Friday, 28 April 2017

Five Dates: Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This week I'm sharing a short story series inspired by The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts.
 
Click to read parts one, two, three and four
 
Part Five:
 
 

Natalie had had enough of this dating lark. She’d quite enjoyed her fifteen minutes with dentist Walker but, on the whole, the evening had been a major flop and she was more than happy to remain single for the rest of her days if it meant never having to endure events like this ever again. Still, she had one date remaining. She’d sit through the next fifteen minutes, enjoy her dessert, and then she’d be free to go home and pretend the evening hadn’t happened at all.
‘Hey.’ Her date slipped into the opposite seat and flashed a smile at Natalie. It wasn’t the cocksure grin of her previous date, nor was it the shy, fleeting smile of Walker. It was a happy medium; warm and friendly without a hint of arrogance.
‘Hello.’ Natalie returned the smile, finding it wasn’t as painful as she’d suspected playing along for the final date would be. ‘I’m Natalie.’
‘Rav.’ A hand was offered, which she shook, briefly. ‘Well done for making it through to the end.’
‘We’re not quite there,’ Natalie pointed out. ‘We still have fourteen and a half minutes to go.’
‘That’s true.’ Rav smiled again. He had a dimple in his right cheek, which Natalie removed her gaze from. ‘Be gentle with me. It’s been quite a night.’
‘You haven’t enjoyed it?’ Natalie didn’t add ‘either’ to her question, but her tone suggested it.
‘I have,’ Rav said. ‘Sort of. Ish.’ He laughed lightly and shook his head. ‘Not at all, actually. I thought it’d be fun, but I don’t think I match with any of my dates. So far, obviously. I don’t know enough about you to gauge yet.’
‘We both wear glasses,’ Natalie said. Rav was wearing a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses with rounded oblong lenses. He obviously didn’t have friends who’d persuaded him to leave the specs behind. ‘But mine are at home. It’s a decision I’m regretting.’ She grimaced and rubbed at her temples.
‘You poor thing.’ Rav’s eyebrows knotted with concern. ‘The girl in the pink offered me some pills earlier, but I don’t think they were paracetamol.’
Natalie’s mouth gaped. ‘You’re kidding.’
Rav shook his head. ‘I’m afraid not.’
‘Wow. I thought some of my dates had been questionable, but that takes the biscuit.’
‘Talking of biscuits …’
The waitress had arrived with their final dessert of the evening. They’d already enjoyed mini fairy cakes, dainty slices of American-style cheesecake, little portions of apple crumble, and raspberry cream cheese brownies, and they were going to finish off their evening with cookies stuffed with gooey chocolate chunks.
‘Is this your first experience of speed dating?’ Natalie asked once the waitress had left them with their plates of biscuits.
‘I wish. I’ve been to a few more traditional speed dating evenings. This is tame in comparison.’ He broke off a piece of cookie and popped it into his mouth.
‘If they were so bad, why are you still going with it?’
Natalie was genuinely curious. She couldn’t imagine putting herself through this again. She wasn’t against dating in general, but she’d rather know what she letting herself in for before committing to a date, even if they were only minutes long.
Rav shrugged. ‘I guess I’m a romantic. I know the right girl is out there somewhere, and I’m too impatient to sit around waiting to meet her. I need to be proactive. Plus, this way I get to eat delicious treats. Have you tasted these cookies? They’re amazing.’
Natalie narrowed her eyes, her cookie still untouched in front of her. ‘Was that a line? About being a romantic?’
‘God, no.’ Rav laughed and broke off another piece of cookie. ‘You should ask my family: my dad thinks I’m a wuss, my brother’s convinced I’m gay, and my mum thinks I’m the sweetest boy ever created.’
‘So what makes you a romantic? Apart from not only believing in The One, but going out to find her?’
