Category Archives: Writing

Coming in from the Rain

I’m back! There have been a lot of changes in my life in the last two years, including my recent relocation from suburban London to rural Wales. I’m hoping things are going to be more straightforward in the future. There will be future Scarlet Series novels, and I’ve also some other interesting projects.

In the meantime, this is the extension of an earlier short story. Enjoy.

Tx

***

He spent the last of his cash on a bottle of champagne, to be delivered to the birthday girl’s table. He had nothing to celebrate himself.

Finally ready to tread the miles home, he picked up his walking stick, dead phone, and wallet shorn of emergency funds. The strike wouldn’t end any time soon, and all the apps in the world couldn’t find him a taxi or minicab on that filthy night. Besides, there was no rush – no one waited for him at home.

He pushed open the bistro door and groaned. It was still torrential out there. Pools of water had become dark lakes, and water beaded and streamed off every street-lit surface.

‘Sir?’

For a moment, he contemplated ignoring the softly accented female voice. Instead, he sighed and turned.

‘That was really nice, what you did.’

He shrugged at the dark-haired girl who’d been serving behind the bar all evening. Girl? She was barely younger than his thirty years. He had thought of flirting with her, but she was stunning, and out of his league. Like the sombre, plain woman in the corner, quietly celebrating her birthday while counting pennies with another sombre, plain friend. They were all way out of his league.

He heard gasps of delight and excited chattering as the fizz was delivered by the other barman. Bar person. Whatever. And the inevitable question from the recipient, ‘Who?’

He ducked out of sight, his exit halted only by a gentle hand on his arm. ‘Why are you leaving now?’

‘A little mystery is better than harsh reality. They’ll want a handsome prince, I’m a scarred toad.’

‘You are no toad.’

He shook his head. Maybe before the insurgents’ raid, he could have been considered handsome. Not now.

‘Have you far to go?’

‘A few miles.’

‘Walking?’

‘Yeah.’

‘But, it’s pouring!’ She’d heard him on the phone. Seen him slump and accept his sodden fate, had given a sympathetic smile.

‘I was in the Army, it’s not far.’

‘But, with your leg…’ she trailed off.

‘Legs.’ The prosthetics clunked when he tapped them with his hated stick. ‘They’ll be fine.’ They weren’t fine – the fit of one cup wasn’t quite right, and he could feel a sore developing.

‘Could you wait just a little longer?’

He drew his shoulders back, lifted his chin up. ‘Sorry, I have to go now. Goodnight.’ And stepped out into the deluge.

Fifty yards later, he was wishing he’d kept the cash to offer any driver still brave or foolish enough to be on the roads. Along with wishing that he’d chosen any other night to venture out. His arranged date had failed to show, her message citing a work emergency. He suspected she’d arrived at the restaurant, seen him and backed out.

He lifted his face to the darkened heavens, relishing the lash of autumn rain reminding him he was still alive. Unlike his mates, blown to bits in that desert-dry country. Until that pervasive trickle of water slithered into duller scar tissue.

Some bleak days, he thought his mates were the lucky ones, to have experienced a quick death rather than the protracted withering of body and mind. He still suffered most nights from replays, waking him screaming and sweating. Why even think of dating when a bed guest would have to put up with that too?

It was better to be single. Safer. Tears mixed with the rain. Lonely…

Enough malingering. He swiped his eyes and pulled his collar up. Focussing his eyes on the end of the street, the first leg as it were, he continued.

‘Sir?’

Such was his concentration in setting one foot in front of the other that he didn’t register the plea and buzzing to his right.

‘Sir?’

That voice again. This time louder. The girl from the bar, hunched on a moped, shadowing him on the road. He stopped. ‘What are you doing out here?’

The buzzing dwindled. She rested a foot down. ‘Would you like a ride? I have a spare helmet.’

He looked her over. A coat covered her torso, but a short skirt bared her already-soaked thighs, running with water into her knee-high boots. ‘Aren’t you a little underdressed for this weather?’

‘My shift just finished and I w-wanted to catch you. Please, get on.’

He wanted to say no. But she had gone to so much effort. He sighed, and nodded. The corners of her mouth twitched up, flashing dimples. He took the helmet she offered, and clambered on.

‘Where do you live?’

’10 Walmer Road.’ His hands barely touched her coat.

‘Hold me properly please. I don’t want to lose you.’

Her waist was narrow and he could feel her every breath. He soaked up the human contact. It had been so long. Since before he had headed overseas that last time. He remembered soft kisses, seductive heat, and sweaty, rumpled sheets. Tears when he left. She had married shortly after he went away. Her husband liked to play golf.

He had ignored his ex-lover’s friend request. He couldn’t bear the thought of her pity. Pity the girl he currently had his hands around hadn’t shown. She had just observed him with steady eyes. As steady as her current driving.

The streets didn’t exactly fly by – his sparse weight was enough to slow the machine – but they arrived at his building sooner than he’d wish. His hands reluctantly released her, and he busied himself with untangling his legs.

He handed the helmet back. ‘Thank you.’

‘It w-was an hon-honour.’ Her smile had stiffened and her whole body tremored slightly.

‘Do…would you like to come in to dry off?’

A catch of breath, and her eyes shone along with her dimples. ‘W-would you mind?’

‘Not at all. You’d be welcome.’

‘Thank you.’ She dismounted, locked her scooter and they walked up the path towards the entrance of his ground floor flat. ‘You remind me of my father.’

He flinched.

She noticed. ‘That’s not a bad thing. You have his quiet patience. He needed it, getting us here.’ A deep sigh followed.

‘He’s gone?’ He unlocked the door. Clean towels from a nearby cupboard were on hand. A wave of exhaustion hit, and he collapsed on the nearby wheelchair, wiping his face. Disconcertingly warm drafts of air washed over him.

She began drying off too. Driving the moped into the rain meant she was even more soaked than him. ‘My father? A long time ago. When we were safe, he returned to fight. A car bomb.’

Bomb! The air grew hotter. Screaming. Some of it his own.

‘You’re in your home and you’re safe with me. You’re safe in your home with me. You’re safe in your home with me.’

The steady, calming voice eventually got through to him, past the memory. He blinked.

‘You’re safe in your home with me.’

He moved. He had to stand. She passed over his stick. He yanked the door open, and stepped back into the rain. The cool helped rinse away traces of the flashback, replacing the heat. Dark replacing that bright, eyeball-scorching light. Space replacing the claustrophobia of being trapped, hurting and helpless.

He took a few deep breaths, and returned to the warmth, removing his soaked coat and clammy suit jacket. He bypassed the chair, just using the towel to dab away enough of the raindrops.

In the tiny kitchen, the kettle was rumbling into a boil. ‘Do you take sugar?’

He hobbled in. ‘Not usually, but I’ll have one.’

‘Good.’

The contents of the mug steamed deliciously. He sipped, feeling normality return and watching her pour her own. ‘I’m sorry-‘

‘Don’t be. My brother had PTSD.’

‘Had? I didn’t think it ever went away?’

‘Nowadays, he has very few attacks. Technically, it’s a different condition when you are able manage it.’ Her lips curled upwards. ‘My mother remarried. As I said, time passes.’

‘That’s how you knew what to do?’

She nodded, her fingers drawing patterns on the kitchen worktop. ‘You had the same thousand-yard stare. I’m sorry if my words triggered it.’

A contradicting headshake. ‘It was the draft of hot air. Being warm and clammy, sat.’ His shake turned into a shudder.

‘It is really warm in here.’ The discarded towel sat neatly folded on the counter, and she wasn’t shivering any more. Her cheeks flushed becomingly.

He tore his eyes away. ‘Sorry about that. The thermostat was supposed to be fixed before I moved in.’

‘You’re new to the area? That is why I’ve not seen you in the bistro before.’

‘I’ve only lived here a few weeks. A friend recommended it, but the bistro wouldn’t be my usual haunt.’

Her shoulders slumped. ‘That’s a shame. We don’t have many interesting people come in.’

‘Interesting?’

She blew a drying strand of hair out of her eyes. ‘During the day, it’s businessmen, mummies or retirees. Evenings, the businessmen return plus a few quiet couples. Not exactly interesting or eventful.’

He chuckled. ‘If you’d been a bouncer in some of the places I’ve been, you’d be glad of the quiet life.’

That made her smile. ‘I’m not ungrateful, it means I can study. I just like more…stimulation.’

Something flashed between them, something he couldn’t identify. Nevertheless, something which lifted his spirits. ‘I promise I’ll call in again, but I’ll probably be alone so you’ll have to talk to me.’

‘I’ll look forward to it. But why would you be by yourself?’

The reminder of his situation broke the mood. His half-empty mug took his attention. He could feel her eyes on him. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have any biscuits to offer you.’

‘Give that here.’

‘What?’

‘Come with me.’ Soft hands removed the mug from his hands. Those same hands led him into his living room, and gently pushed him onto the cushions. She returned to the kitchen for their mugs and sat next to him. ‘My name’s Katrina.’

‘Katrina. Ummm, Thomas.’ The mug she passed over had been refilled.

‘Thomas. May I call you Thom?’ She picked up the remote for the television and turned it on, flicking through the channels and stopping on a late-night comedy quiz.

‘Ummm, yeah.’ Her actions had left him speechless. And more than a little confused. A gorgeous woman on his sofa.

‘Thom. Mind if I make myself at home until the rain lightens up?’

‘Ummm, no.’

‘Good. My good foot is unpleasantly damp.’ She bent forward and took off her boots.

He blinked. One of her legs went too. The boot had covered familiar-looking prosthetic plastic.

‘Do you want to remove yours? They probably need drying out, otherwise you risk sores.’

‘Ummm.’ He fumbled with his damp trousers. ‘I need to take these off.’

‘That’s not a problem. Unless you go commando? I’m not that forward.’

His head shot up to see her wicked grin. The dimples were out again. He swallowed.

‘You are commando?’ Her eyebrows raised even further and eyes glinted.

‘N-no. Boxer briefs.’ His belt unbuckled easily, and he lifted his hips up to push the clammy fabric off. His dead phone fell out of a pocket, and he plugged it into a nearby cable.

After the months of having strangers stare at his legs, he didn’t feel terribly conscious sitting in his shirt and underwear, and Katrina was fussing with her flesh-and-blood leg anyway. Removing the sockets caused a wince. He’d been lucky with the scars healing, but he still had problems if he spent much time standing or walking. The skin of one stump was dangerously reddened but not blistered or broken.

He exhaled with relief. If not for Katrina’s intervention, he would have been back in his chair for a week or so, and being scolded by the nurses for overdoing it. He watched her for a few minutes. The plain, white blouse showed only a shadow of cleavage. Her black skirt completed the standard bartending ensemble. ‘Thank you, Katrina.’

‘It really was a pleasure. I wanted to speak to you all night, but I couldn’t think of anything to break the ice. I could hardly come up to you and say, “Hey, I’ve got a false leg too!” Could I?’

The absurdity struck him. He threw his head back and guffawed with laughter. She joined in. The nagging discomfort had dissipated with the removal of damp clothes and his legs. Somehow, they ended up snuggled together on the sofa.

Thom felt tired, but somehow content. He yawned. ‘Of all places to recommend for a date, I’m glad Rob recommended the bistro.’

‘Rob? Rob Jones? Big guy, plays rugby?’

‘You know him? He was in my regiment.’

Katrina giggled. ‘I suspect Rob was playing matchmaker – he checked I was working a shift tonight.’

And Rob had offered to pick him up, an offer echoed by some of his other mates. Thom had been too proud to accept, preferring to prove his independence. That was a mistake – the close call with his healing stumps had sobered him. ‘Yeah, he’s solid. He’ll want to know how the evening went.’

Thom pressed the power button on his phone, and put it back to one side. The screen lit, and as soon as a signal registered, it began to buzz and bleep.

Katrina patted his thigh. ‘Sounds like you’ll want to check that.’

He liked the feel of her hand on his skin. ‘If you don’t mind me being anti-social for a few minutes?’

‘I’ll do the same. My phone’s been off too, for work.’

Five minutes of quiet. Almost quiet – there were sounds coming from the television and their devices, plus the still-audible drumming of rain outside. He could feel her light breathing, distracting him from the multiple messages of concern.

Mate, you OK? How did the date go?

No show.*eye roll*

Oh, shit. Training ran over. Went by the bistro after but you’d already left. Get back OK?

Got a lift home.

Lift?

Rob, you sly bastard.

??? What have I done? *confused face*

Thom snapped a photo of their damp prosthetics, lined up by the radiator.

