The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Love On Top

I bring a mini gift! All those short stories I rained on you all during the run up to Valentine's Day has been packaged and spell checked a lot better quite frankly for your delectation. You can keep it amongst your collection of other BL crazies. I'm really interested to find out which one you liked the most. I have my favourites... But Hot Muse Hank wants to know as well, so he can convince me to write a full length version. Hell, Windows started out as a short story and he ran away with that one. Download away for free right here: Season of Love Vol One!

Monday, 24 February 2014


And we're back! Look how pretty my Irish lovely looks on his gorgeous new cover! So I've spruced Playing Dead up, just four days before the end of Women in Horror month, but still in time for the celebrations. If you missed this the first time around, download a sample and see what you've missed. I still blame the heatstroke in Pompeii for the storyline, but it remains one close to my heart. I'm all about healing and revival and starting again. Everything that a man with a brain tumour being prodded by a cheeky ghost from 70s London doesn't have a cat in hell's chance of getting. In an alternative universe, these two met in the same time period and are doing wonderful, amazing, life changing things together. In my universe, one's dead and the other's dying. Sounds joyous, doesn't it? Trust me...

Playing Dead on Amazon

A Blurb

Gearoid McCardle is going to die in peace, if it’s the last thing he does. With his family in Ireland and the tumour that’s plagued him since childhood edging him to his final days on earth, he retreats to his house in South London for dignity and quiet. Instead, he is plagued and disturbed by the ghost of Aoife Boyake, a restless and strangely animated spirit who was brutally murdered in his home forty years before. Any notion of peace whittles away as he battles with not only his mortality but his intense and growing feelings for Aoife. Far from pursuing peace and quiet, Gearoid begins a fight for justice. Justice for someone who, like him, has no future. 

An Excerpt

Sitting down, he turned on the TV and opened the pizza box.
“That looks nice.”
Gearoid paused and glanced to his right. A woman was practically hovering over him, bringing with her a draft of cold.
“Can you leave please?” he asked.
“Whoa, whoa. Wait. You can see me?”
“Really? See me?” she repeated, waving her fingers before his face. Gearoid leaned away from the waft of cold air.
“Yes! Now, please see your way out?”
She tried to pout full, plum-tinted glossy lips and failed miserably with the smile that was hovering on her mouth. “We’re having dinner, why am I going to leave? Especially when you can actually see me!”
Gearoid fought to ignore her; he’d done it before with ones just like her and they’d left him alone for years. All of them. He turned the volume up on the TV, but she edged closer to him.
“You can’t eat all that yourself.”
Fine, he thought. There’s always the other way. “You’re dead. I can’t help you. Go away.”
“All the Irish people I’ve ever met have been so nice to me and my family. There had to be an exception.” She lay down on the bed and crossed her legs at the ankle. He could fully admit that she was the prettiest to ever approach him, with her smooth, coffee-coloured skin contrasting beautifully with the crushed velvet, emerald green playsuit she wore. Her attitude was all Pam Grier but her hair was Vonetta McGee’s softness in big brushed bouncing waves. Gearoid lost his appetite. He’d been so practised at not being able to see these things, he had no inclination for it to start all over again. So he stared at her. Pointedly. She didn’t move. She only stared back, blinking large dark eyes the colour of iced tea.
“What?” she asked, that smile of hers a whisper from appearing. “It’s because I look normal, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s because I want you to go away.” No one’s that pretty, he thought irritably.
“Maybe you should just eat,” she said, reaching up and touching his temple. The coolness in her touch was a blessing. Even with the morphine he could feel the pressure on his skull, but after the tips of her fingers grazed his skin, the force on his head lessened. “I’ll come back after. Men are always in better moods after they eat.” She grinned at him, nudging the box to him with her thigh.
He glanced back to her but she was gone. There was only the barest indent in his duvet. Oh come on! This wasn’t happening again. He needed his last days to be in peace, not hounded by the very same people he would be one of shortly.


