TITLE: Double Scoop
SERIES: With a Kick #8
AUTHOR: Clare London
PUBLISHER: Jocular Press
COVER ARTIST: Lou Harper
LENGTH: 45,000 words
RELEASE DATE: April 07, 2016
BLURB: A sudden disaster strikes everyone’s favourite ice cream shop, With A Kick. Not only does it threaten the livelihood of its owner, Patrick, but also his loyal assistant Lee. The last thing in the world Patrick would ever want to do is hurt Lee, either physically or emotionally. Why would he? He’s been falling in love with Lee since the day Lee invited himself into the shop’s business and Patrick’s life. But familiar and deeply-held insecurities hold Patrick back – he’s too gruff for Lee, too old, and his labour-of-love business is never going to make him rich.
Lee is weary of trying to make Patrick see how much he admires and cares for him. To Lee, it’s a very straightforward situation. Patrick is sexy, Patrick is smart, Patrick needs Lee’s help – and Lee needs Patrick in his life as more than a boss. All the characteristics Patrick finds inhibiting, Lee finds attractive. However, if Patrick’s apparently never going to make a move on Lee, how long should Lee wait to make his own move? Maybe Patrick thinks Lee is too clingy, too immature. Maybe Lee should give up his romantic hopes completely. If, that is, he can bear to do it.
The disaster at the shop brings them a whole new opportunity to work – and love – together to make a go of things. They’ve both got to look at each other in a whole new way. With the help of all their With A Kick friends, this could be make or break for the reluctant couple!
“Was it something I did?” Lee’s voice was low and shaky. “I just opened up as usual, but I realise now I did smell something odd. I was going to call you to ask what it might be, but I went to make coffee first. All I did was turn on the light.”
Patrick’s heart seemed to clench like a painful fist. “The spark will have ignited the gas. It wasn’t your fault, it must have been leaking out all night.”
“But if I’d called you… if I’d let you open up, like you suggested, you’d have known what to do. Or what not to do. Instead, I was thinking you looked so tired recently, you needed more sleep—”
“Lee, stop. Listen to me.” Patrick was biting back the urge to shout. How the hell could Lee think there was any blame attached to him? “It was not your fault. It was never your fault. Jesus, you could have been killed! It’s my fault if anything, for not noticing a problem before today.”
“But what are we going to do? I mean, you do? What’s going to happen about the shop?”
Patrick sighed. “I’ll have to decide if the damage is worth repairing and see what savings I have, I suppose. And probably get another job in the meantime. I can always go back to supply teaching.”
“Fuck, no!” Then Lee blushed and looked around quickly to check no one had heard him. “You hate that, you said so. Not enough time to build a relationship with the kids, not a proper member of the staff.”
“Sounds like you’ve been listening to me when I rant about my days in teaching,” Patrick said. Despite everything, Lee made him want to smile. “Needs must.”
“But there are so many things planned for the next few months! What about the ice cream parties that’ve been booked, both for the kids and adults? Our plans for Valentine’s Day? That’s only days away. Your PC’s probably damaged, too. What about Phiz’s job, helping out with the website stuff? And the supplies to all the local businesses? They trust us to deliver. If they have to go elsewhere, we’ll… you’ll lose all your regular customers.”
“Lee. Please. I’ll sort something out.” Patrick’s throat hurt with the large lump of misery lodged there. Lee’s lively imagination wasn’t helping at the moment. “More importantly, what about you?”
“Me?” Lee was obviously startled. “Oh, I can get any old job. I’ve got a marketing degree, you know.”
“I know.” And Patrick also knew how often they’d talked about the difficulty of finding a decent job in that discipline. Lee had tried for almost a year. The job Patrick had offered him at With A Kick had been salvation for both of them. “Lee, I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry? What for?”
“For losing you your job. For getting you hurt.” The pity engulfed him quite suddenly, like the world had dropped out from under his feet.
“Patrick. Patrick?” He realised Lee was shaking his arm, concern on his face. “It’s okay. Are you all right? I mean, apparently you dashed right in and put out the fire.”
“I didn’t think it through, I just had to get in there and do something.”
“And save me.” Lee’s eyes twinkled suspiciously brightly.
“Yes, and save you. Of course, I know you’d rather have had one of the firemen in those tight tee shirts you’re always lusting over.”
There was a small, quiet silence between them before Lee spoke. “That’s what you think.”
Patrick was only half-listening. He was consumed with his own guilt and worry. But when Lee rested his head gently on Patrick’s shoulder, he didn’t pull away. The touch was comforting on so many levels. When he turned his head to speak, Lee’s stubble brushed softly across Patrick’s chin.
“I like the new look,” he teased.
Lee chuckled. “Mum brought my spare shaver from home, but to be honest, I couldn’t face going back onto the ward and shaving. If you like it, I’ll keep it.”
“Well, it’s if you like it, isn’t it?”
“Sure.” There was silence between them for a moment. Then Lee sat up straight again. “Patrick, I’m determined to get out of this chair. Help me, will you? But then can we go for a coffee or something? I don’t really want to go home just yet.”
“Of course.” Patrick helped Lee up. He was suddenly conscious of Lee’s body shaking against him. “Are you really okay? Tell me the truth, you idiot boy.”
Lee’s chuckle at the familiar tease was half-hearted. “I don’t really want to go home at all, you know. Not yet. Not… on my own.”
“But you told your parents—?”
“Patrick, you berk. I’d almost rather be thrown across the shop kitchen again than have my family fussing around me every minute of the day.”
Patrick winced. “Noted. I could call Phiz or Eddy to stay with you.” Eddy was Nuri’s boyfriend, once an aspiring actor, and a long-standing friend of Lee’s.
“No room.” Lee’s Brixton flat was miniscule, with a bedroom that barely accommodated a single bed, and only room for two armchairs and a TV in his living room. When he’d started working at With A Kick, Patrick had helped him move in. The flat was convenient for public transport to the shop, but by relocating from his home in Essex into the centre of London, Lee had lost out on space in return. “But, yes, I’ll call them. Don’t worry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’ll be all right.”
There was a moment’s silence.
Can I? Should I?
“You could stay with me tonight,” Patrick said abruptly.
Lee blinked. “Hasn’t the flat been damaged too? Patrick, you won’t be able to move back in yet.”
“No. I mean, I have a hotel booking. It’s not far from the hospital. At least you can have a good night’s rest in a room you don’t have to clean up yourself, and you can call for any help you need.”
“Can you afford this?”
“Bryan’s funding it until the insurance comes through. As long as I don’t go mad and clean out the minibar.”
“What will you do?”
“I mean, if I take your room, where will you stay?” Then Lee flushed. “Shit. Sorry. What am I like? Maybe I’m not firing on all cylinders again yet.” His laugh sounded over-loud. “You meant sharing, of course. What a good idea.”
Patrick reserved judgement on that, not that he was going to withdraw his offer now. His heart had suddenly started beating faster. “If you feel awkward with it, I could go to Bryan’s. He’s offered to put me up.” Patrick had no other family in London, they both knew that. Nowhere else to go. And now his heart was racing.
Sharing. Of course.
“Jeez, Phiz will drive you nuts in half an hour with his verbal diahorrhea, however much he’s a mate. No, we can share a room, no problem. I don’t mind, do you?”
“No,” Patrick said with helpless honesty. Lee, in the same room at night, undressing for bed, cleaning his teeth. Sleeping nearby. Breathing, turning over, coughing. Everything. Sharing. “No. I don’t mind at all.”
Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!
Winner’s Prize: 5 e-copies of Double Scoop
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