Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Goth of Christmas Past - Her Two Dads #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 13th December, 2017:
13(th) + (20)17 – 12 = 18 paragraphs from Goth of Christmas Past


WIPpet Context:
Over the weekend, I wrote a short story, which I’ll blog about separately once it’s ready for release, because it’s one of those quickies with no pre-release shenanigans.

For now, I’m still snipping Goth of Christmas Past. The pictured cover is NOT the cover, which is finished, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. :) It’s likely this novel won’t be out until next Christmas, because it’s nowhere near done and I’m looking forward to writing on it during my Christmas–New Year downtime.

This snippet coincides with a scene that happens in the first season of Hiding Behind The Couch (which you can download for free: http://hidingbehindthecouch.com/?n1=where_to_buy#free). This conversation happens away from the original focus of the scene but is overheard by another character. It’s a long snippet, but I didn’t want to leave it dangling.

* * * * *
“I was thinking…” Krissi flipped the battered ball of chicken with her fork and swished it back and forth through the sweet and sour sauce. Food that bright red really couldn’t be good for her. Around the table, people chatted away in their own little conversations, except Kris, to her right, waiting for her to elaborate, while she was waiting for her chest to stop vibrating with the hard, fast thump of her heart. She jabbed her fork into the chicken—“I might try to find out about my real dad”—and quickly crammed it into her mouth.

Silence.

Well, not silence, because everyone else was still talking and eating, and the restaurant was busy. Waiters bustled; music played; the phone rang. But Kris was silent at her side. She couldn’t bring herself to look his way, could see, in her peripheral vision, his fork hovering above his plate. Shit, I said ‘real’. I didn’t mean to do that.

“Why?” he asked. His voice was quiet and steady. Flat, really.

“I…” What could she say? She hadn’t expected him to ask why, more ‘I’d rather you didn’t but if you must’. Maybe she should have. “I love you,” she said.

He chuckled. “I know you do, Missy. I love you, too.”

“No, I mean…I don’t want you to think it’s because you’re not…enough, and…” Shut up, you’re just making it worse. “Right, say he’s got, I dunno, diabetes or something that he might’ve passed on to me. It would be good to know, wouldn’t it? So I could change my diet and stuff.” Stop eating bright red food.

“OK,” Kris said amenably. “That makes sense.”

Krissi glanced at him and smiled but quickly averted her eyes again. Kris was an amazing actor. It was what he did for a job, so he had to be, but he could’ve put on an Oscar-winning performance—or whatever radio actors won—and she’d still have known he was upset. “You’re my dad,” she said. “When I said ‘real’, I didn’t mean it like you’re not, you know?” She put her fork down and fake-sobbed into her hand. “I’m so messing this up.”

“You so are,” Kris agreed.

“Sorry.”

“Missy.”

“Forget I said anything, OK?”

“Missy, look at me.”

Turning half towards him, she shut one eye and grimaced.

He sighed and shook his head, but he was smiling. “Real dad or not, I know you’re mine when you only open your mouth to change feet.”

“You’re not mad?”

“I’m not mad.”

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Friday, December 08, 2017

To Be Sure - Out Now!


Saorla Tierney's sons are conspiring against her, and at their age, they should know better. After all, she's nearly seventy-one herself, and, quite frankly, whether she still 'has needs' is none of their business.

OK, so, maybe she was a bit harsh with Sean when all he did was ask if she and Aileen wanted a double hotel room. And of course she feels bad for biting Finn's head off when he was only having a wee joke.

Between her grandson's unconventional baptism and the decades-long feud between her sons, even with Aileen at her side it's not as easy a decision as they seem to think. Or maybe it is. Saorla doesn't know anymore, and until she's sure...

To Be Sure is a stand-alone novella-length character special in the Hiding Behind The Couch series. (Part of Never Too Late - a collection of nine stories featuring LGBTQIA characters over the age of fifty)

Purchase Links:

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Sock Advent Calendar - 7th December


It began 28 years ago, with a wonderful, kind woman called Sylvia, who bought me a pair of Christmas socks...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Goth of Christmas Past - A Morning After #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 6th December, 2017:
6 + 12 = 18 sentences from Goth of Christmas Past


WIPpet Context:
I’ve not had much time to write so far this month. To Be Sure is out tomorrow—part of Never Too Late, which is a collection of nine stories featuring LGBT+ characters aged 50+.

Anyway…I’m still snipping Goth of Christmas Past. The pictured cover is NOT the cover, which is finished, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. :)

In this snippet, Krissi is lying in bed, pretending to be asleep, and her parents are talking just outside her door.

* * * * *
“She’s asleep,” her mum said at a slightly lower than normal volume but still loud enough that she’d know Krissi could hear.

“What time did she get home?” That was Kris.

“Half past three.”

No way…

“She’s not going to want to come with us, is she?”

“We could postpone it until next week.”

This was grossly unfair. She thought she was probably still drunk, never mind hungover, and really tired. So no, she didn’t want to go with them, wherever they were going.

“But they might find another home before then,” Kris said, maxing out on the sadness factor.

“There’ll be others,” her mum consoled, also laying it on thicker than the chocolate spread Krissi used to plaster on bread when she got home from school. She still refused to take the bait.

“Yes, you’re right. It’s not as if he’s the last Labrador in the world…”

Krissi shot out of bed and sprinted across her room, staggering as she flung the door open. “Whoa!” She gripped the doorframe for balance. “Labrador?”

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, December 04, 2017

Character Spotlight: Ade Simmons (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


It’s Ade’s turn today, who—in my head—looks a bit like the Daz3D image above (if you squint). Images used in these character spotlights (this one included) which aren’t from book covers / Daz3D are from Pixabay. Ade’s first appearance isn’t until Season Three (The Harder They Fall) and only then from other characters’ perspectives.

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Ade Simmons
Name: Ade (Adrian) Simmons
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Copper red
Complexion: Fair and freckly
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 11 stone?
Build: fairly slim
Tattoos/Piercings: None.
Education: Drama academy - Acting, direction and production.
Accent: Northwest English / Manchester.
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Manchester, England.
Siblings: Julia (older sister).
Children: None.
Places lived: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Northwest England.
Jobs: Stage actor, radio producer, tour manager, TV actor.
Interests: Reading, writing, live performance.
Pets: Casper (by 'marriage').
Greatest Success: Leaving Fergus.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Worry friends/family.
Biggest Trauma: Fergus.
Do you have a secret: No.
Favourite Book: The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón).
Favourite Food: Pasta.
Favourite Drink: G and T.
Strength: Quick-thinking.
Weakness: Easily persuaded.
Best way to spend a weekend: Lie-in, followed by a walk, visit mum and Jules, go out on the town. Pass out on Sunday.
Closest Friends: Pip, Shaunna.
Love of your life: Kris (and what could have been with Ferg).

And here are some excerpts featuring Ade. They’re quite long, because…he talks a lot.
Note: all excerpts will be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read up to Season Three.

Crying in the Rain

(Setting: the cafeteria of the radio station where Ade works as a producer; with Kris.)