His eyelids fluttered open. Why am I under my bed? Five minutes ago, I was asleep. How and what the hell? The same girl as before was lying next to him, her face contorted in terror.
“The fuck’s going on?” he asked gruffly.
She slapped her hand over his mouth. Her palm was warm against his lips. All right, this stopped being amusing a minute ago. This was different. Too different. She lifted her hand and pressed a shaking finger to her mouth. A pair of booted feet came into view. The bedroom light was flicked on above them.
They both cringed as the bed frame was kicked, shaking above them. The light flicked off again. The girl turned onto her back and breathed out. Gearoid’s frown deepened as music sounded from below them.
“Why are you hiding?” Gearoid asked.
“You don’t understand. I–”
She screamed as she was swiftly drawn out of his sight. Rolling out from under the bed, he saw her being dragged out of view. Before he could chase after her the door was slammed in his face. The music sounded even louder, as if it was being blasted through speakers inside his eardrums. Don’t trouble the water... the female voices sang in harmony. He fought with the door knob as she screamed for help. Suddenly silence cloaked the room. The door opened with a click and he cautiously stepped into the hallway.
There she lay, dark eyes wide open, a tear streaking over her cheek. Gearoid knelt beside her, covering the gaping wound in her neck with both his hands. Dampness at his knees made him realise he was crouching in her blood.
“Who did this to you?” he asked.
She made a gurgling sound in her throat, clutching at his wrists. For a moment, she traced the Celtic tattoos that weaved over his left arm in inky black ropes. Her blood pumped warmly between his fingers even as he desperately tried to stop it. Her hands slowly slipped from his arms and the light in her eyes began to fade.
“Wait, wait, wait!”
Before her eyes even closed, her body was dragged away from him. “Stop!” he yelled so hard, his throat pinched. Cold sank into his cheek. He opened his eyes, breathing heavily.
“Did you see?” she asked, trailing the back of her hand over his jaw.
“I’m sorry you died like that. But I can’t help you.” He closed his eyes.
“Yes, you can.”
He breathed out slowly, her scream still echoing in his ears. “Then tell me who killed you and I’ll tell the police.”
She laughed. “You know it doesn’t work like that.”
“Why would you know the rules better than I do?”
“I’ve been around longer than you,” she retorted, turning onto her side.
“How old were you when you died, Aoife?”
She wrapped her arms around his bare bicep and snuggled closer. “Twenty-eight.”
“How long ago?”
“Forty years.” Her smile was sad. “So like I said. I’ve been around longer than you.”
Having her so close was like leaning against a freezing cold radiator. “I’m the wrong person to help you.” I’m dying seemed inappropriate to say to a ghost.
“You’re perfect.” She touched her lips to the corner of his. “You’re the first person to ever see me.”

The cold faded and he knew she was gone. He sat up and glanced at the time. 7.23am. She was wrong. He couldn’t help, he didn’t have the time. If he opened the gate for one, he’d open the doors for all of them.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Love Changes Everything...

Happy Valentine's Day! Tis a joy and tis a wonder that love is in the air. Love is everywhere! See the day as the time to celebrate the years you've had with your significant other; to embrace the wonderful person you are; to reconnect with someone you've lost; to start afresh. Love knows no boundaries. Love knows nothing of time. With all that sappy nonsense, enjoy the last story of my Season of Love.