Rav considered the question for a moment before answering. He placed his cookie back down on his plate and brushed the crumbs from his fingers. ‘I guess I just like to see people being happy. There’s nothing better than seeing somebody’s face lighting up because of something you’ve done – a bouquet of their favourite flowers, a note left in their pocket, even something as simple and mundane as a cup of tea after a long day. And I’m genuinely thrilled whenever my mates announce an engagement or start having babies, even if I am a little bit envious that they’ve found that special person.’
Natalie nibbled her chocolate chunk cookie as she listened. Was this guy real? Or was he playing her? Telling her what she wanted to hear? Because lord knows she’d love a bloody cup of tea after a long day. She’d lived with Hugh for two years and she swore he didn’t know where the kettle had been kept in their flat.
‘Okay, Mr Romantic. What are your views on picnics?’
Hugh didn’t understand picnics. They lived in UK, where it was almost guaranteed to piss it down with rain, so why would they go to the bother of packing a picnic and freezing their arse off while waiting for their food to get soggy?
‘I love a picnic. What’s not to love? Good food, even better company, the sunshine on your skin.’
‘What about the swarms of ants crawling all over your sandwiches?’
Rav shook his head. ‘Hasn’t happened yet, so I feel quite safe.’
‘What are your views on Sex and The City?’
‘It’s pretty funny, actually. I’m not a great fan of the films, though. Sorry.’
Dirty Dancing?’
‘Not my favourite, I have to admit. But not the worst film I’ve ever seen. Certainly watchable.’
‘When’s your mum’s birthday?’
Hugh hadn’t known his own mother’s birthday, even though Natalie wrote it on the calendar each year. Natalie inevitably had to buy and wrap the gift, though Hugh would begrudgingly deliver it in person.
‘Twentieth of June,’ Rav said without having to think about it. ‘She’s a Gemini.’
‘You sound too perfect. Tell me something bad about yourself?’
‘I crack my knuckles. A lot. Drives my family nuts. I also talk to myself.’ Rav grinned. ‘Sometimes it’s the only way to have a decent conversation.’
‘That’s it?’ Jeez, even Natalie had worse habits than that.
‘I chew the end of pens, whether they belong to me or not.’
‘Well, that proves it.’ Natalie threw her hands up, her tone turning sarcastic. ‘You’re a terrible human being. Why am I even wasting my time talking to you?’
‘I can’t help being a decent person. Blame my mum for bringing me up so well.’
‘You really are too good to be true. What do you do for a living? Rescue kittens from trees and nurture orphaned puppies?’
‘I’m a youth worker, so I generally try to engage young people in activities and discussions while they’d rather be anywhere else. Thankfully, I love my job. What about you?’
Natalie told him about her job as a carer.
‘So we both work out in the community,’ Rav said. ‘It isn’t just the glasses and a not-that-great evening we have in common.’
‘It turns out my evening hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was going to be,’ Natalie said.
Rav smiled across at her. ‘Mine hasn’t either. I’ve quite enjoyed being interrogated by you.’
Natalie made a ‘pfft’ sound. ‘Interrogated? More like a gentle grilling.’
‘You do know I’ll have to return the favour and give you a “gentle grilling” if we go on a second date, don’t you?’
Natalie felt the stirring of butterflies in her tummy. Rav would like to go on a second date? Would she be open to that?
She didn’t have long to decide as the bell rung, signalling the end of the date. She was disappointed that her fifteen minutes with Rav were over, but did she want to see him again?
    'That wasn't so bad, was it?' the hostess asked as Natalie handed over her scorecard.
    'No, I suppose it wasn't.' Natalie found she was unable to keep the grin from her face as she headed out of the café. She couldn’t wait to meet up with Gina and Jade and tell them about her unexpectedly pleasant evening.
 