Conscious of Kris’s continued attention, Ade took out his tablet, checking his watch as he did so; almost time to go back to the studio and get the room set up for rehearsing and sound checks. OK, what else do I need to do?

3. Tell Kris about the thing

Kris sipped absently at his coffee, his gaze unfocused, making it impossible for Ade to know whether he was paying him any attention. He looked up, his eyes meeting Ade’s, and smiled. Ade attempted a smile back.

“I need to tell you about the thing.”

“The thing?”

“Err, yes. The thing—my thing.”

“OK?” Kris sat back and folded his arms, his expression one of bemusement.

“I always tell new people, well, not always. I don’t bother if I’m just buying a coffee in a new café, but…” Ade stopped rambling and just said it. “I have a speech impediment.”

“You do?”

“Yes.” He watched Kris’s facial expressions change, as he worked through their conversation, searching for evidence, followed by a doubtful frown.

“I didn’t notice,” Kris said.

“No. You wouldn’t, because I’m careful with how I speak. It only affects one letter. Well, not the letter, the sound.”

“Hmm.” Kris’s brow furrowed thoughtfully. “Can I try and work it out?”

Ade shrugged, finding it kind of funny, whilst also appreciating Kris’s efforts to put him at ease by making light of it.

Kris bit his lip, studying the ceiling as he replayed what Ade had said so far. “OK. It’s not ‘S’, because you’ve just said ‘sound’, and it was perfect. ‘Th’? No—you pronounced ‘thing’ correctly too. ‘R’?”

“That’s the one.”

“That must be so hard to avoid.”

“Not usually. However, when faced with communicating what I need to an actor whose name contains the much-feared letter…”

“Ah. Sorry,” Kris said, feeling terribly guilty when he had no part in choosing his given name. “If it’s easier, you can call me K, or KJ, or even Mr. Johansson.”

Ade smiled. “Thanks, but I have to get it over with sooner or later. It’s just a little less of a nightmare doing it this way. And now I can see you analysing what I say.”

Kris blushed. “Sorry.”

“I don’t mind, but so you’ve heard me say it, let’s start again.” Ade held out his hand for it to be shaken. Kris accepted. Looking him right in the eyes, Ade said, “Hi, Kris, I’m Adrian Simmons. I’m the producer.” Kris held the eye contact—no trace of reaction to the soft pronunciation of the ‘R’, just a heart-warming smile and a glint of something more.

“Hello, Ade. I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“The feeling is mutual. I need to go and start setting up. I’ll see you in there.” Ade rose to his feet. Kris did too.

“I’ll come with you, and on the way you can tell me how you came to be working in radio production.”

***

(Setting: walking to work, with BFE Pip.)

“Where did you stay last night?” she asked, trying to pass off her nosiness as concern. Ade hummed secretively. Pip gasped. “Were you with him?”

“Who?” Ade asked innocently.

“That guy from Monday morning?”

“Maaaaybe.”

“No way. What’s his name? Is he an actor? What did you do? Did you get up to anything—”

“Kris, yes, went for a meal, and no.”

“Oh.” Pip looked dead ahead, her chubby cheeks colouring up, and wobbling slightly with each step. She looked sideways at Ade and grinned. He, too, was blushing. “Are you seeing him again?” she asked.

“Yes. I think so. I hope so.” And he really did. Pip squeezed his arm with hers, until he squeaked.

“He seems nice,” she said.

“He is. And so’s his wife.”

Pip stopped walking and looked at him in mock horror, hoping he was just saying it to wind her up. Now she wasn’t so sure. His mouth twitched as he fought the smile. “You’re serious,” she said. Ade nodded. “He’s married. To a woman? Ade…”

Ade started laughing and hooked her by the arm. They set off again, and Ade explained properly about Kris and Shaunna being separated, and Casper, and Kris’s stepdaughter, and his shellfish allergy, and so on, chattering away the entire ten-minute walk to the studio. They parted company at the fourth floor, with Ade promising to call as soon as he heard from Kris, and to keep Pip posted on the arrangements for later. Ade was dreading it, but for the first time ever, he believed he had the strength to see it through. A few hours from now, Fergus would be out of his life, for good.

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: a secluded bar in London.)

Ade watched Kris all the way to the bar. He was still in love with her, so why had he come? No, that was too cruel a way to think, because he liked Shaunna. She had been an incredible friend, and sharing the house had been almost too perfect. They liked the same music, the same TV programmes and films, drank way too much tea. Then there was Casper. He missed him, too. And Krissi. And the thing was, he’d have shared Kris with Shaunna—with them all—if he’d been allowed to do that much.

Kris returned with their drinks.

“Thanks.”

And the coolness. That was back also.

“So what was that dog people thing?”

“Oh. Josh said it. When we walked the dogs together the Saturday we got snapped, he picked up on how genuine dog owners are.”

“Chicken or egg.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do open, honest people choose dogs as pets, or do dogs make them that way?”

“I’ve no idea. I’m just an actor with no brains.”

“I hope you’re joking.”

“I’m not. I love intelligent people, but I’m not one of them. Shaunna is. Josh is. George is, and you. Shaunna’s going to uni in September, to study psychology.”

“Is she?”

“She made friends with this psychologist guy. That’s all she’s gone on about ever since.”

“And you’re not bothered? That she’s friends with a guy?”

“Nope. I trust her. If there was anything going on, she’d tell me.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Absolutely. But did you ask me here for me to talk about Shaunna all night?”

“Honestly, Kris, I don’t care what we talk about, as long as you’re here. Like I said, I’ve missed you.”

“I’m sorry, Ade. You were right. I did push you away, and I kept you away from my friends.”

“Yes, you did. I thought it was me, that I couldn’t figure out what they wanted from me, if there was some kind of hazing I had to go through to be accepted.”

“You only needed to be who you are. It was me who kept you out.”

***

(Setting: a TV studio.)

“OK, Lundberg conference scene,” the director called, “That’s scene—” he checked his script “—fourteen. Who the f*ck numbered this? Look.” He stormed over to one of the writers; there were now four of them, and the Shadows creator was executive producer, along with her husband, Barry the director. To say they didn’t much like each other was something of an understatement. Barry slammed the script down in the poor writer’s lap, knowing she was little more than a typewriting monkey, doing his wife’s bidding. “Eleven, twelve, fourteen. What the hell’s happened to thirteen?”

“There isn’t one, Barry.”

“Why not?”

“Bad luck.”

“F*cking bad luck?” He went stomping back the way he had come. “OK, folks, so that’s the scene formerly known as fourteen, which is actually scene thirteen.”

Kris cringed. “That’s going to upset a few people. She’s very superstitious. You should’ve seen her freak when I walked under a ladder back in the early days. Now I know better.”

Ade laughed. “Hey, you never know. You might have a new director by Monday!”

Kris rolled his eyes. “Yeah, unlikely.” He gave Ade a kiss. “We’ll talk later,” he promised sincerely and then slipped straight back into role. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Simmons, I’ve got to brief my team on a couple of matters.” He winked and walked back on set. Ade watched him all the way, and sat down again. Someone nudged him from behind. It was one of the runners from reception.