Wynne’s Surprise © Billy London 

Wynne made her way to the florist, trying to stifle her disappointment. Everything had gone wrong. The cancellation of her flight to Tunisia for a week’s holiday, the argument she’d had with her boyfriend and worst of all, the weather. Wind, rain, rain, rain. My god the rain. If one more newscaster told her it was the wettest winter since records began, she’d drive to the studio and hurt someone. All of them. Badly. 
The florist in Dulwich was her favourite and the assistant always made the most beautiful bouquets. People complained that only rich people bought flowers, but they made the most incredible difference to her little flat. She needed cheering up and this was her one vice. 
She struggled to get inside the florist, customers were crowding the shop. Wynne recognised the owner at the front, picking his nails, while the two assistants wrapped and served their patrons. With a sigh, she pulled out her phone, looking for a message from her boyfriend. They’d only been together for six months. Everything was still so new and the holiday was to be their first real test as a couple. Instead, they’d fought over something as tiny and pathetic as their insurance and it escalated. All her insecurities as to why Robert was with her at all surfaced and she threw them at him. Pride stopped her from calling him and apologising. And he obviously felt the same way. Why was everyone in here?
Oh god... Hearts, red roses by the dozen, men frantically buying... Day of Doom. There was no message from The Flick - she called him that, because he was always pushing his hair out of his eyes. 
“Hi there, what can I get you?” 
She hadn’t realised the queue had moved so quickly. “I’m... I don’t even know.”
The assistant had a name tag that read Lily. Her face was set in sympathy. “What’s your name?”
“Wynne Jones?” she asked. 
Wynne frowned. “Yeah...”
Lily gave a nod and turned around. “Just a minute, I’ve got something for you.”
She disappeared into the back while Wynne waited nervously for Lily to return. She came back into the shop only her cherry-wood curls visible from behind the massive bouquet of flowers. It was the most beautiful arrangement she’d ever seen - red roses, clematis, tulips and jasmine all combined in artistic flair. “Wynne?” Lily called from behind the bouquet. 
“I’m here!” She tilted her head to the left and Lily did the same, her smile coming from around the cellophane wrapping. 
“These are for you. Have a lovely day.”
“Wait, what? Don’t I owe... What the?”
“Bought and paid for. There’s a card in there.”
Wynne couldn’t believe it. Who would know to have her favourite florist make up an extraordinary bouquet for her, that even in the middle of a shop filled with flowers, smelled like a perfumers laboratory. Wynne reached around the bouquet and shook Lily’s hand. “Thank you so much. I tell everyone how amazing you are.”
Lily shook her head, hiding behind her curls. “That’s really nice of you. Honestly, have a fantastic day.”
Wynne hurried out of the florist, throwing to the pot bellied boss, “Your Lily’s the best thing about this place!” 
Breathing in the jasmine and roses, she cradled the precious bouquet and walked to her flat. Once inside, she put the bouquet down and opened the card, waiting to see Robert’s name at the end of the card. She had to blink several times before she understood the name she saw. With a brief shake of her head, she dialed his number, her hands vibrating so badly, his name blurred on the screen. “Hi. Can you come over? Okay. I’ll see you in a bit.”
Sitting down, her eyes travelled between the card and the bouquet. Someone really was planting their flag. For her. Finally the doorbell rang and she rushed to answer it. He sent her a shy smile and Wynne simply stepped to the side for him to enter. 
“Dude...” she started, waving her hands to the items that changed her understanding of her life in seconds.
“What did I miss?” Bren asked genially.
Bren, her friend, the friend who had talked her through her troubles with Robert, the friend who answered her text messages and decoded Robert’s one worded responses, the friend she’d maybe had a fumble with at a summer barbecue a million years ago... Had done this. 
“Why’ve I made the effort I should have done before Robert started messing you about? I don’t know. I did warn him that if he didn’t leave you alone, I’d rip him to pieces and he knew I wasn’t joking so... Are you really surprised?”
Wynne sat down and covered her cheeks with her hands. “I’m... A thousand things.”
“Do you love him?” 
Her mouth moved before her brain caught up. “No. I mean... I thought I was getting there.”
“Why not?”
Prodding twit. “Because of you! You were in the background guiding everything, so no I didn’t love him and no, I clearly couldn’t trust him. And I wonder if I can trust you.”
Bren clasped his hands together, looking at the space between his knees. “I meant what I said in the card.”
“We can’t go away together!” she blustered.
He raised his eyebrows. “Why not? You’ve got the holiday booked, I’ve got flights that are definitely leaving tomorrow morning. I’ve got extra Valium in case you’re flying fear picks up again... In two days, everything here will feel like it happened a year ago.” Bren got to his feet and knelt beside her, his hands braced on her thighs. “Wynnie...” Resolve. Falling. Away... “There’s this thing between you and me. And I don’t think it’s ever going away until we do something about it.”
Shut up brain, just be quiet! ”Can you get me a glass of water please?”
Bren rose to his full height, and with a careless brush over her cheek he disappeared to the kitchen. Flopping back against her sofa, Wynne screamed silently holy shiiiiiiiiiiiiit! What do I do? The immediate answer was, “Go, you silly bitch. Go. Beach. Shopping. Food. Shisha. Bren. Bren naked.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. Bren in swimming trunks. Bren sharing a tagine with her. Bren handing her the pipe from a shisha. Bren kissing his way over her back and untying the top of her bikini. A shiver rippled over her, shaking her shoulders. Oh god, she hadn’t felt like that around Robert, even in their earliest days. Oh god! What about Robert? She got up and checked her phone. Silent. Not a text, not an email, nothing. 
“Do you want to get something to eat, while you think about it?” Bren asked from the doorway, stretching an arm out to hand her the water. She took it warily from him and gulped. 
“I think...” she said, putting the glass down, “I need to pack. What about you?”
Bren’s grin brightened the room. “My case is in the car.”
“Bit ahead of yourself, aren’t you?” she challenged as he came closer to her. A frisson of awareness trickled over her spine as he placed his hands on her hips, pulling her into his body. 
He gently traced the line of her mouth with butterfly light kisses. “I just wasn’t going to let you say no. Not again.”
Wynne fell completely under his spell, under his kiss and under his weight as he edged her towards and then deliciously onto the sofa. 
On the table her phone vibrated across the wood, Robert’s number flashing on the screen.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Love In The Morning

Day Ten! To be honest, I'm rather surprised at my level of commitment to this mini series of short stories. I think Arren probably beats me on the surprise level...