Part One | Part Two  | Part Three | Part Four  | Part Five
 
I hope you've enjoyed the Five Dates series - but what happens next for Natalie? Whose name does she tick on her scorecard?
 
YOU decide. Vote using the form below, and whichever lucky fella receives the most votes will go on a second date with Natalie! The sixth instalment will go out exclusively to my newsletter subscribers, so do sign up - it's easy and completely free!

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About The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Teashop-Broken-Hearts-ebook/dp/B01MDNF71Y/

From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?
 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Five Dates: Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies

This week I'm sharing a short story series inspired by The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts.
 
Click to catch up with parts one, two and three
 
Part Four:
 
 

The bloke sitting opposite wasn’t quite as scruffy as her second speed-date of the evening – there were no holes in his T-shirt for a start – but he was hardly smart, either. He was wearing a shirt, but it was crumpled – and not in a sexy, dishevelled way. Still, a crumpled shirt wasn’t a deal breaker.
‘Hello.’ She smiled at her date, determined to start off on the right foot. ‘I’m Natalie.’
‘Milo.’ Her date slouched down further in his seat and started to drum his fingers on the table top. ‘I wonder what we’re getting this time. Didn’t think much of that apple pie.’
‘It was apple crumble,’ Natalie pointed out, but wished she’d kept her mouth shut when Milo glared at her from across the table.
‘What’s the difference?’
‘One has pastry,’ she practically whispered. ‘The other has the crumble stuff.’
Milo rolled his eyes and emitted a loud sigh. ‘Whatever. I didn’t sign up for my five-a-day.’ He slouched even further in his seat. If he kept going, his chin would be resting on the tablecloth.
‘So, um, what do you do?’ Natalie asked. The date hadn’t exactly got off on a positive note but they could get back on track quite easily.
‘I’m unemployed,’ Milo said, rolling his eyes again. ‘Bastards at my last job sacked me.’
‘I’m sorry. That must be tough.’
Milo shrugged. ‘It ain’t so bad. My job was shit anyway. At least now I get to stay in bed until lunchtime.’ He brightened at this, sitting up straighter in his seat. ‘And I’ve been watching this program in the afternoons. It’s about people buying antiques and auctioning them off for a profit, only the knobheads don’t always make a profit at all. I reckon I can do a better job.’
‘Do you know much about antiques?’ Natalie asked, which earned her a frown from Milo.
‘It’s old crap. What else is there to know? Buy it dirt cheap, sell it on. You can’t go wrong.’
‘Well, good luck with it.’ It sounded like he was going to need it.
‘Cheers.’ Milo grinned across at Natalie and she realised he was quite handsome when he lost the attitude. Unfortunately, the effect was lost completely when Milo stuck his right index finger up his left nostril and had a rummage.
‘What about you? What do you do?’
Natalie stared at the finger working away. Was Milo really going to have a conversation with her while he picked his nose?
‘I’m a carer,’ she said, still eyeballing the squirming finger. ‘I help people with their meals and shopping.’
‘Do you have to wipe their arses?’ Milo removed the finger and shuddered. ‘Minging.’ He swiped his finger on the front of his shirt as the waitress arrived with the next round of desserts. This time it was a brownie with a raspberry and cream cheese topping. Milo grabbed his brownie with the snout-picking hand and bit half off with one bite. The brownie looked delicious, but Natalie wasn’t feeling quite so enthusiastic about eating it now. She took a nibble before returning it to her plate.