“Have they just started?” she whispered. Ade nodded. “Will you let Kristian know there’s some people downstairs for him. They say they’re friends of his? Said to tell him they’re not twins.”

Ade grinned. “OK. I’ll let him know,” he whispered. The woman started to walk away. “Actually,” he said, “I’ll come with you.”

***

Two By Two

(Setting: an on-location recording of a TV drama/Ade and Kris’s home.)

Jan gave the order to cut and advanced on Kris and Ade, her breathing shallow from excitement.

“Oh my god,” she gushed. “I’m tingling all over. That was incredible. The energy between you two, and that pause, Ade―it’s not even in the script, but it’s just perfect. Will you play the part, Ade? Please?”

“Jan, I don’t feel comfortable―”

“Please. If it’s your speech thing, we can always rewrite around it, but I really can’t see anyone else in that role, not even Caleb, and I’d thought he was ‘the one’, but now I’ve seen the best. Will you think about it?”

Ade studied the ceiling. Kris was watching him carefully, sensing that he wanted to say no outright, but didn’t want to let the team down, and as Jan said, his performance was perfect, with a charge of energy, real emotion. Ade Simmons, whether he liked it or not, was an incredibly talented actor.

They continued with the rest of the day’s filming schedule, and with Ade in role there were no additional takes, other than one due to poor lighting. He didn’t fluff lines, or get the giggles, and he was so intense that he drew the other actors right into the mood of the scene. By the end of the day he was exhausted, but they’d got down a couple of scenes from the schedule for the next day, and agreed to start a little later.

At home, things were tense. Kris didn’t share his thoughts with Ade, knowing the last thing Ade wanted to hear was how amazing he was, and so they barely spoke at all. They went to bed early and were up early the next morning. Kris walked Casper; Ade made breakfast and then they travelled together to the school, once again getting through the filming in record time. On-camera, Ade was whatever he needed to be; off-camera his despondency was increasing by the minute and he wasn’t ignoring Kris and Jan, but he wasn’t speaking to them either. They still had nobody else to play Dale Hanrihan, and soon it would be too late. There wouldn’t be enough time to re-film with the new actor in role.

The third day of filming came and went; Ade headed straight upstairs and ran the bath. Kris walked and fed the dog, and then sat on the edge of the bath, watching Ade pretending to read a book.

“What do you want to do?”

***

Reunions

(Setting: Christmas Day at Barbara and Len’s house; Barbara is giving Ade the grand tour.)

“And this is the master—” at the sound of footsteps in the atrium below, Barbara dropped her voice to a whisper “—bedroom.” She beckoned to Ade to follow her inside, watching over the banister as she closed the door. Krissi and Kris left the dining room. There was still a coolness between them, but less so than in the kitchen earlier.

Before Barbara could ask, not that she was planning to, regardless of how much she wanted to know what was going on, Ade smiled apologetically and said, “It’s not my place to share.”

“I don’t expect you to, lovey, but I hope whatever it is doesn’t get in the way of us enjoying Christmas together.”

“It won’t,” Ade assured her. “Kris respects you. I’d even go as far as to say he loves you. You’re his second mum.”

“I’m very fond of him, too, and it’s lovely to see him happy at last. Well, I imagine he was happy with Shaunna…” Barbara pursed her lips before she said something she ought not.

Ade made a point of looking around the room they were in. “That window lets in a lot of light, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does, especially considering the time of year. The rest of the house is a little on the dark side, mind you.”

Ade nodded, still facing the other way. “Did Andy crush on her as badly when he was young?”

“Oh, he was shocking,” Barbara admitted with a certain amount of relief. For a minute, she’d been worried she’d offended Ade, but judging by his sweet smile, it wasn’t so. “Between you, me and that bedpost, he had crushes on so many girls I couldn’t keep up, but all the rest came and went. There was always something special about Shaunna.” Her mind cast back to the nights she’d spent listening to whichever son slamming doors, enduring their obstreperous remarks until she could take it no more, which was normally around the same point they’d crack and pour out their soul. “It’s horrible being a mother sometimes,” she said. “Teenaged girls know how to break a boy’s heart.”

“Teenaged boys do a fairly thorough job of it, too,” Ade said ruefully.

“There speaks the voice of experience.” Barbara patted his arm. “Of my three, Andrew was the worst. He always fell so hard, and Shaunna…well, she broke his heart more than once.”

Beneath them, the doorbell chimed and the front door opened with a creak worthy of a horror movie. Barbara cringed. “Remind me to put a drop of oil on those hinges, will you?”

***

Thanks for reading! :)
Deb x

Thursday, November 30, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Goth of Christmas Past - Single Again #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 29th November, 2017:
11 sentences from Goth of Christmas Past


WIPpet Context:
I haven’t ditched Tabula Rasa, but I am taking a break from it to write for NaNoWriMo. Thus, I’m snipping from my very new (and rough) WIP Goth of Christmas Past, still on target and one day to go!

The pictured cover is NOT the cover, which is finished, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. :)


In this snippet, Jay and Krissi are at the park, sitting on swings, and Krissi is swinging.

* * * * *
[Jay] “It’s Christmas. Why aren’t you bouncing around like you’ve got springs on your shoes. Actually…they’d be kind of cool.”

“Until you fall flat on your face,” Krissi grumbled on her next pass. She was moving fast enough that Jay listened for a doppler shift. He decided it would be better not to respond; he’d only say something sarcastic, and if he managed something more sincere, she’d think it was sarcasm anyway.

“So…I’m single again.”

“Are you?” He hadn’t known she was seeing anyone, nor whether she’d told him and he’d not been listening. He didn’t think so; he always listened to her. It was kind of hard not to.

* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, November 27, 2017

Character Spotlight: Adele Reeves (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


This week, it’s time to catch up with Adele, who—in my head—looks a fair bit like the image above. Images used in these character spotlights (this one included) which aren’t from book covers / Daz3D are from Pixabay.

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Adele Reeves
Name: Adele Reeves
Eyes: Blue-grey
Hair: Blonde, straight
Complexion: Fair (but tanned)
Height: 5' 2"
Weight: under 9 stone
Build: petite
Tattoos/Piercings: Both ears x 2
Education: Local technical college – Diploma Fashion and Design, Level 4 Beauty Therapy
Accent: Northwest English.
Languages: English, French

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England.
Siblings: None.
Children: Shu (Shaunna) and Robbie.
Places lived: Northwest England, London.
Jobs: Beautician, window dresser, event planner.
Interests: Beauty products, working out, gossip mags.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: Passing level 2 English.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Married Tom.
Biggest Trauma: Michelle Reeves.
Do you have a secret: No.
Favourite Book: I don't read books. Magazines?
Favourite Food: Cream cakes.
Favourite Drink: Red wine, champagne.
Strength: My looks.
Weakness: My dyslexia.
Best way to spend a weekend: With the children and Dan, maybe a bit of shopping, a drink with friends...
Closest Friends: Shaunna.
Love of your life: the kids and Dan.