Partial Recall © Billy London 

Arren, wrapped tightly in a warm cocoon of sleep, became slowly aware that someone else was in the bed with her. A spring popped up into her side, forcing her to sit up. Oh yeah. Not her bed. Her bed was a memory foamed wonder. Duke really needed a new mattress. That same spring popped into her bottom at a really crucial moment last night. He appreciated. The tenderness in her right cheek told her she wouldn’t appreciate it as much as he did when she had a proper look.
Valentine’s Day was a bitch. Had to be said. She’d had an idea that being single on the day would make her do something reckless. Although from the foil packets scattered around the room, it couldn’t have been that reckless. All the singletons from the office had walked from their desks to the company’s local pub, decorated with tacky hearts and plump cheeked Cupids in celebration. For a while now, her more gossipy colleague had been telling her that Duke had a soft spot for her. Arren didn’t believe in crapping on her own doorstep. Interoffice romances were a no no. But last night, she’d caught his eye and the smile he sent her… The If you want it, come get it smile, that smile had challenged her and her body told her to go and get. Oh well. She could always ask for a transfer. Maybe to Japan.
Duke finally moved, rolling onto his back and rubbed a fist over his eyes. She waited for him to realise she was sitting there. When he did, he smiled at her. The man had his own code in smiles. His morning one said I’m glad you didn’t leave while I was asleep.
“Didn’t want you to think you’re a slut,” she murmured.
“What was that?” he asked.
“I said I thought I heard a mutt. A dog… Outside. Morning.”
“Hi, Arren.”
Hokidoke and that was enough awkwardness for a lifetime. “I’m going to go.”
“Why?” He asked through a huge yawn, resting a hand over his bare chest. It’d felt glorious to brush her palms over the breadth of those muscles and follow with her mouth.
She hadn’t seen him like that at all. Even when her colleague battered on about how much he liked her. Arren thought he liked everyone. His affability made it easy for him to land clients. They enjoyed his company and it was one step from liking him to trusting him with their money. And truthfully, like any girl she’d seen a tall, buff, quite pretty man and appreciated his beauty. From afar. When she’d met Duke, he’d just been poached from another broker, she’d been in love with someone else and that was the end of it. Or at least she’d thought so.
Last night, quite determined to get being alone out of her head, she’d seen Duke, interrupted whatever hustle he was on with a girl she didn’t know and thrown herself at him. In front of most of the people she worked with, she cupped his face and said, “This is happening. Now.” Everything after blended into one intense pulse of pure pleasure. Instinct told her, just before that fateful kiss, he would make her feel everything she’d been missing and more. How right had she been! For a start she felt every cell of her body that shouldn’t have been bent the way Duke had coaxed her to bend. All that yoga and none of the reward.
God. She wanted to go somewhere for the sackcloth and ashes treatment. Avoid him having to kick her out or remind her that it was a mistake, not the start of a beautiful relationship. Him now asking why she wanted to bugger off was a little bit silly.
“It’s raining,” he nodded to the huge windows in his bedroom. For a moment, she watched the pitter-patter of water against the double glazed glass.
“It’s London, it’s always raining.” She answered. Duke leaned across her and placed his head on her lap. He felt warm and heavy on her thighs, his hair brushing over her stomach. Now she definitely couldn’t move. A combination of his weight and the lust crawling steadily through her veins. 
“You’re cuddly. And you kept me up last night so really, you should stay where you are.”
Fair enough. She wriggled down beneath the covers until Duke’s head lay on her chest. The cocoon slowly enveloped her once more and within a few minutes she was fast asleep again until a persistent buzzing noise disturbed her. The weight of Duke had disappeared and she was in the middle of his king size alone. Sitting up once, she hunted for her bag and saw it, half open and her mobile bouncing across the carpet. A carpet she’d happily kneeled on to let Duke slide off her knickers. Ho. I’m a massive ho.
Arren could manage this, if she was clean. Covering her nipples and her crotch with her hands, she tiptoed in the direction of the bathroom and showered all of the naughtiness away. Most of it. Duke’s touch seemed tattooed all over her skin. It took her a moment’s hesitation before using his electric toothbrush. The things her tongue had done a few hours before, it wasn’t a stretch.
Duke was noticeably absent from the bedroom when she tiptoed back. Still. Massaging the bruise on her butt with hand cream, she took notice of her angrily buzzing phone. Who was calling her again? Snatching it up, she answered without looking at the number. “I’m fine. I had sex. It was very protected and I’ve had the cobwebs cleared, alright?”
“I assumed that,” her flatmate said wryly. “We’re supposed to go for the introduction to silent films at the Barbican today. Joe said you’d be too worn out to do it.”
“Why does Joe have a say in anything?” She asked sulkily. Her flatmate’s boyfriend thought way too much of himself.
“He’s a commentator. Everything gets an opinion. I guess you’re not coming?”
Duke came into the room with a tray and a grin. “No,” she said slowly. “I think I’m going to stay where I am.”
She ended the call and tucked her phone back into her bag. “What’s all this?”
“Erm... Bacon and chip butties and tea and water with lime and salt. It’ll help.”
“You know I wasn’t drunk last night.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You do that sober?”
She flopped back onto the bed and patted the space next to her. “Duke my love, you have no idea. It’s probably why I’m on my own.”
He picked up a roll and sat next to her, his feet on top of the duvet and crossed at the ankle. The scent lingering on his skin was clean, like fresh laundry. “Trust me, that’s the last reason why you are.” He took a huge bite of the roll, licking ketchup from the corner of his lip. That was uncommonly sexy... “Wrong bloke is all.”
“Yeah. Most likely reason being you were too good for him.”
Arren moved the tray to the floor, picked up her buttie and cuddled up to Duke. His heartbeat pounded against her eardrum. The sound was oddly comforting. As if the uneven beat was just for her. “If I get ketchup on you,” she said, smiling at how strange her voice sounded next to his ribcage, “don’t mind me if I lick it off.”
He kissed the top of her head. “You really don’t understand men, do you?”
“Nah. Not even a little bit.”