‘What do you like to do …’ Natalie had been about to add ‘when you’re not working’, but that was a permanent state in Milo’s world. ‘For hobbies and things?’
‘No offence,’ Milo said through his mouthful of brownie. ‘But these are pretty boring questions. What’s your name? What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? I bet you’ve answered all these questions twice already tonight. Let’s mix things up a bit.’
‘What do you mean?’
Milo shoved the rest of his brownie into his mouth, holding up a finger while he chewed. It was the nose-picking finger.
‘Which animal would you most like to punch in the face?’ he asked once most of the brownie had been swallowed.
‘I beg your pardon?’ Natalie spluttered.
‘Which animal would you most like to punch in the face? It won’t be able to attack you, so you don’t need to worry about a lion or something ripping your head off.’
‘I don’t want to punch any animal in the face.’
Milo’s grimaced. ‘Are you a veggie?’
‘No, I just wouldn’t want to hurt a poor animal.’
Milo sniggered. ‘Because it doesn’t hurt them when they’re killed for meat, eh?’
The date had definitely veered off track now.
‘Do you think we could change the subject?’
Milo shrugged. ‘Sure.’ He rested his chin on his hands and fluttered his eyelashes, adopting a sickly sweet voice. ‘What’s your bestest, favouritist colour? Let me guess: pink?’
Damn! Her favourite colour was pink. Not that she’d admit that now.
‘I don’t really have a favourite colour.’
‘Bullshit. It’s pink.’
‘What’s your favourite colour?’
‘It depends.’ Milo leaned across the table and winked at her. ‘What colour are your panties?’
Ugh. Just ugh.
‘No offence,’ Natalie said. ‘But you’re being a bit of a prick.’
Milo threw back his head and laughed, as though she’d complimented him. Was this it? Was this what Gina and Jade had in mind for her when they’d signed her up for speed dating? This dude was making Hugh look like Prince bloody Charming! Right now would be the perfect time for the bell to ring, but the date went on, agonisingly stretched out for another ten minutes.
‘Look,’ Natalie said after Milo had asked her opinion on the neighbouring woman’s chest (implants or no implants, that is the question). ‘This date isn’t going well. There are only three minutes left. Why don’t we just sit here – quietly – until it’s time to move on?’
Natalie was quite proud of herself. She was usually such a pushover (why else would she be at the speed dating event in the first place, if it wasn’t for her friends talking her into it?) and this was probably the most assertive she had ever been in her life.
‘Nah.’ Milo shook his head and leaned back in his chair. ‘I signed up for five dates and I’m going to make the most of every one of them. So, what would you rather: being poisoned and dying in agony over a relatively long period, or a trip to the guillotine – quick and clean?’
Natalie rubbed at her eyes. She was probably ruining the make-up Jade had carefully applied before sending her off into the dating world, but she didn’t care. Her friend had insisted she leave her glasses behind (Natalie, it transpired, looked like an uptight librarian while wearing them) and now her head was starting to pound.
‘Well?’ Milo reached across the table and pulled her hands away from her face. ‘What have you decided?’
‘I’ve decided to never ever listen to my friends again.’
 