And here are some excerpts featuring Adele.

Beginnings

(Setting: Mrs. Kinkade’s primary school classroom.)

Across the room, Adele had glue in her hair. Shaunna didn’t put it there, but once again, she got the blame at first. Adele knew who had put it there. He did it on his way to the bin and then went back to his table. Now he was pretending he was innocent. Her mum was going to go mad. Last week, she’d had to cut her hair because the end of one of her plaits was suddenly, and for no reason at all, shorter than the other. The week before that she needed a new cardigan. Her mum came in to complain to the headmistress and passed Daniel Jeffries’ mum in the foyer, where she was telling the reception lady about having to replace his shirt because someone had cut a hole in the back.

“Daniel!” Mrs. Kinkade said his name so loudly that all of the class stopped what they were doing and turned, first to look at her, then to watch him, as he pushed his chair in with force and huffed. He walked towards the door. “Where do you think you are going?” Mrs. Kinkade snapped in the same loud, teacher voice.

“Outside, Miss,” Dan replied, a little confused, but still indignant.

“Come here,” Mrs. Kinkade commanded. He turned and walked back towards her, his face to the floor, hands dangling at his sides.

George rotated in his seat and watched Dan stomp past, sticking out his tongue at Adele on the way.

***

Hiding Behind The Couch

(Setting: Adele’s living room, with Josh.)

[Josh] “I’ve had a dream about a waterslide about six times now.”

[Adele] “A waterslide? What do you mean?”

“One of those big tubes they swoosh water through so you don’t get friction burns on the way down.”

“Oh, yes. We went to a water park with those in Italy.”

“It’s definitely not my idea of fun.”

“They’re dead good, although Tom wasn’t happy about me going on them, not in my condition. Why don’t you like them?”

“I don’t know, really. It’s just not something I’ve ever wanted to do. I can swim and all that, but there’s a big difference between popping to the local pool and going to one of those places. The only time I did, Ellie tried to force me down a massive slide, and I bottled out. Not my cup of tea at all.”

“Each to their own.” A few moments’ silence passed, and Adele started to fidget. “So, what happens in this dream of yours?”

“Not much, actually, although it does change a bit each time. Basically, I’m at the top of one of those tubes, waiting to step into it, and there’s a queue of people behind me, getting impatient. I can’t get down off the platform, and then I realise I’m naked. The next thing, I get pushed, I think, into the tube, but that’s when I wake up.”

“Ooh. How weird. My dream book says loads of stuff about dreaming you’re naked. But then, you know more about that than me, obviously.”

“Not necessarily. What does it say?”

“I’ll go and get it.” With that, Adele sprinted off to another room. For a minute or so, there was a lot of banging about and the sound of tape being torn off boxes, before she returned with the tiny, hardback book.

“Let’s see, N…N…naked, page…Right. Dreaming you are naked: you are worried you are going to be found out about something. Oh, no, this is it. To suddenly discover you are naked means you are feeling vulnerable.” She returned to the book’s index to see if waterslide was listed.

At least the book was in agreement with everything Josh knew about dream symbolism, but he wasn’t the vulnerable sort. Or maybe on a subconscious level he was, and if so, what was he suddenly feeling vulnerable about? That was a big question, and he didn’t have an answer.

“Water.” Adele found the page. “There’s nothing here about waterslides, or running water, what about boiling water? Was the water warm?”

“I have no idea, but it was bubbling, so it’s close enough.”

“OK, well, it says you are either going through emotional turmoil, or you are ready to deal with something in your unconscious.”

“I see,” Josh said flatly, but he really couldn’t. It was like reading one’s horoscope—sweeping generalisations that were supposed to apply to millions of people who happened to have been born in the same month, or in this case, because they’d had a similar dream.

“So, Josh, are you going through emotional turmoil?” Adele was quite enjoying herself.

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: Dan and Adele’s apartment/garden.)

A beautiful September evening: the setting sun cast a red glow over the garden; house martins chirruped and swooped above the rooftops; a faint smell of cut grass hung in the air as gardeners undertook what they hoped would be the last mowing of the season.

Adele fed the fish, checked on the baby, laid her hand against the wine bottle and decided it was chilled enough. She reached to the back of the cabinet and carefully extracted the two glass goblets, each more than capable of holding a whole bottle, and divided the wine equally between them. A minute or so later, the doorbell sounded, Shaunna’s halo of auburn hair instantly recognisable through the frosted window. Adele picked up the two glasses on her way, handing one to her friend and hugging her at the same time.

“Thanks.” Shaunna grinned. “How’s your day been?”

“Blissful,” Adele said, clanging their glasses together. “Quiet, unmessy, unmoody, unmenny.”

“Unmenny?” Shaunna repeated in puzzlement.

“Yeah. Without men. In other words, absolutely perfect.”

Shaunna laughed and nodded in agreement at Adele’s description. They adjourned to the garden and settled into a pair of large, wooden chairs.

“What have you been up to today?” Adele asked.

“Not much. Work, then went to see Dad.”

“Oh, right. Nothing exciting then?”

“Not really.” Shaunna sipped at her wine. There wasn’t much to say now they had cycled through the usual daily round of pleasantries, which didn’t mean they had nothing to talk about; just that, after being friends for so long, they didn’t need to talk to fill a silence, but would undoubtedly find much to fill it with as the wine loosened their tongues. It was, after all, the calm before the storm, so to speak. Eleanor and James were getting married in less than two weeks.

“Is your dress sorted now?” Adele asked. The order had been given that no-one was to wear blue, but only after Shaunna had been out and bought her outfit, which was bound to be the wrong colour. If she’d bought a red outfit, then that would have been Eleanor’s choice also. These things always happened, simply because they all knew each other so well.

“Yeah. I just swapped it for the green one,” Shaunna said.

Adele nodded. What this line of conversation was actually about was Adele’s desire to be questioned on her own outfit. Shaunna was aware of this and was struggling to pretend otherwise, but Adele looked ready to burst, so she relented.

“And how about yours? What colour did you go for in the end?”

“I’m glad you asked,” Adele breathed. She put her glass on the table and tottered back to the house, reappearing a few seconds later, clutching a burgundy faux-suede garment bag. Shaunna rolled her eyes and waited for ‘the reveal’.

“Ta-da!” Adele declared, freeing a short flowery dress and coordinating jacket. The dress was predominantly orange, with large pink roses, and the cropped, single-breasted jacket was of the same shade of pink.

“Oh, it’s very you,” Shaunna gushed. Adele held the dress, still on hanger, against her front and twirled.

“My shoes are the same as these—” she indicated to the black high-heeled wedges she was wearing “—only in pink, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Shaunna echoed. It was a lovely outfit, but it was one which only Adele could get away with, or maybe women under the age of nineteen who hadn’t had children.

***

(Setting: the back of a limo, with the rest of The Circle bar Dan and Andy.)

“Hi!” Adele said brightly, looking around the group in the back. “Ooh! Champagne. This is great, you guys.”