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Power of Love

Day Nine of the Season of Love! Yay! I can count! This story essentially is me working through my genuine amazement of what couples will put each other through and the magnetic and awe inspiring power of love. Honestly, people are nuts.

Coming Around Again © Billy London 

“What’s going on?” Stella demanded, stepping over the twins’ weekend bags scattered in her living room to face her ex-husband. The smug plonker was stretched out on her sofa, a sofa she was still paying for, with a boy on each side. 
“Dad fancied staying,” Danny answered, barely turning his head to acknowledge her.
His brother Will piped up. “He said he wouldn’t mind if you had to go out.”
Presumptuous… “That’s the point of him having you over the weekend so I didn’t have to worry about that.” She retorted.
Niels barely rippled his shoulders, squashing their children into his body. “You don’t have a date do you? You’d have told me.”
Of course she would have! To rub it in his overtly attractive face. Instead, she’d had plans to meet up with her friends for that speed dating event. The risk with that plan was that her ex-husband would have free reign in her house. Nope. Couldn’t be done. “Can I talk to you?” she offered, with a grin so false, it cracked her cheeks. “Outside?” 
Will looked at her. “Are you and Dad going to have a fight? Because… You know you said you wouldn’t anymore? Remember?”
Pressing her fingers to a pulse in her eyeball, Stella turned into the corridor, leaving the door open for Niels to follow. He sent her an infuriating smile before he sealed the living room from what needed to be a full on barney. “This is what we spent two years in court fighting about,” Stella began. “Boundaries,” she enunciated the word, drawing a line between their bodies. “You’re not respecting mine. Again.”
Niels watched her with an indulgent look on his face. “What are you more worried about? That you’re not out tonight or that I know you’re not out?”
She’d paid a lot of money to be told not to use her fists to put her point across when it came to the man she’d so blindly married. “I’m worried about you putting ideas in their head,” she thrust a hand in the twins’ direction, “that we’re getting back together!” She snapped. 
He nodded slowly, mouth twisting in thought. “Ah. That idea. The one you started by using me for sex last weekend.”
She slapped her hands over her eyes and turned away. Massively unfair! “It was a mistake! I was feeling weak and vulnerable and you! You came over with that sodding bottle of Malbec for no reason than to... To...”
He interrupted her spluttering. “To reminisce about the good days, post three or four orgasms?” 
Stella pointed to the kitchen and with the smuggest of smiles, he led the way. As soon as they were inside, Stella closed the door. “Now listen here...”
Niels pressed her to the wood and kissed every letter of argument from her lips. Bad. Bad man. He still tasted every bit as forbidden and addictive and delicious as he always had. Her downfall was nostalgia. All of her firsts happened with this man and he was still the best kisser to have nibbled on her top lip while palming her bottom. “I miss you,” he growled against her mouth. 
“You divorced me, you numpty!” She heaved, pushing him away with shaking hands. “You split us up. You fought me on everything. And you, you utter wanker, you started seeing other people.”
Rage flickered in Niels face. “Hey, I only did that after Danny told me about some Fuck Face being here every other night.”
Okay granted, she’d tried to move on first but even after she accepted her marriage was over, nothing, including the vaginal tear from naturally delivering her two boys, nothing hurt as badly as seeing Niels with another woman. She sighed, rubbing her hands over her face. It really was her own fault for sleeping with him last weekend. All it did was make her wish for the old days.
“You know why our divorce took so long,” Niels said into the quiet. “I wanted you to change your mind. I dragged it out at every opportunity so you had to keep talking to me.”
What? “You’ve figured this out now?”
“My therapist told me.”
“You? Your what?” Niels didn’t do new age touchy feely stuff. Maybe if they had... No, no. It was all too late. It had no meaning with a framed decree absolute and a shared care order.  
He sighed heavily. “Therapy for what happened between you and me. It was that or pills and you know me and pills don’t agree. I didn’t want to be off my face when the boys were with me.”
She stared at him in amazement. “You never said.”
He sent her an arch look. “Well, the last time I tried to talk to you, you were far more interested in getting my mouth in other places.” 
Oops. God, he confused her completely. “But I’m practically over you.”
“Liar. I’ve got text messages to prove it.” Urgh, maybe not. “I remember them off the top of my head. No one can make you harder than I can...”
“Niels...” The warning didn’t make him cease the falsetto in his quotes.
Remember that anniversary when we finally did anal? You really think you’d ever with that monster dick of yours ever convince another woman to let you do that?
“What is wrong with you?” She yelled.
“Oh and my personal favourite... I miss you so much sometimes. That’s a lie. I miss you all the time. Sent just before I came over last week.”
She stalked past him and uncorked a bottle of wine. “What’s your point? I say silly things. And I know those first two texts were sent in the early bit of our divorce. Because I remember adding to the end of that, how I ruined my arse because of you, so you owe me the sodding house.”
“Our children ruined your arse,” he argued, bracing his arms on either side of her waist, kissing the back of her neck. The heat of his breath sent shivers all over her skin. No, she couldn’t get caught up in physicality. Sex hadn’t been their problem. Communication had been. 
“Back up,” she warned, pushing him away with her bottom only to find herself locked against his groin. 
“No,” he murmured, his hand stroking from her waistband to cup her breast. “Let me stay. We’ll talk.”
So tempting... “We won’t talk. You’ll try to get on top of me. Or in me. Or both.”
“Naturally, but Stella. We’ve been fooling ourselves for long enough. Last week was the first step to us being honest. There’s no reason we can’t carry on.”
His mouth trailed persuasively over her jaw to her lips. Breathlessly, she turned to give in to the kiss when Danny burst in. “Dad, you promised pizza when Mum got home and why are you being mushy face with each other?”
Stella heard Will call from the living room, “I want stuffed crust!”
Niels pressed his lips to her cheek, his hand roving over her buttocks in an act of such dominance she nearly went on her knees. “Leave your Mum alone for a bit. We’ll order from the living room, okay? Dad’s not going anywhere.”
With a look of certainty, he shut the door behind them, leaving Stella gripping the wine bottle for dear life. Well dammit to hell on a breadstick. 
Shit. Just. Got. Real. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Love Game