Yes! *high-fives self* Tell her I said “hello”. She’s great, I knew you’d get on.

Because we’re both part-plastic?

Nah, she’s just really cool. Wicked sense of humour. Too intelligent to be interested in most of us dicks. She probably finds you more intriguing.

Thanks, mate.*chinny reckon*

Hah! Now, piss off and charm her. Or stay the strong and silent type – she must like that. Nn.

Thom chuckled as he put his phone down. ‘Rob says “hello”.’

‘He’s a good mate?’

‘Yeah, the best.’ Though some of the other lads were pretty epic too. Supportive, but wouldn’t hesitate to take the piss.

‘You should smile more often. It suits you.’

His smile turned sardonic. ‘Even with this?’ He gestured to the scars.

‘You would have been far too pretty before.

She had sat on his more-scarred side, with runnels carved from cheekbone up and past his hairline. He still wore his hair short, refusing to disguise his wounds. Smaller scars dotted his face, from flying glass and rescue. Thankfully, sunglasses had protected his eyes. Compared to some, he had got off lightly.

‘Dark nuttiness?’ The proffered bar only missed one block – the piece she was munching on.

‘Dark nuttiness?’

She grinned. ‘Some might say that describes me, but it’s my favourite chocolate. Help yourself.’

‘Thanks.’ He snapped off a piece and popped it in his mouth. She was right – it was rich and tasty. It also brought back memories, good times having a laugh with his mates over rations. A bar of chocolate seldom survived transport without melting. When they heard of an officer hoarding a pristine stash, skulduggery was planned and the chocolate duly liberated. The goods were split equally and savoured that night, under the stars.

She tutted softly. ‘Chocolate’s meant to make you happy, not cry.’

He smiled, tasting salt mixed in with the sweetness. ‘I am happy. Thank you. That’s the first good memory I’ve had from those days.’

‘Oh. Good. I’m glad it helped.’

He told her a brief tale of their hi-jinks. He didn’t bother wiping the tears away. ‘The therapists encouraged me to express my feelings, said it was better than bottling them up.’

‘I bet you were good at that.’

‘Yeah, I was. Until it became too much. Many a wall battered and fist bruised.’ He studied scarred knuckles, and realised something. ‘I haven’t needed to do that for a while though.’ Progress.

A gentle hand clasped his, fingers threaded through his. They fell into a comfortable silence, sharing the chocolate and chuckling at the comedy programme. As the credits rolled, he felt Katrina’s head rest against his upper arm. It felt natural to wrap his arm around her, and she snuffled happily, wriggling closer.

His heart beat faster. ‘Katrina, would you like to go for a drink some time?’

‘I’d love to.’ Her voice was rough with drowsiness. ‘I’m free tomorrow. There’s supposed to be a good comedy on at the pictures.’

‘”At the pictures”? Not heard that expression for a long time.’

‘I find the old ones are the best. I’m studying English at the local college. ‘S fascinating. I want to become…a teacher.’ She yawned.

Teaching? He’d not considered that before. He had a degree, perhaps it was time to use it? Do something productive with his life. He’d ask her more about it tomorrow.

He glimpsed the blinking screen of his phone. Tomorrow? Today. A new day. Perhaps a new life for him?

Outside, the thrumming of rain gradually eased off. He considered waking her, but decided against it. Her leg still needed to dry, and the roads would be safer once the standing water had drained a little. Besides, he felt like a nap himself. He yawned.

As he relaxed back on the sofa with Katrina nestled under his arm, an unexpected feeling grew in his chest. Something light, something positive, something warming. Hope.

Playing with the Big Boys

I was once told someone would only read my stories ‘if your next book centres on a big hairy front row lust triangle 😉 #bellypower #niche.’ I wrote this a while ago, but intended on publishing it for Christmas. Events intervened and I’m going to rewrite it for another competition. In the meantime, enjoy the draft. 

***

‘Ay-ay-ayyonn-gooh-huss?’

Since battling through the unseasonably early snow to arrive at the local GUM Clinic, George had buried his head in his phone. Turning up his rugby shirt collar wasn’t just to keep warm, he wanted anonymity too. He hadn’t even glanced at the other occupants; no way did he want to catch the eye or acknowledge anyone in there. There was always something that felt rather seedy and dirty about it all. Even the bright snow-reflected light shining in the windows couldn’t relieve the sordidness. So, he had jammed his bulk onto a chair and hoped the wait wasn’t too long while ignoring everyone around him.

However, the unusual name the stuttering nurse was trying to pronounce was vaguely familiar, and he had jumped slightly. Without lifting his head, and heart leaping, he attempted to peek out of the corners of his eyes at who responded.

A hulking figure squeezed out of a chair on the other side of the waiting room and sauntered towards the nurse. George swallowed at seeing the chunky rear he had been coveting for the last six weeks lovingly cupped by blue denim. His groin warmed and he shifted restlessly. His chair was just as tight around him.

‘George? George?’ Another nurse had appeared.

The figure paused and looked around at the nurse. ‘He’s over there. The other big, bearded guy.’ A thumb was jerked in his direction.

Fuck! It definitely was him.

A thrill went through George’s body. Aonghuss knew who he was! Then his heart dropped – he also knew he was at the clap clinic.

FFS! Get a grip, mate.

He gave himself a verbal talking-to as he followed the nurse down the corridor. Seconds behind the ambling opposition prop he’d last seen mud-covered, sweaty and cock-hardeningly gorgeous. As the Scot turned into a room, he glanced back at George, who quickly looked away.

***

 

The rest of this story is available here for free. Please vote & comment.

Tx

He spent his last thirty quid on a plate of oysters…

… and a glass of champagne. To be delivered to the birthday girl’s table.

Finally ready to tread the miles home, he picked up his coat, walking stick and wallet shorn of emergency funds. The strike wouldn’t end any time soon, and all the apps in the world couldn’t find him a taxi or minicab.

He pushed open the bistro door and groaned. It was still torrential; pools of water had turned into dark lakes, and water beaded and streamed off every street-lit surface.

‘Sir?’

For a moment, he contemplated ignoring the plaintive female voice, but sighed and turned.

‘That was really nice, what you did.’

He shrugged at the dark-haired girl who’d been serving behind the bar all evening. Girl? She was barely younger than him. He’d thought of flirting with her, but she was stunning, and out of his league. Like the sombre, plain woman in the corner, quietly celebrating her birthday while counting pennies with another sombre, plain friend. They were all way out of his league.

‘Why are you leaving now?’

‘They’ll want a handsome prince, I’m a scarred toad.’

‘You’re no toad.’

He shook his head. Maybe before the insurgents’ raid, he could have been considered handsome. Not now.

‘Have you far to go?’

‘A few miles.’

‘Walking?’

‘Yeah.’

‘But, it’s pouring!’ She’d heard him on the phone. Seen him slump and accept his sodden fate, had given a sympathetic smile.

‘I was in the Army, it’s not far.’

‘But with your leg…’ she trailed off.

‘Legs.’ The prosthetics clunked when he tapped them with his hated stick. ‘They’ll be fine.’ They weren’t fine – the fit of one cup wasn’t quite right, and he could feel a sore developing.

‘Can you wait just a while longer?’

He drew his shoulders back, lifted his chin up. ‘Sorry, I have to go now. Goodnight.’ And stepped out into the deluge.

Fifty yards later, he was wishing he’d kept the thirty quid to offer any driver still brave enough to be on the roads. Along with wishing that he’d chosen any other night to venture out. His arranged date had failed to show, citing a work emergency. He suspected she’d arrived at the restaurant, seen him and backed out.

He lifted his face to the darkened heavens, enjoying the sprinkling of autumn rain, reminding him he was still alive. Unlike his mates, blown to pieces in that desert-dry country. Until the pervasive drift of wet fingers reached duller scar tissue.

Some bleak days, he thought his mates were the lucky ones, to have experienced a quick death rather than the protracted withering of body and mind.

Enough malingering. He pulled his collar up, focussed his eyes on the end of the street, the first leg as it were, and continued.

Such was his concentration in setting one foot in front of the other, he didn’t notice the buzzing to his right. ‘Sir?’

That voice again. This time louder. The girl from the bar, hunched on a moped, shadowing him on the road. He stopped. ‘What are you doing out here?’

The buzzing stopped. She rested a foot down. ‘Would you like a lift? I have a spare helmet.’

He looked her over. A coat covered her torso, but a short skirt bared her already-soaked legs, running with water. ‘Aren’t you a bit underdressed for this weather?’

‘I w-wanted to catch you. Please, get on.’

He wanted to say no. But she had gone to so much effort. He sighed, and nodded. The corners of her mouth twitched up, flashing dimples. He took the helmet she offered, and clambered on.

‘Where do you live?’

’10 Swansby Road.’ His hands on her coat barely touched her.

‘Hold me properly please, I don’t want to lose you.’

Her waist was narrow, he could feel her every breath. He soaked up the human contact.

The streets didn’t exactly fly by – his sparse weight was enough to slow the machine– but they arrived at his building sooner than he’d wish. His hands reluctantly released her, and he busied himself with untangling his legs.

He handed the helmet back. ‘Thank you.’

‘It w-was an hon-honour.’ Her smile had stiffened and her whole body tremored slightly.

‘Do…would you like to come in to dry off?’

A catch of breath, and her eyes shone along with her dimples. ‘W-would you mind?’

‘Not at all. You’d be welcome.’

An unexpectedly light feeling grew in his chest. Hope.

***

This is a short story I wrote for a competition, using the prompt, ‘He spent his last £30 on a plate of oysters and a glass of champagne.’ It’s the first story I’ve written featuring disability, something I know a little about myself.

Unfortunately, it didn’t place, but I still enjoyed writing it.

Tx

Playing Power Games – Chapter 1 – An anti-Valentine’s tale

Chapter 1

‘I hate Valentine’s Day and I hate Friday night games,’ grumbled Lindsay. ‘Whose bloody stupid idea was this?’ The redhead stood, well wrapped up, pint in hand, staring out at the pouring rain and the late arrivals dashing to the shelter of the stand. ‘All this false bonhomie, and everyone desperately trying to enjoy themselves in too little time.’

‘Are you talking about Fridays or Valentine’s?’ grinned Sian.

‘Both. What’s wrong with Saturday at two o’clock and keeping your smug coupley-ness to yourselves instead of infesting all the restaurants and decent pubs, and now even Harford Park Rugby Club?’ Lindsay’s Scottish accent strengthened when she was on a rant.

Sian sniggered at her ire. ‘The club thought they’d do something special. It’s primarily the idea of that new social media bloke, Roman, he hasn’t realised the importance of rugby being played at two in the afternoon Saturdays.’

‘All hail two o’clock Saturday rugby! Seriously now, kick off wasn’t until half seven, you’re not going to be eating your “Luscious Late Love Lunch” until ten.’

‘Or later, by the time Rob’s got off the pitch, showered and tarted himself up. For a manly prop, he takes longer than me to shower and get ready. Oh, and physio treatment, have a beer with his buddies, all the rest.’ Sian regarded her generous curves, ‘I’m hardly going to starve, but I won’t be able to drink much without getting squiffy.’

‘We’ll share a burger at half time.’

‘You’re on. Where are you off later?’

Lindsay pursed her lips, ‘Flames is having an anti-Valentine’s night for singletons. Which will probably turn into the usual meat market.’

‘Awww, I love Flames. It’s so bloody cheesy, it’s brilliantly dreadful. I got together with Rob there. Who are you going with?’

‘Some of the women’s team. They decided on the fancy dress theme: “leather or lace”.’ Lindsay wriggled, smirking.

Sian stared at Lindsay, ‘You’re dressed up, under your coat? G’wan, give us a flash.’

‘Later, it’s buried under jumpers.’ At Sian’s faked wobbling lower lip, she pulled open her long coat to show her long, black leather boots and skin-tight leather trousers, pulling up her layers to show her pierced midriff and the bottom of her corset. ‘I’m a dominatrix. My whip is back at the club.’

‘Wow, you have the body for it too, you’re so toned. Red lips to clash with your bright red hair?’

‘The full works, plus a black eye mask. I’ll add the dramatic touches later; I don’t think the Harford clubhouse is up for Mistress Ell.’

‘You’d give the old boys a collective heart attack. I’m not even sure if Flames is up for Mistress Ell.’ Sian shook her head, ‘I have to say, apart from having Rob’s company, I’m rather jealous.’