Kris passed the last two glasses to the newest passengers, and they both slurped giddily at the contents. It was apparent that it wouldn’t make a jot of difference whether Jess apologised or not, because Adele didn’t seem remotely bothered by what had passed between them.

It was all down to Shaunna’s good work, knowing precisely how to talk her friend around, so that she was aware that what she’d done, whether deliberate or not, would have been quite hurtful to Jess. Unfortunately, Shaunna had stopped short of advising against bringing it up in conversation.

“I just wanted to say,” Adele began, swivelling in her seat to face Jess. Shaunna was sitting between them and shrank back as far as she could. “I’m really, really sorry for telling Dan about tonight.”

“Thanks,” Jess grunted begrudgingly. “And I’m sorry I called you…whatever it was I called you.”

“Oh, that’s OK.” Adele smiled.

This time, it was Josh who stared into his lap. He’d seen that smile before, and it wasn’t a good sign. Adele wasn’t quite as dense as she liked to make out and had a malicious streak that was usually reserved for Dan. Now, it was directed right at Jess, and the close proximity of the warring factions didn’t give any room for manoeuvre, physically or psychologically.

“I totally understand,” Adele continued, unperturbed by the presence of the other six people—seven, including the driver, who was safely concealed by a relatively soundproof black screen. “I mean, while the cat’s away… And of course you don’t want Andy worrying about all that, not when he has Dan to think about. So you’re right. It was a stupid, selfish thing to do.”

Eleanor couldn’t believe Adele had just said it. They’d all thought it, but no-one would ever have said it. And now it was Jess’s turn.

***

Two By Two

(Setting: a supermarket, with George.)

George’s phone buzzed in his hand and he was relieved to see Adele’s name displayed on-screen.

“Hi, Adele. Thanks for calling back. I’m having a total nightmare!”

“Oh? What’s up?”

“Always or Bodyform?”

Adele started giggling. George waited it out in silence.

“Sorry,” she spluttered eventually.

“It’s OK. I know it sounds ridiculous, but seriously, which ones do I get? There’s about twenty different sorts of each. Does it matter?”

Adele’s sensible, sensitive side kicked in. “OK. It doesn’t matter which brand―they both do the job. I prefer without wings.”

George didn’t ask why. He just scanned the shelves and found the packets that didn’t mention wings, although he was considering buying some with wings, just to see what these ‘wings’ looked like. Feather lining for comfort, perhaps?

“OK. Found them.”

“And I’d say just go for the ones for normal flow.”

George located the ‘normal’ packets.

“Got them!”

“Anything else I can help the new father with this morning?” Adele asked. George grinned to himself.

“No. I think I’m OK now. Thanks, Adele. You’re a life saver.”

“No problem. See you soon.”

“Bye.” With a sigh of relief, George hung up and took his purchase to the checkout…

***

Those Jeffries Boys

(Setting: the labour ward, with Dan.)

A nurse came into the room and wheeled a blood pressure monitor over to the bed. “How are you feeling, Adele?”

“Great.”

The nurse fastened the cuff around Adele’s arm. “This is your second one, is that right?”

“Yeah. We’ve got a little girl. She was prem.”

“How early was she?”

“Thirteen weeks. Nine hundred and thirty grams.”

“Wow, she was tiny. How old is she now?”

“Four next month.”

“And is she doing OK?”

“She’s doing brilliantly.”

The blood pressure monitor beeped, and the nurse smiled again. “All fine.”

“Phew! No pre-eclampsia this time.”

“No, and that’s a good, strong heartbeat baby’s got. I think you’re going into theatre next, so you’re looking at about half an hour before they take you down.”

“So soon?” Dan asked.

“Nothing to worry about,” the nurse said and then left them alone again.

Dan stayed turned towards the door so Adele couldn’t see his face. “You’ve not had any more contractions since we got here.”

“No, but the consultant said he’d do it today anyway.”

Dan swallowed hard, annoyed with himself for getting tearful.

“Come here, sweetie,” Adele commanded gently. He shook his head. “Come on.”

“I should be looking after you.”

“We’re looking after each other.”

***

Reunions

(Setting: the back of a limo, with the rest of The Circle bar Eleanor and Jess.)

Adele patted Josh’s hand to get his attention.

“I saw Suzie at the gym yesterday. She’s been in every day for the past two weeks.”

“Has she?”

“Yep. I think someone might not be coping too well with going up a dress size. Or three.” Adele gave Josh an overplayed innocent pout.

“Oh, Adele,” he gasped. “You are outrageous!”

And she’s had her hair cut.” Adele’s perfect nose turned up, and she blinked her huge false eyelashes. “Doesn’t she know she’s far too old for a pixie cut?”

“Oh my god, she has not?” Josh asked, hamming up a campness he had never possessed. George leaned forward and studied him with a frown. Josh pushed his face away.

Adele nodded very slowly. “It must be so hard for her to see me every day, doing fabulous forty for real.” She gave Josh a wink to imply she was joking.

“You do do fabulous forty for real, Adele,” he said earnestly.

Her mouth became a tiny ‘o’, and her eyelids fluttered almost shut. She didn’t feel fabulous. Her implants were due to be replaced again—it would be the second time since she’d had the surgery at nineteen, but it was the first time she’d acknowledged that she didn’t need them anymore. She had two beautiful children and a handsome, successful, pain-in-the-ass fiancé. This weekend, they were moving into a new house, and she had so many ideas—for the house, and setting up her own business, and doing more college courses—she didn’t know where to start.

***

If you’ve made it this far…here’s a sneaky preview from Season Eight (work in progress)!

Alumni

(Setting: a pub, at lunchtime—think ‘ladies what lunch’. :) With Shaunna and Adele’s stepmother, Sally-Anne.)

“Who wants a drink?” Sally-Anne asked.

Adele shook her head. “I’m treating everyone today—business expense.”

Sally-Anne slow-blinked, then rapid-blinked. “Business? I don’t understand.”

“I’ll explain once everyone’s here. Lime and soda?”

“Yes…thanks, that would be perfect, sweetie.” Sally-Anne watched Adele totter away to the bar and then turned back to Shaunna. “How are you, sweetie?”

“I’m great, thanks, Sally-Anne. You?”

“As well as can be expected.” She shrugged and attempted a smile. “I put on a brave face, you know? For Adele’s sake, but the truth is, I’m lonely.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “And frustrated.”

“Ah, yeah. I know that feeling.” Shaunna picked up her glass, which was almost empty, and shouted to Adele, “Are you getting more wine?” Adele nodded to confirm she had it in hand; Shaunna tipped the last of the wine into her mouth.

“The batteries are costing me a fortune,” Sally-Anne opined.

Shauuna swallowed the wine and put her glass down again, then burst into giggles.

For a moment, Sally-Anne scowled, affronted, but then she joined in. “Sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Nothing, by the sound of it,” Shaunna pushed out between the guffaws and tears, and then those, too, disappeared into the silence of giggles beyond giggles.

