Celebrate this Valentine's Day with the release of
Book Four in the Valentine's Day Collection.
Henrietta Clarke introduces us to a tale of misconceptions, a mother in denial, and some serious baggage in "An Unexpected Party." Meet Peregrine and Merry, two unlikely souls who meet at a speed dating event. Problem: Peregrine is very much in demand with the ladies, although he seems to be having trouble tearing his attention away from the gorgeous waiter for the night. (m/m romance)
Valentine’s Day sucks! Merry Breton is reminded of this again when he receives a call from his boss to work a last minute job, even though he worked New Year’s as well. And to top it all off he hears from the very man who had ruined this same day last year—Kieran Church. His lover of two years who had stood him up on Valentine’s Day and from whom he’d not heard a word since. He supposes it should be good news that Kieran has finally come out of the closet and is still in love with him, but the news is exactly forty-five days too late.
Forty-five excruciatingly long days have passed since New Year’s Eve—the night Peregrine Harding attended a speed dating function at Sheffield’s premier hotel to appease his terminally ill mother and ended the night in bed with a very cute waiter. Unfortunately, the man who quickly wormed his way into Peregrine’s heart had promptly informed him upon waking that he didn’t date men who couldn’t find their way out of the closet and walked away.
Common sense tells them that they should forget their one night of passion and move on, that neither of them is in the right place for a relationship. But Merry can no sooner forget about Peregrine than Peregrine can forget about him.
Enjoy this excerpt from An Unexpected Party:
“Oh, bugger off!” Meredith Breton groaned, pulling his pillow over his head to drown out the sound of “Working Nine to Five.” That ringtone was exclusive to his boss, and she was the last person he wanted to speak to first thing in the morning on a lazy December 31—the first day off he’d had in a week.
He breathed a sigh of relief as the phone stopped ringing, then cursed afresh as it began again within a minute.
“Fine!” he snapped at the recalcitrant device, tossing the pillow aside and snatching up his iPhone. “’S’up, Hol?” he mumbled sleepily once he’d answered, flinching in anticipation of his boss’s usual cheerful tones.
“Rise and shine, Breton; we have an emergency!” Holly-Ann Christie sounded uncharacteristically flustered, indicating desperation, and Merry felt his heart sink.
“Well tell it to bugger off,” he returned grumpily, seeing his day off disappearing rapidly. “You’re calling now for a job tonight? Really? When your initial booking cancelled, it was the best news I’d had all year!”
“C’mon, Merry, please? Cut me some slack here; you any idea how hard it is to find people to work New Year’s Eve at this short notice? You wouldn’t believe how fast people make alternative plans when they think they won’t have to work after all.”
“Oh, I’ll believe it, Hol—you’re talking to one of those people right now. And as for finding someone who will work, try starting by not calling the people who worked Christmas Eve!” Merry returned.
“I’ll pay double time …” Holly-Ann cajoled, and Merry could tell she was truly desperate. Nice though she was when she wasn’t in full-scale boss-bitch mode, she was always kind of stingy about dishing out the cash. The rarity of this offer almost tempted him, but still …
“No,” he reiterated firmly. “C’mon, Hol, give me a chance at a life, yeah?”
“Be fair, Meredith; you’ll get New Year’s Day off,” his boss responded a tad sharply.
“And the hell is the use of that without a hangover to sleep off?” Merry demanded. “Besides, calling me ‘Meredith’ is not the way to get what you want.” He almost hung up the phone: if there was one thing Merry truly hated, it was his full name.
“Sorry, hon.” Holly-Ann sounded contrite. “But I’m dying here! I need to be able to cater this event. I promised the poor desperate organiser that I would—and if I can provide a service of the highest standard for this event, I can hopefully gain some clients from the attendees. Word of mouth is powerful advertisement. So I need you, Merry—you’re the best I got, and you know it.”
“I bet you say that to all the guys,” Merry muttered cynically, but he couldn’t help but feel flattered nonetheless.
“Please, Merry.” He could practically hear Holly-Ann’s eyelashes flutter down the phone, and found himself relenting somewhat, if only because he was curious about why his boss was holding back the precise details of the job when usually she was briskly forthcoming.
“So what is this event tonight, anyway? Swanky party or something?”
“Nope.” Holly-Ann chuckled, though there must have been a fault with the line, because it sounded kind of … bemused. “Actually, it’s speed dating, of all things. The hotel it’s being held in rang the organiser not half an hour ago to apologise and tell him that though the room is still his, they’re no longer able to cater the event. There’s a major electrical issue in the kitchen that they won’t be able to get fixed for a couple of days, thanks to tomorrow being a national holiday and all. John didn’t want to hold the event with no catering, so we’re the lucky dip out of the phonebook. You didn’t hear him, Merry. He’s completely desperate.”
“Speed dating?!” Merry would be lying if he said he wasn’t intrigued, and he cursed the way that was weakening his resolve, though if he were completely honest, he knew that the desperation in his boss’s voice would get him eventually.
“C’mon, hon, name your terms …” Holly-Ann wheedled, as if sensing his move towards acquiescence, and Merry bit back a sigh, chewing the inside of his lip as he considered.
“Triple pay, a glass of champagne at midnight, Sasha to work with, and an extra hour’s wages in a show of goodwill,” he bargained.
“Done,” Holly-Ann responded promptly, and Merry blinked.
“Damn, that easy? I should have asked for a bottle, a rentboy, and a week off.”
Holly-Ann laughed. “And what would the man who’s currently single and moans constantly about being broke do with a week off?” she enquired, blithely ignoring the rentboy comment, as he had expected she would.
“Ouch.” Merry pressed a hand to his heart, uncaring that the hammy gesture was impossible to convey down the phone. “Kick me when I’m down, why don’t you? What time do you need me tonight?”
“HQ at five, clean and sober. You’ve slept your Christmas hangover off by now, yeah?” Now that she had him where she wanted him, Holly-Ann’s words turned teasing, transforming her into the woman who was more of a friend than a boss after seven years of working together.
“Oh, screw you!” Merry retorted, grin evident in his tone. “I’ll see you at five, darling.” He hung up without waiting for a response, then dropped the phone onto the bedside table, and flopped back against the pillows with a groan. Working New Year’s Eve again. Fucking fantastic.
Bottom Drawer Publications