‘Oi!’ came a voice from the row below. ‘You’re on the same table as us and our husbands, it can’t be that bad.’ Their brunette friend, a heavily-pregnant Sarah joined them. Like most watching the game, she was wrapped up in a thick winter coat, hat, gloves and a scarf.

Sarah shook her brolly out. ‘It’s bloody tipping down and freezing. Whose idea was this again?’

‘The new social media bloke,’ chorused Sian and Lindsay.

‘Roman? The one who’s just walked out?’ asked Sarah.

‘Really?’ Lindsay rolled her eyes.

A low, male Scottish-accented voice came from a massive hunk behind them, ‘Yes, and he’s dropped the club well-and-truly in the brown stuff. Nothing’s ready for tonight. Lindsay, I may have to call on your organisational and diplomatic skills to help us out of shit creek. I wouldn’t ask if we weren’t desperate.’

‘Yes, boss.’ Lindsay was Tom’s second-in-command in his City offices, and had got to know the rest of the Harford crowd through his wife, Sarah. ‘Looks like I won’t be seeing much more of the match, I’ll see you in the bar later.’ Lindsay waved goodbye, and returned to the clubhouse.

When she entered the function room, the whole place was in turmoil. Some pink, red and silver decorations lay scattered on random tables, others were still in their boxes. The bar staff had set up, but were short of hands and coming into conflict with the caterers who were also in chaos.

It took five minutes to soothe the irate chef worried about his food getting spoiled, and placate the bar manager concerned about several missing bottles of wine.

One mousy young girl was attempting to lay all of the tables by herself. Lindsay approached her, ‘Hi, do you know where the rest of the waiting staff for tonight are please?’

The girl blushed and didn’t look at her. ‘The other girls? Ummm, they’re here…’

‘But where?’

‘Ummm, I think they’re getting ready in the ladies?’

Lindsay helped the girl, whose name she discovered was Becca, for a few moments. ‘So, how long have you been here?’

‘Since seven, that’s when Roman said he’d pay us from.’

‘And the other girls, how long have they been here.’

‘Ummm.’ Becca blushed. ‘Around the same time, we were on the same bus.’

It was approaching eight o’clock. ‘I’ll be back in a bit.’

Lindsay went in search of the missing waitresses. It didn’t take long; the clubhouse was nearly empty apart from the working staff and she could hear giggling from the loos. She pushed the door open, to be met by a cloud of hairspray, perfume and cigarette fumes. Three girls in short, tight white blouses with black miniskirts were propped up around the sinks, drinking the pilfered wine, gossiping and fussing with their make-up. One further girl was smoking out of an opened window. They gave Lindsay dismissive glances and carried on their conversations. Lindsay went into a stall and listened.

‘Did you see the size of that girl who goes out with Rob, the prop? She’s massive, must be a fourteen at least. What an elephant!’ Sniggering followed the comment.

‘Fat cow, what the hell does he see in her?’

‘I’m going to flirt with him tonight, I don’t care if he’s single or not. He’s lush.’

They all cackled and agreed and discussed which of the men they fancied, each adding a malicious slur about the player’s wife or girlfriend. Lindsay had heard enough and exited the cubicle, spuriously washing her hands and striding out of the door.

Seconds later, she returned with backup in the form of a couple of bar staff and a doorman. ‘You four, you’re sacked. Don’t expect to be paid a penny for tonight, and don’t expect to ever work here again. Now, pay up for that stolen wine and piss off.’

With much bitching, the girls left.

Which was nice, but left them short of workers. She spotted Tom coming in to check progress. ‘I need at least four bodies to act as waiters or waitresses, plus a couple of bar staff who won’t drink the profits. Any ideas?’

Tom thought for a second, ‘I’ll send some of the squad who aren’t playing over. Maybe some of the under-20 boys as waiters. Don’t let them give you any shit.’

‘You know I won’t. How are things on the pitch?’

‘It’s only halftime and we’re winning by miles. So much for a close-fought local derby; they haven’t even turned up.’

Lindsay returned to the function room and was relieved to see Becca had finished laying the cutlery. Some bar staff had taken pity on her and started polishing the glasses to be placed on the tables.

‘Lindsay? Ummm, would you mind if I tidied myself up a bit? I haven’t stopped since I got here and I need the loo.’

‘No problem, apparently there’s more help on its way.’ Lindsay cast an eye over the room, assessing what was left to be done. Napkins with hearts on and other related table and wall decorations, more chairs. There wasn’t even any table plan to check. She could strangle that Roman.

The heating had been bumped up, and after walking back and forth a few times, she was far too warm in her long coat and layers. She hung the coat up with her whip and stripped off a couple of jumpers, leaving only a translucent, figure-hugging black silk blouse over the corset.

Where was the help? Becca had returned in short order, and was placing the glasses out. Her brown hair had been pulled back neatly into a more-flattering high ponytail. Becca was naturally pretty, a subtle beauty rather than in-your-face-and-caked-with-makeup, and under the baggy clothes was a good, athletic figure. Her eyes had nearly popped out of her head when she’d seen Lindsay’s skin-tight outfit.

The “Happy Valentine’s Day!” banner was to be suspended on permanent hooks installed above the bar. However, even kneeling precariously on a stool wouldn’t lift it high enough. Lindsay dragged a small table over, and retrieved her whip. In her insanely high heels with the use of the whip, she could just about catch the rings over the hooks, and the decoration looked great once up.

With hands on hips, she surveyed the room. It was slowly coming together. Now, she just needed some more staff.

Sniggering came from her left. Six males kitted out in hoodies and jeans were slouching in the doorway, watching her in her outfit.

‘You two!’ she barked and pointed her whip at the two closest, ‘Help me down from here.’

Their tittering shut off abruptly and the two lads uneasily approached her. She recognised them and a couple of others as younger players from the youth squad. The last duo, Gavin and Adam, were seniors in their mid-twenties.

‘Arms up!’ she snapped, and with their assistance, gracefully stepped down. The top of her head barely reached their chins. She squared her shoulders, tapped the whip against her boots and fixed them all with a gimlet stare.

Their expressions were combined terror and awe, and some sexual heat from the older pair. Despite their superior size, they seemed compliant. Hmmm, maybe she was onto something?

She circled the youth players, taking in their jeans and general scruffy appearance. ‘You! Name, and what other clothes do you have with you?’

‘D-Damian,’ her victim stuttered. ‘Us younger players have smarter clothes for later.’

‘You! Name and what kind of smarter clothes?’ she directed her question to another youth player.

‘Ricky. Sh-shirts and ties, trousers and shoes.’

She pointed at the youth players, ‘You’re now waiters for the night. You will be paid. You four have ten minutes to change and return here. Go now.’

She flicked the whip towards the door and the four scuttled away, leaving Gavin and Adam.

She had to hide the tremors of anticipation running through her. Hell, they were tall. And fit. Just how she liked her men. She took her time to slowly assess them, tapping her whip against her opposite palm. ‘You two. Clothes?’

Gavin answered, his redhead complexion blushing, ‘Just a change of shirt.’ The dark-haired Adam echoed him in his soft Kiwi accent. Neither of them could look away from the whip in her hands.

‘Have either of you ever served behind a bar?’ They both nodded. ‘Ok that’ll be your main job for tonight. You have five minutes to change.’

They nodded, but didn’t move. She scornfully looked them up and down again. Tall. More than filling out the front of their jeans. At her glare, they shuffled. Were they aroused? They seemed to be breathing heavily.

She stepped closer, meeting their widening eyes and whispered, ‘Go. Now.’

Gavin gulped, ‘O-Our kit bags are below the coat stands behind you.’

Lindsay permitted herself a smug smile, ‘Good, you can change here and help me with the rest of the decorations.’

She strode off to where Becca was watching open-mouthed. ‘Everything ok with you, Becca?’

‘Oh my god, you’re, like, my heroine. The way they went from cockiness to cowering in front of you in seconds.’ Becca was grinning and had forgotten to be shy, ‘I’ve never seen anything so epic.

‘How old are you, Becca?’

‘I’m eighteen. Just.’

‘Are you still at school?’

‘Ummm, I’m just finishing my A levels but…ummm, I want to be a professional cyclist,’ she rushed out.

‘Ooh, I cycle too. Only club runs though.’

‘I thought so; you have the legs of a cyclist…’ Whatever Becca was about to say next, she completely forgot, distracted by something behind Lindsay. ‘Wow!’ she breathed.

Lindsay suspected she knew what had distracted the goggle-eyed waitress, and before turning around, carefully blanked her expression. Wow indeed.

Two half-naked professional sportsmen, firm slabs of muscles and ridged abdomens on show, they rummaged in their bags for garish shirts. Gavin started pulling his shirt on. Looking up and seeing Lindsay and Becca watching, he slowed his movements down, smirking as he slowly buttoned the silky fabric from bottom to top. He said something to Adam who looked their way too.

Lindsay could feel herself losing control of the situation. ‘Follow me, and stop staring!’ she hissed at Becca.

Sauntering towards the troublesome two, she slowly unbuttoned the thin shirt she wore over the leather corset. Gavin and Adam’s eyes darted to her chest, the smooth black leather and bare midriff she was revealing. She let the shirt slip off her shoulders. ‘It’s rather…warm in here, don’t you think?’ she asked Adam.

His eyes were glued to the breast shelf barely covered by leather. With a deep breath, she nearly popped out.

She tittered, and shrugged the shirt back on, slowly rebuttoning it. ‘Silly me, I need to run to the cold office, and I’m afraid I’ll have to find you other shirts to wear, those just won’t do.’ She shook her head in mock disappointment. ‘Please be getting on with decorating and placing the wine glasses on the tables, tell the youths to help you when they return.’ She strolled out of the room, swinging her hips confidently, Becca trotting behind her.

‘Ok, Becca. First things first, we need table plans and a list of names. Secondly, we both need to keep those boys and everyone else under control all night. Part of that is appearance, most of it is attitude. I’m going to give you a makeover and “Don’t Fuck With Me” lessons.’

Becca almost skipped in happiness and clapped her hands together with glee.

Lindsay laughed, ‘I’m afraid the first lesson is be happy inside but don’t be too happy on the outside when you’re in a position of power. Second is, don’t overdo it and be a hard bitch, there’s always room for a smile and compliment if someone’s done well.’

***

Twenty minutes later, Lindsay had the paperwork sorted and a transformed assistant. She’d borrowed a skirt and shoes from one of the women players who’d brought them to change into after watching the match, and a red v-neck T-shirt with the Harford logo, from a youth tournament. There were more T-shirts for the waiters and bar staff. One other problem sorted.

She’d also enhanced her make-up and applied a bit to Becca to bring out her natural beauty. The improved appearance and lessons had dramatically boosted Becca’s confidence. Her shoulders had gone back and she could already sashay like Lindsay in the unfamiliar heels. Giving her a clipboard and clear tasks had also improved her assurance.

Lindsay checked her watch, the match was due to end in ten minutes. The muted buzz of voices and laughter came from the function room. Well, at least that meant they hadn’t walked out on her, yet.

The doors creaked as they walked in and the boys looked around from blowing up balloons. All of them did a double take at Becca’s appearance, and she responded by coolly meeting their eyes. Good.

The tables were almost finished too. Also good. Lindsay allowed herself a quick smile of relief while no one was watching her, before clearing her throat, ‘You waiters, Becca will be giving you a brief rundown on service, and T-shirts we’ve managed to procure. No more worrying about getting tomato sauce on your best pulling shirt, hey?’

She allowed time for the four to finish their current balloons, and to follow Becca to the catering outlet and congregate around her. A brief moment of worry was placated by Becca’s serene smile.

Gavin and Adam were left, and she could just tell that they were feeling belligerent. ‘Here.’ She threw T-shirts at them, ‘They may be a bit small though.’

Adam glanced at the label, ‘I usually wear a large. This is a medium.’

‘There aren’t any large so tough luck. It’ll stretch.’

Gavin had already started unbuttoning his shirt; he wasn’t going to argue. It took seconds for him to pull the top on, he looked resplendent in the formfitting fabric. Lindsay gave an approving nod, for some reason, it looked wonderful against his redhead colouring; his hair verged towards auburn rather than ginger. She returned her gaze to Adam who was grumpily pulling at the snug garment.

Wow! What a knockout! If Gavin looked wonderful, Adam looked superb.

She had to stop herself gaping, giving the same approving nod, ‘Both of you look great, and well done on the decorations. Now, go to Jim, he’ll give you a run down on the bar, it’s bottles only in here, mostly wine or beer. If anyone wants anything different, send them to the main bar. We have about ten minutes before the hordes descend.’