Part One  | Part Two  | Part Three | Part Four  | Part Five

 

About The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Teashop-Broken-Hearts-ebook/dp/B01MDNF71Y/
 
From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?
 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Five Dates: Apple Crumble

This week I'm sharing a short story series inspired by The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts.

Click to catch up with parts one and two

Part Three:
 
 

Natalie wasn’t sure she had the energy for another date – and there were two more after this one. But she plastered on a smile and extended a hand to the man sitting opposite.
‘Hello. I’m Natalie.’
Her date took her hand in his and gave it a shake. ‘Splendid to meet you, Natalie. I’m Walker.’
‘What an interesting name,’ Natalie said.
He gave a little shrug, his cheeks starting to take on a pink tinge. ‘Thank you. I have interesting parents, I guess.’
Their desserts arrived then, this time ramekin dishes filled with apple crumble and hot custard. Natalie took the opportunity to assess her date while the waitress set the dishes in front of them. He was medium height, slender, and with a thick thatch of raven hair. He’d dressed better than her last date, opting for a smart bottle green jumper over a white shirt.
‘So, Natalie,’ he said once they were alone again. ‘What do you do?’ He picked up his spoon and started to eat his apple crumble as Natalie told him about her job as a carer, trying to make it sound as interesting and sparkly as possible. She told him about some of the people she visited – there were quite a few characters on her schedule – steering clear of some of the more unpleasant aspects of the job.
‘It sounds wonderful,’ he said once she’d finished. He’d listened intently, chuckling at the funnier parts. ‘I bet it varies day to day, which keeps things interesting.’
‘No two days are ever the same.’ Natalie realised she’d been too busy chatting to eat her dessert and picked up her spoon, digging into the crumbly topping. ‘What do you do?’
Walker cleared his throat, whispery frown lines disturbing his smooth forehead. ‘I’m a dentist.’
‘Oh.’ Natalie’s spoon froze half way to her mouth and her tongue began exploring her teeth for foreign objects and cavities.
Walker smiled now, his cheeks turning pink again. ‘I get that a lot. Don’t worry – I’m not about to start examining your teeth. And I don’t carry a drill around with me, just in case. I love my job, but I love my free time too.’
Natalie managed to relax her features into a smile. ‘Sorry. It’s just …’ She was terrified of the dentist. She had to be practically pinned down in the chair every time she went for a check-up and she lived in fear of the day she’d have to have a filling. Or worse.
‘It’s okay.’ Walker held up a hand. ‘I understand. Shall we change the subject?’
‘Yes please.’
So that’s what they did. They chatted about hobbies and their favourite films and TV shows and Natalie managed to forget about the whole dentist thing. Walker was quite sweet, asking questions as well as answering them, giving his full attention to Natalie throughout. His cheeks had a tendency to pinken at random points during their date, which led Natalie to believe Walker was feeling as awkward as she was at this set up.
‘Is this your first speed dating experience?’ she asked. She’d finished her apple crumble, which had been so delicious she’d been tempted to lick the dish clean.
‘It is.’ There went the cheeks again. ‘This is my first dating experience for quite some time.’
Natalie wrinkled her nose. ‘Me too. It was my friends who signed me up for this, actually.’
‘Really?’ The pink patches on Walker’s cheeks deepened. ‘My sister signed me up. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for me to forgive her. No offence, obviously. It’s just … not how I expected my life to turn out.’
‘No offence taken,’ Natalie said. She leaned in towards Walker and lowered her voice. ‘I started to freak out when I got here. I was thinking about running away.’
‘I’m glad you didn’t,’ Walker said. His cheeks were fuchsia by now. ‘This is the first decent conversation I’ve had since I got here. I’m sure the last two ladies are lovely, but …’ He shook his head, his cheeks almost turning purple.
‘I get it. I was hardly bowled over by my first two dates either.’
‘Why are we putting ourselves through this, Natalie?’ Walker asked, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
‘Because we have lousy friends and family,’ she said, and Walker laughed.
‘The lousiest. I shall be having words with my sister in the morning.’
‘Don’t be too harsh, though. I’m sure she was only looking out for you.’
Walker nodded. ‘She was. She thinks dating again will be good for me.’
‘What do you think?’
Walker frowned, giving the question deep thought. ‘I’m not sure. I’ve only been divorced for a couple of months. Oh.’ He cringed. ‘Oh dear.’
‘What is it?’ Natalie reached across the table, placing a gentle hand on Walker’s.
‘My sister warned me not to mention the D word. She says it’ll scare women off.’
‘More than being a dentist?’ Natalie asked and Walker chuckled.
‘Touché. I imagine being divorced doesn’t come close to that horror.’
‘It’s not so bad, actually,’ Natalie said. ‘I think I’m coming to terms with sitting opposite a dentist. You haven’t performed a root canal on me, which helps.’
‘You have to save some surprises for the second date,’ Walker said and Natalie laughed. She liked Walker and could see similarities between the pair of them.
‘I haven’t been married, but I am recently single,’ she told him. ‘My friends think I need to start dating again. I think they’re sick of me taking up space on their sofas and eating all their chocolate. They’re totally selfish, obviously.’
‘My sister insists on feeding me. She thinks I’ll starve to death without my ex-wife cooking for me, which is crazy as my ex couldn’t boil an egg. My freezer is now stuffed with casseroles and curry sauces.’
‘Sounds delicious.’ There was a lonely Bolognese-for-one in Natalie’s freezer. Why hadn’t she been blessed with a concerned, over-feeding sister instead of the nit-picking, joy-vacuum she’d been lumbered with? Jayne’s idea of sisterly concern was telling Natalie she’d put on weight every time they met.
‘It really is,’ Walker said. ‘My sister’s a fantastic cook. She’s the only one who can get my daughters to eat vegetables.’ Walker’s eyes widened as he clamped a hand over his mouth.
‘You have children?’
Walker winced and nodded his head. ‘Two girls, six and four. I wasn’t supposed to mention them either. They’ll apparently put women off as much as the divorce, but they’re part of me. I can’t hide them.’
‘You shouldn’t,’ Natalie said. ‘The right woman won’t be put off that you’re a father.’
‘Does it put you off?’ Walker asked, but the bell rang out, signalling the end of their date and she didn’t get the chance to answer.
 
