- Author: Clare London
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By Clare London
Published by JMS Books LLC
Visit jms-books.com for more information.
Copyright 2012 Clare London
Cover Photo Credit: Artur Gabrysiak
Used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.
Cover Design: Written Ink Designs
All Rights Reserved
WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.
This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It contains substantial sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which may be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States of America.
NOTE: This story appears in the anthology, Tea and Crumpet, edited by UK MAT and published by JMS Books LLC.
* * * *
By Clare London
You see, I don’t do canvas. You know…the camping thing.
I never have done. I’m a London lad: I thrive on the aggressive noise of the city and the frantic haste of its people. I like to smell the dirt steaming off the pavements on a wet autumn day, to pass graffiti-decorated brickwork and peeling pub signs on my way home, to hear the hiss of buses and inhale their diesel-breath. What’s not to love in all that invigorating, infuriating, intoxicating glory?
Then came that Thursday morning.
“This is your chance,” said my friend, Em. She leaned over my desk, peering at me. Her whole demeanour wasn’t so much giving me friendly advice as threatening me with dire consequences if I didn’t obey. “Christ, Nick, you’ve been going on to me about Max for months. This is your chance to go out with him this weekend, to talk to him about something other than the feature on defragging in PC Geeks Monthly, or whatever it is he has rolled up in his back pocket. I’m sure he likes you. You know. That way.” She leaned in even farther, now winking lecherously, rattling my pencils and my equilibrium in equal measure.
I glared back. “You do know where he’s going?”
She shrugged. “Somewhere in the West Country. Sun and scenery, just a short break.” She cleared her throat. “Not that I eavesdrop or anything.”
“I mean exactly where.” I frowned. “It’s to a campsite. He’s camping. In a tent.”
She rolled her eyes. “And he wants you to go with him. I heard him say so.” She smirked with indecent triumph. “He stood right here in front of your desk, turned his back on all of the girls in Cash Processing, and he invited you.”
I blushed. I hadn’t done much of that since the new clerk in Underwriting touched me up at the Christmas party then protested he’d been looking in my pocket for a pencil sharpener. I’d been wary of mixing business with pleasure ever since and, some would say, understandably. “I can’t go.” Time for my eyes to roll. “It’s outdoors!”
“Nick, don’t be a jerk,” she snapped, and glanced over her shoulder. Max was in the next door office, right now, as I well knew. Stalking his online diary was a guilty secret of mine that I shared with Em alone. Unfortunately, that fuelled her matchmaking, which currently consisted of pulling the plug out of my hard drive and calling I.T. Support. Several times a week. Humiliating, but it had the desired effect, bringing Max to the rescue every time.
And I never complained.
In fact, I was a lost cause, lovesick from the day Max joined the company. All three departments on the first floor went to the pub after work to welcome him, where he told us he’d been transferred from a remote branch office that clung to the cliffs of the West Country coastline, where (he claimed) the strong wind could blow seagulls off course, and you only got a decent mobile signal on alternate Tuesdays. We all laughed, and so did he. He told a very good story. I made some Town/Country Mouse jokes and he joked back, warning me the green fields would probably make me hyperventilate. But I remember I gazed at his friendly grin, his natural tan and his bright eyes, and I knew I wanted more of him.
“Say yes,” Em hissed, her hands all over my keyboard. I tried to push her away but she was a woman on a mission. In just a few disruptive moments she’d creased up half the papers on my desk and moved everything out of place. “Say yes.”
“No,” I said, firmly. I snatched up my Routemaster novelty mug like a talisman. “And what happened to my coffee?”
“I’ve poured it over your keyboard and Max is on his way round.”
“Say yes to this weekend, Nick, or I swear, the graffiti about you in the Ladies’ won’t stop at the pencil sharpener incident.”
Graffiti? The pencil sharpener incident? “Who told you about—?”
But Em had darted back to her own desk with another wink, and Max was threading his way across the department towards me with that deliciously cheerful, downright healthy grin of his. He had a bold, sauntering walk and broad shoulders, with a head of curly hair that started each morning with a sensible parting, but invariably lost the battle by lunch. Add to that the sky-blue eyes, and fresh, freckled skin that crinkled at the corners of his generous mouth when he smiled, and it was a very tempting package.
If that’s what a country life does for you, I thought, it can’t be all bad.
And so, when he asked again