Those ten minutes she spent correcting cock-ups on the table plans and keeping an ear out for Becca, noting that she was spare in awarding compliments but the boys were preening when she did. The caterers came to her with some minor problems but they were all resolved in no time. Far from being a disaster thanks to the disappearing Roman, there was a chance they may, just, get away with it.

***

The main course of the “Luscious Late Love Lunch” was served at ten o’clock on the dot and Lindsay breathed a sigh of relief. Becca had come through for her, the boys behaved, the decorations, while utterly naff, seemed to lift everyone’s spirits, especially the remaining packets of pink, red and silver balloons they hadn’t had time to inflate so had just placed on the tables as DIY decorations. Blowing up and popping balloons entertained even the most churlish.

Tom offered his help once he had finished his coaching duties. Lindsay had waved him back to his wife until pudding was served, when she escaped to join the rugby girls in the bar for a drink, just in time to delay their imminent departure for Flames. They were very impressed with her outfit, and she didn’t have the audacity to tell them either how much it had cost or that she’d had it a few years. Or explain the difference between the dominatrix she was masquerading as, and the domme that she was in reality. The women agreed to hang on for a while longer, and she bought them a bottle of champagne to keep them entertained while she finished up.

‘What an evening.’ Tom came up behind her as she surveyed the function room for any more problems. ‘I think you deserve another pay rise.’

‘I wouldn’t have done it without your boys and Becca.’

Tom laughed, ‘I heard how you terrified them into submission. Well, apart from Becca, who has turned into a little domina herself. Ricky’s just asked her out.’

Lindsay gasped and laughed, ‘What did she say?’

‘She’s outlined a list of demands to which he happily conceded. I’ve paid them all, given her double, and as soon as they clear the last plate, they’re all dismissed. Is that ok with you?’

‘Perfect. What about Gavin and Adam?’

‘I’ll let them go in a bit. Were the tight T-shirts your idea? That was evil. They’ve been complaining of fighting off housewives all night.’ Tom grinned.

‘Serves them right for giving me shit earlier. Has Sarah enjoyed herself?’

Tom grinned even more, he was so besotted with his pregnant wife, ‘Brilliantly, thanks to that comfy chair you organised. I’m off to take her home.’ There was a ripple of applause from the room and a triumphant masculine whoop, ‘Awww, sounds like Rob proposed to Sian. He said he would if the night went well. Another pat on the back for you.’

Lindsay smiled in contentment, ‘Away wi’ ye now. I’ll also be off with the girls to go clubbing all night. Tidy, as Sarah would say.’

 

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What stopped me writing…

…in school.

On a writing forum I frequent, there was a discussion about geographical accuracy, and if readers picked up on errors.

I went to great lengths to get the geography correct along with the timing of the trip. A complete section had to be rewritten to accommodate a short drive that was originally an overnight drive.

I could see the comments about traveling 100 miles in eight hours. We had them stop to rest and refresh instead.

It reminded me of this, from my youth:

About 25 years ago, as a piece of GCSE school coursework, I wrote a story based on a similarly long drive.

I wanted it to be overnight, and long enough for the characters to learn something about themselves. Unfortunately, this discounted the UK as it wasn’t big enough, city-to-city, for the story length.

Having watching too many episodes of California-based soaps, and also having consulted an atlas, I decided to base it in America. And was highly criticised for it not being realistic enough with US slang, etc. I really didn’t know enough about the locations, what junctions were called, how to write American dialogue.

I think I received my worst English mark ever for that story.

It was a painful lesson to learn, as I was the year swot at the time and everyone took the piss out of me getting a C+/C. I had always, always, received As in English until that point; English had always been my favourite topic when I was younger, I’d often placed in school competitions and won a prize in a county-wide contest. My enthusiasm for writing and reading seemed to die from that point. I still read voraciously, but seldom classic works. I fell behind in my coursework. I didn’t really enjoy the subject any more. Coupled with post-mortems of many classic works for English Lit, which I rarely could agree with but had to parrot the conclusions of, English became a subject I could barely tolerate.

The US-driving story was the last time, until I started writing again five years ago, that I had produced something fictional that I enjoyed, or could even recall.  I’ve no idea what I wrote for the rest of my coursework, I have feeling it wasn’t up to much, and I finally gained a B at GCSE English, with a C in English Lit.

With the failure of that story, I look back and realise it was also the teacher himself who took a lot of the joy of writing out of English for me. Mr F was the ‘trendy’ sort – relatively young, easygoing with a snazzy ‘tache and dress sense. He was popular with everyone.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really ‘get’ him; I always got on better with the more traditional type of teacher. A combination of Mr F and the course also managed to kill my enjoyment of Thomas Hardy novels (amongst others) and any poetry. One time, after I had heard part of Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and I wanted to know who wrote it. I quoted him the final lines:

‘I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.’

He didn’t know (HOW? He was an English teacher, FFS!) and was so utterly disparaging, he totally put me off.

I hate regret or blaming others for my misfortunes, but I wonder now how different my life would have been had I been assigned the more-traditional Mr C. Had I scored better in English, I probably would have studied different A-levels, done a totally different degree at uni, maybe begun writing even earlier…

Wow. Please excuse the trip down memory lane.

And I’ve realised that there was something else I wrote that I enjoyed:

About 3-4 years later, and following the death of my grandma, I had an A-level General Studies exam. It was essentially all multiple choice, apart from the English section, which was a short story based on a true event. I wrote about the funeral, about the grandma I hadn’t seen in a couple of years and didn’t particularly like, about how I hadn’t cried until I saw my granddad stood at the front of the church, shaking and alone. It remains to this day, the most enjoyable and cathartic exam I’ve ever had. I always wanted a copy of the story, but was unable to obtain one, though I still remember the last line, ‘Finally, I cried.’

My former English teacher would have hated it.

For that, however, I received an A.

Christmas read: Playing It Cool – free story

Playing It Cool

Here’s a short Christmas-themed story for you to enjoy.

Contains: snow, high levels of drinking and sporadic swearing, ice-related peril, references to classic rugby matches, a pitched battle and perhaps some romance. Please comment!

Tx

***

‘Fuckit, I’m cold.’

‘Fucking freezing.’

‘I’m starting to wish the pitch had frozen hard enough for the match to be postponed.’

‘Me too. Despite that I’m enjoying watching Danny run around being manly. I’ve missed him since he stopped training us.’

‘You and your crush on Danny, I just wish you’d talk to him sometime.’

A heavy sigh, ‘I know, but he’s never looked at me that way.’

‘And he never will unless you say something! Ooh, a break. Go Matt!’

The women cheered on the action in front of them, until someone’s frozen fingers dropped the ball and the ref blew.

‘That scrum looks lovely and warm; I’d love to be in the middle of it, surrounded by hot men. It looks far more exciting than our scrums.’

‘You’d get mashed.  If we had a game tomorrow, it would have been called off, there’s a serious weather front supposed to be moving in.’

‘Nah, that’s for the north only. The weatherman said it would miss the south-east.’

A flurry of snowflakes whipped past the women’s noses.

‘I think Mother Nature says differently.

‘At least these bloody Christmas jumpers are warm. Well, warm-ish. When do you think it would be safe to move inside?’

‘When the final whistle goes? We’ll be fined if we head for the warmth before then, the Boss is watching.’

‘Fuck.’

‘Yeah.’

 

It had been decided several months earlier that the Harford Park RFC teams were to have a joint Christmas social. The first XV down to the vets and the women’s teams would unite for a night of drink-fuelled, festive-themed debauchery. Not that the average Saturday night in the rugby club was ever a quiet affair, but this would be special, with compulsory fancy dress, an “epic” fines session for real and imagined gaffes, and later, whoever was left standing could use the VIP passes for Flames, a cheesy nightclub nearer Central London.

It was the most eagerly anticipated social occasion of the year, the local shops were cleared out of Christmas finery and the postman inundated with parcels to be delivered “c/o Harford Park RFC”. No one foresaw that the unpredictable British weather would thrust a snow-covered spoke into proceedings.

 

Danny tucked his chin into the collar of his winter coat as he strode away from the raucous rugby club, trying to retain some body warmth for his long walk. He would never have even thought of walking the three miles home a couple of years ago, especially through ankle-deep snow, but now he saw it as good exercise and a decent way to sober up. Since he’d started training for triathlons, his stout build had slimmed down to a shadow of his former prop-playing self and he couldn’t drink so much. When the amateurs were desperate, he’d step in and make up the numbers, but he was at an age where his joints wouldn’t take the weekly rugby hammering.

The game that day had been a one-off and he already felt a few twinges and scrapes and bruises developing, overcoming the post-match-winning euphoria. It had been a good night but he’d had one hell of a ribbing for leaving early. It did help that those going clubbing had left earlier than expected too, before they were stranded in Harford. The flakes had begun coming down thickly at the end of the game and started sticking, despite the weatherman’s predictions. There was already a thick layer of several inches on the pavement and roads, cars were starting to skid and slide. However, as Danny had relied on instinct that morning, the boots he was wearing were sensible, with ridged soles so he wouldn’t lose grip in the deepening snow.

He shook some snowflakes out of his mop of curly blond hair, pulled a beanie on and started whistling as he cautiously stepped off the pavement to cross a side road.

‘Help!’ The faint voice came from down the dimly lit street.

Spotting something moving on the ground a few yards away, he stopped, ‘Hello?’

‘Hello, is s-someone there?’ The female’s voice was faint. ‘Please, help!’

Danny started walking towards the tremulous voice. ‘What’s happened?’ As he got closer, he saw a scantily dressed woman huddled on the ground.

‘Be c-careful! Ice!’

Danny skirted a dark patch and slowed. He could feel the lethal slickness under his shoes, disguised by the layer of snow.

‘I f-fell and I’ve h-hurt myself. Phone d-dead. C-can you help me st-stand please?’

The heavy snow obscured his vision again.  He held his arms out and hands grabbed him. As he pulled the woman to her feet, he could feel them slip out from underneath her. ‘Bloody hell, are you wearing skates?’

‘Stupid sh-sh-shoes.’

They turned towards the main road, and she tried to walk, but cried out when she tried to put weight on one glittery, sandal-clad foot. Her feet slipped again, and if it hadn’t been for Danny, she would have crashed to the ground. She attempted walking again, but had to stem another shriek.

Danny felt her slight weight as she gasped, ‘Look, would you mind if I carry you? We’re not going anywhere fast with you like this.’

‘O-O-OK. Please…my skirt…’

He looked down. It was rather short, barely visible under her hip-length coat. ‘I’ll try not to let it rise up.’ He swung her up in his arms, settled her as she tugged at her skirt. He could feel her shivering and icy water immediately started soaking through his jacket. Her skirt was the least of her worries. ‘Where are you going?’

‘T-train station. Catch train home.’

‘Not tonight, they’ve all been cancelled.’ Her increasingly violent shivers concerned him. ‘Look, the rugby club’s a few hundred yards that way, we can raid the place for dry clothes, get some first aid for that ankle, and see if anyone there is heading your way. Sound OK to you?’

‘OK.’

He could barely hear her voice, and started walking as fast as he could. Luckily, they were close enough, and the club’s drive was rough ground with a better purchase for his feet. The sounds of partying grew louder as his arms began to tire.

‘You OK?’ he asked.

There was no response from his bundle. He kicked the first set of double doors open, and turned sideways to get through, ensuring her legs weren’t knocked. He elbowed the lighter, second set ajar and walked into the noisy, warm bar.

‘Danny! You’re back so soon!’

‘Danny boy! Who’s the fair maiden?’

A woman gasped, ‘Oh my god, she’s fucking freezing, filthy and soaked to the skin. And look at her ankle!’

Immediately, the tipsy men and women surrounding him seemed to sober up.

The women’s captain elbowed her way to the front, ‘Emma, go put the showers on, she needs warming up ASAP. Matt, go find some towels. Jim, can we have some hot chocolate please? Anyone else, find dry and clean clothes. We’ll also need the first aid kit. Get Jim to call an ambulance too, although it’ll take ages to get here in this weather. Where did you find her?’ The last question was directed at Danny.

‘She was near the main road, said she’d fallen.’

The girl stirred, ‘Fall, where am I?’

‘You’re at the rugby club; we’ll sort you out here.’ Someone passed the captain a couple of towels. She draped one over the girl, gently lifted strands of water-darkened, long blonde hair out of her face and wrapped the other towel around her head. ‘What’s your name, sweetheart?’

‘A-Amy.’