Day Eight of the Season of Love! We are doing well. Are we still feeling a little sappy, a little romantic? Goodie. So yesterday, I had Salome let down her date to restart her relationship with Eben. I had to make it up to her date and this is his little story. 

Art Date © Billy London

Art spun his mobile in the middle of the table. He’d been point blank warned. Salome is still in love with her ex. He couldn’t help himself. Like most men, he’d seen it as a challenge. Something he could win. The prize of the smart, sexy and intriguing Salome. Instead he felt like he’d been played in a game where the rules changed before he had the time to realise what he was even involved in. Salome called him a short while ago, just as he arrived at the hotel bar, apologising profusely and said her friend was in a state and needed her help. He took it for what it was – a sign that he was not set for the role of Don Juan. He was too reliable, too safe a person for that martini swilling, Saville Row suited, slick git schtick. 
He drained the last of his beer and held his hand up to ask for the bill, when a girl slipped into the seat opposite him. Art looked around. What? What was this? She wore a sleek black dress, that seemed as fluid as oil, draping over one shoulder and dotted with sparkles. Without waiting a beat, she leaned her chin on her fist and started to laugh uproariously, blush red lips parting in amusement. “You’re so funny!” She praised through giggles. The hell was going on? On a whisper, she leaned in closer to him and confessed, “Let me sit here for a minute, for the love of mercy.”
Art could only stare at her in horror. Had he just walked into a tv show? A tall woman in a cocktail dress slithered to the table, arm in arm with a weary looking aristocrat. “Jennifer,” the woman said, barely looking over at Art, “what are you doing?”
Without waiting a beat, Art intervened, “We’re trying to have a conversation.”
The woman was taken aback, her eyes wide with disconcertion. “It is my engagement party upstairs,” she said, her gaze wavering uncertainly between Jennifer and Art. 
“Bit selfish having an engagement party on the most romantic day of the year,” Art commented.
Jennifer beamed at him and the link of mischief between them warmed his chest. “It really is,” Jennifer agreed, “and mum tried to tell her otherwise, especially when I said I had plans. But Janice doesn’t take hints well.”
The ease with which Art followed Jennifer’s lead should have surprised him, but this was the most fun he’d had in a long time. “Jen said to me ‘Art, I’m so sorry we have to have our plans another time.’ And I said, ‘Sod that.’”
Janice looked increasingly distressed and from the lacklustre way she was comforted by the man beside her, Art guessed that her aristocratic escort was the fiancĂ©. He finally spoke up. “Jenny, darling, it’s all a bit late now. Can you come back upstairs?”
Art bristled at his tone. “Why are you calling her darling?”
Malice lifted Jennifer’s lips briefly. “Don’t you remember? I told you that Yann tried it on with me first. He could smell the money on me so he could glue his crumbling estate back together.”
Endogamy really didn’t go with Valentine’s Day. He’d had enough of those two. Jennifer seemed to be a nutty yet refreshing change from sophisticates he normally vied for and she most certainly could stay. Art took a deep breath and said, “Can you two do one? Go and enjoy your party. You don’t need Jennifer to be next to you.”
Janice hissed, “I’m telling mummy!” Then turned on her heel and marched away. One down…
Yann glanced helplessly at Janice’s retreating back and clasped his hands together in front of Jennifer. “Darling please, don’t make this more difficult.”
Art stood up. “I’m only saying this one more time. Don’t call her darling.”
“Thank you!” Jennifer cried. “Yann, I’m not your flipping darling. My choice.” Yann hurried after his fiancĂ©e and Art sat back down. He had no idea where that had come from. Not one for starting fights and avoiding confrontation at all cost. He’d spent five minutes in this woman’s company and he was throwing out threats. What would happen to him if he really did spend time with her? Jennifer’s eyes gleamed as she examined him. “You do role play very well.”
He sat back down, still shocked by his display of masculine bravado. “I do a lot of things well.”
“Really?” she propped her chin on her hand again, her laser beam stare lighting a fire inside him. “So why didn’t your date turn up?”
“She’s back with her ex I suspect. She didn’t get the chance to find out what I do well.”
That didn’t even sting to say. Jennifer grinned. “And that’s why you let me hijack your date. Your non date.”
Art always saw opportunity in the worst of situations and this could only be classed as a giant wide open stained glass window. “Do you want to go somewhere else?”
She stood up and held out her hand to him. “Yes, yes I really do.”

