TCO is very excited to bring you the Exclusive Cover Reveal for Clare London’s next installment in the London Lads series, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Check out the amazing cover-such detail!-along with a sassy excerpt and a giveaway!!! Welcome to Clare!!!!
Garry’s at the end of his tether. He’s waiting at Glasgow Airport to meet his friend Will, on their way to a holiday in a Scottish Highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.
He’s also dreading having to apologise for the pass he recently made at Will, his colleague at a London bank, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. Now Will’s been offered a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, Garry realises it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.
To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together.
Note: this book was previously published at Amber Quill Press, and has been re-edited for this version.
Release Date: August 30, 2017
Artist: Valerie Tibbs
Valerie Tibbs’ romantic theme for this series of London stories continues to delight me! Here are our two best friends Garry and Will, separated by the very thing that’s meant to bring them together – an airport visit on their way to a holiday with their friends. Will’s delayed on his flight in from New York, and so Garry’s stuck on his own at Glasgow Airport.
And then Garry meets two precocious kids, Max and Emily, to contend with. Mess, mixed-up words, and a lot of unwanted advice from kids under half his age. Just what he needs! Through it all, half of him is desperate to see Will again, but the other half is mortified that he made a clumsy pass at Will and must apologise. Or… must he? Dear readers, you can probably guess how that might turn out 😊.
This is the fifth title in the series of novellas I’m publishing with Dreamspinner Press throughout 2017, all under the banner “London Lads”. A set of individual contemporary romances set in and about London, involving confusion, tension, passion, miscommunication, heart searching, and some humour – but always love. I’ve been so excited to see the whole line of covers unfold over these last months, and share them with you!
Today Between a Rock and a Hard Place goes on pre-order. It’s a short romantic contemporary story, with humour and an HEA, and themes of friends to lovers, unrelieved sexual tension, and the things kids say! I hope you enjoy this post, the cover reveal, and my celebratory Giveaway today.
Garry must have dozed off. He woke with numbness in his left arm that made it feel the size of a Halloween pumpkin, and pain in his scalp that meant his hair had got caught awkwardly on the wrong side of his parting. His head had drooped over the back of the chair, and his legs were folded underneath it in a manner that would defy a professional acrobat. Trying to move his limbs just made him groan aloud. It took him a depressingly long time to get himself upright again and, wincing, he made a mental note to renew his gym membership when he got back home after the trip.
He tried to smooth his hair back down in place. He’d snagged the shoulder-length ends into a short ponytail for travelling, but the tie had twisted at the back of his neck. When he tugged the hair back, his fingers caught up in the tangles. It also seemed to have collected an interesting selection of dust particles and the remains of a catering-sized butter wrapper. Maybe a couple of those blueberry droppings. He squinted at the lounge clock and saw that a couple of the ten hours had passed.
The good thing was that the Sleeping Not-Beauty had left the seat beside him.
The not-so-good thing was that he had another neighbour, and this one was a lot smaller. Probably only about seven. A plump-cheeked girl stared at him, her eyes sky-blue, her hair pale blonde. She was delicately pretty and would have looked like some kind of picture book princess, except that she had a huge, suspiciously red stain on the front of her Hello Kitty T-shirt. Her legs were tightly pressed together to contain a pile of sweets in her lap and there was sugar frosting stuck all over her skirt. Some of the sweets had obviously already been consumed—the frosting was on the end of her nose, and around her mouth too—and she chewed thoughtfully as she stared at him.
Garry wrinkled his nose. The sweets had a particularly violent and disturbing smell, like a medicine he’d once been forced to take as a kid. A fair proportion of the sugar fallout seemed to have made its way onto his jeans too. He examined his mood and doubted it was one to tolerate children just at the moment. Sensation was creeping back into his arm and it was bloody painful. He wanted to swear—he had a good vocabulary, he’d been complimented on it more than once—but, of course, that was now out of the question. He knew that much about children.
“Hi,” the girl said. “You’re awake now.”
He glared at her, groggy from his nap and with his limbs still aching. His stuffy brain wanted him to say “buzz off, squirt,” but his mouth opened, and he said, “Hi.” He didn’t know what else to say to such a small person. He hadn’t had a lot of practice with them. Allen used to talk about his large family and the new generation of nieces and nephews, but Garry admitted in his deepest, most honest heart, that he usually tuned out all that information.
He and Will had talked about kids, once. That is—other people’s. Or, that was how it started.
“I’ve never wanted them,” Garry said. It was after a long, four-way Skype conversation with Allen and Leonard, peppered with anecdotes both amazing and infuriating about Allen’s extended family.
“Me, neither.” Will was squashed up close to Garry, both of them perched on bar stools because it was quiz night at the Grove, and all the tables were packed full.
“That story about dropping all the eggs on the kitchen floor.” Garry rolled his eyes. “I’d have been bloody furious, not laughing.”
“And pulling down their pants in the supermarket? Wow.” Will chuckled.
“The story about adopting the abandoned puppies was sort of cute….”
“But not putting them in the baby’s cot! Not when they found out about the fleas, anyway.”
Garry smiled ruefully. “Nothing but trouble, eh? Pooping and pissing babies, yelling and crying. Scrawny, slippery little toddlers, running amok, never sleeping through the night, smashing windows with footballs, drawing zoo animals on the bottom of the bath with permanent marker. Teenagers, just as bad, climbing trees, ripping clothes, smoking a whole pack of cigs then vomiting over the sofa….”