‘OK, Amy. I’m Beth. Danny will take you to the changing rooms, we’ll warm you up and get you sorted in no time.’

‘Thank y-you. I’m s-so c-c-cold.’

Danny followed mother-hen Beth to the changing rooms, garnering many approving glances from the club patrons. He felt like Superman, despite his arms burning like hell.

Emma jogged back towards them, ‘I’ve started running the small bath in the ref’s room. It’ll fill in no time and be better than the shower.’

‘Good thinking, Emma. We can’t put her in until she’s less cold, but it’ll help warm the room up.’

The smaller room was already beginning to steam slightly when they entered. Beth stuck her hand in the bath water and nodded approvingly, ‘We’ll remove the jacket, and then I’m afraid you’ll have to leave as all her wet clothes need to come off.’

They propped the shaking girl up on a nearby bench and stripped off the lightweight jacket, and a handbag that she’d had tangled around her neck. She was wearing a glitzy, silver halter-neck dress underneath.

‘No wonder she’s so cold, even without getting wet!’ exclaimed Beth.

 

Danny felt like he was deserting Amy as he backed out of the room, with other women rushing in either side of him, carrying hot drinks and clothes, and even a bottle of shampoo. The door closed and he turned to return to the bar area.

In one hand swung her silver handbag. Opening it gave him a slash of guilt, it felt intrusive, but there wasn’t much there, just a slim black phone, a small purse, tissues and a lipstick. He knocked the door to the referee’s room and handed over the bag, minus the phone. Someone in the club usually had a charger; he could give it some power for her to call home once she felt better.

Re-entering the club bar, he felt like hours had passed since he’d departed for home to catcalls ringing around him. He was handed a glass of whiskey and clapped on the back.

‘Good work, my man, get that down you.’

He didn’t give his training any thought at all as he slugged the drink. She had gone so quiet, so fast. He’d been really worried she wouldn’t survive. What was a few drinks compared to that?

‘What a stunner, but did you see how little she was wearing?’ His tall and handsome but surprisingly modest and shy mate Matt rolled his dark eyes, ‘And those shoes? If she’s broken her ankle, I wouldn’t be surprised. Fucking madness.  Any idea how long she’d been there?’

‘No idea, she just said she wanted to go to the train station.’ As Danny shrugged, he realised the arms and front of his coat were wet, so stripped it off to drape over a nearby radiator along with his beanie and gloves. Underneath, he was wearing a tacky Christmas jumper and jeans, as per most in the bar.

‘There’s no way she would have reached the train station like that. You know, you probably saved her life.’

‘I dunno.’ Danny felt a blush rising in his cheeks.

Matt nodded at the window; the snow was now so heavy, despite the exterior lights, it was impossible to see more than a foot. ‘She was on the verge of hypothermia, her lips were blue and it looked like she’d been dragging herself quite a way, she had scrapes all over her legs and hands. You’re a hero, my man.’

A soft kiss was dabbed to his cheek, ‘I agree. Danny, you’re a hero.’ Emma smiled, ‘She’s come around properly, and we’ve cancelled the ambulance as she’s warmed up sufficiently according to the thermometer Beth is wielding.’

‘It wouldn’t have got here anyway,’ interjected Jim from behind the bar. ‘I’ve been listening to the radio, there’s been a massive pile-up on the dual carriageway, the road is blocked and there are possible fatalities. There’s been fighting at the taxi rank in town, most drivers have given up and gone home. Buses and trains cancelled. Police are advising for everyone to stay indoors.’

‘Lock-in tonight then, Jim?’ Matt grinned cheekily.

Jim sighed and looked around at the twenty-or-so drinkers left in the club, ‘Anyone who hasn’t left by now and doesn’t live within half a mile is stuck here, so I don’t have much choice. There are some mats you can borrow from the playgroup, and I’ve taken some blankets out of the cupboard to air, you’ll have to sleep on the floors of the function rooms. Or drink in here all night.’

Danny stared at the dregs of whiskey left in his glass, ‘In that case, Jim, I’ll have another. Thanks.’

 

An hour or so later, more of the women returned. Apparently, Amy had warmed enough to be able to get in the bath, they had helped her wash, towelled her off and cleaned her grazes. Beth thought the ankle was badly sprained and had strapped it up. A hairdryer had been magicked up to dry her hair. Danny had plugged the lifeless phone in to charge, and the dark-haired, petite Emma darted back and forth, but appeared to enjoy returning to Danny and Matt’s company.

Emma’s job had also been to keep the drink flowing between the changing rooms and the bar; once it was clear that Amy was OK, the women had continued drinking. They even had an impromptu, hilarious fashion show with all the clothes that had been gathered, including a scrum half prancing around in Amy’s now-dry dress and shoes. She had told the women she never, ever wanted to see the garments again, if it could be helped. They held an on-the-spot auction for the surprisingly undamaged designer items, and raised enough funds to raid the club shop for something more substantial.

A while after, the door opened and conversation hushed. A stunning blonde stood there, poker-straight shiny hair almost to her waist, green eyes gleaming in her make-up-free face. Her slim form was clad in a long red Harford rugby shirt with black leggings on her slender, shapely legs. A pair of red socks and crutches completed the picture.

Danny heard Matt gulp beside him.

‘I believe I have someone to thank for my life.’ Her voice was soft, her eyes travelling around the assorted occupants of the bar.

Danny gingerly put his hand up, ‘I…I don’t know if I saved your life but I’m the one that found you. I’m Danny.’

Amy’s eyes ran over him, finishing at his blond curls, jutting chin and smiling eyes, ‘Hi Danny, thank you.’ She hobbled into the bar, swinging carefully on the crutches towards their small group, and conversations resumed.

Beth followed her, looking pleased as punch at the result of her nursing. ‘She recovered really quickly, once we got her warmed up. And I’ve strapped up her ankle, I think it’s just badly sprained.’

‘Do you like my outfit?’ Amy did a whimsical twirl, ‘Your club shop had some base layers so I got a set plus the jersey and socks. I’m toasty warm now.’

‘You look lovely.’ Matt’s voice was hoarse and he had to clear his throat, ‘Err, hi, I’m Matt. What on earth were you doing there?’

The blonde settled against a nearby bar stool, taking the weight off her feet. ‘I’d been at a house party. It was supposed to be an elegant, civilised affair, instead it turned raucous and I left when the local scumbag drug dealer arrived.’ Amy rolled her eyes, ‘I was hoping for a taxi, but my phone died and I had to walk away from the house as some wasted middle-aged guy kept trying to feel me up. Then I got lost.’

‘Very unlucky.’

Amy shivered, ‘And cold. I never intended on walking anywhere in those shoes, they’re sitting down shoes only. I’m supposed to be training for a race next month.’

‘Not on that ankle, you won’t,’ warned Beth. ‘You’ll need an x-ray, I don’t think it’s broken but I could be wrong.’

Amy sighed, ‘Just my luck. Has anyone seen my phone?’

Danny fumbled behind him, ‘Here it is – it should have enough charge by now.’

‘Great, I’ll try calling a taxi. Or waking a friend up.’

Danny coughed, ‘Ummm, Jim says we’re snowed in and the roads are blocked. No one’s going anywhere soon. ‘

‘Jim?’

The barman bustled over, ‘I hear my name being used in vain? Evening, lovely lady, you’re looking much better.’ The grey fox gave Amy a flirtatious smile, ‘Booze or bed?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Your choice is either to try to sleep in one of the function rooms, or keep drinking in the bar here. Unless you live within walking distance?’

‘Nope, the other side of London. So we’re all stuck here?’

‘Yep, weatherman got it utterly wrong.’ Jim looked like he was enjoying being the portent of doom. ‘Roads won’t be ploughed until morning.’

Amy shrugged and grinned, ‘Well, I might as well make the most of it, there’s no one at home waiting for me.’ She brought a fifty-pound note out of her handbag, ‘Next round on me?’

 

It probably wasn’t the best of ideas for someone who’d been on the verge of hypothermia to be boozing it up with the rest of them a couple of hours later, but the first aid crew were satisfied she was fine. The women returning from the ref’s room plus others who had failed to catch a taxi or train sheepishly wandering back swelled the group to thirty or so. Some headed for a nap, but most stayed in the bar, drinking chatting and singing. Jim had found some old, classic rugby matches to watch on the TV screens, and they dragged some of the mats into the bar. They even unlocked the kitchen and fried chips to stave off the munchies.

Danny lay with a pint in one hand and a chip in the other and a woman either side of him, watching the Barbarians beat New Zealand in 1973. The large bowl of fried potatoey goodness was balanced on his flat stomach and both women were digging in with him. Beth and a couple of the other women were the other side of Emma with their own helpings of chips.

It was unusual for Danny to spend so much time with women, even when he was coaching their team, but he was enjoying it. Emma had a really offbeat sense of humour, and she used her hands to talk enthusiastically. Every now and again, she lightly touched him to make a point. Amy chuckled and added in some dry comments. He felt quite dizzy from the attention. And they both smelled so good.

They had all giggled over the awkward haka performed reluctantly by the New Zealanders, so unlike the present-day tour de force, and over the dated hairstyles and kit.

‘You know, I’ve seen that try a million times, but never the rest of the match,’ commented Amy.

‘You watch rugby?’ Danny and Emma turned to her in surprise.

‘I played in uni, and…ummm, my dad played for the Saints.’

‘What was his name?’ When Amy whispered the answer, Danny nearly choked on his chips. ‘Him? Bloody hell, he won England and Lions caps too!’

Amy blushed, ‘Ssshhh, I don’t usually tell people in rugby clubs, they start asking me for autographs or expect me to use his name. Or start calling me “the Smith girl”.’

‘OK, we’ll keep shtum. Won’t we?’ Danny elbowed Emma.

Emma nodded and hummed as her mouth was full of chip. They carried on watching the match, and Matt came to join them, sitting down on the other side of Amy. He was quiet, which was unlike the normally ebullient Matt.

‘You OK, mate?’ asked Danny.

Matt nodded, he seemed to be blushing slightly, ‘Good, thanks. Ummm, it’s been a long day. How are you feeling, Amy?’

Amy yawned, ‘Brighter than I usually feel at four in the morning, but not by much.’

‘Ummm, would you like a drink?’

Amy held up the pint of bitter she had been nursing, ‘I’m struggling.’

‘Something shorter?’

‘All right.’

While Matt went to the bar, Amy turned to Danny, ‘This night has turned out more enjoyable than I thought, barring the awful house party and near-hypothermia. That wasn’t so great.’ She shivered.

‘Yeah, I was worried for a bit. You muttered something about going to the station, although as Matt said, I’m not sure you would have got there.’

‘I can’t remember much from shortly after I fell, just a lot of white and pain. I can’t explain why I didn’t just knock on the door of any nearby house, but the cold got to me, I couldn’t think straight. Scary.’ She shuddered again.

‘Tunnel vision. I’ve seen people on the rugby pitch or triathlon field ignore serious injuries to carry on. Sometimes your brain doesn’t realise that circumstances have irrevocably changed.’

‘Yeah, getting to the station was all I could think about. Even when you found me, then you mentioned a rugby club and that sounded tempting and I knew I would be OK at a rugby club. The women were epic, you were epic too.’ She kissed his cheek and smiled widely at him.

He happily grinned back, feeling an unexpected warmth in his groin. Danny was used to being single; he trained so hard that his love life had taken a back seat. Amy was a stunner, and it occurred to him that if he asked her nicely, she may go out on a date with him. He was already in her good books for rescuing her. He opened his mouth, ‘Amy-’

A throat was cleared, ‘Ummm, I got some port, it seemed more Christmassy.’ Matt was standing above them looking like a just-kicked puppy, with a bottle and a few glasses in hand.

‘Ooh, port. Lovely idea,’ congratulated Amy.

The penny dropped for Danny – Matt only acted like he had when he fancied a woman. There had been jokes about how incompetent at flirting he was, and that it was usually obvious. So obvious that the boys usually gave him carte blanche just for the entertainment value. Somehow, Danny had missed the signs.

‘I got a glass for Emma but she’s fallen asleep.’

Danny glanced to his other side to see Emma dozing, curled up. Beth was the only one still awake, and she gave Danny an incomprehensible glare.

What had he done wrong there?

He was confused. First Matt, now Beth. Definitely too much to drink if he couldn’t figure out what was going on. He excused himself, ‘Sorry, little boys’ room is calling.’

The bar group had dwindled by half, and the remainder not watching the classic matches were dozing in chairs or singing mournful songs in the far corner. The break didn’t do much to clear his head. On his return, he picked up a couple of blankets, intending to head for the function rooms. Perhaps sleep would be a better bet?

