ALSO AVAILABLE IN PRINT
and in AUDIO: COLLECTION #2
A sudden disaster strikes everyone’s favourite ice cream shop, With A Kick. Not only does it threaten the livelihood of its owner, Patrick, but also his loyal assistant Lee. The last thing in the world Patrick would ever want to do is hurt Lee, either physically or emotionally. Why would he? He’s been falling in love with Lee since the day Lee invited himself into the shop’s business and Patrick’s life. But familiar and deeply-held insecurities hold Patrick back – he’s too gruff for Lee, too old, and his labour-of-love business is never going to make him rich.
Lee is weary of trying to make Patrick see how much he admires and cares for him. To Lee, it’s a very straightforward situation. Patrick is sexy, Patrick is smart, Patrick needs Lee’s help – and Lee needs Patrick in his life as more than a boss. All the characteristics Patrick finds inhibiting, Lee finds attractive. However, if Patrick’s apparently never going to make a move on Lee, how long should Lee wait to make his own move? Maybe Patrick thinks Lee is too clingy, too immature. Maybe Lee should give up his romantic hopes completely. If, that is, he can bear to do it.
The disaster at the shop brings them a whole new opportunity to work – and love – together to make a go of things. They’ve both got to look at each other in a whole new way. With the help of all their With A Kick friends, this could be make or break for the reluctant couple!
© Clare London
Patrick liked this time of morning in London. It was still too cold in February to do without a jacket and scarf, but otherwise he savoured the onset of spring and the pale, bright sun that glistened off the pavements. He took deep, regular breaths, measuring a circular route around Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, pacing himself slower than he would have done when he was younger. It allowed him to take proper note of life happening around him. His friends preferred to travel to St James Park or Green Park, and run around a greener space, but Patrick lived and belonged here in Soho, and never sought anywhere else. He absorbed the exotic mixture of a new day’s aroma: diesel taxi fumes, the crinkled pages of old books, grocery store spices, lingering pub beer, and fried food being cooked at the fast food venues already awake and serving breakfast. He wasn’t a man to wax lyrical at the best of times, but he loved London with a passion.
Sufficiently exercised and with his appetite now fully awake and clamouring for coffee and food, he cut through the streets towards home. Turning the final corner, he slowed to a brisk walk, then stopped. He leaned on a street lamp, regaining his breath and easing his muscles. The front window of With A Kick was already in view with its stylish red paintwork and matching awning. Patrick took a moment longer just to stand and look at it. Every day was the same: the feelings of pride and excitement just as strong. Only a few years ago, he’d been a teacher, aiming for Assistant Head, and planning out the twenty-odd years to early retirement. Good grief. What a boring life in comparison to now!
He laughed wryly to himself. Amazing how ambition could be kickstarted by the end of a lacklustre romance and a previously secure job slipping away. Eighteen months ago, he’d been saddened but not surprised by his boyfriend Rafe moving on—they’d been drifting more out than into each other’s life for months. He’d also seen the writing on the wall about his school having to make redundancies. It had still surprised him how willingly he accepted his when it was offered. He’d always thought of himself as a man who planned and relied on a steady routine, yet in the space of a couple of months, he found himself single again, out of work and slightly depressed from the culture shock. It was as if the whole bloody world had crashed, as opposed to… what? ‘An opportunity for new adventures and new challenges’, his late dad would have said. His dad had always been a glass-half-full man. Patrick remembered him fondly.
Then things had slowly but steadily fallen into place for him. Now he was an entrepreneur of sorts and, look, his latest ice cream creations were displayed in the window of his own shop, on one of Lee’s brightly coloured posters!
That was another thing that never changed: the small lurch of excitement in his gut when he thought of his friend and assistant in With A Kick. Patrick sighed, not at the overall thought of Lee—and Lee’s youth, and good looks, and energy, and cheeky jokes, and slim hips that he swayed outrageously when he was showing off in the shop, and that sexy, sexy grin… anyway, not all that, which Patrick had to admit never ceased to cheer him up every morning in the shop. No, the sigh was for the thoughts that inevitably followed. The ones that reminded him he hadn’t found much success with romance, that he was much older than Lee, much less good looking in a very bear-y type of way, much more tired of life, and with a grin that he couldn’t ever remember anyone saying was sexy…
Good God. Enough self-pity for the morning! Lee had plenty of attention from other guys, he didn’t need his nearly-forty year old boss coming onto him as well like some besotted, horny teenager. Besides, Patrick had his commitment to the business to keep him busy, and that was no hardship now that they were starting to make proper money. Yes, when he thought of With A Kick, he did think of “they”. Lee and he were together in running the shop, at least.
“Patrick! Good morning.”
Patrick turned and recognised Mr Amsel from the German café across the way, waving at him. Next to the elderly shopkeeper, a wiry young man straightened up from where he’d been crouching beside a pile of boxes. He was also smiling. Patrick waved back at them both. The community spirit among his fellow traders was one of the best things in his life nowadays. The young man, Curtis, was a regular supplier and odd-job man for all of the businesses around here, and Patrick made a mental note to chat to him about replacement tablecloths. Lee had suggested a funkier design, to match a range of ice cream flavours based on musical styles that Patrick was working on at the moment. And if anyone could get something new and unusual for the shop at a good price, it’d be Curtis. Patrick wasn’t in the mood for negotiation before his morning coffee, but he was sure Curtis would call into With A Kick later on for a mug of tea and a ‘Pluck and Play’, his favourite ice. He’d talk to him then.
He glanced back down the road, where the With A Kick shop-front light had just flickered on. Lee must be in early today. Patrick thought he’d declared it was his turn to open up, but he had to admit the thought of Lee bustling around inside the shop had Patrick happily quickening his step.
An alleyway ran down the side of the shop to the kitchen exit, and by the time he reached it, he’d decided they should talk to Curtis about getting some new shot glasses too. Bookings for adults-only, night time parties at With A Kick were really taking off. Out of the corner of his eye, he registered the kitchen light snapping on as well, and the thought of a hot, strong cup of coffee warmed his thoughts. Maybe Mr A would like to quote Patrick for some hot party snacks as well—
The sudden boom took his breath away: a burst of deep, throaty noise, gusting the air past Patrick’s head like the kick back from a jet. A mini tornado, belching without warning from the kitchen door, and bursting up the alleyway and onto the street.
Rubbish bags, stacked against With A Kick’s outside wall, tumbled and rolled as if tossed by giant hands. Loose packaging swirled up in a murky maelstrom, spinning and spiralling into the sky. A pavement display clattered to the ground across the road, and a passing bicycle swerved sharply in front of Patrick with a screech of brakes. A dog started barking furiously.
Patrick had been thrown backwards into the street, and staggered, trying to keep his balance. Someone behind him screamed; he watched the shocked cyclist’s mouth make the shape of “What the fuck was that?” His eyes stung; his hearing was muffled. A youngster began to wail loudly. Stunned for those few seconds, Patrick was unable to move, unable to think clearly. Voices reached him, but all the words were garbled.