tell me that’s a cliché, hear me out. You’ve worked hard to get your company off the ground, and you’re worried a relationship will stand in the way of work, not the other way around. Therefore, you use work as an excuse not to date. You tell yourself you don’t have time, and it would never cross your mind to make time.

“Your parents’ divorce caused you to be sceptical about love, and I think it’s safe to say you’re not a romantic at heart. You’re also a Virgo, and Virgos tend to be pragmatic, detail-oriented perfectionists—traits I feel are very much in your character from the short time I’ve known you—so if someone isn’t close to perfect for you, you will discard the idea of a relationship before you’ve even tried. Simultaneously, if someone is perfect for you, you’ll panic and pull away.”

Helen waited for Matilda to protest or burst out in laughter; it was often the initial reaction when she went through this with her clients. There was no reaction, though. Matilda simply stared at her stoically, so she continued.

“Your ideal partner would be the opposite to you. A homemaker, or someone whose life does not evolve around work. They have to be safe and reliable, and always be willing to fight for you when you start expressing your doubts about the relationship. Someone who is emotionally intelligent and will understand why you feel the way you feel when you become distant at times because of that internal panic related to commitment. My guess is that you tend to go for the opposite because then you already know it’s not going to work out and you feel more comfortable with the idea of short-term. Short-term means you can keep your lovers at a distance. Short-term relationships are mostly physical, and something tells me you’re not shy in the bedroom.” She chuckled when Matilda let out an exasperated gasp. “Wait, wait, let me finish. You confuse sex with intimacy. Deep down, you do want to commit, and you do long for a deeper connection. You just haven’t figured that out yet.”

“Are you done?” Matilda asked. The little elf looked adorable when she was annoyed, but from the nervous tapping of her fingers on the table, Helen knew that she was on to something.

“Yes. And now is the moment you tell me I’m wrong and that it’s all bullshit. But over time, you’ll remember what I told you and you’ll realise I was right.” Helen shot her a cheeky grin. “Also, if you’re pissed off with me, that’s okay, but please don’t quit as my party planner because I really need you.”

Matilda’s expression softened a little, and she met Helen’s gaze with a smirk. Her walls were up; that much was clear. “Well, I’ll need some time to digest this, but you were right about one thing,” she said, never breaking eye contact. “I’m definitely not shy in the bedroom.”

“At least you’re giving me something. Something’s better than nothing.” Helen remained calm and indifferent on the surface, but inside she was burning because now she was picturing Matilda in bed, naked, and that was ridiculous. The woman sitting opposite her couldn’t be further from her type. The way she dressed for one, was far from attractive to her—apart from the hold-ups, of course. Those were always welcome in Helen’s world. Christmas jumpers and silly hairpieces, however, were things she steered clear of.

An amused twinkle flashed in Matilda’s eyes as she leaned in again, much closer this time. “I need to know one thing, though. Why did you think I was so easy to read?”

Helen’s palms went sweaty hard as multiple plausible answers ran through her head. “Because you’re like me,” she said, baffled by her honesty. Why had she said that? Did she feel like she owed Matilda after bombarding her with all those personal questions?”

Matilda’s smile widened. “How so? Tell me.”

“My parents divorced when I was young, and I grew up with my mother, who remarried twice and she’s currently single. I never knew my father, and we struggled financially. I paid my way through university by working several jobs. I studied psychology, but I never really enjoyed working in the field until one day, I was approached by a headhunter who was looking for psychologists to join a new matchmaking company. I love this job, but the road leading here wasn’t easy. I got to where I am with sheer determination and a one-track mind. Creating a better life for myself was always at the forefront of every step I took, and love was never a part of the bigger plan.” Helen shrugged. “And believe it or not, I’m a Virgo too.”

“Huh.” Matilda’s eyes were fixated on her as she picked up her cup and brought it to her lips. Realising it was empty, she put it back down, then continued to stare at Helen. “That’s some really good self-reflection right there, even for a psychologist. Did you work that out all by yourself?”

Again, Helen’s first reaction was to come up with a lie, but she found herself blurting out the truth again. “No,” she said with a chuckle. “My therapist did.”

Like this sample? Get Christmas in Heaven here!

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