‘You know those are the larrrshhtt ones,’ Jim informed him. As it had quietened and his services were rarely needed, Jim had joined the other drinkers. ‘I wash keepin’ dem for der women.’ He nodded towards their group.

That meant Danny had to stick around.  He wandered back just as Amy stood for her own visit to the loo.

Emma was shifting around a bit in her sleep, tucking her hands in her sleeves to warm up so Danny carefully lay one of the blankets partly over her. Beth and the others had found their own covers so he held the other out to Matt, ‘Here, last one for you and Amy.’

Matt looked guilty, ‘Danny, I’m really sorry about interrupting before, I don’t know…it was clumsy of me. I panicked.’

‘Why did you panic? Do you like her?’

Matt nodded so hard, his dark hair fell in his eyes, ‘As soon as I saw her, I had to stop myself from lifting her out of your arms.’

Danny laughed, ‘I’d have been quite happy for you to, my arms were killing me.’

‘Then when she returned…’ Matt rubbed his chest. ‘And she’s really nice and smart and knows about rugby. But you have dibs.’

‘Nah, the floor is yours.’

Matt’s shoulders relaxed, ‘I owe you a million.’ His shoulders stiffened up, ‘Fuck, that means I’ll definitely have to ask her.’ He knocked back a mouthful of port.

‘What’s up?’ Amy had returned silently on her socked feet. ‘Ask me what?’

Matt’s gulp was audible. ‘Amy, wouldyouliketogoforadrinksometime? Please?’

‘OK.’

‘OK? You will?’

‘Yes.’

‘OK.’ Matt looked lost for words.

Danny nudged him, ‘This is when you’re supposed to find out where she’d like to go and when.’

‘OK.’

‘I’ll leave you to it.’ He couldn’t spoon-feed Matt what he should do next; he was hardly experienced himself recently. Danny regained his position on the mat next to Emma, and tucked himself under the remaining half of blanket. He only felt a twinge of envy as Matt and Amy moved closer and closer together, instead sipping his port and watching Jonny drop that goal once more, then his eyes began drifting closed.

 

Mmmm. Something smelled fresh and clean, and felt soft against his face. A little body was snuggled partially over him, breasts against his chest and arm, hips against his awakening groin. Who was it? The bundle of womanhood groaned slightly, and yawned.

And stiffened.

Danny concentrated on staying relaxed, not sure who it was or what he should do. Last he could remember was seeing Jonno holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft. Unfortunately, his body disagreed, continuing to harden.

Did he imagine her rubbing against him slightly?

‘Pssssttt! Emma!’

The hair was lifted away from his face, and he felt a sharp inhale. Then, slowly, the body moved off him. He felt some regret in letting it go, and some deflation in the groin area. Luckily. Otherwise the blanket resettling around him might have looked quite obscene.

It felt colder without his feminine extra. There was whispering around him, some soft snores and the creak of a door, the clink of a glass. And a giggle hushed up.

He slowly cracked his eyes open, to see the TV screen black and dark. Some bright light was coming in around the edges of the curtains, illuminating the bar area. He sat up slowly, his body creaking and aches from the previous day’s effort making themselves known.

None of the women’s team were there, but Matt was curled around Amy, contented smiles on both of their dozing faces. A couple of others were asleep across chairs, including Jim.

The bar door squeaked and he turned to see Beth sneaking in. The smell of bacon wafted over, and his stomach grumbled. He lifted a hand, and she looked guilty for a moment, then pressed a finger to her lips before crooking it.

Following the captain into the corridor towards another function room, the enticing scent of bacon strengthened as did the buzz of chatter.

‘We’ve raided the kitchens.’ Beth could speak normally once out of the bar. ‘We’re using the function room closest for breakfast. Some people are going to try getting home or to work once the drive is cleared.’ There was a cheer from outside, ‘And others need the energy.’

There seemed to be more people in the room than in the bar last night. Danny spotted a couple of families with kids tucking in to platefuls. They definitely weren’t around last night. The TV screens were showing dramatic pictures of snow rescues and kids tobogganing down slopes.

‘Half of the street lost power when a car hit ice and street furniture. They’re sheltering here while the electricity company sorts it out. We’ve set up a playroom next door.’ Beth handed Danny a plate of food. ‘Get that down you, there’s digging to do.’

‘Huh?’

‘Shovelling snow.’

 

As Danny ate, he searched for a glimpse of Emma. To no avail; there wasn’t a peep of her bouncing brunette head. However, ten minutes later a yawning Matt and Amy came in, the latter on her crutches. They waved before grabbing their own plates of food and joining him, Matt solicitously carrying both plates.

‘Sleep well?’

Matt and Amy smiled happily back around mouthfuls of food, glancing and each other and blushing.

‘How’s the ankle?’

Amy pulled a face, ‘Throbbing a bit, like my head. Beth has already given me some painkillers.

‘Good. Apparently we’ve some shovelling to do. Well, Matt and I have, to clear the club drive enough for cars to get out, and help some locals.’

‘People have cars here?’

‘A few were leaving them here overnight anyway and collecting them in the morning once they were sober enough to drive.’

Matt cleared his mouth, ‘Mine’s one of them. I was going to take a bus or taxi home last night and return this morning. It’s going to be a big dig; the snow’s really deep out there, over a foot, nearly two in parts.’

‘Really?’ Danny hadn’t thought to look outside yet, he’d been distracted by his experience on waking, and that Emma had since disappeared.

‘That’s one hell of a Michael Fish moment for someone; there was no prediction of snow for the south-east at all. Just a hard frost.’

Amy hummed, ‘They changed the forecast late morning, but by then it was too late for many. Me included, I was Christmas shopping before getting ready for the party and didn’t think to check.’

Matt teased the woman by his side, ‘You were underdressed for any kind of weather, admit it.’

‘Yeah, there is that,’ she admitted with a grin. ‘I wasn’t planning on walking anywhere though. Strictly taxi and train, with emergency taxi money just in case, hence the fifty-quid note I used for the drinks once I knew I was stuck here. See, I wasn’t being totally daft.’ She nudged Matt playfully.

Danny watched as the two teased each other while they cleared their plates, then Amy excused herself to go for a shower. Matt helped her part of the way, until Amy patted his cheek reassuringly and sent him back.

Matt grinned ruefully as he rejoined Danny with a couple of mugs of coffee, passing one over. ‘She’s going to freshen up, Beth’s found some toothbrushes. Wanna go for a walk?’

‘OK.’ They wandered out of the function room towards the main part of the club. ‘You know, I’ve never seen you so comfortable with a woman.’

Matt continued to grin, ‘She’s wonderful, isn’t she? I can’t believe she wants to go out with me. We chatted for hours and then she fell asleep in my arms. I’m going to drive her home later.’

Potty. Absolutely head over heels.

Danny couldn’t help another pang of envy. Which somehow reminded him of Emma. He glanced around, wondering if she would reappear.

‘Who’re you looking for?’ Matt’s grin had turned into a smirk. ‘Emma, perchance?’

‘How…?’

‘You’ve always had a soft spot for her.’

More like hard after that morning, thought Danny. He felt a twitch in his groin at the memory.

‘And she seems to like your company. Nothing’s ever happened between you, has it?’

‘She’s a player, no consorting between players and coaching staff, remember?’

‘You’re not a coach any more, are you?’

‘No, I’m not,’ realised Danny as he pushed the main club doors open and cold air rushed in. ‘Ooh, look, someone’s built a snowman.’

‘Fire!’

The first missile splatted into him milliseconds later, then they were bombarded by a barrage of white balls.

‘Oh shee-eesus!’

Danny and Matt both backed up and the doors swung closed to the sound of feminine and childish giggles. They looked at each other and laughed at the lumps of snow in their hair and clothes, even lumps sinking into and cooling the remains of their coffees.

‘War?’ Matt raised an eyebrow at Danny.

‘War.’

Seconds later, they were pulling their coats on, cups discarded. They paused by the double doors, noting that the frosted glass panels probably gave warning that someone was coming out.

Matt peered through a cleared piece of glass, ‘Looks like they’ve set up camp about twenty yards away, they’ve built up a wall. We’ll have to reach around the back to disarm them. Let them waste their fire, then we’ll attack.’

They dived out of the doors, one going left and one going right, landing in the soft snow. Shouts of alarm rang out, and more white missiles inundated them as they skirted the bunker, just beyond reach of the artillery powered by an adult and a couple of children.

Danny followed the sound of a familiar laugh as the shower gradually lightened. Their stockpile must have been running low.

‘Attack now!’

He ran as Matt sprinted in from the opposite direction. Two children jumped out, and began running away, screaming with delight. However, snowballs continued to be thrown from the dugout.

‘I’ll take the deserters, you go for HQ!’ Matt yelled as he jogged after the youngsters, giving them a chance to get away.

Several more hits, and Danny started sending hastily made lumps back towards the snowy barricade. He must have hit his target as there was a disgruntled squeal.

‘Do you surrender?’

‘No surrender!’ a woman yelled back, and pelted him with another couple of snowballs.

He jumped over, and found the woman he had been looking for.

 

When Danny had begun as assistant coach to the women’s team, their main coach was Paul. Although competent, Paul had been notorious for being a bit handsy with some of the women. Matters had escalated elsewhere as a result of Paul’s flirtations, and he left the club shortly after. The more-professional Marcus had taken over, and Club management had had a word with Danny and Marcus, making it clear that even though they were volunteers, they didn’t want a repeat. Danny had taken that to mean avoiding even mild flirtations. So, he’d never even considered the women sexually, even though they sometimes flirted with him. They were out of bounds.

Or were they?

Now he was actually looking at her, laughing, with clumps of snow in the hair escaping from her bobble hat, he realised how much he liked her. She had always been enthusiastic about drills, even in the worst of weather, and listened carefully to his instructions. She was intelligent, great with kids and a joy to be with. He’d missed her since another former player had taken over his role.

‘Emma-’ He had fistful of snow in his face for his troubles.

Danny charged her, taking her down onto the soft snow but not landing on her.  She giggled. ‘No surrender!’

‘Are you sure?’ He captured her hands and pinned her lower body down with a restraining leg.

She tried to wriggle away, but couldn’t. ‘Temporary ceasefire?’ she asked hopefully.

‘Cheeky.’ Her mouth was so close to his, he couldn’t resist a pecking kiss.

Her eyes were wide when he drew back, ‘Oh.’ She bit her lip.

Danny’s gaze was drawn to the white teeth nibbling the edge of her pink mouth, ‘Oh?’

Her body softened under his, she stopped fighting as clouds of breath puffed quickly from her mouth.

Sod it, he would kiss her again. He released her hands, and her lips met his halfway.

She tasted minty and fresh and warm and new and like home, all at the same time. Their kiss deepened as they both murmured with delight. He felt her hands in his hair as his tucked her closer.

Clunk!

A ball of ice hit both of them on their heads, breaking the moment. ‘Ow!’ groaned Emma.

He lifted off her as the guilty parties ran away chortling, and helped her to her feet. His body was humming with need, with wanting to get closer to the brunette. ‘You OK?’

Emma gave an awkward smile and brushed the rest of the snow out of her hair and off her clothes, ‘I’m fine.’

They stared at each other, wordlessly, for several moments, until the opening of the club doors broke the tension.

‘Time for you to come in, kids and grown-up kids,’ shouted Beth. Then she noticed Danny and Emma, ‘You two can stay out until you’ve had a proper chat. Don’t freeze.’

They were left by themselves in the white wilderness. Emma looked so small stood there, this time avoiding his eyes, a pink flush on her cheeks.

Danny summoned up his courage; if Matt could do it, so could he. ‘So, Emma…would you like to go for a drink some time?’

***The End***

Coincidences

coincidence
kəʊˈɪnsɪd(ə)ns/
noun
noun: coincidence; plural noun: coincidences; noun: co-incidence; plural noun: co-incidences
  1. 1.
    a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.
    “it was a coincidence that she was wearing a jersey like Laura’s”
    synonyms: accident, chance, serendipity, fate, a twist of fate, destiny, fortuity, fortune, providence, freak, hazard; More

    a piece of good fortune, (a bit of) luck, (a bit of) good luck, a fluke, a happy chance;
    “the resemblances are too close to be mere coincidence”
  2. 2.
    the fact of corresponding in nature or in time of occurrence.
    “the coincidence of interest between the mining companies and certain politicians”
    synonyms: co-occurrence, coexistence, conjunction, simultaneity, simultaneousness, contemporaneity, contemporaneousness, concomitance, synchronicity, synchrony;

Earlier this evening, I came across something which made me think. I’ve been finishing off a short story for the Literotica Winter Holiday Contest, and was reviewing the description of the characters. Then, as part of a break, I was reading Golden Angel’s latest blog posts and realised something:

Our Dommes had the same colour hair. They were both redheads.