Adele returned and stuttered to a stop next to the table in bewilderment. “What’s so funny?” she asked with a forced smile. “Are you laughing at me?”

“No. Oh, God.” Shaunna couldn’t catch her breath. “Excuse me,” she said and set off for the Ladies’ with a view to getting her giggles back under control.

Adele sat down and took out her tablet, glancing over the notes for what she wanted to talk about without taking in a single word. Sally-Anne had her compact mirror in her hand and was touching up her lipstick, intermittently spluttering a laugh. In the end, Adele switched off her tablet and sat back with arms folded. “What?”

“Sorry?” Sally-Anne snapped her compact shut and put it back in her bag, then blinked innocently at Adele.

“You and Shaunna, giggling. Why?”

“Ah, well…” Sally-Anne bit her glossy bottom lip. “It was girl talk, you know? S-E-X… You remember I told you about that new…toy I bought? Well, it eats up batteries.”

“OK, I don’t want to know,” Adele said quickly.

“You did ask, sweetie.”

“Yeah.” She really wished she hadn’t.

“Why didn’t you say?”

“Say…what?”

“It upsets you, doesn’t it? When I talk about…that.” Sally-Anne’s brows came together, crinkle-free, thanks to the Botox.

“No, it’s fine,” Adele said, even though Sally-Anne’s over-sharing had been making her nauseous for the better part of twenty years.

“I’m sorry. I always thought…well, it was hard to find some common ground, you know? And I thought to myself…Sally-Anne, she’s a young woman, beautiful, dating boys… I didn’t want you to feel that you couldn’t talk to me about sex. But, of course, you didn’t want to hear about me and Hen—your father. How stupid I am.”

“No, Sally-Anne.” Adele threw out all caution and reached across the table, taking both of her stepmother’s hands in hers and holding them firmly. Sally-Anne’s admission had sparked a new understanding, and tears, which Adele would prefer didn’t ruin her make-up, but she could fix that later. She needed to fix this right now. The opportunity might never come again. “Thank you,” she said.

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Making of Us #RainbowSnippets #LGBT #TransAwarenessWeek


I haven’t posted to Rainbow Snippets in such a long time—busy life, in short—but I decided to join in today to celebrate Trans Awareness Week. I’ll be honest: there are very few trans characters in my stories, and for no good reason, but I’ve become aware of it over the past couple of years, and I’m working on changing that. :)

Anyway, here’s a snippet from The Making of Us featuring Jazz—one of the officers of (MC) Jesse’s university’s LGBT+ society.

* * * * *
Most of the members identified as gay or lesbian; there were a couple of trans students—Jazz being the only one I knew well, because we’d been at Weight Watchers together the previous year. I’d lost six kilos, and I was pretty sure I’d put them all back on again in a matter of weeks. Jazz had lost around twenty kilos and kept the weight off, and she looked amazing. Well, she’d looked amazing before, but now, she was more confident and less self-conscious, and she got to wear clothes that accentuated her curves. Tonight, she was wearing a floor-length dress—red or purple, I thought—with a low back and a fair bit of cleavage on display. With her heels, she wasn’t far off my height.
* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - More Goths, Gigs and NaNoWriMo #amwriting #lgbtqia



WIPpet numbers for 15th November, 2017:
15 lines of dialogue from Goth of Christmas Past


WIPpet Context:
I haven’t ditched Tabula Rasa, but I am taking a break from it to write for NaNoWriMo. Thus, I’m snipping from my very new (and rough) WIP Goth of Christmas Past, currently on target at 25,000 words.

The pictured cover is NOT the cover, which is finished, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. :)

I also have a draft blurb! :o
Black hair and band hoodies had a lot to answer for.

That day, eleven years ago, when Gothboy mooched into their business studies class for the very first time, Krissi had taken one look at him and thought, What a freak. He’s so cool!

Now in their mid-twenties, Krissi Johansson and Jay Meyer are successful businesspeople and still best friends. But while one of them is moving forward with their life, the other is sliding ever backwards…revisiting the past and wallowing in regret.
Worse still, it’s Christmas—happy joy joy everywhere! Yay. >.<

In this snippet, Jay has just informed Krissi that he’s organising a multi-band gig at his studio on Boxing Day (26th September). Stu and Hadyn both work at the studio.

* * * * *
[Krissi] “Are you sure you don’t want to ditch that idea to do, you know, Christmas?”

[Jay] “I don’t do, you know, Christmas.”

“What about Stu and Hadyn?”

“They don’t, either.”

“Did you ask them, Jay? Or did you just tell them they were working?”

“It’s not like it’s Christmas Day or anything, is it?”

“When are you going to set up?”

“Boxing Day.”

“You’re gonna set up the studio and sound check however many bands—well, about two, because, let’s face it, it’s Christmas—”

“Twelve,” Jay said.

“Oh, there’s a coincidence. Like the Twelve Days of Christmas!”

“We’ve been rehearsing a cover of that. It’s awesome.”

“Are you being intentionally ironic?”

“Why, yes, I am.” Jay tugged his hair back and twisted it into a tiny top knot. “Good look for me, no?”

Krissi sipped sharply at her coffee. It really was too early for this kind of test of her patience.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, November 13, 2017

Character Spotlight: Andy Jeffries (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


Today, it’s time to meet Andy Jeffries, the middle brother, adventure sports nut, the wayward one (or he was…).

I can’t find any images (free, stock or otherwise) even vaguely similar to how Andy looks in my head, so the image above is my Daz 3D representation. It’s close enough for rock ’n’ roll.

Note: for readers who haven’t read as far as In The Stars / Red Hot Christmas, the spoilers start in Andy’s CV, and there are MAJOR spoilers in the later excerpts.

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Andy Jeffries
Name: Andrew (Andy) Jeffries
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown-black, wavy, longish
Complexion: Olive
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: no idea
Build: athletic
Tattoos/Piercings: One ear pierced. No tatts yet
Education: Local technical college - BEng Civil Engineering
Accent: Northwest English
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England.
Siblings: Two brothers - Mike (older), Dan (younger).
Children: Krissi, Rosie and Sorsha.
Places lived: Northwest England.
Jobs: Far too many to recall - scouting overseas coms jobs for Dan, site supervisor in Dubai, director of Jeffries and Associates, stay-at-home dad.
Interests: Surfing, scuba-diving, snowboarding - pretty much will try anything.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: Getting the girl.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: The Party.
Biggest Trauma: None, really.
Do you have a secret: Nah.
Favourite Book: Haven't got one.
Favourite Food: Thai curry.
Favourite Drink: Beer.
Strength: Easy-going.
Weakness: Irresponsible.
Best way to spend a weekend: With my girls and their mum.
Closest Friends: Dan, Charlie.
Love of your life: My girls and their mum.

And here are some excerpts featuring Andy.

Beginnings

(Setting: Detention in first year of high school.)

Another hour wasted in another deserted classroom, while the upper-school team played against Holy Rosary just outside the window. They cheered again, and Andy instinctively turned to look.

“Mr. Jeffries. We’re not here to entertain you,” Mr. Long said loudly without looking up from his marking.

