PUBLISHER: Jocular Press
Amazon Kindle: Double Scoop (With a Kick #8)
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 sat quietly outside Mr Amstel’s shop, finishing his tea. He’d eaten some of the food—he’d forgotten he missed his breakfast, until the food arrived and teased his tastebuds—but now he was happy to withdraw. The others had finished their cheerful brunch and were back to working on With A Kick. Eventually even Bryan went back to help clear out more of the rubbish, leaving Lee and Patrick alone.
Neither of them spoke for a while, watching their friends move in and out of the shop on various tasks. Tourists paused as well, wondering what was going on, though they were moved on promptly by one or other of the men working.
Neighbouring shopkeepers wandered over in quiet moments to see how things were coming along and to offer moral support and the occasional top-up of tea. The inside of the restaurant area was soon swept out, and towels laid down to mop up the still-damp floor. The furniture and fittings were split into two piles, either for disposal as ruined, or for salvage. Sadly, the first pile was much higher. A radio played in the kitchen—a rock station, as per David’s choice—and the thump of music floated out through the missing door and front window. Riley and Rob were nailing boards over the broken window—Riley singing along in his pleasant tenor voice—and Patrick knew he soon wouldn’t be able to see what was happening inside. But, strangely, he found he trusted them all to know what they were doing.
He’d never realised he had such good friends, or that human nature could be so generous. Or maybe he’d just never dared believe it so.
“We should put up a board outside the shop,” Lee said quietly. “Let people know we’re all okay, and will re-open.”
“I think the gang are giving enough entertainment at the moment,” Patrick said with a smile. “Perhaps when the work moves wholly indoors.” He took a deeper draught of the tea and felt almost relaxed. He wondered if it was delayed shock from the explosion and all the chaos that’d ensued. But he sat here beside Lee as if in a bubble, perched on a rickety chair on the pavement outside a German baker’s in the middle of Soho, while the world’s shoppers, diners, overseas visitors, office workers, delivery men, and tradespeople passed unnoticed around him—and his amazingly diverse group of friends worked their arses off to give him his life and livelihood back.
“How are you now?” Lee spoke very softly. Perhaps he felt this weird, sheltered isolation as well.
“I haven’t always been honest with you, Lee,” Patrick said, choosing his words slowly. “Not that I’ve lied to you, but I know I’m not very forthcoming. I want you to know there are reasons for that.”
“You’re a private guy. I know. I respect that. You’ve been a good boss.” Lee coughed as if his voice caught. “I mean, you’ve been a great boss.”
“Hey. I hope I still am!”
Lee chuckled. “Of course. I haven’t had a P45 in the post yet, anyway.”
“And I’m not going to send one, I assure you.” Patrick peered at him out of the corner of his eyes. Lee was also sitting quietly and carefully, sipping his mug of tea. His face was a little flushed, but the glow on his skin surely came from renewed health. A gust of wind lifted his hair and Patrick caught sight of a lingering bruise near his hairline. “You see…” For God’s sake, why was it so difficult to express himself? He was a mature, confident man with his own business and years of life experience. But next to Lee now, he became a bumbling berk. “I’m scared.”
Lee blinked hard through a thin cloud of steam from his tea. “Scared? You? What of, the shop?”
“No. Never that. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Me too,” Lee said softly, so softly that Patrick wondered if he was even meant to have heard.
“But I’m scared of not having the shop.” Patrick felt something ease in his chest that he didn’t think had anything to do with the extra strong tea bags Mr Amstel used, and everything to do with reaction after the events of the last day and night. “Of everything failing, after all the work we’ve put into it. Of losing the joy I had in creating recipes, in making things to sell, in the friendship of all the neighbours we’ve met here. It’s my life now, not just my job. I know I said I could go back to teaching, but to be honest, I wasn’t ever really happy at it. So I’m scared of what I’ll really do if we can’t get With A Kick running again. I don’t suppose any of this makes proper sense.” And Patrick wasn’t looking for an answer right now. He wasn’t even expecting reassurance, and definitely not platitudes. He was a tough man at heart—wasn’t he?—and knew he had to cope.
But somehow, Lee understood. He just put a hand on Patrick’s and held it there. “I wonder who actually got hit the worst by that bloody explosion, you know? You or me. But thank you.”
“What on earth for? For getting you blown up? For destroying your job, and almost your whole future?”
Lee smiled a little sadly. “Yeah, Phiz’s histrionics seem to be contagious around everyone at the moment. I mean, thank you for the we.”
Warmth streamed through Patrick’s heart. “Lee, you’re as much a part of With A Kick as I am. You’ve been there since the beginning. For heaven’s sake, you bullied me into it in the first place, and thank God you did, or I might never have taken the first step to a life’s dream.”
“You mean it?” Lee looked really pleased.
“God, haven’t I made it clear enough? Oh, don’t answer that, I obviously haven’t.” He let out a small groan. “I’m not the world’s best at HR issues.”
“No, I shouldn’t push you. I don’t expect you to tell me everything you’re thinking, Patrick. I don’t expect to be your equal. I’m only an employee.”
“But you’re much more than that, you idiot boy!”
Lee went very still. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”
“Idiot? I’m sorr—”
“No. Boy. You know I’m not. And that’s not how I want to be for you.” His hand tightened on Patrick’s, and Patrick—even though he suspected they were about to address the elephant in the street—had no desire on earth to pull away.
“Look,” Lee said. “While we’re chatting like this, I’d like to say something about last night—”
“There’ll be time later for that, okay?” Patrick said quickly. Too quickly. He didn’t know why he stopped Lee—surely he wanted to talk about it as well?—except for embarrassment, talking about their night together in the middle of the street. Or did he just not want to hear what Lee would say, in case it confirmed everything Patrick had told himself? He wasn’t sure how he’d cope with rejection at the moment. He was already an emotional mess as far as last night was concerned. “And you don’t need to worry about it.”
“I don’t? I mean… what?” “It was just one night, one moment. One time. I understand completely. Of course I do.”
Lee’s mouth snapped shut. He frowned, and his gaze searched Patrick’s face.
And then a whole pile of broken furniture toppled to the pavement on the other side of the road with a huge crash, and Patrick leapt from his chair to check no one was hurt.
By the time he’d established everything was okay, and he turned back to his seat, Lee had gone
About the Author: 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!
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