Now, I know this is a minor coincidence as my Domme Lindsay was featured in Playing For Keeps, and even though it’s only recently been published, most of that novel was written over a year before I had started to read Golden Angel’s excellent Venus and Stronghold series, but it still made me jump.

It reminded me of another coincidence: the first rugby match I saw after the publishing of Playing For Keeps had a Tom at 8 and a scrum half called Alex. Weird, huh?

I’ve had a house guest staying with me for a few days, a young rugby player. I’ve been asking him questions for research purposes and he’s been telling me of things he’s heard, and got up to. Recently, he told me about a new physio at another team who’d already been seduced by a handful of players…shortly after I’d drafted out a similar storyline. This Sunday, he mentioned the MFM orgy he’d had on Saturday night…while  since Friday, I’ve been immersed in writing my first MFM story.

As I mentioned in It’s really not about you…honest!, these things happen, and usually make me laugh. But every now and again a chill runs down my back, what if someone thinks it’s a lack of creativity? Speaking with other writers, some admit to refusing to read another writer’s novels while they’re plotting, as they’re afraid to unintentionally plagiarise. I’m hoping there’s enough new material in my brain to not do that, but coincidences will still happen.

 

 

 

 

Drawing the lines between romance, erotic romance, erotica, & porn

I read a post by L.E. May recently, Do books still get judged by their cover? which reflected some of what I’ve been thinking in the last month or so.

These past few weeks, I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing/editing/promotion. So much that I’ve hardly been out on my bike (oh, the shame!) My main focus has been split between the third in the Harford Scarlet series, Playing Away/With Fire (I know, I know; I call it ‘Playing Away’, the Publisher knows it as ‘Playing With Fire’ and we’ll have to sort it out soon) and a continuation of my BDSM story, Playing Power Games (Mum – if you’re reading this DO NOT click on that link. Please). I also did some rewriting of Playing Up, making it a prologue for the Harford Scarlet series, and added it to Amazon and Smashwords (Mum – please don’t click on those either, I’ll do a PG13 version for you).

I’ve noticed one thing: worryingly, the heat level in each piece of work is at a different level.

Adding in the second novel, Playing Around (coming in December 2014), and I generally cover each one of the categories in the title of this post, except ‘porn’ (too much character development apparently). I’d say most of my work varies between romance and erotica, but there is a lot of ground to cover there.

Why does this matter? I’d like to think you’ll know what you’re getting when you pick up a ‘Toria Lyons’ piece of work. The pedant in me would prefer consistency. The daughter in me would like to be writing something her mother could read. *blushes* The pragmatist in me is screaming that for the sake of my overdraft, I should be writing whatever will earn me a few pennies. And the writer in me just wants to write what she is inspired to write, at that moment in time.

Why has this happened? Because when I write, it depends what mood I’m in. Sometimes I like to do the emotional stuff, sometimes I like to move the plot on, and sometimes I love to write a naughty sex scene. Games was actually a deliberate challenge to write something waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone (it was a Literotica Valentine’s Day contest entry and I’m still chuffed to say it came third on the US-dominated site), and continuing the tale has included a lot of research that I never thought I would be doing. BDSM protocols can be rather complex, toys very varied and personal reactions vary.

What has this got to do with the lovely post by L.E. May? Well, I’m always surprised to open Playing For Keeps and see the under the title, ‘An erotic novel’!

I suppose it’s the bluntness, it rather slaps you in the face. THIS IS EROTIC, THIS IS! Has anyone said they wouldn’t read it due to the implication that it’s a bit saucy?  Not that I know of, although to be honest, I haven’t given them the chance!

I’m hoping I’ll be judged solely what’s inside the cover pages. *fingers firmly crossed*

 

(As a sidenote, I’m finding it weird to sign books on request. I’ve always believed that defacing a book was wrong, so writing in one is still really peculiar to me. Plus I never know what to write, and I’m terrified of making a mistake and spoiling the whole book! I’m getting better at it though, and buying me a drink first certainly helps.)

*hic*

Tx

A Wheelie Good Time – free story!

A Wheelie Good Time

A ride in more than one sense of the word

Just a naughty little short as I take a break from writing my rugby series. I love cycling.

This has not been edited by another person, so please excuse any mistakes.

Tx

P.S. Don’t be worried if I’m on your wheel, I rarely letch at a man’s arse. Honest. Unless they’re an ex-rugby player. Hehe.

***

20130620 370

Adara watched his taut buttocks moving, the muscles bunching and elongating, intimately revealing every line of his fit body through the thin black fabric, and prayed she wouldn’t embarrass herself.

The saddle was rubbing against her and she could already feel herself swelling and getting wet, threatening to gush through the padding of the cycling shorts.  She consoled herself by reflecting that a damp-looking crotch at the cafe stop wouldn’t be anything new to the fellow Lycra-clad cyclists. After all, cycling fifty-odd miles in the blazing summer sun meant nobody was particularly fragrant or fresh-looking by cake and coffee time. And tottering like John Wayne due to the arousal between her legs would just be attributed to normal saddle-fatigue.

Besides, bringing herself off in the loo cubicles may be her only option for relief.

If she had known, when she turned up for the regular Sunday club run, that she, as one of the slower riders, would be paired up with Gareth while the annoyingly fast youth riders tore off, she would have spent the previous night with her vibrator. Gareth, the dark-haired, dark-eyed ex-rugby player with the body better than most Greek Gods. Gareth with the ponytail, the stubble, the broad shoulders, narrow waist and, hell, what was that expression? Mouth-watering buns of steel. Oh yes.

She restrained a whimper as he came out of the saddle and she had another eyeful of those particularly sweet treats.

She was used to being dropped when the whippet-like lads upped the pace, but there were usually others fancying a more leisurely ride. That morning, at the car park meeting point, she had looked around the gathered cyclists and forlornly realised there wasn’t anyone of her pace there. When Gareth piped up and said he wasn’t up for a hard one, she had to restrain a snigger before her heart leapt in anticipation. When he also suggested cycling the lanes rather than the faster-but-busier main roads, she smiled in happiness. She’d temporarily forgotten that cycling together would mean having to watch his backside for at least fifty percent of the time.

Torture. Sheer, erotic torture.

Oh god, his thighs were wonderfully powerful, tanned with a light dusting of hair. She would love to feel him using that strength to thrust inside her. Taking her from behind, those wide shoulders covering her, dominating her.

She shifted in the saddle, pushing her clit into the leather, rubbing herself against it. So, so close. A tremor ran through her and she moaned, ‘Oh!’

‘You OK?’ Gareth glanced round briefly to check on her.

‘Fine,’ she confirmed throatily. ‘Just a little…bump in the road.’

He gave no sign of having heard her, and she decided that her aching loins would have to wait. Somehow.

At least the countryside was pretty, the rolling country lanes bordered by six foot hedges with vast expanses of lush green fields on the other side. Sporadic gateways gave glimpses of the field’s occupants, usually sheep or horses, although many were empty or contained crops.

It wasn’t safe for Adara to spend too much time looking anywhere but at Gareth, but she managed it for a while. Well, a few minutes, until she was transfixed by the rear view of him. So transfixed she nearly missed his next question.

‘Fancy winding the pace up for a sprint? Here to the next village sign?’

‘Why not?’ Anything to distract from his beautiful backside.

As Gareth increased the pace, Adara had to concentrate on keeping on his wheel, keeping that foot-length between his rear and her front to maximise drafting and conserve her energy for an attack. If she stayed within that limit, despite his greater strength, she may be able to surprise him and sprint past. If she was patient enough. Patience was key. Timing was everything. Like when a man thrust his hard cock inside her for the first time. That glorious feeling of fullness just when she wanted it.

Oh fuck! That moment of inattention meant she had dropped several feet off his wheel. She worked harder for a few moments to get back on as they swept around a corner. She could hear him beginning to breathe heavily, like a man who had just come.

As her imagination ran wild again, she almost missed Gareth signalling to pull over and let her take the lead for a while. Adara focussed on maintaining the speed he had set, pulling over herself a short while later as the burn in her legs set in. They took turns taking the wind, their only communication the twitching of arms and hands as they swapped over.

They flew around another corner and houses began to break up the hedgerows on either side. Once the village sign was in sight, Gareth really slammed the hammer down, and Adara had to hang on for dear life. Yards from the sign, with one final push with energy she didn’t know she had, she pulled out and shot past him just at the right time.

‘Woohoo!’ she yelled joyfully, punching the air with one fist and laughing as she slowed. The adrenalin rush that came with winning swept over her, in a feeling not far off an orgasm.

Gareth came up alongside her, grinning ruefully and gasping. ‘Well done,’ he congratulated.

‘Thanks,’ puffed Adara. ‘That was such a rush, better than sex!’

‘Depends on who you’re doing it with,’ corrected Gareth.

‘No one at the moment, I’m single.’

‘Me too.’

They looked at each other and Adara wished that they both weren’t wearing sunglasses and helmets, so they could see each other’s faces. Was he flirting with her?

She couldn’t think what to say in return, and they continued cycling through the village two-abreast, singling out for the odd car.

Gareth eventually broke the pregnant silence, ‘So, how long have you been cycling?’

‘Since last year, an ex got me into it.’

‘You’re pretty good at sprinting. Do you race?’

‘Not yet, I’m not brave enough.’ Adara grinned ruefully.

‘But you plan to?’

‘Once I’m fitter, yeah…maybe. I’d need to lose some weight first, most of the girls are size six to ten, I’m verging on twelve.’ She looked down at her body wryly, at the curves the tight kit was covering.

‘Don’t lose any more, you’re perfectly proportioned as it is.’

She allowed herself a little smile, ‘Not great for racing though, or climbing hills, I usually get left behind. What about you?’

‘Had to give up the rugby a couple of years ago, too many injuries. Someone suggested getting a road bike and I’ve never looked back. Lost loads of bulk too, but in a good way. I still work out my upper body though, otherwise I’d look odd.’

‘You look perfectly proportioned to me.’ They looked at each other again, and Adara cursed the sunglasses again. ‘Why the slower pace today?’

Gareth laughed, ‘Hangover from last night. You still won that sprint fair and square.’

‘You did more work on the front than me though, so we can call it a draw.’

Going slower and chatting, the heat caught up with them and Adara partially unzipped her jersey, cursing that the overriding colours of that and the club shorts were black, black and more black. Nice in winter, didn’t show stains and looked smart, but attracted heat on the hottest of summer days.

Gareth glanced over at her a couple of times, ‘As much as I appreciate a bit of skin, better do that up once the pace increases.’

Adara blushed and laughed, ‘Yeah, I’d want the only occupant of my bra today to be me.’

‘Had insects down your jersey before?’

She nodded, ‘Yeah, I once cycled through a swarm of bees, eventually I had to strip off to get them all out. You should have seen me screaming and dancing around by the side of the road just in shorts. Had a few comments from strangers passing by.’

Gareth chuckled and said something about wishing under his breath before clearing his throat, ‘Were you stung much?’

‘A few times down my cleavage and on my…err, breasts.’ Adara traced a hand to where the painful lumps had been.

‘Oof!’ Gareth yelped as he went through a pothole he’d been too distracted to see. ‘Err, that must have hurt.’

‘What, the stings? Not too bad, they had almost gone by the time I got home and found some antihistamine cream to rub on.’

Once out of the village and recovered from their exertions, they started to pick the pace up again. They had an awkward moment when neither could decide who to go in front.

‘Since you beat me in the sprint, it’s your turn to lead,’ eventually nominated Gareth.

Adara was quite happy and relieved with that; even cycling alongside, she had been sneaking glances at him, his strong profile and temptingly firm lips. She pulled in front of him, put her head down and began working harder.

A few minutes later, she came out of the saddle for a sharp rise, efficiently pumping the pedals to keep momentum, her hips shifting smoothly. Halfway up, she couldn’t miss the groan from behind, ‘You ok?’

‘Yeah, just a bit of a twinge,’ he panted back.