Monday, 10 February 2014

What About Love

Day Seven of the Season of Love and my focus turns to love lost and love found. Eben is probably the most complicated of characters in this roster of short tales and unusually for me, I understand him a bit too well. Oh and day eight will resolve Salome's dilemma. Fear not. No lonely souls in this season!

Changes © Billy London

Eben thought of flipping the table, picking up the nearest knife and slicing into his brother’s throat. Why was she here? The whole point of breaking up with someone was that you didn’t see them again. His relationship with Salome suffered the same problem as all his relationships. He had a set of needs and none of those stretched to being with a woman for longer than necessary. Salome hadn’t paid attention. She thought she could change his mind. That she could make herself indispensable in his life. Make him love her. He had a short attention span - so he said. More so he knew the idea of one woman forever was just that – an idea. Why would you fall in love with a person only to watch them deteriorate, decompose… die? What the fuck was she doing here?
“Eben, the correct response is hello,” Kalil said sarcastically. “This is my event.”
Salome put down her wine glass. “Hello Eben.”
He felt childish for wanting to ignore her and curbed it to say a short and tepid, “Hello.”
She arched a dark eyebrow at his tone. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Don’t you find it odd that we’ve not seen each other in almost two years but you’re hanging around with my brother?”
“Still possessive about everything and nothing, I see,” Salome murmured. “The publishing world is a very small one. We all know each other.”
“And if you zipped up once in a while, not every woman I run into has been introduced to you dick,” his brother added. “Salome’s helped me with an agent and she edited my novel. So if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here.”
Eben had received a copy in the post and he hadn’t even checked the acknowledgements. He hated being unprepared. She stood up and picked up her bag. “Kalil, well done. Enjoy the party.”
His brother got to his feet. “You don’t have to go anywhere. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t put in the work.”
“I always do if it’s worth it,” she replied, glancing in Eben’s direction. “Goodnight.”
Eben took one moment before he followed her out of the basement floor restaurant. She shrugged her coat on and sent him an arch look. “I’m on my way out. What can I help you with?”
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out between us…” he began, flustered for the first time in her presence. He always felt assured, masculine around Salome.
“Are you?” she challenged, stepping to the curb and lifting her arm to a lit taxi. “I got the feeling you were pleased to get rid. I told you. Everyone knows everyone in publishing. Your brother’s a good author. Actually he’s brilliant. That book is prize worthy. More than that, he’s genuine.”
“And I never was?”
She chuckled, “You don’t know how to be. Eben, it’s not in your nature. You enjoy those four little walls you live in, where everything is pretty and simple and uncomplicated.”
Salome leaned down to tell the cab driver where to go, and instead, Eben caught her by the arm. “We don’t need you,” he said to the driver and the cab disappeared into the distance. “You and I are going to have a talk.”
Rather than returning to the book launch, Eben led her to the five star hotel across the road and headed straight to the bar. For the first time in escorting a woman into a bar, he felt discomfited in the glances of admiration Salome drew from patrons of both sexes.
She sat down and ordered a bellini. He’d forgotten that about her. She had a taste for the expensive, but it needed to be sweet. “Well?” she demanded. “You have the time it will take for me to finish this drink to talk.”
“Didn’t you know it was my brother when you got his manuscript?” He demanded. They let go. Eventually they all let go, why did she insist on hanging on?
“Of course I did. I had to be business minded. He was alright with my history with you. And if I hadn’t signed him, then I’d probably have lost my job.” Her eyes narrowed, examining him with suspicion. “Have you read his book?”
His brother had a flair for the autobiographical and Eben did not want to read himself in any of those pages. “I flicked through it.”
“It made me understand you a bit better. A lot better,” she admitted.
He frowned at her. “Are you trying to rewrite history?”
“Aren’t you? Taking me for a drink, apologising that it didn’t work out… You made that decision. Not me. I met your family. You practically lived in my house. We spoke every day on the phone and then suddenly, you were off. We were only ever casual, don’t take it too hard, have a nice life Salome.”
Eben scratched his ear, his heart sinking at her words. Had he really sounded so callous? He had tried to be gentle. To do it in a way that conveyed he had cared. But not as much as she needed him to. Not anywhere near as much as he could afford to. That way of thinking had kept him safe for so long, it had become habit. “You’re making it sound worse than it was. When you break up with someone, you break up with them. None of this, let’s be friends, let’s still see each other’s family business. That’s complicated.”