Andy sighed and went back to his maths. Boring, boring, boring. And his own fault. He was late—third late in three weeks equals detention with the headmaster, or, in fact, the deputy head, Mr. Schlong, as he’d heard some of Aitch’s mates call him. Andy had laughed along, but didn’t have the faintest clue why they called him that.

Sir coughed into his hand and adjusted his position in his teacher seat. Andy sighed again and completed question four of twenty. He was allowed to go when he’d finished them. That’s what Sir had said, but his mind kept drifting off, to the big lads in footy kits, distracted by the thwack of a well-placed boot and another round of cheers, slightly quieter than before. The opposition had scored.

“Come on, laddo, crack on with it,” Mr. Long chastised, a little more sympathetically this time. “The sooner it’s done…”

“I know, Sir. Sorry.”

Andy sat up straight and tore through another five questions before he started to daydream once more. He was never in this much trouble at primary school—a few playtimes and lunch breaks spent in the corridor outside Mrs. Patel’s office, mostly for fighting, and usually with Dan. Sometimes he didn’t even know why he was in trouble. Like Bonfire Night in first year of juniors, when he took sparklers to school. It wasn’t as if they lit them inside, or anything. They’d even waited until all the infants had gone in, just to make sure. And Mum was fuming.

***

Hiding Behind The Couch

(Setting: an airfield, with Dan.)

“Right, then.” Dan untied the snowboards. “You want excitement? I’ll give you excitement.”

Andy looked around him at the open space of the airfield. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Dan had hardly spoken to him in months and then he turns up at the house and tells him they’re going to do things together, the way brothers do. It made no sense.

“Why are we at an airfield with snowboards?”

“I saw this thing the other week. Skysurfing, it’s called.”

“Are you mad? Skysurfing needs special boards. And training. Jay does it.”

“They’re close enough, unless you want to buy the real deal. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you don’t have any money.”

“OK, that was low. But you’re scaring me for real now. What the hell’s going on?”

Dan didn’t reply. He handed Andy his board and set off in the direction of a small, distant building. Andy followed reluctantly. He’d promised Jess he wouldn’t do anything dangerous, and he’d only been parachuting twice, paragliding once. He was a fairly accomplished snowboarder, but this was way beyond anything he wanted to experience right now. He’d never seen Dan like this, and everything inside him was telling him to refuse, but somehow he couldn’t stop himself from going along with it.

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: Bhagwan’s pickup truck descending a mountain in Nepal. Dan is sick and asleep; Andy and Bhagwan—his friend from Kathmandu—are chatting about their families to pass the time.)

“We’ve not always been close,” Andy said. “I did something really stupid when I was young and Dan covered up for me. He’s always done that, you know? Taken the blame when it was my fault. I got him into so much trouble at school sometimes. I’d go off on some mad thing or other and he’d just follow, idiot.”

“Not idiot. He is the younger brother, yes? This is what we do.”

Andy laughed. “Yes, that is what younger brothers do. We’ve got another brother, too—three years older than me—but we never felt the need to always be getting in the way of whatever he was up to. Still don’t now, as a matter of fact.”

“You two are the same. He is different to you perhaps, your other brother?”

“Very much so. Me and Dan—we like the same music, football team, girls. Other than Adele. She is stunning, of course, but she’s always been off-limits. And their little girl. Honestly, Bhagwan, you wouldn’t believe how beautiful she is! She has the darkest brown eyes and she just sort of looks up at you, blinking those big eyes. She’s going to be a heartbreaker when she grows up, for sure. And she’s started to talk now, too. She shouts ‘Addy’ whenever I go round to see them. She’s just awesome. And she’s growing up so fast. When she was born, she was so tiny you could fit her on your hand. Amazing!”

“You want children?”

The question took Andy by surprise. Luckily, the darkness was hiding his face, because he hadn’t intended to gush like that about little Shaunna, but Bhagwan was right. He did finally feel ready to be a parent, although he and Jess didn’t have that sort of relationship, so it was unlikely they’d be experiencing the ‘patter of tiny feet’ anytime soon, if ever.

“Maybe one day,” he said cagily. “Tell me about your children. How old are they again?”

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: National Trust parkland; Andy has invited Shaunna on a picnic.)

“Here looks good,” Andy suggested, pointing to a grassy area under a sycamore tree. Shaunna spread the blanket out.

“You do realise it’s only ten o’clock?” she said.

“So?”

“So it’s very early to be out for a picnic.”

“Which means we’ve got a whole day to do it, if that’s what we decide.”

“OK.”

“To be honest, I thought you’d probably want to be home before Kris got back from work.”

“He’s won’t be back until at least six.”

“Awesome. That’s another eight hours of your wonderful, sober company.”

Shaunna laughed. “I bet you get bored by, oh, I give it till about eleven.”

“Hey! I resent that! Even I can last longer than an hour.”

“That wasn’t quite what I meant.”

“I know.” Andy put the picnic hamper down on the corner of the blanket and unbuckled the two straps. He flipped the lid open. “However, I must tell you that I have been known to stick at a single activity for several minutes at a time.” He took out two plastic tumblers, then a flask, which he duly opened, decanting the cloudy liquid into the tumblers. He handed one to her.

“Whole minutes, eh? I’m impressed. Cheers!” She banged her drink against his and took a sip. It was cold and sweet, with a sharp edge to it. “Mmm. That’s nice.”

“I made it myself. With real lemons.”

“Really? You’re full of surprises.”

“Also…” Andy delved in the hamper again and extracted a small, plastic box. He popped the lid, and she glanced inside. “I made these, too. Kind of.”

“Lemon curd tarts. Excellent. I love lemon curd tarts.”

“Yeah. I remembered that from way back, although I wasn’t sure you still did.”

“I still do,” Shaunna confirmed. She sat down and patted the blanket. He accepted her invitation but was careful to keep space between them, for he genuinely had no ulterior motive. Life was complicated enough at the moment without the added challenge of trying anything on. Besides, she’d said she didn’t want a relationship.

***

(Setting: Jess’s kitchen, with Shaunna.)

“Kris is upstairs,” she whispered, disbelieving.

“I know,” he whispered back. “That’s why I did it.”

She frowned and stepped back slightly. He moved with her.

“Just for the thrill?” she asked.

He sighed, humouring her, and kissed her again. “Because it’s safer.”

She understood now. However much they wanted it, they couldn’t go any further with Kris there.

“Bet you’d like that,” he said, a smile dancing on his lips. She stood on tiptoes and ran the tip of her tongue up the cleft in his chin, just as she had always wanted, and kissed him back.

“Would you?” she asked, a hint of a dare in the question. He didn’t answer. “Of course, you’re not really his type. You’re too…” Her hand trailed down over his firm pectoral muscles, traced his abs. She inhaled deeply and let go of the breath very slowly, put her head down, fighting herself and the desire within, pushing her towards complete abandon. F**k Kris. Just take me here and now. Her mind even fleetingly considered the fortuity of the towels and sheets being so close by, and she could feel him throbbing against her. He didn’t seem to care that his state of arousal was so obvious, almost as if he were showing off. Look what I have for you. She pushed against him and looked up again. He was smiling.