Adara gave a sigh of contentment, now she was leading, she could almost forget her companion. Almost forget the electrifying effect he was having on her body, and the heat between her legs. Almost. She was having to work harder out of the draft, but there was no actual wind to speak of. Whenever they slowed, the heat of the day would catch up with them. The sultry smells of a summer in the country surrounded them, along with suntan lotion, sweat and tar from the roads. When in the open, the heat shimmered off the tarmac, creating temporary mirages ahead. Riding under sheltering trees, the sun dappled the ground and disguised possible hazards.

Adara squinted at the road, having particular trouble. She quickly signalled to warn of a particularly large pothole in the road, and cringed as her own tyres only just missed dropping into it.

Gareth wasn’t so lucky. She heard a bang and, ‘Fuck!’ from behind, closely followed by, ‘Shit! Flat! Ease Up!’

She coasted into a grassy gateway, out of the way of what little traffic there was and removed her helmet, shaking out her long brown hair. She was grateful for the little shade offered by the trees; once stopped, the heat really hit.

Gareth followed shortly, walking his wounded mount and frowning. Sure enough, his back tyre sagged to the ground, the rubber flat around the wheel. He lowered the bike onto its side on the soft grass and took off his helmet too, running fingers through his darkened, sweat-laden hair and retying it.

‘That was a nasty hole, did you see my signal? It was a bit difficult to see until the last minute,’ babbled Adara, afraid she had done something wrong. It wasn’t always possible to avoid potholes but it was wise to. You really couldn’t know how deep they were or what they contained.

‘Yeah, I was a bit distracted though,’ confessed Gareth. ‘All my fault for choosing the wrong time to…swig some water.’ After partially unzipping his jersey, he crouched down to undo the quick-release skewer.

‘Need anything?’ she asked, trying not to gape at his strong forearms and thinking of the flash of solid, hair-dusted chest he’d just exposed. She breathed deeply, taking in the tempting scent of fresh male sweat and was grateful for the glasses covering her eyes. There was just so much masculinity. His shoulder muscles rippled under the formfitting jersey as he carefully pulled the wheel away from the bike frame.

He glanced up at her and smiled, ‘Nope, got it all in my second bidon, thanks.’ He gestured towards the cage holding a clear bottle containing an inner tube and some tools.

The smile just did it for her, her female parts clenched once again. ‘I’m just going…for a comfort break,’ she squeaked.

Strictly speaking, a comfort break meant the loo, but Adara justified the little white lie to herself. She couldn’t be in comfort until she’d done something to dissipate the heat gathered in her body.

The five bar gate into the field was easy to scale and she headed for a copse of trees, her body burning. Once out of sight, she knelt down in a grassy hollow, dropping her glasses, frantically unzipping her jersey and stripping it off, pulling the straps of her bib shorts down so she could shift the shorts down to her knees. No knickers to remove, her fingers dipped straight in and she moaned with relief from the direct touch.

After a hard squeeze of her breasts through the thick elastic sports bra, she settled with a forearm on the ground, her head resting against it so any noise would be muffled by the grass. Her other hand was busy between her legs, she was so wet she was squelching.

She usually lay on her back to masturbate, this position was less usual for her but she needed to muffle her gasps of pleasure. Already she could feel the coils of pleasure tightening in her belly. She could smell sweat, sunscreen, grass and herself, only missing the scent of a male. Him. Those thighs. That arse. What did he have between those muscular thighs? Would it be long? Thick? Veined or smooth?

Her fingers swirled around her swollen nub, her rhythm quickening and sighs increasing. The frustration that had been building up all morning was coming to a peak.  She was so, so close but still couldn’t come. She needed something more, something…

Her frustrated gaze fell on the small hand pump in the back pocket of her jersey. Could she? It was smooth enough, long enough, and maybe just about wide enough to feel.

Sod it; she needed something cock-like inside her. She grabbed the slim aluminium tube, shook it loose from the pocket and touched it to her. It was warm, heated by the close proximity to her body and the sun. She moved it around her swollen lips, stretching the tension out before brutally thrusting it inside her.

‘Ahhh,’ a sigh escaped her. She thrust again, and again, moaning constantly, forgetting to keep quiet. In and out, a quick twist, squeezing it tightly with her inner muscles. It wasn’t quite thick enough but was enough.

Just as her body wound up to coming, she heard something close to her, felt footsteps.

She lifted her head. Gareth was stood frozen a couple of metres away. The zip of his jersey was even further down his chest, and from one hand dangled his saddle bag.

‘I…I called but you didn’t answer…you’ve been some time…I heard noises, I thought…’ The sunglasses ensured his gaze was inscrutable but he didn’t look away. ‘I forgot my pump. Can I borrow yours?’

She groaned with embarrassment, her head falling back onto her arm. Her body was screaming for completion, she was just so near to coming. ‘Oh fuck,’ she muttered.’

The pump took that inauspicious moment to slide out of her and drop to the ground. Her embarrassment was total, but that sudden empty feeling was nearly as bad. A shiver ran through her. She had been so close.

She had to take her hand from between her legs to pick up the pump. Her fingers slipped on the juice-covered, narrow tube, and she looked down at it, wondering how she could give it to him. Should she be covering herself up instead? Forgetting the pump for the moment, she began tugging awkwardly at the bib shorts caught around her calves, her backside wiggling.

Gareth’s breathing becoming louder and she risked a brief glance up. All that caught her eyes was a massive bulge between his legs. He was aroused, and big at that.

‘Oh my fucking god.’ She shuddered, her body clenching around thin air, wanting that flesh and blood tool inside her.

‘Adara, look up.’ She lifted her head further as he shucked off his glasses and met his hot eyes. ‘I can help you with that.’ Gareth nodded towards her and started removing his jersey, ‘If you want, of course.’

The rasp of the zip seemed as loud as her breathing, she frantically nodded back at him and he pulled down his bib shorts. He was fully aroused, his hard cock sticking straight out. He knelt in front of her prostrate form, undoing her bra fastening and stripping the thick black fabric off.

‘Let’s have a look at you.’He coaxed her into a kneeling position facing him. ‘Shit, you’re hot.’ He fondled himself and groaned.  Hesitatingly, almost as if he was waiting for her to object, he cupped her breasts and pinched the nipples.

Her eyes temporarily lost focus with the pleasure, ‘Need cock,’ she muttered. ‘Gimme.’

He was hard, so hard, with pre-come already welling up on his damp skin. Her hands were small on him, he would stretch her a fair bit more than the pump had.

She groaned suddenly, ‘No way you have a condom?’

‘Bag, here.’ He fumbled with the small black bag, bringing out a square of foil. ‘I was a boy scout and the wrappers make good tyre wall reinforce…fuck,’ he swore as she roughly stripped off her bib shorts and attacked him, her legs straddling his and rubbing her wetness on him.

‘I’ve been thinking about this all morning, I won’t be able to last long,’ gasped Adara as her hips undulated. Her hands moved up and down his back, barely giving him a chance to pull open the packet and smooth the rubber over himself.

‘Doesn’t the man usually say that?’ panted Gareth as he sat back on his heels, his arms full of mostly naked writhing female. He took control of her hips, lifting up and rubbing her against him but not inside.

Without realising, Adara began pleading with him, he lifted her up slowly and at a frustratingly cautious pace, he began slipping inside

The real thing was soooooooo much better than the inanimate pump, thought Adara, ‘Oh yesssssss!’ she hissed.

She tightened around him as he slowly stretched her until he was completely seated within her. He wasn’t small at all, his cock was a good, thick size, and she hadn’t had anything in her for a long time. She tried to catch her breath, the erotic shudders making her arch her back and rubbing her breasts against his solid, sweat-dampened chest. Her eyes glazed over, instinct taking precedence. Her hands moved to squeeze her breasts roughly, to pull the nipples, and her hips thrust at him as hard as she could.

Somehow, he lay back, letting her ride him. It was even better for her. Her hands darted from her lips to her breasts, running down her body to the thrumming, swollen, slippery heat between her legs. She was so close, she didn’t have enough hands, she growled in frustration.

He heard her appeal, his hands moving to cover her swollen breasts, copying her actions and squeezing them harshly, tugging on the engorged nipples and bringing her upper body closer to his.

The change in angle as he pressed against her swollen clit spurred the tsunami of sensation to break within her. She shrieked as a glorious crescendo was reached, the combination of the pleasure and pain of his hands on her breasts and the delicious pressure and hardness between her squeezing thighs. The pleasure was nearly unbearable, waves of heat rebounding through her.

The world spun as he turned her over, stretching one leg up to hammer inside her, his head thrown back and teeth gritted. As the ripples of shock quaked her, the thrusting increased the satisfaction, until it felt like she was going to come again. Her hands smoothed down his back, her nails dug into his firm buttocks and her hips circled his.

His hips jolted harder and she squeezed him as tight as she could. He yelped as he began to spurt inside her, his groans unstoppable. His upper body collapsed on her as tremors of bliss continued to run through them both.

It was quiet while they caught their breath. Gareth reflexively kept pushing inside her as he shrunk a little, they both enjoyed the aftershocks.

Eventually, he slipped out of her and she could feel the condom loosening, ‘We … we’d better … the condom.’

He took the hint, pulling himself to one side, taking it off and tying a knot. She missed his weight, the fullness inside her straightaway. Her hands ran up and down her sides, to the mire between her legs and she rubbed her tender, swollen knot as she kicked her legs out.

‘Any more of that and I’ll be ready to go again,’ he commented, bemused at her actions.

Adara barked with laughter, ‘I wouldn’t say no, I feel great.’

‘Me too.’

She turned her head to meet his smiling, hot eyes, ‘Good.’

Minutes passed as their heartbeats slowed and perspiration dried. The wind picked up slightly, the cooler breeze leading to Adara eventually stirring. She sat up, looked around for her jersey and pulled some tissues out of a pocket. ‘Here,’ she chucked a couple over to him as she tried to dry herself off.

Adara strapped her bra back on, awkwardly located her socks and yanked her bib shorts back into place. He started dressing too, sitting back down to pull on his socks on as she rooted around the grass, picking up items that had fallen from her jersey pockets. She was kneeling, wiping down the pump when she felt him pushing behind her. She gasped, her body ready in seconds, ‘We can’t, no more condoms.’

‘Don’t worry, I was just tempted by your wiggling arse.’ He thrust against her a couple more times, the layers of Lycra and shorts padding frustratingly dulling the sensations before moving away and standing.

Somehow she managed to pull herself together, straightening the rest of her kit.

‘We stink of sex,’ observed Gareth as he zipped up his jersey.

Adara sniffed and barked with laughter, ‘Straight home for a shower then? If that pump still works.’

‘We’ll call a taxi if needed. Which is closer, yours or mine?’ His dark eyes burned.

Before she could answer, they heard a call from the direction of the gate, ‘Hello, cyclists? Having trouble?’

They both giggled at the timely interruption and made their way out of the hollow, to greet the helpful driver who fortunately had a track pump in his car. After they waved goodbye to their rescuer, Gareth and Adara mounted their steeds and headed back towards town at top speed.

It was a nice day for a ride.

*The End*

Or do you want more? Please comment!

It’s really not about you…honest!

‘All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.’ Standard disclaimer in many novels.

 

Since Playing For Keeps was published, I’ve had a few comments from people regarding who I’ve based my characters on. Some people are rather worried, or flattered, or perhaps frantically Googling ‘how to obtain a restraining order’. Conversely, some are upset that there doesn’t appear to be anyone based on them.

Don’t worry, it’s not about any of you. Really isn’t.

It can’t be, you see. As in the quote at the top, writers have to invent characters, places and scenarios. Otherwise we’d be biographers. I’d be lying if I said every smallest thing was fictional, but no character is truly a written representation of one real-life person.

It turns out some of them are unfortunately similar to real-life people. Some of them aren’t. That’s what happens. There are coincidences, which make me cringe and/or giggle when realised.

So, where did I find inspiration?

Ideas come from the internet, general life including attending local club rugby matches and going out for drinks with friends, plus some people-watching. Anywhere, in fact.

For the names of the characters in Playing for Keeps, at a London Scottish match I had a glance at the hospitality table plan. There were plenty of Celtic names there, so I wrote them down and later mixed and matched a few together. For any further names, I took a team sheet from another team and added a list of the most common first names. (I still have those lists somewhere, but I think the only one not used is ‘Fiona’. )

In PFK, and in PA, I also had to make sure some names were relatively commonplace, to fit into aspects of the plots.

It does help me keep focus to be able to ‘see’ my characters when I’m writing, so I’ve also started some boards on Pinterest, like this one for PFK. Are Tom and Sarah how you imagined?

So, that’s about it. Sorry to disappoint anyone.