“What do you want from me? I can’t promise not to see your brother, because he’s got a six book contract with my company and the provision was that I edit for him.”
Kalil is a sneaky motherfucker, Eben thought. “Just don’t…”
“Fuck him? I don’t double dip into the same gene pool.” She toasted to him and drained the bellini. “I’ve got to go. Eben, I wish it could say it’s been nice… You haven’t changed a bit.”
That stung. And he wish he knew why. “Still handsome though.”
“Irritatingly, yes.”
She hopped off her stool and kissed him on the cheek. “Bye.”
The imprint of her lips stayed with him as he returned to the launch party and his brother passed him a piece of cake. “I shouldn’t give you anything for running my editor off.”
“You should have said something.”
“I tried,” Kalil told him bluntly. “The minute I mentioned her name, you did the Darth Vader mask lowering end of conversation thing.”
“What do you mean? I don’t have a problem.”
His brother rubbed his forehead. “Read the book. I should give you a cut of any royalties but since you’ve been a prick about it, I won’t.”
By the time Eben arrived home, his jaw was tight with tension and his shoulders were practically brushing the ceiling. He found Kalil’s book hiding under his post. A note sat in the sleeve, in his brother’s slanted script. Read it. It’ll help. Honest. Salome’s name glared at him under the acknowledgements, closely followed by the words best editor to ever tell me that I can spell for toffee. Sitting down on his bed, he opened a bottle of beer and read. As he read, his fury grew to such a pitch, he was surprised the book didn’t burn up. His bastard brother had written him as an empty headed lothario who falls in love with a talented, striking journalist. The relationship dissolves as the lothario continues to fail to deal with the lack of love in his life. The journalist tries to give the lothario another chance but it’s too late for him. His insight comes after the journalist finds love with someone else. If Kalil heard that summary of his tale, he’d probably be furious. It was set in a future world where information is disseminated not through media, but through the tight control of the government. The journalist leaves the lothario for a resistance leader and changes the world. That aspect of the story was brilliant, but the empty headed lothario? Bullshit.
Had he loved Salome? He’d been happy. They’d been happy. Until, just like in the book, there was a hint of her mortality. A hint that she could leave him without him having a say in it. He’d been abandoned before and he’d sworn that would never happen to him again. The rest of the night, he couldn’t sleep. His alarm clock jangled his nerves at half six and he made his way to work with bloodshot eyes. Coasting through the day and barely affording it any attention, he found himself at Salome’s door at seven in the evening, desperate to see her face and explain.
Her eyebrows shot to the top of her head when she saw who was at the other side. “Eben, what’s going on?”
“You were right.”
“I know I am about a lot of things, but you need to be more specific.”
“About us breaking up.”
She pressed her lips together and stood to the side, letting him in. “I’ve got to be somewhere tonight.”
“Date?” Claws of jealousy dragged through his chest.
“Yeah. It’s Valentine’s Day. I thought you’d be set up.” Fuck, of course she was with someone else. Why wouldnt she be? He wiped his hands over his face and she caught his wrists. “Are you alright? You look terrible.”
He felt worse. “I had to.”
“No you didn’t. If the women you’re with are interchangeable, then they all stay the same in your head. Young, pretty and best of all healthy. No one dies. No one leaves you.” She released one hand and cupped the back of his head. “Why do you want to live in this state of emotionlessness, you don’t feel anything so you don’t get hurt. You can’t know true happiness, if you’ve never known grief.”
 Eben gripped her tightly, pressing their bodies together, as if he wanted them to merge and never be free of the other again. In the decade since his wife died, he’d done his best to bury his anger at his loss. Faceless bedwarmers to keep his mind free until Salome. Now it all threatened to overwhelm him. The guilt of  ‘replacing’ his late wife; the joy he’d felt with Salome and the agony of letting her go. He’d tried to save himself and only caused more pain. All this time, they could have been together, rather than him insisting on his own path. 
“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered.
“Not even your date?”
She sighed and pushed him away. “Let me make a call. Then we can talk, alright?”
He gave a sage nod. “Alright then. I love you.”
She froze, then an irreverent grin split her face. “You are thoroughly annoying. How can you say that to me, when you never did our whole relationship? She held up a hand. Dont answer that. And don’t you dare let me forget to call this poor bastard I'm standing up for your changeable arse.”
As she wrapped her arms around him and pressed her lips to his, Eben instantly forgot that she was supposed to be meeting someone else. He felt a relief and a elation that had been missing in his life since Salome had left it. Understanding had given him the most wonderful thing and he refused to share it with anyone but her right now. Time.