“Patience, my red hot baby.”

“I thought that was the Mustang.”

“Jealous?”

“Of a car? Get real!”

“Well, you know how she loves me to gently ease down her top and run my hands over her sexy curves. When she’s ready, I just slide right inside, get her started, and we take it nice and slow at first—don’t want to rush it when it’s that good, then we take it up a gear…”

Shaunna shook her head. “You sound like a complete sleazeball.”

***

Red Hot Christmas

(Setting: Andy’s living room.)

“I was wrong,” Kris admitted. “About everything.”

“That’s just it. You weren’t. You love Shaunna and Krissi, and I admire what you’ve done for them. I’m so bloody jealous of what you’ve got, and that’s not who I am. A jealous guy.”

“Why wouldn’t you be jealous? You love her, don’t you?”

“You’ve no idea.” Andy slapped his palms over his eyes. He could feel tears prickling, and there was no way he was going to cry. Not in front of Kris.

“Can I make you a drink or something?” Kris offered. Andy laughed behind his hands.

“No,” he said, dragging himself to his feet. “I’ll do it. Tea or coffee?”

“Coffee, thanks.”

Andy wandered off across the room. “Sit down,” he called back.

Kris perched at one end of the sofa, trying to keep at bay the noxious thought of how many times Shaunna and Andy had screwed on this very spot. It no longer made him angry, or not with them; with himself, for trying to keep them apart. Andy returned and collected the empty spirit bottles.

“You got hammered last night,” Kris stated.

“Yeah,” Andy confirmed. “Feeling it this morning.” He took the bottles away.

“Me and Dan had a few beers.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah.”

It was a shouted conversation across the expanse of the enormous lounge, but a conversation nonetheless.

***

(Setting: on a plane, somewhere above Manchester.)

“So,” Shaunna said as soon as the safety belt light went out. “Mile High Club?” She walked her fingers up the inside of Andy’s thigh. He slapped them still before they reached their destination.

“No way!”

She glanced around the almost empty cabin. “No-one’ll know.”

Andy shook his head. “D’you think they might have security cameras on planes these days?”

“I thought you liked the idea of getting caught in the act.”

“I don’t like the idea of starring in Caught On Camera!”

Shaunna giggled. “I can see it now,” she said. She braced her shoulders, stuck out her chest and said in a deep voice, “Adele? Come and look at this. Do those arse cheeks look familiar?”

Andy laughed. He reached over and kissed her. “Patience, my red hot baby. You’ll just have to wait till we get to the hotel.”

“Damn.” Shaunna sat back in her seat and leaned against Andy’s shoulder. “I can’t believe Kris did this for us.”

“I know. He’s awesome.”

“And still scary?”

“Nah.”

Shaunna leaned forward and examined the bulge in Andy’s jeans. She licked her lips and flashed him a seductive smile. “Then that must be for me.” She put her free hand on his knee, and he captured it immediately.

“Later!”

“Spoilsport.”

He turned and kissed her head. “It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.”

***

Two By Two

(Setting: Barbara and Len’s—Andy and Dan’s mum and her husband—kitchen table.)

“How’s the car?” Len asked Andy.

“Yeah,” Andy said, nodding and swallowing half a sandwich in order to answer. “She’s beautiful.”

“She?” Barbara queried. “How d’you decide that an enormous American car is a ‘she’?”

“She’s sexy, Mum. How could she not be a she?”

“It’s just a car, Andrew.”

“That’s a terrible thing to say. She’ll be hurt.”

Shaunna stuffed her sandwich in her mouth and chewed fast. Damn those giggles. She glanced up and caught Barbara’s eye. The older woman gave her the slightest of mischievous winks.

“And does she have a name?” Barbara asked.

“Err, not really,” Andy said. Dan snorted.

“Yeah, she does,” he said.

“No.” Andy glared at his brother. “She doesn’t.”

“Yeah,” Dan continued, “she’s a hot motor, for sure.”

Andy growled.

“Red and hot.” Dan nodded and smirked.

Shaunna tipped her head so that her hair blocked her view of everyone else. Barbara looked around the table at all the different facial expressions―Andy’s embarrassment, Shaunna’s giggling, Dan’s delighted amusement. Len carried on eating his sandwiches, oblivious to what he’d set in motion.

***

Those Jeffries Boys

(Setting: Andy is at home, talking to Dan via video-call.)

“Alright, bro? We’ve got a problem.”

Andy lifted Rosie’s bottom and slid the clean nappy underneath. “Can’t you start a convo with ‘how’s it hanging’ or something?”

“Alright, bro? How’s it hanging? We’ve got a problem.”

Andy gave up. “What this time? You need me to fly out to Tristan da Cunha?”

“Who?”

“Not who, what.”

“You lost me.”

“No surprises there.” Andy fastened Rosie’s nappy and put her in her bouncer so he could properly continue his conversation with Dan—once he’d stopped laughing at the view onscreen of his brother’s sweaty red face. “What are you doing?”

“Workout.” Dan grinned and hoisted Robbie a few inches up, and down, and up, and down again. “I’m at Mum’s.”

“I figured.” Andy could hear the whirr of a treadmill belt. “So, what’s up?”

***

(Setting: Campion Trust office, with Alice.)

Not a revelation, a reminder, that on the other side of the tempest he was sailing with his brothers, his daughters and their mother were awaiting his safe return. “My life is awesome,” he said. “I’ve never told you about Shaunna, have I?”

“Not in words.” Alice’s eyes twinkled mischievously. Andy felt himself blush, and Alice laughed. “Let me tell you…” She held up her forefinger. “I should make us some tea first.”

Before Andy could protest—not that he’d intended to—Alice trotted out of the office and across to the kitchen, from where, soon after, he heard the sounds of the kettle boiling and a teapot being prepared. He used the time to send Shaunna a text: How are my girls? x

Her reply—We’re good. What time ru home? x—came as Alice returned with a tray bearing a teapot, a milk jug and two cups and saucers. Andy typed a quick response: After tea with Alice. Love you. x

Alice set the tray down on the desk Jason shared with whichever trustee happened to be working on any given day. Andy’s phone buzzed in his hand. We love you too. x. He smiled and put his phone away, aware that Alice was watching him, or, rather, studying the air around his head. Once upon a time, he’d found it disconcerting, but he was well used to it by now. She was analysing his scent, and from it his state of mind.

“That’s much better.” She smiled and nodded her approval. “Now, where were we? Ah, yes.” She paused to adjust the tea cosy and resumed her seat at her desk but still facing Andy. “Are you going to sit down, dear?”

Obediently, Andy pulled out the chair next to the other desk and sat. “Should I pour the tea, Alice?”

“Not yet, dear.”

“OK.”

“Tea, like all good things, takes time to reach its potential.” Alice raised an eyebrow and tilted her head to indicate she meant him.

“A good thing.” He nodded with fake arrogance. “I can go with that.”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x