Will was peering at him, an amused look on his face. “Um. So who did all that?”
“I have three brothers, man.”
Garry scowled. “Okay, so mainly me.”
Will chuckled again. “But I guess it’s different when they’re your own.” He didn’t look as disgusted as he had before.
“How so? Just think—” Garry clamped his mouth shut.
What kind of kid we’d create if it were possible. Garry couldn’t finish that sentence. He’d started it as a joke, but suddenly it felt like something different. Something that prompted a painful, emotional tweak in his chest.
“Mini-mes,” Will continued, his eyes still on Garry, his thigh all but nudging Garry’s. “Mini-yous. Would that be so bad?”
Garry changed the subject, pretty smartish.
Back in the here and now…
“You want one?” The little girl in the airport held out something to Garry that looked sticky and totally unappealing, vibrantly pink and green and in the shape of a heart. New sprinkles of sugar whispered off it onto their knees.
Garry pursed his lips. He had a barely irresistible urge to brush off the white crystals as if they’d rot like poison through his jeans. “No thanks. I already ate.”
He stared at her. Who did she think she was, his mother? “When I got here.”
“You’ll need more than that,” she said bluntly. “The Delay is twelve hours now.” Her tone dignified it with capital letters, like it was some kind of alien monster, a Harbinger of Armageddon, a Premonition of Global Doom.
Now she had him doing it, even in private. For a second he thought he might still be asleep and dreaming he was in a late-night version of The Twilight Zone. But his back and his toes were still hurting, so it looked like he was awake. Damn shame.
“You should be with your parents,” he said, just as bluntly.
But she didn’t seem disturbed. She put a red and yellow heart into her mouth and wiped her sticky fingers down her T-shirt. It proved that at least the red stain wasn’t blood. Garry wondered at what point he’d even considered that might be the case.
“You’re grumpy,” she said. “Just like Mum.”
“Huh?” One thing Garry did know about kids was that, if you encouraged them, they stuck like glue. Or like particularly revolting sweets. All he had to do was stifle any conversation and then, in a minute, she’d get bored of him and wander off again.
“I’ll stay here for a while.” She patted her lap with determination. A sparkling cloud of sugar floated a few inches off the fabric, then settled back down again. Garry thought some of it might have got stuck up his nose—every time he moved he could smell the cloying sweetness anew. “Mum and Dad aren’t smiling. My uncle sent me to get some sweets.”
Garry looked around, a little warily. Surely there’d be a couple seated somewhere close, watching their child fondly? Or they’d be walking over to her, calling her back to join them. Or they’d be running back and forth through the airport lounge, weeping and screaming for their kidnapped child, followed by armed police.
He couldn’t see anyone taking any notice of them at all.
“So where are they, your parents? They’ll be worrying about you. Won’t they?”
She shrugged. A small bubble of orange popped at the side of her petite little mouth, and she giggled softly. “Unc said I should get sweets and Dad didn’t say no because he was all red in the face. Mum said I was to go off and skip.”
Garry stared at the blonde head and re-examined the carefully pronounced words. Go off and skip? None of it made sense. Was it some new street-speak? Was it meant to make sense?
Then another small but equally clear voice broke in. “What she means is, Mum told her to take a running jump. They were arguing about the Delay. Dad gets very tense with Delays.”
Garry spun around to examine the speaker. When did someone arrive on his other side too? He stared into clear air, then dropped his gaze down several inches. It was another small person; a boy this time.
“Best we keep out of the way for a while,” the boy said, very solemnly. He was just like the girl, though he looked older. Same blond hair, same blue eyes. A lot less mess on his face but, in place of it, his mouth was twisted into a very sour look. He sat rather primly on the seat, dressed in smart jeans and a denim shirt, his feet swinging slightly above the floor. A Game Boy was on his lap, his fingers still hovering over it as if he’d only just paused play.
“So?” asked Garry. Your point is? His head was starting to hurt.
The boy frowned at him. “Well, obviously we’ll stay here for a while until they calm down. They’re always like this when we fly.” He glared over Garry’s lap at the girl. “She should know that.”
“Mum has men strudel,” the girl said, oblivious to the boy’s interruption. Another sweet vanished into her surprisingly capacious mouth.
Garry’s imagination toyed with visions of a rather exotic cannibalistic dish.
“She means menstrual. Mum gets like this every month. My sister doesn’t understand.” The boy rolled his eyes and spoke very gravely. “She’s only seven. She gets her words wrong all the time.”
Garry looked from one to the other and felt his own eyes roll. Fuck, he thought, though he didn’t dare say it aloud. They were like a pair of matching bookends. Where was the sign on these empty seats that said Weirdos, sit here?
Clare London took her pen name 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 her other day job as an accountant.
She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning 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 three 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.
Clare loves to hear from readers, and you can contact her here:
Google+ : https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ClareLondon/posts
Between a Rock and a Hard Place is based on the grim humour of being stuck in an airport with nowhere else to go! How would you pass the time if, like Garry, you were stuck in an airport for ten hours, with only the food and facilities the airport had on offer?
I’m offering a $10 Amazon giftcard for one lucky commenter who shares with us what they’d plan for entertainment – though please keep it for fun and be respectful!