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!
Patrick managed to hold his tongue all the way to the taxi rank, then turned on Lee. “About your headaches. You never told me.”
“Oh, them? Who told you—never mind, I can guess. Everyone wants to know my every movement nowadays.”
“They just care about you. I care about you.”
“Well, it’s not sheeri―serious. Mum rushed me to the family doc while I was at home, like we were in an episode of Casualty, just because I had a migraine. But it’s nothing sinister, just a hangover from the fall.” He frowned. “Phiz musta told you. Bloody man can’t keep a shecret.”
“I think Phiz keeps plenty of secrets. But not when it’s about your well-being. Did the doctor tell you to take it easy?”
“They always say that, whether you go in for itch cream or with your whole leg hanging by a thread.” Lee sniffed. “I’m marvelloush. Absholutely fine. You know, ish not the drink that makeshoo drunk.” He hiccupped a few times. “Ish the fresh air. Felt fine when we were in the cur―kle―club.”
Lee laughed loudly and grasped Patrick’s arm more securely. “I’m teasing you! I’m just merry tonight, both from the booze and from things getting back on track. I’m definitely fine to work. I haven’t had any problems so far, have I?”
“No. But let’s take it slow, right?”
“Just as I like it.” Lee’s chuckle was interrupted by another hiccup.
“Yes. Well. I don’t want you overtiring yourself.”
Lee frowned. “Don’t cut me out, Patrick. Please.”
“Of course I won’t. You can continue liaising with Phiz for the online sales, while they’re being produced at the hotel. That’s only for another month while we ease back into full productivity at With A Kick, and shouldn’t be too much of a burden for you. But I want you to cut down the hours you do in the shop when we re-open.”
Lee’s first muttered comment sounded suspiciously like “shfuck that”. “No way. The customers need easing back in, too.”
Patrick ignored him. “Actually, I’ve had the offer of some temporary help in the shop, a friend of Curtis’. He can cover you while we re-stock and run in the new mixers, and he seems to have a pleasant and mature enough manner for front of house. Plus he’s got more muscles than both of us put together, I can tell you.”
“Oh yeah?” Lee’s expression didn’t show the usual amusement at one of Patrick’s jokes. “Pleasant and mature, and with muscles, eh?”
“He could be a valuable asset as we get going again. The budget will stretch far enough to employ him. Yes, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.”
Lee was rather mulishly silent on the matter, and Patrick didn’t want to upset him further if he was feeling tired again. “I know, this isn’t the place or time to be discussing business. We’ll talk again tomorrow when we’ve both got more time. I can walk back to the shop from here. You want me to get you a cab now?”
“I’m pref—poff… perfectly able to get a cab myself,” Lee said acidly.
“You’re not on strong painkillers, are you? Mixed with the booze tonight—”
“For God’s sake, Patrick. You sound like my parents!”
Do I really? Patrick winced. “Sorry. I’ll get going.” He yawned, puffing white breath into the cool night. “I need time to check things before I can get to bed.”
“What things?” Lee’s mulishness had settled as a firm glint in his eyes.
“I like to go through the shop each night. Double check everything. It’s paranoid, I know.”
“No, you’re just being careful.” Lee’s manner eased. “I’ll come and help you. I can always get a cab home from there.”
“You don’t need to—”
“I’m coming. That’s it.”
Patrick blinked at Lee’s insistence, but he didn’t feel he could argue any further. Instead, he nodded, and they both left the waiting queue, choosing instead a comfortable trudge through the streets to With A Kick.
As they ambled around the final corner into the street of shops, Patrick thought how much like the old days it was: Lee by his side, and a comfortable silence between them.
As Patrick let them into the shop, the lock clicked loudly in the quiet air of the street. Most of the restaurants had closed by now, although taxis still passed by, and occasional travellers weaved their way towards the night bus stops. The blinds on the front window blocked the view from both inside and outside, and movements on the street were nothing more than grey silhouettes to Patrick. Phiz was currently working on an etching for the glass, a brand new logo for the business. As always, Patrick felt a rush of pleasure at entering his own shop: he couldn’t imagine the buzz ever growing old.
There was enough light filtered through the blinds for him to see his way around, so he didn’t turn on the main lights. Neither did Lee. They moved quietly and slowly around the room in the semi-darkness, working unconsciously in tandem, neither of them needing further instructions. Most of the new tables and chairs were stacked against the far wall, awaiting the grand re-opening. Some days, Patrick thought they’d never be ready: then something would come together successfully and ahead of schedule, sending a spike of impatient anticipation through him.
They both took off their coats and draped them over the back of a chair. Then Patrick checked all the electrics were off, while Lee cleared away any cups and glasses left in the tables. Considering they’d both drunk all that beer, they managed to avoid any new accidents. With A Kick wasn’t open to the public as a cafe yet, but customers had been gradually drifting back, and not only for the limited range of takeaway ices. The free London newspapers had covered the explosion, and some people were just nosey. But others were genuinely interested in finding out about the business. Lee and Phiz had installed a new coffee machine and were offering drinks and snacks to anyone who dropped in. There had been local reporters at the gig that night, too, so presumably that would give them more advertising.
Lee bumped against a table and sniggered.
Patrick turned sharply. “You okay?”
“Fine. Clumsle. Clumsy.” Lee burped.
Patrick laughed, then tripped over a chair leg himself.
“You’ve drunk too much as well.”
“Have not!” Patrick retorted.
They both laughed.
“It was great though, wasn’t it? The show.” Lee wriggled carefully around the table to reach Patrick. “Who knew Rob and Mick could source all those rugby songs with alternative—and clean—lyrics? I haven’t had such a good singalong for ages.”
“The dance group was amazing, too. And Riley… damn, that man can sing.”
“You got quite tearful at that stage.”
They laughed again. Patrick loved the way the skin crinkled across the bridge of Lee’s nose when he laughed. The air was cool in the shop, and quiet settled around them like a warm blanket. Patrick could hear Lee’s breathing, soft and heady.
“Hm?” Lee hiccupped again and lurched to one side. Patrick moved on instinct to catch him before he fell. He slid an arm around Lee’s waist and pulled him close.
“Are you okay?”
“I said I was fine,” Lee said.
“Yes,” Patrick said, his words suddenly rebelling against caution. “You are very fine indeed.”
Lee blinked hard. Then he tilted his head up and kissed Patrick.
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
April 13: Rainbow Book Reviews
April 18: Joyfully Jay