Part One  | Part Two  | Part Three | Part Four  | Part Five

About The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Teashop-Broken-Hearts-ebook/dp/B01MDNF71Y/
 
From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?
 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Five Dates: American-Style Cheesecake

This week I'm sharing a short story series inspired by The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts.
 
You can read on for part one here
 
Part Two:
 
 

‘I’m a carer,’ Natalie told her date as her fork slipped through the creamy, vanilla-flavoured filling of her cheesecake. ‘I work out in the community, helping people with their meals, shopping and … other things. It isn’t very glamorous, and the pay is pretty crap, but I enjoy it and I feel like I’m making a difference. What do you do?’
She popped the fork into her mouth, trying not to moan with pleasure. Bloody hell, this was good! This cheesecake was worth getting dressed up for, worth wriggling into the unyielding tummy-and-arse-control pants, worth the awkwardness of speed dating. Of dating in general.
‘I’m a busker,’ Jay, her date for the next thirteen-and-a-half minutes or so, told her through a mouthful of cheesecake. ‘I sing and play guitar in town, usually outside Boots. Until the cops move me on.’ He grinned at Natalie and she tried not to notice the bits of biscuit base stuck to his teeth.
‘Are you any good?’
Jay shrugged and shovelled another forkful of cheesecake into his mouth. ‘I suppose. I make enough cash to keep me in weed.’
‘Oh. Good for you.’ Natalie surreptitiously swiped at her chest, brushing away the damp bits of biscuit base that had taken a trip over from her Jay’s mouth. ‘What about other bills?’
Jay gave a one-shouldered shrug. ‘Don’t have any. I live with my mum. She pays for everything.’
Not new clothes, evidently. Jay was wearing a pair of ancient, saggy jeans and a holey T-shirt. It was nice to see he’d gone to so much effort that evening. Natalie’s insides were being slowly crushed by the control pants she’d wrestled herself into – the least Jay could have done was put on a half-decent set of clothes.
‘What did you say your name was?’ Jay, having finished his cheesecake, licked his finger and ran it along the plate, collecting the crumbs left behind.
‘Natalie.’ She tried not to sigh, but she’d told him less than two minutes ago.
Jay tilted his head to one side, observing her through narrowed eyes. ‘What school did you go to? St. Joseph’s?’ Natalie shook her head, opening her mouth to answer but Jay got in there first. ‘Never mind. I could have sworn I shagged you at the leaver’s do. Must have been a different Nicola.’
‘My name’s Natalie.’
Jay shrugged and placed the crumby finger in his mouth. ‘Whatever. Wasn’t you.’
This guy was charming. She couldn’t wait to tell Gina and Jade that signing her up for the speed dating evening hadn’t been a waste of time at all.
‘Are you going to finish that?’ Jay jabbed his fork towards her cheesecake. She hadn’t touched it since her initial mouthful, convinced it had been showered with Jay’s crumbs and spittle. It wasn’t so appetising now that thought had entered her head.
‘I’m not really hungry.’ She placed her fork down on the side of the plate carefully, making sure it didn’t clatter. The other participants were engrossed in their own dates but she didn’t want to draw any attention to herself.
‘I’m starving.’ Jay reached over and took the plate, setting it down on top of his own – with a clatter – and proceeded to dig in heartily. He barely paused for breath as he hoovered the dessert from the plate. Natalie sat in silence while he ate, not wanting to invite another cheesecake spray, mentally planning her evening once she managed to escape. She’d try and catch Gina and Jade in the pub and tell them to never, ever set her up like this again. After a well-earned drink or two, she’d go home and catch up on Corrie and Gogglebox. Her evening wouldn’t be a complete flop.
She may have become a little stuck in her ways since the break-up with Hugh.
‘Cheers for that.’ Having finished the dessert, Jay threw his fork down before raising his arms into the air for an overly vocal stretch. Natalie spotted another hole in his T-shirt, right in the middle of his left armpit. ‘That was good cheesecake.’
Yes, Natalie thought bitterly as she looked across at her empty plate. It had been.
 ‘So, Jay.’ She decided to give him another chance, to prove there was more to him than grubby T-shirts and sponging off his mum. ‘What do you like doing when you’re not busking?’
He pushed both sets of plates away and shrugged. ‘Not a lot. I like a good smoke. And women.’ He winked at Natalie and she fought hard to keep her lip from curling. ‘The footie, obviously, and the pub.’
‘Which pubs do you go in?’ Natalie hoped he didn’t frequent any of her locals. If the date continued on this dire path, she’d be forced to avoid them. ‘Any from round here?’
Jay shook his head. ‘Nah. Barred from most of them.’
‘Right.’ Natalie wasn’t sure what else to say about that. She could ask the reasons for the bans, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the details.
‘We could go for a drink after this,’ Jay said. ‘I think I can get in The Starr now it’s under new management.’
Shit. The obvious answer was no, but Natalie was far too polite to turn him down so blatantly. She was the kind of girl who listened to hours and hours of spiel from doorstep salesmen. The kind who signed up for catalogues and dodgy-sounding charities and monthly draws while shopping on the high street.
‘I can’t really hang around,’ she said with an apologetic shrug. ‘I have plans.’
Jay shrugged and pressed a finger onto the tablecloth, picking up a tiny crumb. ‘Fair enough. Guess it’s just me and …’ He frowned and looked across at the neighbouring table, where he’d spent his previous date. ‘That one.’
‘You’ve already made plans?’ Charming!
‘It’s only a drink. It’s not a date or anything.’ He looked across at the table again. ‘You don’t know her name, do you? She’s proper fit. Don’t want to offend her by admitting I’ve forgotten it already.’
Thankfully the bell rang, signalling the end of the date. Jay scraped back his chair and headed for the next poor woman. He had a hole in the arse of his jeans.
 
 Part One   | Part Two   | Part Three | Part Four  | Part Five
 
 
About The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Teashop-Broken-Hearts-ebook/dp/B01MDNF71Y/

From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?